Bibliotherapy

Fernando Pessoa-Pagan Religion Is The Most Natural Of All The Religions

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Samothrace Island, Photo HYGEIA-Turkey

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Another sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA, a little text by Fernando Pessoa. 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 210 to 212.

When Pessoa writes the word ‘Pagan’, he refers to the pre-Christian indigenous European religions. That would include, among them, the Greek, Persian, Roman, Celt, Norse religions. Its meaning has nothing to do with the meaning it has today, that of neo-pagan, distinct from the original one; it is more about, counter-culture, modern magical systems with decorative ancient features, mere re-creations and therefore not authentic.

When we first read the text, we were put off by the word, then we remembered the date of its writing, 1916, and realized that for Pessoa, its meaning was that of the original one.

For the history and context of the word pagan, ‘paganus’, we invite you to discover the work of Maurizio Bettini, ‘Elogio del politeismo. Quello che possiamo impare oggi dale religioni antiche.’ Il Mulino, Bologna-2014. Also, the work of Alan Cameron, ‘The last Pagans of Rome’, Oxford, 2011. Chapter 1 is fully dedicated to the history and context of the word ‘paganus’ and finally, Arthur Versluis ‘ Entering the Mysteries-The secret traditions of indigenous Europe’. New Cultures Press. 2016.

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‘Without having, for the moment, to discuss the metaphysical foundations of religion in general or of a particular religion-because the necessity of the religious phenomenon to discipline and steer societies was noted by sociology- we only need to admit consequently that the religion that would know best how to discipline and steer societies must be the one closest to nature. This religion, because it is the closest, can act in a more direct way upon people; it can better influence them so that they don’t stray from the observance of natural laws that rule human life. It can all the better stimulate and steer the social activity of the human mind, as it also represses less all the other activities, hence providing more freedom.

We can easily demonstrate that the religion we call pagan is the most natural of all the other religions. This simple demonstration is based on 3 simple reasoning:

  1. The pagan religion is polytheistic.  Nature is plural. It does not appear to us as a whole, but as ‘many things’, like a plurality of things. We could not affirm in the most definitive way, without the mediation of a reasoning, without the intervention of immediate-experience-intelligence, that such a whole called universe truly exists, that there is a unity, a thing of which we can say it is one with its own nature. Reality, as it directly appears to us is plural. It is the fact of gathering all of our sensations towards our individual consciousness that imposes a fake unity (experimentally fake) to the plurality in which things appear to us. Religion, as it appears to us presents itself as an external reality. It must therefore have the character of all external reality. And this character is nothing else than the plurality of things. The plurality of the pagan gods is the first distinctive feature of a natural religion.

2.  The pagan religion is human. The actions of the pagan gods are those of magnified humans; they are of the same nature, but at a superior scale, divine. The gods are not outside humanity; they do not reject it, but exceed it, like semi-gods. For the pagan, divine nature is not at the same time superhuman and anti-human; it is solely superhuman. Hence being in harmony with nature as an external world, the pagan religion finds itself in perfect resonance with nature as humanity.

3. Finally, the pagan religion is political. It means that it is intrinsically linked to the life of the city or the state, it does not seek to be universal. It does not seek to impose itself to other people, but to prosper through exchange. Hence, it is in complete harmony with the fundamental principle of all civilizations that lays in the synthesis within one nation of all the different influences possible from all the other nations. It is the principle in which only the national characteristics differ: the political provincialisms and the imperialistic ideals, that are both decadence factors. There is no powerful conservative nation and no healthy imperialistic nation either. What is not capable anymore of transformation seeks to imposes itself. What is not able anymore to receive wants to give. But in reality, when we are not able to transform anymore, we become still. When we cannot receive anymore, we are also at a standstill.

Therefore, the pagan religion finds itself in harmony with the 3 forms through which nature reveals itself to mankind: With the very experimental essence of the totality of nature, with the very essence of human nature and the very essence of human nature in social movement, meaning civilized human nature or civilization.’

Remains of the sanctuary of the Great Gods

Dancers, Samothrace Museum.
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