Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Faith : An Essential Part of Heathenism

I've heard some people say that faith is not a native part of our heathen religion. These people ought to know that faith and its cognate words are pagan words. The faith may be different than the kind of faith of the Christian religion, but we utilize faith every day.

When someone gives you a dollar, why do you take it? Because you have faith that you will be able to utilize that dollar and exchange it for something else of value. You have confidence and trust. The reason faith is needed is because there are gaps. There are gaps between when a person puts a dollar in your hand and when you take that dollar and go get the thing you want. It's a gap. It's not an obvious connection. It's a chasm. But it's a chasm that you're willing to leap. There are chasms in life. There are challenges. The world works in such nonlinear and knotted ways that often our faith is tested. Sometimes it seems as if nature is working against us, when we simply haven't discovered its twirling, spiralled flows. Trust is needed, just as we invest trust and confidence in money.

The world is built on trust. The world is built on faith. The question is, what do we put our faith into? These questions of faith are essential to any kind of religiosity. It is the confidence with which we put into things that determines our ability to move throughout the uncertainty in the world. I mention the faith behind the money system because it is that practical orientation towards faith which is essential for a heathen religiosity. Here is the real question of where do you demonstrate worth? We can look at that from another angle : where do you put your faith? Where do you invest your confidence?

Do you put your faith in Beloved Mother Earth? Is she beloved to you? For you see, if she were beloved to you, there are things you simply wouldn't permit and to happen to her. And you'd have faith that her herbs and the things growing out of her can be helpful and healing.

This is a question of faith in the Gods. It's not a matter of having a contrafactual imagination. It's a matter of having confidence that there's something real behind what you're speaking ; and if there's not something real behind what you're speaking, why are you speaking it? The Gods don't want lip-service. If we will trust the Gods, and really truly put our faith in them, then we can begin to connect to some magnificent, marvelous things, and things that faith in the Gods will be able to give, that the mere faith of the monotheist religions cannot give, because they do not have faith in the Earth, because they do not have faith in fertility, because they do not have faith in the wisdom of the winds. They do not perceive the sacredness permeating and running through this world. There are forces of corruption and forces of evil in this world, but their idea that the world is so permeated with evil that it is irredeemable is blasphemous to our heathen sensibility. There is good in the world! That is why we fight evil! And, beyond fighting evil, more to the point, we bolster up, we berm up, we surround and hedge and guard, and we nourish, the good.

We often begin as pagans engaging in a kind of play-activity. Play is the way that we human beings initiate ourselves into new realities. Play is how animals come to develop into adults. So as children, we come to play at faith. We begin, and our faith is little more than that suspension of disbelief that characterizes theatre-goers, and allows them to enjoy themselves for the duration of the show. But the suspension of disbelief is not something that can last for long unless that confidence begins to take root. And that's what we need to do. We need to get to the point where these names, these holy names that we have begun to use but barely understand --- we barely understand what these names -- Odin, Frigga, Thor --- we barely understand what they mean, for we are children reciting magical formulas that we don't comprehend --- and ground them in existential depth that undergirds our realism and the orientation of our activity. But the more that they take root, and the more confidence that we're willing to put into them, the way that we would put confidence into a dollar bill we were given, and run with it, the more powerful the experiences and possibilities will become. When someone gives you a dollar bill for something you've given, how do you know you haven't just been stolen from? If you took a completely 'atheistic' attitude towards money, you just gave something away. You're not going to get anything in return for it. You just got a piece of paper. But every day, even when we doubt the monetary system, even when we're having questions about it, even when people are telling us that inflation is going up, despite all that, until the point that people actually are taking wheelbarrows full of paper bills to the banks, every day we're acting on it. Can you act on your faith in the Gods with that kind of conviction?

Can we get to the point where we can see that it was our orientation that was out of touch with reality? The orientation that we thought was realistic. The "realistic" orientation that stands in the way of our confidence in the spiritual reality about us. It was our thought that the Earth was not alive that has been at the root of so many of our problems. It was the lack of faith that spirit permeates this world that has allowed us to devoid it of the intelligence with which we could enhance our rationality! That shamanism and analysis don't have to be at loggerheads! They can work together. If we will invest faith, find the roots of faith, then faith will no longer be contrafactual. It will instead be rooting into the ground and searching and seeking the deeper roots of reality, the deeper realities, and we will no longer be attacking symptoms! Realism will no longer be a matter of looking at symptoms, but a matter of going for the roots of things. This is radical faith, radical because the word "radical" means to go to the radix, to the roots. That's where faith becomes powerful, and it is absolulutely a part of our heathen sensibility.


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