NOTE: This was originally written about a month ago and I’ve wanted to get it out sooner, but a lot of important things came up. In the time since, I’ve reflected on Luciferianism as something that can be really anything, and the term “Luciferian” for me is basically falling out of use because of it. This article represents a discussion of just one of many ways “Luciferianism” is expressed.
Recently I stumbled onto the website of a Satanist by the name of T. L. Othaos, specifically an article discussing the terminology surrounding the broader milieu of Satanism and the Left Hand Path. This, of course, means a discussion of Luciferianism, and what it means, and I think Othaos’ discussion of what Luciferianism means is potentially an insightful one.
First, though, there is a necessary disclosure. T. L. Othaos’ project is unique, to say the least. Othaos espouses a brand of esoteric Satanism (it is my understanding that Theistic Satanism is not her preferred term) that she refers to as Tenebrous Satanism. It is called Tenebrous Satanism because it emphasizes a positive engagement with occultism and even “the supernatural”, with the aim of cultivating a positive relationship with the “Dark Gods”, or Nekalah. Of course, if you’ve ever seen the term Nekalah before, you probably know that this is the term that the Order of Nine Angles uses to refer to their pantheon of deities. Now before anyone sounds the appropriate alarm bells, Othaos seems to have an original take on the O9A brand of Satanism. It adopts the O9A pantheon and much of its theology and occult practice, but without the cullings, the encouragement of criminal behaviour or esoteric fascism/neo-Nazism that is usually a part of O9A ideology and praxis. It’s easy to think of it as an attempt to reform O9A Satanism, but it actually kind of seems like a synthetic project that builds itself on top of O9A occultism and then separates into its own unique thing. It’s definitely not something I would get into, and given the historic nature of the Order of Nine Angles I would be hard-presssed to see how an “O9A Reform” project would turn out, but evidently Othaos seems to have had some positive experiences with O9A occultism, sans the murderous fascism of course, and by her account at least worshipping the Nekalah seems to have had a positive impact on her life. If T. L. Othaos thinks that it is possible to develop an actually positive formulation of O9A Satanism, and that O9A occultism can be separated from its neo-fascist underpinnings, then on an individual level I think that she is certainly welcome to try, but I do not endorse the project.
With that disclosure out of the way, let’s get started for real.
The present discussion concerns an article written by T. L. Othaos titled “Satanist, Luciferian, and related terms”, which is basically an overview of terminology within the broader Satanist “community” as such. My focus here is on the section concerning Luciferians, and Luciferianism. It seems that Othaos accepts the term Luciferianism as a valid synonym or classification for her own practice of Tenebrous Satanism, but does not personally gravitate towards the label. Her aversion to the term, and it is a strictly personal aversion, is partially motivated by certain preconceptions of Luciferianism. Such preconceptions include the idea that Luciferians prefer a “whitewashed” Devil to the more openly adversarial Satan (though, as far as Ford is concerned, they’re practically the same archetype), and the idea of Luciferianism being separated from Satanism by its emphasis on the spiritual side being arbitrary, since her brand of LaVeyan Satanism and then Tenebrous Satanism is also highly spiritual. Another preconception involved is the idea that Luciferians believed in the objective existence of “dark” entities (demons, gods, etc.), leading her to see Luciferianism as more or less a form of Theistic Satanism (which is not an uncommon perception to this day) at a time when she was basically a LaVeyan Satanist.
I will say, in fairness to Othaos, that some Luciferians absolutely do fit the stereotype of “whitewashing the Devil”, and in a fairly ridiculous way. Michael Howard to me is a well-known example of that, and he basically helped codify the idea of Luciferian Witchcraft in Britain. Howard talks plentifully about Horned Gods, frequently identifying Lucifer with several “horned gods” (including Janicot and Odin), and discusses Cain, Lilith, and fallen angels being central figures in his Luciferian tradition, yet absolutely insists that Lucifer is not a Devil or Satan figure, instead preferring to see him as a self-sacrificial avatar of the godhead! I should wonder if anyone told Howard and other British witches that Azazel, the name of the fallen angel, was also a name used by Christian theologians such as Origen as a name for their nameless Satan. It’s such a silly thing, because even though there’s no need to identify Lucifer with Satan, much of historical Luciferian veneration of Lucifer involved seeing him as a less than fluffy being. Carl William Hansen saw Lucifer as an expression of the inner darkness of the universe, Eugen Grosche viewed him as identical to the dark god Saturn, and even within British witchcraft Lucifer’s identification with the Horned God led to chthonic associations. People can indeed take the “light” in “light-bringer” quite literally, without much thought to what the light is.
Another issue for her is ritual praxis, which for her didn’t really work and thus she found herself drawn away from it. But more to the point, it’s after this we come to how she defines Luciferianism in the present. Her summary of Luciferianism is “like Neo-Paganism, but directed toward demons instead of pagan gods.”. This summary is extrapolated from her current perception of Luciferianism, which is that it involves the veneration or worship of dark spiritual beings, whether as external intelligences, archetypes, inner energies, or what have you, that this supposed may or may not include Lucifer (which sounds strange considering the question of “how do you have Luciferianism without Lucifer?”), and that, apart from all of that and apart from some Luciferians saying they value discipline more than indulgence, Luciferianism has the same basic ethos as Satanism, in terms of individualism and anti-clerical opposition to traditional forms of religion. It is on these grounds that Othaos says that it is intelligible (here perhaps meaning valid) to refer to Tenebrous Satanism as a form of Luciferianism. She also states that it is also a form of “Dark Paganism” or even Demonolatry, though she seems to prefer the term “Dark Pagan” over the term “Luciferian” or “Demonolater”.
Having established this as the assessment of Luciferianism offered by T. L. Othaos. Let’s begin discussing what insight it might offer for how we might view Luciferianism as a whole.
Since Luciferianism is here at least potentially equated with “Dark Paganism”, let’s start by discussing what “Dark Paganism” means. Dark Paganism can seem somewhat obscure within the broader milieu of neopaganism, and it definitely doesn’t seem like reconstructionist polytheists are big fans of the idea, but from what little is available we can see that “Dark Paganism” is sort of an umbrella term for a set of approaches to Paganism that centre around the worship of “dark” gods (such as Hades, Morrigan, Cernunnos, Set, Hecate, Hel, and others). John McLoughlin defines Dark Paganism in terms of an emphasis on the “dark” portion of the light-dark polarity, the attendant emphasis that darkness is not to be confused with evil, the acceptance of “the shadow” and primary embrace of shadow work, a focus on self-expression via aesthetic darkness, and a general attunement to “darker” or more internally-focused currents of spirituality, which favour self-discovery and self-realization without the perceived focus on external morality and traditional worship found in other religious paths. Darkness in McLoughlin’s brand of Paganism is not just about a corrective aspect of “the balance”, it is a link to awareness of both the self and the sacredness of life (which, of course, is inseparable from death) and to the importance of living life to the fullest and remaining true to who you are; as I may understand it, to align yourself with the true basis of life, to the true nature in an inner and outer sense, and self-essence freely without being bound to the norms of society. The way I talk about it, it kind of sounds like Dark Paganism is an apt enough label for what I aspire to. Given the emphasis on darkness and transgression, the focus on self-expression, and the stated objectives of freeing people from social conditioning that blockades authentic, self-originating individuation, Dark Paganism can be seen as an application of the Left Hand Path within Paganism.
Othaos in her articles uses the term Dark Paganism interchangeably with Demonolatry, but this is not necessarily accurate to Demonolatry, not least since there are many Demonolaters who do not consider themselves Pagans and would reject being called Pagan. The way I see it, it is very possible to approach Demonolatry in a manner consistent with Paganism, but I think some of the theology that comes with it can’t be described as Pagan. In Stephanie Connolly’s Complete Book of Demonolatry, there’s a theology that seems to be inspired by Hermeticism in that it derives from it a pantheistic cosmos, which is to say a monotheistic cosmos in which God, or rather in this case the Egyptian god Atum, is the universe or reality itself rather than an intelligence that exists beyond it. The difference, of course, is that Satan is the identity of this pantheistic divine presence instead of God or Atum, and that the co-identity of Man and the Whole represented by Satan/Atum/God is interpreted as a form of self-worship. When it comes to Dark Paganism versus Demonolatry, I would also refer to Amaranthe Altanatum, who is a Theistic Satanist and practicing Demonolater. She points out that Demonolatry is not in itself Pagan, due to the fact that it is not a nature-based tradition, which she considers to be more definitive of at least contemporary Paganism. I’d add that, although there are plenty of modern Pagans, especially reconstructionist ones, who reject the idea of Paganism as a nature-based religion, it is possible to parse a nature-based or even somewhat “naturalistic” religious outlook from the animism that sometimes comes with polytheism and is especially integral to Heathenry in particular.
So how does all of this come back to Luciferianism? Well, Luciferianism does have some intersection with Paganism, or at least neopaganism. Fredrik Gregorius, in a section of Per Faxneld’s The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity, at least tentatively argues that Luciferianism can be (theoretically) distinguished from Satanism by placing Lucifer in a more distinctly non-Christian, sometimes even neopagan, context. In this definition, Lucifer is distinguished from Satan by the consideration of Lucifer as a pagan god versus Satan as a strictly Abrahamic entity (the enemy or angel of God). This definition is met by many Luciferian groups, historical and present. Carl William Hansen identified Lucifer with the Greek god Pan, and several other Greek gods, as well as some gods from other pantheons such as the Norse gods. Eugen Grosche, while obvious playing with aspects of Gnosticism and even claiming descent from a particular set of “Gnostic” teachings, he identified Lucifer with the Roman god Saturn. Several British Luciferian witches, and those who do not call themselves Luciferians, identify Lucifer as a figure similar to the Horned God of Wicca, and link him to a litany of pre-Christian deities. Even some Wiccans believe that Lucifer is either a name for their Horned God or a sun god in the vein of Charles Leland’s Aradia. And of course, Michael W. Ford argues that Lucifer is an ancient pre-Christian archetype, and probably popularized the approach to Luciferianism built around what could be termed an adversarial take on neopaganism; or, as Amaranthe put it, “adversarial polytheism” – albeit, in Ford’s case, definitely a rather soft form of polytheism in light of its heavy reliance on the archetypal theory of deity.
It’s not universal, since there are plenty of Luciferians who can’t be counted as neopagans and instead lean much closer to Gnosticism. In such an approach, Lucifer would still basically be distinguished from Satan, but not so much as a pagan god and more as a sort of Christ-like figure, or even assuming the same role that Gnostic Christianity actually reserves for none other than Jesus Christ. In fact I’m quite worried that a more Christianized version of Gnostic Luciferianism may become an influential current of Luciferianism, if not somewhat dominant. Still, the description T. L. Othaos gives of Luciferianism as “like Neo-Paganism, but directed toward demons instead of pagan gods”, or to put another way “like Neo-Paganism but based around the Left Hand Path”, almost certainly applies to a number of historical representations of Luciferianism, and to a number of contemporary Luciferians. Thus, could Luciferianism as Dark Paganism, or a subset thereof, be valid? I suppose in some ways that depends on whether or not it’s accepted as a subset of Theistic Satanism, and what I’ve seen historically suggests to me that Luciferianism is too broad for that to be the case. I think that Luciferianism as a mode of Dark Paganism is viable as one of the different ways of being a Luciferian, and not just because Luciferianism seems to be a big tent of Left Hand Path occult movements anyway. There do in fact seem to be modern Pagans around who consider themselves Luciferians, and whose idea of what that means involves gravitating towards darker deities in the various pantheons with the aim of ritual self-empowerment, and in this sense perhaps these Luciferians can be called Dark Pagans, at least by John McLoughlin’s definition. In older online communities, many more mainstream Pagans, Neopagans, and especially Wiccans have taken to defining Luciferianism as essentially “devil worship” in opposition to Paganism, supposing that Luciferians (or more specifically practitioners of Luciferian Witchcraft) are not Pagans because they worship a Christian Devil. Such a fearful response obviously fails to account for the Latent Christianity inherent in the rejection of all things dark and devilish (even while also accepting the worship of the chthonic gods that were often feared in antiquity) or for the fact that ancient polytheists or at least magicians did worship or invoke the angels and names of God alongside the old gods in the time before Christianity had almost completely eclipsed polytheism. I mean, if Pagans could include the heavenly host of the Christian God as part of polytheistic worship and pluralism, and not be thought of as fluffy idiots even though the God of Christianity calls for the oppression of all other gods, I don’t see why the Devil and his demons should be so taboo? To say that it’s because they’re considered totally malevolent in the Christian context is, quite simply, to accept the moral claims of Christianity at face value, which is untenable so long as you also (correctly) refuse to take the claims they make for their God at face value.
I would maintain that the description of Dark Paganism is not universally applicable to all forms of Luciferianism. But if it can be practical to define Luciferianism or parts thereof as a kind of Dark Paganism, that idea has some positive potential, and I may find it very useful.
There is, however, one snag. While I was sleeping on it one day I was thinking about it, and it seems to me that the more concrete way to define Luciferianism is actually a lot more simplistic. It occurs to me that the main thing, possibly even the only thing, separating Luciferianism from Satanism is the idea that Lucifer is to be venerated as a being separated from and distinguished from the Satan or the Devil; essentially Lucifer for the Luciferians is a non-Satanic figure, and the idea that Lucifer is a Devil or a Satanic figure is just Christian slander. That would make sense of the idea of Lucifer as a Pagan god as Luciferian Pagans might suggest, but it also makes sense of the idea as a Gnostic saviour or even an appearance of Christ. But even then, a lot of Luciferians seem to venerate Lucifer as a Devil figure, even if they don’t consider that Satanic. Even older Luciferians used the terms and concepts interchangeably, such as the case with Carl William Hansen (who used Satanic imagery for fuck’s sake!) and guys like Alasdair Bob Clay-Egerton were Luciferians but he called his organisation the Luciferians Temple of Satan and defended the concept of devil worship in witchcraft from mainstream Wiccan critics. So even here, can the boundaries be said to be all that solid? Not to mention that Peter Grey in Lucifer: Princeps offers the suggestion via historical analysis that perhaps the boundaries between Lucifer and the Devil were never very strict.
You are all probably all too familiar with the creeping presence of esoteric fascism and folkism within alternative religious communities and subcultures, and how frequently this is used by outsiders to attack our validity. You probably also have some idea about the problem of NSBM in the black metal scene, and if you’ve been reading this blog lately it’s a problem I’ve been giving a lot of focus to in recent years. Our communities have a great need to fight this problem, and to do so, we must challenge a very pernicious myth about the Nazis: namely, the myth that the Nazis were anti-Christian Pagans. It seems to me that this myth is at the root of the phenomenon of certain esoteric Nazi or fascist enterprises as well as the spread of neo-Nazi folkist Paganism and the idea of NSBM. To give an example of what I mean, remember that there are Nazi black metal musicians, such as Anthony Mignoni from the band Seigneur Voland, who praised Adolf Hitler for his supposed “will to found a neo-pagan empire in Europe”. And do I really have to say anything about Varg Vikernes alone? What I’m trying to say is that a lot of all this comes from a residual mythology that casts the Nazis as Pagans looking to overturn the Christian world order, and this mythology serves as a way for Nazis to try and exploit certain themes within Paganism, occultism, and the Left Hand Path for their own purposes. But, as you will see, the whole idea that the Nazis were esoteric Pagans is a lie.
If there is one thing that I think dispels the idea of Nazism being Pagan more than anything else, it would probably be the opinion of none other than Adolf Hitler on the subject of Pagan revivals. It is popularly claimed that Hitler extolled the value of Christianity in public, while also denouncing Christianity as a religion based on weakness even as he praised Jesus as some sort of honorary Aryan, and that the Nazis were some sort of almost uniquely anti-Christian powerhouse (I say “almost uniquely”, given that the other 20th century anti-Christian powerhouse commonly referred to is the Soviet Union). The presence of volkisch ideology and the pretences to Germanic paganism within the Third Reich, combined with Hitler’s supposed disdain for both Christianity and atheism, has led some to believe that he was some sort of avatar for the revival of Paganism, as has been the contention of Christian intellectuals and commentators. Carl Jung’s essay on “Wotan” as an archetype of wild ethno-nationalist frenzy and irrationalism has been influential in generating a supposed link between Germanic neopaganism and Nazism, and meanwhile a whole generation of pretentious Christian intellectuals have further poisoned the well with their own nonsensical pronouncements on the subject. But what did Hitler actually think of Paganism of any sort, and what was the actual religious alignment of Nazism as a whole?
In his Table Talks, Hitler described the re-establishment of the worship of pre-Christian Germanic deities as “foolish” and said that the old pre-Christian mythology “ceased to be viable when Christianity implanted itself”. In other words, Hitler considered Christianity to be superior to Paganism, which is on its own all the confirmation you need at least that Hitler wasn’t a Pagan. But, there’s more. In Hitler: Memoirs of a Confident, which was published by Otto Wagener in 1985, Wagener recounted that Hans Schemm, an esteemed Nazi educator and Gauleiter (regional leader), expressed his frustration at people who espoused “a lot of nonsense talked about blond men, about the Nordic race, about the cult of Wotan and the spirit of the Edda”, likely referring to certain neopagan elements of the Nazis, accused them of creating inferiority complexes and inspiring hatred among non-blond Germans and from there promoting division between Germanic and non-Germanic peoples (the irony of this coming from a Nazi officer has to have been lost on both Schemm and Hitler). Hitler interrupted by saying that he expressly and repeatedly forbade expressions of neopaganism within the NSDAP, mocking what he dubbed “All that rubbish about the Thing places, the solstice festivals, the Midgard snake, and all the rest of the rubbish they dredge up from the German prehistory!”. After this, Schemm further denounced the “solstice festivals” he heard about as being propagandistic rather than atavistic and jeopardizing the “Volk community”, Hitler then agreed and asserted that “We Germans in particular must avoid anything that works to create even more divisiveness”. Wagener recounted that he feared that the “Old Germanic Festivals” were increasingly reshaping the mission of the Hitler Youth somehow. Hitler apparently also stated that he had no issue with Christmas, instead objecting to the association of Christmas with pre-Christian nature worship, and asserted that he did not want to rob the Christian church of its holy day, though he then ultimately told his advisors not to worry about the festivals, claiming that he thought that whatever brought the Hilter Youth closer to “the godhead” was good and that whatever separated them from it, “even if it was a Catholic priest”, was bad.
Keep in mind that Schemm was very much a Christian, and in fact his notable slogan was “Our religion is Christ, our politics Fatherland!”, clearly suggesting his belief that Nazism was a Christian ideology. If Hitler and the NSDAP were such militant neopagans that would exclude or even liquidate Christianity from their Third Reich, Hans Schemm would probably not have the official status he did within the NSDAP. Instead, in reality, the Nazis honored Schemm after his death in 1935 by naming entire schools and streets after him, and he was evidently important enough for the Nazis that Hitler personally ordered a surgeon to fly to Bayreuth in an attempt to save him from the injuries that Schemm received in the plane crash that killed him. As it turns out, for a supposed anti-Christian, Hitler seemed to value certain Christian officers while ridiculing his more “neopagan” subordinates.
The Nazis are fairly notorious for their seeming and widely mythologized interest in the occult, even despite the fact that the Nazis, when they entered power, criminalized even volkisch mystic organizations. The reputation of the Nazis as occult obsessives can be traced in large part to Heinrich Himmler, the Waffen SS commander who was known for an interest in esotericism and self-declared non-Christian status. Himmler, however, was not much of a Pagan, if it could even be said that he was a Pagan at all. He had an interest in incorporating solstice celebrations into the SS, but this same SS was modelled on the Society of Jesus, otherwise known as the Jesuits, which tells me that he was simply layering ostensible Pagan custom onto what was ultimately an organization inspired by Christianity. Apparently he sought to challenge the customs of Christianity on the grounds of his own synthetic occult belief system, but there is no evidence that he ever worshipped any pre-Christian gods or that he was a polytheist, animist, nature-worshipper, or anything usually defined as part of the spectrum of Pagan religiosity. Himmler was quite explicit in saying that being in the SS means to believe in “a God Almighty who stands above us” and accepting the doctrine that God created the earth, the “Fatherland”, and its “volk”, and that he sent Adolf Hitler to earth, and further insisted that anyone who did not believe in God was unsuitable for SS membership and should be considered “arrogant, megalomaniacal, and stupid”, all of which is more consistent with a very volkisch interpretation of Christianity than any concept of Paganism. Himmler may have formally left Christianity or at least the Christian church, but he still believed in some religious premises that were rather close to Christian doctrine. If we are to take his apparent non-Christian status seriously, you could say he ascribed to a kind of Latent Christianity.
