A speculation on the origin of the sword in the stone legend

The story of King Arthur and the sword in the stone has always mystified me.  It describes how there was a sword in a stone that only King Arthur could remove.  No one else could do.  Because he was the only one who could remove the sword it made him the “chosen King”.  The original account of this comes from “Le Morte D’Arthur” by Sir Thomas Malory, book 1, chapter 5:

After the death of Uther Pendragen the Archbishop, on the advice of Merlin, asked for the Lords of the realm and Gentlemen of Arms to come to London before Christmas to pray for a new King.  After praying for some time there was found in a churchyard, against the high altar, “a great stone four square, like unto a marble stone, and in the midst thereof was like an anvil of steel a foot on high, and therein stuck a fair sword naked by the point, and letters there were written in gold about the sword that saiden thus: – WHOSO PULLETH OUT THIS SWORD OF THIS STONE AND ANVIL, IS RIGHTWISE KING BORN OF ALL ENGLAND.”  Many tried to pull the sword out but could not. 

Then upon New Years Day they were having tournaments where Sir Kay and little Arthur had come and Sir Kay was made a knight.  As they were riding to the tourney Sir Kay realized he had forgotten his sword and asked Arthur to get it at his fathers house.  When he got there everyone was gone so Arthur went out to the churchyard and grabbed the sword from the stone.  He then rode on to the tournament.  Sir Kay recognized the sword and went to his father telling him he should be King of England.  His father made him swear where he got it and he finally said he got it from Arthur.  After inquiring of Arthur he said he had removed it from the stone.  They then went and put the sword back in the stone.  No one could pull it out once it was in.  Only Arthur could pull it out.  As a result of this, it was accepted that Arthur should be King of England. 

Where did the idea of a sword in the stone come from?  And where did the idea originate from where a certain person, a “chosen” person, was the only one who could remove the sword from the stone?  But, as I’d find out, this was not the only account of these ‘choosing by a stone’.  There are many others.

OTHER ACCOUNTS

All through northwest Europe there are various accounts of sticking an item into something only to have a specific person be able to pull it out.  Here are some of them:

The “Volsunga saga”

King Volsung had a great hall built.  In the middle of this hall was the trunk of a great tree.  This tree was called Barnstock.  One day, a one eyed man came into the hall with a mottled hooded cape, barefoot, and linen breeches tied around his legs, tall, and gray with age (its generally considered to be Odin).  He carried a sword and walked up to barnstock and plunged it into the trunk all the way to the hilt.  He then said, “He who draws this sword out of the trunk shall receive it from me as a gift, and he himself shall prove that he has never carried a better sword than this one”, and walked out of the room.  Everyone came and tried to pull the sword out but no one could.  Then Sigmund, the son of King Volsung, came and easily pulled it out.  

“The Saga of Hrolf Kraki”

Bjorn had three sons.  He told their mother, Bera, that she should bring them to a cave “because of their strange and uncontrollable natures”.  She will find three weapons imbedded in the rock.  Each son shall have a weapon intended for him.   When one of them tried to pull the weapon out that was not intended for him he could not do it.  A sword was meant for Bodvar, who became the champion of King Hrolf Kraki of Denmark.  An axe was meant for Thorir Hound’s foot, who became King of the Gaut’s.  A short sword was intended for Elk-Frodi, who became a man who attacked travelers, killing for money. 

“The Life of Edward the Confessor” by St. Aelred of Rievaulx, chapter 33

Archbishop Lanfrac accused St. Wulfstan of being too simple and inexperienced and should be deposed as Bishop.   As proof that Edward the Confessor had chosen him to be Bishop, and to remain Bishop, St. Wulfstan stuck the staff into the stone above his tomb.   He then asked Lanfrac to come and pull it out.  He could not.  Many others tried to pull it out but no one could.  Everyone was amazed.  St. Wulfstan then called on Edward the Confessor and said, ” . . . if your original opinion of me remains yet [that is, that he should remain Bishop], return the staff to me, or if it has changed, reveal to whom it should be passed.”  He then gently tugged on the staff and it came out easily.  They then agreed that St. Wulfstan should remain Bishop.   

ORIGIN – A SPECULATION

I’ve always wondered where this idea came from, of a stone choosing a King.  One of the speculations I have is that it is Danish in origin.  In chapter 1 of the ‘Danish History’, of Saxo Grammaticus, it states:

“The ancients, when they were to choose a King, were wont to stand on a stone placed in the ground, and to proclaim their votes, in order to foreshadow from the steadfastness of the stone that the deed would be lasting.”

As near as I can tell this is probably the first reference to a stone being used to choose a King.  In this case, though, the stone appears to only represent a ‘solid vote’, so to speak.  It did not, by magical means, choose the person.  Its possible that, perhaps later, this was ‘mythicized’ into the stone choosing the person, leading to the many ‘sword in the stone’ stories, but its difficult to say for sure.

The ‘Danish History’ shows, of course, that it was used, and probably first mentioned, in Denmark.  In addition, some of the accounts appear to show Danish associations:

  • Volsunga Saga – there is an account in the “Danish History” (book 2) which tells of King Frode who has a similar experience to Sigurd the Dragon slayer as described in the Volsunga Saga (could he be the origin of Sigurd the Dragon slayer?)
  • Hrolf Kraki – he was King of Denmark
  • Edward Confessor – was descended from the Danish royalty, both from the original settlers, and through later intermarriage.

As a result of this, I often wonder if this idea originates from Denmark.

I should also point out that Denmark’s islands were apparently viewed in a somewhat mystical way.  I’ve made mention of this in my article “Thoughts on the myth of Gefion, King Gylfi, Odin, the Danish/Swedish rivalry, and the Viking invasions” of how the islands may have been viewed in an ‘otherworldly’ way, and not considered a part of the ‘mainland’ giving these islands a religious quality.   If this were the case, the “stone” in the ground (referred to in the “Danish history”) may refer to this special significance, the “stone” being a reference to the religious significance of the ‘otherworldly’ islands of Denmark ‘choosing’ who is to be King. 

Its also interesting to point out that there appears to be an association with Odin and the Danish island (also mentioned in my article above).  Snorri Sturluson has, in several accounts, said that Odin once “lived” in Denmark.  There is also a town, still existing, in Denmark called Odense, supposedly meaning the “temple of Odin”.  In addition, there are accounts of great sacrifices that took place in Denmark every nine years, which are associated with Odin.

Not only that, it was the custom for Norse Kings to claim descent from him In other words, Odin is associated with Kings and Kingship.

These seem to describe an association:

King > “stone” > land > Denmark > Odin

If this were the case, it may show that there is a long-lost aspect of Kingship, particularly in Denmark, which may very well be the case.  The accounts that we have, then, may only be some remnants.

There may even be more to the “stone”-land-King association than what it may seem.  The King was viewed as being King of the land.  He was not perceived as King of the sea, which is one of the reasons why the Vikings proliferated on the high sea’s . . . there was no King’s law there.  Once a King left his land, or went on the sea, he was often viewed as no longer being King.  This shows that there is a definite association between the land and the King.  This suggests that the idea of the “stone” choosing the King, then, may actually refer to the land, or Kingdom, “choosing” its King . . . the “stone” being a representative of the land.

A SWORD AND A STONE???

Though the stone is most prevalent, and what’s become popularly known, this is not mentioned in all accounts.  The accounts describe a number of variations:

  • A stone.
  • A tree.
  • An anvil.  It’s interesting that the original Sword in the Stone account of King Arthur states that the sword is actually stuck in an anvil “naked by the point”.  That is to say, the sword goes all the way through the anvil with its point sticking out the other end.

I’m inclined to think that the “stone” is probably the original item.  The others were used to fit the situation.  The use of the stone may be for a number of reasons:

  • The idea of the ‘firmness’ of the stone, as described in the “Danish History”.
  • The associations with the islands of Denmark in ‘choosing’ the King, as I described above.
  • The idea of the “stone” being a representative of the land, as I described above.
  • The ‘mythical beings’ found in stones.  For the stone to ‘choose’ it may be assumed there is a ‘mythical being’ in the stone that chooses.  Even in the account of Edward the Confessor it was considered that it was he who would allow the staff to be removed.  There is also an account of Kings and ‘mythical beings’ in stones that are interesting.  In the ‘Ynglinga Saga’ it states how Svegdir, King of Uppsala, wanted to search for the gods.  He travelled far and wide to find the gods.  At one point he saw a dwarf who was standing next to a stone.  The dwarf asked him to go into the stone if he wanted to see Odin.  He then jumped into the stone where it immediately shut up after him.  It was believed that the giants (or, probably, trolls) had snatched him away when he jumped in the stone.  Again we see an association of stone-Odin-King, as I described above.  It also hints at the idea of ‘mythical beings’ in stones.  Because this theme is not mentioned all that much I am inclined to think that it plays little part in the sword in the stone stories.

In addition, its not always a sword that is in the “stone”.  The accounts describe some variations:

  • A sword.
  • A short sword.
  • An axe.
  • A Bishops staff.

The accounts seem to show that what is stuck in the stone is a representative of the persons particular quality or duties.  This appears in the fact that only they can remove this item from the stone.  Once its removed from the stone the power of the stone seems to be no more, except when the same item is put back into the stone where only the same person can pull it out again.

It appears that the type of item stuck in the stone seems to portray the persons function:

  • A weapon apparently represents a warrior.  In addition, the type of weapon sometimes shows what type of warrior he is (as shown in the “Saga of Hrolf Kraki”).
  • A Bishops staff represents religious authority.

Because of the more specific specifying of peoples of authority its possible that these stories may of been created to ‘justify’ the more specific types of authority that began to appear in the Viking era.  As a result, it did this by creating these many stories of people pulling things out of stones to justify their authority.  It gave their authority a mythical stance and justification . . . and makes for good storytelling.

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Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Historical stuff, Mythology, Vikings - Odin, Thor, the Norse, and such | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on an aspect of the youth of today . . . the creation of “the machines of the economy”

Here’s a thought I had:

Recently, I found myself calling the kids of today “the machines of the economy”.  I found myself stating this as a result of watching how everything associated with kids, nowadays, tends to revolve around certain specific subjects.  Basically, what I began to notice is that nothing is about “life” and “living”, or even being a human being.  It seems that everything is about, in the end, work!   The parents, adults, and society seem to be trying to turn the kids into little “machines of the economy”.  The whole orientation for children is for this end.  I first began to realize this when I told someone ” . . . the next time someone speaks of their kids and mentions the word University I’m going to scream!”  You can’t talk about kids without hearing the word college or University or how ‘smart’ the kids are or, later on, how great their jobs are.  Its like this country has become fixated on this single idea.  The whole orientation for children, as layed out by the adults and society, is to become a “machine of the economy”. 

THE CREATION OF A NEW “MACHINE OF THE ECONOMY” LIFESTYLE

My observation is that this orientation is not, necessarily, motivated by greed and personal ambition alone.  This more personal point of view seemed more prevalent in the older generation.  These later “machine of the economy” generations are different.  They appear to be more socially oriented, motivated by social conditions and pressure than by personal ones, which is what we saw in the previous generation.  This gives it a whole new context and point of view.  In fact, society seems to of caused it overall.  It almost appears as if, over many years, the society created an organized concerted effort to create the “machine of the economy”.   There has been a great campaign for this that has gone on for decades.  It has support from the government, the schooling system, the media, society, and the parents, just about everything has become in league with it over the years.  It has so much support that it has now become so extensive and encompasses all the kids life that one could say that a “machine of the economy” lifestyle has been created.  A whole way of life has been created to this end, to turn the kids into “machines of the economy”.

This lifestyle requires, and demands, tremendous amounts of time, energy, and effort from the youth.  Remember that we are now demanding decades of children’s lives, countless hours of effort, and such.  To demand this from everyday kids, on this scale, seems unprecedented to me.  I’ve always pointed out that primitive people, who live in the middle of nature, don’t even require that much from their children.  In effect, at least in my opinion, this lifestyle is demanding too much.  It has now become a dominating and powerful influence in kids lives, one which they cannot escape.  It has become so powerful that it has created an orientation that is basically replacing culture, religion, and the belief systems which have defined human society since the beginning of time.

Other cultures teach their kids a way of life, tradition, belief, and so on . . . a more balanced and human lifestyle that encompasses a great deal of life.  The “machine of the economy” lifestyle does not do this.  It is not balanced and its not really human.  The main purpose, and intent, is to create a bunch of machines for the economy, a bunch of ‘educated’ people to maintain the economy.  This is its focus and its direction.  Because of this it leaves a great gap in the kid’s lives (though I think few are aware of it), of a lifestyle incomplete and lacking.  In this way, it creates a bunch of people who are incomplete and lacking.

THE CAUSE OF NATIONAL PRIDE

I tend to feel that national pride is very much involved with the “machines of the economy” lifestyle.  This whole movement appears to be a remnant of the cold war and oozes of cold war mentality.  Part of this mentality is pursuing the ‘greatness of America’ and emulating its values.  And, as I’ve watched it over the years, I can’t help but notice how, behind all its fancy talk, it looks like nothing but an attempt to ‘prove’ America is a great country by ‘showing’ that the kids can become ‘educated’ and get ‘great jobs’ . . . the glory  of America!

But it wasn’t just for glory.  I can remember when there was a fear that America was ‘getting behind’ the rest of the world.  People thought the kids, in the U.S., weren’t being ‘educated’ very well, which would mean the U.S. is slumping and would weaken the U.S.  It’s probably no surprise that it was after this fear appeared (I recall it in the 1980’s) that we began to see this effort begin which created the “machines of the economy” outlook (which began to grow in the 1990’s).

What all this means is that the kids have become an ‘instrument’ of the nation and national pride.

THE ‘NEW EMPHASIS’ AND THE ‘LACK OF EMPHASIS’

This new orientation of this lifestyle creates an emphasis on specific things:

  • A child’s achievement and abilities.  The kids are often pushed, and often forcibly, to develop abilities and achieve, achieve, achieve!
  • That they will be educated.  This generally is going by the assumption that education somehow ‘improves’ a person.  My observation is that all it does is make people informative about certain things, and this generally absorbs years of their lives and energy to do it.
  • The money they will make.  This surely shows America’s greatness . . . money, money, money, success, success, success!
  • The glamour their new job will entail.  There is often a belief that there will be great glamour in their new job, that it will be this great and wonderful thing.  Of course, most just find that it becomes nothing but a “job”, assuming they can find one they are trained for.   
  • That it reflects what THEY want to do.  There is a belief that one can ‘choose’ what they want to be . . . a great American ideal.  Therefore, in making this decision of what one wants to do, and fulfilling it, is a sign of America’s greatness.   The basic flaw in this is that it assumes that people know what they want to do.  My observation is that most people don’t know what they want to do and, therefore, ‘choose’ things often on passing whims and interests, much like choosing which magazine to skim through while waiting at a doctor’s office.
  • That technology, science, and such, is what everything is about.  Of course, these are nothing but the fruits of the “machines of the economy”.   It makes sense that a “machine of the economy” would worship the fruits of the “machine of the economy”.  Because of this, they assign all this ridiculous and asinine importance to anything technological.  As a result, they think anything technological is great and better than anything else.  I’ve seen people who think that if a kid reads something on a computer its better than reading it from a book!  I’ve seen cases where if a school does not have enough computers then they think the kids can’t learn anything.  I can recall one instance where a school acted like the world was going to end because they didn’t have enough computers!  Its like technology has a ‘Midas touch’ and will solve all their problems.  Utterly ridiculous.

One can see that the ‘new emphasis’ is that EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING, is about going to school and getting a job.  I’m just a bystander to all this, for crying out loud, and I find this unbelievable.  I found it very revolting and appalling.  One of the reasons for this is that this point of view treats kids like their objects, something I disapprove of.   In this way, I see it as a form of degradation of people.  Not only does it degrade people but it creates a degraded lifestyle.

I recently saw a thing that appalled me, a “kid’s job fair”.  What?  We’re talking about grade school kids who don’t know anything about life yet and they are already trying to groom them to be “machines of the economy” . . . their just kids!  Unbelievable.  Maybe we should have grade school kids work at a different company, with a different occupation, every week?  Maybe we should start teaching a second language in the 1st grade and calculus in the 4th grade?  This way, when they reach high school they could be doing quantum physics and learning their fifth language?  Utterly ridiculous.  They’re treating kids like they are a bunch of machines and this is the general orientation of the “machines of the economy” lifestyle.

The “machines of the economy” lifestyle tends to turn ‘emphasis’ away from things like:

  • A meaningful life
  • A useful life
  • A personal life
  • A family life
  • A married life
  • A cultural life
  • A life of belief
  • A moral life

These are things that have been a part of human life for centuries.  None of these things are seen in the ‘machines of the economy’ lifestyle.  How can it be? . . . the kids are being turned into “machines of the economy”, not human beings.  In effect, the “machines of the economy” lifestyle has created a condition of moving away from a “human life”, which is exactly what I’m seeing.  The endless and continuous attempt at turning kids into “machines of the economy” is really nothing but a neglectful forgetting about life and being a human being.  Instead, they get to have endless worthless information stuffed into their heads for 15-20 years, to turn them into a ‘better grade of person’ (that is, educated), and, to prove America is great, they will hopefully get a ‘great job’.  And once they get a ‘great job’ they are, supposedly, at the height of life.  But, in the process of doing this, not only have they forgotten about a large part of life but much of their life has been absorbed with pursuing the ideals of this lifestyle.  With this new lifestyle, kids are not being shown any aspects of a human life.  In fact, they’re being deprived of it. 

Under these conditions many human things, and institutions, simply cannot work.  Remember that, in this lifestyle, children are groomed, from little kids on, to focus on schooling and work as the ‘main thing’ . . . everything else is minor.  It creates a very focused outlook that can be described as a tunnel vision.  As a result, this tunnel vision tends to make it so that, though they focus on schooling and their jobs, they neglect many other aspects of life (which are often more important).  Because of this, many other aspects of life, such as marriage and the family for example, are treated as ‘second’, ‘third’, or not considered at all.  In this way, the “machines of the economy” lifestyle has an undermining quality to human society. 

In addition, the “machine of the economy” lifestyle is a lifestyle that absorbs so much time and energy of the person that there is little left for anything else.  Their youth is wasted on it, and their adulthood is wasted on maintaining it.  As a result, we see that many human things simply don’t work.  They’ve made a whole life revolving around schooling and work as if it is all there is in the world.

How can a marriage work?  The husband and wife, to fully play out the ideal of this lifestyle, have to have degree’s and a high paying job that absorbs all their time when their young and all their time when they have a job.  Really, what’s the point of marriage?

How can a home exist?  Almost everyone is away from home for most of the time.  Husband and wife are at their jobs all day long, playing the ideal of the “machines of the economy”.  The kids are at school, learning to be good little “machines of the economy”.  A home requires that there is a focus and center of the home in the people’s lives.  But, with the “machines of the economy” lifestyle, the focus and center on the home can’t compete with schooling and a job.  It’s not uncommon that, as I drive around the place and look at people’s homes, I can’t help but think to myself “those are just places where people sleep at night”.

How can a family work?  Both husband and wife are at work, absorbing most of their time.  There’s not that much of a family there.  Because of the power of the “machines of the economy” lifestyle there is no one to even raise, and take care of, the kids.  As a result, people put their kids in child care and, later, in the public school system.  In this way, the “machines of the economy” lifestyle has, in a way, created a substitute family because the family can’t work under these conditions.  As a result of this, this lifestyle as if feeds upon itself . . . destroying the family, but creating a substitute family, that only destroys the family even more. 

THE BLIND SHEEP BEHIND IT ALL

As I’ve watched this lifestyle over the years I have been appalled by the blind sheep mentality that’s behind this.  People blindly follow it.  To be frank, this is sort of scary to me.  This whole lifestyle does not create the free-thinkers, as it likes to think, but a bunch of people who do nothing but ‘follow the crowd’ . . . a bunch of blind sheep.  In many ways, this observation was the first sign that there was something wrong with all this.

The kids are blindly following what their told to do, without consideration, without thought.  The best example of this when I began to ask kids if any had inquired about job opportunities in the field they were studying . . . so far, not one has!  So we have thousands of kids blindly going into the University or College, committing thousands of dollars, years of their lives, and a great deal of stress, without so much as looking for job opportunities!  As I once said, “this fact puts this whole generation in doubt to me” . . . and it does.  It reminds me of an incidence that I was told about when I took Hunter Safety many decades ago.  The Instructor told us he flunked a whole class because, when they did the target shooting at the end of the course, a guy had got up to change the target while everyone was still firing.  Not one person stood up and said, “stop shooting!”  They all ‘passed’ the tests and everything but had forgotten the basic lesson of the course.  In a way, its sort of the same thing with the generation . . . they’re not getting the big picture . . . they’re too busy being blind sheep.

