The gods can be perceived as different things to different people.
I received this question from a wonderful person who has been attending some of our temple events in recent months and I answered it as best I could then got to thinking, others might also benefit from this conversation. So, with no names involved to protect privacy, here is an excerpt from the discussion…
Another thing I’ve been trying to figure out is how exactly to see the gods. I have a hard time seeing them as literal beings. I can see how they could be archetypes that represent a certain energy force that can manipulate or be manipulated, but I’ve felt more in the last few months when meditating and praying then I ever did from anything else I have ever tried before.
Hang on, I need to explain something so this will make more sense.
So before I started researching paganism I was an atheist. This spring I took a couple of philosophy classes and I started thinking about how I have been trying to improve as a person. I realized since some shitty things had happened with *my ex* my personal growth had been shifting toward intellectual, academic growth while virtually ignoring any emotional or spiritual growth. I had become incredibly analytical and skeptical about everything. So I decided to shift my focus and try to work on the other side of things. I started googling stuff, ended up finding some stuff about paganism, and here we are.
The point of all that is I suppose is to point out that I tend to have a hard time letting go of that skepticism sometimes. Even when I see signs, I have to stop myself from trying to logic them away.
For 22 years of my own life I considered myself to be an agnostic so I can relate with where you are coming from in some ways making the journey from an atheist’s perspective. Understand, there are some folks who consider themselves Humanistic and even Atheist Pagans so it’s not unheard of to come to this conclusion in your relationship with the divine. I, began my journey after having a vision which convinced me that YES there is something besides just me, my fellow humans and other living beings, etc. A Goddess actually spoke to me as far as I’m concerned and no, it wasn’t like you and I might speak to one another in person. It was something like a lucid dream but so much more. I can’t really describe it in terms that I feel do it justice other than to say I felt a presence and that presence did not feel like it came from myself or within my own mind. So, I have spent years since meditating on it, connecting in whatever ways I find and trying to wrap my own head around what the nature of that presence might be. I too, explored the concepts of Jungian archetypes and because they fit into my (at the time) more scientific and academic view on things that model worked for me for a long time but after awhile it just didn’t “feel” right anymore. By this time I was beginning my formal study as an Alexandrian Wiccan and my mentor was teaching me of the duo-theistic nature of the divine, the Lord and Lady, God and Goddess. This made much more sense to me at the time. I liked the idea of balance and that just as there are masculine and feminine energies at work in nature, so it would be in the world of the divine. The diamond concept of the divine seemed sensible too, that all gods and all goddesses are facets of the same divine source. I subscribed to this model for several years. Then eventually I began studying ADF Druidry. Druids teach that all gods and all goddesses are their own individual entities upon themselves. I struggled with this concept for quite some time before finally accepting it and ultimately, I do feel that these divine beings do have their own autonomy from one another, their own personalities and spheres of influence. But it seems to me that they are also, still, quite interconnected with one another in some way that I haven’t quite conceived yet and am not sure if I ever will.
These are the legs of my personal journey so far but it’s by no means complete. But the answer to your question is, I can not tell you how exactly to see the gods. The gods are a concept that we all have theories on and, much like the blind men and the elephant, I think we all may well have a piece of the truth but none of us can really see the entire, big picture. Your journey will be your journey just as mine is mine. How you see and interact with your gods will be a very personal matter between you and them. This is why most pagan religions focus on orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy. In other words, what we do is more important than what we believe. We all may have a ritual together or have some other spiritual experience together but we will each take something different away from the experience. While I might see a shimmering ball of light descend from the heavens, you might see a warrior goddess riding on a horse. We see what we need to see and we take that vision to lead us on our journey.
But, that being said, I too, find meditation to be the most effective way to prepare my mind and spirit for connection with the divine. It is the vehicle I prefer to use and I recommend it highly to others. I know, some use other methods and those are reported to be highly effective to. But I am happy with where meditation has taken me and I feel it deepens my connection with the gods, whatever they may be.