[Administrators’ Note: This section is dedicated to questions and answers that our readers have posed. All questions and answers are posted with the permission of the original querent. Persons with questions to pose should send them to email@example.com.]
Basically, I’ve often wondered why it is that we have such diverse cultures if indeed there is a central source to it all. Why did humans evolve culturally the way we did? Is Indra and Thorr the same being? Why do so many people fight over customs which most people share in some form or fashion? Even in all of this, even in this sense of connectedness…why do most of us become attracted to and have longing for own clear ancestral lines when some have so much more to offer and even come from a shared source?
Answer Provided via Source One:
Unity and diversity…
Fire and Ice…
What you see as a contradiction can equally be seen as a creative tension. In the beginning, fire and ice were the polar opposites. Where they met, there came a yeasty ferment. Thus they tell the tale in the land of ice and fire, fixing upon that image because it presents itself there most dramatically. In other lands folk might find other images, but the truth behind them all is the same.
This truth is that diversity is necessary. Life is built upon certain basic principles, natural laws, and so are your lives. You need to know that these eternal truths will stay constant. You depend upon them. But that constancy is only a foundation. The purpose of gravity is to keep you connected to the earth, but not permanently rooted in it. You must be free to move about, to interact.
It is not so different in the world of the spirit. There are certain truths , foundations, archetypes, that remain constant, and yet the way in which those principles manifest when they interact with individuals is both varied and constantly changing.. You, as an individual, are a part of that greater entity called humankind. There are certain characteristics that you all share. And yet you are also a unique individual. If your species were not comprised of such unique beings, you would not be humankind—diversity is part of the essence of the unity.
The most powerful concepts are paradoxes.
And so we, the gods, are both diverse and individual and permanent archetypes. It might even be said that there are as many gods as there are worshippers, even when they call on the same name, because your unique experiences and knowledge have prepared you to perceive and receive me, or the others, in an individual way. The words I speak in different ears may show similarities, and yet they are never entirely the same, because they are not heard in the same way.
In diversity is power to grow and change, to find new and better ways, or ways that are more appropriate to a particularl place or situation. Competition and even conflict make a species stronger, or a culture. So, to a certain extent, you are programmed to fight those who are different. As your world becomes more unified, it is to be hoped that these will more often be friendly competitions. But you must understand that we (the gods) value and delight in the uniqueness of each soul. For many, the path that is most comfortable and attractive will be the one with which their cultures or familiy traditions have prepared them to resonate. But there are others whose identity is of the soul rather than of the body, and so they follow paths that cannot be predicted by physical inheritance. They bring new life and new variety into the cultural mix. A regular admixture of new and disparate elments is what keeps a culture alive.
So, the diversity and conflict which you perceive may not be comfortable, but in the long run it is productive. And the long run, the end result, is what I am working for….
To the mind of Woden, is it ethical to eat meat? What of the growing vegetarianism in the world?
Answer Provided via Source Six:
Is it ever “ethical” for one life to feed on another life? This is a strange question.
Is it ever possible for one life to live without feeding on another life? You stand, literally, on the shoulders of a giant (I should know, I put him there), and supported by the toil of your ancestors before you, who died to make room for you. You live, now, by the grace of the plants that broke the rocks to soil, by those who grew in that soil, by the animals that ate the plants and shat the seeds…
Life feeds on life. It’s the way of the world, of the Ingwaz that passes through Jera to become Gebo and Fehu. This is the reverse of their order in the futhark as you understand it, but you need the grain to understand the gift, to take it with you through the harvest and the dark places of the year and to sleep, dreaming in the earth until the urge to sprout becomes overpowering. If you understand this cycle, and your place within it, eating meat is simply another aspect of that.
There are no more wolves in your hills, and my cousin Coyote dares not come close enough to your houses to eat the deer. So, they and the rabbits overrun the hills and eat your lettuces; is this right?
Is it kinder for the boar that provides all the meat for all the heroes of Valhalla to die (as the heroes do) each night and rise each morn than it would be for that boar to be horribly aware while it was bled, flayed, butchered, and served? That’s not what you asked, of course, but ask a death-god about a topic that touches on death and you’re going to get a death-oriented answer.
