Tag Archives: Antinous

Apotheosis

 

 

letterAApotheosis is one of those big theological words that you don’t hear regular people speaking about that often.  In fact, to many in our society, I think the idea of apotheosis seems ridiculous.  To put it simply, apotheosis is the elevation of a human to divine status.  It’s what Elder Price is singing about in the clip above when he says, “I believe…  that [God’s] plan involves me getting my own planet.”    He’s singing about  the Mormon idea that “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be.”  The Book of Mormon is, of course, a spoof.  It’s an exaggeration of what Mormons believe.  But still, people laugh when Elder Price talks about getting his own planet because on some level, many people think the idea of a human becoming a god is ridiculous at worst, and weird at best.

This disdain for apotheosis was something I was very familiar with when I was a conservative Christian.  In the garden of Eden the serpent tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit  and said  “’You will not certainly die… For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'” (Genesis 3:4-5)  As a conservative Christian I had it drummed into me that the Great Lie that led Adam and Eve into their fall from grace was the desire to be like God.  In the Christianity that I followed, God was wholly other.  Humanity was wholly sinful.  Our basic nature is seen as evil and opposed to God.  It’s only through the death of Jesus on the cross that we are made acceptable to God, and through our life as a Christian we are made more like Jesus.  But even these ideas of justification and sanctification are states of being that come from outside of us.  When I was in college training to be a minister I was taught that God chose to view us a certain way because of Jesus.  The New Testament texts paints it as an adoption, or putting on clothes so that our outward appearance is holy.  However, our basic nature is still very much NOT divine.   The idea that humanity is in any way divine or can become divine is seen as close to blasphemous.

It’s one of the reasons that the Mormons were always portrayed as a cult.  I can remember being shown the “documentary” The God Makers and ridiculing the idea that these people actually believed they would become a god and get their own planet.  How stupid could they be?  But there’s a wide gulf between when I was a conservative Evangelical Christian and the spiritual slut that I am today, and that gulf doesn’t consist of just clown makeup and glitter.  Now that I follow a more progressive spiritual path, apotheosis doesn’t seem so strange to me.

To be fair, I don’t think that portraying Mormons as believing that they will get their own planet is totally accurate.  (I’m not a huge fan of Mormonism, and disagree with them on MANY issues, but I like to represent people’s views fairly and accurately).    Joanna Brooks, a Mormon blogger, responds to this conception in a blog post from January of 2012.  She says that she has never heard anyone seriously discuss the idea that Mormons will one day get their own planet, but she points out on any given Sunday you might hear that “we are the children of Heavenly Parents, that our spirits lived with our Heavenly Parents before our mortal lives, and that we came to earth on the plan that we should gain experience through mortality and prepare to return to our Heavenly Parents… And it is a Mormon teaching that souls continue to grow, progress, and experience throughout the eternities, and that part of that expansive experience is to become like our Heavenly Parents.”    Joseph Smith in his 1844 sermon called the King Follett Discourse says this:

                “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! … It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did.”  …  “Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age and there is no creation about it. All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement.”

While I have many areas of faith that I strongly disagree with the Mormon church on, as a Gnostic Neopagan, I can accept the way that apotheosis is portrayed here.

Apotheosis wasn’t uncommon in the ancient world.  A quick review using that ancient tome of knowledge, Wikipedia, shows that imperial cults were known in both Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.  In Egypt, deceased pharaohs were deified as Osiris.  In the Greek world, the first leader who accorded himself divine honors was Philip II of Macedon, and his son, Alexander the Great, not only claimed descent from the gods of Egypt, but decreed that he should be worshiped in the cities of Greece.  After his death, the custom of apotheosis became very prevalent among the Greeks.  In ancient Rome, apotheosis was a process where a deceased ruler was recognized as having been divine by his successor, usually also by a decree of the Senate and popular consent.  At the height of the imperial cult during the Roman Empire, sometimes the emperor’s deceased loved ones were deified as well.

