This was NOT written by me. It is an article a friend shared with me. I unfortunately do not have the link. My friend lost the bookmark. It was written in a pagan forum...one of hundreds if not thousand on the web, so yeah...I'm sorry I can't find it.
The author's screen name was Morning Star and she posted this in 2005.
It is influenced by Nietzsche and I find it an excellent essay on classical paganism which is the opposite of neo paganism. I am a classical pagan. I agree with the majority of this article. It is very blunt about pagan views of Christianity, but with as many Christians on this site expressing their views without recourse, I don't think it should be a problem. This is, after all, an old pagan philosopher's literature being quoted.
I know many ask what is the difference between neo paganism and classic? Well here you go. Read and enjoy. I hope a few of you become interested in researching the old writers and abandon the new age ones. The old texts are far more self empowering in my opinion. They force you to think and decide for yourself instead of just giving you information like it is "fact" or "truth".
I've read some "new age" books and do not like them. I only read them to understand what neo-pagans are talking about. I don't like being in the dark in a conversation. =)
As one of the quotes in my profile states, and words I live by...
"The teacher if he is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of wisdom but leads you to the threshold of your own mind." -Kahlil Gilbran
I'll shut up now.
Morning Star writes:
Classical/Natural Paganism (The Aid of Nietzsche)
While I sometimes envy those pagans who belong to a tradition, I must admit a certain self-centered enthusiasm for my own personal brand of pagan thinking. In a sense, I suppose my beliefs are more classical than those of the neo-pagan traditions and I?ve taken very little from the modern contributions of pagan thinking. It is not that modern paganism, or neo-paganism, lacks significance or meaningful spirituality; rather, it is that my favorite pagan authors are dead philosophers.
Nietzsche writes, ?The affirmation of the natural, the sense of innocence in the natural, ?naturalness,? is pagan. The denial of the natural, the sense of degradation in the natural, unnaturalness, is Christian. Petronius, e.g., was ?innocent?: compared with this happy man, a Christian is absolutely without innocence. But since ultimately the Christian status must be merely a natural condition ?which, however, dares not conceive itself to be such ??Christian? signifies raising to a principle the counterfeiting of psychological interpretations? (Nietzsche 94).
What is being pointed out in this passage is the hypocrisy in the thinking that pagans are those who are guilty of the sin of disbelief ?yet in light of their naturalness, the pagan is really the one who is innocent, who is most representative of being within his or her own nature. The paganism of Nietzsche, however, is wholly different and contradictory to neo-paganism.
An excellent example of his classical attitude: ?Not to make men ?better?, not to preach morality to them in any form, as if ?morality in itself,? or any ideal kind of man, were given; but to create conditions that require stronger menwho for their part need, and consequently will have, a morality (more clearly:a physical-spiritual discipline) that makes them strong!? (Nietzsche 513).
The prudence of war is the context of the above selection, but it represents a naturalness in Nietzsche?s classical pagan thinking. While the New Age movement seeks to fashion Man more human ?encouraging ?humanness?, Nietzsche brings us more toward the animal, to the instincts and intuitions. His reflections inspire an individual to revere the visceral elements of spiritual living and suggest an element of disgust at the humanizing of the Man as being unnatural, as taking away his claws, i.e. physical strength, reason, independence, liberty, violence. ?The highest men live beyond the rules, freed from all bonds;and in the rulers they have their instruments? (Nietzsche 519).
Such political sentiments are inherently just, in the sense that one cannot rule and be free from those they rule. It does not take much to make a leap to the spiritual, and caution ourselves against religious leaders and religious institutions. Let us each be our own priest and priestess, so to speak. No?
Nietzsche?s ethics are very Greek. ?To him that has turned out well, who does my heart good, carved from wood that is hard, gentle, and fragrant ?in whom even the nose takes pleasure ?this book is dedicated. He enjoys the taste of what is wholesome for him;his pleasure in anything ceases when the bounds of the wholesome are crossed; he divines the remedies for partial injuries; he has illnesses as great stimulants of his life; he knows how to exploit ill chances; he grows stronger through the accidents that threaten to destroy him; he instinctively gathers from all the he sees, hears, experiences, what advances his main concern ?he follows a principle of selection ?he allows much to fall through; he reacts with the closeness bred by a long caution and a deliberate pride ?he tests a stimulus for its origin and its intentions, he does not submit; he is always in his own company, whether he deals with books, men or landscapes; he honors by choosing, by admitting, by trusting? (Nietzsche 521).
The important aspects of this very classical pagan ethic, this Greek ethic, are instincts, the senses, learning from experiences, triumphing over adversity, nobility of character, the sacredness of action, the sacredness of our attention. There is nothing Christian or Slave in the above. There is nothing weak. This is my ethic, as unromantic as it seems, I find it spiritual in the highest sense?in the sense that it is natural, animal, innocent.
