Monday, 7 November 2011

Real Pagan or Neo-pagan: How to tell the difference?



In a word: politics.


Real pagans are Right-wing, indeed Reactionary;

while Neo-pagans are Left-wing/ Liberal/ Socialist.


In other words, Real pagans fit their politics into their religion;

while Neo-pagans fit their religion around their politics.



Anonymous said...

There are an awful lot of pagans who have nationalistic and racial notions of "purity."

Do they count as Left socialists or Right Nazis - or as something else?

Bruce Charlton said...

@pg - mainstream right - conservatives and libertarians - are the Left; and so are national/ist socialists and populists (who are hoping to be voted into power).

The Right is about monarchy, authority, hierarchy; not about democracy or mass movements.

Bruce Charlton said...

@pg - I should emphasize that real Right reactionaries are very rare. I mean *very* rare nowadays - I can think of only a handful alive, mostly Eastern Orthodox monks or priests (nearly all Roman Catholic reactionaries seem to be tainted with modernity, unfortunately - perhaps SSPX is an exception). So to find The Right, look to the past.

Catherine said...

I know a lot of soi-disant pagans. For a long time I was confused about why their beliefs were so disconnected to their actions and lifestyles - why 'hellenistic' pagans were practicing modern 'equal partnership' marriages, etc. Finally I spoke to a friend about it and she replied "they're LARPing."

It has made much more sense since then. Modern neopagans = religious LARPers.

Wm Jas said...

It's absurd that so many people consider the National Socialist German Workers' Party to have been a right-wing organization.

Daybreaker said...

What do you mean by "real pagan"? Reconstructionist?

In my experience, all the rightists / conservatives are reconstructionist, but not all the reconstructionists are conservative.

And all, right or left, reconstructionist, neo or other, are subject to the same strong, negative influences, generally external to pagan religions.

If you're getting your information on ancient beliefs and practices from well-credentialed academic sources it's hard to avoid the influence of the pervasive biases of academia. If you're relying on undocumented personal gnosis, then you're really in trouble.

If a lot of your recruits in an average year are young girls who want to shock their parents (but not really upset themselves) and who have just bought teen witch kits or the equivalent, that's an influence in favor of "unicorns and fluffy bunnies" religion under a cloak of "scary" Halloween / twinkly Twilight vampirism. No way will you ever get from there to, say, the authority of the paterfamilias.

But if you let in Christians in positions of authority, particularly the kind of Christian that feels "godly" and thus a natural expert on every kind of god including Isis, then you've really got trouble. Teen witches are bastions of antique integrity next to them.

The worst influence by far is the people that want to go pagan because they think Christians have standards and pagans don't (in other words they've swallowed Christian anti-pagan propaganda whole), and they want to practice vice without shame. It doesn't take many people like that to make things disturbing and even dangerous. Of course there is no mechanism for "paganism" as a whole to expel them.

With influences such as these (and other more pervasive ones, on which you have written better than I could) you can eventually get to a "Kemetic" (ancient Egyptian) true believing reconstructionist who was also a good, democratic anti-monarchist and a left pacifist - no pharaoh, no army, no temple guards. Wonderful.

Which is better than the modern left-wing neo-pagans, a type that for me was summed up by a pompous ass insisting on his right to legally recognized "gay marriage" on the ground that he was a pagan, and this was his religion. I asked him what gods he worshiped and by what rites, and where it was that Zeus, or Jupiter Optimus Maximus or Amon-Ra had come out for homosexual marriage. He had no idea what gods he worshiped, if any. He knew what was right, because it was approved approved by the right (politically correct) people, and that "pagan" meant bring on gay marriage (and orgies with hot buttered boys). If there's a shallower level of piety, I don't know what it is.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Catherine - excellent definition.

I was that soldier...


(To clarify, the above is a joke tag-line ironically derived from from 'The Deck of Cards' sentimental song.)

Bruce Charlton said...

General comment - I have noticed from the response here and at John C Wright's blog - that my own attitude towards paganism is unusual.

I mean, to regard paganism positively as a partial truth - to regard Christianity as including paganism, and a completion not contradiction.

Probably I need to continue blogging on this - but my view derives from Lewis and Tolkien and can easily be found in their works...

Daybreaker said...

To regard paganism positively as a partial truth - to regard Christianity as including paganism, and a completion not contradiction, is rather heterodox, though, isn't it?

Superior hatred has always been a key advantage for the more successful religions and a pseudo-religion.

The classical pagan religions were to a large extent what I would call "pray for rain" religions. They contextualized man in a natural, mostly agricultural cycle, and gave him something sensible say to the awesome powers he sensed at work about him - a proper form of words to say to the proper god while making a sacrifice in hopes that the next year might find your crops as bounteous and your family as healthy as last year, advice for avoiding miasma, instructions for preparing one's tomb, and so on. This doesn't really come with a target list, and in terms of the permanent hostilities of race and tribe it's largely in vain.

