A Modern Pagan Philosophy


David Myatt

David Myatt

A Modern Pagan Philosophy

It is my contention that the philosophy – the weltanschauung – advanced by David Myatt between 2012 and 2015 {1}, and named by him as ‘the philosophy of pathei-mathos’, is not only a modern expression of the Western mystical tradition {2} but also a pagan philosophy.

In respect of mysticism, a mystic is a person (i) who by means such as contemplation desires a selfless awareness of God or of Reality, ‘the cosmic order’, or (ii) who accepts that there is a spiritual apprehension of certain truths which transcend the temporal. This apprehension certainly applies to Myatt’s philosophy, based as it is on what Myatt terms ‘the acausal knowing’ resulting from empathy and pathei-mathos {3}.

In respect of paganism, it is generally defined – from the classical Latin paganus, and ignoring the modern re-interpretation of the word by self-described contemporary pagans – as meaning “of or belonging to a rural community” in contrast to belonging to an urban or a more organized community (such as a religious Church), from whence derived the later (c. 1440 CE, post Morte Arthure) description of a pagan as a non-Christian, a ‘heathen’ (Old English hǽðen), and thus as describing a person who holds a religious belief which is neither Christian, Jewish, nor Muslim.

Myatt however provides his own, rather more philosophical, definition, relating as his definition does to the paganism of the Western, Greco-Roman, tradition. Thus Myatt – paraphrasing a passage from Cicero’s De Natura Deorum and quoting the original Latin – defines paganism as

“an apprehension of the complete unity (a cosmic order, κόσμος, mundus) beyond the apparent parts of that unity, together with the perceiveration that we mortals – albeit a mere and fallible part of the unity – have been gifted with our existence so that we may perceive and understand this unity, and, having so perceived, may ourselves seek to be whole, and thus become as balanced (perfectus), as harmonious, as the unity itself: Neque enim est quicquam aliud praeter mundum quoi nihil absit quodque undique aptum atque perfectum expletumque sit omnibus suis numeris et partibus […] ipse autem homo ortus est ad mundum contemplandum et imitandum – nullo modo perfectus, sed est quaedam particula perfecti.” {4}

Which apprehension of the κόσμος certainly describes Myatt’s philosophy where

“there is a perceiveration of our φύσις; of us as – and not separate from – the Cosmos: a knowledge of ourselves as the Cosmos presenced (embodied, incarnated) in a particular time and place and in a particular way. Of how we affect or can affect other effluvia, other livings beings, in either a harmful or a non-harming manner. An apprehension, that is, of the genesis of suffering and of how we, as human beings possessed of the faculties of reason, of honour, and of empathy, have the ability to cease to harm other living beings. Furthermore, and in respect of the genesis of suffering, this particular perceiveration provides an important insight about ourselves, as conscious beings; which insight is of the division we mistakenly but understandably make, and have made, consciously or unconsciously, between our own being – our ipseity – and that of other living beings, whereas such a distinction is only an illusion – appearance, hubris, a manufactured abstraction – and the genesis of such suffering as we have inflicted for millennia, and continue to inflict, on other life, human and otherwise.” {5}

Furthermore, there is an emphasis in Myatt’s philosophy on balancing within ourselves ‘the masculous’ with ‘the muliebral’ in order that we may not only perceive the unity beyond what Myatt terms ‘the illusion of ipseity’ {6} but also become as harmonious as that unity; a unity achievable – according to Myatt – be developing and using our faculty of empathy and by cultivating the virtue of personal honour, which virtue manifests, ‘presences’, that self-restraint – that moderation – described by the Greek term εὐταξία {5}.

