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Fernando Pessoa-Why We Are Not ‘Neo-Pagan’

Athens Archeology Museum, picture Why Athens


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is an article by Fernando Pessoa published in 1916, taken from his ‘Collected works, volume VII, part IV, ‘The return of the Gods- The manifestos of Paganism.’ Christian Bourgois Editeur. Paris 1991. Our working translation from the French version, itself from the original Portuguese (!) Page 212 to 215.



‘The other known religions, having taken an important place in human history, have always strayed from the natural line of the pagan creed-from Buddhism, representing the maximum stretch, to Christianity where the stretch, even-though severe, is of a lesser range.

Buddhism, and before it the Indian Religion, represents the purest type of estrangement towards the natural ideas of men that a collector of deceases can dream about. Starting clearly or darkly from this inhuman principle according to which life is an illusion; Buddhism or Brahmanism seek through their religious cults to transcend their miserable humanity. Likewise, the Christians.

Polytheism that finds itself remotely hidden within all the religions, far from being their coarse element, is the human element within them all.

The Greek’s paganism represents the highest degree of human evolution leaning towards a balance that all human evolution must thrive towards, which is the true human evolution. This evolution that alone separates us from the inferior animals, must lean towards science and not emotion. Therefore, how science would manifest on the social level if not through a just understanding of nature and human relationships, in the fathoming of the laws that rule inanimate beings, living beings and social beings?

The Greeks are those who went the furthest in the scientific understanding of all things. This is why they also went the furthest in the art of civilization.’


‘We are, truly, neither neo-pagan, nor new pagans. Neo-pagan or new pagans are terms which are not making any sense. Paganism is the religion that births from the earth, directly from nature-from the attribution to every object to its true reality. By nature, it may, of course-being natural, appear or disappear, but it cannot change its quality.

‘Neo-pagan’ is as senseless than ‘neo-stone’, or ‘neo-flower’. In humanity, paganism may appear in health and disappear with illness; it may wither away, like a flower withers away and die like the plant. But, it cannot take the shape of another thing, nor take shapes different from its substance.

We can admit that some rebel Christian like Pater or Swinburne called themselves, ‘neo-pagan’, even though they had noting pagan outside the wish to become pagans-we can admit it, as long it is reasonable to give an impossible name to something absurd. But, for us, the true pagans, we would let ourselves to take upon us a name that would imply that we are pagan ‘in a modern way’ or that we intend to ‘reform’ or ‘reconstruct’ the paganism of the Greeks. We want to be pagan but it is more paganism that rebirths within us. This paganism always existed-the subordination to the gods and the justice of the Earth towards itself.

An exegete of paganism is not a pagan. A pagan is not a humanist, he is simply human. What a pagan admit easily in Christianity, is the popular devotion towards the saints; it is the rite, the processions. It is this very rejected part of Christianity that he would be willing to accept if he was to accept anything of Christianity. This other ‘modern’ paganism, this ‘neo-paganism’ that does not include the holy days, but includes the mystical poets, has nothing to do with paganism. Because, the pagan willingly accepts a procession, but turn himself away from Saint Therese of the infant Jesus. The Christian interpretation of the world disgusts him but a festival of the church with its lights, its flowers, its hymns, and finally its processions-all this he accepts like good things, even though originating from a bad path, because they are truly human things: they are the pagan manifestation within Christianity.

The pagan feels sympathy towards Christian superstition, because a man who is not superstitious is not truly a man; but he does not feel any sympathy for humanitarianism, because who becomes a humanitarian is not human anymore.

For the pagan every thing has its genie or its nymph; every thing is a captive nymph or a dryad captive by the staring of the eye. This is why every object has for him an astonishing reality, and this is also why he is in harmony with everything he sees and in sympathy with everything he touches.

The man who sees in every object something else that what is before him cannot actually see it nor love or feel it. To give to each object the only value to have been created by ‘God’, it is to give it a value it does not have, only for what it evokes. It is to have the eyes gazing towards it and at the same time to have the mind wandering somewhere else!

The pantheist, for which everything is only worth by its participation to the ‘All’, sees indistinctively every thing while thinking of something else; he looks indistinctively and sees nothing. He does not think about this thing solely but about its continuity with the rest of the world. How could he love a thing while he loves it for the virtue of a quality that is external to it? The first and last rule of love are they not that the object is loved because it is an object of that love and not because there is a reason for it to be loved?

The simple materialist or rationalist, for whom everything is wonderful due to the virtue of the work ‘nature’ has begotten it within, this latent energy it harbors and the cause of its life-the planetary system which is included in each of its atoms-this man cannot love it nor see it. In the same manner, when he looks at something, he thinks about something else which is only the composition if this thing. When he sees something, he truly meditates upon its decomposition. This is why a materialist is alienated from every form of art; never a materialist or a rationalist has gazed upon the world. Between the world and him, science’s mysticism has cast a spell, a veil-the microscope-consequently throwing him deep down the bottom of a well. Everything, for him, has been transformed in a grid behind which his attention thrives; everything is a grid or a window opened to the great All, for him and the pantheist; and for the creationist, a grid through which he contemplates God.

Mystics, Christians, pantheistic dreamers, materialists or man of ‘reason’, for all of them the world is nothing but their mind.’

Athens Archeology Museum, picture Why Athens
The Antikythera Mechanism. Athens Archeology Museum, picture Why Athens
Fernando Pessoa-Why We Are Not ‘Neo-Pagan’

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