by Terry Coker
first published in THEOD, Vol III #1, Ewomeoluc 1996. PO Box 8062, Watertown, NY, 13601
In an effort to explain the existence of evil in the world despite the omnipresence of its omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect Christian god, the defenders of Christianity devised the soul making defense. Christianity, although it represents the predominant Western group of religions, is only one religious train of thought. The Germanic or Teutonic peoples of Northern Europe had their own religion, Heathenry, which predated Christianity's introduction into their homeland by approximately 800 to 1000 years. The Teutonic peoples were the ancestors of today's Germans, English, Danes, Dutch, Swedes, Norwegians, Icelanders, Austrians, and some Swiss. Teutonic influence can also be seen in other modern-day peoples whose ancestry is traceable to the Teutonic countries such as certain Americans, Canadians, Australians, and the Afrikaners of South Africa. The important point here is that the ancestors of these people shared a world view that was quite different from the original Christianity that was brought into Europe from the Middle East. The existing Teutonic religion was subsequently corrupted as it was incorporated into that Middle Eastern religion, Christianity, as it marched across Europe during the first millennium.1 As a result, such theodicies as the soul making defense had to be concocted in order to explain phenomena in the world which were already explainable according to Teutonic Heathenry. This study will compare and contrast the Teutonic Heathen world view and the Christian soul making defense, suggest possible connections, and analyze how well the Teutonic Heathen world view stands to some of the criticisms of its Christian corruption.
II. The Teutonic Religion
A. The Gods and Goddesses
In order to present the Teutonic Heathen world view and stand it next to the soul making defense, a basic background of the Teutonic concept of gods and goddesses must be presented as a preface. The Teutonic peoples had no concept of a single, omniscient, omnipotent, morally perfect god. Their religion was, and is, polytheistic. Nature existed from the beginning, but the gods of primeval consciousness, Woden, Willi and Weh, rose up and slew Ymir, the guardian of the old, unthinking order of nature. In his place they established a cosmos centered around a higher order of being; it is a stronghold of order, primacy of law, and rational thought.2 Many of the gods and goddesses were born into this cosmos and from that point on held power and sway over differing aspects of it, be that consciousness, or natural events which are observed and not observed every day. These beings are more powerful than humans, but nowhere in any of the lore of the Teutonic folk do any make claims of omnipotence. The chieftain of the gods, Woden, is the god of wisdom, knowledge, and hidden mysteries, yet he makes no claim to omniscience. On the issue of moral perfection, Aswynn asserts that perfection has no place in religions such as those like Teutonic Heathenry. The gods and goddesses posses personalities after which our own are modelled. With these personalities come such traits as caprice, eccentricities, and preferences which are echoed in the human condition as well.3 This begins to suggest the relationship between the gods and humans.
We, humans, are those who acknowledge and worship the gods with their complex forms and names, and assist them in accomplishing their goals in Middle Earth. Peoples of similar origins, environments, and shared experiences will develop relationships with the gods who sponsor them here in Middle Earth, be they Germanics, American Natives, Mongol herdsmen, or African tribesmen. What is the reason for this mutual existence and atmosphere of give and take? Edred Thorsson tells us that there is an organic existence which is separate from spiritual existence. The gods placed a spiritual presence into nature, the organic existence, in order to fulfill their goals of expanding consciousness as widely and deeply as possible. A holy harmony of body and soul can only be accomplished in Middle Earth, and therefore our realm is somewhat of a proving ground for the gods. Since the gods are not organic, they can only fulfill themselves in Middle Earth through humans.4 Through this marriage of nature and spirit we are to live, learn, and grow. Garman Lord, in An Introduction to Theodish Belief, complements Thorsson's statements by asserting that through growth, the human goal can be reached, this goal being the attainment of a level spiritual perfection which will make us worthy of the company of the gods and goddesses in the afterlife. The gods are not in need of appeasement as the Christian god demands. Rather, they need us to recognize and cultivate our role as their "junior partners" so that both strains of beings can benefit from the exchange.5
A presentation of the Christian soul making defense and the Heathen world view will now be given so that we can compare and contrast the two. As the reader makes his way through each theodicy, if that term can accurately apply to the Heathen view of spirituality, he will clearly be able to grasp the similarities of the two. At the same time, certain differences will become evident as well. The reader should keep in mind a few points as he progresses. First, consider the underlying reason the gods or god of each religion placed humankind into the world. Secondly, the reader should keep in mind that the soul making defense was dreamed up as a response to the problem of a morally perfect being allowing or placing evil into the world. Finally, the reader should be aware that the Heathen world view was well entrenched in the hearts and minds of the Teutonic folk for up to 1000 years before any Christian missionaries ever tried to convert them.
