Heathenry's God Problem

Heathenry has a God Problem. And it will continue to do so for so long as heathens continue to refuse to tackle our own inherent biases and understanding of the Divine. We need to be careful, clear eyed, and above all ready to slay our own egos in trying to come to grips with our relationship with the divine; how we approach it, how we interact it. Understanding divinity itself is, I feel, impossible. I doubt our minds can really wrap around divinity and get it. We barely manage understanding humanity, let alone divinity!

The Divine is immensely greater than ourselves. It (They) are power incarnate, their existence remains a mystery, and yet, their revelation is enough to fundamentally change who a person is. Divinity, when manifest, is accompanied by signs and wonders. This is because the divine warps reality as we understand it, they cause the pattern of wyrd to swirl around them like planets picking up moons. They are a real that is more real than the reality we encounter every day. When in the presence of the divine, we are humiliated. We fall to our knees not because we choose to but because we must. We avert our gaze not because a sense of propriety but it hurts to look into the heart of a star. Divinity is infinitely more powerful than us, and a revelation only enforces that.

Revelations, or hierophanies, or manifestations of the divine, whatever you may choose to call it they are life changing. They remove something in you, some limitation you didn’t even know you had; they make you feel as if you have never felt before. They open you up like a jewelry box, insert Truth with a capital T within you and you know completeness and power and you can see what purple tastes like. And when it is over with, you are made empty. That truth is gone, and only the memory remains. And if you are lucky, you will never get that feeling again. People who experience hierophanies are junkies, addicts, they chase Gods like tweakers chase a fix. Because when you glimpse reality, as it really is, everything else is dulled and lifeless. Everything else is a reminder that everything else is not that thing you once experienced.

Is it any wonder then, that advice to those who seek out the divine in a personal way is, “for the love of holiness, don’t!” That advice is tempered, it is wisdom, and more often than not, it is the voice of experience. Ask a junkie, once the love affair is over, whether they’d recommend picking up a heroin habit. As a rule, the answer would be a fairly consistent negative.

But if divinity is addictive, if it is so dangerous, why do we seek it out? Why do we petition it? One, because divinity is not just dangerous, it is also good. The Gods are good. They love us, care for us, and give us gifts. We give them gifts in return. But what about addiction? Well, as we are beginning to understand, addiction is a reaction to isolation. Approaching the divine as a community, at one with our community, anchors us in a way that personal relationships do not and cannot. It allows us to experience these moments in a healthy, positive, and fulfilling way. We are not left empty, because when divinity leaves us, it leaves us with each other. Our Community. As it should be.

But the addiction / community connection dichotomy is not the only reason personal relationships are a bad idea. Instead, I want to approach it from the other direction, from that of the Divine, and how the idea of a human being seeking them out for a relationship may look to someone so powerful. I still stand by my earlier assertion that Divinity is unknowable, but I do think we can approach an understanding, if we instead focus on the relationship between man and Divinity in terms of a power dynamic. Powerful people are lonely people. Successful ones learn quickly that people are attracted to the power, not the person, and that often as not, it is the power that is the purpose of relationship seeking. As such, the Powerful guard their hearts and their obligations carefully, making sure not to become beholden to people who are not truthfully friends. Even then, the concept of friendship for the powerful is not the same as we might understand it. The power disparity is an ever present thing, between King and subject, between Lord and vassal, between Divinity and Man. Men are faithless, men betray, men lie. The Divine knows this, and our Gods know this even better than some. We, who seek to enter into relationships with the divine, are well served to remember that we are descended from oath breakers and ill friends, from those who turned their back on the Divine. Does this mean that the gods blame us? I hope not, truly, I hope that is not the case. But I do think that the act, the betrayal, is fundamentally bound up in the relationship, and we can never erase it, just as we can never erase a deed we have committed.

So where does this leave us? Should we abandon our pursuit of the Divine, of entering into a wholesome and healthy relationship with Them, and perhaps coming close enough to feel a bit of that feeling, we may have felt that one time? I don’t intent to. I could not stop chasing this even if I wanted to. But I must temper that desire with the knowledge that it could destroy me, and the necessity that coming close to the Gods, on behalf of others and in congress with others, is a way to demonstrate good faith, and approach the Gods in a way that benefits my people, not myself. That benefit can then reflect back and I can once again return to that moment of divine communion, and still remain myself when it is done, not empty, but fulfilled.

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