Some Highlights From Things I’ve Read

I’ve made some notes and highlights public on Goodreads related to polytheistic things I’ve read over the years. You can look at them even if you don’t have a Goodreads account. While I don’t read books on Kindle anymore because I have a Kobo and am trying to avoid Amazon, there’s no real reason for me to keep these notes secret, as they may be useful for someone deciding what to read.

As a disclaimer, please note that I use the highlighting tool in ebooks to quickly bookmark passages that I want to remember.

Sometimes, I agree with the contents of the highlights. At other times, I do not. You will not be able to tell the difference unless you know me well. The actual bookmarking tool in ebooks is not very effective because I can’t see content previews, and thus many of these highlights are mnemonic tools to help me remember where in an ebook something was discussed.

Once I figure out how to export/share highlights and notes on Kobo, which may require some command line action, I may also share those.

Click here to see the notes.

The books for which I have shared notes are:

  • Return to the One, Brian Hines (83 highlights)
    • I actually have no memory of ever having read this book. It probably got read during my gap year between college and grad school when I was an absolute mess. Skimming through the notes again was therefore quite uncanny.
    • It would be weird to pull out quotes from something I don’t even remember reading. Some of them are cool, though.
  • The Deities Are Many: A Polytheistic Theology, Jordan D. Paper (1 note, 33 highlights)
    • I was really excited when I learned that this book existed. It’s one of the first polytheistic theological books I had the opportunity to read when I was young, and I was very thirsty for something like it.
      • After I realized books like this (and A Million and One Gods) existed, I learned the Library of Congress Subject Headings and call numbers and constantly checked to see if any more theological works were written in this vein. I was usually very disappointed.
    • Two particular quotations:
      • “On the other hand, if one creates or accepts a relationship with a deity that has integral obligations, particularly if one makes promises to a deity, then it would be the height of folly to ignore these obligations. We call on deities because they are far more powerful than we are; to deliberately not meet obligations we have made or accepted could be life threatening. This is not because of vengeance but simply due to failure to abide by our promises.”
      • “We in the West tend to have a very narrow view of divinity. In ignorance of Hellenic and Hellenistic deities as they were originally understood, we have used them as a model for understanding polytheistic traditions as a whole. I use the word “ignorance” because the view of the Indo-European divinities imparted in North American schools has been so decontextualized from their religious and other cultural underpinnings that these understanding can have no possible validity.”
  • Essays on Plato, Edward P. Butler (49 highlights)
    • I have other notes elsewhere about this, but these are the ones that are actually within the Kindle app.
    • This is a collection of essays, but here are two quotations:
      • “Proclus explains that “symbols [symbola] are not imitations of those things of which they are symbols,” and thus “If a poet is inspired and manifests by means of symbols” – literally “tokens”, synthêmata, a technical term in theurgy – “the truth concerning beings, or if, using science, he reveals to us the very order of realities, this poet is neither an imitator, nor can be refuted by the arguments [in the text].”
      • “The esoteric interpretation of myth is a critique of mythic narrative on behalf of the integrity of each God in the polycentric manifold; its goal is to recover the sense of each deity as the wider good.”
  • A Million and One Gods, Page duBois (1 note, 62 highlights)
    • See my notes on Paper’s The Deities Are Many — I was excited to read this book for the same reason.
    • Two particular quotations:
      • “Some may even be said to want to rescue their ancient Greeks and Romans from what they see as the intellectual, spiritual, and social untidiness of polytheism, perhaps unconsciously imposing a teleology, a shape to the inevitable progress to history, and discovering monotheism where it does not exist.”
      • “Polytheism is characteristic of many traditional cultures, and a loyalty to many gods can mark resistance to colonization and its demand to convert, to accept the conquerors’ one god and abandon the deities, the ancestor-gods, and the ancestors. The prejudice against conquered peoples’ religious practices, be they animism or polytheism, has often been linked to forms of racism, the view that phenotypically different human beings are racially inferior, their skin color along with their religions markers of primitivism and backwardness. Conquest and sometimes brutal and relentless religious conversion are justified as means to rescue such benighted souls from their darkness, to draw them into the security of the imperial embrace, sometimes named ‘democracy.’”
  • The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World, Catherine Nixey (3 notes, 47 highlights)
    • On the one hand, the book is good for shock value; on the other hand, she oversimplifies and skews some things in a way that is dishonest. There’s also repetitive, problematic use of the term thug, which is out-of-place in the American edition because the term has racist connotations in the USA — editorial really should have changed that when adapting the book from the original UK one. I wrote about both problems in more detail in a WtW review.
    • Many polytheists really like this book, and many scholars really hate it — I had an altercation with a few people on Twitter for saying that the book provided content balance to the Christian historical apologia covering the same time period, and the view of the scholars was that they were not OK with the opposite view to the thousands of books seeing the light now, AKA that only unbiased work should be published. From my perspective, the existence of the Christianity-biased narratives means that the cat’s already out of the bag, so we might as well balance the hyper-subjective perspectives available in the mass market.
  • Plato: A Very Short Introduction, Julia Annas (5 highlights)
    • Huh, I guess I read this.

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