So, Apollon isn’t a patron of mine (that I know about). We fairly well drive each other nuts. I’m a decadent individual, with a love of food and drink. He’s a god of moderation. I like to eat veal and cupcakes. He stands around telling me that eating veal and cupcakes will make me fat — and then they do. My temperament is like a brushfire; hot and infectious. His, more like a stick of dynamite: absolutely cool one minute, and explosive the next. The combination of dynamite and brushfire is predictable. When I met him, to be honest, I didn’t like him. He didn’t like me either.
Then, displaced anger turned into debate: attacking a philosophical topic, in some intellectual version of hate-fucking. Truth be told, though, it’s hard to continue disliking a god who can say, “Yes, logic dictates that you are correct,” even if he started out arguing the exact opposite. That takes moral courage. He’s hard not to respect. Likewise, though I still sometimes piss him off, I think he appreciates my desire for clarity.
Every Monday, I walk three miles, and meditate, and we talk. This past Monday’s conversation was particularly good, so I invited him for a channeling session on the general topic of Truth and Religion.
Truth and Religious People
Thenea: What bothers me about religion is the assertion that it is, in some way, true. What bothers me about religious people is that, confronted with this, they throw their hands up in the air, and say, “There is no Truth.” I once legitimately heard a priestess of Apollon say this. Many other clergy-folk have said likewise, associating a belief in the existence of metaphysical or mystical truth with closed-mindedness.
Do you believe in an objective truth, Apollon?
Apollon: “Don’t be absurd! Of course I do. I spend a great deal of my time uncovering mysteries of the cosmos and the human soul. It seems strange, but even I don’t know it all. Insecure beings might claim to be all knowing, but in truth, this is logically impossible. Consider it: if you posit free will or agency of any kind, then the universe is constantly changing in amazing and completely unpredictable ways. Thus, there is always more to learn. A great crime in philosophy is to suppose that ultimate wisdom is possessed by someone or something from which you can simply learn it. The greatest mysteries are those which have yet to be uncovered by unrelenting and passionate inquiry.”
Thenea: What if you posit a mechanistic universe?
Apollon: “Then there are no gods, and you are left with the greatest mystery of all: why every culture on Earth believes that there are. But in that case, certainly no one has perfect knowledge, least of all me, since I don’t exist.”
Thenea: Might gods simply be another part of the mechanism? Is it impossible for the metaphysical universe — or what we call metaphysical — to also be a part of some great and calculable machine?
Apollon: “I think we are getting away from the original topic. But yes, it is possible for there to be the illusion of the metaphysical. In that case, the metaphysical would simply be a part of the physical instrumentation of the universe in a way that appears non-physical. For example, the mind mysteriously being a receiver for quantum echoes or some such, interpreting an awareness of the past, or the future, as a deity informing them about something, or creating in them a desire for what will inevitably happen. In such a case, however, it would be questionable to call such things “gods” as the very word implies authority and power, but in a mechanistic universe, we’d have neither.”
Thenea: So, in a mechanistic universe, all gods are false gods. In a non-mechanistic universe, gods cannot know everything. In no scenario is any deity all-knowing.
Apollon: “Yes, but I flatter myself that I know rather a lot. What I know, and what I understand, I owe to a process of inquiry whose first assumption is the existence of objective spiritual reality, of real metaphysical Truth.”
Thenea: Does it drive you crazy, then, people saying that there is no truth?
Apollon: “Only as much, I suppose, as Aphrodite is bothered by the implication that there is no Love, or Hermes by the implication that cattle don’t exist. It is true that they are denying part of my existence in so doing, but denying that something exists doesn’t mean that you don’t have to live with the consequences of it.
“I can’t fault them, though, personally. The Truth can be terrifying to some, especially since Truth may demand that they change their entire conception of right and wrong, their mystical practice, or even their understanding of their emotional relationship as it exists with certain gods.
“Imagine a priestess who discovers that she has drastically misunderstood how her deity feels for her. She must re-organize her entire experience of that deity to accommodate this truth. She must back down from certain statements she has made to others in the community. Given such a choice, some would choose a false, but consistent story, rather than trying to back down from their previous identity as –for example– platonic friend to a deity, consort, god-spouse, enemy or what-have-you.
“Or yet worse, imagine a devoted priest or priestess who discovers, to their chagrin, that they have been pouring love and devotion into one deity, when they owe the good in their life to another god they’ve never paid mind to. Imagine that it was not the wrong deity, but altogether the wrong pantheon.
“It is easy to see why such possibilities might prove intimidating. More subtle are cases where someone has based their life’s work, or a part of their identity (political party, for example) based on a misunderstanding of the physical or metaphysical universe. How bitter that pill would be to swallow, if Truth came to light!
“I have every reason to remain distant from such people. Not only because I find their plight embarrassing to their dignity — as anyone would find it embarrassing, I think, to know an uncomfortable truth of which another was blithely innocent — but also because my presence would tear their delusion to shreds, leaving them naked and bare before the harsh light of reality. For such reasons, I am called “distant archer” and “Loxias,” as these describe my habits with respect to those who have such an uncomfortable truth that they hide from themselves. Incidentally, that describes almost everyone.
You understand at once why I have so few who would consider me friend, among mortal-kind.”
Thenea: Yeah, I’ve heard you described as unapproachable and a bit of a blow-hard. That’s ok. We blow-hards need to stick together.
Apollon: “Indeed we do, Thenea.”
