Conversations We Need To Be Having

I’ve been talking to Kenaz Filan quite a bit of late, in light of the recent community brouhahahas (though we’re also old friends, going back more than a decade). We tend to have these amazing, weighty discussions off list and of late both of us have pointed out that we need to be having some of those same conversations in public, where everyone can consider, benefit, and jump in. So with his kind permission, I’m sharing here the conversation we had this morning.

Kenaz: We can start with an interesting quote which Alley Valkyrie posted, approvingly, to her FB feed:

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“The social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the future. It cannot begin with itself before it has stripped away all superstition about the past. The former revolutions required recollections of past world history in order to smother their own content. The revolution of the nineteenth century must let the dead bury their dead in order to arrive at its own content. There the phrase went beyond the content – here the content goes beyond the phrase.” – Karl Marx

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Call me a fascist reactionary privileged white person — but that quote is absolutely fucking antithetical to ancestral veneration.  It calls on the dead to bury their dead; it dismisses the past as “superstition;” it privileges the Is-Now and the Will-Be over the Was and states that the social revolution it envisions has nothing to learn from the past.  And anybody who can’t see that has missed the point of Marxism, ancestral veneration or both.  (Of course, I could argue that if you’re trying to mix Marxism with any other kind of religion — because that’s exactly what Marxism is, a theoeconomic religion — you’ve missed a few points already). 

Galina: Kenaz, I’m so disgusted by that quote. It encapsulates every single thing that I find appallingly wrong about the Marxist left. It is postulated on a complete disconnect from the past, from our obligations to the dead, to our Gods, to our traditions. It is a mindset born of a fractured and damaged present. It also neatly abrogates any responsibilities to one’s own ancestors. It stands against the very heart not just of Polytheism specifically but of Paganism in general. No wonder there is so little common ground between us and the G&R folks if this is the paradigm from which they’re working. I think this just shows the sickness of our world. The cure of course is exactly what Marx was railing against in that quote. Go figure.

Kenaz: The more I see of cultural Marxism the more I despise it.  Intellectual thuggery, groupthink and sanctimonious shaming, rote recitation of quotes and slogans in lieu of actual thought — what’s not to dislike?  Marxism fulfills the function of a religion in that it gives adherents a lens to view their world and their place therein.  But it privileges humanity (more precisely, human socioeconomic activity) and sees the Gods as nothing but “opiates” created to distract the benighted masses.  At very best, it judges Them according to its own commandments, accepting or rejecting Their message based on whether or not it agrees with Das Kapital.  

Galina: I agree with you completely. Look at where that positions the Gods. I’ve often wondered why people like Rhyd (he’s been the most recent to posit this, but there have been others) find the idea of a devotional relationship with the Gods that is NOT predicated on commerce, on ‘I’m praying so You will give me things,’ so incomprehensible. It’s as though anything other than mercantile relationships are outside the boundaries of their understanding and what a horrible way to live in the world. We honor our Gods because They are Gods and we are devoted to Them because we love Them. Why is that so difficult to comprehend, that we are restoring our traditions not just because it is correct to do so, not just because this is the curative for our world, but because we love and adore the Powers? Well, I think in quotes like the above, we have our answer. Marxism is a natural progression from industrialization and industrialization severed the last of the sacred ties between community and the land, between us and our natural world, and the natural orders of that world. No wonder this is so hard for some.

Kenaz: I hate the racism and anti-Semitism endemic to so much of the Alt.Right.  There were Jews in Europe before the Slavenoi got there, for one thing: for another I resent the fact that my options as a white American are White Supremacism or White Self-Hatred thanks to the WP crew and their cultural Marxist frenemies.  But at least the alt.right has some respect for words like “patriotism,” “dignity” and “honor:” Alley and Pals support the guy who spit on a woman wearing a “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” because America stands for nothing but racism, injustice and imperialism and that slogan is an Act Of Violence against people of color.  (No, I’m not joking: I fucking wish I was… ).  And for all the talk about Nazi Racist violence, the Radical Left seems far more excited about taking the fight to the streets than the White Nationalists.  

Galina: well that’s just it: any disagreement to these people is an act of violence. Think about that: thinking differently is an act of violence. This right here is why I am so down on the illiberal left: there’s no room left for discourse and reason. It’s all about upholding the party line, never questioning it, and a healthy dose of self abasement too. I can’t comment on someone spitting on someone because that person thinks differently than they do…there’s nothing good I can say about that and very little other than profanity that will come out of my mouth when confronted which such pathetic lack of character and reason.

(Kenaz then refers to a conversation we were having with an American-Hindu woman on fb, discussing Hindu-Muslim violence in Southeast Asia. Kenaz had asked if she actually believed in the Gods or thought of Them only as symbols or archetypes, because it makes a difference).

