Sæll og blessaður, Bjarnharðr!
You know that my original academic training was in history and anthropology, and to this day, they remain my favorite subjects. I'm one of these strange types that believes the past holds the key to understanding the present, and to knowing what we call the "future". Those who forget the past- or who never knew it- are, in fact, doomed to repeat it.
That last line is both good, and, from the perspective of the Heathen, very redundant- as you will see in essays to come. Because the idea of "cyclical history" was taught from the earliest ages by our wise forebears. They knew, and we continue to know, that history MUST (in a sense) repeat itself, from age to age. But within each age, such as ours, there is always an opportunity to study the pattern of Fate, most especially that pattern which is woven as the past, and to gain wisdom from it. Studying history isn't just about understanding the present and guessing the future- it's about understanding the deeper design of Orlog, or the "primal layers" laid down by the Fates, which govern so many fundamental things about the world and humanity.
My love of religion- especially ancient religions- makes the study of history both informative and poignant for me. I can discover many truths and perspectives on the ancient faith that I cherish and live by, as can you- but we will also see the lamentable historical realities that led to our faith's diminishment, at least on the outward level. Was it Fate that our faith decline, and our Ancestor's life ways be forced into the disharmony that now exists?
The answer is "certainly." I have never made a secret of this in my writings, nor would any person of insight. As much as it may personally grieve us at times, It is no shame that Fate as a whole works and weaves as she does, nor is what happened in the past some indictment of our Ancestral way. Our Way didn't diminish because it was flawed. There were deeper processes at work here.
As I have pointed out many times, and will point out again, Heathens have no room for the "myth of progress". The world is not "getting better"- it is in metaphysical decline, and this decline, this "winding down", the final tearing and straining of the threads of Wyrd, is reflected in the order of the world, particularly (I find) in our societies. That half-wise creeds should dominate our world is not a surprise; it is expected of our "Wolf Age". That some few still maintain a vestigial amount of Ancestral sanity and the fellowship of the Gods and one another is the true miracle and strength of our age.
Doctor Christian and Mr. Heathen
Today we will study an essay written by someone else, which I will provide a link to. This essay is called "A Rational History of Christianity", and it was penned by Robert Charles Stewart, a gifted writer somehow involved with the Academy of Evolutionary Metaphysics. I am not a member of that academy, but I appreciate their clarity on many subjects. I will tell you more about them, including a few words of warning, before you proceed to read their excellent essay on the history of Christianity and the world Christianity shaped.
Why are we going to study this history? And why have I mentioned Christianity to you in each of these discussions thus far? Because only a fool would think that the largest and most powerful religious force in the world has no bearing on becoming a Heathen in the world they shaped, and which they still influence in so many ways. You and I began our lives in Christian families, Bjarnharðr. We understand their Kristinn ways with ease, and it took me many years to really "internalize" the Heathen worldview and belief system so that I could brag to understand it as well.
Carl Jung said that denial of any repressed force in the psyche only assured its strength and power. No Heathen who walks the path of formation and wishes to change his or her religious culture to the Heathen one, placing their Christian past behind them, can ignore Christianity or try to pretend that it doesn't influence them. The secret to truly embracing the Heathen way is to accept Christianity for what it is, and all of the other pervasive non-Heathen social forces for what they are, and not deny their force. You will discover that this accelerates your rebirth as a Heathen.
If it were as easy as denial, becoming a truly reborn being in your mind and soul would be easy. But to do as some unwise Heathens do, and deny the Christian element of our history and society, and further, to repress it in themselves, only brings them to an ugly condition which is no better than the Christians they used to be- an inverted imbalance, as it were. To be Christian, in most cases, is simply the repression and denial of many important powers and perspectives that the Heathen treasures.
So being a healthy Heathen should be more than just a "flip side" of that. A Heathen who will remain Heathen for the rest of their life won't do it through denial, but through wholeness. When you have the "full story", as it were, you can see what is good and what is bad, what tends to harmony and what tends to decadence and destruction.
Some people out there, in our religious movement, will claim that they need not study or concern themselves with Christianity, because they were not raised Christian. Their parents may have been atheists, or agnostics, or just unconcerned with these matters with respect to their family. You'll find that these types are often rather prideful about it- the implication being that, due to their pristine upbringings, they can embrace Heathenry in some easier, purer way.
