Are You On The Right Path?
Each one of us is on a journey as we travel through life. Whether religious or not, we travel a spiritual path. Every day we make choices that affect the direction in which we are headed. Some people think that the paths we travel are many. In some sense that may be true as there are all kinds of religions. But in another sense, there are really only two paths. Each with its own beginning and each with its own end. One is heavily populated and the other is traveled by a very few. Which path are you on? Is it the right one? Do you even know for sure?
On this journey we call life, there are two ways to go. One is the way of the flow and will lead us to wherever the masses end up. This way represents an easy drifting down the stream with no guidance, no ambition, and no effort. It does not require giving up anything nor restricting oneself in any way. One is allowed to bring along whatever baggage or habits they desire and to believe whatever one wants to believe, without reason nor proof. It is therefore chosen by most people for there are no restrictions concerning belief and behavior. It is called the “Path of least resistance”. People who follow this way think they are “free” and “open-minded” and view themselves as “tolerant of others”.
The other way is the dedicated path. This way requires self-denial and motivation. It requires a self-discipline that exceeds that of most religious people. It requires a change in our natural behavior. To follow this way, we must resist our desire to murder when our natural behavior calls for anger and revenge. This way requires that we be faithful and overcome our natural behavior of mass breeding for pleasure. This way requires that we communicate peacefully with our spouse and do our utmost best to keep our family together. This way requires our word to be truthful and trustworthy and our promises to be kept. It calls for us to be fair in what we give and what we take.
These two paths create two groups of people: The Many who like the “Come as you are” feel that requires no changes and allows one to just make their own rules, believing in and doing whatever feels good at the moment. These are the people who are not willing to do the work. And the Few who follow the stricter path of life, proven so often to be the more difficult path by far. The path that can only be found through the effort of striving for it.
There are two destinations at the end of these paths: One of Destruction of the body that has not been cared for, Destruction of the mind that has not been kept in focus, Destruction of the relationship with others for lack of trust and Destruction of any future for your family. The other is a destination of Peace in the body kept healthy, Peace of the mind kept in focus, Peace of relationships and family who can trust what you say and do and Peace of a secure future.
And so we find the two paths, the two ways, the two groups, and the two destinations being truly a choice that we all must make. We find that all paths do not lead to the same place and it is, in fact, our choices in life that will determine to which place our path will lead. We find that no matter what religious path a person chooses, the path of life is truly what will make the differences.
Are you on the right path? Are you headed in the direction you want to be? Will you be floating with the masses? Or will you take charge of your direction?
Something to Think about,
from the priest of Seekers Temple
Are We Allowed to Judge?
A favorite saying of many people is “Judge not, that ye be not judged”. It is frequently quoted as a deflection when a person's faults are in question. The impression is that we should never make judgments of what we see in others. But is that true? Should we simply ignore what we see? Are we never to make judgments? If we see something harmful to others, can we never point it out? Is this the way, or is it simply a convenient saying that is being used in order to not face our problems? I am persuaded that this statement is often misused. That there are times when we must judge. That there are times when it is appropriate to point out the faults in others and to have them pointed out in ourselves.
Exercising discipline of any sort requires judging others. Since such judgment is involved, some feel that we should rule out any sort of discipline. They feel that people should just do what feels good to them at the time. We are even told that judging and disciplining our own children is child abuse and that we should just let them make up their own minds as to their religion or sexual orientation or even what they want to watch, ware or eat. Imagine the world we would have where there was no discipline and we all just do what we like with no consequence. Sounds fun for a moment, but the end result is chaos as you can not truly understand.
Correcting errors in teaching requires judging others. Judgment is required to consider whether someone is teaching in error or indeed is teaching complete lies. Since such judgment is involved, some feel that we should not speak out against those who teach error. Imagine the world we would have were people taught complete lies and misunderstandings. The end result is a world where truth does not live and where trust is a concept none can understand.
To Judge Or Not To Judge, that is the question before us. Perhaps the answer can be found in the very quote used for such a defense: “Judge not, that ye be not judged”. They get this little saying from the Bible in Matthew 7 which reads “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.”
This saying is not meant to be a defense against guidance. It is only the beginning of a good life lesson. When they stop at “Judge not, that ye be not judged”, they miss the meaning of the very quote they are calling on. The rest of it is the balance that teaches the very important lesson of taking a good look at yourself before you can see others clearly. When we have done so, we are then able to judge and be of help to others who are overtaken by their faults.
Remember the saying that transcends all religion: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This applies to judging someone as much as it applies anywhere. Before we can say to someone “There is a better path”, we should be on that path so that we know it is truly better; Before we can say “Let me show you the way”, we should know what that way is.
Many parents will instruct their children with “Do as I say and not as I do”. That child learns by watching far more than they learn by instruction. They will do as you do because you are their guide in life. When people around you see how you live your life and what the result is, they will judge whether or not they want to end up where you are.
On the flip side, think of this: If someone sees you doing something which could harm you, wouldn’t you want them to make that judgment and show you a better way? But if you look at them, you want to also see they are on the path to which they are leading you and that it is a good path to be on. You wouldn’t want to take advice about life from someone who seems to be in misery with their own life.
So, as it turns out, we are not only allowed to judge others, but it is necessary to do so in order to keep ourselves honest about who we are. Judging is not a destructive thing, but rather a tool that helps a community remain civil and honest. Judging, when done with care and respect, can help people look out for each other and learn from each other. It is a supportive way to give others and ourselves a life tune-up and keep us going smoothly down our path.
I would offer one word of caution here: Giving advise, according to your judgment, does not mean forcing what you believe onto another person. If a person will not hear you, then you have done your part and that choice is up to them to make.
