Friday, February 23, 2007

On Denying The Body

Many people think that to evolve spiritually we must shun the body, that we must deny our impulses, avoid sex and procreation (as they lead to keeping the human race imprisoned in physical form), and deny the pleasures and necessities of food (either completely, or to the point of us being vegetarians or vegans). Many religious paths have some form of bodily discipline as part of their “curriculum”, some coming in the form of abstinence from food (or certain types of food), sex, entertainment, and other “physical” things.

And I think they are wrong.

No, not wrong in the sense that these things are untrue or that we should not be vegetarian, vegan, sexually abstinent, etc., but I think the requirement to refuse and deny the physical is a confusion of cosmology, a trick of the Demiurge, if you will, that lulls us into the false belief that God is “up there” in Heaven and that we must do everything in our power to get there, and that means shunning everything else. This is, of course, a dualistic view of the world, a little too black and white to be anything more than a concept (reality is, I’m afraid, a much more complex, and yet simple at the same time, place, and it involves being multiple things simultaneously) – this dualistic view has been a criticism of Gnosticism for centuries, and it remains so today, though often for the wrong reasons, as modern Gnosticism tends to follow suit with the Valentinians and Sethians of old, with the concept of panentheism, of God being simultaneously “up there” and also “down here” (that distance is really only illusory, and the travelling of the distance is actually the simultaneous dispelling of it), of being transcendent and imminent at the same time.

So, if God is really actually here in the physical (“the divine invasion” of the Phildickian mythos) as well as the spiritual (the physical being but an illusion, which many Gnostics and Buddhists would both agree with), then why do we need to shun it? Again, I feel the origin of this issue is a confusion of the original intent of those who wrote about it. Let’s face it, there are many distractions “down here”, many things that will lead us astray or keep us in our Iron Prison, and, indeed, these include things like sex, food, and entertainment. So, we need to make sure we do not let them rule us, that the Pentagram is the right way up, as it were, with Spirit as the “head” and the physical working in service to it (just as our body works in service to our brain, and why it tends to be disastrous is men think with their…). However, we also have to make sure we aren’t being ruled by our desire to not engage in physical activities – this is just the other extreme, another imbalance that will only serve to harm and hinder our spiritual growth. The physical can hinder our spiritual growth – we all know that – but I honestly think it’s a trick of the Demiurge, who is well aware of our knowledge that the physical can hinder the spiritual, playing on that knowledge so that we ignore and shun the spiritual that is in the physical, “the God within”.

When it comes to food, at the end of the day, most of what we eat (meat and plants alike) was alive at one time, and it continues to have life through us, as per the laws of Nature, which all animals must adhere to. I personally think it is foolish (not to mention a little arrogant) to try to shun "animal" practices (like eating meat [and plants] and having sex), as they are essential aspects of our survival (on a personal level and on the level of our entire species). If I do not eat, I will become weak and, in time, will die physically. At the moment I need my physical body to be strong if I am to get the most out of my spiritual pursuits and to help others do likewise. If I am wasting away, I will not have much will or energy to concentrate on spiritual things, and dying from starvation is only going to mean another life here, "starting from scratch", as it were, before the lessons of this life were learned.

So, a Gnostic should be whatever is important and applicable to their personal unveiling through Gnosis. For some that will include being vegetarian, but for others it will not. For some that will include sitting in a cave and meditating for 12 hours a day, but for others the entertainment value of television, books, and games will be an essential aspect of their growth, an element of balance, if you will. In closing, I would like to give the following:

God is here and now, within us and in the world around. The world may appear to be heading in a dark direction, with more and more people being consumed by greed and selfishness, but God is a subtle force, the single snowflake that sets an avalanche in motion. We are often too wrapped up in our own perceptions of the world that we fail to recognize the pieces that are being set in place. I pray that humanity will learn to use the physical world as a tool to attain its growth, as a stepping stone to the spiritual revelation that is Gnosis.


Marsha+ said...

Excellent timing for this post, with the start of Lent. I think the most important point you made was 'requirement'. When I choose to abstain from something with the intent of praying and becoming more aware of the Divine in my life, I grow. If however the abstinance is put upon me, by either priest or church or what ever, I begin to feel resentment that defeats the purpose and I loss ground in my quest for the Divine.


Dean Wilson said...

I meant to reply to this earlier, so my apologies for my tardiness.

You are too right about the most important point of this post being the idea of "requirement". All of this things are excellent additions to a spiritual practice, but not if they are "forced".


Linda McEvoy said...

Thanks for easing my conscience with this great post! I've denied myself a lot of interaction with the physical plane over the last year, firstly because of terrible things that happened to me within it, but also misreading of the Gnostic texts. It's a matter of getting into the right groove on the physical plane so to speak, and go with it to some degree. It's a bit like turning into a slide when a car goes out of control, rather trying to keep it on the straight and narrow. Just my 2c worth!