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Right Good Will

By: Garman Lord



> I was hoping to get your take on what Right Good Will is to Theodsmen... We often hear the elements of Theodism as Şew, Right Good Will, and Sacral Kingship... What is and what part does Right Good Will play in the overall structure?

Right Good Will, one of Theodism's most radical ideas, is a principle that harks back to an age when people had principles; values. To be a man of good will means that you are spiritually free of human perversity or malice and would never willingly do ill by another person without a pretty compelling reason. To term it Right Good Will, among Theodsmen, means that no Theodsman would ever do another Theodsman ill, for any reason at all, as an abiding principle or value.

Stated thus, it's an idea that may sound a bit utopian, but in fact, it isn't; it's entirely practical. Its operating dynamic is a bit like the way Tacitus describes gift-giving among the Germanics. Tacitus relates that you had only to admire some great treasure on display in a Germanic household, be the household otherwise ever so humble, and the householder would be quite
likely to bestow that treasure on you as a casual gift. Tacitus' implication everywhere is that the Germanics were not only free-giving in this way, but tended to eschew any kind of gross materialism as a degrading vanity; that wealth, for them, existed only to be given away.

Notice, then, what kind of a society would almost inevitably result from such an ethic; namely, a society in which wealth circulates so freely that no member of that society would ever be very rich or very poor, at least not for any length of time. The householder who seemingly impoverishes his household by making you a present of the richest treasure in it really sacrifices very little for the indulgence of his pleasure in giving. After all, his own next door neighbor might well just as casually, on the same day, make him a present of some other treasure just as rich or richer. Undoubtedly, the same would be the case with more ordinary commodities, such as food or drink. If you have no food, your neighbor might well open his own larder to you, just for the asking. After all, he can afford to. He can easily refill his own larder again if he needs to just by asking some other neighbor. It's more or less a case of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need..." except that it's not a social principle based on any kind of Marxist or Xtian collectivist doctrine, but rather on any individual's free choice, based on his own principles, and for no more compelling reason than that it is important to him personally, to his social status and his honor, to be admired as generous-hearted by others in his community.

Undoubtedly, Xtians aspire to something of the same condition by an ethic that eschews personal wealth as a degrading Satanic vanity, coupled with the idea of charitable giving or almsgiving as a special virtue, even with the power of remitting some moiety of the giver's own secret sinfulness. Charity, however, is generally seen by all as degrading to the receiver,
however ennobling it may seem for the giver. The Germanic heathen mentality tends to be suspicious of the giving and receiving of alms, as a foolish, perhaps even an unlucky business, and probably rightly so. Whereas alms-begging may be a socially accepted way of life in the East, few people amongst the Germanics would either be willing to stoop to begging for a
living, no matter how destitute their condition, or to feel specially ennobled by the act of giving alms to a beggar. On the other hand, in a culture where an ethic of casual generosity among men may mean that there is little public want, any regular necessity for a charitable ethic is bound to be more or less obviated. In that sense, it might be said that a culture of casual
generosity accomplishes more or less the same social purpose as an ethic of charitable giving... but without the stigma of social degradation, and without need for a superstitious introduction of "Satan" into the social matrix.

The Xtian ethic is similarly concerned for not just the material but the spiritual welfare of its community, in terms of how men shall behave amongst themselves, with the usual regulator being seen as the institution of an ethic of "love." "Love thy neighbor," the Jewish Bible enjoins, thy neighbor in this case meaning any fellow Jew. Xtians similarly enjoin the ethical love of all other Xtians in a spirit of Xtian agape, and, according to Jesus' putative injunction, extend the agape ethic even farther, to include loving one's enemies. Xtianity is, ethically, a discipline of more or less unconditional spiritual love and forgiveness, holding that any kind or
occasion of misgiving amongst the brotherhood of men under the Fatherhood of God is inherently Satanic, with judgmentally of any kind not properly the business of mankind but reserved rather to the wisdom of God alone. This kind of religious thesis, typical of the Orient, is called "Quietism;" the idea that all earthly or mortal phenomenality is but vanity and illusion, most properly to be eschewed in favor of a life of material rejection, non-judgmentalism and self-denial.

Germanic heathenry, of course, doesn't work like that, which is why I have called Western heathenry an "Activist," as opposed to "Quietist," thesis. Activism, as used here, recognizes that "heaven can wait," so to speak; that whatever is appropriate to heaven should most properly be left to heaven, while world acceptance and world interaction is understood as the proper and most appropriate role and ethic for the world of men. In the Theodish thesis, the idea is that the material world, and our business in it, is no mere vanity, but is there for a purpose, that purpose being self-worthing through a process of learning from, and coping appropriately with, life's ordeals, as a process of ultimately "earning" heaven after death by means of having lived, and evolved spiritually within, a sufficiently worthy worldly life.
Any earthly life that a man doesn't die out of as a better and worthier man than he was born into it is seen, in these terms, as a wasted life, ultimately bound for hel after death. But of course that still leaves the particular issue of how a man shall comport himself amongst other men in the world of men, in an Activist way, as an open question.

