Christopher Gérard: Guillaume Faye, who are you?
Guillaume Faye: It’s impossible for me to define myself. I am, in any case, multifaceted – not specialised – and ‘polytheistic’ in my own life. Although I graduated from Sciences-Po, have a degree in historical geography and a doctorate in political science, I’ve never taken my qualifications seriously and never used them to ‘succeed’ in bourgeois society or the official intelligentsia. I’ve sold cars door-to-door, hosted comedic shows on mainstream radio and television, written books and articles on every subject, from the most ‘serious’ to the lightest. I’ve worked in advertising and the mainstream press, etc. At the moment, I’m writing books, giving lectures all over Europe, and I’ve just launched a socio-economic newsletter of which I’m very proud.
My ancestral roots are strictly limited, for many generations, to the Gallic ‘regions’ of Poitou-Charentes and Limousin, a fortunate blend of Celtic and Roman traditions. I was raised in the worship of French nationalism, of a Bonapartist tendency, and the paradoxical result was European patriotism. My social background is that of the Parisian upper class, which I know very well from the inside, and whose conformist and materialistic ideals I’ve never shared, never envied, because fundamentally, the lifestyle it offered me wasn’t of interest.
What has been your intellectual journey?
I don’t like the word ‘intellectual’. Allow me this somewhat blunt remark: I’ve always thought that intellectuals are to intelligence what masturbation is to love. The ‘intellectual’ is a narcissistic being, an heir to the theologians of Byzantium, lost in pure (and 95% false) ideas, wasting his time and that of others. Initially, let’s not forget that it’s a pejorative term coined in the 1890s, designating the class of teachers, publicists, and journalists who favoured ideological dogmas over reality. Nothing is less pagan than this term ‘intellectual’! As it enforces a deadly divide between the intellect (Geist) and the living soul (Seele).
My first awakening came from Nietzsche, especially The Joyful Science and The Antichrist, introduced to me by my philosophy teacher while I was with the Jesuits in Paris, a religious order that reluctantly offered Christian education but was far more interested in ancient Greco-Latin humanism. The two roots of my paganism, Nietzscheanism and Greco-Latin culture, therefore, paradoxically stem from the Jesuits.
I was fortunate enough to undergo extensive, very eclectic studies: ancient languages, political science, history, geography, philosophy, economics, which allowed me to avoid specialising and remain a ‘jack-of-all-trades’. Similarly, I was influenced by the thought process of the Marxist movement, without subscribing to any of its societal choices or utopias. My education was very diverse and, at its core, not very French. Descartes, Montaigne, Bergson and their peers never inspired me, nor did Maurras for that matter. I have always been drawn to German and Anglo-Saxon philosophies: Nietzsche, Hegel, Heidegger, Simmel, Tönnies, Schmitt, Spencer, Lash, etc. However, I have always been wary of those who proclaim themselves scholars, of homines unius libri (‘men of one book’) or compilers. I don’t belong to any particular theoretical or ideological group; I have always tried to think for myself.
But, all in all, it wasn’t so much books that influenced me as it was life itself. I’m not a ‘scholar’ nor a fan of stringing quotations together and ‘intellectual patchwork’, a habit of autodidacts. I don’t collect books, just as some collect toy soldiers or postage stamps. I prefer to think for myself, constantly creating new concepts based on daily observed reality and my intuitions, prompted by a (very personal and iconoclastic) reading of a particular author, which I might pick up on, or by a conversation, observation, reading the press or a history book. I operate on flashes of insight and intuition, but I don’t define myself in terms of a ‘school of thought’ or a ‘current of ideas’. I only have 100 books at home, the most essential ones. All the others, I have given away or sold.
I’ve been influenced by ethologists, sociologists, economists, and German philosophers, not to mention the entire Frankfurt School and Habermas or authors as diverse as Koestler, Heidegger, Spencer, and Ardrey. Unlike Francophile Americans, I’ve always believed the French structuralist school (Lacan, Foucault, and the like) lacked clarity. However, I would make notable exceptions for French figures like Julien Freund, Maffesoli, Lefebvre, Deleuze, and Debord. I was involved for a time with the Situationist movement, admiring its powerful critique of Western society and its emptiness. This paradoxically led me to take an interest, in the 1970s, in the GRECE [Research and Study Group for European Civilization] and the ‘New Right’, to which I made a significant contribution. But I left this movement in 1986, feeling that the ideas I was developing there were no longer in sync with the ideological realignment strategy of its leaders. That said, I met men like the philosopher Giorgio Locchi, historian Pierre Vial, Pierre Brader, political scientist Robert Steuckers, and others there, who opened up many avenues for me and who all, like me, left this school of thought.
And your spiritual journey?
My paganism isn’t of a spiritualist or mystical nature; it’s physical, lived. I would say: poetic and entirely personal. My path is anything but ‘spiritual’, it’s purely sensual. The richness of paganism, which no other ‘religion’ possesses, is that it encompasses an extraordinary plurality of sensibilities: from the paganism of woods and rootedness to that of unleashed technoscience; from the paganism of the moors’ mists to the divinities of the solar fire. From the paganism of fountains and nymphs to the muffled rumblings of battles, from the songs of fairies or the galloping of goblins in the undergrowth to the roar of engines, from the great guardian gods to household spirits. But the genius of paganism is to bring together in a cosmic and organic whole all human passions, with their miseries and magnitudes. Paganism is truly the reflection of the living world.
I’ve never been drawn to esoteric texts, mystical surges, research, and discourse on symbolism. For me, Paganism is first and foremost poetry, aesthetics, exaltation, and intuition. Never theory, sect, or exploitation.
