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The Hatred Born on Sinai:
Jan Assmann’s Moses the Egyptian

assmann-moses-the-egyptian-harvard-university2,520 words

Translations: French, SlovakSpanish

Jan Assmann
Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997

When I first read Jan Assmann’s Moses the Egyptian in June of 1997, it was a life-changing experience. Moses the Egyptian belongs to the rarest genre of academic books: the bold and exciting ones. Although he is a careful, rigorous, highly specialized scholar, Assmann ranges over the full breadth of Western thought and even reaches toward the eternal, all in order to illuminate the great wound in Western history: the emergence of Biblical monotheism.

Now Professor Emeritus of Egyptology at the University of Heidelberg, Assmann is one of the leading Egyptologists of the last half century. Late in his career, beginning with Moses the Egyptian, Assmann began publishing a series of books exploring the common roots and little-known connections of two traditions that run from Ancient Egypt to the present day: Biblical monotheism and Egyptian pantheism or “cosmotheism.”

(Assmann’s other relevant volumes in English are The Price of Monotheism [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010], Of God and Gods: Egypt, Israel, and the Rise of Monotheism [Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2008], Religio Duplex: How the Enlightenment Reinvented Egyptian Religion [Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press, 2014], and the forthcoming From Akhenaten to Moses: Ancient Egypt and Religious Change [Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2014]. I hope to review all of these in due time.)

Modern Egyptologists tend to dismiss accounts of Ancient Egypt from late antiquity, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment, since they were not based on an understanding of the Ancient Egyptian language, which was lost in late antiquity and recovered only after Jean-François Champollion published his decipherment of the Rosetta Stone in 1822. According to this neglected tradition, the “esoteric” wisdom of the Ancient Egyptians is that behind all gods and creatures, there is one hidden god who manifests himself as the whole world of plurality — gods, mortals, and all other beings — occupying the world as the soul occupies the body. God is thus immanent in nature and both “one and all” (hen kai pan). Assmann calls this form of pantheism “cosmotheism.” (Not to be confused with the cosmotheism of William Pierce, although there are some doctrinal overlaps.)

Cosmotheist ideas appear in the Corpus Hermeticum from late antiquity, which returned to Europe from Byzantium in the 15th century (along with the writings of Plato) and helped spark the Renaissance. In the 17th and 18th centuries, cosmotheism became associated with the pantheism of Baruch Spinoza as well as deism and Freemasonry.

Hermeticism played an important role in liberating the European mind from Christianity, since it presented itself as an Egyptian wisdom tradition dating before the time of Moses, thus a providing a frame of reference older than the Bible. It was important for the Hermetic tradition to be older than the Bible, since it was impossible simply to reject Christianity, but it was hoped that by subsuming it within a larger tradition, it would be possible to wean it away from religious intolerance and persecution. This was, of course, tried by ancient polytheists as well, but without success.

Although the texts of the Corpus Hermeticum are written in Greek and Latin and date from the second and third centuries CE, Assmann argues that the core ideas of the Corpus Hermeticum and related lore about ancient Egyptian wisdom are indeed consistent with genuine Egyptian sources that are far older than the time of Moses, meaning that there was an unbroken tradition that transmitted genuine Egyptian wisdom teachings to the Ancient Greeks and Romans and through them to the modern world.

(For more on Hermeticism, see Garth Fowden, The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993], Frances A. Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964], and Florian Ebeling, The Secret History of Hermes Trismegistus: Hermeticism from Ancient to Modern Times [Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2007].)

Assmann also connects the Biblical monotheism founded by Moses to the mid-14th century BCE Egyptian heretic pharaoh Akhnaton through little-known Egyptian and Greco-Roman traditions which give the Egyptian view of the exodus story. These traditions are quite interesting, but they do not establish a direct link between Moses and Akhnaton.

Oddly enough, though, Assmann mentions in passing but does not exploit the long-known and quite significant parallels between Akhnaton’s Hymns to the Sun and Psalm 104. Since Akhnaton’s hymns are at least 500 years older than Psalm 104, since Akhnaton’s memory was pretty much obliterated in Egypt shortly after his death, and since there is no evidence of a third common source of both texts, the reasonable conclusion is that there was a direct tradition between Akhnaton and the Bible. (Since only two religious texts by Akhnaton have survived, it is always possible that other Biblical texts also incorporate lost works of the heretic pharaoh. Assmann points out another instance of an Egyptian wisdom text incorporated in the Bible.)

There are, moreover, more than just textual parallels between Akhnaton’s monotheism and the Biblical version. There are also doctrinal similarities. Both monotheisms are premised on the negation of Egyptian polytheism. Furthermore, both monotheisms declare themselves the only true religion and condemn other religions as simply false. Finally, both monotheisms are not content merely to declare other religions false. They also seek to destroy them by closing temples, defacing images, destroying writings, and persecuting believers.

