Saturday, September 17, 2011

Spirituality : Beyond the Superficial-World

The task of spirituality is to construct and maintain a doorway between the realm harbinged by dreams, and this surface-world. It is an enormously difficult task, because this surface-world has a tendency to reify itself, to declare the film that forms upon its surface as the only reality, and a narrow materialism or empiricism, which only affirms that reality which appears to the senses, rather than to the intuition and dreams, dangerously denies any depth at all to experience and the world.

The surface-world, as a reification, as a self-declaring-of-onlyness, as therefore a totalitarian superficiality, tries to domesticate spirituality, and reify it as well, to turn its symbols into something that can either merely reflect the dilly-dally offhanded mayhem of the surface-social world, or which is cleverly neutralized, either by being ignored (a strong and effective strategy), or by being, let us say, "Sunday-enacted", in such a way that it is in fact parodied as it is being oblated. In any case, the surface-world does everything in its power to keep the door shut. You can paint the door, you can sprinkle holy water on the door, you can bow down and worship the door, but the last thing the reified social-surface-world wants you to do is to actually open the door and peek through.

But genuine spirituality must maintain its doorkeeper position, and this is difficult on both sides, because it must gain a genuine footing within the social-surface-world, if it is to have any effectiveness, if it is to be listened to at all, if it is to avoid total irrelevance, and yet, it must struggle to be true to that deeper reality which wells up from the door. Yet the tangled contradiction is that in order to gain a genuine footing within the social-surface-world, it must placate that world, and speak to it on its own terms, yielding the peril of becoming neutralized in the process. Spirituality must allow the surface-world its smug sensation of having domesticated the doorkeepers, while inside maintaining the resolve to continue to struggle to domesticate the surface-world.

Spirituality knows that this surface-world is a surface world, while the surface-world does not, thinking itself the only-world. Spirituality knows that the world of the senses, with all its history, is but a welling up from the depths, that is continually refreshed from the depths, and which would be impossible without that refreshment. It trusts and stays true to the phenomena that emerge from dream and from trance. This does not mean that it declares these phenomena to be real in the same sense that the surface-reality is real, but rather, having an alternative and valid reality of their own that must not be subordinated or made derivative to, or annihilated by, the surface-world.

Spirituality comes to remind a soul that has become socialized and domesticated within a sophisticated primate tribe that it is far more than the sociological reality the tribe can affirm with its own eyes. As important as kinship is within indigenous-heathen systems, there are deeper kinships that must also be affirmed. Even your own relatives cannot exhaust in their knowledge who you are. Only dreams, trance, and the meditative place in front of the altars can speak to your marvelousness, which you came here to unfold and foster. You did not come here to be molded entirely by the imprinting process of the surface-world. You did not come here to be superficialized. There are deeper imprints which must be spoken, and must be made manifest. These manifestations of the deep and primal must then be defended against superficialization.

For example : at one point, jewelry was no doubt a connection to dream, a connection to animal-spirits, a connection to nature and the elfin world. It was a way of adorning the body that said to the tribe, look, I am more than this. Look, I belong to elfin powers. (Not in a dominated way, but in the sense of belonging.) Look, I place this sign of greater, vaster kinship upon my body, in such a way as to affirm that marvelousness which wells up from within me and is greater than my tribal self. In other words, jewelry were talismans. And yet, over time, this became superficialized. From something surreal and awe-inspiring, they became trinkets, mere "bling". Freya wears Brinsingamen as an affirmation of connection to deep, dwarvish powers, and the beauty they can create, and thus affirms the marvelousness of craft, but all Heid can see is what glitters, and its value is as a social prize of prestige, and what can be won with that glamor. Glamour, which was originally a fairy-power bespeaking the shamanically deep, is stepped-down and lessened into hollywood-style glamor, subordinated to social hierarchies, and diminished by becoming a tool of manipulation, becoming a narcissistic, rather than a spiritual, power. Fortunately, even the retaining of a doorway as a neutralized cliche is an ambivalent victory of reification, because any glamor, even a domesticated kind, can sometimes open the door for people, and enable them to sense something beneath the reality. Sometimes, the vulgar materialism of gold and glitter can suddenly open out onto the marvelous depths of golden beauty and tremendous, eerie and awe-inspiring glamour.

Jewelry, tattoos, talismans, various flourishes and embroiderings on traditional costume can be testaments to loyalties beyond the surface-world, if they do not become completely domesticated to the latter, which they often do. Once again they become subordinated to subcultural brandings, herd-markers, barcode-stampings of the cult.

