Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hubris, Recon and Hellenismos

Of all the differences between Recon paths and other (Neo-)Pagan paths, I think the notion of hubris is the most controversial. Sure, everyone who works with Them, respects the Gods but there is a big difference in the respect--and fear--level between Recons and non-Recons.

I'm not exactly sure how this is for other Recon paths but for Hellenismos, avoiding hubris is the foundation of faith. Hubris, in dictionary terms, means excessive pride or arrogance and comes from the Greek (hýbris, ὕβρις). For me, hubris is not an adjective but a verb. It describes the act of willful or ignorant refusal to comply by the will of the Gods.

Within Hellenismos, the Gods rule supreme. We are here to serve and honor Them, and in return, They provide us with what we need to survive. This practice of kharis is one of the pillars of Hellenismos. But it's there in all other pillars as well.

Ethike Arete - living an ethical life, as proclaimed by the Gods in, for example, the Delphic Maxims
Eusebia - the actual practice of honoring the Gods, a huge part of which is piety
Hagneia - being ritually pure, out of respect to the Gods
Nomos Arkhaios - bringing back the old practices and customs out of respect for the Gods
Sophia - bettering yourself so as to better serve the Gods and not offend them through ignorance
Sophrosune - controlling yourself and your actions so as never to cross any of the other pillars or the Gods
Xenia - being inviting to guests under the protection of Zeus Xenios, as it is the Gods' prerogative to send us whoever they want. As Euripides describes in Medea: "What God or Deity listens to you when you are a perjurer and deceive Xenoi [foreigner or city-guest]?"

I have read on some Hellenic websites that the Gods do not intent to harm us in any way. They wish to help us better our lives and would never punish us. I think there is overwhelming evidence of the contrary in ancient Hellenic practices, in mythology and in modern day UPG. Odysseus spent twenty years simply trying to get home because he had pissed off the Gods with his hubris; hubris killed many mythological people, amongst which all fourteen of Niobe's children, Tántalos, and even Íkaros, who flew too high towards the sun; many festivals included elements of appeasement; and building only on my own UPG experiences, I have definitely been told to remedy a situation in which I was displaying unintentional hubris, or else. Saying that the Gods will never (or always) do something is a clear example of hubris, to me.

Being aware of hubris comes with a certain fear of the Gods. When talking about this to non-Recon practitioners (even when I wasn't Recon myself, yet), I often encounter either a knee-jerk reaction as this reminds them too much of the Christian faith or I'm told that the Gods are beings of pure love and light. Every time someone says the latter, I feel Hades' head exploding and can practically envision Ares punching someone, just to prove them wrong.

To me, the Gods are their own beings, far more powerful than we are. We are not divine, we are mortal. One finger snap from Them, and we're toast. I know others see this differently, but it is the foundation of my faith and practice. It is why I offer to the Gods, why I practice the pillars, why I go through my days in the way that I do. I go out of my way to avoid hubris, judging by the ancient sources and mythology. I keep my mortality firmly in my mind. It's not the (religious) life for everyone, but it is mine.


Thorn said...

Good post.

I often find myself wanting to ask some of the practitioners you're referring to "Have you even READ a myth?"

Elani Temperance said...

Me too. I can't wrap my head around it. Thank you for your kind words.

Hawthorne said...

I am brand new to this path and only discovered your blog last night. It has quickly become my favorite.

Hubris is not something I entirely understand yet, although I work hard to avoid it, if that makes any sense. I keep my promises to the Gods and am ever respectful of Their divine status. But I don't fear Them. I try hard to make Them happy and to live in a way that honors Them.

I spent 9 years as a Dianic Wiccan and was surprised to find myself being pulled from that path by Zeus a short time ago. I feel like He has led me to your blog and I'm grateful for the work you are doing here.

Elani Temperance said...

Thank you for your beautiful words! Welcome to the Hellenic path, or one inspired by it. I spent nearly twelve as a Neo-Wiccan and Eclectic Witch so don't worry about progressing after that much time. I feel it's a help, far more than a hinder.

Hubris, like many abstracts, is difficult. There are many factors involved. Read up on those pillars and you get an idea. Some of the most important factors are to never assume you know what a deity is thinking or wants from you. Don't treat Them like gumball machines (put something in = sugary goodness). Recon gives a lot of aids on how to avoid hubris and that helps to shape your daily life. Perhaps you will never fear Them. It's a possibility. But I think that if you stay on this path and put in the mental, spiritual and physical work, it will happen. Fear of the Gods seems to be thought of as a bad thing, but it'd not. It's a motivator, a moral compass. If you fear, you will not slack or get off course. There is beauty in that.

I'm glad you have found my blog. If you have questions, do not hesitate to ask, either here, on Facebook or through e-mail. I'd be happy to dedicate a blog post to your question. This goes for other readers as well.

Hawthorne said...

I think I resist the notion of fearing them because I grew up Catholic and was absolutely terrified of God. I was always waiting for him to smite me for one reason or another. I grew to hate that religion and it's taken me a long time to get over that.
What you said about fear being a motivator really got me thinking, though. I was only looking at the negative side of it, especially how it impacted my early religious life. But I can see how fear can keep us from becoming complacent, which I believe can lead to hubris.
Thank you for offering to dedicate a post to a question I have. I'm sure your other readers will appreciate it as much as I do.

Elani Temperance said...

I wasn't raised religious so that makes it easier for me. I don't have the negative aftertaste. And important differencebetween the fear of the Christian God and the Theoi, in my opinion, is that the Theoi come from a place of well-meaning. It's not about sin but about displaying the proper amount of respect. If you treat Them like you should, They are absolutely caring and nurturing, even Hades and Ares whom I used as examples. None of the Theoi are out to get you, but if you cross Them, you need to fix it, and fast.

If you ever have questions which are not fit for a blog setting, please do not hesitate to e-mail me, alright? I'm not sure if my e-mail is displayed anywhere so it's 'elani (dot) temperance (at) gmx (dot) com'.