Sunday, February 10, 2008

Delphic Maxims - #1

There are, according to, 147 Delphic Maxims. As an exercise in brainwork, I think I will begin to discuss one or two a day.

The first Delphic Maxim at that list, is:

Follow God (Επου θεω)

What does it mean to follow God? In particular, when one believes in several Gods, does it have special meaning to follow God, as opposed to following THE Gods, or some gods? Are the English translators using the masculine to include the feminine and plural, as often happens in English? What is the purpose of following God?

In the text I'm currently reading, on ancient Greek religion, the professor states that when a Greek worshipped at a particular altar, he worshipped that God alone. At that moment, before that altar, only one God existed. This might seem a bit odd, to those who have not experienced it, but it does seem to hold true in modern times, at least partially.

When I kneel before Hecate, or before Dionysus, the one I kneel to is GOD (and "kneel" is being used in a religious sense here... one might be standing in prayer, in a yoga posture, or dancing; the position doesn't matter and the Gods, to my knowledge, do not demand homage on bended knee). It isn't that the other God or Gods cease to exist entirely, but that I need not pay the least bit attention to them at that moment.

For instance, on the dark of the moon, the last day of the Hellenic month, I offer worship to Hecate. On that day, I don't give honors to Dionysus. I don't offer him wine. I don't say a prayer to him. I don't sing his praises. That day is hers. I speak words for her ears, and present gifts for her temple space, or in her name. What I do, I do for Hecate alone. Dionysus is not neglected; he gets his time on his day, some 16 or so days later. Some days include worship of both, and occasionally of others, but their special festivals and days are theirs alone.

You might think of it as being similar to driving a car. If you want to drive correctly, you should not be talking on the phone or fiddling with your onboard computer. Doing such inappropriate actions could lead to an accident. Driving should be a singular task. It doesn't mean that your phone or onboard computer cease to exist, however it does mean that they won't get attention or recognition from you until the time is right.

Worship can be like that, for some. For others, it isn't, though, and I don't think that's wrong. There are many people who worship a pantheon, a few gods, or one or two specific ones. Some have personal gnosis telling them what to do and how, and others work purely from available records of what was done in Greece thousands of years ago. As I've mentioned before, my personal belief is that we (we plural, the Hellenic communities at large) need to have many types of worship. That is what happened in Greece, and it made their religious community strong and varied. If our communities can respect and embrace that idea, I think that we, too, will be strong and balanced.

To bring this back to the topic, the Delphic Maxim tells us to, "Follow God." I follow God as much as I can, although I fall down sometimes. I'm human, and there are times when I am angry or frustrated at inappropriate times. That separates me from God. To follow God, I must be "god minded," or in less religious words, I need to be mindful.

Being mindful is something I am working on, daily. I think it's something that everyone needs to work on, actually, whether they are religious or spiritual or not. It takes effort, though. But is it not worthwhile to follow God, to be mindful of the good things in life?

Does following God mean that we can never be upset? Not at all. We are human, and we make mistakes, and we get frustrated and upset. The idea is to get yourself back on track as quickly as possible, and without riling yourself up farther. Going from being frustrated because some jackass cut you off on the highway, to being frustrated with yourself for being frustrated with the jackass, is not an improvement. You need to gently redirect your attention and allow yourself to move forward seamlessly.

When we follow God, things in our life will tend to go smoothly. This is not the same as having everything going WELL. People will still die, accidents will still happen, and storms will still take out your television at the crucial moment of the football game of the century. The change is not external, but internal! When you follow God, you know that the problem is transitory, and that you can move beyond it. You can embrace your emotions, and then move on to the next thing on your schedule. You won't get bogged down in being angry about a single thing for an extended period.

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