Naturally, these people are mistaken. To be raised in a Christian culture, even by atheist parents, still creates many of the same issues. A person need not be Christian to be culturally Christian- raised around officials, governments, movies, social customs, and friends who did mediate the Christian worldview to them, on every imaginable level. Culture is itself a group-power, even on the inner level, of massive strength. So even the people who were (sometimes) fortunate enough to have avoided some perilous Christian upbringing need to realize the deeper impact of Christianity, regardless.
When you consider it further, atheist or agnostic parents probably mocked religion of any kind, as a whole, throughout the upbringing of these "never Christian" Heathens- which is possibly more devastating to the deep mind and to the chances of becoming Heathen and remaining Heathen throughout one's life, than being raised to believe that there was only one God!
Average, All Too AveragePeople today always worry over what the "right" religion might be, and how it is found. It is true that centuries of obfuscation and stupidity and disaster have built up over the subject of religion, and even the sharpest minds of today cannot cope with the mountains of books, controversy, paperwork, and entanglements that obscure the truth about the spiritual nature of things.
As a boy, I knew very early on that the religion of my parents was fundamentally flawed. I couldn't place why with exact words, but I knew that something was missing- a strange tension of unspoken disharmony was built up behind the teachings and institutions of the church. Its people were not any more happy or virtuous than the other people they accused of being bad. They didn't have some great peace and serenity that filled me with evidence of their Christ-like insights or experiences. The church plied people for money constantly, and seemed distant.
I noticed this about Christians early on, and it remains true: despite the fact that nearly all Christian churches teach basically the same things: teachings about being humble, forgiving, chaste, peaceful, poor in spirit, charitable, meek, hopeful for life after death and the like, and even though individual churches make a big deal about how different they are from other churches, you really can't tell Christians apart outside of those churches. Their doctrines would seem (on the surface) to be pretty radical and transformative, and their individual church identities seem to occupy a lot of attention and emotion, but that all vanishes away to dust when you meet them in person.
Whether Baptist or Catholic or Mormon or Methodist, Christians tend to all dress alike, do the same sorts of jobs, want the same things out of life- money, a house, the most recent fad in clothing or electronics. They tend to have similar political stances. The vast majority don't impress you instantly with any humbleness or Christ-like meekness or kindness. Many appear to be the exact opposite- arrogant about religion, defensive, greedy or materialistic, and downright narrow-minded or mean at times. In other words, they are painfully "average"- for all the claims of great power in these general church teachings, they seem to lack the power to change the basic, day to day lives and characters of human beings.
Christians are nearly all equally-as-shallow when it comes to what most Heathens consider truly spiritual matters- either completely unaware of basic spiritual truths of the Heathen way, dismissive of them, or hostile towards them. They tend to be unaware of the majestic spiritual truths of other ancient world faiths- even faiths older than their own, like Hinduism, Buddhism, and others. They have a very few cosmetic differences (like Mormons won't drink, Catholics will drink, etc.) but this is nothing terribly important from the outside viewer's perspective.
A few Christians I knew stood out. I remember one Bishop who was certainly as close to the "Christ like" ideal as any I have ever met. But he was, like the saints, a strange oddity to be fawned over by the masses who shook their heads and confessed their many sins, had sex with the people they weren't supposed to behind the scenes, and went on living the same miserable lives. To me, all of this indicates a weakness in the doctrines, a weakness in the basic fabric of the revealed religious institutions, which I believe only still exist owing to the powerful force of tradition and social habit.
Those who wish to apologize for this state of affairs like to say that the doctrines are too hard or too pure or too righteous for this fallen world, but again, that marks the doctrines as useless. They are useless if they cannot reach the average person and really change them.
Some say that the failings of churches and mosques are not born of some weakness in the doctrines or institutions, that the teachings are "good" somehow, but people- those evil, flawed humans- will take them to "bad" places. Again, I say that the doctrines and institutions share the blame for being stated or sold in such a manner that the average person runs a high risk of disastrously misinterpreting them or failing to be changed for the better. If the doctrines are truly of divine origin, it isn't asking too much for them to be stated in such a way that more good comes from them when the average person interprets them, than not.
If these institutions don't have major magic and lack powerful, transformative doctrines that can cut through the darkness of the world, what use are they? Why do they have such a grand place of honor, if they can do no better than anyone else?
