Monday, March 19, 2007

Feeling and Seeing Wyrd: The Intimate Returning

In Brian Bates' book "The Way of Wyrd", the Seidman Wulf tells his pupil Wat Brand something that can't be repeated enough. He says:

"The patterns of Wyrd far exceed the tiny horizons of the ordinary person, for he is capable of seeing only short spans of time. Your eyes break up the course of life into tiny segments and label them as separate entities. The eyes of a sorcerer do not have this false focus. Life is comprised of waterfalls, rapids, eddies and whirlpools, but they are all part of the same watercourse. For me, life and death flow together as aspects of one river. For you, life is like a series of unconnected rain puddles and death comes when the sun dries them all up."

Brian Bates, speaking through his fictional character Wulf, reveals with this simple and beautiful passage one of the keys to unlocking the majesty of Wyrd. Many people seek for a "magical" cure for the false focus that their eyes keep throughout life; they seek some "sudden stroke" that will shock them into a new state of awareness, or a quick-and-easy method. Others assume that they can never "see" the world in a genuine, new way, and despair. They stop trying, and assume that the vision of Wyrd is something that only other people can have.

Both are wrong. There's no "quick" shortcut to Wyrd-vision, but pretty much anyone can see as Wulf describes above, if they are willing to make effort and lay aside what they think they know for just a moment, and accept possibilities that they have for so long mentally written off as unlikely or undesirable.

The main obstacle people face when trying to actualize the vision of Wyrd in their own lives are the stories they have learned to tell themselves about this reality we share. These stories often tell us how "time" is a great power that moves in one direction only, a great and straight arrow or "timeline", comprised of seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years which are all absolutely separate and self-existing entities.

This is the myth of time, and I don't mean "myth" in the good sense of the word. This is a story born of half-wisdom which fractures the human mind's ability to feel and see the reality of Wyrd for what it is.

The truth is deeper, but people resist it: there are no seconds and minutes, no hours, days, nor any other division of time, apart from your mind. These names we give to something as silent and omnipresent as what we call "the passage of time" are just that- names.

If you sit still and stop letting yourself think thoughts, stop the ceaseless chatter in your head, the insistent tendency in your mind that leads you to immediately drop labels onto everything, you will discover something important- in that silent space that you may enter, you will see that "time" as you know it ceases to be. If you can hold onto this silence, what you call "past" and "present" will become what they are- the same thing, two labels you once put on an indivisible reality.

Thinking about "time" in terms of seconds and minutes and days and years is just a story we tell ourselves. I'm not saying that if you forget all that you know about seconds and minutes and days that you'll stop aging or the seasons will stop turning. No, those things will always occur; what I'm saying is that measuring "time" with words and labels and ideas of "units of duration" is a human story, and it has a danger.

We humans are forgetful creatures; we invent many things that make our lives easier, or which help us to understand our world in certain ways, then, after a time, we forget that we were the inventors of these things- they become such a normal and well-used part of our lives, that we take them for granted, almost as though they were always there.

In many cases, our creations become our masters, and the oppress us. This is a consequence of forgetfulness- you can see how this works at night in your sleep. Sometimes, you'll dream a very bad dream, a disturbing dream which distresses you greatly. When you wake up, and realize it was a dream, you will feel a great sense of relief. What few people stop to realize is that they were just victimized by the great forgetfulness that marks the reality of many dreams. Often, we are not aware that we are dreaming; we forget our "outer" life and enter into an "inner" life in the dream, which we completely believe is the full reality of our lives.

How strange! Your non-dream life is totally forgotten, completely and utterly, and the dream seems as though it is all that is real, and you feel that you've always simply been there. When terrible things happen in the dream, they impact you greatly; you feel pain, terror, panic, trauma. The relief that follows upon waking is incredible.

Many things in our waking life are not a bit different from this. We often become the sources of our own grief by setting into motion many forces and powers that come back later to haunt us, but we've forgotten what we did so long ago, and so we feel victimized. An old saying goes "it is the doom of men that they forget."

We are each victimized by the ideas that our ancestors so long ago developed about what we call "time". We take for granted that the forward march of seconds and minutes is shooting along, taking our lives from us one second at a time, bringing us closer to inevitable death. But we're wrong. Life's not linear, as much as it may appear that way to the eyes that keep false focus. Life is a great and infinite continuum that is spiralling; it isn't straight, it's round, like the motion of the seasons.

