As Fate would have it, I know its prolific, highly erudite author quite well. From this seminal essay came material for this, his best known defence of atheism, which appeared a few months later. In , when his conversations on paganism appeared, the ones attached to this English edition, I read them over with great care. The current Left rages against the West because of its Christian underpinnings as well as its whiteness; and Western traditionalists and reactionaries may have to fight back with the only religious resources that matter in this contest. But Benoist is also writing throughout as a polemicist. He never really hides his hand when he characterizes himself as a pagan who is consciously rejecting the Christianity of his conventionally Catholic parents.
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There is a Nietzschean flavour to de Benoists quest. Max Weber provides the example of the Christian maxim: "Resist not evil. It is up to each of us to choose between the dignity of a religion that offers such an ethic, and the dignity of a virile being who preaches something entirely different, to wit: "Resist evil, otherwise you are responsible for its victory. This is just how it is on every level of life. I offer in this book a parallel reading of paganism- as the original religion of Europe and as an ever-central component of its present day- and biblical and Christian thought.
One may accept or reject this reading; it is a subject for debate. But to go even further, if one accepts my course of reasoning, one may even take a stand opposite that of my own, to wit, join Christianity and reject paganism exactly for the same reasons that prompted my attraction to the latter and withdrawal from the former. This is an era where everything is simulacrum and foreclosed experience, where everything is spectacle but there are no eyes left to see. We live in a society where new forms of totalitarianism and exclusion are being put into place.
It is a society with a deafening clamor of rekindled hatreds matched only by the deafening clamor of the inauthentic and the inessential. It is a society where beauty is dying, a society at the end of history, a society of the last man where everything is collapsing into the sunset- of the absolute transatlantic West and a once great history.
In opposition to this time and this society, this book seeks to recall the possibility of a landscape and a spiritual re-presentation that would resonate with the beauty of a painting, a face, a harmony- with the face of a people uplifted by hope and the will to live another beginning. This is, obviously, a book of desires, memories, doubts, and passions. I am referring here primarily to his distinctly Heideggerian approach. As Stephen E. In philosophy, finally, in opposition to the partisans of the exclusive primacy of the logos over the mythos- from Descartes and Auguste Comte to Horkheimer and Adorno- are the partisans of the mythos from Vico to Heidegger.
Knut Hamsun, Stefan George, Rilke, and so forth. Opposing the Roman Tiber to the eastern Orontes, he leaves these instructions: "Whenever you experience mental vacillation, cast your mind back to the Greco-Roman mentality as it was before the second century. The chapters in the second half of the book are often dealing with opposite terms or antinomies, which the chapter headings reflect, e.
The birth of opposites in the divine unity comes at the end of dualism. It has never ceased to assert the conjunction of opposites, which Judeo-Christian monotheism with horror describes as confusion and chaotic helter skelter. And the worst "confusion" concerns absolute good and evil, which lead to their own surpassing.
The non-distinction of absolutes, the human "claim" to establish itself as the founder of values, is what the Bible condemns most fundamentally. It is the affirmation of this "neutral zone" that Heidegger, himself condemned by Levinas, makes one of the characteristics of being. The "revelation," if there is one, would be the non-existence of the opposites engendered by dualistic thought, the non-existence of the irreducible opposites born of the affirmation of the Completely Other.
This is what Europe has been directly or indirectly repeating ceaselessly for millennia. This is what it has been compelled to constantly cast into the faceless face of Yahweh.
In its most immediate manifestations, polytheism is the expression of this antagonism, which never terminates in irreversible opposites and a radical dualism. The pagan gods fight amongst themselves, and yet this struggle never provides a challenge to the tripartite structure that emerged from the foundational war.
In the spirit of paganism, even the public enemy hostis, as opposed to inimicus cannot represent evil in and of itself. It always remains a relative adversary Far from necessitating the dishonoring of the enemy in order to fight him an inevitable obligation in a "pacifist" system by the same token an opponent can be acknowledged as a peer for standing up and fighting well.
