This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Polytheism and Pratika

What Westerners see as polytheism in Hinduism is really nothing but the expression in symbolic form of the indefinite number of Divine Attributes which is is possible of applying to Ishwara or Universal Being. Their ‘pantheon’ is a symbolic key to a vast metaphysical doctrine for the purposes of mediation on particular aspects of the divine, clothed in an image and denoted by the term pratika. Idol worship and pratika worship are therefore entirely different practices. Idol worship only occurs when doctrine is forgotten. When a tradition loses touch in this way with its metaphysical basis, it soon ‘forgets’ that these symbols (patrika) are but clothed attributes, and begins to imagine them anthropomorphically as independent beings. This is precisely what occurred among the Greeks, who has an extensive pantheon of symbols which, in time, came to be devoid of any meaning but the most external, and were imagined as human-like beings and used as little more than fodder for poetry and art. This is idolatry in its truest sense, which involves the use of a symbol without an understanding of its true meaning. This is why it is true to call the Greeks idolaters, while the same cannot be said of the Hindus. This is also why the Greek pantheon can be described as ‘polytheism,’ which implies that the ‘gods’ be conceived as personalities after the fashion of man, while it is incorrect to describe Hinduism as theistic in any way, poly- or otherwise. Having said this, it should be understood that if an individual in the Hindu tradition chooses to ‘affiliate’ himself with a particular pratika, it should not be taken as an allegiance to one god over and against all others. It should, on the contrary, be taken as a statement about the constitution and aptitude of the individual himself, who in his tradition is free to attach himself to those symbols most in conformity to his nature and tendencies. That is to say, he is free to take the path most appropriate to him. Such an attitude is similar to the Catholic freedom to be devoted to a particular saint more than the rest, or the choice to join this monastic order and not another. We should add, however, that this is weak comparison, and it is true only concerning the attitude these two traditions show toward diversity of devotion, and should not be taken as suggesting doctrinal similarity in the practices themselves. That is to say, the Catholic saint is not patrika.

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