Concept of Brahman or Dao in European Paganism?

Silverbackman

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Is there a concept of Dao or Brahman in any school of European (Norse, Celtic, Roman, Greek, Wicca, ect.) paganism? Paganism seems a lot closer to the earth and nature like hinduism or daoism; and a lot more different than christianity in this sense. What is the concept of the underlying unity of reality and the holistic universe that is beyond words and explanation, but beyond the concept of "gods" or other type of deities, such as the unnamable Dao or indescribable Brahman? Are there any metaphysical equivalents?

Brahman - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tao - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 

Silverbackman

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In Kabbalah (that is Jewish) and, by extension, in Qabbalah (that is hermetic), there's Ein Sof:

Learn Kabbalah | The Meaning of "God"

JewishEncyclopedia.com - EN SOF

Ein-sof: The Kabbalistic Conception of God

Interesting. Although the concept has its roots in judaistic kabbalah many neo-pagans use the term. However I'm surprised that christianity never carried on any similar notions within it.....this maybe partly based on the fact that christianity is a descendent of the roman church who persecuted anything but the orthodox interpretation of god as the lord and master of the universe. I wonder whether sufi islam developed a similar concept other than "Allah".....perhaps the old Arab religions share some conceptual similarity with the Jewish forms of mysticism.

I wonder though, is there a concept with paganism itself of the Brahman, Dao, or Einsof that doesn't come from judaism. Or have there generally been no monistic schools within ancient paganism? I wonder whether the old greek mystery religions had any term for indescribable holism of everything.
 

dauer

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Platonism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ?

I only brought up the Jewish source because it got carried over into hermeticism and so seemed appropriate to the thread. There is a Christian form of kabbalah which I'm guessing hung onto the concept of ein sof, but not certain. There is a sufi concept: Sufi metaphysics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that seems similar, but I don't know much about sufism. Kabbalah most likely has its roots in older systems, Jewish and non-Jewish, including gnosticism.
 

seattlegal

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There is a passage in Acts 17 that might give you are clue:
Acts 17:22-25
22 Then Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that you are extremely religious in every respect. 23 For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD
Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it —He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. 25 Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things....(cont.)​
I've heard references to "an unknown God" in many different religious contexts, so the concept is probably pretty widespread acrossed various religious systems.
 

path_of_one

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I think so, SG. There is a passage in the Rg Veda to the unknown God.

I'm not sure about European Paganism. I would imagine some folks were monistic, but they were oral traditions so we don't have much of a record of the variety of religious thought. Additionally, there was a great deal of diversity and this was acceptable (as opposed to the Roman Catholic tendency to fold diversity into particular doctrines and require agreement). I know that quite a few neo-Pagan folks who have revived the Pagan traditions (or I should say, recreated the Pagan traditions), approach God as a sort of Brahman concept-- though it is also common to find dualistic (God/Goddess) and polytheistic approaches.

I think the Tao is something different conceptually than Brahman, though- more a natural working/force of the Universe. A sort of principle. I'm struggling with how to articulate the difference, but I do think the two, while sharing some similarities, are noticeably different.
 

bgruagach

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Some western Pagans include a concept they sometimes call Wyrd which is sort of similar to what you are talking about. It is usually described more as fate, or the sum total of all events past present and future, rather than as a transcendent ultimate godhead.

Some western Pagans, particularly some varieties of Wiccans, see gods and goddesses in pantheistic or panentheistic terms. They often call this viewpoint "soft polytheism" and it is frequently summarized using a paraphrase from Dion Fortune: "All gods are one God, all goddesses are one Goddess." Wiccans in particular also tend to see the God and Goddess as two halves of a whole.

The Wiccan high priestess Patricia Crowther popularized a prayer used by many soft-polytheistic Wiccans which emphasizes the ultimate godhead idea. The prayer calls the ultimate godhead the Dryghten and the prayer is therefore not surprisingly usually known as "The Dryghten Prayer." Crowther first brought the prayer to public attention in her autobiographical book "Witch Blood" (published in the early 1970s I believe.)

Not all Wiccans or western Pagans are soft polytheists though. There are quite a few who are hard polytheists, who do not believe in a single ultimate Divine but rather in a range of quite distinct and individual deities who are definitely not considered to be interchangeable or aspects of one another.

; )

Ben Gruagach
 

ThatNarrowFellow

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Hi,

I think you should check out some of the Greco-Roman philosophers. The Tradition of neo-Platonism, along with the mysticism of Pythagoras, both bear strong similarities to concepts of the Tao and Brahman. The later writings of the Stoics are also similar. Some people argue that the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus was a kind of Western Lao Zi, but his writings barely survive, so it can be difficult to construct much of anything about what he actually taught.

Hope this helps!

- C
 

Francis king

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Brahma was NOT the first "top God" in the hindu pantheon... that prized position actually belonged to Indra, initially... if we take that as base-point, then yes, there are pagan Gods of storms and lightening...