And here the problem is human nature, which, as Nietsche might say, seems to be something that is there to be overcome. The natural unconditioned human mind/soul complex is more or less worthless, or, as the elder heathenry used to say, "sinful," one of those many terms that Xtianity misappropriated from the heathen in conversion times. As the rune says, manna swiceth; man betrays. Perhaps the reason runic wisdom picks betrayal as mankind's most
salient identifying characteristic is precisely because man is probably the only creature which does betray. As Mark Twain put it, man is the only creature who blushes, or needs to.

If heathenry had such a concept as Original Sin, then, it would most likely identify heathen Original Sin as Treachery, treachery being seen as inherent in the unformed, un-worthed human condition, before it has evolved to the concept of personal honor. This is why the literal meaning of "sin," as an elder heathen term of art, originally meant something like "status quo," or "unimproved..." a concept that couldn't be fit into the Quietist Xtian scheme, and accordingly had to be redefined as "disobedience of God's Law." In heathenry, which doesn't have the kind of gods who make laws, "sin" was, and is, not something you do but something you are, namely an un-evolved child in a man's body, unformed and worthless of mind and soul.

In practice, this is not a concept that modern heathenry universally understands or is comfortable with. Not all modern heathen are easy with the idea of their heathenry as a morality scheme, often imagining "morality" itself as nothing more than a set of guilt-bound constrictions arbitrarily imposed upon our human nature by Xtianity. Accordingly, the modern heathen may typically imagine that the real morality, if we may call it that, of a restored heathenry would be bound to be a throwing-off of the shackles of moral constraint, in an Egil-SkallagrimssonR- informed spirit of a certain swashbuckling macho self-indulgence, according to a notion that seems to have been borrowed from modern Wicca, of Omni benevolent gods who love you "just the way you are." Other than that, the only real ethical difference between heathenry and Wicca is that, where Wicca says "Do what thou wilt," heathenry preaches instead one form or another, such as the NNV, of a high-rhetorical ethic, and then just never practices it. No doubt modern heathen would be even less comfortable with the realization, if they ever thought about it, that this tacitly "omni benevolent" "do-what-thou-wilt" thesis of presumed "unconditional love" on the part of the gods is in fact a Quietist-informed idea that Wicca itself originally borrowed from the Xtian tradition.

In fact, the gods don't love us just the way we are. Tradition everywhere teaches us that the good will of the gods toward men is always something that has to be bargained for, by appropriate blots and sacrifices, keeping of the holy days, and the kind of behavior amongst ourselves, in the toils of worldly life's ordeal, that is able to inspire the respect and admiration of beings so much nobler and wiser than us who have lived forever and can see all that we do. At the very least, they expect us to take hold of the life the norns gave us and improve upon it, materially and spiritually, in every way we can manage. We need to be activist, in cultivating generosity, honor, good will and right action in all things... not always easy, of course, in a world where, characteristically, "man betrays," and few fellow men can really be trusted behind the curtains or beyond their own immediate self-interest.

No doubt it would be worth pausing for a moment to think about why man, at least in his unworthed original "sinful" condition of life, betrays. For the heathen, at least, it is because man is not only treacherous; he is also ambitious, and not very smart, at least as compared to gods; surely a dangerous combination. Putting stupidity together with ambition is about like putting a match to gasoline, and, as the poet Schiller puts it, "Against stupidity even gods struggle in vain." It is this combination of human vanity, ambition and folly that the JudaeoXtian tradition lumps together under the rubric of "Satan." For the wrongdoing Xtian, accordingly, the plea is always a simple one: the debbil made me do it. Obviously a ridiculous cop-out, but the Xtian sticks to it because, for him at least, it seems to work, as the only functional answer, in his system, to the ontological problem of human cupidity and evil. Although Xtianity may be the blight of the human race and spirit, there will never be any realistic escape from it so long as human nature remains unredeemable by any other practical means.

The fallen condition of human nature is thus understood by Xtians as an insuperable obstacle, only overcome by personal salvation through Jesus Christ. This idea, however, only represents a Xtian misreading of the parent Jewish thesis. To the Jew, who originally invented Satan, after all, the idea of Satan as a supernatural independent being able to make you do things is pure paganism, being, at the least, inherently polytheistic. In Jewish lore, Satan is an abstract principle, the principle of human adversarialism and perversity, who never figures as an actual persona except figuratively, in Jewish didactic folklore and wisdom tales, to make some sort of point. To speak of Satan, in other words, is just the Jewish way of saying that "manna swiceth."

