[follow-up] Greys of Hellenic Religion

Well, Internet, let me tell you — I’ve had a day of total unexpected popularity. First, I discover that Pope No-Life & His Talking Butt-Plugs are not only reading and praising this blog, but completely missing the point (thanks to a few people, actually, for the link, but especially to Laria, as she’s the only one who passed it along in a public area). Then, as luck would have it, I discovered that some apparently awesome TS/TG & Ally types were passing the Good Riddance to Mary Daly post all over Twitter. Apparently, I am just that awesome, even without boxing gloves or a luchadore mask (catch the reference and win the satisfaction of knowing what a nerd you are).

So, because my friends (and friends of friends) have encouraged it, I’m going to expand on a couple of the notions that I posted on 4 January in a sleep-deprived (yet astoundingly coherent) haze:

First off, because this was the point most blatantly missed a certain Tim Alexander who should really know better (but hey, at least it makes it even more blatant to those with reading comprehension skills that his primary interest is his own agenda), I want to get something off my chest about One True Way™ types.

As I’ve said in the past, though usually over AIM, I’ve come to Hellenismos through a means that some may describe as “mystical” in nature. At risk of being dismissed as a kook, I’m going to say it in no uncertain terms, once and for all: The Theoi talk to me — kind of in the same way that my own fictional characters do, but there’s this sort of “spark” to it that pretty much lets me know these are separate entities existing outside of myself and, further unlike my characters, existed long before even the McElroy clan was founded, much less my own time on this earth. This doesn’t bring me mental anguish and my therapist agrees that it’s pretty much “mental anguish” that lays the divide between “crazy” and what may possibly be Divine communiqué. Sometimes, it’s less “talking” and more of a “vibe” 7mdash; like when I get my annual winter bug-up-the-arse to bake bread, I feel Hestia and Demeter placing hands on my shoulder, guiding my fists as I punch dough, and for all I know, one of Them put that bug up my arse themselves.

But I’m not quick to talk about this. And I’ve been told by people who consider their angle on the religion “predominantly spiritual” that it’s a Bad Thing™ to somehow not be quick to freely discuss all the weird shit going on in my neurological synapses that may or may not be going off because of Divinity. In fact, these people have stated, in no uncertain terms, that I’m WRONG, WRONG, WRONG to seldom discuss this freely. Why is it “wrong”? Well, those persons tend to use far more convoluted speech, but the general airs can be boiled down to “it is not how [they] do things, therefore it is wrong”.

Keep in mind, me admitting to all of that above is in no way a sign that I have “seen my err” and am now going to make some awe-inspiring post about every little thing that goes down in the spiritual lobes of my grey matter. After encountering others who’ve had similar experiences, with the same and with different deities, I’ve just come to the conclusion that some people just get these experiences — and, at the same time, others simply don’t have these experiences. Neither having nor never having these experiences is “best”, nor should it automatically be taken as a sign that any individual or group of people is any more “beloved of the Gods” than any other. Trying to answer why some people have these experiences and others don’t is like asking why some people prefer orange juice over pineapple juice; it may just be one of those great mysteries of life that we really shouldn’t worry about.

So, in a nutshell: If you get these sorts of experiences, cool; if you don’t, still totally cool. If you think having these experiences makes a person closer to the Gods, then you should get off your high-horse. If you think not having these experiences makes you a better person, then how is that any different than what the other guy said? Most importantly, no matter who you are and your experiences of lack of, it is not your place to dictate how others “should” or “shouldn’t” talk about their spiritual lives.

Now with that out of the way, one point that I seem to have made a little less clear in the previous post is that most people in the wide and varied community of Hellenistai have some amount of “balance” between Intellectual Religion and Spiritual Religion. Those whose religious lives seem completely one or the other seem extremely few and far-between and, possibly as a result, seem especially unbalanced on personal levels. I’ll use the “Yin & Yang” model because most people in even the Western societies seem at least passingly familiar with the concept of two seemingly “oppositional” forces that each need a little bit of the other to maintain a state of harmony with themselves and the cosmos.

So basically, it seems that most (and the most stable) “spiritually driven” people (for lack of a better working term — feel free to throw suggestions at me so we can see which ones stick) temper this with a strong “intellectual side” (again, throw terminology at me) — and likewise, most of the “strongly intellectual” types I know are also deeply spiritual.

Or, as I said to my friend Gavin: “Many ‘intellectual types’ are also Inspired, and many ‘spiritual types’ are also Grounded”.

