[Glorantha]Re: Glorantha digest, Vol 10 #49 - 5 msgs

From: Andrew Larsen <aelarsen_at_mac.com>
Date: Thu, 26 Feb 2004 09:56:18 -0600

 Jumping back into the debate after a brief hiatus, I want to address a different aspect of the issue, because I think that the focus of the debate is somewhat misplaced. In the RW, ancient polytheism within the bounds of Western Civilization (which is what I know most about) is simply not concerned with matters of faith or belief. Zeus (or whatever ancient deity you want) is not concerned with whether you believe in his existence or not, nor is he concerned with whether you believe that he is the son of Cronos and Rhea, the king of the Gods, and resident on Mt Olympus. Nor is he concerned with whether or not you truly believe that cannibalism is bad and proper hospitality is good. You cannot offend Zeus by what you think about his laws.

    What Zeus is concerned with is what you do. He cares very much whether you make the proper sacrifices to him at the proper time and whether you perform those rituals in the proper manner. He is concerned that you do not act in a manner which disrespects his power, desecrates his altars and holy places, or violates his standards. He cares a great deal about whether you commit cannibalism or are inhospitable to guests. He doesn't care whether you want to commit cannibalism or be a bad host, but he cares whether you actually do these things or not. Belief and intention are irrelevant; action or lack thereof is everything. In other words, he is concerned about orthopraxis (proper practice) not orthodoxy (proper belief). So faith is not a major issue in Graeco-Roman polytheism. Zeus's laws are sort of like the speed limit--the cop doesn't care whether you believe in the speed limit, or even whether you think it is a good idea or not; what he cares about is whether you have exceeded the limit. If you have, the cop is angry until you make a sacrifice (pay the fine), and then the matter is left to rest.

    Additionally, most ancient polytheism is a matter of civic worship. Individuals (with the exception of those who can claim descent from the gods or some other special connection to them) are mostly too small to merit the real attention of the god unless they outrage the god in some way. Worship of Zeus is done on a communal level, because the whole community benefits from the rain that Zeus sends and the whole community suffers when Zeus is upset and doesn't send the rain. There's not much concern about what members of the community believe, so long as the individual isn't doing something that attracts the anger of the gods down on the community. (The Trial of Socrates is a good example of this--the Athenians didn't really care that much what he was teaching until they lost the Peloponnesian War. A few years later, looking to blame someone for the disaster, they targeted him and accused him of teaching his students an atheism that angered the gods by encouraging people not to worship the gods. A few centuries later, they didn't really care that Epicurus was teaching atheism.)

    I would suggest that Gloranthan religion is much more like ancient polytheism than modern notions of religion, which tend to be based on Christianity and its emphasis on faith and belief. Orlanth is not worried about whether you are brave by nature, or only because he commands it; what he worries about is whether you are acting in a brave manner. It has been established that Gloranthan gods are not omniscient--they don't know what's actually going on in the hearts of their believers. So the only thing the gods have to judge by is the actions of their worshippers, not the beliefs.

> From: "Mittmann, Mike" <Mike_Mittmann_at_affymetrix.com>

>> It's an interesting quote.
>> Is it possible to cite a source for that epitaph?
>> Who was this Enculpus, where is that monument?
>> I tried Google, but it only turned up the Glorantha
>> Digest of last year...
>> Mittmann, Mike wrote:
>>> To which I bring out this quote again:
>>> From the monument of Marcus Antonius Enculpus:
>>> There is no boat in Hades, no ferryman Charon,

> Hmmm, I got it off the web somewhere, so it's not that reliable.
> ( "All facts are on the web, all true facts and all false facts")
> However by searching for a random line of the poem I got to this page:
> http://www.lamp.ac.uk/~noy/death4.htm
> Which is written to imply that the writer of the page has a handout showing
> the tombstone.

    I've run across this inscription and several others of similar sentiment from the Roman world, so I can attest to the authenticity of the quote, although I don't have an actual citation for it. Another common sentiment on Roman tombs is the phrase "I was not; I am not; I care not", meaning that the person's soul has not survived death. Ancient Romans seem to have had very mixed ideas about the survival of the soul after death. Some Romans pictured a sort of gray underworld where the dead go to live out a boring existence after death. Romans also worshipped their ancestors (indeed, the modern word 'pious' comes from the Latin 'pius' which means loyalty to the memory of one's ancestors. But others, as demonstrated by tomb inscriptions, express ideas that suggest that death is the annihilation of the self. Thus it would appear that many Romans (and a lot of Hellenistic Greeks as well) rejected the notion of an afterlife.

Andrew E. Larsen

--__--__-- Received on Fri 27 Feb 2004 - 06:56:20 EET

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