Question about The Gods (or lack thereof)?

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Question about The Gods (or lack thereof)?

Postby Nyarlathotep » Mon Apr 09, 2007 12:28 am

I know the question of whether the Gods exist or not is left quite open, but i had to ask: How are we defining the term here?

If we're speaking in the "normal" context of some anthropomorphic beings that live in another dimension and reign on the Hyborian age a la the Homeric Pantheon - then yes i suppose the existence of Gods can be put into question.

But if we're speaking of ageless alien horrors (or Earthborn ones) that have existed long before the time of man (or at least the current set of men) - then isn't it a bit of an open and shut case?

Demons lords, ancient beings from the Outer Darkness, heck Atali the Daughter of Ymir the Frost Giant - we know they exist, we know that they are nigh unbeatable. We know they bow to other..darker powers, "old gods" a la Lovecraft.

Doesn't that essentially constitute a God vis-a-vis a human?
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Postby rgrove0172 » Mon Apr 09, 2007 11:37 am

Therein lies the question. Few doubt there is some substance to the belief in such beings in Hyboria, as you stated - a few make direct appearances. Just what are they though? If one prays to Derketo, is there actually a Derketo being in this case? Do some Gods exist while others do not? Are some actually "GODS" while other mearly some extrademensional being as you suggest? It seems the situation is pretty complicated at best and most GMs will simply glaze over it, similar Howard, in using it as it best lends itself to the story and ignoring any real explanation.

I for one would like a clear explanation, a system to base my games on. Im working on my own interpretation but am still browsing to see what others have come up with.
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Postby Auggie » Mon Apr 09, 2007 12:49 pm

My group prefers the actual existence of the gods to remain ambiguous and any 'divine intervention' encountered (not that there has been any...yet) would up to the characters to interpret for themselves.

Of course, in the Hyborian Age, I'm sure there are plenty of religions out there that were created by an to control Man...
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Postby Nyarlathotep » Mon Apr 09, 2007 3:56 pm

Well that's the question i have to ask people Auggie: What do you mean by a God?

We already confirmed the existence of beings from beyond - entities that are way beyond mortals. Some being Immortal and essentially Indestructible, capable of feats of magic that can silence nations and shape the face of the world.

Are they not essentially gods?

Of couse this could just be a slippage in the way we use our words. I mean, let's assme for a second that the Islamic conception of God is correct. It exists in a realm called Heaven with a host of servants (angels). Technically, calling this conception of God an Alien is also true. Its an entity that exists outside of normal/space time with other alien entities that serve it.

Two methods of describing the same exact thing that are equally valid.

I think Rgrove hit upon a valid point: Its really a matter of which Organized Religions have actual Gods and which were invented to either give men power over others or to give comfort.
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Postby Kyorou » Mon Apr 09, 2007 5:01 pm

Well, in order to stay "Howardian", I'd say about "gods" :

-they are mortal (they may be rather hard to kill though)

-they aren't all-powerful

-their exact nature is unknown and philosophers debated endlessly about it. Howardian characters tend to despise philosophic questions...
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Postby Nyarlathotep » Mon Apr 09, 2007 5:13 pm

Now do we mean:

Mortal as in "Your dead..never coming back"

or

Mortal as in "We destroyed your physical form demon of the pit...which means you can't return for another 10,000 years, but you still exist somewhere in your Hells/Outer Darkness plotting...waiting..."

To quote the old man from Providence "and through strange aeons even death may die." etc..etc..
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Postby Netherek » Mon Apr 09, 2007 6:13 pm

I'd say it's more akin to that the Gods make no appearance, yet there are Demons whom claim to serve ore are such beings...
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Postby Axerules » Mon Apr 09, 2007 6:16 pm

I started a thread about Gods, discussing if they were real or not in REH's Hyborian Age here in the Conan.com forum. I discussed the part of Don Herron's essay Conan vs Conantics where he wrote that Gods (except monsters) in REH's cosmology were only treated "on a conceptual basis", which I don't agree with.
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Postby The King » Mon Apr 09, 2007 6:55 pm

I'd say the gods of the Hyborian Age exist but border on the mythic and unfathomable. In this way, the existence of the gods is nurtured by the unwritten accounts and tales which are only transmitted orally from generation to generation.
Cimmerians know that Crom exists because their mothers/fathers told them what he did/does but not because they experienced it firsthand. The same applies to Ymir, Ishtar, etc.

I have 3 examples:
- Bori is a mere tribe chieftain whose worship became equal to that of a god because he destroyed Archeron.

- In the Phoenix on the sword and Hour of the Dragon, Conan has strange premonitions/dreams from Mitraic origin which is curious for someone who doesn't worship Mitra but always it helped him. Moreover Mitra never intervened (it was through his priests or better: through the memory of his priests).

- In "the god in the bowl" it is written that Ibis is a major opponent of Set. In the mythic field, it translates thusly: an Ibis is a wading bird living on the border of rivers. Through its size, it dominates the snake (Set) and also guard the river, preventing its further expansion which is also a reality as the Stygian (Northern) border suddenly stops with the Styx river.