One of Assmann’s most interesting concepts is “counter-religion.” He argues that both Akhnaton’s monotheism and the Bible’s emerged as counter-religions to Egyptian polytheism. Indeed, all new religions, or reform movements within religions, define themselves in opposition to what came before them. However, in the case of Jewish monotheism, counter-religion took on the form of what Assmann calls “normative inversion,” meaning that the Jews arrived at their concept of the sacred simply by inverting and profaning what the Egyptians regarded as sacred. For instance, since the Egyptians held the bull and the ram to be sacred animals, Jewish law prescribes that they be sacrificed.

Although Assmann does not draw this conclusion, his argument supports the idea that the “slave revolt in morals” that Nietzsche saw at the root of Christian morality goes all the way back to the creation of Judaism at Mount Sinai. Judaism, in short, is no more a religion than Anton LaVey’s Satanism is. Both are just counter-religions, i.e., hateful inversions — “Satanic” parodies — of other religions or counter-religions.

The Babylonian Talmud (Sabbat 89a) claims that Sinai received its name because it is the place from which hate (sin’ah) descended upon the world. This is a rather precise description of the original motive of Judaism and its historical consequences to the present day. (Naturally the Talmud inverts this truth with the old Semitic canard that the hate comes from the goyim who are jealous of the chosen.) (See The Price of Monotheism, p. 21.)

Another of Assmann’s key concepts is the “Mosaic distinction,” which draws a line between true and false religions, and which applies to both Akhnaton and Moses. Both claimed that their religions were the one true religion and that all other religions are therefore false. But they did not just dismiss other religions as false. They demanded that they be hated, persecuted, and destroyed as rivals, parodies, or perversions of the one true faith. Thus with the Mosaic distinction, the claim of exclusive truth gives rise to religious intolerance and violence. (The distinction is named for Moses rather than Akhnaton because the latter was forgotten for more than 3,000 years, whereas Moses was recognized as the founder of a monotheist tradition that is alive and up to no good even today.)

Ancient polytheists, by contrast, were not threatened by the existence of other religions. When faced with gods, myths, and rituals different from their own, they did not conclude that, since truth is one, all other religions are false. Instead, they inferred the existence of a common divine reality that manifested itself in a plurality of different guises. Thus they concluded that on the essential question of honoring the reality of the divine, all religions are the same and must, therefore, be treated with respect. And since the differences between divine names, images, myths, and rites do not interfere with the essential function of religion, they are not impediments to the truth but rather the ways in which the divine manifests itself to different peoples. Thus religious diversity is not merely something to be suffered and tolerated but to be embraced and enjoyed.

Ancient polytheism did not just promote religious tolerance. It also helped promote peace between nations in an age of constant warfare and bloodshed. The idea of a universal divine order served as a foundation for international law and peace between nations. Men of the same nation could bind themselves in agreements by swearing oaths to their common gods. Men of different nations could sign contacts and treaties by recognizing that their different gods named the same divine order that was binding on all of them. According to Assmann, this idea of the mutual “translatability” of different pantheons is attested by Mesopotamian tables of correspondences from the third millennium BCE.

In other texts, I will deal with Assmann’s development of these themes in Moses the Egyptian from antiquity through the 17th and 18th centuries down to Freud’s Moses and Monotheism. Here I wish to discuss Assmann’s importance for Traditionalism and the New Right.

Pagan cosmotheism — the idea that behind the plurality of different religions is a single divine order which manifests itself in diverse ways — is the root of the Traditionalist idea of the “Transcendent Unity of Religions.” To state it boldly, what Traditionalists call the one Tradition just is pagan cosmotheism, which receives its earliest known articulation in Ancient Egypt. Alongside this tradition of “perennial philosophy” is the perennial mystical tradition, the common core of which is the individual’s experience of his identity with the hidden one. “All” are identical with the “one,” but only the few directly experience this identity.

It is important, however, for Traditionalists to recognize that the transcendent unity of religions is rejected by Biblical monotheism, which defines itself as the negation of polytheism, not its fulfillment in the notion of a common divine order. Polytheists regard all religions as true, whereas monotheists regard only their religion as true and all other religions as false. Polytheists are happy to grant that Biblical monotheism is true too. They are eager to identify the Biblical God with their own sovereign gods. But to do this, polytheists must deny the truth of one of the Biblical God’s essential features: his claim to be the one true God.

Biblical monotheists also reject unitative mysticism as blasphemy. The idea of creation ex nihilo means that creatures are not identical with God but merely depend upon God for their existence. The perennial mystical teaching is that one’s ownmost being is identical with being/god as such, whereas the idea of creation means that our ownmost being is precisely our nullity — i.e., our absolute dependence on a transcendent and wholly other God. Creation theology posits a metaphysical abyss between God and creation that cannot be bridged by any creaturely act.

Why, then, do polytheists — from late antiquity to present-day Traditionalists — try to convince Biblical monotheists that there is a higher religious order that can reconcile their conflicting accounts of the divine? The primary reason is their desire to combat monotheistic intolerance and persecution. This was necessary even in antiquity, when Biblical monotheists lived under polytheist regimes that tried to constrain their worst tendencies. It became even more urgent when Biblical monotheists could use the coercive power of the state to persecute nonbelievers and heretics.