A. The Christian View
The Christian version of the soul making defense is an attempt to explain why Jehovah, or more accurately, Yahweh, a god of perfect love and morals, would allow the world inhabited by his "children", humankind, to be filled with so much evil. To begin, we must look at Christianity's reason for humankind's existence on earth. John Hick in Evil and the God of Love tells us that humankind was put on earth for the purpose of keeping Yahweh company. Our ultimate objective is a relationship with the Creator. The fulfillment of our nature is to develop this relationship with Yahweh and enjoy the happiness of God's Kingdom; this we can term "the divine plan". There is a problem, however, in that man goes against God's nature and commits acts of evil which thwart the divine plan. This evil is termed "sin", and is a result of man's free will granted to him by the Christian god.6 Humankind, being the wicked creatures we are, and whether helped by an agent of evil like Satan or not, tends to throw the divine plan into disarray because of our imperfection, viz. our free will, and, inevitably, our sin.7
Free will only partially explains the presence of evil in the world. Such natural catastrophes as tornadoes, hurricanes, and diseases cannot be attributed to the free choices of mankind. Some acceptable explanation had to be offered for these events which cause so much suffering and pain in a world created by a god of love. Irenaeus (c. 130 - c. 202) was the first to try to address this problem as well as give an acceptable explanation for the suffering caused by humans upon each other. Hick tells us that Irenaeus looked upon mankind as being an immature being that was not ready for perfection, this perfection being a would-be gift from Yahweh. Had the Christian god tried to imbue humanity with perfection, mankind would have failed to receive it; or, if he could have received it, after doing so, he would have lost it. As a solution, Yahweh decided upon a gradual growth plan through which humans could, through spiritual training, ascend to the perfection which was intended for them by the Christian god from the beginning. What trains us for the perfection which awaits us is the world of intermingled good and evil. Evil is the necessary element that brings out such divine traits in us as compassion, caring and sympathy.8 So, whatever evil exists in the world is allowed by the Christian god of love as a sort of "school of hard knocks". Another attempt to explain both evil caused by humans and evil caused by nature was presented by Augustine (354-430 C. E.). Augustine initially adhered to the Manichaean sect, in which God was depicted as one of two coordinate powers, good and evil, which warred against each other. However, after his conversion to Christianity Augustine had to account for an absolutely good Christian god and the existence of evil, of which the Christian god had no part.9 Augustine concluded that all of God's creation is good, but, since everything was made from nothing, it is corruptible, and evil is this corruption.10 Before humanity appeared on the scene there was a revolt against God in which angels who exercised free will for ill were sent out of the grandeur of heaven and then vied with the angels who remained loyal to God.11 Since man was made from nothing and exercises free will, he ran the risk of taking the same path as the fallen angels. No sooner was mankind out of the starting gate did his first slip-up occur. Adam and Eve's original sin in the Garden of Eden began the random salvation and damnation of a vengeful god. The ill that men wreak upon each other is a direct result of Adam and Eve's fall, a product of their free wills. Since then, all of mankind has been damned because of their precedent. All persons began, and will begin, their lives in a state of guilt due to the "dynamic duo's" failings. Yahweh, in his grace, allows some of humanity a shot at salvation while the others fulfill their purpose of adding evil to the world and then wend their ways to damnation. Those unhappy many who inescapably add their evil to the world and then burn, play their part in the greater good by eliciting compassion, love, and other godly traits from those who are selected to be saved.12
As one can gather from both Christian versions of how the world turns with its good and evil, mankind appears to be somewhat cheated because of circumstances beyond his control. The Irenaean ve rsion presents man as a creature not ready for Yahweh's company because the god "jumped the gun" and set him out for scrutiny before he could mature. As a result, man must undergo spiritual training before he can stand before God. At least the Irenaean version is forward-looking and holds some promise of hope for the future. The Augustinian version may well have bubbled up from the depths of the Judeo-Christian hell itself. In Augustine's version, evil seeped into the world because God's creations are corruptible and the angles' rebellion started the cosmos on a downward spiral about which God has been upset ever since. Mankind hopped on the "highway to hell" when Adam and Eve blew it for us all in the Garden of Eden. Since Yahweh is a merciful god, though, a select, happy few of us will be led to repentance. The trick is to be one of the lucky few. Since those are known but to God, you simply have to check all of your squares, cross you fingers, and hope for the best.
