By Eowyn ORFirst published in ORB 201, Summer 2006
Perfect: exact, accurate, precise, true, pure, correct in every detail, flawless, unerring, strict, scrupulous, faithful; faultless, without defect, unblemished, unimpaired, undamaged; ideal, supreme, immaculate.
We can see from the above definitions that the word ‘perfect’ has a fairly broad spectrum of meaning. However, it is almost exclusively used in daily parlance to describe an ideal state in some area of our lives. We might speak of such things as trying to be the perfect parent, having the perfect house, car, partner etc. In our mind’s eye, we have an iconised image of this perfect model, perfectly poised upon the pedestal of expectation. We strive to be wonderman / woman, seeking to attain our perceived ‘perfection’ in every area of our lives. Many try to envisage what it is to be the perfect Odinist and set to work accordingly attempting to reach that perceived state. We wistfully imagine the perfect world with a characteristic sigh that simultaneously acknowledges that it just can’t be. And therein lies the real crux of the matter. In striving for perfection, our ego creates in our mind’s eye a static image- a model carved in stone- of something we think we ‘have to’ reach, whilst simultaneously in our hearts, we know this is impossible to achieve. Then, as so often happens in consequence, we end up with unfinished projects because at some level of our consciousness, we actually fear completion of them; for when weighed against the idealised image we have so carefully honed, we worry it will appear inferior or reflect a lack in us in some way. Hence, by this standard, an incomplete project cannot be fairly judged and thus we are ‘saved’ from being found wanting. Perfectionists are folk who never feel they have done enough to justify taking a break, receiving acknowledgement etc. The quest for perfection usually masquerades as virtue when in fact all it does is to keep our energies tied up in chasing the elusive quest for status as defined by our ego. Ultimately, it is a path of pain because it is a mental game, which keeps us from experiencing the richer realities of satisfaction and completion that arise from the deeper layers of the psyche.
Our perception of perfection is usually based upon a very specific and exacting structure, which is not unlike the notion of an archetype; it is an attempt to pin down the natural movement and flux of an energy into a static, changeless form. But just as the gods exist on more levels than the archetypal, so do our beings and all that arise from them, including our understanding of ‘reality’ here in Midgard. The gods and us are forms which embody a conglomerate of energy frequencies that affect and are affected by each other constantly; indeed, the whole of nature is in a constant state of flux as the changes in one part of the ecosystem impact upon and are affected by another in a constant process of feedback, change and exchange: this is the great all-pervasive web of life. The seasons are a reflection of these energy changes and one season flows seamlessly into another. Hence paradoxically, the only ‘constant’ in life is change.
Some folk may argue that the notion of perfection is an essential feature to our lives, that without it, we would never achieve anything. After all, through the medium of myth, we are presented with stories in which we can analyse the actions of our greater kin- the gods and goddesses- in given circumstances and thus we have in them an embodied pattern of behaviour that we seek to emulate in full knowledge that in doing so, we will evolve to higher states of awareness through following their noble example. We may seek out inspiration from our heroes and heroines of yore, looking to them as idealised ‘perfect’ examples of our folk and of how we also should behave. Indeed, such response to the Odinic impulse is quite correct: within the sea of life, our ego needs to carry these idealised forms for us so that through them, we can learn, grow and maintain our substance without being washed away by every tide of change that sweeps through our lives. For if this happens, we cannot build and progress. The ego is the aspect of ourselves which enables effective survival in the material realm; and in actual fact, whilst an overdeveloped ego can be a source of destruction, in some ways within this realm, it is not as harmful as one which fails to carry these structures of perceived reality; for the latter situation leads to various states of disorientation known as insanity. However, the ego is also a dubious ally because simultaneously, it acts to maintain an addiction to a level of comfort and predictability that stops us from seeing new possibilities and responding appropriately to life. It is the manipulator of negative behaviour patterns inherited from childhood, which so often keep us stuck with inappropriate paradigms, structures of thought based upon the ideology of static perfection wrought for us by that period in our lives. We need to learn to recognise when a ‘perfect model’ has fulfilled its purpose and hence, to let go and move on to a more expanded level of awareness. There is a Buddhist story that clearly illustrates this vital principle.