I feel closest to Greek and Roman paganism. It influenced my entire education, especially since I underwent ten years of Greco-Latin studies and was capable (which I can’t do anymore, sed nihil obstat quibus perseverant) of reading Ovid or Xenophon almost in the original. Of course, I feel a great kinship and sympathy for Celtic, Germanic, Scandinavian, and Indian pagan sensibilities, which are just as rich. I regret not being well-versed in Hinduism, today’s most significant living paganism, but I would like to bridge that gap.
I remember the Oath of Delphi, proclaimed on the sacred site, in front of the Stoa, in the early eighties, at dawn, by an assembly of young Europeans. It was pronounced at the instigation of Pierre Vial and our late Greek friend Jason Hadjidinas. There were Europeans from every nation of our common home. I will remain faithful to that oath my entire life. It was a profound emotion, a religious feeling. The oath’s purpose was to act concretely in the world for pagan values.
Disembodied ‘spirituality’ has always seemed very dull to me, perhaps simply because I don’t understand it. From Evola, I only retain the sociological and political passages, but ‘Evolianism’ has always seemed out of place to me, and Guénon’s texts (who, by the way, converted to Islam) are utterly arcane. My paganism, essentially Apollonian and Dionysian, is the opposite of a meditative stance; it’s intuitive, captivated by movement, action, the aesthetics of power (and not prayer). For me, it embodies the very essence of the life force, the will to live. Life is about efficacy, historical output. History remembers the res gestae, the deeds, not abstract and dandy contemplation of pointless theories, swept away by oblivion. Only doing is effective, and it alone is the aim of thought as well as the aesthetic movements of the soul.
The main danger facing paganism is the intellectualism of gratuitousness, ‘thinking’, idolised for its own sake, desiccated and abstract, quasi-academic, disconnected from reality and the imperatives of urgency. Paganism is neither a scholarly dissertation nor cold ‘knowledge’, but attitudes for action. For me, it’s immersion in life, a practice that transforms the world. It’s never words that matter foremost, nor ideas, but the concrete actions to which these ideas and words lead. An idea isn’t interesting because it’s brilliant in itself, but if it leads to a change in a state of affairs, an embodiment in a project: this is the core of pagan epistemology; unlike Judeo-Christian epistemology, where the idea only has value in itself, and material contingencies, urgency, reality are despised. I’ve always been struck by the fact that Greco-Latin, Germanic, or Celtic paganisms were neither meditative nor contemplative. They were eminently active, political, and warlike.
Many self-unaware Judeo-Christians think, in a completely biblical way, that the will to power is a sin against God, a challenge, and that, according to the teachings of the good Fathers, the only acceptable power would be the ‘inner empire’, dematerialised. This vision assumes the world obeys dualism: on one side the ‘spiritual’, the sacred, meditation; on the other, the vulgar, profane, mired in an absurd frenzy of domination, calculations, battles, strategies. I argue, on the contrary, that materialism and the sense of the sacred are intimately linked in paganism, where ‘materialism’ isn’t confused with consumerism.
Another very peculiar thing made me ‘pagan’ without articulating it, when I delve into the mysteries of my early childhood. It’s the fascination with wild nature, more precisely with the forest, sea, and mountains. A simple, somewhat curious anecdote: as a young teenager, I used to walk through one of Europe’s most beautiful forests, the Coubre forest, in my native Saintonge. A vast expanse of pines and oaks tortured by the wind. The closer one gets to the sea, the more one hears and feels the howling of Eole – the formidable southwest wind – and the furious barking of the Atlantic Ocean. Then, you climb a dune, where the last pines are dying, eaten away by salt and gusts. And suddenly, Poseidon’s splendour bursts forth: a wild, threatening beauty, indifferent to human lamentations. Huge waves exploding in roars, swirling whirlwinds, an endless coast of white sand, and signs in red reading: ‘Swimming forbidden’. I’ve always been fascinated by this wild and threatening side of nature, where pure beauty hides a terrible danger, the bite of the gods.
However, in this pagan view of the world, I’m also drawn to colossal cities and monumental architecture of affirmation and power, of aesthetics and harmonious strength: Versailles, the Taj Mahal, the cathedrals of Strasbourg or Ulm, the German architectural school of Chicago, the neo-classicism of the 30s, the brutal beauty of a nuclear submarine or a fighter plane, etc. It’s the assumption of power and order, whether it emanates from nature or man, that shapes my personal paganism. My approach has never been based on dry reflection or any mystical ecstasy, but rather on direct emotion. A Christian friend once ‘accused’ me of ‘dreamy paganism’. He was right, without realising that perhaps men’s dreams are messages from the gods. It’s been a long time since they invented the internet…
So you consider yourself pagan, attentive to signs, a living seismograph. But what is paganism to you today? What is your personal approach?
My paganism is not reactive, but positive. I am not anti-Christian but pre- and post-Christian. I don’t take shots at easy targets, and I have no scores to settle. Paganism preceded Christianity and will outlive it in the hearts of Europeans. My quiet belief is that paganism is eternal. As you express in your book Parcours païen (Pagan Pathway), paganism revolves around three axes: rooting in lineage and homeland, cosmic immersion in nature and its eternal cycles, and a ‘quest’, which might be an openness to the unseen or an adventurous search (Pytheas, Alexander, the Pythagorean school, etc.) and ‘unsettled’. In this sense, paganism is the oldest and most natural of the world’s religions. It deeply permeates the European soul. Unlike monotheisms, one could even say that it is the most genuine of religions since it ‘connects’ individuals of the same community in the real and tangible world, rather than being, like Christianity or Islam, a codified belief and a set of imperative and universal decrees addressing only the individual keen to ‘purchase’ their ‘salvation’ from an omnipotent God.
