A Question Of Spirituality

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A Question Of Spirituality

Postby Aulus Flavius on Fri Jan 06, 2006 7:10 am

What is it that makes a practitioner of the religio Romana? What defines that person as the believer of a distinct and separate religious system? Is it some personal revelation? Some commune with a God or Gods? What is it that makes us distinct and individual?

I’ve been led to question the authenticity or even the individuality of my own meek rites after stumbling across this article in NR:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ReligioRo ... ssage/6942

This led me to wonder what exactly it is that constitutes a genuine practitioner of the religio Romana? I seem to see so many people are here and other sites that have such a firm grasp of the religio Romana but I barely have a comprehension of it myself. I have no idea where to start and those efforts I have made are feeble and misdirected.

This post is in part a plea to anyone with the experience to help me. Where do I start in the practice of worshipping Rome’s Immortal Gods? Must a contract be struck similar to the one Cunctator speaks of in the above link? Where do I move on from once the basics have been mastered?

Vale amice,

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Bein' a Roman Religionist

Postby Aldus Marius on Sun Jan 08, 2006 1:30 am

Salve, Aule Flavi...

I am not myself a formal practitioner of the Religio Romana; but that has not kept me from relating to the Gods of Rome in my own small way, or from having thoughts on the matter.

I don't think anyone has a firm grasp on the Religio Romana, or on any other system of belief. Some of us relate to our Gods on a personal level; some adapt the rites of their original or ancestral faith to their newfound Roman one; some try to recreate/reconstruct the ancient rites as closely as the state of research allows; some come to a compromise between all of the above, and perhaps elements known only to the believer.

There is no right way or wrong way to approach the Religio Romana...except, maybe, the one most often cited by the scholars: that it was strictly a matter of contracts being let, with no inner dimension to it whatsoever. I find that difficult to believe; but that may just be a function of my own background in mystical Christianity. Yet I can't help but feel that even the State priests experienced something when they held up their offerings, when they made their sacrifices. And the common people have littered the countryside of a large part of Europe with the clay tablets and effigies bearing their prayers.

I really liked the article you link to, because it gives some rigid people (like some of the respondents) something to think about. My own thought is that, while the Gods of Rome are no longer getting State-level worship, They are receiving more attention than They have in a Very Long Time. I do not know whether that makes Them more kindly-inclined towards us. I do agree that the Roman world was in breach of contract when the Altar of Victory got removed from the Senate-house, if not before. But I don't think the Gods would terribly mind seeing a few of us come home.

What that may mean for us is that we are in a position to ask the Gods what it is that They actually want from us. The sacrifice thing, for example: Almost all of us agree that animal sacrifice is a non-starter in the 21st Century. But did the Romans sacrifice because these particular Gods told them to, or simply because that's just what people did back then when relating to their Gods? If the latter, could the practice be no longer necessary, because not required?

I don't know the answer to that one. But it seems to me that we could make up our own rituals, and enter into new kinds of relationships with these Beings, and still be practicing the Religio Romana...as made possible in today's world, by today's lights, and in the absence of a Roman State.

(NovaRoma, btw, follows a mostly statist and legalist interpretation of the Religio. Most of us in the SVR find it rather soulless, if not actually abhorrent. Don't feel bad because you are not doing things like NovaRoma. You may be on the right track--!) >({|:-)

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Postby Aulus Flavius on Sun Jan 08, 2006 1:49 am

Salve amice,

A pleasure to see such a well thought out answer Marius, especially from one who admits to not partaking of the religio Romana. It's certainly calmed me to know that I'm not the only one thinking of such questions.

The religio Romana can be extremely ethereal considering the sources we have to go off. I agree that as reconstructionists we should place heavy emphasis on historical works as primary sources, but that we should also aknowledge that we live in a day and age far removed from Roma antiqua. What I worry about is how much leeway we should take.

From what I have learnt there are certain ways that the religio Romana should be approached, such as through sacrafices. This is a must, as offerings, whatever shape they take, are the mainstay of the religio Romana. What I really desire to know is the spiritual progression of others involved with the religio Romana. How did they start in it? How did they progress? What did they do to further the exprience of the religio?

Vale,

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Fri Jun 09, 2006 7:17 am

Salve bene Aule Flavi

"Love mankind. Follow the Gods...and it is enough to remember that the Law (of Nature) rules all."

The emperor Marcus Aurelius tells us something of his own journeys within the religio Romana. He does not speak to us about a state religion. Rather his faith is spiritual, intellectual, personal.

