A response to “Against the Folkish ‘Pagans'”

A lengthy post was published yesterday by a self-proclaimed “Julian Hellenist”, Klaytonus Silvanus, wherein he attacks “Folkish” pagans and polytheists. This seems to be a sequel to an earlier post, one I had attempted in vain to initiate a discussion about. After a misunderstanding regarding my comments, Silvanus took the liberty to ban me as a “folkish” polytheist, which I take as a serious accusation and will refute accordingly. To that end, I will respond to his post in my defense, as if it were directed at me. Since it is well written (with exception to ad hominem) and provides an excellent example of the universalist position, I intend to comment on most of it; I take this both as a rhetorical challenge as well as an opportunity to enable my fellow polytheists to know me better, whether they agree or not with my views. Silvanus is certainly welcome to discuss it further here—I do not ban those with whom I disagree, so long as there is no deliberate insult or impiety. My language may be forceful sometimes (though never injurious), but I trust Silvanus understands the Hellenic rhetorical tradition allows of it.

 

Against the Folkish “Pagans”

There is a Folkish problem in Paganism. The Folkish are an inane sect of deplorables who take on a “racialist” attitude towards religion, who have all the time in the world to chatter nonsense about their ancestry and blood, but none for theology and religious practice. These racists pose a threat that is potentially ruinous to our work because of how they will appropriate anything of value, ruin it, and then simply move on when they’re done with it. This article shall demonstrate how these vulgar imbeciles are, in truth, not even Polytheists nor Pagans at all, but rather merely bigoted LARPers playing dressup.

Since the title is written in the style of a theological or rhetorical polemic in Late Antiquity, it is unfortunate that the author uses ad hominem and unnecessarily weakens his arguments from the very beginning. If I remember correctly, there isn’t even such language used by Christian polemicists against Pagans, or indeed vice versa. However, to speak of and for myself, I am neither a “racialist” nor a “folkish pagan” nor a supporter of Trump (what was meant by “a deplorable”). I am aware of the current developments in Western and American politics, but I do not mix observation with observance. My views are a mixture of left and right positions, as I had explained before—I maintain a careful and useful balance. Equating my views with the likes of Varg Vikernes, Richard Spencer, Jared Taylor would be a great mistake. My views on ancestry are fair for all peoples and I seek the very same well-being & ethnic celebration for each of them. I can’t and won’t defend the views of pagan “folkists” and “racialists”, but I believe they should be (as reasonably as possible, with exceptions) heard and engaged with in discussion, because they do have real concerns and hopes and fears, which are worth addressing rather than merely dismissing. If anything otherwise is done, the distance & animosity will only grow. When the author says “our work”, he attempts to speak for all polytheists, which is impossible. But perhaps he speaks only for his universalist tradition modelled on the Julian Platonism of Late Antiquity, or for universalists in general. Either way, I will address his arguments further.

 

Folkish “Paganism” is Reductionist

One thing is overwhelmingly clear: Folkish people do not actually believe in the Gods. They hold a “metagenetic” or “racialist” view of the divine which attempts to posit that the divine limit Their interactions with “foreigners” outside of “the race.” This worldview can be adequately understood as atheism by its materialist reductionism, which attempts to reduce the number and kinds of entities countenanced as real— securing a multiplicity of Gods ontologically through a base materialism which reduces the Gods to merely archetypes of “the race.”

 This is not my position, at least. There are known instances from mythology where certain Gods deal with foreigners, but it depends on how far it went. Zeus abducted Europa from Phoenicia, but he didn’t go to Gaul or to China or to the Baltic sea. And it wasn’t because he couldn’t, but because frankly he had no business where other distant Gods were—he ruled over the peoples that worshipped him and interacted with a few other neighbors passingly. Denying this is denying the power and legitimacy of other Gods to rule over the indigenous lands of the people that worshipped them. The “race” here is not relevant, but only the indigenous/ethnic people who existed within the geographical location who shared some culture. A Briton is as foreign to Greece as a West African or a Chinese, and the same applies all around. Now, the universalist position, first developed by Greek philosophers, seeks to enlarge the “province” of the Greek Gods not only to the whole world, but to the whole universe. This is not possible, in view of distinct polytheisms, otherwise you have imperialism—theological at least. A geographical scope is not at all “materialist reductionism” in the case of divine immanence (where the material & spiritual are joined—the traditional position), but it is with the sort of high-flown transcendence that universalists (can we call them imperialists too?) believe in. The author’s view of divinity here seems dualistic and therefore akin to Gnosticism and Christianity. Finally, I suppose the Gods being archetypes of “race” is an argument against anthropomorphism, but a poor one that I have already addressed in my post against Xenophanes.

 

This ridiculously binds the Gods as subject to a materialist social construct developed by imperialists during the Colonial era, dating to the early Age of Enlightenment and beginning of industrial slavery, far after many of the very same powers destroyed the various polytheisms of the ancient world. This denies that the Gods are real, independently existing entities with agencies of Their own who may engage in personal relations with people outside their ethnicity. This is because Folkish types do not believe that there is anything to the Gods except for customs and ethnicity, and thus do not believe the Gods are capable of actions independent of their own ethnicity.

 Yes, “race” was a social construct developed by colonial imperialists, etc, etc. But there is an interesting point to consider—they developed it (in the New World) in order to lessen the effects of ethnic differences in Europe and thus populate the colonies quickly (by substituting class & culture for race) as well as make them operate smoothly. It was a kind of continentalism, if you will, quite akin to universalism. Nationalism arose the same way—Phillip united a war-torn Greece and then Alexander attacked Persia & founded colonies; next, the Romans consolidated power in Italy at the expense of Carthage and the Gauls. So, my question to universalists is: Is your emphasis similarly on numbers and size rather than quality and distinction? Is polytheism then a sort of “grand buffet” where one may choose Gods at pleasure without any medium or regulations, based on ancient tradition (which we always need to refer to), to guide the choice? The divine cannot be understood except by means of human language and belief and necessity and ethnicity, and those are all bound by culture—this does not mean that the Gods are bound, but that we the worshippers are. However, we can also use our divinely given minds to think of the Gods fairly: Would the Gods be equally concerned with distant foreigners (note the adjective) as with natives? I won’t even answer that rhetorical question. Let’s actually imagine a situation where the natives forget of their native Gods (note the adjective) and then distant foreigners, who are dazzled, begin to worship those same Gods (after probably forgetting of their ancestral ones), would those Gods be pleased only because “a human being” is worshipping them? It does not belong to older and traditional polytheism. The idea of humanity in general being cared for by the Gods is a monotheistic/monistic/deistic one that arose out of Greek philosophy and developed during Late Antiquity. And it wouldn’t have applied much in any case outside of the “empire”—You think the Greeks and Romans of the Roman Empire were capable of believing that their Gods (which they obviously thought were superior) cared for them as much as the Chinese Gods over in the Han Empire? These limitations of worldview in ancient times had meaning and this necessities a serious theological theory that applies to all peoples and lands and Gods in our modern, globalized times. If religious universalism unites with cultural globalization, let’s bid polytheism farewell, except for the few and isolated, i.e. the weak. I am sick of Western hegemony and the imperial Protestant thinking that is infecting the planet.

