Hedonist priorities

I’m sure there are going to be people who think this is evidence of some majorly borked-up priorities, but I’d rather go with less or without in some area or another, for myself, than to make my cat, my friends / A2/Ypsi Gothic Gatherings, my work DJing at WCBN, or my gods, go with less or without, from me.

By bettering the beings and situations around me in any way I have even a modicum of control over, I’m actively working to increase beauty, joy, and pleasure in my own life. Hedonism, by its nature, is pluralist in that the only one in a person’s life who can define and measure where pleasure derives and which smooth motions (pleasures) can outweigh any rough motions (pains), is entirely up to that person. Granted, the extant fragments on the Cyrenaic school placed “earthly” pleasures of the senses over the more ascetic pleasures of the Epicuran school (let’s put aside the ancient notion that Epicurus practically plagiarised portions of his teachings from the Cyrenaic Theorodus “the Atheist”), if only because experience is placed as the source of all knowledge; while ascetic pleasures certainly can be a knowledge of experience, it is one of those great ineffables that is practically impossible to teach, and by some arguments may be best found after a period of earthly indulgences.

There have been times where I’ve had less than I currently do (if you can imagine that), and there was a time when I basically had a millionaire’s trust-fund at my disposal. Sure, I’d be lying if I said I prefer poverty (after all, I’m not some hipster who thinks it’s a trait that makes people more interesting), but if i think about what I enjoy, what I really find most pleasurable in both experiences, it’s never been the times where I’ve had more for myself if those I hold dear can’t enjoy in it, as well. It’s always been the times when I can do what I can with what I have to share the gifts of Hedone with others; maybe it means I can buy a round for literally everyone at the bar, or maybe it means I have to pack a sandwich or tightly ration my dry goods another week so that I can pick up a new card game to play with my friends or make sure the Khairetes can have that statue I’ve had my eye on.

And if the Gods help those who help themselves, then by seeking the pleasures that matter most to me, surely They will find a way to make sure that I have what I need when I need it most.

Hedonism is only about selfishness and greed if that’s what a person is bringing to it. Such people tend to see little growth, regardless of what schools of thought they find easiest to latch onto. But when one brings to it a desire to fulfill the pursuit of sensual pleasures through shared experiences, then it’s hard to describe that as inherently selfish.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Time and time again, life proves to me that Aristippus was right

What you’ve seen, and what you THINK you’ve seen can be two very different things. Why don’t people understand this? Because humans are incorrigible in their empirical knowledge and typically don’t grasp the fact that they cannot fully comprehend all factors that contributed to an experience; people tend to be unwilling to the point of incapability to be corrected about what they think they’ve seen —truth matters less to people that what they’ve decided is “what really happened”, and evidence of the truth is too-often rejected when offered so that people can cling to their ideas rather than be forced to accept that what they only thought happened did not.

All truth is parallel. All truth is untrue.

“Truth” therefore become subjective to experience and is closer to what Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness” than the real, objective facts of an occurrence.

All truth is parallel. All truth is untrue.

Even those who strive for objectivity tend to fall victim to personal biases and, when push comes to shove, will prefer to accept what “feels true” than truly objective facts that tend to flesh out with more information. Thus the “large-A” Atheist will insist that their absence of evidence for a god is more-important than millennia of empirical evidence consisting of personal experiences of deity, thus monists like Gus di Zerega will clearly exclude all evidence of the world’s pluralistic religions because such evidence does not support one’s previously-conceived notions and therefore must be irrelevant when making claims of the world’s religions. Even then, as we only have access to our own experiences, truth will always remain elusive; even if we can agree that the current background of the text-blocks of this blog, at the time I’m writing this piece, is black, we cannot be certain that the “black” experienced by ourselves is the same “black” that others experience, even if we can all agree that it is “black”.

All truth is parallel. All truth is untrue.

Hedonism recognises this, and thus recognises that discussions of the truth will inevitably lead to rough motion, id est, pain. Truth is not objective to human perceptions simply because even with “just the facts”, we cannot be at all certain that we are perceiving them in the same way as others. As a quick example, both Sannion and myself are staunch pluralists, but aside an apparent agreement of what that means, we can only be said to appear to agree, as neither he nor I can be certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that he and I definitively agree on what that means. Furtunately, he and I both (at least seem to) be operating from the standpoint that what is important is that our apparent agreement is more pleasurable than our clear disagreement with monists and Atheists.

