Many modern Pagans (especially reconstructionists) have pointed out that pre-Christian religions are not necessarily “Nature religions”, as their more central concerns can be the ancestors, the gods and spirits, and all aspects of human life, including battle, honour and poetry for instance, but it does remain true that our Pagan ancestors had a much better grasp of both human nature and our relationship to the natural world than religions such as Christianity and Islam. I would like to take up this subject here and look at what I consider to be Christianity’s root error in this regard.
To my mind, the rift created by Christianity is profound and persists to this day in people who consider themselves to be atheists, and within neopaganism (and lately in forms of Satanism) itself. This rift consists in a moral utopianism that cannot reconcile itself with physical reality, and we even find this in the environmental movement, ironically enough.
Modern peoples, under the influence of monotheism, seem to have a great problem coming to terms with the reality of Nature and human nature, of the physical world and of incarnate circumstance. The fact is, this is not a nice world, and human beings are not nice animals. Moreover, however unpleasant this may be for us, it is an act of hubris to imagine that there is something “wrong” with this. It simply is what it is. If you do not come to terms with this, then there arises a compelling drive to change and be at war with Nature, other animals and human animals, and with ourselves.
It would be over-simplistic to think there were just two options here; surrendering to Nature or overcoming Nature, just as it would be disingenuous to pretend that all manner of innovation and creativity has not come out of our alienation from Nature, but I am here concerned with the moral war on both Nature and ourselves, and the literal Utopianism this gives rise to. It is a strange thing, that even as modern people idealise Nature, they imagine that reality can be entirely refashioned, so long as it is in the name of a moral “good”. But the observable fact is that reality cares nothing for human morality. And here again we come to the hubris of monotheism, which has done so much to institute human morality as some kind of imagined universal law, in the hands of an omnipotent intelligence that just happens to coincide with that morality.
Secular Utopianism may have done away with God, but it has kept the omnipotent moralism all the same.
I actually do look for a religion of Nature, though of course that is not all that a religion can be. In this sense I applaud the aspiration of 20th century Pagan revivalists, but I do think it has become re-Christianised, which is as good as having a fine looking cow that happens to include a cancerous flaw. It didn’t used to be as unwell, but it has had the Utopianism reintroduced in the latter part of the 20th Century through secular politics on the one hand, and the ecumenical meanderings of New Age sensibilities on the other.
This is why I say that Pagan religion needs to be anti-monotheist, and non-Utopian, because both are antithetical to coexistence with Nature, and reconciliation with reality. Life is not nice or just, in any human sense, and while we may invent and imagine “rights”, no one objectively has any rights. This doesn’t mean that we can’t have a good life and behave with honour and dignity, it just means that collective delusions of “changing the world” are just that. I believe Satanism at its core understands this, as do quite a few old school forms of Pagan revivalism. Satanism unfortunately has become something of a joke, but the Satanic remains essential for me. Paganism needs the Devil, and it will be brought back by antichrists, not by interfaith and “social relevance”, or other forms of intellectual fashion or emotionalism.
We are a contradictory species, and a contradictory part of Nature. We always have been, and so long as we remain homo sapiens, we will be so. Our collective life has always required us to curb ourselves, to fail in doing so, and learn from the dialogue between physical reality and imagination. The spirit world is the real place for ideals without limit, but we live in this world. Our “crimes” include the discovery of fire and the invention of agriculture. But we do not live in a world of absolutes, of single stories and overarching narratives that are anything other than stories. We still live in stories, albeit degraded to ideology. Christianity didn’t just kill our myths, it replaced them with a bureaucracy of the human spirit. But Nature lives on, inhuman, unconcerned, brutal, beautiful and always seeking the balance it itself destroys to reform in ways none will consciously fathom completely.
Long live the subconscious, and its monstrous flesh.