It is in the natural that we find ourselves left with idols. ?This faith in truth attains its ultimate conclusion in us ?you know what it is: that if there is anything that is to be worshipped it is appearance that must be worshipped, that the lie ?and not the truth ?is divine!? (Nietzsche 523).
It is unwise to overestimate the bounds of our knowledge and understanding, or to suppose, as many from every religion so often do, that they we intimate with the Truth. We are not intimate with the truth ?all we have are appearances. Idols. I am an Idol worshiper. I worship the appearances of lessons taught by nature, metaphors for human principles! I do not need a sacred scripture to enlighten me where Nature already suffices to do just that. What can I learn from you, that I cannot learn from the appearances, from the world, from nature? Ordered chaos: That what is natural and innocent is the honest and purposeful acting out of our function and information ?not in the ?human? sense, but rather in the animal sense. Instincts, senses, intuitions, thoughts, feelings; allow these to be the guides, the voices of the gods and of nature, my nature, all of nature.
?Is there a more dangerous aberration than contempt for the body? As if it did not condemn all spirituality to become sickly ?to the vapeurs of ?idealism?!? (Nietzsche 525)
One needs a spirituality of affirmation, or rather? I need a spirituality of affirmation ?more to the point, I have a spirituality of affirmation.Now, in this classical sense, what is being affirmed?
?The affirmation affects: pride, joy, health, love of the sexes, enmity and war, reverence, beautiful gestures and manners, gratitude toward earth and life ?everything that is rich and desires to bestow and that replenishes and gilds and immortalizes and deifies life ?the whole force of transfiguring virtues, everything that declares good and affirms in word and deed? (Nietzsche 533).
Or as the Bible would say, ?Let your yes be a yes and your no a no?.
So what is this ?gratitude toward earth and life? ?why not let our worship of earth and life manifest? What better idols, what better gods could we have?
?We few or many who again dare to live in a dismoralized world, we pagans in faith:we are probably also the first to grasp what a pagan faith is:-to have to imagine higher creatures than man, but beyond good and evil; to have to consider all being higher as also being immoral. We believe in Olympus ?and not in the ?Crucified? (Nietzsche 533).
What a beautiful testament to classical pagan reasoning! What did Jesus do, if it was not to demoralize the living and to encourage men to place their hopes an the afterlife, to look away from nature and from the appearances to a distant father god, a Moral God, and worse an ?All Good? God. What is more unnatural than an all good God? Where is that truth in the appearances?
Fact: It does not. The Gods we worship are beyond good and evil.
?Let us remove supreme goodness from the concept of God: it is unworthy of a god. Let us also remove supreme wisdom: it is the vanity of philosophers that is to be blamed for this mad notion of God as a monster of wisdom: he had to be as like them as possible. No! God the supreme power ?that suffices! Everything follows from it, ?the world? follows from it!? (Nietzsche 534).
Has anyone put this better? How does this power manifest as gods?
?And how many new gods are still possible!As for myself, in whom the religious, that is to say god-forming, instinct occasionally becomes active at impossible times ?how differently, how variously the divine has revealed itself to me each time!? (Nietzsche 534).
The divine, the supreme power, manifests either how it wills, or not by virtue of will, but by virtue of Being. It is manifest where and how power is manifest. It is what it is, however it appears (again the appearances) and it rarely seems the same! Why not call It by the names we have for its? appearances? Odin, Zeus, Eris, Kali and so forth.
?1. We want to hold fast to our senses and to our faith in them ?and think their consequences through to the end! The nonsensuality of philosophy hitherto as the greatest nonsensicality of man.?
2. The existing world, upon which all earthly living things have worked so that it appears as it does (durable and changing slowly), we want to go on building ?and not criticize it away as false.
3. Our valuations are a part of this building: they emphasize and underline. Of what significance is it if entire religions say: ?all is bad and false and evil?! This condemnation of the entire process can only be a judgment of the ill-constituted!
4. To be sure, the ill-constituted can be the greatest suffers and the most subtle? The contented could be of little value?
5. One must understand the artistic basic phenomenon that is called ?life? ?the building spirit that builds under the most unfavorable conditions: in the slowest manner ----a demonstration of all its combinations must first be produced afresh: it preserves itself.? (Nietzsche 538).
So what opposes this?
?Sexuality, the lust to rule, pleasure in appearance and deception, great and joyful gratitude for life and its typical states ?these are the essence of the pagan cults and have a good conscience on their side ?unnaturalness (already in Greek antiquity) fights against the pagan, as morality, as dialectic? (Nietzsche 538).