And one more question, if the Gods are “real independent entities” (which I believe to be true), why are universalists often interested in syncretic Gods, usually those of Late Antiquity??

 

In doing so, Folkish types engage in a transgression against the divine: hubris. By actively denying the all-powerfulness of the immortal Gods and trying to limit them as bounded to “the race,” the Folkish display a desire to substitute their human judgment over that of the Gods. Their doubt of the interaction of certain people with the Gods is as though they think that they have the right to tell the Gods who they should interact with and how. This objectifies the Gods and leads to Folkish types treating the Living Immortals as though they mere cultural trinkets. However, the Gods are not mere culture nor objects which can be appropriated– They are real, living and eternal Beings who may reveal Themselves to and call upon whomever they like to worship Them, and thus They cannot be appropriated. To deny religious experience and denounce true devotion, especially when that deity has asked for it and initiated the personal relation with the devotee, is simply atheism. So are you to decide who the Gods choose to impart with knowledge of them?

There is an impiety in keeping somebody out of a Pagan religious tradition for political reasons. That the Gods exist means that they can do or say something “different than you expected, different than what you believe, different than what you might wish to say in Their names” (EPButler, 17 September 2018 1:22 PM). So you can be sure that if a God does not want a particular worshiper that They will expel them Themselves. They do not need you doing it for Them, and if you’re taking for granted that They do, then you’d best be wary of your own personal connection with Them and not everybody else’s. For the God you are at the most risk of drifting from, “hands down…, is the God to Whom you are closest, but take for granted” (EPButler, 16 September 2018 1:57 PM).

What do you mean that we substitute human effort over that of the Gods? Don’t the philosophers (at least) believe that the Gods are discovered by human effort and that we share a part of their divinity (the soul)? The author is using as much human judgment as I am, when he subscribes to a certain religious tradition and defends it. Hubris is an interesting accusation, but I will turn it entirely on its head, with three considerations. First, it was hubris on the part of the Greek philosophers (whom the author follows) to invent their own systems in opposition to the traditional conceptions of their day, as if they knew everything and scorned what everyone else believed. Secondly, it is hubris for those who believe in the Late Antiquity religious system to apply it universally and arbitrarily upon all the rest of people (which won’t work anyway for various reasons, colonial and cultural)—whereas on the other hand, the traditional system is fair in that it seeks to return to an even field where all or the vast majority of traditions existed distinctly (with measurable overlap, as explained before) and without interference from distant foreigners. And now the greatest hubris of all: believing that an Immortal God, all-powerful, etc. can stoop to *call on you* in particular…I thought the Platonic position was that the Gods didn’t need anyone, is it not so, because they were perfect and absolutely self-satisfied? I disagree. I believe that we need the Gods and they us, but that in any case they don’t call on us—rather, the ancestors (and their culture) act as mediators in this case. I don’t believe the Gods are universally all-powerful, because then the world would not stand from a continual war (theomachy, if you will). This is another essential reason why a theology of the Gods that encompasses the distinctions in the world (based on land and people) is necessary. Otherwise, if the Gods cross here and there, changing constantly like Heraclitus would say, their power loses meaning to us, and then, like the philosophers, people will become monists, deists, skeptics or monotheists, rather than polytheists.

A brief note: The author quotes a modern scholar of some renown to corroborate his views, but for a full response, see what is said and by whom in the quote section of this site to corroborate my views.

 

Pagan Religions cannot be Culturally Appropriated

As stated, the Gods cannot be appropriated. But what about the particular cultural systems of worship centered around the divine which Pagans engage in? Sometimes, Folkish types will try to appropriate the rhetoric of indigenous groups around the world who stand against cultural appropriation— trying to claim that “outsiders” (usually subjective, but typically excludes people of colour) should not enter or partake in Pagan religious traditions because doing so would be “cultural appropriation” in the same vain as someone encroaching on the closed space of an Indigenous American people would be.

There is a obvious and strong distinction (both cultural and moral) between indigenism and nationalism/racism that I need not dwell on. Furthermore, the nascent concept of “re-indigenization” (see this website for example or here also) is probably unknown to the author, but I encourage the readers to seek it out and understand it well, because it is one of the greatest & fairest ideas of these fallen times.

 

Sure, Pagan religions and cultures are often appropriated in popular media (e.g., the disrespect towards the Gods and ancient traditions during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece with their mascots, or that Gods-awful TV series Vikings). But not all appropriation is cultural appropriation. The problem with claiming that ancient traditions can be culturally appropriated is that these religions and the cultures have been dead for centuries, and thus cannot be culturally appropriated. Pagan religious movements which revive broken traditions are not on par with unbroken Indigenous traditions. While Indigenous traditions around the world have been brutalized and colonized by European powers yet still manage to survive in unbroken religious traditions, contemporary Paganism attempts to revive traditions from the ground up centuries after these cultures have been destroyed. There is no host country for these cultures or religions, even if there are contemporary cultures which descend from or populate the regions of once-existing dead pre-Christian ones, as they have been thoroughly washed by the new religions which came to dominate their areas. Sure, there are cultural artifacts or even direct religious practices which can remain in some of these cultures and countries, but the prior has been decontextualized (e.g., remains of the Partheon) and the latter has been thoroughly washed by the new religion which came to dominate the culture and recontextualized (e.g., the practice of dedicating imagery of the part of the body that need healing which were originally offerings to Asklepios being reassigned to Mary), and assimilation to the culture will not acclimate one to the religion. Connecting to contemporary Greece, with Orthodox Christianity as its state religion, will not inherently lead one to practicing Hellenism. Connecting to contemporary Germany, which is mixed Protestant and Catholic, will not inherently lead one to worshiping Woden. Connecting to contemporary Egypt, which is a predominantly Arab-state practicing Sunni Islam, will not inherently lead one to praising Ptah.

This section is very unfortunately expressed, I am compelled to say. The author willfully insists on killing or dismissing the remnants of ancient culture and religion in order to prove his point about universalism applying to “dead” traditions. I recall an article I read by Angelo Nasios, wherein he does not oppose the worship of Hellenic Gods by outsiders, but fairly demands that it not be called Hellenism, because it is cultural appropriation. I would add that the Gods can’t be separated from the historical media they were reached by, culture, language and ancestral practice. It’s greatly unjust however to demolish any traces of ancient indigenism that have survived after monotheism, and contrast it with modern (more fortunate) indigenous societies, as if that would lessen the former people’s efforts towards re-indigenization. I need not emphasize that the whole world was once indigenous, and a great part of polytheism’s beauty derives from the simpler times during which our various ancestors lived and their Gods were worshipped. I am not sure what’s the argument regarding contextualization here? Shouldn’t we decontextualize the earlier decontextualization, whenever possible? That’s the essence of reindigenization: It’s a glorious rediscovery of the past, of who we are and what we should do with one another across cultures in orderly to live well. Universalism, manifested by the author’s thinking here, seeks to dismiss this, because it is an inconvenience to their personal inclinations. Great Gods, as if this is a matter of individuals, and not the destiny of peoples! Being German (of whatever religion) won’t inherently lead a person to worship Woden? What does that mean? If they are educated in history and morality, that German should inherently choose polytheism, and Woden would be among the first they think of. If the author’s point is there was no continuity for an immediate transition, I still disagree: Language is a sufficient bridge, that is, if the author must dismiss ethnicity (which I disagree with entirely).

