7/21/2013

3.3 Where the Modern Kicks In

It is not only Christian versus heathen which must be a consideration for those attempting to engage seriously in the reconstruction of ancient worldviews. In Section 1 above, we touched on many innovations offered by modern heathens to bring, as can be read on many email lists, 'the ancient religions up-to-date.' The arguments generally accompanying the statement are usually variations of the following:
  1. The ancients knew nothing of democracy and the fundamental need for equality across the board regardless of race, gender, creed, political affliation, or sexual persuasion. Slavery and human sacrifice, for example, is impossible in this day and age.
  2. Ancient [insert cultural preference here] people were not as technologically advanced as industrialized nations today and, therefore, were not able to explain conceptual fields such as psychology, medicine, physics, and parapsychology as precisely as we are able to. New vocabulary needs to be developed to encompass the advances made in the past 1000 years.
  3. Daily life as well as warfare did not exist as they do now. The activities which offered the ancients the opportunities to act in a fashion to allow entry into the Óðín's Hall of the Slain no longer exist; modifications are necessary.
  4. The gods are psychological constructs, archetypical symbols, which can be manipulated to one's advantage.
The above points show how far the modern worldview has moved since the Germanic Heathen Era and has in essence become a culturally different one, to be sure, but they also demonstrate the natural tendency of humans to avoid abondoning one worldview for another. This avoidance is not necessarily conscious, however. In fact, the mere suggestion on a modern mailing list that such an avoidance exists brings an immediate reaction in the form of denials (often rather harshly worded) from, usually, well over 50% that they are engaging in such. Oddly, the primary way that a firmly embedded worldview will display its built-in protection is through such denials, and the only real way to exchange one worldview for another is to conscious raise one's worldview to the level of consciousness usually through a series of exercises designed to bring it into small controlled culture clashes.
 
The second argument quickly follows: "Oh, you say that because I deny a diffcult time changing worldviews is I unconsciously am refusing to change! Prove to me that I am refusing to change! I'm a heathen in mind and soul - just a modern one! Of course, because I live in the modern world! How could I be otherwise?" And, this second argument is based in truth. The evidence has been available for thousands of years, however, that changing one's religion is a simple affair, but changing one's cultural worldview is extremely diffcult if not impossible to do completely and is the basis of Simek's conclusion that
 
"...even the most religious of modern heathens have described [little of their modern beliefs and practice] which has to do which actual Germanic heathen religion and success at revitalizing the ancient worldview have been modest at best. The rekindling of the Viking Age religion of Thor, Óðín, and Freya is not to be found among modern heathens."

Presenting this statement generally provokes angry denials from modern heathens rather than discussion along with the above points as to why the ancient relgion needs updating rather than a serious examination of the differences between the two worldviews, the ancient and the modern. The preference seems to be examine, interpret, discuss and redefine the ancient through the modern. The resistance to exchanging one worldview for another is strong and built-in.
 
Americans, for example, are notoriously bad at a fitting in anywhere else in the world (except, perhaps, as an occupying force), are the butt of jokes among locals, and are considered arrogant and narrow minded on the one hand, while on the other are one of the largest groups of people who will quickly 'pretend' that they are the adopted sons and daughters of a foreign culture. The modern American worldview is strongly constructed and is built to resist change with blatant denial and other defensive systems.
 
The reconstructionist, then, is confronted with a given set of problems immediately upon his decision to reconstruct. The first and possibly the most diffcult is "How can one reconstruct a worldview for which he has no neurological/ mental constructs?" Secondly, in changing worldview, one is required to change one's 'point of view.' This is not quite as easy as simple changing one's 'religion,' i.e. the vocabulary used to discuss one's personal belief sytem, because that kind of change is really no change at all but merely using different words to describe the same thing.
 