This means that the major characteristics of paganism are the union of the sacred and the profane, a cyclical or spherical conception of time (counter to the eschatologies of salvation or progress, where time is linear and moves towards a redemptive end of history), the refusal to see nature as man’s property (God’s son) that he can exploit and destroy at will; the alternation of sensuality and asceticism; the constant praise of vital force (the ‘yes to life’ and ‘Great Health’ of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra); the belief that the world is uncreated and reduces to the river of becoming, without beginning or end; the tragic sense of life and rejection of all nihilism; the veneration of ancestors, lineage, loyalty to struggles, mates, traditions (without descending into museum-like traditionalism); the refusal of any universal revealed truth and therefore any fanaticism, fatalism, dogmatism, and forced proselytism. Add to this that, in paganism, one constantly notices the ‘opposition of opposites’ within the same harmonious unity, including the heterogeneous in the homogeneous.
I would add that pagan morality, like that of Marcus Aurelius, certainly has far higher demands than Christianity. The paganism I refer to, which is primarily Greco-Roman, demands self-control from man, respect for community rules and vital order not imposed by the self-interested logic of an omnipotent God’s punishment/reward, but lived from within, psychologically integrated as necessary ‘duties’.
The gods of pagan pantheons are not morally superior to men. They are simply immortal, ‘superhuman’ beings endowed with magical powers. This means that, in paganism, man is not made to feel inferior compared to divinity, as he is in the monotheisms of the Book. This is evident in the Iliad, where the gods took sides for one camp or the other, also possessing all the flaws, qualities, and passions of humans.
I am shaped by two perfectly opposing and complementary versions of paganism: a paganism of nature and a paganism of power, artifice, and the subjugation of the world, both equally emotional. I recognise my paganism as ‘Promethean’, as Michel Maffesoli once amicably pointed out after reading my book Archeofuturism. Thus, I am considered ‘modern’, haunted and tempted by hubris. As for Alain de Benoist, he compared my worldview to that of the Titans, in the manner of Jünger’s classifications. I don’t dispute this analysis from an author who, despite once identifying as ‘pagan’, has remained deeply Judeo-Christian (of an agnostic modernist tendency) in his ideology, sensibility, and interests.
Europe has never ceased to be tormented by its pagan unconscious: all European poetry attests to this, as do the visual arts. Purely Christian poetic works aren’t exhilarating, and all Catholic sacred art is steeped in paganism, if only for the constant representation of the divine that contradicts monotheism’s iconoclastic imperative. What always troubled me about Christianity, especially post-Vatican II Christianity (which bears no resemblance to that of the Crusades), is its systematic preference for the weak, the victim, the defeated; it views pride as a sin and condemns sensuality, even when wholesome, as contrary to divine ways. It was Nietzsche’s writings, but especially observing today’s Christian clergy and followers, that convinced me of the morbid and unnatural character of Christian morality – a sickly morality, a rationalisation of frustrations. This idea of redemption through suffering, unrelated to the pagan idea of a heroic death, is akin to a hatred for life. Additionally, I couldn’t stand the idea of original sin, the notion that I was responsible for Christ’s suffering. More than any other religion, paganism guarantees both social and cosmic order, ensuring a plurality of beliefs and sensitivities. It operates on a ‘to each their own’ principle, rather than the fantasy of chaotic universal mixing. Its social model closely associates justice, order, and freedom, the last rooted in discipline. It begins with the premise that humanity is diverse, with no destined unification, and that history is unpredictable and endless. In contrast to monotheisms, it imagines a heterogeneous humanity comprised of homogeneous peoples, where the essence of politics is establishing city homogeneity, sanctified by the gods, in which identity aligns entirely with sovereignty. The pagan worldview, organic and holistic, views nations as communities of fate. As seen in Greek paganism, the concept of the city-state, bound by patriotism and common identity (reflecting the diversity of gods and nature), is fundamental. The patron deities had a deeply political and rooted dimension.
Beyond an Apollonian-Dionysian paganism, I lean towards what one might call a ‘Titanic approach’, with Faustian and Promethean undertones, based on the aesthetics and ethics of power and the divinisation of the Übermensch. This isn’t ‘modern’ but Archeofuturist, since the myth of Hercules and the epics of the Iliad express this Titanic essence, where human heroes rise to the level of gods. Consider Achilles, Priam, Agamemnon, and other figures of Greek mythology or tragedy, who, imbued with superhumanism, genuinely strived to attain the divine.
For me – and this perspective surprises or shocks some pagans — paganism is not only associated with an aesthetic of ‘threatening nature’, a vision of the deities as entities marked by a certain brutality, a vengeful wildness (the ‘Wild Hunt’ surrounded by an aura of enchantments and curses, the fantastic novel by Arthur Machen, The Great God Pan, where the ancient Gods re-emerge, transfigured and avenging, in modern England), but also with the Promethean unleashing of technoscientific hubris – I’m not referring to it from a socio-ideological viewpoint – which has always seemed to me to carry a significant part of the pagan soul (consider Vulcan-Hephaestus, the god of the forge) as by the ‘power-technique’, distinct from the ‘comfort-technique’, European man has always subconsciously wanted to rival and appropriate divine power. Indeed, the Judeo-Christian tradition recognises this: man is commanded by God to humble his ‘pride of power’, to avoid the tree of knowledge, to not create devices that rival the unchanging and perfect nature conceived by the creator. Moreover, let’s consider the names of the American rockets or space programmes when Wernher von Braun christened them: Thor, Atlas, Titan, Jupiter, Delta, Mercury, Apollo… None were named ‘Jesus’, ‘Peace and Love’ or ‘Bible’. This, in a country where Christianity is, in fact, the state religion. Similarly, the European rocket is Ariane, the French army’s nuclear missiles are Pluto and Hades, and the Indian army’s is Agni. British warships traditionally bear names of the same origin: Hermes, Ajax, Hercules… There’s clearly a connection, a mental thread between the remnants of pagan mythology and this ‘power-technoscience’.