 

Yes, one might feel a deeper connection to a certain religion if they come from a particular cultural background (e.g., a person of Latin background, say Portuguese, connecting better to the Religio Romana), but simultaneously religions such as Christianity or Islam have thoroughly become embedded in these cultures, and their hold is anything but tenuous. It is all pervasive, and part of reviving ancient traditions involves things like moving past the baggage that everyone has as a result of being raised in the society they were raised in because let’s face it, no one is raised within a vacuum. Because the majority of Pagans are converts coming from Abrahamic faiths, they will thus begin with many presumptions about religion which derive from their society. If one thinks that there is an easy way back to the Old World’s religious traditions by connecting with contemporary cultures, then that person has clearly never actually engaged in Pagan religions.

“One might feel a deeper connection” is a perfect indication of what is wrong here, not so much in the author’s expression, but in the mentality of those the author speaks for. One—might—feel—are all and each the wrong terms to be considering in this profound context. The problem here is that polytheists think of themselves as individuals first (without joining community—although alas, there aren’t any yet), and then don’t consider their ancestry (hence the “might” arising from a weak identity) and then feel this matter of destiny rather than think thoroughly about it.  If “no one is raised within a vacuum” and grew up with “Abrahamic faiths”, it shouldn’t stop people from seeking to live in distinct communities and with distinct practices just as their ancestors did, rather than live within the modern, globalized “contemporary cultures” that are the antithesis of polytheism, being in almost every way aligned with monotheism and atheism.

 

Pagan Religions are both Ethnic and Universal

In the Greek New Testament, those who ascribe to pre-Christian religions are called ta ethnē, “the nations” (Luke 24:47, Matthew 25:32, Matthew 28:19). As such, religions of “the nations” were deemed ethnikos, as pertaining to a nation, in opposition to Christianity’s katholikos, meaning “catholic” or “universal.” In English translations of the New Testament, the word ethnē often gets translated as “Gentiles,” and in Latin “Paganus,” or Pagan. This essentially posited the “one universal Christian faith” against a multiplicity of “ethnic” religions. This does not, however, mean that Pagan religions were closed traditions. On quite the contrary, ancient polytheisms were universal traditions which, although they may have originated in one geographic territory, had a tendency to spread into other regions and become part of that area’s culture.

My response is mainly to the last sentence: “Had a tendency to spread into other regions” is a euphemism for imperialism and the falsely “universal” system that arises from it. We need to distinguish the spreading that results from a slow, formative establishment of  several regional Gods within the same pantheon, from the quick, innovative expansion of a powerful foreign God (or Gods) over weaker indigenous ones.

 

The actual issue was not that Christianity’s universalism purported itself as holding a universal truth for all peoples, but that it purported itself as an exclusivist, sole path to salvation, and actively denied the legitimacy of other paths to the truth, especially from long-standing traditions, as being false and abhorrent. This is what was antithetical to the undeniable pluralistic and diverse nature of ancient Pagan religions. The ancient world was, after all, fairly cosmopolitan. We can hardly say that something like Graeco-Roman civilization, which built a temple dedicated to the Egyptian Goddess Isis on the far-away Celtic lands of Britain, was anything but incredibly pluralistic and diverse. The ancient Germanic tribes are another clear example of an ancient peoples becoming well-accustomed to elements of foreign cultures. This is variously seen with the Swedish Viking ruling class of the Kievan Rus, how many different members of tribes such as the Batavi, Saxons, Goths, and Cherusci (among many others) would frequently become Foederati within the Roman military and adopt Roman cults and styles of dress, the intermingling and intermarriage of native Britons and Anglo-Saxons, with early Saxon cemeteries having both bodies from continental Europe and bodies native to the Isles buried in them, and the substantial overlap between Germanic peoples and the Gauls nearest to the Rhine. The Suebi are such an example, with Suebic chieftans Maroboduus and Ariovistus having Gallic names, with the latter speaking fluent Gallic (Gaius Iulius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico 1.47), as well as the Franks, who took up many elements of Gallo-Roman culture.

I could not disagree with the first sentence more. Is the connection between monotheism and universalism so weak as not to be seen? A socio-cultural examination of the history of monotheism is needed to rectify this mistake (my next post will provide a lengthy chronology with commentary on this topic), because otherwise we will repeat it. But I must ask: what period and place and proportion of the ancient world was “fairly cosmopolitan”? Such a view is too literary, because most people lived out of cities in their regional homelands practicing agriculture. And it was the city-dwellers who always innovated and sought to profit from their new ideas. It saddens me that the author goes at great lengths to pass off coping with imperialism (to avoid further misery) as evidence of diversity…So, the Roman Empire conquers Egypt and subjugates its people, but then the worship of Isis, carried by earlier imperializing Greeks, spreads to Rome and to Britain—surely we can’t complain because Egypt should be proud and Isis, great mother as she is, would approve to see her native people as impoverished subjects while she acquires more generous, numerous and wealthy worshippers abroad?

 

While the translation of the Greek word ethnos does have a connotation as pertaining to a nation, this does not have the same connotation as a “nation-state,” let alone “race,” both of are very modern social constructs which developed many centuries following the extinction of the ancient religions. The latter especially developed quite recently among European imperialists during the Colonial era, dating from the early Enlightenment and beginning of industrial slavery, multiple centuries after many of the same powers destroyed the numerous polytheistic traditions of the ancient world. It is out of touch with reality to believe that the many different ethnic groups populating parts of Europe (Graeco-Romans, Celts, Germanics, Illyrians, etc.,) would have recognized themselves as part of the same people, let ago have seen eye-to-eye with eachother, based on an anachronistic idea of “whiteness” which only developed multiple centuries later. If the ancient world cared about someone’s race, then it would have been very unlikely that the Romans would have had Septimus Severus, a Roman who was half-Italic on his mother’s side and half-Punic and Berber on his father’s side, as their Emperor for almost two decades. There is no such thing as a “white gene,” “brown gene,” or a “black gene,” and what we consider to be “racial” is merely an observation of physical attributes that can change over time. To think the ancient world, let alone the Gods, would care is simply delirious. Rather, the Greek term ethnos means a community of people held together by the same culture, customs, language, and religion, rather than about anything remotely similar to contemporary notions of “race.”

