FAQ OF HELLENISMOS
θεραπεύομεν ἕνεκα Θεῶν, διότι στέργομεν αὐτούς, μὴ διότι ἀναγκαζόμεθα.
"We do service for the Gods, because we love them, not because we are compelled to."
Γῆς παῖς εἰμί καὶ Οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος
The subject of this journey is Hellenismos, the ancient Greek religion, and how to practice it in the modern world. We are presenting a purely Hellenic tradition in the lineage of Orpheus, the great theologian and reformer. This web site is designed to be a resource for our community and also to share with others who wish to learn something of our customs, beliefs, philosophy, and practices. Our purpose is not to convert or convince anyone, but we aspire to be a lighthouse and an inspiration for those seeking the means by which to make good use of their lives and a positive difference in the world.
RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE MATERIAL
The ideas presented on this website are the responsibility of its author. Anything incorrect is due to my ignorance or misunderstanding and not the fault of the source of my knowledge. I am known as Kallímakhos, a religious name meaning "he who fights the beautiful battle," a name I hope to do honor to. I am a man of 70 years and no-one special. I am not a priest or a saint, but am simply someone who through tremendous good fortune and study has gained access to knowledge about the ancient religion, and I am simply trying to share what I have learned. The ancient Greek religion has been the greatest inspiration of my life, a source of enormous beauty and transformation. I believe that knowledge of this religious path has the potential to make a huge difference in the life of anyone who approaches it with honesty, a sincere heart, and a willingness to work hard.
The use of terms such as "we" and "us" should be understood in the most general way and would be avoided if there were a less awkward means to express the idea that a tradition is being presented, rather than a personal viewpoint. In other words, when I use words such as "we" or "us" I mean, generally, that the tradition says this or that, not that an orthodoxy is being presented, or even that everyone who follows the Greek religion believes this or that; but, rather, what I am trying to convey is that a traditional view is being introduced.
HOW TO NAVIGATE THE WEBSITE
Please take advantage of the links at the top and bottom of each page (HOME GLOSSARY RESOURCE ART LOGOS CONTACT). The Resource page is the suggested means by which to navigate the site. It is not a resource in the sense of outside materials, but, rather, it is a page of links from within the website itself.
The below list of frequently asked questions is the result of years of people writing me as well as questions gathered from numerous conversations conducted with students. In many ways, the answers are designed more to describe what our tradition is not rather than what our tradition is. The reason why a FAQ is even necessary is the accumulation and persistence of some 1500 years of misinformation regarding the ancient religion. Particularly in our time, Hellenismos and Orphism have become identified with a noxious stew of every variety of superstition and nonsense. This rather extensive FAQ is hardly adequate, but it is the inauguration of an attempt to correct so many misunderstandings about our religion.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of Hellenic Gods.org? Hellenic Gods.org is a vehicle designed to cultivate the study and practice of Hellenismos.
What is Hellenismos? Succinctly, Hellenismos is the ancient Greek religion, the worship of the Olympian Gods and all the myriad deities. It incorporates study, ritual, philosophy, and what we call Mysteries, which are the deepest teachings of the religion. Hellenismos is a noble path of personal transformation, virtue, the development of the human conscience, and compassion. Hellenismos is a way of life based upon these principles.
Isn't this word associated with the Roman emperor Julian? Hellenismos is a word that originally referred to anything Greek, not only philosophy and the worship of the Gods. After the Emperor Julian, however, it came to refer to the ancient religion.
Who was Julian? Julian (332-364 CE) was the last Roman emperor who loved the Gods. He endeavored to rule as a philosopher-king and attempted to revive philosophy and the worship of the Gods. It was Julian who used the word Hellenismos to identify the ancient Greek religion in contrast to the new religion, Christianity. This use of the word eventually became commonplace.
I have heard other names used by people who worship the ancient Gods; I'm confused? Before Julian, there was no specific word to differentiate the ancient religious practices from Christianity. Therefore, there is some controversy in the modern world as to what to call the religion. There are many terms currently in use: Hellenism, Olympianism, Dodekatheism, Hellenic polytheism, Hellenic paganism, Hellenic pantheism, Greek pantheism, Hellenic reconstructionism, the ancient Greek religion, or simply, the worship of the Hellenic Gods. In the tradition practiced by this author, we use the term Hellenismos, as do many Greeks themselves.
How do you practice your religion? It is said that Hellenismos is the religion, but the teaching is that of Orpheus, who taught a way of life leading to a great transformation of the soul. We practice piety, a reverence towards Gods, parents, the world, and the cosmos. What is of great concern is the transformation, making a difference with one's life and how one's life affects society at large.
I'm still unclear; is Hellenismos a religion? Could you elaborate a bit further? Hellenismos is both a religion and more than a religion. When the belief system of Hellenismos is expressed in temples, priestly vestments, etc., this is called thriskeia (θρησκεία), the ancient word for religion. To say that Hellenismos is merely thriskeia would be misleading because Hellenismos is more than just forms and buildings. Hellenismos is a way of life. If one's way of life does not reflect the teaching, such religion or thriskeia is useless, an empty shell.
Are you connected with YSEE or Dodecatheon? This website has no formal connection with any particular group.
Do all Greeks believe as you present Hellenismos here? Certainly there are many Greeks who have differing beliefs and opinions, but this is a traditional view.
Do you take the position that the Gods of mythology are real entities, sentient beings that could be aware of me? Yes, the Gods exist as conscious personal entities. There are also impersonal deities such as Justice, Law, Nature, etc., but the Olympian Gods, such as Apollo, and myriad other deities, are conscious beings living at a very advanced level, and their demeanor is inclined towards your benefit.
Is there an origin-myth of these Gods, something like the Biblical Genesis? Yes, it is very beautiful: Orphic Theogony. It could be said that the purpose of the entire website is an attempt to explain this story.
I thought these beliefs vanished centuries ago? Hellenismos was persecuted in late antiquity. After the edicts of the Roman emperor Theodosius I (389-392 CE) forbidding the practice of our religion, those who even so much as offered a pinch of incense to Gods were executed and all their property was confiscated, thereby causing their children to lose all their inheritance. With this level of persecution, most people eventually gave up the religion. There were others driven underground. It is a long and complicated subject, too extensive to be answered here. The philosophies of our religion survive and prosper throughout the world in many ways, and the practice of the religion has also survived.
In any case, there must be only a very small percentage of the world's population who, like the ancient Greeks, are polytheistic? Actually, there are millions of people in India and elsewhere who worship more than one God. Regarding the practitioners of Hellenismos, the numbers are unknown. There are likely more believers in Greece than anywhere else, but these worshipers have reason to remain anonymous.