Truth and Religion
Thenea: Well, okay. We’ve established that you do, in fact, believe in objective Truth, but answer me this: Do you think your religion is true?
Apollon: “All religions are, in a sense, true. I don’t mean to be saying that I literally think that human beings were created from mud for the purpose of honoring the gods. I also don’t mean to imply the existence of anthropomorphic deities before the existence of homo sapiens.
“Rather, I mean to say that this myth contains a kind of truth. Have the gods moulded humanity in some senses, to facilitate the religious partnerships which we enjoy today? Absolutely.
“If I were to produce for you the very first human being, even if he were indistinguishable from a modern man in every physical respect, even if he spoke your language, he would be very different from you. He would be unable to perceive me. I would not exist to him. No part of him would exist in my world. He would, I suppose, have a spiritual dimension — one that existed almost exclusively in the physical plane. He would not be a morally, emotionally or intellectually (that last is arguable) inferior being, but he would have no conception of deities as you do today.
“In the same way to how you create light bodies for us in the physical plane (I suppose you call them telesmatics, or stationary god forms), to assist us in manifesting in your world, we created vessels for human consciousness here. The process is exactly reciprocal. These, I suppose you could say, we moulded like clay, to create that body of yours with which gods interact. Many cultures have similar myths, and I think it is owing to the unconscious awareness of this ongoing process.”
Thenea: Sure, some myths are universal, and point to truths, of a sort. It seems to me, at least, that a great deal of every religion is a steaming pile of horsecrap.
Apollon: “Very eloquent. Could you perhaps bring an example?”
Thenea: Sure. The idea of Zeus as King of the World, for example. If he decides men’s fates, might you not expect that he would have prevented the rise of Christianity in Greece?
Apollon: “Excellent example. In this case, again, the myth isn’t to be taken literally. Rather, it is making a statement of value. What is it that decides men’s fates, in your estimation?”
Thenea: A combination of things. I’d say a person’s choices were very important. We can predict a great deal of what will happen to a person based on their life choices and habits. Those things that are out of our control include three things (that I can think of, anyway): The actions of others, weather, and diseases.
Apollon: “Brilliant, and exactly right! In the Greek view, very few personal choices are meaningful, but these are most important: humility, conformity to societal norms (Eusebia, Themis) and hospitality. All of these are categories of behaviors which influence how humans see one another. The arrogant are disliked, the hospitable are loved by their fellow, and the one who stands out as strange is likely to be targeted for hatred.
“King of all virtues is hospitality. The inhospitable and strange fellow is a “crazy hermit” while the hospitable one is merely a wacky and lovable eccentric. Further, I’m not even certain it is possible to be perceived as arrogant while all people, high and low, are welcome at your table and treated to equal respect.
“As for weather, what removes the sting from it? Cooperation, through which better buildings are constructed. Again, at the root of community and good cooperation is hospitality.
“As for disease, what is the cure? Cooperation, through which we build Academies, train doctors, and conduct research. And again, hospitality is the root..
“Hospitality is the king of virtues, and I could bring a thousand arguments to support the point. Who is god of hospitality? None other than Zeus.”
Thenea: What about cosmology? The whole purpose of a cosmology is to tell you where the universe comes from, and how it works.
Apollon: “There is no cosmology in Hellenismos with which I am personally satisfied. They all strike me as roundly foolish.
“To bring an analogy… if I asked you what the Earth was made of, and you looked down, looked up again, and said ‘dirt’ that wouldn’t be a lie, or an untruth. The Earth is, actually, partly made of dirt. But it neglects the chemical composition of soil, never mind the molten iron core of the Earth. Or if I asked you to explain volcanoes, and you said, ‘some mountains shoot fire’ you might not be wrong, but there is just so much more going on than that. The Hellenic myths explaining origins of the universe are shallow, undeveloped, and unsatisfactory. Even the Orphic myths of this aren’t really adequate.
“Have I a habit of standing on a soap box on every question? I have, haven’t I?
“But it drives home, yet again, the need for the continuous writing of mythology. Some religions have a law against it. Their gods are clearly both short-sighted and fearful of change, perhaps because they are lone gods standing in opposition to the cosmos.
“Oh, I’m sorry, do I sound bitter? I do. I am bitter. I’ve seen quite enough institutionalized neophobia to last me the rest of human history.”
Truth and Oracles
Thenea: I have one last question. If you posit the free will is a fact, and you further state that the greatest influence on the destiny of human beings is their relationship with other human beings, then how is it ever possible to give an oracle? What were you doing at Delphi, exactly, and how was the institution itself not dishonest?
“The fact that the future cannot truly be known will never stop people from asking. Further, humans will always ascribe to deities qualities and abilities that they wish we had. Yet, it is, in a sense, useful to receive an oracle. Various sorts of divination can detect subtle influences around a person, and the present as well as the past are certainly knowable to deities more easily than to mortal kind.
“It is not necessary to predict the future, really, if one has a perfect understanding of the present. Sometimes, what needs to be related is common sense, sometimes, it is knowledge of the mundane circumstances, but most often, what humans come to us for is insight into the metaphysical influences. These are best related not as dry facts, but as symbols pointing to the energies which surround a situation.
“If you ever receive an oracle, and I hope someday you do, think carefully on whether the thing you are hearing is a symbol for an energy, a relation of mundane events that you might need to be aware of, or simply some common sense advice.
“Like myths, all oracles are, in a sense, true.”