Ezra Pound’s Religio or, The Child’s Guide to Knowledge

Religio
or, The Child’s Guide to Knowledge
by Ezra Pound

What is a god?
A god is an eternal state of mind.
What is a faun?
A faun is an elemental creature.
What is a nymph?
A nymph is an elemental creature.
When is a god manifest?
When the states of mind take form.
When does a man become a god?
When he enters one of these states of mind.
What is the nature of the forms whereby a god is manifest?
They are variable but retain certain distinguishing characteristics.
Are all eternal states of mind gods?
We consider them to be so.
Are all durable states of mind gods?
They are not.
By what characteristic may we know the divine forms?
By beauty.
And if the presented forms are unbeautiful?
They are demons.
If they are grotesque?
They may be well-minded genii.
What are the kinds of knowledge?
There are immediate knowledge and hearsay.
Is hearsay of any value?
Of some.
What is the greatest hearsay?
The greatest hearsay is the tradition of the gods.
Of what use is this tradition?
It tells us to be ready to look.
In what manner do gods appear?
Formed and formlessly.
To what do they appear when formed?
To the sense of vision.
And when formless?
To the sense of knowledge.
May they when formed appear to anything save the sense of vision?
We may gain a sense of their presence as if they were standing behind us.
And in this case they may possess form?
We may feel that they do possess form.
Are there names for the gods?
The gods have many names. It is by names that they are handled in the tradition.
Is there harm in using these names?
There is no harm in thinking of the gods by their names.
How should one perceive a god, by his name?
It is better to perceive a god by form, or by the sense of knowledge, and after perceiving him thus, to consider his name or to “think what god it may be.”
Do we know the number of the gods?
It would be rash to say that we do. A man should be content with a reasonable number.
What are the gods of this rite?
Apollo, and in some sense Helios, Diana in some of her phases, also the Cytherean goddess.
To what other gods is it fitting, in harmony or in adjunction with these rites, to give incense?
To Kore and to Demeter, also to lares and to oreiads and to certain elemental creatures.
How is it fitting to please these lares and other creatures?
It is fitting to please and to nourish them with flowers.
Do they have need of such nutriment?
It would be foolish to believe that they have, nevertheless it bodes well for us that they should be pleased to appear.
Are these things so in the east?
This rite is made for the West.

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6 Comments

  1. Every line of this is perfect.

    Reply
    • It’s one of my favorites. So concise and so beautiful. (This is also my response to the whole “atheist/secular humanist” pagans, by the way.)

      Reply
  2. Very nice!

    This reminds me more than a little of the “Secundus” dialogue, as well as the Altercatio Hadriani Augusti et Epicteti Philosophi that I love so much (and translated, and have included in several of my books!)…

    Reply
  3. This is wonderful, thank you.

    Reply
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