Deeds Tend On The Interrupted-Shaping of the World
This may seem a counter-intuitive approach, because we are far more likely to begin with a naive and naturalistic position, of expecting intervention in the realm of nature and the physical world. The relationship between the soul and nature is a far more complex problem, especially in an age of science, which sees impersonal laws of chance and habit (chains of cause and effect) ruling the physical world. While the Gods readily correspond to our soul, we are all tempted to ask proof for their rulership over the physical world, where, let's face it, it's easy to believe that prayers are seldom answered and luck only middlingly inspired through worship. Often the physical world seems controlled by jotnar, whose chaos, mayhem, lack of order, and unchanging brutal force seems to rule the day.
Other times the physical world goes on with its cycles, cycles, cycles, in a dance of regularity that can seem indifferent to our needs and aspirations. The Vanir tend to speak to the regularity of nature's cycles, and how to satiate appetite through working with those cycles, but it is the Aesir who speak to aspirations and ambition, and we seldom know how to keep peace between these two dynasties, even in our own souls. We are tempted to cry out, Where are the Gods? Why are they not intervening in behalf of their worshippers?
In the Old Indo-European mindstate, the Gods ruled Creation, which was still in formation, through their agents, the nature-spirits, but then there was a great sundering of the frith of the nature-spirits, elves dividing from dwarves, and many joined the service of the trolls. What's worse, in despair, many of the creative nature-powers went to sleep, going dormant in an age of increasing cynicism and corruption. The elves who ruled technology once served the Gods exclusively, warding off the trolls, but then in the sundering, whent off on their own, made alliance with trolls, and began forging tools of destruction rather than creation, benevolence, and mastery.
These myths weren't just told for delight and entertainment. They speak to a profound spiritual crisis in nature, where soul and nature have become alienated.
It points to the Gods as Rulers of the Soul who, through their agents the spirits of nature, originally also ruled the physical world by soulfully shaping a physical matter that was originally monstrous. This process of shaping was interrupted at a certain point, so that the taming of the monstrous was not complete. We certainly aren't (at least yet) living in an age of total disaster and mayhem-style chaos, like the planet earth in its primordial, fiery beginnings, and some regularity has been brought to the world, and yet, the world does not yet completely respond to soul, either. It both resists and is indifferent.
A state of complete correspondence between world and soul, soul and nature, would be the state we call "magic". The becoming-magic of the world was interrupted by a tremendous strife provoked amongst the nature-spirits whose job it is to respond to the Gods' directives of shaping and making-good. The work-in-progress of the world was interrupted, allowing jotnar forces a greater vestigial hold on things.
Because they were not completely arrested, and still exert influence, the monstrous forces can grow as time goes on, especially if true warriors do not fight for soul to have a place in the world. The jotnar (and their jotunnish thralls) will keep pushing and pushing out soulfulness, towards their ultimate goal of soullessness, with the soul completely exiled from the world. Some of them apparently hope their strivings will bring about the elimination of men from the planet through mass suicides, because no man wishes to stay alive when his soul feels unwelcome, and longs to flee. In this situation, the only true warriors are those who hold the line against this invasion and encroachment.
Ragnarok then must be seen as the time when the Gods will finally undo the might of the monsters, heal the ill that has been done, and finish their shaping-job without opposition, so the world can finally become magical, where soul and nature are corresponsive. That is the vision, at least, the prophetic hope upon which our ancestors staked much of their faith.
It explains a few things. First, it explains the inner sense we have that the world ought to respond to soul more. I am not discussing hte childish idea that the world ought to fulfill the narcissism of our egos, but the feeling even mature adults have that there should be more correspondence between soul and world. It's an inner sense that says it once was, and might be, and ought to be now, yet isn't. One can't go too far with such a subtle sense, yet it is a soulful one. It speaks perhaps to a lost birthright, a promise from long ago that things might be more in tune with the best in our souls : beauty, love, honor, truth.
It also explains why this isn't so, at least during this earth-age. Sartre called the degree to which the world resists us the "coefficient of adversity". Now the world was never meant to be putty in our hands, effortlessly conforming to our every thought ; that would be not only a narcissistic world, but a lawless one as well. The Gods love us, but they are not coddlers. They wish for us a good world, a challenging world, a world where it does take effort and dedication to make one's way int he world. They do intend the world as a kind of crucible to test the soul's potential, but they want this coefficient of adversity to be such that, however difficult, the world is soul-making and not soul-breaking. The warrior and poet test their mettle agaisnt the world's friction and adversity, and if they are skillful, graceful, and lucky, they have a chance of succeeding, in bringing more soul into the world. The battle is winnable. A winnable situation the Gods out of love desire for us. But a world that seems perennially unwinnable is not their intention.
There is a secret harmony in the world that is being suppressed. We can all feel it. Our souls tell us it is there to be tapped, but something often prevents us from reaching it. This harmony requires intelligence, heart, and effort, but our souls tell us it is achievable. But in a world whose completion has been sundered and suspended, this harmonic potential often seems out of reach.
The teleology of the world, as our ancestors' prophets saw it, was the restoration of that harmonic potential to winnable actualization. That was seen to occur after the last battle of this age, which acts as a cleanser and purifier.