B. The Teutonic Heathen View
The purpose for which the gods and goddesses placed
humankind in Middle Earth is the basis for the Heathen concept of "soul making",
if it can be called that. As stated earlier, we are the junior partners of the
gods. Through us they can expand consciousness, thus fulfilling their aims in
Middle Earth. Because of this relationship between man and gods, such terms as
salvation, sin, heaven and hell in the Christian sense are rather twisted in the
eyes of the Heathen. A god offering salvation to a man makes no sense to a
Heathen. Salvation from what? The Heathen knows that only the heroic deeds and
honorable works of the individual will gain him the privilege of the company of
the gods in Valhalla. Let us explore this further from the beginning. The dawn
of human consciousness began when Woden, the chieftain of the Teutonic gods,
created human life from trees. Woden and his brothers, Hoenir and Lodurr,
imparted to their human creation such divine qualities as consciousness, holy
inspiration, and reasoning abilities. From that point the joint enterprise of
gods and man began. The objectives of the gods include the expansion of
consciousness into Middle Earth and the acquisition of knowledge which resulted,
and is resulting, from the human experience. Since this is a joint enterprise,
humankind has objectives as well. Garman Lord states that the Anglo-Saxons saw
our objectives as living a life of this world and cultivating worth by following
the redes of Wisdom, Generosity, and Personal Honor.13 Only in this way
can a man or woman enjoy "salvation", and only then because he or she earned it.
As mentioned before, The Christian concept of sin is rather peculiar in Heathen
eyes. Garman Lord interprets the
Christian version of sin as an act one commits, essentially a stumbling or misstep.14 This understanding is confirmed by John Hick in Evil and the God of Love.15 The Heathen view of sin is that of a condition in which man finds himself. It is a state of being unworthy. Sin is a Teutonic word meaning flawed or lacking in worth. Old Testament Judeo-Christian thought considers sin a crime against God, essentially an action. However, New Testament Christianity reveals its subtle Heathenization by making sin out to be a condition of guilt, or in some sects inevitable corruptibility. The inescapable result is a schizophrenic pseudo-Heathen/pseudo-Christian state of sin that cannot be overcome, as true Heathen would hold that it can, but only "forgiven" by God as insisted by Christianity.16 The Christian concept of his god granting forgiveness for, and therefor offering salvation from man's "sins" or failings makes no sense to a Heathen. The Heathen knows that he must gain worth and triumphantly emerge from his sinful or worthless state. Gaining worth lightens the soul, keeping it from sinking to the lower stations in Hel's realm, Hell, once the person dies. Hell is the realm where departed souls go, all departed souls, save those exceptional ones chosen by the gods for Valhalla. As Garman Lord puts it, the Teutonic gods make no promises of forgiveness or offers of salvation, it is completely up to the actions and deeds of the individual.17 He states, "Sin is not disobedience of God's laws, but betrayal of our own natures by living unworthy lives and sullying ourselves by poor spiritual hygiene. It is not God who judges us and sends us to Hell, but we who work our own judgments upon ourselves by our lives and our acts, rather like bringing the wrath of the Law of Gravity upon yourself by jumping out of a window."18
From what has been stated already, one can begin to see that there is no conflict of interest between any Teutonic "god of love" (which is nonexistent in the connotation evoked by the same Christian reference) and the hardships endured by the folk. Here it should be pointed out that the chieftain of the gods, Woden, tests and tries his folk through his divinely imposed challenges. Woden is a mysterious god who presides over wisdom, knowledge, poetry, war and hidden mysteries. The Romans likened him to Mercury, though no real equation can be made between Teutonic gods and Mediterranean gods. KveldulfR Gundarsson best sums up Woden in his book, Teutonic Magic: "As the lord of runes and incantation, Odhinn [Woden] also became the lord of poetry. The story of his theft of Odhroerir, the mead of poetry, offers great insight into his nature. Here Odhinn is seen as shape-changer, trickster, betrayer, rescuer of the hallowed mead, and giver of poetry's power to other wights. He mingles the holy inspiration which is the height of Teutonic spirituality with oath-breaking, the act most despicable to the Teutonic mind, because both are part of his purpose; he becomes serpent and eagle at need.
