(continued from last post) But the Mystery Faiths present another side, which is the antit
(continued from last post)
But the Mystery Faiths present another side, which is the
antithesis of an individualistic religion such as Neo-paganism and the
primitive Shamanic religions it attempts to reconstruct. The ancients
lived in a world in which the primitive connection of human life
with the earth and plant and animal life was self-evident. The
Universe itself was a living being, the "mother" of humanity, and
therefore worthy of honor.
The ancient Shamanic religions entail an all-encompassing "way
of life" with a down-to-earth, pragmatic world-view...all that
one does in life is "worship", every day is a day of thanksgiving.
In the eyes of the Shaman there is no separation between humanity and
the Divine. The Native Americans, for example, viewed everyday life as
a ceremony, and saw Deity around them, in Nature, and in themselves.
Mystery Religions, on the other hand, separate the sacred from
the profane, and separate religious activities from mundane concerns.
Where the Native Americans worshipped in natural places and in
the home, the followers of Christianity erected the Missions and other,
smaller churches in the name of their gods. Where the Shaman or
Shamanka lived and ate with the rest of the tribe, the Catholic
Padres distanced themselves from their "flock". Shamanic Religion
sees all life as sacred, and considers human nature as basically good,
while Mystery Religions like Christianity see human beings as
deficient, basically evil, "fallen" in their nature.
In order for the Mysteries to provide "redemption", a human being
must see him/herself as fallen, sinful, wretched...unworthy. One who
sees themselves as worthy, as competent, as whole and complete, will
not buy into a belief system that says otherwise. In order for a
Mystery Religion to gain converts, they must convince, or "convict"
the person that they are NOT worthy, competent, whole and complete
WITHOUT the intercession of their deity. Furthermore, they must
convince the unbeliever (often referred as "pagan" or "heathen") that
without the intercession of this deity, they would be on their way
to an eternity in a "hell" or a "limbo", and that naturally THEIR path
is the one true way to gain intercession of this deity.
Consider the predicament of the Catholic, and later Protestant
missionaries. The concept of "original sin" is usually quite foreign
to Indigenous peoples, and is one of the hardest things for a
Christian missionary to explain to them. Why would something alive,
something that is part of their Mother, the Earth, be evil from
the moment of its birth?
Another difference is that Shamanic Religions see the psychological and
physical need for sexual pleasure, joy, love, good food, good times,
and the need for mirth and laughter as natural, good, and to be
encouraged. They view Earth as a place of life and joy, and believe
that one should treat others well to enhance one's life and physical
well being. Life is to be enjoyed in the NOW. The hereafter, if any,
is either a "big sleep" or a simple "waystation" between rebirths.
With the glaring exception of the Mysteries of Dionysios and those of
Orpheus in Ancient Greece, Mystery Religions see basic human needs as
sinful and depraved, and that the only way to remain in a state of
grace after the initial "initiation" process is through self-denial
and often even self-mortification. Mystery Religions usually view life
on Earth as a "vale of tears" and believe that altruistic actions, not
self-enhancing actions, will eventually be rewarded in an eternally
joyous afterlife. If reincarnation is a tenet of such a Mystery
Religion, the reincarnation process is seen as misfortune, and that
"liberation" from this process is seen as desireable.
(continued next post)
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank