Monday, June 25, 2012

The Sorcery of Culture: Some Words on Race, Culture, and Shared Values from a Heathen Perspective



Someone on another forum I was participating in made the suggestion that I was "racist." That person was clearly not enjoying one of the recent discussions I had started, and certainly won't be around here to receive this comment of mine, but I thought it brought up a topic which was worth some talking about.

I could begin by saying how I wasn't racist, but that never really works, because all racist people say that. Instead of saying what I'm not, I thought I'd talk for a little while about what I am. I am both a sorcerer in the Heathen tradition, and a "culturalist", to use a term. Being a sorcerer, I see life a bit differently from most- I see threads of what can only be described as "magical" stuff everywhere, which sometimes gets called "trees" or "cars" or "clouds" or even "people." And these threads are hardly standing still; they appear to be about as stable as a fast moving river.

How does a person hold onto the droplets of water in a fast moving river? You don't. You just find a way to enjoy the river for what it is. But we wouldn't be human if we didn't try to grab a few drops here and there, no matter how doomed the attempt might be. I might also say that we wouldn't be human if we didn't have the right to a few preferences here and there- and we all have our personal preferences and limitations.

I have studied "race" and "culture" extensively. They are both droplets of water in the river of life. "Races" do not stay stable anymore than cultures do. "Race"- if such a thing exists at all- is closer to the serpent of life, the wordless and ancient genetics, the blood, the flesh of this world. There's no thinking involved in race; the body of a human, like the texture or color of stones, just happens to be what it is, naturally. "Culture", however, is a child of the human mind. We appear to have more influence over the shape of culture, even if we don't have full control over it, in any way. It changes too, in this web of strange powers that always influence everything else.

When I decide to be human and make judgments about things in my experience, I find it more satisfying to judge other people based on something closer to the light of the mind and intention- that is, culture- and not race, which is unchosen by everyone, and, well, when compared to culture, a little boring. Culture shapes how people think, why they do many of the things they do, even how they dress, eat, and sleep. Culture is where the action is. Culture is a chess game; race is a blank board that you might possibly play chess on.

So, I'm a culturalist- but this must necessarily build on my sorcerous vocation. For me, culture isn't just a collection of learned, shared behaviors, anchored by language, that "came into existence" based on ancient trial-and-error survival behaviors. It's something far deeper and more intentional than that.

A Sorcery of Great Might and Age

For me, culture is itself sorcery. Yes; when language gets involved (language itself is sound and word sorcery), and shared behaviors get involved, when groups of men and women get together and mingle their vital power together to affect the world collectively, you are seeing real sorcery, a massive, massive ritual of types, which comes to influence and involve their descendants, for countless ages to come. Culture is a massive group "spell" being cast, by groups of people, consciously and unconsciously, to affect this world to their benefit, and to express their souls here in the intersubjective sphere.

To belong to a "culture" means a lot. The word "culture" has the word "cult" as its root- and members of the same cult, like members of the same culture, generally hold the same things to be valuable or sacred. That's what creates their true bond together; they are members of a value-sharing team.

Culture and race are not the same. Culture can come to dominate racial groups. It always has; look at what Western culture has done in Asia. Look at what Roman culture did to the entire world- after a point, the average speaker of Latin wasn't native to Latium or Italia. It was just practically everyone around the "known" world. People possessed of African genetics were imported by force into the Americas, and today, their descendants don't speak African languages or practice African culture; they are as boring "American" as anyone else, speaking English, a Germanic language, putting presents under the Christmas tree like most people, trick-or-treating at Halloween like most people.

Culture is stronger than race; culture is the identifying mark of the Ancestors, not their race. Genetic pools can be strong, compared to other groups; they can be weak, compared to other groups; but if a genetic line still exists today, it was clearly one of the strong ones from long ago, so I don't look around the world trying to judge the vital strength of genetics I run into. Instead, I judge the sorcerous strength of the culture I'm encountering. The proto-Indo Europeans, when they wandered out into the rest of the world, by migration or diffusion, vanished genetically, mingling their blood into the blood of native peoples everywhere they went. But their languages and their cultures were very powerful, and those things still exist in countless modern forms.

