Most of us probably think we’re doing pretty well, spiritually speaking. The typical follower of the Germanic Way has plenty of good qualities – intellectual curiosity, the boldness to take a different path, and, we can suppose, dedication to a tough code of conduct.
Sometimes, being human, we do not live up to the best within us. Our nobility slips, we take the easy way out, and those character defects within each of us become all too obvious. It’s at times like this we need to ask ourselves just how much we are a credit to our ancestors, and to the Holy Powers.
We’ve all made progress – after all, you wouldn’t even be reading these words if you were not on a spiritual quest in one sense or another. It is equally certain that all of us have a long way to go. Indeed, since the Gods and Goddesses represent idealized models for our own evolution, it’s safe to say that we are all at the base of a mountain, staring at the snowy peaks of spiritual attainment towering high above us.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all applied ourselves to attaining the best of which we were capable…If we could know, do, and be more? Think of all we could do – for the Holy Powers, for our Folk and for ourselves.
The Need for Evolution
Does it matter? If Asatru satisfies us as individuals, isn’t that enough?
My answer to that last question is – “No.” It’s not enough just to sort of stumble along, failing to meet even the minimal standards demanded by our faith.
Here’s why: We are trying to build Asatru as a strong, coherent way of life in the modern age. Think of it as trying to craft a fine steel weapon: Forging the sword of the Germanic Way requires high-grade ore, impurities burned away, tempered and hardened by spiritual discipline into a fine blade. We – you and I – are that raw material being shaped into something higher.
All this matters very much, because Asatru may be the last hope for the European-descended peoples. We have lost our way, cut off from our ancient paths of wisdom. Unless we once again drink from the wellsprings of truth and honor, we will wither and die. It is our duty to the Gods, to the ancestors, and to our descendants yet unborn to ensure the survival and status of our kind! To fulfill these holy responsibilities, we must develop our spiritual prowess to the highest possible level. Remember, the Gods and Goddesses of Asatru are not our masters…they are models for our own growth!
Years ago, I had a friend who wanted to improve the world through political action. He tried it all – newsletters, meetings, distributing literature, forming a community. But as the months turned into years he realized that there was a problem: Namely, the quality of the people who came his way! Some were stupid. Others were bright, but twisted with negativity. Still others were drunks, or incompetents, or cheats, or unreliable. Almost no one met the standards needed to form a functioning community of dedicated and idealistic activists.
Finally, my friend jettisoned the riff-raff. No more meetings. No more newsletters. No more entertaining bums and hate-addicts. His principles remained unchanged, but he turned to other methods to promote them. In the years that followed, he worked with a much smaller number of idealists, teaching meditation techniques for personal spiritual evolution. He accomplished more – for his cause and for himself – in the next year or two than in all the painful and discouraging years that had gone before. “Change yourself and you will change thousands!” he wrote. And he was right.
The way to purify the iron of Asatru lies in spiritual evolution. With effort, we can transform it into a fine steel sword with which to hack out our destiny.
Strangely enough, Ananda – a yoga community in the county where I live – provides a shining inspiration for us. I always thought of yoga as something foreign, so it took me a few years to overcome my preconceptions about the folks who made up this community. In time, I came to know quite a few of them, and I realized they had a lot to teach us. Members of Ananda are expected to meditate twice a day, and to abstain from meat and alcohol. Before they are allowed to become residents, they undergo a year’s screening process that involves living under primitive conditions and meditating a lot. Once admitted, their financial contribution to Ananda makes most Christians and Asatruar look like misers.
Of course, one can always dismiss this level of commitment as the result of brainwashing. Some Asatruar rationalize their own lack of effort – and lack of monetary commitment – as a sign of independence and freedom. Any attempt to get them to donate time, accept responsibility, or put cash into the movement is met with accusations of “greed” and “Christian-like” behavior. These are the same Asatru wannabees who think they’re being generous when they pitch in the spare change from their beer money. They would have nothing but contempt for the yoga practitioners at Ananda, who, they’d say, were misguided and exploited. But are the folks at Ananda really hypnotized sheep waiting to be shorn by a manipulating guru? On the contrary, I found them intelligent, friendly, and dedicated. They are doing a lot of things right, and the root of their success is daily practice aimed at spiritual evolution – at changing themselves!
I’m not suggesting we ought to become vegetarians or take up yoga – though it might not hurt – but there are plenty of things we can do within an Asatru context to get our own evolution moving in high gear.
A Plan for Spiritual Evolution
We all need to work at improving ourselves – not randomly, not in a hit-or-miss manner, but in a systematic and deliberate way.
So how do you do this?
The first step is to take a look at where you are. Edred Thorsson, in his Nine Doors of Midgard, describes a procedure in which the individual makes two lists – one reflecting his or her desirable traits, and another of undesirable characteristics. This isn’t something to be done in a few minutes; several days should be given to this task. Simply put, the idea is to increase or strengthen the good points, and decrease or eliminate the bad ones. Some of you may want to assign a rune to each trait, and use that as a basis for affirmations or runic exercises.
It’s easy to get into the habit of just going with the flow. Evolution, however, requires stress. Learn to push yourself in some respect every day. This may be physically, mentally, spiritually – or some combination of these. The important thing is to remind yourself not to take the easy way out.
Strive to serve
Most religions have their individual components, to be sure, but we do not live in a vacuum. Our spiritual practice should not be so self-centered that we slip into narcissism, isolated from others. Our talents and capabilities should be brought to bear in service to the Holy Powers, to the growth of Asatru in general, and to the Folk.
Exercise your spirituality daily
The Ananda people meditate twice daily, in addition to numerous other religious duties and events. Each of us should seek our equivalent of these daily devotions. My personal routine typically includes meal blessings, a washing/purification rite, Greeting to the Sun, meditation exercises to help master the subtle energies associated with breath, or runic exercises. Most days include a physical workout, as well.
Your own practice may be different. The important thing is to find a program of self-improvement that you can maintain over a long period of time. An overly-strenuous regimen which you drop after a few days is not as good as a more modest one that becomes a long-term habit.
The future depends on us. We are the metal from which the future of our Folk is fashioned. If we are weak, Asatru will be weak. If we are strong, Asatru will reflect that strength.
Today is a good day to start getting stronger!
Change yourself, and you will change thousands!