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SYNCRETISM: AN ARGUMENT AGAINST IT

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Ællinismós (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion, is a universal religion. It is available to all people of any ethnicity and its Gods are the Gods of the entire universe. But this idea creates a conflict: if our Gods are the true Gods of the entire Kózmos (Cosmos; Gr. Κόσμος), if Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) is supreme, Ýpatos (Gr. Ὕπατος), the highest of all the Gods, does this mean that other religions are wrong, mistaken? Not necessarily. Ællinismós does not claim to have exclusive access to Gods and Truth. Knowledge and deity are available to all people and every culture discovers them independently. This understanding is accommodated by what is called syncretism. When a culture discovers a deity, or when a God reveals itself to a culture, that culture gives this deity a name, but this name is not necessarily the same name that other cultures use for that deity and it is not necessarily the name that the God may use for itself. Therefore, if a deity from one religion has dominion over the same functions as a deity from another religion, the two deities are likely the same but known by different names. This concept expresses the tolerance for which our religion is well known.

Syncretism is the blending of differing forms of belief, the attempt to find similarities and equality between aspects of miscellaneous belief systems. Religious syncretism attempts to do this between religions from different traditions and cultures. Sometimes religious practices are taken from one tradition and brought into another. Sometimes the worship of a deity is imported into a religion from another. Sometimes the deities of one religion are equated with the deities of another.

The existence of syncretism in Ællinismós is well established. For instance, the worship of Kyvǽli (Cybele; Gr. Κυβέλη) was imported from Phriyía (Phrygia; Gr. Φρυγία) and incorporated into our religion; she is usually equated to Rhǽa (Rhea; Gr. Ῥέα) and Dimítir (Demeter; Gr. Δημήτηρ). The same can be said of the cult of Ísis (Isis; Gr. Ἶσις) and Ósiris (Gr. Ὄσιρις) from Egypt, with some believing that Ósiris is actually Diónysos (Dionysus; Gr. Διόνυσος). And there are many other such examples.

While it is historical fact that syncretism has played a role in our religion and that it has merit, this author would propose that confusing the boundaries between religions is not helpful at the very time as dedicated individuals are making an effort to establish Ællinismós outside of Greece, particularly if one tries to mix traditions together and adopt the practices of another religion. This is not to say that there is no validity to various positions held by syncretists. But is it helpful? ...particularly at this time?

How can you have freedom, tolerance, and openness, while yet still having a tradition? As an intellectual pursuit, it is valuable to study all the world cultures, religions, and philosophical ideas; this is recommended for any well-educated person. And it is important to question and challenge one's traditions and beliefs. We should explore, because we are free and intelligent people and because we want to live in truth. But we need to enter such a pursuit with our eyes wide open and when we challenge our traditions and beliefs, we also need to challenge our motivations and to be completely transparent as to what we are actually doing, to be honest with ourselves and to be aware of our sub-conscious motivations.

Sociologists say that a group that has no boundaries is not a group. Consider this idea: If Ællinismós is the same as all the other religions, then it is unnecessary, and not even something unto itself. If it is just like all the other religions, why work so hard for something which is not even established in the country where you live? We have something already. It is very difficult to establish a religion in a culture which already has religious traditions. If all religions are essentially the same, why go through so much trouble? There is resistance and there is opposition and sometimes that opposition is fierce. If the new tradition is essentially the same as the old, why go through all the trouble? But there is a reason to go through so much trouble: because Ællinismós is unique; it is not the same as any other tradition; it is special and it holds secrets which are of great depth and which have the potential of completely transforming the soul.

The Theosophists of the late 19th century emphasized the similarities between religions. They have a place in the world which is important and worthy of a long discussion, but as a religion what do they have? They have a syncretism. What I am saying is that if what you go for is syncretism, then that is what you get. And the beauty of the individual traditions, the uniqueness can be lost and may, arguably, be cheapened.

Perhaps the strongest argument against syncretism, or, rather, the misuse of syncretism, is that you end up with a convenient eclecticism; you create a religion which is actually entertainment, like switching the station on a television set. Religion becomes a commodity, an acquisition that can be abandoned when inconvenient and another can be used in its place when something is found that is more exotic or less confrontational. But shouldn't religion be a way of life that may be beautiful, but a way of life which should be challenging and possibly even threatening, and difficult? For religion to be significant, it must be a path to something greater, a struggle from one's tiny self-interest to a greater interest and viewpoint. It is not just another entertainment to fill our spare time. If we view religion as entertainment, we have taken the sacred and made it profane.