Certainly the Jews knew that man betrays, that he is ambitious, that he is not very smart, and their answer was God's Law. The more observing you are of God's Law, the less satanic, and that's the only real salvation; the Jews simply classified men as "just" or "unjust" accordingly; men who, whatever their personal failings, can be trusted, as opposed to men who cannot. Today, as heathen, we are able to state things much less superstitiously and more precisely. That man is ambitious is simply a Darwinian fact of life; for the sake of survival, he will always try to put his own best interests first. However, since he is not very smart, he will not necessarily be able to see that his own best interest may well be better served by advancing the best interest of his neighbor and his community than his own. The fact is, we are all pretty good at judging, in a proximate way, what seems best for us, but rather poor in judging in an ultimate way what is fairest and best between our self and our neighbor; most of us are simply ultimately not that visionary, conscientious or smart. The result is that if we decide that we need to gain some advantage for our own interest over our neighbor's, we will cheerfully backstab or betray him, if needs be, in order to do so, and then, as Tacitus observes, hate and malign him in our own hearts ever thereafter for allowing us to do an injustice to him. In short, the modern heathen can explain human evil much more sensibly and usefully than either the Xtian or the Jew. What the heathen thesis has never evolved, however, is any useful idea of what to do about the problem.

In fact, the main thing that has worked to prevent modern heathenry from evolving beyond Wicca with drekkahorns into a real religion is that human evil is always just as shamelessly on display in it everywhere, with no clue to be found within the heathen religious thesis itself on what to do about it. Modern heathenry is a tiny community, full of the kind of treacherous cutthroat politics that guarantee that it will always remain so, with no sane functional moral advantage or rationale to offer newcomers as a reason for them to join it and help it grow. Thus heathenry is caught in an historical trap reminiscent of what Henry Kissinger once said about the politics of academia: that the reason academic debates are so bitter is because the stakes are so small. For heathenry, then, with its even smaller stakes, it's a vicious circle; heathenry is evil because it is small, and small because it is evil. Heathen constantly betray each other, and not just out of cupidity or ambitious rivalry but even more often for no apparent reason, as anyone who has ever been on a heathen e-list can well attest. The result is a prevailing climate of internal hatred perfectly calculated to poison the Well of Wyrd for all concerned, it being most usually the case among humans that while love is for but a day, hatred, with or without an apparent reason, is usually forever.

All of this because even though heathen, by their own lore, know better than most that manna swiceth, the heathen thesis has no idea at all what to do about the problem. And because man knows he is treacherous, communities of men normally form governments and constabularies amongst themselves to third-party arbitrate and impose fair judgments between normally treacherous self-interested rival neighbors as necessary to keep everybody honest, for the community to survive. Unfortunately, however, as modern heathenry also knows only too well, we tend here to run into the biggest problem of all; namely, too much government.

We have to remember that government, which we appoint to keep us all honest amongst ourselves, is itself, being made up of human beings like ourselves, inherently treacherous, and not particularly likely to keep itself honest either. Heathen know that, and it is this knowledge that has historically made modern heathenry extremely resistive to any kind of functional social organization. Heathenry knows that it is full of power-tripping ego freaks who would be only too anxious to form their own feudal Asa-papacies of one kind or another if the community were dumb enough to go along, but to do so in the interest of heathen utopia would only be setting the fox to guard the chickens. Any government's natural tendency is to favor the powerful over the weak, to become corrupt, dictatorial, abusive and oppressive in its own turn, such that it was said long ago that that government is best which governs least. To really function properly in a community, then, government must be kept small, and limited in its powers. And that means that society, to be governed in the most limited way possible, must be kept internally efficient, so as to need as little government as possible to function day-to-day. That, however, means that some way must be found to keep members of that society more or less virtuous, something that the modern heathen ethic, as generally understood, has never found any way to do.

There is really only one way to achieve such a level of social efficiency, and that is if individual members of the society normally live by an ethic that allows them to get along as amicably and honestly amongst themselves as possible, with the least possible strife, rivalry or need for third party intervention. And the easiest way to achieve this is to systematically eliminate from human community the root of the greatest human evils, namely adversarialism and personal ambition. In the Theodish way, that system was discovered a long time ago, and amounts to no more than the idea that every Theodsman is ethically obliged to deal with a fellow Theodsman in a different way from the way he would deal with an outsider, just as, for instance, a Jew always grants a special indulgence to another Jew. The central idea is that every Theodsman thus always knows that he can always trust another Theodsman. What every Theodsman also knows is that Theodism itself, being essentially a radical cult of personal worthing and becoming in the sight of the gods, is a strenuous lifelong path of working and learning. Accordingly, it works best if all Theodsmen are always helping and looking out for one another, or, as one Theodsman once famously put it in symbel hall, it's a lot easier to keep your eyes on the prize when you're not having to constantly watch your back.