But the prime religions of the Middle East came weaponized from the outset. I call these "knife in thy neighbor's neck" religions. They have a direct, Darwinian impact on group selection. If you don't meet them with equal aggression, which you can't in the long run unless your religion is at least equally hostile and comes with an appropriate target list, eventually you must lose.

For example if traditional upper class Romans were inclined to be fair to all (of their class) or just less inclined than Christians were to favor each other and exclude those not of the same religion from power, a fully Christian elite was inevitable in the long run. Pagans might resist that for a while with fearful persecution, but what must come must come. And by the same token, if Jews are more ethnocentric than Christians, they must in time disproportionately dominate top positions, as despite their past persecutions they now do. And if the Muslims are fiercer yet against all not of their own creed, well you see how it goes.

In this arms race, pagans have a target painted on them by Jews, Christians, Muslims and Atheists. Naturally they are practically non-existent now, outside India and Africa, and losing ground there.

Jews have a target painted on them by Muslims, but not by pagans, not by Christians (any more) and not (interestingly) by atheists. Much better! And they get the benefit of dogma bidding them select for each other and against others. They have a sure future.

Christians have a target painted on them by Jews, Muslims and atheists, and by some pagans who put fashion first but not by pagan religions as such. Unsurprisingly, Christians are getting kicked around badly. I do not think that Christianity's future is nearly as good as it looks, given that the populations that histortically glorified it and spread it are being destroyed.

Muslims have a target painted on them by Jews, but only in the context of Israel. In immigrating into Western societies and changing them, they have a free run. And apart from that, they get to kick everyone while not being kicked. Also, they are practically immune to Christian conversion due to their habit of killing or otherwise severely punishing apostates. Naturally they are thriving.

Atheists are in a peculiar position as their "religion" is so repulsive to reason and human nature that it isn't self-sustaining, but it gets artificial life as a result of (a) ferocious Christian versus Christian controversy, such that both Christian sides seem to refute the other, producing a disenchanted wasteland, or (b) Judaism, which it fits naturally both theoretically as the condition of mankind outside the circle of special divine concern, and practically - Jewish Bolshevism etc.. Atheism is a startlingly destructive doctrine, mainly because it can't sustain a comparative advantage over anything, including the simplest pagan promptings of the human heart, except by tearing that other thing down.

Daybreaker said...

I can see the advantage to Christianity of paganism - the real thing I mean, not teen witch kits - being a big thing. In the place of spiritually poisoned atheists like salted earth, Jews out of bounds, and Muslims both out of bounds and violently secure against conversion, you would have rich fields of at least partly spiritually educated and nourished people to harvest for the LORD, and a one-sided contest that you know will go to Christianity because it already did, all over Europe.

But this you can never have, because everybody has a mandate to kick pagans. And Christians, so often required to be forebearing now, even when passivity is plainly self-destructive on the communal as well as on the individual level and in the long run as well as immediately, couldn't be expected to hold out for long if for once they had a license to do some kicking, even though it would not be kicking back against the people who so often kick them.

I'd like it very much if your attitude was normal to Christians, and if Christianity was thriving. Then I think Christianity would have a useful place in the world, being far more benevolent than the other "knife in thy neighbor's neck" religions but still tough enough to sustain itself.

But it's not working out like that. Truth seems to point in one (broad) direction, and the Darwinian process of racial / ethnic conflict pursued through religion unto the confusion and destruction of whoever is less ethnocentric and hostile points in another direction. An absolutely single-minded drive to stack all the positions at the top of the food chain with one's own people seems to pay off better than productivity, justice, speculative reason or the organized awe that the true powers warrant.

Daybreaker said...

"In other words, Real pagans fit their politics into their religion;"

Yes. The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that that matches what I have seen.

"while Neo-pagans fit their religion around their politics."

But that's not necessarily fair or right. Those who define themselves as Neo-pagans are often addressing real issues with honesty and seriousness.

Are sacrifices of hecatombs of oxen or cattle necessary? By all ancient precedent, yes.

Are they practical, especially for modern pagans who don't have much money, facilities or even the security to be openly pagan without endangering their jobs, their relationships and even perhaps the custody of their children? Of course not.

Once you say, "I'm not going to do the things required by ancient law, I'm going to do this modern / practical thing instead" (or worse, nothing instead) then you are in some sense already "neo" and the argument is, you may as well say so and try to organize yourself in a way that allows sustained and meaningful practice in the modern world.

Naturally that opens the door to corruption by modern biases, including political biases. But can that door be altogether closed?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Daybreaker, I have done another posting on this topic - which may clarify things.

The baseline of my analysis is not trying to be 'fair' to Neo-pagans or anyone else. I think that trying to be fair nowadays involves accepting the 'good intentions' of people whose intentions are not in fact good - but are worldly and expedient (as are the intentions which you describe).

And ignoring the fact that there is no compensation betwee good and bad - all Evil contains Good and indeed it is the Good within Evil that allows it to be effective and destructive.

Sometimes Evil is *mostly* Good (in a quantitative sense - which admittedly is nonsense) - but none of that matters if the underlying intent is Evil or has chosen to *serve* an underlying intent of Evil.

The Crow said...

Shall I take the bait..?
No :)