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    Soul Concepts and "We Are Our Deeds".

    I might be a little bit slow on getting the bigger picture of these two things, or I might be way out in left-field. It's not exactly recon-based, but it's my effort in trying to develop a decent philosophy surrounding heathen concepts.

    Anyway.

    One of the things I’ve heard a lot about in heathenry is that there wasn’t a pre-Christian concept of the soul such as the one we have today. Another thing, also, is this pseudo-mantra that “we are our deeds“.

    Soul. For me, it’s always been defined as this essence of self that is fully whole and fully formulated long before I had the consciousness to understand it. That it is the essence of me and everything that I stand for. That it guided my time of birth and the lessons that I would learn while living. That it was me, but a larger and more divine me and it would carry on after the physical ceased to.

    That’s a difficult idea to let go of.

    We are our deeds. I’ve always been slightly uncomfortable about this and the idea of “Proper Behavior”. I‘ve always taken this heathen concept to mean that I should be very careful of my actions because they’re what I’m judged on, my deeds are what determine this notion of my “worth”, and that I should be careful to act and speak appropriately for others.



    Which makes sense, in a way, since much of heathenry centers on what would be considered tribal and not individual.

    The other day I was having a conversation with my husband when I almost made the cliché remark that we’re born when we are for a reason. I stopped myself and wondered, this isn’t a heathen philosophy, is it? If there isn’t soul, then there isn’t some prescribed time of birth for some unknown and mysterious purpose. What is the point of birth then, and what does that mean for the individual?

    Thinking on birth, I remembered some of the history that I’ve skimmed over concerning birthing practices. A child didn’t exist, truly, until a name had been given to it and if no one wanted the child it was left to the elements. Didn’t these victims of infanticide have a soul? I’m too modern to not understand the tragedy of these circumstances, and could in no way validate these practices today. But what was the underlying philosophy? Why was this ok?

    If we aren’t born with the concept of soul, as I understand it, then…are souls grown? But then, it wouldn’t be souls, it would just be people. People grow. What if “we are our deeds” really speaks less about proper behavior and heathen fundamentalism, but more about the person you’re shaping yourself to be? And why does it matter who you become? Why are our deeds important in this way?

    I believe in life after death. The folklore is consistent with the notion of an afterlife. We are our deeds…so what of these dead who were assholes in life and assholes in death and who were banished from communities. Did they shape themselves to be this person? Have they created a reality in which life and death were both negative and miserable and lonely, where they are better forgotten than remembered? It isn’t a punishment handed down by a divine and judging authority, its just…the result of deeds.

    There aren’t many ways that I can think of to articulate this notion of understanding the deeper philosophy, as it’s more a sensation than intellect. But, the very idea that you craft your own soul, that you are growing it and rearing it currently is a truly awe-inspiring thought., for me at least You aren’t preordained, there isn’t some you-soul that is stranger to your sense of self, it’s just you. Everything you build yourself to be, you will carry with you. The only forgiveness and understanding concerning your misdeeds that you can hope to gain is from yourself, and from those that shared in them.

    And does this mean, then, that even the gods don’t know who we are and who we are going to be? If there isn’t a spiritual soul that’s whole and awaiting expression, then there is nothing for the gods to know of us until we show them. Until we grow. They can provide, if they chose, to give us support in the now, but even they don’t know who we will shape ourselves to be in a year, or a decade. They haven’t provided us with customized lessons to suit our soul, nor have they reached out to us to guide us on a path they think is best suited for us. Gods are -among other things- the moments that are beyond our control to shape, they’re what we react to, and what, at times, we have to shape ourselves around.
    Experience is the hardest teacher, it gives the test before the lesson.

    Nova Went Berserk

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    Re: Soul Concepts and "We Are Our Deeds".

    Quote Originally Posted by Juniperberry View Post
    *snip*
    I love your perspective. And I wish I had something more to add at the moment, but my brain is up in knots - hopefully I can articulate something. But I just wanted to say I really enjoyed reading it.
    " For this feeling of wonder shows that you are a philosopher, since wonder is the only beginning of philosophy..." - Socrates to Theaetetus.
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    Re: Soul Concepts and "We Are Our Deeds".