Without a strong spirituality standing up to domestication and struggling with it, so as to hold the line for the doorway, culture too often degenerates into cult, in all of the twisted, Jim Jonesian, Mansonian connotations that word has taken on in the modern world. Family can become a cult. The cultural "supposed-to's" can become a cult. Yet remember in relation to these superficial-should's that Skuld is a Norn, and not a subordinate official of a primate hierarchy. Her job is to scold the surface-social-world with shoulds that emerge from far deeper places. There are obligations you have that you don't even know you have, because you aren't paying attention to the message from the depths. These imperatives are the pressure of the future reaching back to demand its roots in the potential of the past, through the critical importance of your loyalty to commit to blooming that potential into blossom. You are not here just to ape the spectacle of the superficial, to find your place in the army of the social hierarchy and march lockstep to its monotonous beat. Rather, there is an imperative to attend to what is unmanifest and make it manifest. This is spirituality.

A culture where spirituality has succeeded in its diplomatic but dogged struggle of domesticating culture becomes a deep and spiritual culture, where the doorway is kept open. A culture where spirituality itself has become domesticated has closed all the doors, even though it may have painted them in dazzling colors. In the first kind of culture, the social will be able, with a little application and a little struggle, to find a place for your marvelousness, because generations of dedicated adepts have worked hard to forge understandings that allow for recognition of the value of the surreal, the wyrd, and give it a place. You will be able to discover yourself in the social world as a being who transcends the surface-world's definitions, and thus, the skein of the surface-world is pierced by the bubbling effervescence of the seething deep, and, at least to some degree, the surface-social-world recognizes itself as a surface, as the waves upon a deeper ocean. But in the second kind of culture, you will have to work hard just to keep that sense of sacredness and calling within you from being annihilated by the outside world. These cultures create polarized opposition between inside and outside, with a demand that the inside subordinate itself to the outside. They are thus cultures of conformity rather than cultures of spirituality. In cultures of conformity, you must struggle hard and fiercely, and must continue to struggle, because the battle is not yet won, to stand up for the marvelousness within you. You may have to maintain offices or vocations which seem "merely imaginary" to those around you, while persisting in your diplomacy, knowing you are not "just" a dreamer, but profoundly a dreamer, an ambassador from another realm harbinged by the imagination, but not subordinated to the imagination as it is imagined in bad faith by a culture of conformity and superficiality as "mere fantasy". Blake's genius, for which he suffered immensely, was to hold out as a warrior, in an almost singularly brave manner, in an outpost of conformity that had long lost its deeper, bardic connections, for the reality of the imagination, a position that would earn him little more than the scorn of being an eccentric, if not mad ; but Blake responded, with the kind of iron determination that only a benevolent tyrant can (and let the superficial 'democrats' of the reified surface-social-world be aware that sometimes this kind of tyranny is refreshingly necessary to break through the imposition of reification --- in other words, sometimes imposition is necessary to counter imposition), with a supremacism of the imagination to counter and indeed lord it over the supremacism of the superficial. He did this, because he understood that the superficial was but the welling up from the depths of that which was accessible to the mind through what we call the imagination.

When you wake up from dream, you are unwrapping a gift crafted for you by lower powers, granted to you by your fylgia, fairy-wrapped by norns and beloved hamingja who reveal the deeper prayers of the Gods through their dwarf-smithed dream-symbols. Weaving, as all norns do, from the intricate neural net of your mind, the detritus of the day is caught and spun up into something more marvelous, utilized as an alphabet to detourne the sensory impressions of the day, and allow them to speak something deeper. In fact, the sensory impressions themselves are implicit and weighty with far deeper impressions than our conscious minds notice. This is due to several reasons : a) the conscious mind is far less clever than it would like to give itself credit, b) the conscious mind can only attend to so many details in life, and c) the superficial-social-world does not give us the cues and signs by which we might recognize and consciously take-up these deeper impressions. For the world itself is deep. It is only our superficial-empirical attitudes that transform it into "only" surface. The phenomena themselves are true to their depths if we know how to listen to them. The deeper powers do, and wrap their messages within the warp of our neural net, and deliver us dream. These are gifts, and the uncanny feelings of awe and dread which emerge from dream, and which can influence us the entire day, are strong indicators from our soul of the importance of these messages. They are confusing, because it is difficult to find a way to relate them to the world. Often as we attempt to do so, they seem to fade like cobwebs in the sun, and may be accompanied by a faint sense of embarrassment that we ever put such importance on them. The more conformist and less spiritual the culture, the stronger that sense of embarrassment will be. Only "eccentrics" persist in inserting their dream-sensings and dream-imagery into everyday life. And yet such surrealism is the heart of genuine spirituality.