Restraining monotheism’s persecuting zeal is a noble motive. But it does not alter the fact that it is intellectually incoherent to include Biblical monotheism within the one, primordial, perennial Tradition. That Tradition is integrally pagan, polytheist, and cosmotheist. Traditionalism can only embrace Biblical monotheism by denaturing it, i.e., by denying one of its essential traits, its claim to exclusive truth. Thus every Traditionalist is a heretic by Biblical standards. Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Traditionalism are contradictions in terms. Assmann’s Biblical “counter-religions” belong alongside “counter-tradition” and “counter-initiation” as negations of Tradition.

When René Guénon lived in France, he was a Catholic. When he lived in Egypt, he was a Muslim. But he was a Traditionalist the whole time. Guénon was too intelligent to overlook the fact that Biblical monotheism cannot be reconciled with the Tradition. He was merely paying lip service to the dominant religion of the polity in which he lived in order to avoid intolerance and persecution.

Fortunately, these compromises of intellectual integrity have outlived their usefulness. In the Western world, at least, Traditionalists no longer need pretend, because the Enlightenment — guided in part by the Hermetic tradition, which influenced Freemasonry — has replaced Biblical intolerance with pagan tolerance.

It is time for Traditionalists to come to grips with the fact that they cannot be both Traditionalists and Biblical monotheists. The one Tradition is, always was, and always will be integrally pagan. It is time for Traditionalists to come to grips with the fact that where the Enlightenment has triumphed, they no longer need to pretend to be Biblical monotheists. It is time for Traditionalists to come to grips with the fact that the Enlightenment’s triumph is, in large part, their own triumph as well, meaning a triumph of Hermetic Freemasonry.

It is, moreover, high time for Traditionalists to stop consorting with the enemy under the umbrella of a misunderstood Traditionalism, i.e., associating with reactionary Christians and Muslims who wish to undo the Enlightenment and return to the totalitarian darkness of Biblical theocracy. The followers of Guénon who, through a double misunderstanding of esotericism, have converted to Islam while living in the West need to come to grips with the fact that they are serving as vectors of Biblical, totalitarian, counter-religious subversion in the very societies where the Tradition has had the greatest success in restoring the religious pluralism and tolerance that follows from the one Tradition. The same is true of Western Traditionalists who convert to Eastern Orthodoxy. In a double irony, such conversions are only possible because of the religious freedom that these Traditionalists profess to loathe, and that freedom is the one existing political triumph of the Tradition they profess to revere.

Moses the Egyptian has important implications for neo-pagans as well. First, Assmann demonstrates the persistence of a living pagan wisdom tradition from Ancient Egypt to the present day. Second, although cosmotheism is, of course, transcendently one with Asatru, its roots are deeper. It is pre-Indo-European, which to me means: closer to the first emergence of European man in the paleolithic era. Third, cosmotheism offers a very different and highly refined aesthetic and mythology: Egyptian, but also Greek and Roman. (The Greeks and Romans were Indo-European peoples, but their mythology and religion are primarily pre-Indo-European Mediterranean in origin.) Mediterranean cosmotheism is, in short, an alternative to Robert E. Howard paganism, a paganism without barbarism.

And all this is just a taste of the intellectually challenging, clarifying, and ultimately liberating implications of Assmann’s work.



  1. JHRP
    Posted June 28, 2014 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    >It is pre-Indo-European, which to me means: closer to the first emergence of European man in the paleolithic era.

    This raises the question then, can the emergence of Tradition with a “T” even be convincingly linked with European man himself? Of course this is a question that will most likely never be answered with certainty.

  2. Ea
    Posted June 28, 2014 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    This post almost made me feel like a girl screaming for Justin Bieber. Thank you so much for this Greg. I’ve read this book 3 years ago (the Spanish version). I was… stunned! Its the most ‘anti-jewish’ book ever made. I’m glad that someone else, in another part in the world felt and make allmost the same conclusions. Every ‘rightish’ reader should read the Assmann Trilogy (Moses, Price and God and gods). To grap the Hen Kai Pan – Deus Sive Natura and Normative Inversion. Assmann basicaly said “Jewish are a subversive by nature” – “Jewish – monotheism is essentialy anti sacred” and plenty of other interesting points. I will translate this text somewhere along this week. Thank you for this Greg. I’m proud of all the work that’s being done here. The closest thing we have in Spanish to Counter-Currents is . Another good book of this type is

    Also my friends on the Spanish ‘right’ found my translation of ‘Hitler’s Burden’ a very sharp and factual analysis.

    I’m sorry for being so ‘overwhelmed’ by joy but I must express this way because I’ve felt for so many years that I was “alone”, too many anti-intellectual ‘rightish’ groups, speakers and ‘leaders’ that cant grasp a single idea because they’re too lazy to think and expend time reading.

    Sorry for broken english, its really hard to express myself. You are doing a marvelous work, keep it up.