I'm quite unsure if these Gods exist? Many people have had some kind of experience that engages them. Without some kind of nagging curiosity and suspicion, I can't imagine why someone would pursue such a difficult path.
I was taught that polytheism is primitive? If polytheism is primitive, how did this religious world produce some of the greatest minds ever known to mankind such as Aristotle the philosopher, Euclid the master of geometry, Herodotus the founder of History, Hippocrates the father of Medicine, Pericles the famous statesman, Phidias the sculptor, Plato the philosopher, Plutarch the composer of biographies (and more), Ptolemy (the astronomer), Pythagoras the mathematician and philosopher, Socrates the philosopher, and Thucydides the historian, to name but a few? Indeed, the whole of Western Civilization has its foundation in Hellenic culture and discovery. Science and mathematics, art, drama, music, philosophy, and democracy harbor unmistakable roots that can be traced directly back to this Hellenic world, a world deeply intertwined with polytheism, religion, and philosophy.
Christianity is superior for it won the battle against your religion. It is? Using your logic, Islam must be superior for it won the battle against all other religions in major areas of the Middle East and elsewhere.
Why would you worship Gods who were defeated by another religion? I wouldn't. The Olympian Gods are sovereign right this minute. They have, obviously, allowed their worship to diminish for whatever reasons of their own, but worship is not the same as sovereignty, and as the Olympian Gods have dominion over the Nature, the concept that they could somehow be defeated is absurd.
But it seems that very few people even believe in them anymore. The Gods do not particularly care whether we believe in them or not. They are entirely free of egoism. It is similar to the law of gravity; whether we believe in it or not does not have any bearing on its existence or power. For centuries the majority of people believed that the world was flat; the world did not care and kept on being round. The Gods are not petty; they have other concerns, and it is not certain that their public worship is one of them.
"God has his instruments. He uses what tool he pleases. He is not responsible to man. Do we know the ways of God?...God performs his miracles as seems good to himself." (Marius musing about the character of Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, 1862, Jean Valjean, Book Seventh, Chap. 2, trans. by Charles E. Wilbour; we are using the 1998 Everyman's Library edition, Alfred A. Knopf, on p.1382)
But if the Gods do not care if we believe in them, perhaps they exert no influence on our society. The influence of the Gods is and has always been enormous, whether we perceive it that way or not. The Olympians in particular, represent and maintain the structure of the Cosmos. Therefore, they influence everything in the universe.
Concerning humans, the Gods have great interest in and sway on the progress of the souls of individuals and of mankind. Their impact is independent of the belief-systems of mankind, yet they influence these belief-systems, which, nonetheless, they allow to develop with complete freedom. If one wishes to consider the influence of the Gods on human society post late-antiquity, we could consider many things in history...the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the re-emergence of science, the rebirth of democracy, these may all be considered as expressions of the Gods exerting their influence. And it should be considered that the ancient religion, despite common misconceptions, did not entirely disappear, as can be demonstrated by the appearance of the Peloponnesian Platonist and obvious believer, Gemistos Plethon, in Florence in 1438 and in the poetry of Michael Tarchaniotis, amongst others. There are a handful of practitioners of the ancient religion of whom scholars are conscious, who were alive during and just before the Renaissance, and there is awareness of the existence of their students. Truly it is logical that there must obviously have been many other practitioners, both scholastics and otherwise, of whom modern academics are not aware. In fact there were and still are.
If you could characterize Hellenismos in one word, what would that word be? ...Tolerance, at least from the outside looking in. Hellenismos is tolerant of other religious traditions and is very famous for this quality. From inside Hellenismos, the obvious word which characterizes the religion is compassion; this can be gleaned from the theogony and the theology which is derived from it.
You say that your philosophy is tolerant, but didn't the Romans, who also worshiped your Gods, persecute the Christians in the most brutal ways? First of all, we are not Romans; our heritage comes from ancient Greece. The most famous persecutions of Christians were governmental acts of the Roman Empire, rarely or never the act of priests and temples. You may find this brief essay helpful: Christians and Hellenismos
You say you are not Romans but I have heard that the Greek and the Roman religion are the same. Yes, perhaps they are, ultimately, the same religion, but they are different traditions.
But there were Greek colonies in what we now call Italy. Indeed there were, and this is one of many factors that contribute to a similarity between the two traditions.
Well, at least speak plainly and be honest: you are pagans, right? Some people use that word. Pagan is a term which was applied to the practitioners of our religion by Christians, a term not used by the practitioners themselves. It was a derogatory word in ancient times and it inspires fear or ridicule in modern times. For a more thorough discussion of the word, see this article: Pagan: an unfortunate term.
Is this a satanic group? I've been told that the ancient Gods are actually demons. Do you worship the devil? Do you glorify evil? In a word: NO. The very concept of "the devil" is a Judaeo-Christian concept, not Hellenic.
If, however, your question is, "Do the Gods promote evil?" ...the answer is very definitive: No. The Gods are beings of great light and goodness. They illuminate the universe with their light. They abound in wholesomeness and compassion. There is nothing dark or evil in them. Evil is small thinking, very tiny thinking. It involves great ignorance. The Gods are supremely evolved beings whose thinking is vast and enlightened, the exact opposite of evil.
"Whereas, the truth is that God is never in any way unrighteous--he is perfect righteousness; and he of us who is the most righteous is most like him." (Plato Theaetetus, 176, trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892)
"...the Gods are the suppliers of all good, and of no evil. For that which is primarily good, gives subsistence to every good from itself, and is not the cause of an allotment contrary to itself..." (Proclus The Theology of Plato 1.17, trans. Thomas Taylor, 1816) Virtually the entire dialogue entitled The Laws, the longest of Plato, is an immense exposition of justice and ethics.
Those who worship the Gods are particularly influenced by them. They help us pursue heroic and ethical principles as are found in the Delphic Maxims or in the writings of Plutarch, who was a priest of Apollo, or in the sayings of Epictetus, and numerous other authors and teachers from our tradition.
"Socrates: A just and pious and good man is the friend of the Gods; is he not?
Protarchus: Certainly he is.
Socrates: And the unjust and utterly bad man is the reverse?
(Plato Philebus, 39, trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892.)
The achievement of virtue (ἀρετή) and compassion (ἔλεος) are great goals of our religion, for there is nothing more beautiful to the Gods than to behold a virtuous man who cares for others.
Give me some examples of the Delphic Maxims. You likely know the first two which continue to inspire people even in modern times: Know yourself. Nothing to excess. But there are many more: Respect your parents. Do a favor for a friend. Restrain the tongue. Deal kindly with everyone. Teach a youngster. Die for your country. Share the load of the unfortunate.
