Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Culture of Shame


As I was pondering Hermes a bit today, and thinking about our religion in general, is struck me, and not for the first time, that one thing our religion has that the monotheistic religions do not, is a lack of enforced shame.

What do I mean by that?

I mean that while our religion does give us some strictures, so moral and ethical guidelines by which to live through myth, philosophy, and the often fragmentary maxims and fables that enforce an idea of place and propriety to mankind, these do not seek to ever make us feel shame for being ourselves. Your race, gender, sexual identity, sexual orientation, even your personal religious beliefs are almost irrelevant to the religion/philosophy as a whole, and I say religion/philosophy, because I am beginning to think of Hellenismos as more of a philosophy than a religion, and Hermes, in many ways, is central to this subtle but monumental shift in how I see both this path and myself.

I suppose one has to think of Hellenismos as a religion because the term has come to mean a system of beliefs that orbiting a central set of theological ideals or centered on the writings or philosophy of a particular “holy man”. Because Hellenismos is focussed on the Gods, it must be a religion, yet the Greeks themselves never had a word, until Christianity forced it on them, for what we call religion. To the Greeks, life, religion, philosophy, and ritual, which is part of both religion and culture, were all just part of being Greek. They didn’t distinguish between religion and daily life, because the two were inseparable.

The cultural rituals of life, the rites of passage, the rituals for birth and death, they were all mixed together both with the Gods and how they were seen by the people, and with the culture in general. And Hermes, that God that links all things together, that travels the paths between all things, is there at the heart of this, something which our current culture struggles with as it attempts to separate religion and state craft.

I am not suggesting that state and religion should, in our times, be once again united, I think we are all seeing how disastrous that can be as the religious right tries to merge their fundamentalist, often times radical and even tyrannical, ideals into politics and government, but certainly we need to acknowledge as a people that religion was never meant to be separated from our daily lives, only from how government behaves, what laws are passed, and whether or not our government should have a right to enforce a particular set of religious beliefs on the population.

To this end, I think acknowledging too that religion and philosophy are not really separate things is very important.

A philosophy is a set of beliefs, but one that is not really dictated to the adherent that he may never question, but taught that he may explore and conclude from as he is capable and willing to do. All religions, from the most polytheistic and free form to the most dogmatic and monotheistically stringent, are also philosophies, but the difference, I think, lies in whether a man can come to his own conclusions about it without fear of reprisal from other adherents, and in this respect, “Pagan” religious philosophies, including Hindu and Buddhist systems of philosophical exploration, have the Judaeo-Islamist-Christian world beat, because none of these try to dictate a single path that can only be followed one way. Some of these, like Buddhism and Daoism, have even become almost exclusively philosophical, allowing their adherents to apply what they learn from their explorations to whatever theological system they may have been acculturated into.

Hermes can cross those paths. Hermes can teach us that it is OK to learn from other people, other philosophies, other systems without losing ourselves in the process, and he can teach us that it is OK to explore, to be a man, a woman, a fag, a dyke, a queen, a lumberjack, a liberal commie, or a conservative capitalist pig, and still explore beyond that into the world around you so that you might be at ease with yourself and therefore at peace with the world around you. You don’t have to become a zealot to be loved by the Gods, and perhaps, in zealotry you may lose yourself so much that the Gods no longer find you interesting.

The culture of shame that is so promulgated by the strict religious systems, like Christianity and Islam, is a detriment. It is not ok to be so ashamed of something as natural as sex, sexual attraction, etc. Nor is it ok to shame your children into living lies their whole lives in order to fit into the slave mentality of a people bowing down before their god like dogs before a master.

Hermes, as a force of nature, is free, constantly in motion, and does not allow boundaries to stand in his way while at the same time setting those boundaries so that we may challenge ourselves and learn what we are and are not capable of. How much happier might we be if we allowed ourselves to love anyone, without fear that loving the wrong person would shame us in front of others. How much happier might we be if we set aside all the detritus of the culture of shame brought to us by the God of the desert, and instead embraced the freedom to be fully alive and mortal.

Let Hermes guide you in this, and you may be surprised.

1 comment:

Xoán-Wahn said...

Just thought I would say that I am really enjoying your recent posts. Your experiences with Hermes are interesting and quite profound. People tend to ignore Hermes until they travel or have an issue dealing with communication, but He is portrayed by the myths as one of the friendliest Gods, and possibly the one closest to humans. He is also, as you know, a great mediator, and has so much to teach. I'm glad He is having such a positive effect on your life.