This text is a translated excerpt taken from the book “Γεννήθηκα Έλληνας: Δεκατέσσερα πολυθεϊστικά κείμενα” (“I was born Greek: Fourteen polytheistic articles”, 8th ed., Athens 2003) by the epicurean author and publisher Marios Verettas. Source of the English version: “Do the Hellenic Gods Exist ? Υπάρχουν οι Έλληνες Θεοί;;” Published with the permission of Marios Verettas. For more information on the author look at the bottom of this page.
Do the Hellenic Gods exist after all?
The Hellenic Gods are more or less known to us as the Gods of our ancestors. However, most of us nowadays do not regard them as real Gods. We perhaps see them as heroes in charming, very fascinating stories – myths – rather than as transcendental, venerable and adorable persons … And this occurs because we have learned, have been taught, have been instructed, to consider the Hellenic Gods as figments in the imagination of our ancestors – our naive, most naive ancestors, because that is how they have presented them to us, who despite the fact that they have devised the arts and sciences – sculpture, painting, pottery, choreography, architecture, shipping, shipbuilding, medicine, agriculture, mathematics, astronomy, gymnastics, theatre, metallurgy, poetry, written speech, justice, the concepts of freedom and democracy, physics, engineering, automation, mathematics, philosophy, the theory of the individual and so many other things that are beneficial for the life of mankind or in other words, everything that constitutes the notion of civilization – those wretches have however failed – that is how they have taught us … to conceive the … “perfect religion” and they worshiped – those vulgar people as they taught us – … idols!
Certain gentlemen of dubious spiritual culture and often comprised of the vilest moral dregs, which are strangers in this place but are inspired by an unbridled intolerance, then ensured to “correct” this “defect” by our ancestors. Their method was: They denounced the entire ancient Hellenic civilization as a construct of (their) Satan; vehemently rejected the entire cultural contribution of our ancestors; smashed all the statues, distorted painting by placing it in the service of impropriety; only retained the utilitarian aspect of pottery, banned choreography; distorted architecture; degraded shipping and shipbuilding; humiliated medicine; abandoned agriculture; cursed mathematics and astronomy; banned theatre and gymnastics; restricted metallurgy to a minimum; compelled poetry and music to exclusively serve nasal cacophony; placed the written word at the disposal of inexhaustible idiocy; imposed arbitrariness upon justice; abolished every concept of freedom and democracy; committed a genocide against those Hellenes that refused to convert to Christianity, banned physics; retained from engineering and automation only whatever served imperial impressiveness; banned every philosophical pursuit upon penalty of death; they never even suspected the value of the theory of the individual; did not leave any ancient temples upright and in their place they raised with honour and glory the … missing card from our ancestors’ deck of cards: the “perfect” religion.
They tell us that they did all this for the sake of their exuberant love for us. They self-appointed themselves as our “shepherds” and endowed us with the – not very flattering – definition of the “flock”. And as a result of their love for us, they decided that we would graze and that they would be our shepherds. And no mention was ever made of the simple truth that states that no flock, no herd, is ever reared for its own benefit, but always for the benefit of the shepherd! … So, these parsons came and after they had demolished the entire ancient civilization – our ancient Hellenic heritage – they imposed without even asking us – their “perfect” religion upon us.
We are not going to deal with this issue here. We will briefly deal with that other, the “imperfect” – as they have described it – religion of our ancestors and will synoptically examine its … imperfections, despite the fact that we must firstly acknowledge that it constituted the perfect connecting link for all those brilliant expressions of the ancient civilisation, since a Muse was concealed behind every beneficial art, Hephaestus was behind every technique, Demeter was behind every type of cultivation of the land, Athena was behind every faculty of philosophy, Themis was behind all legislation, Asclepius was behind every therapeutic method, Dionysus was behind every theatrical performance, Hermes was behind every commercial activity, etc. So, what were the religious convictions of our ancestors? They have taught us to say and think that “the ancient Greeks believed in the Twelve Olympians and in numerous other Gods and Goddesses”. That is a lie. The verb “to believe” is completely absent from the terminology of the ancient Greek religious beliefs. The term “faith” refers to the blind acceptance of an authoritarian and uncontrollable doctrine, whilst the adjective “faithful” only defines a slave. Our ancestors however were free people. They did not “believe” in Goddesses and Gods. They simply worshiped them; and the concept of worship leads us directly to that of love, since only a person in love worships.
