Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Real Secret is Heathenism, not New Thought

New Thought (a.k.a. "The Secret", "The Law of Attraction") Summarized:

1. You are being punished for your thoughts.

2. Your thoughts are sinful, and so you reap the consequences. (Based on Jesus' teaching that if someone looks upon a woman with adulterous thoughts, they have already committed adultery.)

3. The only way out is to purge and cleanse yourself of sinful thoughts, and focus totally on righteous thoughts.

Since, as we know from centuries of monastic contemplation, this is impossible, the whole thing is a set-up. Carl Jung established that the mind is an organ that achieves balance through compensation : for every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction, and thus too much focus on positivity will tend to summon up an equal reaction of negativity.

New Thought depersonalizes God into a quasi-Newtonian set of "universal principles" or "great mind", but the essence is still :

A Peeping-Tom God prying into your private thoughts and punishing you for those sinful thoughts and rewarding you for nice ones. This is Santa Claus as the Universal Thought Police. And Thought Police is an appropriate term because the implications of the system are completely totalitarian.

How does this differ from heathenism?

The Gods are not Peeping Toms. They do not pry into your thoughts. They are not constantly scanning all thoughts. That would be discourteous behavior. It would be intrusive, security-state apparatus, 4th-Amendment-violating total surveillance. The privacy of a person in his own home -- the home is his or her castle -- is an ancient Teutonic principle.

If you want to get the Gods' attention, you must knock. Or you must hang a note on your door saying, Please come in. They may be able and willing to read the general state of your heart by the glow of your actions and intents, but if you have something specific to say, you've got to make it clear that you are speaking to them. Complete telepathic correspondence of every thought that passes through one's mind as constant courier to the Gods would constitute the biggest, most cumbersome, and unnecessary spiritual bureaucracy the world has ever seen.

Think about it this way : a good parent is not constantly shuffling through all the drawers and private effects of their child. If the door is closed, the door is closed, unless there is some good reason to suspect harm. A parent doesn't need to know every thought nor every action of their child. They will get the sense, if they are perceptive, what the general mood and overall effect is, gently from time to time offering guidance or inquiring about deeper things, but for the most part, waiting to be asked. If a parent can be so sensible and respectful of privacy, are the Gods any less sensible?

The general tone of New Thought, however positive it tries to paint itself, is condemnation. Since few or none of us ever experience total good fortune, any pain, suffering, or deprivation we experience is punishment for bad thoughts.

New Thought condemns you for who you are and tells you you have the power to do what you don't have the power to do. You can't control your thoughts. You can suppress them. You can emphasize some and de-emphasize others. And you can indeed identify oppressive patterns of thought (like, say, the New Thought paradigm itself) and begin a process of reassessing how you think about things, and how you approach them. (Hint : this is called the practical and psychological use of Reason.) But never have a negative thought? Come on! Come back to reality. It's never going to happen.

And if it did, would such a mindstate prepare you for reality -- you know, the real place where we live, where there actually are wars and invasions and epidemics and divorces and car crashes and accidents and traumas?

Can "It won't happen to me. It won't happen to me. It won't happen to me" really constitute a spirituality? That's called denial. The American pathology, perhaps, but hardly a religion, no matter how you dress it up.

Let's look at reality from a different perspective :

1. There are problems in the world.

2. You've been given a rational mind to be able to figure out, alone or with others, how to solve a good deal of those problems.

3. Because the problems are trenchant, you're going to get frustrated along the way. This is inevitable, but too much disappointment can impede your rational problem-solving skills, and defeat after defeat can be disempowering if you are not willing to think things afresh and take life as a series of challenges.

4. The universe is an orderly arrangement of chance, with cause-and-effect conditioning chaos, and vice-versa ; thus, sometimes things work out, and sometimes they don't, and a good deal of the time that has to do with something someone somewhere did at some previous point, although what the precise relation and ratio is is often rather odd. Let's call that "wyrd". Because of this, there are some things in your control, and some things that will remain outside your control.

So far so good? Now let's look at another set of principles :

1. Human beings tend to be narcissistic. They tend to get caught up in their own personal drama and narrow interests, and ignore the bigger picture.

2. Yet human beings live in a bigger picture. A much, much bigger picture. One that affects them.

3. Because of this, if there is to be any effective approach to reality, there must be developed skillful means to get people's heads out of their asses. We acknowledge from the get-go that this will be imperfect, because the narcissistic tendency will tend to warp even our skillful means into ways of being caught up solely in personal affairs. Nevertheless, we don't want to condemn human self-centeredness ; only de-center it enough to get a larger perspective.

4. Because life can be difficult, humans will have a tendency to see the bigger forces as negative and ill-willed. Heathenism acknowledges that there is truth in this, but not the whole truth. Moreover, it suggests that malevolence is directly linked to stupidity, which suggests an alternative.

5. Human beings are also surrounded by awesome and obviously mightily-beneficent forces as well. We all know if the sun were a little closer or a little farther, life would not be possible, and while this may, in this solar system, be a long result of chance, there are numinosities that condition that chance.

6. Opening up to the larger, more awesome, and ultimately beneficent picture can be a helpful way to live a more fulfilling life. Since we are in the analogous position of an ant trying to think about the Grand Canyon, we will need to utilize symbols, metaphors, models, narratives, and personifications --- in other words, art or poetry --- literature, we might say --- in order to do so. This literature, however, is not intended to be self-referential, but to open up onto forces roughly analogous to its symbols, so that human beings in their soul and in their lives can become oriented towards the larger picture.