When I began to learn the history of Christianity, which my Catholic educators were all too happy to teach me, and to learn the philosophies they espoused, I became further alienated from the entire institution. They were admitting to wiping away thousands of years of previous histories and religions and cultures, under the assumption that they were the one true church, the one true revelation of God to man. They didn't even try to gloss over the fact that they were the authors of cultural genocide, nor that they were arrogantly asserting the dominance of their supposed "truths"!
And that's fine and well. I expect no less from human beings who have become enchanted by the allure of revealed religions. And these weren't bad people; they were just victims of what Fate wove for many in this age. But there they stood, there they lived, alternating between their assurances about their rightness, and barely-concealed worries about it, arguing forever with others about who was really "right".
Testing the Truth
And who is "right", Bjarnharðr? You know already what I would say. I would say a person or a group is "right" when they live according to the rightness of things. That rightness of things is the order of the world, the Fatefully-woven order manifested by the creativity of the Gods, led by the Allfather. The order of the world is found in Nature's body, the courses of stars and the sun and moon, the coming of bees to flower and pollen, the union of men and women and the multiplying of beasts, the shedding of leaves from trees in early winter and the falling of rain on the thirsty ground.
All of these things, these natural principles, are good and right. To accept them, to bless them, to see yourself among them- that "places" you in the rightness. Many other things are "right" as well- accepting the Gods for who they are, and honoring them; that places you in the Rightness. Being a brave and loyal human being who is kindly disposed to friends, kinsmen and strangers, and who exercises truth, reason, compassion, and creativity- that is right.
I've said this before. I'll say it again. And again. But for now, let us turn our attention to one important fact that history can teach us today. I believe that history can help us to realize what religions out there may have more claim on "truth" than others. When I say "truth" here, I only mean it in the sense of "what religion can guide people to live a truly harmonious life."
I'm not talking about the "true or false" game of the revealed religionists. I'm talking about religions that give us sound principles for living the best lives we can live. THAT is how I look for "truth". I say it is "true" or "more true than another" when I live my life by its principles and its perspectives and discover that I am able to face each day with peace and purpose, with strength and honor, and I am able to better understand the quandaries that find me.
Most importantly, I say it is "true" or "more true than others" when, under its influence,I do not harm others with my beliefs; I do not choke the world or its water and air, and the dark forces in my nature- greed, fear, and selfishness- do not arise under the mask of virtue. I know in my bones that I am "living a truth"- living in the blessed order of rightness.
In that order, the world itself seems to respond to me, with gifts of simple natural joy. Blessings seem to come naturally. A tranquility in my soul settles, and even when storms arise there, which they must for us all, I see the light at the end of the stormy tunnel.
So you might say my criteria of "truth" is only found by testing.
They Said the World was Flat
How can history help us to know further what the "right" religions might be? The problem with religion today is that "religion" and "politics" are the very same thing. There you have it- revealed religion IS politics. It always has been, as you will see in this history essay I'm about to point you towards.
Why is that bad? Because, as you and I have discussed before, politics on the massive scale is a threat to real, authentic freedom. Revealed religions don't help this; they join with it; they bolster it. But history shows us something of extreme importance- it shows us what people were doing before revealed religion upset the way of the world.
Why is that important? Because by seeing how revealed religions- like Christianity and Islam- are largely functions of political power and disease, we can settle our souls in the knowledge that they need no longer concern us. Any lingering doubts that some people walking the path of Heathen Formation may have about Christianity can be laid to rest through acceptance of Christianity's necessity in the lives of others, but also through understanding how the people of the world were mistaken so many centuries ago. We are freed then to reject the revealed error, and re-embrace the organic truths.
No one is bothered anymore by the idea that the earth might be flat. Some people long ago were afraid to sail too far out into the ocean, thinking they might fall off the world. But soon, brilliant and brave minds (foremost among them our own Ancestors) proved that the world was round. After that, the ancient error was dispelled. That fear was gone. People knew that the old tale of the world being flat was not only false, but it was never true to begin with. They no longer needed to concern themselves with the fear it generated. This example can be applied to the "game of doubts" played between revealed religions like Christianity and religious paths like Heathenry.
The "game of doubt" has been played since the very first conversion periods. Missionaries introduced the element of doubt into the minds of those they tried to convert- "What if you're wrong?" They challenged people to think "What if I die hoping in the wrong God? What would the cost be?"
