Sunday 9 February 2014

The importance of truth to the priest

The priest is a guardian of truth and righteousness.  We live in a world in which humans play an important role.  We are below the gods, but we ourselves are beasts.  The difference is that we are closer to gods than the other animals.  This means that humans are not perfect.  We fail to have full and complete understanding of the universe.  We don't know everything, though sometimes we like to think that we do.

When it comes to religion and spirituality, many of us are confused.  After all there are many different ideas and viewpoints out there.  And with confusion there sometimes comes doubt.  Sometimes people fall into ignorance due to a lack of understanding of the rites.  They may live in fear of jealous and capricious gods, fearing superstitiously the wrath of these cruel and vengeful divinities.  They may even grow to hate the gods, seeing them as wicked beings of wrongdoing.  It is in this state of temporary imperfection that demons will attack that person mentally and spiritually.  Remember that demons live in an imperfect state themselves- in fact they are the children of imperfection and wrong.  When this occurs in humans, humans will temporarily lose their godliness, and the demons will attack them in their weakest areas like parasites.  Their intention is to either turn people away from the gods and their rites, or to make them wholly confused about what to make of the rites.

That is why the priest should be the guardian of truth.  The priests should always be open-minded, experienced with proper hermeneutics and exegesis when it comes to myths and texts, and prepared to work with the people closely and to help them with their problems.  And simply stating that you are open-minded and pious is not enough.  You must show it.  Your deeds must follow your words, or your words are untrue.  Too many priests these days are far more prepared to denounce people as heretics, or else to denounce worship of the gods altogether.  This cannot be what a truly pious individual does.  If you denounce worship of gods based on what myths about them may say, then you aren't taking them into proper context and are acting out of ignorance, which does not promote respect for the divinity but the opposite.

It is important for the priests to guard against ignorance and save the rites of the gods, and to lead the people to truth and understanding, helping them to embrace a vision of reality which is really true.  That is the role of the Canaanite priest.  How can we do it?  The answer I think lies in a philosophical and rational justification for religion.  This includes the works of Ya-milku, who himself lived in a time of great spiritual confusion.  Just as today, when many people turn confused towards materialism because of fear or hatred of the gods.  It is born from this very same form of confusion and ignorance of the spiritual.  So the spiritual must be taught properly through the mouth of the philosopher-priest.  Ya-milku himself was a philosopher-priest-noble-charash (theurgist magic-worker) in some way, as was his persona Abammon the Egyptian high priest.  He was a Canaanite charash of the order of the Chaldeans as it began in Syria.  This is how he plans to teach religion to the people, through magic and practical experience as it had always been performed in his homeland Syria.  He was a noble from a noble family descended from the priest-kings of Homs started by King Shamsigeramu I (several of these priest-kings also bore the name Ya-milku, a priestly name of much prestige related to the speaking and command of El).  But he also filled the role of a philosopher, specifically a Neoplatonist, who used philosophy to rationally justify theurgy and religion and the role that it has in society.  It is these philosopher-priests that we must aspire to be like.

Finally, we must remember that to combat spiritual ignorance is a sacred duty which will allow the light of truth to shine even through the thickest darkness.

Yishlam le-kum,

Saturday 1 February 2014

Religious intolerance is not a Canaanite (or religious) value

When I was young I enjoyed learning about many religious paths.  I saw them as many ways of reflecting truths given to different nations or cultures.  This is reflected in the idea of each of the 70 nations after the flood having its own guardian deity.  I have in my life spoken with Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Hellenists, Kemetics, Wathanists, Yezidis, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, and more.  I have visited many beautiful churches, stopped by gurdwaras, and admired the beauty of synagogues and mosques.  I have admired the glory of temples of many traditions.  I have engaged in their prayer services and I have had spiritual experiences there.

However, in recent times I've come to realize that not everyone shares this view.  Religious intolerance is nothing new of course.  Even in older times though, it might not be 'intolerant' so much as having chiefly political motivations.  An example is when the Philistines conquered a city, they defiled its temple by raising livestock there.  When the Assyrians conquered cities they destroyed the idols of its gods.  King Xshayarsha I of Persia brought his Persian army to suppress worship of Babylonian and Assyrian warlike deities in western Iran for fear of daeva (demon) worship and blood cults.  Much can also be said about the rise of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  The idea that your own god will protect you against the false gods of foreigners sprung up especially in times of war.

But it doesn't have any religious backing to it.  We especially as Canaanites should learn to put religious intolerance aside.  Calling other religions false religions, or demon-worshiping cults, does nothing to help our own.  All it does is alienate other people.  We mock and deride others yet we would not like it done to ourselves.  Instead, we should live virtuously and piously by obeying the gods.  In Ugarit the people prayed to many gods of other nations and were afraid to disrespect others.  We forget in our mortal short-sightedness sometimes that the great God himself has appointed spiritual beings to watch over all people, and that all ways can have some shards of truth in them (or reflections of truth). 

This goes for within our own tradition to.  There are Canaanites with a number of different theological viewpoints.  Rather than accusing them of being heretics or demon-worshipers, we should remember that just as different people prefer different things, so too we have different religions for this reason.

What remains certain is that religious intolerance has no religious basis to it.  There is no reason or purpose behind it.  Just remember that followers of other faiths are not your 'enemies'.  That is a simplistic worldview.

Ultimately we should remember that while nobody knows the answer to the question of how many gods there are, or whether some gods are really demons or devils, the fact still remains people still have God-given free will and freedom of choice to choose that way for themselves.  If it is a non-harmful lifestyle choice then you must allow them free will.  Our ancestors did this, and so should we (though they weren't always perfect, and neither are we).

Rather than waste energy on bashing or deriding other faiths, we Canaanites should instead spend energy on helping to promote and defend our own.  We should show the world what a glorious tradition is really is, and shatter their misconceptions, without resorting to a mud-slinging match in which we bash them for their freedom of choice.

To close, I would like to offer a proverb from a temple wall in Tadmor:

"Do not insult a god that you do not worship."

The Hearts of Enemies Laid Low- a poem by Ben-el Mem

The Hearts of Enemies Laid Low:

In eastern lands where Shemesh rise
Through heights of white-crowned Damavand
A risen king, so loved by gods, ascended to the throne
By earth and water reigning there- his empire great and bold
To Judah wealth in gold had flowed; in ruby, jade, and emerald
The House of God extravagant- it rose anew to tower high
From nearby came foxes sly- and cunning, with no fear of El,
Beholding grace of heaven fair, like Ishtar robed for Dawn,
And sought with sword and spear to slay,
Lay waste to blessed Judah-land
But though their hearts to envy moved,
The fear of kingship held them back,
The strong right arm of Yah the lord was reigning there on earth,
Feebly back to hills they tread,
Ambitions low forevermore, to Moab-land they sped,
To green hill citadel and field, on eastern banks of salty seas.

(This poem is mine and cannot be posted elsewhere without acknowledging me as the writer)