Only a person in love is attracted to the beauty of the subject of its emotions and worships it, precisely as the soul is attracted to the fragrance and beauty of the blossom’s shape and colours. So, our ancestors accordingly did not “believe” in the Goddesses and Gods. On the contrary, they worshiped them because they were in love with them. They were in love with the unparalleled beauty of the Hellenic landscape. They were in love with the dawn; they were in love with the dusk; they were in love with the blue sky; they were in love with the majestic mountains; they were in love with the manifold sea; they were in love with the golden life-giving Sun; they were in love with the enigmatic silvery Moon; they were in love with the fertilising rain; they were in love with the damp soil that becomes fruitful with the rain through the divine intercourse with the storm. Our ancestors knew that the driving force behind every expression of Life was the erotic attraction and they accordingly worshiped the God of Love. And since the first weapon of erotic attraction is “Beauty”, our ancestors worshiped beauty. Our ancestors knew that the means for comprehending the Cosmic Universe was the intelligence of the mind. And since the supreme jewel of the mind is Knowledge, our ancestors worshiped wisdom … Three words are sufficient to encompass the entire wealth of the worshipping emotions and the whole essence of the ancient religious beliefs: Philopatry (patriotism – love for the Motherland); Philokalia (elegance – love for Beauty); and Philosophy (love of Wisdom).
Love for the Motherland; love for Beauty; and love of Wisdom. And our ancestors were in love with the Motherland, Beauty and Wisdom, and created numerous myths in order to provide the subsequent generations – and ultimately to us, in a poetic manner that is elegant and timeless – the entire essence of the numerous eons of popular knowledge and experience. This is the value of the myths; and the myths of course talk about Goddesses and Gods. So, what were the Hellenic Gods? Were they creatures of the imagination and the “imperfect” religious beliefs of our ancestors or were they perhaps something else that was a lot more significant and sophisticated? Were they supreme entities that enlightened the uncivilized ancestors of our ancestors with their teachings? Or were they perhaps poetic expressions of the natural forces that constitute, define and ensure the operation of the Cosmic Universe?
The Hellenic Gods are not easily defined. They encompass such an immeasurable wealth of concepts, knowledge and emotions, so that entire volumes of thoroughly documented theses were insufficient to document them. The Greek Gods were multi-dimensional, diverse and multileveled. At one instant they appear as tender companions in children’s dreams, able to inspire them through the charm of the mythical narrative, supremely ideal, decisive for their entire life, and at the next moment they appear as willing friends and assistants in the everyday difficulty of the adults that invoke them, and then they appeared to those that desired it as the wisest and ever friendly hierophants, capable of revealing a multitude of particles from the eternal cosmic wisdom to the mystics.
The Greek Gods are not situated outside the Cosmic Universe, nor did they create the Cosmos. This Cosmos existed, exists and shall exist of its own accord. The Goddesses and Gods simply inhabit it and take care of it; whether we do or do not like it, as long as Life exists, the Hellenic Gods will exist; since the Greek Gods are one and the same with Life. And it is up to us and not them whether we desire to benefit by attributing honour to Their persons. When we care for a tree, we water it, cultivate it, and encircle it with love, it will grant us fruits as well as the enjoyment of its beautiful countenance. If we abandon it, it will potentially wither but its seeds will remain eternal, unalterable, immortal and ready to germinate as soon as the suitable conditions arise for covering the entire Earth with entire forests of wonderful trees. This is how our gods are; they exist of their own accord, eternal, immortal and infinite, like the Cosmic Universe that we and they inhabit. If we honour the gods, then they will honour us. If we fall in love with them, then they will fall in love with us!
On the author: Marios Verettas (born 1947) is a Hellenic director, translator, publisher and author of over 50 books. He has translated more than 80 books from English into Greek, including works by Alan W. Watts, John Gribbin and Lyall Watson. He is also the editor of a Greek journal on Epicurean philosophy (“The Garden of Epicurus”). Verettas defended the Hellenic religion and worldview in numerous appearances on Greek television and radio shows. Verettas is an Epicurean.