If you speak English- if you're reading this now, guess what? Germanic culture, broadly speaking- the mighty sorcery of some ancient Germanic people- has joined with you, made you a part of it, regardless of your racial background. This doesn't mean that your non-Germanic Ancestors are banished or gone; it just means that you have a connection to the sorcery of the ancient Germanic people, the culture-sorcery that defines who and what they are. It means that you also have a share in their ancient religion, their ancient values, their ancient deeds. You have this language precisely because of some of their mighty deeds.

Not An Equal Opportunity Culturalist

And now, for the scandal: I don't value all cultures equally. Not me, personally. The religious culture of Christianity and Islam both meet with my strong disapproval, even though their sorcery has affected me in my life, and many of my Ancestors. I have looked, as best I can with my human eyes, and seen aspects of many other cultures I don't like, and I'm totally unafraid to say "I don't like those."

I prefer to not be around people shaped by, and who behave strongly under the influence of rural American "redneck" cultures- which are the remains of the rural protestant cultures that came to grow up in the south of the United States. I prefer to not be around people shaped by, and who behave strongly under the influence of Urban "ghetto" cultures of American cities. I prefer to not be around "good old fashioned family values" Christian culture generally in the United States, or anywhere else.

These are some of my preferences, and I have no shame over them. Again, I'm human, and entitled to a few preferences. I dislike how people act when they are under the influence of these cultures. No one's race has ever harmed me; flesh and blood didn't decide to persecute other people or be obnoxious; flesh and blood only ever sat there and felt sensations and motivated people to reproduce, and that's that.

But people under the influence of culture have done many insane things. Certain cultural sorceries- and the persistent presence of those cultural patterns passed down from generation to generation- are foul, dangerous, and undesirable to me and to people like me. To call me a "racist", then, is not accurate; I am, at worst, an ethnocentrist, but I don't suffer from my ethnocentrism- I enjoy every moment of it.

I have chosen to belong to an Ancestral culture that I was spiritually guided to be a part of, consciously. That culture comes with certain ways of seeing the world, certain key behaviors and ideas, and I embrace them. I'm actually quite proud of it. I'm not speaking as a sorcerer now, for real sorcery transcends most things; I'm speaking as a religious person, and a member of a subculture, in this case the modern Heathen movement. A person can have sorcery, but no religion; I happen to have both, and while they influence each other, they don't have to in every person.

As a Heathen, I'm part of a subculture which is nested within a larger Western, predominantly Germanic cultural sphere, and this description is given to it because of the dominant language, mostly, but for a few other reasons as well. My true "heart culture", however, is not the mainstream one, but this smaller one that I occupy. And that culture is an excellent reflection of my values as a person, and it really fulfills my natural desire to connect to the Gods and Goddesses and sacred values that my Ancestors had before Christianity became so influential.

But it is still a subculture, and it has walls. There are boundaries around every "culture", whether it is "sub" or not, and even though those boundaries are permeable (and the larger the culture, the more permeable the boundaries) they are still there. My religious subculture structures how I see many things, including other people. The reason why I dislike features of other cultures is partly due to my own cultural aesthetics. As a sorcerer, I pride myself on my ability to even look beyond the subcultural boundaries that I have accepted, when I need to- but I dwell within them, the rest of the time.

"If you wanna be down with the PFJ, you really have to hate the Romans..."

I've never met a single human being, taken a look at them, and said "you aren't like me. You can't be in my religious community." I don't owe anyone a free pass into my religious community. I'm not required to accept any and all who want to be in my community, and indeed, there's little to no reason why most people SHOULD want to be in it. I don't want to be in anyone elses.

