Socrates was put on trial for introducing new gods into the Athenian polis, and the new god he preached was the individual daemon of the inner self. Whereas previously the gods were consulted at shrines and other designated spots, the new emphasis on the individual and the inner life resulted in a new spiritual paradigm in the West–or, at least, a revival of authentic spirituality.
The voice of divinity is within each individual being, and so the truest Oracle is the Oracle Within. The Hellenic philosophers developed the idea of universal brotherhood upon the face of the earth by introducing the idea of the Universal Mind, the Nous of Anaxagoras and the Logos of Heraclitus. This Mind was imagined to be a burning cosmic flame, and each individual has a spark of this flame inside.
This Mind speaks according to the Logos, universal reason, and is upon the mouth of every human being who has consciously aligned him or herself with the Will of the daemon (spirit in Greek). The philosophers of the Hellenic period after Socrates spoke of the tongues of fire, spreading their conflagration upon the whole of the earth as a mirror of the universal fire. Early Christians consciously took this idea, molding it to their purposes–for very good reason. This metaphor was powerful, because the ancient people’s of the Indo-Aryan world kept a household hearth fire which represented the heart and spirit of each family. Later on, cities developed with central hearth fires as well. The hearth fire is the heart fire.
The goddess Hestia was said to actually be this sacred flame, which was never allowed to go out save at special appointed days, in which it was again ceremoniously re-lit. The flame, then, represented the presence of divinity upon the earth. By locating this spiritual flame within, the Greeks were developing elements of the Perennial Philosophy, the Idealist Monism which lies at the heart of every mystical tradition in known human history. It is Brahma, the inner Christ, the logos.
This is a philosophy of individualism, because each individual Will represents a piece of the Cosmic Will. But it also understands that human beings together are One spirit, Anthropos. It is not our greed or Will to Power that are responsible for our hierarchical, oppressive institutions of State and Church. Rather, it is individual ignorance of True Will and purpose that results in the impulse to dominate others. Selfish desire, once rationally developed, is an expression of the Daemonic Will, itself being a reflection of the Cosmic Will: the Will to Power, understood as power to order the chaos within.
A Hellenic Left Hand Path aims to create the Hellenic Man and Woman, a conscious Becoming toward the ideal of the Olympic deities. Whether we conceive of these entities as conscious beings who exist independent of us, or as archetypes of the human mind, which can be engaged with as a dreamer engages with the unconscious elements of his or her psyche, the practitioner works with the Theoi as allies and kinsmen rather than as superior beings to whom are owed allegiance and obedience. The Theoi help humanity to become Olympian, and beyond; they do not struggle to keep us down, to destroy our Babylonian Towers, lest we become more like them. Rather, they lift up hands from Mount Olympus, so that we may scale the walls of the Heavens for ourselves, thus advancing the evolution of the entire Cosmic Mind.
There is no evil in the Hellenic system, and so a Hellenic Left Hand Path is not geared towards turning the Olympic pantheon upside down. It uses whatever spirits and entities are useful for developing the Daemon of the individual; oftentimes, the Theoi fit that bill perfectly. The myths of the Hellenes do not include some cosmic evil; this is a concept that does not exist for the Hellenic Left Hand practitioner. There is no code of ethics that is handed to us from on high. Instead, we search within for our own code, and develop and evolve it as we ourselves evolve.
Furthermore, although individuals are encouraged to interpret the myths according to personal gnosis, there is a strong precedent in the Hellenic Tradition of taking the ancestral and literary myths as metaphors instead of literal truths. As the great tragic poet Euripides said, if a God acts as shameful as Homer and Hesiod’s stories relate, then they are not Gods, but anthropomorphized beings. The Theoi I know are strong, honorable, and wise. They teach according to that sphere of influence they have been allotted within yourself.
In addition to working with entities, there exists a very large corpus of Hellenic, Hellenistic, Hermetic, and Gnostic magic practices which the Left Hand Path practitioner can use in order to develop Arete, or excellence. Also, the Greeks were quick to incorporate any deities from other pantheons who fit their needs, and the Hellenic Polytheist is encouraged to do this.
Ritual work is the practical side of Hellenic Polytheism, but there is a more contemplative side to this practice. The Hellenic Tradition draws upon the great philosophers of the ancient world, not to dogmatically and slavishly follow someone else’s ideas, but to interact with these ideas in developing your own personal self-vision. The real Philosopher merges theory with praxis; you can use spiritual technology to get what you want, but it is Philosophy which helps you to see and to refine what it is that you really want.
In this blog, I will be developing my own practice–elaborating upon and refining the ideas I have laid out here. Please comment and share if you are so inclined.