The worst blind sheep, by far, are the females.  I once heard someone mention that they had a discussion with their neighbor about what their daughter was going to do.  Almost immediately I said, “She’s a female.  She doesn’t have a choice.  She HAS TO go to the University.”  Females go to the University not for much different reasons than why they wear the latest fashions.  Because of this, they HAVE TO GO, whether they want to or not.  And, sure enough, she HAD TO GO, even though she had no interest in anything.  A perfect blind sheep.  Way to go younger generation!!!

The “machines of the economy” lifestyle turns kids into blind sheep and that’s exactly how they behave.  In fact, this is so prevalent a theme that I have begun to equate the “machines of the economy” lifestyle, as well as much of these later generations, to being blind sheep, meaning sort of mindless people.

At this point, I’ve seen very little to prove it wrong.

Another aspect of the blind sheep mentality is the creation of a particular quality of “sycophant”.

And what is a “sycophant” you say?

Well, it’s basically someone who ‘sucks up’ to other people (who usually have some power) in order to get ahead.   With the “machines of the economy” lifestyle it has a quality of a blind sheep who ‘sucks up’ to get ahead usually be doing whatever everyone else is doing or the system says.  As a result, it gives them a quality of ‘following along’ or ‘sucking up’ to the system as required.

This “sycophant” attitude is very prevalent with the “machines of the economy” lifestyle.  In fact, I’d say that, in many ways, the “machines of the economy” lifestyle is nothing but a form of “sycophant living”.  This is not surprising as the whole lifestyle is based in ‘getting ahead’ in some way by ‘sucking up’ to authority in some way in order to get there (namely, education and a job).   In this country, this “sycophancy” is disguised under the mantle of many forms of American idealisms, making it appear somewhat patriotic and a virtue.  Some of these American idealisms include:

  • Individualism.
  • The value of work.
  • The importance of achievement.
  • The worship of success.

Hiding behind these idealisms, it makes this “sycophancy” seem a desirable quality, something to be cultivated.  Accordingly, one can see that this is exactly what happens with this lifestyle.  More than once have I described these generations as ‘social climbers’ or ‘suck ups’.   I once almost told a kid:

“All you’re doing is playing along with the system to get ahead . . . you could care less about what you’re learning or doing.  You’re just hiding behind this blind obeying of everything and, when it works, you think you’re successful.” 

Many will ‘play along’ doing whatever the system says and tells them to do.  They will follow what it says, learn what it says, and do what it says.  In this way, it gives many kids of this lifestyle an almost robotic inhuman quality.  So here we can see that this blind sheep attitude, this “sycophancy”, this robotic attitude ,creates a tendency to be not be genuine with themselves creating a quality of artificiality

THE ‘EDUCATED UNEDUCATED’

The “machines of the economy” lifestyle, with its requirement of ‘education’ has, at least in my opinion, caused a degradation of knowledge.  It has primarily devalued it, creating what can be described as ‘cheap knowledge’ (many years I wrote an article on this called “Thoughts on ‘cheap knowledge’“).  It does this a number of ways:

  • It has turned knowledge as a means to an end . . . namely, work, success, money, etc.
  • There is little or no convictions or belief in knowledge. 
  • One seeks knowledge as a means of blind following, of doing what you’re told to do in order to get ahead.
  • It has made knowledge “common” . . . anyone can learn it, and at any time.
  • There are no values that surround knowledge.  In many ways, the defining trait of ‘cheap knowledge’ is its lack of values.
  • There is too much hype when someone learns something.  Just because someone learns something does not mean that they are ‘educated’ or intelligent.
  • There are serious flaws in the ‘measurement’ of learning.  The whole grading system is in error and does not do what it professes to do.  I wrote an article on this called “Thoughts on how grades really don’t measure anything“.
  • Knowledge is used too much as a ‘weapon’ or a means for something.

The “machines of the economy” lifestyle all foster these qualities that, in the end, make knowledge cheap and, in a way, worthless.  In this way, it has created a form of ‘new education’, of being educated, and passing all the requirements (perhaps appearing to excel) but without being educated. This is the ‘educated uneducated’.  Its created people who have done nothing, really, but ‘pass the course’, and because they have ‘passed’, they are supposed to be ‘educated’.  The problem is that most aren’t ‘educated’, they just ‘passed’.

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM THE “MACHINES OF THE ECONOMY” LIFESTYLE

The “machines of the economy” lifestyle has taught me a lot about things and life.  Basically, its taught me what NOT to be and do.  Recently, I’ve found myself saying things that are a result of observing this lifestyle.  Some of these statements include:

  • I don’t want my life to revolve around work.  I want a life beyond work.  Work, to me, is a part of life, it’s not all of it.  I went on to emphasize that I do not want to spend too much time at work, as it robs me of time living.  I also mentioned that I do not want a job that has too much responsibility (or stress) as it drains the energy out of me.  I want energy to live.
  • I do not want my life to be measured by how much money I make.  I do not want my life to be measured by how expensive my car or house is.
  • I do not want my life to revolve around achievement and what I accomplish.
  • I want my life to focus on simple human things, not on the seeking of glamorous fantastic things that’s primary purpose is to impress either the system (to get ahead) or people.
  • If I learn something I want it to have a meaning and worth, not just something to remember for a test.
  • I do not want to be a blind sheep to society, blindly following every latest thing.
  • I don’t want my life to be a ‘sucking up’ as a way of life.
  • I want to live a genuine human life.
  • I don’t need to have the system approve of me to make me someone or ‘successful’.  I want to live apart from the system without its judgement’s to determine who I am and what I am.

These are all traits to avoid the “machine of the economy” lifestyle.

———-

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Dehumanization and alienation, Education and learning, Modern life and society, Society, The U.S. and American society | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on the historical progression of the image of Odin . . . the creation of a “conglomeration god”

Here is a thought I had about Odin (as with everything involving prehistoric religion it is primarily speculation):

To me, it seems that Odin is a god whose image has progressed through history.  As a result of this, he has developed many different traits as a result of going through many phases in history.  This means that the image of Odin is actually a conglomeration of different aspects and conditions that have appeared throughout Norse history.  In this way, we could describe Odin as a “conglomeration god”.  That is to say, he is a conglomeration of the many conditions in history put together in one.  In this way, he as if become something like a repository of much of the cultures history.

THE PHASES OF PROGRESSION

It seems, to me, that the image of Odin changed primarily in response to the changing conditions of Norse society.  At this time, it seems that this progression of history describes a period of time of at least 700 years but could even be a thousand years or more.  The origin of Odin, of course, is shrouded in mystery.  But we know that the progression of Odin’s image ended with the coming of Christianity and the subsequent organization of society that followed.  This took place in about 1000 A.D. or thereabouts, depending on what area you’re looking at and even how you look at it.

One of the things the progression of the image of Odin shows is that Norse society did, in fact, change quite a bit from some time after the birth of Christ to about 1000 A.D.    It did not remain static but altered form, in some ways, somewhat rapidly, going from a hunting tribal society, with a sparse population of people, to an organized social hierarchical agricultural and warring society.

With the changing of society the image of Odin changed with it making it so that Odin altered to fit the social conditions.  In other words, there is a direct association between the conditions of society and the image of Odin.  This, more or less, makes Odin a direct representation of the society he represented.

I see the progression as follows:

The hunting tribal society

This society is primarily a hunting society.  It would be made up of small scattered groups of people.  They may even be nomadic.  In fact, its possible that the Norse began to inhabit northern Europe as part of these nomadic migrations.  It’s also very likely that they may have resembled the American Plains Indians.  As with many of these tribal societies, the shaman would most likely be a major influence . . . and there are many references that Odin may have shamanistic origins.

Phase 1) Odin’s origins.

The earliest origins of Odin are unknown.  We will probably never know this.  One of the reasons why is that, at this phase, his appearance would be totally different from what we know him today.  He would not have many of the traits that appeared later and which makes up the image of him as we know him today.  More than likely he had a different name, totally different worship, and functions.  At this phase, I see no evidence of what he could have appeared as at this time.  This is, no doubt, because there are no written accounts during this time.

There are hints, though, of what he might of been in the mythology.  The Norse mythology give Odin a quality where he is described almost as a generic ‘creator god’.  He’s spoken of as the “all father” for example.   This point of view is seen in the ‘Gylfiginning’ of the ‘Poetic Edda’.  In this image of Odin he is portrayed as a “god”, removed from humanity.  That is to say, he is the creator of the world.  It’s possible that, at this phase, he was viewed as a god of nature and a creator of nature.  As a result of this more impersonal perspective, his worship and rituals were probably more formal.  In other words, he did not develop the more personal qualities he would later develop.

In addition to being a creator god it appears that Odin was probably associated with hunting.  One hint of this is Odin’s association with a spear, which was probably used in hunting as it appears that the bow and arrow was something brought up later from southern Europe.  This may account for the reason why a spear was often used to pierce people on death in order to consecrate them to Odin.  In addition, later on the spear was thrown over an opposing army to consecrate the war dead to Odin.  The spear became a symbol, in effect, of the ‘bounty’ and ‘blessing’ of the nature creator god who supplies the peoples food.  This gives the spear great symbolic meaning and value.

Because of Odin’s association with hunting, he may of become associated with sacrifice at this phase.  In other words, sacrifice was associated with the killing of animals in hunting.  More than likely, they performed sacrifice to guarantee a good hunt or as a result of a good hunt.  If this were the case it would show that Odin was associated with sacrifice probably from the very beginning which may show that he can be described as a ‘sacrificial god’ or a god greatly associated with sacrifice.

I’m also inclined to think that, in this phase, the religion was a more generalized belief system primarily enforced by the elders of the tribe.  In other words, it was primarily a traditional belief system. It probably consisted of rituals and such.  There were no doubt shamans at this time, as there usually are in these societies, but their emphasis were probably with the ‘lesser gods and spirits’ at this time.  It appears, though, that the shaman would grow to have growing importance and make a lasting influence on the image of Odin in the next phase . . .

Phase 2) Odin as shaman or a shaman god. 

Many of the accounts of Odin describe him as being associated with shamanism.  In fact, he is so associated with themes seen in shamanism that it hardly escapes notice.  This leads me to feel that he is more than just reflecting shamanism but intimately bound with it.  Some of the reasons why include:

  • The word “Od”, which his name appears to originate from, seems to be associated with the word “frenzy” or “frantic”, suggesting shamanistic tendencies.  I speak of the shamanistic tendency of ‘journeying’ and trance which can be compared to a frenzy of sorts.
  • There are also accounts of Odin being able to separate from himself and travel around.  These are claims of shamans in their ‘journeying’.  In the ‘Ynglinga saga’ is states:  “Odin often changed himself;  at those times his body lay as though he were asleep or dead, and then he then became a bird or a beast, a fish or a dragon, and went in an instant to far-off lands on his own or other men’s errands”.  This sounds very much like shamanistic ‘journeying’.
  • Norse mythology describes a great world tree called ‘Yggdrasil’.  This means “Odin’s horse”.  It’s a well-known fact that, in many cultures, shamans often describe the idea of a world tree which they will often climb in their ‘journeying’.  Therefore, the idea of “Odin’s horse”, as something he “rides” may refer to this same theme.
  • Odin seems to often describe a more philosophical bent on existence and experience.  I’ve described some of this in my article called ” Thoughts on how Odin may be a representative of existence“.

Because of these things it appears to show that the Norse religion is taking on an active form, where it is believed people are actively participating with the gods and vice-versa.  I call this condition “active religion”, which I believe is a significant part of shamanism.  I have written an article about this, as well as shamanism, in an article called “Thoughts on defining shamanism: an ‘active belief system’“, if you’re interested.  It’s this quality, of being “active”, that may have made the god Odin, in this phase, more powerful than the god Odin from phase 1:  there was an active participation.

In this way, it appears as if shamanistic elements have begun to merge into the image of Odin as described in phase 1.  In fact, more than likely the shaman was already there in phase 1 but, it seems to me, that, at one point in Norse history, the shaman grew in influence and power bringing in a very ‘personal’ quality to Odin making him almost representative of the shaman.  I’ve often wondered why this happened.  I see several things that could have happened:

  1. There was a blending of “gods”:  the “god” from phase 1 and a shamanistic “god” that appeared.   With this, Odin took on two qualities, a ‘generic god’ and a ‘specific god’ used by the shamans.
  2. Its even possible that there was a blending of the “god” of phase 1 and a “powerful shaman”.  It wasn’t uncommon that some shamans were perceived as particularly powerful to the point that, even after death, people feared their power.  This may be the reason why Odin is often remembered as a real person (which is referred to by Snorri Sturluson).  This may hint at a truth but its difficult to say.   I’ve referred to a similar concept of this as an ‘intermediary god’.  I’ve written an article about it called “Thoughts on the ‘intermediary god’ and the gradations of god“.

Because of the new shamanistic element I wouldn’t be surprised if the name “Odin” began to be used during phase 2.  This would mean that it completely replaced the older name of phase 1 showing that this shamanistic related god was viewed as being more powerful.

I’m also inclined to think that, if the shamanistic element became more powerful than the god of phase 1, it would mean that the religion became more organized in the society, as well as more powerful, which is probably why the shamans became more powerful.  In other words, it was no longer just a generalized belief the elders enforced in the tribe as in phase 1.  It suggests a more organized, and powerful, religious structure has developed, probably headed by shamans or shaman-like people.

The agricultural tribal society

In this type of society the people become established, and implanted, to the land by agriculture.  As a result, the people became more stationary.  The emphasis of things changes from hunting to farming.  Because of this, the religion tends to become ‘passive’ and the ‘active’ element tends to start to wane (see my article above about ‘active religion’).  This causes a whole shift of mentality, emphasis, and importance of things.

Phase 3) Odin as god of magic, spells, divining, etc. 

In this phase, Odin probably would have become more ‘static’.  That is to say, he would become a more defined “god” with definite formal customs and worship.  The active association with him, as done by the shamans in phase 2, would be waning or would have disappeared.  More than likely, the shaman would begin to disappear and probably would have disappeared in this phase.  Because of this, the Odin religion would become more rigid and formal.  There would develop more ‘defined’ ways of associating with Odin.  Basically, the ways of ‘passive religion’, where the association with the god is formal and defined, would begin to take hold.  As a result, we’d see things like:

  • Specific rituals and worship.
  • Sacrifice as a ‘generic ritual’.
  • The use of songs, poems, and prayers.
  • The use of runes.
  • Magic.
  • Divining.

With the fall of the shamans these “duties” would of increasingly be associated with the general population probably.  They may have started to build temples and had specific places of worship as well.  We may see the coming of priests, even, at this phase.

One of the things that appeared to be developed during this phase is the use of runes.  Though many people seem to think that “runes are just runes” (that is to say, they were a thing unto themselves) the accounts seem to show that they were associated with and in conjunction with other things.  In a previous article (“Questioning the meaning of Norse “runes”“) I have questioned that runes were just magic symbols by themselves but were actually part of a greater process.

It appears that there was an association between these things (which are stated in the ‘Havamol’):

  • Runes as a symbol.
  • The use of sacrifice.  These are often referred to as “staining the runes” (that is to say, staining with blood).
  • The use of poetry, song, or spells.  It also mentions the use of “spells” (which is probably the same as song or poetry) which was associated with the runes that Odin “caught up”.

These, apparently, were used as a means to affect some quality (such as protection) or change (such as someone’s downfall).  It’s possible that this technique was developed by shamans as an ‘active association’ with the gods.  But, in this phase, they began to be used by the general population in a ‘passive’ way, meaning more rigid and formal rules.  This may have given runes its mechanical quality, which is what we see with them in the later Viking years, of just “carving a rune on something” for protection, etc. . . . the personal active quality of the shaman has disappeared.

With the fall of the active association (or shamanistic orientation) we begin to see the rise of ‘witches’, the ‘prophetess’, and such, as well as the extensive use of magic.  Though males did this, it appears that these things were primarily female.  It seems to me that there is a reason for this.  History shows that when the shamanistic orientation, disappear there is a tendency for females tend to come in to fill the gap created by its absence.  In so doing, it creates people such as witches, at least for a while.  This creates an ‘era of witches’, so to speak.  It seems that this is often a sign of a change from an ‘active religion’ to a ‘passive religion’.  This phase seems to suggest this scenario.  Typically, these people will take the function, or try to take the function, of the shaman of the former era but generally in a more formal ‘generic’ and ‘passive’ way.  Because of this, they do a “modified form of shaman” often consisting of things like trances, incantations, spells, magic, and such.  This is exactly what many of these females did in this era.  As a result, they are seen in the accounts at this time.

The established social hierarchical society

With this society there develops a strong social hierarchy.  Things like nobility and rank begin to appear and become very established.  There also develops a class-like system with the poor and rich.  There develops great social organization which leads, more and more, to a more ‘passive religion’.  This society seems to show that the agricultural society has become firmly established.  Because of this, the qualities of phase 3 would often grow in strength.  One of the reasons for this is that the society is now a growing society with more and more people in it.  As a result, there is a growing of things like:

  • Control and organization.
  • The ways and customs become established.
  • Things become more rigid and defined.
  • There develops a rebelliousness in people.
  • There develops social tensions and disputes.

This era seems to be right before the Viking era but I cannot say how much earlier.  I’m inclined to think it developed in the centuries following Christ’s birth.

Phase 4) Odin as a god of sacrifice.

With the growing society, the lack of ‘active religion’ (as well as shamans to perform it), and the increasing social tensions the Norse appeared to entrench themselves further into a specific form or manifestation of ‘passive religion':  sacrifice.  They seemed to do a lot of sacrifice.  This seems common in Denmark and possibly in Sweden.  They not only sacrificed animals but men (and some women).  There is evidence, such as in Denmark, of many sacrifices that were held, such as those bodies found in the peat bogs.

This phase seemed to of just begun only to be eclipsed by the next phase . . .

The warring society

The growing population, and the discovery of the ease of gaining wealth on the sea’s through piracy, created a society that began to increasingly use war and violence.  This is the Viking era.

Phase 5) Odin as a god of war.

It appears that the sacrifice of the previous phase, and the coming of war and violence, quickly turned Odin into a god of war.  One thing that seems to of led to this is that war was considered a form of sacrifice.  As a result, the Vikings began to associate Odin with war and death (I’ve written an article about this called “Thoughts on how the Norse god Odin’s association with sacrifice, and historical circumstance, turned him into a ‘war god’ and a ‘god of the dead’“).

Because the accounts of Odin are primarily from the Viking era, he tends to be portrayed as predominately in the image of this last phase, as a god of war.  The earlier phases tend to be eclipsed by this later phase.  It appears to do this because of a number of factors such as:

  • It was something in peoples recent memories.
  • It was recorded.
  • It was dramatic.
  • There was something ‘defined’ to record (such as tales of Viking hero’s).

These qualities were all lacking in the former phase’s making them somewhat ‘forgotten’.  As a result, it has given an illusionary quality to the image of Odin, making him appear only as if here were in the later phase.

But the myths, in particular, describe other qualities of Odin that do not match this idea of a ‘god of war’, such as his association with creation and poetry.  What these tend to show are earlier phases of his development.  And so, what we see is a god that has many traits reflecting different aspects of the phases he has gone through . . . a ‘conglomeration god’.

(I have written of similar perspectives of this in an earlier article called “Some thoughts on the possible origin and development of the Norse god Odin“, if you’re interested).

———-

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Historical stuff, Mythology, Religion and religious stuff, Society, Vikings - Odin, Thor, the Norse, and such | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on the myth of Gefion, King Gylfi, Odin, the Danish/Swedish rivalry, and the Viking invasions

(The statue of Gefion and her Oxen at Copenhagen, Denmark)

I’ve always wondered about the origin of the myth of Gefion and the story of the creation of Zealand in Denmark.  At first, it looks like just a myth but, over time, I began to feel that there may be more behind this myth that what it seems.  What I write below is an idea that came to me about this that I feel is interesting enough to note down.

I should emphasize that what we are looking at is a situation that happened before the Viking invasions.  Unfortunately, this is a period of time in which we have sporadic, minimal, and questionable sources.  The myth of Gefion is one of the few references that may refer to this time period and, as a result, may be a good starting point to look at what happened.  But, as with everything else in this time period everything, it can only be considered speculation.

In addition, this speculation is assuming that this myth describes a historic condition, which it may or may not be doing.  What I mean by this is that it is a way in which a long-standing historical condition was described by the early Vikings, to give meaning to a historic fact that affected their lives.  As to whether this assumption is true or not I cannot say for certain.

THE ACCOUNTS

There are two accounts of the myth of Gefion that I’m aware of.  Both were written by the Icelander Snorri Sturluson.

