Health, Hell, Oblivion and Niflheim


O Lord, forgive me.  In particular, forgive me for downloading the anime Butt Attack Punisher Girl, from which this picture is taken.  To say that it is not safe for work is an understatement. Combining elements of Christianity, Buddhism and Butt Punishment, it is not even safe for home even if you are alone in the house.  I did get this screenshot though before deleting it.  What profits it a man if he gains a truly rare old anime but loses his soul?

You can usually suspect that my health is not in the top ten days when I start writing about religion. If it gets really bad, I may even pull out the Bible, which will almost invariably threaten me with horrible death and doom.  This is as it should be, as the same book says, “Serpentspawn! Who taught you to flee the coming wrath?”  But there is also a more practical reason why I usually just open the book to some instance of the Wrath of the Lord:  The Bible consists mostly (in quantity, I mean) of divine wrath.

If you are a casual Christian, or just raised in a Christian society, you may have the opposite impression.  Based on the Bible quotes you hear most often, and especially all the pious talk that is not actually Bible quotes at all, it is reasonable to suspect (as many atheists do) that religion is opium for the masses, an attempt to soothe their fear of the unknown and unknowable, of which death is the greatest.  If only!  Once you start reading the book for yourself, you will see that God’s main project is not to comfort people, but to make them LESS comfortable. It is more of a loud alarm clock than a lullaby. There is page after page threatening loss, ruin, pain and a humiliating death unless the reader takes the spoon in the other hand and repents. Perhaps even then, but at least then there may be a chance.  The God of the Bible is NOT impressed with the dominant species of the planet, and he goes into great detail on the issue.

With the wisdom of Solomon, I predict that the atheists who dismissed the Bible as an attempt to placate people will be even less eager to get in line when it turns out to be the opposite. Oh well. What I want to write about today is equally valid for atheists and theists, and probably equally offensive to both as well. We’ll also stop by Norse mythology and a point where it is disturbingly exact.  Still, let’s start with a quote from the Bible:

“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.”

This probably means something to you if you are a Christian. To me, it means not being a hikikomori. I bet that was not what you expected.  Let me explain.

In Japan, the hikikomori (person who stays in their room) is an extreme case of the otaku,  a person obsessed with comics, animated TV series or computer games. By spending an inordinate amount of time and thought on these topics, the otaku (usually a young man) becomes gradually unable to live in the real world.  He withdraws to home and eventually to his own room, neglects practicalities down to even personal hygiene, satisfying only the basic needs of the body as needed to remain alive and obsessed.  Due to the strong sense of family duty in Asia, parents will usually provide for these men quietly.

As we see, the hikikomori has withdrawn from the  hard reality of ordinary life, into a world of daydream, a small world where they are in control.  As a result, they are destroyed as humans, specifically their sanity.

Regardless of the local culture, anyone who withdraws from reality to live in daydream will experience dissolution.  They enter into a sea of chaos, losing sanity and energy.  You can say they lose substance, “like a slug that dissolves as it moves” to throw another Bible quote at you.  (Slug here being the mollusc, not the projectile.)

You may at first glance think that the hikikomori is similar to the hermit. And for some hermits, unfortunately, this is true.  Withdrawal, loss of mental substance, and outright insanity are very possible threats for those who seek solitude.  However, this is clearly not the case for all hermits. Some of the greatest thinkers throughout the ages were either complete or partial hermits.  This is because the everyday world – consensus reality – lies not on the end of the spectrum of reality, but somewhere in the middle.  There are worlds that are MORE real than this one, just like there are many worlds that are LESS real.  I have written about this extensively in the past.  One easy example of a higher world is that of mathematics.  Just like we create lower worlds, we are created through higher worlds.

The ancient Norsemen believed that the cosmos came to be in the meeting of two extremes: The fiery heat of Muspellheim and the freezing cold of Niflheim. From their meeting, the beginning of all substance emerged.

This is surprisingly similar to my current metaphysics.  I believe that the multi-layered universe is a thick multidimensional membrane between two non-existences:  The void, the absolute empty nothingness, and the Ground of Being, the absolute and undivided First Principle, which is also no-thing in the sense that it cannot be described as part of creation.

The universe available to man then has a gradient of reality. Some of the realms accessible to mind are less real than ordinary life, while others are MORE real.  By using the realms of mathematics and physics, we can predict and influence the ordinary world with great leverage. Modern society depends on this for its very existence.  Think of the people who traveled in their minds into the realm of nuclear physics, and how the work of these few adventurers changed the course of human history forever.

Less visible are the effects of those who have colonized the worlds of ideas, or the “mythical” worlds of  religion.  Yet some of the people who were active in these mental realms have changed the course of history in their own very drastic ways.  By adapting to a more real world, they grew more real themselves, becoming “larger than life” and able to exert enormous influence.  This is quite a contrast to those who have adapted to the LESS real worlds – they become powerless to even control their own lives.

Living near consensus reality, I have never ventured truly far in either direction, although I have some familiarity with neighboring realms. But I cannot imagine how it feels to draw close to Niflheim, the absolute zero (for cold is the absence of energy), where life is drained of all color and warmth, and even the sense of self dissolves into nothingness.  Nor can I imagine the white-hot fire of Muspellheim, the Forge of Creation,  beyond all myth, all symbols, and all natural laws, where all laws of nature are unified not just in theory but in experience, where pure existence wells up from something that is beyond even existence itself.

So, as Microsoft used to say: “Where do you want to go today?”