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Re: A Discussion

Post  Erodius on Thu Jul 11, 2013 9:15 pm

Out of Phlegethon wrote:Thank you, my friends!  Now let us don our witch hats and pour from our jack-o-lantern chalice a Jungian psycho-libation of purple and liquorice jelly-beans of "you can do it-ness!" to the Green Man, great Wiccan god of the song of the bamboo flute!

You've forgotten the great All-loving-nature-mother-triple-sacredfeminine-cat-fairy-magic-rainbow-glitter-purple-moon-goddess-Kali-Hecate (rhyming with 'Beckett')-Isis-Artemis-Xena-Pocahontas! You chauvinist slimebag! You need a chakra balancing and Ancient Tibetan-Navajo-Egyptian reiki session immediately! Then we can get into our purple corsets, fairy wings, tails and capes, bedazzle ourselves with silver pentagrams, grab our brooms and pumpkins and dance around our majyckal circle, talk about our spirit guides, make voodoo dolls, and cast love spells until the next full moon!

Oh, and there has to be meditative spa music somewhere, and a zillion ankhs, and pyramids, and plenty of crystals.

I had a vision from the Spirit I was at the Pyramids and suddenly Isis blanketed me inside a blanket of warm healing energy. You know what that means, I was Nefertiti in a past life. Oh, and these Tibetan monks were giving me prayer flags. And there was some Enya song in the background.

Rolling Eyes  Rolling Eyes  Rolling Eyes 

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: A Discussion

Post  Out of Phlegethon on Thu Jul 11, 2013 10:33 pm

Way to leave out Astarte in your roll call of maternal archetypes. Nice way to show off your anti-Ugaritic and anti-Phoenician phallogocentrism. I happen to know several gurus who work with their inner Astarte in ceremonial magic every equinox that would find that comment extremely offensive to their religion.
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Re: A Discussion

Post  Erodius on Fri Jul 12, 2013 12:16 am

Out of Phlegethon wrote:Way to leave out Astarte in your roll call of maternal archetypes.  Nice way to show off your anti-Ugaritic and anti-Phoenician phallogocentrism.  I happen to know several gurus who work with their inner Astarte in ceremonial magic every equinox that would find that comment extremely offensive to their religion.

Oh dear, I think I may have terminal phallocentrism. And my roll call certainly is short — everyone knows that all deities (read: goddesses) are simply majyqal archetypes of the stages of human (read: female) life. I think you'll need to do a combined astral-projection reiki aromatherapy session on me immediately. (Enya music and colorful rocks required).

Then we can summon our inner goddess with a healing drum circle under the moonlight. Rolling Eyes

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: A Discussion

Post  Callisto on Mon Jul 15, 2013 12:41 pm

Out of Phlegethon wrote:This thread is good food for thought.  It evokes something of our contemporary religious landscape.  I am pleased to see earnest talk about how we should comport ourselves to the Gods.  But I also see the possibility of error, which can come from New Ageism (I see the Golden Dawn, Wicca, etc. being mentioned here).  
 
I wonder: what is the difference in attitude between traditional conceptions of prayer and New Age conceptions?  The one praying may be earnest and the prayer may be heartfelt, but what kind of things does a particularly erroneous New Age use of prayer promote, that might mislead a newcomer to traditional forms of religion?  Are New Age conceptions simply more egoistic, containing more fluff?  Or is there something more subtle, like the kind of excessive sentimentality we see in much of Western Christianity pervading the maternal/protecting milieu of Wicca?  

I think it's important to understand that there are distinctions among Neopagan paths that are not necessarily evident to the non-Neopagan. In short, Neopagan practices fall largely into two main categories, tradition-oriented/modern traditions and eclecticism. Tradition-oriented means practices that are along the lines of Reconstructionism but are not actually Recon. The person has constructed their own mode of worship, heavily influenced by folk practices of a specific people and worship the deities of that people but isn't quite authentic, but isn't "eclectic" in the sense of incorporating a lot New Ageism or the deities of other cultures. Modern traditions would be practices like actual (traditional) Wicca in which there is a specific established worship that is maintained and perpetuated.

Much of what is mentioned in the above posts describes Eclecticism which is a sizable segment of Neopaganism and, unfortunately, one that colors perceptions both among religious seekers and outsiders alike as to all Neopagan paths seem to be. Notably when it comes to Wicca and what actually constitutes it because so much of Eclecticism has borrowed from it. The majority of what people see as "Wicca" isn't actual Wicca, but more correctly a form of eclectic witchcraft that borrows from Wicca. I won't go on at length, but suffice to say what constitutes actual Wicca - i.e., the religion founded by Gerald Gardner in the mid-20th century - versus the practices often mentioned amounts to two entirely different religions. In short, the former ("Trad Wicca") is an orthopraxic (proper practice is primary/essential) initiatory priesthood of a Mystery cult, the latter ("Eclectic Wicca") is orthodoxic (proper belief is primary/essential), individualistic and eclectic. Whereas the traditions of Trad Wicca are recognizable as maintaining the same religion among them, Eclectic practices differ from person to person, with no two individuals worshiping the same way or the same deities. The main commonality as far as religious structure is that they all borrow some basic surface elements from Trad Wicca, but even then the number of which and extent of those elements differ widely.

Trad Wiccans are a specific priesthood in service to specific deities, maintaining specific rites and body of lore. And while there are nuances between traditions, there are core specifics shared among them for one to be a recognized initiate. From my experience, I see more similarities in mindset and veneration between Trad Wiccans and religions like Hellenismos than exists between Trad Wicca and Eclecticism. And in some ways TW parallels the ancient mystery cults.

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Re: A Discussion

Post  Erodius on Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:16 pm

Although it's certainly true that there are such distinctions, at least in terms of the internet-sphere and paperback-priestess/plastic-shaman book sphere, occultist, eclectic new-ageism is dominant by an exponential proportion, and is only increasing as a result of the innate new-age drive, through an idolization of hyperrelativism and hypersubjectivity, to homogenize everything with which they come into contact into an incoherent and absurd mush, sprinkled with glitter; to erase any distinction between anything and anything else (except, of course, for the evil, racist, heartless patriarchy), because in the sort of predominant delusion that is so often evident, if it weren't for evil-Judæochristian-heartless-patriarchy, the entire world would sit around in drumming circles making flower necklaces and singing kum-ba-yah to the magical earth mother. One, united, irenolatric, 'magic Paganism religion' that encompasses everything on earth (including atheism) outside of monotheism (by which is usually meant 'Protestant Christianity').

It is a dreadful shame that Gardner's movement has been so thoroughly disrespected, misunderstood and pirated by hordes made up almost entirely of cat-ladies and rebellious tweenybopper girls. While I do not personally think very highly of NRMs, Gardner's movement had a number of positive features, and certainly would qualify as a genuine religion. However, I and Out_of_Phlegethon are not talking about original Gardnerianism, but about new-age eclecticism — the sort of stuff that nearly every self-described 'witch/pagan/wiccan' spouts forth, and which now, like it or not, is almost universally equated with paganism/wicca/what-have-you.

