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"Presentism"

By: Garman Lord

 


>Words like "luck", "folk", "frith", "troth", "wyrd", "thew", as well as the more latino "honour" and "pride", "virtue" and the like, seem to be thrown around with little understanding of the concepts, philosophies, and even ways of life that lay behind and beneath and inform those words with meaning. Oaths are sometimes sworn seemingly without even the slightest ponderance on the meaning of the words being uttered. And perhaps worst of all, the modern "cult of personality" teaches that the individual is indeed more important that the group, and thus the group, whatever it is, is doomed to lose cohesion.

Perhaps I am singing to the choir, but I would prefer to think I am joining a chorous, here, as unless I am mistaken, this is the gist of Lord Garman's  Mal.

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As they say in Canada, bang-on. The problems with today's heathenry do indeed run very deep, and if people like me might sometimes seem too noisy and disruptive, it should nonetheless be borne in mind that the bigger the stump, the more dynamite you're going to need, and if you're not using enough you're just wasting your dynamite and everybody else's time.

What you're saying above seems highly illustrative, Dan, of at least two big problems. One is that the heathen community, due to its many inevitable social inefficiencies, has always been very imperfectly catechized. The second is that it is inherently very resistive to catechization, to the point of actually considering it to be somewhat of an affront. People don't realize that there is real lore, and one may go by it or one may not, but whenever some go by it and some don't, but both call what they are doing by the same name, the result can only be huge misunderstandings.

A problem such as you cite about terms like "luck" is typical. Too many heathen don't realize that, no, it isn't about things like shooting craps in an Indian casino, because they don't realize that they are thinking about such things in a completely different ontological language from the original; one that modern science and technology has taken over and changed from Xtianity, which Xtianity earlier took over and changed from the original heathen, thus two intellectual giant-steps away. They don't realize that real "luck," in heathen terms, is closer to, say, what Steve A. means by "synchronicity," which is itself still at one remove from the actual heathen, because it is the rationalistic, quasi-scientific concept of a man, Karl Jung, who was accustomed to thinking in the scientific idiom, and thus able to only apprehend part of the original heathen idea, with no vocabulary semantically capable of dealing with the rest, which involves fundamentally arational mythic concepts that thus can't be modernized.

The same case holds for such concepts as '"folk", "frith", "troth", "wyrd", "thew", as well as the more latino "honour" and "pride", "virtue" and the like,' just as you note, because people come into heathenry with a subjectivized concept of such things, think they understand them when they really don't, and are very likely to get upset, even insulted, when somebody who does tries to tell them they don't, and that such epistemological niceties are more important than they may realize. And here, let's be very clear, I'm not talking about heathen doctrine or dogma; perish the thought. I'm talking about heathen common sense. To heathen A, who understands these various words on their own heathen terms, they are holy things, and keys to where his religion is really at. To heathen B, on the other hand, they may be nice words, which he may even think he understands, but just words, nonetheless, and often as not just that much more SCA-jive crapola to contend with, in what is for him not so much a religion as a mere lifestyle-choice.

And of course this is fair enough in itself. Nobody ever has any right to tell another person what to believe, or what his religion ought to be to him; that would be just the same old Xtian sin of Proselytism redux. The problem comes, however, when heathen A and heathen B happen to meet in the same frithstead, and end up thinking they are practicing the same religion when they are not, simply because the goods aren't plainly labeled. In such case, heathen B ends up unwittingly trampling on heathen A's holy religion, heathen A ends up unwittingly trampling on heathen B's holy ego and self-esteem, and the result can only be a spiritual suicide-bomb explosion more appropriate to the West Bank than to the Reawakening community, and just that much more bad faith and loss and destruction inflicted on the cause of the gods and the heathen Peace-Process.

Here of course it really is, by-and-large, a problem mainly caused by certain birth-defects of Asatru; we really do have to let the chips fall where they may here, and feelgood fuzzybunny denialism just won't help. It was Asatru which naively introduced the idea of "Jomsviking" radical-autonomous individualism as a heathen tenet, in hopes, no doubt, of being "tolerant" and "inclusive," but based on the Historically-Arrogant "Fallacy of Presentism," and thus, in culturally shifting from an Xtian metaphor to a heathen one, inadvertently throwing out the baby with the bath in the process.

"Presentism" refers to the ontological fallacy of judging the past by the values of the present, as if assuming that the present is always bound to be superior. It is the kind of thinking that is behind the idea that people today whose ancestors kept slaves 150 years ago should be punished for it today, because if today's world thinks slavery is evil, then yesterday's world should have thought so too, and should have structured their values accordingly, naughty naughty tsk tsk. And, since they didn't, the sin of the fathers is visited upon the sons, and upon the son's sons, and so forth unto the umpteenth generation. It is the kind of thinking that thinks that if Rationalism, Logical Positivism and Intellectual Linearism/Literalism is the ontology of the present, then it must be superior to Arational Mythic Holistic thinking, because that was the thinking of the past, and is therefore obsolete. It is, in other words, Biblical eschatological thinking; the teleological idea of the whole course of human history as some kind of linear Progress out of Darkness and working out of God's Plan, of which the present age and present moment most naturally stands at the culmination.

It is, accordingly, this fallacy that Asatru incorporated into its fabric when it embraced Radical-Autonomous Individualism as a value, just because it was a modern value, and Asatru was anxious to reinvent itself as something modern and trendy, and not be thought old-fashioned or out-of-date. To anyone who actually understands elder heathenry on its own terms, that sort of thing is a bit like trying to teach a pig to dance the polka, and in fact that is rather what the movement has too often ended up looking like in its various struggles and divagations since then, but no matter; the people of those days in the seventies didn't understand the elder heathenry, and to most it seemed like a reasonable idea at the time.

Today, of course, we can see more clearly that Radical Autonomy is just a modern Romanticism, and modern history's way of making a virtue of necessity. Modern society is imploding, and therefore community is collapsing everywhere. Accordingly, since the doom of community is writ so large everywhere on society's crumbling wall, why not simply be more cheerful about it, rationalize the loss of community's strictures as really just an increase of personal liberty and freedom, even license, no doubt, make the most of it, and eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die? Obviously, that was the thinking of the seventies, as anyone knows who was there and did that, in an age when there was still some living memory of community, and some sort of Romanticism was still possible. Today, of course, things having progressed to a later stage, we can see more clearly; we can see that collapse of community really is terminal for us, and that Radical Autonomy isn't the Solution, it's the Problem. That what is really needed is a serious general de-Romanticization in the present Post-Romantic Age, a serious general reality check and a serious intellectual axis-shift, that that won't be easy or painless, and that meanwhile the clock is ticking.

Once that has been accomplished, but only in tandem with that, some sort of general heathen recatechization could well become possible. Which does not, of course, mean that every heathen will be, or should be, recatechized. Heathen should be left secure in the knowledge that whether or not to personally embrace any catechism remains entirely the business of their own personal conscience. What is different is that at least they would know and respect the fact that some sort of real catechism really does exist.

Godspeed......

Garman