This morning, I stumbled upon a blog post on Mystical Bewilderment that sums up something I've been dealing with for a while as well: is it possible to have religious discussions with outsider polytheists whose religions don’t have the same belief systems or structures? Aubs describes conversations with practitioners of other (Recon) faiths about core concepts of these religions that simply never go deeper than face-value or that get bogged down in personal definitions of these terms. This leads to a disconnect in interfaith dialogue that seems impossible to get around. From the post:

"Based on the two above examples [hubris in Hellenismos, and Ma'at in Kemeticism], it is feasible to admit that certain concepts in various polytheistic circles just do not translate either well or at all. In the case of hubris, it does not exist in a Kemetic context. In the case of ma’at, it does not exist in a Celtic, Hellenic, or Nordic context. Each branch has confusing aspects to it, sure. However, the confusing bits aren’t all the same. (Wyrd seems to be a bit of a toughy for Nordic and Heathen practitioners, which doesn’t have a correlation in Kemetism, either, as far as I know.) And those confusing bits may not translate in any context outside of those particular branches. So, is it appropriate for me to muscle in, add a few comments, and walk right back out?"

I can probably provide a working definition for all these concepts, but I will never understand the core concepts of other Recon religions like someone of that faith understands them. Ma'at, for example, to me means the active endeavor to promote order (as opposed to Isfet--chaos). This means living to the letter of the law, fostering stability within yourself so you are not swayed by Isfet, and actively removing chaos from the world when possible (the famous shopping cart example comes to mind here). While I can grasp at the basics, I do not understand the concept as a Kemetic does, and I never will. I'm missing a cultural, historical and divine framework which would allow me to understand the concept as the ancient Egyptians did.

I think the crux of the problem lies in the research needed to enter--and indeed comment on--any Recon faith. There are those in Recon faiths--I have seen them in Hellenismos, at least--that feel research is not of the highest importance to live their faith; a simple understanding of the core tenets is enough to practice. I respectfully disagree. it's impossible to understand the core tenets without proper research. This means that you need to do the work: read mythology, and track down their sources, read archeological and academic sourcebooks, study anything you can find that even marginally affects your religion. This is why I know a bit about Kemeticism; there was a good bit of historic overlap between the two, and I want to know what that means for me and my practice. Without this theoretical framework, you're going through the motions, without fully knowing why, and I feel that does a disservice to the Theoi (in my case) and the Hellenistic community.

Interfaith dialogue is important, and it's easy to forget--I know I do--that 'Recon' doesn't necessarily mean we will all understand each other. In fact, I bet it's easier for Recons to converse with non-Recons than with each other. What we do is so specific. Explaining terms like hubris, miasma, kharis, and xenia to someone who does not know the Hellenistic framework is incredibly difficult, especially when that person has an entirely different framework inside their heads.

I don't think there is an easy solution to this. It's a good reminder, though, that there is more to interfaith work, and religion at large, than our own faith. Investing some time in the study of other belief systems helps us grow into yours, because it challenges us to solidify our own definitions. Without them, we can't communicate our religion to others, and if we can't do that, what's the point?