Review Of Myatt’s Classical Paganism And The Christian Ethos

David Myatt

David Myatt

Classical Paganism And The Christian Ethos. 2017.
ISBN 978-1979599023. 41 pages.

In the Fall of 2017 David Myatt released extracts from his forthcoming book Classical Paganism And The Christian Ethos and which extracts led dozens of individuals interested in Myatt’s works to eagerly await the publication of the book itself given that such extracts seemed to imply that he intended to create a modern, Western, paganism founded on the warrior ethos of ancient Greece and Rome, with Myatt in his extract writing that

“such a modern paganus weltanschauung may also be a means to reconnect those in the lands of the West, and those in Western émigré lands and former colonies of the West, with their ancestral ethos, for them to thus become, or return to being, a living, dwelling, part – a connexion between the past and the future – of what is still a living, and evolving, culture. Perhaps the future of that culture depends on whether sufficient individuals can live by the high personal standards of such a modern paganus weltanschauung.”

However, when Myatt issued the first draft of the complete book in early November 2017 some individuals were disappointed since the promised ‘modern paganus weltanschauung’ seemed to be just a watered-down version of his mystical philosophy of pathei mathos. Myatt, as is his wont, then over several weeks revised this draft many times {1} culminating on November 9th 2017 in a printed version – a so-called ‘second edition’ – together with an updated ‘gratis open access’ pdf version containing the same text and which he made available on his internet blog. {2}

As Myatt notes in the Introduction to the printed edition: “For this Second Edition, I have clarified and extended the text in several places, added a revised version of my essay From Aeschylus To The Numinous Way as an Appendix, and taken the opportunity to correct some typos.”

As the blurb for the book states, it is

“a study in the difference between Christianity and the paganism of Ancient Greece and Rome, evident as that paganism is in the writings of Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Cicero and many other classical authors. A study which includes developing that paganism in a metaphysical way, beyond the deities of classical mythos, thus making such paganism relevant to the modern Western world. A modern development which involves an analysis of the texts of the Corpus Hermeticum.”

The final published work does indeed develop Greco-Roman paganism in a metaphysical way, with Myatt writing in chapter 3 that

“the quintessence of such a weltanschauung, of the paganus ethos, is that ethics are presenced in and by particular living individuals, not in some written text whether philosophical or otherwise, not by some proposed schemata, and not in some revelation from some deity. Which paganus ethics, when evolved – combined with the paganus mysticism evident in the Corpus Hermeticum and the cultural pathei-mathos of the past two millennia presenced through the insight of empathy – leads us to a modern paganus weltanschauung.”

He concludes his study by writing that

“the paganus weltanschauung, ancestral to the lands of the West, that has emerged is one which, shorn of technical, Greek, and metaphysical terms, many may find familiar or already be intuitively aware of […]

[This] awareness of all these connexions is awareness of, and a respect for, the numinous, for these connexions, being acausal, are affective: that is, we are inclined by our physis (whether we apprehend it or not) to have an influence on that which, or those whom, the connexion is to or from. For what we do or do not do, consciously or otherwise, affects or can affect the cosmos and thus the other livings beings which exist in the cosmos, and it is a conscious awareness of connexions and acausal affects, with their causal consequences, which reason, perceiverance, and empathy make us – or can make us – aware of. Which awareness may incline us toward acting, and living, in a noble way, with what is noble known or experienced, discovered, through and because of (i) the personal virtue of honour, evident as honour is in fairness, manners and a balanced demeanour, and (ii) the wordless knowing of empathy, manifest as empathy is in compassion and tolerance.”

For the crux of his argument is that Western paganism differs fundamentally from – and is better than – a revealed religion such as Christianity because in that paganism ethics are “presenced in and by particular living individuals, not in some written text whether philosophical or otherwise, not by some proposed schemata, and not in some revelation from some deity,” in contrast to Christianity whose ethics can be discovered by having to interpret “the word of God” as found in the texts of the Old and New Testaments. He adds that “a reliance on written texts, as in Christianity, may well be a mistake.”

His modern pagan metaphysics therefore balances the Greco-Roman human ideal – which Myatt writes can be expressed in one Greek phrase: καλὸς κἀγαθός – with the insights resulting from millennia of pathei mathos, expressed in Studia Humanitatis, in what he calls ‘the culture of pathei-mathos’. {3}

As a result, the book – replete with copious quotations in Ancient and Hellenistic Greek – is curiously interesting explaining much about Greco-Roman paganism and hermeticism, as well as about Christianity. Yet it is difficult to know who the intended readers are since many of those interested in Western paganism as a new way of life or as a modern, non-Christian, spirituality may find it too academic or too boring; while those academically interested in such matters will doubtless turn to other authors given Myatt’s experiential Faustian quests, his iconoclasm, his often underserved reputation, and thus his exclusion from academia.

Perhaps Myatt intended the book for those few individuals who can or who aspire “to live by the high personal standards of such a modern paganus weltanschauung” because such a paganism may reconnect some of “those in the lands of the West, and those in Western émigré lands and former colonies of the West, with their ancestral ethos”.

R.S & K.S
November, 2017

N.B. As with almost all of Myatt’s printed books, the size is idiosyncratic, being 11 inches x 8.5 inches in format, which is larger than the conventional ‘trade paperback’ (6 inches by 9 inches). In terms of number of pages, 20+ pages should be added to such ‘large format’ books in order to approximate the number of pages in a standard 6 inches by 9 inches paperback.

°°°°°

{1} In our view Myatt is to be commended for making public his revisions of his texts. As someone recently wrote: “The extracts and subsequent revised extracts from his texts and translations that Myatt has published on his blog over the years provide an interesting insight into the creative process. A process which many authors and academics for some reason seem to want to keep secret. Perhaps some of them want to try and hide their mistakes or how their thoughts and opinions change or evolve as a result of further research, or more inspiration, or more thought.”

{2} https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/2017/11/05/reason-and-belief/

A copy of the pdf file is here: https://regardingdavidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/belief-and-reason-v7a.pdf

{3} This ‘culture of pathei mathos’ is one of the central themes of Myatt’s philosophy of pathei-mathos. See his essay Education and the Culture of Pathei-Mathos, included in his 2014 book One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods. The essay is also available here: https://regardingdavidmyatt.wordpress.com/2017/11/10/education-and-the-culture-of-pathei-mathos-2/


This review is issued under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
(CC BY-ND 4.0) license
and can be freely copied and distributed, under the terms of that license.


Advertisements