The term “ethnos”, in its earlier sense, actually refers to the tribe and a tribal society but the term may have changed afterwards in Late Antiquity. An ethnos (usually agricultural and pastoral) is distinguished by anthropologists as distinct from the later urban polis that developed from it and sought to unite tribes into one city-state (synoecism). The ethnos however remained even in the latter stage, since marriages excluded within citizenry brought a sense of common ancestry. The different ethnic groups throughout Europe could not have brought themselves together as one group, but they approached that idea with the Roman Empire—in this case, however, they didn’t see it as “race” because they were all, except for very few, of the “Caucasian race” anyway, unlike the colonizers and slave traders of later times, who perceived great differences suddenly and proceeded with evil imperialism in order to justify their subjugation of the weaker people as a means to “civilize” them. This is why I dislike imperialism: in time, it molds a new large identity, whether an empire or a race (the two concepts are congruous), while replacing or weakening smaller ones, for the sake of some twisted, hypocritical ideology. And this is why I seek re-indigenization through regionalism.

 

So sure, if one is called to by a God or even simply wishes to participate in these religions, then necessary respect and acknowledgement must be given to the culture that the God created, and one well ought to be interested in learning as much as they can about it. This does not, however, merely come from birth. No, this comes from work. This is a clear understanding from the ancient world, as the divine Emperor Julian tells us: “though my family [the Constantinian dynasty] is Thracian, [I] am a Greek in my habits,” or in other words, logos displaces genos (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, II 501). Being a Hellene, or any practitioner of a Pagan religion, does not designate a people (genos), but a mindset (logoi) (Libanios, Or. II.184) (Kaldellis 2011, 54). One becomes part of a Pagan religion (such as Hellenism) because they share in a culture which was attained through education (such as paideia), rather than “common stock (physis)” (Elm 2012, 378-379). Indeed, while these religions are ethnic because they originated with a group of people, ancient religions are at the same time katholikos, or universal, because by their very nature they reflect the reality and universal principles of the Cosmos itself.

Yes, Julian was a Thracian, which was within the bounds of Greece, especially during his time. Zeno of Citium the Phoenician was accepted even earlier. Quoting late authors like Libanios doesn’t help in a universal sense, because their (urban) world was already jumbled up by imperialism (beginning with the Hellenistic) and thus Hellenism lost its original cultural identity and developed a false transcendental one. Even though I am a Greek, I can easily blame the Greeks for their cultural imperialism in the Near East, the same region where Libanios came from—he must have felt inferior if he were not considered Greek, and therefore he went along with the imperialism as a coping mechanism. A similar thing happens with immigrants in America, like my parents, and even happened with me when I returned to America after living 10 years abroad. And a brief note once again: Don’t be quick to equate the Greek philosophical system’s universal cosmology to what other traditional and regionalized cultures do with their cosmologies/mythologies, because that will lead to the dismissing of the latter, since modern science agrees often with the former.

 

Pagan Religions are God-centric, not ancestor-centric

I want to establish that in no way am I dismissing ancestor veneration. It’s a practice that is prevalent in many Pagan religious traditions, and plays a strong significance in the Religio Romana. However, Folkish types will often claim that the core of Paganism and polytheism is about “tribe and ancestors.” There is a few problems to this. Firstly, though some Pagan religions may have a kind of focus on a tribe, such as Germanic polytheism, the ancient concept of a tribe is very unrelated to the very contemporary notion of a “nation-state,” which many Folkish types will try to extrapolate the concept to anachronistically. Secondly, their tone-deaf description of Paganism and polytheism will always inherently fall short because it completely displaces the core of what polytheism is actually all about. The focus of polytheism, as the word implies in Greek (“polús,” meaning many, and “theós,” meaning God), is the veneration of the many living, eternal Gods. Period. We don’t seek the mediation of the Gods to worship our ancestors because ancestors are not the focus of polytheism.

 Polytheism needs to be understood beyond its simple etymology. There is plenty of socio-historical and socio-political theory to comprehend within it before you can even worship correctly, and this includes our knowledge about what ancient ancestry is and the importance of re-developing a direct connection to it. I have already explained how our various ancestors and their cultures are media between us and their Gods. Certainly the opposite is not true: the Gods are not mediators between us and our ancestors. Finally, I disagree with nationalism (or the nation-state), because of its inherent imperialism and anti-regionalism, since one tribe is required to conquer the rest before a “nation” is formed. Nationalism is almost as unreasonable as globalization.

 

Folkish people don’t even engage in actual ancestor veneration

For all the lip-service that the Folkish preach for ancestors, the Folkish typically have an incredibly reductionist view of what the ancestors actually are, commonly resting it on mere biological descendance. This is in contrast to the ancient world, such as in Rome, where your ancestors wouldn’t even necessarily be biological since biology was never really thought as being important. Noble families would frequently adopt males unrelated to them to follow in their footsteps, and when you were adopted into a family, you would be expected to worship that family’s ancestors. Because after all, what of people who were not raised by their biological family in any way, but instead, were raised by adoptive parents? What family’s ancestors would they even have to worship if only their biology mattered?

Folkish people will claim that minorities should refrain from joining Pagan religions because, again hearkening back to their erroneous “metagenetics” argument, people should only “worship the Gods of their ancestors.” But this argument is one of brittle bones which can be easily broken by just pointing out that most of their parents, let alone their ancestors for at least the past five centuries, are almost guaranteed to not have been engaged in the worship of the very same Gods that they are right now. Are those ancestors suddenly no longer of any worth? If so, that’s a pretty detestable view of one’s ancestors. But let’s play devil’s advocate and for the sake of this specious argument ignore this elephant in the room. If only biology mattered, then one can assume that they would have absolutely no problem with mixed people trying to join their traditions. But evidently, they overwhelmingly do. So how do the Folkish reconcile their worldview of biology with mixed peoples who want to enter Pagan traditions? For example, the majority of African-descendant people in the west are mixed, having European ancestry somewhere in their family tree, sometimes being the direct result of a biracial union. But of course, most Folkish types would reject them, even though they would rarely if ever complain if someone of mixed European descent wanted to join, or even someone of a completely separate fair-skinned peoples entirely. This is because genuine ancestor veneration is not something which the Folkish even actually engage in when they play at “honouring the ancestors.” This distortion of ancestor worship that the Folkish engage in, coupled with how they relegate Gods to archetypes of “the race,” informs us that, in reality, Folkish types misuse the component of ancestor veneration in Pagan and polytheistic religions as an excuse to go all-out blood and soil. Their “ancestor veneration,” and worship in general, is merely a form of self-indulgent pomposity because all it means to them is that it “honours their great race.” Beneath the shallow dressing, they are merely worshiping the phenotype. Their religion is white people. Nothing else.

I have explained on my site how people of mixed ancestry (citing myself also) can deal with the point of culture and worship. I don’t have a problem with people of mixed races joining and assimilating within a community, but I wouldn’t encourage the mixing (even inter-ethnic marriage) in the first place, for various reasons (mainly because it’s used by white leftists to heal past wrongs as if their continual colonialization will go away when they do it), which universalism does. I don’t mean to divert the discourse here, but the author is very insensitive when he mentions people of African descent in the west with European ancestry, because we all know how that ancestry was forcibly acquired and how they forcibly came to the west in the first place. So, why would they be venerating white or European ancestors at all?