The Maxims are just one example. Ethical behavior is promulgated throughout Hellenic literature. Also well known are the writings of Plutarch whose Moralia is a tremendous inspiration to anyone who aspires to improve oneself. Ethics and such concepts as Justice are common themes of Hellenic philosophy and culture; even a cursory reading of Plato or Aristotle (who wrote a magnificent treatise on the subject, The Nicomachean Ethics) will reveal that.
I have heard scholars say that polytheism has no real ethics; if ethics are to be found, they will only be found in the philosophers. This website attempts to follow the tradition of Orpheus, which could be said to be the cradle of philosophy. Since genuine religion is concerned with the truth, philosophy is part of our religion. We are not afraid to challenge our beliefs; rather, such rational skepticism is encouraged. But in reality, the scholars who say that ethics have nothing to do with the ancient religion are simply ignoring very obvious facts, for even the texts which are not specifically philosophical abound in admonitions to ethical behavior. For instance, one of the greatest of the ancient Greek writers, Hesiod, in his Works and Days, goes on and on speaking of the justice of Zeus and how moral behavior is rewarded while wicked behavior is punished. The criticism saying that our religion is unethical is unfair, actually a lie, a deliberate ignoring of well known texts.
This author has heard scholars making such accusations against our religion, and then go on to praise Judaism and Christianity. They point out the so-called unethical behavior of our Gods in mythology, while seemingly ignoring the unethical behavior of the monotheistic deity in the Biblical myths. What is this? We are to read the Greek myths literally, but the Judaic myths are interpreted? Well, we do not take our mythology literally; as a matter of fact, if you do so, you will completely misunderstand it.
Further, just because there are stories from ancient times does not mean that every single writer is an expert on the religion. Each author has his own opinion. We do not accept any particular author as an unquestioned authority. We respect opinions, but we have to work out the truth for ourselves. Much more could be said about this.
And of the people, the ancient peoples of all societies have committed crimes, not just Greeks, but the Romans, the Jews, and Muslims as well, to say nothing of abominations committed throughout the entire history of Christianity. And enormous crimes against mankind are not at all limited to religion, as can be clearly seen from all the depravity heaped on humanity in the names of all the major intellectual movements of the 20th century: Nazis, Fascists, Communists, and the crimes committed in the name of Democracy and as the result of capitalism.
You give Plato as an example of the ethical character of Hellenismos, but I have heard that Plato and his teacher Socrates were actually atheists. I will simply quote the introductory paragraph of Thomas Taylor to Book Ten of The Laws, the last dialogue of Plato:
"The following book may be justly considered as forming one of the most important parts of the works of Plato, as it demonstrates the existence of divine natures, the immediate progeny of the ineffable principle of things; and shows that they provide for all things, and govern the universe with justice. It is also important in another point of view, as it incontestably proves that Plato firmly believed in the religion of his country; though this has often been denied by those who, being ignorant of its real nature, have had no conceptions of its unequalled sublimity." (Introduction to Book 10 of Plato's Laws, Thomas Taylor, 1804)
And to confirm Mr. Taylor's opinion, I suggest you read book ten of The Laws and see for yourself. It seems that every generation which loves Plato, sees Plato as a reflection of their own beliefs. In the 1800's when so many of the scholars were Christians (even clergymen), Plato was seen as a pre-Christian monotheist. In the late 20th century when so many scholars are atheists, Plato is seen as an atheist. In book ten of The Laws, Plato gives a lengthy argument for the existence of deity. Read it for yourself. This dialogue is not commonly read and it is in this book, in Plato's last work, that many of his ideas about religion can be found, but by no means only there.
Some scholars claim that Hellenic polytheists are not concerned with what you believe, but that they are only concerned with ritual observances. Indeed, by comparison to Christianity and Islam, religions based on belief, Hellenismos appears to be markedly different and more based on what the practitioners do, rather than on a creed, but in reality, this is only in comparison to very belief-oriented systems. Hellenismos places equal emphasis on conviction (correct belief, orthodoxy) as well as noble action based on that belief (orthopraxy). I am deliberately interpreting these terms in a particular way, in the emic (inside) view of our religion rather than the etic view of the outsider. Please visit this page for further discussion of this topic: Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy in Hellenismos.
You say that Hellenismos is ethical, but I've read some of your myths and what I liked about them is that they are more realistic; some of your Gods are evil, creating natural calamities and such. The myths are literature created by a very poetic people who like to tell good stories and who were willing to embellish these stories to make them interesting and beautiful. They were created by mortals who, in most cases, were deeply inspired. But these myths are written in Mystic language. They describe things which are of the Gods and can only be understand by us to a certain degree.
As already stated, all the Gods are completely good and their intention is inclined to our benefit. They do not have an evil or "dark" side, but are beings of immense enlightenment. When you speak of natural calamities and describe such things as evil, this brings up a rather complicated subject of what is on the one hand natural but painful, and on the other, what is unnatural and hurtful. One definition of evil could be the later: that which is unnatural and hurtful. Such acts are impossible for Gods as they represent the natural law of the Kosmos and they are not petty. To be hurtful is small-minded, but the mind of a God is vast indeed.
From another perspective, evil can be defined as a type of ignorance. If a God truly is a God, he cannot be ignorant. This can be perceived with logic. If you worship the Gods, they must be worthy of worship. Therefore they must be greater than we are. If this is so, then they must be more intelligent than we are. It requires a very long conversation to arrive at the conclusions which I propose, but what I say is that evil is not really "anything;" evil is, rather, action based on the absence of something. Evil is ignorance, gross ignorance. It is difficult to demonstrate anything that could be called "evil" that cannot be shown to be gross foolishness in the long run. Consequently, if you attribute evil to the Gods, you must believe that they are ignorant. If this be so, then they are not worthy of veneration, and if we were to worship such a being, we would be misled. For instance, those who followed even human leaders such as Hitler were misled. But the Gods are not ignorant; they are vastly aware and enlightened.
To clarify further, when we say that the Gods are good, we are not talking about relative situations, situations that can be defined as good or evil based on how we perceive them. We are speaking of a more basic goodness. The Gods are connected with the natural world but they do not cause natural calamities, despite what may appear in some mythology. Natural calamities are a manifestation of the phenomenal world, which is divine, but such manifestation is not the result of deliberate action by a conscious being.
The Gods, in particular the Olympians, have an interest in our progress and have dominion over the Natural Laws which govern this progress. Therefore, the Gods are well-meaning and we define this as good. The Gods have a vast understanding, and we call this enlightened, which we also define as good.
You say that the Hellenic way is tolerant, but you have made some rather definitive statements. Tolerance is not wishy-washy. Tolerance is not vague. This website does not promote an "anything goes" philosophy. This website has a perspective, unquestionably. Among people who follow this tradition, there are very strong opinions. Those who have differing viewpoints are welcome to them, but to be tolerant does not require one to agree with every idea, and to not agree with every idea does not imply myopia (narrow-mindedness).
