Arguments without Evidence—or without Ethos?

I spent a big chunk of yesterday afternoon reviewing a book that purports to prove the existence of a self-conscious, Goddess-worshiping Paganism in 19th-century America. The evidence? An idiosyncratic reading of one writer’s literary output, writing that never uses the words “witch,” “Pagan,” “fairy,” “goddess,” or anything like that, but openly espouses Protestant Christianity.

If I did not feel the obligation to walk the reader through through my thinking—and if the journal’s book review editor involved had not argued persuasively that “to the degree that popular or self-published books inspire us to think more critically and innovatively then perhaps we should be more inclusive”—I would have just written one sentence: “[The writer] is delusional.”

Call it wishful thinking, call it unverifiable personal gnosis, call it “I know that I am right even though there is no evidence.”

Another example of UPG-fueld writing appears to be a book called Trials of the Moon, which purports to challenge Ronald Hutton’s historical books on Paganism without, y’know, actually having to do the depth of research that he does.

It’s sort of like wanting to bat against the San Francisco Giant Tim Lincecum’s pitching but demanding that you get to keep swinging and swinging until you hit one over the fence—none of that “three strikes and you’re out” stuff.

Some people like it even while admitting that it “offers no alternate theory or proposes any possible history” for Wicca.

At The Witching Hour, Peg starts out gently,

But I also noted a number of statements that don’t inspire confidence. By his own admission Whitmore is not an historian, nor even an academic. And this shows in his failure to observe the most rudimentary rules of objectivity and neutrality of stance.

But by the end of her review, she is reduced to “HUH? HUH?”

If you can’t offer evidence, at least try for a believable enthymeme. Truly ancient Pagans, along with inventing the academy, invented a wide range of persuasive tools.

As a Pagan in academia, I like learning those tools and using them.  Of the old persuasive trilogy—logos, pathos, ethos—maybe it is really ethos that is in short supply. UPG has a place, but this kind of writing is not it.


  1. Pitch313 says:

    It seems to me that Paganism would have living value regardless of its origin–just invented whole cloth yesterday or rooted in the mists of lost time and growing through human affairs to the present day. In that sense, at least, the details of the story wouldn’t matter.

    But if we wish to know about how Paganism has grown and died back throughout human affairs, paying attention to the folks who specialize in figuring this out is helpful. So are folks who have interesting ideas and make provocative speculations.

    Hey! Did I mention that it just now came to me most convincingly that my Paganism derives from the hitherto unsuspected Goddess-worshipping of a 19th Century American author. I would have told you before, but I thought everybody already knew.

  2. At least in part due to the criticisms of a non-academician, Don Frew, Ronald Hutton eventually got around to admitting that he had completely overlooked actually learning anything about late-antique Paganism when he wrote Triumph of the Moon. Having gotten that off his chest, Hutton then proceeded to spill a great deal of ink trying to explain why even though he had been completely wrong about this, he was, nevertheless, still right.

  3. […] Chas Clifton’s “Arguments with Evidence – or Ethos?” […]

  4. Chas Clifton says:

    @Apuleius. Don’t kid yourself. Don Frew accomplished nothing. (I have been privy to this discussion.) Don was wise to stop trying to play academic hardball and to transfer his energies to interfaith work.

  5. Rombald says:

    There were self-describing Pagans in the 19th-century. Kenneth Grahame (of “Wind in the Willows”) is one example. However, his “Pagan Papers” is not very Pagan in either a Wiccan-feminist or polytheist-classical-Hellenic sense, but is more about love of nature, and the virtues of “dropping out”.

    As I don’t think an entity, “Paganism”, exists at the present day in the sense that the entity “Christianity” does exist, despite being fuzzy at the edges, I don’t think the question as to whether Paganism is continuous, invented or reconstructed is all that helpful. I think it would be better to look for continuity in specific strains, traditions or values.

