• What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent? Richard Feynman
    "The Relation of Physics to Other Sciences", The Feynman Lectures on Physics

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Other Blogs

  • Unsettled Time
    We are living in unsettled time. Wp Rnpt has ended the time between time, the Days Upon the Year in which time is upended and unordered, but time is still not aligned fully. We have space in which action exists, in which we can uphold the world, set ma’at in its place, the leverage to […]
  • Just a quick note
    I’ve updated my bio page with a link to Les Cabinets Des Polytheistes, where my story “Spine of the World” is published (and in which people can play Spot The Netjer if they are so inclined), and my less-specific webspace Suns in Her Branches, which is broader than this space (which is specifically for reconstructionist-derived […]
  • Opet article is up
    And can be read here.Filed under: Patheos Links
  • On Falling in Love
    For a long time, whenever I wanted to talk about the experience of conversion when I found Kemeticism, I talked about falling in love. It wasn’t just “Oh, this religious concept works for me,” it was a passionate thing, an […]
  • Eclipse Magic
    I am eight. I have been given a subscription to the magazine Sky & Telescope as part of our preparation for Halley’s Comet, and I read through it, earnestly trying to make sense of the articles, studying the pictures. I […]
  • Hills of the Horizon: The Past is Another Country
    The problem with extrapolation from history is that nothing is testable. The evolution of a religion over time is not a predictable and easily comprehensible thing, where we can look at a point in time and say, "It was like this then, so it would be like that now." The process of deciding what needs […]

Reconstruction As Scaffolding

Reconstruction is not doing religion. This is the first and most important thing to remember about it.

Reconstruction is a process by which one can assemble the parts of a religion. Like a construction scaffolding built around a public works project, it is a temporary thing, one which will ideally vanish once the building is complete.

The second most important thing to remember about reconstruction is that we are wrong.

Our errors are inescapable. We do not know what the ancients of whatever people did completely, even if we are (as I am) dealing with a culture in which there was a literate population that did things like write ritual descriptions down. We don’t know a whole lot about the private practices of the majority of people. We don’t know how people thought about things, what stories they told by the fire and over dinner, any of these things, because that information does not leave material remnants.

We are going to get it wrong. Which means that if “reconstruction” means “doing it like the ancients did it”, “reconstruction” will fail.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to pursue things that can’t possibly work.

Reconstruction is finding pieces that work, and assembling them into something that works, and when there is a functional system, shifting over into actually doing the thing. Because the whole idea of the process is that there is a thing actually produced on the far side.

(The third most important thing to remember about reconstruction is that doing research is not actually the point.)

The thing that is produced in the far side will be wrong. Academic knowledge will render it obsolete, likely within ten years. Academic knowledge is not in fact the governor of validity of a religious practice, however; what matters is does the thing work.

Build something that works, starting with the bones of the ancients certainly, but garb it in flesh as well, give it breath, and when it lives, celebrate its life.

It doesn’t matter if in five years someone publishes a paper disproving some theory that’s in the underpinnings of how it was built, because that in the underpinnings just happens, what matters is whether the building is sound. Does it work. Are the powers and spirits it honors pleased; are the relationships it encourages healthy; does it feed and nurture its community.

The products of academia – while also constructed as a number of texts from often-disagreeing authors arguing over various perspectives and points – are not any sort of scripture. It is not a good idea to treat them as such. Especially if one ever has intention to take up the responsibility of celebration.