The ‘Gylfiginning’ in the ‘Edda’

There was a king in Sweden called Gylfi.  A “vagrant” woman was supposed to of come to his kingdom and entertained King Gylfi.  Here name was Gefiun.  She was of the Aesir.  He was so impressed by her that he gave her enough plough-land that she could do in a day and a night using four oxen.  She had four sons who were oxen.  Their father was a giant from Giantland.  Because they were giants they had great strength and the plough cut deep and hard into the earth.  In fact, it cut so hard and deep that it uprooted the land and the oxen drew the land out into the sea to the west and set the land in the middle of a sound there.  Gefiun gave it the name Zealand.  Where the land was there became a lake called Lake Malar in Sweden.  The inlets in the lake are supposed to correspond to the headlands in Zealand. 

The ‘Ynglinga Saga’

As Odin was travelling into the northern lands he stayed at Odenso (on the island f Fyn in Denmark) for a time.  While there he sent Gefion northeast into Sweden to look for land.  She met Gylfi who gave her a ploughland.  She then went to a giants home and had four children by him, who she shaped into oxen.  She then yoked them to a plough and broke up the land into the sea opposite Odenso, to the east, and created Selund (Zealand).  She lived there.  She married Skjold (who founded the Danish Skjoldung line of kings) in Leira.  Where she ploughed is now called Loginn (lake Malar in Sweden), which have the same nesses as Selund.  He quotes this poem from Bragi the Old:

“Gefin drew with gladness

From the gold-rich Gylfi

Denmark’s new increase

(so that it reeked from the beasts)

The oxen bore eight eyes

And four heads

They they went forth,

Far over Vino’s bay”

Odin heard of the good land in Gylfi’s country and went over there.  Gylfi could not compete with the Asapeople (who are gods).  They had many dealings, using cunning and charms, and the Asapeople always won.  He was powerless against them.  Odin ended up settling down in a place near Logrinn called Gamla-Sigtun (old Sigtun). 

THE ‘GYLFIGINNING’ AND KING GYLFI

The myth of Gefion is described at the beginning of the book ‘Gylfiginning’ in the ‘Edda’.  The bulk of the story, though, speaks of King Gylfi who plays a big part in the Gefion myth.  He is portrayed as somewhat ‘backward’ or ‘primitive’.  Snorri has him appear as if unable to compete with the Aesir, who are better than he is.  As a result, King Gylfi tries to try to find out about the Aesir by traveling to Asgard.   To do this he diguises himself and calls himself Gangleri.  The Aesir, being very wise, discover his intentions and create a fantasy castle to receive him.  He is presented to three Kings called High, Just-as-High, and Third (all these, later in the tale, are said to be names of Odin).  He is then allowed to ask all these questions about the Aesir which the three Kings answer.   This question and answer dialogue is the source of many of the Norse myths we now have.  This story is called the “Gylfiginning” or ‘The deluding of Gylfi’.

POSSIBLE DISTORTIONS TO THE STORY

Being that the story is a myth it needs to be looked at closely and we need to show caution.  Knowing the history of Snorri Sturluson we know that he did tend to make two common distortions in many of his writings.  These are:

  1. He often tried to make the pagan myths as if they were historical events.
  2. Being a Christian, he tried to belittle pagan religion.

We must also be mindful of other things that might of influenced this story, which include:

  • The influence of history and time, as it was recorded years after the Viking era (Snorri was writing in the 1200’s).
  • Snorri Sturluson lived and wrote in Iceland, which is a long ways from Denmark and Sweden.  This distance means that it had a long way to travel to get to him.   Who knows how many mouths it had to go through to get to him?
  • Because the two accounts differ in many ways its possible that Snorri, himself, altered the story either deliberately or unknowingly, perhaps by remembering them differently each time he wrote the myth, which may have been years apart.

With all these factors the chances that there are distortions to this story is very high.  As a result, we must keep this in mind when looking at it.

SOME FIRST REMARKS

This story first caught my attention for a number of reasons:

  • The fact that both myths involved locations of the power centers of Sweden and Denmark.  In Sweden the power center is located at Sigtuna and Uppsala (which are near each other).  These are located near Lake Malar (Logrinn) which, incidentally, was ploughed up by Gefion to create Selund (Zealand) in Denmark.  Zealand, was the power center of Denmark, with the kings living in Lejra (which is where, one myth says, Gefion lived).  I felt that this can’t be coincidence but showed a specific association between the two countries as reflected in the myth.
  • The importance of these areas is further supported by the fact that both Sweden and Denmark did a great sacrifice every 9 years, whereas this happened nowhere else that I’m aware of.  This was supposed to take place in Uppsala in Sweden and Lejre in Denmark which are both mentioned in the myth as being associated with Gefion and are the locations of the power centers.  This shows that not only is there a power association but a religious association as well.  More than likely they are related.
  • In addition, there were repetitive stories of disputes between the kings of Sweden and the kings of Denmark in the sagas and accounts.  These have been going on for centuries.  These are so prevalent that it hardly can escape notice.  Disputes between other kingdoms and places tend to be sporadic and occasional and are often only a one time event.  In many ways, the disputes between Denmark and Sweden (that is, Leire and Uppsala) define much of these countries histories before the Viking invasions. 

All these suggests a strong Danish/Swedish connection between their respective power/religious centers.  They also describe a continuous and long-going rivalry.

THEMES IN THE GEFION MYTH

There are a number of themes in the Gefion myth:

1) The name “Gefiun”:  a gift

The name ‘Gefiun’ seems to derive from “gefa” which means ‘to give’, ‘to give quarter’, and ‘one is enabled’.  It generally refers to something one is given. This may possibly suggest that ‘Gefion’ is a reference to a gift of some sort.

But what kind of gift?

It’s difficult to say but I often wonder that when the islands were first settled they may have seemed out-of-place in the wide expanse of sea of that area.  This may have made the islands appear extraordinary and unique . . . a gift, perhaps, from god.  This may even be hinted at in the name of the main island, which is Zealand, or “sea-land” meaning a unique form of land, unlike any other land.  Perhaps the islands were perceived as ‘sacred’ in some way and may have been thought of as being Divine and set apart from the mainland?  Their sense of extraordinariness is further hinted at by the fact that it was created by mythological beings (Gefion and the oxen).

All this is too vague to say for certain.

 2) The reference to “movement of land”

Being that it is a movement of land, from Sweden to Denmark, it may hint that this involved the power of the King as Kingly power which is associated with the land.  A king was a king on his land only.  Saint Olav of Norway, for example, had to have everyone agree that he will remain king while he was on the water when on a Viking expedition.  In addition, a kings only had power over his land.  As a result, while in the kings land you would be protected by his laws or “under the Kings protection”.  If you went out of his lands his laws did not apply.  These are just several examples of the king/land association.  Because of this, the “land movement” theme, in this myth may, perhaps, refer to a rivalry or conflict between two Kings, one centered in Leire, Denmark, and one in Uppsala, Sweden.

This is particularly more apparent when you look at the areas involved in this myth.  Lake Malar is next to Uppsala, the power center of Sweden.  Zealand was the area where the kings of Denmark lived and therefore was their power center.  This can’t be coincidence.

Since Denmark received the land from Sweden to form Zealand I’m inclined to think that it was probably a Danish developed myth as they gained “land” from Sweden.  This would suggest that, not only the Gefion myth, but even the ‘gylfiginning’ (see below) is Danish in origin.

But what was this “land” that Denmark received from Sweden?  I can see some scenarios:

  • That the royal household was first settled in Uppsala, Sweden.  Then a member of that house settled in Zealand and became king there, making Zealand his domain.  Hence, the royal power, represented by the “land”, was taken from the Swedish Uppsala royal house and “transplanted”, so to speak, to Zealand in the myth.  In this way, the “land” may be a mythological representation of a settlement in Zealand by a member of the Uppsala royal house thereby giving it its “land” or ‘power’.
  • Perhaps a member of the Uppsala royal house was allowed to be King in Zealand by the King in Uppsala, hence it being a “gift” (per the name of Gefion, as described above)?  Being a gift, in this way, may mean that he was not a King originally, but just a family member or, perhaps, someone who somehow deserved it (such as a warrior).
  • I’ve even speculated that, perhaps, the whole Danish/Swedish dispute is because the person in Zealand made themselves King against the King in Uppsala’s wish, which caused resentment in Uppsala?

Of course, we have no way of knowing.

3) The degradation of King Gylfi of Sweden

In both accounts of the Gefion myth, it is spoken of that Gefion went to Sweden in King Gylfi’s land.  There, she basically ‘duped’ Gylfi into giving her land that would create Zealand.  This makes Gefion a representative of Denmark and Gylfi as a representative of Sweden.  This situation suggests several themes:

  • Gylfi was degraded, humiliated, or belittled.
  • Denmark received something from Sweden.

This seems to suggest that this story may be associated with the rivalry between the two kingdoms that went in favor of Denmark.  It basically shows a success in this rivalry for Denmark.  In this way, this shows that the Gefion myth is a result of this rivalry and, as a result, is Danish in origin.  Being that it was described in mythological terms may mean that this rivalry was old by the time of the Viking era, hence our inability to find any account of it.

4) The name “Gylfi”:  land/sea references

There seems to be three references to the meaning of the name Gylfi that I’m aware of:

  1. An association with the sea.  This is referred to in the ‘Skaldskaparmal’ by Snorri Sturluson.  There it says that ‘sea’ is sometimes called “Gylfi’s land”.
  2. A reference to a generalized name for a King in general, particularly a ‘sea King’ or Viking.  This also referred to in the ‘Skaldskaparmal’.
  3. Gylfi is also spoken of as one of 9 sons of Halfdan the Old that were born together These 9 sons were supposed to be very famous as warriors and were often used synonymously for King or Earl.  Because it is in regard to a specific person I’m inclined to think that this is coincidence and does not have anything to do with the myth. This is also referred to in the ‘Skaldskaparmal’.

Because the name Gylfi has been used in other contexts its possible that it means that Gylfi may not be based on an actual man at all, but a mythical figure.  This seems likely, as both Gefion and her four sons are mythical.  Because of this, I’m inclined to think that King Gylfi, in the Gefion myth, is also ‘mythical’ or is a generalized name and not a reference to an actual person.

It cannot be coincidence that the Gefion myth describes the origin of Zealand, “sea-land”, involving a man called Gylfi, in which sea is referred to as “Gylfi’s land”.  In both cases, it’s as if the sea is described as “land” in some way.  But why?  Here’s some thoughts:

  • Could it be that the islands of Denmark were associated with a sacredness?  Perhaps this is why there was a great temple at Odense on the island of Fyn to the west of Zealand?  Odense supposedly means ‘Odin’s temple’ and Odin figures prominently in this myth.  I’ve often speculated that the island Fyn may have been a religious center for Odin originally, perhaps, because it was an island, being perceived as removed from the world, hence sacred.  This is not unusual as several Viking accounts describe how they used islands for sacred events (such as ‘King Gautreks saga’ – see my article:  “Interesting facts from “King Gautrek’s saga”“).
  • Could it be that this area was known for people who lived on their ships as, for the Vikings, their “land” was their ship on the sea?  Could this be a reference to long-standing Viking attacks?  Could it, perhaps, refer to multiple attacks that were waged against Zealand by Swedes?  The ‘Ynglinga Saga’, an account of early Swedish Kings, states there were many raids upon Denmark by the kings of Uppsala.  Denmark, and especially Zealand, was an area that was situated in the center of trading, making it an easy target for Viking attacks.

Either way, it appears that the islands of Denmark were viewed in a ‘special’ way.  It appears that the Danish islands were perceived as being more than normal “land” though the exact context of this is unclear.

A MYTH OF A DANISH/SWEDISH RIVALRY?

As I stated above, I questioned if this myth refers to a long-standing Danish/Swedish rivalry turned into a myth.  It would have to be very old as it seems to predate recorded history.  As near as I can tell I cannot find any reference to the origin of this rivalry.  The main reason why I suspected this is because of the continual references of conflicts between Sweden (in Uppsala) and the Kings of Denmark (based in Leire).  The accounts seem to give this image that, in the early years, the disputes were always between Uppsala and Leire.  Hardly ever is there any mention of other people in Sweden, or even Norway, at least in the early years.

What makes this even more interesting is that Uppsala and Leire are a long ways apart . . . there was no instant communication back then.  The fastest way to travel between these areas is by ship which would have taken weeks, perhaps months.  Any correspondence would be slow process.  Normally, you’d think that any disputes would be toward people near each other and not far away, as in this case.  Because of the long distance it suggests that there was a great bond between Uppsala and Leire.  Because of this I tend to feel that it was a ‘family royal dispute’.  That is to say, the Kings of Sweden, in Uppsala, were related to the Kings in Denmark, in Liere.  For a bond like this to happen it would most likely have to be a blood association . . . relatives.

In addition, its interesting that between Uppsala and Leire is the whole of southern Sweden which, in many accounts, had many people and leaders.  Why were there no disputes with these people?  I think its clear that there was ‘some connection’ between Uppsala and Leire.

Examples of Danish/Swedish conflict

So far I am unaware of any account that describes why this rivalry began.  Much of the histories (such as the ‘Ynglinga Saga’ and ‘Heminskringla’) seem to automatically start describing conflict with no hint as to their origin or cause.  The rivalry is just “there” as if it always existed.  This makes me think that the rivalry is very old, certainly predating the Viking era (about 800 AD), and probably centuries before that too.

A lot of the ‘Danish History’, by Saxo Grammaticus, is nothing but the conflicts between the Danes and the Swedes.  The first account of this conflict, though, begins as if it was always there.  It describes the account of the Danish King Gram and the Swedish King Sigtryg.  In this story, King Gram goes to Uppsala, apparently as a result of a repulsion to the idea of a princess in Uppsala marrying a giant.  Though it does not describe the cause it describes a familiar theme in this rivalry:  the repulsion of the Swedes by the Danes.  Looking at the many accounts, there appear to be many similar situations such as:

  • Unjust marriages in Sweden.
  • The sacrifices that take place in Uppsala, Sweden.
  • The worship of things, such as cattle, that took place in Uppsala, Sweden.
  • The sorcery that takes place in Uppsala, Sweden.
  • The greed of the Swedish kings.
  • The deceitfulness of the Swedish kings.

One can see that, in all the accounts, they seem to reflect how the Danes were repulsed by something going on in Uppsala.  In other words, all accounts are from the Danish perspective and reflected how they were bothered by things in Uppsala. 

This rivalry seems to of gone on for generations, and possibly centuries, before the Viking invasions.  This is very apparent in ‘The Danish History’ but many other accounts refer to it such as ‘The Saga of Hrolf Kraki’ and ‘The Saga of Ragnar Lodbrok”.  I should point out that these two later saga’s happen in the Viking era whereas ‘The Danish History’ happens before the Viking era showing that it is, indeed, a long-standing conflict.

The ‘Peace of Frode’

It appears that the rivalry lasted so long that the periods of times when there was peace was given a special name:  the ‘Peace of Frode’.  For something so long-standing there would naturally be periods of peace, something lie the détente during the Cold War.  During this time, there would be a lessening of bitterness and they would be friendly toward each other.  As a result, a “peace” would result.  I tend to think this is what the ‘Peace of Frode’ meant, and that it didn’t refer to a one-time event during a specific reign, as is often supposed.  I mention this because the ‘Peace of Frode’ is mentioned in many accounts at different times and under different Kings.  This makes me think that the ‘Peace of Frode’ is referring to peace between the two Kings regardless of when it happened.  Typically, it’s compared to the peace during the time of the Roman emperor Augustus.  Knowing that latter accounts tended to try to Romanify everything, especially after the Christian conversion, I’m inclined to think that it’s a modification of an existing condition.  In other words, they tried to make it fit the Roman model.

The resemblance to a family feud

This rivalry, in some respects, has a quality of a family feud.  It’s a dispute that went on for generations and between the same power centers.  In fact, its possible that the rivalry between Denmark and Sweden went on so long that it created:

  • A feud that went on so long that no one could even recall what started it.  This is why there are no accounts of it.
  • It became such a part of life that no one questioned it . . . it was just the ‘way of things’.  As a result, it started an ‘acceptance’ of the dispute which may of paved the way for the ‘acceptance of the Viking invasions.
  • It turned the main god of these power centers – Odin – into a ‘war god’ as a result of the ongoing rivalry and conflict.

A religious conflict?

An aspect of this rivalry appears to be due to religious influence.  Odin is described as being involved with the areas in which the rivalry is involved.  As a result, the Gefion myth is greatly associated with the Norse god Odin.  Because of this, the rivalry may, to some extent, revolve around Odin, his worship, and the power the King derives from him as there appears to be an association between Kingly power and Odin .  Many Kings, even in Anglo-Saxon England, claimed descent from him as a result.  In many ways, the power source of these power centers appears to be Odin himself.  This would then make this a religious conflict.

The accounts state that there were two “temples” or “shrines” of Odin, one by each power center.  The one in Denmark gave the city Odense (‘Odin’s shrine’) its name.  It was supposedly founded in 988.  The one in Sweden was in Uppsala (‘Upper Hall’).  There also seems another association with Odin with Sigtuna (‘Victory Town’?), some several kilometers east of Uppsala.  Supposedly, Sigtuna was founded in 980.  Both of these towns were apparently founded in about the same time.  Also, they were founded well into the Viking era.  But the accounts seem to suggest that they actually existed earlier as many of the accounts of the kings in Saxo Grammaticus’ account are earlier than the 980’s.  Interestingly, the period of founding is the time of Christian conversion.  This makes me think that the official ‘founding’ of those towns may be largely due to Christian influence, as the accounts suggest that people were living there centuries before.

Because of some references in the accounts I’ve questioned if the Swedes had perhaps taken foreign religious practices that were viewed by the Danes as repulsive.  It’s possible that they may have taken some of them from the Lapps up north.  Its possible that the Swedes took on foreign religious practices that the Danes felt ‘corrupted’ Odin and, therefore, to offense.  One reason why I think this is because the accounts state unusual religious practices by the Swedes in Uppsala, a place even the Danes acknowledged as where Odin lived.  Could this of caused a ‘religious dispute’ between these two royal families?  It’s impossible to say for sure.

One thing that is mentioned numerous times is the Danes condemnation of sorcery and magic by the Kings in Uppsala.  It’s interesting that the ‘Ynglinga Saga’, which describes the history of the early Kings of Sweden, specifically states that sorcery and magic was considered ‘unmanly’ and therefore gave it to the females.  Considering the conditions as I’ve described them above, this sounds like it might be a Danish perspective as it follows the familiar condemnation of the Swedes that the Danes did in this rivalry.  This is very possible as it was written by Snorri Sturluson who appears to of taken the stories and myths from the Danish and Norwegians (see below).

I’ve often wondered if the ‘educating’ of Gylfi about the Norse gods, as described in the ‘Gyfliginning’, is really a reference to a ‘re-teaching the Swedes about Norse gods’, so to speak, because they have strayed away.  In that way, its like a ‘preaching’ to the Swedes about what their beliefs are.  This may suggest that the Danes perceived the Swedes as corrupt or distorted in their beliefs.

A power struggle?

I often feel that an influence to this rivalry was the fact that Denmark was critical because it, in a sense, controlled the water passageway between the Baltic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.  Denmark was in a position to do commerce or raiding or even controlling anyone who tried to get through.  This gave it great strategic, commercial, and practical importance.   Uppsala, on the other hand, was way up north in an out-of-the-way place, unable to do such things.  Because of this Uppsala found itself without power and wealth compared to Denmark.  As a result, the Kings of Uppsala may have found themselves jealous of the Danes.  This may account for the many accounts of ‘greed’ on the part of the Swedish King in Uppsala which so disgusted the Danes.  A good example of this is how Hrolf Kraki, the Danish King in Leire, dropped the loot he had stolen from the King of Uppsala, while he was being pursued by him, because he knew the King of Uppsala would stop and pick it up. 

OTHER ASPECTS TO THE RIVALRY

Odense/Leire and Sigtuna/Uppsala

Snorri, in both accounts, mentions Odense, on the island of Fyn, as first being ‘occupied’ by Odin.  This suggests that it may have been a religious center. The ‘Ynglinga Saga’ and ‘Edda’ both describe that Fyn was inhabited by Odin before Uppsala.   The Gefion tale describes how Sweden was overtaken by Odin.  In other words, from the accounts, it appears that Odin first occupied Denmark or, more specifically, the island Fyn at Odense.  There is no mention of Odin being in Zealand that I know of.  In other words, in Denmark it seems there was a “religious center” at Odense, on the island of Fyn, and a “political center” at Leire on the island of Zealand.  These are two distinctly different places on two different islands.  The Gefion myth refers only to Zealand and, therefore, only the “political center”.  In addition, one account says that Gefion married Skjold of Denmark and lived on Zealand.  Skjold was an early King in Denmark and founded the Skjoldung dynasty of Kings in Denmark that were very powerful there.  Because Skjold is specifically marrying Gefion it is possible that the rivalry began with Skjold.  Unfortunately, we have no definite account of this.  It’s interesting that it is his son, Gram, who became King next and is the source, in ‘The Danish History’, of the first dispute with Uppsala (of the princess marrying a giant as described above).