Thus, by the mystery and paradox of Odhinn's nature, he holds all things within himself. He builds the walls to ward Midgardhr [Middle Earth] and Asgardhr [the realm of the gods], but wanders outside at will. He is a lord of oaths and of betrayal, of making and unmaking. As a god of war, he makes his heroes invincible till he himself comes to take them in battle. It is said, and rightly, that Odhinn enjoys stirring up strife: only through struggle can one be tested and grow, and only by clash of opposites can synthesis be achieved. Every step of the Odian path is a battle of some sort, whether external or internal. He is not a comfortable patron and was seldom loved by the folk as a whole. The worship of Odhinn was usually left to princes (who had often been personally chosen by the god), berserkers, rune-masters, and skalds - that is, to the initiated, to those whom Odhinn himself has already touched from birth or before. He was most worshipped by the Saxons, the Danes, and the Norwegian aristocracy. It is worth noting that the Norwegian settlers in Iceland, being mostly peasants who wanted nothing to do with aristocracy or ceaseless warring, built no temples or statues to Odhinn..."19
Edred Thorsson also gives some very meaningful insight into the chieftain of the gods:
Of all the gods of the Teutons it must be said that Woden is the highest and most mighty. His might and main is that of the soul and mind. He is the giver of the spiritual gifts that allow us to know and understand ourselves and the world, and this is the root of his supremacy. It is mainly for this reason that he is called the All-Father. He is the god of the runes (mysteries), ecstasy, poetry, magic, death and a hundred other things besides. His names number in the hundreds also, for all that we can name has something of Woden in it. To approach Woden it takes a brave - and perhaps foolhardy - soul. This is because he is as ficklee and as mysterious as the workings of our own minds. Woden is the ultimate god of the sovereign power of kings and priests - that power which brings all things, no matter how diverse they seem, together in a meaningful way. But in ancient times, although his primacy was acknowledged, he was not a popular god. Only those few who were chosen followed him, usually to apparent disaster."20
Finally, Garman Lord imparts to us the very crux of the Teutonic view of soul making from the Anglo-Saxon Theodish religion, which is a way of life with very strong ties to Woden, "Just as the fire and hammer and anvil 'perfect' iron into a sword, the ancient religion [Anglo-Saxon Theodism] was meant to offer the tools and methods of 'perfecting', 'becoming', or spiritual evolution for the soul to become worthy of the company of the Gods and heaven."21
C. The Problem of Evil
The Christians and Heathens do not share views on evil. The Christian mind holds evil as something apart from their god. According to Augustine, the very thought of evil being a part of God's personality would be a "shocking and detestable profanity".22 We can trace all acts of moral and natural evil to those forces which oppose God, such as fallen angels and fallen men. To the Germanics, beings are not a "cut and dried" absolute as they are to the Christians, because good and evil are not always specific absolute acts in every circumstance. Gundarsson tells us that the Germanics have views of what is right and what is wrong when dealing with moral actions. Right is, "...that justice and correctness which maintains a living society, while wrong [is] injustice, incorrectness, or anything breaking the bonds of fairness and law on which society is founded."23 Closely tied to right and wrong is the concept of weal-working and woe-working. To work weal means to work toward the welfare of one's self and the welfare of others. The common good is of greater importance than one's own good. To work woe is to work toward the detriment of one's self or to harm others. In the Heathen world view there are no intrinsically evil beings, only those who threaten a society with their woe-working and who therefore must be banished or destroyed. The gods and goddesses themselves work both weal and woe.24 Keep in mind the statements made earlier about Woden's liking for stirring up strife so that his people may be tested and grow in strength. This suggests a purposed woe for the sake of an overall weal. Woden is the ideal god for the infliction of hardships on the folk as well as for the giving of victories. He does not suffer the trappings of the Christian god's morally perfect claim, so he needs no apologetic justification for his tempering of souls in Middle Earth. We can safely say that "moral evil" exists in the world, and not have