Skip to main content

Peter on the Soul and Magic and Matter

I was out in the back yard a few weeks ago, and I looked up and saw the full moon, brilliant and sharp in a clear night sky.  Seeing it, I found myself quietly singing a song by the ritual performance group Mothertongue:

"The Moon is high at the witching hour,
Children come to this place of power;
Our hands are raised to four directions,
Spirit force is born again."

I felt a wave of awareness of the magickal quality of its beauty, very like the feeling I once had of walking into a Benedictine monastery when I was a young man and feeling the Holy Spirit settling over my shoulders like a warm blanket.

And somehow, the beauty reminded me of how important it is to me that the Gods are persons.  I’ve been reading Plotinus, a neoplatonist philosopher, and he’s fascinating.  His Enneads are one of the foundational texts of western mysticism and magick…but he’s missing something.  It’s the same thing I found missing in the Tao Te Ching.  Taoists and neoplatonists both strive to be passionless.  Plotinus would have us disregard our bodies, the better to ascend to the level of the Gods.  His theology is all about understanding, not about loving.  That doesn’t make his mysticism worthless, just incomplete. 

A friend at Quaker meeting was talking to me recently about a plot of land that she and her husband were thinking of turning into a green burial ground, and she told me about an idea she’d heard of for a burial shroud infused with mushroom spores.  The mushrooms that grow on your grave consume your body, helping it to decompose and removing toxins that might otherwise leach into the environment.  And I thought, yes!  What better, more intimate way of connecting at the end of life to the deep magick of the Earth?

Plotinus would be horrified, not by the mushrooms, but by my wanting to celebrate the way the matter of my body joins me to the Earth.  For him, the soul is degraded by its entanglement with a material body, and our purpose in live is to ascend to the realm of divine intellect.

I say no.  Life in a body is what makes us whole.  It’s what allows us to love, not just one another but also the Gods. 

Playing with these ideas, I came up with the following:

In the beginning, God created
space. And God said,
Let space expand
and let there be time
and let time be the measure
of expansion
and of all change.

And God filled space with energy
and with matter, all manner of
particles, both matter and antimatter.
And God said, let them not be fixed
but travel as waves of the sea,
unknowable until known.

And let there be forces,
those that draw together
and those that cast apart.
Let the forces be several,
Each to rule in its own way.

The universe unfolded
And filled with light.
Matter joined with matter,
turning and turning again.
Energy turned to matter
and matter to energy
as day turns to night and night to day.

And God said, Let us know
this, which we have created,
and in so knowing,
be ourselves known.
And God breathed upon matter
and filled it with knowing.

And matter partook of the breath
and knew
and felt wonder
and all manner of pain
and also joy,
loneliness and comfort,
loss and love.
And God saw that it was good.


Illustration CC0 Creative Commons from pixabay.com

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Peter on Grief and Communities

Well, that was unexpected.

For the last year, ever since my mom's health took a sharp downturn, I've been my dad's ride to Florence Congregational Church on Sundays. That community has been important for my dad and the weekly outing with me was something he always looked forward to and enjoyed, so I didn't mind taking him there. It meant giving up attending my own Quaker meeting for the duration, but I had already been questioning whether silent waiting worship was working for me. I was ready for a sabbatical.
A month ago, my dad was Section-Twelved into a geriatric psych hospital when his dementia started to make him emotionally volatile. I had been visiting him every day at his assisted living facility which was right on my way home from work, but the hospital was almost an hour away. I didn't see him at all for three weeks, and when I did visit him there, it actually took me a couple of seconds to recognize him. He was slumped forward in a wheel chair, looking v…

Quaker and Pagan Means What, Exactly?

Since I began describing myself as a Quaker Pagan, I run into people who are suspicious of my claim to be both Quaker and Pagan. To these folks, Peter and I look like spiritual cheats, trying to sneak fifteen items through the clearly labeled Twelve Item Express Lane of a spiritual life.

“Cafeteria spirituality,” I’ve heard it described, expressing the notion that my husband and I are picking and choosing only the tastiest morsels of either religion, like spoiled children loading our plates with desserts, but refusing to eat our vegetables.

This isn’t the case. The term “cafeteria religion” implies imposing human whims over the (presumably) sacred norms of religion. But Peter and I are both/ands not out of personal preference, but because we were called to our religion… twice. By two different families of Spirit.

I can explain this best through my own story.

I became a Pagan out of a childhood of yearning to be in relationship with nature, magic, and the glimmers of the numinous I fou…

On Not Knowing (Peter reads the Neoplatonists, part II)

I’ve been reading Greek philosophers.  I formed a neoplatonist book club recently with a couple of Pagan friends, and we’re reading Iamblichus’s On the Mysteries.  I’m plowing through it, chewing on some very dense prose as I try to take in and understand neoplatonist ideas about God and the Gods, time and eternity, body and mind and soul.

I am aware of being very attached to some ideas about the soul.  It’s not all that different from the way Christians cling to their orthodoxy.  Christians (and that includes me when I was younger) will do a lot of mental gymnastics to make their experiences of the world to fit into Christian doctrines they can’t afford to let go of.  Everything new they learn gets reworked and reinterpreted to fit with their core beliefs.

My own attachment, the idea I find myself clinging to, is the idea of an immortal soul.  The reason is simple and obvious: I want to keep going and keep growing after death.  I don’t want it to end.

Personal identity may not survi…