Assessing Margot Adler and Moving Toward a Polytheistic Philosophy of Religion

¶  Link to National Public Radio audio (14 minutes) of Ronald Hutton and Phyllis Curott talking about Margot Adler’s influence on contemporary Paganism.

The presenter rather made it sound as though we Pagans were all in the wilderness (no elders?!) until Margot brought us out, but then, as you pointed out in milder language, one thing that Margot did was make Wicca, etc., a bit more respectable to the chattering classes of the Northeast by being something that they recognized: a politically pink, secular-seeming Jewish intellectual, descendent of a famous psychoanalyst, thus easily penetrating their particular bulwarks of snobbery — not someone from Flyover Country or the wrong sort of foreigner.

Drawing Down the Moon was the third or fourth “I go among the witches” book of the era, following on Hans Holzer’s The New Pagans, Susan Roberts’ Witches USA, etc. and hitting some of the same locales, but it was far, far better and deeper, and I agree that it did give contemporary Paganism a bit of intellectual ballast.

¶ A philosophy professor from India talks about how beginning with Hinduism instead of one of the desert monotheisms changes how we discuss the philosophy of religion.

Taking Christianity as the exemplar of religion skews philosophical discussion towards attempts to solve, resolve or dissolve difficult philosophical puzzles inherent in monotheism: problems about God’s powers, goodness and knowledge; attempts to provide rational arguments for God’s existence; the problem of evil; and so on. Hindu philosophers have traditionally been far more interested in a quite different array of problems, especially questions about the nature of religious knowledge and religious language, initially arising from their concerns with the Veda as a sacred eternal text and as a source of ritual and moral law.

¶ What about a polytheistic philosophy of religion? Using ancient Greek materials, Edward Butler offers Essays on a Polytheistic Philosophy of Religion (parts of which previously appeared in The Pomegranate, I am happy to say).

One Comment

  1. Pitch313 says:

    By chance more than intent, I avoided a lot of Christian views of what a religion was or ought to be, and didn’t give a great deal of concern for those religious or theological questions that sometimes burdened my more Christian pals. I was already quite Pagan-ish in my world view then, even if I did not quite describe myself in those terms.

    My first telling encounters with sophisticated thinking of and about religion came when I was an undergraduate, studying my way around and into the history and cultures of South Asia. Hindu metaphysics. Buddhist metaphysics. A polytheist pantheon. A non divine wholeness.
    Bhakti. Tantra. Ways of going to meet and greet the entities and deities and maybe sometimes getting back alive.

    Or just romping in the Burning Ground.

    I’m all in favor of looking at South Asian religions as fruitful alternatives.

    But sometimes it is difficult to adapt them to the Western Magical Traditions. Or Western religious traditions. Post-Modern Paganism…