Western Paganism And Hermeticism:
Myatt And The Renaissance of Western Culture
Rachael Stirling (Editor)
44 pages. CreateSpace, 2017. ISBN 978-1986027809
BISAC: Philosophy / Metaphysics
The book is comprised of nine essays by various authors which deal with or which review David Myatt’s translations of Hermetic texts and his two recent books Classical Paganism And The Christian Ethos and Tu Es Diaboli Ianua; plus – as an appendix – a reprint of Myatt’s relevant article Concerning ἀγαθός and νοῦς in the Corpus Hermeticum.
In her Preface, the editor – authoress of one of the essays in the book – succinctly expresses the raison d’etre of those Myatt books and translations of Hermetic texts, and also of the included essays, writing that
“Myatt’s thesis […] is that Western paganism is essentially the classical paganism of Ancient Greece and Rome and represents the ethos of the culture of the West, which ethos the Hebraic religion of Christianity supplanted. It is our view that those translations, the associated commentaries, and such books enable an insight into, and thus the evolution of, Western culture.”
She also quotes from one of those essays – Re-discovering Western Paganism – whose authors wrote that Myatt’s translations of classical and hermetic texts “when studied together enable us to appreciate and understand the classical, pagan, ethos and thence the ethos of the West itself.”
Collectively the essays present a decidedly new view of Western paganism which is contrary to that of Western neopagan revivals (sometimes described as contemporary Western paganism) and which neopagan revivals mostly devolve around ancient named gods and goddesses, such as those of Viking or Germanic mythology or those associated with Celtic legends of ancient Britain and Ireland. In addition, such modern revivals often involve romanticized rituals and ceremonies such as those now associated with the self-described Druids at Stonehenge during Summer Solstice sunrise at Stonehenge.
As the authoress of the eighth essay – A New Pagan Metaphysics – explains, referencing Myatt’s books Classical Paganism And The Christian Ethos and Tu Es Diaboli Ianua as well as his essay From Mythoi To Empathy, this new view of Western paganism is an evolution, a move away from perceiving paganism in terms of mythology and legends to a modern philosophical, ethical, and rational understanding of it. This understanding is of καλὸς κἀγαθός – of nobility of personal character – and which Ancient Greek expression, according to Myatt, represents the ethos of not only Greco-Roman culture but also the non-Christian West. As Myatt notes in his Tu Es Diaboli Ianua, it involves
“an awareness and acceptance of one’s civic duties and responsibilities undertaken not because of any personal benefit (omni utilitate) that may result or be expected, and not because an omnipotent deity has, via some written texts, commanded it and will punish a refusal, but because it is the noble, the honourable – the gentlemanly, the lady-like, the human – thing to do.”
The book therefore takes us on a journey to a different – and for many of us to a new – world, far away from the religious attitudes of the old world as evoked, not only by Christianity, but also by neopaganism with its rituals, mythologies, polytheism and – in some manifestations – ‘magical’ spells, charms, and beliefs.
This new world is, as the authoress of the seventh essay – Suffering, Honour, And The Culture Of The West – makes clear, one where personal honour reigns manifesting as it does what is ethical and noble and ineluctably Western.
The book is highly recommended, despite its mere 44 pages, although given its large size of 8.5″ x 11″ (21.59 x 27.94 cm) – perhaps in homage to Myatt whose printed books are all a similar size – the page count in terms of a regular paperback is around 65 pages.