I’ve been seeing a spat of very poorly if not erroneously defined philosophical terms lately within the overall “Pagan” community, more so than usual. The “usual” was bad enough to begin with. Even self-evident concepts such as “Polytheism” (most dead of giveaways!), and common though marginally more elusive concepts such as “Dualism” and “Monism,” are being completely and painfully butchered.
In an attempt to help dispel some of the confusion surrounding these terms and encourage appropriate, informed usage, I direct your attention to Sofia Topia, a rather helpful and freely-accessible online resource — namely, this article on Henotheism. About a sixth of the way down a number of concise definitions are provided. Feel free to navigate around the site and enrich your minds. The nice thing about Sofia Topia is that, while the site design and layout is on the dreadful side, it doesn’t simply focus on Monotheist philosophies. There is a lot of breaking-down of Egyptian and Hellenic philosophies to be found there, too. Complete with footnotes and bibliographies.
A fair amount of the nomenclature is confusing and hard to break down in a number of areas, but it’s nothing a solid dictionary and a couple 100- and 200-level Philosophy texts can’t help you decipher (and for the love of all that is Holy, don’t rely on a casual Google search or Wikipedia or dictionary.com! We’ve been over this before).
I know it’s hard, at least at first. I know it bores most of you to tears. None of us will ever be perfect, no one was born knowing everything, no one knows everything, and we all make mistakes. I’ve been guilty of misuse of nomenclature a number of times in my life, and I’m not that much more immune to fuck-ups of thought now than I was a few years ago, given that with the more I learn, the more I understand how little I know. It’s okay. I survived. I learned and moved on with a fewer misconceptions in my head. I became a better, wiser, thicker-skinned person for it. So will you.
If we expect coherent dialogue to happen effectively within and between various “Pagan” communities, we all need to take accountability for ourselves, learn the appropriate definitions, and use them within their appropriate contexts.
At some point in the not-so-distant future, I will compile a list of “Intro to Philosophy” texts that are both accessible to the layman and inexpensive. Philosophy was a minor of mine I did not stick with for longer than three or four semesters, since Philosophy provides zero job opportunities in the “real world,” despite its vital importance to Man and everything he knows. That said, please don’t expect phenomenal wonders out of me when it comes to rattling off Philosophy titles. It’ll at least be enough to set you on the path toward better texts and more competent authorities. I’m not nearly so proficient or helpful in the area of Philosophy as I am in Medieval Studies and Ancient Near Eastern History, though I will always make an earnest attempt to be as helpful as I can, utilizing what education I have.
For the time being, you shall either have to satisfy yourselves with Sofia Topia — which is worlds better than Wikipedia, dictionary.com, or whatever other stinking dead fish a casual Google search dredges up — or consult your nearest Philosophy major or professor. They’re rare as unicorns, but if you find one, you’ll be blessed with long life! Or long lectures that make each minute seem like its own eternity. Same difference.