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: A Discussion

Post  Callisto on Mon Jul 15, 2013 2:19 pm

However, I and Out_of_Phlegethon are not talking about original Gardnerianism, but about new-age eclecticism — the sort of stuff that nearly every self-described 'witch/pagan/wiccan' spouts forth, and which now, like it or not, is almost universally equated with paganism/wicca/what-have-you.

Yes, I gather that.Smile  I indicated the difference because there is a distinction between what is often seen versus what is actually practiced. The former is not an indicator of the size of other segments, especially given traditions don't advertise. This topic is often erroneously talked of in terms of "Wicca has changed" or evolved (not quoting anyone here, but what is often incorrectly asserted, doubly so given Wicca ≠ Paganism).  The fact is, no one knows how many practitioners there are of any given Neopagan segment, especially when it comes to traditions. Eclecticism is most vocal and thus the most obvious, but that gives no indication of the numbers of tradition-oriented practitioners.

Ironically, the thing that has allowed Gardner's Craft to not only survive intact but to grow nearly worldwide (lines exist on multiple continents), i.e.,  being orthopraxic, oathbound and non-proselytizing, is also the thing that has inadvertently made it possible for others to deliberately perpetuate disinformation (and in some cases profit from it). silent 

But take heart, this has largely only been the case since the Eclecticism boon of the 1990s and the explosion of DIY books. The thing about traditions and tradition-oriented practices is that they don't foremost exist for the individual. They pre-date any given adherent and will continue on long after him. Whereas the majority of Eclectic practices begin and end with the individual. They're essentially about the self and the person's needs - i.e., there is nothing perpetuated. In fifty years times (heck, even in ten years), the majority (if not all) of the Eclectic/solitary practices of today will no longer exist, however the traditions will still be here because they are, by their nature, primarily about the gods and, by design, intended to be perpetuated. Wink

There are already signs that some sort of shift is inevitable. There is already a dichotomy within solitary/eclectic practices: personal focus/want/need versus wanting to feel connected and part of a larger whole. That's really at the core of those claiming to be "Wiccan" - they want to do their own thing, yet also want to be recognized as part of an established practice (even though they don't want to actually practice it). There are already Eclectics who have formed groups to perpetuate what they do - i.e., essentially transitioning to types of traditions. I think this will continue because of the desire for fellowship. Certainly things will not shift overnight.  One of the primary reasons there are so many looking for some form of individualistic spirituality is a response to their own disillusionment (or outright anger) with organized, centralized, monotheistic religions. So they essentially create an imbalance - going from a dogmatic extreme to an "airy fairy" (as I think someone here described it) extreme. Rebellion, with discovery. In another few decades, the landscape may very well look quite differently than it does today as Neopagan Eclecticism grows out of its "rebellious teen years".

It is a dreadful shame that Gardner's movement has been so thoroughly disrespected, misunderstood and pirated

I whole-heartedly agree (obviously).  Which is why I often bring up there being two different practices using the label.  I think it's in everyone's best interest to be aware of and reference the distinction because, in reality, it's not just traditional Wicca that is pirated but all forms of religion/folk practices, everything is viewed up for grabs and may be cherry-picked over. From "Asatru shamans" and "Hellenic/Celtic/Egyptian Wiccans" to "Elvis-Loki-Viking" (ok, the latter's from a filk song, about this very issue LOL). When we generalize the use of "Wicca" we're only reinforcing the misappropriation even though in disagreement with it.

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Re: A Discussion

Post  Out of Phlegethon on Sun Sep 01, 2013 4:07 pm

I guess one of the reasons I am suspicious of Wicca in its traditional and eclectic forms is not because of its eclecticism or even syncretism but its New Ageism.  There were eclectics among the Platonist and Stoic philosophers; there were philosophers who believed in Egyptian, Phoenician and Greek gods-- I think these are things not to praise in themselves (projecting an "anything goes" attitude on antiquity), but merely points perhaps in one great and always deadly serious spiritual development.  

Garderian Wicca, on the other hand, did not come about in antiquity, but in modernity.  I think even what we Hellenists are attempting is a very delicate and fragile "project"; we can very easily begin accidentally projecting our own modernistic conceptions onto the Gods, which can lead to a total spiritual disaster.  But a New Age mishmash that gestated on 19th century ideas about covens and ceremonies to me would seem erroneous in any attempt to properly honor the Gods.  Totally mutilated versions of Gaulish figures like Cernunnos and so on.  "Rosicrucianism" was rife in this period (well after the last Rosicrucians disappeared).  What kind of meaning can one find in initiations into such orders?  Maybe a little second-rate Masonry with some Victorian hokum thrown in (which describes a lot of the Golden Dawn-type stuff going on at the time), perhaps a bit of "Neo-Druid" costume role-play.  Frankly I would find praying in a garden or in a forest a far more profound experience than an initiation into such a "coven"-- Because at least prayer brings us closer to the Gods.
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Re: A Discussion

Post  Erodius on Sun Sep 01, 2013 5:53 pm

I guess one of the reasons I am suspicious of Wicca in its traditional and eclectic forms is not because of its eclecticism or even syncretism but its New Ageism. There were eclectics among the Platonist and Stoic philosophers; there were philosophers who believed in Egyptian, Phoenician and Greek gods-- I think these are things not to praise in themselves (projecting an "anything goes" attitude on antiquity), but merely points perhaps in one great and always deadly serious spiritual development.
I agree strongly. Though, like I said, I think the issue is much less with 'traditional' Wicca, which is certainly a rare breed nowadays, but with what has stolen the 'Wicca' title — which amounts to, as far as I have experienced, an incoherent, delusional, self-centered, anti-intellectual, neo-primitivist game of make-believe and a sacralization of relativism.

Garderian Wicca, on the other hand, did not come about in antiquity, but in modernity.
Yes. Contrary to the nonsense that many impressionable pre-teen and paperback priestess/plastic shaman 'Wiccans' spout, Wicca is not ancient. It is not even old, in the grand scheme of things. Although I have heard it argued that "Well, some of their practices are drawn from historical traditions" — this is not what I have usually seen. Usually, the sole commonalities between historical and contemporary 'paganisms' are the names used for deities. Modern 'Wicca', in practice, appears to consist almost entirely of things that some paperback writer has pulled out of his/her a$$ and claimed to be 'Ancient Tibetan/Celtic/Greek/Egyptian/Lemurian/Atlantean/Chinese/Japanese/Polynesian/Native American Wisdom'

I think even what we Hellenists are attempting is a very delicate and fragile "project"; we can very easily begin accidentally projecting our own modernistic conceptions onto the Gods, which can lead to a total spiritual disaster. But a New Age mishmash that gestated on 19th century ideas about covens and ceremonies to me would seem erroneous in any attempt to properly honor the Gods. Totally mutilated versions of Gaulish figures like Cernunnos and so on. "Rosicrucianism" was rife in this period (well after the last Rosicrucians disappeared). What kind of meaning can one find in initiations into such orders? Maybe a little second-rate Masonry with some Victorian hokum thrown in (which describes a lot of the Golden Dawn-type stuff going on at the time), perhaps a bit of "Neo-Druid" costume role-play
This is one thing that I am grateful for in belonging to an intact tradition — there is no guesswork at all. We know what we believe, and what we do, and when, and why.

