Why Isis?

While I began worshipping the Goddess in the late 1980’s,  Isis became the center of my devotion and worship only after the turn of the century. It was after  a decade of exploring the classical goddesses of the ancient world, the Hindu Goddesses, the esoteric Sophia tradition of Christianity, the Shekinah tradition of the Kabbalah in fact all  the traditions of the goddess of which I was aware that my attention and prayers increasingly centered on Isis.

Why Isis as opposed to some other goddess? Why Isis as opposed to Sophia, the Shekinah or some other form of the feminine divine in the Western monotheistic religions. My movement toward Isis worship was  based on  a group of theological, historical, and spiritual experiential  variables. Let me start with the theological. I am not a polytheist. I believe that there is a unified spiritual origin of all reality called God, Goddess, Tao, the Ground of Being, etc. I believe that one of the purposes of religion is to tie human persons,  groups, nations, and humanity to that Being. Therefore I am not much interested in what some might call small  gods and goddesses who  are less than absolute. You can say that  this is an assumption that I inherited from my Christian heritage. Isis is not a small goddess at least not as revealed in the Greco Roman period. She  was both a trinitarian goddess in unity with Sarapis / Osirus, and Horus, and she was the supreme Goddess who  created heaven and earth “through what her heart conceived and her hand created.” [ the fourth hymn at her temple at Philae]  She is the goddess behind all the other goddesses and (gods as well.)  Thus the realm of authority for Isis is total. In that theological vision, Isis is similar to  the Biblical Yahweh. Of course Isis is an inclusive Goddess and Yahweh is a jealous God.

Thus in my world view Isis outshines all the other goddesses even goddesses as glorious as   Demeter, Inanna, and Athena. I of course do not believe that these goddesses are not real or that they are in any way false. I would simply argue that the vision of Isis in its fullness transcended the vision of the followers of these goddesses.  Thus I also choose Isis over the Celtic and Germanic goddesses about whom we in fact know very little.

Isis dominates in the West. However a powerful Goddess tradition  exists  in India. The Hindu goddesses, Durga, Laksmi, Kali, Sarasvati and others are worshiped by millions of Hindus today. These goddesses have living scriptures, theologies and devotional traditions which are lived today by millions of people. Why Isis and not the MahaDevi, the Great Goddess of India. The answer is simple I am not Hindu and the religious ideals and ideas of India do not come easily to me. I am very open to learning from the traditions of India but my heart finds its home more easily in Isis than in Durga and her wars, the Laksmi of wealth, or in the Kali of the funeral piles.

Another alternative to Isis that presented itself was of course the Great Goddess who is worshiped in Wiccan faith and is believed by many to represent an earlier matriarchal Ancient European civilization prior to its overthrow by patriarchal invaders. Since I am not a practitioner of  Wicca  I do not naturally gravitate toward  the Goddess of Wicca. Neither am I persuaded by the Great Goddess of matriarchy. While I suspect that Ancient European civilization was perhaps much more egalitarian than what followed, I doubt that the civilization of Ancient Europe was as  completely peaceful and matriarchal as it is normally portrayed. Further more I doubt that any past civilization has ever worshiped a purely monotheistic Great Goddess. I believe that the Ancient Europeans worshiped several goddesses and gods of which the goddesses were probably more important. The final fact to be noted  is that the Ancient European goddesses like the goddesses of ancient Crete are in fact unknowable historically since the peoples of Old Europe  had no writing.  We can not even know  the names of their goddesses, their myths and practices. At  best all we can do is make educated guesses regarding their nature based on our knowledge of latter history and religious anthropology. This blank slate is nothing on which I can base my faith.

This leaves the last alternative to Isis, the biblical Sophia and the Jewish Shekinah of the Kabbalistic Jewish traditions.
Given my interest in the monotheistic traditions of both Christianity and Judaism I find both Sophia and the Shekinah to be immediately attractive. However there are some real problems in which both share. Nether the  Shekinah nor Sophia  were ever full goddesses in the sense that they received cultic worship and adoration. The biblical Sophia may have been the “creation” of biblical wisdom scholars developed to create in students a love of “Wisdom” (Note. When I say that “Wisdom” may have been created I am not suggesting that She is not real or that She did not inspire the biblical writers to “create” Her.) I do think that many  scholars worshiped Sophia / Wisdom in their inner minds as God’s Wisdom. However given the nature of Jewish monotheism that is as far as it could develop. The Sophia tradition of course latter migrated into Gnosticism and to the Western Esoteric traditions. However she in my opinion has never had the full presence and glory as does Isis. Isis is a Goddess not subordinated to a male God. Sophia has always worn the tint of such subordination. The same applies to the Shekinah.  She appears primarily in the Jewish Kabbalistic writings of the Middle Ages as being the female presence of God. The word Shekinah means “Presence.” The Shekinah as in the case of Sophia was never worshiped in a cult of her own.  I certainly do think that Jewish mystics, scholars, and many  ordinary people had a relationship with her. She may have been worshipped silently  in the heart of many people. Again even though within the Kabbalistic literature the Shekinah functions as the feminine divine, she is always ultimately subordinate to the High Holy One, the King, who receives all of the cultic worship and who is ultimately G-d.

