Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Progress, Friendship, and Reason are Heathen Values

If I were to describe my mood lately, I would say that I have been incredibly lonely, hopeless, and feeling like neither reason nor poetry has any sway in this materialistic world. I do believe in the idea of progress, and despite regressions which may naturally occur as part of the forwards-backwards dance of progression, believe that life is meaningless without it. I believe the giants have stolen much from us, and there is much to steal back. Indo-European studies suggests that Indo-European religions embraced a theme describing a time when after primeval creation, the giants seized much that was of value, and that the wondrous deeds of the Gods include the winning-back from the giants of what was stolen. We can see this in the story of Odin stealing back the mead from the giants, but also in Thor's fight with the wyrm Jormungand, which parallels Indra's slaying of Vrtra, of which a prominent scholar points out that Vrtra/Jormungand had stolen away the fertile waters of the world and was blocking their entrance into the world. Thor/Indra's defeat of the wyrm restores to the world what had gotten locked into chaos and entropy. Thus, there is a basis for the idea of progress in Indo-European heathen religion, which suggests that we haven't finished winning back all the good the Jotnar have absconded, and that progress involves continuing this restoration work which the Gods have commenced and inaugurated with their great heroic acts in the morning of time.

Wrapped up with my feeling of loneliness, I do not understand the drifting-away of friends, and the way everyone literally moves away so that even those once close now live hundreds or thousands of miles away. Heathens put a much greater weight upon friendship, and continuing friendships throughout life.

Fellowship is so infrequent, discussions so seldom challenging, enlightening, and exciting, the idealism of youth so rarely tapped, expanded, developed, and capitalized upon. Strengths that ought to be developed are neglected, while resources, energies, and commitments are poured and thrusted into poor priorities. We haven't learned how to worth-ship until we have begun the search for what really has value in life, and then demonstrating that worth through our actions. How many of us resign ourselves to a life of defeat, where what we most want we don't even bother to dream because we've assigned it to the "impossible", and then simply compensate ourselves with the latest goodies? Of course, why should the defeated not console themselves? Whole industries and entertainments base themselves on such consolations. But for a heathen, to acquiesce to defeat, unless it is a temporary move while one regroups or takes a sabbatical to regain strength, is a sign of cowardice. Are we courageous enough to say this, not only in heathen circles, but in the wider worlds that we all inhabit every day?

"Tradition" simply cannot mean the same thing within heathenism as it means in other circles, because much of what is called "tradition" is simply slavishness and the thrallish stupidity of stubbornly clinging to the past out of fear of the unknown, or fear of freedom, or fear of thinking big. Again, these are traits of cowardice. No, we are counseled as heathens to be bold, to be daring, to use the mind that the Gods placed in us to challenge that which thralls take for granted. There are Vikings of the Mind that few have conceived of! Reason may be understood as a raid upon the unknown, or the taboo, or the slavish, and a raiding with the same intentions the Gods had in the beginnings when they worked to win back what the forces of entropy had locked up : to progress, to evolve, to restore the universe to some semblance of sanity, and be faithful to the goodness that is still in the world despite all the losses and defeats. If we come to believe in defeat, we cannot call ourselves heathen. To be heathen means to fight against the sense of defeat, to refuse to acquiesce and affirm it, and instead to regroup and figure out a way to progress. In reasoning, we should be bold ; we should not fear to question anything, but in our freedom, we should not demonstrate the wolfishness of Jotnar whose only interest in knocking down a taboo is to further imprison and obscure the good.

How do we liberate the good from the obscurities and defeats of evil and entropy? Through fellowships of friends engaged in bold reason, who dare to advance ideas beyond the pale, and are willing to follow reason as their dryhten on their viking raids . Let us quote that grand advancer of Frodi's ways, and admirer of Anglo-Saxon heathenism, Thomas Jefferson : "I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led, and bearding every authority which stood in their way," and "Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear." There is a strong heathen flavor to this quote. Reason is not the all of wisdom, of course, and must be guided by a higher, more holistic wisdom, but wisdom is certainly not attainable if one abandons reason altogether.

Do I believe that the world would be a better place if people listened to reason rather than prejudice? Poetry rather than statistics or advertising? Yes. A free mind is a way to a free world, and a free world is the only world worth living in. I did not begin my path with any intention to be radical, only to question and pursue ideas according to reason, with the intent of liberating the good from the forces of tyranny and entropy. The rest followed logically.

I remember the incredible conversations with friends I had as a teenager and young man. I don't know if every young man or woman has such conversations, but these were not mere foolishness or idle talk, but the real brainstorming of real solutions, requiring adult recognition, maturation, and implementation, but a nation of seniles doesn't listen to the brilliance of its youth, and a nation of self-congratulatory defeated folks, reveling in their own jaded cynicism and celebrating their alienation, won't heed the wisdom of courageous and bold thought.

We called them "astronomy sessions". We didn't discuss anything within the academic discipline of astronomy at all. We lay out under the stars and wondered about the universe. And I'll tell you, Odin delights in such wonderings, for they lead on to wisdom. Odin is far more present in that kind of moment than in any blind or rote invocation by dead letter --- and a lot of people, including would-be heathens, worship dead letters. You should feel the power of a blot. It should be like connecting to a live wire crackling with voltage, and that happens when the people invoking are really existentially in touch with the energy of the Gods. No, I don't care if they can "name" the Gods, or if they can recite the relevant lore. Odin doesn't want idolaters! He's there teaching the young folks through the immanence of their astronomy sessions so much more than some un-wod-ened stiff reciting ritual poetry as if it were a high school monotone massacre of Shakespeare, or even ancient fools cursing Odin because he didn't grant victory when they sacrificed something to his wooden idol, as if Odin were a traitor because he didn't blindly follow every fool who saw fit to sacrifice something to him. Odin would much rather hang out with the philosophers and poets anyday than rigid idolaters. He wants folks "on the jazz", and will stir them up to experiment with their ideas, and enact them. Yes, there is much to liberate from ignorance, greed, and entropy, and it can begin, though I may sound like Socrates, with simple talks amongst friends, willing to question all in order to foster all the hidden good in the universe. Cynical minds colonize the occult with the bad faith defeatism that all that is hidden is evil, and try to titillate with the latest varieties of chic evil. Such jaded souls, thoroughly immersed in their own defeatism, will not understand that idealism is absolutely the starting point of the Gods, and nothing naive at all, but part of a long, studied, in-depth battle strategy that adapts itself to the circumstances as they come, but will not ultimately sacrifice its idealism on the altar of pragmatism. Odin's occult is a world of hidden good we can't even fathom --- yet.


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