But attempting to reassemble a religion without transmission from a living source is a delicate path to tread indeed — the potential, either deliberate or accidental, to fall into the trap of fashioning revived, common Hellenism in the fictional image of what Medieval polemicists and 19th-century Romantics and occultists imagined 'paganism' was like. To paraphrase Ezra Pound in his 'Against the Neopagans', the 'pagans' of the modern world, so heavily shaped and habituated to Christian norms, have, paradoxically, built their 'new paganism' on the pejorative model of what Christianity painted traditional religions to be. They have fallen into the dangerous trap of thinking of 'paganism' as 'the opposite of Christianity' and that a 'pagan' religion is an inversion of Christianity — i.e. that anything 'pagan' means 'anti-Christian'; if Christians do or believe something, then, therefore, 'pagans' should believe/do the opposite. Thus, Christianity is strongly patriarchal and has trivialized women — thus, 'paganism' should be strongly matriarchal and should trivialize men. Christianity is strongly moralistic, so 'paganism' should avoid morality entirely. Christianity is authoritarian, so 'paganism' should reject any semblance of authority. Essentially, these misguided individuals have created a 'new paganism' that is little more than inverted Christianity, built on an idea of 'paganism' that derives primarily from the depictions of those who sought to discredit and shame 'paganism' of old.

Totally mutilated versions of Gaulish figures like Cernunnos and so on.
Truly. Pretty much any assertion that 'X' is part of traditional Celtic religion is pure conjecture. We know virtually nothing at all for certain about traditional Celtic religion. We have only some names of deities, of whom the roles are typically only known from those who were equated with Graeco-Roman deities and worshipped as such. From what I understand, there is no evidence of any such deity as 'Cernunnos' having ever been worshipped in antiquity. The 'Cernunnos myth' comes from a particular ancient Celtic carving of a humanoid figure with deer antlers that had the word 'Cernunnos' inscribed near it. We have no idea whether 'Cernunnos' even referred to the figure depicted. We don't even know if the figure even represents a deity at all. It could be any number of things — a priest, a king/chief, a spirit, a deity, a regular person in a particular ceremonial attire . . . and so on.

And, of course, without any backup whatsoever, there are many, many 'pagans' out there who are under the impression that this 'Lord Cernunnos' (who may not even have existed) was the primary male deity of the entirety of pre-Christian Europe.

Neopagans, neo-druids, occultists, Golden-Dawn-ers, and the lot of them, as far as I'm concerned, have the right to believe whatever they wish to (certainly, nobody can force anyone otherwise anyway), however, nobody, in my book, has the right to spread false information, nobody has the right to plagiarize, and nobody has the right to lie. There is nothing wrong with these religions existing so long as they are honest about themselves, and recognize and are open about the fact that they are NRMs, not ancient, have no ties to the ancient world, and are rooted primarily in the personal feelings of their contemporary members. That is perfectly fine, and I think they would still attract members, even if they were honest about those things.

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: A Discussion

Post  Out of Phlegethon on Sun Sep 01, 2013 6:42 pm

Man, Erodius, I feel like we are secretly doppelgängers of each other or something.  Your pointing to the Evola article and his insights within convinces me of this!  I find Evola to be an extremely useful figure to turn to when considering Hellenic spiritualities being followed in modern times.  Just that right blend of stringency and good sense-- Not so convinced of the failure of any manifestation of Hellenism as say someone like Guenon would be (one of the main differences between Evola and the more orthodox Traditionalist thinkers), but also totally conscious of how laughable much of the "neopagan" and "occult" strains in recent Western "esotericism" have been.    

It is also interesting to note how accurate many of Evola's points are in holding up to describe other more recent anti-Christian revivals.  In contemporary "Gnosticism" for example; here we find the very kind of anti-Christian projection of modernity into the past.  The Crowleyites for example have adopted various semen-eating rituals of the Borborites that are just contrived slanders of the Orthodox Church heresiographers against their competition and so on.  Very amusing example of occultist absurdity (imagine the mystical burps of these Thelemite worthies after such "ancient" practices).
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Re: A Discussion

Post  Erodius on Sun Sep 01, 2013 9:13 pm

Man, Erodius, I feel like we are secretly doppelgängers of each other or something. Your pointing to the Evola article and his insights within convinces me of this!
I think so too; I've missed you in your month plus absence. It's been dead around here in the past week or two — I imagine because of the convergence of schools and universities starting back, and the fact that most, if not all, of our more active members are school or college-aged.

And my bad — the first PDF I read of Against the Neopagans was mislabeled as an Ezra Pound work (who was also an early 20th century, Hellenist, visionary and poet living in Italy — which only fuels my mental interchanging of the names) and so because of the primacy fallacy, the association is still stuck in my mind. Regardless, I think highly of them both, especially Evola — which usually gets me labeled a fascist. Regardless of whether or not this is true, however, I really could care less, especially since that seems to keep most of the anarcho-relativist kum-bah-ya intoners far away.

It is also interesting to note how accurate many of Evola's points are in holding up to describe other more recent anti-Christian revivals.  In contemporary "Gnosticism" for example; here we find the very kind of anti-Christian projection of modernity into the past.  The Crowleyites for example have adopted various semen-eating rituals of the Borborites that are just contrived slanders of the Orthodox Church heresiographers against their competition and so on.  Very amusing example of occultist absurdity (imagine the mystical burps of these Thelemite worthies after such "ancient" practices).
Of course! The contemporary 'Gnostics' — outside of perhaps Hoeller's group, of which I think highly — seem primarily concerned with sex magic and engaging in every kind of taboo imaginable under the guise of 'gnosis'. In an interesting survey I read recently of the history of Manichaeism across the late Roman Empire, there was mention of the wide array of groups whom the Christian polemicists accused of some combination of sex-magic, necrophilia, bestiality, and ritual use of semen and/or menstrual blood. These all seem to have been pretty run-of-the-mill stock accusations of the era against groups one wished to ridicule or denigrate.

I like to wonder what the heresiographers would think about contemporary new-age occultists and 'pagans' — whether they'd be more horrified, or more amused that some fools 1,500 years in the future would actually come to believe that all the crap they were spouting about 'paganism' was true and give birth to the originally purely imaginary garbage religion that they had invented for the purpose of vilifying their enemies. I doubt they'd ever have imagined that anyone would actually try to practice the pejorative trash they were spouting.