In soundscapes, radio broadcasts, and then the pre-war comics, I’ve embarked on a true allegorical divinisation of technoscience, especially military, spatial, and biological. This approach is consistent in science fiction, notably in the works of the American Philip K. Dick (openly pagan), a great writer, far more recognised in Europe than in his own country. Similarly, we’ll notice the consistent opposition of Christian-like mindsets to genetic engineering, to biotechnologies (as once to research and medical interventions). They view them as a desecration of God’s work. Let’s explain. For both Judeo-Christianity and Islam, the universe is divided between the sacred and the profane. The sacred resides only in God. Nature, the domain of the profane immanence, can only be altered by God, not by man. If man alters himself (genetic engineering), he commits the gravest of sins: the sin of pride, naturally, in claiming to ‘enhance’ what God has created and not submitting to predestination. He commits another sin, a sin against anthropocentrism. Man was created in the image (imperfect, but still in the likeness) of his creator, distinctly separated from the rest of nature, plants and animals, seen as mere instrumental biological mechanisms. What happens when man declares himself the creator of himself, the manipulator of his own life? He commits a dual fault: he equates himself to an animal, denying his soul and divine lineage by immersing himself in the biological flow; he declares himself akin to all living things (the sin of incarnation); and, worse, he takes upon himself the right to alter his very nature, which is the property of the God-Father, and to rise, to improve; this is the sin of assumption.
For the dualist monotheisms, there has always been a consistent refusal of these two sacrileges: from the allegory of the Golem (the artificial and diabolical creature made by man) to the fight against evolutionary theories, they have always denied man the right to become a demiurge. They have always conceived him as immutable and created in one piece, submissive. For pagans, this stance is incomprehensible: nature is sacred in itself; it is not the secular work of a sacred spirit reigning in the clouds. It is uncreated, and the divine is everywhere. Man is not immutable but is immersed in the torrent of becoming. There’s no opposition between the ‘natural’ and human-made, since everything is natural, even the artificial. The ‘super-nature’ birthed by human science remains nature. For a pagan, the question is whether such an artefact, especially biological, is practically positive or harmful; it’s not about condemning the artefact in general as a metaphysical principle. That’s why the radical ecology some advocate is deeply Judeo-Christian.
In other words, to the question, ‘Are cloning, incubators, genetically modified organisms, and nuclear technology ethical or not?’, posed by the monotheistic conscience, another more practical question closer to reality is substituted: ‘Is this intervention on the genome or the structure of matter potentially harmful or beneficial?’ In pagan thought, ideas are instrumental. Therefore, the pagan mentality refrains from all metaphysics and remains ‘physical’ simply because it believes that nothing can ever disenchant nature. As I tried to explain in my book Archeofuturism, concerning biotechnologies (which, tied with computing, will cause upheaval in the twenty-first century), Judeo-Christian and Islamic mentalities will not ethically, theologically, and culturally be able to cope with the upcoming technoscience of a Titan-Promethean essence. In my opinion, only the pagan mentality can embrace it. Moreover, as a telling sign, the three cultural areas not infused by monotheism – India, Japan, and China – view genetic engineering as entirely natural.
I can only speak here in a cryptic, succinct, and symbolic manner, suggesting pathways. For me, there exists a ‘black sun’ of paganism, a glowing, underground hub, which Heidegger referred to as the ‘most perilous’, the very essence of the tragic and the challenge thrown in the face of fate. The technoscience tied to the will-to-power, superhumanism, the synergy between aesthetics and the call to what we might term ‘self-affirmation’, attempts to become God; all these belong to a mental universe that is challenging to name clearly, which must remain in the shade, the ‘favorable shadow’ as Ovid put it. But this demiurgic dimension is inherent to European paganism; it always invigorates it, like a never-extinguishing ember that can, at any time, become a volcano. This is powerfully expressed in Erle Cox’s novel Out of the Silence, which deeply impressed me. These insights were developed in the pre-war radio show on science fiction, produced with the late painter Olivier Carré. The scripts exist and will probably be published one day, but they are still too raw to be fully understood. We referred to it as the return of the transfigured gods. There’s a family secret in European paganism that all the old mythologies – including the Arthurian cycle – allude to without revealing its nature, a secret of which the heart (the Grail?) is, in my opinion, the unthinkable, a secret that Heidegger had sensed and which frightened him. In his foundational text, Holzwege (translated into English as Off the Beaten Track), Heidegger, in my view, knew full well that these paths indeed led somewhere… I had conveyed this unsettling interpretation in an issue of the Nouvelle Ecole magazine dedicated to the German philosopher. Heidegger was scared of his clarity. He drowned his intuitions in silence. And then he was so often claimed, neutralised, and misrepresented… Where does the path (meaning the journey of our history) lead? Towards the possible victory of the Titans and Prometheus. Zeus may be displeased with me, but I hope for this victory, even if fleeting. It will be an aesthetic explosion, the crowning of the demiurges, the eternal moment spoken of by Nietzsche. He, who precisely, so frightened Heidegger because he had understood him too well and not foolishly read him.