that statement detract from the argument for the existence of the Teutonic pantheon. On the contrary, the statement actually supports arguments for its existence. The issue of natural evil is approached differently by Heathen folk as well. Once again, the Augustinian account's approach to natural evil lays blame at the feet of the forces of darkness and evil. Heaven and its occupants have nothing to do with these natural calamities. The Irenaean account does not exempt the Christian god of responsibility, but the final good which stems from the catastrophe is worth the horrors produced by it.25 The Heathen, however, tends to have an ambivalent view of nature. Thorsson tells us that Woden and his two brothers, Willi and Weh, rebelled against raw, unthinking nature to establish the conscious-based order that we enjoy today. It is through nature that the aims of gods and men are fulfilled. Truly, it is nature which sustains human existence. Still, some forms of nature which are not allied with the gods try to erode the spiritual order established by the gods. These forces of nature do so because they are primal, not consciously ordered, and unthinking.26 The lore of the Germanics is filled with stories of the ongoing battles between the gods, mostly the Teutonic thunder god, Thunor, and these primal forces of nature known in the lore as etins, rises, and thurses. We can see that happenings within nature which cause what is termed "natural evil" are no basis for arguments against the existence of the Teutonic gods.
D. The Assimilation Theory
There are enough similarities between the Heathen world
view and the Christian soul making theodicy for one to suspect the assimilation
of one into the other. As Christianity marched across Northern Europe in the
first millennium, a number of methods were employed by the early church fathers
to convert the Heathen peoples of these lands. One of the methods employed
be termed "heretical camouflage". This method took the existing Heathen religion of a people and applied a Christian veneer to the elder troth. This method was used quite effectively in one case to subtly ease the Christian god into the lore of the Goths.27 That of the old lore of Europe which could not be stamped out by early marauding bishops had to be assimilated by Christianity because the folk who were being "converted" were returning to their old religious practices as soon as the monks turned their backs. As a result, today we have a dominating but declining religion of the Western world which is a schizophrenic mix of as much as 90% assimilated pre-Christian religions of Europe, and 10% or so of the original Middle Eastern Jewish heresy.28 The practice of assimilation by the early church has been established; now we can examine the Christian soul making defense for its likelihood of once being a purely Heathen concept. The similarities between the Heathen concept of building worth and the Christian soul making defense are remarkable. Most corresponding likenesses between the two concepts are more pronounced in the Irenaean version. Irenaeus was the Bishop of Lyons in what is today France. It is very likely that he and his clergymen had been exposed to Teutonic Heathen thinking, as the Rhine River, the historic border between the Roman Empire and the Germanic hinterland, is only about 200 miles to the northeast. Missionary journeys from Lyons into the Teutonic lands during Irenaeus' time are not only a possibility, but are quite probable. A comparison of the Irenaean version of soul making and Heathenry reveal that both see man in an immature (Christian) or unworthy (Heathen) state until actions on his part can better his station. According to John Hick in Evil and the God of Love, The Irenaean view of the world is, "... of mingled good and evil as a divinely appointed environment for man's development toward the perfection that represents the fulfillment of God's good purpose for him."29 A simple substitution of "the Teutonic gods'" for "God's" in that sentence would convey the Heathen view of the world quite nicely. Notice that both views offer a hope for man's attainment of conditions which allow him the privilege of the company of his gods in the afterlife. Both views allow men to be "built up" through their deeds. The forces of darkness and evil could substitute very nicely for the etins, rises, and thurses which sometimes cause natural occurring disasters. When one considers the fact that Heathenry was well entrenched in Irenaeus' geographical area, the facts listed earlier, and the comparisons just presented, we have a strong argument for a case of heretical camouflage in which the Irenaean soul making theodicy is merely Heathery with a Christian overlay.
