Important Interview with Hellenist T.J. Alexander («Ideon Antron»)

Interview in Ideon Antron

Timothy T. Alexander, Published: Jan 13th, “2011

Thyrsos was formed by followers of the Hellenic Religion. They fight for its Restoration, its legal recognition in Hellas, defend the original authentic pre-Christian tradition, and contribute to the spread of the Hellenic Civilization worldwide.

I was honored to be asked by Evangelos, from Thyrsos, for an interview in their online magazine Ideon Antron (Cave of Ideas). The magazine is published quarterly in the Hellenic language, and discusses Hellenic values, history, and art.

My interview can be found starting on page 40, and can be found at THYRSOS Evangelos, and the members of Thyrsos, have been gracious enough to allow me to post an English translation of the interview, which can be read below.

© Thyrsos - Hellenes Ethnikoi
© Thyrsos – Hellenes Ethnikoi

*How did you have the idea of start Can you tell us a brief history of it?

The website was a followup to my books. The site’s mission statement is, “ exists because we feel that there is an urgent need for networking, communication, and unity within our religious community. It has been built on the premise that: Without knowing that others exist, and where to find them, we are alone. It is our desire to aid in creating an atmosphere, which offers better communication, networking, and information sharing between the many Hellenic Polytheists in existence today.”

My goal was to create a social networking site that was entirely dedicated to Hellenismos, the genuine Hellenic religion, and related interests. I wanted to create a resource that would give those people who wanted to practice the actual Hellenic religion, and not some Neopagan or New Age re-imagining, a place to get good information, and to find others.

*How many followers of Hellenic Religion do you believe there are in US? Do you believe that is a growing religion, or has its limits of growing?

I don’t think I can give you a good number, but of people actually practicing the religion, I think this is a very small number. I wouldn’t even try to guess. However, I think we are on the threshold of major growth. I see a lot of interest, and this interest is coming from different directions. I think what discourages many people who would embrace the religion is a perception, caused by the Neopagan movement, that this more a Fantasy Role Playing Game than a real religious movement.

*Do you have problems about living as a Hellenist? Can you tell us some examples?

I have never had a problem, ever, with being a Hellenist. This is probably because of where I live in the United States. I live in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which has always embraced freedom of religion. In fact, it was the first state in the Union to grant freedom of religion to its citizens. Pennsylvania has a culture that frowns on people wearing their religion on their sleeve, in an “in your face” way. I think the worst thing to ever happen was my neighbor, who is Baptist, invited me to her church cookout. There are parts of the United States that people are not so tolerant, but I have never once felt persecuted for my religion.

*You are a writer of two Wonderful books (A Beginner’s guide to Hellenismos, Gods of Reasons). Can you tell us some things about them(some critics that you had, if someone want them how they can find them, and of course a short summary of what they include)

Actually, I have three books. The first book was “Hellenismos Today”. It was written as a brief introduction to the Hellenic religion, and intended to be used by those who had an interest, but knew nothing, and they could use the book to discover if they wanted to continue down the Hellenic path. The book is also good for practitioners of the religion as a tool for helping family and friends understand their choice.

A Beginner’s Guide to Hellenismos” is what the title implies. I give a brief history of the Hellenic religion, explain some basic concepts, and explain the methods used to restore the religion. I try to get the reader to understand that the Hellenic religion and culture was much more sophisticated and advanced that many of use have been led to believe. I try to get the reader to understand that it is not a religion of academics, but that learning about the history of the Hellenic religion and culture is very important. I then walk practitioners through Hellenic practices, and give some practical adaptations to fit practice into the modern world.

Gods of Reasons” is more a book of philosophical ideas. I discuss the role of the Gods in the Cosmos, and the differences with the monotheistic concept. I discuss the importance of myth and symbolism in art and ritual. I talk about ethics, evil, and the afterlife. Basically, I am attempting to provide a reasoned discourse that creates an understanding of the religion, our spiritual practices, and the Gods.

There are two main criticisms that I received from the books, and they comes from different perspectives. The biggest outcry against my books was that I insist to consider yourself practicing the Hellenic religion, a person’s practice must be based of the actual traditional polytheistic religion of Ancient Greece. There are many Neopagan and New Age Celebrants, who want nothing to do with practicing the actual religion, but want the image and prestige of being part of the Hellenic religion. The second criticism, coming from a different corner and which I think is a testament to the work, is that the books don’t provide enough information. I wrote the books not to be step-by-step cookbooks, but to give enough information to get a person started, and motivate them to do more research.

My books are available in the United States and worldwide. They can be ordered online at Amazon, Barns and Noble, and just about any online book store. Also, while not widely stocked, a person can order my books through any bricks and mortar book store.

*Do you have some particular Philosophical School that you prefer or do you believe in the combination of all philosophical paths?

Many people presume that I am a (Neo)Platonist, but I actually draw my opinions from all philosophical schools. Many people seem preoccupied with what makes the philosophical disciplines different. I try to see how they are the same. However, I do find myself referencing Plato and Aristotle most often.

*What can you say to someone that claims that Hellenic Religion cannot provide anything to modern man and to others that accuses us the Hellenists, of being “idolaters”?

