Published: Apr 20th, 2009
Why has the term Reconstructionist become, to some, a problematic term that causes dissension and unnecessary criticism? I think the identifying of the problem is easy.
The most common definition found for Polytheistic Reconstructionism is a methodology to restore an ancient pre-Christian cultural religion as completely as possible, but within a modern context. That is easy enough to understand, but while many people can regurgitate this simple description, they argue against it from a position other than what it actually is.
As this applies to Hellenismos, let us first look at the fact that almost no one from Greece calls themselves a Reconstructionist. Truth is, they do not need to even though their goal is the goal of Reconstruction: to restore the culturally traditional, polytheistic, Hellenic religion in contemporary society. The movement in Greece did not evolve in the same way it did in the English-speaking world, and does not need the identifier. In the United States, and many other countries, the various Reconstructionist movements emerged from Neopaganism, which emerged from Occultism.
Reconstructionists had a need to distinguish themselves. They were (and are) restoring and reviving very culturally specific religions. They are not eclectic. They are not attempting to create combined systems. Most cannot be said to be “magical” religions. Most, if not all, of the religions being restored are orthopraxic: focused on tradition, family, sacrificial offerings, ritual purity, ethics and virtue, and religious law.
The Ethnikoi Hellenes in Greece state they “do not just strive for a superficial return to the ‘ancient ways’, but on the contrary, for the return of a different kind of person, Hellenic Man, who will be governed by humanistic values, as were first expressed and exhibited by our ancestors. A type of man who will journey on the path of Virtue.” The goal is not mere ritualism, but is a return to the Greek Way. Therefore, the goal of Ethnikoi in Greece and the Hellenic Reconstructionist in the English-speaking world are in harmony.
Some people will state Reconstructionism is academic and spiritually dry, requiring one to pour over antique volumes or heavy archaeological or anthropological texts. Reconstruction is the act, art, and work of rebuilding the religious traditions and institutions that were decimated during Christian occupation. Academics and scholars are important to the movements, but they are not the totality of the movements. Reconstruction requires active participation to rebuild and restore. For some, this may mean building new temples, others may be taking part in the active building of institutions, but for most, it will be the active practice of Hellenismos in a household religion.
The Reconstructionist is not simply book-smart, well read, or educated. It does not matter if they are an expert researcher. The fact that a person can quote text, or can rattle off dates and events, does not impress me, nor should it you. The measure of a Hellenic Reconstructionist is whether they are actively working to authentically rebuild and protect the culturally traditional, polytheistic, Hellenic religion. It is because Reconstructionism is a distinct system working to restore and protect the character, thought, practices, and ethical system of a pre-Christian religion, and this is the prime principle that guides this social movement, there is absolutely no such thing as someone who is Reconstructionist in method, but not in practice.
At the end of it all, terms creating a distinction of authenticity will always cause dissension and criticism, specifically from those who find themselves not meeting the standard. No matter what name we give the movement to restore the Hellenic religion, there will be those who want to hijack it, and then become negative, combative, argumentative, and venomous when it is shown they fall short. There will always be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, arrogance, and disturbances caused by those who make themselves feel inferior, and believe because any group may disagree with them that they are now a victim.