In these 3 examples Gods express their powers through the feats of their priests/chiefs or through natural events. It's never Crom appearing and casting massive lightings and thunder of its foes.
Gods are only revealed in the subconscience of mortals and it is how they live eternally because thoughts in the memories of men last much longer than any living being.
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Postby Axerules » Mon Apr 09, 2007 7:15 pm

The King wrote:Gods are only revealed in the subconscience of mortals and it is how they live eternally because thoughts in the memories of men last much longer than any living being.
I disagree with you, Gods aren't only revealed in the subconscience of mortals in the Hyborian Age: even if most Gods do not directly interfere with mortals and that REH kept divine interference often mysterious and indirect, it's not always so. In the Frost's Giant Daughter, Atali called her father Ymir for help to be saved from rape, and she disappeared in a blue flame, Conan saw a chariot in the sky...
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Postby rgrove0172 » Mon Apr 09, 2007 7:58 pm

I would have to agree with Axerules. If the theology of Hyboria is strictly a figment of the people's imagination the world loses something, a certain mystical property is lost. Knowing there are truly Gods present and that in some extreme situations they may intervene in some fashion elevates the priests of the age to a level similar to that of a sorcerer - an individual with potentially supernatural powers and worthy of respect. Without them the priests are no more than charlatons, taking advantage of men's superstitions and the sorcerers wield the only true power. Somehow I think Howard intended his priests, or at least the real ones, to be more than that, the Gods they worship influencial, at least on occasion.
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Postby Nyarlathotep » Mon Apr 09, 2007 8:18 pm

Following on the heels of what was said in the Corebook about the acquisition of Corruption - i think its safe to say that "Gods" in the most generic sense of the word do exist - its just that we've received confirmation about alot of the Negative ones.

Or at least they aren't "Big Daddy in the Sky Raining Down Rainbows and Ponies".

They seem more like Impersonal Forces, impersonal in the sense that they don't really give 2 shekels about their worshippers, with the exception of a favorite servant or two. And even then they won't go out of their way to help.

I guess this is where REH runs right into the HPL aesthetic - except his character's reaction to "Man exists in a strange dark vast and hostile cosmos filled with blasphemous creatures that pre-date mankind" is "Gimme my Axe" instead of descending into madness and fainting.

If this is truly the case, i think it gives a certain sense of dignity to the heroes of the Hyborian age. No cavalry coming to the rescue, no safety net - just your own actions against the horrible terrfying creatures from Beyond.
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Postby Dpetroc » Mon Apr 09, 2007 8:24 pm

Howard's Hyborian Theology shares a lot with Lovecraft in that the gods are at best distant and aloof, they rarely intercede, and when they do it is not usually in a good way (Black Colossus (?) being a seeming exception). Man is seen as an ignorant and insignificant piece of the universal puzzle. Mitra, Ibis and Bel are generally harmless, with Set being the Big Baddy. You see demons from the outerdark, but you don't see any other corresponding 'good' creature.
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Postby argo » Tue Apr 10, 2007 12:15 am

Nyarlathotep wrote:Well that's the question i have to ask people Auggie: What do you mean by a God?

We already confirmed the existence of beings from beyond - entities that are way beyond mortals. Some being Immortal and essentially Indestructible, capable of feats of magic that can silence nations and shape the face of the world.

Are they not essentially gods?
Exactly, for a primitive savage of Kush or a member of a demon-worshiping cult they would agree that such a being is a god. For them the sheer overwhelming power of such an entity is enough to bestow on it the title of godhood.

However for a priest of Mitra such a being is just a demon conjured forth from the outer dark. He would argue that a true divinity must flow from the godhead, the divine spark, the essential/elemental aspect of divinity.

The irony (and paradox) arise from the fact that while we have irrefutible proof that the demon exists, we have no proof whatsoever that Mitra exists. Is the demon more or less of a god for being real? Does material form negate divinity? Does the demon cease to be a god when Conan (who is very much a mortal man) slays it? Or can your worldview encompass a "god" who can die (at the hands of a mortal no less! ). But if you must be removed from the material world in order to be a god then... what purpose in divinity in the first place?

Thus we say the question of weither or not gods exist is left open.



Meanwhile Conan left the room twenty minutes ago looking for a jug of wine and a plump wench to pour it for him. :wink:
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Postby Krushnak » Tue Apr 10, 2007 6:10 am

random fact: the original term for the word demon meant outsider or alien and it applied to both good and evil creatures, it just got hijacked a little by the later judaeo-christian religions.

well for gods like Ymir i'd consider him to be on a similar field as the most powerful demon lords, his power is really immeasurable compared to a human and as such is worshipped because of it. a god like Bori is some one who in d@d terms simply started to take epic levels in a system where no one else can and so was worshipped again because his power was far higher than any other humans which is what Howard suggests the norse gods Odin and Thor do.

the norse and greek gods can die, doesnt make them any less godly. it actually makes them more accessable to humans and seem more real.
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Postby The King » Tue Apr 10, 2007 11:47 am

QUOTE: The book of Enoch is considered an Apocryphal book from the Old Testament, this describes in detail the spiritual world around us, including Sheol (Hell). This book recounts why certain angels fell from grace, the relations (including carnal) they had with our species, and the basis for their angelic magic.

