Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Initiation and the Three Classes of Heimdall

The most noble of the ancients understood that initiation is the point of life. Initiation is the ongoing process, through ritual and ecstatic means, of gaining a glimpse of the true self beyond all our petty misidentifications, that self which participates in the larger breath of the cosmos. This spirit-self the ancients in the North called ond. True initiation points to something beyond common concerns such as income-gathering and raising a family, however worthy those are, and creates something for adults that points us to a purpose beyond. Everything in Plato, who sums up great swathes of the religious experience of the ancients, is oriented around initiation experiences, and developing them into a coherent intellectual philosophy. There must be a spiritual task, an ideal that pulls us onward and beyond. Anything which abuses that potential, and twists it in a cultish way, is wrong in the deepest sense, because it orients people away from that true self. One of the goals of life is to realize in everyday life as much as possible that self which we gain a glimpse of in initiatory experiences.

From that perspective, the immorality of the unethical goes beyond a puerile obsession with right and wrong or sin, and the trouble with sin becomes that it weighs down the mind and identifies it with that which is lesser than what it is, and has multiplier effects of spreading false self in the world. Anything which spreads false self in the world multiplies evil far beyond what a mere moralist can appreciate in their simplistic understandings of right and wrong. Of course we shouldn't do that which is wrong. That should be an axiom, but it is also puerile as it doesn't grasp the true meaning why. That which messes the initiatory process and creates in people a false sense of self goes against that which was described at the top of the temple of Delphi : Know Thyself.

Know thy true self, and orient everything in that direction. Evil actions orient the self in a false direction, towards that which hurts, towards that which brings more pain in the world, towards addiction, towards shame and expiation, that whole complex, all of which stain the mind, and load up layers of falseness between us and our true experience of ecstatic self in the world, and thus, there is a deeper, more soulful reason for morality. To merely avoid actions because they are technically wrong is to remain superficial. In the realm of ethics, we must understand morality as a science of self, and self-realization. Evil is the misuse or abuse of the initiatory potential in human beings, and the initiatory sciences to propagate disconfirming, manipulable images of self. Any practice, experience, or lifestyle which makes us identify with less than we truly are is perilous, and that doesn't mean that we need to be identified with our full cosmic self 100% of the time, but there is a point of trying to infuse everyday life as much as possible with that. So while everyday life might not be 100% transparent all the time, it's very important to orient life, to orient our actions, to orient our lifestyles, to orient our practices in such a way that experience does not tend to actually pile on filth on top of things. While experience may not be entirely transparent, filth and sin obscure the real experience of self, and we have to be very careful being in primate bodies to take care with our imprinting mechanisms that we do not expose or overexpose ourselves to experiences which deeply disconfirm and disfigure our sense of self. We need to be very careful around conditioning and imprinting mechanisms, insuring that patterns of addiction do not entrap us, which in our primate bodies it is all too easy to do, and again, crime or sin is that which does this. Thus evil attempts to multiply experiences of war and crime in the world, because war is a multiplier of trauma. However complex, we must make at least a subtle distinction between war as an aggressive act of multiplying trauma, and the desire to defend that which is of value, and to gather and reclaim victories which have been stolen. There is an uneasy tension there in the martial arts.

We can see how the three classes of Heimdall are oriented in Norse myth. The thralls are those who are caught up in the expiation drama (I hardly want to dignify this with the word "drama", but it captures the pathos). Having fallen into crime, they are now in the process of penance and working through that pathos in which they became involved. Of course, it terribly obscures their sense of self to be caught in that whole cycle. They are trying to reclaim their sense of self by working out, working through, and restituting that sense of self by disaligning themselves from the false self they propagated to others or to themselves through their crimes.

The carls are people who are concerned almost entirely with the common concerns of raising a family and trying to live good, responsible lives, all of which is very important. The species must be propagated, and society must go on, but it is not the highest purpose in human kind. Thus the carl or householder class of raising children and supporting a family and so on and so forth which has great importance is still not the highest class.

