Creation Myths As Spiritual Exercise

Although there are several different Greek Creation Myths that come down to us from literary sources–and probably many more that never survived the transition from oral to literature–scholars like Kerenyi usually divide them into two or three main versions; later versions, coming from mystery cults, philosophers, and other writers, themselves had to presumably draw upon these literary sources for inspiration, probably filling them in with whatever oral tales survived and were still in circulation around campfires, hearth fires, and other intimate gatherings.

When I try to imagine what it would have been like to try and describe first things, I myself feel the anxiety of mystery. This cannot be an empirical process; it requires going deep in to myself, to imagine that which came before those things of sense perceptions. It gets dangerously close to the mind’s attempt at ascribing meaning and purpose to existence. Poets, who themselves would invoke the Gods for inspiration, could superficially get around this difficulty by simply trusting what came to them when they allowed themselves to imagine the things that came before the eyes of man. But, I surmise, the mystery of creation was always there, in back of their attempts to describe it. Mystery, as some author has pointed out, is that which not only is not known, but which cannot be known–a mystery is beyond conscious knowing.

Nevertheless it seems to me that in working with Gods and other entities the Black Magoi eventually runs across the issue of putting all of these entities into a proper relationship with him or herself. The quest for meaning and purpose, the existential quest, is always there. Luckily, our post-modern sensibilities do allow for a kind of childish play when it comes to this; perhaps its the chaos magician within me, but, in lieu of a definitive mythology, I am much more interested in how something works for me. I am interested in whether the mythology is functional, in that it allows me to explain my current intuitive understandings of myself, my purpose, and my personal ethical restraints (or absence thereof). This kind of mythology is tentative. It gets expressed in ritual, and, as far as we know, we are actually creating/participating in it by offering the mind symbols to structure reality during the duration of the ritual. This, as least, is my own tentative understanding of myth and ritual.

Simultaneously, though, there is a kind of satisfaction in knowing that your mythology more or less falls in line with a living Tradition which spans thousands of years, even if it takes many artistic liberties. Luckily, the Greeks had some pretty interesting Creation Myths to draw upon. In my own workings with my Daemon, and now with Zeus, I’ve come away from each ritual promising myself to get down to brass tacks and actually write up a little mythology for myself, based upon the myths already existing and yet displaying my world view. If the Self indeed is the Universe in microcosmic form, than these myths are really tentative maps of the Self, explaining, however incompletely, how consciousness arose, the Gods, and the Black Magician’s place in all of this.

Scholars of ritual disagree as to what came first: was it the myths that gave rise to the rituals, or the rituals which were then explained in terms of myths? Either way, Eliade points out that many rituals are enacting myths, and creating a sacred space beyond time, so that the practitioner is not only recreating what had once been but is participating in a timeless activity which is always happening; creation is always happening, the Cosmos being destroyed and reborn in every instant.

With that in mind, I propose an exercise:

  1. familiarize yourself with the Creation Myths of the Greeks. Kerenyi’s The Gods of the Greeks is probably a great choice, since he draws upon the major sources, but tells them as he imagines an actual Greek speaking to a child or pupil would possibly have done. Donald Richardson’s Zeus and His Children is also a great choice. Reading directly from Hesiod never hurt anyone, and since its short, you can do so in a single sitting; also, its pretty much a must read for a Hellenic Polytheist.
  2. going into ritual–assuming you have a framework already for this; if not, check out some basic books on Hellenic Polytheism, like Labrys’ Household Worship–ask the Gods to help you in understanding the First Things, knowing that any such understanding can only be metaphor addressed to your current intellectual maturity level. The basic formula I use is: purification, invocation, prayer, offerings, libations, and closing (thanking the spirit, final petitions).
  3. get into a comfortable position; laying down is not off the table here. And in fact, if you think it’ll help, try taking something like cannabis or some psychoactive mushrooms to open up your mind to intuition. At the very least, put yourself into a hypnogogic trance. This is easy to do; if you’ve never done one before,  just try getting into a relaxed position, closing your eyes, and, using your mind’s eye, just imagine the room your in. Honestly, I usually just imagine my ceiling fan (turned off), because its right above my bed and easy to visualize. You want to hold the vision for as long as you can, and eventually–a few minutes, usually–you’ll fall in the trance, which is essentially the theta brainwave state you’re in when half asleep.
  4. using the myths you already know, imagine the First Things. You can just visualize your favorite story(s), or let your imagination put together one of your own.
  5. if you’ve successively done this–and I’d only go as far as the creation of the Titans for this–I recommend immediately writing it down in as much detail as possible. Than, meditate upon this. Make corrections where necessary, but more or less try to trust in what you’ve written, and think about the meaning.

That’s it. I’ve tried this several times, and what I usually find is that I’m refining my own personal myth each time. Somewhere in my next few blogs I’ll record my own personal myth. If you have one of your own, or even just want to discuss your favorite already existing myth, feel free to comment!

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The Oracle Within

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.