    I do think Hutton has been overrated. He tends to dismiss folk traditions, but seems to ignore that most stuff wasn’t written down.

    I read “Introduction to Shamanism”, by Thomas DuBois, recently. This is a thoroughly academic book that tends to see continuity between ancient shamanism and late-mediaeval/early-modern withcraft. However, the author is a professor of Scandinavian Studies, and he is biased towards Scandinavia, where such continuity is more plausible, in that Sweden and Findland were not CHristianised until about 1200-ish, and the Saami in some areas remained overtly shamanic and non-Christian into the 17th century, right through the witch-trials era.

    I have never seen a careful exploration of the position in the pre-Columbian Christian European imagination of known, existing non-Abrahamic peoples, such as (i) the Saami, Siberians and Eskimoes; (ii) Canary Islanders; (iii) sub-Saharan Africans; and (iv) Asian civilisations. This links in with a comment I made in a recent post about the contacts between Christian Europeans and Eskimoes. Sea Lapps (some of whom may have been Eskimoes) certainly used to visit Orkney and Shetland, were overt “pagans”, and were renowned as sorcerers. In areas that had some contact with pagan blacks or Canarians (eg. Iberia), say, different traditions may be visible.

    It would be fascinating to see a book about this sort of thing. We have too much tendency to think of Europe between about 800 and 1492 as a single, monolithic entity, wholly Christian, dominated by the Church, and hermetically sealed on all its borders by an equally monolithic Islam.

  6. Ben Whitmore says:

    Hi Chas
    I’d like to encourage you to elaborate on your misgivings about my work. I feel a strong burden of responsibility for any injury my work may cause to Hutton — it is very difficult to write such a critique without causing personal hurt, even where none is intended, and I feel a sense of obligation to humbly and transparently admit any mistakes I may have made. Robert Mathiesen had some misgivings about how I had represented his research on Charles Leland, and I have encouraged him, too, to elaborate on this and either send some comments to me to post directly on the page on which my book is advertised, or else to publish them through some other forum. I ask the same of you, if you have the time and inclination, as I am anxious to hear what actual issues you have discovered.

    Regarding Peg’s “critique”, I’m sad that you quote that, because I had thought it would be clear to anyone who had actually read my work how misrepresentative her complaints were. The bulk of that review consists of attributing to me specious-sounding arguments that I never made.

    As far as my not offering an alternative history goes, I state explicitly in my book that I am not promoting an alternative history, and I explain why. It is not because there is no “possible” alternative to Hutton’s account — indeed there _must_ be an alternative, because Hutton’s account is clearly wrong in several respects (and I have offered quite a large body of evidence to this effect). Rather, it is because I still feel this field of research is in its infancy and it would be premature to promote any single account as authoritative.
    I hope my work will help encourage further research and debate that will bring us closer to being able to flesh out this remarkable area of history, but my work is just a preparatory step. I do feel, though, that attentive readers of my book should be able to formulate several “possible” alternatives to Hutton’s account.

    There is actually another reason why I don’t present my own version of history: it would be an enormous amount of work. I get to skip a lot of this work by writing a _critique_ rather than “a history” of witchcraft and paganism. I don’t have to create my own structure and establish from scratch the context and connections to link together every item that I discuss. Hutton’s books provide all this for me, and I simply follow his structure. Had I attempted to write a stand-alone history it would have been a much larger job. That is the nature of a critique, and it is a sad fact that it is always easier to criticise than to create from scratch. I have tried to credit Hutton for attempting the breathtaking scope of research that Triumph of the Moon represents (and actually succeeding quite well with significant parts of it), and I would quail at the thought of trying anything like it myself. If an academic of Hutton’s resources proves to have bitten off more than he can chew, how could an amateur historian like myself hope to succeed in his stead?

    With best wishes,
    Ben Whitmore

  7. Chas Clifton says:

    @Rombald: “He tends to dismiss folk traditions, but seems to ignore that most stuff wasn’t written down.”

