That gods are not functionaries.

Earlier on Twitter I posted:

Gods do not have “functions”, they are not cogs. Thinking of them in terms of their utility to either us or the cosmos is to invert the real relation. Too often is this “function” theology espoused, it is not reverent.

As I received several replies asking for clarification, I will elaborate further.

As the gods are prior to the cosmos, it is impossible for us to state that primally latent in any god or goddess is some sort of cosmic “function”, “purpose”, “role”, etc.

To state the essence of a god is to fulfil a “function” is equivalent to stating the function of trees is to be material for building boats. Trees existed long before humans were building boats out of them, and they exist and have their particular being for their own sake.

Another example would be to say that the function of the body is to provide a place for hearts to pump blood. As should be clear, to say a god has any sort of prescriptive role in regard to humanity or the cosmos is to actually reverse the functionary relationship.

It is most natural for us, as humans, to presume that a cause’s effect is the function of that cause, because the primary way humans view the world is through utility. Daily we are using tools and systems we’ve invented which functionally do exist to cause their effects.

It becomes instinctual for us to project this utilitarian vision onto the gods when seeking causes behind aspects of our world, stating that one god serves to cultivate the sea, another god the sun, and another vegetation, and that all together they serve to produce what we know.

Being cognisant of our predilection to think subjectively about these questions was Damascius’s central concern in ‘Problems and Solutions’, warning of our native liability to fall into the error of reversing the relations our ontological priors have to later things.

To gain an intuitive understanding of how the gods do relate to the cosmos, we need merely consider ourselves. Our soul is deity to our bodies, provisioning it with life, order, and harmony. The function of the soul is not to create the body, but does so to serve its own purpose.

Were our cells conscious and liable to ignorance as we are, they too would think of the soul that governs them in similar utilitarian terms, taking their existence for granted and interpreting the soul’s cultivation of the body to be the soul’s primary function.

The cell believes this of the soul because the cell knows nothing of the life of the soul beyond its effects within the body. Thus, it presumes that the life of the soul is for its effects, but truly the effects are produced in service to the life of the soul.

It is the same with the gods, though with far more profundity than our petty example.

Each deity’s inner kingdom, the harmonised plurality of which makes manifest the union we call the cosmos, are produced and cultivated by that god in service to that god’s own hypercosmic life.

In fact, the relation we have with our bodies is modelled directly upon the relation the gods have with the cosmos and their kingdoms. Soul produces body to serve its contemplation of goodness, and so too the gods produce the cosmos to serve their own contemplation of goodness.

It is in this sense that truly the soul is a god, as Plotinus implored, for there is no mistaking the soul’s divine congeniality. But the demarcation that crowns the gods with superior majesty over all is the acuity of their vision, and the consequent sagacity of their wisdom.

Verily it is our lack of vision that inclines us into native ignorance to the nature of the gods, compelling understandings that accord with our most immediate intuitions and not according to deeper understanding.

This point may seem semantical to some, but its consequence is separation from the gods.

Our souls have engaged the cosmos to perfect its knowledge and purify its faults, and it does so because each flaw in its vision is enough to deny it apotheotic communion with the gods.

Given our very presence here is contingent upon needing to perfect our inner vision, issues such as this ought not be thought tedious, but rather central to our purpose.