“Bhakti and Henadology” (Revised), DANAM Conference, 11/18/17

November 20, 2017

I was pleased and honored to give the following paper as part of the panel “Reconsidering the Origins of Bhakti” at the 15th annual conference of the Dharma Academy of North America (DANAM), held in conjunction with the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) in Boston, MA. It represents a revised version of the paper of the same name given at the SAGP/SSIPS conference in 2015. I wish to thank DANAM and the organizers of the session, as well as my fellow panelists and the attendees.

Bhakti and Henadology (DANAM)


3 Responses to ““Bhakti and Henadology” (Revised), DANAM Conference, 11/18/17”

  1. mattygsite said

    I loved this paper, but there’s a question that I’ve been curious about for a while. When you refer to Socrates’s discussion of Aphrodite, and you claim that it’s wrong to refer to her as goddess of love, what exactly do you mean? Do you mean that it’s incorrect to attribute to her, and other gods, particular domains over which they hold particular sway, or that it is incorrect to reduce their identity to a simple relationship to one or more domains? That is, is the criticism against calling Aphrodite a goddess of love, or viewing her as “just” a goddess of love? If the former, what actual particular characteristics can we attribute to any god that distinguish them from others?

    Sorry if this is a stupid question. I love your work, though I’m not sure I’m able to understand all of it to the degree I’d like to.

    • Edward P. Butler said

      The issue is that it is incorrect to reduce a God’s identity to a certain domain in which They are active, what Hesiod characterizes as a God’s τίμη, their “prerogative”. This is wrong, first, because as a factual matter no God is limited to operating in such a narrowly circumscribed domain. But more importantly, we risk thereby identifying a God with a mere force or concept. Love is what Aphrodite does, not what She is. As for your concern about how we are to distinguish one God from another without such narrow determinations, first, the ancients clearly did not have this problem, because we simply do not find that they speak of the Gods in this reductive fashion. But moreover, I would ask why this is not a problem for you with respect to human persons, to whom you presumably have no difficulty in granting unique personhood a priori. Aside from purely bodily properties, we have essentially the same individuating characteristics that Gods do, such as proper names. But more profoundly, we have a core personal agency which is positive individuality, and which comes prior to questions of distinguishing individuals based upon this or that trait.

      • mattygsite said

        Thank you so much. So it would still be accurate to describe individual gods as active in particular domains, while less active or inactive in others, if I understand correctly. Much as I may choose to surf, but that doesn’t not make the term “surfer” exhaustive of my identity, and my personal agency and identity would remain undisturbed if I chose not to surf.

        I think this helps a lot. Thanks again.

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