Odr's Gnostic Path
Now the odr is capable of sinking down into the flesh, into the lich, the la, and the laeti, and deeply imagining it, but it is also capable of identifying with it entirely, and if the odr identifies with the lich, the la, and the laeti entirely, it will lose its divine heritage. However, if it is in touch with the ond, with the divine spirit, and it imagines from that perspective downwards into the flesh, then as Blake is capable of seeing the heavens in a grain of sand, and the entire heavenly city within the human body, so may the imagination.
The perspective of seeing everything from the standpoint of externals, and externals inward, with the inward in fact just being a deeper layer of externality, is the perspective of what Blake would call "the natural man". Now, actually, this is nature fallen. It is not really certain that this would be the perspective of natural peoples like tribal peoples who, in fact, are often natural mystics, but this sort of vulgar materialism is the perspective of the modern world in which everything is an externality and becomes about manipulating externals, empirical reality, and what you can touch. It's not that empirical reality is untrue. It's that it becomes true when it is transformed into symbol, when we are able to see through it to the spiritual realities which it embodies. But if we say that everything is body, and there is no spirit, and we have separated spirit and matter, and then simply take matter as the discard of that process, and take it as all, then we have lost something essential. The imagination has ceased to imagine the flesh from the perspective of its connection with the wide-ranging winds of spirit, and has become identified just with this. It is not that there is a problem with "this", but with "only" this. If monotheism is an obsession, something monolithic, then there can be monomaterialism as well, of "only" this existing, as well.
Now the poetic soul has to go down to Hel and back, seeing all the wonders and terrors that are there, and to contend with the giant of wisdom that is down there. It's interesting that the way to Hel passes down through the terrible ways first. One must first pass right by the edge of Niflhel before one can pass into the blissful regions. You have to confront your fears first. Our fear is that it is an entirely fearful and gloomy place. If that is all we see, and we run screaming, then that will be our only vision of it, just as Snorri's vision of Hel is that that is all it is, just that gloomy place of fears and hungers and terrors, but if one manages to go beyond that, then one begins to discover the true blisses that are hidden almost by that shield of fear, and furthest away from those gloomy places lie sunny fields of bliss.
The poetic soul must there in Hel retrieve an object of great peril, the sword of wrath, the sword of vengeance, and must deliver this sword to the Gods for safekeeping, for only the Gods have the wisdom to be able to keep such a perilous weapon. Yet such an object presents a great temptation, because the poetic soul is subject to fits of madness, just as it is subject to fits of temptation. The poetic soul is sometimes called Amlethi, the mad one, and in the hands of a mortal, the sword of vengeance brings out the person's own inner desire for vengeance. It can take them over. The sword has a will of its own. And taken over by such indignant wrath, and such fury for vengeance, the poetic soul may try to take on the good and loving and powerful Gods themselves, and indeed, with this weapon in its hands, it may take down even the mighty weapons of the Gods. The soul at its height, in the full of its power, holding the sword of vengeance, can be fearful indeed, making even the Gods nervous. It was said that the Gods trembled on the point of a sword.
Svipdag as the avatar or exemplar of the odr in each of us fell to this temptation. Entrusted as simply a carrier of the sword, a messenger, a courier who would bring the sword from the lowest depths of Hel to the highest places of Heaven into the safekeeping of the Gods, he himself became tempted, and taken over, for as he emerged onto earth, the sword made him remember his feud with King Halfdan, and he engaged King Halfdan in battle with the sword. When the Gods saw that the sword that was supposed to have been sent to them and entrusted into their hands was being used in battle, in the petty strife of Midgard, they came down to defend Halfdan, but even Thor found his hammer hewed in half. Even the lightning power of the most wrathful of the Gods could not compare with the wrath and the vengeance embodied in the sword.
The Gods regroup in the heavens and bolt down their fortresses, and wonder whether the young Svipdag will follow his jotunn heritage or his more divine heritage. This is the question that each of us must answer : will we follow the material path down into the most greedy and externalized way of viewing things, or will we through the inwardness of all things find the divine essence that unites us all? The soul now has a choice. Holding this powerful weapon of wrath and vengeance, will the soul become a killer of Gods, not just atheism but theicide, or will the soul choose Love? You see, Love is the soul's beloved, and is one of those mighty Gods, and so a choice must be made.
The Gods await to see what choice will be made. Now it must not be said that with this sword that the soul actually had the power to kill the Gods, although there is a moment where we as the audience to the tales are in suspense. Odin addresses Svipdag when he comes to the outer gate of the heavens as one of jotunn kin, as he has come to prove himself through his actions of vengeance, and Odin is taunting him as to whether he is going to choose the jotnar path or a higher path. Now this is actually to Svipdag's peril, because the gambanteinn, the sword of vengeance, in and of itself fights against giants, so if he chooses to bring out in full his giant nature, if he comes to the heavens as a giant, as an agent of the giants, as an enemy of the Gods, as somebody fully identified with the material world who seeks to destroy the spirituality within it, we can readily see that the sword will turn against him, and slay him first. He does not realize this. He does not realize the peril of this sword, yet the choice is clear before him whether to choose love or to choose eternal wrath, even against the benevolent and holy Gods. He stands in the choice between a healthy pride that yet knows its elders -- the proper heathen position -- or an arrogance that goes above and beyond that healthy pride and tries to take down all, even those with superior wisdom and knowledge. Again, a choice that every hero, every would-be warrior, must make. It is easy as someone holding the sword -- a warrior -- to make the choice of arrogance, and to have the sword draw out one's jotnar heritage.
For you see, these very bodies are made of the stuff of ground giants. Matter itself is the ground flesh of the giants of old, and it is made whole, spiritually wholesome, active, organic, alive, open to the mysteries, through that energy pouring out from the inwardness of the world, but if we surrender that connection to spirit, if we surrender that connection to inwardness, if we surrender the reins that hold that monstrous matter into beautiful, organic, holistic, dynamic crystalline nature and structure, then that monstrous matter easily moves to the will of the monsters. So a choice must always be made : will we look with both eyes on the material world, or will we imitate Odin, who has one eye on the material world, and one eye in the depths?
The sword, imbued with the spirit of revenge, goads one to monstrous deeds, and if one gives over entirely to it, the sword itself will turn. This is a mythic way of saying "He who lives by the sword dies by the sword," assuming that we utilize the phrase "he who lives by the sword" to mean not just someone who uses a sword for protecting that which is good and serving the Gods, but actually lives by the sword, by the will of the sword itself.
Now Svipdag was tempted, and succumbed to that temptation, when he took down Halfdan, when he struck the handle or haft of Thor's hammer and shattered it, but the Gods know we make mistakes, especially when we are subject to great temptations. Everything depends on whether we will turn our mistake around and do the right thing, and Svipdag is redeemed by the fact that when in that moment of peril after he has fallen into temptation and given into vengeance, he then turns and makes the choice to go to the Gods and surrender the sword, and chooses love. And when he chooses love over vengeance, he is forgiven for his transgression, and comes into the holy arms of Love, who opens him to his heavenly and divine nature. It is through love that the odr is drawn up into the ond.