Snorri mentions that Odin went to Sigtuna, a few kilometers west of Uppsala, perhaps representing that this was the “religious center” in Sweden.  The Kings would inhabit Uppsala near the coast.  There appears to be a “religious center” – with Odin as center – and a “political center” – with the King as center – in both Denmark and Sweden:

Denmark:

  • Odense – Odin – “religious center”
  • Leire – King – “power center”

Sweden:

  • Sigtuna – Odin – “religious center”
  • Uppsala – King – “power center”

This similarity is quite interesting and probably shows that we are dealing with the same people and culture.

Since most of the power revolved around the king the influence went to where the king was (Leire or Uppsala).  It’s no surprise, then, that most of the conflict, in the later years, would center around the power centers of Leire and Uppsala, as they were primarily power struggles of the Kings.

It appears, though, that in Denmark Odense ceased to be a “religious center” as time went on.  This may have been because it was perceived that the center of the Odin cult had been transferred to Uppsala.  Because of this, Denmark began to put more emphasis on the King and Odin lost a central role.

In Sweden, they appeared to of integrated the “religious center” and “political center” in Uppsala with Sigtuna slowly disappearing over time.

Drottnar and King

In the ‘Ynglinga Saga’, it states that the early Kings of Sweden were spoken of as ‘Drottnar’.  I cannot find any root word for the origin of the root word Drott.  Generally, its just interpreted as ‘lord’ or even ‘warband’.  This, though, seems to be of latter origin, as a result of the Viking invasions, and tells us nothing of where the word originally came from or what it originally meant.  But I have speculated that Drott may have strong reference to the religious significance of Uppsala.  Perhaps it has a connotation similar to ‘high priest’ or a “Pope”, as religious leader of the people?  This, to me, would make sense but we will never know for sure.

During the reign of Dygvi it is stated that the Drottnar in Uppsala began to be called “Kings” after the Danish.  This fact may show that Denmark was perceived, at that time, as a great power, perhaps for the reasons I describe above.  As a result, the Drott of Sweden felt compelled to adopt their same title, a symbol of power, showing that the power of Uppsala was waning and fading at this time . . . another sign of the rivalry.

But why would the Danes create the title of King?  The term “King” seems to originate from a word for ones people, deriving from the word “kin”.  In that sense it seems to say a ‘leader of a people’.  That would make sense as, if they were ‘splitting off’ of Uppsala, they would emphasize that their leaders are for a specific people (namely, the Danish people) and not anyone else.  Because the term “King” is associated with people it could show that the Danes severed their association with the religious-based authority of the Uppsala Kings.  In other words, they ceased to be subservient to them.  They then needed to create their own authority and leadership.  If this were the case then it would mean that the term “King” is Danish in origin and is a result of a breaking away from an established authority.  In other words, it’s a result of a rebellion.

A POSSIBLE SCENARIO???

In my mind I keep seeing a specific scenario.  Considering the minimal amount of information we have it is, of course, only speculation.

I should first point out that one of the reasons why this myth is so mystifying is because  it has a ‘crisscrossing’ of movement that do not seem to describe a consistent situation:

  • Political power – Sweden to Denmark (the “land movement”).
  • Religious power – Denmark to Sweden (Odin moving to Sweden).

Normally, you’d think the powers, religious and political, would move in the same direction.  According to the myth this is not the case.  Because of this, it cannot be a ‘simple migration’ or a simple ‘conquering’ of a people but entail more involved and, probably, complicated conditions.

Here’s what we do know about the situation:

  • There was a dispute that lasted centuries.
  • There were many other kingdoms and people that were left out of this dispute.
  • It seems to involve people with the same culture, gods, and myths which specifies a religious and cultural connection.
  • The connections between the two people’s involve the religious/power centers of the each people.
  • Odin was originally in Denmark then “moved” to Uppsala.
  • The Danes accepted that Odin and “moved” and was “centered” in Uppsala.
  • The Danes were appalled by various behavior by the Kings of Uppsala.
  • Somewhere along the line Sweden was degraded in some way.
  • Somewhere along the way Denmark received some gain.
  • There is a land/sea association in the myth surrounding the islands of Denmark.
  • Only Sweden had a special name for their king in Uppsala (Drott) and they took up the Danish custom of “King” later.

If I were to take the myth as representing an accurate portrayal of a condition (which it may or may not be), as well as other facts about the times, I can see a scenario describing various phases in this rivalry:

  1. The Danish either create the Odin cult or lay down its foundations.  Whether an early form of Odin cult existed in Uppsala originally, or not, is difficult to say.  I’m inclined to think Odin developed in Denmark
  2. The islands of Denmark either were or became perceived as “special”.   Whether this was inherent with the Danes originally, or as a result of the Swedish, is difficult to say.  All islands in Denmark, may have been perceived as ‘beyond the King’s control’ and given a somewhat sacred quality.  This perception of Denmark being ‘beyond the King’s control’ may of helped create Denmark’s splitting off from Uppsala later on as well as a source of Denmark’s continual resistance to Uppsala. .
  3. Members of the Uppsala royal house move to Denmark and set up residence.  Whether the moving of the royal house entailed a conquering, a result of marriage, or any other means, is unknown.  It is also unknown if the Danes were given power as an independent entity, or were subsidiary to Uppsala.  I’m inclined to think they were subsidiary to Uppsala in some way, at least initially.
  4. A special form of Odin cult may have developed.  It’s possible that it was actually the Swedes that created the “center” of the Odin cult in Odense whereas the Danes originally had no specific location for him.  This, at least to me, appears to be the case.  In other words, it was the Swedes who created the idea of a “religious center” for the Odin cult, not the Danes.  In this way, the original Danish Odin cult was changed and altered by the Swedes, creating a new form.  As a result, the Danes never enforced this idea.  This may have been why the Danes allowed Odense to fall easily, therefore putting emphasis on Leire and the King.  In addition, it may have been why they so easily allowed the “religious center” to move to Uppsala.  The idea of a “religious center” was a concept the Danes did not share.
  5. The “religious center” of the Odin cult moves to Uppsala.  This move would mean that someone in power, for some unknown reason, moved it to Uppsala.  It’s possible that, because this was apparently accepted by the Danish, it could mean that, at this time, Uppsala (the Swedes) was still considered an authority (meaning that the Danes saw themselves as subsidiary to Uppsala).  But, as I described above, the Danes may of just allowed this to happen as they had no notion of creating a “religious center” for Odin.
  6. Because of the different conditions and influences in Uppsala the Odin cult begins to change.   They start to develop different customs, attitudes and such, which appalled the Danes.
  7. Various disputes begin to happen between Leire and Uppsala as a result of these new conditions. 
  8. Denmark eventually splits off from Sweden and becomes independent.  This may of been when the Danish King called himself “King”.
  9. A rivalry begins between the two people’s that resembles a family feud and lasts for centuries.  Harsh feelings are felt for generations with occasional periods of peace (the ‘Peace of Frode’).
  10. Because of Denmark’s location it becomes prosperous.  Their location gives them a front row seat to exploiting the trade and riches passing by the islands.
  11. Sometime later, Sweden becomes resentful because of Denmark’s prosperity.  Uppsala see’s the Danes rise in power whereas they see their power waning.  This may be why the Swedish Kings took the Danish title of “King”.
  12. Sweden possibly attacks Denmark as part of gaining some of its wealth and/or power.  Many early accounts seem to describe Viking attacks by the Swedes, in Denmark.  They may of wanted to ‘cash in’ on what’s going on.  No doubt, this would create many harsh feelings.
  13. The stage is set for the Viking invasions. 

These events would have all taken place before the recording of events was firmly established during the Viking invasions.  As a result, we only have bits and pieces of it.  I would suspect that the time period for this to happen would be about the birth of Christ to about 600 A.D.

Danes and Swedes

For all this to happen it appears, to me, that the Danes and Swedes were of similar cultures and beliefs.  But they had differences enough to create a rivalry.  In this way, one could describe them as separate ‘tribes’.  In addition, there were many marriage alliances between the two countries creating great bonds between them as well as a sense of responsibility.  It’s possible that the ruling houses of each people were so intermarried that they may have been so closely related that it created a strong bond between the people’s which is why it lasted for generations.

The development of the Odin cult in Denmark and sacrifice

In a previous article I wrote (“Thoughts on how the Norse god Odin’s association with sacrifice, and historical circumstance, turned him into a ‘war god’ and a ‘god of the dead’“) I mentioned how Odin was greatly associated with sacrifice.  It just so happens that, during the pre-Viking era there were, in fact, great sacrifices in Denmark. Interestingly, we have no real accounts of this.  We know this primarily by the many bodies that have been found in peat bogs throughout Denmark.  The bodies of sacrificial victims (apparently) were thrown in to peat bogs where they were so preserved that, on some of them, you can take their fingerprints.  Many of these people were estimated to of been killed some time before the Viking invasions (0-500 AD or thereabouts), about the time I suspect this all happened.  It stands to reason that there is probably an association between these peat bog bodies and Odin’s association with sacrifice.  In other words, these peat bog sacrifices may have been to Odin.

Looking at the way of death seems to show a number of ways they were killed:

  • Hanging or strangulation.  Many still have the rope around their neck.
  • Their throats were cut.
  • Possibly a blow to the head.
  • Drowning.  That is to say, by being thrown into the peat bog.  It appears, though, that most, or even all, were thrown into the peat bog after they were already killed.

The common latter Viking era accounts of sacrifice to Odin describe that people were generally hung or pierced with a spear, or both.  These seem to show an inconsistency in how they were done.  More than likely there were various ways of sacrifice, possibly varying from area to area even and even person to person.  In fact, if one looks at the people in the peat bogs one see’s great variation, even in the same bog.  This suggests that there was no “standard” of sacrifice.  To put it another way, the Danes had no religious control to coordinate and specify the manner of sacrifice and, probably, worship as well.  This is further proof that the Danes had no “religious center” and that it may have been the Swedes who brought this idea to Denmark. 

In Uppsala, at least in the later years, there appears to be a number of ways they performed their sacrifices:

  • Hanging/strangulation.
  • Drowning. 

Both of these were done in Denmark.  What’s interesting is the way in which Uppsala performed their drowning’s . . . we are told that they had a “well” in front of the temple in which they would throw people in.  Supposedly, if they did not come up their sacrifice was considered ‘acceptable’ to the gods.   In Denmark, they threw people into natural bogs but the people in Uppsala didn’t have bogs so it almost appears as if they “created” their own bog or place of sacrifice by drowning.  The “well” may not be a well at all but something they specifically made for sacrifice.  If this were the case, it would mean that the people in Uppsala were imitating the Danes showing that the Swedes were adopting Danish “worship” . . . they might of even adopted Danish gods as wellThis may be further proof that Odin originates in Denmark.  Not only that, the Danes repulsion of the Swedes (as described above) may be rooted in how the Swedes ‘corrupted’ the Danish worship of Odin and gods further showing that the Swedes adopted Danish customs.

 The Corruption of Uppsala

It seems that, over the years, Uppsala went through a corruption of religion and power.  In fact, if the idea of the “religious center” was Swedish, then they may of been corrupting worship from the beginning.  In addition, they were perhaps exposed to foreign influence, perhaps from the Lapps from the north, the Fins, and other people there.  This may have caused a general deterioration of religion and power in Uppsala, at least as seen by the Danish.  To them, it may have appeared to corrupt the ‘Drott’ and the worship of the gods.  They began to do things such as practice magic, sacrifice for odd reasons, become particularly greedy, and other things viewed as unacceptable by the Danes.  In fact, very early in the ‘Ynglinga Saga’ it tells of Huld the witch who used sorcery to manipulate people, something apparently abhorred by the Danes.  Things such as this appears to of appalled the Danish causing great resentment.

While this was going on, the Danes probably continued the traditional Norse worship of Odin, and continued to view the “religious center” of Odin in Uppsala, oblivious to what was going on.  No doubt, over time, they’d hear of the corruption and became disgusted with it.  It probably took awhile because of the great distance between Uppsala and Leire.  This delay in communication may have been why it was “accepted” that Odin had “moved” to Uppsala . . . it could have been years or generations before they found out was going on.

This would mean that two forms of Odin worshipped existed:

  1. The original Norse worship of Odin, practiced in Denmark.
  2. The altered worship of Odin, practiced in Uppsala.

Leire’s break from Uppsala

Why would Leire break from Uppsala?  I see a number of reasons:

  • Denmark was developing more power and wealth, probably as a result of its location with the trades routes.
  • Denmark began to feel independent particularly as a result of the great distance between Denmark and Uppsala.
  • Denmark was becoming appalled at the behavior of the Uppsala Kings.
  • The Swedes attacked Denmark as part of Viking raids which appalled the Danes.

I’m inclined to think that there is no one reason but, rather, multiple reasons or even all had an influence.

THE AEISER/VANIR CONFLICT

Could the Aiser/Vanir conflict, described in the “Voluspa” of the “Poetic Edda”, describe the Danish/Swedish conflict and rivalry?  It’s difficult to say.  The account is vague about it but I often wonder if it could be.  Some interesting points about it are:

  • The account states that the “first war” involves a lady who had spears thrown at her in Odin’s (Hor’s) hall.  Is this a reference to a sacrifice to Odin?  Odin is associated with a spear in sacrifice and armies were often ‘consecrated’ to Odin by having spears thrown over them.  In fact, later it states that the “first war” was started when Odin through a spear.  It also states that she was also burned.  Could this also be a reference to sacrifice?  These seem to suggest that there is an association between the “first war” and sacrifice.  I would be inclined to say that it suggests that “war” was viewed, by the early Danes and Swedes, as a form of sacrifice.  In other words, war was fought by Danes and Swedes as a religious act, not necessarily because of disputes and conflicts between the two people’s, as is often supposedAn early account, described in the ‘Ynglinga Saga’, is rather interesting.  It tells of an early Swedish King who went to Leire and got up in the middle of the night to slip and fall into a vat of beer and drown.  Could this, in fact, be a reference to a sacrificial drowning of a King from Uppsala by the King of Leire?  Could the drowning in beer refer to the drowning in the peat bogs of Denmark?  Could it of became a custom that the Kings of Leire and Uppsala would hunt each other down to offer sacrifice?   This is very possible.  It just so happens that James Frazer’s book, “The golden bough”, tries to explain the unusual custom of sacrificing Kings which this may very well be.  Perhaps the rivalry between Leire and Uppsala had a far more religious meaning that has been forgotten in time?
  • It states that the lady had thrown spears at her and was burned three times and that they, basically, couldn’t kill her.  It then says that she “lives still”.  This sounds mythological and not a reference to an actual happening or person.  Perhaps this “lady” is a mythological representation of a sacrificial victim?  It’s difficult to say.
  • The following stanza mentions a witch who cast spells and did evil things.  Its unclear of her role in all of this, if any.
  • Later, it states that they either would have to give tribute or accept another belief.  In other words, the Aeiser and Vanir had different beliefs.  Could this be a reference to the difference in Swedish and Danish belief which seems to figure prominently in this rivalry?  That is to say, is it a reference to the religious conflict I described above?
  • It states that neither the Aeisir or Vanir could win over the other.  This would mean that none conquered the other.  In other words, they fought but could not win over each other.
  • Because neither could win it states that they gave hostages to each other to ensure peace.  Is it possible that the “hostages” is the ‘crisscrossing’ I described above?  That is to say, the “hostages” are referred to in the myth as the “land movement” from Sweden to Denmark and the “move” of Odin to Uppsala.  It’s difficult to say.

If this were the case, it would mean that the Aeiser would be the Danes and the Vanir (or Wanes) would be Uppsala.  If this was the case, maybe it was this lack of war or, rather, the ‘forced peace’ caused by the truce, that created a mild tension between Leire and Uppsala which, over time, turned into the rivalry?

This would show that the rivalry was viewed in a very religious way and being involved with myth.  This suggests that this conflict may be very old.  In other words, it was so old that it went from memory, to legend, to myth.  In fact, it seems to me that this rivalry was old before the Viking invasions began.  It could very well have origin before Christ.  As far as I know, the oldest Viking account of “actual” historic events probably originates from about 600 A.D. or so.  By that time, the rivalry had been going on for some time, before anything was recorded.

DID THE DANISH/SWEDISH RIVALRY SET THE STAGE FOR THE VIKING INVASIONS?

I’ve often questioned if the Danish/Swedish rivalry set the stage and, in actuality, started the Viking invasions.   Some of the conditions why this would have happened include:

  • The fact that war, between Leire and Uppsala, may of been a form of sacrifice to Odin, as described above.  This would have made war ‘acceptable’.
  • The fact that the Viking invasions are associated with Odin, the god of Leire and Uppsala.  He figures too prominently in both areas to escape notice.
  • The long-standing rivalry may have created a hatred and dislike that became ingrained in the people and culture to the point that it became acceptable.
  • The use of ships.  The main contact between Leire and Uppsala is through ships making it a major medium in the association between them.
  • The questing after wealth.  As mentioned above, Uppsala may have quested after the wealth that Denmark had.  We must also remember that Denmark was using piracy of shipping to gain its wealth.  This piracy would lead to the Viking invasions.

A particular important point is the association between Odin and the Viking invasions.  This is significant and shows a number of points:

  1. Odin was worshipped by both Leire and Uppsala.
  2. Odin is associated with sacrifice . . . one form of sacrifice he is associated with is war.   
  3. This may have made it so that Odin became associated with the rivalry and wars it caused.
  4. Being thus established in this way, he would continue to be associated with all forms of war such as the Viking invasions.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he had been associated with this conflict from the very beginning.  All in all, it appears that the Danish/Swedish rivalry, which laid the foundations of the Viking invasions, turned Odin into a ‘war god’, which is what he was portrayed as during the Viking era and, because of this, he is popularly portrayed as today. 

IS THE SURVIVING VIKING MYTH REALLY DANISH AND NORWEGIAN MYTH?

This rivalry, I think, is very important as it has had great impact on early Norse history and has greatly affected Norse mythology.  In fact, the main account of Norse mythology (the ‘Gylfiginning’) is situated on the theme of this rivalry.  Not only that, it seems a one-sided mythology as it seems to leave out Swedish beliefs and causes.  As the Viking myths written by Snorri Sturluson seems to describe things from a Danish perspective it may hint that Snorri actually was describing a Danish mythology.  In other words, what has survived about early Viking mythology and Odin (primarily through Snorri Sturluson) is the mythology of the Danes, reflecting their perspectives and points of view I mention this as I was always mystified how the accounts of what was going on in Uppsala seemed so different than the Viking mythology we have.  What little we know of Uppsala describe kings who behaved differently from what was going on in Denmark.  In some ways, they seem to have different religious customs.  There are several accounts, for example, of how the Swedes worshipped a cow and would drive it in between opposing forces before a battle which was never done in Denmark (as far as I know).  Swedish Kings also used magic and spells.  All in all, the Swedish kings were described as doing more magic, sacrifice, and other odd religious things.

At this point I am unaware of any reference to any Norse myth that we know absolutely originates in Sweden . . . we only have scattered accounts of some of the things they did in Uppsala.  And these accounts seem to originate from somewhere else speaking about Uppsala, as if observing it from the outside.  There seems an absence of accounts of Uppsala from “inside”.   If this is the case then it would mean that all the accounts originated elsewhere which would mean that we have lost a whole body of myth, tradition, belief, and history that existed in Sweden.  There must have been whole other stories, and customs, surrounding the Odin culture at Uppsala.  Sadly, I am unaware of anything of the Odin culture that originates directly from Sweden.  This fact, really, is a tragedy.

Because of this it would also mean that Snorri got most of his general Norse mythology about Odin from the Danes, probably, and therefore reflecting their perspective on the situation . . . the Swedish perspective is all but absent.  He did describe Norwegian myth, though, as many of the tales of Thor he describes were primarily from Norway, where Thor was very popular (more so than in Denmark and Sweden).  Myths coming from Sweden, and even Denmark, appear to be missing Thor.  This shows that Snorri actually received his mythology from Denmark and Norway. 

But, because Snorri had accounts of Odin and Thor, it may have meant that he may of ‘merged’ the accounts together – the Thor accounts from Norway and the Odin accounts from Denmark – giving the illusion that they were all one ‘tradition’.  In actuality, they were probably from two ‘cultures’ that, though similar, were very different:  the Odin culture of Denmark and the Thor culture of Norway.  This seem very likely as there is very little mention of anything involving Odin, or the creation myths, in Norwegian viking sagas.

