|Lesson 11 - On Prophecy and Visions|
SCHOLA AETII·WEDNESDAY, 17 OCTOBER 2018|
De Natura Ariolum
On the Nature of the Seer of the Gods
In today's Lesson I will write about one of the more controversial topics, the nature of the Seer and of Visions and messages send by Gods, but also of Omen and Augury. Cicero has written three theological texts, “On the Nature of the Gods”, “On Prophecy” and “Concerning Fate”. In these he explains first the various views which existed in his time on these questions, giving us an insight into different perspectives, and then gives us his own preferred view. There are also some religious writings in Plutarch's Moralia, which give us a lot of hints about the more spiritual views which existed in the time of the Roman Empire in the Roman world, though they are more strewn over many texts, and there is not the one text which you can read and get all the clues. For instance, you essentially have to read the entire Biographies, because there are many tales of events where Omens, Augury and Dreams decided the cause of action of the Roman people, and you find many such events written in his Biographies. So before I go to the realm of my personal experience as a Seer, let us look what the sources say.
First, we can see now only through Plutarch's Biographies, but also through many biographical writings of the Classic World, that Omens, Signs, Visions and Dreams guided the people of Rome to a great degree. There were both personal experiences of individuals, as well as organized inquiries through formal institutions. The most formal was probably the Sibylline Books, a series of texts written, which were consulted mostly by the state as what to do. We have, alas no knowledge about the actual nature of this writing, as the Books were lost already in early times to a fire. Where the Sibylline Books maybe similar to the I Ching? We can not know. But it is interesting enough that the Romans accepted a written book as source of even what the state itself should do, so we can say that such a practice is in accordance with the Roman Religion. Even given, that after their destruction new Sibylline Books were ordered to be written – which were destroyed by Christians in later times. But we have also Dreams and individual Visions, like when a person of note had a dream, sometimes a Temple was built or an offering was committed, because in dream a God had ordered so. Caesar's wife was warned of his death through a dream, but Caesar ignored the omen – to his death.
In his book “De Divinatione” Cicero differs between natural and artificial forms of divination. Simply said, the natural ones are spontaneous, they are coming to men by the action of the Gods, whereas the artificial ones are organized and systematic, and here men take action to ask the Gods. Typical artificial forms are watching the behavior of birds or reading entrails of sacrificial animals, in modern times it would be like reading the Tarot Cards or casting the Runes. Artificial is using a set of means, of preset interpretations and the initiative comes from men. In the natural divination, the answer is not a preset form, but it comes through dreams or what Cicero calls “a state of excitement”, in form of a vision, like in the Oracle of Delphi.
We know historically, that, while the conservative Romans were very reluctant to accept new forms of Prophecy, they were generally open to it, though some more pragmatic people like Cicero less so than others, but the high respect to the Greek Oracle of Delphi and the great respect they paid to foreign religions, like the Kemetic Religion of Egypt, shows us that the Romans later on gradually grew more open. Of course in private, the Roman world knew a plethora of Seers, Diviners and all forms of the occult to ask for the will of the Gods, even though it was frowned on by the Cult of the State, it is so in all times. The Churches desire to monopolize religion, and the individual seeks his personal way. We have to live with that conundrum of religion and make our way through, avoiding both the primitive superstition of soothsayers at every corner, and the all too rigid and materialistic denial of prophecy in the interest to control religion by any authority.
THE NATURE OF THE GODS
The Gods are benevolent, and they want to guide us. That view was the common sense in Rome, and it shall be a central guideline in the Schola Aetii just as well. The Gods are also mysterious, no mortal man can entirely understand their will and their doing, so any form of Prophecy and Omens must be treated with the greatest care and humility. So let me make one thing clear: The Gods NEVER command you to do a thing. That is not the nature of the Gods. They are not overlords. Just take the 147 Delphic Maxims, upon which I have also written an interpretation of each Maxim. They are wise suggestions, they are NOT Commandments. It is a fundamental theological difference between Paganism/Polytheism and the monotheist Book Gods. Our Gods are the Living Gods, the Speaking Gods, they guide us from day to day, from year to year, on and on, if only we open ourselves to their guidance. They do not command and do not put commandments into text. For look, if a God wills something absolute, he will make sure it happens, he doesn't HAVE to command. If something is your destiny, it will come to you. A God doesn't have to command you, if something must happen. So giving commandments is actually a contradiction to the very idea of the Divine. If you have choice, a God can advise and council; but if an event or development is ordained, the God doesn't waste his time to command to you the unavoidable.