7. Of those greater forces, the most basic are Mother Earth and Cosmic Mind, Immanence and Transcendence, which must come together for there to be a viable world. From their union come other numinosities vastly important to the soul : Love, Fertility, Strength, Justice, Confrontation, Moderation, etc.

So heathenism, too, is addressing thought, in the larger sense of orientation, but it approaches this not through a program of suppression (remember, New Thought = Suppress Your Bad Thoughts), but through narrative, symbol, and psychodrama ; in short, through poetry.

The next questions to ask are, Why tradition? and then, Why tribal tradition? First, to address the first question :

1. Generally speaking, wisdom is something that develops with experience, both within a lifetime, and intergenerationally. When a set of interacting people living in the same environment confront the challenges of their surroundings for some time, trial and error will generally have weeded out some of the worst choices and selected for some of the more adaptable choices. Of course, this is both approximate and imperfect, and we acknowledge from the start that both historical trauma and personal stupidity can intervene to load a tradition with its fair share of foolishness, and therefore there is a need for careful emendation. However, again, over time, a tradition has probably developed checks and balances that allow the intelligent user to identify and check tendencies towards stupidity. Although this is imperfect, it saves on having to reinvent everything from scratch (which might be creative but would have to replicate every error as well).

2. Tradition provides creative artists with a common orientation, and "curriculizes" folks' creative activity in the face of life's challenges so that a progression can slowly grow and build. In this way, creativity grows in relevance rather than ideosyncratic isolation, dispersion, and ultimately irrelevance. Getting human beings onto the same page can be a marvelous thing.

Secondly, why tribal?

1. In the process of civilization, with its tendency towards abstract rules, the balance between transcendence and immanence has shifted tot he detriment of the latter. Our concrete relation and engagement with Mother Earth has atrophied, particularly in environments which are increasingly entirely human-made, and therefore reflect our own narrow perspectives, rather than opening out onto the larger world.

2. Because of this, the symbol-systems of simple people, who have stayed close to the soil, can be of immense value and inspiration. Those who have intergenerationally maintained their balance with immanence hold a system of tools of tremendous value.

3. In particular, because in this era of world history it has been predominantly nations of European extraction who have conquered the globe and disrupted cultures through imposing processes of detribalization, there is a need for balance at the heart of our civilization, by restoring the lost tribal potential that was once a part of each and every European nation. A new synthesis is needed, to restore balance, and this means a re-engagement of the lost tribal traditions of Ancient Europe are of particular relevance. Restoration of Indo-European cosmological wisdom, as a conduit to accessing the more ancient Neolithic and Deep Paleolithic Wisdom is a way to restore balance to that process identified as Western Civilization ; not, certainly, to impose Indo-European cosmological wisdom on everyone, but so the tradition which has already imposed on much of the world will be able to resonate and scintillate with indigenous peoples everywhere, and even inspire renewal. In this regard, Germanic-Scandinavian heathenism represents a worthy, powerful, and particularly flavored restoration of Indo-European cosmological wisdom.

As such, its roots -- if not its present shoots -- are far older than the less than two centuries of New Thought. Because of this, it has a much larger history -- a better track-record, you might say -- of dealing with reality.

The real secret is that your thoughts do not control reality, and Thank the Gods! Can you imagine what a horrifying and dull world we would live in, what a sad phantasmagoria, if everything around us were nothing but a reflection and manifestation of our own narcissism?

And how much more disempowered are we if we neutralize one of the world's most marvelous mechanisms for challenging our narcissism --- chance --- with vapid declarations that "Everything happens for a reason" and "Nothing happens by accident"!

Bullshit. Come back to reality. The universe is pervaded by reason, but it is also pervaded by chance. You can create meaning out of chance, through active engagement, but chance by itself is chance and will not passively yield to you.

If you're seeking prosperity, you can listen to the equivalent of get-rich-quick schemes which will increase your vapidity, or you can listen to traditional earth-based wisdom, which says :

In general, prosperity is a reward for good diplomacy. Which is to say maintaining courteous relationships with all your relations --- the earth, the water, the air, fire, and all the world's creatures, including your neighbors --- in the long run makes for wealth outside of zero-sum games.

Odd that it takes barbarians to teach one courtesy, but that is often the nature of Wyrd.

5 Comments:

Blogger Tides Turner said...

LOVE THIS. Wrote this recently and then boom found yours. Keep up the great work!

http://tidesturner.blogspot.com/2010/12/creating-each-others-reality-myth-of.html

4:05 PM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Brilliant essay. I really enjoyed your words. Important words. You say, "There is possibly a huge web of energies of which we are a part, with the Gods, the ancestors, the rocks, the wind, the trees, the worms, the fish and everything are a part of, but I am not sure there's any force controlling all of it. I don't think I want there to be, or I'd be very angry with it."

Understandably. I'd say there are large elements of this alchemy we call cosmos that have yet to be tamed, or, we might say, have not fully individuated, and these less tame elements pose difficulties for the more tame elements.

9:29 PM  
Blogger Heather Awen said...

may I repost this essay on my blog?

8:57 AM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Sure!

10:09 AM  
Blogger Heather Awen said...

Done! thank you!

3:31 PM  

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