But how do we experience this tension, this assault?
In Europe, paganism – which was, in various forms, its ancient religion – exists in many ways: a ‘folkloric’ paganism (without any pejorative connotation), mainly Celtic-Scandinavian in nature, which doesn’t involve any belief in personified gods but is more about a traditionalist and ethno-centric pantheism; there’s also, especially with the significant decline of the Catholic worship, a return to a widespread popular paganism. The increasing celebrations of seasonal cycles and solstices, as well as the revival of the Celtic festival of the dead (Halloween) – of which, just like Christmas, there’s an obvious commercial uptake – serve as prime examples. Let’s recall that the ‘re-paganisation’ of Christmas, a festival against which the Church consistently battled and which began in the early twentieth century (with the nativity scene replaced by the tree), over 1,500 years after the medieval Christian takeover of the winter solstice, was a pivotal sign of a spontaneous and popular revival of ancient paganism.
There’s also a noted persistence in the arts, literature, philosophy, and comics of clear pagan trends, often subconscious. Because paganism isn’t about a denomination, but about a spontaneous life attitude, a worldview. John Boorman, Michel Maffesoli, and many others continue a never-ending line of pagans who don’t define themselves as such.
In my opinion, despite an obvious kinship in worldviews, the significant difference between Hindu paganism and that of European pagans is that the former, having not experienced any discontinuity or acculturation, remains very close to the popular religions of European antiquity: there’s a genuine, first-degree belief in the existence of the divine pantheon. It’s impossible to return to this stance in Europe. Our European paganism is fragmented and yet also underground. Coincidentally, in this interim period, a prelude to the greatest confrontations, paganism re-emerges to fill the void of an official Church that has surrendered. Today, in Europe, we should anticipate the birth of neo-paganism. It’s impossible to predict or decree its forms.
What might its future be?
Europe in 2020 will be a jumble of beliefs and religions. Christianity is collapsing, breaking apart. The struggle will be between paganism and Islam. A spiritual battle or a physical one? It remains to be seen. Paganism is the very antithesis of seriousness, and that’s precisely why it’s the most serious and enduring. The power, the invincibility of paganism (and the reason why Islam fears it most – consider the case of The Satanic Verses) is that it aligns with vital forces and hence cannot be eradicated, unlike monotheisms, which are temporary in history since they are based on dogmatic theories that are inevitably fleeting. However, it’s highly unlikely that Europe will revert to pagan worship as such, as seen in today’s India or in pre-Christian Europe. The current druidic practices, for instance, in Brittany, Ireland, England, etc., not only appear in a tiny minority but also have an artificial, folkloric-spiritualist character, and lack genuine first-degree religious belief. I foresee the following scenario unfolding over the next two decades:
- Islam becomes the most practised religion (due to demographic changes and conversions of locals), a disastrous development.
- Despite an expected worsening socio-economic situation and rising threats (always conducive to the monotheistic religiosity of Salvation), the Catholic Church, trapped in its anti-sacral and secularising ideological stance, will continue to be involved in trade unions and politics: its decline and marginalisation will accelerate. I don’t believe in a ‘massive Catholic backlash’ returning to nineteenth-century Catholicism, as hoped for by John Paul II.
- I predict a proliferation of sects or ‘tribes’ (using the term from Maffesoli) inspired by Christianity, a minority yet thriving: traditionalists, charismatics, syncretic mystics, etc., not truly recognised by the Vatican.
- We should anticipate a slow but steady growth of Westernised Buddhism, a distorted reflection of original Asian Buddhism.
- A sharp decline in atheism or agnostic indifference is expected in the challenging century ahead, leading to a renewed attraction to unforeseen forms of paganism. The proliferation of what I’ve termed ‘wild religions’ (without any pejorative connotation), a real mix of the worst and the most intriguing, provides a fertile ground for a true metamorphic regeneration of European paganism. These ‘wild religions’ already exist and have a murky, exploratory aspect. But they meet a need; that of reconnecting with a blurred, semi-forgotten memory.
So, I believe that during the twenty-first century, we’ll witness the emergence of unforeseen forms of paganism, which will resemble a metamorphosis of the gods. Anything is possible; anything can be conceived in this chaos, from which an order, a post-chaos, will necessarily arise. On the other hand, we must be wary of all those (whether they identify as pagans or belong to fundamentalist Catholic circles) who analyse – whether to endorse or condemn – the current decay of morals (gay pride, Love Parade, homosexuality, anti-natalism, feminism, tolerated drug use, numbing pornography, abolition of social codes, artistic degeneration…) as a return to paganism. Paganism is the very opposite of relaxation, of the dissolution of vital energies observable in contemporary Western society. It presents itself, on the contrary, as the ritualisation and acceptance of vital order imperatives. Its cosmic principles (from the Greek kosmein – to organise, adorn) incorporate both Dionysian forces of sensuality and pleasure, and the Apollonian needs for control and overall order. Anything detrimental to the healthy perpetuation of the species and the people, to the organic homogeneity of the City or the State (in the Roman sense of the word) cannot claim to be ‘pagan’. A pagan will never be either a puritan or a sex addict (the two are quite similar…), neither an anarchist nor a tyrant (the latter stemming from the former).
