What is the purpose of life and to what goal or intention should we be aspiring?
Appearing absent perhaps in the more simpler understandings of our ancient religions, or even sometimes in the more complex ones, is a succinct and clear purpose for our individual human lives. In my view the purpose of life is present within all of our myths when viewed holistically, however it is definitely not as clear cut and simple as say the Abrahamic belief on why we have life.
Particularly plaguing the revival of our traditions is what I would call an ‘immanent experientialism’, where the sum good of all religion is the interaction the individual can have with the gods in and through the world around us; a kind of spiritual naturalism.
So for the formation of our religious identity and our understanding of who we are, what we are meant to be doing, and where we want to go, we must produce theology that answers these questions and gives us the purpose of being that we should know of; one that is not premised upon simply having fleeting experiences of the divine but a true and real destiny for both ourselves and society.
i. THE ORIGIN OF THE TRADITION.
The primary purpose of the Roman religious rites and ceremonies was the achievement of what the Romans called Pax Deorum. Every ritual, sacrifice, festival, and otherwise, were all conducted with Pax Deorum as the common purpose.
Pax Deorum means literally peace with the gods or is sometimes translated peace among the gods. Its opposite is Ira Deorum; discord or disharmony among the gods. The failure to appropriately execute Roman religious rituals was believed to invoke Ira Deorum, thus leading Rome into disfavour with the gods. To the opposite effect, achieving Pax Deorum meant Rome was in concord with the will and intention of the gods, and that Rome would be receptive to divine providence and good will.
There are many cases throughout Roman history where poor religious practices and botched rituals were followed by Roman failure. Perhaps most depressingly was the case with Emperor Julian’s invasion of Parthia. According to Ammianus Marcellinus, while Emperor Julian was in Circesium (a Roman fort city in modern Syria) he received letters from his friend Praetorian prefect Flavius Sallustius “entreating him to suspend his expedition against the Parthians, and imploring him not in such an unseasonable manner to rush on irrevocable destruction before propitiating the gods.”
This was far from the only bad omen that beset Emperor Julian, for an earthquake had struck Constantinople, “which those skilful in divination declares to be an unfavourable omen to a ruler about to invade a foreign country”, among yet more omens I’ll omit for brevity’s sake. The unfortunate result of these is the death of Emperor Julian and the complete failure of his campaign following his death.
Now while the plebeian conception of Pax Deorum and Ira Deorum constituted of a belief that their sacrifices coaxed favour with the gods and that should they fail to cultivate the good will of the gods they would be angered into Ira Deorum, such facades are helpful for simpler understandings of their function, but we cannot be satisfied with just a basic comprehension, especially if we wish to reconcile some of the other accepted facts of the gods such as their unchanging nature and indifference to human folly.
ii. DETAIL ON PAX DEORUM.
So let the following superior understanding be held more in common than the former inferior understanding: in the Cultus Deorum – cultivation of worship to the gods – we shall maintain knowledge of the following divine truths:
- that all gods are good and are never malicious towards the cosmos nor to one another
- that they never lust, never envy, never want, and never desire, as they are whole and thus do not have need to want anything
- that any story, myth, fable, or legend that suggests that they do want is to be interpreted by philosophers and theologians and not accepted as literally reflective of a god’s true nature.
Thus the gods are not given over to the lusting and wanting of cosmic things, but rather are instead the ultimate subject of cosmic lusts and wants themselves, as all things desire good and nothing is greater than a god’s perfect good. But in Kosmos where all things aspire to become their truer, transcendent forms, we can be often deceived by the good in a thing’s outward appearance and become fooled into believing that what we can see, touch, smell, hear, and taste is the supreme good itself and not merely a reflection of the truly desirable good of the gods.
While some are gifted with a born disposition against this kind of folly, it is all too common amongst us to be deceived by the seemingly good outward appearances of things, and so we must discipline our souls to always turn towards the true good – the gods themselves – and to not lust for the distorted or degraded good reflected in the images that surround us.
The impulses of lust that we feel towards the degraded good in things is itself born from the degraded good that our souls are intertwined with – the body. Thus, we may differentiate quite clearly that these lusts of the body must be rejected; but the lust of the soul, i.e. the love for things that are pure, good, and transcendent, must be indulged in. Such is the distinction of love given to us by Plato.
How then does any of this relate to Pax Deorum?
We established clearly that it is for the worshipper to desire the gods and not for the gods to desire the worshipper, and so it must again be insisted that when we speak of Pax and Ira, there is no anguish or joy within the gods, but rather it is entirely a matter of our cultivation of relations with the gods. Here we see exactly why we speak of a Cultus Deorum and understand more deeply the ‘cultivation of the gods’ which appears on surface level to imply it is the worshippers who maintain the gods, given the typical use of cultivation. But no, the Cultus Deorum is the cultivation of ourselves as supplicants to the gods, and so we kindle with the gods a special relation through our devotions to them.
And how is this relation formed exactly? Through devotion, as we said. And that devotion? It is the pursuit of Pax Deorum – the harmony of the gods. Seeing as we know that it is by the gods, who are active and not passive, that all things both cosmic and hypercosmic have action and movement, then too we know that in the functioning of all hypercosmic and cosmic is a harmonic concord that directly relates to the movements of the gods, as what the gods move into action is moved so perfectly seeing that the gods are perfect, and it is to this perfect principle we attribute the consistency of mathematics, and the sciences and its various laws.
