“A Step in the Right Direction”

Nilsson says, “Another step in the development of polytheism was thinking of the great forces of nature (such as sky and seasons) and of human life (such as love and death) as gods.”

Yes, and the same story applies there.  It is quite apt, and not incompatible with understanding a single divine reality behind them all.  In fact, seeing them as gods—as personal beings with desires, plans, loves, and so forth—is a step in the right direction, of acknowledging that God is a Person and one with whom one can interact.

“Lord, did the polytheistic response affect You in any way?”

Oh yes, in many ways.  When someone sensed My presence in a place and responded respectfully, it increased My awareness of My presence there, and of what it was about Me that evoked and deserved respect.

Then I was given an analogy.

Sometimes someone might be the pillar of a particular institution and not realize their distinctive role until a crisis.  And they notice that everyone rallies around them or sees them as their savior or seeks their advice or expects them to get them through it.  In a sense, they were the pillar all along, but it was almost latent and not fully actualized until the occasion arose and they saw it reflected in the eyes of others.

I gather that God’s experience was something like that.

“Early people saw my presence everywhere…”

As early peoples caught glimpses of the divine in art or in nature, it must have been natural to think there were gods in things.  In fact, I had been told.

Some elements of polytheism are merely superstitious, but other aspects are genuinely responsive to the many ways in which I present myself.  It may seem odd to your modern mind to think of fire as a god, but why do you think I made fire mysterious and fascinating?  It is a physical metaphor in itself—it is created out of nothing and disappears into nothing, grows and dies, gives life and warmth as well as pain and destruction, and it looks both hypnotically attractive and frightening.

As you know, I am very powerful.  I do manifest Myself in storms and thunder, in the ocean and great waves—in the power that drives the universe and that manifests itself in each particular event.  The large cosmic forces are divine and so are their concrete manifestations in specific incidents.  That does not mean that every rainstorm is a specific communication or is there to advance or retard some particular action, but it does mean that every rainstorm expresses an aspect of Me.

Early peoples saw My presence everywhere, saw the spiritual indwelling of things, their powers and potencies and the divine element in all that.  But there was always an awareness, however dim, that there was a single spiritual reality behind them all.