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: A Discussion

Post  Out of Phlegethon on Mon Sep 02, 2013 4:44 am

Erodius wrote:And my bad — the first PDF I read of Against the Neopagans was mislabeled as an Ezra Pound work (who was also an early 20th century, Hellenist, visionary and poet living in Italy — which only fuels my mental interchanging of the names) and so because of the primacy fallacy, the association is still stuck in my mind. Regardless, I think highly of them both, especially Evola — which usually gets me labeled a fascist. Regardless of whether or not this is true, however, I really could care less, especially since that seems to keep most of the anarcho-relativist kum-bah-ya intoners far away.
My username is actually a little rip from Pound's Pisan Cantos. In fact, Pound's Cantos which I read (and didn't understand) at nineteen, was the first place I read of Iamblichus and Plotinus, and encountered the name Poimandres from the Corpus Hermeticum.

Pound was a dupe for Fascism, though Evola was a little more subversive. He was quite aristocratic and the Fascists were a bit worried about his influence. However, the blame placed on figures like Pound and Evola only reveals the hypocrisy of the blamers usually; think of the countless lovers of Sartre in university class rooms that rationalize away his Maoist phase (here we are talking far more deaths than Nazism and fascism); and Stalinism and Maoist combined totally dwarf those of Germany and Italy in WWII.

Erodius wrote:Of course! The contemporary 'Gnostics' — outside of perhaps Hoeller's group, of which I think highly — seem primarily concerned with sex magic and engaging in every kind of taboo imaginable under the guise of 'gnosis'. In an interesting survey I read recently of the history of Manichaeism across the late Roman Empire, there was mention of the wide array of groups whom the Christian polemicists accused of some combination of sex-magic, necrophilia, bestiality, and ritual use of semen and/or menstrual blood. These all seem to have been pretty run-of-the-mill stock accusations of the era against groups one wished to ridicule or denigrate.
Michael Williams's Rethinking 'Gnosticism' does a good debunking a lot of this-- As well as debunking the term Gnosticism itself. He concludes basically that there were no legitimate libertinist trends of "Gnosticism" and that none of the different sects we call Gnostic even thought of themselves as "Gnostics." The only really "libertinist" one we can connect with them is Epiphanes (an interesting fellow, who seemed to believe in a communal sort of erotic ethos perhaps not unlike Chrysippus), who was not a Biblical demiurgical in any sense.

The Hoeller type Jungo-Gnostics would be more interesting if they took out the Jung and actually followed their Valentinean, Sethian or Thomasine forebears. But they do not. It's a shame, for there is some real wisdom not unlike that we find in the Hermetica or Empedocles in the Gospel of Thomas.
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Re: A Discussion

Post  Erodius on Mon Sep 02, 2013 12:25 pm

think of the countless lovers of Sartre in university class rooms that rationalize away his Maoist phase (here we are talking far more deaths than Nazism and fascism);
Oh yes, of course. A worrisome marriage of anarchism and existentialism abound among the college-aged. You can imagine the sort of 'are you off your rocker?' looks and remarks I received whenever I would put forth an argument or statement in favor of objective truth, knowledge and/or goodness — or if I would offer criticism of common notions of 'freedom' . . .

Just the other day, in a literature class, we were discussing the literary theme of Pandora's box and the significance of 1. Hope being present in the box in the first place, and 2. why Hope did not escape. While the professor, herself a Classicist, was quite understanding and supportive of my conclusion that the hope in question is of the Classical sort, in which it is a negative spirit, a cacodæmon, and thus is present in the box amongst all the other cacodæmones — that is to say, hope as the aspiration toward or belief in a state or future state that is contrary to reality, and thus, the sort of hope in question is essentially what we'd call 'delusion'.

However, judging by the reaction of the other students (virtually none of whom were Classicists, and most of whom were freshmen 'just taking the class because they thought it'd be cool'), you'd've thought I'd just advocated the mass murder of baby seals.

Michael Williams's Rethinking 'Gnosticism' does a good debunking a lot of this-- As well as debunking the term Gnosticism itself. He concludes basically that there were no legitimate libertinist trends of "Gnosticism" and that none of the different sects we call Gnostic even thought of themselves as "Gnostics." The only really "libertinist" one we can connect with them is Epiphanes (an interesting fellow, who seemed to believe in a communal sort of erotic ethos perhaps not unlike Chrysippus), who was not a Biblical demiurgical in any sense.

The Hoeller type Jungo-Gnostics would be more interesting if they took out the Jung and actually followed their Valentinean, Sethian or Thomasine forebears. But they do not. It's a shame, for there is some real wisdom not unlike that we find in the Hermetica or Empedocles in the Gospel of Thomas.
My knowledge of Gnosticism is, admittedly, cursory. It isn't my specialty. My knowledge of Gnosticisms derives mostly from the material I've run across in the study of Platonism, Late-Antique Mysteria, and Manichaeism (which, although often labeled a 'gnostic' religion, just as Orphism sometimes is, is really debatable as to whether or not it is — and of course, as you've said, it is likewise debatable whether or not there ever existed historically any religion that self-identified as 'gnostic.'

The online textual library of Hoeller's Ecclesia Gnostica is an excellent resource, even from a scholarly standpoint — and there does seem to me to be a current of Valentinian/Sethian/Thomasine theology guiding the church, however, I would have to agree with you about their Jung-fixation, to the point where Jungianism seems, at times, to overshadow the actual 'gnostic' theology.

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: A Discussion

Post  Out of Phlegethon on Mon Sep 02, 2013 1:42 pm

Erodius wrote:My knowledge of Gnosticism is, admittedly, cursory. It isn't my specialty. My knowledge of Gnosticisms derives mostly from the material I've run across in the study of Platonism, Late-Antique Mysteria, and Manichaeism (which, although often labeled a 'gnostic' religion, just as Orphism sometimes is, is really debatable as to whether or not it is — and of course, as you've said, it is likewise debatable whether or not there ever existed historically any religion that self-identified as 'gnostic.'

The online textual library of Hoeller's Ecclesia Gnostica is an excellent resource, even from a scholarly standpoint — and there does seem to me to be a current of Valentinian/Sethian/Thomasine theology guiding the church, however, I would have to agree with you about their Jung-fixation, to the point where Jungianism seems, at times, to overshadow the actual 'gnostic' theology.
Yes, that site is great!  It's been around for a while, too.  I remember being around seventeen and reading the Hypostasis of the Archons-- a Sethian text-- there online...  