    Quote Originally Posted by Juniperberry View Post
    Ooh, ontology of existance. One of my favourite subjects. While my beliefs aren't Heathenism, I can see enough overlaps in what you say here that I have some commentary.

    However, I need to go to work, so I'm posting this to remind myself to come back.
    There is no inherent meaning to life. Stop looking and give your life meaning.
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    Chapter 91 of The Order War by L.E.Modesitt jr. If I could quote the entire thing I would.

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    Re: Soul Concepts and "We Are Our Deeds".

    Quote Originally Posted by Juniperberry View Post
    If there isn’t soul, then there isn’t some prescribed time of birth for some unknown and mysterious purpose. What is the point of birth then, and what does that mean for the individual?
    I view life as mostly accidents of cosmic chemistry. (I leave divine meddling open, with probability manipulation the interface mechanism from the Aetheric/Spirit to the Material realms.) As my sig used to say, the purpose of life is to experience. The point of birth is nothing more than biology and continuation of the species. Part of what that means for the individual is to fit into the process of continuation. Serving the needs of the communities one belongs to as well as ones own needs. I think *that service is inherant in our existance at it's most basic, so it's not analogous to practicing a craft so much as to having a relationship with siblings. The relationship exists whether you pay attention to it or not.


    Quote Originally Posted by Juniperberry View Post
    A child didn’t exist, truly, until a name had been given to it and if no one wanted the child it was left to the elements. Didn’t these victims of infanticide have a soul? (snip)Why was this ok?
    My stance is "Life begins at Independence," which is obviously a gradual thing. I think of the soul as a sort of recording of our experiences. All the things that make us who we are are either biological nature, or environmental nurture, rather than conformity with a soul pattern. My apologetics for this type of thing is that, they didn't really exist as a person. Also callous expediency, if it was not a good time for a child to be born as determined by the parents/community. It could have been their version of abortion.


    Quote Originally Posted by Juniperberry View Post
    If we aren’t born with the concept of soul, as I understand it, then…are souls grown? But then, it wouldn’t be souls, it would just be people. People grow. What if “we are our deeds” really speaks (snip) more about the person you’re shaping yourself to be? And why does it matter who you become? Why are our deeds important in this way?
    Our deeds are important, because they shape who we are in a very real way. What we've seen and done changes what we think. A woman who has undergone labor thinks of pain in a completely different way than one who has not. But their thoughts of pain aren't all the same, because some may have broken a leg, or experience regular migraines, or have never had more pain that a stubbed toe. That's how our deeds affect us internally.

    "We are our deeds" can also tell of how the rest of the community views us. Classic example is the boy who cried wolf. How the community views us translates to how they interact with us, which is something we experience, which builds upon our actions. There are no closed loops in life. Our actions can also impact how people act with each other.


    Quote Originally Posted by Juniperberry View Post
    I believe in life after death.
    I kind of don't. At least, not in the traditional sense. It's complicated, and still fuzzy. In the following, definite language is used because it's easier.

    Upon death, the soul infodumps it's experiences into the universal archives. For me, Hades is both the Archive and the Archivist, with Persephone as an alternate Archivist. For Heathens, there would be multiple archives. There are daemons/spirits that will/can imprint an archive file into themselves, essentially becoming that person. Which is where I think Ancestors come into being. Until such a time, they're just undifferentiated aether mostly.

    This is the part where an outsider tell you what he thinks happens in your religion; salt mine offered. Valhalla is one of the archives, where the files are waiting. Come Ragnorok, when the heroes are summoned to battle, it'll be like a computer opening one program after the other, with unlimited cpu and ram. Or like simultaneous self throwing pots on a potters wheel.

    I've shared this to illustrate my reconciliation of 'life after death' with 'no soul.'