Likewise, paganism should neither be confused with intolerant dogmatism nor with absolute tolerance. Under the guise of ‘social polytheism’, some superficial pagans applaud societal tribalisation and communitarianism, unaware that all ancient Greek pagan authors – starting with Aristotle and his concept of philia, ‘friendship towards the close one’ – have always warned against the idea of heterogeneous peoples, as they are the breeding ground for violence and despotism. On the other hand, it is monotheisms that advocate the idea of diversity, in order to have masses that are more malleable because they are no longer cemented by ethno-cultural solidarities. These faux Pagans, much like the post-conciliar prelates, endorse the acceptance of Islam as an ‘ecumenical enrichment’ (not understanding the totalitarian – meant without pejorative connotation – and monopolistic logic of Muhammad’s religion); similarly, they practice, in the name of an abstract and false vision of a future world organised in so-called ‘polytheistic’ networks, without peoples or nations, tolerance towards marginal and deviant ‘tribes’ and, by the same token, unrestrained cosmopolitanism. The latter is wholly alien to the pagan vision of the City and resembles a very ancient Judeo-Christian and Pauline (more than Hebraic) conception of the political pluriverse. Let’s also remember that Greco-Roman paganism was under the hierarchical authority of the great tutelary gods, who federated the State or the City, placing the political order of the community, of the ethnos, above individual liberties or the heterogeneous and centrifugal forces of unknown ‘communities’.
On a different note, I distrust a paganism that is purely negative and reactive, being nothing more than impassioned anti-Catholicism. Constantly criticising traditional European Catholicism is a waste of time. I myself wrote the preface to a book on Marian worship – which made many Catholics uncomfortable – where I pointed out the obvious fact that the Virgin Mother and her worship are deeply rooted in pre-Christian European mentality, and a pagan should respect them. Otherwise, how to explain, over the centuries, the immense popular veneration for Mary and the saints? Aren’t the current post-conciliar Church episcopates putting a serious dampener (partly explaining the growing disenchantment with their ‘new Church’) on these worships suspected of ‘polytheism’? Concerning the difference between today’s paganism and Christianity, I’ll follow the position of the medievalist P. Vial in his recent work Une terre, un peuple (One Soil, One People), who states that paganism isn’t anti-Christian but is both a-Christian and post-Christian. As he emphasises, following Nietzsche, the emotional breaking point between the Judeo-Christian worldview and the pagan one, which I’ve always personally felt and which was a major cause of my choice of paganism, is that Christians prefer the martyr to the hero, that their suffering celebrates the redemptive virtue of suffering, that they prefer masochism, guilt, and repentance over the aesthetics of life and the will to power, the morals of sin rather than the ethics of honour and shame.
I will now venture a historical prediction, based on pure intuition, which might be entirely false or entirely true: I see the twenty-first century in Europe as the era of the radical marginalisation of Christianity, and of the confrontation between a protean paganism resurfacing from ancestral memory and conquering Islam. The minority Catholics will divide themselves into these two camps. But, as Montherlant had already foreseen in a prescient and overlooked book (Le Solstice de Juin [The June Solstice]), in the upcoming war of the gods – which has always conditioned all human history – ‘the Great Pan is back’ as a major player in the threatened European conscience.
What’s your view on Judeo-Christianity?
In my opinion, the reason the European paganisms were submerged by Christianity within the Roman Empire was the ethnic chaos that appeared at the end of the second century. The singular, saving God, the God of all ethnic groups, who first addressed disoriented and uprooted individuals, came to replace the tutelary deities in a world rife with disorder, divisions, and wars. My stance, which might be shocking to some, is this: both Christianity and Islam were apocalyptic sects that succeeded, using the chaos to thrive and replace natural religions, ultimately becoming established cults. Of course, Roman Catholicism and Greco-Slavic Orthodoxy, through a sort of historical compromise, a syncretism with paganism, fundamentally broke away from early Judeo-Christianity – which the Church has been trying to return to since the Second Vatican Council, coincidentally resulting in a massive loss of European followers…
I’m not a historian, but I hypothesise that the major historical split wasn’t so much the separation of strict Judaism and universal Christianity initiated by Paul of Tarsus, but the development of a paganised Judeo-Christianity (Catholicism and Orthodoxy) during the Middle Ages. This allowed Christianity to establish roots in Europe. The second major split, in the opposite direction, happened in the 1960s when Catholicism, following the unfortunate path of Protestantism, became ‘de-paganised’ and secularised. The outcome was immediate: a sudden massive and widespread alienation. Some say Catholicism has become ‘re-Judaised’. No! Judaism is a strong national and affirmative religion, vastly different from the ritual stripping and secular humanism of the current Catholic corpus and discourse, with its vague, neurotically insistent concept of Love that resonates with no believers. I bear no grudge against Catholicism, which is in reality a disguised polytheism, but it self-destructed as a religion with Vatican II, by abandoning its sacred language and rites, and by reverting to absolute monotheism it has become a mere imitation that cannot compete with the originals: Islam and Judaism. At its core, the fate of Christianity is tragic. It established itself at the cost of paganisation and a denial of some of its principles. Then, trying to reclaim its principles, it undertook a second syncretism (Vatican II) with Enlightenment ideas, which were precisely derived from its own secularised principles! Thus, at the end of this relentless dialectic movement, Christianity desacralised itself by truly becoming itself again. It thus obliterated its very essence. The concept of the divine, in today’s Church, is reduced to incantations about Christ and His Love, and to the assertion of a social morality (that vague one of human rights and an abstract and extreme altruism, a standard pacifism) which is merely the common parlance of the prevailing secular ideology. Christianity has become an ideological discourse illuminated by neither transcendence nor any grand policy, as Catholic thinker Thomas Molnar observed. This is a far cry from the faith of the cathedrals.
