Saturday, July 04, 2009

Religion, Abstraction, and True Worthship

Religion is the trickiest, most treacherous, most perilous adventure, because of the ability to get caught up in the symbols rather than what the symbols are speaking, worshipping the words we speak rather than utilizing it as a language to express that which is most important in life. The peril of religion is leading people into subordinating themselves before abstractions.I don't want to worship an abstraction. I don't want to bow down before some statue, of, for example, a character named "Frey". That has no interest to me, and I am 100% in alignment with critiques of idolatry in that form. I want to experience genuine liberty, which itself is a "God", worthy of worth-ship, and which is itself fertile and productive of genuine festivity.

I have no interest in bowing down before human concepts. No, and ancient tribes of Germania didn't either! Tacitus states that very clearly. They knew that the numinous forces of life, which they worshipped, could not be contained in an image or a character, even within a myth, which is useful and wonderful, wonderful for storytelling, but it is not the all of things.

So, in a sense, "Frey" is a social contract, a set of symbols in a social contract whereby we can communicate about something existential that really matters to us : a source of passion, a sense of freedom in love, a feeling of fertility in lust.

And let us stop trying to literalize fertility all the time as simply meaning the increase of herds or human babies. Yes, that power is in the fertility that Frey and Freya represent. There's no doubt about that. But it's more fundamental than that! If you focus on that, you're focusing on a surface expression of a deeper sense of fertility, of life resplendant, and things being able to grow through joy. My Gods, if we forget that in this world, what have we come to? What kind of shallow lives are we living if we aren't from time to time able to come together and affirm that?

Now how do you do that without a set of symbols? There has to be a way of coordinating a human gathering to reaffirm that which is of value in life. The last thing I want to get involved in is a fight over the symbols, over names that are being used. These are a set of conventions that allow us to speak to and affirm very real, important feelings in life that hardly can be expressed at all in language! That's not my way of saying that "Frey" does not exist. It's my way of saying, Look at the moon, not at the finger pointing at it.

When you eat the menu rather than utilizing it to get the meal, you have come under the power of alienation. Your enslavement to abstractions has alienated you from your own life and your own power. Our myths tell us of Giant powers capable of the most convincing illusions, illusions capable of fooling not only Thor, but even Loki, the fooler himself! Chew on this for a while and digest it. The myths suggest that Giant powers are capable of illusion that can fool us so deeply we are drawn into thinking that something is something else, and where else would they exploit this the most but in human activity aimed at aligning itself with that which is good and vibrant in life, and therefore feeds the Gods and the world they tend? You'll know if your worship is illusory or authentic by its yield of either alienation or deep connection. If it hands your life back to you in ways that empower you, your fellows, and the planet, you've tapped into the real McCoy. But if you find yourself getting more and more confused, separated from your real self, asked to do things that make no sense for you, and more and more alienated from everything that is truly good in life, consider whether Utgard-Loki has enchanted you into a set of Giant illusions.

In the Golden Age of Rig and the Silver Age of Scyld, religious ritual effectively connected people to the Gods, but for that very reason, is certainly not something that would be left untouched by forces of degeneration. We have every reason to suspect that in the Axe Age, we must be very careful with religion, making sure to stay as close to our real and primal experience as possible. In Hinduism, this degeneration of religious ritual into alienation by those who themselves have become corrupted is expressed in the idea that tantra, a spiritual form that stays close to bodily experience, is necessary in the Kali Yuga, their cognate form of our Axe Age. "Lastly Tantra was specially allotted for Kaliyug. They say in Kali Yuga, it is not possible to adhere to the elaborate rituals and austerities prescribed by the Vedas, but it is possible to practice Tantra which leads to the same goal and at the same time contributes to man's physical needs." (L.R. Chawdri, Secrets of Yantra, Mantra, and Tantra, New Dawn Press Group, Elgin, IL, 1992/2005/2006, p. 137.) "Eliade (1969) says : ["] The syndrome of Kali Yuga is marked by the fact that it is the only age in which property alone confers social rank, wealth becomes the only motive of the virtues, passion and lust the only bonds between the married, falsehood and deception the first condition of success in life, sexuality the sole means of enjoyment, while external, merely ritualistic religion is confused with spirituality. For several thousand years, be it understood, we have been living in Kali Yuga. ["] The appropriate methodology for persons suffering in these ways begins directly with their bodily experience of life, utilizing the passions of sexuality in a yogic discipline, like tantric yoga. The materialism of the age, that "degeneration of symbolism" (Eliade, 1962) once expressed in the maxim, "If you can't eat it, screw it, or sell it, what is it?" is also met by special forms of yoga." (Eric Greenleaf, The Problem of Evil, Zeig, Tucker & Theisen, Inc., Phoenix, Arizona, 2000, p. 245.) "Tantric thought assumes that we live in a dark age (kali yuga) and, therefore, must use every method possible to boost our spirituality." (Joan Budilovsky, Eve Adamson, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Yoga, Penguin Putnam Inc., New York / Indianapolis, 2003, p. 56.) So we have to be very careful with symbolism in an age of alienation and degeneration, lest our symbols turn back against us, rather than leading us into the deepest and most primal parts of our own experience.

I am not going to bow down before some cosmic comic-book bureaucrat that the rational mind sets up, literalizing its own symbols, making them hypostatic and reifying them. "This comic book character who exists in the myths had this domain, and this is what he rules, and this is what he's like, and so we have to conform ourselves to this."

What are you talking about?! That's not what we're supposed to be doing here! We're supposed to be connecting to deep sources of Life! In the planet! In the skies above us! In our loins! In our deepest impulses and our strongest longings! And finding a way to connect those deepest impulses and strongest longings to other people so that we can come together as a community to affirm what is important, and to do some healing, because every community has backslidings and makes mistakes. We're imperfect animals! We're animals on this earth. We're imperfect. We make mistakes, so we need to heal those mistakes. How do we heal those mistakes but through the reaffirmation of what has value in life, not through bowing down to some symbols. No, through coming together to say, these powerful expressions of life have value to us!

They have worth.

That is true worthship.


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