Apotheosis is a key element in devotion to Antinous.  I talked about Antinous, and my devotion to him, in my last post.  I won’t regurgitate that here, but the basics are this:  Antinous was the young companion and lover to the Roman Emperor Hadrian.  While in Egypt Antinous drowned in the Nile.  Because of the sacred status of the river, anyone who drowned in the Nile was deified and syncretised to Osiris.  Antinous became a god.  And so, one of the gods I am devoted to, was once a human being just like I am.

I’ve spoken a little bit about how, for some people, the idea that Antinous was once a very human boytoy of the Emperor but is now a god is difficult for them.  I believe some of this has to do with what I spoke about above.  Much of traditional Christianity finds the concept of apotheosis distasteful and ridiculous.  Ironically, I don’t think this was always so.  I believe that the story of Jesus is actually a story of apotheosis.  The idea of Jesus as divine is one that evolved in the early Jesus community.  You can see the development in the Gospels themselves.  One of the big questions the Gospel writers wrestled with was when did Jesus become divine?  On the cross?  At his baptism?  At his birth?  By the time we get to when John’s Gospel was written, his answer was that Jesus was always divine.  Jesus had always been God.  In this way, apotheosis was thrown out because Jesus had never been not-God to become God.  That view won out, and other views that Jesus had been human and become God (including views we now label as Gnostic) at some point were painted as heretical, and that view has carried on into much of modern Christianity.  While not everyone identifies as a Christian, I don’t believe that one can fully disassociate the impact of Christianity on the wider culture.  I believe this distaste for apotheosis and view of it as heretical has seeped over into the general culture.

For me, however, the apotheosis of Antinous, and the idea that a human being can become god is one that I resonate with.  It points to my own death and rebirth, whether that death is a crucifixion or a drowning.  The story of a young man that drowned in a river and was risen as a god is not just a story about something that happened.  It’s a story of something that happens.  It’s my story.  Just like the story of a man who died on a cross and came back to life if not just a story of something that happened in the past.  It’s a story about what is happening right now, and will happen.  It’s the story of my divine spark being incarnate in the physical world.  It’s a story about the death, both physical and spiritual, that we all face, as well as the triumph of our Divine soul.  I’ve called that Divine soul the Buddha nature before.  I’ve also referred to it as the Christ nature.  I’ve never called it the Antinous nature, but why not?  In my opinion, the story of Antinous points to our eternal nature as much as these other stories do.

The idea of apotheosis also plays in to the name of this blog.  Whereto We Speed is taken from a line in the Excerpta Ex Theodoto, a collection of notes made by Clement of Alexandria dealing mainly with (and quoting) the teachings of the Theodotus:

“What makes us free is the gnosis

of who we were,

of what we have become;

of where we were,

of wherein we have been cast;

of whereto we speed,

of wherefrom we are redeemed;

of what birth truly is,

and of what rebirth truly is.”

Indeed.  Whereto we speed is the same path that Antinous trod.  May Wepwawet clear the way before me, and Antinous walk alongside me in the path to apotheosis!

pbp4

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A is for Antinous

*tap* *tap* *tap*

Is this thing on?

I haven’t been very good about keeping up with this blog.  I could go into a long list of excuses about why that is, but really, it is what it is.  But here we are in a new year with new opportunities!  One of my intentions this year is to focus on my spiritual writing, and the primary place I am going to be doing that is here.  My intention is to post here 2-3 times a week.  And one of the ways I am going to be keeping on track with that is to participate in the Pagan Blog Project, which has participants blog on topics as we work our way through the alphabet throughout the year.  As you might be able to guess, we’ll be starting with A.  So get yourself strapped in.  I hope you’ll enjoy the ride.

letterAA is for Antinous

Of course I have to start with Antinous.  Back in October of 2011 I wrote a blog post called Spiritualty Squared where I described 4 different aspects of my spirituality.  One of those aspects was my devotion to the god Antinous.  I’m a Mystes Antínoou, who has been initiated into the Antinoan Mysteries and a participating member of the Ekklesia Antinoou (“Citizenry of Antinous”), a queer, Graeco-Roman-Egyptian syncretist reconstructionist polytheist form of mystical religion devoted to Antinous.  of course, I realize that most of that just sounds like gobbledygook to those who have never heard of Antinous before and have no idea what kind of god he is.