The highest class is the nobility, who tend to the mysteries. The mysteries are not some esoteric alphabet, nor are they merely the wondrous technology of writing. They include the arts of initiation, which open us up to the mysteries of self and the cosmos, and therefore are the ritual arts that go with them, and in that regard, the alphabet is a potent means of recording and reinforcing that which is most sacred by setting down where it may be preserved over the ages, and indeed, the technology of writing, as all writers know, has the ability to tap into that which is deepest within us. All of these arts must be tended and regulated by those who are very clear with themselves, those who are already free.

Thralls cannot handle this, because they are caught up in patterns of addiction and expiation. Only a carl can graduate into a jarl, only someone who has freed themselves into responsibilty. If a thrall tried to take charge of the science of mystery, they might be able to get one or two or even several aspects correct, but the entire picture would be distorted by their addictions, expiation, and guilt cycles. The honor that Heimdall gave to thralls is the opportunity to work through and repay and restitute their crimes, and regain a stronger sense of responsible self. Here the idea is that someone who has actually taken on the work of paying back their debts which they have accumulated through hurting others, someone who has actually turned around and is doing their penance, does gain a certain honor or potential honor. They at least now have potential honor. That potential honor may now be regained, as opposed to the complete worthlessnes of staying in sin, staying in crime, staying in shame without doing anything about it. At least the thrall has that potential worth, and they are working steadily if not rapidly to regain it, and thus Heimdall's blessing of the thrall class reminds us that those who are doing their expiatory work and penance are still human. They might be lowly, but they are still human. But those who have not yet embarked on paying for their crimes would stand outside the circle. So you are either repaying your crimes or you are living a responsible life or you are actually tending to the mysteries. The worst possible situation is for someone who is caught up in an expiatory cycle, or indeed, a criminal who is so caught up in false self that there is no remorse at all, and is utilizing the primate potentials that allow us to open up and out from this primate neural net into a cosmic net, and turning all that towards manipulation and addiction and profiteering off of the twisting of human potential.

The importance of good ritual practice, meditation, or any ecstatic experience, in the more literal sense of taking us outside a static sense of self, into that self which participates in the larger wyrd of the world, is not only that it confirms our true self, but that it disconfirms our disconfirming self. It says, "You are not that." Trauma falsely says, "You are this," and identifies the self with the trauma. Ritual practice reinforces, "you are not that". "Any that which you look upon, you are not that, because you are so much more."

Now there are all kinds of people in the world, and that's good, and there are some people who are going to be oriented towards the family and the raising of children primarily, but the noble soul is going to feel a pull for something more than that. That doesn't mean that the noble person can't be involved in raising a family, but there are some restrictions that must be overcome. If they are to do so, they must excel in such a way that the duties and the burdens of that family raising task do not take them away from the central tasks of attending to the mysteries and the arts. Some will be able to do this, but a person of noble strivings must do an assessment of their capacities to determine whether they will be able to take on the responsibilities of the carl class and surpass them, or whether they may make a choice to not participate as heavily or directly in the householder process, and tend to orient themselves more towards the highest. This, of course, is not to take away from the mystery of birth, nor is it to ignore the vital importance of rearing children in a proper way so that their full potential may blossom, protected, given the time that it needs to develop on its own from within, as well as teaching the duties that come with being human, and the ethics of living in community. All of that is tremendously important ; however, even that can become a trap if it becomes completely opaque and turned on itself, and becomes the end-all and be-all of existence. There must be a beyond. There must be transcendence. However small a place that may take in the life of a carl, it still must be there, and that is why typically, the class of the responsible householders do attend church, temple, the rituals, and so forth. All of these may or may not be understood at the level of profundity that those who really pursue the arts may experience, but at least it's given a place, so it's important for the carl class to know that that must have its place in the orientation of raising a family. The point of being alive is not just to eat, work, sleep, and reproduce. That is why we need our poets, to inspire us with tales of adventure, and our sumble, where we become encouraged by the bold deeds of our fellows, and our mead-sharing, in which the opportunity to contemplate the mysteries of existence lie.

