Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Perils of Pagan Society

From Tumblar House:
The root meaning of the word religio is to bind. Where the religion is not supernatural, the state may indeed live, but only temporarily, like an animal endowed with a natural soul. This was the general rule in all the great empires which rose and fell before the advent of Christianity, and it remains the rule in a few areas of the globe. To refer to the godless as pagans, or the pagans as godless, as if the words were interchangeable, betrays a myopic ignorance of what only the past can teach. The pagan was anything but godless. What he suffered from was in fact a super-abundance of gods. He worshiped almost anything. Deeply aware of his own dual material-spiritual nature and the intimate communication between these two elements in creation, he was religious in the real sense of the word. He peopled the heavens, the world and the underworld with crowded hierarchies of beings ranging all the way from a Supreme Being through lesser Olympian gods and goddesses, daemones, stars and deified heroes on down to woodland deities and the lowly lares and penates residing in every household, each exercising his specialty like the patron saints of the Catholic Communion.

In the Roman Empire the tribal gods of conquered nations were more than welcome to assume a position in the official pantheon, for the government literally ran on civic piety. As a matter of fact, any nation prepared to jettison its old gods on accepting Roman rule was by that very fact regarded as untrustworthy. Porphyry and Julian distrusted the early Christian for this very reason, branding him with impiety and atheism for allegedly apostasizing from the judaic traditions of his fathers to coin a religion without links to any particular nation or people. Today we forget, if we ever knew, that prominent Romans like Cicero and Pliny, along with Greeks like Plutarch, who was a priest of Delphi, were members of a state priesthood whose duty it was to offer communal sacrifices. The functions of the Augurs in defining public policy is well known. Diviners were called in to layout the reconstruction of the Capitol, which was begun in the presence of the Vestal Virgins. (Read more.)

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