Because of its uncomfortable absorption of Heathen forms, resulting in a somewhat schizophrenic nature, Christianity has been rather open to criticisms. In order to counter these criticisms, the church fathers have had to come up with defenses and theodicies. As an example, this writer has already suggested that the Christians at Lyons assimilated the Heathen concept of building worth into their doctrine and labelled it the soul making defense. This move was not only part of a larger effort to convince the Teutonic Heathen that Christianity was better than his own time-proven religion, but it was also an answer to those who questioned such mysteries as the existence of evil in a world created by a loving god for his children whom he loved very much. Unfortunately for Christianity, its schizophrenia peeks from behind its veil and true thinkers find its excuses for its disturbing lack of consistency somewhat crippling to its arguments. In this section this essay will consider the criticisms of the Christian soul making defense and will explore how well the original Heathen concept stands up to them. Many of these criticisms spring from the popular debate in modern philosophical circles of atheism versus monotheism. This study can hopefully introduce the notion that that same debate is rather limited in scope, for a good number of polytheistic religions offer very plausible and sensible explanations for many of the issues that are bogged down in the tired atheism vs. monotheism quagmire.
A. The Problem of Excessive Evil
Michael Martin presents a number of criticisms to John Hick's soul making defense in his book, Atheism: a Philosophical Justification. Hick's soul making defense follows the Irenaean form very closely, so it is ideal for this essay's purposes. Martin's first criticism is that the soul making defense does nothing to explain the overabundance of natural evil in the world. The argument is that soul building, or the development of such good traits as compassion, sympathy, caring and the like, could be accomplished with a lot less evil than there is now. Since there is too much evil, and no god who loves his "children" would allow this if he was omnipotent, there is no Christian god.30
The Heathen response to this complaint is quite simple and straightforward. Woden, the god who appears to be the most responsible for our challenges, does indeed cause some of the hardships and "evil" in the world. He is not responsible for it all. Unthinking forces of nature in forms of thurses, rises and etins are responsible for most, if not all natural disasters, as has been mentioned earlier. Regardless of that fact, Woden wants his people to be strong, and a life without severe challenges does not cultivate in a people the strength of a warrior tradition. After all, Woden is the god of war as well as his other traits. As Garman Lord best put it, "It is true that the world is an evil place, but as such it is a mere compost-heap that fertilizes the worthy and the good."31
B. The Problem of Epistemic Distance
Another of Martin's criticisms of the soul making defense is the problem of epistemic distance. According to John Hick, epistemic distance is a condition imposed by the Christian god which blocks from human view much of the evidence in the world of the his existence. This condition is imposed so that humans will not be overwhelmed by the Christian god's presence and thereby be unable to freely choose their courses of action, since the obvious presence of a god of complete and utter goodness would mandate a lack of evil or sin.32 Martin gives us varying degrees of epistemic distance: strong, neutral and weak;33 yet these, as we will see, will play no real part in the Heathen account. Martin finds problems with each degree of strength. Strong epistemic distance virtually sentences the bulk of humanity to imperfection and purgatory because of the lack of evidence to convince anyone of the Christian god's existence. Neutral epistemic distance creates havoc with those raised in deep Christian tradition, and only leaves free choice to agnostics. Weak epistemic distance compromises freedom of choice by making a choice for anything other than the Christian god seem irrational.34
Hick's proposal of epistemic distance leaves the Heathen to join Martin in scratching his head, but for different reasons. The Heathen is aware of the presence of his gods in virtually every aspect of his life. Gert McQueen states in A Short History of Anglo-Saxon Theodism, "In a natural state, man's everyday existence was totally dependent on his interrelationship with his Gods."35 A bit more insight is provided by Garman Lord. In An Introduction to Theodish Belief he attributes to Christianity the unnatural idea of heaven and Middle Earth being more separated than they really are.36 Heathenry is not a "Sunday-go-to-meeting" aspect of the psyche which is pulled out and dusted off once or twice each week as is Christianity, with its dualistic view of the cosmos. Heathenry is an all-pervasive religion and works its way into every aspect of the Heathen's life, even into the dream state. Truly, this seems quite frightening to most Christians, because most of them can very comfortably leave their religion on the shelf when they feel selective about how they should conduct themselves. On the contrary, there is something spiritual in everything the Heathen does, because the Heathen knows that every material thing has a spiritual as well as a physical aspect to its being. The Heathen concept of the extreme intermingling of the spiritual with the physical could be construed as weak epistemic distance according to Martin's classifications, yet it has no bearing on man's free will the way Martin feels it would. The Teutonic gods exercise free will and they expect their folk to do so as well. The Heathen knows that he and he alone works toward his own glory or his own destruction. A free will choice by a man to ignore the gods will not bring their wrath upon him, the gods will simply turn their backs on him and withhold their gifts from him. Garman Lord wrote, "In eldritch days, if things went well for a man, it was said that 'God saw him'. If things went ill, it was said that 'God forgot him'. This is the importance of the quality of one's religious life."37 Although a man could perhaps live somewhat of an honorable life without the help of the gods and earn a fair station in Hel's realm when he died, the quality of his life without the recognition of the gods would be severely limited.