Perhaps you misunderstood me; to give an example, on your website, you discuss Orpheus as though he was a real person, but many scholars do not think so. You don't give both sides of the argument. In general, this website presents the tradition taught to its author. The tradition and those in Greece who practice this tradition refer to Orpheus as a historical personage; therefore Orpheus is presented as such here. The same convention applies to much of the information found on the site. Regarding your conclusions as to what is true or false, that is your personal journey. There is a vast array of arguments for many positions regarding Hellenismos. First and foremost, this website is presenting a tradition; beyond that, if deemed useful, opposing arguments may be presented. Nothing here is designed to be a catechism of belief. It is all up to you and the Gods. For those who feel affinity to what is presented, there is opportunity to get more deeply involved through contact with people who hold this tradition, and, of course, if you do not agree with the opinions expressed here, you are free to go as well, and this tradition does not condemn you.
Beyond the word tolerance, give me some other clues as to what Hellenismos is all about? Character. Progress. Heroism. Reason. Freedom. Justice. Wisdom. Music. Poetry. Medicine. Mathematics. Science. Piety. Tolerance is a quality that stands out to many people, and it is true that our religion practices tolerance, but when the Hellenismos is understood in its entirety, the one word that expresses it more than any other is compassion.
I have heard a scholar say that to practice the ancient Greek religion, you must offer animals in sacrifice and that anyone who does not do so, is not practicing the ancient religion. The scholar who says such a thing is ignoring information that is very well known: the students of Orpheus and Pythagoras prohibited blood sacrifice. To learn more about this, visit this page: Burnt Offerings and Blood Sacrifice in Hellenic Polytheistic Religion
I am still confused. I thought that people in the ancient world worshiped the Gods to appease them and ask for favors? You can clearly see from reading the ancient histories that the people sometimes thought that they offended Gods and made offerings to appease them. And they certainly did the same in hopes of obtaining benefits. This is the common religion. The Mysteries, however, go beyond the common religion, beyond the attitude of "what can I get for myself."
If, as you say, you don't just appease your Gods and merely ask for favors, just what do you do to please your Gods? Why would we want to please them? We do so because we love them and because we have discovered that what pleases the Gods is the best, in any case, for all. This can be nicely answered by quoting Plato, who says that to please God is to be like Him, and becoming like Him is to become a great soul, while the opposite is to be a vicious person:
"Then what life is agreeable to God, and becoming in his followers? One only, expressed once for all in the old saying that 'like agrees with like, with measure measure,' but things which have no measure agree neither with themselves nor with the things which have. Now God ought to be to us the measure of all things, and not man, as men commonly say: the words are far more true of Him. And he who would be dear to God must, as far as is possible, be like Him and such as He is. Wherefore the temperate man is the friend of God, for he is like Him; and the intemperate man is unlike Him, and different from Him, and unjust. And the same applies to other things; and this is the conclusion, which is also the noblest and truest of all sayings, --that for the good man to offer sacrifice to the Gods, and hold converse with them by means of prayers and offerings and every kind of service, is the noblest and best of all things, and also the most conducive to a happy life, and very fit and meet. But with the bad man, the opposite is true: for the bad man has an impure soul, whereas the good is pure; and from one who is polluted, neither a good man nor God can without impropriety receive gifts. Wherefore the unholy do only waste their much service upon the Gods, but when offered by any holy man, such service is most acceptable to them." The text goes on to describe the importance of honoring one's parents, honoring the dead, giving hospitality to ones friends and fellow citizens, and much more. (Plato Laws IV, 716c-717a, trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892.)
I think you are missing my point: can your Gods grant you favors? Yes, of course the Gods can grant favors, but they are not vending machines, and they do not give us things which are bad for us.
I have prayed to "God" and even to some of your Gods, but my prayers go unanswered. The simplistic view of prayer is a major source of atheism, because the Gods do not give us everything we ask for. Traditionally, it is said that the Gods are "a million times wiser" than us. Thus, their understanding and ability are vastly superior to ours and are beyond our full comprehension. The Gods wish to help us, to truly help us. It may appear to us that we are not receiving their help, but that is because we are too close to our problems to clearly understand the solution to them.
Oh, you are not skeptical? Is it inappropriate to be skeptical? It could be argued that skepticism is the preferred position.
Well, if this is the case, is it appropriate to pray at all? Yes, perfectly, but be humble in your expectations and learn to trust the Gods. If you assume that the Gods will answer prayers to your specifications, you will be very disappointed; better to put oneself in the sphere of their will.
Can your Gods perform miracles? We do not believe in miracles per se, miracles being something that defies Nature. The Gods are not above Natural Law: they are Natural Law.
I would think that the very existence of a God defies natural laws. Quite the contrary. The Gods exist because of evolutionary laws in the natural world. There could be nothing more natural than the Gods.
But I thought that the Gods are above the physical universe? There is nothing which is above or beyond the physical world, not even the Gods. Obviously there are many, even within Hellenismos, which disagree with this. The Orphic tradition teaches the material nature of the entire Cosmos, and, by definition, the Cosmos includes everything.
Don't you think that science is a better way to understand the universe? Hellenismos is a natural philosophy, consequently, it does not have an inherent conflict with science, unlike religions with creeds. Science is the friend of philosophy. Science is actually a branch of philosophy. The word science is a relatively modern term. At one time, if you were doing science at a university and someone asked you what you were studying, you would say "natural philosophy." Because natural philosophy is science. So in a way, we are scientists because we question. However, it is not wise to view science as creedal; the discoveries of science are somewhere on a continuum from ignorance to absolute knowledge; the same could be said of the discoveries of people on a genuine religious journey.
Frankly, I am inclined towards atheism: it seems absurd to believe in God, much less multiple Gods. Far be it for this author, who spent most of his 69 years as an agnostic, to try to convince you otherwise. If this is your conviction, you will not find an argument here. If, however, you are open to an opinion, I would propose that the agnostic position is superior to that of the atheist, and skepticism is far greater than blind belief, by a long shot. Nonetheless, I offer this for your amusement. Recently I heard an interesting story about Joshua Bell, the great classical violinist, documented in the book The Fiddler in the Subway by Gene Weingarten. Mr. Bell went into the subway disguised as a common street musician and proceeded to play a dazzling concert of selections by Bach and other masterpieces. For all practical purposes, he was ignored and viewed as a nuisance. My question: if the average person cannot recognize surpassing human genius in their midst, how could they possibly recognize a God?
The Gods reveal themselves when they wish, and for reasons of their own. If one has closed the door, the Gods never force. They never violate our freedom, for it is said that the Gods love freedom and want freedom for all beings.
