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Reconstruction vs Tradition

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Reconstruction vs Tradition

Post  Achrelus on Thu Apr 25, 2013 3:26 pm

I have come to the opinnion, though it is only an oppinion and can change, that tradition is what lead to the downfall of the ancient religion, and will do it to this movement. The way I currently see it, our ancestors at one point or another forgot their religion. It fell out of vouge and theey likely stopped being spiritual. Then when things got bad they triedd to return, using traditions that they knew not the reason for and that is why they mostly say that something did or didn't please the gods but do not say why they do not. The mysteries do this and that is why I am drawn to one. I think that for Reconstructionism to succede that new practices, derived from old ones, should be developed with the intent and meaning behind them and philosophical bases.

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Re: Reconstruction vs Tradition

Post  Callisto on Thu Apr 25, 2013 4:22 pm

I don't know if I'm entirely clear on the gist of your statement, but I don't see reconstruction and tradition being mutually exclusive. Traditions can exist without the loss of original meaning or purpose. I don't think ancient worshipers got to the point of not knowing why Hestia received first and last or why certain gods received certain sacrifices or the meaning of the festivals.

Our practices are orthopraxic which, to me, implies maintaining tradition. And while it might be that meanings and purposes for somethings were lost over the centuries of original Hellenic worship due to a certain amount of oral tradition (i.e., handed down within families but not written), I don't see that necessarily being a problem for modern worshipers.

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Re: Reconstruction vs Tradition

Post  Achrelus on Thu Apr 25, 2013 4:57 pm

Like I said, its an oppinion and I wouldn't. Have posted if I wasn't willing to change it, I never really heard on the old site the reasons traditions were followed other than othopraxy. Id like to here what reason they and we practice like we do. I don't see it at this point.
And I dissagree on the meaning of orthopraxy. It means correct practice, but if we have lost the meaning of a certain practice what is left to make it correct?

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Re: Reconstruction vs Tradition

Post  Erodius on Thu Apr 25, 2013 5:07 pm

Αχρηλος wrote:I have come to the opinnion, though it is only an oppinion and can change, that tradition is what lead to the downfall of the ancient religion, and will do it to this movement. The way I currently see it, our ancestors at one point or another forgot their religion. It fell out of vouge and theey likely stopped being spiritual. Then when things got bad they triedd to return, using traditions that they knew not the reason for and that is why they mostly say that something did or didn't please the gods but do not say why they do not. The mysteries do this and that is why I am drawn to one. I think that for Reconstructionism to succede that new practices, derived from old ones, should be developed with the intent and meaning behind them and philosophical bases.

This reminds me of a discussion we had in my Greek History 394 class just a few days ago about how, in many ways, we live today in a society that parallels that of the post-Alexandrian Hellenistic world. One of the major characteristics of that time was a movement of religious change, where popular religion came to be dominated by Mystery cults like Orphism, Isidianism, Mithraism, various Gnosticisms, and early Christianity. One of the reasons for this, as pondered in the academic field, is that the change in social frame of reference from the xeno-suspicious, polis-centric system and its associated polis-centric cults could no longer hold the same relevance in a culture that saw the basic setting of being as the oikoumene, 'the inhabited world' rather than the safe and orderly polis. People came to understand that the world was much larger than their tiny cities, and religion had to accomodate this new state of being.

There is also the idea that people started to feel disoriented as the old order started fading, evidenced by the rapid explosion in popularity of the cult of 'unpredictable Fortune' in the Hellenistic world, who, for some people, came to be seen as even more powerful than any god. Also, perhaps because of the spread of ideas, people seemed considerably more interested in 'higher spirituality' and 'religion with a purpose', usually focused on a theology of salvation from suffering under the dictates of often-harsh Fortune and the attainment of some sort of blessed afterlife, though the conceptualization of these ideas varied based on the particular cult — all Hellenistic Mystery cults, however, seem to share these basic theological concepts. There was also a shift, oftentimes, toward various forms of henotheism, kathenotheism, or pure monotheism (in the case of various Christian, Jewish, and even some Hellenic cults).

I would not say that it was tradition that brought down the old 'Homeric' cults, but rather a sort of 'shallowness' (though please recognize that this is a generalization and not a universal rule) in what they had to offer spiritually. In some cases, the old cults had come to be simple sets of go-through-the-motions rituals that people observed, often having forgotten what their original purpose even was (read, The Roman and Greek Questions), and who really had no 'teachings' at all. People wanted to know what happened after death, people wanted comfort in an uncertain world, and people wanted something to believe in, rather than just to do. As such, one of the most significant differences between the old, pre-Hellenistic cults and the Hellenistic Mystery movements is that the old cults were concerned primarily with doing rituals at certain times in certain ways, whereas, although Mystery cults certainly do have their particular traditions and rituals (any religion will have these in some way, if you think about it), the rituals were secondary to and representative of beliefs of the cult. The former were more what we call 'orthoprax' (proper action), whereas the latter were approaching more what we would call 'orthodox' (proper belief). One is a religion of action, another is a religion of faith.

However, to be fair, I think it must be said that there were certainly people who never converted to any of the Mystery movements (although the old cults, as I mentioned, because of the huge popularity of the Mystery cults, often began to take up and incorporate ideas and/or practices from Mystery cults in order to appeal more to the people), and the old temples remained open until Theodosius had them shut down.

There is no parallel situation, really, in the Western world. However, the religious situation of the Mediterranean area in later Antiquity was dramatically similar to what you can see today in India. India is primarily Hindu, but also has high numbers of Muslims, as well as a few Jewish groups, the ancient St. Thomas Christians of Kerala, the Zoroastrians of Gujarat, the Jains, and a few pockets of Buddhism. 'Hinduism' really does not exist as a unified entity, but consists of a massive array of local and widespread cults, some thoroughly polytheistic, some very monotheistic, some radically vegetarian, others that readily practice animal sacrifice (sometimes at a huge scale). There are plenty of people, mostly brahmins, who still keep the ancient religion of the Vedas from the 3,000s BCE (which is very analogous to the situation of the 'Homeric' religion in late Antiquity) and maintain the ancient, ritualistic, Vedic yajnas (sacrifices), there are also a wide array of Bhakti movements, which are quite analogous to ancient Mystery cults of the Mediterranean. There are also cults of deceased holy men and women (which also existed in the Graeco-Roman world) which often are offshoots of Bhakti sects.

If you want to know what it was like, religiously, in the Hellenistic and Roman worlds, look at India.

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