The Message

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The Message

Postby Aulus Flavius on Tue Sep 11, 2007 12:30 am

Salve amici,

I've been recently engaged in a debate with a friend of mine online who happens to be an atheist. One of the topics he constantly refers to in arguing against the Abrahamic religions is their insistence of a universal message present in their religion that applies to all.

This got me wondering what message is there in the Religio Romana? For me it seemed to be the highest honour I could pay to Rome. The more I studied its history and people, the more I saw them as quintessentially responsible for the formation of the Western world. The more I studied their culture, art and literature, the more in love with Rome I fell.

That admiration and beauty transfered over to the Gods.

So all this has me wondering, what message does the Religio Romana have? For you, if not for everyone.

Vale,

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Postby Q Valerius on Tue Sep 11, 2007 6:51 am

As another atheist, like most educated Romans, I logically do not think that the Gods exist. This, however, doesn't mean that I can not learn from the religio - pietas is perhaps the central message of the religio Romana, and this is not merely "piety", but all manners of virtue, including virtus (doing what a proper man should do), honestas, dignitas, gravitas, and of course the ever important frugalitas (which remained part of Roman mores well into the empire, despite it all).

Respect and duty perhaps might be the English words for the message Religionis Romanae.
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Wed Sep 12, 2007 5:44 am

Salvete Valeri et Flavi

Honos et Virtus Is that what you refer to, Quinte Valeri? Well, that's part of it perhaps, but I think there is more to the spiritual side of the religio Romana than just devotion to civil society.

But, Aule, what is this "universal message" that you refer to? What do you mean by seeking a message in the religio Romana?

Vale optime
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Postby Aulus Flavius on Wed Sep 12, 2007 6:24 am

Hello Piscinus,

Horatius Piscinus wrote:But, Aule, what is this "universal message" that you refer to? What do you mean by seeking a message in the religio Romana?


As I initially said I often hear Christian friends speak about an ultimate message behind their religion, be it goodwill towards all, spread the proverbial world, peace etc etc etc

So this has me wondering what the so called message of the Religio Romana might be, or if there even is such a concept from the classical pagan point of view. It would seem that the idea of such an overriding message would be unique to something like the Abrahamic religions, but I am of course curious to discover if there is such a concept, be it ancient or modern, amongst those who worship the Immortal Gods.

Mostly this post is a request to shine light on yet another dark corner of my mind.

Vale,

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Postby Q Valerius on Wed Sep 12, 2007 7:33 pm

Horatius Piscinus wrote:Salvete Valeri et Flavi

Honos et Virtus Is that what you refer to, Quinte Valeri? Well, that's part of it perhaps, but I think there is more to the spiritual side of the religio Romana than just devotion to civil society.

But, Aule, what is this "universal message" that you refer to? What do you mean by seeking a message in the religio Romana?

Vale optime


Honos and honestas are slightly different. Vir honore ambulat, honestati obsequitur.
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Fri Sep 14, 2007 3:34 am

Salve Aule Flavi

I don't know how christians can claim to have a universal message when they seem unable to agree among themselves on anything. Benedict said that other christians were wounded and defective, and I am sure he didn't include in that some sects. When Baptist Hagee spoke of there being a "culture war" he specifically referred to Episcopalians. Evangelicals do not consider Mormans to be christians. I don't know who besides themselves think Jehovah Witnesses are christians. This all goes back some ways, as you can find an entire list of christian sects that were outlawed by Justinian, and even in the letters of Paul and the Acts christians were arguing then over who had the right message.

I would be curious to hear what christians think they project as a universal message to others, since to me, from the many different denominations with which I have had the misfortune to come into contact, they have come across as having a religion that promotes ignorance, hatred, and intolerance.

And they do seem to dwell on death excessively. I remember a Jewish friend talking about that very aspect of christianity. Most of what he had seen was Latin American Catholicism where christian imagery did tend to get gruesome, and there were all those ridiculous stories of the martyrs, and the ritualized cannabalism. I thought he had a valid point. Well, I suppose it is the same with all religions in that it must make some sense to those who practice it, but it doesn't come across well to the rest of us.