For more thoughts on this subject, please visit this page: Experiencing Gods.
I have many doubts concerning Gods; why doesn't a God just appear and convince me? Because it is not expedient for them to do so. Religions like Christianity are much more concerned with belief than we are in Hellenismos. As stated previously in this FAQ, the Gods generally do not care whether you believe in them, unless, for reasons of their own, it is advantageous that you do so. In this author's experience, logic alone will not convince anyone of the existence of any God; one must be open to their existence and even this is not enough. There must be a purpose for a God to reveal himself to you, but this purpose is not likely to simply convince you of their existence.
Belief, in any case, is inferior to conviction. We don't say, "I believe in rocks." We don't say, "I believe that one plus one equals two." Such things are beyond belief. It is possible to have this type of conviction in the existence of Gods, but such conviction comes at an expedient time, if ever. Therefore, we are not particularly evangelical, because to effect benefit for the world does not require belief in any God. People who come to me already believe in Gods. Frequently potential students contact me who are atheist, but there is no rationale to teach. I do not try to convince them of anything, as I know it would be futile, so we usually part quite amicably.
In my daily life, I have frequent visitations of Gods and Goddesses. I receive messages from them and they are constantly guiding me. Are you asking my opinion? I have no idea. People confront me with such stories, stories which, by ordinary logic, would push the limits of what is considered reasonable. Do I deny them? No, it would be unkind to deny someone's experience, but I don't confirm them either. I have no idea what to say to such claims. But I will say this. I attempt to practice the true philosophy, consequently, I am skeptical. I do not take things purely on faith. I try not to be naïve. Even concerning experiences of my very own: I am skeptical.
It is easy to interpret an ordinary event in spectacular ways. For example, I enjoy leaving out food for the squirrels in my backyard. One day, I left out some walnuts. In a half hour or so, I took a look outside. To my astonishment, there were, perhaps, thirty or more huge crows somehow cracking the shells and eating the nuts. Frankly, I have never seen so many crows all in one place in my entire life, and here they were gathered in my own backyard. Well now, crows are said to be sacred to Apollo, who I love dearly. So I became very excited. Were the crows some kind of sign from Apollo? It would be charming and appealing if they were, but perhaps they were just many crows eating nuts. Logic tells me that the latter is far more likely than the former.
I was taught that the visitation of a God is an extremely rare event; even the greatest of men have never experienced such a thing. The actual appearance of a God, if one has been fated to experience such a manifestation, may occur once in a lifetime, perhaps a couple times or maybe a handful, but not daily. Such is the traditional teaching. Further, it must be understood that if a God appears to a person, such an individual is not necessarily any more advanced or special than others. Indeed, there are cases from ancient literature when the exact opposite would appear to be true, as in the dreams of Xerxes and Artabanus in Herodotus.
How do we interpret our world? Truly, the world is divine. As such, all that occurs is an experience of the divine. But you must understand that this means everything. If you interpret the world in this fashion, how can you discriminate? But an actual appearance of a personal God who has chosen you to communicate with? There are many issues with such an idea. Are you so special, so much better than others who make no such claim, that an Olympian God, or any God for that matter, has chosen to reveal himself to you? Well, maybe he has and maybe he hasn't. I have no idea. But when people expect me to believe something completely fantastic, do not be surprised if I am skeptical. I would expect the same from you concerning my fantastic stories.
If a God did appear, how would this happen? It is said that when Gods appear to us it is usually in a dream or in the state between wakefulness and sleep. When you have experiences like this, you can never be sure if it was real or not. Therefore, the ego is not expanded, yet such dreams seem to have their effect.
Oh, I see. Apparently you are saying that the Gods are remote, unlikely to ever effect one's life. Actually, no, I am not saying that. What I am saying is that a God coming to visit you personally is a rare event. On the other hand, the presence of deity is constant, everywhere. We are actually of the same substance as the Gods, for they are material beings; there is no such thing as "spiritual," something other than, or above nature, because, by definition, nature is Pan: everything. Therefore, there is the great possibility of interaction with Gods. You can feel the Gods through your senses if you drop the artificial barrier of ego. This is not an easy thing to do. We are very guarded beings. But if you succeed in doing so, your life will change dramatically. I am not saying that you are going to see a God in your bedroom, but you can learn to feel the Gods if you are a sensitive person and give them permission to touch your soul.
Who is your creator-God? This is a somewhat complicated subject requiring study. Ultimately there is no creator-God in our religion because the theogony describes the universe as self-emerging. Yet from another perspective, you can say that Phanes or Zeus is the Creator. Zeus is, therefore, called the father of Gods and men.
I would like to examine your Bible. Hellenismos has nothing quite equivalent to the Christian Bible, although the theogony has some similarity to Genesis. But unlike the Bible, there is no single book which contains all the truth of our path. Furthermore, our approach to sacred texts is different: the words found in books are hints, like a finger pointing at something; the pointing finger is a signpost, a direction, not the actual thing itself.
I would like to read your Creed. Although there are many common, fundamental beliefs in Hellenismos, there is no exclusionary creed or regula fidei which people are required to adhere to. There is theology. There are explanations. There are exegetic stories. It may seem strange to someone who grew up in the Christian tradition, to have a religion which does not insist that you believe in a list of doctrines, but in reality it is a very natural situation of being presented with ideas that have potential to transform you. And this is done without coercion.
I have a patron deity and I do not worship all your Gods. While respecting your relationship with any one God, we would encourage you to extend your devotion. All the deities, in particular the Olympians, work together and participate in the providence of Zeus, which has important significance for every person. So we actually need them all.
Isn't Hellenismos a variety of Wicca? No, Wicca is a different religion. Many people discover Hellenismos through involvement with Wicca but the two are entirely different.
I've been told that the transition from Wicca to Hellenismos is smooth and seamless. It is recommended that when you approach this tradition, that you come fresh, with no preconceptions, and try to learn what is presented. Often when people come from Wicca and other Neo-pagan traditions, there is so much unlearning necessary that the transition for some is impossible.
I'm afraid that this makes me rather uncomfortable. We are not here to make people feel comfortable.
Well, all religions are really the same, don't you agree? No, not necessarily.
The ancient Greeks practiced syncretism; surely you have discovered that? Yes, certainly there is syncretism in the writings of Herodotus and many others. The position of this website is not to confirm or refute syncretism between religions and pantheons. The author of this website prefers to present simply the tradition which has been taught to him and to leave speculation about syncretism to those who are interested in it.
You seem to have a problem with eclecticism. What is wrong with it? Nothing, depending on what you mean by the term. Generally, eclecticism is appropriate for those who have not found their path; commitment is appropriate for those who have.