Some within the SS seem to have sought after the existence of a “true Christianity”, which they believed to have originated in Atlantis, which they believe was inhabited by “Aryans” who practiced monotheism. Himmler is also known for establishing the Ahnenerbe, a branch of the SS dedicated to exploring parts of the world in search of esoteric secrets that would “prove” the superiority and lineage of the “Aryan race”. But Hitler himself had no interest in these expeditions, and if anything he mocked them, lamenting that under Himmler’s watch “we might as well have just stayed in the Church”. In fact, for a German volkisch nationalist, Hitler really didn’t seem to appreciate Germany’s past. He denounced ancient Germans for “living in mud huts” while their Roman counterparts were “erecting great buildings”, and derided Himmler for apparently digging up ancient Germanic villages to reveal a past that Hitler considered embarrassing because he considered it inferior to Greece and Rome, who he thought had “already reached the highest stage of culture”.
Furthermore, the supposedly “Pagan” National Socialists declared from the beginning that they saw themselves as a Christian movement and not a Pagan one. In the NSDAP Party Program of 1920, the Nazis emphatically stated in Point 24 that their party represented “positive Christianity”, while of course claiming to demand freedom for all religious confessions; at least, so long as they “do not endanger its [the state’s] existence of conflict with the customs and moral sentiments of the Germanic race”. The Nazis chose “positive Christianity”, effectively a volkisch interpretation of Christianity, as a representative of the “customs and moral sentiments of the Germanic race” (Germans at that time consisted mostly of Christians), and as a vehicle through which to oppose “Jewish materialism”. “Positive Christianity” can be thought of as a highly revisionist form of Christianity (which, don’t get confused, is still a form of Christianity; we’re not doing the “No True Christians” fallacy here) meant to present a “true” or more authentically “Aryan” form of Christianity. This meant removing any trace of Jewish influence, including much of the Old Testament, from Christianity, recasting Jesus Christ as an “Aryan” warrior instead of King of the Jews, and reframing the Christian conception of the struggle of Good versus Evil as a struggle being “Aryan” light and “Semitic” darkness, thus pitting Germans and Jews against each other in a racialist holy war. Many Christians in Germany, far from being repelled by Nazism, actually embraced Nazism and its “Positive Christianity” as an affirmation of Christian values against secular uncertainty, and although some churches opposed Nazism (these were grouped together as the “Confessing Church”) and faced persecution because of it, many other churches, clergymen, and ordinary Christians remained complicit with the Nazi regime, and after the fall of Nazi Germany, Christianity in Germany struggled with the silence they demonstrated during this period.
Several Nazis held to the idea of “Positive Christianity” in some form. Artur Dinter, the Gauleiter of Gau Thuringia, formed a religious organization called the “Spiritual Christian Religion Community” (later renamed the “German People’s Church”) in 1927, which sought to divest Christianity of its Jewish influences and establish National Socialism as an expressly religious movement dedicated to Christianity. Dinter and Hilter did oppose each other, but this is because Dinter’s goals conflicted with Hitler’s own plans to present the NSDAP as neutral on religion. Dinter did not believe that Jesus was a mere political centerfold, rather he indeed believed in the doctrine of Jesus as the only incarnated spirit who never “misused his free will to sin”. He also opposed the Old Testament because it was “too materialistic”, and believed that its expurgation would reveal the “true” teachings of Jesus. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi arch-propagandist, was also a religious Christian. Goebbels believed that the idealized “struggle” against Jews upheld by Nazism was also a struggle between God and the Devil, he considered God to be on the side of Adolf Hitler, he believed that God was absolute and that nothing existed outside of God, he loved the New Testament and read the Sermon of the Mount every evening, and he even believed himself to have conversed with Jesus Christ. True, he did have anti-clericalist tendencies, but this is only to the extent that he thought Christianity was in need of renewal and that its churches and “false priests” have failed. Dietrich Klagges, a prominent Nazi educator and friend of Goebbels, emphasized the divinity of Jesus and wrote a whole book expounding what he believed to be the meaning of the Gospel. Walter Buch, one of the most powerful officials in the Nazi Party, likened the aims of Nazism to the struggle of Jesus, and upheld Point 24 of the 1920 NSDAP Party Program as “the cornerstone of our thinking”, thus he seemed to affirm Positive Christianity as the core religious ideology of Nazism.
Adolf Hitler himself can ultimately be characterized as a volkisch Christian, despite all common assertion to the contrary. For one thing, Hitler believed in Jesus Christ, just that he believed Jesus was an “Aryan” instead of Jewish. Indeed, Hitler proclaimed Jesus to be “the true God” and “our greatest Aryan leader”, and declared that the “true message of Christianity” could only be found in Nazism. For another thing, Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that it was the duty of the “folkish-minded man” to fulfill “God’s will” and not let it be desecrated, on the grounds that it “gave men their form, their essence and their abilities”, and he proclaimed that anyone who “destroys His work” is “declaring war” on God’s will and creation. Hitler also referenced the myth of the Garden of Eden by stating that “Whoever would dare to raise a profane hand against that highest image of God among His creatures would sin against the bountiful Creator of this marvel and would collaborate in the expulsion from Paradise”. He believed that Jews were “alien” to “true Christianity” because of their supposed materialism, and considered violence against Jewish people to be “fighting for the work of the Lord”. In 1919, Hitler wrote an unpublished tract in which he advocated for the “purification of the Bible”, that is to say the expunging of the Old Testament from the Bible, which was not only a cornerstone of revisionist Nazi Christianity but also an idea held by nationalist and volkisch Protestant theologians such as Adolf van Harnack before the NSDAP was even born.
Thus, Hitler, like many of the rest of his Nazi compatriots, was a volkisch Christian, one who believed in a “true” Christianity that he thought was obfuscated by the Old Testament, and thus wanted to get rid of everything about Christianity that he thought was too Jewish to represent the teachings of Jesus. And let’s make no bones about it, it’s an absurdly revisionist take on Christianity, it almost certainly seems heretical when put next to the more mainstream forms of Christianity, and its premises stem less from scripture and more from the racist volkisch mysticism that sprung up in Germany in the 19th and early 20th century, but it was nonetheless a form of Christianity, and particularly a representation of volkisch, nationalist Protestanism. It has often been claimed that Hitler was an atheist, but this is without basis as has already been discussed. He may certainly have thought of himself as anti-mystical and anti-clericalist, but when you consider that he believed himself to be an exponent of “true Christianity”, that is to say an “authentic” and “Aryan” Christianity not represented by the churches, then his opposition to the Church could be seen to have more or less the same basis as Goebbels’ Christian anti-clericalism. Hitler hated the Catholic Church, for instance, because of what he believed to be its “elaborate Jewish rites”, suggesting his belief that Roman Catholicism was a Jewish revision of Christianity.
There’s nothing about any of this that could be classed as “Pagan” except from the standpoint of Christians who will deem anything they don’t like to be “Pagan”, and none of it is without precedent in Christianity. For starters, the idea of Roman Catholicism as a “Jewish” religion is lifted straight from Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who claimed that the Roman Catholic Church preached a “Judaized” form of Christianity that had no resemblance to the supposed “true Christianity”, which he believed was established by an “Aryan” Jesus Christ, and that the Catholic Church did this as part of a conspiracy to destroy the “Aryan race”. Hardly a Pagan thing to long for the re-establishment of “True Christianity”. There’s also a very ancient precedent that to the Nazi enterprise of “de-Judaizing” Christianity in Marcion, a Christian who argued that the God of the Old Testament was actually an evil and false deity whose punitive nature stood opposed to the “true” God of the New Testament who represented love. And of course, it is impossible to overlook the influence of Martin Luther, the anti-semitic father of the Protestant Reformation, in shaping Nazi ideology. In fact, the Nazis themselves took Luther’s infamous tract On The Jews And Their Lies and displayed it prominently wherever they could, and repeatedly expressed their affinity for Luther’s anti-semitism, even comparing Hitler himself to Luther and hoping to “witness his [Luther’s] reappearance”. So what we get in terms of the religious underpinnings of Nazism is, in all reality, a form of Protestant Christianity that carries on the basic premise of Marcionite Christianity while recodyifing that in terms of struggle between two races as opposed to dualism between two versions of God, and all filtered through the revisionist volkisch ideology that was contemporary to the Nazi movement.
There’s also the matter of Hitler’s beliefs concerning the afterlife. Hitler apparently rejected Hell, denounced it as a barbaric doctrine, and instead subscribed to an annihilationist perspective in which those who would be damned to Hell would instead simply fade into oblivion. But this annihilationism is not some “Pagan” idea, and in fact it is a development of Christian theology whose supporters base their claims on Biblical scripture, and it is not without supporters among modern Christians. Moreover, annihilationism itself seems to go all the way back to early church fathers such as Tertullian. Meanwhile, Hitler does appear to have believed in some concept of Heaven, and at least nowhere in Mein Kampf or anywhere else do we see any sign of Hitler rejecting the idea of a heavenly afterlife. There also doesn’t seem to be any major evidence that Hitler rejected the belief in an immortal soul, despite what certain historians appear to have thought.
It is popularly assumed that Hitler actually hated Christianity behind closed doors, and that he wanted people to choose between being German and being Christian on the grounds that he supposedly thought they could not be both. The problem with this should be obvious. If Hitler seriously thought that you had to choose between being German and being Christian, while favouring the former over the latter, he would have at least required members of his Nazi Party to renounce Christianity before becoming members. But this is clearly not the case, as many Nazi officers, including the most powerful, were expressly religious (albeit volkisch) Christians. Moreover, Hitler would have to have required all of Germany’s Christian population to renounce Christianity in order to prove their loyalty to the German state. But this doesn’t seem to have happened either. And Hitler, as the one man who had the absolute power override all decisions and impose his own without objection, could conceivably have turned Germany into either a volkisch neopagan state or a state atheist regime (like the Soviet Union and other Marxist-Leninist countries) through sheer imposition of his dictatorial will via the Fuhrerprinzip alone. But the only Christian churches Hitler persecuted were those who publicly criticized Hitler and refused to comply with the Nazi state. Every other chruch was allowed to exist through their complicity with the Nazi state, and the majority of Nazi German citizens were some form of Christian, suggesting that the Nazi state did not seek to eradicate Christianity and replace it with some form of “Paganism”, since otherwise the Nazis would have just ordered the mass deconversion of Germany’s Christian population. The one source for the claim that Hitler was privately anti-Christian is Hitler Speaks by Hermann Rauschning, which is considered dubious scholarship and even outright fraudulent, and its author, while claiming to have had several meetings and coversations with Hitler, was only ever a Nazi Party member for two years (from 1932 to 1934) and his sole importance to the party was as administrator of the Free City of Danzig. Being a conservative reactionary, Rauschning’s primary objection to Nazism was that he believed it was a “nihilist” and anti-Christian revolution that supposedly destroyed all traditions and ceased to be nationalist, and argued for the restoration of the German monarchy as the sole alternative to Nazism.
But in any case, Hitler Speaks is not considered to be an accurate account of Hitler’s views and words. Rauschning also seems to be cited in arguments that Hitler was possessed by demons and that this explained his evil actions, so….make of that what you will! And so, it is best to reject the claim that Hitler privately hated Christianity as a concoction of Christian conservatives seeking to assert the moral inscrutability of Christianity. Furthermore, Hitler expressly denounced any enterprises that harkened back to Germany’s pre-Christian past in Mein Kampf, where he described neopagans as “the greatest cowards that can be imagined”, mocked any ideas of “old Germanic heroism” as well the “dim pre-history” of the Germanic peoples, and accused neopagans of running away from “every Communist blackjack” while preaching struggle at the same time. So Hitler was pro-Christian, albeit in a very revisionist way, and anti-Pagan.
There is one important detail we should note, however. Hitler seems to have insisted that the Nazi Party, as a political apparatus, should not specifically be a formal religious movement, This meant Hitler sometimes conflicted even with devout Christians in his movement, such as Artur Dinter, since they wanted the Party to be a more avowedly religious movement. It is easy to come away thinking that Hitler meant his movement to be an entirely secular one because of this, but since the NSDAP Party Program explicitly stated a commitment to “Positive Christianity”, this is likely not the case. And besides, the Republican Party in the United States of America is not, in the strict sense, a religious movement in the sense that Artur Dinter would have wanted the NSDAP to be, yet it clearly operates along the lines of religious politics, in that it premises its political ideology on the perceived rightful governance of America by a Christian moral order. In fact, the whole concept of opposing certain churches because of their “foreign” character is not unfamiliar to right-wing opposition to certain sects or religions on the grounds of their “foreign” nature in the present as is found in modern Christian nationalist movements.
The supposedly “Pagan” Nazi Germany also seems to have venerated the Christian Frankish king Charlemagne, who destroyed the sacred Irminsul and massacred thousands of Saxons in Verden as part of his campaign to make the Saxons convert to Christianity. Curiously enough, there has been division about Charlemagne within the pre-Nazi volkisch movement and even among Nazis, but Charlemagne was celebrated by the Nazi German state in the form of a huge commemoration event in 1942 to mark the 1,200th anniversary of the birth of Charlemagne. There was also a whole unit of the SS that was named after Charlemagne to honour him as a “pan-European Germanic hero”. Alfred Rosenberg opposed the veneration of Charlemange, and argued that his Saxon enemy Widukind should be honored instead of Charlemagne, but he was privately told by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels to cease his public condemnations of Charlemagne, suggesting that the Nazi leadership favored the Christian king. Of course, from Goebbels’ standpoint, it was all to remain in alignment with popular opinion, which of course favored Charlemagne. This isn’t a surprise when you understand that the majority of the population of Nazi Germany self-identified as Christians, and particularly favoured Protestant Christianity. There’s no record of anyone in Nazi Germany outside maybe a handful of Nazi officers ever supporting or practicing any form of Paganism. Furthermore, it seems that the time of the Weimar Republic was seen by many German Christians of the time as a direct assault on God’s order, due to the secularism of the Weimar government and its attendant, or at least relative, de-privileging of Protestant Christian imperatives. This sense, combined with the “war theology” embraced by nationalistic Protestant theologians, which saw God favoring Germany in an interventionist quest to “liberate humanity from materialism” and establish his order, did not require much effort to transform into a theological imperative for “Aryan Christianity” to triumph against “Jewish materialism”.
On Alfred Rosenburg, we should note that it is true that he opposed Christianity, but for an apparent supporter of “Paganism”, his actual beliefs don’t seem all that “Pagan”. He believed in a monotheistic God who created mankind and divided its constituents into a hierarchy of separated races and imbued the “Germanic Nordic Aryan” with a unique soul corresponding with the Platonic ideal of humanity. He seemingly did call for the abolition of Christianity in the sense that he wanted Nazi Germany to replace all crosses with swastikas, the Bible with Mein Kampf (which, as I’ve established before, was not a non-Christian book), and the dominon of the National Reich Church of Germany over all churches, and he did call for a “new religion of the blood”. And yet he still denounced Jews specifically for their hatred of Jews and identified them with the Antichrist. In many ways Rosenberg’s views on Jesus and Christianity were not so different from Hitler’s. He believed that Jesus was the true god of the Europeans, rejected all notion that Jesus was Jewish, and argued for the replacement of mainstream Christianity, which he deemed both false and outdated, with “Positive Christianity”. He viewed Jesus as a superhuman mediator between mankind and God and as the biggest “storm” against “Jewish nature”. At no point is Rosenberg shown to refer to multiple pre-Christian gods, or make reference to any individual pre-Christian gods, except for when he is referring to the Norse god Odin as an example of a Christian quest for the kingdom of heaven within as referred to by Jesus. At his most “anti-Christian”, Rosenberg was actually more specifically anti-Catholic in practice, and meanwhile he praised the Christianity advocated by Marcion, who argued that the God of the Old Testament was the false God and the God of the New Testament was the true God. He may have opposed the veneration of Charlemagne, but this alone is not sufficient evidence that he was a “Pagan”, and in his light even his desire to replace the symbols and text of Christianity can be seen in keeping with the contention that these were symbols of an old and “false” Christianity to be replaced by a new and “true” Christianity.
If you were a Pagan or a believer in some other alternative religion and you lived in Nazi Germany, you would probably have been prosecuted by the Nazi state, and then probably thrown into a concentration camp like what happened to Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses there. Although some Nazi officers were allowed to hold some ostensibly non-Christian views, practicing occultism or pursuing occult interests outside of the SS was not permitted. Friedrich Bernhard Marby, a German occultist who sought the revival of pre-Christian Germanic religion, was arrested by the Nazis for being an unauthorised occultist whose ideas “brought the holy Aryan heritage into disrepute and ridicule”. His colleague, Siegfried Adolf Kummer, was arrested for the same reason. From there Marby apparently spent eight years in concentration camps until his release in April 1945, while Kummer’s fate is still a mystery. Erich Ludendorff’s Tannenbergbund, a volkisch nationalist organisation which expected its members to abandon Christianity in favour of a volkisch brand of Nordic polytheism, was banned by the Nazi government in 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler took power. It’s not clear why the Tannenbergbund was banned, but I think it might have had something to do with Ludendorff having fallen out of favour with the Nazi establishment after previously having helped the Nazi Party rise to prominence. Ludendorff’s wife, Mathilde von Kemnitz, attempted to insert a new anti-Christian religion that involved polytheism and nature worship into the Nazi movement, but her efforts were rejected by Hitler, who thought she was delusional. Ludwig Klages, a philosopher who espoused his own unique and rather abstract form of Romantic neopaganism, was disliked by the Nazis and denounced by the Nazi press due to his denunciations of National Socialism, and in 1938 his writings were banned by the so-called “neopagan” Alfred Rosenberg on the grounds that they were too “hedonist” for him. The Germanic Faith Community, a Germanic Pagan revival group founded by the artist Ludwig Fahrenkrog, faced several restrictions to their freedoms when the Nazis took power; they were no longer allowed to hold public meetings, they were barred from using a swastika as their symbol, since this had now become the official symbol of the Nazi Party, and in 1934 Fahrenkrog’s paintings were forbidden from exhibition by the Ministry of Propaganda.
A major exception to this trend, of course, was the volkisch neopagan German Faith Movement, but while it did seemingly advocate for the return of polytheism and purported pre-Christian rituals, it also apparently included a syncretism of Christian rituals as well alongside non-Christian counterparts. Its founder, Jakob Hauer, hoped that his own particular brand of Hinduism-inspired occult volkisch neopaganism would be adopted as the official religion of Nazi Germany. But this never happened, and in 1936 Hauer left the movement and abdicated its leadership, though he did become a member of the NSDAP the following year. Otto Sigfrid Reuter, as an NSDAP member and volkisch ideologue honored by Nazi academic institutions, would also be an exception to the trend of neopagans being persecuted or ignored by the Nazi state. Little is known about the Indepedent Free Church, founded by Friedrich Hielscher to express a more or less polytheistic belief system built around a belief in both God and the pre-Christian Germanic gods, though it seemed to continue existing. That said, Hielscher and other Independent Free Church members, along with his church itself, were involved in the underground anti-Nazi resistance movement, for which Hielscher was arrested by the Nazis in 1944.
Turning away from the subject of Paganism in strict terms, we should note that several occult organisations were suppressed under Nazi rule. Fraternitas Saturni, the Luciferian magical order that broke away from Ordo Templi Orientis, was banned by the Nazi government in 1936, and its leader Eugen Grosche was arrested and bound for a concentration camp, before an apparently sympathetic officer helped him get released and get out of Germany. Ordo Templi Orientis itself was banned by the Nazi government, and so were Aleister Crowley’s books and the religion of Thelema as a whole. Karl Germer, who was the head of the OTO, was arrested by the Gestapo on Hitler’s orders in 1935 and was sent to the Esterwegen concentration camp, but was temporarily released later that year upon his case of blood purity being put before Nazi authorities. Ernst Schertel, an occult philosopher and sexual liberation activist notable for his book Magic: History, Theory and Practice, although he apparently did send a copy of his book to Adolf Hitler, was himself arrested by the Nazis, imprisoned for seven months, and had his doctoral degree revoked. Other occultists, even racialist ones, had been banned, apparently as early as 1934, and it is alleged that the occultist Franz Bardon was interned in a concentration camp by the Nazis for three months in 1945. Many forms of magic and alternative spirtual practice, such as witchcraft, astrology, fortune telling, and spiritual healing were all banned by the Nazi government, while Freemasonry in particular was viciously persecuted by the Nazis who thought that they were allies of a Jewish conspiracy against Germany.