    Hello? Historians deal with what is written down, even as archaeologists deal with material remains. Folk traditions, as Hutton as shown in Stations of the Sun and as any academic folklorist could tell you, are easily manipulated and created, whereupon they become suddenly “ancient.”

  8. Chas Clifton says:

    @Ben: This blog post merely linked to other reviews of your work. Perhaps we will publish a review in The Pomegranate as well.

    You write, “There is actually another reason why I don’t present my own version of history: it would be an enormous amount of work.”

    It sounds to me as though you want to be respected without doing the work to earn the respect. Yes indeed, academic writing is “an enormous amount of work,” but some people are willing to do it. (My earlier American baseball analogy might not have made much sense to you, but that was the gist of it.)

    Undoubtedly a new generation of scholars will critically examine Hutton’s work, but it is still new enough that that process has not truly begun.

  9. Ben Whitmore says:

    @Chas: I understood your baseball analogy perfectly well. My book didn’t arise from a desire for personal fame or glory, or a need to ‘take on the great’: I wrote it because I could see such a book needed to be written, and no-one else seemed to be doing it.
    In my previous comment I chose not to blow my own trumpet about the amount of work that went into Trials of the Moon. You capitalised on my silence in that regard by suggesting that I am a slouch who doesn’t want to ‘do the work’, which is perhaps not entirely generous of you, and I think any of your readers who actually take a moment to glance over my book will see that it is the product of considerable research and work.

    But this whole question of who has put in more work than whom is beside the point: some of Hutton’s statements _were_ extremely easy to refute, so does my ease in refuting them make _my_ position wrong rather than his? That would be nonsensical.

    I think quibbling over the amount of sweat expended can only ultimately lead to personal put-downs, which really have nothing to do with scholarly history. I am far more interested in hearing what points you think I have got wrong, and I look forward to your next installment on this. I am quite prepared to be found wrong, and I welcome all constructive debate.
    Kind regards,

    Ben Whitmore

  10. Rombald says:

    Chas: “Hello? ….”
    Fair enough, but the only conclusion that can then be made is that history is only about the literate elite. To try to find what the masses thought, felt and did, it is necessary to piece together other sources – traditions and artefacts – if you don’t think that is history, give it some other name.

    I think you’re being too harsh on Whitmore (admittedly, I haven’t read his bokk). If someone builds a big-picture framework, others can criticise that without having to provide a framework of their own. For most of the past, until accurate records began in the early 19th century, really, all we can do about a lot of things is make educated guesses. Hutton runs way beyond the evidence, and Whitmore’s unwillingness to do that is to be commended.

    I think a bigger issue is what would pagan survival/continuity look like? If ancient paganism was mainly non-doctrinal, should we expect continuity of belief? If pagan practices were followed by overt Christians, is that paganism? Was mediaeval Christianity basically pagan, as the Puritans claimed? I don’t think anyone has even given any useful definitions with which to approach this question.

    Christianity, as an entity, has fuzzy boundaries (what about John Spong, or the Mormons?). However, there are things like the Bible, belief in the deity of Christ, etc., that clearly indicate its presence – I don’t think modern “Pagans” have any analogous common ground. Nevertheless, even in cases of Christian survival, it is difficult to know whether the result is Christian. One obvious example is the Kakure Kirishitan in Japan – Catholics who went underground during the 17th-century persecutions – in the 1870s some of them rejoined the Catholic Church, but others refused to do so, and remained secret. Some still exist in the islands of Nagasaki Prefecture, but it is thought that their beliefs have no connection with Christianity, and centre on the worship of the Virgin Mary as the creator goddess, and protector of fishermen (I’ve seen TV programmes in Japanese about them, and there also articles on the Net if you search). Also, Nestorian Christianity was introduced to China, and probably Japan, at an early date, but was gradually absorbed by Buddhism and Taoism. At what point do you say that there has been no continuity of Christianity? This difficulty is more acute with “Paganism”, as we don’t even know what “Paganism” is. Back to square one, methinks.