If by being eclectic you mean that you have an open mind, are tolerant, and have seen truth in many traditions, this would certainly be a good thing. But it is beyond the scope of this website to demonstrate how different religions and philosophies may agree. We are presenting the Greek tradition. At the same time, however, we are not denying that there is much common ground between various traditions and religions.
But there is a type of eclecticism that presents a serious problem for those who practice religion. Eclecticism can be a type of Protagorean view, with all its inherent contradictions. Protagoras, the famous sophist and philosopher, made the notorious statement, "Man is the measure of all things." This idea was refuted most famously in Plato's Theaetetus. The most general interpretation of Protagoras' statement is that there really is no actual truth, but that everything is in the eye of the beholder. In popular terminology, this is called "I'm okay; you're okay" or the "anything-goes philosophy" or "this is just your view," as if there is no possibility of an accurate, objective view. This relativism, when applied to religions or philosophical systems, becomes an absurdity and an insult when views within them are not compatible, but such incompatibility is glossed over for convenience sake. Genuine philosophy is not so open that it just accepts anything as true. Such thinking is a type of deliberate intellectual laziness that commends others for their ideas so that oneself can also feel comfortable. But actual reality is what it is, despite our feelings about it. As a gross example, in mathematics, 1+1 = 2, regardless of our feelings concerning the equation.
Eclecticism can reduce religion to entertainment, like switching the channels on a television set. It is a little like an "open relationship," and the problem with open relationships is that there is, ultimately, a dubious commitment, a frail fidelity. Eclecticism can be very exciting, just as it is exciting to have numerous sexual encounters, but it is impossible to become satisfied.
Eclecticism can also be very convenient; if a religion is critical of something you are doing, you just may be able to find another religion which may condone your view, one which might be a little easier to follow.
What is the connection between Hellenismos and some of the television programs like Hercules or Xena: Warrior Princess? None. They are a source of much misinformation about Hellenismos, things which must be unlearned before you can even begin.
You see, I am attracted to the Hellenic Gods because I love fantasy movies and stories. I believe in magic and many other things. The Hellenic tradition is the hard path of absolute reality...no fantasy here. Before you are able to get even so much as a glimpse of understanding, you must face your landlord, your boss, feed your children, face your parents, pay your bills. All these things, the dirt all around you, the wrinkled faces you pass on the street, cleaning a mess in your kitchen, politics, going to work every day...all these seemingly ordinary things....this is what our religion is about. If you are not interested in being in the real world, move on and find something else.
Please don't get me wrong: this author loves fantastic stories and great works of imagination. Perhaps some of the creators of such works have some genuine insight. But it is critical not to blur the line between exciting lands of imagination and the real world. I promise you: the real world, the world of Hellenismos, is, in the end, far more fascinating, colorful, magical and vast than anything you will ever see on the silver screen or in books of the imagination.
This is hypocritical. Hellenic mythology is filled with fantastic stories that even a child would not believe. I view them as no different from our fantasy movies. Not by a long shot. To begin, the mythology describes divinity. Divinity is an expression of the natural world, but at the divine level, the level of beings who are free of the circle of births, not the mortal level. So, from our perspective, it is fantastic. The myths were created by mortals who were inspired by Gods, and they told these stories in the imagery of their time. The knowledge of the Gods is intimate and private. It is not meant for the mundane. Therefore, the meaning is hidden in mystic language which cannot be understood if you do not know the keys to its interpretation, or approach these myths with a closed mind.
Even in antiquity, the myths were subject to gross misinterpretation. For this reason, Socrates (as told by Plato) disliked the myths. In his Utopian vision, as described in the Republic, Socrates insisted that myths depict the Gods accurately, without such poetic and dramatic language. Many of the Platonic philosophers who followed also held this position. And his view proved to have merit when Christian critics used the myths as an easy target, interpreting them literally in order to desecrate the older religion.
In my practice of Hellenismos, I ignore the myths for this reason, and prefer to worship comic-book characters, who do not have these problems; they represent virtues which are pure and obvious. That is fine for you, but those who practice Hellenismos actually believe in Gods, for reasons of their own, and recognize them as real sentient beings who can feel and perceive us and hear our prayers. Comic-book characters are the invention of talented artists and story-writers, and everyone knows they are not actually real. Therefore, it seems to this author that you are worshipping noble concepts, not the Gods of ancient Greece; so, while I have no problem with what you are doing, I find it very strange that you would call this Hellenismos, a completely untenable idea.
On your website, you have mentioned mysteries. This is what I want. I want all the magic and divination and occult things. The Mysteries have nothing to do with magic, divination, clairvoyance, tarot, etc. The Mysteries are the means to liberate the soul. The connotations that the word mystery has picked up through the centuries are flat-out incorrect and the source of much useless and even damaging mischief.
I am a witch and I would like to join one of your covens. We are not witches and we do not practice any kind of witchcraft, something which is forbidden to us.
You seem to be going out of your way to discourage someone who is interesting in "occult" things. Indeed, you will find nothing here.
But there is ample evidence of magic and divination from antiquity. Indeed there is. There is ample evidence from ancient times of almost every type of activity you can imagine, but just because any particular activity happened in antiquity does not necessarily mean that such things were part of the religion.
I am a reconstructionist and I have seen several instances on your site where you point out that one thing or other is misunderstood in modern times and often in ancient times as well. Shouldn't we follow the ancient way scrupulously? Many of the instances pointed out on the site concern differences between the popular religion and the deeper understanding of the Mysteries. Beyond that idea, some people get confused between genuine religion and all the various activities that happened in the ancient world. To give a gross example, just because there was murder in the ancient world does not mean that murder was part of the religion. Even when we are unquestionably talking about religion, the ancient people did not all agree, and some people were outright wrong about things. A good example of this is the dialogue Euthyphro by Plato where Euthyphro has very distorted ideas about religion.
In what ways is your tradition different from other groups out there? We are practicing a living tradition based on the teachings of Orpheus. Our ritual has a particular form; our altar is set up a particular way; we have many conventions. We not creating something new, so we are not Neo-Pagans, nor are we reconstructing something old. Our religion is purely Greek, so we are not eclectic. Unlike those in other traditions who have patron deities, we are taught to love and honor all the Gods. While our religion is centered on worship, there is also considerable emphasis on the development of character and the human conscience, as we believe that a religion that does not make a difference is insignificant. These are some of the ways in which our tradition differs from other groups.
