“Taoism and Asatru Virtues” – Of Wolves and Ravens – Eastern Philosophy

Happy Mani’s Day

Discussion:

Every time I address the subject of eastern philosophy, I keep coming back to Taoism.  Probably because of all of the eastern philosophical viewpoints, it has one of the easiest to understand main concepts – balance.  Keeping one’s life balanced is its central tenant and it is probably the main concept I borrow from in eastern philosophy.

When it comes to the pursuit of virtue. the issue is balance.  One could, for instance, become attached to Self-Reliance and Indsutriousness to the point one forgets Fidelity and Honor. The constant reminder of balance is why I have organized the virtues the way I have. This online journal The Grey Wayfarer is a mechanism that keeps me considering all the virtues rather than just focusing on a small group of them or even a single one.

To the Wolves and Ravens:

“Feed the Wolves, but Listen to the Ravens first.”

Needs (Geri):

The need for balance is one the is illustrated in the Asatru Virtues.  One should work hard, but not dishonorably.  One should maintain relationships but not to the point of cowardice or the truth.  The need for balance is to remind one’s self that there is more to life than one aspect of it.

Wants (Freki):

I want this balance.  The reason should be obvious as my goals are attached to it and provide the highest sign of where I have been focusing my efforts and which virtues still need work.   The idea of balance makes sure I don’t get too caught up in one thing at the expense of another.

Reason (Huginn):

I have found this adds a new level of reasonableness to my path. An added layer of consideration that allows me to say – ‘hey your spending too much time thinking about this goal at the expense of others’.  I can also see here certain goals are not even being addressed and realize – ‘That’s an imbalance.  I need to do something about it.”

Wisdom (Muninn):

This leads to the practical – ‘it works’ sort of wisdom I find in considering am I being balanced. It leads me to understand that all the virtues are important for a wise life. No one of them should become so important to the neglect of others.

Conclusion:

Right now this simple discussion of Taoism and balance has caused me to realized that my time is being invested in an unbalanced manner because I am not following my routines as closely as I should. The routines are designed for me to make progress on all my goals. I need to make new efforts to keep them better.

I remain,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard, and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!

“Taoism: Yin and Yang” – Of Wolves and Ravens – Eastern Philosophy

Happy Tyr’s Day

Discussion

In the rotation, I deal with eastern philosophy directly once, but to be honest there is a lot of Taoism in my philosophical viewpoint.  Particularly the idea of balance or what the Taoist would call yin and yang. The chart below kind fo displays the basic difference.

One might say the whole concept of Wolves and Ravens represents Yin and Yang, but it isn’t that simple because in Taoism some things in my philosophy cross the lines to the other side and some of the things might be considered on both sides depending on how they are applied. For me, you might say the Wolf of Need and the Raven of Reason are Yang, but the Wolf of Want and the Raven of Wisdom (which involves a lot of intuition based on experience) are Yin.

If I take anything from Taoism it is the idea of the balance of life. Of keeping things level instead of overdoing one thing at the expense of the other.  The parallels to this idea are in truth in every philosophical system I can think of as well as a large chunk of the nature of each mythology.

Probably this is found in two other notions: 1) Order (or Law) vs. Chaos (or Liberty) and 2) Good (benevolence) vs. Evil (malevolence).   A Taoist would try to strive for a balance between these and be truly neutral about both of them.  I tend to be more Chaotic but neutral about the question of good and evil.  You might say I boil it down to the issue of law vs. liberty and lean heavy on the side of liberty, but the whole good and evil question might be invalid.  I say ‘might be’ because I am still thinking and meditating about it.  The one thing is that I am deliberately unbalanced right now from a Taoist point of view in regards to law vs. liberty. Mostly because I can see how the law is far easier connected to doing harm in the name of good intentions. Whereas to me liberty brings about a respect for the humanity of the other persons in the world which often benefits all.

I would say at that point the Taoist and I reach a fork in the road and I wish them well and then take the fork in the road that says ‘liberty is better than law’.  That said, balance in other aspects of my life is influenced and reflects an understanding of Taoism.  Balance is a constant consideration of mine.

To the Wolves and Ravens:

“Feed the Wolves, but Listen to the Ravens first.”