Antinous was a young man born sometime between the years 110 CE to 112 CE in the Roman province of Bythinia, which is now modern day Turkey.  During one of his tours of the Eastern Empire, the Roman Emperor Hadrian took the boy into his company.  Antinous became Hadrian’s companion, lover, and imperial favorite.  In October 130 CE Antinous drowned in the Nile.  The circumstances around his drowning are not known.  Many have speculated that it was an accident, or that it was suicide, possibly murder, or even a voluntary religious sacrifice. Personally, I think the most likely cause was that it was simply an accident.  However it happened, the end result is the same: Antinous died. But the story doesn’t end there. The Nile was considered a sacred river by the Egyptians. By Egyptian custom, anyone who had drowned in the holy waters was considered deified, syncretized to Osiris, and given a minor cult.  Due to his death in the Nile, Antinous was proclaimed a god.  For the Romans the erastes-eremenos relationship ( a socially acknowledged erotic relationship between an adult male and a younger male) was not unusual, but the intensity with which Hadrian mourned the death of Antinous and promoted his cultus was without precedent.  Hadrian founded a city in Egypt in honor of Antinous, Antinoöpolis, which became the seat of his cult.  Temples were built for his worship in Bithynia, Mantineia in Arcadia, and Athens.  Festivals were celebrated in his honor and oracles delivered in his name.   In the year after Antinous‘ death, and after a drought that had lasted several years, the Nile flooded its banks.  This was acknowledged as a miracle and attributed to Antinous.  A new star in the constellation of Aquila was discovered.  it was pointed out to Hadrian and stated to be the soul of Antinous in the heavens.  The cult of Antinous thrived for several centuries, and he was syncretized to many gods in various locations, including Osiris, Dionysus, Apollo, Hermes, Pan, Adonis, Eros and others.

Great.  That’s a history lesson.  I think the more important question is, what does Antinous mean to me?  What is it that drew me to Antinous?  The thing that first drew me to Antinous was his homoerotic relationship with Hadrian.  As a man who loves men, I saw in that relationship between Hadrian and Antinous something I could identify with.  Ironically, I’m not among the camp of those who are devoted to Antinous who identify him as the “gay god” or the “god of gays.”  I find that kind of designation to be shallow and historically inaccurate.  Antinous is no more a gay god than Dionysos or Zues or other deities who have had homoerotic relationships or flings.  We don’t refer to them as gay gods.  Granted, Antinous, before he was deified, was  a real person, and the only known erotic relationship that he had was a homoerotic one.  I can understand why some tend to label him as gay.  However, the relationship he was involved in was part of what was accepted as the cultural norm in that society.  Many, many men were involved in the erastes-eremenos relationship and then went on have heterosexual relationships.  We don’t label all of them as gay.  I don’t see why we should shove that modern label onto Antinous.  However, regardless of whether I like the label or not, the relationship Antinous had with Hadrian was a homoerotic one.

Like many people, my first introduction to modern paganism was through Wicca.  I had been a minister in a conservative Christian church for several years, before I fled Christianity because I had a crisis over who I was as a sexual being.  That crisis led me to throw Christianity completely out the window (at least temporarily).  It was only a few months later that I was introduced to Wicca.  One of the things that I immediately found appealing was this idea of balance.  It wasn’t just the male identified, masculine God, but it was balanced with the feminine side of the Divine in the Goddess.  Here was a view of the Holy that wasn’t one or the other, but a balance of both, both God and Goddess together.  One without the other was imbalanced.  I still appreciate that about the Wiccan tradition that I am a part of.  At the time that I first discovered Antinous, I had been participating in Wicca for a few years.  I had also been an out gay man and living in a relationship for a few years.  While I appreciated the balance of God and Goddess that Wicca presented compared to the unbalanced presentation of a sole masculine God that I had experienced in Christianity, I had also began to wonder if this heterosexual  male/female expression of the Divine was all there was.   In walked Antinous.  Here was a god that I related to.  Like me, he had been in love with a man and experienced an erotic relationship with a man.  In the relationship of Antinous and Hadrian I found a view of the Divine that wasn’t based on a model of heterosexual union and procreation.  It was a new concept of Deity that I felt could have a place in my devotional life.

