Saturday, March 5, 2016

Ragnarok -- Real or a Christian Fable?

I thought since I made the comment about Ragnarok, I should probably delve into the story of Ragnarok.  As a rational heathen, I thought Ragnarok was a load of crap added by Christianity to provide a "changing of the guard" from pagan to Christian. After all, it's easier to worship the white Christ if your gods are dead. Naturally, Tyr had something to say about that.

What is the Twilight of the Gods?

But before I get into that, let's look at Ragnarok in brief.  Ragnarok, or the Twilight of the Gods, speaks of an apocalyptic scenario where the Aesir and Vanir go to the final battle against the forces of chaos. We will suffer three winters in a row without summer called Fimbulvetr, Sunna and Mani (the sun and moon) will be swallowed by the wolves that follow them, the stars will disappear, and the earth will shake. The gods along with warriors from Asgard, and I presume from any hall in Asgard, will fight the Jotun and Loki's children in one last battle. Odin dies, Thor dies, Tyr dies, Freyr dies; everyone gets wiped out except Víðarr, Váli,  Móði and Magni. The fire giants set the nine worlds ablaze. Two humans, Líf and Lífþrasir, will survive somehow encased in Yggdrasil.  Beyond that, we're left to start again.

Some of the things that struck me with this apocalypse is the relative similarity to Revelations and other apocryphal texts (see what I did there?).  It's so close to the Christian teachings that I was sure it was just something borrowed.  That was before I had the UPG.

Ragnarok, Seriously?

Yeah, Tyr actually interjected into my meditation and told me Ragnarok will happen.  Seriously, bro?  You mean Fenrir is eating Odin and everything?  Yep. But the story as written is tainted with Christian and metaphorical trappings. Ragnarok is a cycle and not just the end of the world.  For those who have proposed this or been inspired through UPGs to propose this, you'll be glad to hear I actually concur with you.  Ragnarok has happened and will happen again. Same players throughout time.  It's how the Wyrd spins the universe.  Our universe is part of the multiverse and the final fight comes down to the destruction of Midgard, whether it is Earth or the universe we inhabit. Is Sutri's fire from the sun as it expands?  Or is it a tear in the fabric of the universe that causes other universes to leak into ours?  I have no clue.  But I do understand that it is a metaphor for things to come.  Or things that have come before.

When is Ragnarok?

Then, there's the question of actually when is Ragnarok? The stories I've read seem to imply that it has already occurred. If it has, it has happened in the ancient past, and I'm not talking millions, but billions of years ago.  Try before our universe came into existence some 13.82 billion years ago. Give or take a few years.  Either that, or it's the Christians trying to bring closure to our stories so that we accept that our gods are dead through Ragnarok.  If it's something in our future, then Ragnarok may also be something in our past, but I doubt strongly that any of us alive to read this blog will experience it within our current lifetimes. If for some weird reason that does happen while you're reading this post, well, good luck.  I am probably long dead by then. Unless there's some sort of bizarre timey wimey stuff going on that my feeble brain isn't getting right now because I haven't had my tea yet.  Then again, the theory about a block universe may be right, time is an illusion, and everything exists somewhere in spacetime.

The End of All Things

Those who are of the Christian and Muslim faiths believe in apocalypse, albeit with different endings. Even the origin of Ragnarok is debatable, whether it comes from beliefs of the Proto-Indo-European peoples before they finally separated and made the story their own, or whether it was somehow taken from the poem, Muspille.

My guess is that people embellish what Ragnarok looks like in order to put into understandable terms how bad this could go. Without a decent frame of reference, talking scientific theories to our ancestors would be talking gibberish.  Our ancestors from ten thousand years ago were not stupid.  They had the same brains we have. But they didn't have the technology we do, nor did they have the knowledge to comprehend what we understand now.  Assuming humans survive ten thousand years from now and continue to progress at the rate we are progressing, my guess is that our technology might be as baffling to us as it would be to our ancestors. Unless our ancestors were educated to how our world works most of the things we use daily would seem like magic.

