Polytheism and Monotheism: Mutually Exclusive or Interdependent? (66926)

Session Information: Interdisciplinary Religion
Session Chair: Dmitry Usenco

Saturday, 1 April 2023 16:50
Session: Session 4
Room: Room 708
Presentation Type:Oral Presentation

All presentation times are UTC + 9 (Asia/Tokyo)

Although it is common to assume that monotheism is a natural and logical outcome of polytheism’s intrinsic development (praeparatio evangelica), the author of this paper believes that they constitute two distinct and sustainable branches of spiritual evolution. The watershed between them seems to be impenetrable: while polytheism (=traditional / primal / tribal religion) proceeds mostly on collective / inductive experience of the numinous, monotheism relies chiefly on a priori intuition / philosophical abstraction / deduction / moral imperative. Yet, because it is impossible to substantiate that abstraction (=prove the existence of God) from experience, as Kant has convincingly shown, monotheism has to turn to polytheism for substratum, trying to reconcile the inevitably partial / finite nature of the available experience with a claim to universality, infinity, and all-inclusivity. This results in a compromise where polytheism’s finite but experience-based spiritual entities and their attributes are recycled into symbols of the infinite / perfect but ultimately ungraspable Supreme Being. The above relation bears a striking resemblance to that between the two major kingdoms of living organisms of Earth – plants and animals. Like animals, who are unable to assimilate inorganic matter and have to consume plants for subsistence, monotheism, unable to experience the infinity of its postulated deity, has to ‘consume’ the abundant but imperfect experiences of polytheism, 'feeding' with them its own spiritual substance. The above analogy, although not absolute, nevertheless gives rise to many interesting inferences on the interdependence and potential convergence of the two spiritual phenomena.

Dmitry Usenco, Independent Researcher, United Kingdom

About the Presenter(s)
Dr Dmitry Usenco is an independent UK-based scholar. He has published a book on African Traditional Religion vs Christianity and is now writing a fundamental work whose provisional title is 'The Evolution of Religion from Semiotic Perspective'.

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Posted by Clive Staples Lewis

Last updated: 2023-02-23 23:45:00