Vol 10 No. 2 (2008)
The Love Which Dare Not Speak its Name: An Examination of Pagan Symbolism and Morality in Fin de siecle Decadent Fiction [+] 130-141
This essay considers the Pagan symbolism which was so crucial to the decadents of the fin-de-siecle. It focuses on the novel 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' by Oscar Wilde, the novella 'Death in Venice' by Thomas Mann and some of the iconic sketches by Aubrey Beardsley and seeks to understand the Pagan and homoerotic motifs of the genre. It draws the conclusion that the decadents saw Paganism and homosexuality as inextricable and used elements of society.
Many varieties of contemporary Paganism share common methodologies and interests with the academic subfield of landscape archaeology, in particular with regard to their interpretation of megalithic architecture. While there are differences in the range of evidence considered, and the relative value placed on certain methodologies, there are more parallels than dissimilarities. In particular, reliance on intuition as a source of knowledge and a concern with reconstructing the sensory conditions of prehistoric built environments are shared. Space and place in many varieties of archaeology are viewed through a phenomenological perspective that is individual and not necessarily inter subjective. Despite the tensions between archaeologists and Pagans over access to and proper custodianship of megalithic architectural sites in Britain and elsewhere, opportunities exist for fruitful intellectual and social exchange between the two vocations.
Materiality has had the tendency to cause disruptions in Western discourses and for the most part has been relegated to being representational instead of sensual, embodied or tangible. Relationally situated around two forms of the Divine Feminine, this article forms part of a greater work in progress and discusses two ethnographic accounts that highlight the role materiality plays in contemporary Western Europe. An object based discourse is used to examine the economy, performances, aesthetics and possible subjectivity of religious objects and offerings, and provides a basis upon which to explore ideas and possibilities that occur when objects and their agents are taken seriously. Through examining the relational status of objects among us in the West, this article examines the possibility of allowing not only for ontologies, but for clearing up the relegating binary opposites that are symptomatic of modernist thought.
The phrase, “prevailing circumstances” (tois Parousin oikeian) is one that can be found in the work of Damascius, Proclus, Simplicius and Olympiodorus, all Neoplatonic philosophers of the Athenian School during Late Antiquity. The fact that Proclus and his successors employed veiled expressions regarding the Christian threat documents their ongoing struggle with Christian authority. The brief reign of Julian the Apostate (360-363) was a crucial juncture for pagan political survival. The Academy in Athens founded by Plutarch and organized by Proclus and his followers was an institution with little continuity with Plato’s original academy. Proclus and his followers incorporated the oriental gods, theurgic practices and promoted Platonic theology much as did Julian with a new resoluteness. There are direct links which connect the Athenian school and its prominent teachers to Julian’s followers This paper documents the ongoing pagan-Christian struggle in the Athenian School , their continued allegiance to Julian and raises the question whether they were more actively politically subversive than their writings let on..
The comparison drawn by the Neoplatonist Olympiodorus between the Stoic doctrine of the reciprocal implication of the virtues and the Neoplatonic doctrine of the presence of all the gods in each helps to elucidate the latter. In particular, the idea of primary and secondary “perspectives” in each virtue, when applied to Neoplatonic theology, can clarify certain theoretical statements made by Proclus in his Cratylus commentary concerning specific patterns of inherence of deities in one another. More broadly, the “polycentric” nature of Neoplatonic theology provides a theoretical articulation for henotheistic practices within polytheism without invoking evolutionist notions of “monotheistic tendencies.” The Neoplatonic distinction between the modes of unity exhibited by divine individuals (“henads”) and ontic units (“monads”), which is integral to the polycentric theology, also provides a theoretical basis for the non reductive crosscultural comparison between deities. The polycentric theology thus offers a promising foundation for a polytheistic philosophy of religion.
Re-crafting the Past: The Complex Relationship between Myth and Ritual in the Contemporary Pagan Reshaping of Eleusis [+] 230-255
Modern Pagans belonging to different traditions re-craft the Eleusinian mysteries and the myth of Demeter and Persephone on the Web. The author suggests that there may exist, in contemporary Paganism, a close, nuanced, and complex relationship between mythical narrative and rituals— in other words, between symbolic system (myth, gods, symbols), and embodied knowledge (gained through ritual and personal life experience). In the paper, such close relationship is uncovered by exploring how the myth of Demeter and the initiation at Eleusis are presented by the ancient sources, how recent academic and literary studies have reshaped them, and how the myth and the ritual are re-told and talked about on contemporary Pagan websites.
Expanding Religious Studies: The Obsolences of the Sacred/Secular Framework for Pagan, Earthen, and Indigenous Religion. Part 2: Rethinking the Concept of ‘Religion’ and ‘Maturi’ as a New Scheme [+] 256-277
The present article discusses indigenous views concerning religion as part of a contemporary trend that wishes to expand understanding of religious phenomena and be more inclusive of nature worship and Pagan orientations that are otherwise excluded when the sacred is strictly dichotomized from the secular, the profane or the ordinary. Although there are phenomena that are classified academically as ‘religion’, our initial question asks whether an appropriate framework is actually established by the concept. This question is vitally pertinent for the study of nature worship and contemporary Western forms of Paganism as bona fide religious expressions. On the legal front alone, new religious movements often face huge hurdles when it comes to gaining recognition, legitimacy, and their benefits. The academic study of spiritual orientations that counter the already established world religions is part of this expanding arena of potential debate and innovation. In the preceding paper (Part 1) we suggested a new schema of i (yi) and ke (ké) in mutual conversion as a substitution for the ‘sacred secular’ polarity that many authors regard as fundamental to the very concept of religion. In Part 1, however, we assumed the concept of religion as a known premise. The present paper represents an attempt to reconsider the concept and its application range through situations in which the word ‘religion’ is actually used—hopefully to develop a more flexible usage that is more inclusive of traditional, vernacular, and emerging religio-spiritual practices. The i-ke principle previously presented was not proposed as a framework for these phenomena but simply to show the methodological inadequacy involved with any a priori assumption concerning universal concepts. Inevitably, humanity’s cultural limitations and divisions make any refined and intelligent concept partial and prejudiced. Ethnocentrism can result when efforts to be objective and universal employ limited notions. Despite the irony involved, a better method might be located through the reverse exploitation: applying indigenous concepts that are already themselves understood as partial and prejudiced to wider areas and diverse traditions while remaining aware of their limitations and unfairness. Cultural bias does not necessarily or inevitably indicate inadequate public and academic considerations. Indeed, researchers might profitably recognize a dependence upon their own traditions as long as they do not insist upon the superiority and universality of their culture. The application of indigenous concepts need not be restricted to their host cultural regions. For example, interpreting ‘religious’ events in India with European cultural concepts, or those of Japan with African ones, are to be encouraged if exclusiveness or dogmatism are avoided and restricting conditions of indigenous nature are not forgotten. Such a methodology affords the possibility of effectively comparing multiple types of culture. When researchers survey the world from their own cultural perspectives while permitting and encouraging others operating in different traditions to do the same, plural interpretations and explanations of the same phenomenon are likely to emerge. Along with Paul Feyerabend there is no reason to grant unique authority to any inviolate presiding criteria.1 Encompassing a range of different theoretical positions for purposes of comparison is the foundation for a true respect of the diversity of cultural traditions. The proposal of the ‘i-ke mutuality’ is intended to provide an example of indigenous and pluralistic methodology. In the present paper, we attempt a similar analysis concerning the usage of religion as a word or concept.
Ronald Hutton, The Druids (London: Hambledon Continuum, 2007). xvi + 240 pp., $29.95 (cloth) 278-279