This a much more classical characterization of paganism ?it is not, I would say, neo-pagan. There is much that is hope, much that is Greek, much that is innocent, honest and pure in this picture of paganism.
?The god on the cross is a curse on life, a signpost to seek redemption from life; Dionysus cut to pieces is a promise of life: it will be eternally reborn and returnagain from destruction?
I've taken quite an interest in studying & exploring Satanism, but I've found very little in Satanism that I haven't found in Nietzsche or Ayn Rand or Freud. In a very real sense, paganism can create philosophical/spiritual traditions where we define life's goals and our nature, and then spend the rest of our lives in the pursuit of flourishing:Eudaimonia if you will. In the old days, brilliant men used philosophy, not just to destroy ideas, institutions and cultures as they do now, but to inspire men to live better lives. Whole treatises were written on the passions.
As I study the various pagan traditions I continuously find myself going back to my roots of Aristotle, David Hume, Nietzsche and Rand. I find myself incorporating the spiritualities of many different pagan traditions into my exploration of myself, but that my beliefs of God are shaped by my experience of the world as they appear;that I make no judgment about God outside of what I experience, and therefore perceive God in two parts: The Universe and Life.
Then my morality is created! What is good for the Universe and what is good for Life? By virtue of the same, the direction of my life takes shape, for in what directions will my life thrive the most? How do I get the most out of life? I find very little distraction in such simple-minded spirituality -things are very easy for me, in that sense.
I've created my own pagan tradition with philosophers as prophets and the authors of gospels. I think one of the greatest differences between classical paganism and modern paganism is the spirit of the "New Age" ("spirit of" as opposed to the literal practices). The New Age is filled with a kind of happy lightness, peacefulness, beauty and a calm wonderment. The Old Age, was much more brutal, cold, superstitious and passionate.
The real difference? I believe that the Old Religions were governed by the instincts and the passions, while the New Religions are being governed by the Herd mentality and Emotions. Maybe in the future there will be a beautiful synthesis of the four, governed by a profound sense of Reason.
There seems to be two major aspects of religion:
1. The theistic/metaphysical system & 2. The practical "way of living", the putting of ones' beliefs into practice.
Religions differ more in their theistic/metaphysical systems than they do in their ways of living. However, there is a third aspect of religion that plays a significant role in classical paganism and it is this third aspect that accounts for the different approach to life taken by those who follow a more classically pagan way of life.The instincts and the passions are natural and active functions of every human and because they developed biologically and not philosophically, they are deeply meaningful with regard to the question of how we should live our lives and all the wisdom that relates to the instincts and the passions are derived, not from any theistic model, but from simply observing nature.
Thus, nature worship is far more productive in producing real wisdom than those kinds of worship that revolve around more abstract theistic models. I believe that one of the greatest values of classical pagan religion is that it increases our awareness of the ways of nature, or of the appearances; and it increases our awareness of those qualities that vastly increase, or empower, our ability to thrive in nature.
This is in opposition to the Abrahamic traditions that decrease our awareness of nature and distracts us with Byzantine moral systems predicated on invented ideology and not on the observed lessons of nature. Christianity is an attempt to make us what we ?wish?we couldbe and makes us fell badly for being what we are. Whereas, Natural pagan theology focuses primarily on the way of nature as opposed to some mentally invented ideal, thus better preparing the individual for life than the more abstract theistic systems.
I know there was a lot of information packed into the above so I am going to list the three most important points:
1. ?The affirmation of the natural, the sense of innocence in the natural, ?naturalness,? is pagan. The denial of the natural, the sense of degradation in the natural, unnaturalness, is Christian. Petronius, e.g., was ?innocent?: compared with this happy man, a Christian is absolutely without innocence. But since ultimately the Christian status must be merely a natural condition ?which, however, dares not conceive itself to be such ??Christian? signifies raising to a principle the counterfeiting of psychological interpretations? (Nietzsche 94).
2. The important aspects of this very classical pagan ethic, this Greek ethic, are instincts, the senses, learning from experiences, triumphing over adversity, nobility of character, the sacredness of action, the sacredness of our attention. There is nothing Christian or Slave in the above. There is nothing weak. This is my ethic, as unromantic as it seems, I find it spiritual in the highest sense?in the sense that it is natural, animal, innocent.
3. The instincts and the passions are natural and active functions of every human and because they developed biologically and not philosophically, they are deeply meaningful with regard to the question of how we should live our lives and all the wisdom that relates to the instincts and the passions are derived, not from any theistic model, but from simply observing nature. Thus, nature worship is far more productive in producing real wisdom than those kinds of worship that revolve around more abstract theistic models. That is the difference between classical paganism vs. neo-paganism & the Abrahamic religions.