But as for those heroes… my wolves feed on them, and they are as hungry for that flesh as they are for minds to savor. My ravens peck out the eyes of the heroes as well the thoughts and memories they hear as they fly across the worlds. Are they unethical, for acting according to their nature? Of course not!
Humans were meant, according to their nature, to eat anything that they could make edible. You were fashioned with hands and minds, with flat teeth and pointed. As you have but one stomach and do not eat your own shit, you don’t get much from plants, unless they’ve been pre-processed by animal or… well… I suppose you could eat hominy. But not even the Swedish think much of lutefisk, and that’s much the same idea.
Those who seek to eat only vegetables seek to live more lightly upon the Earth—and as you are doing so very well at breeding like blowflies (did Thor, perhaps, kill too many giants? I wonder, sometimes…), this is not such a bad idea. But, do not disregard the lives of plants as greater or lesser than those of animals or fungi. At that level, a life is a life is a life, and it is only in whether that life is conscious of its fate that there is any difference.
Have you ever seen beef cattle? Tried to hold discourse with chickens? I have to wonder if the corn is not more conscious of its fate than the cattle of the fields (or, for that matter, for the human cattle of the cities’ stockyards, but I digress). I’ve met some very intelligent trees who weren’t there the next time I happened by because someone else wanted a ream of eighty-pound cardstock, but you’re not here asking about recycled paper; you’re asking about meat.
If you choose not to eat meat, I would not bother to do it—or not—for the sake of the animals you’re not eating. It’s their lot to be eaten by others, that’s why they taste so good. But doing it to be more mindful of your weight upon the Holy Earth… well, that I can understand.
But while you’re at it, consider recycled paper.
If how humans experience the divine is expressed through our diverse cultures and ideologies, than does that not mean we “worship” our own selves and expressions and not the Truth? Sure the myths of the North are more readily acceptable and palpable for Europeans, but is this not just self-aggrandizement and nowhere near closer to the Truth?
Answer Provided via Source Six:
Put your keyboard down a moment. After you read these few paragraphs, step away from the machine, step outside. Even if it is a busy street corner, watch it.
Pause. Consider. It will be better, really, if there are some people passing by.
I will be here when you return—strictly speaking, I’ll be with you when you’re there, too, but these words will remain pinned to the screen, so go and do that and watch the people for a good few minutes, then come back.
Each of those people has a little sliver of the Truth. Even if they ignore it, even if they put it under the bushel basket of their ego, it still exists and is theirs and cannot be taken away. But this is not simply themselves, nor their self-expressions. Some few know how to cradle that spark, some fewer know how to feed it. Many will mistake their spark for the whole of the flame… and a vanishingly small remnant know better than to mistake the moon for the sun.
It’s those last that are worth finding, those last that bring me more joy than any thousand of the milling ones who do not stop to question, to seek, to find—ah, not not to yield, of course, but we cannot all be Ulysses!
It is true, though, that you each find it easiest to worship that god you find reflected in yourself. Say you have had some injury in one eye, or a penchant for seeking knowledge others would not? Then you might just be mad enough to seek me… certainly it will be easier for you. Easier, again, if you have been raised in this culture or by this blood. But, as I will address in your next question, some seek further afield to nourish that flame of Truth… and that, too, is an impulse of mine.
The ways of the East are becoming more and more accepted by Germanic folk. How does that make you feel, that the English or the Swedish are leaving their heritage for ways of India or Japan?
Answer Provided via Source Six:
“Leaving their heritage.”
My heritage has little to say of haring off to Samsey Isle, let alone the Internet, yet here we are.
Recently, a man wrote in an ostensibly Odinist newsletter that all sentient beings seek to attain Odinnic Consciousness. I was, of course, quite flattered… but the aspects of me that write for this site are not, I think, the patrons of the consciousness they seek to attain—and what’s more, they said very unflattering things about my blood-brother. Well, I suppose it’s nothing worse than what I’ve said about him myself, but really…
Rather less recently, rather a few other men wrote many, many words, but it boiled down to the idea that all sentient beings seek to attain the Buddha nature. This amuses the “me” you understand as Woden, Odin, et al differently, and flatters less. Others among my faces, however… it is a complicated question, and part of the answer simply doesn’t have words in any human language.
