THE GHOSTS OF DREAD FLESH
I know I’ve probably mentioned this before but the older I get and the more I study ancient and pagan myth (and I’ve studied them since I was a teenager, and a lot in college when I majored in religion and philosophy) the more firmly convinced I am that myth was not a religion or religion at all (certainly not as we think of religions) but was actually proto-psychology and in some rare cases, primitive observations on natural phenomenon (proto-natural-science).
All of the pagan “gods and goddesses” were far too human to be anything other than psychological (psuche – soul, as the Greeks would say) observations upon human nature and the human soul. Plus all pagan “gods and pantheons” tended to behave abysmally, at least from time to time and as the mood struck them, with even the chiefs of gods being immoral at a whim, or at the very least amoral. And the more “moral gods” were almost universally relegated to background or secondary positions of no real power (other than that of cunning and craft). Precisely why Socrates could not believe in the gods and preferred his conception of God.
No, the ancient pagan gods were all soul-gods, that is to say “human gods” not spiritual gods at all, as we would think of God.
(That meaning a Real God who supersedes his Creation and who supersedes human behavior by being absolutely moral. Though the Norse gods and goddesses tended to be far more moral than let’s say the Greek or Asiatic ones and I think that to a large degree this was precisely because of the fact that they knew they were doomed and would be called to account at the Ragnarök. They knew they were limited in lifespan, they had no illusions that they were either omniscient or omnipotent, and they knew they would be eventually destroyed and replaced. It was hard-wired into their very prophecies and that kind of thing tends to often act as a governor against immorality – intentional malignance, and against amorality – not caring one way or another.)
When pagan myths were not proto-psychology they were observations on natural phenomenon and on things that could not be explained by a very limited proto-science, such as Chimeras.
No, over time I’ve come to realize that the ancient and pagan gods were real alright, and are still real, just not as really having anything to do with religion or the spiritual or God at all. They were real as proto-psychology, not as religion, and later and even today they have been largely absorbed into modern psychology as archetypes of human behavior and as exemplars of the human soul. But not of the Spirit. They are the Ghosts of Dread Flesh, not the Holy Ghost.
And this is why I think, that relatively speaking, they were later so easily overturned by and replaced by religions (like Judaism and Christianity and even to some extent by Hinduism and Buddhism – though Buddha himself was an atheist, so again, it depends very much upon your definition of “religion”), and that is because, as much as I like and respect the Psyche, it is very small and limited in relation to the Spirit, and to God.
The gods were absorbed into psychology (which still serves a very important function, just not a religious and spiritual one), because in fact, that’s what they were – soul-gods, and replaced by God, the Spirit-Lord, against whom no soul-god can really compete or is really qualified to compete.
Just as no man can compete against God, he can only ally himself with God and seek a beneficial relationship, or reject and rebel against God.
(I’d go ahead and turn this into a decent essay but I’m pressed for time right now with my novel and with my other works. Maybe later. Though I may also turn this idea into a lecture, and/or add the concept as a chapter to be included in my Meisterwerk on Psychology, The Four Inherents.)