II 5: "Think steadily at every moment as a Roman and as a man of virtue to do what you have in hand with perfect and simple dignity, and with a feeling of affection, and with freedom and justice, and relieve yourself of any other thoughts."

V 28: "Live with the Gods. And he does live with the Gods who constantly shows to Them that his own soul is satisfied with that which is assigned to him, and that he does all that his Genius wishes of him, which Jupiter has given to every man as his guardian and guide, a portion of Himself, and this is every man’s reason and understanding."

What Jupiter has given us as our guide is a Genius. Noster Stoicus, Seneca, also wrote, "God is near you, with you, within you. I say it, Lucilius, a holy spirit sits within us, spectator of our evil and our good, our guardian (Letters 41.12)"

And then too, there was Epictetus who instructs us on how to be free and virtuous men. And our purpose, as virtuous men, identifying our true being in our Genius, Epictetus sets out for us.

"It is a soul I want, let one of you show me the soul of a man who wishes to be at one with God, and no longer to blame either God or Man, to fail at nothing, to feel no misfortune, to be free from anger, envy, and jealousy, one who desires to change his manhood for godhood, and who in this poor body of his has his purpose set upon a communion with the Gods."

Spirituality, in all religious faiths I would say, is living consciously. On the one hand we must be aware of ourselves living in Nature, and Marcus Aurelius advised, "Frequently consider the connection of all things in the universe." Every action that we perform, every choice we make, impacts on the universe in which we live. Thus we must remain conscious of our part, and how our actions create the universe in which we desire to live. If one wants to live in a just world then one must consciously live a life of justice in every moment. And likewise in all things, all of the virtues and reasoning that we wish to see in our universe is to be found within our Genius, and these must be brought then into our daily lives at every moment. And then there is the other side. Marcus Aurelius also advised us, as did other Romans, "Since it is possible that you may depart from life at this very moment, regulate every act and thought accordingly." The path we set before us is one leading to our communion with the Gods, as a God, for that Genius within you, your Authentic Being, is divine. Plotinus spoke of the path to godhood, how we must set ourselves to "Flee to the Fatherland," and that this is done by our greater understanding of the virtues as we evolve more into spiritual beings. That process begins in this life, as our Genius remains trapped within this body, but if you enter the virtuous path then your Genius continues on in its journey, continuously evolving spiritually, on its way into reunion with the Gods from whence it comes.

There are others who have already begun this journey and who remain to lend us assistance on our own journey. These are the Maiores, the community of our Roman ancestors, among who are those most special to us, our Lares, whose abode is near the Gods. So one begins first by celebrating one's own Genius, cherishing it, consciously acting upon one's Genius as a member among the Lares, and They in turn as part of the greater community that is one with the Gods.

The religio Romana never really was a state religion. The state religion of Rome was merely an outgrowth of the religio Romana. We are already in a relationship with the Gods, a communal relationship, one that is personal, and thus it is only a matter of discovering what you already know, that the Gods are all around you, with you, within you, as They are within all things, with all things, around all things. Your "contract" with the Gods must begin as a contract with your Genius. Your Genius will then instruct you, guide you back, into your communion with the Gods.

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sat Jun 10, 2006 10:13 am

Salve Aule Flavi

Would I be correct to assume that you have come upon the religio Romana from a Christian background? There is a passage in their texts where Jesus supposedly said, "But first change your mind." That is probably true for all relgious faiths. Being raised in any religious faith, taught about its beliefs and practices, does not lead to spirituality until you make some commitment to live accordingly with your religious precepts. I do not find any difference in that in Christianity from the religio Romana. And there are many other concepts we share. It bothers me some times when certain Christians use the phrase, "Christians are forgiven," and especially when they seem to abuse this idea. It is not something that I find true in Christianity, and it certainly is not true in the religio Romana where you are to take full responsibility for all of your actions. So the first step, I would say, is to change your mind, make a commitment that you keep, to live as a Roman in all your actions and to live in communion with the Gods. This is something that I addressed in my first response to you.

There is then that other "change of mind," a change in perception of reality that recognizes that there is more to the Universe than just the physical universe. We are all spiritual beings and thus we all have an innate ability to interrelate with the spiritual. Seneca wrote, "If ever you come upon a grove that is thick with ancient trees which rise far above their usual height and block the view of the sky with their cover of intertwining branches, then the loftiness of the forest and the seclusion of the spot and your wonder at the unbroken shade in the midst of open space will create in you a feeling of the divine presence. ...your mind will be aroused by a feeling of religious awe (Letters 41.3)." This, I believe, is how the religio Romana was first born. It was not a matter of some men putting together rules on how to sacrifice, what practices defined their religion, or any agreement on what one had to believe. It first began with the discovery of the Divine in Nature. The Latins did not invent the Gods, they discovered the Gods as they came upon those places in Nature that were especially touched by the Gods. Seneca goes on to say, "We venerate the source of mighty rivers, we build an altar where a great stream suddenly bursts forth from a hidden source, we worship hot springs, we deem lakes sacred because of their darkness or immeasurable depth." So we may say that a first step is to commit oneself to a virtuous and moral life, and another first step is to go out into Nature to discover to foot prints of the Gods, those places which bear a numen of a God or Goddess.