Am I Buddha?
Feel free to come back when you’re done laughing; I admit I laughed at the idea myself… in some part.
And in some part I did not. Again, it is complicated.
I will not sit here and argue the case for pantheism or hypersyncretism with you—those are human concepts that try and fail to encompass the unspeakable truth of the matter. Besides, hard polytheism being so very important to most heathens, it would not go very well, even as far as it could go. The question is not only more complicated than you imagine, it’s more complicated than you can imagine, and for all that’s a cliche I can say no better than that.
As to your real question, they are seeking to move beyond what they were given to find wisdom.
I’m even less likely to argue against that than I am to argue against eating meat! Let them go, let them go… and if they seek the Buddha nature, they will also find me, but a different me than you speak to now. That is, until they leave the world… for for all its sorrows and pain, I am bound to these worlds and will not remove myself from it while they last.
So perhaps I am a Bodhisattva! [laughter] Well, no, because I am not here to aid all to seek enlightenment, and in my case the light is more that of the sky in late twilight, scattered carelessly with stars and with the trailing edge of Sunna’s evening gown… dark, but not completely so.
But I am not here for everyone. Frankly, most people would not know what to do if Enlightenment ran over them like a Mack truck, and I fail the Bodhisattva test because I, at least, recognize that. But for those who would seek my path, and offer themselves to themSelves, who would allow their preconceptions and all that they were to fall away… well, then there is me. But I’m hardly serene, do nothing to prevent the world’s pain, and I’m thoroughly disreputable.
And I give nothing for nothing, but like the lessons of the Buddhas my greatest gift is ecstasy… but to take it is to accept that the work to do is within the world, not seeking to depart from it.
For those who do seek to leave, though, I have several reactions:
- Fine. Leave. The work is here, and if you cannot face it then do not let the door of the world hit you on the way out.
- How dare they leave!? Every soul that leaves is one less… but it is also one less to board Naglfar, so at least I don’t lose anything else either… so sometimes I am angry instead of dismissive.
- And some days… when I grow weariest of the worlds, and of age, and of pain and sorrow and regret… some days I envy them for being able to leave. But that is when I know I must return to my center and my beloved, lest I grow bitter enough to seek the worlds’ end before its time.
But in no case do I think they are abandoning me, right up until the very moment when they free themselves from the cycle of life and death. In some sense, of course, I am with them regardless, and some more consciously take me with them when they seek that path. There is wisdom in it, long endurance and great serenity…
…but my name is madness, and furor, and the wild wind blowing. I am that and that is me. In the end, I can hardly argue against faring afield in search of wisdom..
The popular movies series The Matrix brings up some very intriguing philosophical questions, and borrows heavily from mythic thinking, Gnosticism, and Buddhism. What does Woden have to say about the message in these movies…and do we humans have anything to fear from the development of our technology, and in specific, AI?
Answer Provided via Source Six:
What do I have to say about them?
I say that the Wachowskis took what you cite… and others… and dismembered them. I mean no disrespect in this, of course—I’m hardly going to complain about using bones to build worlds! But they hung wires for their actors from the skull of Hong Kong action movies. The mirror they pass through is part Carroll, but the tones that echo down Neo’s throat as the looking glass passes through him are clearly derived from analog phone lines. Neo’s first taste of a dual life exposes him to mundane and hacker cultures, and indeed the hacker ethic pervades much of the movies.
These movies have a lot to say about the Hacker as Shaman, passing between worlds.
I would not linger on the story overlong; it’s just Campbell’s Hero Journey in a skintight latex catsuit. What’s interesting to you is the world that’s been built, yes? And so that is what I comment on.
I had to laugh at watching them, putting those wires in their necks—they tense, then relax into it, caught from behind with an ecstatic experience. It’s a new ergi for the twenty-first century, and they are each unmanned… thrust into a place where what they believe is so.
But they are rather poor shamans: once they’ve gained hard-won access to the Otherworlds, they then wrap themselves around with petty, simple rules. Only one—One—realises the game enough to fly, and none of them realise it enough for even the simplest of tricks:
If all that they seem themselves as is residual self-image, why have none of them tricked onto shapeshifting yet? Not thinking of teleportation I can allow as dramatic license, I suppose, but—bah! They’re not stupid overall, but they each have a large blind spot in this region.