C. Epistemic Distance and the Afterlife
In response to Hick's claim of a purgatory in the afterlife in which imperfect souls are finally perfected, Martin argues that epistemic distance must be weakened yet free will must be maintained. Martin can see no reconciliation between these two conflicting concepts. In this case, the Heathen will leave Martin and Hick to argue among themselves. All of this talk of purgatory is only so much Christian nonsense that was cooked up to "deheathenize" Heathen afterlife lore enough to assimilate it into Christianity. Original Jewry had no afterlife, and since Christianity was spawned from its loins, the Christians had to come up with something to make their religion attractive to peoples who had their own religions whom Christianity was out to convert.38 According to Heathen lore, departed souls of the dead travel to Hell. Hell is simply another realm with both pleasant and unpleasant aspects, it is not the torturous world of the damned so described by the Christians. A soul's station in Hell is determined by its wort h acquired during its life in Middle Earth. The more worthless a man's soul, the heavier it is, and the further it sinks into Hell's depths. The deep, gloomy depths are for oath-breakers, murders, and those who willfully cause social ills. The higher stations are characterized by feasting tables, green vales, and pleasant atmospheres. The lack of any "Judgement Day" allows the Heathen soul to immediately assume its station in the afterlife. To the Heathen, there was never a question of doing time in a way-station like purgatory.39
The Teutonic Heathen way is not for the faint of heart. It is not about forgiveness, compromise, or backing down on the issues. Its message about building up one's soul is very clear and direct: Ignore your spiritual well-being at your own peril. The gods and goddesses of Heathenry were the dieties of warriors, and they advocate a warrior's strength, courage, and self-reliance. No one saves you but yourself; the gods and goddesses may help you, but you ur ultimate saviour. This essay has compared and contrasted the Heathen view of acquiring worth to the Christian soul making defense. This writer has concluded that the soul making defense is most likely an assimilation of an originally Heathen concept into Christianity as part of an effort to make Christianity more attractive to potential converts and to offer some explanation for divine inconsistencies. Heathen concepts stand well against criticisms of its Christian corruption and even offer plausible alternatives to the Christian trappings of the soul making defense. To suggest an overall conclusion: Turning to more eldritch wisdoms can help to guide us to greater truths than the wreckage of the monotheism versus atheism debate which is so popular today.
Aswynn, Freya. Leaves of Yggdrasil. Llewellyn Publications: St. Paul, Minn., 1990.
Garman Lord. An Introduction to Theodish Belief. Endweorc Press: Watertown, NY, 1993.
Garman Lord. "How Much of Christianity is Really Christian?", in Theod, Volume 1, Number 1, Ewemeoluc, 1994.
Garman Lord. Where Do We Go When We Die?. Theod: Watertown, NY, 1991.
Gundarsson, KveldulfR. Teutonic Magic. Llewellyn Publications: St. Paul, Minn., 1990.
Hick, John. Evil and the God of Love. Harper & Row: New York, 1966.
Martin, Michael. Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. Temple University Press: Philadelphia, 1990.
McQueen, Gert AEscbeam. A Short History of Anglo-Saxon Theodism. Theod: Watertown, NY, 1992.