Kenaz: it really does come down in the end to that pesky question of belief.  If Hanuman is something more than a myth or symbol, then we have to take His position into account and consider His claim on that land.  I was actually saddened when she said “I’d ask if you are serious, but of course you are.”  Yes, I am seriously saying that I believe in Hanuman and His claim to that land. And until she believes in the Gods of her people, she will continue trying to mollify people who hold her in contempt and people who are trying to kill her.

Galina: Bingo. And this is what I see so much of in polytheism and paganism in general: trying to excuse and/or make nice with monotheism. Stop apologizing to those who conquered your ancestors and destroyed your traditions are are still trying to abolish our ways. Stop thinking they’re our friends or equals or allies. Stop. Just fucking stop. You’re suffering from some sort of intergenerational Stockholm syndrome. Wake up and see the world as it really is: permeated to its rotted core with the systemic filter of monotheism, with a structure that would utter destroy our ancestral ways and us too if we refuse to submit. Islam may be the purest expression of that monotheism, but make no mistake, the Christianity with which we have to also contend is no better. Individuals within these traditions may be (and are) but the systems themselves, are devastating and will never be anything but and the sooner we wake up and realize that, the better.

There’s a wonderful quote that I reference quite frequently by Dr. Frances Cress-Welsing: “The most disastrous aspect of colonization which you are the most reluctant to release from your mind is their colonization of the image of God.” I think that is part of what’s going on here combined with this narrative that we are somehow more advanced than our ancestors, somehow more ‘enlightened,’ and that polytheism and animism is somehow ‘primitive.’. We get that from academia and this ‘hierarchy of religions’ which places protestant Christianity (or now, maybe atheism) at the top and indigenous religions, polytheisms, etc. at the bottom. It pervades our culture and is, in reality, just a continuation of the damage of monotheistic conquest: the idea that our religions are a point from which we should evolve (preferably into agnosticism or atheism). The true opposite of monotheism is NOT atheism or any of those things, it’s polytheism and make no mistake the system of monotheism is well aware of that fact.

(Kenaz is working on a beautiful memorial to my adopted mom so we moved into discussing that.)

Kenaz: As I continue working on Fuensanta’s memorial I become more and more aware of just how deep the social rot is.  Our best hope — our only hope, really — is to establish a few dozen or a few hundred homes where the Gods are honored.  Our descendents will rebuild the temples. We need to create islands of piety amidst the social collapse, to make safe spaces for the Gods and provide examples of pietas in a world that has forgotten it.  (I expect at this point that I will see the end of American democracy and if I don’t Annamaria certainly will). 

Galina: I think that’s true. I know with the work that we do, that we are working for a tradition and a community that we will never ourselves see realized. We’re laying the groundwork, the scaffolding upon which future generations will build. I do think that it’s only when we have multiple generations of practicing polytheists that we’re going to get anywhere. This is why passing these traditions and the piety onto our children is so very important.

Kenaz: As for Annamaria, here’s a little anecdote: Kathy and I noticed we were short on the peanut butter cups we give Legba for an offering.  Annamaria heard us talking and said we could give Mr. Legba her candy if He was hungry.  Loki has told me Annamaria will be greater than either of her parents and will go farther: I don’t doubt Him for a minute.  And if we can get a few more children like her, children who love the Gods from the cradle onward and who are never taught that the sneer is the highest of all human expressions, then I really think we can re-establish veneration and piety in our world.

Galina: Kenaz, your daughter is already more pious and sensible than many adults I know. This does me good to read.

Kenaz (referring another young person with whom we were speaking earlier): K.’s story was interesting: he was apparently an atheist and “modern Indian” until he had an up close and personal meeting with the Gods of his people.  Now he’s a Hindu activist who wants to see Monotheism overthrown, or at the very least called on the carpet for its many crimes.  The Gods of India are angry, and rightly so: I am heartened to see They are reclaiming Their land.   I may try my hand at a piece for the Hindu Post or some similar publication or for an alternative right publication that actually *honors* the Gods rather than using them as props for their political agenda.  (I already have a Gnostic Christian friend who is interested in creating a moderate/centrist forum for discussion of topics like Islam, open borders, etc. — we may see some movement in that arena soon).

Galina: I think you absolutely should. I need to get on my next column too. We need those spaces for discussion and disagreement. We need to be having conversations, networking, and raising each other up. That is the only way forward, with the Gods ever and always at the centered heart of our work.

Kenaz: I am also beginning to understand just how right Andvari was when He said you could look to Fuensanta and find all you need to live a virtuous polytheistic life.  Even my earliest concerns concerning her potential deification vanished when I was able to get past that damn Monotheism Filter.  There is a history in many, many traditions of individuals who led noteworthy lives becoming deified or beatified:  Rama & Sita, various Roman emperors — the idea is challenging only if you doubt that Gods might sometimes choose to walk among us for Their own reasons.  

