David Myatt


The Numinous, Ancestral Culture, And Myatt’s Philosophy

Two recent essays by David Myatt – titled Towards Understanding Ancestral Culture and From Mythoi To Empathy {1} – though short compliment his two recent books Classical Paganism And The Christian Ethos and Tu Es Diaboli Ianua since they deal with two of the topics that are central to both books. {2}

In the first essay Myatt explains what he means by the term ‘ancestral culture’ – δίκη understood as fairness, as the balance, the wisdom, that ancestral customs often represent – and in the process clarifies the somewhat obscure passages at the end of his Classical Paganism text, explicitly stating that the modern paganus weltanschauung he wrote about in that book is founded on καλὸς κἀγαθός and thus “on chivalry; on manners; on gentrice romance; and on the muliebral virtues [and] gender equality.”

In the second essay Myatt goes into some detail regarding what he means by the term ‘numinous’, details which are long-overdue and which explicitly distance him from the view of Rudolf Otto in respect of that term. For Myatt, the numinous is a perceiveration, an apprehension resulting from the human faculty of empathy, and therefore in his view goes beyond religion. Indeed, he writes that religions “have not presenced, and do not and cannot presence, the numinous as the numinous can be presenced.” Instead, what does presence the numinous is the knowing that empathy provides which is the move away from mythoi and anthropomorphic deities to “an appreciation of the numinous sans denotatum and sans religion.”

As with almost all of Myatt’s post-2011 philosophical writings the two essays – and indeed the two books – are not only derived from his own philosophical musings and his reflections on his own pathei-mathos, but also contain references to Greco-Roman culture. Which methodology is both a strength and a weakness.

A strength, in that he brings that ancient culture alive almost as if his writings are a bridge to that past and to a future where at least some of the ancient virtues he obviously so admires (such as chivalry) may live again and be melded with the virtues – the muliebral virtues – that he understands his own pathei-mathos and our ‘human culture of pathei-mathos’ have made him appreciate and consider are necessary if we human beings are to change and evolve.

A weakness, in that his writings contain no references to modern philosophies and philosophers and thus lack points of reference for those interested in philosophy as an academic subject. A lack which will undoubtedly deter many from studying Myatt’s somewhat complex – almost labyrinthine and undoubtedly unique – metaphysics. A metaphysics which – based as it is on concepts such as physis, πάθει μάθος, perceiveration, σωφρονεῖν, denotatum, and δίκη – will seem strange, indeed probably alien, to those nurtured on contemporary philosophy.

That said, those who make the effort to get to grips with Myatt’s terminology and who are undeterred that his philosophy of pathei-mathos is scattered in pieces among multiple books and scores of essays and appears still in the process of development, will be rewarded. They will find a most decidedly Western and a decidedly pagan philosophy, rooted in the culture of Ancient Greece and Rome, which manifests the ethos of the West in a manner it has never before been manifest. Not only that, it restores that Western ethos to us, and importantly evolves it, in a distinct philosophical and refreshingly unpolitical way.

That only a few today will appreciate any of this is a sign of our unchivalrous era and of just how few still appreciate the native, the fair, the reasoned, the scholarly, culture of the West subsumed as that culture has been and increasingly is being by the rise of the uncultured, the raucous, ones among us.

R.S & K.S
January 2018


{1} The two essays by Myatt are available on his weblog and also in the following pdf file: https://wyrdsister.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/two-essays-v1a.pdf

{2} Both books are available in printed format and also as gratis open access documents from: https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/2017/10/30/david-myatt-collected-works/