If I had to name my favorite and most influential philosopher, I would have to go with Nietzsche. His concepts tend to be brilliant, often misunderstood, and relevant in ways one never really suspects until much later. He tends to live up to that bad ass mustache of his.
One of the things that has greatly influenced my life is his view on life, and his theory of eternal recurrence. Eternal Recurrence is the idea/thought experiment that everything in this life has already happened and will happen again, From big bang to death of the universe, which in turn sparks the big bang and existence repeats itself exactly as it has happened. You have already lived your life an infinite number of times and you will live it an infinite number more. If that sounds amazing and depressing as it sinks in, good, that was the idea.
The idea he followed that with was that you had to affirm your life. Everything good, and everything bad. No matter how good, or how bad. Because it was going to happen a lot. And if you couldn’t affirm it, then you should end your life so that at least your eternal suffering wouldn’t last as long. Most people balk at this idea, but when you realize all the things he suffered personally, and the fact that he never gave in, leads me to believe that Nietzsche held himself to this standard. It’s a standard I try to hold myself to as well.
But this “affirmation” can extend past ourselves, and into other areas of our lives. I touched on this a bit in my previous post when I said we need to “affirm our religions,” as part of preserving them and bringing back the elders we are rapidly loosing to political strife.
A lot of people in paganism talk about it being for “spirituality,” which really just translates into “something that makes me feel good.” Now, I’m not going to say there’s anything inherently wrong with that (Just like I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with smoking, drinking, or doing weed because they make you feel good), but what I’m going to say today is a bit biased based on the way and reasons I came to Paganism almost 15 years ago.
I didn’t pick Paganism because it made me feel good. I didn’t come to paganism because I was looking for anything “spiritual.” I came to Paganism because I came to believe the Gods were real, all gods, including the Christian and Muslim one. And I didn’t come to Paganism because I was necessarily looking for anything “objectively moral.”
I became a Pagan (well, Heathen then) because I was looking for a religion I could believe in and affirm.
Religions, regardless of their origin, are fundamentally a set of ideals. Each religion is its own ideology, with it’s own framework of what is right and what is wrong. What is acceptable behavior, and what is unacceptable behavior. It has its solutions for how to deal with bad behaviors and how to reward good behaviors.
So I looked around, I looked at a number of religions, I looked at my ancestor, my personality, my beliefs at the time and I said to myself, “What religion can I affirm with my whole being?”
And to start of with, it has Heathenism, the religion of my Scandinavian ancestors. It was a religion within whose morals I could function and find guidance, and whose customs I could affirm in their entirety.
And I do mean in their entirety.
Now, I’m going to guess that some people don’t really get what I’m saying there, so I’ll explain it in a bit.
I talked yesterday in my three points about how you have to “know and affirm your orthodoxy.” For so long, Paganism as an umbrella has been defined by “orthopraxy over orthodoxy.” Which in a larger societal context is good. As long as you are behaving in the right way and doing the right thing, it shouldn’t matter what you believe. As a Rationalist, I agree with this position. However, as many Rationalists are discovering, there are ideologies (like Marxism or a few others) which are inherently harmful to all of humanity both in terms of the freedoms they destroy as well as the violence they commit to enforce their ideology. Many Rationalists I watch on Youtube like Sargon of Akkad, are reaching much the same conclusion I have.
There must be an Orthodoxy in your life. For rationalists like Sargon, it’s that things have to be objectively factual and inherently liberal. Truth and Freedom is his Orthodoxy, and that which seeks to subvert or even remove that Orthodoxy must be dealt with and even removed. It’s uncomfortable, it’s not a happy choice, but it is the realistic one he and other Rational Liberals are having to make.
For each of us in various pagan Religions, we have an orthodoxy handed down to us. Be it from religious founders like they have in Wicca and other initiatory religions, or in the historical orthodoxy found in say Asatru and Cultus Deorum. If we wish to be a part of these religions, then we must accept their orthodoxy or we are not practicing those religions. We’re using their names, their images and symbols, but we are not doing as we claim we wish to. If we do not engage in the “Right Beliefs” as well as the “Right Practices” then we are not affirming our religions, we are not understanding our religions, and we cannot then defend those religions from ideologies like Marxism which seek to destroy and replace them which do know and affirm their ideology.
Now, I get that some people are going to be a bit uncomfortable with enforcing Orthodoxy. “I don’t like to tell other people what to believe,” is a common line against the use of Orthodoxy. Here’s the thing though…you won’t be. You won’t be dictating what other people, or anyone else, has to believe. Because they will be free to go to a different religion or path if they do not agree with the Orthodoxy of your Religion.
The only thing you will be saying is this:
These are the beliefs of this religion, and if you cannot affirm these beliefs in their entirety, then you must go elsewhere. You may not change them to suit your own desires. For we affirm our religion and will not compromise our standards for your comforts or ideologies.”
Really, it’s not different than insisting that a person follow the laws of a nation while visiting. The only time you would be forcing someone to believe what you want is if you went out and conquered them. But as long as they are free to leave then you are not forcing them. You’re merely saying “When in Rome, believe as the Romans do.”
But here’s the rub. You have to affirm your religion’s orthodoxy and orthopraxy in its entirety. Not just the gloriously wonderful stuff you like. I mean even the stuff you don’t. This is important because even if this stuff isn’t anything that is going to come up in your lifetime, the entire idea is we are rebuilding these religions so that they can endure for the rest of humanity (with any luck).
So if you’re a Heathen, you have to affirm that sometimes violence is the answer. That tribalism is inherently part of your religion. That ideas about gender and sex and morality may run counter to present, modern, “progressive” or “correct” ideals about those things. And people are going to call you a lot of bad names because rather than affirming their beliefs on those subjects, you’re affirming your beliefs, your religion’s beliefs, on those subjects.
Same with Wicca, with Cultus, with Dianics, with any religion out there. Your religion is going to hold orthodoxies which do not agree with, and may even run counter, to modern “correct” ideals. And that’s okay, that’s a good thing. Objectively most “progressive” or “correct” ideals out there are no better or worse than anything you believe in. And you’re going to have to sit down and ask yourself…For the things I like in my religion, for the things that make my life worthwhile in my religion, can I affirm, endure, and even practice these things that will make my religious life complete and true…but harder.”
If you can, you will find a strength to your faith unlike any you imagine. I know, I’ve done it. It’s been hard sometimes, but by affirming every aspect of my religions as I go along I have known only the strength to endure those hardships through an iron will and the strength of the Gods.
If you can’t though…end it. Bail out. Go find something else you can affirm or find something that never demands that of you.
But, given posts like this one I think a lot more of you will have the strength to affirm your religions, even as they challenge what you think you presently believe.
On the bright side though, most Pagan Religions have a pretty broad Orthodoxy, so you won’t feel completely chained down and you won’t be inherently “intolerant” towards “wrongthink.” It’s just a new way of looking at the world (or an old one I guess) which will give you a firm place to say “this is right, this is wrong, and you will not be able to ruin my religion with your totalitarian beliefs or practices.” Orthodoxy in Polytheistic Religions doesn’t demand cookie-cutter mindsets, it just demands certain standards of behavior and belief and that those standards never be compromised. Keep to them, and the Gods will honor you and help you keep out those ideologies which seek the destruction of your religions.
Bellona Invicta and Hela Bless