This book is well know and the text is an extract from the Keeper's Companion # 1 (Call of Cthulhu) but it describes the setting well.

In an original Kulls story which I can't remember, Thulsa Doom tells about the existence of other spheres.

Demons do exist and the best definitions for them is "Creatures from another dimension" which are often considered as bloody and evil. In this these are the same spheres as Lovecraft explained (non-Euclidian geometry, dreaming, etc.). Reason of this agressive behaviour may find its cause thus: just consider a child which lived 9 month in a waterly environment and in darkness which is born suddenly to the light of the day with much sound and a relatively dry environment.

These spheres never completely coexist on the samel "level" because senses and perception are different. Some (considered weird) humans sometimes can contact these spheres from the outer world (Cthulhu reaches the conscience of some mortals through dreams, i.e. a subsconscious level) and most of the others who do this conscientiously are called sorcerers or magi. In the old testament, only King Solomon was granted this power by God (through the famous key of Solomon) because God clearly stated that these mysteries (of the various spheres) were not meant to be known by mankind and the creatures from the other speres (called angels) were also clearly told there shouldn't interfere with mankind. Somehow somes members of both races didn't abide by this law and we know the results. It is told these angels taught mankind some secrets, among others: make-up for woman and smithery (especially war tools).

In this way, "human" gods (Ishtar, Mitra, etc.) may exist but stay unfathomable because they live in other superior spheres and thus belong to the myth.

Now their priests are no charlatans as rgrove0172 implies because there is a link which connect the human sphere and the superior sphere and this link is called faith and devotion/piety. And these pious men are called "chosen ones", prophets or messiahs (but also seers and the Athenian Pythia) and channel the power of their gods and the gods speak and act through them.

Vincent (Darlage) expressed it quite well when he developped the several mysteries (levels of knowledge) of the deities in Faith & Fervour.

This seems all a bit as a Judaic/Hebraic and Christian view of the religion but don't you forget that Howard lived in such a cultural environment and history and all the deities he depicted transcribes mostly as idols and never described religion in the Asian way for instance.

In the end, the famous expression of Lovecraft "that is not dead which can eternal lie and with strange eons even death may die" illustrates precisely the reality of the different spheres.
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Postby kintire » Wed Apr 11, 2007 9:15 am

These spheres never completely coexist on the samel "level" because senses and perception are different. Some (considered weird) humans sometimes can contact these spheres from the outer world (Cthulhu reaches the conscience of some mortals through dreams, i.e. a subsconscious level)
But Cthulhu also shows up, rampages, eats people and gets rammed by a ship... in a very physical way.
In this way, "human" gods (Ishtar, Mitra, etc.) may exist but stay unfathomable because they live in other superior spheres and thus belong to the myth.
But this doesn't explain the various gods that show up, do things and, in at least two instances, get killed.

Howard's view of gods seems to be derived more from the Illiad than the sort of obscure Gnostic mysticism you seem to be putting forward.
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Postby The King » Wed Apr 11, 2007 9:39 am

kintire wrote:But Cthulhu also shows up, rampages, eats people and gets rammed by a ship... in a very physical way.
Are you refering to Derleth's novels? They'aren't truly canon.
kintire wrote:But this doesn't explain the various gods that show up, do things and, in at least two instances, get killed.
Conan killed 2 brothers of Atali in the story but there are no material evidence
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Postby The King » Wed Apr 11, 2007 9:48 am

Axerules wrote:I disagree with you, Gods aren't only revealed in the subconscience of mortals in the Hyborian Age: even if most Gods do not directly interfere with mortals and that REH kept divine interference often mysterious and indirect, it's not always so. In the Frost's Giant Daughter, Atali called her father Ymir for help to be saved from rape, and she disappeared in a blue flame, Conan saw a chariot in the sky...
As in my above post there is no material evidence of this. The only hint Conan has is a silken garment but this doesn't mean this all happened in the real world. I am more enclined to consider this story occurs in the mythic world.
What Conan saw may very well be an hallucination in the mortal world because there is no physical evidence of his killing the giants.

It is just like a "Lovecraftian drug" which enables someone to have his mind travel in another dimension (and as in a dream you project your mind but you also act as if you had a physical body).
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Postby kintire » Wed Apr 11, 2007 9:51 am

Are you refering to Derleth's novels? They'aren't truly canon.
No... I am referring to "The Call of Cthulhu" by H P Lovecraft.
Conan killed 2 brothers of Atali in the story but there are no material evidence
Oh yes there is.
It was an hallucination he followed into the wastes. He is from the south; what does he know of Atali?"

"You speak truth, perhaps," muttered Conan. "It was all strange and weird ­ by Crom!"

He broke off, glaring at the object that still dangled from his clenched left fist; the others gaped silently at the veil he held up - a wisp of gossamer that was never spun by human distaff.

Retrieved from "http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Gods_of_the_North"

And he also kills Khosatral Khel, and Amalric kills Ollam Onga.

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