I have standards- we have standards- for who we'll unify our souls and our lives with at that level. If a person, any person, really accepts the religious cultural values and cultural beliefs and behaviors that we've accepted, and puts them to action in their lives, AND if that person lives near enough to me to interact with me and mine in person, and is a person of honor, that person will be accepted by me and those closest to me as a full member of our religious/subcultural community.

If, however, a person does NOT do those things, and if I have no other social or familial bond to them, then I have no special duty to them, no special considerations put aside for them, outside of the most general sense of respect for their personal liberties and their basic human rights. At times when I meet those people (which is most people) in the online or offline public world and interact with them, I will "judge" them on their displayed merits, firstly, and on the cultural conditioning that I detect operating on them.

I am not required, by anyone, by any God, by any Goddess, by any government, at any time, to "like" everyone, accept everyone, nor am I required to approve of all other cultures on the planet; that is not reality.

If, to you, that makes me racist or evil, then have fun calling me names. What's really happening, however, is that I'm merely failing to live up to your universalist, culturally destructive paradigm that posits a real falsehood: the falsehood that humans are all the same, and that our differences should all be shed. I do not think shedding our differences would result in any positive outcome. It would merely homogenize the world into a flavorless mass of monoculture, and make all human beings prideless, shallow beings who would be easily controlled by very dark forces.

I live a life of Ancestral piety, and that life calls for me to honor the Ancestors who, through acts of sorcery and wisdom so immense they could change the lives of billions of people and even change the lay of the land on this planet, laid down the "Ur-layers" that gave birth to this cultural stream that I belong to now. Their great magic affects, this very day, how I think, talk, eat, and act. It's incredible when you really think about it. And this honor for the Ancestors and the culture holds true no matter how much the culture may have changed or grown in the intervening ages- and you can bet it has. A fresh spirit still lives within it, and within me and everyone who is a part of it. This is not something that can be understood unless you've joined with others in experiencing it.

I know noble people who come from many cultural backgrounds. Some even come from cultural backgrounds that I despise for various reasons. Some people just defy the curve, defy my expectations- which may not be 100% accurate expectations, after all. I'm still just human. I'm doing the best I can. Some people I meet don't seem to "fit in" anywhere, and I think even that has a strange sorcery to it.

I will not just "give up" on cultural patterning, because I know it to be a sorcerous power, and I'm a sorcerer, who draws strength and inspiration from things like this. I like cultures that display the power to impact the world and people's lives in long-term positive ways; I dislike cultures that display the power to impact the world and people's lives in very negative ways. I like people who display nobility in their actions, and deep thought in their words; I dislike people who display ignoble behaviors and are morons.

You might say that I'm being "overly simplistic" with my use of the term "culture", for every human can engage certain aspects of their birth culture, or not; every person may express it differently, or not- and that much is true; but broad cultural features and their history in this world are conventionally available to us for study, and we must make due with conventions at some time or another, else they'd cease to be conventions and become useless.

But I would like to point out that above, I gave my formula for "judging" this way: "I will judge them (people I meet) on their displayed merits, firstly, and on the cultural conditioning that I detect operating on them." Meaning, I go by how individual people act and speak first, and look to general cultural realities secondly, if I look at all. Because honestly, I don't _have_ to make judgments about everyone I meet. Others might feel the need to judge every person they bump into; I don't. I only tend to do it when I feel like a person may be an influence on me or mine in some important way, or if I have to deal with them for any significant length of time.

The White Wash

One of the problems I face- and everyone like me faces- is that I'm "white" or predominantly Caucasian in ancestry, and I'm part of a broadly Western and Germanic culture, and I'm claiming to "be" something other than Christian. White people today just aren't allowed to claim strange or unusual things for themselves, without lots of other people reacting badly.

White people, it seems, can't revert to their pre-Christian roots without allegations that "racism" must have motivated it, or without people getting alarmed about something or another. White people are expected to be the snooty beneficiaries of their world-conquering, culture-destroying butthole forebears, and to be completely without authentic spiritual roots, while everyone else on the planet gets to have "traditional culture" of some sort to belong to.