A man walking along a road sees a great river; its nearest bank is dangerous and frightening, whilst its far bank is safe. He collects sticks and foliage, makes a raft and paddles across the river to reach the other shore. Now, supposing that after reaching the shore, he picks up the raft and puts it on his head, then continues along his way. Would he be using the raft in an appropriate way? No! A reasonable man realises that the raft has indeed been very useful in enabling him to cross the river and arrive safely ashore; but once there, it is proper to leave the raft behind and to continue onwards without it. For this is using the raft appropriately. Similarly, models of perfection help us make sense of our world by giving it order whilst we investigate the appropriate territory. In the course of our evolution, this is indeed necessary. However, most of us also continue to carry outmoded ‘perfect’ models, which disorientate us- weigh us down- like an unnecessary raft upon our shoulders.
This overt tendency we have to seek such absolute models of perfection in life is yet another product of the pollution within the folk soul arising directly from the monotheistic desert creeds. There is not enough scope here to go into much detail on the subject. However, the crux of the matter is that folk have been presented with an elusive figure of perfection in the form of a god who sits in sadistic judgement of individual deeds. In many ways, this figure mirrors that formed by children of their parents at a time when they are learning about the world and need to be guided by very specific rules of conduct, the transgression of which will, at times, lead to punishment until such time as they have learned the basic social skills required to live safely and fairly harmoniously within a community. In both cases, the resulting behaviour is based upon fear of the consequences of disobedience and thus to avoid that outcome, the desert creeds have created books of rules such as ‘the bible’ to guide behaviour; ‘specialists’ (known as vicars and priests) with ‘direct access to god’ then enforce these rules whilst simultaneously taking away the apparent threat of self-responsibility and failure that occur in the illusion of perfection. Thus, in a fear-based attempt to combat these perceived threats, the rules and biblical stories are interpreted literally; and so we have the fantastical, ridiculous and totally illogical postulations of evangelical Christianity being believed because the ‘perfection of god’ must not be questioned by a congregation of ‘sinners’ who are, of course, fundamentally doomed. After all, they were born into sin anyway and so can never actually atone for that ‘original sin’ whilst in Midgard and achieve the ‘necessary’ perfection anyway!
Unfortunately, this channelling of the ego into the egotistical impulse to seek perfection at all costs has seeped into culture generally through the ever-increasing ‘specialisation’ of goods and services, which in many ways, keep us from using our initiative to solve the daily problems of life for ourselves. And in the wider Odinist/Asatru community, it appears through the medium of a tendency to literalise the gods and misleading folk into placing unwarranted emphasis upon such issues as ‘the Lore,’ what attire such and such a god wears, what colours are attributed to them etc. Certainly at one level, the gods are archetypes with an apparently specific ‘look’ to them and indeed, these ‘faces’ to our deities are a very important introduction to understanding their energies. Nevertheless, these are merely staticised forms of what are actually specific energy streams; for in reality, they are multidimensional and all-pervasive- ultimately beyond our powers of description in this realm. Thus, to ‘pin them down’ to such a specific set of criterion belittles and demeans their true majesty and import.
So how can we bypass this tendency towards iconising our activities and Gods into counter-productive ‘perfect’ and staticised models against which we can never seem to ‘succeed?’ The art is to realise that all our static notions of ‘success’ are in fact an illusion. Thus, to counter it, we must realise at a very deep level that all of life is a sacred ritual and that whatever we do has implications in the context of the whole. Hence, we must dedicate all our actions to the Gods and Goddesses and do the best we possibly can in thought, word and deed at any given moment in time. Then ‘success’ ceases to be an issue because any outcome is a necessary part of the whole picture, to which we aren’t privy in our present time and form in Midgard; but the fact it happened makes it an important part of the whole ‘jigsaw,’ no matter how much of a ‘success’ or ‘failure’ we saw ourselves as being or how lowly the perceived nature of the role was; thus the illusory nature of our prior perception is proved in the light of truth. Then no matter what the outcome, if we see it as part of the anvil on which our experience has been honed (which we understand through meditation, contemplation and the observed nature of their effects within the material world), and most crucially, we learn the lessons arising thereof (as opposed to focusing on the mechanics of the pictures), all that we do becomes a ‘perfect success.’