AN AFTERTHOUGHT

What all this shows is how little we know more than anything else.  Trying to piece together a situation with scraps is never easy.   Not only that, it can never be completely right.  At best, all we could possibly do is ‘point in the right direction’.  Whether I have done that or not, I cannot say . . . I doubt anyone can.

———

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Historical stuff, Mythology, Religion and religious stuff, The military and war, Vikings - Odin, Thor, the Norse, and such | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on the importance of spatial relations and the self – the creation of a “self-space” and its effects

One aspect of life that is seldom acknowledge or recognized is spatial relations.  I feel it is far more important than we realize.  It has great influence on the self and our relation with the world.

SPACE IN GENERAL – THE ‘WORLD-SPACE’

Space is often perceived as the ‘emptiness between objects’.  Because of this sense of emptiness, we tend to downplay space and its importance.  Its almost as if space is non-existent, a vacuum, and, as such, does not deserve our recognition.  In reality, though, space is very much “there”.  It is a fact, a reality and, more importantly, we live in the space we see as emptiness.  Life is lived in the space between objects and matter.  All our experiences, hopes, dreams, despairs, conflicts, etc. happen in that space of emptiness.  We could very well say that the emptiness of space is the “substance” or “matter” of life.

But there are really several aspects that make up space:

  1. Actual space.  This is the space devoid of objects or matter.  It is the emptiness of space, which we normally associate with the word space.
  2. The boundaries of space.  This is the boundary of objects and matter with space which are fixed in space.    In some respects, these boundaries creates ‘space’ by creating the sense of space.  The objects and matter define the size, shape, and manner of actual space.  But, because of this, all that we see of objects and matter, really, is their outside surface.  We never can go “into” objects and matter.  As a result, the ‘interiorness’ of objects and matter remains unknown to us.  This makes it so that objects are really defined, not by their ‘interiorness’, but by their boundaries with space.  In other words, objects and matter are not entities in themselves but are entities only in relation to the space that surrounds them, created by their boundaries with space.  This shows how critical space is in the perception of objects and matter.

These, of course, are related and are dependent on one another.  In many ways, space relations is an association between these forms of space.  All these create something like a reality, a condition, in which we live.  I speak of this as the ‘world-space’, a combination of actual space and the boundaries of objects.

SPACE AND LIFE

As we grow, and learn space relations, the mind develops ways to relate and associate with it.  These has great impact on life and how one perceives life and in how one perceives and understands the world.  In many ways, it is the base for which all other perceptions and conceptions of the world is based. In fact, spatial relations seems to be the ‘glue’, the unifying element, of perception and world conception.  It binds everything together.  Upon spatial relations an image of the world is created and lived.  Everything is built upon it.

In addition, the processes involved with spatial relations makes it so that all the senses and experiences are as if united together in the ‘world-space’ of spatial relations.  In that sense, it ‘harnesses’ the whole mind and slef.  It brings all sensory perception, mental perception, and motor experience into one ‘playing field’, so to speak:  spatial relations.  Without this sense of space, they would be disconnected and removed from one another (the visual image of your hand would be removed from the perception of an object that you pick up, for example).  In effect, spatial relations causes a number of unifications:

  1. Unified world conception - it creates a single world conception, making the world ‘make sense’ and one entity.
  2. Unified self - it brings the self together into a unified whole to coordinate in the ‘world-space’.

As a result, spatial relations brings together our lifes experiences and learning.

We develope spatial relations a number of ways:

  • Experience.  This is a reference to the actual doing in the world.
  • Observation.  In many ways, this is a ‘passive experience’, an experiencing while not doing anything.  Though it is generally viewed as being visual, its really a reference to any awareness, as any awareness, in which one does nothing, is a form of observation – visual, tactile, sound, etc.

Though both are different process, they are intertwined in their effects and completely dependent on one another.  Because these are learnt (that is, one ‘absorbs’ their effects into ones self) they are very dependent on our development, our experience, our learning, and our abilities.  This makes it so that there are a number of different qualities with spatial relations:

  • Space relations is something that varies from person to person. 
  • It shows that spatial relations is influenced by a persons development, growth, and ability to ‘absorb’.  In short, it is different in everyone.
  • It is variable, changing as experience and awareness changes.
  • It is something that is always growing as our experienc and awareness changes, grows, and develops.

What these show is that spatial relations, which is the “glue” of world conception and the self, is not the same.  As a result, our world conception and self is never ‘complete’.

EARLY ‘WORLD-SPACE’ DEVELOPMENT

The development of ‘world-space’ is something that comes early in ones life, before one has a self in fact.  Its for this reason that we tend to disregard it.  By the time our self develops the foundation of a unified world conception and self have already been laid.  In a way, it was laid “without our knowing”, as the self was not developed yet and so we are unaware of it.  I speak of this as the ‘primal world-space’.   Once the self has developed it is too busy dealing with other issues of growth to notice the world-space.  As a result, the ‘world-space’, and sense of space in general, is clouded in a veil of darkness, often never realized.  Even though its veiled in darkness its effects are often seen in peoples life without their awareness.  There are a number of examples of this:

  • It can have great impact in world conception (such as a sense of god).
  • For some people it can have great impact in how they perceive the world (such as with spirituality).
  • It can also appear in some illnesses (such as schizophrenia).

As a result, the ‘primal world-space’ is often something that ‘squeeks into’ our lives unknowingly and in different ways than we think.  The reason for this is that, as spatial relations develop, there develops a unique quality that ends up changing the sense of space:  projection.  In fact, projection completely changes the perception of space.  In order to explain this I will have to note the two forms of space:

  1. Mechanical space - experiencing the ‘world-space’.
  2. Projected space - projecting ourselves into mechanical space.

Mechanical space-

Once we are born, the world bombards us with its reality.  We begin to feel and experience the objects about us.  In its simplist form, mechanical space is experienced in this way:

  1. Sensory – our senses are bombarded by the world, such as sight, touch, etc.
  2. Reflex or learned response – reacts to sensory input and in experiencing the world.
  3. Motor – this is our reaching out into the world.
  4. Living in space - as these develops, one begins to live in the world.

Mechanical space is not really a “sense” but more of a ‘designed reaction’ to the world.  It allows creatures to react with their world.  It creates a condition of living in space.  In that sense, it is almost mechanical association with the world, hence the name.  Many living things, such as insects, experience space in this way.  The “sense” of space is something else altogether and is something built upon mechanical space. I believe it is a result of projection.

Projected space-

Projection creates projected space.  It is a quality where we see the world as our self.  That is to say, we project our self onto the world, seeing it as it were us.  It creates the condition of the world-as-me.  In many ways, this is the quality that truly creates the ‘self-space’.  To put it another way, the ‘self-space’ is when we project ourselves onto the world making it an extension of our mind, hence the name.

The condition of the world-as-me is a result of our development.  As infants we do not have a self.  As a result, we see the world as ‘us’, an extension of our awareness of ourself.  Because of this, the ‘space’ of the world is initially perceived as our self.  This is the ‘primal self-space’.  Once our self develops it turns into the ‘self-space’.  This shows three stages to the development of spatial relations in our early development:

  1. The pre-self ‘world-space’.  This is primarily the beginnings of the perception of mechanical space.
  2. The pre-self projection into ‘world-space’.  This is when we perceive space as us.   It creates the ‘primal self-space’. 
  3. The coming of the self.  This creates the ‘self-space’.

Both forms of projection creates a number of qualities to space:

  • Projected space is what makes the ‘world-space’ human.  As a result, it is part of the “humanizing” of ‘world-space’.  Because of this, it makes the world personal.
  • Projected space is what makes the world ‘alive’ and seem to ‘live’.  It gives it a ‘livingness’ quality to the world.  It makes the world more than ‘there’ but living.  That is to say, it gives the world a ‘soul’.
  • Projected space is what makes the ‘world-space’ have meaning and relevence.  Through projection, we make events, objects, people, things, etc. have a meaning to us and our reality.  It creates a ‘human reality’.

The effects of these on the ‘primal mind-space’ is that it creates:

  •  A sense of the world as ‘living’ and ‘alive’.  In short, as if it has a ‘soul’. 
  • That the world is ‘personal’ and hits one deeply. 
  • That there is ‘someone’ there (which is actually us projected). 

In actuality, the ‘primal self-space’ creates a sense of ‘otherworldliness’ such as by sensations of things like ‘god’ or ‘spirit’ or that there is ‘more’ to life than one can see.  These are usually felt deeply as they originate from before one has a self. 

The effects of the effects of projection on the ‘mind-space’ are things like:

  • A sense that what happens in life is ‘us’ and who we are.
  • A tendency to see what one does in the world as very ‘personal’.
  • A tendency to see us as in-the-world.

The effect, then, is like a ‘planting of oneself in the world’ creating a strong worldly sense.  It makes the world serious and what one does and happens influential.  Because of the different qualities created by projection after the self is developed I call projection with a self ‘extension’.

As one can see, the two different forms of ‘self-space’ create a otherwordly and worldly sense, which actually complement each other.  In many ways, projection is like a light that shines upon the world about us.  Its as if we are actually walking in the dark.  The only way we can see is with a lamp, which is projection.  We only see what the lamplight reveals.  Projection is much like that lamp and, through it, our projected self is what shines upon the world . . . we see only what it reveals.  In this way, we only “see” what our projection reveals.  This is very important and shows that projection is critical in making a ‘human reality’ and is critical for the creation of our world conception.

Mechanical and projected space, together, make up the ‘self-space’.  They both contribute to make ‘space’ more than space.  It makes it so that the world is more than the world.  It creates a humanly relevent “world-about-us”.  The creation of the ‘self-space’ as if creates a whole other reality that transcends and goes beyond the physical reality of space.  It is, in many ways, a different world, a world that only humanity knows, a human created world.  This is because a significant aspect of the ‘mind-space’ is that it is not really space at all, but our self in that space.  It’s this quality that gives ‘self-space’ such an important and significant element in life.  As a result, our relationship with that space, how we perceive that space, the context of that space, and the reality of the space are critical in our lives and have great impact on how we perceive and behave in life.

THE “HUMANIZING” OF ‘WORLD-SPACE’

In human life, space in spatial relations is not just the 3 dimensions, the x, y, and z, though that is a beginning.  For us, space goes way beyond that.  We, as human beings, create a different form of space in our minds, we as if elaborate on it.  In this way, the ‘space’ becomes more than ‘space’.  It becomes the “self-space”.

We could describe the ‘world-space’ as “what’s actually there” (sort of scientific-like).  The ‘self-space’ can be described as “humanities way of making the ‘world-space’ relevent and meaningful”.  In other words, ‘self-space’ is a “humanizing” of the ‘world-space’.  Through this “humanizing” the ‘world-space’ is given a “human face” with “human meaning”.  Truly, this “humanizing” creates a livable world for us to live in . . . and one we can relate to.

As a result of this “humanizing”, we actually transform, change, and alter the ‘world-space’.  It ceases to be the world-as-is but becomes the world-as-human.  This fact is one thing the scientists seem unable to grasp, that humanity “humanizes” the world to make it livable.  In the process of this, we do, in fact, distort and alter it.

This “humanizing” or transforming, changing, and altering of the ‘world-space’, and the world in general, is how we create a conception of the world that fits the ‘human reality’.  It is not a question of what is THE reality, as science professes, but what is the ‘human reality’, that matters in life.  Everything else, really, is trivial.

THE SELF IN SPATIAL RELATIONS

The self is like a more involved growth of the mind.  It creates a strong sense of me-as-a-person and a me-in-the-world.  Because of this, it has great impact on how the world is perceived and ones behaviour in it.

Some of the things that helped create the human self, in comparison to other living creatures, seem to be:

  • A longer growing up and weening time.
  • The greater more expansive development of the mind and brain.
  • More involved projection.

What these have done is made it so that the development of the self becomes more influential in the development of spatial relations for humanity.  This is because the self has a longer time to grow and development and has greater power and influence than with other creatures.  Because of this, the self and spatial relations are intimately bound together and are as if intertwined with each other.

In the ‘primal self-space’ the self and space are really one.  Once the self is created there develops a separation of space with the self.  This creates a splitting of the sense of space:

  • ‘Dead space’.  This is space, or the world, perceived as ‘dead’ or ‘just there’, often viewed inanimately and without life.  This is because, with the coming of the self, the ‘life’ and concern of living becomes focused on the self and the world is ‘put on the backburner’, so to speak, becoming ‘dead space’.   This creates something like a ‘world vacuum’, where the world seems void of life, which can cause mental problems (such as depression).
  • ‘Living space’.  This is space in which we have projected ourselves or, in other words, humanized.  Because of this it is ‘alive’ and ‘living’.

As we grow, our growing self changes and spatial relations change significantly.  In actuality, there is like a spectrum, or gradual progression, of the perception of space from pre-self to self.  As a result, our mind maintains, and remembers, the whole spectrum, though generally unconsciously.  This spectrum causes great depth and experience to life.  It also causes many aspects of how humanity perceives and experiences the world, particularly if older forms of awareness are brought up and remembered.  Its interesting to point out that, in general, most people develop a “leaning” to the pre-self form or awareness or self awareness form of awareness, making some people ‘pre-self dominant’ or ‘self dominant’ (which can be compared to an introvert or extrovert, respectively).

The incapatabilities of the pre-self and self

The pre-self and self are incapatable.  That is to say, they do not ‘blend’ into one but remain separate.  Because of this, they are as if treated almost as if they are two personalities of ourselves, two separate entities.  As a result, the products of each self are treated differently. It gives us the great sense of things such as that there is something ‘deep’ within us, or of mystery.  In other words, the incapatabilities of the two self’s create a ‘depth’ in the experience of life.  One of the effects of this is the creation of ‘after-space’.

THE ‘AFTER-SPACE’ AND ITS EFFECTS

Once the self is created the original pre-self sense of ‘space’, the ‘primal self-space’ (where we see ourselves as space), still remains as part of our make-up, lying deep within us.  It is as if in the ‘background’ of our self, always there like a mist, but usually not making a dominant presence.  In other words, its the ‘primal self-space’ is still perceived once one has a self.  Because of this, it has great influence on how the world is perceived and plays a big factor in how we conceive of the world.  I speak of this sense as the ‘after-space’.

For some people it can have great impact and influence in their life.  Many peoples interpretation and conception of the world is influenced by the ‘after-space’.  For other people it has little impact.  This shows that the ‘after-space’ has different effects on different people.

Much of the unique effects caused by the ‘after-space’ are a result of these conditions:

  • A sense of space.
  • The projection of ourselves into that space that our early development causes.
  • This fact that this ‘after-life’, being a remnant of our early development, conflicts with our later developed self.

Some of the effects created by these cause include:

A RELIGIOUS OR SPIRITUAL SENSE

The ‘after-space’ creates strong religous and spiritual sense.  This is because religion is very much rooted and based in the sense of the ‘after-space’.  In fact, many of the effects of the ‘after-space’ are associated, or have been associated, with religion at least in some way.  This shows a strong connection between spatial relations and religionIn actuality, this connection refers to the association between three things:

  1. Space.
  2. The self.
  3. The projection of self into space. 

These create different combinations that leads to many forms of religious and spiritual sense.  Projected self in space creates a sense of ‘spirits’ or ‘gods’, for example.

- A sense of a presence

Being that the ‘after-space’ is a sense of projected space of oneself, it naturally leads to a sense that there is a ‘presence’.  That is to say, that there is a ‘living something’ that ‘exists out there’.  This, generally, is described as a sense of ‘god’ or spirits or ghosts or something similar.  This presence is, in actuality, the sense of our projected self.

- A sense that things are alive or have a life in them

This is a result of our projected self.  Again, these reflect a sense of a projected self onto things.  In actuality, the life we feel is our own through the thing.

- A sense that there is “something more”

With our growing self we naturally tend to forget the ‘after-space’ but its presence is always there.  As a result, its not uncommon for people to feel it there, as if lurking in the distance.  It often creates a sense that there is “something more” to life.

- A sense of mystery

Because it is a manifestation of the earlier stages of development our self cannot ‘understand’ it.  As a result, there develops a sense of mystery with the ‘after-space’.

-A sense of another world, an other world, or reality

The ‘projected space’ of our early development leaves a sense of another world or reality.  This is perceived as something separate from our life and reality.

- A sense of a secret or sacred place

This shows an ‘altered’ sense of space in project ‘self-space’.  This is because projection makes space more than just a space.  This is particularly true because of ‘living space’ as the ‘livingness’ makes space ‘alive’ and more ‘real’.

- A sense of harmony

A common trait we see in these is that we sense our life in the world, in the things in it, and even in the unseen things.  In short, the ‘after-space’ creates a general sense of a ‘livingness’ in all things, our projected ‘life’ upon the world.

AN ALTERED SENSE OF SELF

Because the ‘after-space’ involves the self it naturally leads to altered senses of self.  Its not uncommon that they are associated with religion but not necessarily.

- A sense of being removed from ones self

The sense of space, and the self, can create a sense as if we have been removed or separated from our self.  This often happens when the post-self, with its sense of being removed from the world, develops a sense of the pre-self, where the world is ones self.  As a result, the post-self feels as if ‘removed’ from itself.

This, often, can create religious-like experiences but it, in actuality, is can often be seen from time to time in everdya life.  Some situations create this sense.

The sense of being removed from oneself can happen in many ways:

  • In various religious rituals.  In some cases, this separation of self is what is sought for.
  • In prayer, contemplation, meditation, and such.
  • In shamanistic journeying.
  • In dreams.  Often, nightly dreams can create a sense that we are removed from our self.
  • In intense situations.   A good example is war or some life-threatening crisis.  I’ve heard cases where people have said that they seemed “removed from their bodies” or “seemed to no be there” or even an “unreality”.  Often, these are remembered as if they were a “dream”.
  • Being very involved with some activity.  This can lead to a sense that one has forgetten oneself or that one has ‘gone into another world’.
  • In phantasy or daydreaming.
  • In illness.  Some illnesses can create a sense of being removed from ones self, such as schizophrenia.
  • Near death experience.  The slow dying of the brain that precedes death can cause a sense of separation of self, as one slowly sinks from the post-self into the pre-self state.  These are generally accompanied by dreams that are often insightful about the situation even revealing, in a symbolic dream-like way, that one is not going to die and will survive.

The sense of being removed from oneself can range from being frightening to being pleasurable.  Sometimes, the separation from self creates a sense of a dying or death.  In addition, it can range from healthy to unhealthy.  Sometimes, its a fine line between the two.

The sense of being removed from ones self actually appears in various gradations and forms.  In fact, it creates something like a spectrum of experience ranging from a mild sense to a sense of not being aware of self:

  • Feelings of unreality.
  • Feeling that one is not a part of the world.
  • A sense of going into another world.
  • A sense of a separation from ones body.
  • Not remembering or being aware of ones self.
  • A sense of a different self or being a different person.

Because it is so out-of-the-ordinary, and because of its inherrent associationg with relgion, people will sometimes worship a sense of being removed from ones self as some great religious event.  Sometimes, a simple sense of separation is considered a ‘divine revelation’.

Being removed from oneself can often open up aspects of our self.  It does this in ways such as:

  • Deep inner feelings that we otherwise would not know.
  • An unknown awareness.
  • An unknown knowledge.
  • An intuition and insight.
  • A mythology and symbolism.

It can also take us away from ourselves, making us forget certain things, even who we are.

Its interesting to point out that many things in life are “geared” to achieving a sense of being removed from oneself, that is, of achieving the ‘after-space’.  These include things like relaxing, entertainment, art, thought, and even having good attitudes.

VARIOUS CONFLICTS AND DILEMMAS

- A pain or suffering

A sense of “after-space” often creates pain.  These often seem to come from nowhere or may seem to have no apparent origin.  This is because it is a result of the “mind-space” condition, not because of some psychological situation or event.  In fact, its often a sign one is “close” to the ‘after-space’.  Because of this it is seen a lot in religion and is a significant element in the spiritual or ‘prayerful’ life.

Some manifestations of this pain include:

  • A tendency to cry or weep.
  • A sense of suffering, often for no apparent reason or cause.
  • A sense of hurting inside.

- A sense of guilt and humility

Often, a sense of “after-space” creates a sense of guilt and humility.  In many ways, it seems to suggest that the “after-space” creates a sense of ‘two selves’, and that our current self is ‘below’ the “after-space” self, inferior to it.  This creates feelings such as:

  • A sense of alienation not belonging.  In many ways, the sense of being removed from ones self is a guilt of alienation, that one does not belong.
  • A sense of humility.
  • A religious guilt.
  • A feeling of being non deserving.
  • A feeling of being inadequate.

