9. I will sustain clarity of faith.
The Order is based in polytheistic and pantheistic faith. This is an unwavering principle. We believe that Deity exists - we are strong deists - and that there are many different deities, all of whom deserve some kind of reverence. While we do not have the time to revere all of them, we do follow a complex liturgy that honors many different god/desses from a variety of cultures. Every one of them is valid, and valuable, in their own way.
These deities are specific unto themselves. Although Venus may arguably be merely the Roman name for Aphrodite, neither Venus nor Aphrodite is Oshun or Freya. There is no room in our tradition for sloppy syncretism. Gods are who they are, and they are not each other. They are differentiated parts of the divine energy of the Universe.
This does not conflict with the concept of pantheism. All god/desses are part of that divine energy, but on the level in which they are undifferentiated, they are impersonal, the same way that human beings are all part of a great swarm of human energy, which is tied to all the other life on Gaea. We are both individual and part of something greater, but we are not each other. It is considered disrespectful to say that Horus is Pan is Frey, etc., and we do believe that they pay attention to these things.
We also believe that deities speak to us, sometimes select us as their special servants, and sometimes ride our bodies. This is a specific and very difficult gift that is bestowed only by a particular deity, and cannot be achieved through any work or enlightenment on the part of the would-be "horse". If this gift comes to you, you need to strive for a balance of self-control in the face of the mystic pull of surrender, neither shutting off the gift entirely - which would anger the god who has chosen you - nor abandoning yourself to merely being a vessel.
It is part of our tradition to propitiate and give offerings to deities, not only as a group on their special days, but also individually when there is a problem to be solved. This is not mere supplication, merely groveling before a greater power; it is a show of respect and appreciation to give gifts, especially ones that you value. The gods are not daemons to be called up and pushed around at will, but if they are treated properly, they will aid you in times of trouble, if appealed to under their particular function.
For us, prayer can be a conversation, if one listens with one's entire soul. If you join the Order and you have not yet experienced this, you need to work at listening properly, and have faith that it will come. It may be one of your karmic lessons to experience that aloneness, and if you have learned everything that it has to teach you, it may pass away and allow you more communion. Working with the Gods is a struggle that cannot be hurried, or judged, and everyone must take it in their own way. If you have touched Deity, and are having difficulty explaining it to those who haven't, keep this in mind: It may be their path to struggle blindly in the silence, screaming unanswered into the echoing void, and learn what they can from that state. It is not your job to judge the validity of their karmic path, only your own. Be patient, and fair, and supportive, and don't expect them to believe what they haven't seen or experienced.
If you have trouble with the concept of embodied deity, and especially with many specific deities, then perhaps you should think about looking into Buddhism, and their monastic orders. To be in the Order, you will be required to sustain faith in the gods as real beings and not just archetypes; in their energy as something beyond you and not merely something invoked from within you.
On the other hand, we do not argue that archetypes are real, and that they are far more than merely psychological pictures floating around in the collective unconscious. An archetype is a complex personalized myth, and a myth is a story that never happened but is always true, a groove worn into the Universe that it is all too easy to fall into and slide down towards the end. For example, the Monk/Nun is in itself an archetypal groove, and when you enter the Order, if your heart is truly in it, and you are meant to be here, it will come and consume you. Archetypes have a power of their own, and every god casts an archetype as their shadow.....not "shadow" in the Jungian sense of something dark and negative, but in the neutral sense of something two- dimensional that is shaped like you, moves like you, but is not you.....and yet is attached to you. An example of a monastic Goddess is Hestia. To take on her archetype is to touch the hem of her garment, yet you neither become her nor eradicate her existence, which is in many ways more real than your own. You merely become her shadow, and her movements will in many cases dictate yours.
We also believe in the force of cause and effect, which is sometimes known by the Eastern name of Karma. It can also be posited as: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. What you do does come back to you, and it can accumulate. One of the positive things about the monastic path is that is burns off negative karma by its constant struggling with the ego and the unconscious, much in the way that aerobics burns off calories. Part of understanding one's spiritual path is examining one's accumulated karma and accepting lessons that are sent. We also believe that one must atone for one's negative deeds, but that suffering is not atonement. Atonement is not about how much suffering you go through, it is about how much suffering you alleviate in the world. Suffering is the lesson one must learn in order to see the direction that one's atonement must follow.
As a lay member, this is probably the first question you should ask yourself before even taking on this path. The answer to the question: are the Gods real or archetypes? is answered with one word: Yes. These truths are not mutually exclusive, and if you cannot sustain that kind of faith, you need to look elsewhere for a religious tradition, as this is an unwavering principle that cannot be compromised. If you follow none of the others wholly, you must at least follow this one, or there is no point calling yourself a member of the Order.
[Order of the Horae]