Let's remember that what we call "mead" is the Teutonic equivalent of what our Vedic cousins called "soma" and our Avestan (Zoroastrian) cousins called "haoma". The main ingredients of this drink are no longer a mystery, as the Greek/Russian archaeologist Viktor Sarianidi has excavated an Indic-Iranian temple complex at Gonur in Turkmenistan which featured mixing bowls for soma. When these bowls were analysed, they contained poppy, cannibis, and ephedra. The ephedra acted as a stimulant to counteract the soporific effects of the poppy opiates so that the sages could stay up for hours beneath the stars by the fires contemplating truth. The poppies acted as a euphoric to lift the spirits from mundane cares into bliss. The cannabis acted as a psychoactive or psychedelic, and when all of these were combined in the right combinations with the right ritual environment and the proper evocative atmosphere, they tended to create experiences of initiation. The great poets of the Rig Veda wrote their hymns after drinking this entheogenic beverage. It is likely that as Indo-Europeans moved out from Afghanistan, the recipes shifted slightly, but that the above-named gruits (herbal ingredients) would have been tinctured in alcohol or mead seems highly likely, creating a kind of fermented bhang enhanced by a stimulant and softened by a euphoric. The hymns to the great being Soma are reflections of the praise given to Mimir, the keeper of the well of wisdom.

The end of all this is that mead-drinking was not about mere intoxication, but enhanced by various gruits, a shared initiation experience where the true mysteries of the cosmos could be opened up and enjoyed in a communal ritual environment. We know that brewers into the Middle Ages and even up to the early modern age utilized various stimulant and psychoactive gruits in their ale, until various ecclesiastical forces worked to monopolize hops, a soporific, as the sole gruit in beer.

This is not to say that entheogenic intoxication is necessary to having an initiatory experience, as poetry alone may carry such intoxication, or a beautiful mountain, or a wondrous sexual experience, or a sublime starry night ; but it is to say that the presence of entheogenic intoxicants indicates how serious ancient Europeans were about creating initiatory experiences that took people beyond their ordinary experiences of self.

Anything which is powerful carries the responsibility of being utilized to illuminate the truth of things. By the "truth of things", we do not mean the cynical reflection on how bad things have gotten through various processes of degeneration, but we mean the true self of being, the true self of self, the true self of cosmos, that the ancients called "sooth", which is not identified with all of the filth, which eventually filters down to the lowest levels and becomes compost so that the living process of being may be nourished. Because anything powerful carries with it a responsibility, therefore anything powerful can be perverted. Let me give an example here. There can be a wholeness to sex and pleasure. That should be affirmed. I think a lot of people in the carl class get that, and that's good. That should not be taken away. But there can also be something about sex that can be addictive if it is pursued entirely for its own sake, and I think what attracted me about sexuality in the first place was its initiatory potential, its ability to tap into wildness and an experience of freedom. That to me is very, very important and is very different than mere pleasure-seeking. Again, I neither want to disavow nor insult the great sense of pleasure, but the question always is whether pleasure is in the service of freedom, and is therefore a greater pleasure, or whether pleasure itself falls into bondage. For me, sex for the sake of sex, to participate in that primate, mammalian act has held much smaller interest than its liberatory potential. The primate act in and of itself is not necessarily liberatory, and does not necessarily confirm sooth, the real truth of me. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with a good, harmless romp in the hay from time to time, and indeed, that might be one's staple, but again the question is one of fundamental orientation, and trying to illuminate everyday practice so it becomes less opaque.

