This past week has brought many curious and provocative changes to the way I’m travelling. For a while now I’ve been aware that the whole psycho-spiritual crisis kicked off by my rejection of xianity had left me in a bit of a vaccuum, meaning wise. I needed a format in which to hang my self and understand where I fit in the universe. I’m happy with the scientific rationalist explanations of the evolution of humans as a species and possible origins of the Universe(s), but what I need is a working mythology.
It was with some enthusiasm that I began exploring Heathenism and Asatru, as it is a pretty comprehensive world view. Asatru or Heathenism incorporates mythology, cosmology, magic, divination, ritual… And I’m finding that everything I’ve intuitively collected in my electic solitary life is porting over with in most cases simply a change of name. The most amazing coincidences are occurring. Yesterday I was given a set of runes hand made by a friend.
There’s been a real issue however with finding others with whom to discuss this experience. Apparently Asatru in Australia has a bad reputation for being connected with white supremacy. I have a little Thor’s hammer charm that I’d like to wear along with my pentagram. (And the way I came across the hammer is very special!) The pentagram’s okay as a symbol of where I’ve come from. I don’t mind if people see me as connected with weird arsed stories about eating babies, Satanic worship or sex with animals, but I will not be associated with racists. Having initially encountered attitudes that I thought belonged in Alabama in the 50’s, I find myself quite suspicious and critical when researching new contacts and sources.
I had a read of Henry’s article on masculinity and Australian culture, and I find that I agree with most of what he’s saying there. That the socially enforced gender roles are potentially harmful and can keep people from really developing themselves. Being stuck to having to be seen as tough or aggressive and so forth prevents a valuable integration and self-knowledge. It also totally screws up your idea of personal boundaries. Building on that I’m trying to understand why people see a need to be so exclusivist and nasty about “who can share our faith”. As if it were a human’s job to defend the gods… As if the gods weren’t able to draw people into spiritual understanding and experience without needing to get the all clear from a self-important gang leader.
We live in the midst of global monoculture, which is admittedly pretty awful and treats humans as mere grist for the mill. Another consumer unit to be manipulated by advertising and the mass media into buying, voting and hating according to the will of the publishers. It’s difficult, even if you are consciously aware of it, to filter out all the overlearned stereotypes and emotional triggers in the sea of information we’re constantly bombarded with. And the enforcement of social constructs is absolutely brutal.
As an animal, the human species evolved in groups. Over 6 million odd years we didn’t survive because we were smarter, stronger or faster. We prospered because, in spite of what corporate culture would tell us about competition, we co-operate. We are a group animal. And acceptance within our group is one of the strongest motivators for us. We need to be needed. We need to belong.
On a tangent, the human species evolved in Africa. White skin is a very late evolutionary mutation. If you’re seriously going to search back for the common spirituality of “our ancestors” you ain’t going back to anything white, baby, you’re going back to black. And it can’t be that different from other indigenous spiritualities since a pentecostal minister was able to port demon exorcisms and trance states from his experience in Africa in the 70’s back into churches in the US without anyone blinking an eye. Except the psychologists on the fringes trying not to wet themselves laughing.
Over the years the influence of puritan religion and the lingering after effects of the Greco-Roman purity codes, not to mention the idea of humans as sinful, tainted creatures, has led to a distorted understanding of ourselves. The things we don’t like about ourselves or percieve as “bad” according to those religious codes, are repressed. The shadow side of our nature, everything we don’t like or consider unworthy, still remains as part of us even if we don’t integrate it. And in this repressed state, we tend to project our shortcomings onto others. For example, rather than seeing myself as short tempered and trying to find healthy ways of dealing with that, I see anger in others and am critical of it. Homophobia works in a similar way. Rather than having a good, honest open look at my sexuality, I direct all manner of hatred, abuse and discrimination against “poofters”. All of this also screws up our personal boundaries and concept of self-control or autonomy. If we’re “broken” how can we trust ourselves to develop morally? How can we learn to understand our own limits and let others be responsible for theirs?
I think that’s where the racist attitudes are stemming from. This combination of an unyielding, abusive monoculture and the lack of permission to journey within and know thy self in wisdom. How often have you heard “new agers” described as selfish or self absorbed? How often have you heard people in the midst of personal crisis told to “get over it”? Our culture does not encourage personal development. That would make us all wiser about what we think and buy and we can’t be having with any of that! ;-)
So here we have a situation in which people are feeling alienated and manipulated. We’re stuck in the suburban siege and we’re in pain.
Fortunately there are many systems around that have helped humans throughout the ages to journey through this stuff. We may have to dig for it now and be brave in stepping out into that exploration, but it is available. One of the great things about Paganism and Heathenism is that they incorporate many of the best tools for self-development from ancient and recent sources. That the tools seem so similar in so many different religions and spiritualities is testament to the need humans have had for them throughout our evolution.
While I’m pretty unhappy with the idea that the spirituality I want to devote myself to is associated with white supremacists, as a bit of a compensation there is within the faith plenty of avenues for people caught up in that sort of repression and hatred to deal with it and develop more healthy wholeness. Unless they’re simply using Asatru or Heathenism as a pathetic excuse to cover their racist attitudes, if they’re following the gods at all, eventually they’re going to be led to confront the anger and inner turmoil.
The journey of discovery, dealing with issues like sexuality and social roles is one of the most painful and difficult, and one of the most valuable, that any person can undertake. That’s why the metaphor of Odin hanging on the world tree in search of wisdom can be so powerful for us now. We need it more than ever.
Although I despise the racist elements in Odinism and Asatru, it isn’t my job to defend or protect the faith. The gods can look after themselves. If a person is drawn to a spiritual practise it’s for a reason. If they need to travel that inner path dealing with inner hurt, emotional conditioning, past memories and present fears, as many of us do myself included, then good luck to them.
It’s just a bit ironic that I threw off xianity because of all the harm I’ve seen done in that system, to find this one similarly beset by problems. I guess it’s all human behaviour. The gregarious animal, in possession of a frontal lobe…
Which leaves me with my little Thor’s hammer, wearing it inside my clothing where it can remain personal. And I remain, for now, the solitary eclectic.