Indian Gods existed before the trimurti of brahma/siva/visnu... the original trimurti would be far more pagan, and would be... indra/surya/prakriti...

or at least, so I believe...

traditionally, the earth here was not created by God- instead, various creatures churned the ocean of milk which is the universe, and various churnings resulted in various elements which created various Gods and kingdoms... for the basic idea, see here...

Churning the Ocean of Milk by Michael Buckley

but, if we take Brahma as are start point, as the creator, then Brahma would be the personification of wisdom- like Odin, the all seeing one...
 

DrumR

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Indian Gods existed before the trimurti of brahma/siva/visnu... the original trimurti would be far more pagan, and would be... indra/surya/prakriti...

Greetings Francis King.
Your point above is well taken as there are many stories of "those who came before" a given pantheon under discussion.

Additionally, Alexander had "knocked on the door" of the suburbs of India and one would find it quite likely to believe that some cultural interchange did happen. A reference to such a possibility is hinted at in the book "the Wisdom of India and China" edited by Lin Yutang.
 

Dogbrain

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The description of En Sof that goes "Before He gave any shape to the world, before He produced any form, He was alone, without form and without resemblance to anything else. Who then can comprehend how He was before the Creation? Hence it is forbidden to lend Him any form or similitude, or even to call Him by His sacred name, or to indicate Him by a single letter or a single point." is certainly acceptable to the Orthodox Church. We will go even further and say that the God that can be comprehended is not the True God.

St. Dionysius wrote the following:
Again, in the treatise on Divine Names, we have considered the meaning, as concerning God, of the titles of Good, of Being, of Life, of Wisdom, of Power, and of such other names as are applied to it;
Yet, in the same book, he wrote the following:
Again, ascending yet higher, we maintain that it is neither soul nor intellect; nor has it imagination, opinion reason or understanding; nor can it be expressed or conceived, since it is neither number nor order; nor greatness nor smallness; ... neither has it power nor is power, nor is light; neither does it live nor is it life; neither is it essence, nor eternity nor time; ... neither one nor oneness, nor godhead nor goodness; nor is it spirit according to our understanding, nor filiation, nor paternity; ... neither is it darkness nor light, nor the false nor the true; nor can any affirmation or negation be applied to it, for although we may affirm or deny the things below it, we can neither affirm nor deny it, inasmuch as the all-perfect and unique Cause of all things transcends all affirmation, and the simple pre-eminence of Its absolute nature is outside of every negation- free from every limitation and beyond them all.
We hold both the first statement and the latter statement made by St. Dionysius to be true.

I should point out that we Orthodox do not consider ourselves to be "esoteric Christians". We consider ourselves to be rather nuts-and-bolts Christians.
 

_Z_

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Druidry has ceugant [the divine centre] and the circles of abred ~ of which ceugant is the centre, the material realm is between that and outer darkness or abred. This is a post christian representation of a more ancient thing which has been lost to time [in terms of knowledge] but is known to us intuitively.

Another thing is the awen which to me seams like the tao in that there is the awen and awens thus a path. These and similar are all descriptions of the fundamental nature from which all things derive, I expect it is the same thing as brahman, but it is not really thought of as a god although gods as all other things emanate from it. Many druids just call it the source.

I could go on and link it to the ogham and on to poetry etc, and perhaps that is a kind of tao, where words are formed into verse in a mystic way.
 :)
 

path_of_one

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Another thing is the awen which to me seams like the tao in that there is the awen and awens thus a path. These and similar are all descriptions of the fundamental nature from which all things derive, I expect it is the same thing as brahman, but it is not really thought of as a god although gods as all other things emanate from it. Many druids just call it the source.

I tend to think of awen as divine inspiration.

The tao is similar to what I would call the harmonious flow of the universe. In speaking to Pagans that believe in Wyrd, it seems like a very similar concept. I just don't have a single word for it. But essentially, there is a flow of things, and we can sense that flow and engage our lives within it. This engagement can come as a result of cultivating openness to awen, combined with balancing in ourselves the elemental aspects of being, such as will, passion, intellect, freedom, emotion, intuition, and physical manifestation.

As for the source, I also have heard many Druids speak of it this way. Some equate it to the singularity thought to be at the origin of the big bang. Most seem to view it as beyond-the-gods, more process and force than a specific being, and more or less ineffable. Nowadays I borrow a term from Feri witchcraft and call it God Herself. From Her, all emerged, including the gods.
 

_Z_

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Nowadays I borrow a term from Feri witchcraft and call it God Herself. From Her, all emerged, including the gods.

Well there is the celtic triple goddess and its crone aspect [the old wise woman] is thought of as equally the oldest nature of spirit [space is kinda like a womb?]. Some early celtic Christians thought of her as like others did god.
One way or another reality is a oneness, then all things derive of that. So if ceugant is a name of that oneness, then its expression would be the awens [?], though I can see how it is seen as inspiration, these things are transcendental qualia, as we are.

:)
 

Jørgen

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In norse paganism there is Aldurnari (Who give life) a.k.a. Yggdrasil. And the term "Verdenssjelen" = Anima Mundi = Brahman = Ein Sof
 
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