I’m going home

(2/3rds title references to Rocky Horror Picture Show. Good on me.)

I realised today that I wanted to go home. Home to the Religio Romana. Yesterday I kinda ragged on reconstructionism and RR a bit; but I don’t take it back. I have some issues with the strict orthopraxy of the Religio, but at the same time I’m going to appreciate the intellectual and philosophical freedom which allows me to be a Reform Jew, cultor Deorum, and member (I think?) of the Ekklesia Antinoou all at the same time. I’ve been a lot of different religions over the years, and I think I’ve been a cultor for the longest cumulative period of time. It isn’t perfect, but it’s home in many ways.

The benefits of going back to the Religio now is that I don’t have to rely on it for everything anymore. I can go to temple on Shabbat if I want congregational worship. I can worship in the tradition of the Ekklesia Antinoou if I want to worship a beloved god but not be so uptight about it. And for when I want to be uptight and ritualistic (to put it lightly), I’ll have the Religio there for me.

I like to think I’ve constructed a complete religious identity now, one which basically fulfills all of my needs without contradicting myself — a coherent cosmology and theology, a solid bed of solitary ritual practice, and a congregational community element for when/if I get lonely. I might be adding different bits and pieces later on, such as Demonolatry and Thelema, pending more research into those elements. It’s a brave new spiritual world for me, and I’m excited to see where I end up.

#mypolytheism

pol·y·the·ism
ˈpäliTHēˌizəm/
noun
noun: polytheism
  1. the belief in or worship of more than one god.

I’ve had some thoughts on polytheism — specifically oriented towards the ‘split’ between paganism and Polytheism-with-a-capital-P. This split is supposedly propagated by some people I greatly respect, including some like P. Sufenas Virius Lupus and Sannion, both of whom I’ve been in off-and-on contact with for years; and other prominent polytheists such as Tess Dawson and Galina Krasskova. What does this split entail, you might ask? It’s hard to define. Principally I would define it as the emergent trend among certain polytheists to pointedly describe themselves as something other than “Pagan”, and to posit “Polytheism” as a separate or oppositional force to what they define as “Paganism”.

I respect that viewpoint. I respect those people, and do not believe that the sort of hard, independent Polytheism propagated therein is anything close to the “abusive” or “batshit” form of polytheism that some have suggested. Some people don’t want to be pagan, even if they come from the culture that is paganism, because they don’t want to be related with Wiccans and woo-woos. That’s fine, even if I do have an affection for Wicca now — stemming from my short-lived but immensely profitable experiment in combining Judaism and Wicca. But as much as I want to be involved in the Polytheist community (note the intentional capitalisation here) I don’t think I’ll be able to because it isn’t #mypolytheism.

My polytheism isn’t really polytheism at all, of course, it’s just monotheism so soft you can spread it on toast. I’ve already explained in my previous post how all of that works, so I won’t go into it much here. I used to be a cultor Deorum of the strictest calibre and, hence, a reconstructionist and devoted hard polytheist as well. But I am no longer a reconstructionist. I am all for taking inspiration and structure from the ancients, but not such a fan of having to perfectly reenact their every move, religiously speaking. I prefer the real and lasting devotion I see in others of a less recon bent. Still academically rigourous, but focusing more on honouring deities rather than the strictures of correct praxis.

My polytheism is either the hardest soft polytheism, or the softest monotheism. Think of the gods and goddesses as beads on a necklace. All the beads are certainly separate from one another, yet together they form an undeniable, single, whole. That necklace is Ein Sof, and of course the largest and most beautiful bead is Hashem. All in one, but not all is one. So I honour Antinous — about whom more will be written later — and the Sefirot, and Dionysos and Serapis and all the rest; all deserving of praise. Together, one, but not the same: that’s my polytheism.

Baruch Hashem! Dua Netjer!

Let’s do the Time Warp again

So, a little about my way of operating:

I’m a Jew. I identify strongly with the Reform Jewish tradition, and attend a Reform synagogue for erev Shabbat services when I’m able to; in addition to celebrating the Jewish festival calendar, davening regularly, and keeping kosher. I’m also a devotional polytheist.

*record scratch*

Wait, what? Isn’t being an observant Jew (no matter how Reform!) and being a devotional polytheist practically the definition of “mutually exclusive”? Well, ordinarily yes, but I’m far from ordinary; and I mean that in the best and least-arrogant way.I’ve spent many years getting to the point where I am, and I think I’ve finally found a religious path (or more accurately paths) that makes me happy.

So how does it all work?

I am, in theory, a monotheist. I believe in one G-d, what mediaeval Jewish kabbalists termed Ein Sof, or ‘the Endless One’. Ein Sof is the Divine All-That-Is, Deity itself, it is everything and nothing. From Ein Sof descends Hashem (“the Name”), G-d given power, thought, and substance: the god of the Israelites. G-d, as written in the Psalms, is the greatest of all gods; and has entered at Sinai into a specific covenant with a specific people, the Jews. As a Jew who has entered into that covenant, I have no other god before Hashem… but that doesn’t mean that other gods, other emanations of Ein Sof, don’t exist. They do!

That’s where the devotional polytheism comes in. While respecting and adhering to the eternal covenant made at Sinai, which I freely entered into, I also recognise and respect the existence of other gods. The Hebrew Bible is in many places heavily polytheistic, especially in the Psalms, and I don’t believe that to be a Jew I am required to deny the existence of other gods or solely give worship to G-d. While recognising G-d as ruler of the gods, and supreme above them all (being omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, etc., qualities which polytheistic deities traditionally lack) I do not believe He is the only expression of the Divine. Other, lesser, deities exist and are just as worthy of worship, honour, and adoration. And that I give them.

So while honouring none of them before G-d (and indeed, the largest image at my altar is an icon of Deus Pater) I maintain devotional relationships — or try to, anyway — with several other deities. My home altar has images of Dionysos, Serapis, and Antinous on it; and I’m considering expanding my cultus to several other deities as well. In this way I am, as well as a Jew, a devotional polytheist. While I’ve abandoned aspirations for the rabbinate (I am at this point far, far too heterodox) I maintain my aspirations to become a professional clergyman; and seek to reverence, worship, and honour G-d and all the gods in all that I do. As my “About” page says, I am currently a student at Woolston-Steen Theological Seminary; a Wiccan seminary run by the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, studing for an Associate’s Degree in Wiccan Ministry. Whether I will pursue ordination with the ATC, I have no idea.

That’s it for now. Shalom everyone!