And that game is still being played. Converts away from Christianity are often pursued by fears and doubts, even if they are tiny and nagging. By studying the history of Christianity (and Islam) a reasonable person can see why this game of doubt need never be played, again. A rational survey of history frees us from the absurd claims of churches. And this single fact is why Churches still fight against the light of scholarship being shed on their history- because they know that the history isn't neat and tidy. The Catholic Church has admitted for years that the Gospels were likely not written by the people tradition claims wrote them. But most of the faithful ignore those details, for contemplating them too much will cast doubt on their heavenly retirement plans.
By studying the history of our world and the dominant modern religions, a hidden suggestion is before our eyes: people once knew the Gods and lived a certain way. Their ways were largely (but not totally) washed away by what amounts to a complicated system of mistakes- invented doctrines- and politics. It seems to me that going BACK to what the Ancestors were doing before the massive political darkness came is the best thing we can do if we wish to discover the "right" religions. Maybe the Ancestors were "right" all along! That is my belief, at any rate. And the many blessings of my life thus far- the amazing freedom and joy I've tasted and lived within- is all the evidence that I need.
As Unbiased as History Tends to Get
Now, friend, I will turn you over to the Academy's writers, and let you read an essay I found refreshing. It is called, as I mentioned, "A Rational History of Christianity". Let me make one warning to you about it. The authors are not terribly friendly to any religion, including ours. They see all ancient religions- Heathen or Christian or otherwise- as sort of superstitious or not ideal for human thinking today. That is their right. Their message is still valuable, because they present what I consider a pretty unbiased short history of Christianity, and the history of Christian Europe. It's enough for one read.
From my studies of history, their facts seem to check out. At two points in their narrative, you will see our Ancestors make an appearance- first when the Northern Tribes overwhelm Rome, and second when the Vikings invade Europe. The Academy's writers think that the Northern Tribes were lawless and savage; they are, of course, wrong about this. But they are writing from a general Western perspective, and for years people have been told that the Teutonic tribes that conquered Rome were savages. The real story there is more complicated.
So bear that in mind when you read- our Ancestors did not throw Europe down into a dark age; Christianity really did that, on the back of Rome which became too powerful for Her own good. Our Ancestors created a new Europe, which, despite the presence of Christianity, had the seeds of a new way of thinking and being- one of liberty. It took centuries for those seeds to break and ripen, of course, but ripen they did as soon as religion was largely removed from power.
Here is the link. As you read, consider the origins of Christianity as these authors present it. Of all the histories I've read, even short ones, I think they are closest to the historical mark as far as where Christianity came from- how it got from a mysterious Jewish teacher who may or may not have been called "Jesus", to where it is now. Click the link below, and when you are done reading, please discuss your thoughts with me in the comments boxes below. The Rational History isn't THAT long, but it will require some of your time. Truth be told, it's shorter than some of the essays I've already written here for you!
A Rational History of Christianity
Do you know what we are doing, Bjarnharðr? We are reaching back in time, and, through our minds and bodies, we are re-birthing the ancient religions, giving life back to the ancient symbols, joining with the ancient powers because they are real- and from the very beginning of human cultural history, they were real. They were with us and the Ancestors. They do not break troth with their kin.
Politics makes for bad religion, as our history has shown. Our souls have been dying of thirst, dying of starvation, dying of lies, dying of political boredom. To be Heathen, my friend, is to re-embrace something of beauty and awe-filled power, and bring it back to life- to "pick up where we left off", so to speak. It is a challenge, but it is the only way that men like us will know peace. I have seen the peace that lies in the meadow on the other side of all this bullshit- on the other side of all of the lies and distortions and inventions, all of the papal conclaves and arguments and schisms and wars and injustices.
I have seen that truth in religion lies nowhere else but in the simplicity of the meadow, the hearth, and the family and friends. There is no "heavenly kingdom" on earth apart from your own home and your own beloved kin. Church buildings really are just wood and stone, projects of politics and vanity. Our sacredness, our truth, is in the grass and leaves, the rush of stream, and crash of ocean.
It is in our Gods that never told the Ancestors to murder others because of their religious faith- or lack thereof. It is in our Gods who encourage us to live as tranquilly and simply as the trees themselves, and the ancient mountains, but always with the creativity and poetry that is in our hearts. If you feel as I feel already, you might say I'm preaching to the choir!