So amongst this harmony of divine action that gives all hypercosmic and cosmic movement, therein we know there are two aspects. One, there is the motion of things themselves and the way they repeat themselves in a perfect rotational movement. And two, the gods who are beyond these things and are not said to be moved by ulterior beings but rather subsist in a common essence with the first absolute divine and have common essence with one another. Here amongst the gods nothing is determined, but instead all participate within the majesty of Jupiter Caelestis, the Supreme God. This order self-manifests and does not require active ordering as the gods are by essence of their being self-ordering – or rather, are order themselves, unlike the Kosmos which constitutes of substance needing an ordered form.
And so these two principles, one of the Kosmos’ movement and the other of the gods being beyond those movements, are represented both within the human: we are stretched most painfully between the two extremes of the divine and the body. But as all things in the Kosmos and in the ‘Hyperkosmos’ (or the place not of this place) must operate in harmonic concordance with the gods themselves, then we know that it is by the examination of this harmonic movement that we may find the most perfect Pax Deorum.
iii. ACHIEVEMENT OF PAX DEORUM.
So now we come finally to the very core of Pax Deorum. We have a two manifold divine harmony: one found in the Kosmos itself, and one found in the Hyperkosmos wherein we may postulate to be the ‘place’ the gods and transcendent souls reside. As humans are stretched across the planes of these Kosmos and Hyperkosmos, part body and part soul, then too is the manifold realisation of harmony within ourselves – and thus represents an inner Pax Deorum.
However, because of our peculiar state as having one foot in the world and another in the divine, we are dragged between the two constantly. Such a concept is given by Plotinus, who says the intellectual soul is the upper part of the human that participates in being with the gods, the animate soul is the lower part of the human that participates in being with the Kosmos, and the rational soul – the admixture of these two parts – is the midpoint of the soul. The rational soul distinguishes humanity from animal, but is not in itself indicative of a type of inherent salvation. Indeed, the only salvation delivered by the rational soul is being human.
But so as we stand now as humans, with our foot in the divine pond and the other in the cosmic pond, it is now for us to consider our action. As we know that there is a peculiar harmony in both these things, a harmony that – thanks to our ‘twoness’ – we can come to understand, we too then can come to replicate these harmonies and to perfect ourselves. In replicating the harmonies of the Kosmos and in the divine, we see that we truly become masters of ourselves.
Say a man wishes to enter a circle of dancers, but he cannot get past their dancing motions. If he tries to dance in his own manner when the circle of dancers are dancing in a different common style, then it is natural that he will be trampled by the other dancers as there is no concord in their movements and the other dancers in their unity far overpower him. However, should the man instead choose to dance in harmony with the other dancers, not only will he not be trampled, but he will participate in the power of that dance, and then further allow him to enter the circle that he had previously had trouble entering.
Such is Pax Deorum. As seeking to become supplicants, we are seeking to be more than simply worshippers of the gods. We are seeking likeness with the gods, we wish to be in great harmony with their activities and motions and to not come into contest with their divine intent. As all Kosmos operates in one manner and all Hyperkosmos operates in another, it is truly possible that we as individuals may come to challenge the motions of the gods themselves with our behaviour. However, as the man is trampled by the force of the unified dancers, so are we trampled by the great power of the gods when we work against cosmic harmony. This we know as Ira Deorum as discord with the gods brings us to ruin.
So instead we must desire Pax Deorum. See here that it is by our supplications that we form a special union with the gods, we can be said to achieve a communion that brings us towards commonality with the gods. While it is extremely unlikely for any man to ever properly achieve this in its most greatest perfection, to struggle towards it within our lives is undoubtedly the purpose of our existence. By shifting ourselves towards the gods, to not only master the harmony of the Kosmos but to also now trend towards the Hyperkosmos itself, this is the very essence of a true and real salvation.
But as it is with the individual – as we have called this inner Pax Deorum- so to it is with the nation and society. It is only so good that we may have inner Pax Deorum, but in a complacent society that indulges in Ira Deorum, our inner Pax Deorum will be challenged again and again, and is very unlikely to reach its most perfected state of harmony, and thus our own supernal salvation after our cosmic demise is placed at risk. The outer Pax Deorum as it may be named within a societal context is of extreme import. The souls of man are not in separation but instead are in union, and are so very acute when we speak of a race and nation, and so the falling of one is in only rare cases not going to engender the falling of another. But so too does the rising of one bring the rising of another, and so we must embrace a new mindset and realise we have a new imperative.
In the facilitation of the inner Pax Deorum and the quelling of the inner Ira Deorum, we are obliged to ensure that we praise the pursuit of Pax Deorum among those we know too. Here, I impress again, is the very meaning of our lives. In seeking the great ascent of our people, by bringing ourselves towards the great gods themselves – they the very essences of good and beauty – we find joy, peace, and harmony unalike any thing we could find within the Kosmos. By perfecting the harmony of our manifold nature to the best of our ability, and so shifting the midpoint of the soul towards the hypercosmic, we draw ourselves upwards into a new salvation that delivers our souls ever upwards and towards Jupiter Caelestis himself.
So let us all become supplicants to the gods and lift our praises to their names. To each of them and their peculiar motions in our world, let us see the harmonies they sew and the beauty they make, and glean within them a deeper good that is hidden behind even the most immaculate of beauties we may witness among the cosmic things. Let this desire burn into a passion of love and an overwhelming joy and gladness for being – and with this, let it give us courage to share with others the spiritual journey we must set ourselves upon, and by so doing, bringing our race as a whole closer to the divine himself.