If you have ever been in a moment of life threatening danger; perceptions are changed. Sometimes forever and not always for the better, but if we may examine for a minute that very clear moment when all of the seemingly important things fall away and all of our senses are focused on surviving the minute, there is something very powerful to be gleaned from the experience.
We are witnessing in Asatru a component of that experience. More and more individuals who have endured these harrowing experiences are coming out to state simply “These qualifications which have heretofore been saddled upon our new faith are no longer relevant.” There are men who are unabashedly being men again. They have experienced either the terrifying emotional overload of combat or the unrestrained exertion of fighting in a bout to determine which man was better trained. I mention these two specific examples for a reason. The vigorous training which is required of both has a way of pointing out to the individual what is truly important. One far more than the other, but the dedication with which the true student of the game pursues his or her course of action leaves little room for the distractions so many people deem important. The choice to determine how important that little voice in their head may be has been removed. Through continuous effort to improve the performance of the human body and to some extent master the brains override we tend to refer to as fear, the things most of society is told is important, cease to be so.
People fall in love with these silly ideas; feeling secure in what they know, until that moment in our lives when we realize we don’t know. Ask any of the survivors of the huge list of terrorist attacks around the world. This can be a moment when all of the security of what we have built up in our minds as the “truth” suddenly and sometimes irrevocably becomes irrelevant. Some people might find that this is the very clear moment when they are no longer dealing with the ego and the true nature of their being is crystal clear. Warriors throughout the ages have worked for this empowering state of mind. Some have become noteworthy in their harnessing of this energy and great wisdom has been the result. Sun Tzu is a prime example, so too is Von Clausewitz. Both men have written studies on how to conduct wars which are still studied to this day. It is no accident that there is truth for the individual in these works as well as for the armies they seek to inspire.
This is the moment we need to be aware of, that freedom from the endless chatter that runs as so much background noise in our minds on a daily basis. Much of it inane and much of it programmed by everyone around us, from the school teacher, to our parent and sibling as well as the preacher in the church. Sometimes we have adopted the negative aspects of these teachings and repeat them to ourselves a hundred times a day as if they were our own thoughts. “I can’t believe I did that”, “I might not be good enough.” It is an incessant cacophony of apparently random thoughts based upon the hundreds of different interactions we have had, are having and will have with everyone we come across. Imagine the constant loud murmur with the occasional outburst from the last crowd you were in. A football game, the shopping mall or a concert are all good examples we can actually see and have a comparison of what can be going on in our minds at any given time. In all instances there are very few things which allow us to put a stop to it in an instant and focus. There happens to exist a method where we might calm this storm on our own without the extreme measures of life and death. Once you figure it out though; you will realize it is just that important for each of us.
In M. Scott Peck’s book The People of the Lie he discusses a patient of about 15 who was having a tremendous amount of difficulty dealing with his brothers’ suicide. Obviously this would be a very traumatic event to deal with in and of its own, but the parents for some reason decided that it would be a good idea to give the boy the gun which the brother had killed himself with. Now I don’t remember all of the specifics of the family situation suffice it to say that all the boy could figure out was “why don’t you do the same thing”? This is quite heavy load for a 15 year old boy to deal with. The parents were about as sick as they could be functioning in this society and looking good. This is an extreme example of what I am talking about when I refer to the conditioning of our society.
Perhaps you have seen people in the midst of struggling with this conditioning. How many times have you seen people talking to themselves? Ever notice that most of the time it’s an angry person that is doing it? What you are witnessing is a person’s ego so powerfully overriding the basic components of who we really are with a victim complex seeking to justify its existence. `Maybe you’ve done the same thing while suffering a bout of road rage. Few things could be more insane and so common at the same time. It doesn’t matter if it’s an angry co-worker talking to him/herself or you in the middle of a good case of road rage; in both instances people are expending an enormous amount of energy to put up a façade which justifies a bloated ego. The bottom line is no one cares if the boss made you work harder. You asked for it when you walked in and said “Yes, I’ll take this job.” Your challenge now is to get it in perspective and realize you are trading your time for someone else’s dollars. Likewise it doesn’t matter if someone cuts you off in traffic, or doesn’t understand the gas pedal/ brake pedal layout in their car. Their inability to negotiate the obstacles in their life does not in any degree whatsoever change the quality of who you are. But we are taught that they do.
We are taught many different things in the course of any given day as a child. Part of the problem and a part of the prison of our thoughts I have spoken about is that when these events are over, they play on in our minds. Over and over, again and again, these memories, both good and bad are on constant playback, our bodies do not understand that these things are not actually happening. The mind thinks about it and the necessary chemicals are released into our various systems. Chemicals designed to aid the organism to survive its environment. Reward and punishment and occasionally things much, much darker, “why doesn’t momma stop this person from hurting me”, why is daddy so mean”, that kid hurts me because I have red hair, I must be really ugly”. It’s no damn wonder our kids don’t stand a chance. People want to say all the time that this generation is spoiled and they get too much. That’s not it all, it’s because the parents haven’t even figured out the thoughts in their own heads. All they want the kids to leave them alone, “here’s a game, be quiet”. Later on, as the parents continue to fail to free themselves from their own personal hell, they look up for a second to see their child is a failure. The desire to love them is there but so too is the even more powerful potential to develop worth in societies eyes by being a victim. Guess what? We have spread our poison to the next generation. We have actually taken action to try and ensure that the chemical compounds which are overloading our own systems are now at play in our offspring.
