Thursday, July 31, 2008

Odin and the Dynamic Nature

Odin is about spiritual warfare to advance evolution. Warfare against stagnancy, on the one hand ; warfare against that which works against life, on the other. All For The World Tree might be his slogan. Advancing Evolution Through Intelligence-in-Action (ie., wisdom) might be another. See the Big Picture, Look At What Is Right Before You : Transcendent Realism (To See Eternity in a Grain of Sand).

Odin has force and fury against those who remain immature in their treatment of the life-base, and the development of their powers of wisdom. He can demonstrate a decided lack of patience with evolutionary geekdom. He can have that fatherly no-nonsense realism, that sees right through bullshit and justifications, and looks at the reality of conduct and its significance. Does the conduct have sufficient cosmic perspective for the consciousness-potential that the being was given at the beginning of time? Does the conduct demonstrate respect for Beloved Mother Earth --- in a real, bottom-line kind of way? Does the conduct achieve purpose? Does it actualize powers and therefore manifest worth?

Odin wants to see development and fruition of powers. He wants to see people seizing life and living it as fully, richly, and in as earthy and whole a manner as possible, leaving no stone unturned. He wants people like Yggdrasil, who really root into the soil, grit, and texture of this world --- even and despite its hardships, work, pain, and struggle --- and yet who manage to stretch themselves up towards the stars. Odin demands a good life from you, no matter what the cards were that were dealt to you : make the best of them, live a good life, a rich life, one that blesses you and your folk and your land. He wrote an entire poem on how to live a good life in the midst of a world that often falls short of our expectations and hope. If we develop all our powers --- and there is no excuse, moral or otherwise, that withstands this imperative --- we can discover multidimensional wealth, which may become a blessing to those around us.

Odin knows the primary battle is always the intelligence-battle. Intelligent design outstrategizes opponents. It is this battle of the mind he spearheads. Tyr is more specialized in physical war and the sundry skills involved : martial arts, training in knowing and defending one's rights, endurance testing, and so forth. Tyr brings it down to a practical level, for the footsoldier in the trenches, while Odin confers with the generals to inspire strategy.

Odin is like a crazy old hippie, a Wulf Zendik philosopher with the sinew and experience of a street-smart transient whose leanness betrays an ability to play tough, dirty, and remarkably strong to win a fight, along with the unorthodox strategies of a Hannibal Smith, who seeks the infraworld beneath and between this one in order to engage fresh surprise that surprises opponents (and even himself ; one of Odin's charms is his ability to surprise himself, and marvel in life's wonder). Discovery is of such value that our ancestors portrayed the All-Father himself as one who ever quested after discovery, and who wasn't omniscient. Even for the Gods, the thrill of life is its surprising nature. It's astounding that there has been so little theological work done on the notion of surprise as a divine value ; it little accords, of course, with notions of predestination.

Odin is like a strong father figure holding astounding amounts of Uranian energy. He has both the stern and the loving aspects of a father. He is the kind of father who demands growth and a certain wonder for learning from his children. Odin has a very grounded, pragmatic approach that knows that all accounting catches up eventually, and thus responsibility is no empty concept but an existential imperative with which it pays to be no-nonsense, and that means, among other things, living within our means, personally and planetarily.

Odin holds out the Beyond for us -- the Transcendent, that which transcends all boundaries -- as the ultimate goal of evolution, the teleology that creates the drive to explore and evolve, the engine of dynamism, but which runs up against inertia. Odin must throw stirrings-up in the midst of any comforts which bar transcendence. There is ever more mystery to explore, and Odin would not have us forget it. Transcendence -- the Ever-Beyond -- is what nags at our mind's curiosity, creates seeking in us, and pulls us along our evolutionary path. The Gods of immanence, that care for this world as such, are good Gods, but there must be those who ever champion what lies beyond.

The Gods made this world a difficult world of challenges so that we could grow into it and mature through intelligent struggle. Life, moreover, will not work without complexity, that dynamic between chaos and order. Because of this, things are always a bit chaotic, and we are asked to learn to go with the flow, to dance with the chaos, to become, like Odin, masters of wod. The Gods do not primarily want life to be painful, although that is, unfortunately, often a secondary result of living in a difficult world full of unpredictability. They want an environment tough enough that we are required to draw upon innate strengths and develop them to their fullest. Without difficulty, we might remain idle and not seek mastery, and it is mastery they wish for us. Through mastery, we may come into fullness and robust peace and joy.

The Gods have given us strengths to develop into fruition so that we may help ourselves. If we neglect this responsibility (and privilege), we have no reason to complain that they are not helping us. Our job is to develop ourselves in every moment to the peak of our powers, and there, at that point, when our power falls short, and we ask explicitly for help, help is given. We may ask for help in developing our strengths, and help will be given. But ultimately it is our responsibility. It is help, not take-over or rescue. The Gods want us to feel confident about our own powers and abilities. They don't want us to become dependent. Interdependent is ok ; dependent is not. Our job is to become big, strong trees with great branches that give forth fruit.