 

Pagan Religions are a result of Post-Modernism

The Folkish have this unbridled phobia of Post-Modernism, even to the point where they will use it as a buzzword against detractors, despite not having any actual idea of what it is about nor its significance for contemporary polytheism. To simplify it, Post-Modernist philosophy is merely a kind of skepticism about Modernism, which is itself a philosophical movement which, by trying to simplify things and arrange them in a linear fashion out of a desire to create stories with clear beginnings and ends, argues for a straightforward progression towards truth and liberty, which gave rise to theories like whig history. When applied to religious modes of thought, Modernism would hypothesize that earlier religious modes of practice and belief are inherently more “primitive,” because they’re not in the “now,” positing that a “primitive society” would begin practicing a form of animism, which itself would give way to a “more developed” polytheism which humanizes abstract spirits, which in turn would reject the “ridiculous idea” of many Gods and cultivates into monotheism as the “pinnacle of spiritual development,” with another step sometimes included with a jump from monotheism to atheism.

Post-Modernism rebukes Modernist theories of linear human development, arguing that it doesn’t make sense as the way in which things actually happen because, much like biological evolution, what sticks in human development is not always an improvement; it is in essence random. Post-Modernism’s rejection of modernist approaches to historiography allowed for a resurrected interest in ancient paganisms which revived devotional polytheism in the west. Because of this, Post-Modernism has been in large part responsible for the reconstructionist methodology we use today in reviving these ancient religions, and that our Post-Modern culture has inspired more genuine interest in polytheism and ancient paganism than say, the romantic and Völkisch environment of turn of the 20th century Germany.

I am actually a post-modernist, but I still believe that monotheism developed from socio-political conditions within certain species of polytheism and from certain groups of polytheists. Furthermore, I think the author projects linearity when he implies (though subtly) that our earlier tribal societies were less moral and less culturally superior than those of Late Antiquity and afterwards. As for Volkisch rotten nonsense of the Nazis which sought to elevate the Nordic “race” above all others, I have nothing at all to do with it—I am actually partly Sephardic Jewish on my father’s side and I said this on the author’s site, but he still proceeded to call me “Folkish” with the same insensitivity displayed earlier about Africans in the west. Finally, it was rather shameful for the author to equate me with these miserable Folkish nordicists and in the same breath, ban me in order to prevent me from defending myself.

 

Conclusion

Stating the obvious: the Folkish and their rhetoric are visibly ignorant and foul. These blatant fascists are inherently violent because of how their canards incites the dehumanization and harassment of minorities by unnecessarily forcing them to validate themselves both as practitioners and as people, and inherently impious because of their flagrant atheism and hubris which objectifies the Gods and ancestors as mere trinkets who only serve to propound the short-sighted pomposity they have about their “race.” This only produces a toxic environment where the both the pious and the marginalized are left unwelcome, and as such, their hatespeech is undeserving of any audience. Their platforms in Pagan circles should be torn down, and any individuals who are espousing their abhorrent rhetoric should be barred from any and all participation in any legitimate polytheistic and/or Pagan community. Their points are not to be debated: they are to be ridiculed.

My conclusion: The author’s conclusion will make things worse rather than better for polytheism on the whole, at least on the internet. Meantime, I will continue (to the best of my ability) writing as I do, honestly, fairly, respectfully and carefully, in the service of all Gods and all peoples (the right kind of universalism), until such time the Gods will allow me to form or join a real & closed polytheistic community in Greece that will promote re-indigenization and regionalism.

Marrying and Raising Children within the Faith

A beautiful post by Galina Krasskova. I am reposting not really to spread the word (because I am certainly less known) but only to emphasize that I am extremely pleased to see this view laid out, which I share strongly.

Gangleri's Grove

The other day, I posted this documentary on facebook with the comment that I wish our communities were as committed to intergenerational longevity and growth as the Jewish communities depicted in this documentary seem to be. Part of that, I noted, indeed one of the most crucial parts, is firmly being unwilling to marry outside one’s faith and being absolutely committed to raising one’s children within one’s faith. The inevitable pushback to these ideas never ceases to amaze me. Yet, it’s the only way that any type of sustainable restoration is going to happen. This is one of the reasons I think it’s so important that we establish in-person, geographically distinct communities where we can practice our traditions and raise our children in ways that reinforce our religious and cultural values. Religion doesn’t happen without culture and right now, we’re all living and working in a post-modern culture deeply antagonistic…

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Various developments

After almost a year, the series on polemical topics is at an end. I might have added a few more parts, but I believe I have addressed and laid out the most important topics that I have observed among polytheists nowadays. I hope it has brought some benefit with its balanced method, which is greatly needed among our distinct traditions. The question now is what to write for the future.

In the first place, I should mention that I have lately enlarged the site’s quote page, which contains all sorts of arguments in favor of traditional & ancestral polytheism that I have long advocated for. The quotes, carefully selected, range from ancient sayings to scholarly statements. I invite readers not only to view them for the sake of curiosity & reflection (contact me if you have objections and I’ll gladly discuss), but also to provide me with more quotes of the same kind if they happen to come by them.

At this time, I am considering a series about the depiction of polytheism in the arts & media, It will consist of general observations and literary analysis. I have also conceived of another series of a miscellaneous nature. However, I will make the choice after publishing my next post concerning the development of monotheism, which I have been researching and preparing for the past few days. It will be bold and yet simple–in chronological style with notes. Expect it sometime next week!

Was Xenophanes a proto-monotheist?

This topic seems to have been in discussion lately and John Beckett published on it a few days since. I think it is a part of a larger topic of huge importance about early Greek philosophy (of the religious or secular form or indeed a mixture of both). I will stick to the man and also touch on the movement. Now, we have many fragments about Xenophanes, as well as a historical period to which he was contemporary, that allow us to form a clear view of the man’s ideas and let me add, motives. We know that he lived after Homer and Hesiod, and was very bold to criticize them: “Homer and Hesiod have ascribed to the gods all things that are a shame and a disgrace among mortals, stealings and adulteries and deceivings of one another.” Xenophanes belonged to a movement, anticipated a little by Hesiod, which criticized the old ideas and traditions (including mythology and anthropomorphism) while searching for a universal “Truth”. What surprises me is that Xenophanes doesn’t try to allow Homer and Hesiod much credit, or attempt at least (using the very “critical thinking” he seemingly wishes to distinguish himself by) to allegorize some myths and their import. Nor is there any constructive criticism; Xenophanes boldly attacks his renowned predecessors (somewhat like his contemporary and  Heraclitus, who said “Homer should be turned out of the lists and whipped”) and without much reason. First of all, Homer and Hesiod were widely acclaimed throughout Greece, and deservedly so, because they wrote beautifully and wisely, including about the Gods. Very few doubted that they did anything wrong, either artistically or theologically, and if objections were raised, reverence was most likely shown. Secondly, Xenophanes’ movement owed part of its existence to some of Hesiod’s new ideas which were in opposition to Homer’s. Greece had already begun to change and it seems Xenophanes was a thorough individualist who sought to have his own ideas spread, in order to “reform” a Greece that had been “corrupted” in its religious thinking. We know from another fragment that he travelled throughout Greece for 67 years, most probably for that purpose. His main concern was anthropomorphism, which we can infer from three fragments on the topic:

“But mortals deem that the gods are begotten as they are, and have clothes like theirs, and voice and form.”