Actually, the Sethians are quite interesting if you are already immersed in Platonism.  Porphyry himself tells us that Plotinus was friends with some of them (I believe the fellows were named Aquilinius and Adelphius); and if you look at the latest phase of the Sethian religion, it had indeed taken on a deeply emanationist theology.  John Turner is the guy to turn to here (who has a lot of articles on his school's site), illuminating the influence of not just the Timaeus but Plotinian and even Iamblichean metaphysics, as well as the Chaldean Oracles, on Sethian ontological hierarchies.  It might interest you to know that there are even Orphic elements in some Sethian texts; Phanes shows up as an intermediary ascensionistic figure in some of the later Platonizing texts (such as Allogenes).
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Re: A Discussion

Post  Erodius on Mon Sep 02, 2013 3:41 pm

Actually, the Sethians are quite interesting if you are already immersed in Platonism.  Porphyry himself tells us that Plotinus was friends with some of them (I believe the fellows were named Aquilinius and Adelphius); and if you look at the latest phase of the Sethian religion, it had indeed taken on a deeply emanationist theology.  John Turner is the guy to turn to here (who has a lot of articles on his school's site), illuminating the influence of not just the Timaeus but Plotinian and even Iamblichean metaphysics, as well as the Chaldean Oracles, on Sethian ontological hierarchies.  It might interest you to know that there are even Orphic elements in some Sethian texts; Phanes shows up as an intermediary ascensionistic figure in some of the later Platonizing texts (such as Allogenes).
I'll certainly have to give some time to a thorough investigation of Turner's works — once such time becomes available to me again, that is. Neutral
______
Edit:

At your inspiration, I've spent much time over the course of the day today reading up on the Sethians, as well as refreshing my mind on the Valentinians — and though I'd have agreed prior, it is manifestly clear to me the numerous theological elements that both the Sethians and Valentinians shared with the Orphic religion, and consequently, with the strongly Orphicizing Platonism of Late Antiquity.

An ineffable God outside the cosmos, a firstborn, dual-sexed, three-personed deity who acts as the celestial creator, and one of the aforementioned deity's children taking it upon herself, without the knowledge of her peers or superiors, to beget her own creation — resulting in the hot mess of a world in which we now reside, coupled with a slain and restored redeemer (in two different incarnations, in both cases), and an association of the snake with the forces of redemption.

Such a delineation describes Orphism as well as it does Sethianism, and vice versa.

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: A Discussion

Post  Out of Phlegethon on Tue Sep 03, 2013 7:56 am

Yes, similar in its ascensionistic ascetic practices as well.  Though to an extent even rather extreme ascetic positions, like that of Plotinus (whom Porphyry tells us felt unnatural inside a body) seemed to want to place some distance between the Sethians he knew and the Platonism he was arguing for.  Which indicates that even a really devout ascetic would be rather put off by something about Sethianism, in fact, put off by what I find most blasphemous in Sethian texts: the identification of the demiurgos of the Timaeus with Yaldabaoth, who makes the physical world, it is suggested, through an act of masturbation.  It becomes totally obvious why this was done if you are familiar with Yahweh as he appears in Judaism (I cannot help but to see Yahweh as a cruel, domineering, gloating madman), but the resulting cosmogony to me seems to reek of a kind of sophisticated nihilism, a rejection of the world and life qua rejection of matter.

Turner has a good division of the developmental stages of Sethianism and the texts he associates with those stages.  It may interest you if you were looking for areas where a sudden collision with Orphic ideas may have altered the original, more heretical Judaic aspects.  I am pasting from my notes:

(1) During the first century before to the first century of the Commen Era, Sethianism was a non-Christian baptismal sect that considered itself possessing the primordial wisdom revealed to the still human Adam and Seth, and also expecting also a messianic visitation of Seth.  This was typical of the Messianic mind-set of the time; Christianity itself began as precisely such a Messianic religion, centred around Jesus.  In the case of the Sethians, here we would have the Source material for later writings: Sophia myth, exegesis on Genesis, and the baptisimal rite.  I would also include here the Apocalypse of Adam, a very early work that would seem to be transitional between Jewish and Gnostic apocalyptic, in its original form, and the above quoted fragment from The Testimony of Truth.
(2) During the later first to second century C.E. Sethianism became gradually Christianised through contact with Christian baptisimal groups, and identified Seth or Adam with their pre-existent Christ.  Here then Seth and Adam are transformed from human to supernatural beings.  Representative texts include the Apocalypse of Adam in its completed form, the Apocryphon of John, the Hypostasis of the Archons, external link The Thought of Norea , and Trimorphic Protennoia.
(3) During the later second century C.E. Sethianism became increasingly estranged from Christianity, and its own doctrines become more orthodox and codified.  Typical here is the external link The Gospel of the Egyptians, perhaps the "classic" Sethian work, and a secondarily Sethianised Jewish piece called Melchezidec (named after the mythical high priest).
(4) By the third century C.E. Sethianism had rejected by the Christian Church, while meanwhile becoming increasingly attracted to the individualistic mystical practices of Platonism, and also adopting Platonic (Neopythagorean, Middle Platonic, and Neoplatonic) metaphysical and numerological ideas.  This is the period of the Church heresiological accounts, and Sethian texts like Allogenes, Zostrianos, and The Three Steles of Seth, which incorporate various Neopythagorean and Neoplatonic ideas.
(5) By the later third century C.E. Sethianism had become estranged from Platonism (Neoplatonism), and was becoming increasingly fragmented into various derivative and sectarian gnostic groups.  Texts from this period of decline include Marsanes and the Bruce Codex.

Also, a lot of scholars seem to agree that the Gospel of Judas is Sethian, and arguments have been made that Thunder, the Perfect Mind may also be a more or less Sethian text.
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Re: A Discussion

Post  Erodius on Tue Sep 03, 2013 12:04 pm

Yes, similar in its ascensionistic ascetic practices as well. Though to an extent even rather extreme ascetic positions, like that of Plotinus (whom Porphyry tells us felt unnatural inside a body) seemed to want to place some distance between the Sethians he knew and the Platonism he was arguing for. Which indicates that even a really devout ascetic would be rather put off by something about Sethianism, in fact, put off by what I find most blasphemous in Sethian texts: the identification of the demiurgos of the Timaeus with Yaldabaoth, who makes the physical world, it is suggested, through an act of masturbation. It becomes totally obvious why this was done if you are familiar with Yahweh as he appears in Judaism (I cannot help but to see Yahweh as a cruel, domineering, gloating madman), but the resulting cosmogony to me seems to reek of a kind of sophisticated nihilism, a rejection of the world and life qua rejection of matter.
That's certainly true — the early Gnostics and Christians, as we see with figures like Marcion, seemed to recognize an inherent contradiction and inconsistency between the God proclaimed by Christ versus the one apparent in the books of the Hebrew Bible. The former a figure of wisdom, mercy, universality, and salvation — the latter a figure of pettiness, vindictiveness, culturo-ethnic particularity, and destruction. So they concluded that the Jewish God must have been some sort of malevolent, fallen archon, claiming to be God. Unfortunately, however, they associated this god, Ialdabaoth, with the creator of the world, and thus, upon greater contact with Platonistic schools, with the Demiurge — to the effect that 'Demiurge' acquires a distinctly negative and pejorative connotation in later Gnosticism.

