Does your religion give you peace of mind?

Definitely not! My religion provides me with many things but peace of mind certainly isn’t one of them. It’s probably the biggest cause of stress and anxiety in my life – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

You see, one of the core values of Classical Polytheism is αρετή, a Greek word meaning virtue, excellence, exceptionalness. Areté represents the ideal, the peak of perfection, our highest aspirations which as humans we are ultimately unable to attain. But that’s beside the point – we must strive with all we have, offer and become our best – and in so doing come as close to divinity as we are ever going to. For the ancients this was not just a deeply cherished social value but rather a fundamentally religious concept. Hence most festivals contained an agon or competition in the fields of athletics, music, dance, poetry or beauty. It was felt that the Gods desired and deserved to see humanity at its finest and that the struggle to attain that purified not only the individuals but the whole community. Further because of their perfection it was necessary to give to the Gods the very best that we have: the most beautiful temples and statues, the choicest sacrificial animals, the costliest perfumes and incenses, the first-fruits of our labor, the sweat of our brow and mastery of our craft gained from long hours of discipline and practice. Anything less than our best is an affront to their greatness.

Therefore no matter how good I get I am always trying to improve on that and challenge myself in new and different ways. I refuse to sit on my laurels and congratulate myself on past accomplishments. Whether in my writing, my studies, my oracular and other spiritual work, the rituals I perform and any other part of my life that comes under their purview I am constantly looking for ways to improve, things I neglected or got wrong, new directions I could take it in or techniques to try out. I do not compare myself to my contemporaries but rather to the giants and geniuses who came before. And I won’t be satisfied even once I’ve surpassed them, because there is always room for improvement. Always. So no, my religion does not offer peace of mind – but it holds out something infinitely preferable: greatness.