All truth is parallel. All truth is untrue.

The only thing absolute about the truth is that it remains constantly elusive to seekers.

All truth is parallel. All truth is untrue.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Aristippus’ Paradox

Aristippus proposed in the Cyrenaic school of Hedonism that we have through our physical and mental senses limitless potential for knowledge, and as Hedonists, we must seek knowledge through empirical means (use our senses) but remain sceptical of the knowledge we have gained, because while the potential is limitless, our understanding of all elements that contributed to that experience are limited.

Because our empiric faculties make our sense of having gained knowledge incorrigible, we may feel unmistaken of what we experienced, but at the same time, we can never truly understand all elements of that experience. We may sense by tasting it a bitter taste and discover through our other senses that we had tasted coffee, but can we know that it is the coffee itself that is bitter? We may discover that there are elements in coffee that create a bitter taste to our neural receptors in our brains, but that still begs the question: Was it the coffee itself that was bitter, or only our experiences of tasting it that made it seem that way? Our only faculties to knowledge can only tell us so much about what we just experienced.

This is something I’ve been meaning to explain about the paradoxical nature of the Cyrenaic understanding of Knowledge for some time, but recent events on the pagan blogosphere really gave me the incentive to elaborate on it. What happens when our senses conflict?

Our senses conflict quite often, possibly moreso than we may initially believe. If you’re taking Vicodin for pain management, when you shit, it feels like you’re passing shards of glass (take it from someone who knows), but the feeling of finally passing it is a welcome relief. You’re getting two sensory messages: Pain and Relief from passing a Vicodin turd. We also know that passing it is more pleasurable than holding it in for fear of that shards-of-glass-in-an-uncomfortable-spot-that’s-not-the-back-of-a-Volkswagon sensation, so we pass it because the positive outweighs the negative in a measurable way.

But what about more complex experiences? Here’s a hypothetical situation, inspired by recent conversations, that might illuminate things:

Frankie is a Pop Wiccan and works for his local Pagan Pride Day. Heather is a polytheist with a local Roman group. Frankie invites Heather to present a Roman ritual at the Pagan Pride Day. Heather sends Frankie the proposed ritual script, so that he could make sure he had the proper permits for wine in the park pavilion and make a proper allotment for time. Frankie sends Heather a notice that she should change the script of the ritual so that it could more-closely resemble a Wiccan ritual “so as not to confuse people attending”. Heather takes it to her blog, and explains how she experienced discrimination from Frankie. Frankie insists that there was no discrimination. Charlie, a reader of Heather’s blog and who barely knows either of them, feels conflicted, as he’s reading all of this information: Was Heather discriminated against, or not?

Though we must remain sceptical this does not mean we must be dismissive. We must question, and in the event that logic may be effectively utilised, we must make use of our sense of it, should we feel the need to arrive to a conclusion that cannot be adequately assessed through other senses.

Logically, one cannot prove a negative existence –in a negative state, there is a lack of evidence. To say “the gods do not exist” is a statement of negative existence and should not be taken as empirical fact, but natural logic follows that it is simply another’s statement of their own lack of experience of the existence of the gods.

When Frankie says that there was no discrimination against Heather, he is asserting a negative existence in favour of Heather’s experience of a positive existence of experiencing discrimination. Frankie therefore admits that he lacks empirical evidence of non-discrimination, so logically Heather is most likely to be able to give an account of this discrimination.

Now, true, the presence or absence of discrimination also depends on the agreed-upon definition of “discrimination”, and most dictionaries define it as “unfair treatment”. Was it fair of Frankie to ask Heather to change her group’s ritual to look more like a Wiccan one? Was it even-handed or unbiased to request that the Roman ritual change to look more Wiccan if the Wiccan ritual did not have to change to appear more Roman? Is it the responsibility of Frankie, as a Pagan Pride organiser, to allow each group he includes in the festivities to accurately represent their religions, or is it his responsibility to make sure the Wiccans in attendance can easily recognise every ritual as one similar to their own?

Cyrenaic sceptics ask these questions and arrive at answers that best fit one’s sense of logic, in the absence of any other more-empirical senses.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

[PBP2013] Hedonism

The Lion of Cyrene in Libya

The Lion of Cyrene in Libya

The Hedonist loves fine things, from food to clothes, to entertainment to perfumes. Because of one’s love for these things, one has little regard for cost, in either direction. The lover of money, rather than pleasures, will brag of how much or how little something cost them, boasting either their assumed wealth or assumed savvy. Fine food and entertainment speaks for itself.