In the late 20th century, the mythographer Joseph Campbell appeared on American national television in a series of famous interviews with Bill Moyers. They were very influential. Campbell was smart and attractive and he had insight into world mythology. He held a very important place in his time, a time when there was little understanding by ordinary people of the religions of the world, and at a time when people were adopting a more tolerant view of other people's ideologies. But I will be frank; I am not a big fan of the syncretic approach, comparing different mythologies from different cultures. Our mythological tradition is incredibly rich and it is not lacking in anything. We do not need the mythology of other cultures; ours gives us everything we require. When you start putting other mythologies on an equal footing as ours, it begins to cheapen the mythology of both, as though these individual traditions are not special. The amazing plethora of stories is overwhelming and you can conclude that our own stories are just "some of the mythology" of the world, cheapening it. It is best to treasure the stories of one's own religion as being special and best for you, and to guard your relationship with them. These stories are your mythology; these practices are your practices. They are your inheritance and they are precious. I only practice our religion. I have some students who dabble in other religions, but I discourage it. I have seen people leave the religion for another. And I have seen people dressing up in the costumes of other cultures and trying to say that all the religions are the same. But that is not true. Yes, we share many things with other polytheistic religions in particular, but even there, our tradition is unique. And the monotheistic religions are quite different from ours. While so many people are going out of their way to announce to the world that all the religions are the same, I dare to say that our religion is unique and special and has the most noble things to offer the world. Dabbling and borrowing from all kinds of traditions is a diversion and an entertainment, very different from true religion. It is more like shopping. And the more exotic, the better. But with all this shopping and dabbling, what has happened to virtue? It is forgotten.

When you fall in love and you decide to marry, you then make a commitment. After this, you do not cheat. It is not that there are no other good men or good women in the world. Certainly there are. But you have made a commitment to one. If you have not found an appropriate partner, you look for another and do not marry. This is the proper approach to religion as well; going all over the place is generally not spiritually useful; perhaps it has its place as an introductory exploratory venture, but as a long-term commitment, I propose that it is not ultimately viable as something genuine. Such an approach provides too many means of escape. 

One of the principle functions of genuine religion is to corner you. We are involved in a very tricky game which we play on ourselves, and someone is getting away with murder. When one of your religions begins to uncover your little game, that clever little part of yourself escapes in the nick of time to another religion until the heat is off. And we can play that game all our life. This is the ýdra (hydra; Gr. ὕδρα) of ego, the multi-headed serpent. Every time religion cuts a head off, two more grow in its place. The lovely incense-bearing devotee has become a type of monster and the monster is so clever that it deceives you into thinking you are religious. But this monster has one head which controls all the others. It's main concern is the tiny world of self-preservation. How do you destroy that head? With tremendous effort. And getting lost in endless mythologies, endless theologies, endless books, the endless purchase of statues, incense, and costumes, will likely lead you directly to a most superficial type of religion where the serpent grows fat and lazy and avoids anything that might challenge it. May I propose a solution? Allow your religion to corner you so that you cannot escape. Give in to your religion and go with it all the way. Forget the distractions of other religions. Or, let me propose something else: if another religion draws you like a magnet...go with it and try it....ALL THE WAY. See if it is for you. Perhaps you are in the wrong religion. Usually, however, religion picks you, not the other way around. But if you feel that there is something lacking in your religion that can best be filled by borrowing from another religion, there is no escaping it: you must feel that your religion is not adequate or complete. Is Ællinismós missing something which can best be filled by adopting something from another religion? In our religion, we worship and have access to Gods....true Gods. These deities have the ability to supply us with every single thing we need for religious practice. Why? Because they actually are Gods. They are Gods...real Gods.

We are very very lucky people. And we are strangely privileged. We have been given deep knowledge of the divine and the means of discovering the actual nature of reality. We are given these things by truly great teachers who have some kind of faith in us, people from very far away, across an ocean, who decided to give us a chance and to trust us with very precious and secret things. And we live in a unique time that allows access to these teachers which was hardly possible even a few decades ago. This is the greatest of opportunities, the most important thing that could ever happen to you. But if you do not actually realize what you have in your hands, you will lose it. Consider my words: stop wasting your time making a luke-warm soup of half-hearted commitment. These Mysteries require something of you. Without sacrifice, your returns will be small, for it is not so much the pleasure you are gaining...indeed this is a difficult path, difficult to walk and difficult to stay on...but what you are putting into your commitment is what will make the difference. You need to give up something in order to gain. Great teachers would love to simply give you things, to change your life for the better and make it easy for you, but it is not possible; the essence of this journey forbids it by laws of nature. These are not such popular ideas, but perhaps walking alone on a genuine path is preferable to having much frivolous company. Nonetheless, in time well-meaning students will discover us and will marvel that there are actually committed people who are tough and who will simply not give up. And these are the people who, like us, will commit themselves to practice the teachings and they, in turn, will inherit the tradition from you and will pass it down purely, as we have been taught.

How do you get somewhere the quickest way? ... by following the most direct route and avoiding all other distractions. Yes indeed, religion can be a distraction. Unquestionably. There is such a thing as false religion. When religion ceases to develop character and becomes a means to simply entertain, this is false religion. It is no longer religion; it has become entertainment.

Our religion provides every single thing you need; all you need to add is yourself. If you try with all your might, the Gods will see to the rest. You can count on that. This is the hard way which, in the end, is actually the easiest way. Because in the end, if you must arrive at a destination; you will eventually have to take the journey and that journey will either be long and full of senseless diversions or straight and direct to your destination. And there is the possibility of wandering aimlessly for many lives. It is up to you.


The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The 
Pætilía (Petelia; Gr. Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara; Gr. κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς). 



PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as mythology, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally. A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

SPELLING: HellenicGods.org uses the Reuchlinian method of pronouncing ancient Greek, the system preferred by scholars from Greece itself. An approach was developed to enable the student to easily approximate the Greek words. Consequently, the way we spell words is unique, as this method of transliteration is exclusive to this website. For more information, visit these three pages: 

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