Sometimes it’s claimed that Schertel in particular represented a direct link between Hitler and the occult, and thereby establishing the occult and even supposedly “Satanic” heritage of Nazism, based on the fact that Hitler apparently annotated his copy of Magic: History, Theory and Practice. But having examined the book, or at least the annotations, in light of the wider history of Nazism and its broad Positive Christian agenda, I honestly don’t see much reason to assume that the annotations meant anything for the ideological substance of Nazism. The sole annotation mentioned by Timothy Ryback, the author of Hitler’s Private Library, was “He who does not have the demonic seed within himself will never give birth to a magical world”. There is also no clear idea of how it connects back to the ideological formation and political practice of Nazism, nor can we determine the extent to which Hitler was actually interested in the ideas contained within Schertel’s book. Given that Hitler banned several occult groups and the practice of magic (except for certain Nazi officers like Heinrich Himmler), and that the Nazis arrested Schertel himself, it’s highly unlikely that Hitler gained any real respect for occultism as a result of reading Schertel’s book, and it seems obvious to me that Hitler likely treated the book as merely a piece of curiosity. If Hitler did derive anything substantial from it, it’s not clear what, and perhaps we may never actually know if the book was ever really influential at all. Though, even if it was, it was surely not nearly as infuential on Hitler as the prevailing volkisch Protestant ideology of his day. And to be quite honest, anyone who thinks that Hitler was some sort of esoteric Satanist is operating in complete ignorance of what Nazism stood for and who the Nazis were.
And of course, atheists and secularists were also criminalized by the Nazi government. In 1933, the Nazi government banned all “freethinking” and atheist organisations. One of these was the German Freethinkers League, a forum for atheists and materialist thinkers which was shut down in 1933, on Hitler’s orders and on the demands of Christians within Nazi Germany. Hitler also opposed secular schools on the grounds that all moral instruction had to emerge from religious faith (which, in practice, meant Hitler’s revisionist Christian faith). This is rather strange for a supposed atheist, as Christians often claim Hitler was, to do.
All of this paints a rather clear picture of the reality of the religious identity of the Nazi movement and the Nazi state. Although certain people of various stripes, ranging from Christians to certain anti-Christian neo-Nazis, want to believe that Hitler was this great rupture of anti-Christian revolution in the midst of Christian Europe, this is a myth that has no bearing on reality, and not only that it seems to actively distort and misconstrue reality in service of its own pre-determined conclusion of history. The actual reality of Nazism is that it was a movement that sought to construct its totalitarian state along the lines of a religious volkisch ideology whose prerogatives constituted the realization of the “true” Christianity. In essence, this was a revisitionist Christian project which saw itself as simultaneously restoring and renewing Christianity, simultaneously creating a new Christianity for a new era and restoring the “true” substance of the teaching and cultus of Jesus, by purging anything about Christianity that they felt was too Jewish or too materialist for them. The ultimate religious goals of Nazism consisted of bringing all German Christians into a single new Christian church in line with the new volkisch ideology, waging total holy war with Jews and Communists who they believed to be the forces of the Antichrist come to wage war with God, and in realizing the “true Christianity” that was supposedly contained in their volkisch interpretation of Christianity, by recreating the Bible and the major edifices of Christianity in the image of what they believed to be this “true Christianity”; even if, in practice, this could just as easily be said to be their own image. Insofar as they attacked Christianity, beyond the broader rammifications of their volkisch revisionism constituting a severe heresy against the Christian church, the Nazis preferred simply to attack the “Confessing Churches” who opposed them, while content with the other churches who complied with or supported them. And while Christianity was more or less still instituted and supported within Nazi Germany, we know that Paganism, atheism, occultism, and alternative religious/spiritual beliefs were attacked and often banned or persecuted by the Nazi government.
Take stock of what that means, as it is all too relevant for those in alternative subcultures, occultism, neopaganism, and Satanism and the like who seem willing enough to embrace some form of neo-Nazism. They are only rehashing the same fantasy that Heinrich Himmler had back in his day, when he thought that he might some day replace Adolf Hitler as Fuhrer and perhaps steer Nazi Germany away from Christianity. Now, just as then, this is an illusion. If the Third Reich were to be restored tomorrow, or if a new neo-Nazi regime were to be established, then they would be persecuting “degenerate art” as well as all expression of alternative religion and belief just as before. If you’re a metalhead (including a black metal enthusiast), a goth, a punk, even a skinhead, an occultist, a mystic, a Pagan, a Satanist, or anything like that, no matter how racialist you are, then a new Nazi government would curtail your freedom, imprison you, and/or throw you straight into one of their concentration camps alongside Jews, other non-white/non-“Aryan” people, LGBT people, the disabled, and political dissidents. It’s not for nothing that many neo-Nazi movements are still their own brand of Christian as opposed to being neopagans. If you support Nazism in any way, all that means is you’re selling who you are and your own kind to a Christian fascist agenda in the name of your own meaningless hatred against certain people. Whether you’re doing this because you got convinced that Nazism was good or because you just want to be a contrarian, do us all a favour and follow your new leader.
But why does this idea of the Nazis as some kind of neopagan occult empire persist even if the facts contradict it? The answer, in my opinion, is not very complicated. It’s obvious to me that Christians need the myth of Nazism as a sort of Antichrist state in order to save the legacy of Christianity from being forever damaged by its role in the development of Nazism and in facilitating the Third Reich. It seems that, in strict terms, much of our ideas about the religious identity of Nazism are propagandistic, the work of certain wartime figures looking to juxtapose the otherwise Christian Nazi state against the Christianity of contemporary Western liberal democracies by casting the Nazis as adherents of an esoteric Pagan revivalist religion. But I think, at root, the most basic motivation comes from the fact that Nazi Germany was such a systematically malevolent and sadistic state, and Nazism so seemingly alien to the “values” of the Western world (I mean, unless you count the fact that the Nazis were inspired by the practices of American colonialism and racism as well as that of the British Empire), that it could not possibly reflect the supposed Christian message of love, universalism, and salvation. In other words, Nazism appeared to be so evil that surely it couldn’t possibly be Christian, even though that is what the evidence bears out.
It appears that Christians are not the only ones who are convinced of this myth. Indeed, the idea of the Nazis as being a force of sheer anti-Christian power and archetypical evil seems to have echoed throughout our culture as a memetic presence, to the point that it is sometimes internalized by some who seek to oppose and rebel against Christianity. It’s the reason why certain ideas of embracing Nazi aesthetics as a form of transgression could be found in the early days of the modern Satanist movement, it’s ultimately the reason of why Nazi occultism sometimes finds its way in Left Hand Path circles and the reason why Nazi Satanism is a thing at all, and it’s part of the reason why Nazi aesthetics are sometimes taken up in transgressive subcutlures as a means of rebelling against bourgeois society. In this sense, it is also the reason why black metal sometimes finds itself struggling with the influence of Nazi bands, even despite the fact that Nazism, at its root, is built on a Christian ideology.
It is thus clear what is to be done in order to overcome the problem of creeping Nazism in the Left Hand Path circles as well as the problem of folkism and NSBM. For one thing, resisting fascism means taking an explicit and active anti-fascist stance of some kind, and it has to be more than liberal objection to the extremity of fascism. Rather, it must devote itself to a full conceptual opposition to Nazism and fascism, which stems from the full acknowledgement of what Nazism and fascism are at their root. For any movements dealing with a creeping fascism problem, this means that there needs to be a commited opposition to capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, statism, authoritarianism, hegemony, LGBT-phobia, bourgeois-patriarchal morality, and other forms of bigotry, and thus it also means that trying to remain “apolitical” in the sense of a general stance is strictly impossible, since maintaining a committed anti-fascist opposition is an inherently political act. For our task, we are also charged with deconstructing the inherited dysfunctional myths we have concerning the religious basis of Nazism, as well as deconstructing folkist ideology of both the past and the present. To put it plainly, the problems we face require us to ruthlessly attack the premise that the Nazis were an anti-Christian or “neopagan” or occult movement at every chance we get, armed with the facts of history on our side. All of this is vital for us on the Left Hand Path, Pagan and similar milieus for our struggle against fascism, since it means attacking the myths that are used to legitimate its presence, and refusing to brook any elements who would allow the infiltration of fascism into our communities.
Additionally, if there are supposed anti-fascists who seem to be on our side of the struggle only to then turn around and accuse us of being fascists because of Paganism, then we cannot call them friends or comrades, and if anything they might just be our enemies. It is empty to profess opposition to religious bigotry only to turn around and insist that you are a fascist simply for brandishing ancient runes (and I’m talking about the actual Germanic runes, not the symbology that was created or adapted by the Nazis) or wanting to re-establish the worship of the old gods. If there are those who insist the contrary, then they are against us, and they operate under the same bias that is used to obfuscate the volkisch Christian roots of Nazism, and practically operate in service us the same myth invented by the Christian establishment, even if their actual guiding myth might be the abolition of all religion on the grounds that religion itself is somehow fascist or reactionary.
In summary, the big picture is clear. Nazism is not Pagan, and never was Pagan. Nazism is a political movement that derives a religious basis and justification in the idea of “Positive Christianity”, which is a revisionist and folkist form of Christianity that sought the emergence of a new Christianity, which is also meant to be the “true Christianity”, which is thus “freed” from its supposed Jewish trappings. This idea emerges from a line of volkisch/nationalist Protestant theology, and has its predecent centuries earlier in Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic writings and in the radically dualist Christianity of Marcion. Paganism only represented a minority of Nazis, and otherwise it was generally banned and persecuted, while occultism had no substantial influence on Hitler’s ideology, was mostly the reserve of the SS, and was otherwise banned and persecuted. Ideas of Pagan or occult Nazism are the product of a sort of post-war mythology that sought to make sense of the horrors of Nazism by presenting them as the metaphysical enemies of “Western”, here meaning Christian, civilization. This myth has been internalized in certain areas of modern Western occultism and folkist neopaganism, but it is a myth all the same, one that is at odds with and in opposition to reality. Therefore, the nature of our struggle within Paganism, occultism, Left Hand Path spirituality, and any and all subcultures that are adjacent to them, against fascist/Nazi creep consists in part of an active assault against the erroneous Christian mythology that has sought to assert the moral superiority of the Christian faith by trying to frame Nazism as the product of rival creeds.
We must be uncompromising in this battle, or we will fall.
You probably already know about the controversy surrounding Edward Butler, his association with Indica, and Indica’s deep ties to the fascist Hindutva movement. It’s been some time, and the controversy within the Pagan community has definitely not gone away yet. In fact, Edward Butler has not gone without approbators, and one of the people stepping up to defend him is none other than Rhyd Wildermuth, the embattled editor at Gods and Radicals Press known for his increasingly contrarian and reactionary opinions that nonetheless somehow maintains within the scope of Marxism.
His most recent article, “Polytheistic Pluralism and Sacred Cows”, begins with a meandering and largely irrelevant discourse about the difference between polytheism and monotheism interlaced with the usual cryptic transphobia followed by a sort of biographical account of his transition from somebody who may have had some principles in the past to a guy who calls himself a leftist and yet does nothing attack other leftists, so we’re going to skip all of that and go straight to the point and address the part of the article where he actually starts talking about Edward Butler and Indica.
After puffing up Edward Butler as a friend and wellwisher who was merely attacked by “the woke crowds”, he gets to establishing Indica as “an academic and cultural organization promoting “global study of indigenous knowledge, seeking to bring about a renaissance of indigenous wisdom””, and then we get to his response to the criticisms of Indica:
To get into all the nuances of this problem would take another full essay, but a few things can be cleared up quickly. Firstly, Indica isn’t part of the BJP nor the nationalist youth movement, the RSS. Secondly, their usage of the term hinduvta is much broader and less political than the way the BJP uses it, approximating the way “blackness” is used in the United States as a cultural identity formation. And third, their general focus on “dialogue across civilizations” and focus on Indic religions (including Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism) rather than just Hinduism easily make false the accusations that Indica is really a Hindu-superiority outfit.
Bit by bit let’s attempt to respond to this “point”. First, at least some Indica members are or were demonstrably affiliated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its offshoots, as I have discussed in my previous post on the subject. One of its Chapter Convenors is a man named Jigar Champaklal Inamdar, who Indica themselves note is a member of the BJP. Its Academic Council includes a man named M. D. Srinivas, who seems to have some ties to the RSS. Outside of membership, Indica frequently has featured Ram Madhav, a BJP member, as a guest while promoting his books, which include a treatise on the economic philosophy of Deen Dayal Upadhyay and another book in which he promotes Indian nationalism while condemning political opponents. This should already go some ways into refuting the second point regarding the supposed “apolitical” nature of their concept of Hindutva. But as to the idea that Hindutva could possibly be interpreted as “apolitical”, even if we took Rhyd’s claim seriously that the Indica people do see their project as non-political, it would be a mistake to see Hindutva this way, since the project of Hindutva is inseparable from politics. The founding father of Hindutva, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, explicitly stated that his own concept of Hinduness was not even predicated on religion, and was instead predicated on the racial category of being “Hindu”, which more practically means an Indo-Aryan, autochthonous subject of the Indian state, and a member of any of the religions within India. This is inherently politically defined, and supercedes the traditional boundaries of all the main dharmic faiths, and it also segues nicely into the third point: for Hindutvas to engage in dialogue with Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs, is not a refutation of Indica being Hindutvas, because it actually makes perfect sense for Hindutvas to want dialogue with Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs. Hindutvas consider Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs, to be part of the umbrella of the identity of “Hinduness”, since in their view, “Hinduness” simply means being Indian, in a national and racial sense, and sense all of the dharmic faiths originated in India, then Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs, would be considered Hindu by Hindutva adherents, despite actually diverging from Hindu tradition in any number of ways.
After this Rhyd attempts to consider the problem of Hindutva, accurately noting the violent attacks on Muslims by Hindutvas, only to then equivocate in relation to apparent attacks on Hindus by Islamic extremists and Naxalites. In attempting to establish the colonial context of the BJP, he seems to transplant the same centrist/quasi-Marxist analysis of America’s election of Donald Trump to the social conditions of India, the efficacy of which I can’t really speak to. His assessment of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be that he is similar but not the same as other politicians like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, but for him the difference is in the fact of India’s history as a nation that was colonized by the British.
Narendra Modi was a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindutva militia that preceded the BJP and worked to plant members inside the BJP, since he was only eight years old, and had risen through the ranks of the RSS over the course of decades. Therefore, if we’re really going to be discussing the context of colonialism so as to distinguish the Hindutva movement from Western fascism, we would do well to note the role of the RSS within that same context. I already discussed this in my previous post on the subject, but the RSS did not partake in the struggle against British colonialism. They discouraged their own membership from participating in civil disobedience against the British colonial government, such as the Dandi March, and when the Quit India movement was launched to demand an end to colonial rule, RSS leaders promised the British to encourage members to join the civic guards, a sort of special security force set up by the imperial government. Furthermore the founding father of Hindutva, Vinayak D. Savarkar, during his imprisonment, repeatedly pled for mercy from the British colonial government while encouraging Hindus to cooperate with the British and join the colonial armed forces. In a context of colonial domination, the RSS and the broader Hindutva movement were not only not part of the anti-colonial/anti-imperialist struggle, they were if anything allies of the British colonial domination, and offered support and cooperation to the British government.
Rhyd seems to explicitly reject any comparison between the Hindutva movement and white nationalism on the grounds that Hindutva was formed under colonial rule whereas white nationalism in the US context isn’t. This is something that sounds nuanced until you actually read what the founding fathers of the Hindutva movement had to say about race and its role in the nation state. Madhav Sadhashiv Golwalkar was explicit in his belief that a nation ought to be defined by race, alongside land, culture, religion, and language, all at once, supported Nazi German notions of race pride, and advocated for the existence of a centralized state that suppressed all forms of pride and autonomy that conflicted with the Hindutva identity and its manifestation as the order of the state. Vinayak D. Savarkar expressly defined his notion of “Hinduness” as a racial category, not a religious one, which means that the Hindu nation he advocated was explicitly defined on an ethnic basis. Hindutvas, like Western white nationalists, also support the state of Israel for largely ethno-nationalist reasons, and Savarkar advocated for creation of a Jewish ethnostate while also praising Nazi Germany.
Moving along we arrive at his discourse on “Sacred Cows”, and here is where his attempt to defend Edward Butler by elucidating the nuances of ethno-nationalist fascism gets a tad stranger. He has shifted the subject towards the issue of cattle slaughter in India, supposed left-wing attitudes towards its continuation, and how supposedly the BJP are the only mainstream party to campaign on a platform featuring a ban on cattle slaughter, while critics supposedly denounce bans on cattle slaughter as fascist, and seems to bring up Vandana Shiva as someone on the left who is smeared as a fascist seemingly for supporting Indian traditional knowledge. This is not true. She’s been criticized for many other things, most particularly the scientific basis of her claims about genetically modified foods, as well being a plagiarist, prone to extravagantly incindiary rhetoric about her critics, and for apparently charging thousands of dollars for lectures, but as far as I can see not very many people accuse her of being a fascist or a supporter of Hindutva. That said, she did appear in an interview for Rajiv Malhotra, a fanatical Hindutva-aligned academic who likes to insist that everyone who criticizes him is simply being Hinduphobic. Not that it proves much, though.
And by the way, it might be well and good that the BJP pushes for a ban on cattle slaughter, but this is not proof that they are sincere defenders of Hindu tradition against neoliberal capitalism. In fact, the BJP government under Narendra Modi has overseen the destruction of several Hindu temples in Varanasi in order to make way for the Kashi-Vishwanath Ganga corridor, ostensibly an express motorway between the Ganges and the Kashi-Vishwanath Temple, which has also had the effect of destroying local neighborhoods in the process. Furthermore, in 2008, back when he was the chief minister of Gujarat, Modi oversaw the demolition of several temples in Gandhinagar to make way for roads. That is until, ironically enough, the Hindutva group Vishwa Hindu Parishad got him to back down and halt the demolitions. All of this is to say nothing of the fact that Modi, far from offering resistance to neoliberalism, is actually a stalwart of neoliberalism within India.
What does all this have to do with Edward Butler and his role within Indica? Well, for Rhyd, the same thing that he claims happens to Vandana Shiva is happening in the United States of America, where he claims that even people with “clearly professed” leftist and anti-fascist beliefs are judged as fascist when their ideas are seen to intersect with “the bad people”, by which we can infer he means reactionary ideologues. Just so there’s no misunderstanding: when Rhyd talks about leftists who are called fascist, he is very obviously referring to himself, presumably along with any fellow travelers of being a reactionary contrarian under the banner of “leftism”. That may include Edward Butler, who Rhyd complains is being perceived as a threat to the Pagan community or an outright fascist for his work with a pro-Hindutva organisation – or, in his words, “an organization that stands for things which overlap with right wing iterations of hinduvta and iterates a de-politicized hinduvta” (we may return to that claim later).
Incidentally, I recognize the critics that Rhyd is indirectly referring to. In one paragraph he seems to be referring to Devo, who likened Butler’s arguments in defence of Hindutva to arguments made in defence of Donald Trump supporters. The paragraph before that, however, is him quoting yours truly! I’m almost flattered to report that Rhyd seems to have stumbled upon my blog, and quoted me when I said that Butler “might prove to be a danger to the Pagan community, and since Hindutva is a form of fascism, that can’t be tolerated.”. Now this is a little unexpected! But of course, I suspect Rhyd is misrepresenting my arguments. He takes both myself and Devo as representatives of “woke” or “social justice” ideology (hey, Sargon of Akkad called, he wants his GamerGate-era right-wing clichés back), which he defines only as a left-wing continuation of the George W. Bush maxim, “You are either with us, or against us”. I am honestly quite baffled by how he manages to draw that comparison towards me, when if anything I would advance that my own response to the controversy could be interpreted as far more benign and charitable than perhaps some other responses were. If I truly was as fanatical as Rhyd implies I am, I would have condemned not only Edward Butler but also everyone who happened to enter his orbit and did not know about Hindutva at the time, I would not have bothered to discuss the dilemma presented by his contributions to the polytheist community, and I would have condemned Chelydoreus for his statement on why he couldn’t just snub the Indica grant he was given before all of this started, whereas in reality I think Chelydoreus’ statement was thoughtful and considered in light of his own situation and that people willing to attack him for it after hearing him out don’t actually give a damn about marginalized people living in financial precarity. But Rhyd simply paves over this nuance, despite being perfectly content to insist on the nuances of Hindutva fascism, because at the end of the day this isn’t about fanaticism or ideological puritanism. This is about people being challenged for their clear endorsement of fascism, along with their pathetic attempts to justify it, and evidently Rhyd has a problem with people he likes, not to mention himself, being challenged by the wider community. I’m fact I’m at least half-convinced that this is the real reason why he decided to fuck off from basically all social media this year. Good for him, I guess.