  3. Eld
    Posted June 28, 2014 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    “It is time for Traditionalists to come to grips with the fact that they cannot be both Traditionalists and Biblical monotheists. The one Tradition is, always was, and always will be integrally pagan.”


  4. Posted June 28, 2014 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think this conflicts with the Bible. Monotheistic worship predates the Hebrews, as is shown in the Bible by Melchizedek. The overall arc of the Hebrew/Jewish religion in the Old Testament is one of hubris and tragedy. God tried an experiment of having a people be holy by living according to dictates of law, and they failed miserably. Jesus restores the normal order, which is that there are rules, but they don’t confer holiness in their obedience, because only God is holy.

    If all the gods just represent one God, why not just worship the one God?

    • Franklin Ryckaert
      Posted June 29, 2014 at 5:39 am | Permalink

      “…If all gods just represent one God, why not just worship the one God?…”

      Good question. The one God of monotheism is for many people too far and too abstract to feel any emotional connection with. Therefore many gods closer to humanity are preferred. You see this tendency also in Catholicism with all its cults of “saints” who often fulfil the same role as the many gods in polytheism. In Hinduism you have a similar situation : many gods but behind them the cosmic “abstract” God Brahman. Devotional cults in Hinduism (“Bhakti”) are all directed at lower concrete gods (such as Rama or Krishna). In Buddhism all gods, even a “creator”, are considered as useless for one’s salvation, which should be achieved by one’s own effort allone.

      • Greg Johnson
        Posted June 29, 2014 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        Well said.

      • amspirnational
        Posted July 1, 2014 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

        not in Shin Buddhism

      • Ea
        Posted July 1, 2014 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

        The Devas are not at all ‘God’s in the occidental monotheist point of view. They’re allways emanations of the One, Unborn, Brahma, etc.

  5. White Republican
    Posted June 29, 2014 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    Greg Johnson notes:

    “But the Mosaic distinction does not just dismiss other religions as false. It demands that they be hated, persecuted, and destroyed as rivals, parodies, or perversions of the one true faith. With the Mosaic distinction the claim of exclusive truth gives rise to religious intolerance and violence.”

    The Jew Douglas Rushkoff effectively confirmed the above when he said:

    “The thing that makes Judaism dangerous to everybody, to every race, to every nation, to every idea is that we smash things that aren’t true. We don’t believe in the boundaries of nation-state. We don’t believe in the ideas of these individual gods that protect individual groups of people. These are all artificial constructions and Judaism really teaches us how to see that. In a sense our detractors have us right, in that we are a corrosive force. We’re breaking down the false gods of all nations and all people because they’re not real. And that’s very upsetting to people.”

    A “counter-religion” indeed.

    • Franklin Ryckaert
      Posted June 29, 2014 at 8:12 am | Permalink

      Translate that into secular terms and you understand why Jews are always a corrosive force everywhere they settle. Formerly they attacked the “false” gods of paganism, now they are attacking the “false” values of our society.

    • Posted June 29, 2014 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      Sounds rather like the Taliban or ISIS, doncha think?

      Tradition [T], T + historical clothing [HC] , T+ HC + ignorance [I], T+ HC + I + fanaticism


      Tradition, Sufism, Islam, ISIS
      Tradition, Qabbalah, Judaism, Hasidism
      Tradition, Eckhart, Roman Catholicism,Southern Baptists

    • George
      Posted June 29, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      Do you know where this Rushkoff quote is from?

  6. meh
    Posted June 29, 2014 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    “If all the gods just represent one God, why not just worship the one God?”

    Because attempts to define or articulate what this one God is always fail or fall short.

    What happens is that instead of getting everyone worshiping the one God, you get everyone fighting each other over whose god is the one true God and/or whose interpretation of God is correct and/or who is worshiping the one God correctly, and so on.

    In a sense, any attempt to force a single understanding of God on everyone is a kind of blasphemy. The god that can be named, defined, and delineated is not the one God.

    And how can the one God have a “chosen people”? The idea is absurd. Yahweh can only pretend to be the one God. It is presumptuous of him.

    At bottom I find monotheism of the Abrahamic/Moses type to be more than a little irreligious. It is a monotheism that is one god shy of atheism. It tries to simplify by subtraction, which is a mistake.

  7. Carl
    Posted June 29, 2014 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    “It is time for Traditionalists to come to grips with the fact that the Enlightenment’s triumph is, in large part, their own triumph as well, meaning a triumph of Hermetic Freemasonry.”

    A very interesting statement, so many rightest thinkers are against Freemasonry and the Enlightenment. I wonder if that is because in France and Catholic Europe both movements were involved in the French Revolution and other bloody disorders.

    In English-speaking countries those movements seem to be more tame and well, tolerant.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted June 29, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      There are many different strands of Freemasonry, many of which were up to no good, so I can’t applaud the movement as a whole over its centuries of existence. But it is indisputable that (1) Freemasonry was one channel through which ancient pagan traditions returned to the modern world and (2) combated secular and religious tyranny and intolerance. And those are good things.