At five years of age I saw a negro for the first time, a woman with chocolate brown skin. I asked her what happened to her skin, and she smiled and replied that it was the 'color of her skin.' I quickly absorbed the information, sharp as I was, and concluded, in my mind, that she was a caucasian with a birth defect. Later, watching TV (which was the old round screen, black-and-white, circa late 1950s), I saw a clown on a magic show and concluded that he was also a causcasian with a birth defect. The thought of all these birth defects in the world scared me and clowns became a frightening thing until my older sister cleared up the matter. It took her several months, though, to show me that clowns weren't really deformed caucasian people. It didn't occur to me until the age of 20 or so, that a black child seeing a caucasian ('me,' for example) would think that we were really negroes with ruined skin color, noses, and lips-we must be terribly frightful-looking to a child accustomed to earth-toned skin color and pleasantly rounded facial features!
 
The above interlude is not a joke but is taken directly from the repertoire of the author's personal experience. The above is also analogy for how strong the modern worldview is. Moderns have diffculty imagining a world without dualism, for example. We view it as 'defective' but the word we prefer is primitive. We imagine a world where all humans are dualistic, built of body and spirit, with the earthly body being transient and temporary and the soul being immortal because that is all we know. We view the idea of the soul having a proper 'home' after death and is to be either rewarded or punished for performance because we can only envision a Heaven (read here 'Hall of [name of a god]), Hell (Naströnd or Hel), Purgatory (read here the 'endless cycle of incarnations), or Limbo (read here 'being absorbed into the Godhead), but see 'wandering the world' or 'living with the corpse' as being a defective and primitive view of life after death. A nice stepping stone, of course, is to 'think in terms of reincarnation,' but any short discussion with reincarnationists reveals that even the concept of reincarnation has taken on tones of reward and punishment (Heaven vs. Hell) and separation of the body/ soul complex. We find it diffcult to think otherwise because our modern point-of-view (POV) doesn't easiliy allow for it just as the author's POV didn't allow allow for the idea that caucasians might actually be viewed as defective. We cannot make sense of Mary Francis' description of life after death until it is first translated into terms which we can understand-her terminology is viewed by the modern, middle-class American's mind as being defective. What she means (her worldview) is not what we understand for we can only understand our own worldview.
 
The struggle against the modern worldview is obvious and it is a struggle. The email lists which have been visited by this author in preparation for this paper reveal the struggles in the form of simple denial, irritation, the clamoring for ideologies such as provided by Wicca or neo-shamanism to be a part of the heathen's cosmos in an effort to 'bridge the gap' between the modern and the primitive. Changing POV is not a simple process.
 
Raymonde Carroll presents one's worldview as being viewed as a part of oneself and should that POV be threatened one can feel the 'struggle for life' itself. An integral part of the self must be obliterated.

"Indeed, my culture is the logic by which I give order to the world. And I have been learning this logic little by little, since the moment I was born, from the gestures, the words , and the care of those who surrounded me; from their gaze, from the tone of their voices; from the way I was raised , rewarded, punished, held, touched, washed, fed; from the stories I was told, from the books I read, from the songs I sang; in the street, at school, at play; from the relationships I witnessed between others, from the judgments I heard, from the aesthetics embodied everywhere, in all things right down to my sleep and the dreams I learned to dream and recount. I learned to breathe this logic and to forget that I had learned it. I find it natural. Whether I produce meaning or apprehend it, it underlies all my interactions. This does not mean that I must agree with all those who share my culture; I do not necessarily agree with all those who speak the same language as I do. But as different as their discourse may be from mine, it is for me familiar territory, it is recognizable. The same is true, in a certain sense, of my culture."

The modern worldview is an integral part of modern man including the 're- constructionist' and to sacrifice one's worldview for another often brings along with it feelings of loss of something important. These personal feelings are often exacerbated by the response from the immediate community who ostracize those choosing to 'forsake their heritage.' In western culture, particularly that of modern America, this is often viewed as akin to a criminal act. 

The reconstructionist is not a special person but rather a person who has made a decision to take on an especially diffcult task, a person who has decided to explore and examine his own worldview piece by piece over an extended time by purposely bringing each piece into conflict with another until the second worldview can be understood on its own terms.

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