The basic problem Rhyd has with people like me is that we draw clear lines in the sand when it comes to fascism. His problem is that we don’t take the people who peddle fascist ideologies at face value when they try to soften it up, and in fact we have fearsome contempt for such efforts. Rhyd on the other hand takes the politically correct presentation of Hindutva as a sincere and apolitical enterprise entirely at face value, failing to consider that its very history and content is inescapably political. He seems to genuinely despise it when other leftists take a stand rather than treat all political conflicts as though they’re tea parties in which idle chatter conducted around abstractions is the sole business of things. He sounds like a god-damned centrist who insists on calling himself a Marxist, when any thoroughgoing Marxism should have informed him that ideas are not solely mental abstractions that have no material effect on the external world.
Rhyd then claims the following:
Edward Butler is no fascist, and Indica is not a fascist project. I personally suspect hinduvta will lead to the same ideological dead-end that every other identity politics (blackness, whiteness, etc) leads to, but there is nothing inherently fascistic about it. In the hands of right wing political parties, it can do an immense amount of damage, but if enough people attempt to steer it away from an imposed monotheist framework (“who is Hindu and who is not”) into a pluralistic framework (which appears to have been the mission of Indica, especially in their focus on Indic religions, rather than just Hinduism) than it has the potential to be quite liberating.
Contrary to Rhyd’s assertions, Hindutva is in fact an inherently fascist movement, not an innocent and purely religious concept that merely fell into the hands of the right. I have already shown that Golwalkar, one of its ideological founders, explicitly called for India to adopt a model inspired by Nazi Germany and a centralised state built on an authoritarian unitary cultural fabric and monocultural/racial identity, to the exclusion of all others, and that Vinayak D. Savarkar similarly endorsed fascist Germany and Italy as congenial systems to contrast with liberal democracy. His problem with Hindutva is merely that it is a form of “identity politics”, just that he thinks that this “identity politics” has the potential to be liberating. It’s very strange and fundamentally Orwellian how he thinks Western “identity politics” movements aimed at liberating and emancipating marginalized people are dumb, liberal, “woke”, and should be laughed at and scorned, while an Indian “identity politics” movement that was created from birth to enact a fascist agenda to produce an ethno-nationalist society and whose adherents collaborated with British imperialism are to be given the benefit of the doubt or recognised as actually liberationist. You’d think this reminds you of the sort of thing that certain “woke” leftists would be condemned over but hey Rhyd won’t let that bother him. And more to the point, you might as well argue that National Socialism was not inherently fascist and that it could have been emancipatory had it not fallen into right-wing hands. This, incidentally, is exactly the same argument made by Otto Strasser and his faction of the NSDAP, along with modern adherents of what is called Strasserism. I’m not saying Rhyd is a Strasserist here, but the logical consequence of what he’s saying is consistent with the Strasserist argument. You are free to make of that what you will.
I must mention that, beyond this point, Rhyd barely actually defends Edward Butler directly, though he does continue to defend the legitimacy of Hindutva in some fashion, but a lot of time is spent focused on a broad concept of “leftist ideological abandonment”. Translated from dollar store critical theorist lingo, this means “leftists rejecting positions that I hold and embracing positions that I disagree with”. It would be a waste of time to go through the whole thing point by point, but I will cover what he has to say about Hindutva, as well as some other things I consider relevant to his overall thought process and its attendant problems.
He again attempts to establish a dichotomy between secular neoliberalism and Hindutva as its religious opposition by stressing that Hindu religiosity is an obstacle to the expansion of capitalist markets, while claiming that neoliberals manipulate the Muslim and Christian minorities in India against the Hindu majority. This is just nonsense. Putting aside Modi’s own role as a neoliberal strongman, Indian capitalism has expanded tremendously and I have not seen any religious force in India prove to be an obstacle to it. But again, here he seems to take at face value the Hindutva line and especially its conspiratorial thinking. Equally baffling is the reference to apparent efforts in European countries to ban kosher and halal slaughter, non-descript opponents that, we’re told without any reference, are smeared as religious extremists, and the absurd claim that “woke” leftists actually advocate for the banning of kosher and halal slaughter, never mind that it’s the far-right that actually pushes for the ban of halal slaughter in particular; or at least, I’ve only ever seen far-right activists do so.
All of this is then extrapolated onto a broader point about how leftists should stop “abandoning ideological territory” to the populist right. What does that mean? Apparently stagnant wages, massive job losses, and increasing debt, but the left had already been talking about that and much, much more, in the context of an analysis that cannot be limited to the vagueries of populism. Unless it’s the analysis itself that’s bugging him, which as a self-proclaimed Marxist it shouldn’t. Actually he’s still talking about the trope about how dismissing working class people as racist ensured the victory of Donald Trump in 2016. Putting aside the obvious issue of Trump’s actual base being more middle class than working class and ignoring the mechanisms of US democracy and its relationship to the actual popular vote of that election, I would point out that Joe Biden won four years later, and in that context much of liberalism hasn’t changed drastically, and if anything the Biden campaign had made vague references to social-democratic policy so as to crib the defeated Bernie Sanders campaign, while Trump actually did little other than appeal to the fear of socialism and “cancel culture” while otherwise glorifying the neoliberal status quo. So in this sense it actually seems out of touch to continue beating the same drum that mainstream pundits like Salena Zito have been since the 2016 election ended just to gaslight the left into doing whatever you want.
You can argue that the only way to stop right-wing populism is to stop “abandoning ideological territory to them”, but you’d be wrong. Jean Luc Melenchon tried pandering to the populist/far-right in France throughout his career, and yet his party La France Insoumise has received barely any migration of voters from far-right parties to their side, while if anything far-right parties have been siphoning voters from La France Insoumise. The Communist Party of France also tried appealing to French nationalism in the 1980s, and it did not result in any substantial gains for the party, certainly not enough to restore what electoral success it once had decades before. In Australia, the notoriously racist social-democrat Arthur Calwell lost every federal election that he ran in as leader of the Australian Labour Party, and it was after he stepped down that the party’s fortunes were reversed. Here in the UK the Labour Party tried to do a course correction over perceived “wokeness” and “lack of patriotism” under the outgoing Corbyn leadership, and it hasn’t really rewarded them electorally or in polls. Only a massive Christmas scandal seems to be turning Labour’s fortunes around. My point is that what Rhyd and others like him suggest simply doesn’t work for the left, never has done, and never will do. Frankly, all signs point to the observation that if people want to vote for reactionaries they’ll just vote for right-wing parties rather than any opportunist trying to outflank them on the left, and that’s partly because right-wing conservatives and nationalists generally actually believe what they believe in whereas leftists who try to copy them have only ever cared about either winning votes or pissing off other leftists in order to feel superior to them; I personally bet that Rhyd is of the latter category.
By the way, I can’t but notice that Rhyd thought to quote The Communist Manifesto to demonstrate that the result of capitalist expansion is the destabilization of religious traditions and communities, which is all well and good until you take note of the last part of the quotation: “All that is solid melts into air, all that is sacred is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.“. While Rhyd was likely intending to connect Marx’s analysis of capitalism to religious decline in order to emphasize capitalism as a threat to spiritual life, in the context of the quote Marx probably saw this as kind of a good thing. Here religion and sacredness are illusions, and the wresting of these away from human consciousness would have been interpreted as one of the positive and radically emancipatory effects of capitalist expansion. Too many people forget that although Marx did think that capitalism ultimately needed to be abolished, he did not consider capitalism to be entirely bad, and thinking in terms of historical progress of material conditions, Marx saw capitalism as consisting partially of historically progressive effects both material and social, some of which he and Friedrich Engels thought were necessary precursors to the development of socialism. Now, you don’t have to agree with Marx that religion was inherently bad and delusional in order to maintain a political worldview and analysis consistent with Marxism, everyone knows Marx isn’t infallible and it would be improper to treat him as though he were a prophet or a Pope, but I think it’s worthwhile to at least mention that Marx had meant the destruction of traditional community to be an enlightening if radical disillusionment rather than a benighting disenchantment.
All of this is still getting away from the base subject of Hindutva, but thankfully Rhyd takes us back there again with more whining:
Again, though I think hinduvta is probably a dead-end, what Indica has been attempting to do with it has potential beyond India. Dr. Edward Butler’s work with them to expand dialogue about polytheism across the world likewise has great potential, or did before he was accused of being fascist for that work.
Well don’t you worry, Rhyd. Edward Butler probably isn’t going anywhere, at least not for the time being. We can all disassociate from him and condemn him as we please, and he is free to stand alone in accordance with his own will, but that doesn’t mean his work is going to cease. He is probably still going to be involved with Indica, and he will continue to produce commentary in support of Hindutva, regardless of what we think of him. And you know what, that’s his business for as long as none of us have to be any part of it, but it will not go unchallenged, we will call it exactly as we see it, and we shall treat what we see accordingly. This is just how it is, and you’re just going to have to accept it, because we will be damned if we ever allow fascism to gain a foothold anywhere.
This seems to be the extent of his defence of Edward Butler and Hindutva, and if you look past the density of his article, it’s honestly a very weak one. But there’s something else to his overall argument that needs to be addressed, and it concerns his overall understanding of monotheism versus polytheism.
Towards the end of his article he says this:
Years ago, I made the very same mistake as his accusers. I failed to notice I was trapped in a monotheist framework, forced myself to answer a question whose only answers were binary. I was an idiot back then. I caused some harm and derailed something that is only now getting back on its tracks. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s pretty eager to go off the rails again, and I’m not very hopeful they won’t make the same mistakes I did.
We need to stop doing this. We need to stop giving ground to right wing movements and abandoning sites of potential transformation. The world cannot be neatly divided between “fascist” and “antifascist” or even “right” and “left” anymore than it can be neatly divided between “Western” and “Eastern,” “Christian” and “Hindu,” and “white” and “black.” These are all rigid and fragile categories that we’ve created through a monotheist framework of thinking, forcing universals where they cannot be applied.
The alternative to this is pluralism. I call this polytheistic, but it isn’t exclusive to polytheist religions. And I deeply believe it’s our default state, the organic and natural way we tend to relate to each other without external ideologies setting the co-ordinates of meaning for us.
From this we are to infer that monotheism is when you establish a set of questions predicated on binary choices. In essence, Rhyd’s conception of monotheism is nothing more than the concept of a closed question. Monotheism for Rhyd is when you make any divisions between two things, between left and right, between fascism and anti-fascism, Christianity and Hinduism, West and East, white and black, all divisions that Rhyd treats as fully equivalent to each other, and polytheism thus stands as an alternative to this framework, with plurality framed as a way to validate difference of opinion by bypassing all of those divisions. In other words, Rhyd is a typical centrist idiot, one who merely happens to call himself a Marxist, and he thinks that polytheism is a way to justify being a centrist idiot by defining the presence of division and conflict between two sides as monotheistic artifice.
To explore this point further, it is necessary to return to a section of the article that we previously skipped. But I’ll be honest, you won’t be missing much judging from the fact that he says stuff like this:
I was on the “good” side, meaning Antifa. That’s not how I look at it now, but at the time I was pretty damn certain one side was completely right and one side was completely wrong and I wasn’t going to be on the wrong side. That’s where I fucked up really badly. Looking back, I realise there wasn’t actually a right side and a wrong side at all, just two opposing ideological positions rising out of the same monotheistic universalism I’d been arguing against at conferences and in speeches.
Yeah. “I used to be anti-fascist. That’s not what I am now. Now I think drawing a line in the sand when it comes to fascism is just monotheistic universalism” is the stance Rhyd intends to take, on an outlet that I think still presents itself as avowedly anti-fascist. But we’ll get to that. For now suffice it to say “I used to oppose fascism but now I don’t” is probably not something you should own with any pride, and certainly not my idea of what anti-fascism looks like. But apparently it is, and not only that but the insistence that you should not have any solidarity with fascism is to be treated as the same kind of tyrannical absolutism that George W. Bush brought the world. Antifa then are basically neoconservatives to this guy? Honestly, given this guy’s reputation for defending fascists, I don’t like the implications of this sentiment, along with the implications of rejecting the division between left and right in contemporary politics, because when paired with the knowledge that he’s defended fascists, including now the Hindutva movement, it actually kind of seems like there’s something about Rhyd that he’s not letting on. Or perhaps not. Maybe he could just be a giant idiot and not much else. Now that’s pluralism if I’ve ever seen it.
Rhyd reduces polytheism to a vague belief in the lack of universals, which is fine on its own, but then he warps this so as to represent a belief that you can accept what other people say about themselves, and yet not accept it within yourself at the same time – in his words, this is to “accept the “truths” of others without necessarily their universals”. Remember earlier when I mentioned a “meandering and largely irrelevant discourse about the difference between polytheism and monotheism interlaced with the usual cryptic transphobia”? You’re about to see what I’m referring to:
Consider the most common reaction I’ve heard from people in person regarding the matter of trans identity. Most are happy to accept that someone considers themselves a different gender from their biological sex, and are even willing to make efforts to use the pronouns a person requests.
In this kind of pluralism, what doesn’t necessarily follow from such interactions is a simultaneous change in the personal beliefs about what is a man or what is a woman—because it doesn’t need to. It doesn’t need to for the exact same reason that we don’t need to change our own cosmology just because someone we know says they saw a ghost. We can accept their account of things and also our own without conflict, and then go about the business of actually living life alongside each other.
At first, it can seem perfectly reasonable in that a pluralistic outlook is generally going to be more accepting of someone who professes a trans or non-binary identity. On that point alone, a lot of Pagans would have no issues. The problem emerges when Rhyd starts talking about how this doesn’t lend itself to any effects on how you view gender or identity, let alone any political commitments attendant to accepting trans or non-binary people as they are, and especially when he actually compares accepting trans or non-binary identity to what is essentially the act of humoring a friend who tells you he’s seen a ghost. It’s utterly condescending and serves only as a mask to hide your true beliefs from others. When you say “we don’t need to change our own cosmology just because someone we know says they saw a ghost”, you are first of all saying that you reject the person’s belief in a ghost, and when you say “We can accept their account of things and also our own without conflict”, you are saying that you do not accept the person’s belief in ghosts, but will merely tolerate a person for having it, separate your beliefs about that person and their positions from your attitude to their personhood, and treat the matter as “live and let live”, but deep down you mock that person in some way, necessarily so, because you still think the person’s beliefs are wrong, perhaps even stupid and worthy of mockery, you just aren’t going to say anything about it.
Applied to the subject of trans identity, you are saying that you do not accept that a trans woman is a woman, or that a trans man is a man, and you reject what they say about their gender identity because you think biological sex, or rather your own particular essentialist understanding of it, trumps their subjective identity, but you accept the trans person’s account anyway, or so you claim to, and seemingly live your life and interact with others as “normal” in any case. But what that means is that you believe that you’re accepting the accounts of trans people, but without any examination of any beliefs you hold that would prevent you from meaningfully doing so, so you may live your life as though you assume yourself to be tolerant and accepting of trans people, when really, beneath it all, you don’t take what they say about themselves seriously, probably mock them in private, or in public you openly argue against accepting that trans people are the gender they identify as. In this sense, that “tolerance” is actually a false peace, unity for the sake of unity not borne of any actual acceptance, one that I think many trans and non-binary people will easily see for the cowardice that it is.
And besides which, it’s not actually the polytheistic perspective, or at least not as can be implied by its myths. The mythos of the various polytheistic and animistic religions of the world contains fascinating accounts of transformation across gender. As Kadmus Herschel has shown in True to the Earth, a book that I see Rhyd is borrowing terminology from without understanding the rest of what Kadmus is saying, the bardic poetry of the Celts depicts figures who undergo several transformations that cut across gender, species, and several other boundaries. Ceridwen transforms into several different animals, Gwion tries to hide in the form of a grain of wheat, but Ceridwen turns into a hen and eats him, only to become pregnant with Gwion, who is then reborn as Taliesin. They are transformations of body rather than soul, they cut against notions of essence or purity, and identity then is builty atop an ongoing event of conscious essencing. Several of the gods of polytheism, whether that’s Odin or Loki from Norse polytheism or Dionysus and Athena from Greek polytheism, exhibit either the capacity to transform their own gender identity or inhabit a set of gender characteristics not limited by the traditional gender binary; Athena, for instance, was meant to be born as a man, but instead was born a woman with male characteristics. You can also go to India and find deities that transform across gender lines as well as species lines, with Vishnu appearing as the female Mohini and Shiva manifesting as the dual-gendered Ardhanarishvara. The Hijras also represent within Indian society since ancient times a trans community that has existed in the context of non-monotheistic culture. If the gods can be seen as defined by more than the traditional gender binary, if the gods can be queer as can be and be accepted for it by their followers, if a person can be trans within pre-Christian cultures and meet some acceptance in a religious context, then it stands that the Pagan worldview on gender identity is that it is not defined by a binary that is fixed into human being through essentialist biology, but instead one of many places in which essencing takes place, and in which essencing can take place on individual as well as social terms.
Contrary to what Rhyd insists about how you don’t have to change your mind about trans people to accept them for what they are – although then again why should you even need to consider changing your mind unless you’re presently a transphobe – internalizing much of the polytheist worldview entails not merely accepting the accounts of trans people for performative and diplomatic reasons but on an existential basis, on the grounds that their identities are as natural as yours, as is the transformation that trans people rightfully undertake to fulfill themselves, and these exist as part of the multiplicity of life as much as you do. It is not about accepting “universals”. If you truly adhere to a multiplicitous and pluralistic cosmos, and reject a cosmos consisting of the inscribed designs of one supreme being, then you really do have to accept internally the validity of trans identity, instead of just formally validating it for the purpose of being polite and getting along while internally denying it; in that scenario, your outward stance is merely performance while your inward stance is your real position on the subject. At least a transphobic Christian or Muslim would prefer to brook no such deceptions since they believe what they believe to be the inalterable word of God. Rhyd on the other hand is a transphobe who wants to be considered valid for being a transphobe as long as it means just being polite about it. Well I’m sorry but being polite about your position doesn’t actually mean your position is any less dogshit. If it did, then Holocaust denial could be validated off the back of the affability of some of its proponents. Trust me: fascists are more than capable of presenting a respectable and polite face, and may even try to appear very tolerant of disagreement, even though this is a ruse in light of how they would actually govern you. Just because a fascist can get you thinking that leftists are intolerant and totalitarian because you got banned from their Discord server or whatever doesn’t mean a fascist society won’t be violently totalitarian, or for that matter that the left is necessarily as totalitarian in practice as you might have been told.
His idea of pluralism is based less on the philosophical ramifications of the polytheistic cosmos and its attendant mythos and more on a personal desire for unity, and political unity at that. I would say to him that the polytheistic world, and cosmos, was never always united. Cults could sometimes rival each other, a few were driven out in societies that considered them to be dangerous and foreign. Whole schools of philosophy rivalled each other, and some schools were sometimes mocked, scorned, vilified, and even demonized in some cases by whoever asserted themselves as the dominant school of thought. The gods themselves would fight amongst each other, sometimes just between individual deities each pursuing the same object (the mythological story of Troy features multiple goddesses fighting over Paris’ judgement on who was the most beautiful), sometimes out of desires for revenge (such as Hera), sometimes there is a conflict of values among the gods (as present in the trial of Orestes in which Apollo contests the ancient goddesses called the Eumenides), sometimes whole clans of deities fight and struggle against each other, with some compromise and intermingling in between (the Devas versus the Asuras, the Aesir versus the Vanir or Jotun, the Tuatha De Dannan versus the Fomorians, or the Amatsukami versus the Kunitsukami). Sometimes humans can rebel and challenge the gods, to varying degrees of success. As Kadmus has shown brilliantly, rebellion is a feature of a polytheistic cosmos, not a bug, and as Peter Grey has shown, rebellion is a part of the divine heritage given to humans from the gods. Insofar as a polytheistic cosmos consists of rebellion, and rebellion is a core part of that cosmos, the presumption of polytheistic pluralism entailing intrinsic cosmic unity seems entirely fanciful, and unbecoming of a cosmos of many divines, truths, and values.