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sun Sep 16, 2007 2:35 pm

Salve Aule Flavi

Anyway...

Lately I had been going through some of my own thoughts on the religio. I don't know whether one could say I was looking for any 'message' from the religio itself, because I still don't know what you mean. What I had been looking into instead is what I have earlier referred to as the origin of the religio Romana in an ecstatic tradition. What exactly does that mean?

First, as a preliminary, the origin is said in legend to have come from the Sabine king of Rome, Numa Pompilius. Stories about Numa, related to us mainly by Ovid and Livy, say that he received the tradition in conciltation with the Nympha Egeria in the sacred grotto of Carmentia beneath the Capitolium. Well, there is much more to that story alone since Egeria is a personification of Carmentia, and Carmentia was said to have been Bateia, also called Nicostrate as the mother of Evnder, a Nymph of Campania who married Oebalus who was the legendary founder of the Sabines. Oebalus was in turn the son of a Nympha, the daughter of the river spirit Sebethus near Naples. All of these Nymphae I think you could say are the same - Carmentia, the Goddess of authoritative speach.

Across the Bay of Naples from where Caprae was the home of Sebethia, there once stood the city of Velia, home of Parmenides and the Eleatics. There is where Parmendies wrote his poem on an ecstatic journey to visit with a mysterious Goddess who must not be named. Now there is a story on how books of Numa, written in Greek, were works of Pythagoras. More likely they were works of Eleatics, perhaps including Parmenides' poem. In the Late Republic it was argued that Numa could not have have books of Pythagoras since Numa lived and reigned earlier, and earlier than Parmenides as well. Parmenides was about six years old when Pythagorus and his followers died at Croton further south from Velia. There are several parallels between what Parmenides describes, and what some other Eleatics were known to practice, with what the legends concerning Numa tell. But Numa lived earlier. How can there be any connection, or any influence from Velia on the religio of Numa?

First, to put things into historical perspective, the religio Romana, in all likelihood, dates no earlier than the fourth century. It was based on earlier traditions, but we can not be certain what those traditions were. The Romans had a tendency of projecting their legends back in time, so that what was adopted in the fourth century were attributed to Romulus, Tatius, and Numa as the first kings. Why this occurred just then was because of the sack of Rome by the Gauls in 390 BCE. Before then, the religious life of the City was a collection of family culti Deorum, women vates, and probably the flamines. There was an oral tradition kept by augures and pontifices, much of which had been lost at that time. Thus it was decided to write down the oral tradition, which became attributed to Numa as the lex Postumia. Legend said that at the expulsion of the Tarquinians, the Numa tradition was restored by the publication of the laws of Numa by pont. max. C. Papirius circa 500 BCE. This story though comes from Granius Flaccus and, according to Censorius in De die natali, it dates from the third century. Where the lex Postumia of the fourth century was supposedly restoring the ius Papirianum of the sixth, it could instead be that Granius produced the ius Papirianum in the third century to explain a fourth century development.

The most important aspect of the earlier tradition was probably the female vates who consulted the Gods on the far side of the Tiber River, atop the Vatican Hill. They had the same role as Egeria with Numa, either giving their oracles from ecstatic trance or leading kings into ecstatic as with Numa. The role of women as the voices of religious authority, derived from the Gods Themselves, is also found with the Sibyls of Cumae and Albunea. Their replacement by male pontifices is parallelled in India where the Brahmans replacing women in the religion of the Rg-Vedas. The native tradition of Italy, for it was not just Rome's, was imbedded among these vates, sibyls, augures, and fauni. Vates were generally women, but some men as well. Augures seem to have generally been men but at least one very early grave of a woman includes a lituus - and augures did not originate from the Etruscans; earliest remains come from the Sabines and Latins. By the time we hear of fauni, they are generally men living in the sacred groves of Faunus, and have some connection to prophetic rites of incubation. (Also women are warned not to venture into such wooded places.) Sibyls are women connected to shrines of Sabine Merula (Samnite Mefitis), some of whose shrines in southern Italy date as far back as the Italian Neolithic.

