Isis and the current situation

I created this blog in 2008 to be a place in which I could discuss my thoughts regarding issues ofblack-madonna4 religion and spirituality. At that time I saw it as being primarily a place in which two discussions could be initiated by my posts. One of these was to be a discussion of the relationship between the Roman Catholic and Neopagan understandings of the Virgin Mary. Along with this blog I also established a decent sized yahoo e-group in hope of developing a Christian Pagan dialogue on Mary while simultaneously searching out the internet to see if any convergence between Pagans and Catholics on Mary was occurring. The contrary in fact was the reality. Within the post-Vatican II era Roman Catholic Church, Marian devotionalism has been downgraded as being offensive to Protestants and as being biblically unsound. Within liberal Catholic circles Marian devotionalism is increasingly unfashionable because traditional stories of Mary are believed to portray unhealthy and sexually repressive role modals for young Catholic girls.. Within the circles of traditionalist Catholicism Mary was still revered. However it soon became obvious to me that the last thing that people in that cultural milieu wanted was for any association to be seen between Mary and Paganism.Thus it soon became clear that the discussion which I wanted to initiate within this blog would never happen. . As the years have passed and my last flicker of interest in Christianity burned out in 2011 so has much of my interest in Mary.Even though; I still love many of the beautiful icons and statues of Mary and I still see her as the closest thing that Christianity will ever have to a goddess.

209px-Isis_-_ViennaThe other aspiration I had for this blog was for it to be a place in which discussions on development of a religion devoted to Isis could be developed. I had hoped that a religion based on Isis devotionalism centered on the worship and devotion to Isis as the Goddess / God / creatrix of the universe might develop. After all a widespread at least superficial interest in Isis exists throughout much of the culture of Neopaganism. She is mentioned on many websites and many e-groups seem to be dedicated to her. I saw Isis at the time and still see her as essentially a monotheistic Goddess in which all other goddesses and gods are aspects. I saw her as the supreme deity and not just as one aspect of the Great Goddess of modern Neopaganism. This vision of Isis as supreme and universal Goddess for me is inspired by the theological vision of Isis as universal Goddess which for at least five centuries, 300 BCE to about 200 CE, inspired educated followers such as Apuleius and Isidorus within the Graeco-Roman world.

That goal was also doomed to failure for several reasons. First in spite of the fact that a belief in a functionally monotheistic Great Mother / Goddess may exist within modern Paganism, it increasingly seems to me that the real energy in Paganism is focused on its polytheistic features. Most pagans with whom I have had contact over the years seem much more fascinated by the many various particular gods and goddesses of the Pagan pantheons than they are in the Source or Ultimate from which these come.

Two. To the degree that modern Paganism does have an interest in the Great Goddess, she has in general been conceptualized primarily by the modern ideas of the theologians of modern Neopaganism. Thus she is often is connected to Jungian archetypes, the celebration of modern female sexuality or woman’s empowerment concerns which are quite modern in character. She is not tied particularly closely to the conceptions of the universal Goddess which might have been held by an Apuleius, a Plutarch, or an Isidorus. To the extent that moderns are interested in the real ancient Isis they seem to be drawn more to the Kemetic vision of the particular Goddess of the Isis / Osirus / Horus mythos. Within this mythos however Isis is simply one of the several significant goddesses of Ancient Egpyt and hardly the supreme deity of the Graeco-Roman period.

Three. Modern alternative religions such as the New Age Movement and Neopaganism seem to have an aversion to any religion which is focused primarily on the worship, praise and devotion of a single Deity. The ideal of an ongoing obedience or submission to the divine will of a particular Deity no matter how compassionate or just that will is smacks of the monotheisms of the Abrahamic faiths and no doubt is seen as a violation of the freedom of free spirits.

Certainly this suspicion of anything that smacks of monotheism and its many forms of moralism is understandable. All of the Abrahamic faiths to greater and lessor extent though out their histories have embraced systems of oppression in the name of submission to the will of God. They have all impeded legitimate aspects of human freedom.