Something to Think about,
from the priest of Seekers Temple
The Slow Decline and Discrimination of Pagan Religions:
A Brief History
By Justin C,
Student of Seekers Temple
To begin this journey, we begin in 306 AD Rome when Constantine began his reign. Until Constantine, Rome was almost entirely Pagan having many temples, altars, and other sanctuaries dedicated to Pagan gods across the city. Baptized on his deathbed, Constantine not only became the first Christian emperor, but he also decriminalized Christianity. Unfortunately, it was also he who put into place some laws like prohibiting the construction of new Pagan temples and later ordered the destruction and plundering of some(Most notably the Temple of Aphrodite in Lebanon, and the murder of Eunech priests in Egypt). Very little pressure was placed on individual Pagans at this time. Paganism itself was not illegal but was slowly being shown regulation handed down by an Emperor.
Constantius II, continuing the works of Constantine, began enacting numerous anti-Pagan laws
that included up to the death penalty for things like attending sacrifices and worshipping idols. Firmicus Maternus, a convert to Christianity, urged to the Emperor, "Paganism, most holy emperors,
must be utterly destroyed and blotted out, and disciplined by the severest enactments of your edicts, lest the deadly delusion of the presumption continues to stain the Roman world" and "How
fortunate you are that God, whose agents you are, has reserved for you the destruction of idolatry and the ruin of profane temples." Christians, although still outnumbered, began vandalizing,
destroying, defacing, defiling, and pillaging ancient Pagan temple, tombs, and monuments. Although he encountered some resistance from governors and magistrates, it was mostly passive. However, he
did not do away with some Pagan things like the College of Vestal Virgins(The group who cared for the sacred, ever burning fire of Rome), and he himself was deified by the Roman Senate after
Julian, educated by Hellenists and co-emperor since 355, ruled from 361-363 AD. A true pagan Emperor, he witnessed the assassination of his father, brother, and other family members by guards of the Imperial Palace under Constantius. Under his rule, he allowed religious freedom and attempted to restore Roman Religion as the driving force of the Empire. Other notable actions include the reinstallment of the Altar of Victory. Julian, as told by Sozomen, did not allow any injustice or insult done unto Christians. However, Christians were not allowed to study ancient authors. "Let them keep to Luke and Matthew, Julian was quoted. Julian himself saw Christianity as completely incompatible with syncretic Paganism and made the implication very clear that the partnership between Rome and Christian Bishops was now at an end. He was thought to have been killed in battle by a spear, to which Christianity developed a myth stating Saint Mercurius killed Julian in later years.
Fast forward to 382. Emperor Gratian began reinstating anti-Pagan laws (most likely influenced by Ambrose, Bishop of Milan). He ordered the confiscation of possessions from priestly colleges and ordered the Altar of Victory to be removed once again. He also declared all temples and shrines to be taken by the government and their revenue to be directed towards the Royal Treasury.
Valentinian II, continued anti-Pagan laws and also added to them things like prohibiting Pagans from visiting temples, denied the request to restore the Altar of Victory, and refused to restore income to the Priestly Colleges.
Theodosius, beginning in 381, presented the harshest Pagan laws compared to his predecessors.
He criminalized magistrates who refused to enforce anti-Pagan laws and destroyed some Pagan temples. The infamous "Theodosian Decree" forbade once again the visiting of Pagan temples, abolished
remaining Pagan holidays, extinguished the sacred fire of Rome, and disbanded the Vestal Virgins. When he became emperor of the whole empire in 392, he ordered the killing of Pagan priests and the
destruction of any idol, object, or place of reverence for Pagans. This became an official war on any traditional religious practice, and anyone caught was put to death and their property confiscated
(Even for small familial rites). It is thought he also banned the Olympic Games, considering the last recorded one was in 393.
Theodosius's policies were proceeded by emperors like Arcadius, Honorius, Theodosius II, Marcian, and Leo I. They continued to increase penalties against Pagans due to Pagan support being among Roman nobles, senators, magistrates, imperial palace officers, and other officials. This implies that Paganism still had many followers. Paganism continued to be carried out in secret, as implied by the existence of Theodosian Code 16.10.24 (Which outlines the recognition that some people were just pretending to be Christian). Some Christians even converted back to Paganism, with even more laws being enacted upon apostasy. By this time, Pagans began voicing their resentment (Ex, Eunapius, and Olympiodorus), to the point that they blamed the Sack of Rome in 410 to the empire being under Christian governance. Non-Christian writings found themselves in bonfires, with Christians threatening to cut off the hands of anyone who dare copy them. Saint Augustine of Hippo used his congregation in Carthage to smash all symbols of Paganism they could lay their hands on.
In 476, after the fall of the Western Empire, Pagans attempted to revive
the old rites. Magister Orientem Illus, revolted against Eastern Emperor Zeno and raised his own candidate named Leontius to the throne. With hopes to restore temples and ancient ceremonies, many
Pagans joined in the revolt against Zeno. Zeno captured both of them 488 and had them executed. Following, Zeno instituted many more anti-Pagan laws. Many Pagans, disillusioned by the failed revolt,
became Christian or pretended to be, to avoid persecution.
Under Pope Gregory, I, the holy sites and places once used to worship Pagan gods were now appropriated by Christianity. "Let altars be built and relics placed there so that the Pagans have to change from the worship of demons to that of the true god".
As far as the ancient Roman Empire goes, the line stops here as no more laws and regulations could be enacted because the ultimate punishment for a Pagan would be death. From here on, the virus of Christianity would continue to spread through Europe, and eventually the rest of the world to which Pagans would be placed under the same persecution.
May we learn from this, and may it never happen again.
May the gods bless us all.
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