Polycentric Polytheism and the Philosophy of Religion
Issue: Vol 10 No. 2 (2008)
Subject Areas: Religious Studies
The comparison drawn by the Neoplatonist Olympiodorus between the Stoic doctrine of the reciprocal implication of the virtues and the Neoplatonic doctrine of the presence of all the gods in each helps to elucidate the latter. In particular, the idea of primary and secondary “perspectives” in each virtue, when applied to Neoplatonic theology, can clarify certain theoretical statements made by Proclus in his Cratylus commentary concerning specific patterns of inherence of deities in one another. More broadly, the “polycentric” nature of Neoplatonic theology provides a theoretical articulation for henotheistic practices within polytheism without invoking evolutionist notions of “monotheistic tendencies.” The Neoplatonic distinction between the modes of unity exhibited by divine individuals (“henads”) and ontic units (“monads”), which is integral to the polycentric theology, also provides a theoretical basis for the non reductive crosscultural comparison between deities. The polycentric theology thus offers a promising foundation for a polytheistic philosophy of religion.
Author: Edward P. Butler