Masculous And Muliebral

One of the unique features of Myatt’s philosophy, and thus of his paganism, is the distinction he makes between the masculous and the muliebral aspects of our human nature. In Some Conjectures Concerning Our Nexible Physis he writes of the necessity of the muliebral virtues

“which, combined, manifest an enantiodromiacal change in our human physis and which change, which balancing of the masculous with the muliebral, consequently could evolve us beyond the patriarchal ethos, and the masculous societies, which have been such a feature of human life on this planet for the past three thousand years, genesis as that ethos and those societies have been of so much grieving.” {7}

For according to Myatt

“it is the muliebral virtues which evolve us as conscious beings, which presence sustainable millennial change. Virtues such as empathy, compassion, humility, and that loyal shared personal love which humanizes those masculous talking-mammals of the Anthropocene, and which masculous talking-mammals have – thousand year following thousand year – caused so much suffering to, and killed, so many other living beings, human and otherwise.” {8}

In effect Myatt is suggesting that the solution to the problem of suffering – the answer to the question of ‘good and evil’ – lies not in politics, nor in religion, nor in supra-personal social change, and certainly not in revolutions, invasions, and wars, but in ourselves by us as individuals valuing and cultivating the muliebral virtues. What this means in practical terms – although Myatt himself does not directly spell it out but rather implies it – is men appreciating women, treating them honourably and as equals, and cultivating in their own lives muliebral virtues such as εὐταξία, empathy, and compassion.

This emphasis on the muliebral, and thus on internal balance, distinguishes Myatt’s philosophy from other philosophies, ancient and modern, most of which philosophies are imbued with a decidedly masculous ethos; and none of which emphasize personal virtues such as honour and empathy, and the ethics derived therefrom; and none of which have an ontology of causal and acausal being.

Which Myattian ontology is crucial to understanding such an emphasis on the muliebral and the enantiodromiacal change in our physis resulting from us perceiving and understanding (via empathy and pathei-mathos) the unity beyond the unnecessary division between the masculous and the muliebral and the other divisions we make based on abstractions, denotatum, and ipseity.

As Myatt explains,

“empathy and pathei-mathos incline us to suggest that ipseity is an illusion of perspective: that there is, fundamentally, no division between ‘us’ – as some individual sentient, mortal being – and what has hitherto been understood and named as the Unity, The One, God, The Eternal. That ‘we’ are not ‘observers’ but rather Being existing as Being exists and is presenced in the Cosmos. That thus all our striving, individually and collectively when based on some ideal or on some form – some abstraction and what is derived therefrom, such as ideology and dogma – always is or becomes sad/tragic, and which recurrence of sadness/tragedy, generation following generation, is perhaps even inevitable unless and until we live according to the wordless knowing that empathy and pathei-mathos reveal.” {9}

A Modern Paganism

Contrary to contemporary neo-pagan revivalism – with its made-up beliefs, practices, romanticism, rituals, and lack of philosophical rigour – Myatt has not only produced a modern pagan philosophy with a unique epistemology, a unique ontology, and a unique theory of ethics {10} but also continued and creatively added to the classical – that is, Western, pre-Christian – pagan and mystical traditions.

For Myatt has asked

(i) if Being – whether denoted by terms such as acausal, born-less, θεός The One, The Divine, God, The Eternal, Mονάς – can be apprehended (or defined) by some-things which are causal (denoted by terms such as spatial, temporal, renewance), and (ii) whether this ‘acausal Being’ is the origin or the genesis or ‘the artisan’ or the creator of both causal being (including ‘time’, and ‘change’) and of causal living beings such as ourselves.

That is, (i) has causal spatially-existing being ’emerged from’ – or been created by – acausal Being, and (ii) are causal beings – such as ourselves – an aspect or emanation of acausal Being? {9}

His answer:

“formulating such a question in such terms – causal/acausal; whole/parts; eternal/temporal; ipseity/unity; emergent from/genesis of – is a mis-apprehension of what-is because such denoting is ‘us as observer’ (i) positing, as Plato did, such things as a theory regarding ‘the ideal’, and/or (ii) constructing a form or abstraction (ἰδέᾳ) which we then presume to project onto what is assumed to be ‘external’ to us, both of which present us with only an illusion of understanding and meaning because implicit in such theories and in all such constructed forms are (i) an opposite (an ‘other’) and (ii) the potentiality for discord (dialectical or otherwise) between such opposites and/or because of a pursuit of what is regarded as ‘the ideal’ of some-thing.” {9}

Which led Myatt to suggest that Being, and our own physis, can be discovered – known and understood – by empathy and pathei-mathos which both by-pass abstractions, denotatum, and opposites, and enable us to appreciate the numinosity of Being.