And let me speak on the nature of Destiny here for a moment, and this is more my experience and what I have been revealed by Apollo: The Gods never ordain anything without even giving people a small door to escape. The Gods ALWAYS give people a chance to escape a destiny. For such is the mercy of the Gods, that no matter how hard you may have failed or how vile you may have acted, there is never eternal doom, never unavoidable condemnation, even for the sinner, and how much more should then not the good person get a chance to avoid a destiny? Again, the Gods are benevolent and so they will never cast anything upon us, without placing a sort of “door” to escape it. However, it may be a well hidden door, a tiny door, or a door only open for a short period of time. This gives us also a good guideline to unmask crooks: if anyone tells you, you are doomed without hope, if anyone tells you that it is the will of a God to commit a crime or atrocity, we know this is a crook and a liar, for the Gods being benevolent would never say any such things. This is simple reason, and so it is not very difficult to see that such people pervert the name of the Seers and Prophets. Now of course, the Gods can decide to bring retribution upon people who went a dark and evil way, but it is not a punishment in that sense, but as all the doings of the Gods, it is to teach us, to better us so that we retreat from false and wicked ways. Our Gods the Dei Consentes, the Twelve, are the Gods of Civilization, of the progress of humankind, so they will guide us so that we progress, to understand, to achieve wisdom and to create ways to live with each other better and more harmonious. But the Gods do not desire slaves, who throw themselves into the dust, or to overflow with zealotry, but they want calm and collected citizens, trusting the Divine Council and seeking to establish an order of fairness, justice and peace.
AUGUR AND ARIOLUS
Now the problem we have is, all of the artificial methods of Divination were lost. We have neither about reading entrails no bird flight any source that would inform us in a complete and coherent way, we have only a few sources, mostly in historic reports and biographies. But, following the Living Gods means, the Gods will want to continue to guide us. Cicero had made that clear in many of his writings. The Gods ever continue to guide, that is why Oracles, Omens and Prophecy always continue and never end. I will hence introduce two different terms, for the sake of practicality, the Augur and the Ariolus. Both are essentially Seers or Diviners, but I will now limit the concept of the Augur to one who limits himself to strictly traditional methods, whereas the Ariolus is a Seer who embraces the methods of other backgrounds and learns to inquire the council of the Gods from all sorts of sources, and I as a Seer of Apoll, am an Ariolus not an Augur. So in this way we can leave the term of the Augur to the Traditionalists and take the term of the Ariolus to signify the Reformist Approach.
I have said time and again, that religion is not something set in stone, and since we live in the dilemma that we have to pick up something that was dropped about 1600 years ago – and humankind has moved on since then – we are practically forced to the experiment, to try and error. Not all approaches will stand then the test of time, while others may, and that means we have to try out methods of other Pagan Religions, and see if our Gods are willing to accept these means to guide us. One reason also is, that many of the Classic Means are mostly closed to us. We can't really read entrails anymore, waiting for Omens like lightning strike has become highly impractical, and even looking for the Bird Flight is in our modern civilization a very challenging task. In the artificial way I am therefore suggesting to try out two systems, one which developed from a general Pagan view in our own culture, the Tarot Cards, and the other from another Pagan Culture, the I Ching. Now it takes some amount of dedication; you can't just pull out the Tarot Cards or the I Ching and ask Apollo or Zeus. You need to establish a good connection to the Roman God of your choice first, and that is a matter of years of prayer, meditation and forming a link to your God. If you just toss out the Cards or the I Ching Coins, you will not get any answer from the Gods. I say this also to our critics, who claim we do these things lightly, and just out of the blue introduce foreign elements into the Cultus. No, it is only through long term dedication that a Seer can ask a God to accept such a source, and only one who went through years of training in interpreting either the Tarot or the I Ching, do we trust this person to be accepted as Ariolus of the Gods. I have trained myself 25 years in each, before I dared to ask the God to accept these to speak through. That is why the Schola Aetii was founded, so we can teach Seers and Priests, and the Seers we teach shall be given the highest standards of care and respect, so as not to do any Prophecy or Guidance lightly.
Here are a few rules to apply the artificial methods of the Seer:
1) Remember the Gods are benevolent, they do not doom us to unavoidable fate, but they want to guide each of us, and not enslave or command us like some overlord.
2) The Gods always speak in form of advise, of chances you can pick up, pathways which may help your development; but it is up to us to pick up that advise.
3) So a God will never say “do this” or “do that”. He will say, you may be ready to undertake this task, or if you follow this pathway it may lead you to this or that.
4) The Gods almost always answer in ambivalent ways, riddles, hints, leaving it to the person asking to clue it out.
5) Even the best Seer is just a human being. He is a medium through which the Gods speak, but the mortal man who is Seer has his personal issues like anyone.
6) Being a Seer requires a constant self searching, to clear your mind to be impartial, to disconnect yourself from extremes and prejudice.
7) Learn the backround of the tool you use, only the educated Seer is the trusted Seer.
8) As Ariolus, be respectful to the person who seeks council, do not abuse your power, give the message so they understand it well.
9) Do not ask the Gods about trivialities which you can know by your own reason. Do not ask the Gods for a commandment, for you will not receive such.
10) Do not repeat the same question, unless a new situation arises. The Gods foresee far, so a question should be repeated very seldom.
11) Do not test the Gods by asking trick questions. The Gods will not look favorably upon those who treat the Oracle with disrespect.
12) If you ask the Gods and constantly disregard their advise, do not expect them to answer you in the future. If you consult the Gods, you must be sure to actually be willing to listen to them.
13) Do not ask the Gods too often. Remember, you are asking GODS. Do not trivialize the Oracles by asking them for any small issue and pester them constantly. The Gods are the ultimate authority, and should only be consulted in need.