It is all well and fine to erect a lararium in your house to begin the practice of the religio Romana, as some suggest that new practitioners do. The religio Romana is a religion of practice more so than a religion of beliefs. In the religio you have duties to perform, first to your ancestors, and a lararium is where you would begin to perform such duties. You do not have to worry about "correct performance" of Roman ritual at first. You can always refine your practices as you learn more. But one must begin practice, and do so as soon as you decide to practice the religio Romana. More important than a lararium though is to find some place where a "religious awe" does come over you, where you can intuit the presence of a God or Goddess. That is the place to begin your practice of the religio Romana, by honoring the Divine that you discover on your own, where you may find a spiritual guide, just as the Romans did, just as Numa Pompilius came upon his Egeria. It is not enough to merely mouth a belief in the Gods. You really have to go out and discover for yourself that the Gods exist. You cannot very well commune with Gods that you have not yet discovered. It does not take much in the way of practice. You can make a simple offering - a piece of bread, a mole of incense, a special stone you might delight in. But it is that discovery, and then your offering worship, that begins one in the religio Romana.

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Postby Aulus Flavius on Fri Jun 16, 2006 8:00 am

Salve amici,

Thankyou both. I was a bit surprised to come on and find responses to a post I made the better part of a year ago. I appreciate both the efforts and the insight.

Thankyou of course Marcus. It's always a pleasure to hear from our residential Numa :) I can certainly see with larity what you're saying and the value behind it. You've helped me to understand just what the religio Romana means and in that I can only thank you.

Vale,

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:46 am

Salve bene Aule Flavi

We're a little backlogged at the moment. Readjusting to some things.

Hm...

Aulus Flavius wrote:Thankyou of course Marcus. It's always a pleasure to hear from our residential Numa :)


(aside) He don't know me too well, do he?

Well, it is an interesting subject and not one usually covered. Most people, I assume, who turn to the religio Romana are looking for a different kind of spirituality than what they had been taught earlier. Really, though, any religion is only a stepping stone. The truly spiritual people tend to transcend religion, finding what is common among various traditions, as you do, when entering a spiritual life, tend to see things from a different perspective. The ancient philosophers still provide us with the best guide on ethics, whether you look at Epictetus, Jesus, or Confucius. And mysticism in all traditions draw upon the same source, if they perceive it a little differently. Rumi might be a Muslim, but his inspirational guide was no different than Socrates' or Poimandres'. Religion can offer a discipline, and I would say one does have to be self-disciplined, ethical, and a bit mystical in order to attain a personal spirituality. It is something that you have to work towards, so just about any religion, when not abused, can become an instrument that leads towards spirituality. A difference, I guess, with the religio Romana is that it does not perceive the spiritual as something out there, transcendant from this World, but rather as in place here and something that necessarily one has to interact with. Some mystical traditions pose that you need to disconnect from the mundane world in order to find the spiritual, where the Roman tradition is to bring the spiritual into your everyday life. Em, I suppose some other religions might say the same thing, but it does work a little differently with the Roman tradition.

Well, an interesting subject, so maybe in another six months, or sooner, we'll revisit it.

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Postby Anonymous on Sun Jun 18, 2006 8:43 pm

I'm still very new to religio Romana, and I was called to it by the gods themselves, not though any major intrest in Roman history. Of course i'm acquiring an intrest in Roman history after the fact, but while I was already a history buff of sorts, I know i'm no scholar in the sense it seems most of you are.

I think most of my problems with converting is that I have a very hard time reading primary sources. Well, not so much reading them, but more like having a true understanding of them. I'm still in research mode and have yet to really become a serious practicioner, though I hope to very soon.
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Tue Jun 20, 2006 3:48 am

Salve Tekeness

Hey, we are only students here. Fortunate for you there are only a limited number of sources that anyone can draw on when it comes to the religio Romana. Good places to start are Vergil's Aeneid, especially Books six and eight, Ovid's Fasti, and the poems of Tibullus.

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