Hedonism is clearly at odds with Capitalism. Capitalism is an institutionalised love of money, placing a person’s inherent value by how much money one has. The Hedonist, educated in life’s pleasures, measures one’s worth by one’s diversity of pleasures.

The Hedonist is able to find pleasure in a diversity of surroundings, from the grandest of palaces to the lowliest of hovels. An appreciation of fine things within one’s means includes any means by which one is living, which is always subject to change. Always.

Hedonist reality is subject to knowledge. Knowledge is limited to personal experience. Personal experience is never wrong, but what we know of the external influences on those experiences can be. Experiences are also practically impossible to fully share with others (at last with current technology) because one is limited in one’s ability to share it with language —and even that which appears “white” to oneself may appear “cream” or “platinum” to one’s neighbour. Even an experience shared by two people is not going to be completely the same; not even two women scissoring are going to have the same orgasm, even if they each experience their orgasms together.

In spite of this empiricism and scepticism, Hedonists are not atheist, unless they’re Theodorans, and even that was debated amongst the ancients outside that sect of the Cyrenaic school. If one experiences the theoi, then one does –true, one cannot be certain of what brought that experience (after all, medical and psychological studies, at best, can only really show so much, and even then, they only really can explain what happens to the body when these experiences happen, not necessarily what makes these experiences happen, or why they happen), but it is what it is, and one should take pleasures in celebrating that experience. If one has not experienced the gods, then one has not; but if pleasures are to be derived from worship of Them, regardless of experiences, then indulge, for pleasure is its own justification. Indeed, the argument that present pleasure can be derived from Their worship, even for one who has yet to experience Them, can be a great one.

Cyrenaic Hedomism recognises Pleasure (the Hedones) as the ultimate good, and Pain (the Aglae) as the ultimate evil; pain is not the denial of pleasure, denial is merely an inert state. Aristippus likened pains to a violent storm over the sea, and pleasures to a gentle breeze, whereas lacking both, there is a calm. There is no “black-grey-white”, there are pleasing actions, painful actions, and absence. If pain were one colour on the wheel, and pleasure the colour opposite that, absence of either would be absence of any colour. All pleasures are equal, all pain is equal; your classical morality is “endorsed” by the Cyrenaic only as far as its ability to endorse pleasure and discourage pain, if it endorses more denial than pleasure, it is of no use.

While bodily pleasures are certainly equal to mental and spiritual pleasures in Cyrenaic thought, in spite of the insistent that Cyrenaics value bodily pleasures more highly, there is not a shred of evidence in the collective of surviving Cyrenaic teachings; indeed, the elder Aristippus himself seems to have sought mental delights just as easily, if not more-so, and it’s fair to conclude that “bodily pleasures” only have value from the mental pleasures that they can give. Without the ability to take in delights as a thinking person, the odours of fine perfumes, the feel of velvets and satins, the sound of a Brian Eno suite, the appearance of a stunning Erté litho, and the tastes of fine chocolates are rendered inert.

Denial is Epicuran delight. Despite this, some ancient believed that Epicusus practically plagiarised portions of Theodoros, student of the younger Aristippus, son of Arete, daughter of Aristippus of Cyrene. Through this allegation, there is a link between Marxism and Cyrenaic Hedonism (Karl Marx being influenced directly by Epicurus) and between Existentialism and Hedonism (Jean-Paul Sartre and Somine de Beauvoir being directly influenced by Marxist philosophy).

The dichotomy of Pleasure and Pain in Hedonism, mythologically, strike a similar chord with Empedoclean pluralism. To Empedocles, the universe was driven by the forces of Love (phila) and Strife (neikos), or rather, attraction and repulsion —respectively domains of Eros and Eris, and as per Apeulius, the former being the father of the Hedones, Pleasures, and the latter per Hesiod as the mother of Algea, the Pains.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Black and What, Now?

This is in "shades of grey"; I can guarantee you, that's not what that tulip field actually looks like.

This is in “shades of grey”; I can guarantee you, that’s not what that tulip field actually looks like.