The natural forms of Divination are of course by far the most difficult. These are basically two, the dreams and the visions in the exalted mindset. Each require the greatest care, for we have to be wary not to take any dream or any vision too quickly as the will of a God. Again, we have to consider the nature of the Gods, and ask: is this truly in accordance with this God? In my experience, the vast majority of dreams and visions which I have received and which I accepted from others, were personal advise. Like when a person I knew was wondering, whether he should take the pathway to become Sacerdos of a certain God, some times later I was visited by that God in a dream, and the person was shown to me in the clothing of a Sacerdos. That did not mean that person now must become a Sacerdos; it was just the God saying: I am ok with it, if this person becomes my Sacerdos. But the choice still lays with that person alone. He must choose to do so, or not. And such is the nature of visions and dreams: we are shown a path, but it remains to the individual to go for it.
To whom the Gods speak is a challenging topic, for apparently the Gods pick to speak only to a few. I have been writing about this topic in my “Lesson 2: Why do the Gods only speak to some?” in great detail. In short: we cannot know. But apparently the Gods prefer to guide just a few and then the rest is in the situation to consult a Seer and establish a trust to him. We may regard it as a test, both sides involved are tested and through this we can grow. Now while the artificial methods of Divination are open to anyone, and of course we know dreams and visions can come to anyone just as well, like in the case of the wife of Caesar, the Schola Aetii suggests a formal training, especially because my understanding of the role of the Priest in our time requires a connection to the Gods. We do no longer have the great Oracle Sites to consult and no longer the officials we all agree on. So each group needs its own Seer, who either is the consultant of the Priest of the group, or if a person is capable, the Priest can be trained to be the Ariolus too. There is no way to restrict to whom and how the Gods speak. I know that some prefer a strict control over the Augurs and Arioli, but a Priest cannot command the Gods to be silent; that would be hubris or a gross misunderstanding of the Gods. All the tales and myths show us, that the Gods enjoy company of selected individuals. They guide some on their personal destiny, others to guide others, to advise communities. It is not our task as mortals to tell the Gods to whom to speak and under what circumstances. However, common sense and experience can guide us to differ wishful thinking from true vision, to differ a true Seer from a crook. This is not an easy task, and the problem existed for the Ancient just the same. There is no simple way to avoid this problem, but limiting it to quasi “state sanctioned” and centralized Augury alone would be contradictory to all we know how the Gods work. The Gods do not confine themselves to man made governments. Still, whether you seek to Divine just for yourself or become a Seer for your community, the pathway is long and needs to be taken very serious. Both Gods and Men trust in you, and if you abuse that trust, expect calamity to come to you.
The Ariolus – or Seer – of a God needs to dedicate himself to his God of choice, establish a connection to his God through years of work, training, meditation and prayer. Now there are many guides how to achieve the skills of a Seer. Lessons how to stare into water or a crystal ball, how to evoke spiritual dreams and how to train yourself to get into exalted states of mind, and since there are plenty of guides and books on these topics, I shall not go into any technicality here. Just be aware these things can be learned like any technique, but in the end the Gods have the final say if they speak to you or not. You can only make yourself ready. Being an Ariolus requires the greatest humility and constant vigilance. You need to explore and know your weaknesses, to know yourself well and be willing to look inside yourself. You need to train to let go preset ideas and nurture a kind of open mindedness. It is to a large part unlearning and letting go, to be open for the will of your God. In a way you can say, one has to nurture his “feminine” side, to receive the presence of the God, and be warned: it is strenuous. The presence of a God is not an easy thing, benevolent as they may be, their “energy” if you will, is so powerful, that being too often in their presence is putting quite a strain on the human body. So if you fancy becoming an Ariolus out of dreams of power, forget it. Most Seers will have to deal with social reject, and it will put a strain on body and psyche.
One of the psychological dangers is of course hubris, and I have more than one Seer fall into this pitfall: developing a sense of power, to be “chosen” above others. The Ariolus is a SERVANT of the people, not a master, a guide at the roadside, not a commander. Gentleness, kindness and humility must be the hallmark of the Seer. If you develop arrogance or hubris, trust me that the Gods will not like such characteristics. They may still speak through you, but as hubris always does, it will call calamity upon you. Do not brush that off! While the Gods are benevolent, they are not lightly with those who abuse the roles of Priest or Seers, especially because these are offices of such high esteem and importance. They will punish the Seer who abuses his trust by lying, or even of you constantly distort the vision and act towards others with a mindset of arrogance and self importance. Ideally an Ariolus is part of a group, a community which ground him or her. But I understand that this is not always possible in our time. So I give this final advise, be respectful. Know you are to guide, to help, to nurture people, not to boss them around or make them do things. If you hold the task given to you as Seer sacred by honoring the trust given, the Life Hereafter will be under the great blessing of the Gods, whose servant and speaker you were chosen and educated to be. Your payment shall then be the love of the Gods themselves, so refrain from all the power plays of men, of governments and organizations. Your duty, my fellow future Seers, lies to all people and the Living Gods who Speak.
C. Florius Aetius
Sacerdos et Ariolus Apollon