This is my reply to a forum discussion about “hard and soft polytheistic beliefs“:
My first brush with polytheism was with Wicca’s duotheism: “all gods are apects of one god and all goddesses are aspects of one goddess.” Later I added “and both are the same.” So the idea that “the gods are aspects of the same thing” was present early on. And I was interested in mysticism, so the unity of Ultimate Reality was something present, too.
Later I started to consider that the gods represented aspects of nature, so when I started to look for the “boundaries” that made each god (read aspect of nature) an individual, I saw too much overlap, flow and interdependence, so the whole “gods embody natural forces” reinforced for me that they’re all aspects of the same underlying, unified, interdependant nature/universe/reality, and that the gods of the different myths are interpretations of each culture of the “divine presence/s” in nature. The divisions of the roles and functions of each god at times seemed to arbitrary. They also appeared too human and culturally specific, and the “character” of nature didn’t seem to match the anthropomorphic images we find in myths.
Animism also had its hand in eroding hard polytheistic ideas: I considered “each thing” as having a spirit/soul, and as I considered “each thing” it became clear that even atoms have their own soul/spirit/consciousness. Could it be that my soul is made up of the souls of my body’s atoms? My answer became yes. This meant that the gods (forces of nature) were in turn constituted by smaller gods and spirits, in the same way that all forests are constituted by different forests, forests by trees, trees by cells, cells by atoms, and so on. If the whole Earth is a deity, then it is comprised of all the gods of nature, whether they represent seas, land, sky, weather, forests, deserts, fish, trees, people, rocks, etc.. Even humanity is an aspect of this god/dess.
Pantheism too: the universe is “God”, and everything is a part of the universe, so yes, the gods (polytheism) are aspects of the same God/ess (pantheism).
This eroded ideas about a soul surviving my body after death, too. When my body disintegrates, my soul disintegrates, though its constituent parts (the atoms) carry on. And even they are subject to disintegration at some point. I was strongly influenced by Buddhist ideas about impermanence, applying the idea to my soul and even the gods. [i]Everything[/i] is impermanent, without exception. The different aspects of nature are in a constant state of flux and transformation, meaning the gods are in a constant state of flux and transformation. And they cannot be subjected to our anthropomorphisms.
I also felt that belief in the afterlife contributed to dualistic thinking that separates spirit and matter, and from there the disconnection of humans from our environment and our harmful actions within it. “As above, so below” became for me a confirmation that there is no duality between spirit and matter. The nature-based aspect of Paganism was always what interested me more than the traditional polytheistic beliefs. I was more of an ecomystic than polytheist.