I still practice Wicca and I still actively work with the God and Goddess in my spiritual life.  That view of balance and polarity is still a view that I find worthwhile.  But one of the cool things about being a practicing polytheist is that we don’t have to limit ourselves to one concept of God.. or even two concepts.  There are a multiplicity of gods and goddesses out there that reveal to us a fuller expression of the Divine.  So in addition to my view of God as a God/Goddess pair, I added a god that I could relate to who  had experience same-sex love and a homoerotic relationship just like I had.

Antinous_Osiris_Louvre_Ma433Another aspect of devotion to Antinous that I immediately found appealing was the way that he has been syncretized with other gods.  For some, these syncretisms make Antinous less appealing.  Why not just worship Ganymede?  Why not just worship Dionysos?  Why not just worship Hermes?  And to that, I say, why not?  If that’s what appeals to you and you want to do that, then do it!  For me, however, I’ve always found the idea of the syncretisms of Antinous to be appealing.  While I wouldn’t describe Antinous as a gateway god, for me, his syncretisms with other gods have certainly acted as a portal or way to access that other god.  Antinous has introduced me to a plethora of other gods that have since become important to me in their own right.  Hermes, Dionysos, Osiris, Eros, and Pan are all gods I initially met through Antinous.  Even my interactions with Aphrodite are heavily colored by my devotion to Antinous/Eros.  In some ways, it’s like I’m at a big cocktail party and Antinous is my host.  he has graciously taken me around the room and said, “Lazarus, I’d like to introduce you to Silvanus.  I think you two might have a few things in common.  Cheers!”

Lastly, I’ve always felt there was something profound about the fact that Antinous was an actual human being who became a god.  Again, this is another point where some have issues with Antinous.  It’s perhaps a little too “Jesus-like” to have been a human being who died and then raised to godhood.  For those in pagandom who have issues with Christianity, this surface level similarity to Jesus puts some people off.  In theology, this idea that a human can achieve divine status is called apotheosis.  I plan to post a more detailed blog post about this soon, but for now, I feel that Antinous’ very real death and deification points to our own Divine nature and ability to become gods ourselves.  That’s a deep mystery, and I will leave it at that for now.

For those interested in devotion to Antinous, there are a few resources I suggest you check out:

Aedicula Antinoi: A Small Shrine of Antinous: The personal blog of P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, founder of the Ekklesia Antinoou and author of several books on devotion to Antinous.  If you’re at all interested in Antinous, Lupus blogs about Antinous and Antinoan practice several times a week.

Ekklesia Antinoi Yahoo Group : The Ekklesia Antinoou is a queer, Graeco-Roman-Egyptian syncretist reconstructionist polytheist form of mystical religion. The group is the forum for discussion of issues, whether of worship or theology, myth or meditation, surrounding the worship of Antinous, the Divinized Boy of Bithynia, his historical cult and continuing scholarship about it, and his relevance to queer people in particular.

Via Antinoi – The Way of Antinous on Facebook :  The Facebook page of which I am one of the administrators.  It’s not updated as often as I would like to, but if you’re on facebook, give us a like for occasional Antinous related content on your newsfeed.

The Via Antinoi Liturgical Calndars: A page connected to this blog.  It contains two calendars.  The first is a calendar of festivals and observances, and the second is of many saints in the Ekklesia.  I plan to eventually host these on their own site, but for now, they are here.  If you’re at all interested in following the Antinoan devotional year, this is an easy way to start.

While you’re at it, head over to the Pagan Blog Project and check out what other topics others have been blogging about!

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Z Budapest, Antinous, and a Gnostic walk into a bar…

No clue what the punchline to the subject of this post might be, but it seemed fitting since I have a little bit to share on each of those topics.