Ours are not controlling, omnipotent Gods responsible for all details in life. They let life flow on, and they shape it. It is always a matter of exerting shaping forces upon a primary spontaneity, a flow of becoming called wyrd. So everything wrong or right which happens is not the "Gods' doing". That is paranoid thinking. They are not meddlers who choose to interfere and intervene in every little detail of our lives. They are not a form of divine secret-police or homeland security tapping our phones and opening our emails. They are shapers of life, and unless we ask for their help, they trust in the tools they have given us, and the latent gifts they've planted which sometimes only challenges awaken. Like loving parents, they know they cannot do it all for us, but must let us struggle through it ourselves, because only in that way does one really learn.

They are not cold to our calls. If we sincerely attune to them, not with random thoughts, petulant whines, and interior complaints -- remember, they are not secret police -- but take the time to address ourselves to them and ask for help, help they will send. They are loving Gods. The etymologists may have doubts, but I am certain that the word "god" is an inflection and intensifier of the word "good". The Gods are the ur-sources of good. They are the Go(o)ds. But it is help they send, not a deus ex machina that does it for us. They do not spoon feed us. They wish greater dignity for us. They will not infantilize us. They know it's more difficult, especially in hard times, to do it ourselves, but the resulting dignity, if we can figure it out, brings a sense of mastery, a large, grand, proud adult sense of accomplishment they reserve for those who succeed in maturing the fruits they planted within us.

But the difficulty level of the survival world explains much about the instincts of the creatures here, who are not evil, but without the luxury that mastery brings, and therefore there is something tough and badgery about the creatures here. If nastiness is needed at times to secure a place in this world, animals must be thrifty with the resources they have. Their ability to be grim -- to demonstrate thriftiness, teeth, and grip -- manages to secure them their modest domain of enjoyment and comfort. Creatures without mastery do not have the options that mastery makes available, and so they have to work with the options they have, instead of those they can generate. Jealousy, revenge, resentment, hoarding -- all of these make sense in a certain evolutionary / environmental context.

In this regard, resting on one's victories is a different thing altogether than resting on idleness. Gemutlichkeit -- based on strength -- is good. (Here, hearty Thor is our exemplar.) Full, hearty enjoyment of leisure cleverly and boldly won, as part of an active existence, is good, but idleness coming from passivity, resignation, dormancy, or defeat represents a pacification of our vital energies and principles, which are needed to fructify our lives, and which, fully activated, generate fruit.

Ease is not a given. It is the fruit of mastery, and it requires intelligence and active tending to maintain. Our sense that life can be easier is a true one, but it requires the development of skills and cunning different than those that maintain us in difficulty. It is mastery which allows us to bring warmth, flesh, and exhuberance to the cold beauty of the spartan world, a beauty more sublime than lovely, yet one the Gods, warding over nature, and therefore masters over it, are able to enjoy. The starving man cannot appreciate life's stunning beauties, nor the shivering man rest on furs. The Gods shaped this difficult world, however, so that within its cold and spartan sublimity there are potentials for greater mastery and therefore comfort and enjoyment --- if tapped.

And mastery is created by creating an innangards, a strong combining of wills for mutual frith which drives out all that is inimical to that. Within the gard is hearth and furs and comfort, the joys of conviviality and philosophical riddles, and the ease of a world built on strength. Outside the gard is the harsh and cold Spartan sublimity of the world --- beautiful, yes, in its own way, but terrible, too, sometimes.

To avoid the harsh world, we must ask ourselves whether we are really drawing on all of our resources. This means two things : study -- really taking the time to pay attention, absorb, learn, question, then go back and pay attention again, over and over, until one has really "got" it, and two, enjoyment -- enjoy what you have, use it, utilize it to multiply powers and pleasures. The Gods have little patience for those who do not enjoy well the gifts they have given.

But help they will give, in times of trouble, if we can get it. That means we must grasp the help, recognize it, understand it, appreciate it, not turn it away, not reject it or hold it in contempt. Great help often begins with small things. We must learn the art of resourcefulness, of making sure we are utilizing all the resources at our disposal, and then, the art of opportunizing, of being resourceful with opportunities that arise, making sure we are capitalizing upon whatever help comes our way, turning it to an advantage. At the peak of the possibilities of capitalization lies Draupnir, where one small golden ring generates eight more each evening. It is an ideal, an Everest, to strive for. Meanwhile we must develop our hiking skills here in the valley.

