Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The body as soul

Today, I have gotten most of the way through "Secret practices of the Sufi Freemasons" by Baron Rudolf Von Sebottendorff (Introduction and Translation by Stephen E. Flowers, Ph.D). I've found it to be a wonderful book (Thanks +Jeffrey S. Kupperman for the book!) with some very interesting insights that I've also found echoed partially in Josephine McCarthy's Magical Knowledge I.

The part that has been echoed is an emphasis on the training of the physical body in regards to esoteric practice. I think it's all too common to forget, especially for gnostics, that the Body is part of the Soul. The Egyptians thought so. Some Jews think so. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says "Your body is the temple of God".  In my opinion, it's a valid Johannite doctrine*.

Now, I don't mean to imply that body worship is advocated as a spiritual practice. However, I do think that any spiritual practice without a physical component is missing something. Centering prayer involves sitting, still, for a long period of time. That actually takes effort. Hesychastic prayer often includes beads, crossing yourself, and sometimes proskynesis.

Many rituals have a component of movement or change in position for the completion of their purpose, whether it's a Eucharistic one or another ritual. We baptize the body, we anoint the body, we bury the body (hopefully not on the same day). We feed the body with the Eucharist or an Agape meal or any of the other ritual meals at our disposal.

So why don't we train the body the way we train our minds and our spirits? I'm just as bad for this as anyone else, which is why when someone brought up adding kung fu to our practice, my response was 'yes, this should happen.' We shouldn't feel bad about our bodies, or inadequate, but just like any other spiritual faculty, it should be trained.

*I'd have to check with some folks to make that official, but the Statement of principles says that all Beings contain the Divine Spark, and to my mind that points towards all of matter containing it, as well. Also, the line "There is no separation between these things" and "The kingdom of heaven is spread over the whole of the earth" from the Eucharist seem to point this way, as well.


Fr. Anthony Silvia said...

If pressed, I would have to say that training the body should not be a requirement for Johannite spirituality. Not that I think it's a bad idea, of course, we could all stand to get in more shape, despite the fact that modern food makes that more or less impossible for average people.
I find myself leaning more and more Sethian in my old age. Now, maybe that's some kind of psychological defense mechanism on my part, but I'm not convinced regardless.

Jeffrey S. Kupperman said...

If not gung fu, qi gong. I'm sort of surprised nothing qi gong like has developed in western internal alchemy. Of course, maybe it has and I'm just woefully ignorant on the subject.

+rue said...

as a practitioner of ecstatic dance for almost 16 years, a spiritual practice i've done much longer than studying gnosticism, this definitely rings true for me. ecstatic dance, begun by gabrielle roth developing her 5 rhythms, is a wonderful discipline of listening to how spirit moves the body, allowing the intellectual faculty to take a back seat, very complimentary work after a lot of study, to bring balance to an individual's whole system. we sophian gnostics believe Mary Magdalene was a dancer, so it's another layer, to surrender to Her dancing you!

Anonymous said...

Although I personally have more than my fair share of body image problems and occasionally, like Tony+ tend to psychologically slip into the error of substance dualism, I hold a small spark of the idea that the body - however fragile - can and should be strengthened and made into a vehicle appropriate to one's work. Asceticism, or 'training', I think it a good way of viewing the relationship between body, mind and soul - to this end, much of pre-modern and contemporary spagyric alchemy is concerned with strengthening the bodily aggregates and purifying them through various means (usually medicinal). A similar perspective may be drawn by understanding the body as a self-enclosed alchemical laboratory when what we put in can be refined and purified. It's very easy to transfer the laboratory jargon for biological jargon.