 Z Budapest and Pantheacon

A final few words (at least from me) on the discussion surrounding transgender inclusiveness at Pantheacon:

I did mention this in my last post when I spoke about keeping perspective, but I’d like to reiterate the point and join P. Sufenas Virius Lupus and in saying that “PantheaCon 2012 was great from start to finish, and a ton of really wonderful stuff came out of it. And when I say ‘great,’ that doesn’t mean that it was without some pain, discomfort, or annoyance at various points, but the positive aspects far outweigh and overshadow anything negative.  Z Budapest’s “genetic women only” ritual and the action organized in response to it by T. Thorn Coyle was held on Sunday night.  The rest of the convention was filled with many fantastic workshops, rituals, parties, gatherings, and connections with new and old friends.  Truth be told, I even found my participation in the action for trans inclusiveness to be very meaningful and worthwhile, but when seen in the context of Pantheacon as a whole, it was only one part of my experience.

The issue of transgender inclusiveness is an important issue, however, and I understand why this discussion has come to dominate the blogs and Facebook comments after the convention.  I’m not sure that I have much more to say than what I have already said.  Therefore, I’ll let others do the talking for me!  There are a couple other posts that are worth reading/hearing.

  • I highly recommend the latest podcast from Hyperion of The Unnamed Path.  In it, he sums up the events that have taken place and gives us his take on things.  I have to say, I agree with 100% of what he says in this podcast.  He’s managed to boil the issues down to their core elements and has managed to do so while showing compassion to all involved and without demonizing one side or the other.  Thank you, Hyperion, for being a voice for inclusion and for a reasoned response!

 Antinous

As an initiate into the Antinoan Mysteries and a devotee of Antinous, I found this news that P. Sufenas Virius Lupus has shared over on the Aedicula Antinoi blog to be pretty damn exciting: Polydeukion now has a dedicated oracular medium!

(More on my devotion to Antinous, as well as other aspects of my personal spirituality, can be found in my blog post Spirituality Squared.)

Polydeukion may not be familiar to many people.   Lupus says quite a bit about him in this post.  I think of him as one of the figures involved with, and surrounding Antinous, part of an “Antinoan pantheon,” so to speak.  A dedicated oracle for Polydeukion is fantastic news.

According to Lupus:

A certain gentleman I know rather well has come forward and will be acting as the Oracle of Polydeukion until further notice. The gentleman is called Stephanopotamos, and will be doing an oracular session with Polydeukion for semi-public consumption every three months, starting this year on Polydeukion’s festival of March 9th, and then on the 9th of June, September, and December ad infinitum (!?!). I fully support, endorse, and recommend this oracle, and he will be my “go-to” oracle for Antinous-related and Ekklesía Antínoou-related matters from here on out. In addition to the regular three-months-apart sessions, the oracle will also be available for private consultations with those who wish to seek them.

Khaire Polydeukion!

Gnosticism and Leap Year

The Rose Cross Community of the Apostolic Johannite Church is one of the gnostic/esoteric communities that I frequently take part in.  They are hosting a Special Leap Year Eucharist tomorrow evening.  In the description for the event it says, “This will be a celebration of the Johannite Congregational Eucharist, to celebrate a day which only exists every 4 years. Align your spirit and will with the energies of the next four through this uplifting ritual.

This sounds very cool, and I plan to attend, but it also got me thinking about Leap Year and the day of February 29th itself:

  • Does February 29th have any special energy that is different than all the other days?
  • If so, what kind of energy is it?
  • What kind of magic and intentions would be appropriate for this day?
  • Are you planning to do or observe anything differently tomorrow?
  • Or is this just another day and my musing are mental masturbation?

I’d love to hear some thoughts and ideas on this.  Feel free to comment.

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Late to the Party – New Year, New You

 

I’m a little late to this party.  But what fun would a party be without a few grand entrances once the music has started?  In this case, the party started a few weeks ago.  That just means I’m really fashionably late.