End of the Universe  

What does science have to say about this?  Well, obviously humans have a fair number of hurdles to survive before we reach the end of the Universe, assuming it does end.  Putting those aside for another blog, physicists point to the Universe doing one of four things: the Big Freeze, the Big Crunch, the Big Rip, or the Big Bounce. None of these theories are proven, but all seem to have their proponents and detractors.

The Big Freeze

The first would be that it could simply expand and continue toward its low energy state.  In other words, entropy takes over and the universe cools to the point where everything is at an equilibrium because it continues its progression toward infinity.  This is called "the Big Freeze" in physics, and makes Fimbulvetr look toasty warm.  There is no energy to sustain life and everything goes somewhere near absolute zero.  Sounds pretty bleak, doesn't it?  This assumes an infinite Universe.

The Big Crunch

Then, there's the Big Crunch. Based on Einstein's Theory of Relativity, the Big Crunch is the answer to the Big Bang that created our universe. It also assumes a finite Universe. If the universe reaches a critical density, gravitation attraction will pull everything back to where it started, create a massive black hole, and swallow up everything.  Hence the name "Big Crunch."  But we don't know if that will really happen because we know that the Universe is actually increasing its rate of expansion in places that are furthest from us. Hence we're dealing with "dark energy"which is constant in our Universe. This fact leads to...

The Big Rip

The theory of the Big Rip takes the Big Freeze one step further. Dark energy is to blame for this one where the expansion continues to the point where nothing we know is recognizable. The Universe never disappears, it just becomes scattered even more than in the Big Freeze.  Everything breaks down, even at the atomic level.  There is no energy to hold anything together and atoms fall apart and scatter into quarks. Depending on which camp of scientists you talk to, it may or may not happen.  Latest I've read is that in 22 billion years the Universe will undergo the Big Rip. Researchers in Vanderbilt University have pretty much said this, but given the fact that our understanding of the Universe changes with each discovery, it's hard to decide if this is just the flavor of the day for the ending of the Universe, or whether it will stick.

At the moment, think of it as a really bad Fimbulvetr if this is a new concept for you.  Everything is cold and nothing can ever be put back together.  Think Humpty Dumpty.

The Big Bounce

The Big Bounce is probably the most interesting, but at this point, data doesn't seem to support it. It's like a Big Crunch, only with the potential of expanding outward again in another inflationary period similar to the Big Bang. The problem is that it requires dark energy to halt its repulsive effects on matter and gravity to take effect (like the Big Crunch).  It goes one step further in that when the Big Crunch occurs, spacetime will warp and become chaotic near the singularity, causing an "explosion" and a creation of a new universe.  Of all the theories proposed, I think it's the closest thing to Ragnarok, but science doesn't currently support the theory that well.

So, Where Does that Leave Us?

So, where does that leave us with Ragnarok?  Fuck if I know.  Seriously.  I only have Tyr's word that Ragnarok is real, but what it is, I haven't a clue. I don't doubt that he's telling me the truth, but I don't know what that truth means necessarily. Maybe it's about the fate of the Universe.  Maybe it's the fate of the Earth.  Maybe it's not about any of it. Maybe I'm delusional and only think it might happen.  Or maybe we don't know enough through science yet.

Science, as I've said in earlier posts, isn't a belief system. It deals with explaining the Universe around us. It is not dogmatic like religion. It changes as we learn new information. Religion, on the other hand, deals with faith and belief. You either think it's right or you don't. There aren't any wishy-washy maybes in explanation, but explanations are often metaphorical. I'm sure you have your own beliefs about the end of the universe.

What I believe in terms of Ragnarok doesn't change anything.  If it happens, it happens, and if it doesn't, it doesn't.  I don't believe anything I can do will change that. And 22 billion years is an exceedingly long time to wait to find out if I'm right or wrong.  Besides, the sun will consume the Earth in about 7 billion years, but we realistically only have a couple billion years to get off this rock before the sun cooks the planet.  That's assuming we don't wipe ourselves out, an asteroid doesn't create a mass extinction event similar to the dinosaurs, we get a lovely blast of  gamma rays from a dying star, or the earth decides to shake us off with massive volcanic eruptions similar to the Siberian Traps. To quote Q from Star Trek:
"It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid."

1 comment:

  1. Nicely written. This is a very thought provoking piece.


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