A lot of people mistake “shades of grey” thinking for pluralism, but it is not. “Shades of grey” just reinforces the false dichotomy of black-and-white thinking, except it’s no longer binary thinking, it’s greyscale thinking —very little is “blackest black” or “whitest white” or even “greyest grey”, most is simply on a sliding-scale of “less black” and “less white”. Certainly, there are some things that are, indeed, “less black” and “less white” just as certain as there are things that are Blackest, Whitest, and Greyest, but I ask: In the sliding-scale along the binary, where is the room for things that are purple? Or yellow? Or, dare I suggest, beige? Puce? In “shades of grey” morality, there is Right, More Right, Less Right, Equally Right & Wrong, Less Wrong, More Wrong, and Wrong; it can’t just Be, it never just Is, and pointing to some arbitrarily centrist point in the greyscale and stating “that’s where it is, Dead Neutral” is just a cop-out to force it into that simplistic, binary morality.

See, that’s where binary thinking, even with the more palatable sliding scale that so many extol as some paragon of fairness and inclusiveness, gets us. It’s colour-blindness in the worst possible way, as it implicitly does either one of two things: it denies or simply ignores what clearly exists outside the black-and-white chessboard, or it homogenises it down to the greyscale of a 1950s television set, exterminating its uniqueness to make it fit the mould of black-and-white through a false pluralism. Both paths taken are for essentially the same reasons.

Denial of what exists outside of black and white thinking is simply because to acknowledge it is to acknowledge that the binary system is flawed, and to ignore it is to pretend that it lacks relevance, even when it is relevant. To acknowledge that it can’t even be accurately represented in greyscale thought, the equally fallacious “sliding scale” model of black-and white thinking, is, too, to admit that the method is flawed. The only appropriate modus operandi for black-and-white thinking when confronted with, say, Green is to either ignore it (or at least pretend it has no relevance, even when it does), *or* to pretend it can fit into the essentially black-and-white model by distorting it and forcing it to appear as a Grey.

The fallacy of Black-Grey-White has been demonstrated in basic human nature many times, from biology to hardwired personality traits.

Example: Some people are born with an essentially “male” physiology, and some with an essentially “female” physiology, and then others are born (sometimes even unbeknownst to them, until later in life) with a “grey” or “intersex” physiology. Then there are people with Turner syndrome, who generally appear “female” in physiology, but lack the ability to develop secondary sex characteristics, and lack the “mix” of physiologically “male” traits that the term “Intersex” tends to imply. People with Turner’s syndrone are therefore off the Black-Grey-White model of physiological sex, in spite of the medical communities generally describing Turner’s syndrome as a kind of IS condition.

Example: When Dr. Albert Kinsey studied human sexuality, in his surveys and interviews, he discovered that some people not only lacked sexual experience, but they lacked any interest in sex altogether. Realising that his scale, which placed “exclusively heterosexual” people at 0 and “exclusively homosexual” people at 6 and “50/50 bisexual” people at 3, now had a flaw, he created the designation of “X” to represent the statistically significant (yet still less than 1% of all interviewed persons) population of asexual people he learned about in his studies and retained his scale as a fair representation of everybody else. Human asexual orientation is off the sliding scale of typical human sexual orientations and cannot be easily forced into a Black-Grey-White sliding scale model.

Even the colour spectrum acknowledges colours that cannot be seen with the naked human eye. Beyond the reds of the light refracted in a prism, we have the infra-reds; beyond the violet end of the spectrum are the ultra-violets. In using coloured light as a metaphor for pluralistic thinking, it therefore must be acknowledged that sometimes one just can’t tell, and maybe there is an underlying reason that we just can’t access information from —maybe due to current technological limitations, maybe due to the simple nature of the reason. Even in the fields of science, it’s acknowledged that there are unanswered questions; the most arrogant assume all questions will one day be answered with “MOAR SCIENCE”, but this, too, betrays the essentially black-and-white thinking necessary for such arrogance to exist: It is either known or unknown, and eventually the unknown will be known, no more shadows, all will be bathed in a blinding white light except that which is buried —stuff such arrogance deems “useless” and “best forgotten or regarded as a relic of a more naive time”, things like astrology and religion. forty_two_10lb_detail While the pluralistic mind acknowledges the usefullness of a scale of the known and the unknown, it also acknowledges that humans are flawed, mortal beings made of meat, and it would be highly improbable for a human being to truly know everything there is to know about life, the universe, and everything. Is there the tiniest possibility? Sure, the pluralist mind is open to all sorts of possibilities —and the answer might even, in fact, be 42 and we’re just searching for an unknowable question— but the pluralist mind is also far more grounded in reality than the binary mind —and while it’s certainly possible that a wormhole to an alternate reality will open up where I sit and I’ll fall through time and space and be replaced with a delicious bowl of fruit salad, experiences and book-learning have taught me this is simply improbable, though it’s technically within the realm of possibility.