All of our endings are at the beginning, and beginnings are at the end. Look closer at your life. We don't "become" different beings when we grow or mature; we are the same being, moving through a single transformative flow of force. We may think very differently at different stages in our development, and even act differently, but "we" are one ongoing event. Life doesn't begin or end, it is one flow. We are free to divide it up however we like, but our divisions aren't absolute. They are merely relative to our way of thinking. Don't be in such a hurry to decide that your "birth" was the beginning of your life- you have always lived, always existed as a part of the web of Wyrd, and you always will.

Look again. The events of your life aren't scattered across a broad horizon; they all come together here and now. The past is part of the present, it isn't a thing that exists somehow "before" the present. How can powers exist in some "before" state? Such a state doesn't exist. The past is with us now, in the present. That's how it affects the shape of things "now".

This is how we begin to see the web of Wyrd, see and feel the reality that is "more real than real"- we can now begin to strike at the very depths of "what binds us together".

The other day, a good friend called me. She was looking for advice, relationship-type advice. She's a woman in love with a man, but that man and she aren't currently together in a relationship. They were before, but circumstances have placed them apart temporarily, and in the arms of others. But she dreams, nightly, about this man that she loves, and as is the case with many people, she called me for advice. For some reason, most people break down and contact me when their problems become so great than they invade their dream-worlds- and this is fine. When we begin dreaming about things, it is a sign that they have penetrated our inner-lives and our inner worlds to a deep level. The territory of dreams is another working world, another stage of systems and relationships for the Wyrd-wise, so seeking a Wyrd-worker for help at this point is a good move.

When we talked, I looked with my inner senses and saw the web of Wyrd that she and I were just two seemingly separate parts of- and I told her my advice, based on that. My advice was a simple statement of the truth of Wyrd: nothing is accidental. The fact that she decided to call me at that moment, along with the words that came to me to tell her at that moment in the conversation are not random things- they are tied together simultaneously in Wyrd. The power that urged her to call me and what I was telling her as we talked, they were all threads in the glittering and unseen immensity of Wyrd, all acting on both of us.

But there's more. She and I met at a rennaisance fair in Texas. I saw myself again looking at her for the first time, all those years ago, and I saw her in my mind in the many ways I've seen her in various times and places since then. I saw her sitting with her boyfriends, saw her talking to her parents, saw her leaving to go to University, saw her meeting my friends, and I saw how all these things were tied together, my life and hers, the lives of the people in life and my life.

I saw further- I saw the many times and places in which my friends and I prepared to go to that fair, and our excitement at the prospect. I saw all those days of preparation, going back 13 years, long before I ever knew this friend existed. Those days of preparation, the powers that motivated us to want to go to the fair, were tied intimately to my eventual meeting with my friend. If I could have seen with eyes of Wyrd then, I would have seen the face of my friend as an inseparable thing from the excitement I was feeling about travelling to the fair.

I saw even further- I saw myself seeing television shows as a child, and reading kid's books that kindled in me a lifetime love for things medieval and rennaisance. Those forces led me to desire to attend the rennaisance fair in my first year at university, which led to countless expenditures of money and time and travel, and much excitement among many friends of mine. My attendance led to me meeting her.

That meeting led to our friendship, and to her learning about my religion and spirituality, and that led to her calling me when she had these problems and needed advice. Things she and I had done and discussed throughout our friendship influenced her in many of the decisions she made on her own, regarding who she dated and what sorts of relationships she got into. Things I learned from her shaped how I thought and acted in some places.

I could literally sense and feel the invisible "threads" that bound us tightly together, ignoring what we normally call "time" and "space". She and I- and you and I, for you are threaded to me and my experiences just by reading this- and ALL of us, all humans, are bound tightly together in Wyrd. We all affect one another.

I saw my friend and I's past, and I saw how all our days and the events we shared arose in Wyrd. It's not a disconnected series of events; it's a river-course of power and causality, one river, not many puddles. It's a single web of Wyrd, mighty and majestic, in which these many "events" seem to arise as "separate" entities. But they aren't separate.

