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East Meets West

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Garman here.
 
>> It suffers from a deficiency in real moral force, and in ability to
>> inspire too many of its votaries to really take it, or each other, very
>> seriously, which ends up reducing heathenry to somewhere around the level
>> of Wicca on the overall seriousness food-chain, even though it is a real
>> historical religion with real gods, and could potentially be so much more.
 
> I very much agree with you, Garman. This is why, for example, our kindred
> has focused more on, say manmaking rites than on any amount of "modern
> viking warrior" type motifs. Sure I get lots of compliments on the
> candleholder that looks like a longship displayed by our front door. But
> the recognition and appreciation for that aspect of our heritage is not
> manifested by us trying to find ways to relive it all.
 
Good point. Other than for occasional entertainment/edification purposes,
"reliving the past" should never be the point; that can easily amount to
trying to turn back the clock. The point is not to abolish the present;
but rather to alter and improve it.
 
> Instead we tend to focus on issues such as, "How will I encourage my kids
> to want to become active participants in this kindred when they're of age?"
> or "What do I do when the local school calls asking questions?" These are
> real issues in the real world that not only affect us today as a family or
> even as kindred members; but may prove to have an effect on what
> Reawakening Heathenry will be like when our kids are (hopefully) asking
> themselves these same questions!
 
Absolutely, and here is where what I meant by moral force comes in. On the
one hand, when kids grow up, they often seek to "reform" or "improve" their
lives by becoming just the opposite of whatever their parents were, in order
to avoid what they see as their parents' follies. But on the other, as the
twig is bent, so grows the tree. What is called for is a heathenry that
obviously offers a superior moral choice to the world around it, and thus is
no folly and calls for no obvious reform. A heathenry that was obviously
superior would tend to make its young feel lucky to have been born into it,
as their fortunate birthright, such that, all things being equal, they would
never dream of leaving it for any other lesser way. And the way for heathenry
to be superior to the world around it is to be authentically possessed of a
greater and more coherent moral force than the world around it, like a candle
shining in the darkness of a naughty world. Likewise, if heathenry were that
way, that naughty world itself would soon know it, and no school would ever
dream of daring to call up a heathen child's parents to question it.
 
> In this way we are trying to address the question of spirituality and
> substance that you mentioned. Hopefully others will be able to mention some
> of the ways that they and/or their communities are trying to address
> similar concerns.
 
That's really the kind of thinking there ought to be more of. We experiment
with such things all the time in Theodism, according to our "existential
thesis," whether or not we could be said to be actually getting anywhere. One
thing we do is try to encourage a lot of deep roundtable discussion about
heathenry and its values over the meadhorn at our gatherings, at every
opportunity, rather than just letting the talk lapse too soon into baseball
scores and such. And in our experience, this tends to work, at least if you
have one or more deep thinkers at the bench who are able to consistently
sparkplug the discussion with interesting topics, thus keeping the table-talk
lively and intriguing. It works because, in our experience, at least, heathen
really do want to talk about heathenry with other heathen, but get little
enough chance to do it, people being so scattered geographically, and because
meadhall table talk is so much more powerful a medium of communication than a
text file.
 
There are other things we do too. For instance, there has long been the
complaint, especially amongst the females, that there is not enough spiritual
gratification or connection in most heathen contexts; that too much of it
seems just there for show, and going into things like ritual, even when it is
well-done, often seems too empty and feels too much like just going to
church. My own sense there is that while much of the outward show has come
down to us in the lore, what has not survived is the unspoken spiritual
disciplines and feelings behind it. Certainly the old lore stories tend to
give us the bold facts of deeds, bare accounts full of action, with never any
adjectives, but almost never any full account of the motives behind the
deeds; that part always seems just taken for granted, amongst an original
audience who were a true folk whose motivations in things would be obvious to
most and could generally go without saying. It may well be that the elderen
did things analogous to meditation or yoga, for instance, but no record
survived of it, so that heathen would never dare try to do such things today,
for fear of being accused of "Eastern" or "New Age" or "Wiccan" influence.
 