If you trust your dreams, you will know that you are more than this. Of course the flesh will doubt, because the flesh is a vulnerable creature in this jungle of a world, and it feels its peril. But its peril is in fact not its superficiality as a mere epiphenomenon of a material momentum, that is washed away as dust by the breeze (though it shall be washed away, and restored to its place in the Tree), but the risk that it, the flesh, shall not enflesh the dreams it came to live. Lest this seem like an opposition where only the dream-realm matters, manifestation itself is marvelous, if it stays true to itself as manifestation. We come into the alchemy of this world not only to bless the world, but to be blessed by it. The conditions of this world, with all its peril, are such that they may allow us to create a soul. As Keats said, "Call the world, if you please, the vale of soul-making", and his understanding, though he does not state it as such, is that the world is a kind of crucible or forge where the ore that was picked from the tree, a fruit of stars, a star-sliver, our soul-in-potential, is heated, pounded, and shaped into a genuine and realized soul. Our tradition tells us that the odr is a traveller, and only through travelling through this world does it find its true vocation. The odr or soul stands in the middle, between the purely spiritual realms of the heavens (the ond-realms) and the purely physical realms of the manifest-world (the la and laeti), partaking of both, shuttling between both. To fully realize itself, it must go beneath and above the manifest-world. It must stretch and reach for the heights, and there find its love, and it must go below to find its treasure.

It must be emphasized again and again, as a mantra, and even as a droning imperative, that Odin has one eye on the manifest world, and one eye in the depths. If we would be true to him and his troop, we must imitate him in this regard. We are more than this which we can see. Our eyes of dream invite us to be true to that beyond within us.


Anonymous Marion said...

I'm afraid I disagree with you quite strongly here. Response at: and

8:18 PM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

I enjoyed your response greatly, but must confess that your response demonstrates a misunderstanding of my piece, because I don't see your response contradicting mine in any way. I am indeed world-affirmative, as you emphasize. My other writings here will demonstrate that. But there are levels of depth nested into this cosmos/world, and some people stay at the most superficial level, and do not penetrate to the depths. Staying on that "duh, all this is nice" level might earn you the rank of a thrall, but never that of a poet-priest, a jarl. Of course, the Gods provide for all perspectives ; there are multiple ways of enjoying this world, and if that's all you want, that's fine, too. But you certainly won't be in a leading or noble position, then. The Gods demand evolution. Thank you indeed for your intelligent and thoughtfelt reply.

10:37 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Brilliant as always. Yes I agree, this isn't a dualistic vision you are is about whether we are truly present to the immanent sacredness of the world around us or whether we allow ourselves to skate visionlessly over its surface. The former seems to me the only valid rationale that Heathenry can supply for itself; the latter is its greatest danger.

6:24 PM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Thank you. Well put. I want a spirituality that is going to deepen me to presence. The layers are as thick as one can imagine, thicker than one even needs, but it's good to know those strata are there. They fall down straight into hel, the blissful plains of the noble ancestors.

12:42 AM  
Anonymous Ken Z. said...

This was one of the most profoundly beautiful pieces of spiritual writing I've read in years. Many thanks to you, Siegfried for illuminating my heart AND head today! I've learned you wrote a book. I sure wish I could purchase a copy from somewhere (Amazon says it's no longer available).

8:23 PM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Hi Ken! Thank you. The honor is to serve.

The entire content of this blog will very shortly be available in three volumes of about 500 pages each. I am working all nighters to get it prepared and ready for print and sale. So ... stay tuned.

As far as my other book, Wyrd Megin Thew goes, I may be able to have that available again next year. What it requires is scanning in the pages and then converting the results of that scan into a PDF file so I can make the book available from an on-demand printer. I have very few physical copies left due to a house disaster that happened years back.

I'm glad you were touched, and I thank you for coming by. Please continue to do so. :)

12:39 AM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Marion, I want to return to your critique. I know I am a ranter, and thus am sometimes one-sided, but in general, I do try to be as many-sided as possible in my arguments. In this piece, I did say, "Lest this seem like an opposition where only the dream-realm matters, manifestation itself is marvelous, if it stays true to itself as manifestation. We come into the alchemy of this world not only to bless the world, but to be blessed by it. The conditions of this world, with all its peril, are such that they may allow us to create a soul."

I believe that is a very world-affirmative position. Manifestation, ie., this world, is marvelous. This world is a blessing. This world allows us to develop our soul.

So I think I do say that. But I am emphasizing something that can get lost in the mix if that is all that is said.

12:41 AM  
Blogger Thistlemoon said...

Thank you for this piece. I really enjoy your writings.

9:20 AM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Thank you, that's good to hear! Always nice to know one is not just screaming into the wind!

10:55 AM  

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