Because of the arrogance to assume that all things may eventually become “known” —bathed in blinding light or buried away in a tomb of allegedly “unnecessary” knowledge— real pluralism is clearly at odds with atheism, and it goes without saying that true monotheism and pluralism cannot get along, either. Even if a pluralist has only ever known one deity, a pluralist naturally accepts that the possibility and possible relevance of other deities exists, even if one chooses not to worship Them. The binary or sliding scale model, on the other hand, is perfectly suited for monotheism and atheism: There is only this, or that, our way or theirs, correct thinking or false. Maybe some colours are forced to a greyscale in order to appear “less wrong” or “less right”, but the mere possibility that something might be equally correct, or at least with equal potential to be correct, is dismissed without any in-depth examination. Richard Dawkins has more in common with Pat Robertson than he has with Democritus or even Carl Sagan. Indeed, the modern brand of atheist could only have been born of Christianity: Only in a society with a dominant religion proclaiming only “One True God”, and all others to be “false gods” can it then seem logical that the only “real” alternative is a lack of gods, especially if Their worship has been somewhat successfully repressed for centuries. The assumption is that atheism is “logical” and any-theism is “illogical” because belief in and worship of a deity is inherently illogical, and thus the worship of many deities is even more illogical than a singular deity, when converted to a sliding scale —when pluralistic polytheism denies the power of the slide, illuminating that logic and deity need not be mutually exclusive, more often than not, the modern atheist would rather make every attempt to force pluralist polytheism into greyscale, no matter how ill-fitting, than admit the flaws in his thinking. The result really isn’t all that different from a Pentecostal clasping his hands over his ears and shouting how all this talk of evolutionary biology and multiple deities is simply “Satan in disguise” —the latter is binary black-and-white, but the former is greyscale, which is merely a more palatable, but no less false form of binary thinking.

What the black-and-white thinkers, in both forms, enjoy distorting about coloured thinking is the notion that somehow all is fair game, there is no right or wrong. This is reductio ad absurdum at its finest: Black, White, and Grey are certainly colours, or presentation of light, or however one likes to think of it, so clearly there is room for it. The pluralist simply realises that the handful of instances where there are, or it is simply best to put things in terms of black-and-white does not obligate everything to be seen through a closed-circuit black-and-white telly. The presence of a full spectrum of colour does not eliminate black, white, and greys —indeed, it can often illuminate them and their importance: When the atmosphere has rendered the sky greyish, it’s practically impossible to discern the presence of clouds, but when the sky is clear and at its bluest, the whiteness of clouds is at its whitest; but at night, when one’s side of Gaia’s face is turned away from Helios, the sky appears black and clouds can be practically impossible to discern, even when it’s clear that they’re there, but on a clear night, with the light reflected from a full moon just right onto a waterfall, a moonbow is the most beautiful thing in the world, and impossible to see without the existence of white and blackness. When coloured ideas are removed to make everything fit into a neat little Black-(Grey)-White scale, plenty suddenly appears “missing”.

Latest Embroidered Puce Pink Bridal Saree“Shades of Grey” thinking cannot ever be truly pluralistic, as it merely serves to reinforce “black and white” thinking. It’s the same lie, only dressed up “real purdy” —but putting high heels on a poodle doesn’t make it a hooker. Eventually, some-one subscribing to the Grey Lie is going to encounter Green, or Purple, or Beige, or Gold, or the iridescence colouring the scales of the sacred ikhthyes of a garden pool, or some other-coloured truth —and when one does, there is a choice: To force the colours into the Greyscale, rendering them virtually unrecognisable, or finally acknowledge their truths. This really is one of those few instances where there are no other choices —any illusion of said ultimately becomes one or the other.

Sometimes it’s black, sometimes it’s white, but sometimes it’s not even grey —it’s puce.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

[PBP2013] A: Aristotle on Aristippus of Cyrene

“Or again as Aristippus said in reply to Plato when he spoke somewhat too dogmatically, as Aristippus thought: ‘Well, anyhow, our friend’, meaning Socrates, ‘never spoke like that’.”

