Laying the Foundations for a New Pagan Philosophy
I first heard the name Alain de Benoist in a side comment made by my dear late Doktorvater, Edgar Polomé, in a lecture on ancient Germanic religion. In our age, dominated as it is by ideologies of various sorts, Benoist is often categorized as a political theorist of the “French New Right.” Indeed, he is that. But even a brief survey of his writings reveals a thinker with a breadth and depth of intellect and intellectual capacities that far surpass those of the typical “theorist” of our dreary times. He has written on topics ranging from myth and religion to economics, from folklore to philosophy. In his view—which is difficult to classify as “right wing” in any conventional sense—the malady of the West (and more particularly in Benoist’s case, the malady of Europe) is a cultural pathology and not a mere political crisis. He sees the root of this malady as the European adoption of Judeo-Christian monotheism, and the radical cure he proposes is the rejection of that religion.
To many who might otherwise agree with much of what Benoist has to say, this “solution” is unacceptable. However, if he is right—and I believe that he is—then his remedy is, in fact, the only possible one. Anything less than the rejection of Judeo-Christian monotheism, and the redevelopment of our own Indo-European ideology, would simply treat the symptoms of our Western dis-ease, rather than cure it.
In this book, Benoist lays some of the foundations for a new pagan philosophy. But before the old edifice can be restored, the ground must be leveled with a series of hammer blows. Benoist must, like Nietzsche, philosophize with a hammer, and tear away the rubble of 2,000 years of Judeo-Christian accretions to European culture.
In many respects, the ideology underlying Judeo-Christian monotheism has become secularized. As others have pointed out, Christian ethics and universalism, disengaged from their religious roots, have been used to rationalize the redistribution of wealth, radical individualism, universal political suffrage, and the general eagerness to sacrifice freedom in order to avoid responsibility.
This is why Benoist spends so much time in a book about being a pagan on the topic of why Judeo-Christian monotheism is invalid. But Benoist’s demolition of the biblical myth is not merely the negative exercise engaged in by many Enlightenment critics of Christianity, or their latter-day atheist counterparts. For him, underlying it all is the ultimate goal of the reassertion of pagan values and virtues in the present day.
Too often today, “pagans” are seen—and see themselves—as social misfits, dropouts, and “individualists,” each of whom seeks only to do his or her “own thing” (which changes from year to year, if not from day to day). They may dress up in silly anachronistic costumes, but in their souls, and in their social and political attitudes, they very often conform to Judeo-Christian norms. But the paganism of Benoist is far more radical—and far more feared by the establishment—because it is genuinely pagan and philosophically sophisticated. And unlike “New Age” paganism, it has the real possibility of cultural influence.
The happy and virtuous pagan future Benoist and others envision should not be an object of fear, however. Indeed, we in the West most often look to pre-Christian Athens or neo-pagan Renaissance Florence as places where our culture was at its very best. So why fear and resent those who wish to re-manifest, in the present, the virtues of those times and those places? It would be a fortunate restoration of what is truly and perennially good about our heritage and about life.
Some will say that it is impossible to resuscitate paganism. But, of course, paganism never fully disappeared. In fact, Judeo-Christian values lie merely as a thin veneer over our more deeply held indigenous cultural values. It is only the illusion of Judeo-Christian spiritual hegemony that holds us back. The key to an effective return to our home lies in learning to resonate with the spirit of our own ancestral symbols and myths, be those Greek, Roman, Celtic, Germanic, Balto-Slavic, or Indo-Iranian. That which remains in us can be linked with that which we (re-)discover, intellectually and spiritually, and an authentic traditional life can thus be restored. This must first occur in individual lives, then in small groups of friends, and from there out into ever widening circles.
The philosophically sophisticated approach found in this book will, I hope, bring a new impetus to the efforts of English-speaking pagans today. However, it also serves as a sobering reflection on the true difficulties of undertaking a revival of our ancient heritage. Nevertheless, such an undertaking is our only viable cultural option.
On Being a Pagan serves as an ideal point of departure for a spiritual odyssey that can ultimately bring us back home to a better world.
—Stephen Edred Flowers
Order On Being a Pagan