I told her to pay attention to the totality of her experience- really pay attention to the dreams, and what she was feeling at that moment, and to what I was saying, for these things are all appearances of Wyrd, tiny and momentary manifestations of reality that our minds are scrambling to grasp, hindered in doing so by our lack of wisdom as human beings, our lack of sight. It was no accident that she decided to call me just then, nor that she dreamed what she dreamed, nor that she and her love should be apart, nor that she should have met me. What is it all saying? It's speaking very clearly: it is literally revealing Wyrd to her in full sensory reality. We have to LOOK. We have to put aside our mental chatter and let the intutive messages from Wyrd arise, let the feelings arise, and really see. There is no greater guidance.

So she looked, and I hope she saw- I hope she saw the truth that is always available to her- You won't have peace without telling him how much you love him. This man that you are with now is a good man, but he is not meant to be yours forever; this is a side road that rejoins the main road very soon. You won't have peace until you see him again. Then you will be able to move past him, as you grow and see the world new, for he is not to be yours forever, either. You're young, new at this. There's a lot of this life-thread left. He's your age, but he's even younger, and his confusion won't end for many years.

Yes, the truth is, we must be honest to our convictions and feelings, no matter what. Being honest to how we feel is never wrong; if it somehow hurts others, this is a matter of their inability to accept the honesty offered by another, not a problem on the part of the person being honest. If more people were honest and true to themselves, well, the world would be different indeed. It may be difficult, but honesty is the best road, the road of peace.

If we examine our experiences from this perspective of systems, from this perspective of totality, we can begin to see a larger picture operating, which can contain the keys we need to unlock our enigmas. This is how you begin to "see" Wyrd- pick a starting point in your own web, and see how you relate to it, and how you came to know it, and all the forces and events that connect to it and surround it and you like a web. You can do this with people, with places, or anything. Then, endeavor to understand that these events and forces are NOT separate, nor gone- they are all here and now, still. They are all arising here and now, in the web. If you let yourself carry this exercise out to its great conclusion, you will find yourself in some startling places, and privy to a perspective that might truly help you.

How can we do this? How do we begin to see broader? The path starts here with us, in us. It can begin nowhere else. It begins with the foremost "rule" of soothsaying and Wyrd-seeing: If you know the past correctly and clearly, you can know the future correctly and clearly.

I saw a lot of this friend and I's past, but that past isn't gone. It's here, now. It's exerting so much influence on everything that's happening, here and now. She and I won't ever be apart, and, dear reader, neither will you and I.

I was able to allow my intuition to speak to me, to allow knowledge of things to come to arise in me, where concerns my friend and her situation. I saw- and still see- the dissolution of her current relationship, and her actions to come. It's not very easy, and it takes a lifetime of practice with "going open", and letting your memory reveal to you how connected you really are to so many other people and forces, before you can begin "seeing", with some certainty, the likely events that are to arise.

Sometimes, when we feel "bad" things are going to arise, we ignore it. This is a very human thing to do- we want to take refuge in our own self-doubt; we'd rather think "maybe I'm just wrong, after all, this Wyrd-web is immense and there's plenty of room for error on my part" than to admit that negative outcomes are inescapably going to arise. Even I've fallen victim to this form of denial at times. A point comes when you must stop looking to Wyrd for comfort, and only look to it for truth. And then, you must learn to find comfort in truth, for we must believe, as Heathens, that Wyrd weaves out for the greater good- all that comes to pass is moving the world to its consummation, and to the rebirth and regeneration of all things.

In this sense, you must never be afraid to let go of things- for we know, thanks to our holy myths and lores, that what is good and noble will never be lost forever. In the world that is to come, Hel opens and gives up her dead, all of the noble heroes and ideas and hopes and dreams that had fallen into her darkness, and they come into the light of day again.

I was asked recently if I "sought to transcend this world". This is a common enough question, as much modern Paganism, in line with western misunderstandings of eastern thinking, draws a strong division between "this world" and some other world or worlds that are often considered to be "better" than this one.

As a Wyrd-worker, I can assure all of you that other worlds aren't necessarily any better than this one. Other worlds still have individual beings in them, and even non-human beings have quests, emotions, problems, intrigues, and dis-satisfactions, too. If you have peace with yourself here, you'll have it in any other world. If you don't have it here, being in other worlds won't change that. Wisdom can make a bright and sunny place out of the darkest corners of any world, and this is something you can always rely on.

