Friday, November 19, 2010

Anarchetypal Pantheism

We may ask ourselves whether polytheism is but pantheism aspected, and given focus, lending us human form and figure with which to understand and comprehend the infinitude in digestible chunks : the poetry through which humans particularize the Pan. From this standpoint, polytheism is but archetypal pantheism, where we channel an experience of pantheism --- the divine coursing through the all of all --- through the mediation of those archetypes which are native to our psyche, and developed out individually and artistically by each culture or subculture into those pattern languages we call "religions".

Within this paradigm, we can afford a certain agnosticism regarding the ontology of these archetypes ; in other words, the question of, "Are these archetypes just categories of our mind? Are they simply very colorful personified Kantian categories through which we experience the world?" or -- "Do they subsist on their own and have their own actual beingness?" It seems to me that we must return to the Norse idea of Wyrd as primary, meaning that life is a Mystery, and sometimes these questions must be left in mystery. For if I respond to the archetypes in my nature, what does it matter their ultimate reality, so long as when I act as if they were real, when I enter into that poetic place of deep play, I am affected and I am transformed in relation to the pantheistic totality? Or must we take ourselves always so seriously that the idea that the religious aspect of ourselves could be encountered and experienced through deep play is so offensive? Are we so deadly serious that we cannot see how serious deep play may be if it is engaged with sincerity and with devotion? And are we so attached to the notion of certainty that we cannot allow our engagement with the divine to include that play of uncertainty which a certain agnosticism embraces?

So to speak of archetypes is to speak a/Gnostically, affirming the ecstasy of our experience without trying to imprison it within static certainty. It is not to assert the unreality of the archetypes, but to suspend and bracket the question of their ontology, and to speak phenomenologically. The particularization of the archetypes through the art of any one culture represent heirloom forms of those archetypes that have a charm and poetry of their own, and if they appeal, we may take in inheritance from the ancestors, and experience and develop them on our own.

Indeed, polytheism must embrace multifacetedness, and if I am a multifaceted person, then there are aspects of me which take literally my religion and which ontologize, and then there are aspects of me that play with uncertainty, that ask questions, that live my religiosity through the riddles rather than through the answers. James Hillman has a brilliant idea in Revisioning Psychology that each God has a type of thinking and a type of imagining that is native to that God, and so if we only think our polytheism through one category, through one way of thinking of things, through one facet, we are not truly being polytheistic, because there is a style of cognition, of affectivity, of even worldview that is native to each God, and thus we can pass through the circuit of the pantheon as a means of approaching, in a human way, the totality of the divine All. (Indeed, my frequent critique of Asatru has focused on the movement's tendency to view the entire pantheon entirely through the eyes of a warrior archetype, thus castrating the full spectrum of divine color.)

I want to re-emphasize that this a/Gnosticism is not a coldness towards the warmth of religious experience, nor a retreat into conceptual abstraction and sterility. Rather, it is to engage the fertile and mildly warm middle place between the hot and the cold. Between the fire and the ice is where we find our "best place", our optimum.

So if you were to say, in response, "Why, Siegfried, do you not believe?", I would say, Oh! I believe! But to believe is to be in love, and who can explain love? Who can account for how they love, for all the different thoughts they have in love, for the surge and the drama and the shifting cycles of experience within love? Indeed, on any one day, my attitude towards the beloved may differ. Ask me one day, and I am cynical about my love. Ask me another day, and I am rapturous. Ask me yet another day, and I am content.

For I will be anarchical in my spirituality. I am not going to be held back from my full experience through narrow rules and arbitrary cognitive restrictions. Tradition, for me, is a patterning of freedom, and I take it in that spirit and in that light.

The advantages of utilizing multiplicity in particularizing the divine is that when approach the All, it is so overwhelming and all-encompassing, that for beings with our limited cognitive capacity, it tends to blur into one vague "stuffness" with little differentiation. But when I utilize these various lenses that the ancestors have cocreated and crafted -- the "runes of eternity" that Rig taught to the first King -- then aspects of the divine totality, of the pantheistic promiscuity that is this cosmos, unfold before me in rich particularity, that I would miss if it were all one vagueness.

