Discussion of Immersive Polytheism, and Other Fun Things

This is my own (and very first!) video response to Camilla Laurentine’s latest!  I may have a transcript up here later this evening, or tomorrow, depending upon my schedule and other time constraints.  I had fun making the video, so there may be more coming from me in the future, though admittedly, most of it will probably be less focused on me and my beliefs, and more on prayer toward Apollon.

[Transcript]

Hello, everyone, this is Columbine, from my blog, Queen of the Waiting Ones. And I’m here now to talk to you a little bit about my perspective on Immersive Polytheism, which is a term that was brought to us by the lovely Camilla Laurentine. So, welcome everyone, and please bear with me because this is the very first time that I’ve ever done anything for video, and I’m very nervous and I have to do this on live Google broadcasting, because I don’t have any other way to do it.

So, now let me just go to my notes. Okay. I thought I would try this because it looks like so much fun, and because I really need another thing on my plate, right?

So, having been inspired by Camilla’s first couple of videos, I thought I would expand upon my own definition and practice of Immersive Polytheism.

As I said in my blog post on this subject, I have been working from this approach for, I don’t know, a while, yet only recently have I become aware of a term that truly fits, and encompasses what I do.

First, let me try to define this term in my own words, because it always helps to have a working understanding of things in my own head. Of course, it makes it easier to explain to others when the time comes.

*Searches for notes*

So, Immersive Polytheism. For me, in my practice and experience, I find the term Immersive to be less exclusionary than Devotional, and thus more compatible with my personal practice. This is because of the underlying connotations of devotional, as a word.

In her latest video, Camilla speaks of the origin of the word devotion, which comes from the Latin devotio, which, during the Roman Polytheistic era, was a specific ritual in which a General would promise himself as a battlefield sacrifice to the Underworld Gods. This was probably seen as the ultimate form of self-sacrifice in that time and place. The word devotion, as typically used in English, then comes to a congruent meaning of sacrifice.

While most whom I know claim the term devotional for themselves are not striving to give their lives in battle, I do see kind of a distressing trend among some to frame the word in a way that highlights the sacrifices they do make on a daily basis.

While I don’t think sacrifice in and of itself is a terrible thing, when the language and history surrounding the word devotion is used to vehemently express, and even push forward the idea that in order to experience the presence of our Gods, one must always be willing to destroy themselves in the process of establishing that connection, I take issue. Firstly, because many of us within Polytheism must also face mundane challenges and situations which are not necessarily the correct times and places for such attitudes.

What I mean by this, is that many of us have responsibilities that transcend our so-called devotional lives. This could mean parenthood, or a career, or in my own case, domestic duties that take my attention away from those sacred spaces which I have set aside for my Gods and spirits.

My typical day begins before sunrise, when I start on my daily chores. Because of my very unique home life, I am barred from expressing what is commonly known as devotion toward my Gods at this time. I can not stand at Apollon’s shrine to lavish adoration upon Him, even if I would really like to. I have other things to do, which do take precedence. Such as breakfast for my family, and preparing my mortal spouse for work, which entails all manner of little time-consuming things. When those things are done, it’s time to move on to the next set of mundane obstacles.

So, while it is not feasible for me to expect the time I would prefer to spend with Apollon and Others, just sitting in Their presence, or conducting ritual, I can allocate a certain amount of my focus to Them while in the midst of mundane responsibilities.

And what kind of parent would I be if I allowed my own selfish desire to give myself totally to the God, to overtake my parental responsibilities? I wouldn’t be of any use to my family if I were to fall into that sustained self-sacrifice. You know, because raising Hellenic children is a part of my Work,, I would be neglecting my duty in favor of a fundamentalist approach to sacrifice. And in my mind, I kind of find that bordering pretty dangerously close to hubris.

I don’t find that the Gods are limited to the small spaces I have set aside for Them, nor should They be. They can come to me whenever They feel the need, or I can come to Them in my thoughts, while my body reenacts some movement of muscle-memory, completely independent of thought. This doesn’t take the place of more formalized ritual, but it’s neither less than formalized ritual. It simply is its own style of respect given to Them.

Now, I think I would like to talk a little bit about words and meanings, and how they may become garbled over time, or meshed together in ways that are very oxymoronic.

I think I’m going to start with UPG, or Unverified Personal Gnosis, which is usually described as the opposing end of the spectrum that begins with a strict Reconstructed practice.

Unverified, means that the beliefs expressed are not corroborated by any ancient or academic source, or even by other modern Polytheists. Personal, means of course that the beliefs expressed are one’s own, and again, are not necessarily shared by any others, however close they may be to the deity or spirit in question. So far, it seems good right? But when we come to the word Gnosis, all previous understanding goes flying out the windo, because Gnosis has a very specific meaning in its original language.

Gnosis, in myunderstanding, is the unified body of knowledge gleaned through the verified and corroborated experiences of many learned Polytheists and Philosophers from the past. Gnosis is not personal. Gnosis is that which is known and experienced widely, and therefore can not be personal, verified or not.

The term is much used in our communities, and I still catch myself using it for the sake of others being able to understand what I’m talking about, but there is what I believe a better term, one which remains true to its meaning, and this term is Doxa, or simply ‘belief’.

We find Doxa within the word Orthodoxy, which is typically translated as ‘correct belief’, or ‘right belief’. I will not be discussing Orthodoxy as such, but I mention it here in order to frame your understanding of the word Doxa.

Doxa is what we believe. This can be very personal, or it can be applied to small groups who share similar beliefs and experiences concerning the Gods. Within my own group, the Treasury of Apollon, we have much Doxa shared between us. This is verified and corroborated by us, and by our interactions with Apollon. We are a small group, and we do not claim to be able to impart any significant Gnosis upon others, even when our Doxa is continually being corroborated by academic sources. It’s simply not widely known, and therefore can not be described as common knowledge, which is what Gnosis is.

All of this is relevant to the discussion of Immersive Polytheism for one simple reason. When we come to acknowledge our Doxa (or UPG for those who still prefer that term, although I have explained why I personally do not like to use it), we can begin the second part of Immersion, which is to apply our Doxa to our religious lives.

It is at this point where strict Reconstructionism is no longer the most desired course. When we accept that the Gods and spirits may inspire us in ways that are very different from what past worshipers would have known as familiar, we must then integrate those revelations into our practices, via the beliefs we hold. When we do this, we begin a process of spiritual Alchemy; that is, we begin to alter the substance and structure of our faiths, to form new perspective, new understandings, and to open our awareness of the Gods as real and independent Entities, each with Their own individual agendas. Agendas which may be vastly different for any given worshiper, because if They are individuals and we are individuals, then Their plans for us will probably be suited for each of us as individuals.

And I know there’s lots more that I’d like to say, but I actually am running out of time. I do have a young child that I have to take care of, and I have lots of things to do, so I have to get back to that. And I’ll be signing off for now, thank you so much for listening, watching, or whatever, paying attention to my probably horrible first video.

Anyway, may the Gods bless us all with tolerance and communication. So, until next time, thank you so much for watching!

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One response to “Discussion of Immersive Polytheism, and Other Fun Things

  1. Pingback: Immersive Polytheism & Revivalism | The Forest Witch