  11. @Ben. The amount of work may not so much be in the writing of the book, but in all that which led up to the writing of the book — the learning of the craft of historiography, the study of sources, the review of the existing literature about those sources, the synthesizing and analyzing.

    One example from Craft history: Margaret Murray’s ideas about “The Old Religion” reigned from the 1920s through the 1950s (and continue today among many Wiccans!).

    Yet they lost credence among educated scholars of religion when people began to go back and reexamine her sources. Eliot Rose, for example, did that in his A Razor for a Goat, demonstrating how she selectively quoted from witchcraft-trial records to make her case. His book came out in 1962, but I know that I did not read it until the early 1980s–and when I did, I suddenly looked at Murray’s narrative much more skeptically. And sadly, because I had wanted to believe it.

    So if you are going to challenge someone like Hutton, double-check his sources. See what other historians have said about them. Cite page by page. Offer an intellectually convincing counter-argument.

    He is not an unreasonable person. He and I met via correspondence, years before we met in person, because I challenged his interpretation of something that Charles Leland did or wrote. (I forget the details.) I had spent time in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania library in Philadelphia, going through Leland’s papers, and I felt that I had a pretty good grip on his character as a writer and editor. I argued that Leland was “X” instead of “Y,” and I think that I convinced him.

    But if all you can say, in effect, is, “I don’t like Hutton’s narrative because it conflicts with what I feel in my heart is true, and so maybe Professor Hutton is wrong,” then, I’m sorry, but you have nothing.

  12. KW says:

    Am I to understand that you haven’t read _Trials of the Moon_, but merely “linked to other reviews of” it? And that, with only that one other review, you’ve arrived at the conclusion that “Another example of UPG-fueld writing appears to be a book called Trials of the Moon, which purports to challenge Ronald Hutton’s historical books on Paganism without, y’know, actually having to do the depth of research that he does”?

    That’s a lot to hang on the word “appears.”

    Also: there’s such a thing as oral history.

  13. Chas Clifton says:

    @Rombald: You appear to want to make the definition of “Pagan” wide enough to include anything that you like, even the nominally Christian. Michael York in Pagan Theologyoffers one definition that holds up pretty well, but he excludes Abrahamic religions.

    There is another notion out there at Paganism can be defined as “a way of being religious,” but does that cover one-god, one-soul religions too?

    @KW: And what are the sources of your oral history? Are they (gulp) written down? Can you demonstrate that they have not been affected by printed materials or other media like so much of what has passed for “folklore” for the past century? Can you provide corroboration from other sources of the events and persons described? Can you create an intellectually convincing narrative?

  14. Ben Whitmore says:

    You say “if you can’t offer evidence [etc.]”: the briefest glance at my book would have shown you copious footnotes, cited “page by page” (as you demand), as well as a bibliography spanning eight pages of quite small type. You tell me I should “double-check [Hutton’s] sources”: that is a major element of my book — demonstrating how Hutton has misquoted or cherry-picked from various of his sources. You suggest I am wrong to believe Margaret Murray: in Trials I repeatedly stress that Murray’s thesis is implausible, that her view of history is not accepted by any recent historians, and that she “was uncritical in projecting her own ideas into her research, and far too eager to derive vast generalisations from isolated instances” (p. 35; check the index for more of my comments on Murray) (I, unlike you, never did believe Murray: perhaps a sign of the times, since I came into the Craft only 13 years ago when she was well on the wane.)

    It has become abundantly clear what the problem here is. To slightly paraphrase you, you purport to challenge my book without, y’know, actually reading it.

    I propose we suspend this discussion right here. My book is dense but not too long, and, I am told, quite readable. It is only a small amount of work to read: are you willing to do it? Perhaps then, if you are inclined, we can resume our conversation in a more sensible fashion.

