The centrality of ethics in Dodekathiesm

The centrality of ethics in Dodekathiesm

Michael, 2005


In the modern world, we don’t put much thought into the rejection of ‘religion’ for ‘spirituality’. People talk so disparagingly about ‘organised religion’ so often that they have long since ceased to justify themselves. ‘Religion’ is blind faith, conflict and manipulation. ‘Spirituality’ brings self-knowledge, peace and understanding. We have inhaled, whole and without chewing, the belief that the goal of the individual is self-perfection. And that is the purpose of spirituality – to unravel that fascinating little bundle of ‘me’.

Which is ironic. The malaise of the age is our isolation from one another, our disconnectedness from the world around us and our inability to understand our purpose in life. And our ‘solution’? A ‘spirituality’ that cuts us off from meaningful engagement with the world around us and retreat even further into the self.

That is the baggage that many people bring to Dodekatheism. They are concerned with their relationship to the Gods and recognition of their chosen status in the cosmos. It is undeniable that it is often the Gods that draw us to the religion of Dodekatheism. Who can deny the attraction of the shining figures of Apollo, torch-wielding Hekate, broad-chested Zeus, or mysterious Persephone?

Nonetheless, the worship of the Gods is not the defining characteristic of Dodekatheism. Our religion is driven by the tension and flow between the individual, the community and the divine. As the Hellenic movement grows and broadens, one of our key challenges is contextualising the worship of the Gods within the religion as a whole, drawing people out of their self-absorbed spirituality into a much larger religious and social environment.

In Dodekatheism, spirituality is a dynamic fusion of the transcendental needs of the individual, the collective representations of the community, and another essence, wholly other and divine, that we call the Gods. We can capture this tension within Hegel’s dialectic of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. Spirituality is, essentially, a dialogue between the self, the community and the divine, with the latter being both a transcendental union of the first two. This sequence maps out a path that leads to an enriched and sophisticated individual understanding. The divine cannot be understood without an understanding of society as well as the individual, and, importantly, the relationship between the two.

The rules that govern the interaction between the individual and community are called ethics. This is what has been lost in the modern spiritual discourse. As we strive for self-understanding, we forget our responsibilities. However, if spirituality depends on an understanding of the relationship between the self and the community, then ethics is a fundamental basis for religious understanding in Dodekatheism. Ethics bind us all; the Gods themselves must respect themis (sacred law) and moira (portion/fate), not to mention xenios (hospitality) and chabris (reciprocity). It is the values of Dodekatheism that are transcendent. Our responsibilities to each other are a mirror of the greater forces that act on our lives.

Elaion advocates for an understanding of Dodekatheism that is bounded by the values and principles, as embodied and transmitted by Hellenic myth, philosophy, poetry and art. This is an understanding that is neither strictly ‘orthopractic’ nor ‘orthodoxic’, but, rather, emphasises the principle of ‘right-living’: always seeking to behave honourably and piously, in the eyes of others and the Gods.