I have stated this before here and here, but I think it bears repeating – we need to stop treating the physical world like it’s less important than the spiritual world! These two worlds are connected to each other and are of equal importance. As above, so below; as within, so without; as the Universe, so the Soul. The material world is not something to be use and be discarded. It’s also not a bad thing to have material things and seek comfort. The problem isn’t having them or wanting them, but rather when we get out of balance and start hoarding all of the things!
But the spiritually-inclined often get into the mindset that this physical existence means less than what is spiritually on the other side of this life. I think this is where things get lopsided and twisted for us on both a conscious and unconscious level. If we incarnate here to learn lessons, have experiences, reach gnosis, awaken to our spiritual reality – whatever term you want to use – then this physical world is of extreme importance. If we could do it without incarnating, I think we probably would. Physical incarnation is part of the process. Recognizing this is part of our spiritual growth. We can’t do it without all of the flesh and bones and sinew and gaseous star stuff and leafy greens and bumble bees.
When we devalue the physical world over the spiritual one, it leads to all sorts of abuses. The environment, women, minority groups, how we produce out food, how we treat animals, how we produce and use non-renewable resources – all are treated as commodities for consumption rather than as precious people and resources that help balance our world. Everything on this planet is intrinsically good and part of a great ecosystem worthy of reverence and respect.
While I know most reading this post would agree with this sentiment and are environmentalists themselves, unconsciously we absorb a lot from our language and the dominant cultures and religions in our communities. Countless times (today in fact) I’ve heard the suit of pentacles or disks in the tarot referred to as the lowest level or least important of the suits. Why? Because it’s the suit that correlates to Earth and material things. The Moon, a symbol of women in the West, is still often associated with concealing, misleading, delusion and lunacy, when it just as often is an illuminating force in the darkness, a force of creativity, and where dreams are forged.
How we use and perceive our language and symbols matter. Becoming aware of how we speak and interact with symbols can help us bring our unconscious biases to the light.
I found this article today in Scientific American, “What if We Could Live for a Million Years?” by Avi Loeb. As you might expect it examines the idea of what life would be like for human if we could live for a million years. In such a span of time, some of the thoughts here are silly and intended to be so. We’re going to have to cap tenure, it states. Yeah, we’ll have to cap a few things, I’m thinking. And because we’re human we’d have to have stupid debates like what sort of health insurance would cover it and whether or not some people could save enough money to live a million years. I’m sure in the end we’ll iron out all the kinks and everyone will live happily ever after until our Sun goes critical or the entire universe collapses or some such.
It’s fun to think of these scenarios and I do wonder what it would be like if we humans managed to extend our life spans a significant amount. Perhaps with consciousness studies we could even learn how to cheat death and store our consciousness digitally. There are many fascinating philosophical questions we can ask. My question is, should it be something we even want?
It seems to me that our egos try awfully hard to draw out their lives, even way beyond their usefulness. The quest to live forever? That’s ego driven. There is so much more to me than my ego, and there’s so much more to everyone else. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. We learn through each incarnation. We take those lessons and we move on to something else. I would not want to be stuck in ego existence for centuries, let alone for millennial or eons! This is spiritual stagnation.
In Buddhism one’s essence is in a constant state of change and flux, so there is no-permanent self (anatta). Buddhism teaches to not get attached to ego, as who we are always changes whether we want this or not. We grow old, we get ill, we lose a limb, we change our views, people come into and out of our lives. Suffering occurs when there is an inability to let our own idea of self/ego go because it creates rigidity. Rather than bend as the winds of change come, we crack when we tightly hold to what once was.
A good friend of mine said a while back, “To believe in a permanent self…is to deny the possibility of spiritual self-change.” If there is a permanet, sustained self, is there any real possibility of change or growth?
Perhaps if someone is a reductive materialist, eternal life in the body or some other material form sounds appealing. To me it sounds like a prison sentence.