Basically, that part of my 4 January rant was less about fitting polytheistic reconstructionists (it seems that Kemetic, Keltic, and Germanic types have a lot of the same dramas — I only know about the Hellenic dramas first-hand) into these neat little “Black or White” boxes, and more about noticing that there are two primary angles that most people seem to come to this religion from, and that there is a wide spectrum of Greys in-between where people can strike a comfortable balance. Very few people are going to be “50/50 B/W”. It’s like taking nude photographs — female nudes tend to look best with just a few shadows to highlight the curves and call attention to the softer contours, while male nudes look best with lower lighting so that the shadows bring out more of the sharp musculature; but at the same time, a muscular woman’s features would be completely washed out by the same dramatic lights to photograph curvy girls, and men who don’t have well-defined muscles would drown in shadows if you don’t turn the lighting up a bit; and even considering all of this, you’re still almost never going to photograph two completely different people using the exact same light settings and arrangements, you’re going to still move things just slightly to bring out the best of each person’s body.

If we lay ourselves bare, spiritually, we’ll each find our own needs in certain areas. I can’t tell any other person where their needs need to be filled any more than they can tell me how to best serve my own. My own need for grounding comes from honouring the gods worshipped in Boeotia and the cities allied with her prominent cities. If I step too far from that grounding, well… the way I put it is “Eros then starts mind-fucking me, and when I say that, I mean He sticks His cock in my ear and doesn’t pull out until either He’s done or I yell my Safe Word”. I’ve been there in that “ungrounded place”, and when it’s a state I’ve sought, it’s a beautiful thing that ends with this …. assuring feeling; like taking a vacation and, as wonderful as the trip is, you’ll be glad when you get home to your own bed and your own shower and your cats (or dog, or parakeet) who love you. I’ve also been in that “ungrounded place” unintentionally, and if you don’t mean to go down that way, it can be very scary — like being left behind at the truck stop because you missed the reboard call from the Greyhound driver.

I’ve found the most flattering shade of grey for my spirit. All polytheists —be they worshippers of the gods of Hellas or the Gauls; on a singular or syncretic path, on on whatever branch— should find their own grey. My grey may not be yours. Maybe mine is darker than Gavin’s but lighter than Jessi’s? Maybe it’s thousands of points lighter than Kyrene’s and only a single point darker than, thus almost indistinguishable from Laria’s? And maybe ten years from now, I’ll need a different shade? Find your grey that works best for now, and worry about new greys when you have to — but whatever you do, find your grey.

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7 thoughts on “[follow-up] Greys of Hellenic Religion

  1. Awesome blog post, Ruadhan! 🙂 The grey areas *are* where the majority of us fit–though apparently, a few people don't seem able to grasp the concept of 'grey area' well at all.

    The terms Grounded and Inspired might fit, by the by, in place of 'intellectual' and 'spiritual'. It'd have to be put up for debate, though. 😛

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  2. Well, on further consideration, I think those two words may only work best in conjunction with the other two, and even then, there are going to be people who don't feel either term fits. It's pretty impossible to come up with a single set of phrases that a few people won't be somehow insulted by.

    Ultimately, it's all just words and the important matter is worshipping the gods.

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  3. Alright, you twisted my arm! I'll check your blog at least once a week if you keep posting this awesomeness! 🙂

    In all honesty, this was another excellent post that touches on matters not many pagans can talk about sanely or without prejudice. It's seriously refreshing.

    *new fan!*

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  4. I really like this post. I liked the one proceeding it on the 4th, but this one… your meaning comes across more clearly. Also, I think you're initial thoughts on branches with common roots is interesting, but also the insight that people need some of both.

    In reference to: “Many ‘intellectual types’ are also Inspired, and many ’spiritual types’ are also Grounded”.

    I would describe these as approaches, rather than as types of people. An intellectual approach is grounding and a spiritual approach is inspiring. As you say, people are usually in the grey area, that lends less to categorizing them as types of people. Rather, I think most people use both approaches in varying degrees and very few use one or the other absolutely.

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  5. This is definitely a great post! Although I must say that I enjoyed the 4th January post as well. It seemed pretty much on the money to me, though my experience with Hellenic religion is limited to say the least. It does look like the intellectual vs spiritual thing is happening with every recon religion.

    Anyway, just stopping by to say how much I enjoy your blog.

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    • Thanks. 🙂

      And yes, from what I've seen from others, it does appear that all recon religions have a bit of this "battle of approach". Neither approach is "more correct" than the other, as far as I can tell. It's all about finding one's best-suited balance. For example, I'm rather well-educated in science (well, compared to the average person, or even average pagan), but many aspects of my religious life are in the realm of "wacko mystic spirituality" (therefore throwing this graph completely out of whack), and so this brings some balance to things.

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