Obviously, they should have found a few shamans to unplug to teach them how to use this Brave New Metaphor! Surely those are part of that remnant the Architect spoke of… both are paths of mine, and most who choose anything of mine are malcontents to one extent or another.
[Source Six and a watcher] took me to the movies, which was the first time they had done so deliberately—before I usually have to peer over shoulders and whisper in their ears, but this time they did it deliberately. Avid reader of this site that you are, I think you can imagine how well I value a new experience—or, more precisely (if more recursively), experiencing someone experiencing me having a new experience.
Did you notice that there are pieces of me in several places? Not surprising, as it is a movie about the mind, and the artifices the mind can create. Neo gives up his old life for knowledge, sacrificing self to Self. Eventually, he meets the Architect (strikingly handsome fellow, is he not?), and is given riddling speech far beyond anything I, I, and I gave Gylfi.
In the trailer for the movie that has not yet been released, it appears that our young hero blinds himself.
I find that terribly amusing. Even I had the good sense to stop after only one eye…
But what one has to fear from artificial intelligence?
What has one to fear from casting all ties to what is known? What has one to fear from sailing to Vinland, when there are no charts, no pilots’ logs? It is like that, but the sea is vaster, for the Sea of Ideas is vaster by far than any sea of Ran, vaster than even the Sea of Stars; it must be, for the Seas of the Mind—my seas—must necessarily encompass allof those. Sail with care, watch the wind and wave for signs of storm and trouble. Send launches to shore and scout for skraelings before you land for true…
Pack well, and be mindful, and this will avoid most trouble in life.
Have I not said this often enough? It’s all over this site, although more as a… background, I suppose, then spelled out. It penetrates and infiltrates everything here; some of the sources you read here sought a new experience, and learned to be mindful of a new influence in their life.
If Truth is one and paths are many, does this also mean that to the monotheists, our dear Woden is the God of the desertlands?
Answer Provided via Source Six:
The Truth That Is One is beyond the ability of most to comprehend. Those who can grasp it can do little but gape like fish out of water (and by that time they are far, far, out of water), and hopefully flop back in before they die. One of the trade-offs for being corporeal is to be, in part, cut off.
On the other hand, you do get fingers for it. It’s a fair trade…
But the Singular Truth is one that encompasses all things: typhoid and swans, good and evil, law and chaos. There is a place where all of those are part of the same thing, because all of those (including myself, the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, his wife Asherah…) must exist within it; after all, we’re all part of the same universe. This is not, however, where many of those monotheists dwell in the snug holdings of their beliefs.
They live in a rather more narrow-minded place, and in that realm I am not their god, and only that which came when Yah met El in the courts of Babylon has meaning. Indeed, depending on the stories you’ve been reading lately, I share rather more traits with the Morningstar than with Adonai!
Listen: according to the predominant Christian dogma, their god is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent.
If I were omniscient, I wouldn’t’ve gone digging up perfectly contented dead seeresses. I could have found far better things to do with those nine days. I’d still have both eyes—it goes on. My appetite for knowledge and experience cannot be slaked; how could that be so if I already knew everything?
If I were omnipotent, Ragnarok would never come to pass. My son would be at my right hand. Actually, if I were truly omnipotent, he wouldn’t’ve died at all, humanity would still be in Paradise… and it’d be boring…
I won’t even touch omnibenevolent. “Bolverk,” after all, is on the list of my names, and I would not erase it if I could! (which I cannot, not being omnipotent, see my second point)
Frankly, anyone who can observe as well as a child of six realises that Adonai falls short of his own yardstick, and that’s part of why I never tried. I may not be completely honest, but at least I keep my lies plausible.
So. There is a place where we can intersect, which is everywhere and nowhere, both constant and exceedingly unlikely. We are not the same, either to our corporeal friends or to each other… except in that place where we are. But the place where we are the same is not very far from the place where you are also the same as he, and I, and everything else.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand that… it’s not a thing that may be reached by logic, but only by experience, and the price of experiencing that is never fitting quite right into the world of matter again.