These are all associated with religion and prayer showing its great connection with them.

Sometimes these will lead a person to depression and feeling down.

- A fear

A strong sense of ‘after-space’ can create a sense of fear.  This often seems to be a result of the fear of losing the sense of the self. in the face of the reality of the ‘after-space’.  This shows that the self is very critical for a sense of ‘anchoring’ in the world and reality.  It’s loss, such as by the sense of the ‘after-space’ may lead one to fear they will ‘lose their sanity’ or ‘hold on the world’.  In other words, there’s a sense that one will become lost in the space.

Many peoples ‘inability’ to think or be imaginative, I often feel, is a result of this fear.  It creates something like a wall or a blockage that many people cannot overcome.  They may ascribe it by saying, “I just don’t have the knack” or similar things.  This is because thought and imagination requires one to go ‘beyond’ oneself.  This is why thought and imagination often require great effort, or great crisis, to develop in some people.

- A sense of nothingness

The ‘after-space’ can create a sense of nothingness.  In many ways, this is a result of the self’s inability to ‘relate’ to the pre-self.  Because of this, it as if does not know how to react causing a sense of ‘nothingness’.  This sense of ‘nothingness’ can be perceived as a good thing or a bad thing, depending on conditions.

- A sense of “dying”

The sense of the ‘after-space’ can create a sense of dying. This seems to be a result of the sense of the pre-self, which makes the self seem to disappear and this is perceived as a ‘dying’ or ‘death’.

‘DEEP AFTER-SPACE’ – A GREATER SENSE OF ‘SELF SPACE’

Some people develop a greater sense of ‘self space’.  I call this the ‘deep after-space’ because it is a deeper form of ‘after-space’ than is whats normally felt.  This primarily consists of a state of mind that, while being in the condition of the self, the sense of the pre-self is attained, along with its projected ‘self-space’ which causes a more profound and deeper ‘after-space’.

Oftentimes, this is a reflection of a persons character more than anything else.  That is to say, ‘deep after-space’ is generally not something a person can learn . . . a person is born with it.  To put it another way, a person must be predisposed to it.

One of the effects of this is that it can give people great ability at something.  These include:

  • An ability at some activity, such as art.
  • A great ability at expression, such as in music.
  • An ability at insight, such as with intelligence.

It seems to me that people who have some special ability are usually displayng some form of ‘deep after-space’.  In other words, it seems that the pre-self projected space can “tap” aspects of oneself that one normally would not be able to do. 

Discovering the “deep after-space” appears in a number of different ways:

  • A chance event.  This may only happen once in a persons life.
  • A result of sporadic activities.  Doing specific things from time to time can bring it out.
  • Repetition of a specific activity. 
  • Something that is instigated or willed to happen.

Though it may appear automatically at times, ‘deep after-space’ usually requires active effort.  That is to say, a person must do something to achieve it.  If it does appear naturally it is often short-lived or appears sporadically.  In fact, one of the great challenges of ‘deep after-space’ is being able to “conjure it up”.  This is not always as easy as it sounds.

Spirituality

‘Deep after-space’ tends to create a spirituality or spiritual outlook.  This is, no doubt, because it brings up the deep inner aspects of ones self and space perception.  It as if happens automatically and is a normal part of the phenomena.  Because of this, people inclined to the ‘deep after-space’ tend to be more spiritual and religious-like.  In non-religious societies, this may appear like an introversion or meditative type of person.

Shamanistic journeying

For centuries, the shamans claimed that they separated from their bodies and journeyed to spiritual lands.  That is to say, their journeying is associated with moving through space.  This is no mistake.  Shamanistic journeying is really a “deep deep after-space”, so to speak.  It is characterized by a deep sense of space and self that makes it appear as if one is ‘in space’.  Its for this reason that it entails many qualities of the ‘after-space’ described above:  sense of ‘another world’, a sense of ‘life in things’, a sense of dying, and so on.

My experience is that shamanistic journeying is rooted in the sense of space, not in ‘images’, emotions, trance, and things like that.  This is because this is the ‘oldest’ part of awareness.  Images, dreams, emotions, and such come later.

Its interesting to note that shamans are usually males who tend to have greater spatial ability and sense than the female.

Learning and ‘deep after-space’

The ‘deep after-space’ reflects three stages:

  1. ‘Living Space’.
  2. Self.
  3. Projection of self into space.

Because space appears first it tends to be forgotten, as many things are built upon it which as if cover it up.  Projection is usually how we experience and learn things in the world.  As a result, learning things tend to involve learning how to ‘project oneself’, which is the later stage.  What this primarily entails is ‘seeing oneself in things’, so to speak.  Any “learning” is really a form of identification, of ‘becoming’ the idea, act, or what have you.  In this identification we actually project ourselves into the thing we are learning, thereby making it part of us and who we are.  In this way, it becomes a part of us.  In so doing it basically imitates the original ‘self-space’ of our early development.  The problem is that it does not hit deep into ones self.  It tends to become superficial and shallow.  Because of this we can perhaps refer to this learning as ‘shallow learning’.   

Achieving the ‘deep after-space’ can be described as a ‘deep learning’ as it requires a deeper manifestation of the self which means that it involves more of the self.  Because of this it tends to be demanding and takes a lot out of a person.  Much of what constitutes ‘deep learning’ really entails seeking a state of mind.  In other words, ‘deep learning’ requires the correct ‘state of mind’ to work.  If one is not in this state of mind, or cannot attain it, then the effects of the ‘deep after-space’ are not found.  As a result, the ‘deep learning’ often requires a process of finding that state of mind.  This state of mind is really an ‘opening up’ of the self to the pre-self.  Its for this reason that I have always felt that one of the unspoken elements of learning is the ‘techniques’ at finding the correct state of mind.  This is quite a bit different than what we normally think learning is.  Generally, we tend to think that learning consists of learning the “act” (such as how to draw or ride a bike) or the “thing” (such as math or history).  In actuality, a lot of what constitutes learning is nothing but the performing of an “act” to discover the state of mind so one can do the “act” better.  In other words, there are stages:

  1. Doing some “act” (such as drawing).
  2. Discovering the skill that it brings up (that is, that you have a ‘knack’ at drawing).
  3. Discovering the state of mind that brings up the skill (drawing enough to find that a certain state of mind brings up that ‘knack’).
  4. Finding out how to bring up that state of mind in order to bring up the skill.
  5. Repetitively reviving this state of mind.

I sometimes speak of this as the ‘state of mind learning orientation’.  This means that what one is actually seeking is the state of mind in which to do something.  It doesn’t matter if one can do the “act” . . . what matters is the state of mind that allows one to do it properly.  Its this state of mind that ‘taps’ the inner ability and allows it to come out.  To do only the “act” or the “thing”, by itself, is to be something like a robot, someone that just “does” stuff automatically.

SPATIAL RELATIONS AND THOUGHT AND IMAGINATION AND INTELLIGENCE

Thought and imagination seems to be related with spatially relations.  In fact, spatial relations seems to be the ‘beginning’ or base of imagination and intelligence.  From spatial relations everything else follows.

  • Spatial relations, which leads to . . .
  • Projection, which leads to . . .
  • Imagination, which leads to . . .
  • Thought, which leads to . . .
  • Intelligence.

Its like a gradual progression that goes step-by-step as one grows and develops . . . and it all rests, and begins, with spatial relations.  In actuality, thought and imagination are a consequence of the projection of oneself which begins, of course, with spatial relations.  Thinking often entails an element of ‘visualization’ of some form or another.  Visualization is a product of spatial relations and projection.  Thought and imagination are associated with giving things meaning which is associated with space (as I described above).  Thought and imagination involves a ‘loss of self’, meaning a loss of post-self.  As a result, thought and imagination involves an ability to associate with the pre-self.  This is part of its power.  This is rather interesting as I’ve found that people who tend only look at ‘what’s there’ tend to be ‘dumber’.  This is because they are dissociated from their deeper self.

FEAR OF HEIGHTS

I have often felt that the fear of heights is related to the projected sense of ‘self-space’.  We must remember that space is not an “emptiness” or “void”.  The space is “there” as much as any object.  In that sense perhaps we could describe space as a ‘negative object’, an objectless object.  The fear of heights often seems to reflect this sense of “space as negative object”.

SCHIZOPHRENIA – AN AILMENT OF SELF AND SPACE

Schizophrenia shows many qualities of spatial relations.  In fact, at times, it seems it is a purely spatial relation ailment, where the different mechanisms of spatial relations are impaired.   More specifically, it is an ailment of projected space.  In general, there seems no problem with the perception of mechanical space.  Many of the reactions of schizophrenia are amazingly similar to the traits I gave above for the ‘after-space’.  I feel that is no mistake.

Some of the similarities include:

  • A sense of being removed from reality.
  • A sense that specific objects come ‘alive’ (projecting self).
  • Hearing thoughts and voices.
  • Hving a difficult time with orientation.

In general, we see a loss of the self which causes a breakdown in the perception of space and the “world-about-us”.  This suggests that schizophrenia is really a loss of self which, with its association with space, is what causes many of the symptoms of schizophrenia.  This appears to be a reaction to several conditions:

  • The loss of self.
  • The loss of a unifying quality of self.

The loss of any one of these tends to create a sense that the world is separate and ‘alive’, with a life all its own, and in which they are helpless against.

Many symptoms of schizophrenia also entail the self trying to ‘hold itself together’ under this breakdown.  This causes, in a way, a tug-of-war in the self.  This shows that the self is always trying to hold itself together.  This ‘drive for the unity of the self’ is one of the qualities that keeps us together as people and which has failed in schizophrenia.

DEMENTIA – FAILED PROJECTION

The condition of dementia seems to show qualities of a failed spatial relations and other things associated with it.  This is probably best seen in the tendency for people suffering from dementia to take or steal things.  Its very possible that this tendency shows a sense of growing alienation from the world which causes, as a reaction, the tendency of taking things as if to stop this alienation.  In other words, its a reaction of failed projection.

In short, projection connects us with the world and makes it part of our self.  When projection fails we tend to feel things like:

  • A growing sense of alienation.
  • A sense of being ‘at a loss’.

When this happens, after projection has been established, there is a tendency to try to ‘reacquire’ this ‘connectedness’ with the world.  In dementia it appears to manifest itself as a tendency to take or steal things.  In this way, they ‘reconnect’ with the world and appear, at least to them, to ‘re-project’ themselves into the world.

This shows a number of points:

  • Projection creates a need to feel ‘connected’ with the world.
  • Once projection is established we see it as a part of our self.
  • When projection is perceived as being lost, such as with dementia, we try to reacquire it in some way.

The behavior of people with dementia, who often don’t seem ‘in control of themselves’, may also show that these reflect a deep inner need as it ‘controls’ them to some extent, without conscious effort.  This makes it, in a way, almost instinctual.  This fact seems to show that projection is deep rooted within ones self and lies deeper than ones conscious self.

SOME THOUGHTS ON BRAIN ANATOMY AND SPATIAL RELATIONS

It’s interesting that brain anatomy seems to show a distinctive association between space perception and other senses and aspects of the mind.  It appears that much of the space relation seems to be located in the temperal lobes, which are like flaps on each side of the brain.  Damage to the temporal lobe can cause problems with space relations.  People will have problems drawing a map or determining where they are, for example.

1800px-Gray726_temporal_lobe from wikimedia.org public domain

(The temporal lobe of the brain.  From wikipedia.org – image under public domain.)

Anatomically, the areas of spatial relations (temporal lobe) seems to be in the ‘middle’, so to speak, of all the ‘connections’ association with world conception.  From the temperal lobe the connections as if flair out in different directions:

  • The brain stem.  This is where the more ‘basic’ and ‘primitive’ aspects of the brain are located.  It connects to this by way of the limbic system and hippocampus.
  • The limbic system and hippocampus.  The temporal lobe connects to the brain stem by the limbic system and hippocampus.  Its also in the limbic system and hippocampus where meaning and emotion seem to be manifested.  The limbic system and hippocampus as if make a spiral from the top or superior part of the brain stem going ventral or forward up then to the dorsal or rear.  As it does this it goes outward and connects to the ventral or front part of the temporal lobe.  There are two of these, on each side of the brain.  Its interesting to point out that meaning and emotion passes through the temporal lobe before it goes to other areas of the brain.  This establishes a strong connection between meaning and emotion with space relations.  In other words, the close association of the limbic system and hippocampus to the temporal lobe shows that it is here that the ‘world-space’ is probably ‘humanized’.
  • The occipital lobe.  This area is locatd to the dorsal or rear part of the brain.  The temporal lobes are directly connected to the occipital lobe.  Here is where images and sight are centered.
  • Sense centers.  These are located in the upper or superior part of the cerebral cortex, making two strips on either side.
  • Motor centers.  These are also located in the upper or superior part of the cerebral cortex, making two strips on either side similar to, and right alongside, the sense centers.
  • The frontal lobe.  This is located on the front or ventral part of the brain.  Here is where the analyzing, logic, organization, and such are located.  The temporal lobe makes connections to this area of the brain.  Interestingly, of all the areas it is the furthest from the temporal lobe and has minimal cortex connections through the cerebral cortex itself, relying on long axonal connections to make many connections.  This shows, in my opinion, that this part of the brain is not as ‘important’ as its been made out as.  We tend to emphasize this part of the brain because this culture worships knowledge and such.  It seems to show that this part of the brain, and its functioning (analyzing, logic, etc.), take a secondary or subsidiary role to the other areas.

Areawise, the largest areas are the occipital lobe and the frontal lobe.  I do not believe this is a reflection of their importance but more that these areas deal with more varied imputs and alterations than other parts of the brain.  In other words, the large areas of these parts of the brain show that sight and analyzying, thought, etc. have more variation in activity than in the other parts of the brain.  To put it another way, the large area of the occiptial and frontal lobe are a result of the continuous activity that goes on in these lobes which are reacting to many varied impulses.  This makes sense as our brains are continually bombarded with visual sensations and we are continually having to think, analyze, and such throughout the day.

With these connections its as if everything fans out, in all directions, from the temporal lobe.  To put it another way, everything ‘comes together’ at the temporal lobe.  In many ways, the more ‘basic’ and ‘primitive’ aspects of the brain come together with the more ‘complicated’ and ‘advanced’ parts of the brain in the temporal lobe.  In that sense, the temporal lobe is an area of ‘bringing together’ different aspects of the brain and mind.  This shows that, anatomically, there is physical demonstration of the importance of space relations and its relation to the rest of the mind.

SPATIAL RELATIONS IN THE MALE AND FEMALE

There seems to be a great difference between male and female and spatial relations.  In general, males tend to develop a stronger spatial relations than females.  As a result of this, males tend to display much more qualities associated with space relations.

  • The male projection of self can be described as ‘generalized’.  This means that the male tends to project himself over the whole world.  Because of the more ‘generalized’ nature of the male, he tends to experience more things like the ‘deep learning’, shamanism, creativity, and so on.
  • The female projection of self can be described as ‘restricted’ or ‘selective’.  That is, the female tends to only project her self over certain aspects of the world.  It seems that the female tends to exchange spatial relations for “emotional relations”.  Because of this, the female tends to develop a more emotion-centered relation with the world.  This makes it so that they don’t demonstrate many of the qualities of spatial relations.

THE ‘SELF-SPACE’ AND CIVILIZATION

Overall, it appears that civilization tends to cause a weakening of the ‘self-space’.  That is to say, once a civilization is created ‘self-space’ tends to display these qualities:

  • It tends to weaken in force.
  • It tends to become corrupted.
  • It tends to be replaced by other things.

This shows, in my opinion, that the ‘self-space’ is a phenomena of a lifestyle.  To put it another way, civilization tends to “replace” the ‘self-space’ and, in many ways, usurps it.  This fact shows some interesting similarities between ‘self-space’ and civilization:

  • They are both ‘in-between’ humanity and nature.
  • They both establish a relationship between humanity and nature.
  • They both offer protection against nature.

In other words, they are both means of associating with nature.  It appears that ‘self-space’ is something achieved by the individual, reflecting a personal association.  Civilization, on the other hand, is what can be described as a ‘social self-space’, a ‘self-space’ achieved by a society.  As a result, it is not achieved by the individual nor does it reflect a personal association.  Because of this, civilization is ‘weaker’ and less effective on the personal level. 

MECHANICAL AND PROJECTED SPACE IN THE ANIMAL WORLD

I feel that many creatures only feel the mechanical space.  I tend to feel that animals that experience the “mind-space” are primarily mammals.  Even birds do not seem to develop a “mind-space”, or it doesn’t appear that way to me.  They develop an incredible sense of mechanical space allowing them to fly, and land on branches, but there appears to be no projection of themselves into that world.

One of the reasons why this seems to be the case is because of development.  That is to say, the young mammals have a ‘weening’ period where they are generally helpless and need someone else to help them survive.  This causes them to go through a period of development, learning, and growth that other creatures, such as ants, don’t have.  As a result, their mind has to be formed and created, often from nothing.  In many ways, their minds are generally a ‘clean slate’ waiting to be written upon.

This creates conditions such as:

  • It allows for different “levels” of the mind.  This can range from a ‘nothing mind’ to an experience learned mind.  Because the mind goes through different growth periods the mind develops different qualities and characteristics.  Though the mind passes from one period to another, the earlier periods, with their distinct qualities and characteristics, are still in memory.  As a result, they often come out from time to time.
  • It allows for the development of projection.  This is because projection is part of the growing and learning process.  Projection makes the living creature want to ‘reach out’ into the world.
  • It allows for a refinement of abilities.  It seems that the development of the “mind-space” creates a need for refined movements and great sensory/motor control.  As a result, animals that display these qualities seem to have a sense of “world-about-us”.

In effect, the sense of “mind-space” causes a great growth and great development in the brain.  It seems, to me, that the significant trait of this is that everything is more “refined” – motor, sensory, mind.  There is less ‘reflex-like’ action (such as we see in insects and reptiles).  This is significant because it makes the ‘mind-space’ a result of a refinement, not an increase in “intelligence”.  What is often called “intelligence” is only an offshoot of this generalized refinement (of mental processing).  This refinement affects the whole brain and is seen in the development of the many more complex brain structures as well.

The refinement of ‘mind-space’ seems to be in these areas:

  • Motor – musulature system is very coordinated.  There is no ‘quick movements’ but often slow careful movements.  There develops great coordination and control.  This causes a great growth in the cerebellum.
  • Sensory – senses become very refined and complicated.
  • Mental processing – mind thinks about things, they look at things closely, build, and create things.

There seems to be levels with the mammals, some experiencing the ‘mind-space’ very minimally and some strongly.  Its interesting to note that the mammals that seem to have the greatest development of ‘mind-space’ are those who require:

  1. The most spatial relations, such as living amongst trees.
  2. Have a longer weening time.

Here are several good examples:

  • Rodents.  Many rodents live amongst trees, having to have good spatial relations.  Its some of the rodents, too, who do some of the greatest construction of things and organization, building dams, homes, nests, holes, hoarding food, and such.  This shows an element of refinement.  They, though, don’t have a long weening period, minimizing the minds development.
  • Monkeys and apes.  Many monkees and apes live amongst tree’s and live in them and, accordingly, need good spatial relations.  Apes, in particular, have great refinement in almost all areas.  They have a longer weening time too, allowing time for the mind to develop.

What many mammals lack, though, is a strong self, which is strong with humanity.  As a result, the self has a stronger impact and has, in many ways, determined the path of humanity.  Perhaps it is the lack of self that separates humanity from all other living creatures?

AFTERTHOUGHT

What all this shows is that spatial relations, and projection of self, is a major influence in how we perceive and behave in life.  It is also something that is taken for granted and tends to be disregarded.  The more I look at it, though, the more I can see that it truly is the base of everything.  In addition, its emphasis and development of its awareness is very good for growth.  This is particularly so as civilization tends to decrease its awareness and growth.

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Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Death and dying, Existence: Awareness, Beingness, Consciousness, Conceptionism, and such, Neurology and the brain, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis, Religion and religious stuff, Shamanistic 'journey' dreams and dreaming | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More thoughts on “the male exodus” – the importance of a world that is worth the effort or ‘world worth’

While thinking about “the male exodus” I made an interesting statement (I wrote an article on “the male exodus” called “Thoughts on “failing” boys and males “dropping out”: “the male exodus” . . . another account of the fight against dehumanization???” if you’re interested).   The thought goes like this:

“For many males the world is ‘dead’ and uninteresting.  There is nothing there.  Because of this, there’s nothing to fight for and believe in.  As a result of this, many males are not looking at the world as something they want.  This makes it so they don’t want to be a part of it.”

This simple statement shows some interesting points about the male character and his association with the world.

