Heathen Gnosis: Some Further Thoughts

NOTE: This was originally written on my Tumblr as a response to a question on there. As such the html may come out funny, but this is here for larger linkage and archiving

First of all, hello to my new followers. I hope you find this Tumblr vaguely interesting. Second of all, thanks for such a positive response to the original Heathen Gnosis Explanation post – I was actually expecting  a bunch of ‘you’re not a real Heathen’ comments, to which I would have responded by grinning, and mostly ignoring them. Instead it seems to have gone down rather well for something that was actually finished at 4am!

Since it seems to have reasonated on some level with lots more folks than I thought it would, I thought’d I’d unpack things a little more, as I see them. This is mostly because I’m aware the original post was pretty dense, as well as being rather long.

One thing that always seems to provoke response is the idea of transcendence – of moving beyond the world and its suffering rather than continuing to toil under the yoke of those forces that would limit and oppress us.

In the language of gnosticism, we might call them Archontic forces – Archon, meaning ruler and being a component of all those words end in -archy. Now that’s not to say that they are ‘evil’ per se – more that these forces are the regulatory tendencies, bodies, entities which maintain the status quo.

The kind of gnosis of which I’m speaking is always defined by those outside of it as ‘against’ the status quo. However, the problem with such an adversarial and dualist description is that it holds the status quo to be the default, when in fact, as Heraclitus points out: Dike eris – Strife is Justice. That’s to say that the regulatory functions which seem unchanging are in fact being constantly maintained – there are constant tweaks being made to ‘smooth out’ the raw flux of existence.

(In short, the Wodhanic fury is subsumed into functions of kingship – the furious inspiration and ecstasy is tamed and made societally acceptable. Wodhanaz becomes Odin the Monarch, head of an artificially enforced pantheon – which itself is a Greek word. But that’s another post.)

So, gnosis as I’m speaking of it is the knowing-of-that-flux, both as experience of and being-part-of-it. As part of that Beingness, the transcendence brought about by gnosis is not a beyondness. In fact it is within the flux. One does not seek to flee the kosmos, but to strip away the false filters and categories which have been laid upon it by Spirit.

For example, I suffer clinical depression, as do several family members. I have been suicidal, rendered breathless by the crushing weight of existence.The pain has been so great that I considered suicide as a way out. When one is depressed, it is extremely hard to ever contemplate another state of being. The horror of it seems to stretch endlessly in all directions.

Yet if we consider existence as flux – that even our bodies rely on homeostasis – then we begin to recognise minute changes in what we are experiencing. Our mental state does shift, however by default we attempt to self regulate so that it seems constant – a complete continuum. This does not blame the sufferer, rather we are saying Spirit would wish us to believe in the two distinct states of Depressed and Not-Depressed.

Soul, on the other hand reminds us that experience is like the ocean – it may seem flat when viewed from above, but it is composed of a multitude of tides, currents, peaks and troughs. This itself can seem terrifying – that there are movements and shifts in experience which we cannot control. We fear these changes may ripple outwards, growing in intensity, until we ourselves are lost.

And yet, have we not said that  Soul is composed of myriad interconnected beings – are we not surrounded by our ancestors? Do they no live in us,and are we not unique expressions of what they have  left behind, combined and born in this place and time?

So gnosis is therefore a deliberate knowing-of-what-is.It’s fundamentally pragmatic, concrete instead of abstract. Gnosis concerns only the Now, which, like a mustard seed, is capable of expanding to unfurl something vast. Something that does not correspond to usual notions of time and space, with clock-time and minutes and seconds.

Instead,we speak of a way of existence in which the past, present and future are in fact all one fabric.If the Old Man is the gifter of Soul and breath, then study of that breath , it’s cyclic motions of inhalations and exhalations, provides us with a way of understanding. By deliberately following the cycle of the breath and being mindfully focused on only what-is-happening-Now we begin to understand something. We need not worry about doing things correctly, or concern ourselves with any past present or future.

All we need do is breathe.

No doubt other things will occur to us, perhaps we may find our attention drifting, or experiencing sensations we were not a moment ago. And that is fine, because we have been breathing throughout all our experiences, and indeed will continue to do so without trying.

So we return our attention to the breath, recognising that it is a manifestaion of Soul, and in breathing, so we immerse ourself in Soul, curiously seeking gnosis with no expectation, only observing what is.

And in doing so, we will often reconsidering and revaluating what we thought we knew, as the knowledge of the head becomes suffused with Soul and transmuted into the gnosis, and the knowledge of the heart. It is a deep and wide understanding, into which we descend – for as Heraclitus says “The way up is the way down.”

For this reason, we pass through suffering, rather than seeking to avoid it. Suddenly, the transcendence is achieved through the world – the escape comes not as flight, but as a prisoner learing the secret which enables them to pass through the walls of their prison.

The principle of weakness applies here – we are taught that strength is to be extolled, that the best thing is to become the top dog, the greatest individual. To our Heathen forebears, none was individual. Even Beowulf was always referred to as the son of Ecgtheow. The interlinking of people, both in terms of friendship, but also in terms of kinship and ancestry means that the idea of self-reliance was fundamentlly different. It is impossible then, to achieve anything without relation to talents and proclivities  which, while we may have refined them, come from outside ourselves, either from help and learning, or from things received in response to heredity.

The notion of meginn/maegn is cognate to ‘may’ and ‘might’ So from a certain perspective we may (pun intended) say that the gnostic is one who is, much like the pneumatics, immersed in the Soul, taking their strength and ability from that interconnected, primordial and timeless Now whichis composed of myriad of forms, beings and ways. For the Soul is not and cannot be monolithic. By definition it too is like an ocean, filled with many things.

Therefore, one who has obtained the gnosis we are speaking of is never alone – but in order to do so they must give up, or sacrifice previous and standard ‘modern’ ideas of selfhood.

(And the next post is probably going to be about Odin a Loki specifically in this gnostic context, just fyi.)