Monday, March 23, 2009

Defiance is the Faith of a Heathen

Defiance is the best way I know to describe the faith of a heathen. It is the proud raising of the fist into the air, and asserting that there is a power of activity within each human being which makes us different than beings passively molded by externalities, and that power is both meaningful and creative.

Joseph Campbell in Creative Mythology rightly distinguishes between a notion of fate such as kismet which is the impingement of pure externality upon the individual, and wyrd, which is an inner, soulful force of potentiality that is its own force to be reckoned with, and which tends on towards active becoming. This is not a wyrd alien to us ; it is the most important part of who we are. Nietzsche says, "Become who you are." It is a process both of discovery and of assertion.

It's true that Wyrd in the larger sense is the interweaving of all the little wyrds in the world, an interactive effect, but the interactive effect of all the little assertions pulling and pushing in democratic activity. The failure to assert has dire consequences for the world, and is an ontological mistake, taking externalities in a deterministic sense and forgetting our active power to create in this world.

Lodur gave will, Hoenir gave imagination, Odin gave the broad-travelling spirit that moves like the breath with the wind. These are powers which allow us to be active in this world. They are the gifts that make us human, but moreover, that allow us to manifest the Gods in this world, for if we become shell-shocked passive receptacles, we never bring those God-wonderful powers of creation into the world, and the world loses out on some of its potentiality of becoming.

Why do I call this "defiance"? Lodur, Hoenir, and Odin raised their fists together against the Giant Powers, and refused to be defined by them. Instead they vowed to tear apart the Giant Powers and make a world out of their own activity, rather than passive acquiescence to "how things are". Of course, they needed a full tactical analysis and strategic assessment of how things were, so that they could more readily attack and achieve success.

Perhaps the greatest success one can achieve is the re-orientation of one's life from a passive status to that of an active creator of one's life. It's true that we don't, as Marx observes, create our history from whole cloth, but that cloth which has already been woven (and here Marx invokes a conception of history very akin to Wyrd), but it's true that we each have a significant if humble power of push and pull in this emergent fabric that is ever being created out of our actions, and if we are very bold, out of our deeds.

Activity as such, mere behavior, the doing of things, is not in and of itself the doing of a deed, although activity is important, as the ways we act co-create the world in which we live. But a deed has an element of defiance and panache to it and involves a boast against passivity, and an assertion of creativity. When a deed can be brought to fruition, it is a true victory that has lasting rippling effects.

Many people have never achieved the victory of going from consumer or victim of life to artist of life. However humble one's life, whatever losses one must suffer in the uncertain viccissitudes of fortune, the gift of dignity, and the refreshing wellsprings that this fundamentally creative and gnostic rebellion brings to oneself make this kind of victory an extremely meaningful one.

It is not enough, for instance, to militarily assess the world, seek out its harshnesses, and then try to fit oneself within this grand and cruel array. That is essentially to adapt to giants. I see many people do this. It is true there are harsh and huge realities in this world amidst its sublimities and stunningly remarkable beauties, but heathenism is not a paganism that is passive in the face of these harshnesses. We do not give everything that stamps itself as "nature" our own rubber-stamp. Rather, we assess the soul-forces behind any phenomena, and determine in that instance whether those forces are giantish in nature, or flow from the benefices of the Gods. If that makes us dualistic, vive le dualisme! We shall not acquiesce, nor shall we resign ourselves to cruelties by making ourselves as harsh as the realities we know are out there. It is certain that in confronting the world with our own vision of creativity, and battling for that, we will discover our own form of grimness, and the sandpaper of reality will sand us down to a rougher texture, but that is something to be found in the active striving for a more utopian reality (however humble), not a lowering of one's soul-powers to active imitation of orc-powers in the world. The mind is easily fascinated by trauma, loss, and cruelty, especially in the axe-age and wolf-age.

Some mistakenly believe that the entire point and thrust of heathenism is the deification of the axe-age and wolf-age, finally a harsh religion for harsh folks, in which we can all make ourselves in the image of axes and wolves. This is some kind of religion, but a religion serving the Sons of Muspel, and becoming a part of Angrboda's wolf-army out in the Ironwoods. It is hardly anything our arch-heathen ancestors would have approved of, at least when they were in their prime.

Their fight came from an active memory, however mythic, of the times that preceded the axe-age and wolf-age, and their fight was active defiance against the axe-age and wolf-age. It's true that in such an age one cannot depend on the good will of all men, for "no man respects or spares another", as Voluspa says of that age, and so one has to be ready for the worse. Odin always stresses the importance of being prepared, and the Gods have little respect for fools who are suckers. Odin advises the carrying of one's weapons when one travels about, because in a harsh age, there may be enemies of sorts lying in wait. But one does not acquiesce to this reality. One prepares for it and challenges it. The point is not to become like Grendel, but to become tough, lena, and wise enough to be able to oust Grendel, so that that richest and freest of festivities the Anglo-Saxons aptly called a "freols" may continue in the mead-hall, that beer-garden of camaraderie, solidarity of the folk, and active joy of active hearts in active defiance that is worship of active and creative Gods.


Blogger Morning Angel said...

Wow. That has to be the single, best presentation of Heathenism I've yet read.

10:19 AM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Thanks! Thank you for stopping by the hall!

10:57 AM  

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