I recently picked up D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers. I’ve been wanting to read Lawrence ever since I read Ronald Hutton’s Drawing Down the Moon, in which he groups Lawrence with such proto-Pagans as Robert Graves, W. B. Yeats, Ernest Westlake and Harry (Dion) Byngham (of the Order or Woodcraft Chivalry), who were part of the “matrix” out of which Neopaganism was born.
According to Hutton, Lawrence was influenced by James Frazer, Jane Ellen Harrison, and Edward Carpenter, author of Pagan and Christian Creeds and Civilization: It’s Causes and Cure (“The meaning of the old religions will come back to him. On the high-tops once more gathering he will celebrate with naked dances the glory of the human form and the great processions of the stars, or greet the bright horn of the young moon …”).
Lawrence’s novels are interspersed with imagery of women and nature that are definitely proto-Pagan. His essay, “Pan in America” (1924), is one of the clearest examples of Lawrence’s pagan inclinations. describing what he calls the “Pan relationship” as the living relationship between man and nature. Then, shortly before his death, in his short story “The Man Who Died” (1929), Lawrence tells the story of the resurrected Christ, waking from his tomb and traveling to a temple of Isis where he serves (sexually) as the incarnated Osiris for the priestess. In his posthumous Apocalypse, Lawrence rewrites the book of Revelation as a pagan mystery text, the Whore of Babylon becoming the Great Mother, for example.
Finally, in his travelogue, Etruscan Places, Lawrence gives this imaginative interpretation of the frescoes he saw in Italy:
It is as if the current of some strong different life swept through them, different from our shallow current to-day; as if they drew their vitality from different depths that we are denied. …
Behind all the Etruscan liveliness was a religion of life … Behind all the dancing was a vision, and even a science of life, a conception of the universe and man’s place in the universe which made men live to the depth of their capacity.
To the Etruscan all was alive; the whose universe lived; and the business of man was himself to live amid it all. He had to draw life into himself, out of the wandering huge vitalities of the world. He had to draw life into himself, out of the wandering huge vitalities of the world. The cosmos was alive, like a vast creature. The whole thing breathed and stirred. …
The Whole thing was alive, and had a great soul, or anima; and in spite of one great soul, there were myriad roving, lesser souls; every man, every creature every tree and lake and mountain and stream was animate, had its own peculiar consciousness. And has it to-day.
The cosmos was one, and its anima was one; but it was made up of creatures. And the greatest creature was the earth, with its soul of inner fire. … But in juxtaposition to earth lay the sea, the waters that moved and pondered and held a deep soul of their own. …
The universe … became a dual creature with two souls, fiery and watery, for ever mingling and rushing apart, and held by the great aliveness of the universe in an ultimate equilibrium. … And everything was dual, or contained its own duality, forever mingling and rushing apart.