    @Rombald: the questions you raise about what constitutes “paganism” and how “paganism” can possibly be tracked through history are questions I myself raise in Trials of the Moon. The answers I come to are hardly more conclusive than your own, but I do look at some angles and cite some theories that you may find interesting and complimentary to your own ideas on the subject. Can I perhaps be forgiven for recommending my own book to you?

  15. Carla O'Harris says:

    The reason Mr. Clifton seems to get behind elite history is obviously because he is a lackey of academia himself, who simply has no clue that there are independent scholars out there who can do spins around university-paid conformists who have never stepped out of the box their whole life.

    Yes, Mr. Clifton, let’s let Official Organs of Thinking do all our thinking for us and just Trust The Experts! Is Academiolatry paganism at its fullest?

    Mr. Clifton is either unaware or simply playing ignorant that scholars such as Carlo Ginsburg have quite successfully used folklore in their historical investigations and reconstructions.

    Ben is being kind and genial. But I will just speak openly for myself : Hutton is a second-rate hack-artist whose cult is completely undeserving. Any critical examination of his work shows his completely Sophistic way of proceeding, arguing through innuendo and untrained psychological analysis– surely the recourse of the bankrupt — and how he twists his sources to say what he wants them to say. Then, when confronted by this, he simply squirms and tries to imply that that was what he was getting at all along. It’s Sophistry through and through. At best, he’s a hiphop artist, skillfully turning the archive on his turntable, and he puts out breakbeats many seem to enjoy, but these are pure artistic productions. Fine, let aesthetics then define the audience. Such antics are not to my taste. Not because I disagree with his conclusions, but his amateurish methods. I just happen to enjoy first rate minds. But hey, some like caviar and others like big macs. No problem : enjoy the Mickey-D’s. That you would give short shrift to a more gourmet selection is somewhat par for the course, isn’t it?

  16. Chas Clifton says:

    @Carla: That’s “Professor Clifton” to you. 🙂

    And now you know why I refer to my Chesapeake Bay retriever as a “running dog of the academicians.”

  17. Rombald says:

    Chas: “You appear to want to make the definition of “Pagan” wide enough to include anything that you like, even the nominally Christian.”

    I’m not quite sure where you get that from. My position, for what it is worth, is that the term “Pagan” is deeply unhelpful, and people would be better off not using it. I think some of the different streams within modern “Paganism” are entirely different worldviews, as different from each other as from Christianity, and would be better not classed together.

    However, if one does wish to look for “Pagan” continuity/survival, one needs at least some good definitions as to what one is looking for.

  18. Carla, Chas is a Pagan himself. He’s not a conformist academic with some sort of grudge against Paganism, he’s a Pagan as well as an academic who does (as well as facilitates others to do) wonderful, insightful scholarship into many forms of Paganism from an academic angle. Have you actually bothered to look at his publication record? An academic approach to researching any sort of topic is about in-depth investigation, arguing logically, and being clear as to how you come to your conclusions. Your criticisms of Hutton also show that you have absoluetly no idea what academic research actually is. Academia is demanding and difficult. Religion – including Paganism – is an easy place to assert authority as you don’t need to “prove” anyhting. You can say whatever outrageous claim you want to. You don’t have to prove it, you can just say “I know it to be true” or “I feel it” or “I received it by oral transmission” or “well, I have quite a few friends who agree with me about it and we’re in a coven, so there”. That’s fine, but if you can’t be explicit about where you got your information, don’t expect anybody else to believe you – except the gullible.

  19. Peg says:

    @Ben: my bog post on your book is what it says it is: a brief critique. I never intended it as a proper review. I did, however, read the whole of the downloadable manuscript, so your accusation there is incorrect. I have been asked to write a longer review for a scholarly journal, and I promise you, I will re-read the book and give it a fair and thorough critique, written in a style appropriate to the publication (as opposed to my blog, which is not scholarly, and where my own brand of snark rules). Your one response on my blog was not to me directly, but to another commenter, so perhaps you have deemed me unworthy of direct engagement.