      There are all sorts of good Right-wing reasons for opposing some forms of Freemasonry at some times, but the main reason for Right-wing anti-Masonry is simple Throne and Altar, especially Catholic, partisanship, which as a non-Christian and a believer in classical republicanism, I cannot share.

      • Catiline
        Posted June 29, 2014 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

        “[T]he main reason for Right-wing anti-Masonry is simple Throne and Altar, especially Catholic, partisanship, which as a non-Christian and a believer in classical republicanism, I cannot share.”

        Thrones and Altars are the essence of Paganism. Classical republicanism is shot through with them. Modern republicanism is the main conduit for Europe’s enemies.

        • Greg Johnson
          Posted June 29, 2014 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

          When people use the phrase “throne and altar” they are speaking of the old European regime, and the mutual support of the church and the state, part of which is the state’s role in persecuting the enemies of the church.

    • Catiline
      Posted June 29, 2014 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

      “In English-speaking countries those movements seem to be more tame and well, tolerant.”

      The word seem is key here. Rightists on the Continent understand the dual nature of British Masonry. This dualism functions in the same way as that between Jews and Gentiles.

  8. Don
    Posted June 29, 2014 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic piece. Weaves a bunch of disparate threads into a coherent cloth.

    Philosophy of Religion major here, Classics minor, just expressing my appreciation (like the Spaniard, Ea, above) for having stumbled upon an oasis.

    Agree that it is very important not to reject tolerant eclecticism of freemasonry as does the conventional right. Noticed the connection between Akhenaten and Christian monotheism in Art history class. After Akhenaton’s heresy, the pharaohs literally defaced the stele and bas relief depicting him.

    Simply, very well done. Thank you.

  9. Lorenz
    Posted June 29, 2014 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    This book claims Moses was Akenaten; “a direct tradition between Akhenaten and the Bible.”

  10. IBM
    Posted June 29, 2014 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I am surprised that Greg Johnson likes Freemasonry. The symbol for Freemasonry has a strong geometrical resemblance to the Star of David, and it seems to be widely thought that this connection is more than just coincidental. Freemasons are required to believe that there is only one god, which is not compatible with polytheism. Freemasonry also promotes universal brotherhood, which isn’t so helpful for whites these days.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted June 29, 2014 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      Freemasonry is a complex phenomenon. There is a strong monotheistic/Hebraic current and also a Hermetic/pantheistic/pagan counter-current that sought foundations outside of Biblical monotheism. The latter tendency is more to my liking.

      • Br Evola
        Posted June 30, 2014 at 2:34 am | Permalink

        I believe Evola’s view was that both subversive and traditional forces use the same ‘objective’ symbols and knowledge found in Masonry. The knowledge isn’t good or bad. Masonry was once a force for tradition, but it became corrupted and infiltrated. Essentially it is the gentile wing of subversion.

  11. Jaego
    Posted June 29, 2014 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    You can’t go back to Nature worship now. We have lost our innocence. To try to do it now results in orgies, sterile silliness, and/or Satanism. The real living Pagan Traditions had links with the Transcendent. They are all gone in the West with Hinduism the only remaining one even vaguely connected with our people. But you can’t create a religion since they are movements of the Divine towards Man. Martin Lings compared them to a Tide – and the pools left behind by the retreating waters are the various true religions. There will be no more Revelations, no more such Tides in the Age.

    So we are “stuck” with what we’ve got – unless you want to take the journey to the East. It is unfortunate that the Greeks, Germans, and Celts didn’t maintain the esoteric side of their religions or that they were conquered and subsumed by Christianity. But that’s the way it worked out. The Celtic Church kept some of the flavor of Druidism, and some say that some of the Druids accepted it and had even been waiting for it. But the Church of Rome stamped out the Celtic Church. Yes, there has been far too much stamping. Monotheism and Mono Churches are good for creating centralized states – and that’s why a lot of this happened.

    But the Abrahamic Religions do teach we are made in God’s image even if He does make us out of “nothing”. In other words, He didn’t go to Kmart or the lumber yard for materials but rather made us out of Himself. The Upanishads compare it to a spider making a web out of himself. At the higher levels, the two Traditions become more alike just as climbers approach each other as they come near the summit – even if they started far apart.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted June 29, 2014 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

      I disagree. The Traditionalists are wrong to claim there is no living pagan tradition in the West. Assmann shows that. And aside from the horizontal transmission of tradition, there is the vertical dimension of direct religious experience. Nature solicits our wonder and piety every day. Whereas Christianity is a dying faith. What do you have left once you subtract the cowards, conformists, philistines, and cynics from most churches? Genuinely religious Christians are probably rarer than sincere pagans these days.

      • Smythe
        Posted July 1, 2014 at 5:59 am | Permalink

        Greg, if you’re going to be strict as to who constitutes a Christian then you ought to apply the same criteria to Paganism, and piety toward Nature is not sufficient.