What therefore is the wordless knowing that empathy and pathei-mathos reveal? According to Myatt

“it is the knowing manifest in our human culture of pathei-mathos. The knowing communicated to us, for example, by art, music, literature, and manifest in the lives of those who presenced, in their living, compassion, love, and honour. Germane to this knowing is that – unlike a form or an abstraction – it is always personal (limited in its applicability) and can only be embodied in and presenced by some-thing or by some-one which or who lives. That is, it cannot be abstracted out of the living, the personal, moment of its presencing by someone or abstracted out from its living apprehension by others in the immediacy-of-the-moment, and thus cannot become ‘an ideal’ or form the foundation for some dogma or ideology or supra-personal faith.” {9}

Which is a rather succinct description of the essence, the ethos, of the Western pagan and mystic traditions where each individual acquires a personal, non-dogmatic, apprehension of certain truths which transcend the temporal.

R. Parker

{1} David Myatt’s philosophy is outlined in four collections of essays published between 2013 and 2015. The works – available both as printed books and as pdf files from his website via the following link, https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/writings-concerning-the-philosophy-of-pathei-mathos/ – are as follows:

i) The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos. 2013. ISBN-13: 978-1484096642.
ii) Religion, Empathy, and Pathei-Mathos. 2013. ISBN-13: 978-1484097984.
iii) One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods: Some Personal and Metaphysical Musings. 2014. ISBN-13: 978-1502396105.
iv) Sarigthersa: Some Recent Essays. 2015. ISBN-13: 978-1512137149.

{2} The words ‘mystical’ and ‘mysticism’ are derived from the term mystic, the etymology and English usage of which are:

i) Etymology:

° Classical Latin mysticus, relating to sacred mysteries, mysterious;
° Post-classical Latin, in addition to the above: symbolic, allegorical;
° Ancient Greek μυστικός, relating to sacred mysteries;
° Hellenistic Greek μυστικός, initiate; plural, μυστικόι; also: symbolic,
allegorical, spiritual, esoteric, mysterious, occult;
° Byzantine Greek (5th century CE ) μυστικόν, mystical doctrine.

ii) English usage:

° noun: symbolic, allegorical (c. 1350);
° noun: an exponent or advocate of mystical theology;
° noun: a person who by means such as contemplation desires a selfless awareness of God or ‘the cosmic order’ (mundus), or who accepts that there is a spiritual apprehension of certain truths which transcend the temporal;
° adjective: esoteric, mysterious, [equivalent in usage to ‘mystical’]
° adjective: of or relating to esoteric rites [equivalent in usage to ‘mystical’]

{3} As Myatt writes, the following articles, “a few caveats notwithstanding, provide a reasonable summary of the main points” of his philosophy: JR Wright, A Modern Mystic: David Myatt And The Way of Pathei-Mathos, 2015. [https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/dwm-modern-mystic-v7b.pdf] and R. Parker: An Overview of David Myatt’s Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos, 2014. [https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/overview-myatt-philos-pathei-mathos-v2.pdf]

{4} Education And The Culture Of Pathei-Mathos. The essay is included in Myatt’s One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods.

{5} The Way Of Pathei-Mathos – A Précis. qv. Myatt’s One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods.

{6} Myatt discusses ‘the illusion of ipseity’ in several of his essays, including Towards Understanding The Acausal (qv. One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods) and Personal Reflexions On Some Metaphysical Questions (qv. Sarigthersa: Some Recent Essays).

{7} qv. Sarigthersa: Some Recent Essays.

{8} Some Questions For DWM (2014). Included in One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods.

{9} Personal Reflexions On Some Metaphysical Questions. qv. Sarigthersa: Some Recent Essays.

{10} His ontology, ethics, and epistemology are described by Myatt in The Way Of Pathei-Mathos – A Précis (qv. One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods) and also discussed in the two articles mentioned in footnote {3}.