More to the point, why exactly do you want unity with fascists? Why is it desirable? Contemporary polytheism has already understood the dangers of allowing itself to become a home for fascists and in allowing secular nationalism to appropriate the pre-Christian past so as to launder hateful authoritarianism. That is the reason for Declaration 127, The Xenia Declaration, and similar initiatives to exist, to deny solidarity with fascists since they do not deserve it, and to declare that you will not stand with white supremacy, racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, or any form of bigotry. Rhyd should know well enough about these initiatives, and it would be interesting to see what his opinion of them is now, or for that matter his opinion on how we should deal with folkist groups like the Asatru Folk Assembly, in light of the dribble he’s putting forth.
Unity with the fascist means consignment to your own enslavement. It is permission for the fascist, it is the knowledge that they will not be challenged for being fascists, which therefore leads to the normalisation of fascism, and finally to the triumph of fascism. The unity Rhyd seeks is almost the definition of unjust peace. By subtracting the presence of division, conflict, and rebellion from a pluralistic cosmos that necessarily entails these things, Rhyd’s “pluralism” insists that solidarity in the abstract ought to be universal, at least so long as he can claim the people he wants solidarity with to share a common enemy (which they don’t!), and denies the ability to freely deny solidarity with the undeserving and contest that which should be contested. His “pluralism” is not a pluralistic cosmos, but a drum circle held between hippies and swastika-beddecked skinheads.
But for all the talk of pluralism, there’s another reason I’m not buying it. I know Rhyd’s kind of leftist well enough. I have been in circles where his sort of thinking operates as the order of the day. I have had a friend who regularly complained about the left because they “hate” him, and that same friend went on to be one of those socialists who, while calling himself a socialist, a Marxist at that, embraced all manner of far-right social positions and even advocated for a form of white nationalism even if not by name. What I learned is that these people become resentful of the left because the left does not respond positively to their insistence on the objectively correct politics, often even despite that politics being anything but correct, and the opposition from the rest of the left impedes their ability to mold the left as they see fit. Rhyd, I suspect, is one more of those leftists, so embittered from facing constant challenge from the left, who in his eyes are doomed because they have failed to sufficiently agree with and conform to his brand of leftism, that he fled all social media so that he dare not deal with the rest of the left any further. These people do not assume a pluralistic world, let alone the way Rhyd himself defines it. Instead, if anything, it’s closer to the monotheistic worldview, where there is one supreme principle, one vision, one ultimate truth, and everyone is to be cajoled or convinced to accept it or face doom and failure forever, and even his ideas of pluralistic unity smack of a more benign version of this where it doesn’t matter what we all think because we are all One. Meanwhile even polytheistic cultures had lines to be drawn on what their communities could and could not accept, and their cosmoses consisted not of unity but of diversity, and sometimes conflict.
In summary, this was truly a laughably weak defence on behalf of Edward Butler and Indica, one that served only to show Rhyd’s own ignorance of the subject he strives to represent, rather than the supposed ignorance of Edward Butler’s critics. It’s such a shame too, since he puts a black eye on Gods and Radicals Press as a whole in the eyes of many. This is a shame because it does still feature some good work from Christopher Scott Thompson, Mirna Wabi-Sabi, and a recent contributor promoting Gaulish reconstructionist polytheism as an anti-fascist force, and its store still features the brilliant work of Kadmus Herschel, True to the Earth. Hell, Rhyd himself used to be pretty cool back in the day until at least 2018 from what I understand. I suppose though it’s mostly Rhyd that I have a serious problem with, and until maybe he gets over his reactionary contrarianism I don’t see much hope that he won’t, as he put it, go off the rails. After all, it’s not the left derailing him, it’s him that’s derailing Gods and Radicals. He needs to see that, and I don’t hold out any hope that he will.
I have just learned through Christopher Scott Thompson of an inspiring Pagan rebel in Denmark who took part in a protest against greenwashing. His name is Andreas Engholm, and upon seeing what he had to say, I can’t bring myself to ignore it. I simply must share what he said here. On September 9th, Andreas was arrested by the Danish police for his participation in “Bloody September”, a protest organized by Extinction Rebellion Danmark at C. Andersen’s Boulevard to call attention to the grave risk of climate change to several people in the Global South and demand that the Danish government immediately act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss within the next five years. After Andreas was arrested, he had this to say:
“I am happy to be able to wear a banner that to me expresses the totality of the relations that I love and aim to protect. No, not the state, not concepts or ideology, not an idea of civilizational superiority. Yes, the land, the people of the land, including all the non-human, and my connection to the web of Life that exists on planet Earth. Here in these relations, that are real, my loyalty remains. Something as entirely artificial as a state will never have my loyalty or willing obedience – I am a free person, not a servant, not cattle. This is our land, we are entangled with it. We must restore and grow our relations with everything real, land, people, ancestors and those who come after, or perish by our own stupidity and ignorance. It is as simple as that. Hail to the Rebel.”
Look at this statement. It radiates with Pagan pride! This man is proud to stand up on behalf of loyalty to life on earth against the systems that are destroying it. Rebellion on behalf of the land, the ancestors, and web of life, and the assertion of freedom over obedience, is what Paganism is all about for him. I was not expecting to see such beautiful words of defiance today.
I have been critical of Extinction Rebellion in the past, and to be fair that does come from the way they operate in my country, where members actively surrender themselves to the police. Frankly I’m still pretty skeptical of the movement insofar as I consider to be insufficiently politicized (unless of course they’ve shifted away from refusing to consider themselves political in the last few years). But if Extinction Rebellion, at least in Denmark, has heroes like Andreas Engholm in their membership, then even for their faults, perhaps I can consider Extinction Rebellion worthwhile.
We can all learn something for Andreas Engholm’s Pagan pride. We as Pagans should honor his conviction and nobility.
So there was something about Aztec religion and philosophy that I stumbled upon while researching for my essay on the Left Hand Path in Paganism. On Aeon, there’s an article titled “Life on the slippery Earth”, though it also seems to go by “Aztec moral philosophy didn’t expect anyone to be a saint”, written by Sebastian Purcell, who happens to be an assistant professor of philosophy. I found that there were some important things to take away from it, concerning perfection, chaos, and morality.
Within the article we find that the Aztecs had a saying that the earth was “slippery” and “slick”, and another saying related to this which said, “Perhaps at one time, one was of good life; later, he fell into some wrong, as if he had slipped in the mud”. The apparently intended meaning of both sayings is that, according to the Aztecs, it is impossible to lead a perfectly good life because everyone, at some point, slips on the slippery earth, meaning that all people, even kings, are capable of moral failure and most likely will fail morally. The Aztec response to this dilemma would be to live a “rooted” life, of “neltiliztli”, which seems to have meant living by a form of virtue that can be defined by the pursuit of the “middle” of something. It’s much like Aristotle’s golden mean, but more like a loose choice predicated on the most apt expression of a choice in situational contexts, and less predicated on pristine individual character. The reality of the slippery earth also seemed to necessitate moral education not as an early phase of life facilitated through schooling but instead as a constant of life mediated by the community.
But for me there are more implications than perhaps were intended. Slippery earth is intended as a moral reality denoting the ease with which otherwise good people may morally fail, and the resulting impossibility of leading a perfectly good life. But I find that it is possible to envision something else, as well, in relation to that fundamental imperfection. Even though the Aztecs conceived the slippery earth in moral terms, the treachery of the earth’s surface to me has greater ontological implications. The word for “earth” in the Nahuatl language is “tlalticpac”, a word that is generally translated as just “on the earth”, but its apparent literal meaning is “on the point or summit of the earth”. That suggests a narrow, point-like place with a twisting path, is frought with dangers, and that seems like a pretty unstable place, doesn’t it? Constantly needing to keep balance on the surface necessarily implies that, on its own at least, the “earth” is a dangerous, indeed chaotic place. If our lives are led treading upon the slippery earth, then not only is human moral perfection an impossibility but so too is the notion of any kind of permanent order. From a certain point of view, the earth could also be “slippery” in that it has motion, and in fact always has motion, it is always moving, dynamically, and in this sense is always changing. Moral perfection does not exist, and neither does the idea of a perfect, static, unchanging order of things – whether that order is that of creation or that of some transcendent hierarchy of Forms hidden beyond the visage of the universe. Indeed, to the extent that we can speak of the cosmic order for Aztec religion, it seems that there was an endlessly self-generating and regenerating cosmos, not orderly or disorderly, but instead underordered, not governed by some immutable law and order but moved by the growth of all life.
Life is not a particularly predictable thing. It can create order, and break it down, it dies and rises again, and it pushes past the limits of contained experience. A cosmos teeming with life means that follows its own rhythms and patterns, but is also fundamentally volatile and unpredictable. Such is the chaos of the cosmos, the unordered rhythm of life. Our world is not a set of laws handed down by God. It is a set of ecosystems, composed of life which has its own rhythm – that of the land, seas, skies, beasts etc. These rhythms do not always conform to the designs of Man, nor do they align to well with the order attributed to God, or even some abstract notion of “the Good”, but their rhythms and us can, in sight of the cycle of reciporcity, find harmony. The point is to face a chaotic cosmos and seek reciprocity, harmony, and friendship with it, rather than try to control it (whether with the help of God or simply under the aegis of secular humanism). And that’s not the static thing that some New Agey takes on Mother Nature would have you believe. We stay true not through the restoration of prelapsarian, homeostatic purity that is thus called balance and harmony, but through rootedness, through memory, perhaps even a kind of anamesis, and, in a way, virtue.
Kadmus Herschen, in his seminal book True to the Earth, outlines a Pagan philosophy of nature and the cosmos that that sees nature not as a homeostatic entity structured through a kind of cosmic law and order, but rather as a dynamic entity defined by the process of growth, which is very useful to talk about in light of what I’ve discussed so far. He argues from the archaic Greek term “phuo”, which means “to bring forth” or “produce”, which is the basis of the Greek word “phusis”, or Physis, which is usually understood to be the Greek word for “nature” (its Latin equivalent is the word “nature”, from which we get Nature). This meaning is reflection in the Roman word for nature, derived from “nasci”, a word meaning “to be born”, which according to Kadmus signifies a concept of nature that denotes what is born and produces future generations. He argues that all of this signifies a concept of nature and the cosmos which is entirely alive, and that this concept is reflected in the Hesiodic story of “creation”, in which the various aspects of the world are understood to be the children of previous gods. The cosmos, defined by “phusis”, consists entire of life, life that changes, grows, declines, and regenerates, and pulsations and rhythms of growth of the multiplicitous life of the cosmos entails eternal motion, ceaseless expansion, free expression of life, with no room for the strictitudes of immutable law and order, only the negotiation of boundaries among living beings.
Life, at least in an individual sense, is volatile. It never truly stays the same, and it can easily unravel. It truly is unpredictable. A cosmos consisting of life follows natural rhythms and cycles, but insofar as life is unpredictable, we are faced with a cosmos which is equally unpredictable, and thus lacks the presence of immutable order. There is an order, but it arises from growth, from the embellishment or decoration of life by life. Humans embellish their environment through their creative agency, and to a certain extent this is perfectly natural. But, when we over-embellish nature, tyrannizing the cosmos through total human edification, to bring about total control of nature under Man’s order, leads humans away to ignorance from their real source, their real self, and, as we can see, destabilizes the world, causes disaster, and generates ruin. And yet underlying the reality of ceaseless growth in life, not to be confused with the idea of the endless growth of individual human potential, is a kind of instability of its own. It helps to think in terms of rhythm, rather than homeostatic balance or purity. When we allow this rhythm to flow freely, the world runs well. When we tamper with the rhythm of nature, believing that we are its rightful demiurges, the world is ruined and life suffers.
Another perspective of a chaotic nature that it is possible to derive from pre-Christian Greece may emerge from the Greek Magickal Papyri via the Invocation to Typhon, ironically enough a great adversary of the Greek gods. Typhon’s epithets are all suggestive of the wild aspects of nature. There is “Earth-quaker”, “Sender of Storms”, “Stone Shaker”, and “One Who Stirs the Depths to Motion”. He is also addressed as Erbet, which apparently comes from a Hebrew word meaning “mountain house”, and Aberamenthou, a name denoting water, namely the primordial waters of the sea and the sky. Uniquely in relation to the Greek myth regarding Typhon, Typhon and the magician invoking him are declared to be allies of the gods, though some say they are against the gods. Typhon was often considered to be the Greek equivalent of the Egyptian deity Set, the god of storms, through the process of the Greeks interpreting other people’s gods as their own. Even before Set became the villain du jour of Egyptian mythology following the expulsion of the Hyksos, Set had some associations with chaos, disorder, and confusion, owing to his apparent ties to inebriation but also rather sensible in him being the god of storms, as well as the desert, thereby linking him with the violent and disruptive forces of nature. Yet this same deity was for much of Egyptian history the protector of the sun god during his nocturnal journeys on the solar barque, guarding him against the wrath of the serpent Apep. One interpretation is that Set’s defeat of Apep ensures that the motion of the cosmos continues unabated, the stasis of non-existence held back, represented by Set striking Apep resulting in the release what he has swallowed, and the journey of Ra continuing unabated thus represents the cycles of the sun which are preserved by Set.
Frater Archer has a very interesting article on Goeteia, the Greek Pagan art of chthonic sorcery, in which he outlines a worldview of Goeteia that also seems to align with, and flesh out further, the worldview I’m trying to point to thus far. Archer establishes a connection between chthonic sorcery and Cybele, the great mother goddess of Phrygia, who is representative of the consciousness of the earth, and here is how he talks about this consciousness:
Ironically, the one thing a being so boundlessly powerful like the consciousness of earth cannot do easily is to uphold its own boundaries. It is in its very nature to constantly expand – whether that is excessive expansion into life or into death. ‘Nature abhors the vacuum’, we still say today. Our goêtic ancestors might have qualified more precisely: ‘Nature abhors anything constant’, the absence of movement, such as a boundary it’s ought to respect.
Growth is the defining feature of this conception of nature. It cannot be limited by the boundaries that we set before it. This of course is not to be confused with modern capitalist illusions about the infinite growth of capital and civilization on the back of finite resources, but is instead to be seen as the
The way this connects to renewal is discussed just a little further on:
Now, looking through this keyhole from the human realm, behind that door we see the world of unleashed chthonic forces: tides of death and life clashing into each other, new forms constantly emerging and yet just as quickly falling back into atavistic states. It is the realm of the dead just as much as of the unborn. It is the mysterious and menacing place where graves are turned into wombs, bones into seeds and death into renewal.
The chthonic forces representing the tension of life and death are the primary basis of the goetic cosmos. The gnashing dialectic of forms, old and new, and the recurrence in which they partake, is the natural rhythm of indestructible life. Life becomes death, death becomes life, over and over again. This again is part of the growth that so centers the old Greek Pagan conception of nature. With goeteia, as well as certain chthonic mysteries, the idea from what we’re able to gather seems to involve a deeper contact with the mystery of life, death, and rebirth, engaging with that mystery in ritual fashion in order to join with the gods and gain enlightenment. For goeteia in particular, the idea is that the practitioner works with those daemons and worships the powers represented by Cybele, gaining power only at the same time as he is becoming one with those daemons.
What I’m getting at through all this is the broad strokes of a worldview where, instead of thinking in terms of an immutable body of natural laws, we see a cosmos throthing with the growth and development of life. If everything is alive and everything is living, then the cosmos is not an order as though directed by some taskmaster or demiurge but rather it is all things moving, growing, dying, being reborn. From a certain standpoint, it’s a chaos, at least owing to its unpredictable. And that is what we should embrace, because that chaos is the free-flowing movement of life itself, its multiplicity, and the generative power it embodies. From this standpoint, one Pagan outlook would entail that the right way to approach it is not to control that chaos but to co-exist with and within it, befriend it rather than fear it, cultivate reciprocity with it, and perhaps, even, deepen that reciprocity to the point where you become “one” with that chaos. There is no isolation from nature here, no cleaving of the disembodied intellect from the world, only the call to free yourself by awakening to the great Other that is the cosmos, whose writhing potency and life may be closer to your being than you might think.
A little while ago I stumbled on a video by a YouTuber by the name of JustTheFacts, or more specifically a video he released titled “RELIGIOUS LARPERS ARE RUINING THE INTERNET AND HERE’S HOW”. From what I understand, JustTheFacts is what’s referred to on the internet as a “tradcath”, or “traditional Catholic”. These are highly conservative and often reactionary Catholics who want to “restore” a society governed by authoritarian ideas of morality under the auspices of the Catholic Church, and for the Catholic Church itself to go back to the way it was before the Second Vatican Council, which modernized liturgy by allowing Mass to be read in vernacular language among other things. Their reactionary nature also sometimes leads to them adopting a host bigoted positions, and they even have a reputation for anti-Semitism. Of course, I’m sure not all of that applies to JustTheFacts, who from what I’ve seen considers himself to be against fascism and racism, but a brief run-down what tradcaths are is worth getting into before we start.
Despite tradcaths being known for copious amounts of “larping” on the internet, JustTheFacts intends to accuse Pagans of being larpers who only abandon Christianity in favour of Paganism for political and aesthetic reasons as well as group identity instead of reason. Now granted he does criticize tradcaths for much of the same thing, but the central target appears to be Paganism and as I see it the whole point is just a slew of projections that easily apply to Christians. We’ll get into that as we go forward, but the necessary conceit that comes with this argument is that it is impossible for people to embrace a religion other than Christianity for rational, intellectual, philosophical, or really reason that doesn’t amount to some kind of show. The idea is that there can’t be any logical reasons for abandoning Christianity, and so it necessarily must be explained by certain desires such as for group identity, emotional fulfillment, and attention – because you know, it’s not like all religions have something to do with group identity and emotional fulfillment, right? That’s the thing about Christianity: sometimes, Christians like to pretend that everyone is irrationally religious except them, that they believe what they believe because of logic and reason above all and everyone else only believes what they believe for irrational, superstitious reasons or an assortment of psychological complexes that overpower rational thought.
JustTheFacts is not the only Christian conservative/traditionalist who likes to insist that every modern expression of Pagan spirituality and religiosity is inherently insincere. I remember seeing Jonathan Pageau talk about some self-proclaimed Druid he met and how supposedly this Druid “admitted” to him that his tradition was “all made-up” as though that was some kind of own for the Pagans. Christians, when they aren’t pearl-clutching over demonic threats to their faith, will take any reason they can get for Pagans to not be accepted as sincere in their faith, whereas they are far more willing to accept atheists for their sincerity for some reason.
Anyways, let’s get started with this video. He starts out by saying that he actually despises the term “Larp”, because it assumes that people always merely pretend to believe what they say they believe and this shuts down any conversation people have about each other’s beliefs. His contempt for the word “Larp” is such that he even bans the use of the word on his Discord server, which has some fairly interesting (to say the least) implications about his views on freedom of speech if I may say so. Despite this, he says that it’s important to call out people who “derive their beliefs not from reasoning but from group identity and contrarianism”, a tendency that he believes applies to most religious people on the internet today. What he might not tell you is that this includes the online Christians of the present. He claims that, while there are people that are that arrive at their beliefs based on reason, they are drowned out by people who base their beliefs on group identity and contrarianism, or more specifically for “political reasons” (we’ll get to that in a moment). Again, the same exact thing applies to Christians even if true, or for that matter especially to atheists who find themselves converting to Christianity after watching enough Jordan Peterson lectures about feminism and the Bible.