When a white person or white people try to claim some portion of the real native spirituality that existed at the origin of Indo-European culture, whether it be Germanic or Celtic or Slavic or Greek or whatever, everyone assumes that they're doing it for reasons of scary nationalism, or to satisfy those natural "white race" fascist tendencies within them, or out of rebellion for Christianity- you have to be a skinhead, a violent, weird anti-Christian, or whatever. It's just taboo in the West for Westerners to have a true, deeper spiritual origin that they talk about, take pride in, or engage in. It's as though the whole world- within and without our societies- either wants to keep "whites" Christian, as though our Ancestral past never happened, or wants them to be spiritually bankrupt as atheists and materialists.

It's the reputation: if some traditional culture somewhere gets destroyed, it's those white American or European bankers and capitalists who crushed the native people under their machines. White people are trouble; everyone knows it. When some white person points out that the situation might not be that simple, that "white" people are no easier to stereotype away, either historically or in the modern day, immediately there is an opposing storm of very real "reverse" racism- as though racism was only a white invention- and a white wash.

I've seen people accuse white guys who were interested in Buddhism (itself a religion open to all human beings, without restriction) of being "cultural imperialists" out to "plunder" Buddhism, due to how disaffected they were by the shallow European-American culture that they belonged to. Whites can't explore the spiritual truths of the rest of the world without people shaking their heads and rolling their eyes about how pathetic it is.

A white guy who sits under a tree and beats a drum for the spirit of the tree is "stealing" and "culturally appropriating" from some native non-white culture somewhere, acting fully "non-white"- even though his Ancestors once lived in deep communion with the spirits of trees. But we can't talk about that. The people and cultures of Old Europe were never "deep", never in touch. Or at least, that's what you'd be led to believe if you just listened to the way people talk.

Maybe it's a function of "white man's guilt", or maybe something darker. One thing is certain: whatever caused it to come about, the situation here is unacceptable. All beings, human or otherwise, eventually return to their roots; the end is in the beginning. White people- people whose Ancestral cultural ties are strongest to Old Europe and the original Indo European cultures of Europe and Eurasia generally- are not exempt from this. The many social forces out there that attempt to stop the circle from becoming complete are doing it as a function of resentment or fear- this much I know.

But "white" people must eventually take their place in the truth of their Ancestral cultural origins, or they'll never be able to do what the rest of the world has wanted them to do since they charged out of Europe under Christian banners and began screwing over native cultures around the world: meet the rest of the world with dignity, wisdom, and equanimity.

Discriminatory Me

It is not a crime for people to not be Heathen like me. I don't sit around chanting about belonging to a Master Race or anything like that. I don't believe in Master Races, but I do believe that some cultures are more powerful than others- for many cultures have been crushed and are now vanished to history after coming into conflict with others. I think the one I belong to is pretty smart, tough, and innovative- a world-changing culture, really- but then, there are others out there which are tough, smart, and innovative, too. I wish them well in the march through history that we are all taking.

If I meet you and don't like you, you can trust that one of two things (or both) have happened: I've decided you were acting or speaking in ways that I dislike and find harmful, or I've sensed that your "cultural magic" (or the way you express that magic) conflicts with me and mine. You can be pretty sure that your race has nothing to do with it. It just so happens that most of the people who religiously bond with me are Caucasian or "white" like me, but this wasn't intentionally chosen on my part or theirs; it's just the way things fatefully worked out for me and for us. The ancient notion of Kinship, as understood by my Ancestors, was a religious and cultural association primarily, not chiefly a genetic one. This point cannot be over-emphasized.

A possibility exists that any person alive now could be my "kin". But no requirement exists for me to accept everyone as though they were. My acceptance at that level comes from my perception of a person's values, cultural allegiances, words, and deeds. And indeed, what is the alternative? That I accept everyone into my family's life, without discrimination, with no knowledge of their quality or qualities? That's a fast way to destruction and stupidity. And though I can be destructive from time to time, like all humans can be, stupidity is not something I'm guilty of often at all.