I thought that the Orphics are a small sub-sect of the religion? Some scholars have said that, but it is not true. Orpheus is the great reformer of the ancient religion. His reforms are the inheritance of all and recognized as such. It is the lineage of the Mysteries, the deepest meaning of Hellenismos. In ancient times, even those who were not deeply studied, who practiced a more simple and popular type of religion, were aware that there was something much deeper. This deeper religion is the province of Orpheus. Mousaios, his son or closest student, is said to have written the liturgy for the Eleusinian Mysteries, to which even emperors were initiated. Unlike Hellenismos in the west, which for the most part ignores the Orphic teaching, the situation is different in Greece, where Orpheus is embraced as the great theologian who holds the keys to liberation.
I've been told that you possess the initiations of the ancient Eleusinian Mysteries. No, you have been misinformed. The initiations of the Eleusínia have been lost. Perhaps some family-line has saved them, but they are unknown to this author.
Well then, what could be the purpose of your practice if this has been lost? What has been lost cannot possibly now be needed, otherwise we would already have it, for the Gods give us what we need. We possess echoes of the Mysteries; we know its purpose and we know enough. And there are some individuals in our community who possess knowledge greater than what is generally known. We know what we need to know, and that which has been lost from antiquity will be returned to us if and when we need it, for we are looked after by Gods who care for us.
If your Orphic teaching does not include miracles and magic, as you stated earlier, what could anyone find appealing about it? Orphism is a path of tremendous promise and hope, for it engenders the very providence of Zeus, the highest of all Gods; it is his promise and plan for mankind, indeed, for all creation. The teachings of Orpheus are the Mysteries of Dionysus, the son of Zeus, and they provide great purpose to those who practice them, with a possibility of liberation and metamorphosis.
I am a neo-pagan. I get together with friends for pagan gatherings. It is different and exciting. Some people dress up in really amazing costumes and people do magic spells and tell fortunes. There is the smell of incense everywhere and people set up great bonfires. Some of us take psychedelic drugs and have really deep experiences. It is a fun community where you can meet people; I even met my boyfriend at one of these gatherings! Is your group similar to this? No. While Hellenismos advocates for the strong bonds of true friendship, it is not a social club. We are just simple people who work hard and study hard. We look after our friends and family and care for our parents when they grow old. We try to lend a hand to those in need, taking time for them, even when we are tired.
I have read that the Greeks condemn homosexuality. Of course some Greeks condemn homosexuality, just as there are many Americans who condemn homosexuality. Like everywhere, the Greek people have many different opinions. This author is acquainted with many Greeks who are entirely tolerant of homosexuality. Concerning our religion, Hellenismos does not either promote or condemn homosexuality or, for that matter, heterosexuality: we are tolerant and we recognize and celebrate Nature, which manifests in many diverse forms, both heterosexual and the various expressions of the LGBTQ community and beyond. Hellenismos is a natural religion and we all are included in the natural expressions of the universe.
How can you say you are tolerant when you quote Plato abundantly, a philosopher who condemned homosexuality? Did he? It would appear so in Laws (Book I, 636a-d) and again in Republic (Book III 403a-c), but if you read Symposium and Phaedrus (and others) you may arrive at another conclusion. Plato seems to generally discourage sexual gratification of any kind unless it is necessary for producing children.
There are some scholars who believe that Plato himself was homosexual; whether he acted on his personal desires or not is a matter of conjecture, but particularly in Symposium, one can see that his objection was gentle and more aimed at transforming the erotic love between men (or a man and a woman) into something more sublime than the merely mundane physical act of sex...an idea which is not a bad thing after all. In Symposium, in the speech given at the end of the dialogue by the drunken Alcibiades, we discover a romantic relationship which Socrates had with Alcibiades, but it was without sex (Platonic, as they say). Also in First Alcibiades it is obvious that their relationship is romantic and erotic. So, Plato acknowledges a legitimate erotic relationship between men, but he discourages sexual gratification beyond what happens naturally in procreation, a view not promoted by this author or this website.
Although I greatly admire Plato and admire with many things he said, I am not a Platonist. I do not agree with some of the fundamental Platonic ideas. There are many things in Platonic dialogues which raise objections to the modern mind, many of them found in Republic, such as the prohibition of poets, selective breeding of humans, euthanasia, and more. But such dialogues are, generally, thought experiments, not biblical edicts. I disagree with many of these ideas, but the point of the dialogues is not necessarily to agree or disagree, but, rather, to see the way dialectic functions and how various ideas could potentially play out. So, like everything in our religion, we must weigh things for ourselves.
I have read that the Greeks believe that the ancient religion is only for Greeks. Of course you will find Greeks who have this view, but this is not the way of the great Greek teachers of the past, nor is it the way of the best of the Greek teachers of our time, who accept people, not because of their blood, but because of the beauty of their soul. The Gods of Hellenismos are the supreme Gods of the entire universe, not just the Gods one country, or of only our planet; therefore, how could the Gods be only for those of Greek blood? Hellenismos should not be confused with nationalistic trends, trends which have surfaced in many countries, as well as Greece. Of course the Greeks have every right to love their religion and their country and to be proud of their heritage, and they, simply by who they are, will always have a special relationship with this religion, for its traditions were fostered by their ancestors and continue to be preserved by the Greek people today. But on the other hand, Hellenismos reflects the very reality of the Cosmos itself and is, therefore, by its very nature, universal and for all people.
I have read that the ancient Greek religion in contemporary Greece is connected with fascist causes. Unfortunately, there are extreme right-wing groups in Greece who hold fascist views, as currently exist in many countries (including the USA, my own country). Such groups tend to make a lot of noise and draw a great deal of attention, particularly since there is such an economic problem in Greece causing great misery for the people. Furthermore, it must be understood that there are widely divergent political views in Greece, and those who practice the old religion do not all agree in their politics. The community of this author avoids any communication with fascist groups and we do not agree or identify with them. But yes and very unfortunately, there are some in Greece who hold fascist views, even of those who practice the ancient religion, but we abhor such views and struggle against them as being contrary to true religion.
What is the view concerning racism? We do not discriminate based on things which are beyond a person's control. In other words, we do not discriminate based on age, race, color of skin, ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. - all the usual things thought of in regard to discrimination. Racism, in any case, is an absurdity, because we are all constructed of the same kozmogonic substances, and, therefore, we are all equal in the eyes of the Gods. As the saying goes, it is wise to imitate the Gods and Godlike to see the beauty in every soul.
Oh don't tell me that; I saw a post online that the creator of this website is a racist. Oh, is that so? Well, I am the creator of this website and I was part of the civil rights movement in the 1960's when I was a teenager and through my life I have always supported the cause of every kind of minority. I have a long, long history of dating people of every ethnicity, including several African Americans, one for over half a year (I am white). Two of my closest friends are married to African Americans and one of them lives in the heart of a very black neighborhood. I am somewhat expert on early jazz in the USA and have a deep love of black music and culture, and have even recorded black musicians in my recording studio. Some of my students have been African American and they have never accused me of such a thing. Whoever promulgates this ugly rumor is welcome to spend some time with me and they will discover that such accusations are completely untrue. I am, indeed, a man of many faults so, if you wish to attack me, at least attack me for something which is true.