—Aristotle, Rhetoric

When speaking of things as they happened, there is always a minimum of three versions: Your side, Their side, and What Really Happened. The reason so many so-called “Socratic” schools existed is because he never wrote anything down; we only have the words of his disciples, who often differed on at least some matters, to tell us what he taught. The fact that Plato, who in later works was clearly inserting his own philosophies into the mouth of a Socrates that was no longer based on his departed teacher, but a Socrates of his own invention, missed several points in clear on a number of counts: Where Plato largely ignores Socrates’ ascetic life, the Cynics —especially Diogenes of Sinope— used it to set themselves apart from the other Socratic schools. Where Plato ignores the respect for the common citizen that Socrates clearly maintained, Epicurus —a later Hedonist, though largely a student of the pre-Socratic Democritus, not Socrates’ own student, Aristippus—made use of it, and even became a primary influence on Marxism. Where Plato and Xenophon gave no clear practical application for the respect that Socrates clearly had for women —indeed, all of Socrates’ teachers were women— the Cynics and Hedonists, in practise, gave women equal ground, even if that legacy is largely ignored in academia.

There can only be so many divergent thoughts on what a man taught before one really should sit down and realise that everybody, including the man’s students are missing something; and honestly, the more I learn of Socrates, whose life is primarily written about by Plato, the more I realise how much Plato missed, and how much only the Hedonists and Cynics really understood of that wisdom.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

In Defence of Sex as Sacred


All the paganism, Tantra, meditation, sacred sex, and BDSM sex magic(k) books and workshops represent a step backward. They are very convenient ways of rationalizing sexual pleasure by letting people claim that it’s about “something more” than just making your body feel good. All the sweat and cum and juices and the delicious, confusing carnality of sex get shoved back into the closet in favor of much tidier abstractions so that we can believe that we’re not just shallow hedonists. And that takes us back to square one, where we were told by our teachers, priests, and parents that sex was good — or at least acceptable — when done for any reason other than physical pleasure.

Now, I haven’t gone back to the source on this, because this alone was enough to incense me with rage at the immensely gross misunderstanding of every spiritual revelation I’ve had thus far.

ALL SEX is inherently spiritual. It doesn’t matter if your intention is procreation, magic, religious ecstasy, or pure and unadulterated pleasure. If you don’t think sex is sacred, great, good for you, but demonising those who have a spiritual relationship with sex, whatever our reasons, by accusing us of taking “a step backwards” isn’t going to help anybody.

Pleasure, even just the “base” bodily pleasures of the body, are, or at least can be, spiritually significant. The first sensation to run its current through the universe, Desire, governed by Eros, and the offspring of that, Pleasure. These sensations are inherently sacred and spiritual, even if people don’t wish to acknowledge that. When we act “for pleasure”, our sensory area of the brain opens up a window for contact with those primordial forces and the deities who guide them; from then, we either reach ourselves out to it, or not, but it’s that opening by our genetic memories to the sacred energies and most ancient of Deathless Ones that ultimately brings that pleasure –it’s when we acknowledge that sacred that we have a spiritual relationship with not only sex, but all of life’s pleasures.

Do some people, of all sorts of religions, use that information (or some variant of it) as a crutch, limiting themselves with it? Of course. Do some people use it as a set of shoe lifts for the ego, in a flailing attempt to try and make oneself seem more important than one is? Of course. But it’s those people, for those reasons, that are taking the step backwards. By conflating the spiritual with the ego, and the evolution of the soul with self-delusion, that’s the step backwards. By denying that sex is both spiritual AND biological pleasure, and that even the pleasures that most people see as inherently “earthly” are crucially beneficial to the soul, THAT is the step backwards.

Furthermore, it really bothers me when people, even self-identified pagans, especially traditional polytheists (and this goes double for the Hellenists) use “hedonism” as a synonym for self-absorbed. This is why Aristippus’ ‘Kyreniac’ school splintered and Epicurus founded his own, people don’t get it, that it is those ‘little pleasures’ that become the gateway to Hedone, and ultimately Her Holiest parents, Eros and Psykhe, the eldest progeny of Nyx and the youngest of the Moirai. Through those pleasures, we learn our fates, and what by learning what we desire most, we learn our place in the great tapestry of the Cosmos. There is no such thing as ‘mundane’ or ‘shallow’ pleasure, unless that pleasure is taken without knowlegde that all of it is sacred, and knowledge can only be gained with experience. If one lacks that experience, then it’s cos one never took the opportunity to throw open the sash when the window presented itself; if one lacks that experience, it’s cos one mistook noticing the window and peering through it for actually touching the Divine.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Demetre and the Palace of Kadmos

When I C&P’d that section at the beginning of the first of my posts about Demetre, I was immediately reminded of my first post about Ares.