Odin and the Gods he leads want us on our toes so that we can enjoy life, and we will not enjoy life when we are shut down. What we call "comfort" is often just a rut. Odin doesn't want us in ruts. He wants us mobilized. Ariovistus bragged to Caesar that his men inter annos XIIII tectum non subissent, for fourteen years had not come under a roof, a phrase which is echoed in Orkneyinga Saga, which has þat var þrjá vetr er hann lá úti á herskipum svá at hann kom eigi undir sótkan rapt, "that was thirty winter that he was out on a warship so that he never came under sooty rafters". In other words, a pride in keeping the folk mobilized. Active mobilization fits wod. Again, we are talking about a spiritual warfare against lassitude, torpor, and stagnancy, and not primarily physical combat. This is not combat as the martial force itself of conflict, anger, clash, and the pomp and strutting of machismo, areas readily warded by Tyr and Thor, but the mobilization, alertness, and strategic, in-the-moment readiness or preparation for the challenges and obstacles in the way of mastery, obstacles which blind our vision. Odin's use for war, in other words, is a spiritual one. The forces stirred up by warfare are the very forces needed to live a vital life ; or, expressed in the proper order, the forces needed to live a vital life are the very forces that need to be stirred up in order to be victorious in war. There is no victory without attunement to the dynamic nature, and no freedom with stagnation. Wod, freedom, and frith, ironically, all serve each other, even though wod may lead to wig. Odin doesn't want us fighting physical battles all the time --- are you crazy? That's life as a vision of hell! The jotnar are well-accustomed to this kind of stupidity. As gorilla-jocks, they are clumsy, dull, full of resentment and reactive forces, because they are not confronting and engaging forces of dynamism and opposition in real time. On the other hand, a "warrior" who is really on top of his game confronts the dynamic nature of reality and oppositional forces in such real time as to resolve them in the moment without having to go to war, except in the most exceptional of circumstances. The true "warrior" fights his battles so as to circumvent wars. If we will live that engaged, mobilized to the currents and eddies of life, fighting the spiritual war, Odin will teach us how to surf with such grace and nimbleness that the only name we will be able to give to our adventure in mastery is --- fun!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely inspired and brilliant - many, many thanks.

6:55 AM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

'Tis my pleasure! Thank you for stopping by and reading my thoughts!

8:05 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Vongvisith said...

Your thoughts are, as always, interesting and your perspective is one that is seldom heard from in Heathenry -- or for that matter, in Paganism, where even if not everything is culturally applicable, much of it is still relevant. Nice work.

8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well said. I don't agree with with God = Good, but my own understanding of Good/Evil is a bit more nuanced or complex than most people (see Evil is as Evil Does over at Rending the Veil so I'm not always certain how to apply the term with other people.

As general rule I tend to think that the Gods don't love us any more than anything else - but they don't love us any less either.

That's a whole lot of love IMO.

9:27 AM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Hmmm ... using theodicy to question goodness? Good by definition is that which is fitting, and the Gods endeavor to create a domain of domains where everything may find a place. That does not mean that everything will find its place, because one's birthright must be claimed, and then one must cultivate what has been claimed. They haven't created a perfect system, which is why mistakes and troubles leak in, but they've created a good one, where everyone has an opportunity to make something good for themselves, with the help of the Gods. In some situations, it may take an immense amount of effort. Where the amount of effort required is so colossal as to make the good impossible, it is very clear diagnostically that a Jotunn has entered the world at that point, and most likely through the foolishness of human beings who have allowed that Jotunn to enter Midgard through carelessness or foolish delivery of jurisdiction through promise of benefit, the proverbial inviting the vampire through the threshold. Such foolishness, while massively rampant in our day and age, is something that ought to be discouraged, because once in rampage, a jotunn is difficult for humans to get under control, and the Gods have little sympathy for those who have been stupid enough to be taken in by beings with that amount of cunning, selfishness, base materiality, and stupidity. There are remedial actions that can be taken, and they often involve undoing the admission of jurisdiction, and reclaiming one's free status. No matter what benefits a jotunn may offer, accepting the offer turns one into a thrall, even if one becomes a powerful thrall. No, no, says Odin, it is better to have a humble hovel and be in debt to no one than to have to beg to pay your mortgage.

And the Gods do indeed care about the conduct of humans. They consider us to be potential friends, to whom they extend the long arm of friendship. But their friendship implies a commitment to integrity, to daring to raise the bar to something more honorable. If we've earned enough honor to gain their attention, and it does take a certain minimal amount, then with effort, we can earn some more.

Heathen sources are very clear that the Gods are angered by unethical actions such as murder, perjury, home-breaking, desecration of sacred groves, strife within the kindred, for all of these sorts of actions unravel the bonds that bind the world together into a good place where good is possible, and hasten the approach of Ragnarok.

Now it is true that Ragnarok will bring about unprecedented good, because it is a battle where the Gods will destroy and undo all the ungood in the world, and all of its residue, and then Baldur shall return to reign. But despite the fact that the Gods will win in this battle, it is a battle with heavy costs, and they do not wish to bring such woe upon the world when there is still good to be had from it, and so they will to postpone it as long as possible.

The arguments at the site you cited are mainly applicable to JudaeoChristian concepts of Godhood. Heathen concepts of Godhood are a whole new card, with subtleties, complexities, and nuances that for the most part are quite outside the scope of that interesting article. Heathenism is a whole different vocabulary and way of looking at things.

3:39 AM  

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