Dei Et Mundo by Sallustius
Reviewed by Shaik Sebir

Most Neo-pagans don't know about "On the Gods and the World" by Sallustius because it's not easy to find, but finding it is worth the effort -- It's the authoritative Creed of the Neo-Platonic movement of the Roman Emperor Julian's time. It's as close to any Work that I know of to something may Neo-Pagans claim doesn't exist and that some wouldn't want to have existed in any form -- a Universal Pagan Catechism.

One problem with "Dei Et Mundo" is that it was written 1700 years ago, and many of its assumptions n how the world works sound simplistic and sometimes naive; it assumes that the reader is familiar with Hellenist Mythology, and its Science is somewhat faulty. It was written as an Apology {defense} of Hellenism and its Mythology. It tres to answer FAQs about the Gods, Fate, NeoPlatonist Salvation, and "The Way of Things".

One assumption the treatise makes was that influential people still listened to what Neo-Platonists said, and had been "well guided" from childhood" not to be "habituated to foolish beliefs" [Xianity}, and have "good and sensible " dispositions. These were slim hopes at best, for Julian's reign was a short one and his successor quickly reversed directions towards fusing Xianity with the Roman State again.

Readers were also to know the "Common Conceptions"; e.g., all that is called "God" is Good and free from passion and change. For Sallustius "diety that changes does so for the worst". If deity changes for the better, then deity was bad (or imperfect) to begin with" -- which won't do at all ! The essences of the Gods never came into existance, and that which is Eternal always was. They're not contained by space; in Reality they have no bodies; they aren't Separate from either the First Cause, or from one another. He is saying, if effect, that all the god/esses are one, just as thoughts aren't separate from the mind, or acts of knowledge from the Soul. The conception of deity has grown to become more Universal than the eras of Homer and Socrates. Sallustius' message is that one should be awed that the Gods are.

He states that the Myths aren't just pretty stories, they are Divine. They've inspired the Poets, the best of the Philosophers, and the Establishers of the sacred Mysteries (all safely dead), and are quoted in the Oracles [long since dust]. Myths aren't just pretty stories, lurid fiction, or primitive falsehoods. They represent the"The Gods Themselves" {A good book by Isacc Asimov}, but knowing who They are is only for those who Understand. This is a a common theme among esoteric folk even today. There are those who Understand; then there's the Rest of Us ;-) This is also a Gnostic Tenet: Teaching Wisdom to Fools or Fundies only teaches them contempt for Wisdom, so the Mysteries as well as the Truths of the Myths were hidden in plain sight !! [ Xians thought that the Myths were a Pagan weakness and ridiculed them as silly and "immoral"]. He gives examples of the five types of Myths and their inner meanings. He says that objects can be Sacred to the Gods, but those objects aren't gods, and how Myths are often parables. He talks about the Mother of the gods [Goddess] and the meanings behind Her Myth.

The World will Stand Forever !

He covers the First Cause and other Neo-Platonist Concepts and he makes clear the those who worship their leaders lose all knowledge of "God" as their punishment. "God" includes gods that are concerned with the World (Cosmic, as well as Hypercosmic gods - those who made the Cosmos, animate it, and harmonize it. Unlike the Xian view -- The Earth will NOT be destroyed - This is the only one we get !! There is no "End of the World" and all it brings with it.

Much of the latter part of Chapter 7 has to be taken with a grain of salt, his Science is quaint to faulty, but expected. Chapter 9 is on Providence, Fate -- and Fortune - A Treasure Trove for Astrologers. He questions their reasoning as well, which shows that the old fart had a sense of humor. Many people believe that the "Judeo-Christians" orginated the concepts of "Good and Evil", Sin, Ethics and Morality. But, these topics belong to Philosophy - not Monotheism. Sallustius believes that Reason, Virtue and Civility must be taught. {In a Land where Greed, Discourtesy and Rudeness are Constitution-a-babble rights they should be taught early and often. The streets are becoming very mean...]

"God" is a continuum of Power, not One Sole Being. They make the World (cosmos) "such as it is", not "make it be" [Or is that: "Make it So."], since there is no Creation as such, there is no Xtian type "Creator". The Gods make the World neither by art or by physical process, but by Power.

If the Gods are unchangeable, then can they be made angry or be appeased or prayed to ? For Sallustius, God isn't affected for Good or Evil by Humanity. When we are Good we are joined wih the Gods "by our likeness to them", and when Evil, we are separated from them. Prayers and sacrifices don't appease as much as move us towards Them. What we DO turns us towards the Divine; what we DO heals us and what we DO brings forgiveness of Sins. Worship is for our own benefit, and it is WE who gain from our Communion with Them. No Xian Redeemer Need Apply !! The revelation that Paganism has a concept of Sin would be shocking in some Quarters!] The Soul brings itself to Judgement, and punishment isn't meted out -- it's a consequence of Not living correctly ! If animmediate punishment came down from on high then People would be JUST out of Fear, as the Xian is, and learn not Virtue. Souls suffer for their irrational nature, "with which they sinned". As Soul is Eternal, it may Transmigrate, or Be Reborn. If a rational Soul is reincarnated as an animal then it remains outside the body, since the rational can't inhabit irrational beasts. Using congenital diseases to prove Transmigration, similar to Hindu ideas, he then says that the number of Souls is Finite and that they are rarely new. Nature Recycles, so isn't it reasonable to assert that Soul is Recycled.

"Souls that have live in virtue are, in general, happy; and when separated form the irrational part of their nature, and made clean from all matter, have communiion with the gods and join them in the governing of the whole world... etc. [[Everyone wanat to go to Heaven, but no one wants to DIE..]]

This remarkable treatise has been sorely neglected. I found it in The Five Stages of Greek Religion by Murray

:-)


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