The parallelism is still evident though. However, as we teach the (essentially same) cosmogony, although *a* demiurge (Saturn/Cronus, the terrestrial demiurge) is responsible for the creation of the corrupted world (though, nevertheless, in a different sense. Saturn adorns and 'decorates' the world, but he did not technically 'create' it, as I believe is the case with the Gnostics. Protogonus fashioned the earth, and the earth bore Saturn), he is not *The* Demiurge (Phanes/Protogonus, the cosmic demiurge). I'd also reckon that there is a distinct possibility that there may be some relationship between the gnostic Ialdabaoth's masturbatory creation, and Saturn's seizure of the genitals of Heaven.

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: A Discussion

Post  Out of Phlegethon on Thu Sep 05, 2013 3:36 pm

Yes.  Whereas the God of the Gospels is just a kind of abstract eminence grise from which Jesus proceeds, Yahweh appears monstrous and cruel in the Tanakh.  The sad fact is that the "Old Testament" is a work of insane literary beauty, of endless variety and myths charged with transformative meanings, while the Gospels are just different monotonous re-tellings of the same story.  And as King Lear-ian as Yahweh is, he does not go around thrusting his cult on all the other peoples of the world (though he may not grace them with being the Chosen People).  He may be a Canaanite sky god that wants all these particular Semites worshiping Him, but He does have some sense of limitation.  A limitation which allows for pluralism, though not pluralistic in its structure.  Personally, despite all the genius of Christian and Jewish theologians and philosophers, I wish the Babylonian-Assyrian religions-- which it is now erroneous to believe did not reach forms of monotheism and complex esoteric metaphysics-- survived all this triumphalist, "idol"-smashing universality.    

Also, I believe the onanistic dimension of Ialdabaoth's creation owes to an Egyptian source.  I will have to bust out the Nag Hammadi library to verify this hunch, but I think it is footnoted in there somewhere...
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Re: A Discussion

Post  Erodius on Thu Sep 05, 2013 7:54 pm

Earliest Judaic religion was presumably duotheistic and focused on a cult of Yahweh and Asherah, which evolved into bimorphic monotheism, in which Yahweh becomes the consciousness of God while Asherah becomes the Shechina, or divine spirit. Judging by the common use of Elohim (meaning 'Gods') to refer to Gods, it is also probable that there was a collectivization of divinity akin to the Vishvadeva hymns of the Vedas, and a syncretism with the north Canaanite El. 

Also interesting is the story of Orpah in the Book of Ruth, in which, uncharacteristic of what is often thought of as true monotheism, Orpah, who wishes to join the Hebrews and the Judaic cult, is encouraged instead to return to her own land, people and gods. 

The later developments of Chaldaic/Mesopotamian religion is fascinating, and clearly very influential in terms of the clear relationships it has with Orphism and later Platonism, as well as Gnostic religions, and even the Egyptianized Hermeticism. It is likewise interesting to explore the parallelism with ancient Persian religion and heretical Zoroastrianisms like the essentially Orphic Zurvanites, the asceticism of the Mazdakites, and the marriage of Orpheo-Zurvanism with Chaldean religion, Buddhism, Christianity, and baptismal cults that the Prophet Mani sent forth with such amazing success. 

Right now, I'm reading Athanassiadi and Frede's Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity exploring the unquestionably quite common monotheism in various Hellene cults of the Late Antique world. I wish I could paste excerpts here on the forum, but unfortunately it is ubiquitously copy protected and it will not let me  copy the text. I cannot recommend it enough. 

Ialdabaoth's onanism might certainly have a relation to the Egyptian Heliopolitan genesis myth of the demiurgic Atum or Tem masturbating in order to create the first other deities.

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: A Discussion

Post  Out of Phlegethon on Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:19 pm

Mesopotamian religion has always fascinated me, Zoroastrianism no less so (I plan to get ahold of M.L. West's translations of the Gathas in the coming weeks).  I've perused Athanassiadi & Frede's work and plan on getting to it one day.  Have you ever read anything by Algis Uzdavinys?  He teases out many interesting similarities between Platonism, old Assyrian and Babylonian religion and the theology of the Egyptian priesthood in some of his works...  

The original Persian religion is extremely interesting.  Even some of the Persian Sufis are still very much immersed in it, carrying over figures from Zoroastrianism into Islamic angelology.  There are also the more pure Zoroastrian mystics of the Illuminist school of Suhrawardi, the Kayvanis.  Then there's a whole lost chapter of Persian Hermetica that you can apparently see traces of in the Arabic Hermetica (according to von Bladel)!  

I, for one, would like to hear how Zurvanism is essentially Orphic, in your view.  I have read that Zurvan may be a Persianized Chronos, but I am not sure how conclusive scholars are on this matter, and I have no serious familiarity with any first hand sources (of the Zurvan heresy or Zoroastrianism in general), save a smattering of the Avesta.
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Re: A Discussion

Post  Erodius on Thu Sep 05, 2013 11:32 pm

Have you ever read anything by Algis Uzdavinys? He teases out many interesting similarities between Platonism, old Assyrian and Babylonian religion and the theology of the Egyptian priesthood in some of his works...
I haven't yet — but my mentor has highly recommended him to me. Perhaps once I get through the combination of things I need to read for class and the pile of personal reading I have already queued up ahead of him, I'll get to it.

I, for one, would like to hear how Zurvanism is essentially Orphic, in your view. I have read that Zurvan may be a Persianized Chronos, but I am not sure how conclusive scholars are on this matter, and I have no serious familiarity with any first hand sources (of the Zurvan heresy or Zoroastrianism in general), save a smattering of the Avesta.
Insofar as I have read, it is somewhat debatable whether or not Zurvanism ever existed as a truly distinct cult, or whether its scriptures were distinct from the other Zoroastrian holy writings, but it is instead probable that it was simply a theological stream of Zoroastrianism that was popular in the Sassanid era, but was later anathematized (perhaps as a consequence of rising Islam, which would likely have been more tolerant of Mazdaean Zoroastrianism, with its focus on a manifest and good supreme deity, with Ahriman as a less-powerful, corrupted yazata, than it would have been of the Zurvanite school with its neutral supreme deity, and equal sibling deities of light and darkness), and as far as I am aware, no specifically Zurvanite texts have ever surfaced.

