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A Brief Overview of Paganism

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The political reality of the early Bronze Age was dominated by the city-state...

I concur with all the other posters that you did a great job on this Ursus.

 

However, I do take issue with the inherent confusion that lays in wait after this statement is presented. There is a big difference between Bronze Age 'Palace Centers' and a

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The political reality of the early Bronze Age was dominated by the city-state...

I concur with all the other posters that you did a great job on this Ursus.

 

However, I do take issue with the inherent confusion that lays in wait after this statement is presented. There is a big difference between Bronze Age 'Palace Centers' and a

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Interesting thread, especially since lately there's a been a number of television programmes investigating early human societies. Our expansion from Africa, the Ice Ages, and the various stone ages.

 

Our pagan ancestors evolved in perspective. We know that the paleolithic tribespeople saw themselves not as seperate from nature (as is common in christian thinking, partially descended from inheriting Roman attitudes, partly by our modern success as a species, especially technologically), but instead, as intrinsically part of it.

 

The adoption of farming in neolithic times brought about a change, where humans realised they could manipulate the world around them for their own advantage, and a connection with the land they live own emerges. Not just for territorial instinct, but because they invest time and effort in one particular place for survival. Also, with the extra free time and need to co-operate, social instincts are heightened, thus introducing a concept of ritual beyond that of communicating personally with whatever spiritual entities supposedly existed.

 

Of course, the need to protect territory also emerges, and sadly, the social and religious changes in outlook evolve along with aggression and eventually organised warfare. It's an irony, I think, that becoming succesful has made us prone to managing violence, and that the Romans, who saw themselves in imperial times as the most succesful of all, that they ctreated an industry concerned with that end alone.

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A thought:

I understand that "paganism" didn't come into effect until the christian Ceasar declared it so. Do you always refer to a people (because they aren't christian) as pagan instead of their true tribe, nation, area names? Seems like the whole (known) world would be Pagan in that case except for the Roman directly held/subjugated territories.

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The term "pagan" has often been used in a more pejorative sense since the rise of Christianity.

 

According to the Oxford dictionary, the Latin word "paganus" originally meant simply 'villager, rustic' (from pagus 'country district'). It also meant 'civilian'. However, it  went on to become, in Christian Latin, 'heathen' (i.e. one not enrolled in the army of Christ).

 

Nowadays, though, "pagan" is often associated with the idea of belonging to a group that incorporates "beliefs or practices from outside the main world religions, especially nature worship" (i.e. neo-pagans), or in a historical context, ancient civilisations and followers of polytheistic religions (i.e. ancient Greeks and Romans, Celts, etc).

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The term pagan has always been pejorative and was introduced when Christianity became state religion. It included all non-christian religions. During the Middle Ages even Mohammedans were called pagans or heathens, although their religion was built on Christianity.

During the late Empire, when the need arose to distinguish between Christians and non-Christians, Emperor Julian used the term "Hellenist". This seems to be a more proper and neutral name for what the Christians call "pagans".

Of course a follower of Isis would call himself "Aegyptian", a follower of Marduk would call himself "Babylonian". A certain nationality implied a particular religion. The idea of following a different religion, independent from nationality, was a new phenomenon introduced by the rise of the mystery cults in Rome and of course Christianity, which was essentially just another mystery cult.

If somebody calls himself by the pejorative term "pagan", he tacitly acknowledges Christianity, because without the antonym "Christian" the term makes no sense. He should better call himself "Hellenist" as Emperor Julian did, or whatever pantheon he adheres.

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Ummm.... Christians used the term prior to becoming a state religion, and by using the term Hellinist just cause Julian the Apostate used it, hardly breaks you out of this tacit Master-Slave Nietzschean Paradox of Self-Recognition.

 

because in the end, Julian was what the communist called a "Reactionary", more or less being lead in everything in his reforms out of studying Christianity. Hence his reforms might not even be termed Pagan, but rather a anthetical movement within the mother religion of Christianity dressed in earlier pagan anachronisms.

 

An example of this logic:

 

You have the Platonic religion, with its Demiurge, but you can also have Gnostics operating within the confines of said Platonism, they simply flip the Ethics that align it, by declaring the demiurge as evil. Said gnostics are a separate group from Platonist's on one hand, but are still Platonists on the other.

 

Same goes for many Satanic groups. They still dress themselves purposefully within Christian theology. Hence they are little more than a subgroup worshiping in a scewed way, where the ethics have been reversed.

 

The cosmology inevitably has to be adjusted too in such systems, and in the case of many modern Satanists, its a bit of a Dadaist Farce, as many are just Atheists looking for excitement.

 

A further difficulty in your pronouncement is the problem that many Eastern Romans started revering to the old Greek Paganism a

by the very term your advocating, so no, you definitely don't break out of this paradox via that route.

