Monday, August 15, 2016

Conversations We Need to Be Having: an Ongoing Discussion with Galina Krasskova (Pt. 8)

The objections from Beckett & Co. re "spiritual impurity" all seem to boil down to two big complaints: this is too much work, and it makes us feel dirty. There's this idea that staying spiritually pure is an onerous never-ending task which will leave you with deep emotional scars. To me it's as simple as "respect your Gods and avoid people who do not respect them; exercise caution in liminal spaces like graveyards and maternity wards; honor your gut instinct if it tells you something or someone is tainted; if you cannot avoid impurity ward beforehand and cleanse afterwards." And I'm at a loss to see how any of that is particularly onerous or traumatic.

That being said, I can see how the term might seem intimidating or off-putting to someone unfamiliar with the concept. And so I think it's worthwhile to offer a quick and dirty basic description of what spiritual impurity is and how you avoid it.

GK:  I think in part it's unresolved damage from Christian upbringings. There's also this misunderstanding of pollution and miasma that ascribes a value judgement to the idea of being polluted, as though when someone is in miasma, we're saying they're a bad person. That's not the case at all. Miasma is generally a neutral thing, just like taking a bath and washing one's hair ought to be. You do or are exposed to X, you're miasmic, you clean. It shouldn't have any particular charge more than that. However, all of that being said, perhaps what they're finding "onerous" and "traumatic" is the idea that they may have to take responsibility for themselves spiritually in a way predicated on the idea of a hierarchy of Powers. I read a blog recently wherein the writer (and yes, I did feel absolutely polluted after reading it) said that while she acknowledges herself as a polytheist, she doesn't see any arguable difference between herself and the Gods, and doesn't consider Them greater than herself, and it doesn't matter by what names They are called" and this after having spent years in Heathenry. I thought, "sweetheart, maybe that assed up notion is why your life is shit." My comment of course reflects my disgust with the complete lack of character displayed here, but in terms of miasma, any miasma present would reflect the lack of right relationship with the cosmic hierarchies: gods and ancestors, the lack of relational integrity and specifically because this is a willful, volitional lack of respect. I really do think that the push back against ideas of pollution and miasma have more to do with certain anti-structural sentiments in the communities than perhaps with anything else. Traditions after all are predicated on specific structures. These things are the necessary scaffoldings that allow traditions to unfold. If you want to weaken a tradition simply attack the particularities of it, attack the scaffolding.

Part of it also is people don't, because of their backgrounds, want to exclude anyone or anything -- because they've been excluded. Consequently they are tolerant and permissive to a fault. We saw this with the Kenny Klein thing. They didn't want to exclude him, made excuses for him because in the past their own feelings had been hurt and now they didn't want themselves to seem bigoted or judgmental. I'm sorry though: some things one needs to be judgmental about, and in Kenny Klein's case child abuse fits the bill. So i think we're seeing multiple threads coming together here to create a storm of antagonism and purposeful misunderstanding. It doesn't help that 'purity' is a very loaded term in monotheism, one that is often used to attack women's sexuality and behavior. This definition of purity has absolutely nothing to do with miasma.

Then again, the cynic in me wants to point out that if we really took miasma seriously as a community, if we were really each doing the requisite cleansings that our Gods and ancestors required, that we felt we needed to do in order to maintain good discernment and good integrity of being before the Gods and spirits, maybe we'd see through some of the bullshit currently being spread throughout our communities.

Your most recent blog entry talked about the "Pagan/Heathen Atheists" who are openly hostile to any forms of devotion. I think this is the big reason (or one of the big reasons) we need to hold the line on the issue of the Gods' literal existence. Yes, there is room for debate and discussion on the nature of the Gods: there would have to be, seeing as how They are Mysteries beyond our comprehension. There is room for crises of faith and for behaving with honor and dignity in the face of your doubts. But there can't be room for people who refuse to treat our beliefs with respect and who refuse to bend their knee before the Gods. If they're just symbols, what's the big deal? You can put your hand over your heart when you hear the National Anthem: it won't kill you to say a prayer for Odin or Apollo. But of course that question never gets answered, and instead we're expected to conform to their expectations.

GK: What angers me the most about atheist incursions is summed up in an encounter I had awhile back that I wrote about here. In that piece, I talk about an encounter that I had a local shop. An atheist was talking about how he was Heathen, but only because he liked to hang out with his dudebros and drink, and he thought the Viking ethics were good to live by. I challenged him, on his appropriation of our religion and he said "well, it's not a religion to me so it doesn't matter." The extreme self-centeredness is, I think particularly enlightening. There is zero respect for the religion, the tradition, or the people and communities practicing it. Moreover these people come in and expect us to lower our standards to their level, to accommodate them in their impiety and ignorance. Our traditions are viewed as something for them to use and enjoy, as something disposable, and they do not care about the hurt and harm that they are doing. They do not care about the damage they may cause. It's all about them, and making sure that no one else can have anything deeper and more significant than the experiences they will allow themselves. It's holding not just spiritual mediocrity and shallowness, but spiritual absence up as a life goal. There is a contempt for the Gods because they will not humble themselves to acknowledge that something greater than they themselves exists. And because they won't, they cannot stand that others do and reap the not insignificant benefits of piety. They can't even have a live and let live philosophy, and note they only ever come into our communities demanding that, we never go into theirs demanding that they acknowledge the Gods and change their atheist beliefs.

I agree with you: this must of necessity be our hard line: there is no room in our traditions for people who refuse to treat our beliefs with respect and who refuse to bend their knees before the Gods. No room at all and we need to hold the line against this pollution.