Hence the fundamentally pagan appeal to the "fraternal adversary" -an appeal rarely heard today, I should note- that is the strict opposite of the "forgiveness for offenses" Hence also the very ancient practice of the duel, which is the very concretization of this mentality and we all know how it has endured through time, even independently of the technical development of means of destruction. Carl Schmitt also shows that the replacement of politics by morality, far from leading to the extinction of conflicts, instead leads to their aggravation.
In fact, from the moment conflict falls under a moral interpretation- and a morality that poses good and evil as absolutes- it becomes inextinguishable. The enemy is not suppressed but transformed from a temporary, relative adversary into an absolute enemy.
The enemy in fact can only represent evil. It is the evil he embodies that one is fighting, and for this task all means are good or capable of being good. The enemy is guilty; he must be punished. This assignation of guilt to the adversary is a necessary condition for the entire system. When one is an adept of "universal peace," how can one wage war unless it is in the name of a self-evident good? Step by step, we have arrived at the idea that the enemy should not exist.
If the enemy does exist, then he does so outside of human laws- outside of humanity. This is the logic: a society without enemies that wishes to see peace reign through justice, i. Far from justice replacing politics, one would witness a parody of justice and politics. Adding the radical devaluation of some people and the good conscience of others to traditional conflicts abolishes the classic distinctions of civil and military, the state of war and the state of peace.
Such wars imply the destruction of the adversary, eventually replaced by his "conversion" or "reeducation," to the very extent it is deemed impossible and unthinkable to come to terms with what the adversary represents. It is not merely more perfected technical means of destruction that have rendered modern wars atrocious; it is the conjunction of these means with the general diffusion of a biblical ideology of "universal peace," which, when confronted by the reality of alterity and the relative enmities that flow out of it, can only confront it by putting the enemy outside humanity.
To accept, on the contrary, the specificity of politics- and by the same stroke, the entire autonomy of man it denotes- is not necessarily the same as considering the enemy as a culprit. It is to acknowledge him as still qualified to be of equal dignity. If conflicts do not intrinsically fall under a moral interpretation, then the adversary does not represent "evil"; he is only the figure of a given problematic, and one can still respect the individual man he is inside.
If my relationship to him is beyond good and evil, the Other can be both my enemy and my brother. Only polytheism is a political view of the beyond. For the same reason the whole of human society reconciled with itself as announced by Marxism, cannot be political either.
This corresponds with the position that all political theory is pluralist. This is why the negation or devaluation of the Other to the profit of the Completely Other, goes hand in hand with the negation or devaluation of politics.
In the etymological sense, politics remains the activity of the polis, of the city, and it so happens that only paganism can accept that different cities have different gods.
In evoking, with Heidegger, the perspective of "another beginning," I have already defined what I mean by "other. To surpass Christianity demands both the reactualization of its "before" and the appropriation of its "after. The "return to before" is unworkable. Just as it needs to leave behind all naturalism, cease to identify with standards and "averages," and rethink the articulation of ethics between what is and what should be according to a given plan, neo-paganism must take into account history, whose notion has been conceptualized by Judeo-Christian monotheism, not to assign it now a sole, unique end, but to make it the ever-plural result of a will that is ceaselessly reoriented in new directions.
For the same reason, neo-paganism must also re-present the pagan system of values in a form that is not simply the antithesis of Judeo-Christian monotheism. The paganism of the future will be a Faustian paganism. Far from being radically distinct from the gods of the traditional pantheon, it represents their common principle. There is no Hinterwelt, no "world beyond. Wisdom and virtue consist of living according to the "order" of this universe.
Even better, the cosmos, insofar as it contains the totality of beings, is absolutely perfect; therefore nothing can remain outside of it. If it referred at times to a unique God, it was not in the sense of Judeo-Christianity.
More than a stricto sensu monotheism, it was a unitarian pantheism, professing that the Deity was the soul of the world This paganism is characterized on the "ideological" plane by the interpenetration of specifically religious and philosophical elements.
It was not given time to establish itself Left to its own devices It is a great read, and there is much food for thought here. For my part, it is certainly a book I will return to.
On Being A Pagan
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On Being a Pagan