Swan Song Of A Mystic?

The latest effusion from Mr David Myatt, titled Some Questions For DWM 2017, is interesting for a variety of reasons not least of which is that it is permeated – as is his philosophy of pathei-mathos – with references to the classical culture of ancient Greece and Rome. It is also – perhaps unintentionally – revealing about Myatt’s character providing as it does facts about his life and how he now views his philosophy of pathei-mathos, which philosophy he has previously described as his weltanschauung, his own outlook on life.

The overall impression is of a man steeped in Western culture who is still ineluctably part of that culture but who – even though already withdrawn from the world – desires as a mystic might to cut what few ties still bind him to the world of vanity and materialism.

The Philosophy of Pathei Mathos

One of these ties appears to be his philosophy of pathei-mathos. This is a philosophy which is not only clearly pagan and part of the Western philosophical tradition {1} but also one which provides we Westerners with a cultured – a philosophical – paganism relevant to the modern world which is completely different from and even at odds with what has been termed both “contemporary paganism” and “neopaganism” with its invented rituals and ceremonies, its belief in and revival of ancient deities, and its lack of philosophical rigour. In effect, Myatt has continued, refined, and evolved the Western paganism – the ancient, the classical, paganism – evident in the works Homer, Hesiod, Aeschylus, Cicero, the Corpus Hermeticum, and Marcus Aurelius, stripping away the old idea of gods and goddesses and replacing them with a modern mysticism centred around philosophical concepts such as Being and physis {2}, and virtues such as personal honour, pathei mathos, and empathy. Such a philosophical approach also conveniently does away – sans polemics – with conventional religions such as Christianity. {3}

Why then – given this gift to those seeking a Western alternative to the likes of Christianity who are unable to take “contemporary paganism” and “neopaganism” seriously – does Myatt in his latest effusion seem, as some have commented, to reject his own pagan philosophy? For among other things he writes,

       “All that ‘philosophy’ seems to be to me now is a rather wordy and a rather egoistic, vainful, attempt to present what I (rightly or wrongly) believed I had learned about myself and the world as a result of various experiences.”

My own view is that he is not rejecting that philosophy, only moving on, as a composer of musical works – finding themselves unsatisfied with their creations – moves on to other things, to new compositions. In other words, Myatt is only re-expressing what he said some years ago, which was that the philosophy of pathei-mathos was

       “simply my own weltanschauung, a weltanschauung developed over some years as a result of my own pathei-mathos. Thus, and despite whatever veracity it may or may not possess, it is only the personal insight of one very fallible individual.” {4}

In Myatt’s case he is simply moving on to concentrate on translations, and to live as his conscience dictates, or rather as his own pathei mathos informs him he should, which is life as a modern recluse and a learned mystic.

That he is not rejecting his own philosophy but instead is just not going to write anymore about it – or as he says, is not going to “pontificate” about it anymore – is evident in two of his replies. For in one reply he writes “I would suggest the tentative answers expressed by my weltanschauung,” while in another that such philosophical essays “can be, and in my case seem to have been, manifestations of vanity.”

But whether he will really write no more philosophical essays remains to be seen for there have been many writers, artists and musicians who, having forsworn their craft, nevertheless return to it at some stage.

A Western Heritage

In his latest effusion Myatt acknowledges his Western heritage, writing that as a schoolboy he read in Greek the likes of Thucydides, Homer, Plato, Aristotle, and Herodotus, and in a rather remarkable admission that what he

       “imbibed in those early years from such books of Ancient Hellas was nothing particularly philosophical but instead martial, and I could not but help admire those ‘thinking warriors’, those ‘perspicacious inventive gentlemen’ (περιφραδὴς ἀνήρ as Sophocles described them, cunning in inventive arts who arrive now with dishonour and then with honour, τι τὸ μηχανόεν τέχνας ὑπὲρ ἐλπίδ ̓ἔχων τοτὲ μὲν κακόν, ἄλλοτ ̓ ἐπ ̓ ἐσθλὸν ἕρπει) nurtured as I was then and had been for years by and in various colonies and outposts of what was still the British Empire. Thus it was natural that when, a short time later, I first learned about the Third Reich and about the loyalty of a soldier such as Otto Ernst Remer and the heroic actions of warriors such as Leon Degrelle I admired such men and intuited that something of the warrior ethos of ancient Hellas and Sparta may have manifested itself in our modern world.”

He also admits that

       “some aspects of some of the tractates of the Corpus Hermeticum have influenced my thinking, just as Aristotle, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Marcus Aurelius, and other classical and Hellenistic Greek and Latin writers have.”

That he does not mention any non-Western literature I find indicative.

Thus it is my view that Myatt – despite some of his past peregrinations or perhaps because of some of those peregrinations – is still rooted in and still contributing to the ethos of the West, a fact evident in his philosophy of pathei-mathos and also in his on-going translations of texts from the Corpus Hermeticum and his on-going translation of the Gospel of John, both of which are important for understanding the past and the current ethos of the West itself particularly as Myatt notes, in one of his replies, that his presumption is “of early Christianity probably being influenced by the diverse hermetic traditions which existed and flourished during the Hellenistic period.”

This rootedness in the culture of the West is also evident in another of his replies, with Myatt lamenting that

       “for so many in the modern West there is no longer an ancestral culture of which one is a living, dwelling, part – a connexion between the past and the future and a connexion with a rural place of dwelling – and which culture preserves the slowly learned wisdom of the past.”

Like a few others, my view is that his philosophy of pathei-mathos as well as his translations provide some of the links we need to reconnect ourselves with our Western ancestral culture.

Rachael Stirling
August 2017

{1} See https://regardingdavidmyatt.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/a-modern-pagan-philosophy/
{2} In one of his replies Myatt writes that in his philosophy “the apparent parts of the unity are expressed by descriptors such as masculous and muliebral, with that unity – The One, μονάς – not designated by terms such as theos (God, god) or theoi (gods) but rather metaphysically, as Being and the emanations/effluvia of Being such as ourselves, Nature, and the Cosmos itself.”
{3} A detailed analysis of Myatt’s philosophy is given in the 2016 book The Mystic Philosophy Of David Myatt, which is available as a free download – https://wyrdsister.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/mystic-philosophy-myatt-v1a.pdf – and as a printed book, ISBN 978-1523930135
{4} The Way Of Pathei-Mathos – A Précis. The essay is in the 2014 compilation titled One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods: Some Personal and Metaphysical Musings.