He frequently conveys his arguments through memetic imagery, a manner that definitely befits the medium, so it’s worth pointing out that the first time we see him represent Pagans in this way is through a Wojak (an ambiguous meme character originally meant to represent melancholy or regret) wearing a Nazi uniform and a shitty “Viking” helmet saying “Well, Christianity is Jewish” when asked what attracted him to Paganism, and then reacting with disdain to an atheist “soyjack” (variation of Wojak) saying “You’re an atheist too? Let’s talk about gay rights and socialism!”. Immediately the subject is engaged in bad faith. The first representation of Pagans we see in this video is a strawman built around the phenomenon of Folkist (or Volkisch) Paganism, which is a racist and exclusionary form of Paganism based around ethno-nationalist and often fascistic ideas about racial purity and bloodlines as a source of community with the gods. It’s an absurd, xenophobic idea that is rejected and resisted by the majority of the Pagan community, but this has not stopped non-Pagans from slandering Pagans as Nazis or fascists because of certain racists and bigots who, although ultimately a minority of the movement, are unfortunately prolific enough that we have to respond against their presence.
Anyways, to return to the supposed conversion to atheism for political reasons. Here’s a strange statement from him:
Since atheism is not a religion but a lack of a religion, it doesn’t validate any particular belief system and that’s not good for people that need to be 100% politics 100% of the time.
I find that many atheists do in fact validate some particular belief system over another. Namely, they validate secular humanism and dismiss almost everything else as superstition. In fact, I would think that the self-styled Catholic should already have some idea of that. Further, the implication of what he’s saying here is that atheism is inimical to politics, but while it is true that atheism in itself does not have a specific political ideology locked into it, it is simply not true that atheism gets in the way consistent politics. In fact, some of the “most political” people you will meet on the internet are atheists. And indeed, when you spend enough time being an atheist, you criticize evangelical Christians, but that means criticizing the political structures that give them power. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists have never actually gone away just because atheists “won the debate” on the internet late in the 2000s and then moved on to whining about feminism. They’re still in politics, many still control state governments and legislatures, the megachurches of course still exist, the Trump administration was full of them, and thanks to Trump the Supreme Court is filled with reactionary Christians that believe basically the same things as many televangelists at least when it comes to religious politics, and they might be in a position to overturn the rights that decades have been spent fighting for. The only thing that changed is that some atheists just stopped talking about them so they could re-enact Elevatorgate forever. And you know what? Most atheists still oppose all of that, which is rightfully so, which also means that, if anything, they’re incredibly political because you have to be in order to fight all of this bullshit.
Also, what’s a “normal pill”? And why are you supposed to take one? And why is resistance to it worthy of mockery?
JustTheFacts’ other representation of Paganism, introduced almost a minute into the ten minute-long video, is another Wojak variation, this time female, with short orange hair, glasses, holding a can of yerba mate tea, and wearing a collar that just says “Witch”. This no doubt is meant to represent the witchcraft subculture, which isn’t necessarily strictly Pagan. It exists within Paganism, does tend to overlap with neopaganism, and many modern withches align themselves with Paganism or neopaganism, but witchcraft in itself is not strictly Pagan, some witches in fact actually consider themselves Christian (I’ve covered this a year ago), and it is not a religion per se. In any case, the witch says that “we are the true opposition to Christianity”, and the Nazi Pagan says “Fool. Idiot. Degenerate.” to mock her. The impression is that there is a schism within Paganism over who is the most “anti-Christian”, which is yet another of many strawmen, since I have never seen the Pagan movement in real life operate this way.
Another strange and ignorant statement follows:
For the most part, it’s been the right wing that has departed atheism online, allowing leftists to make atheism all about them. But, it’s worth noting how some leftists have tried to create a religion from almost nothing. Most of this is contrarianism against Christianity, which is associated with the right in America, and what could possibly be more contrary to Christianity than witches.
The presumption is that leftists seek to “make atheism all about them”. What is meant by this? The impression is that atheism, heretofore an apolitical movement, was recently colonized by the left, who wanted to complete take over atheism and make 100% political, or something. The fact that many atheists throughout modern history have been some kind of leftist, and many leftists throughout modern history have been atheistic, seems to be lost on this guy. The idea that the left is trying to create a religion from nothing has no basis in reality, and is incoherent in the face of the claim that they are embracing Paganism en masse in lieu of atheism. Although, if this guy is anything like Jonathan Pageau he probably thinks nearly all of modern Paganism is just “made up” and therefore would constitute being “created out of nothing”, which only means there’s a certain “party line”, as it were, for Christian conservatives on Paganism.
Also, it may interest our resident Catholic to know that taboos against witchcraft are not the invention of Christianity or its Catholic branch. We find tablets from ancient Mesopotamia invoking the gods to banish the influences of witches, seen simply as malevolent magicians who could cast curses on people, in Greece magic was widespread but not exactly trusted (in fact, the philosophers often regarded magic, let alone witchcraft, as a fraud), and the Roman equivalent of withcraft was practiced on the fringes of Roman society, and on the fringes of the boundaries between religion and “non-religion”, and in any case was often treated as a form of superstition, which back then simply meant excessive or improper desire for knowledge. This may be because the realms of magic and witchcraft aren’t the kind of thing that are easily controlled by the cult of the state, and the ruling class, regardless of the era or religion, has the habit of despising what it cannot control. Because Christianity is ultimately a religion based on authority, divine authority albeit, this logic of state control remains embedded in its own taboos on witchcraft, although ironically the early Christians didn’t even take witchcraft seriously, let alone enough to start burning accused “witches” en masse, until the Middle Ages.
Continuing on the subject of witchcraft we get to his assessment of the role of feminism and, oh boy, is this guy stupid:
It also has the bonus effect of being against the patriarchy and women only, so people on Tumblr decided to “become witches”, as if there were any sort of witch canon or organization qualified to certify them as witches, and eventually the phenomenon spread to Reddit, resulting in WitchesVPatriarchy, a very fun subreddit to add to the pile thereof.
Witchcraft is not exclusive to women. I’m not sure how he got the idea that it was, seeing as he must have waded through a certain amount of witchy content on the internet, but it is simply not true that witchcraft consists exclusively of women. There are plenty of men who embrace the label of “witch”, rather than terms like “warlock” or “wizard” as might be expected in popular culture, and the term “witch” is actually considered to be a gender-neutral term. In fact, a surprising amount of the accused witches burned in the Middle Ages were men; although in many countries, such as Germany, most of the victims of the witch trials were women, in some countries, like Russia and Iceland, more men were persecuted for witchcraft than women were. It is not untrue, though, that there are still plenty of women who practice witchcraft, and the witch as an archetype is more strongly associated with femininity in popular culture, which is no doubt the cause of the confusion of our resident Catholic.
Gender in witchcraft is not the only basic aspect of witchcraft that JustTheFacts seems to be ignorant of. Because he is a Catholic, projects certain expectations upon all other religious movements, in this case the expecation of religious authenticity being contingent upon your faith being certified by some external authority or “canon”. Not every religion has a “canon” in the sense meant by Christians. In fact, a lot of pre-Christian traditions were built on oral cultures, meaning they didn’t have a written canon or any written texts, and tradition was something that was passed down through speech. The fact that they didn’t have “canon” in the Catholic Christian sense didn’t make them any less legitimately religious, and you don’t need “canon” to be a witch or a Pagan. JustTheFacts seems to assume that modern witchcraft as a movement was basically created by people on Tumblr, but there have been witches on the internet since long before Tumblr got off the ground, and there have been witches writing books about their craft for decades. There are still publishers that sell and distribute books on witchcraft, past and present. So on that basis, you can’t just dismiss witchcraft as some hip invention of Tumblr. All you’re doing is demonstrating your own ignorance.
Before we get to his next point, let’s address the next image sequence JustTheFacts shows, because it’s a point I really want to get into. There’s a Wojak on the left side addressing some witches, saying “so when was the last time you girls performed a sacrifice?”, and the witches respond saying “uh shit” and “are we supposed to do that?”. Being that witchcraft isn’t actually a religion, it makes no sense to assume that there be any actual normative expectations regarding the practice of sacrifice. As far as I can see, a lot of modern witches don’t practice animal sacrifice (which is the bare minimum of what JustTheFacts seems to be hinting at) and don’t expect other witches to do so, and they definitely don’t practice human sacrifice either. When it comes to sacrifice of any kind, it would probably be practiced in the context of Paganism, and even in that context the norms for sacrifice are not what they’ve been made out to be. In the ancient world, animal sacrifices were mostly reserved for festivals and some fairly specific cults. When it comes to what you might consider to be more “regular” sacrifices, the norm for that, in Greece at least, was actually vegetables. Many deities were given offerings of plants, flowers, grains and wine, not blood sacrifice. And while some pre-Christian cultures did practice blood sacrifice to some extent, in Greece and Rome human sacrifice was considered a grotesque superstition. In fact, there were some in the Greco-Roman world that argued that all sacrificial rituals served only to separate humans from the gods and argued for their abolition.
Meanwhile, if anything, Jesus Christ’s death in the context of Christianity is basically a human sacrifice performed by God to expiate the sin of mankind. The difference is that this human sacrifice is supposed to annul the need for all other sacrifices, since sin is forgiven and the door to Man’s salvation in eternity is opened. But of course, there’s also martyrdom to account for. Their lives are sacrifices to God, sacrifices made by their own hand, knowing their souls have a place in heaven in their sacrifice. The whole concept of burning heretics and witches at the stake is essentially human sacrifice in all but name. Sin was believed to invite the wrath of God, and witchcraft was seen as especially sinful, witches were believed to invite damnation into the community, while heretics would no doubt have been considered a threat to the faith of the community, the abandonment of which would incur God’s wrath. Ceremonially executing them, through burning or other means, would therefore be a means of expiating the sins of the community through sacrifical murder. Thus, Christianity, far from abolishing sacrifice, has always been a religion of sacrifice. In fact, there are apparently even animal sacrifices still practiced by Christians to this day in the village of Taybeh in Palestine, a Christian-majority village where lambs have been sacrificed since the days of Abraham himself and almost nobody there seems to have a problem with it.
In any case, the funny thing about JustTheFacts’ beliefs regarding witchcraft and paganism is that he doesn’t take too seriously the idea that the people who practice witchcraft “don’t really believe it”, but insofar as he’s prepared to grant that their beliefs are genuine, he is inclined only to admit it in terms of some kind of irony-poisoning (“we become what we pretend to be”) and, ultimately, as a surrender of reason to group identity. Because you know, Catholicism has surely never worked that way. Yes, to have any belief in either the efficacy or simple validity of magic is to completely surrender your individual reason to some group identity, whereas believing that Jesus literally raised from the dead and will come back again to fight the armies of evil is totally based on reason and not conditioned by the desire for acceptance within a group.
Seriously though, give me a fucking break with this shit! When I was a kid, I told my teachers and at least once my parents that I believed in Jesus solely on the basis that I thought I might be punished or face some negative consequence if I didn’t. And it’s not like that was natural instinct or anything, because the very first time my parents asked me to go to church (which I think was when I was around 9 years old) I said no, because, for reasons that I don’t really remember, I didn’t like the idea of going to church. I eventually did end up going to church as a kid, for a little while, but I never liked it very much, and at some point in my youth I did an amateur prayer to a Hawaiian goddess just because I liked her after reading about her in a book about volcanoes. And to be honest, I’m very convinced that I’m not really alone in that experience. How many kids, how many people, have found themselves in the Christian fold not because of their actual beliefs or reason but because of social pressure and the desire to fit in? How do you know that’s not most Christians, considering that a shit-ton of them don’t even understand the Bible they swear by? How many people have surrendered their reason and individuality to conform to the absurd rules, doctrines, and false promises of Christianity? That’s how it is with Christians, though. To attack alternative belief systems that might prove more appealling than their faith, Christians will not hesitate to project all of their failings onto other religions.
The idea that Paganism enforces belief through rigid groupthink is the apogee of the ignorant projection of Christians. The modern Pagan movement is incredibly pluralistic and there isn’t much in the way of “dogma” in the sense understood in the context of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and by that I mean the Pagan movement isn’t dominated by hegemonic thought-terminating catechisms in the way that the monotheistic religions are. In the ancient world, although the record for freedom isn’t comparable to the present, the religious landscape was a pluralistic one in the broad sense, and insofar as there definitely was religious conformity, it wasn’t necessarily because there was some kind of Pope of Paganism telling everyone what to think. Meanwhile, the entire premise of Christianity is that what you believe determines what happens to you when you die! That’s the whole reason that heresy and schisms are such a big deal in the Christian world, why entire sectarian wars have been fought, and why children are indoctrinated whenever possible. Faith in God and his son Jesus is the basic prequisite to being eligible for being saved by God and thus spared eternal damnation, and so what you believe matters if you want to preserve your immortal soul. This inevitably results in a dramatic emphasis on groupthink and intellectual conformity, especially as Christianity became more and more hierarchical and institutionalized over the course of its history. Meanwhile, the idea of a Pagan “community” is sometimes laughed off by Pagans on the grounds that there are too many differences between Pagans for something so binding to work. And yet, the Pagans all get along, they all get together, and they can talk in terms of a collective movement dedicated to the propagation of their faith.
Both Paganism and Christianity can be said to possess a “group identity” that shapes its members, and in fact, all religions can be said to have that. But some group identities are based on the idea that what you believe determines whether you live forever in heaven or die the second death, while other group identities just don’t work that way. This is not a difficult reality to make sense of, once you start to do so anyway. And talking about witches as people who surrendered their identity to some vague idea of what’s cool or aesthetic comes off as richly hypocritical, not just because he’s a tradcath and you can just as easily say people surrender their identities to the tradcath movement because of its aesthetics, but because the meme aesthetic he uses in his videos has consumed more identities on the internet than any spell of witchcraft ever will. I’m serious. I’ve made friends in some pretty scummy and contrarian corners of the internet and watched their whole personalities get dictated by memes to the point that that’s almost all they communicate in. How come that’s not such a surrender to groupthink but belief in witchcraft is? Especially when people tend to practice witchcraft without the broad ideas about religious community that are expected within Christianity? How is this not bullshit?
But in any case, JustTheFacts is not only convinced that people only believe in witchcraft because it’s cool, he also thinks neopagans are the same. He claims that most neopagans, or at least presumably contemporary neopagans, came from the neo-Nazi movement that was popular around 2013. This short-sighted and brazenly bigoted assessment would require JustTheFacts to ignore the complex history of online neopaganism prior to 2013. In reality, then as now, Nazi Pagans were only ever actually a minority within the neopagan movement as they are everywhere else, they have never represented the Pagan or neopagan communities as a whole, and all non-Folkist Pagans see them as racist assholes who abuse Pagan faith as a vehicle for their perverse, xenophobic romanticism and ethnonationalist politics, along with all the violence and genocidal terror that comes with all of that. But again, none of these facts matter to tradcaths like JustTheFacts, because they prefer an alternative history were it was Nazis who invented neopaganism as whole. To examine yet another quotation from the video:
Efforts to create a new European religion for post-Christianity have been going on since the 1800s and they’ve always been somewhat tangled between Norse paganism, Roman paganism, Hinduism and more. Back then, as now, intellectuals decided they didn’t like the principles of mercy, humility, and the meek inheriting the earth, preferring glorious conquest instead. They also didn’t like the Jews very much.
The first part of this requires us to ignore the existence of the so-called “Shelley circle”, which is to say a fairly notorious (in the eyes of 18th century bourgeois society) clique of radical liberal poets led by Percy Bysshe Shelley who all thought of themselves as some sort of pagan revivalists, seeking to revive at least what they thought was Paganism, drawing largely on what they saw in the Greco-Roman pre-Christian world. They were initially atheists, but became drawn to a kind of romantic neopaganism as an expression of a joyful, hedonistic religion guided by positive principles of natural law observable by reason, as opposed to what they saw as the misery and superstition of Christianity. Being radical liberals, close enough to whatever the mainstream left might have been at the time, they certainly harbored none of the fascistic ambitions that the Nazis had, and they weren’t all about “glorious conquest”, being more interested in free love among other things. They also weren’t anti-Semites, or at least Shelley himself wasn’t; in his works he portrays the Wandering Jew, traditionally reviled and cursed for mocking Jesus on the cross, as a heroic paragon of humble virtue who endures every curse God throws at him yet remains a kind man with an unwavering conviction.
The second part would have us thinking that it was only mercy, humility, and kindness that repelled anti-Christian intellectuals (although, in my personal opinion, “the meek shall inherit the earth” is if nothing else a big fat lie, and kind of a dangerous one too), as opposed to more philosophical concerns, most typically surrounding the nature or existence of God and the tendency of Christian societies to demand uncritical obedience to the faith. Friedrich Nietzsche, for his part, was not the anti-Semite that JustTheFacts may be trying to be imply he was. He was something of a reactionary, or at least did have reactionary leanings, at least judging by the fact that he hated the Paris Commune and disliked socialism, but he was not a fascist, was not an anti-Semite, and probably would have hated the fascists if he was alive to see them. It was only through his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, who unlike her brother actually was a right-wing volkisch nationalist and anti-Semite, that Friedrich and his philosophy became associated with fascism after she edited his works to conform to her own ideology. But if we’re going to talk about humility and pride, then for my part I do oppose the Christian concept of pride as a sin, and as a matter of fact I’ve talked about here it a few months ago. In short summary, the Christians were wrong to condemn pride in itself as a sin, and the Pagans were right to elevate pride alongside humility as co-existent virtues, and the Christians should just sit there and accept it.
Also, although neopagan projects are what most people in the 18th and 19th centuries knew about practicing Paganism in a contemporary setting, it’s not true that they were the only ones practicing Paganism. In the Balkans, people were apparently still worshipping Slavic gods and goddesses like Mokosh well into the 19th century. There are also some accounts of the god Dumuzid still being worshipped in Iraq well after Islam became the dominant religion. Even in the medieval era, we see accounts of a few people in Sweden still worshipping Odin, and being executed for it. Not to mention that after Christianity took over Rome it still had a difficult time converting the rest of Europe, with priests reporting their embarassing failures to convert Slavic and Norse Pagans. All the while, there were some people in the medieval Christian world, particularly in Byzantium, who privately longed for the restoration of the pre-Christian religion, and even one attempted revolution in Byzantium by Pagan revivalists, as well as another attempt by a still-Pagan peasantry to overthrow Christianity in Hungary in 1046. The fact is that Paganism never truly was stamped out of history, despite Christian assertions to the contrary. True, it was banished from polite society and almost forgotten, but it never did die, it was only forgotten and hidden, and the neopagans and other revivalists, whether through reinvention or reconstruction, served in historical context to rediscover and revitalize Paganism, returning it to the world, evidently proving to be a source of embarassment for the proselytes of “progress”.
Now we come to a question that again betrays JustTheFacts’ ignorance. He claims to admire neopagans, even after he had already established that they were all Nazis according to him, but he asks why they don’t just be atheists instead of Pagans. The answer, according to him, is that atheism was too strongly associated with liberal academics, which supposedly these neopagans didn’t want. The obvious problem with this argument is that there are plenty of liberal Pagans who, being liberals, would have no problem with “liberal academics” or whatever he’s trying to refer to. The imagery he chooses is a Wojak (or Soyjak) again saying “You’re an atheist too? Let’s talk about gay rights and socialism!”, and the Nazi Pagan Wojak which he uses to represent Paganism says “…No”. If he were at all familiar with the contemporary Pagan or neopagan scene, he’d know that this scenario is absurd. Most modern Pagans are not against gay rights, in fact they acknowledge the tendency of Pagan myths to feature queer characters who aren’t punished for being queer, and there are a lot of Pagans who will tell you that they’re for socialism, though there are also many who disagree. In fact, one of the earliest modern Druids is a Scottish man named George Watson McGregor Reid, who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was a socialist and union activist who eventually also advocated for anarcho-communism. The neo-Nazis did not “go off and make their own thing” after being sick of atheists. They already despised atheists, and their idea of what Paganism is comes from over a century of volkisch romanticism and ethno-nationalist ideology, which animated the rise of the original Nazis in Germany. But I suspect he won’t talk too much about that because some of the original volkisch ideologues were actually Christians and/or Christian occultists rather than Pagans.
So, as to the question of why they don’t just be atheists, it seems to me that the obvious answer to that question is that they simply don’t find the atheist position to be convincing, and believe in the gods or (in the case of less theistic Pagans) that the natural world is worthy of worship instead, and that they came to that conclusion on their own, in a society and culture that does not encourage Paganism. In other words, they just sincerely believe in what they believe. It really is that simple.