“Yes, and if oxen and horses or lions had hands, and could paint with their hands, and produce works of art as men do, horses would paint the forms of the gods like horses, and oxen like oxen, and make their bodies in the image of their several kinds.”*

“The Ethiopians make their gods black and snub-nosed; the Thracians say theirs have blue eyes and red hair.”

One cannot be exactly certain where this new idea against anthropomorphism first arose and why**, but it was undoubtedly damaging to polytheism in the long run. The traditional view of mythology and cultic practice was that the Gods were represented in a form similar to the people who worshipped them. This has universally been done throughout all polytheistic cultures. Indeed, it’s an obvious and necessary thing for ritual practice that wouldn’t have been questioned in the first place by someone who cared about ancestral and cultic continuity as well as the sanctity of religious tradition, rather than an individual opinion. That Xenophanes objected to such a common and strongly established cultural/theological/mythological norm inevitably gives the impression that he was either unduly confused or ambitious. It’s not wrong to suspect someone who objects to what everyone else does in an environment that was entirely original, that is to say, where there wasn’t anything previously lost in order to be restored (which we polytheists are doing today). Instead of enjoying his travels by expanding his knowledge of the distinctions in regional Greek practice, he sought to teach everyone how they were mistaken and needed improvement. In one fragment, he says “The Gods have not revealed all things to men from the beginning, but by seeking they find in time what is better.” Well, how could Xenophanes be so sure he was “better” and everyone else was less so in regard to this point of anthropomorphism? Apparently he wasn’t better by his own admission, as we can see from another fragment:

“There never was nor will be a man who has certain knowledge about the Gods and about all the things I speak of. Even if he should chance to say the complete truth, yet he himself knows not that it is so. But all may have their fancy.”

I must say I commend the frankness of Xenophanes here, because unlike so many other philosophers, he conceded that the “Truth” in a universal sense was really unattainable. One ought to acknowledge that he was honest about the reality of where intellectual universalism always ends, i.e. uncertainty. Each culture has its own ideas and traditions, and therefore it would be impossible, not to mention unfair, to attempt to bring them all under one system, especially an arbitrary one derived from individual conception. This is why we have pluralism inherent in polytheism; just as there are many Gods, there are many traditions, and just as the Gods are venerated, the traditions should also be respected. The essence of polytheism is far more continuity of ancestral practice rather than refining conceptions about the divine in a universal manner. Xenophanes contradicts himself and undermines his validity when he simultaneously attacks Hesiod, Homer, as well as anthropomorphism, and in effect doubts what he is saying. This makes Xenophanes somewhat of a skeptic. But now let us move to the more relevant question of proto-monotheism. Xenophanes was far removed from the time of Akhenaten, an undisputed monotheist or proto-monotheist, depending on interpretation. Yet he was part of a new movement in Greece, originating in Ionia, the same region where the first philosophy of Thales and his Milesian school developed. It was a prosperous, commercial region where commodities and ideas were exchanged among Eastern Mediterranean cultures and somewhat beyond. Thales, like Xenophanes’ contemporary Pythagoras, is known to have travelled abroad. In encountering various cultures and their differences, he must have had the negative reaction of doubting his own beliefs because of plurality rather than the positive reaction of admiring that very plurality. From this doubt, which Xenophanes shared also from extensive travels (albeit Hellenic) he sought a greater “Truth” that explained this new, large world he experienced. Everything, he must have thought, was related and had a common origin, and therefore it was only prolonged isolation and merely popular tradition that led to differences, which “covered” this primal “Truth”, which was equated to natural elements. This anticipates the rise of monotheism (one could also say deism) in its second form, i.e. the intellectual form that differed from the earlier quasi-political & imperialistic form under Akhenaten**. Xenophanes gives a strong impression of this proto-monotheism, when he states the following in several fragments:

“One God, the greatest among Gods and men, neither in form like unto mortals nor in thought . . . .”

“He sees all over, thinks all over, and hears all over.

“But without toil he swayeth all things by the thought of his mind.”

“And he abideth ever in the selfsame place, moving not at all; nor doth it befit him to go about now hither now thither.”

Now this is not monotheism, but only an earlier anticipatory form of it. Xenophanes is still a “polytheist” but he is also making a transition unto something else. The phrase “One God, the greatest among Gods and men”, looks like ambiguous evidence, but it is the first term ‘One God’ that really holds almost all the weight, especially if we also consider the three latter fragments. Some philosophers, like the Orphics contemporary to them, accorded to the ruling God (in this case Zeus, but sometimes they held the God to be a natural element) greater powers than ever before, and although they did acknowledge other Gods, the status of those Gods now dwindled in the rising supremacy of the Head. The “Mind” was now absolutely supreme and pure in the order of things, and intellect, not ritual or prayer or festivals, was the way to reach it. As M.L. West explains in an article from the book Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity:

“Empedocles describes a God who does not have human form—no head, no arms, no feet, no knees, no hairy genitals—but consists simply of a marvelous holy mind, darting across the whole universe with its swift thoughts. This may remind us of Xenophanes’ and Heraclitus’ accounts of a disembodied intelligence; but they were speaking of a unique being, whereas Empedocles‘ description may have been applicable to any of the life-long Gods…The philosopher who first gives us a clear statement of the role of the controlling Mind in the material universe is Anaxagoras, who is a little older than Empedocles. Like Heraclitus [and most probably his contemporary Xenophanes also–my note], he emphasizes that Mind or Intellect is something separate from everything else. He says it is unlimited, unalloyed, homogeneous, eternal, autonomous, the finest and purest of all substances, with knowledge of everything and the greatest power, governing all living beings, and responsible for initiating the rotation of the cosmos, which led to the separation of all things from the original mixture and continues to be productive in the same way…Here we have a single power, uniquely responsible for shaping the world we know. There is no mention of other Gods. We might say that here at last is a clear case of a monotheistic system, except that it is difficult to justify treating Anaxagoras’ Nous [the Mind] as divine…Nevertheless, theistic or not, his system interestingly illustrates the tendency to look for a single, intelligent governing power in the world”.

Michael Frede adds the following in his article from the same book, when he speaks of the continued developments of Aristotle to the concept of the “one God” above:

“Given that it is clear that there is a substantial sense in which Aristotle believes in one God, though there are many other things he is prepared to call ‘divine’, let us consider these…It is part of the order of the universe which depends on the first unmoved mover [Nous/the Mind] that there be immaterial substances, pure unembodied minds who, being immortal, enjoy eternal bliss contemplating the first unmoved mover and the order which depends on him…[As for Plato’s position in Timaeus] So there is one God, but there are also other beings which are called ‘divine’, though they are created, because they are by Divine grace immortal and enjoy a good life. But they only exist as part of God’s creation and they are immortal and hence divine only due to God’s benevolence or grace, that is to say they owe their very divinity to God. So far, then, the Platonist account, in its essential features, is very much like that of Aristotle and that of the Stoics.”