        I would wager that there are, in fact, no real Pagans anywhere in the West. Who could properly be considered a Pagan? The miniscule number of people playing dress up in a forest? The New Age types whose spirituality seems to be identical to liberalism? Or perhaps the so called “neo-pagans” of the New Right/Alternative Right, deracinated urbanites all of them? In my experience, the “neo-pagan’s” worldview is Nietzchean, which means they are atheistic humanists and hence little more than the mirror image of their supposed enemies. They love the Enlightenment (which in essence was about man’s domination of nature), they just believe we’ve taken a bit of a wrong turn.

        • Br Evola
          Posted July 2, 2014 at 4:55 am | Permalink

          That’s nonsense. I am a pagan, there is nothing silly about this disposition! It’s not a fad.

          In my view, European paganism is tremendously realistic and doesn’t necessarily involve any form of ritual. At least in my case, paganism is more of an attitude and life project towards fulfilling an ideal. I am a Roman pagan, and live and fight with nearly the same understanding that my ancestors had of their cosmological place in the world.

          Paganism is a worldview, which comes with a certain understanding of the cyclical nature of life, mythical basis for how our life narrative evolves, relationship between divinity and nature, and teachings on the after life (varies greatly). Aryan paganism is assertive; it claims that men are the makers of their fate, within limitation. We are part of a grander genetic and historical lineage, of which we draw strength and direction.

          In this sense, Nietzschean materialism, and Traditionalism, or the Platonic sort Evola described, can coexist in the modern world as legitimate personal mechanisms of self-expresssion. I would call these two worldviews, roughly, ‘pagan’.

          … and I don’t conduct ‘rituals’ because that would be completely fake and inauthentic, yet, I feel as though you can still live and feel like a ‘pagan’ through proper study, reflection, and action. Paganism (of the kind expressed by Seneca, Plato, and Julian) is a way of being, not a religion or dogma.

  12. Pelican
    Posted June 30, 2014 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    To view paganism as “nature religion” is indicative of the same spiritual blindness that accounts for a fealty to rationalism, humanism, and modern science. People see what they can see and must filter ideas accordingly. Paganism, especially that of Egypt, had a constant eye upon life after death and upon the spiritual attitudes that would best prepare one for death’s journey to heaven. The alchemists (the Arabian ones, the English ones, the Catholic ones, the Protestant ones) sought worthiness to understand the workings of creation by striving to achieve piety. Without purity of heart, the stone could not be prepared no matter how many years the mere “puffer” labored over his mortar, retorts, and athenor. The secrets are neither intended for the profane, nor are they accessible without an act of God (or the intervention of the Great White Brotherhood, believe it or not). It is axiomatic in Hermetic lore that the Master arrives only when the student is ready, which roughly translates as “spiritually worthy”. Always on the peripheries are there charlatans, humanists, black magicians, materialists, satanists, powermongers and control freaks who want eternal life on their own terms, gold-lined boudoirs, and the chance to practice their lusts in accord with the motto: “(D)o what thou wilt”. But we are led to (true) enlightenment, stage by stage, only insofar as we demonstrate our worth to the Realm of the Eternal. I am reminded of an adage by an alchemist whose name I cannot think of to the effect that man must be avaricious of time, for it is of infinite value to those who know how to use it.
    Radical Traditionalism does posit the transcendent unity of all true religions and it does urge active participation in a single religion in order to avail oneself of the initiations and rites provided thereby. And yes, the Traditionalists in such circumstances need to deal with the parochialism of those who do not see that heaven is so merciful that it provided several avenues for salvation. This is easier once one admits that this type of parochialism does not necessarily bar the Way. This issue need not be made more complicated than that.

    • Jaego
      Posted June 30, 2014 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      You are right. I was referring to Paganism as I have seen it the modern West. Obviously Classical Paganism went far beyond Nature – without despising Her. Admirable indeed. I love that old picture of the alchemist peeking beyond the veil to see all the gears and pulleys. And no one can say Hinduism is stuck on matter, but it has that lovely incarnated aspect full of color, rhythm, music, and dance.

      But by the same token, the Monotheists don’t hate Nature as much or as often as the Pagans claim. The Bible is full of the wonders of Nature as is the Koran. Likewise Christian Mystics, like the Mystics of all Faiths, tell us to appreciate Nature but then give praise to the One who created it. With a Platonic dash, Lings tells us that the gardens here below are only a poor reflection of the that Garden that awaits us.

      • Greg Johnson
        Posted June 30, 2014 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

        The Hebews did not just destroy idols, they cut down sacred groves. Iconoclasm is just one application of the broader idea of the desacralization of matter (nature and material artifacts) — the corollary of which is the command to subdue/use nature — ideas that are implications of the idea of creation out of nothing by a transcendent god.

        • Jaego
          Posted July 1, 2014 at 4:16 am | Permalink

          I admit that such desacralization is one possible outcome of having a radically transcendent God. But what I said is also true: they believed that the World was full of the signs of the Maker, beauty being one of them. There are also possible negatives for believing the Universe to be part of God. Since the world is so flawed, what does it say of such a God? Perhaps one might end up believing that a lower god or demiurge created it or that the creation was a mistake or an illusion of the mind. Or on a more ordinary level, if the world was God without qualification, what meaning does liberation or enlightenment have?

