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Polytheism and Metaphysics (I): Divine Relation

By Edward P. Butler

To recognize how fundamental polytheism is to Plato’s metaphysics, one need only reflect on the Timaeus, in which the cosmos itself comes to be from one God beholding another God. One must let go of the notion that the significance of this lies in these being some particular Gods; approaching the text in this way is a monotheistic hangover, and a deafness to metaphysics, but it’s curable. Metaphysics is all about forms, and it has no force of its own but the unforced force of being itself. A formal structure or formula is active over however wide a field to which it can apply, that is, over however much it expresses formally. A form as such therefore is most potent when taken at its most universal or abstract, while in its specificities its activity is more localized. Hence in the truly cosmogonic application of the formula of Demiuge and Paradigm in the Timaeus, these are any two Gods in any conceivable relationship with one another, every relationship in any myth you can think of. Every myth, understood in this way, is cosmogonic. Beholding is to be taken as the universal relationship here because consciousness, awareness of appearing, can accompany any action whatsoever, and therefore it represents or formalizes any action.

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