Needs (Geri):

The need for balance is illustrated in what happens when the balance is not maintained.  I can speak from painful experience of the consequences of not maintaining the balance between self-love and loving others as an example.  Too far on self-love and you become a narcissist and too far in the love of others makes you a living martyr that eventually leads to self-destruction.  Neither is desirable and the balance keeps you functioning both in the love of self and others without the extremes of either. The need for balance is pretty clear from a preservation standpoint.

Wants (Freki):

A proper balance is also wanted.  It leads to greater success. I have known many men and women who their life was their work and in the end, they never enjoyed once the fruit of their labors.  Because they didn’t know how to relax and enjoy the fruit of their labors, their health suffered.  On the flip side, I have known people who gave themselves over to hedonism without working at all.  Their laziness leads to poverty and quite frankly a lack of honor.  The ultimate expression of this is the thief who lives on the labors of others.  The one who learns to balance work and enjoyment will be the one who is truly successful and that is something I definitely want.

Reason (Huginn):

Reason comes into these things as you have to think about things fairly regularly to observe if balance is being maintained.  Balance doesn’t come easily or without a lot of thought behind it.

Wisdom (Muninn):

I would say Taoism as a philosophy has a lot of wisdom to it, but I would evaluate things ma little differently as far as what needs to be balanced. That said, the principles are very universal and wise at the same time and I have no trouble listening to them and applying those I think leads to wisdom.

Conclusion:

I suppose Of Wolves and Ravens is indeed my own form of Taoism.  Balancing need and want with reason and wisdom.  But there is an imbalance built-in to that – listening to reason and wisdom first. A little asymmetry is good for us actually so that is something else to consider. Next week is western philosophy and I think there is a debate there that is about asymmetry that will be good to look at when considering this.

I remain,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard, and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!

Of Wolves and Ravens – Western Philosophy – Individual Rights

Happy Tyr’s Day

Discussion:

If one wants to point to the main difference between Eastern and Western Philosophy it is Collectivism vs. Individualism.  This is overly generalized on my part, and I would say there are elements of individualism in Eastern philosophy and Collectivism in Western.  It is just the results ultimately lead down these paths overall.

See the source image

Source: http://www.writeopinions.com/western-philosophy

We could argue all day which is superior, but there is one element that I personally take to heart because of where it leads. The focus on the individual over the centuries has led to an understanding of individual rights.  The people have certain rights like life, liberty, pursuit of happiness and ownership of property that no collective group can take away is something very Western.  In Eastern Philosophy you get more of a rights of the group mentality. This can be detrimental to the individual.  I suppose this debate will continue until the bitter end. I am going to side with the individual and the below cartoon illustrates how collectivism or majority rule can lead to evil.

See the source image

That said there is something to be said for Eastern Philosophy in other areas. I just get real rights conscious for the individual from Western philosophy and in this regard I think it is superior to Eastern. I am not going to go into the philosophy where our rights come from at this time.  That will probably be the subject of a Of Wolves and Ravens down the line.

To the Wolves and Ravens:

Needs (Geri):

The need for an understanding of individual rights is paramount to treating each other like human beings.  If you don’t think humans have rights then it is very easy to see them as non-human.  I think it is a basic test of humanity to see what a person’s feelings about the rights of other humans are or may be. If you find they give rights to themselves and people they like but not to others, I think they fail that test.  This discussion of rights fills to needs – a) tests your own humanity and b) litmus test for others being human by how they treat other humans.

Wants (Freki):

For myself I would rather have this rights issues than the collectivist one. If the thought that you could be killed for the benefit of the ‘greater good’ bothers you, you understand why you want individual rights.  They give you the power to live your life ad protect you from those who would try to take that away from you.

Reason (Huginn):

Of course reason gets us to the point that we realize that rights only have value if they are defended and stood up for. This is another matter for the ‘where do rights come from?’ issue.  But for now, it is simply noted that the basic rights require other rights to defend them.  One thing leads to another when it comes to rights and the right to defend one’s rights stems from calling those basic rights rationally essential.

Wisdom (Muninn):

A wise world would promote individual rights.  It allows one to be both for the individual but also if everyone collectively is given the same individual rights – all benefit collectively  from having those rights.