          Also bear in mind the Greek input into Christian Theology. God was definitely defined as the Good – ending (until Zio-Christianity at least) the tyranny of a tribal god whose capricious decrees had nothing to do with the Good. Islam has struggled with this more sometimes claiming the decrees are good because God said them – which leaves the Good behind in favor of Power as the ultimate value.

    • Pelican
      Posted July 1, 2014 at 7:58 am | Permalink

      I intended to support you, by “seconding” your positions.

      There are those who view paganism as a nature religion (and I well know you’re not one of them) thereby rendering themselves even more complacent. They suppose, I gather, that wizardry, cthonism, orgiastic firelight encounters, and God knows what other sillinesses lend support to their precious inductive method of reasoning. They weigh each grain of sand and see that it is good, all the while oblivious to the sublime ramifications of, for example, Beauty. They explain away their fears of thunder, put band aids over their illnesses, and conspire to achieve earthly power and immortality, all the while advancing the absurd position that the ancestors were inferior thinkers, even mere nature worshippers, disadvantaged by not having had access to modern gadgetry and gizmos.

      All vanity and chutzpah — the revolt of Pride against the Divine Order.

  13. Donar van Holland
    Posted June 30, 2014 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    I refer to the standard work about the Germanic religion “Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte” by Jan de Vries for the following claim: that faith was NOT that much concerned with nature or nature spirits. That is a late development. The real focal point was the cult of the ancestors, the heroes, the gods and the tribe: it was about the community in the universe.

    Alexander Dugin seems a very interesting modern illustration for the difficult relation between Tradition and monotheism. I tend to dismiss Dugin as an enemy in our racial struggle. As a kind of Russian neocon or Russian imperialist. But I wonder if he has a double agenda. I came across this intriguing article:

    It seems he thinks there is a place for the “Left Hand Path”, even in Orthodoxy. And I would venture that this Left Hand Path is the essence of paganism. His article almost reads like a piece of the Order of the Nine Angles. What is Dugin up to?

  14. Petronius
    Posted July 1, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    “When René Guénon lived in France, he was a Catholic. When he lived in Egypt, he was a Muslim. But he was a Traditionalist the whole time. Guénon was too intelligent to overlook the fact that Biblical monotheism cannot be reconciled with the Tradition. He was merely paying lip service to the dominant religion of the polity in which he lived in order to avoid intolerance and persecution.”

    Guénon was raised a catholic, but living in laicist, secular France of the early 20th century he would hardly have been persecuted or have suffered intolerance for being non-catholic or abandoning the faith. His conversion to Sufism and Islam predated his moving to Egypt for probably decades. I think his writings leave no doubt that he sincerely believed that all great religions have a common esoteric core. The catholic (I’m not saying Christian) mode of thinking is extremely apparent in works like “Crisis of the Modern World”. He also left the catholic faith precisely because he was not the lip service type – he felt that catholicism no longer could serve as an integral traditionalist force as he understood it. Likewise his commitment to Islam was anything but lip service, though it might indeed seem highly unusual to exoteric orthodox Muslims.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted July 1, 2014 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Obviously, we disagree on the larger point here.

      There were unofficial, social consequences for apostasy in France, even with official religious tolerance. I think one would have to look at Guenon’s family, colleagues, and other associates in France to gain a sense of the pressures he might have faced to outwardly conform.

      • Petronius
        Posted July 1, 2014 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, but you are objectively mistaken about the situation in France here. Also Guénon’s social circles didn’t consist exclusively of catholics either but of a wide range of urban intellectuals and spiritual seekers, and his commitment to actually practicing catholicism ended at a very early stage. At no point did he “pose” as a true-blue catholic and propagate the faith like his friend Maritain and others. “Crisis of the Modern World” is quite clear about what he thought of catholicism and shows he detached he had been at this point. And it also is a fact that his commitment to Islam/Sufism predated his moving to Cairo, in fact he did move there to fully embrace it in the first place, as he thought no true traditional forms where left in the Occident anymore.

        • Greg Johnson
          Posted July 1, 2014 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

          I don’t claim that he propagated the faith, just that he went along with it until he moved to Egypt. I read Crisis differently. It actually strikes me a pro-Catholic. Perhaps it is time to revisit it and other texts.

  15. crusader
    Posted July 4, 2014 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Embrace the “Enlightenment” and Masonry… you have lost sight of all that could be worth striving for. Please stop pretending and just become a GayLeft activist focused openly on bringing tolerance, equality, and diversity to the West.

