Saturday 5 October 2013

The path that I follow

Today I want to take the opportunity to talk about the religion that I follow.  I realize that not all Canaanites are going to agree with me, but I would ask people to be respectful of the path I follow.  I realize that it is not the same as the path that other Canaanites may follow, but I believe that mine is just as valid and that it's wrong to outright dismiss another person's religion as merely being a false religion or a 'made-up religion' (at least without thinking on it first).

- My path does not consider one era or type of Canaanism as the 'true' form.  What I mean by this, is that I believe that labels like 'Late Bronze Age Canaanite religion', 'Israelite religion', 'Phoenician religion', 'Punic religion' etc. are merely human constructs.  I don't believe that they are different religions or that they are not compatible.  I believe Canaanite religion is eternal and divine; human-constructed limits do not matter.  I certainly don't think that the religions from those categories are completely unlike one another.  While Canaanite religion does change, I don't view (for example) Middle Bronze Age Canaanite religion as being somehow more pure or more true than religion in Late Antiquity in- for example- Tyre.  I don't think that any deviation from one city-state's system automatically disqualifies them from following the same religion as another.  A good comparison would be the various city-states in Greece (Sparta, Athens etc.) at different time periods.  Another comparison is India with the various philosophical schools of thought and religious sects which exist within Hinduism.  In Egypt there is a change from Middle Kingdom, to New Kingdom, to Hellenistic Egypt.  I just don't see Canaan as any different.  Furthermore, the ancients themselves, even right until St. Augustine's time, saw themselves as following the same religion as their ancestors going back until the beginning of time, and always understood it to be this way.  Otherwise just seems- to me at least- to be imposing human constraints on something as divine as pure religion.  (Getting onto the theory of time as proposed by Ya-milku of Qinnashrin talks of Shapash as changing yet remaining eternal, signifying two types of time: one which changes (cyclical), and one which always stays the same (linear), and that these do not contradict one another.  I think this aptly describes my view of religion).

- Similarly, I hold that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam derive ultimately from the same source, but that they are not as 'complete' as our own.  I don't consider them outright false, merely misled.  I'm open to mystical Christian and Jewish practices, though I'm not a Christian or Jew.

- I am not a reconstructionist.  In all honesty, this goes with what I've outlined above.  I think it's healthy for religion to experience changes.  It's not just going to stay the same as it was in the Bronze Age for ever.  I think it's stifling and backward to a living religion to try and relegate it to something which 'belongs in the past' and shouldn't change from that point.  However:

- I don't just believe in changing the religion to whatever it is that you want it to be.  Religion does change, but at it's core it should remain the same.  What I mean by this is that religion itself is an eternal way.  I don't believe in simply changing Canaanite religion to whatever you want it to be.  It is tradition- a living tradition, yes- but still a tradition.

- I hold that there is a One, a Monad, as I belong to the Neoplatonist school of thought.  I don't see a contradiction between religion and philosophy (and historically this wasn't the case either).  I believe that there is an ultimate reality, and that this does not contradict the gods.

- I believe that people should be allowed to come up with new ideas provided they can rationally propose philosophical arguments to justify them.  I don't just want somebody telling me what I am and am not allowed to believe in.

- While I'm not a 'soft polytheist', I'm not a strict 'hard polytheist' either.  For example, I don't believe that the god Resheph worshiped in Canaan is a different god from the one worshiped in Egypt.  The ancients clearly understood them to be the same god, just slightly different due to being worshiped in different contexts.  I also don't go as far as to claim, as some hard polytheists do, that a god worshiped in later times whose role may have changed slightly to be a different one from earlier times.  For example, though Ashtart by late antiquity has acquired different characteristics from in the late Bronze Age, I don't view her as being a different goddess than the earlier one who just happens to share the same name.

Overall, this just strikes me as being the way (at least for me personally) that religion should be.  There are differences between different city-states and different time periods, but I don't believe that this constitutes different religions.  Differences in religion, yes.  Canaanite religion is tradition, and does have a traditional 'way'.  There is a point when something ceases to become Canaanite religion.  Egyptian and Greek religions, despite many similarities, are not Canaanite religion.  But at the same time, I view Canaanite religion as a flexible and living tradition.  Things may have changed from the Early Bronze Age to the Middle Bronze Age to the Late Bronze Age to the Iron Age to the Post-Alexander world.  But change is healthy.  You may age and grow, but you are still in essence the same person now as you were when you were 7 years old.  I view religion the same way.  That doesn't mean that I think that everyone should share my opinions though.  I also think it's personally fine for people's religion to be city-state specific or era specific.  But I view all of them as being part of the same religion rather than different religions. 

In closing, I'm going to point out that I accept differences.  This is after all my path and not anybody else's, even though I may happen to share the same religion as them.

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