Thorsson, Edred. A Book of Troth. Llewellyn Publications: St. Paul, Minn., 1989.
1 Edred Thorsson, A Book of Troth, pp. 10-16; and Garman Lord, "How Much of Christianity is Really Christian?", Theod, Vol. 1, No. 1, Ewemeoluc 1994, pp. 18-21.
2 Thorsson, p. 80.
3 Freya Aswynn, Leaves of Yggdrasil, p. 195.
4 Thorsson goes to some pain to point out the separation of the spiritual existence of the gods and the organic existence of nature. So that the gods and goddesses can continue to expand their empire of consciousness as widely and deeply as possible, Woden and his brothers Hoenir and Lodurr fashioned humankind from existing organic matter and imbued it with divine qualities. According to Thorsson, the ultimate pleasure for humankind is the holy harmony of body and soul, which is only possible in Middle Earth. Thorsson, p. 80.
5 Garman Lord, An Introduction to Theodish Belief, p. 22.
6 John Hick, Evil and the God of Love, pp.16-17.
7 Ibid., pp. 18-19.
8 Ibid., pp. 217-221.
9 Ibid., pp. 43-45.
10 Ibid., pp. 51-52.
11 Ibid., pp. 67-68.
12 Ibid., pp. 70-75.
13 Garman Lord, An Introduction to Theodish Belief, p. 22.
14 Garman Lord, "How Much of Christianity is Really Christian?", p. 21.
15 "...whilst sins, in the plural, are men's wrong volitions and actions, occurring against God's will..." Hick, pp. 16 and 298.
16 In his article, "How Much of Christianity is Really Christian?", Garman Lord states that many terms used by modern-day Christianity have old Heathen meanings and actually have no place in a Middle Eastern religion such as Christianity. Sin is one of these words. In the Teutonic languages sin and its variations refer to a condition. What one finds strange is that untranslated Latin Bible texts use the term peccatum when referring to Adam's and Eve's crime against God in the Garden of Eden. Peccatum translates to a stumbling or a misstep, essentially actions, not states of being. Garman Lord, "How Much of Christianity is Really Christian?", p. 21.
18 Garman Lord, Where Do We Go When We Die?, p. 6.
19 KveldulfR Gundarsson, Teutonic Magic, p. xiii.
20 Thorsson, pp. 65-66.
21 Garman Lord, "How Much of Christianity is Really Christian?", p. 21.
22 Hick, p. 45.
23 Gundarsson, p. xiii.
25 Michael Martin, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, p. 418.
26 Thorsson, p. 80.
27 According to Thorsson, the Goths were evangelized by one Bishop Wulfila who was converted while a captive in the Roman Empire to a spin-off of Roman Orthodoxy known as the Aryan heresy. This sect of Christianity held such concepts as the "father", "son" and "holy ghost" being three separate entities, Jesus was an ordinary man who achieved divine status through his will, and all men were not corrupted by the original sin of Adam and Eve. All three of these notions run absolutely counter to orthodox Western Christianity, and even echo some very heathen trains of thought. Thorsson insists that enough evidence exists to lead us to believe that the Aryan heresy was really the old Gothic troth with an overlay of Christian symbols and mythology. Thorsson, pp. 12-16.
28 Garman Lord, "How Much of Christianity is Really Christian?", pp. 18-21.
29 Hick, p. 221.
30 Martin, pp. 423-426.
31 Garman Lord, An Introduction to Theodish Belief, p. 21.
32 Martin, pp. 420 and 427-430.
33 In a condition of strong epistemic distance it would seem as though there is no God, a condition of neutral epistemic distance is one in which the available evidence is evenly distributed between theism and atheism, and weak epistemic distance imposes an atmosphere in which God's existence is all but obvious and evident to human beings. Ibid., pp. 427-428.
34 Ibid., pp. 428-429.
35 Gert McQueen, A Short History of Anglo-Saxon Theodism, pp. 1-2.
36 Garman Lord, An Introduction to Theodish Belief, P. 15.
37 Ibid., p. 1.
38 Garman Lord, Where Do We Go When We Die?, pp. 1-3.
39 Ibid., p. 5.