The most important point is that it shows that the world needs to offer the male something . . . just because it’s there doesn’t mean he automatically wants to be a part of it.  The world, in a sense, needs to ‘draw’ the male into it.  It needs to “prove” its worth his effort.  I shall speak of this quality as the ‘world-as-worth-the-effort tendency’.  To put it simply, the world must have something that makes it worth seeking.  It must have what I call ‘world worth’.  This is particularly important as, for the male, the less the world has worth the less he wants to be a part of it.  This means that the world must shows itself as something with worth.

Now, the ‘world’, as I use it, means the reality about the male and is that which he is ‘in’.  This includes his situation, his environment, the existing historical conditions, and other things like that.  This sense of the ‘world’ describes two forms of awareness:

  1. Of the male himself
  2. Of the world

As a result of these, the male innately perceives himself as removed and separate from the world and as something opposed to himTherefore, for him to be a part of the world he must ‘take’ it, so to speak, so that he is not removed and separate from it.  I call this the ‘taking tendency’.   This tendency shows this process:

  • The male perceives the world as separate and removed from himself.
  • He see’s that it is worthwhile (that it has ‘world worth’).
  • He ‘takes’ it.
  • He and the world become a part of each other.

This ‘taking’ is really nothing but the making of the world as part of ones self.  This is done by:

  • Active participating with the world.
  • Absorbing the world and making it a part of ones self.

This shows that the ‘taking’ of the world is a very personal affair for the male as what he ‘takes’ will become a part of his self and will contribute to who he is.  As a result of this the ‘taking tendency’ greatly affects the males association with the world and how he behaves in it.  In fact, it determines it.  As a result of this, the males perception of ‘world worth’ is instrumental in his growth and behavior in the world.

What a male ‘takes’ is greatly influenced by their character. The general tendency is for the male to ‘take’ what suits and coincides with his character in the world.  Or, to put it another way, he ‘takes’ what is relevant to him.  This shows that the male character is very important in what he will do in his relation to the world:

  • If he will ‘take’ something - the ‘taking tendency’
  • If he will not ‘take’ something - the ‘turning away tendency’ (see below)

This shows that the male must see a ‘similarity’ between the world and himself.  In other words, the male must see a resemblance between his character and the ‘character of the world’.  In fact, if this connection is never made the male will never really ‘bond’ with the world that well.  One could describe this as the ‘male/world character primacy’ meaning that there must be a ‘connection’ in character before any other connection with the world happens.  Because of this, one of the first requirements of ‘world worth’ is a ‘connection’ between the male character and the world.  Once this happens other qualities come into play that contribute to ‘world worth’ such as:

  • The world must be relevant.  It must display an importance with himself.  In this way, the world as if becomes a ‘friend’, something with like characteristics. 
  • The world must be meaningful.  It must show that it is not nonsense and has some order that he can relate to.
  • The world must be attainable.  The male must feel that he can attain it in some way.  Otherwise, it has no value.  Wanting something you cannot attain is like wanting property on the moon . . . something you will never have.  
  • The male must be a part of something when in the world.  In reality, the ‘taking tendency’ describes a desire to be a part of the perceived world and what is in it.  As a result, when there is no sense of being a part of something the world loses ‘world worth’.  
  • The male must feel needed in some way.  He must feel that his association has value in the world.
  • The male must have a sense of ‘more’.  Typically, if there is no sense of ‘more’ the world appears stagnant and ‘dead’.  The sense of ‘more’ makes the world ‘alive’, ‘mysterious’, and increases its ‘world worth’.

When things like these are lacking (that is, there is a low ‘world worth’) then the male tends to ‘turn away’ from the world.  He just has no desire to be a part of it.  This is the ‘turning away tendency’.  When the male ‘turns away’ he does things like:

  • He does not participate in the world.
  • He does not absorb the world.

One can see that these are actually the exact opposites of the ‘taking tendency’, as described above.  In this way, the ‘turning away tendency’ is actually the opposite and contrary to the ‘taking tendency’.  In that way, it ‘negates’ it.

There are many conditions in life that tend to degrade ‘world worth’.  Some are naturally appearing, some are conditions created by humanity.  Some are occasional, some are constant.  Some have minimal effects, some have major effects.  Some cause no problems, some create conflicts.  Life, in general, has created many conditions that tend to degrade ‘world worth’.

There are also many reactions to the degradation of ‘world worth’.  Some reactions are helpful, some are damaging.  Some help growth, some halt growth.  Some build a person up, some bring a person down.  In short, we see that the reactions to the degradation of ‘world worth’ are varied and can range from good to bad.

Some of the examples of the many conditions that degrade ‘world worth’, and cause the ‘turning away tendency’, include:

  • Situations that do not reflect the males character.  For example, a  non-assertive person will tend to avoid, or ‘turn away’, from situations that require assertiveness.  This type of reaction tends to have great influence on what a male does in life and how he behaves in it.
  • Impossible situations.  A situation that is impossible, or in which the male knows he cannot handle, are typically ‘turned away’.  For example, most guys are going to avoid a situation where they have to fight 10 guys in hand to hand combat.
  • ‘Red tape’, ‘bull crap’ and other perceived nonsense.  When things appear ‘nonsensical’, or pointless, it tends to create a ‘turning away’ by the male. Typically, they will want to avoid that situation as much as possible.  This shows the importance of meaning in the world and how important it is to ‘world worth’.
  • The class struggle and other social strife.  Various abuses of social conditions (such as unfairness of wages) creates a condition of ‘turning away’.  These situations are often characterized by the fact that the male has no control and is helpless.  As a result, he tends to become apathetic about it.
  • Various forms of dehumanization.  These conditions creates a situation where the male ‘can’t relate’ to the world.   Accordingly, it is a form of helplessness.  This condition often creates something like a stagnation or alienation in the male.

One of the things we can see is that the ‘turning away’ has a range from healthy to unhealthy.  On one extreme it helps place the male in the best possible position in life (by following where his character best suits him).  It also determines how to behave wisely in the world (such as avoiding impossible situations).  On the other extreme it leads to something like an apathy, indifference, stagnation, or alienation, which is unhealthy.  The main determining factor, it seems, of what makes it unhealthy is whether the male is helpless or not.  To put it a better way, its unhealthy because its more of a situation where the male cannot ‘grasp’ the world he is in.  This is not surprising as a major element of the ‘taking’, as I said above, is to absorb the world into his self.  If he cannot ‘grasp’ the world he cannot absorb it.  This inability to absorb makes it so that he becomes stagnant, apathetic, and such.  This ends up impacting his self and his association with the world in an unhealthy way.  This becomes particularly critical if this condition of being unable to ‘grasp’ the world repetitively appears or is constant.   

But, nowadays, we are seeing a situation that is causing great inability to ‘grasp’ by the male:  the creation of a more unhuman and dehumanizing world.  This condition creates a great sense of helplessness or inability to ‘grasp’.  This is because it does not cater to the ‘human’.  As a result, there is, in actuality, nothing to ‘take’.  In some respects the dehumanization of the world has made the world “fail” as something worthwhile to have.  That is to say, dehumanization has caused great devaluation of ‘world worth’.   This fact is being dramatically shown by “the male exodus” which is nothing but the male ‘turning away’ from the world.

This devaluation of the ‘world worth’ by dehumanization has a great irony about it as, at first glance, the modern world seems to “appear” to have all this stuff that, you’d think, would make it have great worth.  But that’s not what the behavior is showing . . . males are turning away from it.  This shows that there is an illusion with the modern world caused by a discrepancy between these two things:

  1. What the modern world “appears” to be.  This gives the illusion that the modern world has worth.
  2. What the modern world lacks . . . namely, the ‘human’.  Lacking the ‘human’ makes it irrelevant and degrades its worth.

This discrepancy shows that “the male exodus” is rooted in a deep inner sense:  the sense of the ‘human’.  Oddly enough, this appears to be a sense so deep that many people don’t even feel it or are not even aware of it.  But, yet, they will react to situations that degrade it.  This is the ‘human/unhuman discrepancy’, which is a strange phenomena of the modern world.  It refers to these sort of reactions:

  • A tendency to get “led away” by the illusions of things unhuman, generally thinking that they are human. 
  • The effects of these unhuman things later cause a reaction because they are unhuman, which often cause people problems. 
  • People are often not aware of their reaction or what caused it.

In other words, the ‘human/unhuman discrepancy’ describes a condition so deep that people can’t even tell the problems it causes in themselves.  In effect, people superficially feel ‘dazzled’ by it all but, deep down, they feel its emptiness, or lacking, and may even have problems because of it.  “The male exodus” seems to be a reaction to avoid this situation.  In that sense, it is a ‘reaction to keep ones humanity’. Because of this, it actually describes a “healthy” reaction though its effects may not be. 

One thing that is interesting is that you have all these guys who will only ‘use’ a small aspect of the modern world (such as computer games) but have absolutely no interest in anything else.  In other words, with all the myriad varieties of creations of the modern world they are focusing on a miniscule amount of it.  This fact shows that the world, on the whole, has become ‘uninteresting’ to the male and is no longer worth ‘taking’.  Because of this the males will only focus on that small part that have some connection with and avoid the rest.  I see this in a lot of guys nowadays.

What all this seems to show is that the modern world has, in a way, devalued the world and made the world “cheap”.  Its become so “cheap”, in fact, that its not worth being a part of anymore.  As a result, many males have turned away from it.  In effect, the world has lost its ‘world worth’.

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Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Dehumanization and alienation, Modern life and society, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis, The 'system' and 'systemism', The male and female | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on the “myth of the tough guy” – an attempt at manifesting American ideals???

(This is my 700th blog)

Over the years I have been mystified by a statement that seemed ‘odd’ to me.  This is the statement:

“Act like a man!”

I’ve always wondered what that meant . . .

Throughout the years I would even hear of more statements about the male that, to me, always seemed silly and asinine.  Some of these statements are:

“The male must be tough.”

“The male cannot cry or show emotions.”

“The male is aggressive and a fighter.”

“The male is domineering and wants to control things.”

I’ve always questioned statements such as these.  Something did not make sense about them . . . and they certainly didn’t seem to describe the male character, at least as I saw it.  Then, to add to that, there are all the ‘tough guy’ image in the movies and such . . . why are they so prevalent?  Not only that, they seemed to be describing a specific character of person, one which seemed unrealistic, and non-existent, to me.

What does it mean and where did it originate from?

Here are some thoughts I had on it:

THE ‘MYTH OF THE TOUGH GUY’

To me, this seems to be representative of “the myth of the tough guy”.   It seems to be an American thing, reflecting the American mentality based on American values.  Over the years, it created a specific image of the male with specific traits and qualities.  Not only that, this image was often looked at as an ideal and something to be emulated and practiced.  Despite this, it was something that seldom materialized or even appeared naturally in the male population.  In addition, it did not seem to describe the male at all, at least in my opinion.  In short, the ‘tough guy’ never seemed to be an “actual person” at all, though he was talked of as if he were, and there was no shortage of guys who tried to emulate it and tried to become a ‘tough guy’.

Some of the traits that define the ‘tough guy’ are things like this:

  • They can handle any crisis.
  • They are aggressive and willing to fight.
  • They play ‘king of the mountain’ and will fight to be the leader.
  • They are always trying to outdo one another and are extremely competitive and, ideally, always win.
  • They do and achieve things no one else can do.
  • They try to control everything and are in control of every situation.
  • They don’t need anyone or any help.
  • They work and get things done, generally on their own.

These are only some of the manifestations of the ‘tough guy’ image, as there are many variations.  Because of the myriad events in history, and the varied circumstances and multitude of conditions in the country, there became many variations of the ‘tough guy’ image that have developed over the years.  In some cases, the term ‘tough guy’ may not even fit a specific image at all.  I’m using it here as a “generic” term to describe a specific image of the male that the U.S. created.  In its simplist form, one could describe this persona, in general, as a ‘tough-independent-who-can-handle-anything-do-all’ type of guy.  But, keep in mind that there are many versions of how this appeared.

NORTHEAST ORIGINS AND AMERICAN VALUES

I was always of the opinion that the ‘tough guy’ image originated from the northeastern part of the U.S. in particular.  It as if ‘set the stage’ for everything else that followed and created something like a ‘garden’ for everything else to grow.  Naturally, as things grew and developed, there developed many manifestations of it as a result of the varying conditions that would appear.

The reason why the northeast was so important is that it is the ‘original settlement’, so to speak, of the U.S. and, accordingly, was the seat of American values.  The South (the southeast, actually) was, in reality, a different world in itself as would become apparent in the Civil War.  It was in the northeast where the original ideas of the U.S. are the strongest and had origin and developed.  It is for this reason that it would create a ‘stamp of authority’ for all that would follow it.  In many ways, all the ‘tough guy’ images and variations that followed were supporting, at least in some way, the original ideals of the northeast which reflected American ideals.  As time went on we find that different events, conditions, historical realities, etc. tended to create myriad versions and aspects to the ‘tough guy’ image.  Some, even, contradict each other and conflict at times, as we saw in the Old West (see below).  This shows that the ‘tough guy’ image is not a single defined image but an image that changed and varied in response to conditions.  One could very well say that there are many different ‘schools of thought’ concerning the ‘tough guy’ that has developed throughout the years.

Some of the ideals of the northeast, which are rooted in American values and which began the evolution of the ‘tough guy’ image, include:

  • Idealism – the ‘worship’ of certain beliefs as something to aspire to
  • Individualism – that what a person does matters
  • Accomplishment – a person can achieve anything
  • Competition – of ‘putting down’ opposition and in winning
  • Freedom – that a person could do what they wanted and no one controlled them
  • Optimism – that everything will get better

These are all American values and are reflective of America’s beliefs.  By themselves they would not of created a ‘tough guy’ image.  For that to happen more was needed.  Several things that helped create it include:

  1. Practicing the values
  2. History
  3. Representation

1. PRACTICING THE VALUES

Being that these reflected American values it was only natural that their practice in everyday life would make an impact.  In fact, the practice of the values is what made them ‘real’ and ‘living’.  Without practice, the image would be empty.  As a result, many aspects of the ‘tough guy’ image originated from ‘real world’ situations and conditions and of things people did, and the values they believed in.

Some of the ways the practice of the values appeared are through these ways such as these:

  • The ‘working class hero’.  This generally entailed a belief that the working man is ‘king’.  As a result, they tended to glorify the working man, as if the whole world revolved around him and what he did.
  • The ‘tough business man’.  This, of course, referred to a successful business man, particularly if he did everything himself.
  • The Protestant work ethic.  This basically teaches that a person must “work themselves to death” and “endure anything”.  This was often glorified and worshipped as some great achievement.  I’ve seen many people practically kill themselves trying to cater to this value.
  • The ‘rebel’ after the world wars.  The image of a rebel became prevalent particularly after both world wars.  The rebel tended to glorify America’s ideas of individualism and freedom.
  • The attitudes created in congested cities with many different nationalities.  It seems, to me, that congested cities with many different nationalities, such as New York, tended to emulate a lot of American ideals in a unique way.   This is because they were very crowded and had a lot of different people in it which created a lot of associated tension, competition, and continuous strife.  As a result of these, its as if congested cities began to emulate many American values almost as if to defend themselves from the crisis the city created.  Its as if emulating American values made their strife worth while.  As a result, the city of New York, for example, created a specific “tough New York character” that was tough, assertive, individualistic, sought achievement, could handle anything, and such.  I can even see many traits of this “tough New York character” in many forms of ‘tough guy’ images, such as seen in the movies.
  • Sports.  This includes playing and watching.  In general, the emphasis is primarily only in winning or who wins.  Oftentimes, they emphasize personal achievement.  In some cases, this could reach almost religious proportions.
  • The ‘can do’ attitude.  This emphasizes values like accomplishment, achievement, work ethics, and optimism.

Many ‘tough guy’ traits have origin with these practiced values.  No doubt, their practicing made people it easy for people to identify with the ‘tough guy’ image and what it meant.

3. HISTORY

Naturally, historical situation was influential in the creation of the ‘tough guy’ image.  In many cases, a historical era created a unique ‘tough guy’ image specific to that era.  In other cases, one era built upon previous era’s.  This is one reason why there are many variations of the ‘tough guy’ image.

The bourgeoisie

Though it may not seem immediately apparent but it appears that the ‘tough guy’ image has some origin in the bourgeoisie.  These are city people who tended to emulate noble ideals, often to the point of imitation.  I often speak of this tendency as the ‘pseudo-nobility’.  They particularly appeared in the 1700’s with the rise of the city merchant class who could afford to ‘imitate’ the nobility.  Pretty soon, it became a mark of prestige to act like that.  Accordingly, they tried to develop traits and qualities of the nobility. A particularly significant image of the ‘pseudo-nobility’ is the ‘knight’.  As time went on, America would take this image and change it somewhat.  In fact, in many ways, the ‘tough guy’ is nothing but an American version of a knight.  Some of the qualities of the knight the U.S. took include:

  • The image of a fighter.
  • The idea of accomplishment and achievement
  • The glorification of the individual.
  • The practice of values (the knight was supposed to practice Christian values).

Though this image does not look like the ‘tough guy’ it ‘set the stage’ for the development of the ‘tough guy’ image in America.  More was still needed . . .

The Northeast and the Old West

The realities of the northeast, with its high civilization and crowding, was very different compared with the Old West.  Many people of the northeast were very curious and even idolized the Old West as they began to hear stories of it and how different it was.  In fact, interest was so popular that Old West fiction became very popular (see below).

It appears to me that people in the northeast were frustrated with the problems of the city life.  The congestion, competition, conflicts, etc. made it hard for American ideals to materialize.  As a result, the image of the Old West gave an outlet for that frustration.  In fact, the frustration of fulfilling the ideals in the city made the Old West an ‘ideal place’ to imagine it.  In this way, the frustration created a need for an ‘image’.  It made it so that people were ‘ripe’ for something.  If this is the case, then it means that the ‘tough guy’ image is rooted not in the manifestation of the ideals but in their failure and subsequent frustration!  People needed some thing, an ‘image’, for these ideals to be demonstrated.

We must point out that, one of the sad facts that this reveals, is that the reason why this would of happened is that American ideals were too ‘idealistic’ and, as a result, could not be attained be the person.  In other words, it shows that American ideals were unrealistic.  They were good as ideals but, in actual practice, not easily attainable.  This fact seems to follow the ‘tough guy’ image down to today. 

WWII and its aftermath

When WWII came it caused a great wave of nationalism.  During, and after, WWII the Old West fictional stories became increasingly in vogue as representations of American ideals.  The effect of this is that it created a “resurgence” of the themes and reinvigorated the ‘tough guy’ image and its general proliferation in general society.  Not only that, it appeared in many ways:  fiction, movies, television, and commercial products.   The ‘cowboy and Indian’ became commonplace names.  Even many boys would play cowboy and Indian in the backyard.

This era seemed to create the ‘lone just-cause tough guy’ image, typically.  Though there were many versions of this, the image of the cowboy was common and seemed prevalent in the 1950’s.  There also appeared ‘rebel’ versions of the ‘tough guy’ as well.

The cold war

With the cold war the image of a ‘tough guy’ to promote American values seemed to be strong.  We began to see it a lot in the movies especially.  It seems that once the cowboy ‘just-cause tough guy’ faded in the late 1950’s, especially, we see more and more images of ‘just-cause any man’ images appearing.  This would change in the late 1960’s.

From the late 1960’s, and into the 1970’s, there seem to be emphasis on the ‘lone rebel tough guy’ image.  This seemed particularly apparent as a result of the hippi movement and attacks on the Vietnam War and the new ‘rebelling against the establishment’ mentality.  As a result, into the 1970’s we start to see the ‘rebel against the system tough guy’ and the appearance of the ‘action man tough guy’ which became common in the 1980’s’.

The post cold war

With the fall of the cold war, the ‘tough guy’ image took a blow.  The nationalistic ideals were simply not there anymore.  This, in a way, made the ‘tough guy’ irrelevant.  As a result, what began to appear, in the 1990’s, is the ‘mindless violence tough guy’ image.  This, though, seemed to wear out after awhile.

Many images of the ‘tough guy’ in this era seems to be nothing but a remnant of the eras before us that is now carrying over to this era.  In other words, the post cold war era doesn’t seem to of created any new ‘tough guy’ image that I can see.

3. REPRESENTATION

For an image to be created it needs to have a form of representation.  One of the ways this happened is by the use of various forms of media.  That is to say, the various forms of media created a great power that, in actuality, made the image grow and develop.  Most certainly, without the media the ‘tough guy’ image probably would never of been created.  It did this in ways such as these:

  • It instilled the image in peoples minds
  • It exposed the image to many people
  • It popularized the image

Some influential forms of media that this include:

  • Old west fictions
  • The early movies
  • Television
  • Big budget movies
  • Superheroes

With media, such as these, a ‘medium of representation’ was created that basically created the ‘tough guy’ image.  Over time, this would create the representation of the ‘tough guy’ image as if it were a real and living person.