But in the meantime, what of the meantime? In the meantime, we live in the meantime, and how do we live in the meantime? It is a mean time in the sense that it is in the mean or middle between two end points, and it is also, unfortunately, in many ways, a mean time, an age of disappointment and cynicism where often the worse seems to get the better of the better. In the meantime, obviously, we are in a bind, and so, unfortunately, are the more patient Gods, who do suffer along with us.
However, there are tales of cumulative deeds adding up to make a difference, in the tales of the ship of Naglfari, and Vidar's shoe --- will uncaring or caring be bigger at the time of the final battle? Do our deeds do assistance to the Gods or the Giants?
We do live in the iron age, the war age, the age seen as most corrupted, where it is difficult at times to even envision the good let alone achieve it. how do we make a difference in this mess? How do we have faith in an interim where the Gods' very ability to help us is limited by the fact that an uncompleted nature does not fully respond to them, but still exhibits monstrous features?
First, as with all things heathen, we must start with common sense, which means beginning with facing the facts and not staying in either despair or denial. In this time period, the Gods help us more through soul than through nature. The world does not magically respond to us, and yet, our souls are still forces in this world to be reckoned with, for soul can motivate deeds, and deeds can have effect.
Which brings us to the realm of deeds. The Sumerians had their own story of creation. There were two orders of Gods, one higher, and one lower, and the higher order set the lower order to complete the creation. These lower Gods found the task too burdensome, and rebelled, creating the first union strike. The higher Gods contemplated going to war, but finally someone came up with another idea, to create human beings to complete the task of creation. It would be humans who would labor for the Gods to finish the shaping of the world. Now this does not completely correspond to the Indo-European, Norse creation epic, but with a little blurring of the eyes, it comes quite close. The higher Gods are the Aesir and Vanir, while the lower Gods are the Elves and Dwarves. The Elves and Dwarves are set the task of completing the creation-process of the world, and taming its monstrousness to a world of luck and fertility that corresponds with wit and deed to the soul. But these lower Gods rebel against this task. In the case of our mythology, they rebel because of the instigation of a spy amongst the Gods who comes from the realm of the monsters, who continually sabotages their plans for good, while disguising his deeds as bringing some residual good. By dividing the Elves and Dwarves from each other and causing them to rebel against the creation-process, this saboteur succeeds in arresting the becoming-magical of the world so that it will correspond to the Masters of Soul, the Gods, and maintain some of its original soullessness.
There is no explicit suggestion in our myths that humans, as in the Sumerian mythos, are the ones who take over the task of shaping the world, and yet in a more subtle sense, it is there implicitly in the idea of heroism. Through our actions, and especially our deeds, we are able to shape this world a little more towards the soulful.
We often confuse "actions" with "deeds". A deed is a very powerful kind of action, the kind that wins back some of the monstrous world for soul. A deed, therefore, is like a deed to title, and does entitle. A deed is braggable that wins back even a little territory of soulfulness from the meaningless, indifferent, entropic, and monstrous.
As heathens, we face facts. Facts suggest that in this age of corruption, the primary physical forces for good are human beings acting soulfully, and resisting other human beings acting soullessly. The more we allow our lives to actively correspond to the soul-guidance of the Gods, the more the Gods, in this age, will be able to affect this world for good. Miracles are few and far between, and even when we do palpably feel that our luck has been enhanced, we must act upon it and with a spirit of benevolence and bettering, on the one hand, or in active combat against forces which try to tear down the good, on the other.
Luck comes in this age mainly through Raed, not through magic. The Gods give guidance to our souls, through our blots which are morale-strengthening rituals. Blots bring hearts together. When our hearts are together, we are strong, and thus we are strengthened by the blots. The Gods are pleased by having their own morale lifted by being haled by humans of worth living an honorable life. When we live with honor, we hold the line against corruption. When we go further and do deeds of worth, we actually advance the shaping of the world towards the good. This pleases the Gods well, who in recognition of our deeds of honor and worth give us Raed, counsel that reveals harmonic pathways and hidden potentials. If, like Chuang Tzu's butcher who discovered the precise breaks in the bone to make a smooth slice, we will learn the grain in the wood, we may be able to uncover some of the hidden lines of luck or pathways of harmonic potential that the elves were supposed to have fully established. Their failure to fully lay out the ways means that we often don't know how to follow luck, for the beginnings of their full elucidation were paved over with war and strife.
Let us not underestimate the power of the soul. Even when conditions have us down, our hearts, in counsel with each other and with the Gods can help us find the untapped potential and energy we need to go on. The Gods know the power of morale on the battle field, and in this interim age, where glorious Midgard has received the nickname "Valland", the Fallen Land of Slaughter, life itself can be like a battle. The Gods are there to provide Morale for our Souls, if we will listen, if we will open ourselves. Waiting for miracles will only stunt our powers. In the meantime, we had best train our own might and main to respond to their wise and worthy counsel.
For those who think there is no "soul" in heathenism, I will refer them to Hoenir's gift, odr ; as for spirit, that is Odin's gift, ond ; and Lodur vivified the lich or physical body whose likeness is of the hamr-reflection of the soul itself. Since Lodur's fall, it is Thor who blesses and funds the might and main of the lichness.