Conclusion:

I would love to think balance between the collective whole and individual rights can be achieved, but I know people are inherently tribal and eventually they submit the rights of the individual to the fear or desires for power. There is always going to be that element in society that thinks they can come up with a better plan or system for you than you can and it seems inevitably they want you to hand over your rights to them or take them from you.  This needs to be resisted because if they can do it to you, they can do it to everyone. Individual Rights have to be defended against the mob.

I remain,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!

Of Wolves and Ravens – Eastern Philosophy – The Code of Bushido

Happy Tyr’s Day

Discussion:

Eastern Philosophy is a large subject.  It stretches over several different cultures.  Middle Eastern, Islamic, Chinese, Japanese, etc. all have their philosophical schools and viewpoints.  If there is a commonality to Eastern Philosophy it is focus more on community and oneness with the universe.  In western philosophy people overcome surroundings.  In eastern philosophy, one becomes one’s surroundings if that makes any sense.

I am not going not dive into the metaphysical sea that is eastern philosophy. Today I just want to do a comparison between the Nine Noble Virtues of Ásatrú (NNV) which I follow, and the Code of Bushido (COB).  The Japanese Warrior Code is something I admire, so the purpose of this comparison is not to note superiority of one over the other.  I have a feeling if a samurai and a viking warrior sat down and had a discussion about these things they would walk away from each other with a profound amount of respect. Rather, my main purpose is to learn and grow.  To perhaps see other facets of the jewel known as the NNV by comparing it to another jewel – The COB.

There are similarities – Both have honor.  The difference is that the NNV tries to encompass in honor the idea of respect, where the COB makes that a separate virtue.  Both have Fidelity, but the COB adds the idea of Duty as part of that, although I would say it is part of Fidelity as well.   Honesty lines up very much with Truth. Compassion lines up very well with Hospitality.  Both have Courage. There is a lot of overlap as you can see.  The learning is in the differences.

The COB has Respect as separate from Honor and the Virtue of Integrity. In the case pf respect, looking at this reminds me as a follower of the NNV that Respect is a part of honor.  To me self-worth and respect are two sides of the same coin of honor.  The COB reminds me that I need to remember it is two-sided. Integrity is sticking with one’s decisions and being commuted to them.  I would say in Fidelity we see that but not so much our decisions as being committed to our relationships and making decisions based on those commitment that are loyal and true.  I can change my decisions if a different path suggests I would demonstrate more loyalty to that person or group than my current path.

The NNV has the following virtues that are more emphasized than the COB: Self-Reliance, Industriousness, Discipline and Perseverance.  It is not that the COB doesn’t talk about these things, it is just two some might be seen as expressions of the other virtues.  Discipline as part of Compassion.  To be disciplined one must then display perseverance.  However, I think the concept of ‘face’ kicks in here and failure is far less of an option in the COB as it is in the NNV.  The Viking Warrior after failing, gets up and tries again.  The Samurai might instead to stave of losing face commit ritual suicide.  The thing being that in Eastern philosophy community is far more important that the individual.

This is probably best seen in Self-Reliance and Industriousness. It is not that the COB does not emphasize them, it is just they are always seen as a part of a greater whole.  The problem with this in Viking culture is you can find yourself alone trying to survive and live.  The climate and nature of the Scandinavian world meant you are going to have to face things at times without the community. So you better figure out how to do things yourself and you better work hard or you might die or suffer for relying too much on others or not working hard enough.

To the Wolves and Ravens:

Needs (Geri):

Comparison in philosophical systems is needed to strengthen our own.  It avoids the cranial rectal inversion that some philosophers develop that I am trying to avoid.  Having one’s head up one’s own ass philosophically.  Easter philosophy with its different focus points tends to be quite revealing when you put it side by side western.

Wants (Freki):

I personally want to see aspects of the Code of Bushido expressed in my following of the Nine Noble Virtues. There is a need to remember respect as part of honor for me. To remember community is important when it comes to hospitality and fidelity.  That Integrity is a part of Truth for me. Learning how to fuller understand and express the NNV by looking at how others see the same virtue is something I definitely want.

Reason (Huginn):

I would say reason tells us that codes and virtues might be the same but which ones are going to be more emphasized are going to depend a lot of culture and society.  The Code of Bushido fits its Eastern philosophical world. The NNV virtues make more sense for me because I live in a culture that is more self-reliant and individualistic.  However if I had or do business in Japan, it might do me well, from a rational point of view, to switch while I am there.