Galina: Absolutely.

Kenaz: One of the Monotheism Filter’s most deadly forms is the “Golden Age” trope. When you start talking about legendary eras when the Gods walked among us, you imply They no longer do so.  If you see the sagas not as Lore which sets our beliefs in stone but as earlier chapters in an ongoing Story, your vision of the world changes radically.  (It also helps you dispense with yet another odious modern idea, the belief that the Gods need our worship and that they vanished once we quit praying to them.  Contemplation and prayer are primarily of benefit to us, not the Gods.  That is not to say that humans don’t play a major role in Their plans or that They don’t appreciate veneration: it’s to note that the Gods aren’t scavengers feeding on sanctimonious words and incense fumes like so many flies buzzing around a steaming pile of dung. We need Them far more than They need us.  (We’re not the crown of creation; we’re not the sole sentient species on this planet; we’re not even the apex predator. Anybody who doubts this can ask Andvari.  If they’re unclear on the third they can spend a few minutes above ground in Svartalfheim.  

Galina: yep and this is one of the things that I see in Heathenry way too much: the idea that the Gods only talked to heroes of the saga age and before, that They cannot and don’t do so to us now. It’s bullshit. The Gods absolutely have a vested interest in engagement and they DO. Clearly.

I think the prevalence of this narrative though is partly the discomfort that I mention above with the idea that perhaps there is something ignorant or superstitious, primitive about polytheism and we as moderns should know better. That is so deeply ingrained in our society and in academia for sure. I think polytheism makes some polytheists uncomfortable (I know that actual engagement with the Gods, who may not hold the same ideas and ethics that we do certainly does) and that leads to this reification of “lore” over experience and more to the point, downplaying Their potential for interaction, downplaying the Gods in favor of raising the community to the center. Problem is, it doesn’t work. A healthy polytheistic community is one that is centered on the Gods, not one where the Gods are tangential to the community.

Kenaz: Anyway, apologies for the wall of text.  I would like to get this in a blog or some other forum as I think we’re touching upon a lot of good ideas.

Galina: Good thoughts as always, Kenaz. I agree: these conversations need to happen. Thanks for letting me share this.

 

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Posted on August 8, 2016, in Fighting the Filter, Polytheism, theology, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Very interesting…and some of what you’re discussing here is at the heart of some issues that are also being discussed on my end via back-channels at present, i.e. sidelining the agency and will of Deities in favor of social acceptability and community cohesion (or some attempt thereof).

    But, I’m posting a comment right now to be, as it were, a second voice for something Kenaz mentioned, and which I also broached with you a while back, and please forgive me if this is not appropriate to revisit. The more I hear about Fuensanta, the more I think more people should know about her, especially if they want to understand piety in a polytheist context. So, why not write a short biographical book on her? (It wouldn’t need to be more than a hundred pages…and could be more personal reflection than painstakingly researched academic tome, etc.) We do need exemplary figures to learn from, even if they have imperfections (which we all do), and even if they were modest and humble in their self-assessment amidst their exemplary devoted spiritual work (which almost all real spiritual practitioners are, for good and for ill!), and one of the best ways to do that is to have biographies of people who are esteemed. It doesn’t have to be a “hagiography,” though that would also not be unwelcome, nor unnecessary, in our given era. Anyway, just planting a bug (again!) on this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ganglerisgrove

      Stop. It’s really starting to piss me off that i’m being pressured to make public that which people have no fucking right to: my own personal correspondence with my mother.

      I agree with everything you say here, everything, but frankly, why should I share these treasures with a community that doesn’t give a shit about how polluted it is? Why? I don’t want to see this mentioned again. The more you (or anyone else for that matter might) push, the less likely i am to ever do it.

      I have a duffle bag of large binders of letters from her that i can’t bring myself to reread yet. I have thought that in time, I will put together a collection and share it, but that time is not now. I had to sit long and hard with Kenaz’s memorial before I could say ‘ok.”. I’ve already had to threaten legal action against one person trying to misuse my mother’s story for his own end. No one is entitled to this. No one.

      I will do this when I deem it right. Stop mentioning it please.

      As to sidelining the Gods in favor of social acceptability, that’s a thing. it’s been going on for years. Why do you think so few of us write for patheos anymore? that was precisely the issue there (one of many). I see it constantly in community discourse and it’s certainly one of the problematic issues with Heathenry (though I don’t think Heathenry is alone in this). People are attached to the idea of convention and normalcy. Well, here is a new normal and it puts the Gods a the center of the world.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m so sorry…I had no idea all of that was going on. I would never suggest anyone has a “right” to what you shared.

