“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” Ephesians 5:14
Have you ever woken up from a deep and vivid dream and it took a moment to remember where you were and what day of the week it was? Dreams and imagination feel real and can momentarily confuse us. A feeling of relief comes when you realize it is the weekend or you do not have to rush to get to work or face traffic. Enlightenment brings joy as the sun shines brightly through the window and the confusion of dreaming subsides. You have found your true self again now sitting up in bed. Reality arrives as a solace after the turbulence of deep and vivid dream experiences.
Likewise, the bodies with which we were born are a God-given aid to reality and provide the best antidote against the chaos of not only dreaming, but also daydreaming and falsehood. Too often during the daytime we are not fully living in reality and so we are not fully awake. Our eyes may be opened, but too often we are being pulled along by our imaginations and interior thoughts. Too often, we live splayed across a spectrum of time – thinking about past events or future worries – but not really in the present reality (of a shared time and space) with real other bodily beings. Eyes wide-opened, we are not paying attention to where we are or how we got there.
The flow of the distractions of our minds and desires can drag us from acceptance of the present and entrap us in anxieties and dissatisfactions, forms of daydreaming and dysphoria. Interior thoughts, trapped in imagination and not grounded in acceptance of the present, too often lull us far from the shores of being truly awake and living in reality. We are brought back to the present when someone calls our names and awakens us from the borderlands of imagination. “Awake, O Sleeper.” Embarrassed by our mental absence, we are often greeted with the question, “Where were you?”…as we eventually admit, “Somewhere in my space cadet program.” The truth is we recognize reality when we recognize ourselves to be bodily sharing a real space with a body that is not ours and that can act upon us by calling our names.
The invitation back into the joy of reality should give us more pleasure than the dysphoria of many day-dreams or imaginations which hold us spellbound. The domain of the present and the joy of reality is that we are not isolated and we are not alone. Bodily existence is about a shared reality. A shared reality, and coming out of false imaginations, is a greater solace than living in the ephemeral world of one’s imagination; the place where we can become bitter in our past hurts and lonely in our future worries.
The Human Body Is the Antidote to False Religion
Appreciation for bodily being is the best antidote to the malaise of preferring fantasy over the truth. Appreciation of one’s body ensures true religion over false religion. No one prefers imaginary food to actual food when he is hungry. No one prefers imaginary drink to actual drink when she is thirsty. No one prefers imaginary clothing to real clothing when he is cold. We are welcome to fantasize over better drink, food and clothing, but we should be grateful for the real thing even when it is not perfect. Most importantly, no sane person, no one who values freedom and understands that the truth is what makes him free, believes that he generated his own body or that he is indebted to no one. The human body is the ultimate foundation and witness to the truth that we are bound to a greater reality than whatever we daydream or fantasize.
Just as one contemplates objects in her room upon waking and pinches her own body to check if she is awake, so contemplating one’s body is the best remedy against confusion and unreality. Want the solace of reality and the peace that comes with it? Gently smack your cheek. You felt it? Yes, you are awake and that is you. Look at your body and appreciate that it is real and that you did not give it to yourself (except perhaps the over-eating aspect 😊). Let go of the worry about perceived imperfection and appreciate your body. How did you come to possess it? Now the truth of your real history is restored.
It seems unnecessary to explain the birds and the bees to someone capable of reading this. Nevertheless, is it not obvious that your body did not exist until it was conceived and grew in your mother’s womb? You never had any existence until your body came into existence. Before that, there was no you of any kind. Your existence is a total gift with which you had no part in giving to yourself. It does not matter the intentions of those who conceived you, because God’s intentions are higher than human intentions (human intentions are secondary causes only). Your body speaks truth to you, your life is a gift from God who holds all things in existence and who works through contingency for your good.
Your body is therefore the very proclamation and witness that you are not a god and that you had a beginning. Laws governing existence and biological life came before you and made you possible. You owe your existence to others who came before you. Piety and thankfulness is the proper response for what you received and that your mother kept you alive, despite her faults or failings. You had no existence of your own before you had a body, so listen to the truth of your body and let your body humble you and let your body keep you in reality. Your body is a check against false imagination, false memory, and daydreaming. Your body keeps your mind in touch with truth and reality. Truth is about the mind’s conformity to reality; and, living in reality is what keeps us sane: “The truth will set you free.”
The Soul Comes Into Existence WITH the Body, Not Before It
You did not exist before you were conceived. You began existence with your body. Christian doctrine is clear: your spiritual soul did not exist before your body came into existence. Your soul came into existence with your body. In the words of the great Seventh Century saint and Eastern Church Father, Maximos the Confessor, “The soul is never conceived apart from the body nor the body apart from the soul…The soul originates not from underlying matter, like bodies, but, ineffably and unknowably, from a divinely willed vital inbreathing comprehended only by the soul’s Creator himself. The soul arises at conception simultaneously with the body to form one complete human being.”