We have waited most of our lives for something or someone else to handle all of this for us. When nothing changed we were spurred on to give up even more and hope for the best. It would all be taken away if we were good enough. Just exactly how are we supposed to be good enough when we spend the majority of our days quietly berating ourselves for actions we should have taken, but did not? A good part of Asatru has to do with unlearning these thought processes. At some point, there has usually been a moment of clarity to inspire us to try this new faith. Building upon that requires we continue to hack away at all of the personal debris blocking our view of that moment which is now our future. Sometimes we may find that in the absence of guilt there is the feel of a newfound freedom. This is certainly the case with many people. But it is not an excuse to continue acting in the same foolhardy manner, motivated by the same old powerfully painful thoughts. It is an opportunity to focus, much like the warrior, on those things which will prevent us from victory over the conditioning which we have endured for most of our lives.
So what does this have to do with the warrior priest? Because we need those men and women who have shockingly had their perspective on life dramatically altered so radically that they can and will set an example that serves life which demonstrates on a daily basis the power of Asatru. Because it means they can deal with the horrors of their nightmares, just like the addict struggling with powerful addictions; they are clinging to this faith with everything they have. The standard conditioning of individuals in our society does not prepare any of us for the type of stressors so many people are now encountering. In fact, it is doing just the opposite, they are being considered a little different, sometimes outcast and in all cases, it is because they have experienced something few people know how to deal with. Throw in the idea that they are desperate enough to reach out to our old violent gods and it scares people. The importance of their ability to successfully implement this faith might be considered crucial. You will see aspects of this process when people proclaim they are Odinists, or Vanatru or universalists, all of these “unique” titles concerning faith as offshoots of Asatru are embraced by people who seek to use these special branches of Asatru to justify excesses of personal behavior they still have not come to grips with. Usually righteous indignation. I am more “special” than you because I proclaim this or that branch of this faith to feel important. It is a continuation of the thinking which brought us to these powerful crossroads to begin with. It’s just been dressed up a little.
There is some hope in that they are willing to adopt those ideas which might mean they have to set aside a part of their ego. The confidence born of struggle and achievement allows a good portion of them to realize an opposing point of view does not minimize who they are as individuals. If they do not at the moment, they are, for the most part, closer to this realization than most people. They have what it takes when done correctly to put a public face on the successful struggle to survive for all of those people who are suffering in silence.
Odin is fantastic demonstration of this, his trial of suffering when he hung upon the tree for nine days and nights before he took up the runes (a new language and the keys to the universe) is an important concept we should consider when it comes to removing the horrible, self-punishing ideas which have permeated our thinking process for so long.
- I ween that I hung | on the windy tree,
Hung there for nights full nine;
With the spear I was wounded, | and offered I was
To Othin, myself to myself,
On the tree that none | may ever know
What root beneath it runs.
- None made me happy | with loaf or horn,
And there below I looked;
I took up the runes, | shrieking I took them,
And forthwith back I fell.
This gift of Odin, these symbols of inspiration and power are a powerful tool we can use. But look at what he must endure before he figures it out so to speak. Again, Baldur as well is traveling through darkness. Freya is in mourning for her husband Odr, Tyr has lost a hand, Thor has a wound in his head, Frigga has lost a son, and Sigyn is actually dealing with the poison from the actions of her husband. In fact, the greater part of the lore, aside from the question and answer scenario, is the story of deities who have suffered much as we have at one time or another and yet they have continued on to become what they are meant to become. How a follower of the old ways cannot study our lore and see the hope it offers is clear evidence of a thinking process which cannot see the trees for the forest. Or one that does not want too.
What we need to remember is that our minds are hardwired to protect our bodies, just like it tells our heart to beat and our lungs to breathe. But in a perverse twist of evolution, it also tells us that what everyone else thinks is far more important. If you have been thinking every day for years that you are only worth so much or nothing at all and someone comes along while making a statement which may mirror what you are thinking to begin with; the mental gymnastics one must engage in to overcome some random comment can be dramatic to say the least. You might even find that you are talking to yourself. If the conditioning society has placed upon you is so complete whereby you find yourself paralyzed from taking action and resolve to handle all conflicts in the realm of the mind there will be few courses of action available to you. Either the ego will become developed stunting the growth of the being or the victim will be the card of the day.
There is always the chance that something will give and you will be offered a glimpse of hope. We see it around us every day, people who have given up or gone over the edge, who somehow make the decision that there is more to this than what we have been told. In Asatru, there also comes the realization that it is now our responsibility to handle it with the gifts we have been given. Just as Odin endured great self-inflicted pain and found a means to make a difference and further develop we can too. The lore provides the instruction; the warrior priest may provide the example. The bottom line is that there are few people willing to shed the conditioning of society except those who have suffered greatly or adopted lifestyles which require more discipline than the average person. Those special few who have disciplined themselves or who have endured great hardship and come out the other side with a new perspective on life, faith and love have already proven to themselves what they are worth.
Whatever the case may be, you are going to have to fight for it. It is not going to be gifted to you and the largest opponent to defeat is yourself. The hope of this book is that maybe, just maybe, you will not have to sink all of the way to the bottom of life before you endeavor to climb up again. Soldiers are going to be thrust into a moment such as Odin endured in a heartbeat. There is a very real possibility of the loss of life and in that moment there is no place for the extraneous thinking which corrupts the minds of the masses. Likewise, drug addicts, victims of abuse, people who have been abandoned, people who have given up, people suffering with disease, whether they realize it or not, are in the same boat. In that golden moment of clarity, an option for the survival of the being may become evident. Some folk just will not make. Yet some few may find that they have what it takes to stand up and fight again.