        As someone who stopped writing for Patheos as well (just over two years ago, but it seems like much longer since so much has happened since then), I know what you mean…!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. ganglerisgrove

    PSVL i miss her every day. when she died she took a part of me with her. One day maybe it won’t be so raw and sharp but now …it still is it really really is.

    I know you’re right and eventually I will do this, but it’s going to be awhile. In the meantime, Kenaz is has in progress a remarkable memorial piece.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. ganglerisgrove

    God damn it, PSVL. I’ll do it. You ARE right. you work with the dead. you understand the importance of our sancti and heroes. Sannion said he would help me so that will make it easier. my mother was a cleaning devil (“putzteufel”). maybe her medicine is exactly what’s needed now. god damn it.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. ganglerisgrove

    Sannion pointed out to me that what enabled christianity to win was the cult of the saints, both as exemplars of virtue and the power they embody, relics, etc. we have ours too and maybe it’s time we made that more public.

    god damn it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 😉

      Our work is never easy, and never asks us to do what is comfortable…And the examples Sannion said, and how you phrased it–that perhaps this is exactly what is needed now, and need often overrules want–were things I was thinking, but I knew you’d have to come to it yourself rather than hearing it from me.

      I wasn’t expecting you would this soon (!?!), but hoped you would in the next few years. This is awesome, and I thank you for even considering it!

      May her light be a guide to a world that is suffering under its own self-imposed darkness.

      Liked by 2 people

      • ganglerisgrove

        I figure if Sannion can do the first reading through all the material and select letters, then I can go through and further select and organize so …no use putting it off.

        I’ve a houseful of people for most of august but once they all get safely packed off home, we’ll start.

        Liked by 1 person

    • thetinfoilhatsociety

      No, No. NOT God dam it. Gods BLESS it. And them. And you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I only met Fuensanta a few times and doubt I exchanged five hundred words with her total during her lifetime. But those brief exchanges had a subtle but enormous impact on the way I see the Gods and from there on how I see the world. After meeting Lao-Tze Confucius said he had seen a dragon. When I met Fuensanta I saw colorless flame flickering in a flawless gem under clear water; I saw a mirror that only reflected back holiness; I saw that which Loki holds beloved above all else. I have seen and I believe. And I hope that when I share that with others they may believe as well.

    Galina, I recognize the enormous grief you still carry and wanted to thank you again for your courage in helping with this project.

    Liked by 2 people

    • ganglerisgrove

      Thank you, Kenaz. When I do start working (at the end of Aug) on this project, would you allow me to quote what you’ve just written here? It is a beautiful tribute to her. I often can’t find the words to talk about her holiness, and the way she helped me connect to the Gods, the way she inspired devotion …everywhere. I become lost still in my grief. But these are good words, and a legacy of which, I know she would have been proud.

      Liked by 1 person

    • May your words be a beacon, as hers were, and will continue to be, Kenaz!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. ganglerisgrove

    Thank you, Kenaz!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “I think the prevalence of this narrative though is partly the discomfort that I mention above with the idea that perhaps there is something ignorant or superstitious, primitive about polytheism and we as moderns should know better.”

    Gods I see this so much, and it’s so depressing, that even polytheists can’t quite get over this bias they’ve inherited from non-polytheist sources. You know, this is one reason that it can be good to have some of us mystics out on the fringes of society, doing our utmost to divorce ourselves from mainstream culture… because we have a clearer perspective on this stuff, and aren’t as prone to getting sucked into it.

    Also, that stuff about people thinking that the gods only interacted with humans during the heroic age and not now? Why the hell doesn’t that make more people want to step up and be BETTER? If you think gods only speak to heroes, then become a fucking hero! Do something extraordinary with your life! Don’t just accept it and go back to watching tv. Ugh.

    Of course, I think the gods interact with us all the time and don’t require us to be heroes for that, but at the same time I always work on being someone worth Their time and attention.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. While I have to admit one of those with a strong aversion to make America great again it is because I have seen nothing yet to suggest it has been. The birth of America has been one big mess that stood on the graves of countless slaves, natives and poor masses. I think it is better to say simply make America great. …and the best way to do that for us is to put our gods at the core and show respect to indigenous gods and spirits. True piety rather than ambiguous feel good metaphors. And constant exchange of kharis. And I couldn’t agree more that it shouldn’t be with an idea of commerce *although I have never been above making an offer of more splendid offerings for their help* but through devotion and recognition of the glory of the gods. It sad sometimes, as much as I dislike Christianity, how they seem to have some of the most devoted sing praises out of adoration type peeps I have ever met. Well and Hare Krishnas too tend to be that way 😉 Adoration and praise for no other merit than glorifyingvthe gods should be seen as a goal…yet just the opposite happens. People back peddle like crazy from it in our communities. Wtf

    Liked by 2 people

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