    Quote Originally Posted by Juniperberry View Post
    And does this mean, then, that even the gods don’t know who we are and who we are going to be?
    We are still part of the unfolding of existance, and of certain communities, with all of the attending wyrd. Or is it orlog? The wyrd plays itself out and influences us through environmental nurture. We are who we are, in part, because of who our parents were, etc. The gods, being What they are, can see the flow of wyrd, and predict where it will carry a person. Like a meteorologist, they can see the forecast, only with a better track record. They can still be surprised, it's just harder.
    There is no inherent meaning to life. Stop looking and give your life meaning.
    ------------------------------------------
    Chapter 91 of The Order War by L.E.Modesitt jr. If I could quote the entire thing I would.

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    Re: Soul Concepts and "We Are Our Deeds".

    Quote Originally Posted by Juniperberry View Post

    We are our deeds. I’ve always been slightly uncomfortable about this and the idea of “Proper Behavior”. I‘ve always taken this heathen concept to mean that I should be very careful of my actions because they’re what I’m judged on, my deeds are what determine this notion of my “worth”, and that I should be careful to act and speak appropriately for others.

    Which makes sense, in a way, since much of heathenry centers on what would be considered tribal and not individual.
    I've been a heathen for over a decade, and I am not about to try to tackle the "soul" portion of this post. I will leave that for more learned individuals. All I can say on the subject is that I've noticed Asatru deals very nicely with the physical, but doesn't give a very good guide for the ethereal.

    I think the concept of "you are your deeds" can be viewed two ways.
    I don't think I could handle living my life feeling as if everyone was judging my every act (even though, lets me honest, they are. It is human nature) My life would be one long anxiety attack!

    However, I see it as more of a "show, don't tell" kind of thing. Someone can talk a good game, but your actions show your true nature, what you value and hold dear; and *that* is what people will remember you for. That is your legacy.

    (Say it with me everyone, you all know the words, "Cattle die, Kinsmen die, you yourself die; I know one thing which never dies: the fate of the honored dead.")

    I live my life, I demonstrate my faith, I follow the NNV- my actions are merely an extension of who I am and what I believe. My deeds do not determine who I am; Who I am determines my deeds, and by those deeds, others can see who I am.

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    Re: Soul Concepts and "We Are Our Deeds".

    Quote Originally Posted by caryatid View Post
    My deeds do not determine who I am; Who I am determines my deeds, and by those deeds, others can see who I am.
    I find this a very profound statement. Thank you!

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    Re: Soul Concepts and "We Are Our Deeds".

    Quote Originally Posted by caryatid View Post



    However, I see it as more of a "show, don't tell" kind of thing. Someone can talk a good game, but your actions show your true nature, what you value and hold dear; and *that* is what people will remember you for. That is your legacy.
    Yeah, I see it this way as well.


    My deeds do not determine who I am; Who I am determines my deeds, and by those deeds, others can see who I am.
    I see what you're saying and I agree with it for older, wiser people. I guess what I'm wondering about is childhood, in a way. If a person has always determined their own deeds then do they start off...whole (couldn't think of a better word)? Would it be your Norn at birth that determines how you will approach choice and action? I think what I'm trying to say is that there isn't some laid out path, or fully you You yet, but through life experience we build and carve that and definitely, eventually, we determine our deeds instead of vice versa.

    Er, maybe its all just how you were raised and how you raise your kids.
    Experience is the hardest teacher, it gives the test before the lesson.

    Nova Went Berserk

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    Re: Soul Concepts and "We Are Our Deeds".

    Quote Originally Posted by Juniperberry View Post
    I think what I'm trying to say is that there isn't some laid out path, or fully you You yet, but through life experience we build and carve that and definitely, eventually, we determine our deeds instead of vice versa.
    "They day the flesh shapes and the flesh the day shapes."
    ~Frank Herbert, Dune
    There is no inherent meaning to life. Stop looking and give your life meaning.
    ------------------------------------------
    Chapter 91 of The Order War by L.E.Modesitt jr. If I could quote the entire thing I would.