    What we need is precisely INTOLERANCE, of degenerate art and culture just as of devil-worshipping pagan “religion”. I critique modern Jewish power, but ancient Israel’s righteousness should be admired just as ISIL should be admired today. What other armed force is this ruthless and manly, in the name of godliness and virtue? Have you seen the awesome way they’ve confiscated thousands and thousands of cartons of cancer sticks in Iraq? And we need not bother reading about their attitude on sodomites. Judged by any Traditionalist understanding, ancient Israel and ISIL, along with our own crusaders, represent the pinnacle of mankind in terms of natural human excellence. Hypertolerant baccanalians don’t.

    I consider your adulation of Asshat your final act of apostasy. I knew something was amiss when you distanced yourself from Dugin. You are no Traditionalist in any more sense than those potheads who retch about the unity of all things as they gather round the bong.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted July 4, 2014 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

      This is why I reviewed Assmann: he is immensely clarifying. I am glad you finally see that we are not on the same side. You are a Biblical monotheist, an admirer of Jews, Christians, and Muslims at their absolute Taliban worst, and an opponent of modernity insofar as it contradicts your Biblical monotheism.

      I am a Traditionalist, meaning a pagan, meaning a believer in the transcendent unity of religions, which is incompatible with the monotheism of the Biblical counter-religions. I believe in religious pluralism and tolerance (of every religion that reciprocates the gesture, that is).

      I look favorably on natural science, reason, modernity, and liberalism for breaking the totalitarian power of your religion. That is: I like everything about modernity that you hate, for the very reason that you hate it.

      I don’t think that modern liberalism has any problems that can’t be fixed by ejecting residual traces of Christian anthropology and axiology in favor of a completely pagan outlook, specifically (1) that human races, sexes, and individuals are different and thus have different rights and duties, and (2) individual freedom is a fine thing but it should always trumped by the common good of the whole society whenever there is a conflict.

      I am a White Nationalist, because I think that the highest political aim is to preserve our race. I am not interested in restoring Christendom — or restoring Russia’s multicultural, multiracial empire — or tarring modernity with a wide brush and other knee-jerk reactionary tropes — or any other incompatible and irrelevant agendas bundled together under the rubric of traditionalism today.

      Dugin’s apparent success with White Nationalists is a testimony to the lack of clarity and discernment and intellectual self-confidence in our movement. He’s anti-white, but people who mistake the pro-white agenda for Russia boosting, hating liberalism and modernity, or promoting Christian theocracy, or hating America just don’t see that.

      That’s why Assmann is so useful. Like a meat cleaver is useful. We need to clarify and divide and discard what is incompatible until we have an absolutely purified understand of what is essential, upon which we can then build an effective white advocacy movement. You want something else. Goodbye.

      • Jon
        Posted May 1, 2015 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

        Can you cite where traditional paganism’s outlook is stated to be that races, sexes, and individuals are different and thus have different rights and duties?

        My current understanding is that Christian Hierarchy is representative of the most anti-egalitarian social structure, marked by the fact that something above man is ruler. Explicitly and essentially, it removes man from god-hood. What that does, sociopolitically, is it gives man a moral and evolutionary standard that is always above himself. At its philosophical core, it has the effect of removing all notions of equality from society. Some men will always be a little holier, better, or otherwise closer to God than others and we can measure their standing by their words and actions. I am speaking of traditional Catholicism, not modern Catholicism. This Hierarchical differentiation allows society to openly judge the actions and the potential of the races and sexes.

        Adopting the theory that god is within all men makes all men equally holy. It induces egalitarianism by removing the necessity of man to strive for God. Judaism knows this, embraces such a philosophy at least in its modern form, and circumvents the racial technicality that would put them on par with other humans by declaring that only they are ‘man’ and that non-Jews are instead akin to animals who cannot have God within them.

        Any honest, Orthodox Jew will admit that Christianity and Judaism are opposing concepts. Conflating them both together as “monotheist” is wrong. Traditional Catholics and Jews hate each other for good reason, and that reason extends beyond mere identity as the chosen. It has to do with the theological filter through which they see the world. Once cannot exist at the same time as the other, in full power, because the ruling concepts oppose one another. Jews see themselves as above God, at least in terms of their interpretation of the Law. Their rule is through Judges who have full Sovereignty. Christians see God as Hierarchical above man. Their rule is through Kings, with Christ as the ultimate King whose word is held to be superior to the judgment of any Earthly King.

        I fail to see how one can surmise that people are emanations of God, without concluding racial egalitarianism. You might be able to put it off for a couple of centuries, but the spirit of whatever philosophy underlies the law and religion generally shines through and triumphs. I don’t see how anti-racism is a result of Christianity when one takes into account that the history of Christianity alongside racial liberalism is one of increasing deconstruction.

        Thus, I circle back to my first question and ask what evidence there is, especially in its core philosophy structure, that Hermeticism ensures the distinction between the races and sexes.

        • Buttercup
          Posted October 4, 2020 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

          “Can you cite where traditional paganism’s outlook is stated to be that races, sexes, and individuals are different and thus have different rights and duties?”

          This is discussed at length in my book which uses the show as a vehicle for this premise.

  16. Amenti
    Posted March 16, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Definitely buying the book after this review, thanks.

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