Our guesses of what constituted Zurvanism come from a few historical inscriptions and mentions of Persian theology from various regional writers, as well as from much better attested Perso-Mesopotamian religions like Manichaeism, which show strong consistency with the elements of Zurvanite theology of which we are aware. For instance, a supreme, undifferentiated principle deity often called Zurvan, who begets another deity often named Ormazd, who is the equal and enemy of a dark principle, often named as Ahriman. The Ormazd of Manichaeism manifests into separate active/masculine and passive/feminine aspects, which then further emanate 'Five Sons' who also can manifest in both masculine and feminine aspects. This is strikingly parallel to the early steps of the Orphic cosmogony in which Time/Eternity [Χρόνος] (this is essentially what 'Zurvan' means), begets Protogonus and First Night. Protogonus then divides into the active cosmic Demiurge (variously, 'Love', or still 'Phanes/Protogonus/Bromius etc.) and the receptive nurse Second Night, while beneath them, at the level of the local cosmos, are their localized forms, as well as, interestingly enough, their five additional faces as well (resulting in a total of twelve divine seats — the supreme vicars of the two demiurgic principles, and their five other manifestations each). In both Orphism and Manichaeism, these are associated with 'Twelve Laws/Virtues', and the twelve signs of the zodiac. As such, we have Manichaeism as 100% consistent with the first few steps of the Zurvanite cosmology (which are all we really know anyhow), and later, is nearly 100% consistent with Orphism. However, to be sure, we cannot know, as it stands, 'where it all started.' I.e. we don't know whether this started with the Orphics and then moved eastward (which is what I have heard some Zoroastrian scholars argue), or if it started in the east and then moved westward, which would be consistent with our tradition, in Orphism, that Orpheus was a 'Thracian' or sometimes a 'Phrygian' (the Phrygians immigrated to Anatolia from Thrace in the very distant past — and as such, the two are oftentimes confounded and/or equated by the Greeks), and that the Orphic Bacchus (who is, mythically, almost entirely distinct from the Theban/Cadmean Bacchus) comes from Anatolia or even Persia, rather than Boeotia.

However, on the other hand, a considerable piece of evidence in favor of the Orphics being the originators of this theology is the fact that our theology shows up in the Greek world almost eight-hundred years earlier (the earliest being with Pherecydes in the early 6th century BCE) than our attestations of Persian Zurvanism around the 3rd century CE, and Manichaeism, which was not founded until the 3rd century.

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: A Discussion

Post  Out of Phlegethon on Sat Sep 07, 2013 7:50 pm

Interesting.  I have also read that in the quasi-Islamic Yârsânism (Ahl-e Haqq) there may be remnants of Mithraic notions...  Thoughts?

And since this thread has kind of gone all over the place-- and because I get the chance to pick at your gray matter-- to what extent would you cite the Egyptians as an influence on Orphism?
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Re: A Discussion

Post  Erodius on Sat Sep 07, 2013 10:17 pm

Interesting. I have also read that in the quasi-Islamic Yârsânism (Ahl-e Haqq) there may be remnants of Mithraic notions... Thoughts?
I'm not sure I could really say anything there in the affirmative or negative. I know only a little about the Kurdish indigenous religions (Yazidism/Yarsanism/Ishikism), although I know their origin is certain not Christian or Islamic, and they differ considerably from Zoroastrianism as well, and, almost more than any other antique Mystery religion, even though its remains outnumber nearly all the others, Mithraism remains almost a total mystery, even in the contemporary sense. We know almost nothing at all for certain about their theology or cosmology — we don't even know what their primary myth was, or what the ubiquitous Tauroctony means. We know they were hierarchical, initiatory, probably open only to men in most cases, were very astronomically aware, they met in underground mithraea, and that a communal meal formed a major part of their worship. As you may have read, there is some dispute even as to its origins. The name 'Mithras' is clearly an Indo-Iranian loan, and we know that they revered Persian-ness to an extent (with 'Persian' being one of the names for their initiatory grades). However, other experts in Iranian mythology (which I am not), as far as I am aware, have not been able to draw any real analogies between the iconography of Mithraism and anything related to the Persian Mithras cult (although, it might be noted, the Manichaeans, again, name the Good Demiurge of their dualist system Mihr-Yazd, which is the late Persian evolution of Mithra-Yazata (or, "the god Mithra").

The high consistency in style and iconography of Mithraic sites leads us to believe that Mithraism was highly organized and internally consistent, and we know that Mithraic initiates from one side of the Empire would be welcomed and feel at home and comfortable in mithraea all the way on the other side. That and the fact that it is not clearly a derivative of any identifiable Persian cult leads many religious scholars to conclude that Mithraism was probably founded by a single individual or group of people somewhere in the eastern Mediterranean — the general guess being someplace in Anatolia.

So, there definitely are pre-Christo/Islamic elements of the Yazdani religions (I'd say they are primary pre-Islamic and pre-Christian — and they do have some similarities to the Orpheo-Platono-Chaldean continuum, undoubtedly).

And since this thread has kind of gone all over the place-- and because I get the chance to pick at your gray matter-- to what extent would you cite the Egyptians as an influence on Orphism?
. . . which is why I retitled this thread long ago — haha.

I would not cite the Egyptians as an influence on the Orphic religion at all, necessarily — not in the sense that Orphism developed from Egyptian ideas. It has remained our teaching that our doctrines are those of Orpheus, and while it is certainly true that the sages in concord with Orphic doctrines have expounded upon the relatively simple 'core Orphism', we would not say that anything has been genuinely added that was not originally present. Scholasticism aside, we would also say that the parallels evident in other religions (Egyptian, Persian etc.) are the result of the fact that, according to our teaching, Orpheus re-revealed the primal religion of the cosmos, which had been partially forgotten, in different ways, by the various civilized nations, in its fullest and most evolved form — while previously revelations among the peoples had been either partial (to accommodate varying levels of cultural advancement) or had been full, but only to a few individuals, and had not remained intact through the generations.

The most evident mythic similarity between Egyptian religion and Orphism is to be found in the Osiris & Isis myth — although, to be fair, our best sources for this myth are very late, and are written in Greek, for Greek audiences, by Greeks. So it is quite possible that older Osiridian myths with useable similarity (or, *we* might say, that had retained such similarity), because of their equation with the Orphic Sacred Drama, had become more Orphicized in their forms circulated amongst the Graeco-Romans.

A more radical, though still secular, theory that I would put forward, would be this: Orpheus, our prophet and theologian, we have always taught as having come from eastern Thrace, which to the Greeks, often included northwestern Anatolia and Phrygia. We teach that, judging by a few key astronomical references in the Teletae, Orpheus may have lived, on the more recent side of estimation, around the mid 2nd millennium BCE. This is essentially the same historical time at which we have records from the Egyptians of there having been repeated raids and landings along the Mediterranean coasts of Egypt and Canaan by the 'Sea Peoples', whom most historians now believe, based on the Egyptians' approximations of their names, to have come from various places around the Aegean, especially eastern Greece, the Aegean islands, and western Anatolia. We also maintain the story that Orpheus once accompanied a great sailing voyage to a place from which was brought back, as we teach it, a great religious treasure — which by the Hellenistic time, became identified with the voyage of Jason to retrieve the Golden Fleece. It is a farfetched hypothesis, but I would say it may be possible that this, seen together, points to a possibility of Orpheus having been among the Sea Peoples who sailed all over the eastern Mediterranean, including Egypt, and may have brought back from his voyages a divinely-inspired realization fostered by what he'd seen and learned in his travels. Further, I would say this might show a relationship with a strikingly similar story told by Iamblichus of Pythagoras, whose personality and teaching have been conflated with Orpheus and Orphism almost from the beginning.