However the concepts of divine law and obedience to practices that bring one closer to the Divine or which bring greater justice and love into the world is legitimate and to be desired. Concepts of divine law not only exist within the Abrahamic faiths, they also exist within Hinduism, Buddhism and even within faiths such as Taoism. It is a traditional teaching of vital importance. Without the concepts of Divine Law, Dharma, Torah, Ma’at, or the Way human beings are left subject only to their immediate passions, impulses and habits by which to live. Without divine law and strong vital religious traditions the human person is left alone without the knowledge of the body of wisdom which has developed though out the history of human existence.

A corollary to this is the emphasis on magic within neopaganism which seems in general to cause any emphases on the worship or adoration of the Deity to be deemphasised. I have of course run into persons who clearly do have a strong love of Isis or some other goddess or god of one of the ancient pagan religions. However these seem to me to be the exception to the rule. Look at any bookstore under the Pagan / Wicca / New Age sections. How many books will one find on how to do magic? How many in which hymns or psalms to a deity play a part? The answer to these questions in general enables one to see the trend.

Four. A final reason for the failure for a new and vital Isian faith to develop in the modern world seems based on the simple lack of theological resources on which to develop a mature Isian devotional theology. The fact is that there is a paucity of ancient theological literature regarding Isis from the ancient world which can usefully serve that purpose. For example within most of the ancient Kemetic literature Isis plays an important role as the mother of Horus the representative God of the Egyptian monarchy and as the wife of Osirus who would ultimately have the role of the King over the realm of the Dead. She basically played the role of the Queen Mother of the important terrestial Gods. However she did not play the most significant role within Kemetic religion the most important position of which was held by Amen Ra the God of the sun and the Creator. Further more both Osirus and Horus have much greater roles within the most of the sacred literature of ancient Egypt. Examples of this are found within the Pyramid texts and the various Books of the Dead. This literature does not provide much support for a modern religion of Isis

Isis only came into her own during the Graeco-Roman period when she fired the vision of the influx of new Greek worshipers who could see in her character that which was lacking within the mythologies of the goddesses of their own pantheons. They saw characteristics which enabled them to see her as the supreme deity from which the other deities precede. Unfortunately in spite of the fact that writers such as Apuleius, Isidorus, and the writer of the Kyme aretalogy may have provided the seeds of a strong devotional theology of Isis, the amount of literature dedicated to Isis is still quite small. Admittedly while much more literature is committed to Isis than is committed for instance to Hera the Queen of the Olympian gods or to Athena the supreme goddess of Athens, it is still extremely limited. We for example have the beautiful hymns dedicated to Isis by Apuleius, and the three hymns committed to her by Isidorus. We have the Kyme and Maronea aretalogies and the hymns from her temple at Philae. This is the bulk of what we have and no consistent theology exists within this literature. Though it is possible that this literature can be used as the initial core for the development of an Isian theology, this has not happened.

In the early part of 2012 I converted to a religion called Filianism based on the theology articulated on a website called the Chapel of Our Mother God. Perhaps converted is too strong a word to use. I did not convert to all of the aspects of that faith. However from that time on, I came decisively under the sway of that faith and increasingly became strongly committed to my own understanding of that faith. I become a member participant in what I call the Independent Filianic community and developed strong working relationships and friendships with some of its most important actors.

One of the consequence of this is that I developed a another blog initially named the Sodality of Thea now named In the Way to Thea. It has become over time my primary theological blog in which issues of Filianism / De’anism are most frequently discussed.One result of this is I no longer have much time to dedicate to this blog and It is not useful for me to divide my writing efforts between these two blogs. On the other hand I do not want to close this blog down or to simply let it hang in the wind in neglect. It has been too important for me for that.

Therefore I plan to begin to regularly reblog most of my writings from In the Way to Thea here. Hopefully readers of this blog will find those articles to be of interest. I also want to say that I in no way believe that such a use of this blog is contrary to the spirit of its original purpose. Isis is still at the center of my spiritual universe. She to me is Thea / God. The De’anic religion to me is most of what I had hoped for from a mature Isianic theology and religion. I also want to say that at some point in time I may continue to post articles here specifically on an Isian theology. Time will tell.

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