    I am additionally troubled by your own admission that you don’t want to present your own historical writing to counter Hutton’s because it’s apparently too much work. In my opinion, the only way to present a truly substantive critique of a written work that is itself an exhaustive product of historical research, is to understand, as Chas points out, the enormous amount of time and effort, not to mention expertise, that goes into such a work. Your admission of a lack of ambition is neither here nor there, however. It should be apparent from reading any scholarly (or pseudo-scholarly) book how much research has been done, and at what level of scholarly aptitude the writer is functioning. As I said elsewhere, I don’t think you quite understand (or choose not to engage with) the rigorous standards for scholarly writing which demand an objective approach to historical sources. Although, of course, interpretation of those sources may occasionally be biased. But they still have to be based in facts, not feelings and speculations.

    @Carla; the scholar you refer to actually spells his last name “Ginzburg.” Are you sure you’ve read him?

    I have to agree with Caroline’s comments; you clearly have no idea what scholarly research or writing consist of. Nor do you apparently understand what level of ability and accomplishment it takes for someone to progress to being named the Chair of the History Department at the second largest university in all of Great Britain.

    In my line of work, an “independent scholar” is either an academic who is currently out of work, or one who has never held a research, teaching or other professional position. The first category may well be the result of a recessive economy and a glutted academic job market; the second is another beast entirely.

  20. Peg says:

    oops, “blog post” not “bog post.”

  21. Pitch313 says:

    Rombald asks a really important and intriguing question: “What would pagan survival/continuity look like?”

    It’s the sort of question that takes us back to square one and prods us to put what we know, suspect, wish for, and have no clue to together from the beginning. Maybe we will put something new and fruitful together in the course of re-doing an answer.

  22. Ben Whitmore says:

    @Peg: I didn’t bother to rebut your comments, firstly because someone called parsifal had already done a good job of that; secondly, because I judged you were either lacking in good will or in comprehension, and either way, I would have been wasting my breath; and thirdly, because I knew it would be immediately apparent to anyone who actually reads the passages you quote in context what a hatchet-job you are doing on them. This is scholarship, not politics, and I will not condescend to your nonsense.

    As for your innuendo about my scholarly aptitude, perhaps that will scare some people away from even peeking at my book (as it did Professor Clifton), and that’s a pity. But I am content that those who actually do take a look for themselves will make up their own minds, and very rapidly be able to tell if it is a book of any scholarly depth, worth their time reading.
    That’s all I ask, that my book be judged on its merits, not on the basis of the ridiculous straw dolls you are erecting.

    For those who missed it, the entire book, minus front-matter, bibliography and index is available free-to-view online (click my name, above, to find it).

  23. ffetcher says:

    Having just submitted a generally favourable review of “Trials…”, and now reading this thread, I’m wondering whether I reviewed the same book. Ben Whitmore may not be a professional scholar, but he has certainly done the work. Where I had to hand the works he cites, I went back and re-read the relevant portions (together with the relevant sections of “Triumph…”, as well as “Pagan Religions…”, which gets a few mentions. In the main, I find the arguments in “Trials…” persuasive and, in the case of Hutton’s treatment of the work of Ginzburg, pretty much clear cut. I’m not a professional scholar either, but it didn’t even take all of the analytical techniques I learned as an undergraduate (rather longer ago than I care to admit) to follow the discussion using ‘compare and contrast’ and conclude that Whitmore is certainly right about the discrepancies and probably right about how they happened.

    In areas where I like to think I’m on fairly firm ground, particularly folklore and the New Forest Coven, I disagree with some of Whitmore’s conclusions (as opposed to his reading of the source material), but that in no way diminishes my opinion of the book as a whole. To criticise the book for not presenting an alternative history is like criticising (as many do) “Pagan Religions…” for ignoring European parallels – it’s simply not what the book is about. In my opinion, it does a creditable job of suggesting that there might *be* an alternative history, something that many pagans on this side of the pond don’t seem to realise.

