"These Things Never Happened, But Always Are"

"These Things Never Happened, But Always Are"

Sallust on Pagan Theology

“Now these things never happened, but always are.” These profound words, which have been paraphrased as “myth is that which never was, but always is” can be found in the writings of Sallust, a late Pagan philosopher who was associated with the Emperor Julian. Sallust's work “On the Gods and the World” is a short essay on Pagan theology based on Neoplatonist philosophy.

Most Neopagans would not be eager to embrace Neoplatonism without reservations, for a number of reasons. One of these is that the late Pagans who embraced Neoplatonism were part of the same intellectual milieu as the early Christians, and they fully shared the Christian rejection of physicality and sensuality, which many Neopagans reject.


However, even if Neopaganism is going in a completely different direction from Neoplatonism, Sallust and the other Neoplatonic writers should still be studied closely by modern Pagans. Why? Because Neoplatonism is the direct Western equivalent of the great Eastern spiritual and mystical traditions such as Yoga, Tantra and Buddhism. Neoplatonist philosophy contains many of the same elements found in Eastern tradition: meditation, reincarnation, karma and enlightenment. However, these elements are expressed in a Western and Pagan context.


Given the fact that Neopaganism has not yet developed a fully articulated or sophisticated theology, Neoplatonist philosophy is arguably a strong basis from which such a theology could eventually be evolved. Rather than simply borrowing concepts such as karma and reincarnation from Asian religions, Neopagans can look to their own Western roots for versions of the same ideas.