I tell them they need to take the time to actually learn about the religion. The Hellenic religion provides a path for human evolution that one just does not see with monotheistic religions. The Hellenic religion does not try to compete with science. In fact, I think that a fundamental truth of Hellenic thought is an idea that for religion and science to be true, neither can outright conflict with the other, and allows for an evolving understanding of the Gods and the Cosmos.

The second thing I would point out is Hellenic Virtue. Virtue, and the ethic of habitual goodness, is not telling us an action is right or wrong based on a list of rules in a book, but has us objectively analyzing our actions to ensure we have done the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons. We can’t make excuses if we intentionally cause harm. We must accept our short falls, learn from our mistakes, atone for our actions, and work at becoming the best people we can in all aspects of our lives.

*There is a serious curve of Revival to the Old Religions. Do you think that this comes from true spiritual and philosophical need, or it is just a reaction to the problems that face the modern world?

I think the growing interest in Old Religions is, ultimately, that they are natural, not revealed by some prophet. When we look at the two largest monotheistic religions, we find religions that inflict themselves of others, and survive best in totalitarian societies. Democracy, and freedom of religion, has slowly eroded the power of Christianity. There is a reason why there are so many commonalities among historic polytheistic religions across the world. Those religions speak to the reality of the Cosmos, and humanity is naturally drawn to them. I believe the Hellenic religion provides the best path for personal and spiritual development, and for the greatest understanding of the Gods and the Cosmos, but there is no denying that the other natural religions work toward the same end.

*Let’s talk about something philosophical now if you wish. Some claims that “evil” has took over the world. I believe that “evil”(as organized and personated force) is a totally false and also it distorts us to realize the true reasons of “bad things when are happening”. Can you tell me your opinion about?

My philosophical opinion of evil is that there is no battle between the Good and an Evil. Evil is causing harm, mischief, or injury, and is characterized as creating misfortune or suffering to yourself or others. People do bad things because they truly don’t understand the Good, and live separate from the Gods. Many people have convinced themselves that feeding their desires, without moderation, is good. I believe one of the main goals of the Hellenic religion is to provide a path to eudaimonia, which often gets translated into English as happiness, but also means contentment or flourishing. Unity with the Gods comes from habitual goodness, and living a flourishing life. Separation from the Gods is caused by habitual badness, and a life wasted.

*My opinion is that the “new agers” and the occultists , are just semi-separated from monotheism and at the end they just fit in into it conclusively. But they claim that they are practicing religion forms in the right way and not Hellenists because there is a big void in the continuing of informations about Hellenic Religion. How do you respond to them?

There is really no doubt that occultism and New Ageism are the bastard children of Christianity, and they share a symbiotic relationship with it. Western esotericism is based, in part, on accepting the Christian narrative and superstitions regarding ancient religions, that priests and philosophers were magicians and sorcerers who used occult forces to manipulate the Cosmic Order. The early Church demonized ancient philosophy, science, mathematics, and medicine, describing them as the Dark Arts. Occultism relies on Christianity’s false history and superstitious interpretations of natural religions to validate themselves, and Christianity in turn relies on Occultism to validate their false history and superstitious interpretations.

Neopaganism and the New Age are closely related, and often interwoven, quasi-religious movements born from the actions of Medieval Christian mystics and various occult societies, such as Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and Freemasonry. Each movement borrows from both Eastern and Western religious traditions, and when borrowing from Eastern or ancient religions they ‘Westernize” them. This Westernization is more a Christianization of beliefs and practices. While much of Neopaganism and the New Age have abandoned Christian doctrine, they still very much embrace a Christian worldview, and interpret the religiosity and spirituality of cultural and indigenous religions using Christian superstitions and misrepresentations.

Criticism of Neopaganism and the New Age come from around the Globe. In addition to those attempting to restore and protect the indigenous religions of Europe, practitioners of the authentic forms of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese folk religion, Native American Spirituality, and an ever growing list of indigenous practices and traditions see these movements as either not fully understanding, deliberately trivializing, or distorting their disciplines.

However, I believe the biggest threat from these movements comes in the form of the globalization of religion into a universalism, where practices and traditions must be stripped of their cultural perspective. The ultimate goal of these movements is an extreme form of religious pluralism, and one world religion, in which individuals can choose from a buffet of religious practices, from around the world, that have been distorted to conform to their worldview. In my opinion, the Neopagan and New Age movements are the mirror image of Christianity’s attempt at stomp out indigenous and cultural religions.

*Psyche(soul) was always a long discussion among Hellenists .By your research, did you came to a conclusion about what comes after natural death?

This is a big question, but I’m going to keep it brief. It is reasonable to conclude the soul should, in some way, survive after natural death. Scientifically, we know that energy cannot be destroyed; it can only transform. Therefore, at the time of death, a soul would have to either unite with the Cosmos or be reborn.

That said, our religion is more concerned with this life than the next, and if nothing else holds true, those who live according to virtue achieve genuine happiness. If those who accept the continuation of the soul after natural death and/or metempsychosis (metampsychosis, transmigration of the soul) as true are wrong, those who live a virtuous life achieve eudaimonia (happiness, contentment). Virtue is its own reward.

*I think we had a full circle to our talk. Last but not least words by you! Please sent your message to our readers! Thank you in deed for your time!

A message? Nothing good, nothing of real value, is ever easy.