Body and soul influence each other since they come into existence with each other. The soul understands the body and the body communicates knowledge to the soul. The body informs the soul about the body’s sex and who the soul is as an individuated being, born male or female. The body also informs the soul of the reality of space and time, the reality that it shares with other beings so that the soul can attain to truth and higher truths through the soul’s powers of reason. The soul informs the body about the true and the good for the body’s and soul’s realization and knowledge of higher realities. The spiritual soul assists us to attain the true and the good or avoid and overcome their opposites. The soul teaches us to love the truth, and this is why we do not like it when we are lied to.
Your body is you even though your spiritual soul – the aspect of yourself through which you intelligently know and understand reality – is the most important aspect of you. Reality and accepting reality, is important to your abiding in truth and freedom for the realization of your mind and body. Your body is an integral part of the truth about who you are and who God wants you to be for your full realization. Male or female are both perfections found in humanity. Male or female are not something that need cures. Male and female originate in the bodily aspect of our being and have the priority of the truth about our sex. They are signs of health and we should never cause harm to what is healthy about our bodies and sex. Your spiritual soul is meant to help you accept the truth about the goodness of your body. Imagination, daydreaming, and dysphoria must not be allowed to over-run and dominate intelligence and the truth about the body.
Your intelligent soul is more important than your body only in the sense that it will live on after your original body dies, and before the general resurrection from the dead (since you are incomplete without your body as a human being). Your soul is also what helped you to choose rationally with and through your body in order to hold onto the truth which makes you free and so consolidates your identity and choices (choices God can always heal). However, because your spiritual soul came into existence with your specific body and informs your body, you can never have a different body based on how body and soul informed each other at the moment you became a living being. Body and soul informed each other from the beginning of your existence. While bodily maleness or femaleness can be suppressed by hormone treatments (or mutilation of healthy organs) that alter the body, such suppression cannot alter the foundational identity at the soul’s origination with the body.
Yes, you who surrendered to the truth of Jesus – the truth which make us free – will be perfected at the General Resurrection through God’s divinity within your soul; and, that divinity in your soul which Jesus communicates will glorify and bring your body to total realization. Divinity will give immortal health, perfection and realization to the body, since the body is ultimately made in view of Christ to show forth divinity (cf. Ephesians 1:4). Your spiritual soul will still cause the glorified body to be the same body with which you came into existence in your mother’s womb. Your body is an integral part of your self-identity; your identity of being simultaneously body and soul (which are never opposed to one another).
There Is No Reincarnation, Only Resurrection to Glory
There is no reincarnation. Such doctrines do not flow from reality, they flow from imaginations that do not respect the goodness and unity and interdependence of the human body and soul. Doctrines of reincarnation flow from the darkness of ignorance and man-made philosophies which too often oppose body and spirit. You were not meant to be permanently free of your earthly body, only free of a body which leads to suffering, dysphoria and death. God made both matter and spirit and therefore these principles of matter and spirit can never be opposed. In fact, body and spirit are ordered to the benefit of one another. Christ came in the flesh to reaffirm and reveal the goodness of the human body; and, to reveal the body’s destiny that it should become more subject to the spiritual soul by sharing in God’s divinity.
It is God’s desire to glorify the body of humans and bring them to share in divinity. Christ is the truth because he shared our reality in a true human body. Truth is shared through the reality of the body in a shared and common time and space. Jesus is God in the flesh (Jn 1:14) and the true light that enlightens every man because we know him in his bodily existence.* The truth of God is not from man-made philosophies which speak of invisible realities that no one has seen. The truth about the invisible God and the truth about man is shown in the body of Jesus the Christ. Jesus was always God and has always seen the Father. His glorified resurrection affirmed all of this and he left an empty tomb as proof [click] along with hundreds of eye witnesses to his glory.
Just as there is no reincarnation into a different body because your human soul comes into existence with your body and informs only your specific body, so your spiritual soul inseparably experiences the gender of your body as well. Born with a true and proper penis and testes (as opposed to rare intersex conditions where often there is sterility and missing physiology), a human is not accepting reality when he says he is not a man or male. Such a man is trapped in imagination and has been pulled from reality if he denies he is male. He misunderstands what is meant by a spiritual soul if he thinks he is a woman in a man’s body. No doubt, our material existence is complicated and so is the relationship of the spiritual soul and body.
