There is a saying that our minds contain the sum of everything that we have encountered and read, a chaotic mixture that each of us must order through a process of sense-making, en-forming what is within us according to intention and necessity.
Quite often, one of the ways we do that is through intentionally exposing ourselves — and eventually affiliating with — a specific school of thought, much like how many of the 1990s pagan books that I grew up reading advocated taking time to figure out whether one wanted to be single-pantheon, several-pantheon or eclectic (yes, the term “pantheon” is sometimes problematic, much like the word “pagan”). Not everyone ends up doing that, and the end result is an amalgam that does look superficially like the Late Antique world, with its eclectic Greek Magical Papyri and Hermetic currents infused with everything from Stoicism to Platonism, blending together religious concepts and Gods from a highly diverse set of religious traditions. Even those of us who primarily sort ourselves into a specific bracket are influenced by many trends.
In the Symposium, Diotima describes (beginning at 208e) roughly two categories of production: that of physical genesis, where people produce the next generation through copulation, and intellectual genesis, where the children are concepts and creations ready to infuse the next generation’s minds. I reread this recently, and it was exciting to see, and it got me thinking about how we honor the many sources that make us each consider the world the way we do.
A while ago, I created this prayer that I sometimes say during libations to ancestors. I don’t think I have shared it on the blog before (and I did check), primarily because my impostor syndrome about whether I am overmuch for praying to any kind of intellectual lineage — even though, as per the intro paragraph, I consider this broadly; furthermore, I have definitely not done enough to be in any specific one even though my practice is very Platonizing — made me feel very shy about it.
For Intellectual Ancestors
For my intellectual lineage,
bright minds who illumine the soul,
who train it ever upward —
I make this offering to you, O illustrious ones,
pure souls shining in the words I read.
Please accept this prayer of gratitude.
You guide me through the pages.
You walk me along the upward path
even though the brambles sting and my mind tires,
so I may know the gifts of true beauty
hidden in words* strung like ivy and laurel,
uncovered by those known and unknown to me,
men and women of steady minds,
of hearts so filled with the love of the Gods
and the spaciousness beyond being that is no space,
intellectuals, philosophers, true theologians,
poets and creators of the most beautiful agalmata
holding the keys to the Gods who rule all things.
(* This version is generic and can easily be used by others. In the actual prayer, I do refer to Plato’s words, except it made me so self-conscious that my stomach started churning and my heart started beating rapidly at the thought of sharing that I had written something so audacious. I’m still anxious about footnoting it, but I feel just as uncomfortable about censoring it completely because that would be deceptive and, I think, insulting to the Platonic commentators I love reading. Incidentally, the Homeromanteion came up in a convo earlier this week, and I used this online one to ask a general question about how I could be most useful to others in polytheism because, while I almost never use it, I figured why not because I had the tab open. It gave me that part of the Odyssey where the swineherd gets self-conscious and anxious because he’s just been heckled by the suitors in Odysseus’ house, and Telemakhos is coaxing him to get over their BS and pick the bow back up so he can deliver it to Odysseus. Does it mean I should be less self-conscious and anxious about other people/taking risks/something else? I’m still thinking about the meaning, but the divination felt very accurate.)