If we look at the reality of Wyrd, we see that ideas of "transcendence", of "rising above" this world and escaping all the "troubles" here are fundamentally flawed- because there's no way to "transcend" this world.

Why? Because we aren't "in" a world; we are a world. We don't "come into" this world at birth, nor do we "leave" this world at death- we transformed from a deeper part of this world into a human life at birth, and at death we transition back into the world in a new way: into the "Hel" way for most of us, but others attain different conditions. But all those "worlds" or conditions are part of the same reality; they are all parts of the web of Wyrd.

The division between "self" and "world" is merely perceptual- it isn't absolute. The world is not something that is temporary, and which we eventually overcome; it is eternally a part of who and what we are. It too, is part of the web of Wyrd, and we are all tied together by it.

Understanding the nature of the perceptual division that blinds so many people, trapping them in the false idea that they are "cut off" from the world that they perceive as "around" them, is the point of our lives. It's the supreme attainment of Wyrd-Wisdom.

It is the gateway of all wisdom, actually. Once you overcome that perceptual division, you no longer feel isolated, afraid, vulnerable, or alienated. You are at peace, and in a perpetual awareness of your relationship to all forms and beings, and you never feel "lost" again, or "far from home", because this world and this body, indivisible, all that is seen and unseen, IS your one and only home.

If this very Pagan ideal of "reunion with reality through overcoming faulty perception" is a "transcendence" ideal (and some crudely try to describe it that way) then there you have it. I don't consider it "transcendence". I consider it "intimate returning", coming home from a journey that you only ever took in your head. It's waking up from a dream that you had forgotten was a dream.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

O God of Earth and Altar

"O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry:
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die.
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide;
Take not thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride."

-Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936)
* * *

This hymn/prayer/poem is by a very gifted man, who happens to be one of the few Christians from history that I respect. I've always been partial to this particular poem, especially this verse from it, because I've always felt that it expressed a very universal longing and message.

This prayer could be prayed by Heathens, if you look at it from another angle- who is the "God of Earth and Altar"? Chesterton meant his God, the God of christianity. But Heathens also had "Gods of Earth and Altar"- and how interesting that the God in this prayer is asked not to take his "thunder" from mankind. Thunder? Perhaps Chesterton meant "thunder" in the sense of just sheer power and blessing, but it goes without saying that the Thunderer, the Thunder-God of the Heathens, was also asked for the same sorts of blessings- blessings of rain for crops, protection from destructive and evil powers, and for the protection of families and tribes. The thunder that was heard rumbling in the sky by Heathens was associated with just those things- fertility, protection, and sheer power.

The Thunder God *THONORAZ (Donar, Thunor, Thor, Taranis, etc) was always captured in what myths we have today as the strongest of the Gods, and he was very much a celestial figure, a dweller in the Gard or Enclosure-World of the Gods above. The equal-armed cross, the fire-cross, the swastika, and other similar symbols were symbols of that God's power, the perpetual order of the turning power of the sky, and these symbols are found carved on the oldest of monuments from the Stone Age. The Thunder God is inescapably tied to the earth because of his "marriage" with it, his life-giving rain, and fertilizing lightning.

You can even see how the "cross" has never left the human consciousness as a symbol of power and holiness, even as lately as hollywood- vampires and evil creatures are so often repelled by crosses, in much the same way wicked giants and wights were dispersed by Thonoraz's great hammer and the burning equal-armed solar and sky-crosses associated with him.

This prayer has other dimensions that speak to universal themes in mankind's experience: the desire for a just world, for good rulers and social justice. The God of this prayer is told "our earthly rulers falter, our people drift and die." Even though Christian rulers certainly faltered, the fact of injustice and careless leaders isn't unique to christianity. We can certainly see our earthly rulers faltering today, everyday in the news. We have seen the needless loss of life in many countries, including our own.

To turn to the Gods with our fears and hopes and desires is an activity as old as mankind, and there is a beauty in it. A Fateful and natural bond exists between humans and the Holy Kindreds of the many worlds, and if the Gods are kin to us- which the Lore certainly tells us they are- then we are well within our rights to ask them for help, to discuss our hopes and fears and dreams with them, as we would a cousin, a father, a mother, an uncle, or our friends.

