I have discussed this subject before, but not for a long, long time, and at any rate it gives me an opportunity to cease tearing people down. About time, huh?
I don't know what I can do about making people more familiar with my world. Fact is, the world is so deep, so extensive, and incorporates so many different philosophies, as I write them out on the blog they steadily disappear into the backlog of time, until they're so lost in the hundreds of thousands of words I've written that I can't find them, either. I suppose what I should try to do is write a single, encompassing overview of everything ... a few sentences, then a link to an argument I've made.
Sounds dull, though. I shall give it some thought.
Yesterday, to update the sage study descriptions I'm adding to the new work blog, I had to make a distinction between "demi-gods" and "gods." It's not a distinction that many would feel the need to make, and for most, it is a reference to importance. Zeus, for instance, would be a 'God' while someone minor, like Atlas, a titan, would be a 'demi-god.' Or something along those lines.
My world, however, being based on earth history, culture and geography, includes the notion of the Christian God and Allah, formless deities that don't fit the Zeus appearing as a Bull to sleep with Europa type myths. From my perspective, the dividing line between demi-gods and gods is divided between supernatural type beings that have form and resemble living creatures (demi-gods) and omnipresent entities without form that comprise everything that exists in the world (gods). Once I wrote about how one tear drop of Isis was said to be the source of the Nile, giving the sense that the Goddess Isis was of such incomprehensible size that a mere tear could form the mightiest river in the Egyptian universe - that is, too big to lust after the cute girl on the riverbank. This is what I mean by 'god.'
A better distinction might be found, however, in the motivations of a demi-god versus the motivations of a god. After all, quite reasonably the Christian god was a mere demi-god, particularly in the days when he was called Yahweh and was the son of a Sumerian goddess, Ana, the Mesopotamian counterpart of Isis, that was - according to the Sumerians - the mothergoddess of all that exists in the world, and from which everything and everyone comes. The Sumerians perceived that the birth of the universe would obviously come from a woman, and to facilitate that myth created a rather strange tale about how the mother gives birth to a son (Ana to Yahweh) who then matures and impregnates the mother, who then kills the child before giving birth to the same son, over and over. The reader can find this myth appearing again and again, for it was very popular. Ana, incidentally, is the root of In-anna (also nin-anna), the same Goddess that's mentioned in the Dieties and Demigods, a 3rd millenium BCE goddess that was a re-incarnation of the original Ana that goes back to around 8,000 BCE (usually associated with white, hence the 'white goddess'). The name pops up all over, in the Irish Mother Goddess Anann, in the Greek mythology as Di-ana (where she's downgraded as the opposite of Greek Apollonian male-dominated pantheon to be goddess of the Moon), in Britain as Brit-anna, mother goddess of the island, and pleasantly as St. Anne, the mother of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus (I can't resist giving a 'religious' link to that last, since it always shows how little research believers do). Polytheism is so much fun.
So supposing that Yahweh was once a figure such as Thor or Odin or any of the other figures that people like to think of has having an appearance and personality, how was it that Yahweh broke forward to becoming the omnipresent, omnipotent entity without fault or substance, that no longer needs to speak to Moses's in this world? Today, he's got Jesus' mother for that stuff. Well, my theory, as it applies to my game world (and what matter does it have otherwise, it's all make-believe anyway), would be that enough people believed in him hard enough, putting him over the top of God status. Allah is really just another name for him, and the Jews were the group that gave him his grand start, so most of the time where it comes to one great god, Yahwah, or Jehovah, or just 'God,' is the top being.
Of course, another 'god' might be Shiva, if we want to recognize that Krishna is the demi-god in the mythological salt-mines, and Buddha can probably be said to have made the grade, and for my money I'm prepared to grant major status to the old gods of Cthulhu, being that they haven't actually appeared yet on this plane of existence. Perhaps they made this plane of existence, and Yahweh is a recent player on it, getting credit for another god's work. Still, Yahweh is certainly a god now, for there's very little chance (in the 17th century at least, when my world occurs) of his belief structure being toppled.
Now, a demi-god has trouble in that department. If we stipulate that a god's influence, power, strength, survival even, is dependent upon the number and dedication of that demi-gods worshippers, than certainly there are some supernatural figures in the world that are just getting by on the local interest of a village or two in New Guinea (and elsewhere, obviously). Heck, it is tough going for these demi-gods. They can barely get enough food and blood from the paltry sacrifices the villages can afford annually. And there's always the danger that the next villages over will rise up and kill everyone in the valley, and where is the demi-god then? Existence hanging on a thread, that's that real deal.
Given that all you've got to grant your immortality is the survival of a few crummy villages, are you really going to refrain from talking directly to a shaman or two? No, you're going to talk to those boys every day, and give them a lot of direct intervention. Thing is, you don't have much power, so your intervention is pretty low-key, but you do what you can. You stir them up against threats, such as a party coming over the hill, and you talk to the party as straight as you can in the off chance that the party might get on your side. Then again, if you see that damn cross, the one that says that Yahweh johnny come lately bastard who's been getting all the hoopla lately is loved by this bunch of interlopers, you're going to get your people hopped up and freaked out pretty damn quick. Screw reasoning with these strangers ... just kill them. Kill them all.
And maybe, maybe if you luck out, and some genius gets born inside your religion, who can work as a crackerjack missionary, drawing together a lot of villages in your stead to worship you, you can pick up some extra powers and knowledge, and start aiding that fellow in conquering enemies and spreading your message throughout the countryside. Maybe, just maybe, you might build yourself up to the point where a world-wide expansion could occur, because people from your personal bailywick set up colonies in the new world, or conquer their way through Africa ... but that's not likely to happen. Chances are, you'll have your hey-day, then you'll experience a long, long demise as you watch areas you once mattered in disappear, and your shrines are torn down or buried, and the books telling of your greatness are lost and rewritten so badly that some other demi-god gets the credit, until finally there's just one old grandmother of 80 dying in a hut somewhere in the jungle, that no one listens to any more, with whom you have long conversations while you both wait for her to die, and you too.
Perspective. D&D and gaming is all about perspective. Not yours, but the potential perspective of any entity you can imagine. Want to build your world into something stunning? Gain some perspective.