 

I recommend if you follow a religion, and dislike being called a pagan, just be a politically correct prude and say "I prefer to be called a "...", using the proper name of your religion. If your just resurrecting a old Greek practice of sacrificing a goat and burning it on a altar however, especially if outside of a larger established movement, know everyone will fill in "...." with pagan when you explain it in their head, and that will be the greater truth society will for the most part accept, as burning a Goat for Poseidon so he gives you a new car isn't likely to get a large upwelling of followers, and most people will not see the beauty, greater logic, or utility of any of it as its alien and disturbing to them. And it rightfully is, hence why Paganism was supplanted by Christianity, Islam (which is only partially descended from the ideas of Christianity), Buddhism, Vedanta..... they behave in similar ways to Christianity in their rise to regional dominance. On one had, Christians view these other groups as Pagans, but are more likely to also list them as something separate too, like how we list Jewish people, or Samaritans, or Zoroastrians, or followers of Mani We have a inherent separate category for listing other more formerly established religions. This cognitive divide shouldn't be undervalued in this analysis, as it reflects where Christians put themselves in the larger scheme.

 

Hellenes = Pagans to the Romans, remember that.

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Boethius "Theological Tractates":

 

Let us now consider the category of relation, to which all the foregoing remarks have been preliminary; for qualities which obviously arise from the association of another term do not appear to predicate anything concerning the substance of a subject. For instance, master and slave are relative terms; let us see whether either of them are predicates of substance. If you suppress the term slave, you simultaneously suppress the term master. On the other hand, though you suppress the term whiteness, you do not suppress some white thing, though, of course, if the particular whiteness inhere as an accident in the thing, the thing disappears as soon as you suppress the accidental quality whiteness. But in the case of master, if you suppress the term slave, the term master disappears. But slave is not an accidental quality of master, as whiteness is of a white thing; it denotes the power which the master has over the slave. Now since the power goes when the slave is removed, it is plain that power is no accident to the substance of master, but is an adventitious augmentation arising from the possession of slaves.

 

 

From my experience, most modern pagans use a formula of Nietzsche's Slave-Master arguments, though it predates him (general Hegelian idea, though obviously he didn't invent it either, its quite classical in the true sense).

 

Its a rather sad nuisance, I know one Dutch Nietzschean who went so far to avoid Christianity that he used a "Hermetic Cabalah" over a Jewish-Christian Kaballah, in the belief one spelling meant a pagan system (which in his mind was superior) while the other was clearly inferior. I personally love philosophy, especially psychology and history, and jump into studying anything. I still laugh at him for this silliness in nomenclature, as they are quite obviously nearly identicle and easily interchangeable, and both Jews, Christians, and Pagans had a hand in building it up until the 11th century.... but in his mind, this is life and death a crucial matter.

 

I couldn't begin to care what a Muslim calls Christianity for example. Why, because they aren't in a position to inform or guide my outlook. I study their philosophers of course, recommend to every historian to read Ibn Khaldun.... but they haven't a say in anything, and if they tried to force a belief on me there is the dialectic of reasoning, or if by force, counterstrike. I can't see why a pagan would care what a Christian would call them any more than a Christian cares that a Muslim calls us a Infidel. They have no position of authority to do so, and in the end expose their backward ignorance.

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Words do not change facts. And for a non-Christian it does not matter, how a Christian calls him.

However if someone calls himself by a pejorative name given by another religion, it shows a lack of self-respect and an inconsistency in the own belief system.

If a Christian calls himself infidel, because the Mohammedans do so, he would admit the inferiority of his faith and contradict his own conviction to be a believer of the religion that he assumes to be true.

 

I am well aware that Emperor Julian was influenced by his experience with his Christian education. He understood why Christianity was successful and therefore wanted to develop a counter-movement in order to return the Empire to the traditional Roman religion. He was furthermore influenced by Neo-Platonism. So he was not the typical representative of Roman polytheism.

But he lived in a time when for the first time there was a necessity to distinguish the religion of classic antiquity from the new religion promoted by his uncle Constantine. This necessity had not existed before. The Christians were just a Jewish sect. But by the time of the Constantinian dynasty, most Christians were no ethnic Jews anymore. So he came up with the distinction of Hellenists vs. Galileans.

In antiquity there was no such thing as a pagan, except in the mind of the Christians who had copied this concept from the "gentiles" in Judaism. People did not choose their religion. Religion was always linked to nationality. As a Roman, your nationality was Roman and your religion was Roman. You could not be a Roman by nationality and a Phoenician by religion. The rise of the mystery cults, including Christianity, destroyed this unity. Only from this point on there was the necessity to give religions a distinctive name.

 

The Hellenes were in no way considered pagans or barbarians by the Romans. The deep respect for the Greek culture was visible in the syncretism of the Roman and the Greek pantheon and the high regard, in which Greek philosophy was held. Many Romans followed Stoicism, Epicurism or Platonism. The relation between Romans and Greeks was very much like the relation between Assyrians and Babylonians.

 

Since you recommended the modern Hellenists to sacrifice goats on the altar of Poseidon (supposed they find one), I would like to recommend the Christians of today to kiss the bones of a holy martyr in order to prove their authenticity and their adherence to the original Christian rites of the first centuries. Maybe they will be blessed with a new car then. 

Edited by C. Fabius Lupus

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