This has been nagging at me for a while, and I don’t know that I’ve put enough thought into to have an opinion yet, but I’d like to put out some options and see if anything sounds right. Feel free to chime in. There’s a lot that goes into this line of thought, is this will probably be especially rambly.
If we assume a polytheistic view, with a pantheon of equal gods, do we worship them all, or just the ones we choose? What if we have a pantheon of unequal gods? Do we worship only the highest, or, since they are all gods, do we worship them all? Do we only worship the good ones? Do we worship based on age? Or usefulness? If we tackle it from a gnostic view, do we only worship the ain? The ain soph? They’re the same entity but different. Do we worship both? Do we worship Sophia, who caused the demiurge to exist and this we owe our very existence? Do we worship the demiurge? He may be flawed, but is it not possible that he’s doing the best he knows how despite his imperfection, just like us all? Maybe he should be held higher even than ain for that.
Should we worship at all? A king is a king not because he is better than everyone else, but by accident of birth. Are gods, angels, or demons any different? Sure, the term “birth” may or may not apply, depending on the deity, but the point remains valid. (or does it?)
Do we only worship beings we consider better than ourselves in some way? And if so, how much better do they have to be? Should cheetahs be worshipped for their speed, bodybuilders for their strength, engineers for their designs? If not, then why should God be worshipped for his? Because it is unattainable by man? Should we worship elephants then, because surely they have strength unmatched by any human.
Some say we should worship the gods simply because they made us. “The reverence due from created to creator,” or because the gods provide for us in our times of need. But do we worship our parents, then? They’re certainly the more proximate cause, and in most cases they do their best to provide for us. Is the only difference the scale on which they act, considering (once again) that it is only by the nature of their existence that they have the ability to do so? What parent wouldn’t move mountains for their children, if they could do so with little or no cost to themselves? I can’t pretend to know (even though I just did) what it costs Bune to grant a bounty when asked, or God to answer a prayer, or a land spirit to provide a bountiful harvest, but it seems to me that the greater the cost, the lesser the godhood attributed to that God. If God can till a field without effort or price, then what inconvenience is it to him to do so, and yet most spirits exact their own price in some way on us. But if if takes God six months to bring about a successful harvest, toiling in a field from sun up to sun down, then asking for a payment in kind only seems fair, but is he still a God at that point?
If the spirits have the powers we attribute them, then how can any payment suffice? In truth, any payment we give would only cause them more work. If I need 20k a year to pay my bills, and God will help me get a job making 20k a year but his price is a 10% tithe, then I now have to ask God for a 22k salary, and he has to find me a better job, or get me a bigger raise, or whatever he does to get his end of the deal done.
All of this implies to me that what the spirits want from us must not be physical, and yet centuries of lore from every religion I can think of is filled with entities asking for different things, whether they be riches or food offerings, incense or coffee. It would be easy enough to write these off as outward displays of our inward devotion, if they weren’t so often counterproductive to the very things we are typically receiving help with. (see: money)
So let’s now assume that what the deities want isn’t our stuff but our attention. Our time. 1 like = 1 prayer. Am I really to believe that an hour of my undivided attention a week is worth something to a being or beings that have enough power to literally create the universe? But as magicians, we know it’s not our attention they need, but our Intent. Our Will. Are thee gods nothing but farmers, feeding us grass while our intention becomes their meat? Maybe suffering is intentional, to drive us to the point where we either have to believe in a higher power, to whatever level of despair it takes for even the untrained to focus their Intent for long enough to feed a God, or give up and die? Certainly, nothing in that paragraph warrants worship.
Maybe the gods, in their imperfections, desire conflicting outcomes for the universe. He wants death, she wants life, this wants that, that wants this. Maybe, to that end, we trade our intent to the being we find who most closely aligns with our own goals at the time for their help. They get a little closer to their goal, and we get whatever we asked for. Everybody wins, but why would worship be involved? It’s such a very Human transaction, you almost wonder how one of the parties could be a god. Hell, why even praise or admiration?
So that seems to be a solid viewpoint for polytheism, though I still don’t see a necessity for worship. It even holds up for most gnostic and qabbalah discussions. But it seems to fall apart as a model for monotheistic and/or grimoiric work, where you don’t have deities to play against or you’re forcing beings to act against their will by threat of violence.
We know that both of these types of magic work, but how do they fit into our business transaction scenario, and what do they contribute to the discussion of worship. I’m going to start with grimoires, and revisit monotheism if necessary, because I think (for now) it will result in an answer about is worship necessary.
Through our Intent, it is possible to force some beings, beings considered to be powerful enough to rival the Christian God, into submission. This is often (though not always) accomplished by recruiting a guardian spirit of some kind. However, it’s typically specified that the light that subdues the demon is you’re light, shining from your belief, and not the light of the angel with you. More importantly, I have no doubt that any demon (or any other being) can be forced to bow by a strong enough will (not that I recommend trying), with or without a spirit helper.
Herein lies the truth about our relationship with the gods. Maybe. They may be farmers and we may be cattle, but only idiots toe off with a bull alone in a field. They may have created us, or the whole history of the universe may have sprint into existence with us already in it. Maybe in an alternate dimension, tenuously connected to our own, Hera and Zeus are having a shouting match about his latest hussy, and Hera is telling Zeus that if he doesn’t quit lying that The Fox will strike him dead with lightning. And maybe tonight she’ll take a minute to light a candle and meditate and send her Intent to me, and maybe it’s more powerful here, and mine is more powerful there.
I’ll save my monotheism rant for later, because I think the original discussion is answered. Worship is a fool’s game at worst, and willful blindness at best. We might not think of ourselves as gods, but we ARE on their level. We have our strengths, they have theirs. We all live in the same apartment. Some we’ve seen, others we’ve met, a few we’re good friends with. Each one is different from the others, just as they’re different from us, but they’re no better.