Early in December, the Charmed… I’m Sure blog posted this call to an “experiment in magical, radical, transformation”:

So, you’re supposed to be, like, magicians, occultists, witches in the woods and the kitchen and on the soccer field, right?  Workers of wonder.  Dream weavers.  People who get shit done.  Isn’t this the year to make your own luck?  You’re feeling especially awful with the nights that never end and run over by the holidaze and you can’t drink joie forever before needing a meeting.  So now’s the fucking time.  Don’t wait until that stupid glitter ball drops and you’re already making drunk and/or sentimental mistakes, start now.  Start now when it’s hardest.  Start now when you feel so weighed down with emotions better left to glittery and not so glittery vampires and when you feel like you could sleep forever.  Now is the time you need to wake up.  Get up, get up!  Don’t miss this moment.  Create magics great and small, mundane and mystical.  Find everything you’ve been looking for, mysteries revealed in every form of divination and song and when you fuck it up, when you are too tired to try, bring each other up from bloodied knees to get back up smiling.  You are all made of stars and you have stardust in your veins.  Do something about it.

Can I get a hell yeah?!

A few of my friends picked up the call.  Both Michael Sebastian Lux and Msgr. Scott Rassbach posted their replies to the challenge.  Now it’s my turn.

Actually, my work on this has already started.  On Sunday evening, January 1st, I did a ritual for the Festival of Janus, calling on Janus, Antinous in his lunar aspect, and Helios/Sol.  As the Roman god of doorways, beginnings and endings, and the past and the future, Janus is the perfect god to work with on New Year’s Day.  As part of the ritual, I worked with Antinous as the moon to determine and meditate on the things in my life that I wanted to leave behind in the past.  I particularly meditated on the things that would keep me from becoming fully mature as an individual.

I also worked with Helios as the sun to determine and meditate on the things in my life that I want to bring into manifestation in 2012.  These are more than just resolutions, more than just goals.  This is about working will.  This is about transformation.  This is about magic!

What I share here are the intentions that I am going to be putting energy into during the coming months.  This is where I will be working my will.  This is where I get down and dirty and “do something about it.”

The Physical

  • I intend to inhabit a healthier body by the end of the 2012.  This does not translate into a weight loss goal.  I’m a bear.  I’m happy being a bear.  I have a tummy, and I get plenty of attention with a tummy, thank you.  However, a little over a year ago I had surgery on a torn quadriceps tendon.  My right knee/leg is still healing.   I intend to help that healing along, and bring a healthier body along with it.

The Emotional

  • I intend to build and nurture intimate relationships with those whom I can share my spirituality and participate in magical practice with.  I did a similar ritual last year to the one that I just did a few days ago.  In that ritual I asked for a sexual and romantic partner to come into my life that I could share my magical practice with.  That request was fulfilled… although not quite in the way I expected.  I thought of asking for the same thing this year, but I realized that I didn’t need to ask for what I already have.  I do however, need to build and nurture what already exists, while still being open to new things that may come.  Oh, yeah, and I also asked for more sex, because, you know, who doesn’t want more of that?

The Spiritual

  • I intend to help build and nurture the Gnostic and Antinoan spiritual communities in Portland.  The Gnostics already have a presence here in Portland.  Queen of Heaven Gnostic Church has been established for ages.  I’d love to see Queen of Heaven continue to grow, but my main focus of energy with the Gnostics will be in assisting Msgr. Scott Rossbach in the establishment and growth of Rose Cross Community AJC.  As far as the Antinoan community goes, The Ekklesia Antinoou does not currently have a presence in Portland.  I intend to change that.


Other Goals 

  • To enter into a discernment process to determine if I wish to pursue ordination in one of the spiritual traditions I am a part of.
  • To consistently update this blog 3 times a week and develop my skills as a spiritual writer.

There you have it.  Only 4 days into the new year and it’s a new dawn, a new day, a new me, and I’m feeling good.  No, really.  I’m feeling good.  2012 is the year to get shit done.  I’ll be using this space over the next few days to get caught up on the New Year, New You challenge.  After that?  Who knows.  I’m made of stars and have stardust in my veins.  Now that the party has started I’m ready to get out on the dance floor and live the dance.  Let’s party.

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