Favorites, Religion, The Great Adventure

Purpose: Meet the Gods

Arise, awake, and learn by approaching the exalted ones,
for that path is sharp as a razor’s edge, impassable,
and hard to go by, say the wise.

Katha Upanishad 1.3.14

As June 21 draws near I confront my motivations for the journey ahead. This is Part II of a three part series on why I’m going on the Adventure. See Part I here.

Why the Gods?

Here’s the world I live in. We are on our own; we make our own Fate; the world is good or bad as we create it.

But it’s a haunted world.

Around us are the sources of wonder. Things so grand and vast that we remember how small we are. We remember that the quest for dominion is a doomed sortie, a fight against a superior force, Eternity. In quiet moments we reflect on this, and voices whisper to us the greatness of the living universe where we struggle.

Myth tells us these voices are the sound of the gods.

The gods did not make this world, and not one of them rules it. They are its executors, its functionaries, more to the point its soul and its face.

I am not convinced that’s wrong.

Can awareness be transferred, recycled, disembodied, left in the rain? If so, it can dwell in world around us.

The Value

The language of religion is one of humanity’s best technologies.

Classical philosophers saw fit to retain and use the language of myth + religion. They encouraged people to treat it as metaphor. This is because the language of myth, even when explicitly stated to be nonliteral, speaks to the core of the human spirit. It’s exactly why I just used “spirit” and not “the core of the human mentality.”

Meeting the gods isn’t about proving whether they’re real, though the quest may give me some insight into that.

The reason I want to meet the gods is because they represent what’s highest and best in us. To pursue them necessarily spurs the pursuit of our own divine nature.

I want to meet them because they inspire.

And most of all, I want to meet the gods because that’s the stuff of myth, and wherever the journey takes me that’s how I want to live.

The Form

Is prayer the right way to do this? Possibly. But prayer seems a lot like talking to yourself in the dark.

The object of the Great Adventure is to meet them in person. Knock-on-Mount-Olympus-style meet them. Oh Zeus isn’t here? No worry, I’ll grab a seat meet them.

Impossible?

Whatever sounds impossible is fertile ground for adventure. I’m putting the ideal over the acceptable. When Gilgamesh set out to find a cure for death, he failed—but what he achieved is epic.

If there are gods to meet then the mere act of living mythically, of following the quest to its final end, is the way to attract their attention.

If there are gods to hear us, I wish to be heard.

More: I wish to listen.

If you enjoy reading Rogue Priest, believe in my journey, or just love seeing a spirited adventurer on the road, please consider making a donation to the cause. Your gift will help fund professional-quality equipment for the Great Adventure. It’ll keep me safe and help every step of the way.

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12 thoughts on “Purpose: Meet the Gods

  1. Beth says:

    Very cool. I love that you are explicit about the value behind each goal.

    Also: I am embarrassed to admit that I have never read gilgamesh! But I want to. Any particular translation or version that you would recommend?
    Come to think of it…might be cool to have a reading list on your blog, a short annotated bibliography of the readings and stories that have inspired you, and which versions you like. Just a thought for your copious free time. :-P

    • If Drew doesn’t mind, I want to add that, besides Gilgamesh, the value and virtue of fame has many examples in the Homeric Epics; my favorite is the Iliad.

      For the Greek heroes, the reward for great honor and virtue was fame (kleos). To die without fame (akleos) was the ultimate disaster, like the concept of going to Hell, and they would do outrageous deeds and stunts in order to avoid living/dying in obscurity or infamy. If your deeds are noteworthy enough to be sung, then it was assumed, no matter what your personal flaws, there was something noble, perhaps even immortal, and heroic about you.

      In one tale, Achilles knows, after being given a prophecy, that if he fights he will die young, but if he stays home he will live a long life. The second possibility, no matter how comforting it would be to enjoy that long life, would mean living an unremarkable life. To die young in a blaze of glory meant his name would live on in fame. To have fame was a virtue for a hero because it meant his life was worth its weight in honor.

      “For my mother the goddess, silver-footed Thetis, telleth me that twofold fates are bearing me toward the doom of death: if I abide here and war about the city of the Trojans, then lost is my home-return, but my renown shall be imperishable; but if I return home to my dear native land, [415] lost then is my glorious renown, yet shall my life long endure, neither shall the doom of death come soon upon me.”
      Iliad 9.410

    • Unfortunately I’m not well versed enough in the different editions to say which one is best. I used to own a version which was awkward to read and understand but I enjoyed getting through it anyway. Now I don’t own many books at all, just one or two to read as I travel, so I don’t really have a good comparison of which translations are best.

      There’s a free online translation here, too.

      A reading list would be a fun post to do… I might have to get on that.

  2. This is what I’ve told my students, and what I’ve told people who have asked me what it’s like to “live with the Gods” (my idiom for living a life of devotion and dedication to the Gods):

    “In order to meet the Gods, you have to be silent and alone, be calm and not force anything to happen. They are always with you and are within you, but you’re too busy thinking and doing and talking to listen to them. In order to see them, you have to dare to look beyond your reality, and this can mean going a little crazy. You have to see with your imagination and your reason and without judgement. Seeing the Gods is using the eyes you dream with — looking as if you are still asleep — not everyone can learn to do this without difficulty.”

    Your goal to “meet the Gods” reminds me of a pilgrimage, but instead of traveling to some sacred site, it is the journey itself that is sacred. You have to do it solitaire in order to experience the silence you need in order to listen and directly experience from nature what the Gods are — something you cannot “switch on” somewhere domesticated like a park or in the comfort of your own bedroom. Am I right?

    • A lot of the time readers suggest that prayer, visions or contemplation are how to meet the gods. That is what I hear echoed in your statement, “You have to see with your imagination and your reason and without judgement.”

      That’s definitely not what I’m after.

      That kind of inner “meeting” the gods is beautiful, and I do pray that way. But I plan to meet them.

      • You misunderstand. But that’s okay. You’ll figure it out on your own. I am not talking about using imagination at all or reason or anything. In fact, I shouldn’t have to explain. You have to experience it.

        I just did not have to take the long way around the barn like you’re doing.

  3. Pingback: Purpose: Find the Heroic Life « Rogue Priest

        • I feel it’s a socially constructed definition, so I think we’re on similar pages. To whatever extent Teh Gods are real, they’re the spirits of a wholly sacred universe, with no exceptions or exemptions. But there are certain contexts where we humans are most likely to feel them, or feel like them, and that’s what we label divine.

  4. Pingback: This is my beginning « Rogue Priest

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