A.S.: Greetings, Richard! It’s your first talk for the Russian-speaking public so firstly I ask you to introduce and tell us about your background.
R.R.: I was born in the south of England and after many years living in London I relocated a few years ago to the western part of Canada. I studied ethnology, history of religions and archaeology at the University of London (School of Oriental & African Studies) and then started my doctorate at the University of Oxford which 25 years later remains unfinished! Whilst doing my thesis I started writing books and to date have published 7 books. I also wrote and presented a number of television documentaries for British TV on the prehistoric and early historical peoples of Europe. More recently I have started writing again mainly on new spiritual and political movements amongst European peoples.
A.S.: In your works we saw the two major lines of interests: intoxicants and Stone Age barbarians. Please tell us why you are so interested in these topics and what you reveal about them in your books?
R.R.: I have written 3 books on psychoactive drugs and the important roles they have played in culture and history. Back in 1993 my first book was published by the British Museum Press (reprinted as Essential Substances by Arktos in 2014) and was one of the few books at that time to give a broad view of the history of psychoactive plants and other drug sources. That this subject was not as well- known as it should have been was one of the things that attracted me to research and write about it. The book was well-received and got reviewed favorably in many different outlets from Harvard Botanical Museum to Playboy magazine! The book was neither for or against drugs it simply made the point that such drugs have played an important role in many areas of cultural life across the world.
After I had written my books on drugs I became more interested in another area of cultural history which was not very well understood even amongst otherwise highly educated people – namely the achievements of prehistoric people of the Stone Age who laid the foundations for the art, science, technology, writing etc of the historical period – Stone Age people were not savage or stupid but as intelligent and creative as the people of any other era.
A.S.: Talking about drugs, which of them may have had a greater impact on the culture of the peoples of Europe? Most are stereotypes about the “mushrooms” and “herbal”.
R.R.: Most are stereotypes about the “mushrooms” and “herbal”. Opium and cannabis were widely used in prehistoric Europe even before alcohol was known there – in terms of what we know about the non-Christian use of psychoactive plants I should mention the European witches also used powerful hallucinogens like henbane, belladonna and mandrake.
A.S.: When you say that the people of the Stone Age were neither stupid nor wild, you hereby agree that progressive scale level of the peoples of assessment – it is outdated and irrelevant method?
A.S.: Let’s talk about paganism and your book “Pagan Resurrection”.
What is your relationship with paganism? Are you are a member of any organization? How do you assess the current trend back to pre-Abrahamic traditions? In your book you particularly accentuate the figure of Odin, why is that?
R.R.: I don’t usually call myself a pagan because it has a number of negative connotations. It is a term that basically means non-Christian so it explains more about what it is not rather than what it is in itself. Also ‘pagan’ is a term used by many modern occultists and New Age people to describe their syncretic and usually superficial pseudo-spirituality which I certainly don’t want to be identified with. I do however gain great spiritual sustenance from the pre-Christian spiritual legacy of northern Europe (the Northern Tradition) which has a powerful and inspiring world-view which can be perfectly adapted to the conditions in which we find ourselves today – for me it is not about living in the past or trying to return to some lost historical and romantic utopia.
I have belonged to 3 or 4 different groups that practice the ways of the Northern Tradition and still have both respect and contact with some of them such as the Stav group which is based in the UK (though it was founded by a Norwegian man) and the Asatru Folk Assembly in the USA. Currently I am not active in any groups.
I think many people realize the universalizing nature of Abrahamic religions has been a massive influence on the modern world and that many ideas that exist within these religions also live on in secular forms even amongst atheists. Pre-Abrahamic religions provide a way to seek a return to local and regional identities that are everywhere under attack from globalization and related forces.
I describe my book Pagan Resurrection as a biography of a god – namely Odin. I also write that Odin is the god of altered states of consciousness. He embodies the non-rational and higher aspects of the human mind – his name means ‘frenzy’ and he manifests through the various forms of ecstasy – in poetic and other inspirations, drug-induced visions, sexual passion, the battle fury of the berserker etc. As such he is the archetypal figure of the deepest, most extreme and most creative dangerous aspects of our personal and collective consciousness.
A.S.: Do you agree that we can consider that abrahamism is a prefiguration, matrix of modern globalism?
A.S.: Do you agree that the Modern world it`s a Kali Yuga or Iron Age from Hesiod and how traditionalists and pagans see it now?
R.R.: This is a very interesting question that can be answered from two perspectives.
Firstly we can look at the mundane level of history (what we may call ‘horizontal history’) and see that the dominant paradigm of progress is defective. That there has been technological progress is easy to show (crudely put a nuclear bomb is more powerful than a bow and arrow) and a similar case could be made for the very many medical advances that have been made. But to argue that humankind as a whole has progressed in all the spheres of life is much harder for me to believe – spiritually, artistic, morally I see no progress. There are very many features of the modern world that are clearly very bad – consolidation of wealth amongst a small global elite, environmental degradation and so on. Another feature of the modern world which is also very important and indicates that this may indeed be the Iron Age of Hesiod (or the Wolf Age as it is called in the Northern Tradition) is the superficiality of so much of modern society – the masses who worship the most crass and materialistic idols of the entertainment world. I find it hard to believe that any preceding era of human history was as inauthentic as our own times where reality TV and simulacra and virtuality threaten to smother reality itself.
The second way to view this question is from the perspective of ‘vertical history’ which looks at the world from a Traditionalist point of view. In this respect Kali Yuga is the lowest state of social and individual being and is always present as are the 3 other, higher, ages – in a sense we all begin our spiritual journey in the lowest state or Kali Yuga (the Iron Age) and the return to the Golden Age is a vertical journey upwards to the highest states of consciousness.
A.S.: In an interview with Mindaugas Peleckis you said you are working on a book for Arktos about Identitarianism, can you say more about it? What is Identitarianism?
R.R.: Identitarianism is a political movement which began in France and has now spread to a number of other European countries and is concerned with the preservation of indigenous European identities at the regional, national and continental levels. I hope this book (in which its leaders will be interviewed) will be a much-needed sourcebook on this movement. My aim is to produce a book which is impartial and allows the movement’s thinkers and activists to speak in their own words. I hope it will interest not only Identitarians themselves but also students, political scientists and other academics, serious journalists and even those who are against the movement.
A.S.: So, identarism is a variant of the theoretical understanding of a multipolar world based on a pre-Abrahamic religious identity in Europe?
R.R.: I personally agree that multipolarism, paganism and Identitarianism are very compatible but many Identitarians are Christians
A.S.: What can you wish to Russian traditionalists and the pagans?
R.R.: My knowledge of Russian traditionalism and paganism is unfortunately limited as I am not a Russian speaker but I have read most of what is available in English of Alexander Dugin’s work which I have found very interesting. I also have read your own work with great interest and particularly like your rejection of Satanic elements as irrelevant to your pagan tradition. Although I have traveled quite widely I am sad to say I have never visited Russia despite having being interested in it since I was a teenager (when my main attractions to it were its chess newspaper 64 and also the reading of the classic novels) but hope to someday. Also, although my books have been translated into thirteen languages none have been translated into Russian which is a great shame. If any of your readers know of publishers who might be interested in any of my books please let me know and I can either deal with this directly or via my literary agent depending on the book
Finally I’d like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to answer your interesting questions.
Interview by Askr Svarte