In my book Archaeofuturism, I found myself dreaming of a return of Europeans to this type of medieval pagan-Catholicism, while the aware elites would adopt a neo-paganism that’s both Marcus Aurelian and Promethean in nature. Perhaps fate has this solution in store for us?
At its core, the pagan mindset, compared to the Christian one, has been shaped by the ancient pagan man’s attitude towards his gods: seeking no consolation from the divine. The gods only respect pride and strength. No imploring. A man can only be happy and healthy through himself, through his own inner psychic strength and the affirmation of his will. The pagan man does not bow before his gods; he challenges them. Or he thanks them and seeks to win their favour. Christianity has developed a theology of castration, where we are made to feel guilty and inferior. The pagan seduces his gods or confronts them; the monotheist pleads and humiliates himself.
On the other hand, Judeo-Christianity, just like Islam, has not addressed this fundamental question except by invoking the mystery: if God is infinitely good and infinitely powerful, why does he allow suffering, why not heaven on Earth for all? Is God deceitful? Either he is infinitely good and permits evil because he is not infinitely powerful. Or he is infinitely powerful and permits evil; thus he has a cruel side. This is the famous ‘problem of evil’. The monotheistic theologies of salvation religions have never solved this enigma, which pagan philosophies, from Greece to India, have perfectly addressed: the deities are neither omnipotent nor infinitely altruistic. They are like us, immersed in the cosmos, subject to the erratic randomness of the Roman fatum or the Greek moira. This philosophical divergence shows, in my opinion, that the pagan mentality, closer to reality, has a much brighter future ahead than the others. Having said all that, I’d like to reiterate my deep sympathy for traditional Catholicism and Orthodoxy, as a pagan always thinks concretely and without fanaticism.
In one of your recent books, you extol what you term ‘Archeofuturism’. What’s it about?
I won’t delve too deeply into this book, Archeofuturism, the title of which is a neologism I coined. It merely offers a set of guidelines, aimed at provoking thought and action. I lay out four main ideas:
- After the utopian interlude of modernity (a secular continuation of Judeo-Christian daydreams), the future world will revert to the ‘archaic’, which means not to the past, but to the timeless principles of human societies. These principles starkly contrast with the self-destructive ones of the current West.
- Western civilisation, by failing to ground itself in the natural order, is heading towards a convergence of catastrophes in all sectors. We should brace ourselves for chaos and, in this interregnum, prepare for the post-chaos.
- Present and future achievements of technoscience conflict with the ethics of modernity (stemming from Christianity). They will reintroduce a Promethean ethic of unrestraint and risk characteristic of the ancient pagan mentality, along with an ethic akin to that of Greek humanism, where no transcendent law is above human will in the grand scheme of things.
- This discrepancy between natural law and Promethean ambition can only be overcome by transcending egalitarianism: envisioning a humanity operating ‘at two speeds’.
For a clearer understanding of what I’m briefly outlining here, one should refer to my writings.
You also released a controversial book on the colonisation of Europe by Islam. What can you tell us about it?
By 2020, the looming dominance of Islam, for demographic reasons, is not reassuring. Faced with Islam and materialist atheism, Christianity’s weakness (once its strength, but now turned on its head in a dialectical reversal) lies in it being a structured religion of salvation, organised like a state, centred around clergy, dogmas, and rigid constitutions. All organisations are mortal and decay when confronted with competing organisations, be it in the political, economic, or religious realm. This is why today, Christianity is rapidly retreating from Islam, both physically and morally. Catholicism is in an advanced state of decline. It committed theological suicide with Vatican II by abandoning its universal sacred language, Latin, whereas Islam has never forsaken the religious Arabic of the Quran.
Furthermore, Catholicism made a colossal error in attempting to modernise. In rituals, sacred texts, and theological discourse. This modernisation will prove fatal. The strength of Islam is its immutability. On the other hand, paganism resembles the reed in La Fontaine’s fable, against the monolithic oak of a revealed religion; it is a life force, not a concrete organisation built around dogma. Its flexibility derives from its scepticism and realism. Christianity in Europe is retreating from Islam because it’s up against a more robust sibling rival; paganism doesn’t engage in these family feuds. It’s entirely different. Hence, in its logical and ancient endeavour – currently resuming – to advance in Europe, Islam will face the pagan mentality as its main adversary. I know there are so-called pagans supportive of Islam. They’re profoundly mistaken, misunderstanding it and apparently unaware of the fate the Quran reserves for them as disbelievers and idolaters: while Jews and Christians might become minorities and subordinates (dhimmis), they will face the fate of the Aït-el-Khébir sheep. One only has to read the fourth chapter of the Quran, taught in every mosque in Europe and in all Quranic schools, to be convinced.
I generally make some Christians cry out in dismay when I explain that as a pagan, I’m against the conversion of churches into mosques, even when the episcopate accepts it. It’s crucial to clarify that I harbour no contempt or hatred for Islam. Simply, as a pagan, I reject its societal and spiritual vision for my own people. I know it well; I’ve studied it extensively. I’ve read the Quran, unlike Parisian intellectuals advocating community coexistence. I’ve been invited to speak ‘against Islam’ by Muslims; they were surprised that I knew their intention to conquer Europe, to transform it into Dar-Al-Islam, and that their talk of a secular and easily integrated Islam was doublespeak, a hypocritical stance, recommended by the Prophet himself when seizing a new land (‘kiss the hand you cannot yet cut off’). These Muslims, Arabs and Pakistanis, didn’t attempt to contradict me. They smiled and essentially said: ‘Thankfully, few Europeans understand us as you do.’