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    Re: Soul Concepts and "We Are Our Deeds".

    Quote Originally Posted by Juniperberry View Post
    And does this mean, then, that even the gods don’t know who we are and who we are going to be? If there isn’t a spiritual soul that’s whole and awaiting expression, then there is nothing for the gods to know of us until we show them. Until we grow. They can provide, if they chose, to give us support in the now, but even they don’t know who we will shape ourselves to be in a year, or a decade. They haven’t provided us with customized lessons to suit our soul, nor have they reached out to us to guide us on a path they think is best suited for us. Gods are -among other things- the moments that are beyond our control to shape, they’re what we react to, and what, at times, we have to shape ourselves around.
    I really really like this last paragraph. Well spoken!
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    Re: Soul Concepts and "We Are Our Deeds".

    I´m pretty tired so I hope this post makes sense... Anyway, here´s my 0.2:

    Quote Originally Posted by Juniperberry View Post
    The other day I was having a conversation with my husband when I almost made the cliché remark that we’re born when we are for a reason. I stopped myself and wondered, this isn’t a heathen philosophy, is it? If there isn’t soul, then there isn’t some prescribed time of birth for some unknown and mysterious purpose. What is the point of birth then, and what does that mean for the individual?

    Hmm… I haven´t dug too much into the subject of the soul in ON literature, but the perception of one’s “self”, what makes a person an individual distinct from others, would IMO be present. I don´t think the “self” is equal to our understanding of the soul, since a lot of factors such as ones name, family ties, luck fullness, physical body (and other stuff) seem to have played a part in ones persona.
    Even when considering the cases where peoples “minds” have ventured out of their bodies (the Finn practice popularly called “souljourneys”), the body is still in some sort of trance, seemingly dead condition, where certain taboos have to be kept, to avoid dire consequences to the person making the journey.
    My point is that the individuals soul and his environment (family, body, history) couldn’t really be separated in the sense we know from Christianity, and therefore I would rather talk about a person’s “self” than a person’s “soul”.

    Now to the whole “deus ex machima” issue. The words I would use for “reason” and “unknown mysterious purpose” are fate and/or doom. To have a predetermined mystical purpose in life, or having a fated life, sort of requires that either your fate/doom is prophesized, or that some powerful agent (such as a god) takes an interest in you and makes some plans…
    A non mysterious purpose would be one´s obligation to - and expected interaction with - one’s family and community.


    Thinking on birth, I remembered some of the history that I’ve skimmed over concerning birthing practices. A child didn’t exist, truly, until a name had been given to it and if no one wanted the child it was left to the elements. Didn’t these victims of infanticide have a soul? I’m too modern to not understand the tragedy of these circumstances, and could in no way validate these practices today. But what was the underlying philosophy? Why was this ok?

    Nope, they did not. A child without a name (or for which no naming was planned) had no legal rights, weren´t part of the ættir and did not carry the history of the æt and the forbears of a name. It was not claimed by any group and could therefore be exposed without concern.
    By missing these components, so vital to people of the Viking age, I doubt they would have considered the child a person… But I could be wrong.

    Besides, I do not think anyone would go through with exposing a child if the alternative wasn’t considered worse… From the poor farmer who simply could not feed another mouth, to the family which had to expose a deformed child to avoid potential liability and harm to the family hamingja.
    I´m no expert on it, but if we look at archeological evidence like the Ribe Skull Charm, it might suggest that they considered illness to be the work of harmful vættir, and you might risk bringing such an entity into your household by keeping a sick baby… That last bit is guesswork btw.

    As you, I do not consider the practice of infanticide acceptable today.


    If we aren’t born with the concept of soul, as I understand it, then…are souls grown? But then, it wouldn’t be souls, it would just be people. People grow. What if “we are our deeds” really speaks less about proper behavior and heathen fundamentalism, but more about the person you’re shaping yourself to be? And why does it matter who you become? Why are our deeds important in this way?
    IMO “We are our deeds” is not proper heathen behavior, it´s about how prober heathen behavior is judged by the people around us. Who you become matters to your family, your life, your kids and those who comes after you but are still (partly) judged by your actions.
    Your deeds in life are what people will remember you for, and if the deeds are deemed good; what they will honour you and your family for… They are not only a project of your personal life, but also a project of growth for your family and the people who associate with you.