For the moment I will leave things off here, but... We know at least with the Romans of the fourth century that their innovations were intended to regain something they had lost. Something like that occurred with the Augustan Restoration, too. There are parallels in Greece, and in India as well, and I think also with Parmenides at Velia in Italy there was as much of an attempt to attain something of an earlier tradition.

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Christianity, Messsages, etc.

Postby Valerius Claudius Iohanes on Wed Sep 26, 2007 8:11 pm

Salvete omnes heic congressi -

Piscine, clarius abs te dictum est.

I don't know how christians can claim to have a universal message when they seem unable to agree among themselves on anything.

I myself am still trying to work out whether Christianity has a spiritual reality or a pragmatic one.

Christianity is such a mixed bag. Heroic and perfidious, intolerant, merciful, ecstatic, humdrum, ascetic, self-indulgent, intellectual, blind, timid, violent, etc. The claim to Revelation, Truth beyond Truth as it were, sets a lot of souls going, revs up their perfectionism, and I think blinds them to the nature of life on earth. And then people's own limitations and life's lack of certainty, keep them looking for an answer, and keep them doubting about this life and the beyond.

And the sectism! That perfectionistic rationale results in endless squabbles over details of doctrine, ritual, taboo and sin. Since it's so syncretic (is that the right word?), such a hodge-podge of Judaism, Hellenism, Gospel, scriptural exegesis, asceticism, worldly establishmentarianism, magical superstition, considered argument, extra-verbal mysticism, etc., it looks for its justifications in its own contradictions and names those its mysteries. Christianity, altho formed from the various waves of history, tends to become a world in itself, a circular argument. But the very contradictions and conflict with observed reality tend to drive that very circle.

What is the message from Christianity? There is no single message. The Gospel itself is cloaked in metaphor and parable, so its "message" has to be read between the lines. For the frustrated and insecure, it's Law, the Only Law, the Law established by God. For the kind and tolerant, it's "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (something the US President needs to recite to himself more often). For the ecstatic, it's Union with Nature and God. For the casual Christian, it's "Do good in the world." For the angry Christian, it's "Defend the Faith." For the commited Christian, it's "Suffer all, for it is all ordained by God." For the pitying Christian, it's "Mercy." For the joke Christian, it's a faux-church's Ministerial certificate on the wall.

The older I get, the more the reality of life seems to me to be the absence of such a message!

Valete.
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Re: The Message

Postby UrsusofUNRV on Tue Apr 14, 2009 1:18 am

The lack of a universal message is one of the things that attracted me to classical polytheism.

If I leave aside for a moment the philosophies and mystical schools, I see only two presumptions in mainstream polytheism:

    The gods exist.
    The gods should be honored with certain rites, festivals and proscriptions

This sort of amoral orthopraxy is very liberating, once you think about it. There is no absolute, universalist code imposed on all peoples. Instead there is a vague conception of divinities, and a set of traditions handed down by which to honor those divinities. But otherwise people are free to conceptualize deity, and their relations to each other and to the state, as they see fit.

I find this a much more reasonable approach to life than expecting everyone to kowtow to a supposedly inerrant rule book.
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Re: The Message

Postby Caeia Julia Regilia on Thu Sep 17, 2009 1:55 am

The religio has several messages.

1.) There are many Gods, and they should all be honored as They wish to be.
2.) The Gods deal with you in THIS world, not in some eternal torment beyond the grave.
3.) The Gods favour those who honor Them.
4.) One should face life with courage, honesty, integrity and honor.
5.) The Gods gave you a brain, it is up to YOU to ise it wisely in service to the Gods and humankind.
6.) Learning honors the Gods.
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