Accordingly, I had for some time thought, and discussed with others, that it
might be worthwhile to look for a chance to experiment with inserting some
kind of borrowed "Eastern" spiritual discipline into a gathering, just to
find out first hand how well it might or might not fit into such a Western
Activist context. That chance didn't come right away, for reasons that most
heathen would know only too well. What with Reawakening heathen being so
constantly at each other's throats or backs, due to the specious D&D
role-playing outwardness of our community dynamic, any aett must seek some
rare quiet time, when there happen to be no political kerfluffles, no
controversies, treacheries, power trips, current flaps, false excitements or
wannabes acting out or seeking attention, in order to ever get an unmolested
chance to try anything different. At long last, that chance finally happened
to come for us a week ago, at our Gering Harvest Home gathering.
 
What I did was start off the faining with a fifteen minute guided meditation,
assembled in a quiet spot just a little off to the side of the balefire,
instead of just going straight into the ritual. I used a flowed-together
mixture of Eastern this-and-that; bits of yoga, qi gong, tai chi, etc.,
winging it off the cuff as I went, since there was no chance for preparation.
The disciplinary techniques I used were fairly straightforward, and all I did
was minimally strip them of Eastern metaphysical Quietist components,
replacing those with heathen tokens where necessary; replacing "prana" or
"chi" with "aethm," "energy" with "maegen," "asana" with "stathol," spiritual
attributes with asa-kenning attributes, that sort of thing. But the main
thing I did was to have a certain intended object to the meditation, and just
build the technique around that.
 
My object was to unblock the subtle-body (i.e., "hama" or "hame") polarities
(such as what Quietist disciplines regularly call "positive/negative" or
"yin/yang," but which we in Theodism long ago mapped out and use in our
witchcraft as "worth/frith") in such way as to let the mains of nature
(mother-of-earth, natural life around us or "ymb-weal," and sky or
"upheaven,") flow into the body and merge in the middle, mellowing out the
whole nervous system, and, especially, to loosen up and straighten out the
spine, which is of course the line along which all our daily tensions tend to
accumulate and tie up the flow of everything else.
 
All the time I was taking us through this, I couldn't help wishing
desperately that there had been some chance to work it all out and smoothe it
out and get it right beforehand, and could only hope I wasn't just screwing
people up instead of healing them. So after I got us through it somehow, at
the point where a yoga session would have everybody chanting "Om" we chanted
the Theodish Alu chant together instead, and from there we went straight into
the ritual, and you can imagine my relief to notice how smiling and mellow
everyone was as we began. It turned out to be a smoothly gratifying ritual,
and afterward there was a lot of talk about how the meditation went for
people, which I listened to pretty closely, needless to say. Everyone seemed
quite enthusiastic and agreed that we definitely ought to do that sort of
thing more often. Interestingly, there were a couple of goodfolk on hand, a
man and wife, straitlace respectable whitebread types, who had never been at
a heathen ritual before, and all the talk was about how wholesome it all was,
and nothing for anyone to be afraid of at all, no matter what the
Bible-thumpers might say. In particular, the woman remarked on the
meditation, saying that a nagging back-pain that she chronically suffered had
now mysteriously disappeared!
 
To me this all seems evidence in favor of what some Theodsmen, most notably
the women, have been saying for quite awhile now; namely, that much of what
we call "Eastern" disciplines are just dealing with forces of nature, that
are really there naturally for all of us, universally, and that their
religions still remember how to deal with them within their own metaphysic,
but ours, which probably once did, has since forgotten and now does not. And
moreover, that it is the sort of thing that should be a legitimate part of
any religious discipline that is truly autochthonous and wants to be anything
beyond mere sunday-go-to-meeting, and which there surely has to be some way
to recover into our own religion.
 
Well, from that experience I can't help thinking that that might be easier
than people might think. If we could just wing it like that at Harvest and
manage to come away that well, just think what could be accomplished by
putting some study into it. Admittedly I had some advantages. I had a long
course of questing through Eastern and other disciplines in my early
spiritual career before I finally stumbled upon heathenry, and so already
know a lot about that stuff, we have always had our traditional "Existential
Thesis" right from day one, and Theodism is hierarchically structured in a
sufficiently authoritarian way to let me and others take us places where
people might not be able to go in an Asatru aett. Everybody knows that there
is a lot of status-quo closed-mindedness in Asatru, and many Asatruers have
dreamed, usually without much success, of ways to try to "loosen up" the
traditional Asatru mindset. However, for any who are not too hopelessly
lore-bound Reductionist in their thinking, I feel I can say that this
particular avenue certainly seems like it would be worth a try for anyone,
and is surely only one of many that could be explored in broadening the
too-narrow ontological base of the real heathen religion.
Godspeed.......

Garman