Wisdom (Muninn):

Learning to find wisdom where you find it is key.  Wisdom knows no culture or society. It sometimes expresses itself differently depending on society but the concepts of wisdom tend to be the same.

Conclusion:

I have enjoyed this look at the Code of Bushido.  It has made my meditation on the NNV a little more fuller as I consider aspects of the NNV in its light. It has allowed me to see more of my own path and code.  I imagine I will return to it again.

I remain,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!

 

Of Wolves and Ravens – Honor: The Most Difficult Virtue

Happy Tyr’s Day 

When considering the lineup for Of Wolves and Ravens a couple of weeks ago, it was no accident that I coupled Honor with Easter Philosophy.  The Code of Bushido is a warrior code like the Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru (NNV) and there are many similarities.  The Samurai had seven or eight (depending on who you read) noble virtues where the vikings had nine but most of them overlap. There great similarities between the two codes.  I could have chosen it for my own personal code, but I chose a warrior code more fitting to my interests and heritage.  I do have a great respect for the Code of Bushido. It is the notion of honor in both codes that however is my interest today, so a consideration of both codes’ definition of honor might be enlightening.

Nine Noble Virtues Definition of Honor:

Honor is the feeling of inner value and worth from which one knows that one is noble of being, and the desire to show respect for this quality when it is found in the world

Code of Bushido Definition of Honor:  

A vivid consciousness of personal dignity and worth

I think the two are very similar.  Both involve that feeling or sense (vivid consciousness)  of personal dignity and value one has for yourself. If there is any addition, it is the NNV adds the notion of acknowledging said honor when it is perceived in others. Showing respect for those that you can see have their own sense of honor is part of the NNV.  The Code of Bushido has Respect as a separate virtue, so it splits the idea in the NNV notion of Honor into two separate virtues honor and respect.

The point I am making here is that despite the two codes being separated in their origin by a considerable geographical distance, there is a similar human quality of honor that is recognized in both. Inner value and dignity are human traits that both codes encourage and admire.

To the Wolves and Ravens:

Needs (Geri):

Do we need honor?  I think that the notion of personal dignity says yes we do.  A person who has a sense of dignity certainly is far more useful to themselves and to others. Without this sense of dignity, I think we see people fade into nothing both personally and from a societal standpoint both spiritually and emotionally.  I watch people who I can tell have no sense of personal dignity.  They give no thought to how they are presenting themselves to others, because they really don’t value themselves and it shows. There is a certain kind of pride that is needed to be a decent human being, and it is the spiritual need for honor.

Wants (Freki):

We also want honor in our lives.  It is the foundation for being respected.  If one does not respect themselves; no one else will.  Honor is a very individual quality that should be greatly desired.  I can’t stress this enough given that last year, I did some very dishonorable things.  The biggest loss I felt was this sense of honor.  Without it, I became very vulnerable.  I want honor to combat this vulnerability.  Other people’s’ opinions of you matter far less when you have a sense of honor. It is good to desire it and obtain it.

Reason (Huginn):

The problem of course in how to get it.  Well, you don’t get it from others.  Reason tells me that if I rely on others for my sense of honor, I will become their slave. If I want to be free, the only one that can develop a sense of honor in my life is me.  I must choose to be my own master and develop my own sense of dignity and value.  You will never find dignity and value in pleasing others.  Slavery is all you will get from that, and no slave has any sense of self value or dignity. If ‘a slave’ did have those qualities, then they are not truly slaves no matter what their social status is.

Wisdom (Muninn):

Wisdom also warns me that the only one who can destroy my sense of honor is also myself. This is what make honor the most difficult virtue. It is hard to gain but even harder to maintain.  As needed a virtue as it is, no matter how much we want it and how much it benefits us; we can destroy it with our own actions. This is a lesson I learned this last summer (2018) and one I plan on making sure is burned deep into my soul from now until my death.

Conclusion:

Honor will probably be something I wrestle with for the rest of my life.  I take the lessons from the Code of Bushido and use them to improve my understanding of the code of follow in the NNV. In this I know need and want honor.  It is a spiritual need that strengthens me when fulfilled.  I also know that I alone can build it and I alone can destroy it in myself.  Lessons learned that need to be applied from now until the end for me.

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!