We must remember that for Jung, archetypes were not so flat as Kant's logical categories. They had a beingness to them, which resists us and behaves independently. It was their very independence that forced on him the notion that our psyche, our soul, our experience participates, and is implicated, in essences that transcend us ; that when we look "inside", there are aspects to our experience that transcend our personal concerns, and which, for that they resist us, and confound us, and confront us, and upset us, and frustrate us, as well as inspiring us, and challenging us, and pulling us out towards something greater with a sense of striving --- because of all of this, they have an independent reality or being of some sort. But Jung's genius is in maintaining the agnosticism of the concept, because as a more vibrant, living, animalistic form of Kant's categories, Kant of course said that it is through these categories that our experience comes to take on meaning and through which we are able to differentiate anything, so how could we make any statements of certainty about these beings or essences which are the archetypes, since it is through them that we experience? Another way to say this is, it is through the Gods and their powers and their gifts and their styles that we are able to experience the world at all, and therefore how could we make an independent evaluation of the Gods' reality, of their ontology, without utilizing an aspect or style of the Gods to do so? You see, we are within a moebius strip, a ouroboros, a snake biting its own tale. We are within a complex series of Celtic knots, in which we cannot untangle ourselves, but only circulate through the mesh.

So to suspend the question of ontology is not to deny the ontology. To leave in abeyance just exactly what is the reality of the Gods is not to denigrate the reality of the Gods. For we ourselves are subject to the same doubts and questions, particularly for beings like ourselves, who come into existence and then out of existence like a flash, like gnats flying through a room. Are we real? Who is the person asking the question whether the Gods are real? Who is that person? Is that person real? What is reality in this circulating, unfathomable Celtic knot of Wyrd in which we are all implicated? Would we not be arrogant to assert any certain knowledge about topics so mysterious and vast*? Who can say what the mystery of one's self is, let alone the mystery of the Gods?

So I will say as an heir, and a proud heir at that, of the ancient polytheistic paganisms of our ancestors, that I am an archetypal pantheist, and to emphasize that I am also anarchical, and therefore will not have my ecstatic, mystical experience subjected to someone else's arbitrary restrictions, I will call myself an anarchetypal pantheist, with no prejudice, and full embrace of the archetypal experience of that heirloom pantheon my ancestors have handed to me. And because it is rich and powerful and connects me with deepest source, I say it is real, and yet, because I do not arrogantly step into certainty, I also have the ability to nomadically wander outside of those heirlooms, and experience the divine with other folk who have other means of connecting, and thus my experience really is broad and rich.

* I have elsewhere spoken of our faith as an "audacity of will" willing to assert connection to that which is loved even over the abyss of death, beyond which empiricism can say little to nothing, and therefore which defies a scientific materialism. Nevertheless, such a faith, as a function of the will, is not a matter of certainty, for we ourselves are in mystery about which we assert, and yet, whatever its ultimate form, we do will that mystery. To say, I worship the Gods as I understand them, is a humble statement, that yet can admit of passionate devotion, even to the point of willingness to make sacrifices unto them, for even without certainty, life itself is a gamble where we must choose what is of worth and make our bet. Should the Gods, or the divinity which they encompass and express, transcend and surpass our conceptions of them, which they undoubtedly do, we have faith that we will be judged by the inherent worth of our deeds, and the devotion within the motives inherent to them. My audacity may be expressed in my passion, while my humility is expressed in my acknowledgement of mystery, and therefore the inadequacy of any primate modelization of that mystery. Such audacity tends towards great deeds ; such humility tends towards tolerance.


Blogger libramoon said...

Like a Pan of stone,
ensorcelled, cast in pain
from home in mystic plains.
Immortal held below
mundane sky.

Mercurial phase.
Experience teaches as ratiocination
never will.
Solitary sojourn.
Search cascading stills,
divine signs.

I fish for gutter snipes,
smoke to assuage hunger.
Haven't you?
Silly me, to contradict
your view.
When we met, I was still
so new.

Practice willful skills to habit.
Mindfully design impeccable spells.
Immerse in scintillating tidbits,
encrypted tones of Temple bells.
Silly Buddha tricks
are for kids, who sell
services for circuses.
This phase relaxes -- sings out for fun
Enjoy! The next track looms ahead.
Stone bases crack, licked by the Sun,
Spirit dishonoured as dead

Glorious battles can start
in an era of heart.
Glorious peace can be found
in an era of mind.
Stories absorbed in the womb of man
in the day to day,
cast an unconscious play.
Until the Covenant is broken.
Astronished, stone breathes, alive.
Mature, Pan, self-freed, grieves
lost time.

June 2010

5:37 PM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Thank you for the poem!

1:46 AM  

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