I’ve come to the conclusion that the modern state of the Hellenismos/Hellenic polytheism/Hellenic religionist (HP, for short) community is like the current state of my laurel — or that old pussy willow tree that one of the neighbours had when I was a kid in Toledo:
Above the roots that are shared by the entirety of the community, there are two apparent “main branches” split above an almost-nonexistent trunk. Each of these two has several smaler branches, and some of those branches are populated by even smaller branches.
The two Main Branches of the HP community seem to be “intellectual religion” and “spiritual religion”. Some people have measures of both in their approach, but almost everybody with measures of both is ultimately more of one than the other. There’s nothing really wrong with either approach — different people have different needs and fulfil those needs in different ways.
I therefore hypothesis that a majority of the perceived in-fighting amongst the HP community is ultimately derived from the intolerance a lot of people have toward those not on their own “main branch”. Now, now, my co-religionists on the “spiritual branch” aren’t off the hook — I’ve seen just as much intolerant speech from people on the Spiritual Branch, and I think the worst of it was a claim that “[Hellenic religion] without [philosophical mysticism] versus religion with it is like the difference between being a quadruple amputee and having all of one’s limbs, plus wings” — if you don’t think that’s a voice of intolerance, then you’re probably the self-proclaimed “mystic” who said it.
The Spiritual Branch also shows its intolerance for those amongst itself who would rather keep a lot of their own spiritual / mystical works private, often berating those who need a more private mystical aspect of their religion with accusations of “embarrassment” — once, I was even told, “you’re not spiritual, you’re a recon”, as if there is absolutely no room for introspection, reconstructed practises, and intellectual exercise within the Spiritual Branch.
I’m focusing mostly on this because at this point, everybody knows about those on the Intellectual Branch who preach a One True Way, but the One True Spiritual Way is almost never called out.
The whole “one true way” idea is ridiculous. Of course, even moreso are those who seem relatively well-read, but still fancy the idea that somehow all ancient Hellenes were doing the same things or at least following the same patterns. I’m not going to fool myself into thinking that there was a universal tollerance toward the mystery cults, or alternative philosophies, etc, among the ancient Hellenes, but there seems to be a far greater preaching of tolerance than there is today amongst modern Hellenistai.
Believe me, I can understand the want that many modern Hellenistai have for community, I really do, but forcing community by imposing certain preferences and ideals really isn’t the way to bring community about. Successful communities are formed, mostly through “organic” means (though sometimes intentionally), through shared experiences and ideas and mutual tolerances for areas of difference. Of course, by that definition, there is no true “HP community”, but instead a lot of little communities united under the idea that they all, in some way or another, honour the Hellenic pantheon.