Thursday, December 29, 2016

"Pagan Anarchism" Review

I would like to take a moment to review the excellent book, Pagan Anarchism, written by my friend and colleague at Gods and Radicals Christopher Scott Thompson. 

Thompson has achieved in this work an exceptionally difficult task. He has written an interesting, enjoyable, and important book that is equally accessible and exciting for several different audiences. If you are pagan and unsure how this spiritual outlook might relate to anarchism, or if you are entirely unfamiliar with it, you will get great use out of Thompson's clear explanation of anarchism and its relation with historical aspects and tendencies of paganism. If you are familiar with anarchism but uncertain of its relationship to paganism Thompson's insights into anarchistic strains within paganism itself are both provocative and informative. Finally, the reader already well familiar with both paganism and anarchism will still find valuable new insights concerning their potential connection as well as ideas concerning the practical and occult application of each to their shared goals. Overall Pagan Anarchism is a stunningly well balanced book.

The early parts of the book consist of a presentation of the main idea behind "pagan anarchism" along with a short history of both paganism and anarchism. Despite the brevity of these histories they are full of surprising insights, such as the connection between the repression of pagan folk magical practices and the process of "enclosure" (the privatization of previously commonly used land) which occurred at the end of the medieval period. They also contain thoughtful and clear explanations of the differences between different types and aspects of what might be called paganism (witchcraft, reconstructionism, polytheism, etc.) and different approaches to anarchism (libertarian communism, anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-primitivism and more). This is very difficult and contentious terrain to traverse and Thompson does so with a clarity and care that makes it seem easy. 

Following these first several sections Thompson offers an argument for the necessity of a return to animism to both motivate and contextualize our concern for others and the world in which we live, a point which very nicely brings anarchism and paganism together in terms of a potentially shared metaphysics. In the second half of the book can also be found an attempt to imagine the nature of an anarchist and pagan-friendly city and an argument against the excesses of anarcho-primitivism. 

Found between each of the main chapters are a series of poem-prayers that would be a treasure by themselves even without the added richness of the rest of the volume. There is a prayer to the ancestors that I have been using for several months and which has become a permanent aspect of my own ancestor work, there is a powerful charm to break down walls that I adore, a prayer to a god of the wood and goddess of the city, and much more. 

In the end this book is both a convincing argument that paganism and anarchism have necessary and valuable contributions to make to each other, such that it might even be the case that neither is complete without the other, as well as a powerful demonstration of what this pagan anarchism can look like and accomplish. 

A sample chapter from the book can be read here

Consider buying the book here and, while you are at it, consider picking up one of the issues of the "Gods and Radicals" journal "A Beautiful Resistance" (I have pieces in both the first and second issues and am greatly looking forward to the forthcoming third issue). 

You might also want to consider donating in solidarity with "Gods and Radicals".     


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