What we see here is proto-monotheism through and through, where the status of the other Gods is reduced subserviently (one may say blasphemously) to that of “angels”, dwarfish beings in comparison with the absolute, supreme God. There are those who may object (and perhaps even quibble) in the defense of Xenophanes or others, by stating that this was merely another form of polytheism and not proto-monotheism at all. Such an objection is rather inane, because if that kind of reasoning is used, Christianity itself becomes a form of polytheism too, except for the thin partition of intolerance that divides them apart. This fluidity was actually present in Late Antiquity, when all what differed between a Neoplatonist and a Christian was really not so much the point of whether there is one or many Gods, but whether Jesus was the savior and intercessor. The Christian author Augustine points this out in The City of God:

“If the Platonists prefer to call these ‘gods’ [lower case ‘g’ for emphasizing lower status] rather than ‘daemons’ and to count them among those of whom their founder and master Plato writes that they are Gods created by the highest God, let them say what they wish. For one should not engage with them in a controversy of words. For if they say that they are not blessed by themselves, but by being attached to him who has created them, then they say precisely what we say, whichever word they may use for them”

For fear of falling into this trap of quibbling where evidence is otherwise strong, I must therefore state in conclusion that Xenophanes is certainly a polytheist, but at the same time he is undoubtedly a proto-monotheist or a proto-deist or both, depending on your interpretation.

 

 

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*It’s easy to detect a satirical, overbearing tone here, and one that does our friend Xenophanes no credit at all, but rather weakens his case.

**Akhenaten’s defacing and prohibiting of divine images is known, but no connection has been established with Greece. Nevertheless, we know the Greek minds whose new ideas paved the way against anthropomorphism, i.e. Thales, the first philosopher who equated Gods with elements, and who was followed later widely by fellow philosophers. Even earlier than Thales, a problem with anthropomorphism was already anticipated from the Theogony of Hesiod, wherein he shows that traditional, anthropomorphic Gods that were worshipped, were preceded by earlier generations of non-anthropomorphic and non-cultic Gods, and in a few cases, allegorical Gods that represented the forces of nature. See Hack’s article on Hesiod in his work God in Greek philosophy.

***The two forms were later to combine very destructively under the Emperor Constantine and again under Mohammed.

Polemical topics for polytheists (part 19): Historical traditions and models

First view: Any historical tradition and model of a particular polytheism is acceptable to follow, including a new modern one

Second view: There is only one historical tradition and model of a particular polytheism, before which things were undeveloped and after which things were in decline

Balanced view: There is a plurality of valid historical traditions and models to follow, but it is also possible to refine our research in order to select the better few.

This is a topic that has long occupied my thinking and seems to grow only more complex with time. Let us consider an example, as in the Hellenic polytheism, since a great deal is known about its various historical traditions; there is the Minoan period, Mycenaean period, the Homeric, the Archaic, the Classical, the Hellenistic, the Greco-Roman, and the Late Antiquity or Medieval period. These all constitute what may be called distinct historical traditions and models of Hellenic polytheism which people nowadays follow with variations. Within those historical periods, there are more sub-variations, as for example, with the philosophical schools or regional practices within Greece. Other polytheisms share this plurality of period, model and region, with more or less complexity. The question is, do we have a best one, better ones or are all of them alike? The balanced path that avoids extremes will acknowledge that there is such a thing as “better” (and conversely “worse”), but at the same time no absolute “best” or “worst”. The reason for this critical approach is that we are aware of certain historical changes and mistakes that had adverse consequences on (to continue the same example) Hellenic polytheism. These were unconscious changes and mistakes that took place with the force of circumstance, but although one cannot remove a certain degree of validity from them, it is possible to compare and analyze distinct periods and models in order to refine our view about Hellenic polytheism in general. Although we should take the Hesiodic principle of decline through time (which seems universal through cultures*) into serious consideration, we must also understand the value of what can be called a tradition’s “maturity”. In my view, Hellenic polytheism matured during the Archaic and Early Classical Period, only to decline not long after during the Late Classical Period without recovery**. Since this double-edged situation is sometimes more or less true for other polytheisms, it is necessary to reconcile the notions of decline and maturity fairly. This can be done by a method which posits a sort of “terminus ante quem” for each particular polytheism, whereby there is a “latest date before which” the validity of a historical model cannot be much questioned, and thus after which it can be. By following this method, which may at first seem arbitrary, it will become possible to select the better (more valid, more correct or more mature) models and distinguish them from the worse (the opposite). The following list is an initial attempt for several polytheisms, based on my previous research:

Celtic- before Roman invasion

Roman- before Middle Republic (thus allowing for Etruscan and others to exist)

Germanic- before Late Antiquity expansions

Egyptian- before Late Middle Kingdom

Semetic- before Hellenistic invasion (with exception to regions not conquered)

Slavic- before Late Antiquity

Chinese- before Qin Empire

Indian- before Mauryan Empire

Thracian and Illyrian- before Roman invasion

American, East Indies, Sub-Saharan and Oceanic – before Western colonialism

Lest this is taken as a hugely and unjustifiably arbitrary attempt, I will explain four points before I conclude. First, as the list seems to exclude important developments in religion, I will certainly concede that there is a great deal of religious and ritual knowledge that are dated after these afore-mentioned periods which we can’t dispense with. In such a case, we should be using what we have, in order to reconstruct a purer model and period without decline. The second point is, these periods are broad estimates that are not true for all regions that fall under a particular polytheism. For example, the Irish were not conquered by the Romans and therefore their period can last later than the rest. This is also true of the Indian and Chinese religious traditions (among others) that were unaffected by imperial influence and the times.  Thirdly, these demarcations on religious tradition, which are meant to balance purity with maturity, do not exclude the arts, literature and so many other historical developments. For example, as a Hellenic polytheist who is seeking to follow a Homeric religious tradition, I value the art of the Late Classical and Hellenistic periods. And lastly, there will always be a considerable distance (in urbanized societies) between the religious tradition of the city and the rural areas, where the latter are always purer and less affected by dangerous innovations.

 

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*The Hindus share this principle, and it seems to be a very common mode of thinking in societies that value ancestral tradition and purity of practice. This stands in direct contrast to the notion of “progress”, which (as far as I can tell) derived originally from the quasi-atheistical Epicurean philosophy which embraced atomic materialism. See Lucretius’s poem.

 **Only true for areas affected by Athenian innovations, which by the Hellenistic period was almost every part of Greece (except the rural ones) and even beyond.

Polemical topics for Polytheists (part 18): Proselytism

First view: Proselytism is unfavorable because it is associated with expansive monotheism

Second view: If monotheists converted others, polytheists should be doing the same in similar ways to counter them

Balanced view: Polytheists need to actively promote their religion, convince others that it is real as well as good, and generally increase their influence in society, which in the case of polytheism’s plural traditions does not constitute proselytism.