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: A Discussion

Post  Out of Phlegethon on Mon Sep 09, 2013 6:58 pm

Erodius wrote:It is a farfetched hypothesis, but I would say it may be possible that this, seen together, points to a possibility of Orpheus having been among the Sea Peoples who sailed all over the eastern Mediterranean, including Egypt, and may have brought back from his voyages a divinely-inspired realization fostered by what he'd seen and learned in his travels. Further, I would say this might show a relationship with a strikingly similar story told by Iamblichus of Pythagoras, whose personality and teaching have been conflated with Orpheus and Orphism almost from the beginning.
Is this your own hypothesis, or are there other scholars that affirm this notion? It is intriguing, the Sea Peoples being as fascinating and mysterious as Orpheus to begin with...
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Re: A Discussion

Post  Erodius on Mon Sep 09, 2013 8:32 pm

It is my own hypothesis — based upon historical, mythic and geographic correspondences — which I find to be a possibly plausible explanation for some of the idiosyncrasies with regard to Orphic religion, i.e. the voyage narrative of Orpheus, Orpheus nativity to some land of the not-quite-Greek periphery, the dismembered deity drama which appears more a feature of near-eastern religion than the Greek, the simplification of the deity roster, and the fact that the Orphic movement seems to have possibly been the first to introduce a symbolic/allegorical approach to mythology, as we can see as early as Pherecydes, distinct from the thoroughly fantastic tales of the epic tradition of Homer and Hesiod.

I'm not sure if there are any other scholars who have put forth such a hypothesis — the vast majority of scholars of Classical religion seem largely uninterested in any of the Mystery religions, especially not Orphism, preferring to focus on the 'epic age' religion of zany gods, ridiculous antics, mythical creatures, warfare, heroes and do-ut-des sacrifices. My theories on why this is are thus: first, the 'epic' religion is more traditionally 'fun', but second, it is also thoroughly non-threatening to modern ears. You can be a staunch Baptist and still be a scholar of the epic-era religion, because, devoid of any real religious teaching, feeling, devotion or value, it is really not much of a religion at all. It can all be easily and untroublingly brushed aside as silly fables and superstitions not to be taken seriously; as the Greeks' and Romans' floundering around in their foolish delusion and demonolatry until Christ came. While, on the other hand, the far-left, antireligious historians have, as far as I have seen, have blamed Orphism and other Mystery cults for 'paving the way' for Christianity and supplanting a practicalistic archaic Greece with a theocentric and faith-based modern Greece. As so many such scholars would say, and like to believe 'well yes, they did offer sacrifices to the Classical Gods, but nobody actually really worshipped them or held devotion to them — everyone was sort of an agnostic until the Christian era — and can you blame them? Look at how ridiculous this $hit is." Second, and in lieu of this, Mystery religions are often avoided by such mainstream scholars because they are threatening in a way that the 'epic religion' is not — they inspired clear religious fervency and devotion amongst their adherents; these people were every bit as devout as a modern evangelical Christian might be. They were not agnostics. These were real religions in much the same sense as we use the word today. It's off-putting to some scholars who don't want to think of pre-Christian cult as possessing real or genuine religiosity. Talking about the political and social significance of the stories of the feuds between the soap-opera-esque gods of the Iliad is quite different from talking about the fall of man, original sin, religious asceticism, and the salvation of the soul from aeons in hell. Suddenly things aren't as distant and light-hearted anymore.

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: A Discussion

Post  Out of Phlegethon on Tue Sep 10, 2013 9:52 am

Erodius wrote:My theories on why this is are thus: first, the 'epic' religion is more traditionally 'fun', but second, it is also thoroughly non-threatening to modern ears. You can be a staunch Baptist and still be a scholar of the epic-era religion, because, devoid of any real religious teaching, feeling, devotion or value, it is really not much of a religion at all. It can all be easily and untroublingly brushed aside as silly fables and superstitions not to be taken seriously; as the Greeks' and Romans' floundering around in their foolish delusion and demonolatry until Christ came.
Concur (though not on the epic-era religion doesn't contain any religious teaching part!).  Even the epic-era religion-- and the religion of the epics in particular-- does provide us with ideas of considerable religious value.  The tragic nature of Achilles is impossible to understand outside of religion.  What differentiates him from a figure like Hamlet is his rootedness in a traditional society in which the Gods have real existential weight as to decision-making and practical virtue.  The oscillations of Hamlet are grandiose; even after visitation by his father's ghost he is not reinserted back into the order of proper action.  But it only takes Thetis to tell Achilles to accede to the will of Zeus and give Hector's corpse back to Priam for the hero to empathize with the old man; viz. that the Gods are angry with him, and he must adjust his action.  Which is enough for one straying too far from the social order (obeying the funeral customs), etc.  This is not an elaborate metaphysical system of course, but I think it is of real religious value.  As is what we find in Hesiod as well, I'd say...

Erodius wrote:
While, on the other hand, the far-left, antireligious historians have, as far as I have seen, have blamed Orphism and other Mystery cults for 'paving the way' for Christianity and supplanting a practicalistic archaic Greece with a theocentric and faith-based modern Greece.
Yes-- Evola and Pound would also agree with this notion, insofar as Orphism is concerned.  I would, too, though I think the word "blame" would be a bit too harsh here.  

Erodius wrote:
As so many such scholars would say, and like to believe 'well yes, they did offer sacrifices to the Classical Gods, but nobody actually really worshipped them or held devotion to them — everyone was sort of an agnostic until the Christian era — and can you blame them? Look at how ridiculous this $hit is."  Second, and in lieu of this, Mystery religions are often avoided by such mainstream scholars because they are threatening in a way that the 'epic religion' is not — they inspired clear religious fervency and devotion amongst their adherents; these people were every bit as devout as a modern evangelical Christian might be. They were not agnostics. These were real religions in much the same sense as we use the word today. It's off-putting to some scholars who don't want to think of pre-Christian cult as possessing real or genuine religiosity. Talking about the political and social significance of the stories of the feuds between the soap-opera-esque gods of the Iliad is quite different from talking about the fall of man, original sin, religious asceticism, and the salvation of the soul from aeons in hell. Suddenly things aren't as distant and light-hearted anymore.
Yes, they just want the heroic goods so that they can dispense with the Gods and feast on the intellectual acumen of their own reflection in the garb of antiquity.  Why bother with the spiritual realities behind the myths when you can look down on the myths from the pseudo-Olympus of critical theory?
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