The notion of perfection – static structures of thought – are maps but not the territory of experience; they give us direction but fail to provide information about the nature of those things seeking to ambush us along the way, which need the skill of discernment to be recognised- the ingredients of which will be unique to every individual and their relationship with the deities. We must also recognise that there are layers to our myths so that each time we revisit them, we will perceive something different along the continuum of their recognisable energy because change within us is constant; thus, the truths of the myth are reflected to us from a different facet of its whole within our being. We also have many myths relative to each of our deities and this in itself reflects the different perception of truths catalysed by the particular experiences of different tribes within Odin’s nation. Meanwhile the entirety of a myth is timeless and because we are born as beings within time, we can never perceive this in our present form. Thus our truth- our structure of thought if you like- can only be an illusion because it is necessarily based upon the realm of perception available to us through our senses. Once we realise that fact from our very core, we can truly be liberated and thus effectively dispense with the immaculately honed illusions of perfection that hinder us.
We are reminded here of the symbolism of the moon. Much has been discussed about the perception of the moon relative to the sun as male or female and again, this discussion is beyond the scope of this particular piece. Essentially though, what we find is that the moon is most often symbolised in northern climes as being male when compared with the life-giving nurturing ‘female’ qualities of the sun that are so obviously prized in a harsh climate. Meanwhile, it is often seen as being female in more tropical areas of Midgard and is also reflective of the human menstrual cycle- and thus of women- through its phases. Of course, in the noxiously imbalanced world view of the desert creeds, this has cast aspersions of negativity upon the moon’s meaning and thus it has been symbolically equated with illusion and the transience of unreliable emotion to which they see women as being prone (and therefore of lesser importance than the ‘rational light’ of the male sun). Naturally, this perception is wrong, coming as it does from a distorted world-view. Meanwhile, whilst gender allusions to the sun and moon are useful as tools of understanding within this realm, they are nevertheless just that- a platform from which to work. For these orbs embody both male and female principles much like the yin and yang of eastern symbolism. It is simply that residing as we do in a realm of polar dichotomy, one gender principle is reflected to us over and above its opposite. But they contain and transcend both principles. Indeed, our myths about these stellar orbs embody this knowing: the chariots containing the sun and moon are driven by a god and goddess respectively; each contains the kernel of the other.
Our perceptive apparatus is merely a tool, an aspect of our whole self. The intellectual light is a reflection and beyond it is the mystery which it cannot shew forth. It is the life of the structuring imagination separate from the life of the spirit and so, by a fusion of imagination and thought, we forge structures of guiding logical paradigms, which help direct us along the rugged path of paradox as it oscillates between the twin poles of existence and our journey hopefully raises us to higher states of awareness. Our lunar aspect is the face of the mind, which directs a calm gaze on the paradox of life, the watcher within who guards the rainbow bridge of ice and fire to these higher states. But the light must be reflected; for in this realm, the direct light would seemingly destroy us as we exist in this age and form within time. Thus we celebrate Perchta Mannus at a time when nature is naturally moving towards its more reflective phase: the harvest is upon us and we start to reap the rewards of our endeavours and to reflect upon its success or otherwise- as defined by our current evolutionary perception of ‘success’- a notion which is also often coloured by our concept of ‘perfection.’ Yet, even in our perception of ‘failure’ lays another rung to ‘success’ if we sincerely will to see it and let it guide us; and thus we evolve.
Perchta and Mannus are the shining deities of our mythology who guard and guide us towards enlightenment. They are the guardians of our path but as such, they are not subject to the transience of ego-based emotions, which cause us to adhere to staid icons of perfection. Rather, they strip away illusion to reveal the terrible and beautiful light of truth that lies beyond the carefully honed but false mask of permanent ‘perfect’ states, which our ego has defined for us. And so as noble children of the light, we must understand that life in Midgard is a perfect reflection of the paradoxical nature of the whole and ‘absolute perfection’ a transient state of illusion!
Hail the lunar aspect of the Goddess Perchta and Mannus (Heimdal).
The bright Moon – the Silver Sun – not slain, but growing.