    Also, since the judgment is done by the community deeds must be witnessed to have real consequence, so an asshole has little to fear if his bad deeds go undiscovered, this is of cause different from a Christian viewpoint, where deeds will be witnessed by God, and therefore rewarded accordingly whether or not other people witness them.
    So I´m not really sure the idea that a good deed bears the reward in itself is applicable in a heathen context.


    I believe in life after death. The folklore is consistent with the notion of an afterlife. We are our deeds…so what of these dead who were assholes in life and assholes in death and who were banished from communities. Did they shape themselves to be this person? Have they created a reality in which life and death were both negative and miserable and lonely, where they are better forgotten than remembered? It isn’t a punishment handed down by a divine and judging authority, it’s just…the result of deeds.

    I don´t like to rely too much on the folklore, but I agree that the sources points towards an existence after death, which bears some resemblances to parts of life.
    Judgment and punishment are most often results of deeds, but in heathenry the community will usually do both, unless the person is outstanding enough for the gods to take special interest in that person.
    I guess the ill charactered man would be remembered for his deeds (and the overall nature of them), whether outlawed or tolerated.

    I have read in a saga or two about how men who where malicious and committed evil deeds would haunt the living as draugers after death… So these ill liked men would continue their troublesome doings in death, and were dug up, beheaded and burned (or killed by a hero). Troublesome assholes in life would be troublesome assholes in death – and would have to face the consequences (in life or death)… Like today, there were many factors in shaping a person; such as upbringing, family and so on, and a family could have bad luck, a bad reputation or be poor (traits which could easily affect future generations).


    There aren’t many ways that I can think of to articulate this notion of understanding the deeper philosophy, as it’s more a sensation than intellect. But, the very idea that you craft your own soul, that you are growing it and rearing it currently is a truly awe-inspiring thought., for me at least You aren’t preordained, there isn’t some you-soul that is stranger to your sense of self, it’s just you. Everything you build yourself to be, you will carry with you. The only forgiveness and understanding concerning your misdeeds that you can hope to gain is from yourself, and from those that shared in them.

    Don´t get this… Do you mean that you cannot be forgiven in a heathen context? Or that heathens aren´t able to understand why someone did a misdeed?
    About the whole shaping your “self” thoughts. Of cause you will always have an effect yourself, as will the milieu you interact with through your life. As I talked about before on the subject of being fated, or preordained; I think that a powerful agent has to take an interest in changing/controlling events in your life (maybe on or off, maybe all the time).


    And does this mean, then, that even the gods don’t know who we are and who we are going to be? If there isn’t a spiritual soul that’s whole and awaiting expression, then there is nothing for the gods to know of us until we show them. Until we grow. They can provide, if they chose, to give us support in the now, but even they don’t know who we will shape ourselves to be in a year, or a decade. They haven’t provided us with customized lessons to suit our soul, nor have they reached out to us to guide us on a path they think is best suited for us. Gods are -among other things- the moments that are beyond our control to shape, they’re what we react to, and what, at times, we have to shape ourselves around.

    The gods in the myths are wise, knowledgeable, old and have many effective ways of getting information, but they aren´t portrayed as omnipotent. They outmatch any human and often outsmart any giant, but they aren´t “all knowing”.
    When considering that much of a community´s thew, identity and institutions were derived from the gods, then the expectations, laws and values of a community (which certainly will affect the worldview of a person) can be said to be shaped or in any case connected to the gods… I´m thinking about things like Vébondr, sacrifices and the gods’ connection to ruling families.
    The gods are in the inner circles of a community’s innangard and influence all its members from there.
    Last edited by hlewagastir; 31 Jan 2012 at 03:03 PM. Reason: fix

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