I worry that some persons on reading this post may see it as being an arrogant promotion of a monotheistic Isis and a put down of their own beliefs. I do not intend it as such. What I want  to do is to give an accounting of some of my own reasonings for my own worship of Isis. I certainly do not think that Isis is the only legitimate form of the “feminine divine.” (Note I do not like the terms divine feminine or divine masculine)
Demeter, Inanna, Athena, Cybele  and of course the goddesses of India are all worthy of worship and devotion. Though I do have real problems with the theologies in which they are worshipped as only singular and limited goddesses within  pantheons of like wise singular and limited goddesses. To use an old metaphor if one imagines the Goddess as being a great diamond, each Goddess is a facet and gleam of that diamond. In some of the Goddesses a people see only a partial relatively small part of that diamond. In other traditions a great degree more of that diamond is revealed. In Isis that diamond is seen to the fullest extent possible for this age.

Glenn King
golden Isis

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10 thoughts on “Why Isis?

  1. Pingback: Mary Christmas « Isiopolis

  2. Wonderfull post!

    I hope it’s no problem when I reply to this post since it is already some years old?

    “Isis dominates in the West.” Fabulous quote. It gives a new connotation to Isis’ old predicate “Mistress of the West”, whom she borrowed from Hathor (but since in Isian theology all deities are Isis one cannot speak of borrowing anymore). The flag of Europe with it stars is for me nothing else then Isis’ mantle described by Apuleius (allthough he actually was said to be black instead of blue).

    I personally used to regard her also as the One deity who created universe… well I sometimes still do… but since Ive learned from Gnosis and Neoplatonism etc… I don’t know… for me is Isis purely good. That might be some naive perception of her, but well, for me she embodies “motherhood” and above all “mercy” and “comfort”… so for this reason I’m starting to share Plutarch’s vision of Isis (and Osiris and Seth) as daimones rather then as gods… Isis as a sort of divine angel or angelic deity, the Bona Fortuna, the ‘Good Faerie’ of the faerie tales, the One who always helps people (and animals).

    But this all-goodness doesn’t fit with reality. On some bad days, I’m just wondering if world is made by a cruel, heartless deity who enjoys humans longing after something what they don’t have or, even worser, losing that what they have… in a material world everthing has an end, and that’s why for us, material beings, world seems so cruel…

    Of course, world just SEEMS cruel to us. How the world really is… we can’t know for sure. But whoever the Creator or Demiurg might be… for me it’s hardly to belief that it is Isis, just because I personally regard her as the All-Good and All-Mercifull…. and that are no properties for a Demiurg. Or I’m not able to understand it. For me, the Demiurg is rather a deity like Rhea or Zeus or Sarapis or Odhinn. But in some way, Isis is still more powerfull then he is… and after all… behind the Demiurg there is still another One.

    Thanks for this blog!

    Greetings
    Sebastian

  3. Sebastian thanks for the comments. I appreciate them. I would like to respond briefly to your speculation that Isis is a daimon as opposed to being the creator or demiurge. While I believe that Isis is good, I also believe as certain of her hymns state that she is creatress. I simply do not share the gnostic belief that because this physical universe is full of suffering and evil that its creator must therefore be imperfect or flawed. I will fully admit that I do not understand the origins of evil and imperfection. I take that it is the result of some sort of “fall.” There are several versions of the nature of the fall but I do not accept any of them as being the definitive truth. Nether do I entirely negate what these stories have to offer.

    When it come to Isis it is her primary aspects of power, majesty, beauty, and as the source of maat / righteousness and salvation that I tend to see. All these tend to go along with her creative and sustaining role. The issue of evil? Yes on bad days I sometime doubt that their is any deity at all. Perhaps life is simply just the result of an infinity of possibilities and odd chemical reactions signifying nothing. But I can’t live with that belief. I believe in Isis. Again thanks for the comments and feel free to respond if you wish.