  24. This will probably be a good example of popular and internet reviews appearing earlier and more accessibly than academic reviews. And therefore being more influential. Or it may not, we’ll see. This will be interesting to watch. At least it’s got the debate cauldron swirling again…

  25. Rombald says:

    Ben: I have only glanced through your book. I will read it at length later. I am glad to note that you have mentioned the Saami, many of whom remained overtly shamanic until the late 17th century. DuBois’ “Introduction to Shamanism” is an academic work that tends to support your thesis.

    I would like to suggest that, when talking about “Pagan” survivals in Europe, it might be a good idea to distinguish a number of different categories:

    1. Whole-society Paganism: Non-Christian religions practised by entire societies, as in Lithuania until about 1350, and among Saami and some Russian tribes until much later.

    2. Influences of type 1 on overt Christians. Eg. the influences of Saami on Scandinavians.

    3. Literary Paganism: Educated people who considered themselves to be in some sense Pagan, based on their readings of classical works, etc., or their response to nature, say.

    4. Folk Paganism: Persistence of pre-Christian beliefs or practices among non-literate people who are nominally Christian, but are conscious that their beliefs are at odds with accepted Christianity.

    5. Folk traditions: Persistence of non-literate practices that have pre-Christian origins, and may be frowned upon by the elite, but are seen as entirely compatible with Christianity by those who practise them.

  26. Carla O'Harris says:

    I love it when a bunch of idiots who know nothing about me think that I, of all people, am not familiar with academia. What a tribe of ignorant fools. I am well familiar with academia, and then I am familiar with rigor, there often being a difference between the two, where I prefer the latter, as I made clear in my post.

    Your tactics will not work in my case, because you are battling a straw man, and I guarantee you that I am far more potent than any image of straw you put in my place.

    I stand by my comments.

  27. Peg says:

    @Ben: I am sorry you think I write “nonsense” to be “condescended to.” I have not erected any straw men as far as I know. Some of my remarks may not have been scholarly in form, but I’m certainly responding to your book honestly and sincerely. I’ll proceed with the full-length review I’ve been asked to do, but since it won’t appear for a few months (as Caroline points out), then perhaps no one will be interested any longer.

    @ffetcher: I’d agree with you Mr Whitmore’s book is well-written. But writing that is lively and engaging can often lull readers into thinking the content is irreproachable (the converse is true with dry, dull scholarly tomes whose content may be impeccable but whose writing is sleep-inducing). I’d encourage Mr. Whitmore to consider approaching scholarly writing on a more serious level, he does seem to have a knack for style if not rigor. He might even be able to get a legitimate publisher interested. I confess, knowing this work is self-published (despite the fact that a number of self-published works have gone on to become best sellers: The Celestine Prophecy comes to mind) does not predispose me to think it’s a work of depth or quality. But upon reading it there’s a great deal to appreciate. It’s just not a scholarly work as it purports to be.

    @Carla: I am employing no “tactics.” Merely pointing out that you might want to double-check the selling of the names of the scholars you’re holding up as support for your arguments. And perhaps come up with more exacting descriptive terms than “hiphop” or “Micky Ds”.

  28. Erik says:

    Rombald asks a really important and intriguing question: “What would pagan survival/continuity look like?”

    Shinto! 🙂

  29. ffetcher says:

    @peg: I think I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t think Mr Whitmore is claiming that his content is ‘irreproachable’. I still (just) have time to amend my review so I’d appreciate a little more detail on your take on where ‘rigour’ is lacking in the work. Is it that he hasn’t covered some stuff you think he should have? Or do you consider that in places his actual analysis of the material is sloppy or faulty? Or something else?