Now, about five minutes into the video, JustTheFacts turns his gaze towards tradcaths, regarding them as having failed to live up to the tenets of Catholicism or Christianity. For him this doesn’t actually mean “being liberal and accepting everything because it says in the Bible that you should be tolerant”, evidently a strawman concocted as a coping mechanism for how easily non-Christian leftists embarrass right-wing Christians for failing to adhere to Biblical teachings when it comes to immigration policy (see Matthew 25: 31-40 or Deuteronomy 10:19) or capitalism (see Acts 2:44). But while he insists on not referring to the practical political implications of following the Bible, he does rightly complain that modern Catholics don’t necessarily live up to “the spirit of benevolence and mercy” he attributes to Christian teaching, and it’s clear from the imagery that he’s referring to Nazi Catholics. Unfortunately for him, though, the Catholic Church has a record of assisting the Nazis in some capacity; the Pope of that time neither condemned the Nazis nor pled with Hitler to release captured Jews, the Church helped Nazis escape to South America, and the German Catholic Church openly admitted their complicity with the Nazis. So, sorry, but no dice.
The imagery he chooses is for one of his points is strange and paints an absurd picture: it’s a Wojak representing a conservative college professor saying “Today we will be learning from De Regno”, and an angry Wojak representing a left-wing student says “WHAT ABOUT DAS KAPITAL?”. I’m assuming this was in a class for theology or religious studies, so why would you ever see someone in a class about theology and religious studies complain that their professor doesn’t teach them Das Kapital? That just wouldn’t make sense, because nobody expects politics or economics to be taught in theology class, and I’ve never seen any examples of that ever happening.
In any case, here JustTheFacts attempts to explain the phenomenon of Nazi tradcaths, and let’s see how well he manages it:
Now, who are these people, exactly? Well, when some of the neo-Nazis went to paganism in order to be contrary to the Jews, some of them decided to be as contrary as possible to liberalism, and what better religion to be against liberalism than the Catholic Church, known for fighting liberalism since the French Revolution. They took a number of from Catholicism, namely the aesthetic and the hatred of Protestants, but they also brought a few things with them such as pride, wrath, and cold-hard cruelty. These people rejoice in the idea that others might be burning in hell, even though scripture explicitly tells them not to do that, they promote the idea that there is no saving their enemies and they should only ever kill them, even though scripture explicity tells them not to do that, and they exalt themselves instead of humbling themselves, even though scripture explicity tells them not to do that.
There are some pretty fair points about modern tradcaths here, I think we’ve all observed some of those and there are real tweets like the ones he showed, but there’s a few problems. He says that they brought “cold-hard cruelty” with them to Catholicism, as though the Catholic Church was never cruel at all. What do you think the Inquisition was? Or the mass human sacrifice that we call “witch burnings”? And how do you think the Catholic Church viewed the genocide of indigenous peoples in North and South America? What do you think they thought of the Catholic settlers torturing and slaughtering natives, systematically destroying their culture, and giving them plagues? Even Pope Francis could not refer to what happened in the Americas as conquest without saying “so-called”, and there are Catholics to this day that deny that there was genocide. And it’s not a thing of the past either: the Catholic Church is still responsible for the genocide of indigenous children in Canada and Catholics still try to deny that it was even genocide. It’s not like the Catholic Church wasn’t ever cruel before the Nazis or tradcaths showed up.
Also, the volkisch movement that inspired the Nazis was, in part at least, originated by Christians as well as non-Christian romantic mystics. Houston Stewart Chamberlain, one of the intellectuals most celebrated by the Nazis, was a Protestant Christian who thought that the Catholic Church was a Jewish conspiracy to destroy the “Aryan” race. Chamberlain also, like Hitler, believed that Jesus was an “Aryan” and could not have been Jewish. Chamberlain’s other major admirer, Kaiser Wilhelm II, was a Lutheran, but after World War 1 Wilhelm converted to Marcionism (an ancient and heretical dualist sect of Christianity). Wilhelm, just like Chamberlain, was also convinced that Jesus was an “Aryan” rather than a Jew. One of the fathers of Ariosophy, an esoteric belief system centered around the idea of some lost “Aryan” mysteries, was a man named Jorg Lanz-Liebenfels, an Austrain aristocrat and former monk who believed that Jesus was an Aryan who was to come and redeem the “Aryan” race after generations of interbreeding with “demonic” non-“Aryans”. You’ll notice a lot in the original volkisch movement that it tended to include people who sought to justify worshipping Jesus depsite him being notably non-“Aryan” by arguing that he was actually an “Aryan”. That doesn’t sound to me like something a Pagan would need to do, since Pagans don’t worship Jesus or support the idea that he was the son of God.
In any case, JustTheFacts goes on to round off the “character” of the tradcath he aims to describe, summarizing the archetype as a person who picks and chooses to create their own brand of Catholicism based on identifying against their enemies as much as possible as opposed to genuine belief. There is an extent to which this might be true, but it also ignores the fact that the opposition to liberalism itself derives from something other than contrarianism. If it’s pure contrarian contempt for liberalism that drives a person, then that contempt can spread in any number of directions, all filtered by any number of personal biases that already exist in your mind. The tradcath must be a tradcath because the tradcath centers tradition and authority in the abstract, even inasmuch as the tradcath may genuinely believe in Catholicism as the correct doctrine. So it is actually not because of pure contrarianism that motivates the choice to become a tradcath but instead the desire for authoritarian models of virtue to rule society, itself inspired by the fixation on hierarchical power.
And so we come to the end of the video, where we find witches, Nazi Pagans, and Nazi Catholics, side by side as though they’re equals, because they’re all exactly the same type of larper giving up their own minds to surrender to group identity. Again, as if that’s not the history of Christianity according to this gormless conservative moron. Although I must say, the big stink about tribes against tribes does sound perfectly liberal, since they’re biggest bellyachers when it comes to anyone having any sort of “group identity” and loudly asserting it, or at least in a way that bourgeois society deems offensive or degenerate. And then some spiel about how perhaps all of human history is larping, or something, but then ultimately those people don’t matter. Why even bother to make this video at that point?
So all in all I really don’t see any real substance to JustTheFacts’ argument. For one thing there’s not all that many facts involved, despite his namesake. Just keep an eye out for people who brand themselves as being almost neutral in that they’re solely interested in objective truth, but in reality are morons and liars who can’t get even remotely close to the truth and are only interested in their reactionary agenda. But the whole enterprise driven almost entirely by the idea that non-Christians are not what they say they are, do not believe what they say they believe, and cannot be doing anything except acting out a kind of deception towards themselves and others, pretending to be something they’re not. Who they really are is something that, for the Christian, is decided by the Christian, on the grounds that Christianity is just axiomatically the correct faith, as though hardwired into the human condition despite only existing for less than 2,000 years (in terms of how many years mankind, or even just civilization, has been on Earth, this is a blip). The one thing that such a worldview cannot admit is that people can sincerely believe in the worship of the gods or of nature on their own, that people can look at the progress of civilization from Paganism to Christianity and later secular atheism and decide that they prefer Paganism. Such sincerity seems to be beyond the comprehension of the Christian.
Have you ever had that feeling when you encounter someone you really found fascinating, whose work got you thinking about something in a bit of a different way from before, and you start taking influence from them, and then you find out that they’ve made such egregious errors of judgement that it makes you question what you want to do with them, and then you feel kind of lost? That’s what happened regarding Rhyd Wildermuth. I discovered his work a few months ago, in the process of rediscovering Gods and Radicals, itself part of my own process of rediscovering, and re-envisioning, Paganism as a religious world-outlook, onto which Luciferianism as an esoteric outlook can be formatted in my own syncretic way. He inspired some ways of thinking about Paganism or had me thinking of some beliefs I always kind of had in a way that, at that time, I didn’t imagine before, or at least pointed the way to them. But recently I’ve begun to think he’s actively taking the side of some bigoted and reactionary corners of the online left – either that or he’s just too stupid to know the difference and he ends up as a dupe – and that has me questioning myself quite a bit. I mean don’t get me wrong, his more recent article on anarchism was very questionable enough and I had a lot of problems with it, but what I’m about to tell you is much worse. It has to do with two online left figures widely known for their snobbish, reactionary bigotry and who together form a kind of red-brown alliance in online circles: one is an (apparently) anarchist YouTuber/podcaster by the name of Angie Speaks, the other is another podcaster by the name of Aimee Terese. One of them, Angie, seems to be a friend of Rhyd Wildermuth’s and is actively platformed on Gods and Radicals’ website. This is a problem for reasons you are about to see.
This all started a few days ago when someone showed me a short Twitter thread that Angie posted last week, in which she attacked people who “”try to be something they’re not”. If that sounds vague, I’ll just post a screenshot of the thread below here:
Now this on its own can invite a fair few questions. What “self-hatred” is she referring to? Who are the people “trying to be something they’re not”? Why is aversion to said people “not bigotry”, and for that matter why the need to refer to bigotry, since this reference implies a response to accusations of bigotry? Who is “not living their truth” and why is it “perfectly natural” to be “creeped out” by them? But the answer to all of those questions, to anyone reading between the lines, is that Angie is referring to trans people. She believes that trans people are not and cannot be the gender they identify as, that they hate themselves, and that cisgender people being averse to them is “natural” because they are “uncanny” and “deceptive”. This is in part a fairly textbook case of ignorance about trans people, but also an equally textbook case of transphobic bigotry, since the whole premise of Angie’s argument is that she thinks trans people are inherently disturbing and that it’s both acceptable and justified for others to be disturbed by them and treat them like scum. When it’s coming from a right-wing conservative, and a Christian one at that, the bigotry tends to be easy to spot and most people react accordingly. When it’s coming from someone who calls themselves a leftist of any sort, the same is also almost true, except that for some reason there are more people willing to take them at face value or give them the benefit of the doubt, because left-wing transphobes, unlike right-wing transphobes, have the habit of masking the same exact bigotry in a labyrinth of intellectual jargon and obfuscation.
This is also not Angie’s first time being transphobic. In April, Angie, after seeing a video of a schizophrenic trans teenager panicking because their mother deadnamed them repeatedly and was in the process of kicking them out of their home, responded to said video by calling the trans person in question a “brat” and remarked that parents would “many parents would rethink having zoomer/ millennial brats if they new it entailed paying for their lifestyle and housing in adulthood”, among other things.
Just to emphasize, the poor individual with the green hair is pleading to anyone watching their TikTok video to help them find a new home in order to get away from their parents, because said parents are abusing them, and Angie’s response to this is to make it seem like the teenager deserved what they got, because of their “strange interests” (as though witchcraft somehow isn’t considered a “strange interest”) and supposed “bullying”. Angie decided to frame the teenager as the bully and her parents as the real victims, and following this she released a nearly-hour-long YouTube tirade about “narcissism”, “validation”, and “social justice”. Angie’s open and public stance on someone having a mental health crisis while being verbally and mentally abused by their parents and thrown out of their home is in fact a dispenser of abuse rather than its victim. Angie is thus justifying the suffering of young trans people, and is therefore a transphobe. Insofar as Angie considers herself to be a feminist, this would mean that she is also a TERF, a trans-exclusionary radical feminist (more on that later).
Oh and did I mention that she’s basically a white nationalist who is in turn supported by other white nationalists and also literal, actual neo-Nazis? Because that’s pretty important.
Aimee Terese is the only contemporary “Marxist” I am aware of who has actually been promoted by white nationalists as an ally of their cause. Consider American Renaissance, the organization founded by the white nationalist and alt-right thought leader Jared Taylor. On their website one of their authors, Chris Roberts, wrote an article on December 11th 2019 titled “Aimee Terese: Contrarian, Marxist — White Advocate?“, in which Roberts goes through a gallery of Terese’s many takes which he finds agreeable to his own white nationalist ideology. In the same vein, the website for the National Vanguard, which is an actual neo-Nazi group founded by a fairly notorious neo-Nazi named Kevin Alfred Storm, also published their own article expressing solidarity with Terese, written on July 28th 2020 by an anonymous author going by “Dissident Millenial”. Titled “Aimee Terese — A Witty Marxist and Fetching Thorn in the Side of “Woke” Liberals“, it contains basically the same collection of tweets as Chris Roberts’ article with basically the same intent, but the author also adds a certain degree of flirtatious feeling to it, almost like a pathetic attempt to get a date. She’s also known to be rather friendly towards a white supremacist and Daily Stormer contributor named Joseph Jordan (known on the internet as Eric Striker), and had agreeable conversations regarding Striker’s views on the “j-left” (presumably meaning “Jewish left”, implying the left they don’t like is a form of anti-white Jewish subversion). When this naturally attracted the ire of the rest of the online left, she pretended not to know who Striker was, accused people of policing her, preceeded to police other people for retweeting her enemies, and had Eric Striker come to her defence.
If you advertise yourself as a socialist, indeed the one of the “only real socialists” on the internet, but you echo the views of white nationalists and neo-Nazis, are friends with neo-Nazis, and will defend association with neo-Nazis, the possibilities are that you are a Nazi or a white nationalist yourself, or are just so colossally stupid that it isn’t even worth contemplating.
Of course, so far I’ve gone through all of this information without once tying it back to Rhyd Wildermuth. But that changes now. You’ll remember that I mentioned that Angie Speaks is still listed on the Gods and Radicals website, and still has a page on that website. I contacted Rhyd Wildermuth via email about much of what has been discussed previously, and expressed concerns about him platforming a transphobe with links to white nationalism. What you’re about to see below is his response:
I’ve checked out the links you provided and none of these amount to evidence of Angie being anti-trans or aligned with white nationalists.
Her views align with a growing number of Black Marxists (see for example the repeatedly de-platformed Black Marxist professor Adolph Reed, as well as many of Cornell West’s recent positions) that neo-liberal ‘anti-racism’ only reifies race, because it is much better for the capitalists that poor people blame each other for ‘systemic oppression’ rather than fighting the capitalists together. While I do not have experience with Aimée Terese, after reading the screenshots provided in those links it appears she is also critiquing this same problem.
I have known Angie personally for many years, by the way, and can assure you she is not anti-trans either. She has absolutely critiqued much of the neoliberal (capitalist) dogma around trans identity and the aggressive subsection of twitter that has called for the death of cis gays who will not have sex with trans people, as well as the many rape threats against gender critical women on social media (see my own critique of this here, with links to large archives of this behavior ).
While some of her own rhetoric can absolutely be quite provocative in a way in which I myself would never engage (it’s one of the reasons I completely left social media in August), it would take much more for me to silence her–or anyone–on our website.
Thanks for your email.
In short summary, Rhyd Wildermuth has seen what I have sent him and does not believe that Angie is anti-trans or aligned with white nationalists, thinks of her as an intellectual critic of neoliberal identity politics doing nothing but critiquing “neoliberal dogma around trans identity”, treats Aimee Terese as yet another of said critics while seemingly not touching on why white nationalists and Nazis seem to actively promote her content, and will not dissociate her from the Gods and Radicals website. Let’s go through this response point by point.
I’ve already established that Angie is in fact anti-trans, so there’s no need to go into too much detail about that. What I could do, though, is get into Rhyd’s justification for why he maintains this idea that she is not anti-trans. He says that she has “critiqued much of the neoliberal (capitalist) dogma around trans identity”. What is that “neoliberal dogma”, exactly? Judging from Angie’s statements it would appear that this “neoliberal dogma” is nothing more than the assertion that trans people are the gender they say they are, and that gender affirmation (or reassignment) surgery is valid. How exactly this is “neoliberal dogma” is a bit of a mystery, unless you consider that perhaps calling it “neoliberal dogma” serves as a way to de-legitimize what is otherwise essentially scientific consensus on the subject of being trans, and in a way that can seem palatable to certain idiotic leftists obsessed with certain ideas of “proletarian culture” against “bourgeois culture”. The only other “neoliberal dogma” I can see is the idea that trans people shouldn’t be deadnamed ad nauseum, let alone at all or by their parents for that matter, and shouldn’t be thrown out of their homes for suffering a mental breakdown because of it. And again, the only reason that’s seen as “neoliberal dogma” for some is because it can serve as a convenient intellectual justification for being cruel to trans people.
The other flank of his argument that Angie is not anti-trans is that she is also critical of “the aggressive subsection of twitter that has called for the death of cis gays who will not have sex with trans people, as well as the many rape threats against gender critical women on social media”. As ludicrous as this all sounds, the tell is in the phrase “gender critical women”. “Gender critical” is the politically correct term for what are otherwise called TERFs – trans-exclusionary radical feminists. These feminists believe that trans women are actually men seeking to “invade women’s spaces”, borrow arguments from homophobic evangelical Christians to justify discrimination against trans people, and they have the habit of threatening violence upon people they disagree with – or at least, they like to stick razor blades under their posters to slice anyone who tries to pull them down. So for a start, it’s the TERFs that like to do the silencing in broad trends. As for the “death and rape threats” accusation, even the Twitter album that Rhyd cites isn’t necessarily the smoking gun that he thinks it is. Not least if you remember that Twitter is not representative of the entire LGBT community – in fact, it’s not even representative of the whole population. Besides which, no matter how many people in the LGBT community actually hold the kind of absurd and bigoted opinions towards homosexuals Rhyd alludes to, that doesn’t suddenly mean that Angie isn’t transphobic anymore than US imperialism suddenly means Iran isn’t an authoritarian theocracy. And even if there are people on Twitter who shit on gay people for not dating trans people, is that really worse than the fact that trans people can be murdered on a whim, with violence against trans people increasing, and their murders often still going unreported, and failing that they’re still regularly denied housing? That’s something that, for some reason, Angie and Rhyd don’t seem interested in talking about, or Aimee Terese for that matter, or any TERF. Or, for another matter, Glenn Greenwald, who went from one of the best journalists in America willing to stick his neck out to stand up to right-wing authoritarianism in Brazil, to a tired old centrist crank whining about how he thinks gay people are being replaced by trans people or some nonsense like that.
Oh but then there’s the point about Angie not being associated with white nationalism. Rhyd insists that Angie is not associated with white nationalism via her links with Aimee Terese, and that instead she is part of a growing movement of black Marxists (only two are actually cited) that are united by the contention “that neo-liberal ‘anti-racism’ only reifies race, because it is much better for the capitalists that poor people blame each other for ‘systemic oppression’ rather than fighting the capitalists together”. This, again, is deflection. For starters, “neoliberal anti-racism” is never specified, but we can only assume it refers to various liberal ideas about race and discussion thereof. Without being given any canards to examine, we can sort of dismiss this by pointing out that many leftists who aren’t what we might call “class reductionists” already tear apart the work of people like Robin DiAngelo as essentially an arm of corporate power against working class coalition building and organization, in favour of socialist anti-racist projects that still emphasize the inclusion of various identity-based struggles.
There’s a reason for this that I’ve come to understand. In the past, there were communist parties that expressly refused to include struggles for black liberation in their political program, no doubt to emphasize that the class struggle was the only struggle. The main example of this would be the Communist Party USA, which in the early 20th century followed this exact approach even to the point of denying the existence of racism. The end result was that some black workers abandoned the communist parties, and the left, to support Marcus Garvey, a proto-fascist black nationalist and an admirer of the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Of course, many who didn’t instead turned to the much more radical Black Panthers, who unlike Marcus Garvey actually did frame demands for black emancipation in the context of a revolutionary agenda. The point being, socialist movements that dismissed liberationist identity-based struggles ended up losing people to anyone who might champion whose causes instead, even if that included fascistic ethno-nationalists. That historical reality may end up explaining why certain “class reductionist” or “class first” leftists end up morphing into reactionaries, often of the white nationalist variety. So contrary to some talking points about how “woke” leftists are creating fascists, the communists who followed the approach that Angie and Aimee would have them follow were the ones actually creating fascists.
Returning to Angie, for a moment, if the idea is that she’s critiquing identity fetishism in the sense of leveraging racial identity against the working class, that’s frankly laughable. In many exchanges, including only a few years ago in which she was arguably just as much an “identity-fetishist” as the people she now hates, she will, during the course of argument, not hestitate to leverage the fact that she’s a black woman in order to shield herself from criticism. Not exactly something you’d expect from someone interested in fighting “identity politics”. Since Rhyd claimed that Aimee Terese makes basically the same critique, we should briefly address her once more. While Terese is framed as an opponent of “identity politics”, we can see from her tweets that she spends a lot of time leveraging white identity against a multicultural elite, which is the quintessential and core politics of white nationalism. Also, for someone ostensibly keen to oppose identitarianism, why is Aimee Terese an anti-Semite? Just a month ago she produced a meme which depicted mass vaccination against Covid-19 as some kind of Jewish plot to enslave non-Jews.