Regarding the threat of Islam, I wholeheartedly agree with one of its current leading experts, the young and prolific Alexandre del Valle. He belongs to traditional Christian circles that have realised that to counteract the pressing danger of Islam’s global progression, an alliance with pagan forces, from Europe to India, is essential. Islam is a militant universalism, the most absolute of all monotheisms of revealed truth. Ultimately, it tolerates nothing but itself, and its theocratic worldview, where faith merges with law, is, in the etymological sense, totalitarian. Even if it often upholds commendable principles and rightly opposes Western decadence, it remains incompatible with our mentality and traditions. I have no issues with Islam, on its own soil, but its steady rise in Western Europe (already the second practised religion in France or Belgium) concerns the pagan in me more than it does secular left atheists and Christians.
What divine figures inspire you the most?
Each deity represents a facet of human nature, and I am far from the idea of dismissing Venus-Aphrodite or Mercury-Hermes or the humble household gods, guardians of the family. I fully accept that my Promethean interpretation of paganism is criticised by other pagans. In reality, there have always been two forms of paganism, which can overlap: one popular (hence the term pagani meaning ‘peasants’), found in all peoples of the Earth – even among Islamised populations, adopts simple superstitious beliefs, but by no means contemptible, and necessary for good social order; the other is the paganism of philosophers, who obviously do not believe in the objective existence of deities, but, amid profound and tragic doubt, recognise the existence of ‘something’ supernatural and inexplicable, reject atheistic materialism, and respect all religions of the Earth as fragments of truth. But they utterly refute the idea of revealed truth. From Indian Brahmans to Celtic druids, there is a force that is both terrestrial and cosmic, entirely eluding the religions of revelation and salvation. This force cannot be expressed in dogma or catechism. It’s felt and experienced. It belongs to an initiation, either popular and spontaneous, or aristocratic. Paganism is meant for peoples and communities of belonging, not for masses and uprooted individuals. It combines both popular superstition and mental discipline. It links magical beliefs in animal and forest deities (Dionysian and rooted pole) to Apollonian thunderbolts. All deities inspire me, but more specifically Dionysus, symbol of loyalty and vital duration. A smiling god (but with a disconcerting smile), he symbolises the flow of life, the revolt against orders and stifling dogmas; he is the god of pleasures, of the will to live, but also of lineage and continuity of life. It’s no coincidence that Christians borrowed some of his features and attributes to dress their Satan. As a chthonic principle, Dionysus the sensual is the exact opposite of the perverse. He embodies principles totally contrary to those of modernity. He is the exact opposite, more than all the other gods of Greece, of the entire monotheistic and Judeo-Christian conception of the world that pervades our civilisation. What Nietzsche understood perfectly, making him, too, the central deity of his personal pantheon. Dionysus is the most tragic of all the gods: he plays; he laughs; he calls to enjoy, but he also prepares mortals for their inevitable end. He is, of course, as demonstrated by Pierre Vial, the exact counterpart of Apollo, the solar deity (contradictio oppositorum). I must admit that I discovered one of the authors who most marked me by his exceptional work, Michel Maffesoli, thanks to his book L’Ombre de Dionysos (The Shadow of Dionysus), where he demonstrates the undefeated and invincible influence of the god of vines and branches. I would add that I do not at all share the sociological analyses and viewpoints of this author, which shows that I put my own into perspective and don’t consider them as absolute, being aware that we are all within the realm of accepted beliefs (doxa) and rarely in that of true knowledge (epistêmē).
But I don’t neglect Apollo, the solar god. A text that has greatly marked me is a quatrain – in my opinion one of the most beautiful in the French language, written by Paul Valéry. In his poem ‘Eve’, he beautifully contrasts and associates the Dionysian sensuality of a young girl at dawn (permanence of renewed yet ephemeral life) and the sovereign course of the sun. I have always believed that these four lines were among the most pagan in French poetry: the young girl, naked in her sheets, awakens and stirs like a young animal and…
However, from the high sky, shattering the human hour,
Thirsty monster of time, sacrificing the future,
The priestly sun rolls and brings back
Day after day on the altars of azure.
Dionysus renews vital forms through metamorphosis (a beauty will age, but a new beauty to come will succeed her), while Apollo, in his unchanging course (labor solis, ergon heliou), protects and ensures this metamorphosis. In the Apollo-Dionysus pair, the ephemeral and the permanent combine in harmony. For me, paganism is fundamentally the worship of reality and life in all their dimensions (biological, astronomical, physical, etc.) and, unlike salvation religions, it refuses to construct a meta-reality, a lie, a ghost (the ‘puppets’, ta aggalmata of Plato’s allegory of the cave) but confronts head-on the sweet and harsh tragedy of life. In this regard, to speak of Valéry again, I recommend reading the musical decasyllabic poem ‘The Marine Cemetery’, which I consider the most impressive pagan manifesto since Ronsard’s Loves. It should also be reiterated that paganism is fundamentally aesthetic, a principle both Apollonian and Dionysian. The art, poetry, and architecture of our time that consider aesthetic rigour and discipline as incorrect constraints and which, often, justify by rationality sheer ugliness are not just a revolt against the pagan soul, but a model that will not last and will lead to a catastrophe. Paganism is the future of the world, simply because it sees the world as it is and as it could become, and not as it should be. To finally answer your question, I would say that we need to invent new gods. It’s a deep tendency of Homo europaeus, an epic mentality. ‘New gods will make our future blossom.’ I’m fully aware that my answers contain many contradictions. But I’m not trying to be mechanically consistent. I don’t take these entomologist thinkers too seriously, who hunt for contradictions in others. Every creation is the result of contradictions, every thought vibrates in a knot of vipers.