Old West fictions

The evolution of the ‘tough guy’ image seems to be begin when American values became more than values.  That is to say, they needed a representation to take them out of the mundane existence of everyday life, to put them as if on an altar to glorify.  In other words, something was needed to put them in symbolic form.  It appears that one of the first ways in which this began is in the fiction of the Old West which began in the early-mid 1800’s.

For many people in the northeast these fictions were not only fascinating  and exotic but struck a cord with nationalistic feeling by its representation of a ‘growing nation’, freedom, individualism, and such.  Accordingly, it is only natural that these nationalistic feelings would begin to be seen in Old West fiction.

They became very popular and, we must remember, they were directed toward the ‘city people’ of the northeast.  As a result of this, they were not very accurate depictions of life in the Old West but more like a fantasized image.  In this way, they actually became depictions of the ideals of the northeast demonstrated through the fictional stories of the Old West.  In this way, the ideals were seen as if a reality.  Like I said above, this need was probably because people were frustrated as a result of the city life and inability to fulfill ideals in the northeast.

A number of themes appeared in these stories that, at times, conflicted and contradicted with each other.  Two common ones are:

  1. The ‘forger of progress and civilization’ image.
  2. The ‘self-sufficient man’ image.

Often, these two were at odds with each other, and contradicted each other, creating a great irony in Old West fiction.  Generally, the ‘forger of progress and civilization’ image tended to destroy the ideals of the ‘self-sufficient man’ image who generally despised progress and civilization.  But both, in their own way, described aspects of American values.  In this way, we see two different aspects of the ‘tough guy’ image appearing.  In the former, the man is the one who, with his own hands oftentimes, creates progress and civilization out of a wasteland, a great achiever.  In the later, the man is the one who can live on his own without progress and civilization, in a wasteland, another type of achiever.  They are the same, in a way, but different.  In either case, the image of a man who achieves is made . . . catering to an ideal.  Not only that, each caters to specific American ideals.  As a result, both reflect American ideals but in different ways.  This is a good example of how many images of the ‘tough guy’ image appeared.

With the Old West fiction, it created many ‘larger than life’ characters and hero’s who displayed American ideals in a ‘pure’ and ‘outright’ way.  In this way, they sort of exaggerated the ideals and, at the same time, made them more ‘extreme’ creating these guys who could ‘do anything’.

Old West fiction shows the importance of media in the creation and development of the ‘tough guy’ image.  In fact, the media would play an instrumental, and critical element, in the creation of the ‘tough guy’ image.  Without it, no doubt, the ‘tough guy’ image would probably never of appeared at all, nor gained the force it did.  It appears that fiction started it all.

The early movies

When the movies began to appear, particularly in the 1920’s, it brought on an even greater media form of expression that surpassed the fiction of the 1800’s.  Moving pictures brought a new reality and form.

Interestingly, though, the Old West did not figure prominently.  It seems that the first real creation of the ‘tough guy’ image in the movies were the gangster movies.  The popularity of the gangsters in the movies, particularly in the 1930’s, appears to of contributed to the image of the ‘tough guy’.  There are times when I see a male ‘act out’ the ‘tough guy’ that it seems like I can see the gangster in it.  The gangster also seemed to create the first ‘rebel tough guy’.

Television

When the television appeared it brought in a whole new medium and audience to the ‘tough guy’ image.  Not only that, it brought it into the home.  It also made it so that the image was seen regularly and consistently, such as in TV series, advertisements, etc.  Through this medium much of these ideals were to spread to the general population.  Soon, practically everyone was exposed to it.

Big budget movies

With the 1960’s and 1970’s we see the coming of big budget movies, with famous actors, appear.  This touching a broader audience and in a bigger way than television.  Now, the ‘tough guy’ was dramatically seen in a big screen.  In addition, it extended the ‘tough guy’ image to many more genre’s such as science fiction, action, drama, etc. than had before been seen.  This made it even more prevalent.

With the success of these movies it became clear that the population wanted or, rather, needed a ‘tough guy’ image.  As a result, this image was repetitively produced by Hollywood for the masses and many ‘tough guy’ movies were to be created that goes on down to today.

Because of the time period these were created they tended to emphasize a more cold war ‘tough guy’, often entailing the idea of a ‘rebel’, man-versus-the-system, and other qualities following the hippi movement and the Vietnam war.

Superheroes

The superhero Comic Books exposed a lot of children to a form of the ‘tough guy’ image.  Initially these were only found in comic books but soon movies, and serials, would appear almost regularly.  With television series would appear, such as Batman.  These created a whole new idea of ‘tough guy’ which was primarily directed to little boys.  Much of these seem to be based on earlier images of ‘tough guys’ and conditions:

  • Some superheroes apparently have origins in the image of the Old West hero, a descendent of the Old West fiction.  A good example is Flash Gordon in the 1930’s.
  • The original Batman comic books appears to be influenced by the gangster era, a continuation of the gangster ‘tough guy’ movies from the 1930’s.  Being directed toward boys, Batman became the ‘tough guy’ who defeated gangster-like people in the early years.
  • Superman shows a strong big city influence, referring to the congested cities of the northeast.

With the wearing out of the ‘tough guy’ image after the cold war the superhero would be revived again to start a whole new genre of movies and comic books from the 1980’s on.  Interestingly, this era of superhero is known for being directed toward adults, creating an ‘adult super hero’.

THE IMAGE OF THE  ‘TOUGH GUY’ AND NATIONALISM

Overall, though, what we see is that the image of the ‘tough guy’ would be a medium for nationalism and American values.  Keep in mind that this was not the only medium or form of this expression.  It became one of many. Because of this many males would want to emulate and become a ‘tough guy’.  This would greatly influence the American male (see below).

ASPECTS OF THE MYTH IN THE TEACHING OF A NEW MALE IMAGE – AN AMERICAN FAILURE

In America, the ‘tough guy’ would play a very large role in the life of the American male.   Being that the ‘tough guy’ image reflected national ideals they were often taken seriously and as an ideal As a result, it became common for males to try to emulate it the best way possible.  Many would try to emulate ‘tough guy’ traits such as:

  • Being assertive
  • Being aggressive
  • Being in-control
  • Being able to handle anything

These created a condition that, in reality, became a burden upon most males and created great pressure to conform.  In the end, it actually became ‘too much’ for many males causing a general deterioration in the American male through the years.

The failed new male image

Though the ‘tough guy’ image reflected American ideals it actually created a distorted and unrealistic view of the male when taken ‘seriously’, which it often was.  We must remember that the ‘tough male’ image is primarily a media creation based on nationalistic ideals, not a human creation reflecting naturally appearing human traits and qualities.  In that way, the image is an ‘idealism’ not a ‘reality’.  This fact would soon become apparent as many males tried to reflect the traits of the ‘tough guy’.  Because of this, it becomes clear that the ‘tough guy’ image is not a representation of how males really are.  In fact, it seldom, if ever, really reflected the “actually existing” American male character at all.  In many cases, this image was ‘forced’ upon the male, often strictly, which shows that it is not reflective of the male or male traits.  In that way, it created a ‘false male image’, one which would slowly undermine the American male over time.

As mentioned above, this image became so prevalent that it created a pressure to conform to the image for many American males.  The reactions to this pressure appeared in a number of ways:

  • Being able to conform.
  • A continuous struggle to try and conform.
  • An inability to conform.
  • Alienation.

So we see that there are times when how well a male could conform to the ‘tough guy’ image would have great impact on his social relations and, eventually, his feelings about himself.  Because of this, the ‘tough guy’ image would have great impact on the American male.

Because of the pressure to conform many males tried to practice the traits of the ‘tough guy’, at least as they understood it.  Typically, though, it failed or backfired.   My own experience is that guys who tried to be a ‘tough guy’ tended to have qualities such as:

  • They often were viewed as an “idiot” or an “ass”.
  • They were difficult to associate with.
  • They think they must control everything.
  • They think they are above, and even better, than everyone else.
  • They are intimidating.
  • They became obnoxious and annoying.
  • They became overbearing.
  • They became arrogant.
  • They tended to have a large ego along with all the problems it creates.
  • They became ‘stressed out’ by the pressure of it all (I wrote an article on a similar theme called “Thoughts on the ‘uptight American’ – the price of individualism“).
  • They began to cater to the ‘success-cult’ and worshipped success, especially theirs (I wrote an article on this called Thoughts on the ‘success cult’“).
  • They became phony or superficial.

These all created a male that was, at least in my experience, difficult to associate with.  Their general tendency is to glorify ‘toughness’ and to ‘act it out’.  As a result, you’d see guys ‘acting it out’ with, what seemed to me, as artificial gestures and mannerisms.  They had a quality of ‘acting out what they’d like to be, not what they are’.  Some of their traits include:

  • They talk with a ‘forced’ low voice.
  • They seemed to stick their chest out.
  • They act tense with a tense face.
  • They are serious about it all.
  • They have a look as if they are going to kill you or something.
  • They act in an intimidating way and can be very ‘in-your-face’.
  • They could even use threats.
  • They are controlling.
  • They can become bullies.

To this day, many of these gestures still make me chuckle.  Watching these guys could be almost comical, like a big game of ‘who’s the more macho’.

But many males had difficulty fitting into this image (probably most).  Some reactions include:

  • Its made many males ‘in limbo’, so to speak, as they did not know where they stand in things.   It made many males turn away from society or not have much to do with it.  In other words, a males failure at the ‘tough guy’ image made many males go in other directions and began a general tendency of the male to turn away from society.  This tendency goes on even down to today, but often for other reasons as well (I wrote an article about something similar to this called “Thoughts on “failing” boys and males “dropping out”: “the male exodus” . . . another account of the fight against dehumanization???” if you’re interested).
  • It has caused many males to take a ‘back seat’ perspective in life.  They sort of ‘go with the flow’ and avoid attracting attention to themselves.  They don’t do anything dramatic either.  In effect, its caused many males to become ‘passive’ and without any ambition.  In some ways, the American male as if ‘faded away’.
  • Its made it so that many males have no desire to emulate American values.  In this way, the ‘tough guy’ actually backfired.  In causing this, it actually had destroyed the values it was supposed to emulate.

Stuff like this, in my opinion, has helped to bring a slow detioration in the male.  It did this by creating a number of conditions such as:

  • It forced a person to develop false traits.
  • No genuine traits were developed.
  • It created problems for the males who could not conform.
  • It affected many males social relations.
  • It affected many males feelings about themselves.
  • It created unrealistic expectations.
  • It made it so that participation with society was no longer appealing.

I tend to feel that the ‘myth of the tough male’ is one of the things that has brought down the male in America.

The degradation of boys

It seems, to me, that the ‘tough guy’ image tended to cause a general degradation of the boy over the years.  It did this a number of ways:

  • They tended to be looked down upon because they are not ‘tough guys’.
  • The boys were required to try to be a ‘tough guy’.  Often, they had to do things they did not want to do or were not good at.
  • Some boys were forced to be ‘tough guy’.  Often, this could get to the point of being abusive.
  • If they did not emulate ‘tough guy’ attitudes, nor develop them, they were often ridiculed.  I know this from personal experience.

The amount of pressure upon boys to fit the ‘tough guy’ image, I think, has not been fully acknowledged, in my opinion.

The Munchausen effect and battle trauma

The ‘tough guy’ image was used extensively in the training and ‘indoctrination’ of soldiers, especially since WWII.  No doubt, this is as a result of the nationalistic orientation of the military.  The soldier was taught to be ‘tough’ and invincible with a ‘do or die’ attitude and such.  A great many of these emulate the ‘tough guy’ image.

Unfortunately, this has created a problem for many males in the military:  a predisposition to battle trauma.  To put it simply, the ‘forcing’ of the ‘tough guy’ image on the American soldier has created a specific condition which I call the ‘Munchausen Effect’.  This is a condition where:

  1. Soldiers are taught to be something that they are not.
  2. This makes them develop a ‘false persona’ that the military teaches them (which has many ‘tough guy’ qualities).
  3. They are put under the stress of military crisis.
  4. The ‘false persona’ fails.
  5. They suffer from battle trauma.

In short, they appear to be OK until they are put in crisis, then the ‘false persona’ (‘tough guy’ image) comes crashing down with battle trauma as the result (I wrote an article on this called “Thoughts on the ‘Munchausen Effect’ and the military – the power and dilemma of illusion“).

In many ways, the failure of the soldiers ‘false persona’ display the basic failure of the ‘tough guy’ image in general.  It shows a number of points with the ‘tough guy’ image:

  • It shows that it is just an image.
  • It shows that it works while not under or stress or crisis.
  • When it works it appears to be OK and the male seems to emulate the countries values.
  • In actuality, it actually alienates the male deep down.  This becomes apparent after a crisis happens.

What this shows is the ‘tough guy’ image is just that . . . an image, an illusion.  It does not reflect the male at all.  In this way, it is much like the clothing a person wears, a superficial front.  This is one of the biggest failure of the ‘tough guy’ image.

The ‘pushing away’ of females

Since the ‘tough guy’ image is a male thing it tended to ‘push away’ girls from the males in general, often in an intimidating way.  In some cases, this was done in an aggressive and degrading way as I, myself, have observed.  Because the ‘tough guy’ tended to develop an ego, in many cases, anyone who did not have the ‘tough guy’ image (which includes females) were often belittled and ridiculed.  In this way, the ‘tough guy’ image actually created something like a rift or wall between the male and female.  It often created a male-as-opposed-to-female perspective that could be quite severe and strict.  In general, the ‘tough guy’ did not, in any way, act like a non-‘tough guy’, which includes females and even boys.   This often included a tendency to frown on emotions or any other perceived ‘weakness’.  In this way, one could say that a ‘tough guy snobbishness’ was created.

The new female ‘tough guy’

Recently, with the growing failure of the female hood in America, many females are trying to emulate the male ‘tough guy’ image almost as if its going to save them.  I was initially surprised at this as they, in general, were ‘pushed away’ by the ‘tough guy’ . . . now they want to be like them?  But many females are trying to develop it and act it out.  Because of this, we are now seeing the female follow in the failure of the male:  they are being destroyed by an image they think is good.  The question is how long will it take them before they find out the image is bad?

A ‘POPULAR IMAGE’

What all this shows is that the ‘tough guy image is an image, not a reality, and does not describe actual male traits.  Because of this, it is an illusion.  Anyone practicing it is, therefore, living a false image.  It is, after all, a manifestation of idealism and nothing but a representation.  In short, it is a ‘popular image’, something developed to satisfy a need for a popular image for the masses.  The failure of the ‘myth of the tough guy’ is really that people took it too seriously. 

From what I have seen very few farmers, or people in the back country, or even the Old West, naturally took to the ‘tough guy’ image or emulated it.  In other words, the ‘tough guy’ image is not rooted in any real character or person.  Because of this, it is not rooted in anything ‘real’.  As I said, it is based in a representation of values and idealism. 

THE ‘TESTOSTERONE MYTH’

I used to hear a lot about ‘testosterone’ and what it was supposed to make males do.  My experience is that what testosterone is supposed to do to guys has this uncanny resemblance to the traits of the ‘tough guy’.  In other words, the ‘testosterone myth’ is a scientifically justified ‘tough guy’. This means that some people tried to make the ‘tough guy’ image a scientifically proven reality.  They also used the ‘testosterone myth’ to explain the behavior of the ‘tough guy’, sort of a “blame it on the hormones” type of deal.  In this way, they made the ‘tough guy’ as some sort of innate quality of the male, which he has no control of and which forces him to do things.  In short, he’s helpless against it . . . males just have to be ‘tough guys’.  This also created this quality of ‘its just the way it is’.  This made it so that there was an explanation of the many of the stupid behaviors of ‘tough guys’.  This became more prevalent after the 70’s (after the hippi movement and Vietnam war) when the ‘tough guy’ image got real ridiculous.  It was almost like an attempt at explaining this behavior off.

THE ‘TOUGH GUY CLUB’ AND THE ‘NERD’ ISSUE

In America there is something which I jokingly call the ‘tough guy club’.  This is a reference to how certain guys, who “think” they portray the ‘tough guy’ image, will stick together and tend to hang around with each other.  They often will not have anything to do with people who do not portray the ‘tough guy’ image, often looking down on them or treating them as non-existent.  Some traits of the guys who are in this club are:

  • They are often loud.
  • They are controlling.
  • They tend to be tall.
  • They tend to have big ego’s.
  • They tend to be bully-like.

In short, they tend to be extroverts, often to excess.  In other words, there is an association between the ‘tough guy’ image and the extrovert.  This is because the ‘tough guy’ would have to be an extrovert to do the things he’s supposed to do.  Introverted people tend to not act like that, for example.  As a result, introverted guys tend to stay away from the ‘tough guy’ image.

I sometimes think that the extrovert ‘tough guy’ and introvert came to something like a conflict with the ‘nerd’ issue in the 1980’s especially.  In other words, the extrovert and introvert came into a conflict of sorts.  Normally, the ‘nerd’ issue was generally viewed as a result of the behavior of the nerds.  I’m sure there is some truth in this but I tend to feel that what the ‘nerd’ issue really showed was that the ‘tough guy’ image was failing.  In other words, the ‘nerds’ weren’t really the issue, it was the ‘tough guys’ causing them problems that was the issue.  This is exactly what I remember too.  It was as if their causing their “opposites” (the ultra-introverted ‘nerds’) problems was an admission that they were losing ‘hold’ of who they were.  This is not surprising as the 1980’s saw a slow failing in the ‘tough guy’ image.  During this time many males were beginning to see that the ‘tough guy’ image was no longer working.

THE MALE AS I KNOW HIM

The male I know is totally different from the ‘tough guy’ image.  In some respects, he is contradictory and opposite.  Here are some examples, coming from my experience and observation:

  • Males usually can’t handle everything.  Much of what males do, in my opinion, is continually ‘bending’ and ‘changing’ to deal with situations that they can’t control.  In fact, I’d say most males are ‘struggling to hold on’ most of the time.
  • Males are not usually aggressive and willing to fight.  The ones that are seem a rarity.  In general, males try to avoid conflict and they don’t ‘desire to kill’ or hurt people.  I generally consider a male that is overly aggressive as having some ‘issues’.  I do believe that males have a ‘hunter instinct’, as I’ve seen it in myself.  One must keep in mind, though, that this is not a ‘mindless desire to kill things’ nor is it a manifestation of aggression.
  • Males do not play ‘king of the mountain’ and always try to be the leader.  Most males want to be part of a ‘team’ and a have a place in the team.  I see little evidence that there is a quality in the male that makes them want to be the leader.  There is a male character, though, that does this but its no all that prevalent.
  • Males are not always trying to outdo one another nor are they necessarily that competitive.  Often, what is often called male ‘competition’ is really a manifestation of being part of a team, not in outdoing people.
  • Males usually don’t seek to win.  They would often like to win but there isn’t this great ‘drive’ to do it, as is often portrayed.  In addition to this, males usually don’t have this great desire to be rich or accomplish things, as is also portrayed.
  • Typically, males not do miraculous achievements.  They usually do the same things as everyone else with the same skills and abilities.
  • My experience is that most males are not controlling people.  What I have seen is that most of what appears as a ‘controlling manner’ is often nothing but an attempt to keep something like a social hierarchy (which is a form of a ‘team’) or to keep things together.  Its not done because he has an ‘innate desire to control’.  I see very little evidence that males are ‘control freaks’.
  • Males typically need someone to help.  This is one of the reasons why the male wants to be part of a ‘team’.  They don’t just do things ‘on their own’.
  • Males often don’t want to work, even when they have a ‘work ethic’.  My experience is that most males have a repulsion to work and, typically, have to have some ‘philosophy’ to make them want to work and keep working.  For some males, this can be a life long battle.
  • Males don’t always get things done.  Often, the fail and what they do isn’t that good.  At other times, they don’t have the drive or ambition to do anything.
  • My experience is that males are actually very emotional people.  In fact, I consider the male to have a more deeper and broader emotional life than females.  This is why the male, all over the world, created things like art, poetry, stories, etc.  The male emotional life, though, is different than the female.  Interestingly, it has a quality of being ‘unemotional’.  In other words, male emotion tends to need something for it to come out, which is why art, poetry, music, etc. is so important.

In short, what we see is that the ‘tough guy’ image is very erroneous and wrong and does not portray the male accurately.  In other words, using the image of the ‘tough guy’ to get an image of the male will lead you to a false picture (which is common in the U.S.).  Not only that, males that try to enact and be a ‘tough guy’ tends to actually become alienated from themselves as they are ‘chasing after an image’ that does not truly reflect them.

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Copyright by Mike Michelsen

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