I guess I can’t blame Rhyd too much for not knowing about this, not having dealt with Aimee before. But I’ll bet Angie knows what she’s doing, considering that they are friends and fellow travellers. Insofar as Aimee Terese is a white nationalist, and there really can’t be any denying it at this point, Angie’s links to white nationalism are pretty definite. She’ll never express white nationalism ideologically herself, but she will ally herself with white nationalists seeking to infiltrate the left as comrades in being “cancelled” by everyone else, thereby creating a network of influence. This along with the obvious transphobia is the problem with Gods and Radicals still having Angie Speaks on their website.
In light of all this Rhyd Wildermuth’s stance is clear: he is on the side of TERFs, and from the sounds of it might be a TERF himself, and so he has no problem with transphobia except to the extent that he likes to deny being anti-trans. He has seen evidence to corroborate Aimee Terese being a white nationalist, which would mean that, because Angie networks with Aimee, Angie represents a point of connection between left-wing contrarians and white nationalism, yet has chosen to dismiss the idea of Aimee Terese being a white nationalist, which functionally means he denies that Angie has any connections to white nationalism, and therefore he will not distance himself from her. By continuing to have Angie on the roster of the Gods and Radicals website, Rhyd gives his website a place in that same network. This means that at this point Rhyd Wildermuth is an ally to some very bigoted people.
What does this all mean? Well, it does mean I’m feeling extremely conflicted, mostly because his writings on Paganism proved to be informative of the way Paganism and radical left-wing political thought could intersect and helped light the way to a meaningful Pagan left-wing critique of the Enlightenment, plus his website still has a lot of good work on it, in the form of not just the articles not written by Rhyd, as well as some he did write, but in the form of the books they have (Kadmus Herschen’s groundbreaking True to the Earth is on that website). But while all the good is still there, knowing that Rhyd is willing to go out to bat for these disgusting reactionaries makes things very painfully inconvenient. The best outcome of this is that this complicates my ability to appreciate his work, but the worst possibility is that he’s trying to smuggle some pretty chauvinistic attitudes into Pagan left-wing spaces.
To close out this post, I’d like to make a point about why being a TERF doesn’t make much sense if you’re serious about Paganism. Christian culture may have made a big point about hierarchical masculinity and femininity being fixed essences and set in stone by God, but while even pre-Christian societies tended to be patriarchal, there is also a lot of evidence that they tended to accept trans identity to some degree. 3,000 years ago, the Persians recognized a “third gender” alongside male and female. In Sumeria, the priests of the goddess Inanna were men who discarded their masculinity and became women, and Inanna herself was revered for having the power to change men into women and vice versa. In India, the Hijra were a kind of “third gender”, considered either intersex, transgender, or asexual, who, although often marginalized in Indian society, have been present within it since antiquity and can even possess religious significance. In pre-Christian Norse society, transgressing gender norms could be seen as a source of profound power, and the god Loki himself moved through the genders almost on a whim, a fact that the Norse also tended to accept of their gods in general. And of course, the Amerindian (or Native American) tribes are known to have acknowledged over a hundred different gender expressions, and many tribes had a variety of ideas about people who did not fit the traditional male-female dichotomy, which were then suppressed by the dictatorship of colonial morality.
The point I’m trying to make is that the Pagan world did not have the problems with accepting the identity of trans people that Christian culture or more particularly modern Western culture has up to the present. So what’s stopping Rhyd Wildermuth, a Pagan, from taking effectively the same stance as his ancient pre-Christian forbears and accepting trans people as valid? By legitimating the TERF stance on trans people, endorsing the delegitimating of the identity of trans people on TERF grounds, and falling into identity-based sectarianism between trans people and gay people based on some dumb bullshit on Twitter, itself trumped up by TERFs, Rhyd does not seem to take seriously or grasp the extent to which Paganism endorses the acceptance of the identity of trans people. It also means he doesn’t take too seriously the way he talks about the Right Sacred and the Left Sacred. By his terms, the Right Sacred segregates Man and the Sacred and rigidly enforces the boundaries of experience. The TERF position is all about rigidly enforcing conservative gender norms as the mandatory experience of gender. It doesn’t matter that this hierarchical conservatism happens to be disguised by the rhetoric of female empowerment and liberation, because hierarchical conservatism it most certainly is in reality. So, by Rhyd’s terms, the TERF position is that of the Right Sacred, which he tends to see as inferior to the Left Sacred. To take the Left Sacred, with its emphasis on liberation, disinhibition, and transgression of the boundaries of experience seriously, it would be far more sensible to embrace a society in which the boundaries of experience can be freely transgressed, and therefore being trans should be considered valid in itself on those grounds at least. But even without that framework, being trans was simply considered to be valid in the Pagan world, or at least it was a recognized social category even in the context of societies where this was still marginalized. It’s not something that has recently sprung up as the product of liberal modernity.
In broad terms, Rhyd Wildermuth is taking the wrong side of an issue where we on the left, and we as Pagans, really should not be having such a hard time being on the right side of, and his willingness to defend transphobes who also happen to network with white nationalists is a major problem for his own credibility, and unfortunately that of Gods and Radicals, which is his website. Perhaps it can be maintained that we need not completely disregard the work of Gods and Radicals because of it, but then perhaps it would be better if there was another Gods and Radicals that isn’t run by someone who may be a TERF.
Watching Greece continue to burn up as the fires reach Athens and Evia, and then of course the fires still raging in Turkey, Bulgaria, Italy, and across southern Europe, it’s bewildering and heartbreaking. The fires have been going on in Turkey since July 28th, and they’ve been going through Greece since August 3rd, but already it feels like the fires have been burning there forever. If that’s not enough, in the USA there’s still a massive wildfire in California that’s been going on for close to a month, since July 13th, and I almost forgot that it was happening. That’s the scary part, isn’t it? It already feels like we’re at a point where what we’re seeing now, in terms of nigh-apocalyptic destruction of the land, is the new normal, and additionally that we are in some ways powerless to stop it. The image of seemingly eternally burning land, the sky constantly covered in ash and smoke, I can’t help but imagine certain images of living in Hell that we’re used to in Christian culture, but then if that’s the case, it’s quite strange how life in Hell feels a lot more depressing than torturous, at least for the present. How fitting, in either case, for the findings that recently been presented by the IPCC.
The IPCC has found that, at our present rate, global temperatures are set to rise by 1.5°C, which is higher than the target set out by the Paris Agreement, that the rapid increase in extreme weather and melting ice caps are, without any room for doubt, the cumulative result of well over a century of human industrial activity, and that many of the destructive changes that our environment is experiencing are probably going to irreversible. It also suggests that there is still time for humans to change course, and we may still prevent total disaster if we drastically reduce CO2 emissions within the next 20 years, but even if we did, it is too late to alter some changes to the climate and destruction to our ecology, meaning that, no matter what we do, our world looks set to change for centuries and life on Earth will be much less hospitable for humans and other organism, assuming organized human society or many other life forms even survive. The report is being described by world leaders as “code red for humanity”, and they’re not wrong to put it that way. But to be quite honest, it was already obvious that human activity has been at the root cause of the way that the world’s climate has been dramatically altered, but not many people have actually been listening. And, to be quite honest, even now I don’t think anyone’s really listening. I don’t just mean the usual climate deniers who were only ever going to cover their ears, I also mean the world leaders who claim to be on the right side of the issue.
Everyone’s still talking about how we need to think about how everyone can do their part to reduce our carbon footprint. That’s nice and all, but haven’t we literally been talking about that for years and then Madagascar, a country with basically no carbon footprint, suffered its worst famine in decades? Not to mention, I don’t think that simply focusing on individual lifestyle changes that aim for the reduction of carbon emissions really gets to the heart of our relationship to the land, and I don’t see how it allows us to overcome the idea that nature is a tool for humans to use and dispense with. In fact, our leaders still see the instrumentalist view of the natural world as the answer. Patrick Vallance himself, the chief scientific adviser to the UK government, took to The Guardian to publish an op-ed outlining his response to the IPCC report. A sure sign of how serious The Guardian takes this, and how much the government wants you to think it takes things seriously, but in all reality Vallance doesn’t actually say too much. The gist of his solution is that we need to reach net zero emissions through a “systemic approach”, which for him just means “emphasis on science and innovation”, which just means assessing technologies, monitoring progress against intermediate targets, identify research targets, and make climate change conferences all about the wonders of science and innovation. What this entails is not elaborated, but what we get is this sense that we can engineer our way out of problems within capitalism through faith in technological solutions, probably produced by profit-seeking capitalists if we’re being honest.
Of course, without knowing precisely what those solutions are, or what their potential drawbacks are, we simply cannot say anything about them. But, in the broader picture, I get the sense that this does not strike at the heart of why we are where we are. Capitalism is central to that question, but also central is the view that we have accrued to arrive at and justify the commodification of the natural world that is leading up to its destruction. That is why it is not enough to simply implement socialism only to reinstate the sort of ecocidal productivism that dominated the 20th century. Ever since the age of inclosure, the systematic seizure of common land into the hands of private owners to be owned, bought, and sold as property, and ever since the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, the already present idea that Man was the sovereign master of nature, initially bequeathed by Christianity and still implicit with religious expectations, morphed into a secular doctrine built on the idea that industrial civilization was to conquer nature through the domination of productive forces. This idea was obviously part and parcel of capitalist expansion, but it pervaded much of the political thought of the 20th century, and persists in a merely embarrassed state today. We see the natural world as a thing, the planet as nothing but a treasure trove whose gifts are there precisely for us to take. We see ourselves as subjects separate from the natural world, rather than profoundly enmeshed within it. Dismantling capitalism represents one of the most important steps that we need to take on a systemic level. But even if we did that, history shows that a socialist society built on productivism has not been much better for ecology. Indeed, after the collapse of Marxism-Leninism, China is a large-scale polluter known for a smog problem in major cities and Russia couldn’t even guarantee clean water for the Sochi Olympics. That’s not something that just pops up out of the blue, but is rather the cumulative result of rapid and extreme industrialization undertaken at the expense of the natural environment.
Almost nothing will suffice if we do not incorporate a radical re-imagining of our relationship to the world itself. Simply handwringing about individual lifestyle choice is meaningless, if it is not geared towards an alternative community and way of life built on harmonious relationships with the natural world, and even systemic change, though it is absolutely indispensable, alone will not bring us to a better and more harmonious relationship to nature unless we actively commit ourselves to such a project. On an interpersonal level, I believe that cultivating a kind of religious reverence for Nature is essential to this, and that part of the rammifications of that consists in embracing Paganism in some form or another, and abandoning the reactive anti-religious bias that secular humanism has cultivated as the inevitable outgrowth of Christian tyranny. As strange as that must seem to many, taking the reality of climate change seriously means coming to terms with the idea that we are part of something larger than ourselves, not because of a “higher power” (read: God/Yahweh) but because of nature.
Something occured to me lately, and it relates somewhat to Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocaplyse, but the scope of the topic is also broader than that game. It always seems as though there is some group within society that, while entirely legitimate and sincere in purpose, are subject to a degree of chauvinistic contempt that, despite the premise of liberal society seeming to emphasize pluralism and tolerance, can be afforded “acceptable” targets. Islam is a familiar example for many people in the sense that the usual pretences to tolerance and understanding sometimes fly out the window when discussing Muslims, who are frequently blamed for the terrorism committed by a minority of the faith. But even there, there is also a tendency of discourse where the opposite is the case. In fact, I notice that the three Abrahamic faiths tend to get somewhat fair dues overall in Western culture. Alternative religious paths are often dismissed, mocked, viewed as symptoms of delusion and pathology, and they’re treated like fanciful and eccentric follies at best and like downright cults at worst. Of course, this is not the only way paganism is often depicted. There are plenty of romantic depictions of pre-Christian Greeks and Vikings, and I can’t say I’m complaining about those at least too much, and I would argue that Satanism is overall represented worse than paganism in popular culture, but it sometimes still seems that polytheism, when not depicted in the essentially Christianized form seen in lots of fantasy fiction, can be depicted as essentially barbarous and its re-emergence as a distinctly negative thing.
A tweet from a user on Twitter named Jorge APB proved to be illuminating in this regard when discussing Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. We should remember that Apocalypse is a game in the SMT series that positions the gods and forces of polytheism, called the Divine Powers, against humanity and the forces of Law and Chaos, which are each framed as exclusively monotheistic. At some point in the game’s story, some of the Divine Powers massacre the inhabitants of the Kinshicho Underground District. This unit is led by Quetzalcoatl, who in the game calls himself “the True Sun God” and demands that humans sacrifice themselves to him so that he might regain his “throne”. This, of course, has some major problems. As Jorge points out via an encyclopedia of mythology, Quetzalcoatl accepted offerings of fruit and flowers, not human sacrifice, and he certainly was not “the true sun god” – he was a god of many things, but not necessarily the sun. This game’s Quetzalcoatl was not written as a bloodthristy sun god because Quetzalcoatl actually was a bloodthirsty sun god, rather he was written that way because that’s what the story demanded in advance. The story and the roles contained within it were established first before the characters were defined, and in this way the story defined the identities of the mythological characters out of existence. Thus we see Quetzalcoatl go from a god who took offerings of flowers to a god who took offerings of human life so he could be king.
It’s actually pretty telling that the explicitly polytheistic faction, defined separately from the forces of Law and Chaos, is defined with probably the least moral nuance of almost any faction in the series and is treated as more cartoonishly evil than previous ones. You know, there’s another example of a fictional media I can think of that depicts pre-Christian polytheism, or rather Mesoamerican indigenous religion in particular, in terms of an exclusive evil and savage religious worldview. I am of course referring to Mel Gibson’s 2006 film Apocalypto, which is set in a pseudo-historical rendition of Mayan civilization in which the protagonist is captured and brought for sacrifice in a time of civilizational decline. The film presents Mayan civilization as being devoted human sacrifice to the extent that they captured civilians at random for sacrifice, when in reality, although the Mayans certainly did practice human sacrifice, they usually sacrificed prisoners of war from the nobles and never abducated sacrificial victims from villages. The film shows Mayans practicing mass sacrifice (usually attributed instead to the Aztecs), despite there being no evidence of Mayan mass graves. The film depicts the Mayans as inured in the widespread practice of slavery, holding large numbers of slaves even though there’s no evidence that large numbers of slaves were held in Mayan cities. The film’s setting in 1502 has little to do with any actual Mayan collapse, and instead exists to situate Mayan decline and decadence as a prelude to the necessary salvation of colonial Christianity.
The treatment of Mayan civilization in Apocalyto is something that did not go unnoticed by critics, historians, and archaeologists, and there were critical voices that pointed to the many problems of the way Mayans were depicted in the movie, especially only a decade or so after the a genocidal civil war in Guatemala in which indigenous Mayans were targeted for extermination off the back of xenophobic narratives in which the Maya were presented as bloodthirsty savages. But, take stock. Can you imagine Hollywood making a movie depicting the atrocities of Christian crusades against the Cathars for the sake of maintaining the power of the Catholic Church? Or about how people who continued to worship Odin in places like Sweden were executed during the Middle Ages? Or the Inquisition that was carried out in Goa? For some reason, I doubt we will see those movies, because Christianity, contrary to some perceptions, has not yet entered the status where you can make movies specifically to highlight the atrocities of Christian power. Or perhaps, alternatively, it is because it is easier to convey grandiose narratives of “progress” by highlighting archetypal constructions of regression and degeneracy that stand in opposition to the march of reason and progress from the lens of secular, post-Enlightenment society. It could be one of many reasons, insofar as the dynamic is constructed and set either way.
As you may already know, I frequently listen to black metal and typically enjoy doing so. Because of that I tend to dip back into a lot of black metal songs from all over the years, and I also tend to listen to compilations as well as albums. I even went out of my to pick up a black metal vinyl while out in the capital city for its own sake (that vinyl, by the way, is Darkthrone’s newest album). Sometimes I pick things up from the scene, curiosities as such, and one of them is a possible conception of Odin as “the dark light”.
Take for example part of the lyrics of “Verborgen in den Tiefen der Wälder…” by Bergthron:
Verborgen in Wäldern, die niemand kennt
geschützt durch Bäume, wenn das Licht Gottes brennt,
leben wir… wir, die dieses Licht nie sahen,
nur Dunkelheit… Odins Licht…
“Dunkelheit” in German translates to “darkness” in English, and that word is recognizable as a name of one Burzum’s songs, from the album Filosofem. The lyrics posit darkness is “Odin’s light”, in opposition to the light of God, from which the trees of the forests offer protection. In what sense could darkness be the light of Odin? It’s certainly not an idea I’m familiar with in Norse polytheism, both ancient and modern, so might it be a specific product of the 1990s black metal scene? I suspect Burzum may have had similar ideas floating around. According to a Deprived zine interview conducted in 1995 about the Burzum album Hvis lyset tar oss, Varg Vikernes said that the album was about how, what the Christians called light, he would call “darkness”. It is perhaps not unreasonable to assume that what the Christians call darkness, Varg would call light. The same interview also sees Varg talk about his Odinist beliefs, so perhaps Odin is his light? Varg has himself talked about Odin as the adversary of the Christian God, and a lot of this is very probably projected from the “Satanic” background from which black metal emerged. It’s also true that, during the reign of Christianity, Odin was considered either another devil or a name for The Devil himself, and Odin and the other Norse gods were treated as companions and servants of the Devil in order to solidify the grip of Christian faith on the Scandinavian and Germanic cultures. It also helps that Odin has some very dark and grim aspects that don’t feature in modern sanitized depictions of him, being considered the lord of the ghouls and the hanged and a putrefying varg (wolf) being an emblem of his power, to say nothing of Odin’s nature as a psychopomp carrying the souls of the slain.
It is easy to see why black metallers would end up more attracted to Odin and some variety of heathen religion surrounding him than to Satan and Satanism. Satan is but the accusing angel of the Old Testament, who morphed into a principle of abstract evil to counter God’s good, and became the scapegoat of a religion that cannot justify why the Good God lets evil into the world. Odin, by contrat, could not only be seen as an older deity but is a much more manifestly complex deity than the accusing angel. Much more than the god of war who ruled the Aesir as he’s seen today, he was a god of knowledge and wisdom, of divine ecstasy and inspiration (what is often called “divine madness” today) from which his very name derives, of magic (even feminine magic), of poetry, of the dead (or, at least, those slain in battle), of necromancy, and a patron of outlaws just as much as rulers. A magnificently rich deity, it’s not for nothing that the Romans considered him to be a foreign version of their god Mercury, since Mercury, or Hermes, was also a trickster figure who carried the souls of the dead and was worshipped as a patron of theives and necromancy, and as a matter of fact the Romans referred to Wednesday (named for “Woden’s day”) as “Mercurii dies”, the day of Mercury.
Unfortunately we do not get much closer to grasping ideas of the “dark light of Odin”, so all I can do is insert my own interpretative efforts, and in this regard, something from Jung is perhaps informative. Jung talked about “the light of nature” as the “ignis mercurialis”, the underworld fire synonymous with “the pagan cosmos and aion”. The light of nature in Jung’s thought was the light that shows humans the workings of nature in the manner of natural-mystical “revelation” as opposed to the light of God, that is the light of theology and ecclesiastical revelation, and the former is associated by Jung with pagan knowledge and the latter with Christian “knowledge”. And of course, the light of nature was signified by Mercurius, or Mercury, Hermes, the Greco-Roman chthonic god who the Orphic hymns described as a “divine revealer”. Jung often compared Mercurius with Lucifer, the Devil, and treated them as archetypal aspects of each other, and in some sense it’s not for nothing that the Devil in Christian cultural mythology resembles more a pagan god than the angel he was in the Bible. Insofar as the Devil could be thought of in those terms, he seems to be a chthonic god par excellence, constructed specifically to take on a role similar to Hades and taking together many different aspects of various gods, not to mention being identified with Odin by Christian missionaries. If Odin is a “dark light”, then we might say that, from a black metal perspective at least, and perhaps even from some sort of left hand path pagan perspective, he is a represenative of the light of paganism insofar as Hermes/Mercurius was.