Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bullshit Pseudo-Spirituality

Let's speak frankly, shall we? It might rub people the wrong way, but we can't please everyone and still tell the truth. Our duty to truth may sometimes override our desire for diplomacy.

Spirituality-Lite is rampant these days. Everyone wants to feel like they are "spiritual", but without doing any real work. Conditioned by instant drinks and push-button remote controls, they think the same logic applies to spirituality and want, as my mother says, "to just add water and powder" and take the easy route.

The easy route tries to deny the reality of pain, of suffering, of evil.

Now some pagans and heathens, because of their bad associations with Christianity, shy away from the word evil.

Get over it.

Evil is real, and it is a real problem. And the word is heathen.

The world is not a feel-good place where everything is ok.

Everything does not happen as it supposed to.

Not everything "happens for a reason".

Come back to earth.

Face the fact that a lot of bad things happen, that the Gods never intended, resistance to which is good and necessary and called for.

I know it's painful. It's painful to face the true extent of unnecessary suffering in the world.

And many are tempted to turn that completely unnecessary suffering into not only necessary suffering, but in fact to imply that there was no suffering at all. "They chose those fates."


Let's not be polite with pseudo-spirituality. Let's not tolerate what is patent nonsense and self-delusion. I don't care how many people say it is "spiritual". It's bullcrap, and should be called that.

Real spirituality takes work. It takes work to connect with soul, to keep your contact with soul, and to rejuvenate your soul when woundedness and trauma impacts upon you or your loved ones. You need strength, not airy-fairy syrup that is just another form of denial.

These people confuse denial and escape with spirit. The more they flee from reality, the more spiritual they feel. Well, that's a damned privileged position to take, and it's just not realistic. To really be spiritual when you've been through a trauma, you're going to have to go through the trauma.

You're going to have to do real work. It's going to be grueling at times. It's going to feel like a battle. You're going to have to call on all your resources and all your Gods. And it will take a lot of faith at times, because with all the help you ask for and receive, there are going to be many times when you have to fall back on yourself, and it won't seem enough, and you won't know how to get through or get by, and you'll just get through barely by the skin of your teeth.

There will be periods of existential doubt, of anguish, of wondering what the hell all this is for and why the hell is all this suffering happening at all.

And some story about how you "created all your suffering" through negative thinking for fuck's sakes is not going to help you out at all. Most of the world's suffering is not created through "negative thinking". It's created through following the spiritual forces championed by Gullveig and Loki and all of their jotnar kin. Sure, negative thinking might, at times, impoverish one's sense of options and creativity, and there is always value to opening up one's brainstorming capacities so that one can truly meet the situation with panache and originality. There are indeed ways in which cycles of negative thinking can inhibit our full power to effectively deal with a situation. But that only goes so far.

Pseudo-spirituality is full of platitudes. "You create your own reality", "You attract what happens to you with your thoughts", "We are all one". Ok, it might sound nice at first, but tell these things to the French soldier in a trench in WWI who's facing a German soldier about to jump in the pit with a bayonet. Are those things going to be helpful at all? Of course, we can rewind and take the larger picture and try to figure out how human beings out of fear and greed and dishonesty and thieving created the reality of war. But once you're in that situation, once you're in that trench, and the bayonet is five feet away from you, how do these platitudes help? Are you supposed to meditate while the bayonet is piercing you through? Perhaps it's a bad example, because WWI was one of the stupidest, most useless wars ever, but there have been wars fought when you were simply defending yourself or your family from naked aggression on the parts of others who were greedy, desperate, fearful, unwise, or dishonest.

These things are real. World War I and II happened. They are, unfortunately, to our great shame, part of the Wyrd of the world now. Great work, humans. What a lovely artwork you've made out of Midgard. You can't separate or hedge or sidestep practical human history. These things have to be grappled with and dealt with. How do you come to terms with these sorts of events and still come out of the encounter being a soulful person? How do you keep these kinds of things from destroying your soul and turning you into a grim, soulless being?