There is, of course, a danger that some people will abuse the bond that exists between mankind and the Gods- that they will look to the Gods only when they have a need. Christians are certainly not exempt from this tendency. We would abuse the Gods in the same way that we would abuse kin or friends if we only spoke to them, sacrificed to them, or approached them when we needed something. Part of the religious life in the Heathen sense of the word is an ongoing relationship with the Holy Kindreds which is similar in almost every respect to the ongoing relationship you have with your human family and friends.

Because "kinship" and "family" is what this is all about. It's also one of the defining factors of humanity, a source of our greatest strength. We are kin to one another, and to the Gods, and all of our kin deserve our company and friendship outside of any idea of what they may or may not do for us.

It's just joyful and peaceful to lift up your eyes and prayers to the Gods, and to look all around and below to see and feel the Godly powers that exist in those places, too. Pure religious bliss isn't hard to come by- it's as easy as walking in the woods and fields and letting yourself be open to the powers all around you.

"The walls of gold entomb us, the swords of scorn divide..." What a powerful line! We may not have literal walls of gold in our houses, but most of us aren't doing poorly- we have all that we need, and sometimes, that can be a tomb. It traps us in a false sense of security that leads us to neglect the awareness we need to have of our dependance on other people and on the Gods.

But this goes even further- walls of gold- or should I say money- are the prison in which the moral life of our world currently languishes. The war in Iraq is about money; those of us who have lost loved ones to that war are sentenced to a prison of grief that is built out of money.

And the swords of scorn- yes, they divide us all. From the forces that divide families and friends, to the forces that divide societies, we all have the capacity to allow our anger, grief, and scorn to divide us from our fellow man. But the Gods intend for human society to work together for a common good, and scorn for our fellows is not just dangerous, it's ungodly. Those who allow that scorn to run wild or who allow selfish, unreasoning scorn to dominate their thinking are doing the work of the giantish forces, the eternal enemies of the Gods, who exist to break down the order of the world.

Chesterton ends this verse with the answer to the problem: he feels that pride- NOT pride in the positive sense, like pride for your loved ones or ancestors or accomplishments, but pride as the power that refuses to allow us to admit our mistakes and refuses to allow us to compromise with others- is the villain.

This sort of pride is based on selfishness, which is the single worst trait that a man or woman can have, from the perspective of a tribe or a society, and it's the worst trait that a man or woman can have from the perspective of Wyrd; we are all part of the web of power that is life and reality. What we do affects the entire web, and we are affected by it. To think only of the good of the self, or to ignore the necessity of reciprocal compromise, is a path to ruin.

Can a God take away the pride of mankind? Chesterton, a christian, may have said "yes". Of course he would; in his belief, there's nothing his "God" can't do. But the truth of these matters is different for a Heathen. The Gods can't take away our pride; they can't be moral people for us, or force us to be good people. They can only set an example for us, which they certainly do with their tireless efforts on behalf of the good of the world-order. Our duty to live up as best we can to that example is what we have.

Despite the failures of people to live up to our duties at times, the Gods aren't going anywhere. There's just nowhere else to go; reality doesn't have "exit" doors. We are parts of reality- this reality, the only one there is- and so are they.

We are all parts of the Web of Wyrd, and there's no leaving that web, through life or death. The Thunderer won't take his blessings from people; despite the fact that our societies in the west once had kings who betrayed their ancestors and broke Troth with the Gods, and who passed laws which forbade the worship of the Gods, leading to a modern world in which most people now are unware of the Gods, the Gods are still with us. We are their kin, and I've always believed that the Gods understand Wyrd or Fate better than we- they understand the dark situations that have befallen us, and even if most of us never worship them again, they will continue their work on our behalf, and will protect us until the end.

Any modern Heathen who has stood in a holy stead and offered a right blot or sacrifice, or drank in a rightful and powerful Symbel, already knows that the Gods are still there. Their many blessings still pour through the body of nature for us and for all living beings. Humans may (through dark turns of events and because of dark powers) get far from the truth about the Gods and the truth about themselves, but the truth will- like the Gods- never abandon us.