Another important point to make here is the worthiness of understanding and preserving the levels, so that the higher never serves the lower. By that I do not mean that the nobles step outside of responsibility to community. Indeed, it is their responsibility and privilege to protect the community and its ability to reach its highest potential, and therefore they are the protectors of the highest potential. So in that sense, service to the community is fundamental to that which is noble, but in order to carry out that function, it is vital that that which is higher does not subordinate to that which is lower. There is such a thing as a more advanced and a less advanced person on this path. A more advanced person is a person who has succeeded to a greater degree in integrating into their everyday life the truth of being. (It's important to keep contrasting "sooth", the truth of being, with the mere truths of muckraking and cynicism, because the filth, however much it may need to be dealt with, never reflects the light. Thus, the hard-headed so-called realists who would press our nose in the excrement of warfare, cruelty, and savagery, are not aligned with sooth. They are misusing the imprinting potentials of the human being, and imprinting us on that which is not our true essence.) Here the ideas of Nietzsche, however distorted his presentation at times may be, and more clearly of Ayn Rand, must be integrated as corrections to the excesses and deficiencies of Judaeo-Christianity. If the higher is made to serve the lower, in the sense of rights being made and claims being verified merely on the basis of having become a victim, then all of life is turned into a hospital, as Ayn Rand put it. There is not that there is anything wrong with healing the sick, but that hospitals should not become our only image of temples.

I have repeatedly in my life committed the sin, and I want to call it a sin, of subordinating the higher in me to the lower in someone else, who, because of their pain, because of their anguish, because of their need, because of their addiction or what have you, out of a false pity, out of a compassion which has become manipulated, has maneuvered me into placating them, and it's never really done that much good in the end. It's not that acts of compassion are bad. It's not even that an act of sacrifice here and there for a real good, a real effect of healing for another, is bad, but that on an everyday level, if you subordinate that which is higher in you to that which is lower in someone else or in yourself, it has a degrading effect on both parties, and it does not reflect sooth, and therefore will not be vindicated by the wyrd of the universe.

It seems worthy here to discuss the critique of that philosophical movement known as postmodernism, emerging as early as the 1970's, but coming into prominence in the 1990s -- particularly in its impact on pop-culture -- concerning the notion of "progress". While the name "postmodernism" has mainly faded, its effects, particularly in this regard, are still very much alive in our culture.

I would suggest that postmodernism confused the epistemology of progress with its ontology. By that I mean to say that it is legitimate to question our conceptions of progress so that we may greater clarify them. We may even acknowledge the difficulties involved in knowing precisely what progress implies. Such a task of critique is very important historically, because history shows that many of the ideas of progress of the Enlightenment era, but especially of the industrial and imperialist eras were in fact quite regressive, and often became not only forces of imposition, but of justification for imposition. But to erase the reality of progress through a simple critique of our inview on it is improper. (This is also the mistake that atheists, as opposed to agnostics, make : while they may wildly succeed in demonstrating the incoherencies in various conceptions of God, even the agnostic can acknowledge that that has little effect on the actual reality of God. Simply because one critiques an individual's conception of a tree does not mean that the tree is not there.)

Within the world's cycles, progress is orientation and movement towards advancement, in a struggle for supremacy with regressive forces, so that that which is most noble in reality and ourselves has the opportunity for realization. Postmodernism's relativism has done great damage to the very real and important distinctions between noble and base. Of course we must critique our notions of noble and base, but for the very reason that the base are always trying to appropriate the definitions.

Surely it is perverse for a jarl to serve a thrall, whether that is an external or internal relation, for then noble pursuits, poetic crafts, and initiatory arts become subordinated to patterns of addiction, shame, and expiation. The thrall's job is to restore their sense of self from a degraded, dissipated state. The carl's job is to foster a healthy sense of self in the world, one that is active and involved with life. The jarl's job is to offer experiences that confirm a deeper, larger, more cosmic sense of self that allows us to transcend the narrow categories in which we place ourselves, so the fundamental goodness of our being may be fostered by the Gods and take its rightful place as the ruler of our wholeness.


Post a Comment

<< Home