What is the best preparation to follow Hellenismos? Perhaps the best preparation to practice Hellenismos is to study history, from ancient times to the present. If those who educated you left this area wanting, you must educate yourself. The understanding of history will greatly illuminate your mind and expand your understanding of everything, such that when the teachings of Hellenismos are presented, they will make sense. Once this is grasped, you will begin to find Hellenismos in everything.
Someone told me that to take your course of study, applicants must be girls under the age of 18. This sounds like predatory abuse waiting to happen. Whoever started this rumor knows it is a lie, or they did not carefully read the list of requirements. I receive all applications and it is no secret that I am homosexual and have no attraction to women, young or old. The actual rule is: no one under the age of 18 (regardless of sex or orientation).
Who are you looking for? In reality, we are not looking for anyone, but we are available to diligent individuals who feel a connection with what is being presented here, and who are willing to start fresh, work hard, and learn our tradition.
How can I get involved with this? There is a course of study available. The classes are one-on-one via Skype or face to face; the course is not taught by means of email. You will also need a lap-top or a desk-top computer as you will need to access the website frequently during lessons; using a cell-phone only is not adequate.
1. You must be at least 18 years of age.
2. There is no charge for the classes, but you must be serious, of sincere heart, and willing to study diligently.
3. This course of study is for people who are considering making a commitment to this tradition...to make this your religion; it is not designed to accommodate people who are casual and simply looking to add to their collection of religious knowledge (you can acquire that from simply reading the website). If you are already committed to another tradition, please devote all your energies to that tradition and do not ask us to teach you.
4. You must have a firm belief in personal Gods, not simply the idea that Gods are archetypes or merely powerful ideas or natural forces. Also, if you do not believe in the existence of the soul as an entity which may survive death, the lessons will make no sense.
5. This tradition is entirely polytheistic, i. e. a religion of many Gods. If you are convinced that there is only one God, you should go elsewhere for religious instruction. If you believe that all the Gods are manifestations of one God, this idea is also contrary to the theology of this tradition and you should seek instruction elsewhere. Such ideas are present in the many philosophies of Hellenismos, but are not compatible with this particular tradition of the Ancient Greek religion.
6. If you practice witchcraft, magic, tarot cards, casting astrological horoscopes, or divination of any kind, we cannot teach you. All these things are completely contrary to true religion, and are forbidden. Absolutely no exceptions. Because of the ubiquity of magic in contemporary alternative religions, you may be confused by such a demand and desire some kind of explanation; please read this page in its entirety: Magic, Ancient Greek Religion, and Orphism.
7. You must not practice any form of racism or indulge in prejudice of any kind.
8. You must keep the content of our conversations private, other than what is already on the website.
If after reading all this material you are still interested, send an email and explain your interest to: email@example.com.
The deepest secrets of this religion are not shared with strangers, but, rather, between friends. We are greatly looking forward to making your acquaintance.
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.
Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.
How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.
Wherefore my counsel is that we hold fast ever to the heavenly way and follow after justice and virtue always, considering that the soul is immortal and able to endure every sort of good and every sort of evil. Thus shall we live dear to one another and the Gods, both while remaining here and when, like conquerors in the games who go round to gather gifts, we receive our reward. And it shall be well with us both in this life and in the pilgrimage of a thousand years... (Plato's Republic 621, the closing statement, trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892.)
I say again that daily to discourse about virtue, and of those other things about which you hear me examining myself and others, is the greatest good of man, and that the unexamined life is not worth living... (Plato Apologia 38, trans. Benjamin Jowett.)
Opinion is called the queen of the world; it is so; for when reason opposes it, it is condemned to death. It must rise twenty times from its ashes to drive away the usurper. Voltaire
We cannot repeat too frequently that dogmas differ, but that morality is the same among all men who make use of their reason. Morality proceeds from God, like light; our superstitions are only darkness. Reflect, reader; pursue the truth, and draw the consequences. Voltaire
Remember the dreams of the child. Anonymous
Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité! French Revolution
Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do. Voltaire
Why is the great number of hard-working innocent men, who till the land every day of the year that you may eat all its fruits, scorned, vilified, oppressed, robbed; and why is it that the man who lives by their work and is rich through their poverty is courted , respected, considered? ...
Why does so much evil exist seeing that everything is formed by a God whom all theists call good? ... Why, as we are so miserable, have we imagined that not to be is a great ill; when it is clear that it was not an ill not to be before we were born?
Why do the stars move from west to east rather from east to west?
Why do we exist?
Why is anything? Voltaire
All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. Thomas Jefferson
Do those things which you judge to be beautiful, though in doing them you should be without renown; for the rabble is a bad judge of a good thing. Pythagorean saying of Demophilus
To sum up, no path is left open for thought by a philosophy that makes everything come to but one conclusion, the monosyllable "No." To "No," there is but one reply: "Yes." Nihilism has no scope. There is no nothing. Zero does not exist. Everything is something. Nothing is nothing. (Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, Cosette, Book Seventh, Chapter VI. Trans. Charles E. Wilbour, 1862.)
To produce wealth.
To distribute it.
Solve the first only of the two problems, you will be Venice, you will be England. You will have like Venice an artificial power, or like England a material power; you will be the evil rich man, you will perish by violence, as Venice died, or by bankruptcy, as England will fall, and the world will let you die and fall, because the world lets everything fall and die which is nothing but selfishness, everything which does not represent a virtue or an idea for the human race. (Victor Hugo's musings on the role of government from Les Misérables, Saint Denis, Book First, Chapter IV. Trans. Charles E. Wilbour, 1862.)
I have seen crowns worn instead of a fool's cap ---
I have seen a Congress doing all that's mean ---
I have seen some nations like o'erloaded asses
Kick off their burthens, meaning the high classes. (Lord Byron Don Juan Canto the Eleventh LXXXIII)
If we should err, let it be on the side of caution, but better still, rather on the side of good than that of evil. In other words, do others a good turn assuming the best in them, even though your judgment of their character may be incorrectly favorable. (Anonymous)
Love one another. Be foolish about it. Love is the foolishness of men, and the wisdom of God. Adore each other. (Advice from M. Gillenormand to Marius and Cosette from Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, Jean Valjean, Book Fifth, Chapter IV. Trans. Charles E. Wilbour, 1862.)
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."
Martin Niemöller (1892–1984), Protestant pastor and outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler who spent the last seven years of WWII under Nazi rule in concentration camps.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE WITH YOUR LIFE!
PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this Glossary, you will find fascinating stories. 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 often 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.
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