I need not emphasize the situation of polytheism in comparison with monotheism today, in regard to the number of followers and influence and community organization. It suffices to point out that we have a great deal of work to do, for several generations, before we can approach a state of serious competition. We have reason to be both fearful that we are too slow, but also to be hopeful that the time has never been riper. But while we do need to expand, the notion of proselytism is a misnomer in our case, because “polytheism” is not a monolithic faith, nor is it structured (like monotheism) to save people from damnation and eternal torment in hell. For this reason, proselytism also has (as it were) a sort of evil twin, i.e. apostasy and heresy, which follow the same imperialistic and pathological mode of thinking. And yet, in spite of our necessity and our difference from monotheism, too many among us confuse what may be better called “activism” with proselytism. We think it is rude or intrusive or arrogant to inform and convince others that our faiths and traditions are valid and worthy of following. It is true that part of this reluctance to engage actively with outsiders results from our injuries under the tyranny of monotheism and its derivative systems, but what other choice do we have? Do we sit back and be passive in a world that is very active? And what about the hostility in the world towards our faiths and traditions? Should we merely enjoy the current freedom we have, or lay a foundation for future growth? I have always sincerely believed (and will repeat, ad nauseam if necessary) that communities of faith that resemble those of Hindus or even monotheists are essential for our continuity; this is not a matter of well-being, but of survival. But this matter of fact should not make us pathological in such a way as to hunger after followers, but only aware of the necessity to work hard in order to honor our Gods and ancestors as well as secure our uncertain future. There are monotheists (even atheists) who dedicate many many days, if not their whole lives, to teaching and proselytizing and debating—they have the spirit and confidence that their way is the best and must expand. We know that polytheism, or at least a general plurality of faiths and traditions, is better for the world than merely one or some that pretend to be exclusively correct in spite of all others. If we have the spirit and confidence that our ways (emphasize on plural) are better, why not dedicate something more from our time and efforts to further the paths of polytheism that can ensure cultural self-determination, promote inter-ethnic harmony and defeat all imperialism. We need a larger presence and louder voice, but always a more balanced and reasonable view to prevail. 

Polemical topics for Polytheists (part 17): The Jews and Judaism

First view: The Jews and Judaism are not at all responsible for the later evils of monotheism which were mostly Christian and Islamic

Second view: Since the Jews invented monotheism, they are responsible for all its later legacy and evils

Balanced view: While Judaism can be partly responsible in certain ideas, the Jews are a people who (like many others) may have been misled from their original polytheism, and mainly because of foreigners 

 A friend of mine referred me once to a few videos by one Varg Vikernes, a Norwegian tribal anarchist who not only is notorious for his dislike of Jews, but who has also carried his foolish theories so far as to condemn all Southern Europeans (whom he believes to be impure racially and therefore subtly inferior) for adopting and spreading Christianity (an un-European, inferior “Jewish” religion according to him) in Europe. Being offended, I tried to counter this absurd notion by raising a simple question in the comment section “You blame the Southern Europeans for adopting Christianity from the East, but not the Northern Europeans for adopting it from the South. How is that logic fair?” As one might expect, he replied by saying that “Christianity was forced on us” and this was the perfect opportunity for me to turn his theory on its head by mentioning that it was the “racially pure” Germanic king Charlemagne who forced it on North Europe, a man who was actually strong enough to march against Rome and destroy Christianity if he had chosen to do so. I concluded also that we shouldn’t attack people but only bad ideas, because by attacking people who adopt certain wrong ideas, we make them only hold more strongly to them. Varg didn’t and couldn’t reply without making a greater fool of himself than he already was, and after some heated altercations with his minions, I was banned. I wish to transfer this aforementioned conclusion to the question of Jews and Judaism, because it is very significant and fair to do so. What I have to say here is threefold. First and foremost, it wasn’t the Jews who invented monotheism, because, if we are to believe scholarly evidence, that was the work of Akhenaten the Egyptian Pharaoh, whose imperialism gave rise to the idea! There is no historical basis for the existence of an Abraham nor even a Moses, and scholars have also pointed out that in both cases, the characters and the events surrounding them fit the Iron Age (beginning from 1000 BCE). Furthermore, there is no evidence for Jewish monotheism as we know it, till about 600 BCE in Jerusalem; this is why we see strangely unbiased references to ancient Canaanite and Semetic Gods in some parts of the Old Testament. The Jews (properly meaning the branch of Canaanites living around the region of Judea and Jerusalem) till that time were henotheists who accepted other Gods, but only worshipped Yahweh out of them. By around 600 BCE or so, a priesthood seems to have arisen from Jerusalem, under the kingship of Josiah, advocating for a reformed theology that rejected images and henotheism. This biased zeal may have been fueled by imperialism in the region, since Judea was in danger of conquest and cultural influences from their Assyrian and Babylonian neighbors, which is actually recorded to have happened in 586 BCE. The mourning priesthood, or perhaps even the captive people (who are said to have been enslaved by the Babylonian), then viewed this as a punishment from Yahweh because of their neglect towards him, and thus a sort of ideology, albeit defensive in its purpose, was born. My second point is that further imperialism in the next centuries was responsible for the exacerbation of the problem; this was carried out by the successors of Alexander’s new Hellenistic Empire. The Maccabean revolt of 167-160 BCE against the Seleucid Empire was as much a noble movement for independence as it was a zealous force that was later to grow into intolerance and systematic conversion. But who do we blame for this? I say the Greeks and their imperialism, who are the causes. We know for certain that it was the Greek sense of cultural superiority and cultural imperialism that angered the conservative Jews and made them revolt afterwards on three occasions against the Roman Empire, but this occurred only after a great deal of Jewish blood was unmercifully spilled in the streets of Alexandria and Antioch during riots there. The monster of monotheism, that was later to become Christianity, was born out of this struggle for cultural supremacy, and because it was advocated by Hellenistic Jews (that is ethnic but not religious Jews), it soon grew into a multicultural movement that by 200 CE distanced itself so far from Jews and Judaism that it professed open hatred towards them! The Jews were blamed for the death of Jesus much more than the occupying Romans or Greeks who had caused the Judean resistance of Jews against foreign imperialism in the first place—Strange irony. This leads me into my last point, which is brief. The Jews are by all accounts a noble set of tribes and peoples whose endurance through so many hardships can be a valuable lesson for us polytheists. Their resistance to Rome above all is to be remembered as entirely worthy of imitation and indeed a most beautiful thing in itself*. Surely they can make excellent polytheists and indeed their anti-monotheistic efforts have already done much to pave the path: We owe a great deal to the likes of (among others) Baruch Spinoza, Karl Marx, Franz Boas, the Kabbalists, Jacques Derrida, and indeed Margot Adler for the gradual revival of polytheism that we have today. Let us unite and join with them in rediscovering our polytheistic origins and ancestors, in order to enjoy a more harmonious existence blessed by the plurality of all our great Gods and peoples.

 

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*I say in itself, to distinguish the heroic acts from the later erratic & pathological product that grew out of their miserable defeat in Jerusalem, i.e. Christianity.