Notes on a Conversion

Last time, I shared some very personal views on faith — along with an announcement that I’d finally found the religion of my heart.  How’s that going, you ask?  As with anything new, there’s a certain amount of flailing about at the outset.  Even within the larger non-Christian community there are a variety of paths and choices, sects and denominations.  From the start, I knew I wasn’t eclectic, nor did I hold much store in Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis (UPG).  I like structure, and I like having textual guidance on matters of faith and spiritual growth — even if such texts aren’t sacred, in the fullest sense of the word.

Hellenic Reconstructionism is the methodology for restoring to the modern world the religion of the ancient Greeks, through the study of ancient sources, recreating ancient rituals and prayer, and extrapolating knowledge from the academic work of historians and archaeologists.  It doesn’t seek to return to the past, but to bring elements of the past forward into our world.

I identify myself as an Attic Polytheist with a bias toward Neoplatonism.  Now, what does that even mean?  A polytheist is, of course, a follower of multiple gods; an Attic polytheist follows the Gods as they were in ancient Attica, the homeland of the Athenians.  Like most of my peers, I was raised a monotheist — and fairly agnostic, at that.  I can imagine raised eyebrows at the conversion of “maybe” to “multiple . . . and Greek!”  My argument is, this is what makes the most sense to me.  Not logical sense (religion as a whole doesn’t make much logical sense), but spiritual.  This way answers my needs and soothes my fears.  The bias toward Neoplatonism means I study the works of ancient philosophers like Plotinus and Sallustius and can see much merit in their cosmology.  I also see merit in the ethical demands of Stoicism.

How does all this mumbo-jumbo apply to the modern world, to the life of a 45-year old writer from Alabama?  That part I’m still working on.  It is most evident by a stated desire to live as well as I can, guided by the Delphic Maxims (here’s a more scholarly pdf; here’s a list of just the Maxims), the sayings that form the ethical backbone of Hellenismos (the name the ancient Greek religion goes by, credited to the Roman Emperor, Julian the Philosopher [“the Apostate”, to Christians], who sought to restore it to prominence).  I’m still learning them, and learning to live by them.  My new-found faith guides my private study, for learning and questioning are both sacred to the Gods.  And each morning, on an altar-space I’ve created on a sunny windowsill above my workspace, I offer frankincense and a prayer to the Gods, and especially to Apollon and the Muses.  There’s more I could do, more I should do, but that’s all, for now.

This is a new and alien experience for me, as it must also seem for my friends.  I’d be glad to try and answer any questions or concerns . . .

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4 thoughts on “Notes on a Conversion

  1. Hmm. Interesting. Sounds, as a less technical term, like you are leaning towards the mysticism school of belief. (Albeit a mysticism with prescribed structure.) As you know I supplement my Christian faith with a dose of Native American mysticism, so I’m not troubled by the whole one god/many gods conundrum. A student of comparative religion (or even modern psychology) might point out that perhaps the many aspects are essentially a part of the whole. Whatever the case, if you have found something that resonates with you on a spiritual level, that’s a good thing.

    How does the Missus feel about it? I know she leans, or has leaned, more towards a non-denominational, but defnitively Christian, outlook.

    • Yeah, definitely a dose of mysticism; though I’ve not devoted myself to one of the Mysteries, there is a strain of Orphism running through the faith of Julian and Sallustius (“On the Gods and the Cosmos” is a key text to understanding this brand of Hellenismos). The Missus is very supportive. She leans more now toward a pre-Christian spirituality, but monotheistic. She’s been put off recently by the misogyny displayed by branches of Christianity — and by the Bible. She’d love to talk to someone about Native American mysticism, though . . .

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