    Glenn

    • Hi Glenn,

      I feel free to respond 🙂

      About the universe… about evil… well, what I believe and what I know are in this particular case two different things. I like to know about Gnosis and Neoplatonism with their rather pessimistic way of thinking of the world… but beliefing… well, in that case I’m more into Epicurism and Buddhism: it’s up to oneself to be or to get happy: it’s never a good idea to let luck depend of outer things (though that is very difficult).

      And about Isis: I’ll be the last who would denie the possibility of Isis being the Demiurg or Creatress. But to tell the truth, it doesn’t matter to me if Isis is the demiurg or a daimon, a goddess or a former naiad (Io), an immoral or a mortal… it doesn’t change my religious feelings toward Isis.

      Greetings
      Sebastian

      • (Even if that opinion is a little against Plutarch’s message about “longing for true wisdom”.

  4. Reblogged this on Aset Maryam and commented:

    Recently there have been some comments on my old post “Why Isis.” I think these are of interest so I thought that I would reblog the post.

    Glenn

  5. Isis is also an important Goddess for me. She is not the only aspect of Dea that I resonate with, but She is a major one. I am looking for more ways to incorporate Her worship into my Filianic practice and to learn more about Her, as She is a Goddess who I have felt a calling to worship for several years now but I have not done much in answering that call.

    • Carmilla, thanks for your thoughts. Regarding the idea of integrating Isis into ones worship life, it all depends of ones understanding of her. There seems to be two primary ways (there are actually more) in which people think of Isis. It is my impression that most view her through Kemetic (Ancient Egyptian) lens within the context of her known ancient mythology. Within this context she is integrated fully into her divine family relationships as divine daughter of Nut, loving wife of Osiris, Mother of Horus and thus Queen Mother of the Egyptian throne. She is also as a result a powerful divine being who however is limited by other divine beings. Within this context one would worship her as only one of the many goddesses.

      The other lens by which to see Isis is through the vision of Isis as universal Goddess who in fact is the full Deity behind and beyond all other deities. This vision of Isis clearly developed during the Hellenistic period of the Ptolemies and continued during the Roman period. This point of view was articulated by persons as suchthe author of the Temple of Philae hymns, the priest Isidorus, and quite eloquently by the Latin author Apuleius. Thus while it is probable that the older tradition of Isis never disappeared during the centuries of the Hellenistic and Roman empires, this second tradition developed along side the Kemetic tradition.

      That second tradition is in fact the tradition that I accepted and which has shaped my understanding of Isis. Of course that being the case Isis for me is simply God or Goddess as the case may be. She is the One and all other gods and goddesses are simply aspects of her. And because I have never really been interested in integrating the worship of the other Egyptian gods into my religious practice my worship of Isis and my understanding of her has never been strongly connected to her mythology.

      Pamela Lanedes has stated that she never could envision the Mother / Lady as being deity in her full right until she met the Filianic community. For me it was the meeting of Isis that did that for me. My problem was that I hoped that a full Bhakti / Devotional Isian movement could develop out of that Hellenistic vision. It has not probably because most modern pagans see Isis only as one deity of among many within the context of its Neopagan or Neokemetic consensus. What I have so admired in Deanism / Filianism is that it has broken from the Neopaganism and New Ageism of contemporary alternative spiritualities and developed a religion in many ways similar to what I hoped would have centered around Isis. Any way this is probably more then you might want to know. It is just something I wanted to share. Anyway for me now Isis is simply Dea.

      Glenn

      • I have noticed that, as well. I also tend to gravitate more toward Isis in Her Kemetic sense, because I have always been drawn to multiple Goddesses from various pantheons. Artemis is another Goddess who I consider a Matron, as She has had a profound impact on my life. Isis is the only one who actually called me to worship Her, though, as I had not paid Her as much attention in my worship before. Of course, as a Filyani all of these Goddesses are aspects of Dea on a higher level, and I worship the ones that I am drawn to and feel most comfortable with. This is what I love about Filianism. It is also what I loved about Hinduism when I was studying that religion.
        That is interesting regarding your Hellenistic view of Isis. I think it comes together perfectly with the Filianic faith. I agree with your statement on alternative Neo-Pagan “religions”. They are too based in modern concepts and politics rather than steeped in any sense of tradition.

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