Monday, May 26, 2008

Heathenism is Cosmocentric, not Theocentric

Heathenism is not theocentric but cosmocentric: action-oriented and reality-centered. The Gods help shape reality, guide our actions, and grant blessings and inspiration --- and are worthy of our highest honors and friendship --- but we are centered on doing our work, and the doing of that work that only we can do, which is our true religious duty. We are Wyrd-centric, not theocentric.

Monotheism is theocentric because it collapses categories into one reification. Heathenism is neither fragmented nor artificially unified. It is, rather, dynamic and responsive.

The Gods are not the center of our existence. They are our glorious circumference. Wyrd is the center of our existence, and the circumferential blessed Holy Powers bless us in the pursuit of our wyrd.

Brian Bates has his finger on the pulse better than most : authentic heathenism must be Wyrd-centric. The point is not asa-tru, but wyrd-tru. Theological religions have made us god-centric but the real sign of a heathen is orientation to wyrd, and I would take that so far as to say that an atheist who is truly attuned to wyrd and its Ur-Thank is more of a heathen than one who worships the Gods but has no relationship to wyrd whatsoever.

The Gods are powerful shapers of wyrd, who committed great deeds that laid down laws for becoming that have affected the world ever since. In this sense, they are creators. They are also immensely wise, knowing how to work with the way things happen, to magical effect, because they have such long experience with how things have happened.

The Gods themselves are subject to Wyrd. Wyrd is universal law that cannot be abrogated. It can only be learned and surfed. The Gods are excellent surfers of Wyrd, somewhat akin in this respect to the Taoist Immortals.

The Gods are holders of Offices of Trust and Protection delegated by Wyrd for their merit and abilities. We therefore might say that our mission is "To Serve Wyrd and Her Gods." The Gods are entrusted to the care of the cosmos (The World Tree). The Well and the Tree -- Source and Manifestation, Implicate and Explicate, the Unconscious and the Conscious -- is the process of Wyrd. The Gods are entrusted with Stewarding the Well and the Tree. We serve the Gods in order to serve Wyrd.

In that way, we orient ourselves to Immanent Source, from which we cannot be separated (but which transcends us), and which we access through creativity and dream. Nature -- (physis) -- this world (The Tree) and the Afterlife -- the Otherworld (The Well) are interconnected in one process. Wyrd is the eternal recycling of noteworthy deeds.

Again, this makes us not theocentric but cosmocentric : centered in this world and the larger process of reality, and we let the Gods handle their own realm. We appeal to them for Friendship and Wisdom, but orient ourselves towards wholemaking in this world. We serve the Gods, but as Trustees of Wyrd. They are Penultimates, not Ultimates. They are worthy of our highest praise and love, but ultimately we worship the world itself -- or the world-generating power, in other words, Wyrd. Through Wyrd, we are pantheists, and we serve our Gods because they themselves serve the pantheism of hte world. This is the proper orientation.

Monotheistic faiths confuse the Penultimate and Ultimate. Reality is ultimately atheistic and uncanny, but it is served and managed by theistic beings who have shaped the world into its present incarnation for us.

We give our Ultimate Worthship, therefore, to Wyrd, and only Penultimate Worthship to the Gods. Because Wyrd is worthy of our ultimate worthship, we can be weird and give worthship to those dreamfigures of the larger reality we call Gods --- Sources of Good. (That which is a Source of God puts things in their place and gives them a proper home, a place of power and prosperity. It assigns, orders, deems, distributes.)

The Gods are a Board of Trustees who distribute the gifts of the Grantor, Wyrd, to the Beneficiaries -- us and the world. What Wyrd in turn gives to the Trust are our fully digested actions, and thus there is a feedback loop between Beneficiaries, the Grantor, and the Board of Trustees.

Because Wyrd is dreamlike, so the stories of the Gods have a mythical quality about them, meant to be raed like a dream rather than a literal quality. Just because it is not literal, however, and therefore not to be bowed down before like an idol, does not mean it is not real. You have to come at it from both angles --- the Gods created us, but we, in the process of unfolding our Wyrd, created the Gods as expressions of our sense of higher powers working in the world.

Our orientation, therefore, is not towards a distant celestial realm, inhabited by abstractions of our imaginations, but towards this world, this holy world where every one of our actions matters. A bear fishing, a spider weaving its web, or a bird song reveal wyrd just as well as any story or scripture. Scriptures are commentaries on reality --- not vice-versa. Wyrd overpowers word.

We serve, therefore, not abstractions, but Reality itself, understanding, however, reality to be far more magical than our prosaic mind often reckons. We direct ourselves to the Holy Creative Powers who shape reality and are the Sources of Good in the world, but in order to serve, and have a richer experience of Reality itself.

We ought not to be ideologically heathen. What do I mean by that? I mean that our first obligation is to study wyrd and seek wisdom, and wisdom transcends position-statements and adherence to policy. We always have our heathen values (thews) to guide us, but reality is always complex and refuses to fit neatly into any ideological schema. To borrow a metaphor from our Indo-European cousins the Greeks, we are not to construct Procrustean beds hacking off or stretching reality to fit our theories, but to attend, rather, to the real, concrete texture of the world. That means in any debate attending to the kernal of truth our opponents speak, and being true to it. Seldom is anyone 100% right or 100% wrong. Wisdom involves sorting and sifting, weighing and evaluating, beyond any easy or lazy ideological dogmas.

Heathenism is not about make-believe. It is about relationship to reality. True, it is a reality that includes more than our senses show, and it is true that our imagination can be utilized to orient ourselves towards this larger mysterious order of reality, but the basic orientation is towards reality rather than mental constructs.

Many people worship their own mental constructs and call it religion. Some have called it idolatry. We just call it silliness and foolishness. Heathenism should be about restoring people to a healthy relationship with the mysteries, joys, and challenges of our real, collective and individual, everyday lives.


Anonymous Swain Wodening said...

Very good points, and I think you explained many of the thoughts I have had over the years on the matter. One thing I might add though in regards to being cosmocentric, as we know that one of the major laws of the universe set by Wyrd is that like begats like generally. This gives us reason to adhere to the thews or virtues as if we wish to live in a world of thewful of virtuous people we must be so ourselves. As I have grown older, I have found this to be truer and truer. It could be in many ways a path unto its self, but we have the Gods there to help us.

2:59 AM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

True. The wyrd we weave lays down grooves that tend to encourage similar actions. To paraphrase Gandhi, we must be the thew we wish to see in the world, so that we are setting strong precedent for our fellows. Yet as you also point out, we do have the Gods there, who set the strongest precedents with their virtuous thew.

2:19 AM  

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