Those are real spiritual questions. And it's an evolutionary intelligence learning-curve, to see if we can wrack that wisdom Odin implanted deep within us to figure out how we have all got it so wrong that these things have happened in history at the hands of fellow human beings. Not explaining it away. Not dressing it up to look nice. Not insulting people who were actual, suffering victims by suggesting they "contracted" to their fate. Let's be real, and let's honor and not insult those who went through terrible times.

The stakes get higher. The weapons get more advanced, the control-and-surveillance technologies and techniques more sophisticated. The evolutionary learning-curve here is figure out the root of evils, so that they may be systematically uprooted.

That's not to say we could get rid of the "good and bad" in life, its ups and downs, and the sufferings that are unfortunately hardwired into reality. Those are necessary sufferings.

But evil is by definition the infliction of unnecessary sufferings. And if we choose to remain as stupid as the jotnar, and let's face it, many of us do, we're not going to be able to do a stinking thing about it, and will probably help propagate it. To remain stupid is to be a collaborator. To allow others to remain stupid is to give active support to regressive evolutionary trends that will not pass the learning curve. We have got to be activist in our analysis of evil, our application of wisdom, and our pursuit of solutions.

It really is like a war plan. We come back to war as a spiritual metaphor in heathenism, and not stupidly applied, as so many missionary-style campaigns actually are, but campaigns that are critiqued with the same realism that actual wars are. Getting so strategic and realistic and determined and persistent and regrouping that we can win the real war, the evolutionary dynamic between stupidity and intelligence, to see if humans can finally win Midgard back from the spirits of the jotnar. For right now, a good name for many of our human enterprises might be Jotnar R Us, a phrase which has just the right amount of numbskull grammar to it to get the point across.

Midgard won would be a good life, not a perfect life. A good life.

But this is serious business. You wouldn't go into war with a feather or whipped cream for your spear or shield. You don't want painters crawling into your dungeon to make murals and then tell you you're free and that everything's beautiful. You don't want New Age Calvinists telling you that everything that happens in your life is your fault because you thought the wrong thoughts, or secretly agreed to it in some prelife predestination, or weren't working hard enough.

Heathens value hard work. But we are not, I repeat not Calvinists. Good work. Intelligent work. And then hard work. But banging your head against the same wall again and again and again is not work. It's stupidity. It's not only unnecessary, but ridiculous suffering. We don't confuse suffering and work. We don't confuse stupidity and work.

Calvinists have to constantly be working because they are living in penance. Their whole life is a punishment for some debt they've supposedly incurred! What nonsense. And then Calvinists turn it around to show, hallelujah, what good penance does, because if you do enough penance, look at the rewards you get! Max Weber did an excellent job of showing how this translated into a materialistic context. Do enough penance, get your material rewards. Those who are rich are rich not because they were born privileged or happened to be lucky or hid from themselves the fact that they took advantage of an exploitative system, but only, and only because they did "work", ie., penance, and now God has rewarded them for this worthy repentance.

And we've translated it into the modern world. Do your penance, work hard, go to the gym, get rid of that sinful fat, and you too can have a body to die for. Be the envy of everyone on your block. Show them the value of salvation through penance.

This is all patent, superficial nonsense. It's not spirituality. We work to create, we work to maintain, we work to defend, but most importantly, we work so that we might enjoy. We aren't working for penance. The Romans found the ancient Germani lazy, because they'd only work until their needs were met. Well, why not? They weren't debt-slaves, they'd rather hunt and fish and go to drinking parties than live their whole lives in drudgery.

No, our ancestors were not Calvinist. The meadhall is the center of life, the reason for working, the reason for defending. Spirituality was about figuring out how Grendel got in to our meadhalls, and how to get him out. Evil is real, and it must be countered, so that we can get back to the good work of enjoying ourselves in good company. And that's hard work we can be proud of.

And the meadhall, let's be clear, was not just a modern tavern. I won't insult the modern tavern, because there can be some warm community and conviviality there, that the meadhall certainly had. But we can't approach the meadhall as consumers who stay on the superficial level of life and think that all life is about is having a few beers and never getting deeper than that.