The underlying principle is the ethical code that Theodism calls "Right Good Will," and it works like this; that every Theodsman always thinks first of advancing the best interests of every other Theodsman, always putting his fellow Theodsman's interests ahead of his own, as a matter of personal honor. Such an ethic normally sounds quite alien, even horrifying, to the average modern heathen, who typically conceives of himself as a "rugged individualist," only kept from being pushed to hind tit and the bottom of the puppy-pile by self-ambition and the reach of his own right arm. Non-Darwinian as such a scheme may sound, then, the reason that it nonetheless works is because the Theodsman, thinking first of the best interests of others,
doesn't have to be advancing his own, because other Theodsmen, thinking of the overall good of the community, will always be advancing it for him.

In other words, the dynamic principle of the thesis is not unlike that of the attested Germanic heathen custom of free-giving. Adam Smith, in essence, was wrong, and the proper deconstruction of human social well-being is not to be found in terms of a Darwinian dialectic of adversarial free-market competition of personal ambitions at all; rather, it needs to be understood in terms of a kind of Nash Equilibrium of the collective group-soul. The whole problem of "government" is the tendency, favored by such sociopolitical schemes as Democracy, of the wrong kind of people, namely the most ambitious, to come to power in it. The result is that an ethically non-virtuous population tends accordingly to get just the kind of government it deserves. However, as a wise man has also once said, power should never be given to the man who needs it. It is the power trippers, in fact, who must always be kept out of power by some means, if government is to be somehow kept honest, and the best means can only be some meritocratic system able to let the cream generally and spontaneously rise to the top. The citizen who forfeits his own personal ambitions in the name of a Right Good Will will thus nonetheless find himself rising effortlessly in life to whatever station he best merits, not through personal ambition at all but rather through the disinterested perception of others that he is really the best man for the job in question.

For this sort of public dynamic to work, then, there is one ethical principle that must be taught and fostered by the religion and epistemologically in place; namely, the personal conviction, as a point of honor, that "man" must not "switch," or betray. At the root of all ambitious rivalry and competition, after all, is double-cross, duplicity and deception. This is why the matter of oath-taking and -breaking is such a powerfully important one to the Theodish thesis. If "heathen Original Sin" is to be overcome on any level at all, it can only be on the individual personal one: that the Theodsman never betrays. As Theodsmen put it, the Theodsman is never "up to" anything. There is always a "Quakerish" spirit of plain-dealing at work behind everything he says and does; all goods worth price charged, and his word on anything is always good, with never any duplicity, rivalry or personal ambition. Obviously a code of honor this high is not one that can be safely followed in dealing with the world at large, or even within... say rather, especially within... the heathen community at large. In the Theodish community, however, it's a different matter. Not only can such an ethic easily be followed and taken to heart, it must be followed, as an oath-bound matter of essential Theodism; the Theodish equivalent, so to speak, of "Salvation" from "Original Sin." In short, if you're not a man of Right Good Will, you're not Theodish.

In that epistemological sense, it is not likely that any great number of modern heathen will ever be Theodish. In general, the typical modern heathen not only instinctively rejects such an ethic, he most often doesn't even understand it when it is explained to him; it is all just too radically challenging to the whole fabric of his received personal construct. This is why no one can ever call himself Theodish unless he has undergone a "change of heart" more or less the equivalent of Xtian salvation... not through Jesus, in this case, but by attaining in his inner man to that plateau of true personal self-worthing and fitness in the sight of the gods, who are honorable above all other things.

It's not an easy leap, nor is it meant to be, and this is one reason of many why Theodism terms itself "radical;" in this and other ways very likely the most radical religion in the modern world. For the average modern heathen, on the other hand, this was never his reason for getting into heathenry in the first place, and he will never countenance any notion that threatens to make him take his religion, or himself, for that matter, all that seriously. It is in that sense, in terms of its lack of anything like Right Good Will, that modern heathenry will be most likely to always remain just about what it is, historically; small, treacherous, strife-ridden and only a partial religion. In some unconscious way, that is what most modern heathen probably want it to remain; not any kind of better or holier life, but a matter, in other words, of modern heathen getting pretty much the heathenry they deserve.