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WESTERN MITHRAIC RELIGION
Should we be developing Western Mithraism as a full religion - one with a popular polytheistic side - a modern parallel to the ancient (and being revived) polytheisms of ancient Europe?
Some will say there is no need to, as each person should adopt the traditions of their ancestors - whether it might be Germanic, Celtic, Slav, Baltic, Italic or Greek etc.
Certainly it could work if Mithraism was not any standard popular religion, but a gnostic (knowledge-seeking) movement to develop insight and spiritual powers beyond that of the everyday. A modern Mithraic order would be some sort of merging of a School of Greek and Persian Philosophy with the practices of an ancient Mystery school, Zoroastrian temple or a Masonic, Rosicrucian, Illuminationist or Sufi order.
Such a Mithraic order could be open to people of all kinds of religious identities whether ethnic pagan, jesuchristian or humanist etc. It would build solidarity between people of different religious persuasions without asking them to abandon what they have become comfortable with.
While this might sound attractive, however, I feel that it is unsatisfactory. First it seems that Mithraism-as-a-gnostic-movement would be weaker without Mithraism-as-a-popular-religion by its side - each supporting the other. Secondly it assumes that there are already good religious options for people to choose just 'out there' , when in fact none are really up to the mark and a new popular Mithraism could be better than any of them.
So how to develop Mithraism as a popular religion?
I have struggled with this question as every easy option - basing it mainly on one existing tradition - whether Zoroastrianism or on Christianity, on Iranian paganism or Norse or Roman or Greek paganism - brings up major problems.
However the solution I am working on uses the traditional religion of ancient Rome as a conceptual starting point, and then tries to radically reform it.
As Western Mithraists, I argue, we should see ourselves as ethnically neo-Romans. In our religious imagination we should consider the traditional Roman religion as part of our ethnic heritage, gain familiarity with it, and use it as a part of our religious foundation.
However in later Roman history there was much religious experimentation and change and influence from outside the Roman borders. As neo-Romans we continue this process without needing to be bound to the historic precedent.
Like the historic Romans , we are interested in the Greek culture, but today we are also much more interested in the Persian culture.
So while historic Roman polytheism was influenced by the Greek polytheism, our own polytheism will have a larger stamp from the Iranian.
The historic Romans of course had their Mithraic movement, but as neo-Romans we don't see that as the last word in what Mithraism can be. It was a first start , but it was hampered by being detached from its Zoroastrian roots, and perhaps by its quasi-masonic character and never got to grow to it full potential.
Our new Mithraism will break out of this historic mould, gaining life and strength as it orientates to feed from the full riches of Roman, Greek and Persian cultural tradition.
March 4019 ME
Q: I’m confused as to what you want or are suggesting? Have you decided what you feel Mithraism was or should be?
A: I want Mithraism to be a broad global movement of people seeking the Good, with the same kind of cultural richness as existing religious traditions such as Christianity or Hinduism, but providing an alternative to them.
As a movement we have a common bond in worshipping Mithra as the Good Lord, and recognising the importance of Zoroaster and the Iranian tradition.
However there will need to be multiple paths within the overall Mithraic movement to cater for people's different abilities, inclinations and ethnic backgrounds.
However I want there to be multiple paths within the overall Mithraic movement to cater for people's different abilities, inclinations and ethnic backgrounds.
Fot instance some paths should have a more 'pagan' feel, some more 'christian' and some more 'humanist' or 'gnostic'.
At the moment it seems to me that a kind of Irano-Roman polytheism is the best starting point. We have models in neopagan movements like Odinism and Wicca to show that such a thing can work.