Let's remember that the "mead" of our ancestors was cognate with the Soma and Haoma of our Iranian and Vedic-Hindu cousins. (And let's remember that the Iranians are our brothers, shall we? Those who flippantly talk about bombing Iran forget they would be bombing plenty of Zoroastrians, who are our heathen cousins.) Soma wasn't just "drink" for the sake of "intoxication". Soma was more like ... LSD combined with Exstasy. It took place in the context of deeply spiritual ceremonies designed to open the soul out to the poetic mysteries of the universe.

I want to point this out lest some try to cheapen even our heathen spirituality by assimilating it to the bar scene.

Real spirituality isn't cheap, it isn't easy, and it takes a whole hell of a lot of hard work. Not stupid, penance-oriented hard work. Not even necessarily entirely materialistic hard work. But hard work on the soul. Taking a hard look at things we don't like looking at. Keeping one eye on the world, and one eye in the depths, just like Odin does.

So when you see these folks raving about the latest spin on New Thought, whether it is "The Secret" or some other positive-thinking con-artist game, don't hold back. Tell them to enjoy that saccharine-flavored cotton-candy while it appeals to them, and then when they're ready for some real spirituality, something with depth and with life and with hope and with earthiness, to come to our indigenous heathenism. And we'll have something real to share with them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You nailed it again. I'm so sick of people trying to blame me for stuff that isn't my fault, especially when no one can prove anything either way. It takes many forms--once when I could not land a job, my aunt said she thought I was "subconsciously programming myself to fail". I shot that one down. Then she got on my case for being an introvert, but that's another story. I think that sometimes we have powers or options we don't know about, but facile pronouncements aren't helping us find them. There's a get-there-from-here problem, for the person who is at the moment powerless but wants to change that. And I really think that those who haven't been there ought to shut the hell up.
I'm also extremely sick of those who want me to revere and grovel to a sky god or nature goddess that is supposedly all-powerful, yet lets things like 9-11 and cancer happen to his/her constituents. I've had enough of the ones who think that if a deity or whatever isn't omnipotent, it is some kind of despicable wimp, instead of the same sort of work-in-progess as you and I.
Keep up the good work.

5:32 PM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Thank you! You say, "There's a get-there-from-here problem, for the person who is at the moment powerless but wants to change that." Well put, very well put. The "get-there-from-here problem" is often the hardest to overcome, and in such a situation we need real HELP, not platitudes, but good, practical advice that leads us towards skills or strategies that allow us to bridge the gap. It's like when someone is stressed out and another says, "Just relax." "Great, dumbfuck, now tell me how!!" Right?

As far as the problems of evil you mention, such as cancer or 911, these are things which always trouble humans whether we are atheists or theists. Such dilemmas are existential, and thus never completely solved through philosophcial discourse, but I have suggested here that the myths lay out a picture whereby the creation-process of this universe, which involved the making-good of the jotunnish matter of the world, was interrupted by a disaster in the yoredays, making this world not completed, but a work-in-progress. If the world were completed, it wouldn't "end" ; it would actually be allowed to fully begin on its own standing. In the meantime, here we are, where corruption has entered not only into the foundation of society, but even into the foundation of biology. Ymir's body -- of which everything in this world is made -- is inherently unstable and chaotic, and only is made lawful through the Gods' continual acts of creation, but the work isn't finished yet. Sometimes the corruption in society and biology complement each other. While cancer might be natural on some levels, there are environmental and emotional practices that probably exacerbate the situation. And foreign policy disasters and domestic tragedies are often the result of bad planning and poor thinking. But you're right, the Gods are still learning. And/or, they are testing our OWN learning-curve, to see how we will do in this work-in-progress. Gestumblindi's Riddles, in Chapter 10 of Hervarasaga, mentions Odin playing tafl with a giant named "Andað", ie., "Dead" (literally, one who is out of breath or has expired). Tafl was a game of both strategy and chance, and here Odin is portrayed essentially playing a cross between poker and chess with a dead giant (or a giant representing death). Could that giant be Utgard-Loki, his dead brother Lodur, Surt, who rules over illusion? Then we have an image of the Master of Enlightenment playing dice with the Master of Illusion. Who will mankind follow?

3:22 AM  

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