Friday, May 24, 2013

What Is Paganism?

Below are collected together some of my better past attempts to address the question: "What is Paganism?"

  1. "Those that are most stubborn and unbending She assails...."

    "It is only evil fortune that discovers a great exemplar."

  2. Paganism, B.C. (Before Christianization)

    "[O]n a fundamental level the various religious traditions of the [Roman] empire had more similarities than differences."

  3. Hic sunt dracones

    "If long passage of time lends validity to religious observances, we ought to keep faith with so many centuries, we ought to follow our forefathers who followed their forefathers and were blessed in so doing.... let me continue to practice my ancient ceremonies, for I do not regret them. Let me live in my own way, for I am free."

  4. Paganism is not a European religion

    "One thing that confounds and obstructs our ability to understand modern Paganism's deep connections with the past is the pervasive and pernicious idea that Paganism is European."

  5. Paganism has always been a Magical Religion

    "Apuleius denies very few of these allegations outright, and argues instead that his accusers have misinterpreted his actions, which in fact result from his philosophical and religious interests."

  6. Paganism was not born yesterday

    "Modern Paganism has roots going back to well before the reign of Constantine, back to a time when Christianity as we know it today had not yet come into being. And we have every reason to take pride in these roots: we have the staggering philosophical accomplishments of Ammonius, Plotinus, Porphyry and Iamblichus; the intimate and magical religion of Apuleius of Madaurus and Apollonius of Tyana; the enduring prose of Longus and Heliodorus; the esoteric poetic extravagance of Statius and Valerius Flaccus, etc. We also have the principled calls for religious tolerance from Celsus and Julian, who spoke from positions of relative power with respect to the Christians, whose rights they defended."

  7. Thomas Taylor on the Religion of Socrates

    "'I have often wondered,' says that historian and philosopher [Xenophon], 'by what arguments the Athenians who condemned Socrates persuaded the city that he was worthy of death. For, in the first place, how could they prove that he did not believe in the Gods in which the city believed? since it was evident that he often sacrificed at home, and often on the common altars of the city. It was also not unapparent that he employed divination. For a report was circulated, that signals were given to Socrates, according to his own assertion, by a daemoniacal power; whence they especially appear to me to have accused him of introducing new daemoniacal natures. He however introduced nothing new, nor any thing different from the opinion of those who, believing in divination, make use of auguries and oracles, symbols and sacrifices.'"

  8. "detached from the masses and usually disempowered"

    "It can be difficult to grasp the significance of Newton's accomplishment - but it is also possible to overstate just how 'revolutionary' it was. Stoic philosophers, going back to Zeno of Citium, who died 19 centuries before the publication of Newton's Principia, had always argued that the entirety of the physical universe (inclusive of "celestial" objects) is everywhere governed by one set of universal principles. And centuries before Zeno, Pythagoreans had already concluded that all of the cosmos is governed by mathematical relationships, and that these relationships can be discovered by conducting experiments."

  9. Thinking Like a (Pagan) Scientist

    "More than 20 centuries ago it was well known that the earth is a sphere. In fact, Cicero, in his famous Dream of Scipio, written in 51 BC, describes the polar, equatorial and temperate climate bands that circle the earth.

  10. Religions of the Library

    "This logos has been held not only by the sages among the Jews, but by the wise men of the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Indians, Persians, Odrysians, Samothracians, and Eleusians. The Galactophagi of Homer, the Druids of Gaul, and even the Getae (for example) believe logoi very close to those believed by the Jews -- indeed, before the Jews. Linus, Musaeus, Orpheus, Pherecydes, Zoroaster the Persian, and Pythagoras understood these logoi, and their opinions were recorded in books which are still to be consulted."

  11. Religions of the Library, Part Deux

    "There are 774,746 words in the combined Old and New Testaments of the King James Bible. The Buddhist 'canon', then, is roughly 70 times larger than the entire Christian canon, and fully 300 times larger than the New Testament (which has a mere 181,253 words)."

  12. Paganism is Indigenous and very, very old -- but it is not limited to "Europe", and it is not "Ethnic"

    "Modern Paganisms' roots are as wide as they are deep. No one can deny the strong influences of the pre-Christian religious traditions of Celts, Germans, Balts, Slavs and others on modern Paganism. But at the same time no one can with any justification deny the Egyptian, Phrygian, Semitic, Chaldean and other 'non-European' influences that are an integral part of modern Paganism. Just as the influence of Greco-Roman Paganism, which straddled Asia, Africa and Europe, cannot be questioned."

  13. Paganism is not a European religion, Part Deux

    "Only relatively recently, however, have scholars recognized the extent to which ancient peoples, as well, were exposed to a diversity of religions, both indigenous and imported -- or even, indeed, acknowledged that ancient peoples were exposed to a diversity of cultural influences of any kind. The historical reasons for this failure are political and ideological, as well as intellectual, among which three are especially interesting, as Walter Burkert and other scholars have shown ...."

  14. Honoring Our Pagan Ancestors

    "And not only the people of Britain, but the very land itself appears to have resisted Christianization, for even when the souls of its human inhabitants were being harvested by the missionaries with waning resistance, fresh Heathen reinforcements would arrive on her shores, as if called forth by the sacred stones and forests themselves, now that they were being deprived of their rightful worship."

  15. Hypatia (Honoring our Pagan Ancestors, Part Two)

    "Although she [Hypatia] represents all that is best in Paganism, and he [Cyril] all that is worst in Christianity, it is my opinion that they are each truly representative of their respective religious traditions, and, more specifically, that her brutal murder is also representative of the wider conflict between those two traditions." 

  16. Six Degrees of Charles Darwin

    "Whatever makes any bad action familiar to the mind, renders its performance by so much the easier. As Marcus Aurelius long ago said, 'Such as are thy habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of thy mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts.'"

  17. The Eleusinian Mysteries & The Evolution of Species

    "In the Eleusinian mysteries, the philosophy of the works of Nature, with the origin and progress of society, are believed to have been taught by allegoric scenery, explained by the Hierophants to the initiated, which gave rise to the machinery of the following poem."