I have been an Odinist for decades now. In that time I have often approached the Old Man for guidance in my spiritual development. Although mysticism is often frowned on in the modern heathen revival, it has always had a place in both the ancient and modern versions of the religion.
Let me take a moment here to give my definition of the word, as it is tossed around far too often for far too many different purposes. In addition to the mysterious union and the ecstatic experience, which is a whole topic itself, I believe that mysticism is a science, devoted to the analysis of the inner self, the subconscious and preconscious minds, and how these matters apply to behavior. It is designed to optimize the inner self, in order to bring a wide array of benefits. For one thing, the self knowledge that it brings can cure or ameliorate many psychological illnesses. It can change a person’s instinctive reactions so that they handle most situations much better than they normally would, maximizing the gain they get out of every situation. It helps a person approach even great pain and loss with equilibrium, and it minimizes suffering. It can improve physical health and speed healing times. It can improve physical capacities, increasing the effective strength that a person can use, via greater muscular coordination and hormonal changes. It can improve reaction speed and hand-eye coordination. And much more.
Of course, almost all knowledge of ancient heathen mysticism was lost during the Conversion. Stupid oral traditions. Fortunately, though, as mysticism is a science it can be approached via the scientific method. Meaning that simply observing myself, forming hypotheses as to why or how my inner mind was working, and then testing those hypotheses would carry me a great way. The few hints from the ancients we do still have served as touchstones. I freely studied every other mystic tradition the modern world had to offer. And I asked Odin to guide these pursuits. The result has been of great benefit to me, so I will here try to summarize, very briefly, the things that I have learned over the years.
The ultimate purpose of the mystic’s path is to develop the shift in perspective necessary for awakening the Svipal-self. Svipal, one of Odin’s names, means “changeable,” and the person who has awoken the Svipal-self has no permanent self or personality in the sense that most people understand those terms.
Of course, there is a lot of simplifying going on there. The idea of “awakening the Svipal-self” is not really correct. It’s something of a lie. But it’s a very good lie, and conveys more accurate information than trying to describe it truthfully would, as that would require dozens of pages. You see, the thing is, the Svipal-self is never asleep. You can never be separated from it. It is present in everything you do and think.
The Svipal-self is the original mind, the mind as it was before dualistic, conceptual thinking began. In other word, it is the basement level of the mind that lies deeper than the part that thinks in terms of things as being “this and not that.” It sees things as they are, without naming them, without being limited to a single point of view concerning them. The Svipal-self does not follow after feelings or thoughts, trying to hold onto them. The Svipal-self does not reject feelings or thoughts, trying to push them away. Instead, the Svipal-self allows feelings and thoughts to arise naturally, develop naturally, and pass away naturally, without interference. The Svipal-self is pure observation. It is the Odinic nature that everyone carries within them. Like Odin on the High Seat, nothing is hidden from the sight of the Svipal-self.
It is unfortunately very easy to be mistaken about the Svipal-self, though. Many people confuse it with the ego, the image of the self that everyone carries around in their own heads. However, the ego is not the true self, it is just a map. The map is not the territory, it is just a map. The ego is the product of discriminatory, conceptual thinking. The ego is this, and not that. It is the product of a limited perspective. Paying too much attention to it will produce only delusional thinking. Because of this, it is necessary to absorb certain lessons, to break the habits of thought that lead to such confusion. In this sense the concept of “awakening the Svipal-self” is an accurate depiction of heathen mysticism. The process of unlearning bad habits of thought and ending the narcissistic fascination with the ego is kind of like waking up.
There are many different causes of these bad habits of thought. The senses are chief amongst them. The human mind has evolved to pay a LOT of attention to the senses, as that is how one survives in the physical world. This causes the mind to think in an analytic and definite way. Emotions also give rise to these bad habits of thought. They are by design a form of dualistic thinking. They cause the mind to pay attention, to view everything in terms of the emotion. Beliefs also cause the same effect, all kinds of beliefs.
These aren’t in and of themselves bad things. You need your senses to get around. You need feelings to guide and fuel you. You need beliefs to make even minor decisions. The trouble is THAT these things are good and necessary things. We have to use them, even rely on them, in order to do anything at all. So it becomes so very, very easy to forget that all of these forms of perception and thought are limited, and convey only aspects or parts of the truth. It is easy to forget that they are merely useful tools, and that they cause blindness and ignorance as much as they produce knowledge and clarity. Once a person loses the habit remembering that these thoughts are only images, tools, approximations created by the mind to further survival and some kinds of pragmatic functionality, then bad habits of thinking are firmly established, and Svipal-nature is confused with the ego.
The need to disrupt these habits of thought are a big part of why the Odinic path is so difficult, so full of challenges. The concentration, surprise, and fear that Odinic challenges bring disrupt the normal flow of thinking. There is nothing like danger and hardship to clear and focus the mind. This stops the bad habits in their tracks. It may last for only a moment, or only until the crisis has passed, but with enough interruptions, better habits of thought can be learned.
The key thing to remember about the Svipal-self, at least at first, is that it has nothing to do. It is not like the ego, a thing that is full of desires and plans for fulfilling them. There is nothing at all that the Svipal-self feels that it has to do. However, like the bit about awakening the Svipal-self, this is also a convenient and informative lie. The surface interpretation is almost entirely wrong.
It is true that the Svipal self has no goals to pursue because they are enjoyable, or good, or noble, or even the right thing to do. The Svipal-self does not do things for the reasons that motivate most people. These motivations are based on limited, conceptual thinking. The goals are not truly understood, and misfortune often results.
Instead of doing things for the reasons that most people do them, the Svipal-self eats when hungry, and sleeps when tired. The Svipal-self will return a lost wallet to its owner because his or her own knowledge of the social bond, and the concepts of honor and orlog, prompts that behavior. The Svipal-self will teach when someone who can benefit from a lesson is nearby, and learn when a lesson is to be had. The Svipal-self acts in these ways naturally, in exactly the same manner that water rolls off a leaf.
It is important to remember that a person awakened to the Svipal-self is not a person who tries to do nothing. Such a person is not a person who tries to live simply. A person who has awakened the Svipal-self does not try to get rid of everything that is unnecessary or try to leave things as they are. These are also all deliberate actions, conceptual goals. When the life of a person who has awakened the Svipal-self requires simplicity, then that person will live simply. It is neither more nor less complex than that.
I do not mean to imply, by the way, that I have made any great strides in awakening the Svipal-self. These are just things that I have come to understand. There is a HUGE gap between an intellectual understanding and actually living something.