Several years ago when I was on holiday in the U.K. I was walking around town and somehow wound up with a copy of the Bhagavad Gita given to me by a Hari Krishna missionary. At the time I was not in a position to read the book but I did go through it when I got back to what I was calling home during my time in the U.K. I was intrigued by some of the ideas put forward in the book and for the most part, though my look through was not a comprehensive reading of the text. However, while there was nothing overtly ‘wrong’ about the text, there was decidedly something about it that made me uneasy and at the time it took me quite a while to work out what it was that I was being… put off by. Even then I couldn’t really put it into words, however since then I’ve experienced much and come across a number of different ways of expressing things. In this case, I use something I heard while studying in Japan.
Exclusive and Inclusive spirituality/religion.
The Bhagavad Gita, loathe though I am to critique a holy/sacred text, fits firmly into the first category of exclusive spirituality/religion. The primary trait of these religions is that they claim to be the one, single truth and that all others are incorrect – they exclude everything that is not theirs and expect all to come around to their point of view. Meanwhile, inclusive religions tend to accept all points of view and in some instances blend things together.
Both of these perspectives are neither right nor wrong. There are those in exclusive religions who are extremely good people worthy of respect and admiration, people in inclusive religions who are frightfully fanatic and lack any sense of decency as well as vice versa. They are simply two different ways of looking at the world and both have their opinions when it comes to what is and isn’t Truth. I’ve seen a number of Pagans who identify as Pagan but also as atheist (specifically just Pagans, I’ve not come across any self described Heathens yet who are also atheist). Now, each of their descriptions of atheist varied somewhat, but all those who described themselves as such believed in no god/s. This might seem like a tangent, but it does have a point.
The truth for me, and you may or may not agree with me on this, is that everything is true. In as much as that is possible. For example, I believe that each pantheon of deities created the or at least a part of the world, as each of their culture’s creation myths detail. To my mind and perspective every creation myth is true, and for those asking ‘how can that be when each one says they made the world/universe/everything?’ I would reply ‘Well, they are gods. Who are we to say what is or is not possible for them?’
Today, I happened to come across another Hari Krishna missionary who wanted to pass on a copy of the Bhagavad Gita to me and it was in the moment that I said no thanks, that I realised why I truly didn’t want a copy of it. It wasn’t because I had already gone through it or that I didn’t want to know about it or anything like that. I didn’t want a copy of it because it would only tell me that there is only one way and only one truth, which fundamentally goes against everything that I believe. Right down to my core, I believe that every pantheon and every deity is real, exists or existed (thats a whole different conversation) and that each of their stories and myths is also true.