Kadmos and the Ismenian Dragon.

In that first segment, it seems that legend has it that Kadmos’ legendary palace became Thebes’ first temple to Demetre, which suggests that —assuming Thebans did, in fact, habitually syncretise Demetre with Erinys Telphousia— that while Kadmos’ task earned Ares’ wrath, it was still within the will of Demetre. This also solidifies my thoughts on Demetre as a Great Mother of Civilisation and sustainable urban planning. It also speaks to the kind of mother She truly is: While She certainly has Her loving and nurturing aspects (as should be obvious), She’s also pragmatic and realises that sometimes sacrifices must be made for the greater good, and sometimes what She has begotten is standing in the way of progress and must be eliminated.

While Her rural associations are impossible to escape, so too are Her urban aspects, as I noted before. Likewise, just as much as She values tradition, She also wills progress.

I’m now reminded of a bit from Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, suggesting that while every other deity in the Hellenic pantheon was borderline useless to Man, it was Dionysos and Demetre, agricultural deities, who stood alone in being beneficial. As problematic as Hamilton’s dismissal of other deities is, I can certainly see some similarities between the two, especially in Their domains of “opposing” values somehow united in harmony through Their guidance.

This comes back around to Kadmos, who (modern scholars argue) was initially a unique Boeotian cult hero, and later was syncritised with a Phoenician adventurer. From that story, the still-later symbolic mythology arose of Kadmos inventing the alphabet and introducing people to agriculture (further linking Kadmos and Demetre), and also becoming wedded to Harmonia, which is argued to symbolise the union of an “Eastern” love of learning with a “Western” love of beauty. How Kadmos’ mythology truly developed is lost to time, but the symbols clearly reiterate a union of apparent opposites, and also closely associate the hero with Demetre. Considering this, it therefore makes perfect sense that his palas was soon converted to a grand temple to Demetre.

Now, the archaeology only debatably confirms some of the folk beliefs about Kadmos, including the origin of the alphabet coinciding with the founding of Thebes. The Phoenecian alphabet wasn’t introduced to Hellas until after the estimated date for the Trojan War. While the modern Hellenic alphabet is clearly descended of Phoenecian script, a far older text, called “Linear B” amongst those who study these things, is on tablets that have been found in a disproportionate abundance in and around Thebes, and so this may coincide with Herodotus’ relaying of Kadmos’ founding of Thebes, and bringing his knowledge with him, as significantly pre-dating the Trojan War. Unfortunately, few symbols of Linear B, at best, resemble any form of the Hellenic alphabet known today, but clearly the Linear B writing system was widespread throughout Thebes.

Considering that this became widespread in Thebes from a most-direct origin of the palace of Kadmos, again, this seems to symbolically reiterate the associations of Demetre with Civilisation and urban development —no civilisation in Earth’s history, living or extinct, has ever developed cities without a system of writing. By this, we can infer that writing is also sacred to Demetre; oral tradition is too easily manipulated and can be problematic in its attempts to learn history. After all, the Cyrenaic school was on to something in pointing out that the only true source of potential knowledge we can have is experience, but they were also sceptical of this knowledge in that we cannot truly know the experiences of everything that led up to what we experience; thus oral history seems especially superficial. To gain a better understanding, if not true knowledge, of history, we can learn from the paper trails (and, in this modern era, other recordings) of what happened; this experience is, too, superficial, but has greater potential for understanding than oral traditions alone. Again, we see Demetre as a Goddess of balancing Tradition and Progress in a harmonious and sustainable whole.

I conclude that Kadmos was, thus, most likely a unique Theban hero later syncretised, and that this Theban hero, in all the feats attributed to him, was doing Demetre’s Work on Gaia’s face. Though the alphabet he introduced did not stand the tests of time, we cannot blame because a slightly younger script managed to flourish and Theban pride attributed it to him, anyway; the exacts become less important when the intention still manages to flourish.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.