No doubt “physical” sex of the body must also consider interior and neuronal systems that affect physiology of mind. Exterior genitalia alone does not rule-out or deny interior subjective experiences and phenomena of what may be called gender dysphoria. Nevertheless, mental phenomena does not undo the truth of real and healthy genitalia (which are a sign of male or female). We are the sex of our genitalia, even if we experience interior emotional confusions and anxieties (dysphoria) which also belong to the human condition. Too often, the human condition remains confused, limited and lost because we are without knowledge of the one true God who loves us in Christ. Jesus especially loves and has mercy upon the suffering and poor as Christ freely joined them on his Cross.
Contingency in Creation and Vast Spectrums for Human Characteristics
In creation there is a mystery of contingency and secondary causality which allows for much variation in species, many spectrums, and many freedoms within divine providence. In laymen’s terms: God causes things which do his will by nature and/or by free choices; and God chooses to work through both of these (laws of nature and contingency) without violating the nature or the freedom he always upholds. Though God wills that humans are male and female, it does not mean that the categories are perfectly fulfilled according to strict pre-conceived ideas humans might expect; or, without a lot of variation in bodily and mental characteristics. In a world of multiple contingencies, it is obvious that physiology is complex and fulfilled in many variations. Some people can and will experience gender dysphoria. Sadly, some dysphoria is now being exacerbated by negative peer-pressures and disinformation campaigns.
Everyone needs a break and Christ offers: “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Christ came to suffer with us and comfort us as part of upholding the freedoms within creation and redeeming them. Christ condemns no one (cf. Jn 3:17; 5:45). He is only tough on the self-righteous and overly ideological (left and right) who think they are without sin. It is for this reason and many others that the Church condemns no one who suffers gender dysphoria (which is often only temporary in youth going through puberty). The Church condemns no one who experiences temptations to homosexual activity or sexual sins. The Church, Our Loving Mother, only asks in witness to the truth and love of Jesus Christ – and for the sake of our salvation – that we speak the truth with the truth of our bodies. Only a married man and woman can share with each other the truth and goodness of sexual love. Outside of this, it becomes a form of lying and lust (cf. Rev 21:8). Even a married man and woman must practice chastity to abide in truthful love.
Our natural bodies are not the final truth, but the foundation for coming into the truth of Jesus Christ and his eternal Sonship. Our bodies were meant to surrender to the truth of God’s love and become recipients of the higher life – eternity and eternal life – by abiding in God’s loving will. Our bodies were meant to surrender to the truth of what it means to love and interact with others honestly and for the love of God. Our bodies are meant to become temples of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 3:17); the unity of heaven and earth, Spirit and flesh.
We come closer to living fully in reality by striving for the higher and eternal life of truthful love. Only in love is the truth completed and the mind fully conformed to reality. Amidst the high tides and riptides of imagination, the human striving for reality is what pulls us from the realm of imagination and restores us to the reality of contingent existence and being truly woke. It is contingent and bodily existence that reminds us of the truth that everything is upheld by a transcendent and eternal existence that is before all things. Jesus gives us the hope of the body ultimately receiving healing and perfect union with the soul by humans living off of every word that Jesus, the eternal life, teaches and to which his Church bears witness despite failures of individual members who misuse their freedom.
The Story of ‘Brother Ass’
Saint Francis saw his body as a task, the body was the opportunity to make sacrifices of love for God. The body provides existence in the realm of time (the temporal) and this provides the opportunities to develop the human will and spiritual soul to abide in truth and love (the freedom to accept God the Eternal). Through the power of faith in Jesus (the supernatural life which comes from above and above the temporal), Saint Francis knew his body as the servant to truthful love. His body, the bodily extension in time and space, inseparably provided him time in this world to labor for the glory of God.
However, Saint Francis also understood the body could be heavy laden and a burden to the soul. Filled with instincts and principles not always subject to intelligence, the body tries to override reason and causes the body to be a “task” assigned to us: the struggle to live in reality and uphold truthful and intelligent love. It is the task of every human to live in piety and show thankfulness for what they have received.
Perhaps a cold shower was not available, or he was just imitating Saint Benedict hundreds of years earlier, but Saint Francis once threw himself into a thorn bush to distract himself from overwhelming sexual desires that had thoroughly penetrated his imagination. The pain of the thorns pulled him back to living in reality, to refuse to give in to the tides of imagination, and be restored to living intelligently in the present. [This article recommends the cold shower instead.] Saint Francis had a wonderfully funny name for the burden of his body: “Brother Ass,” because it was a beast of burden and a reminder of the priority of the intelligent aspects of the body-soul composite. He did give his body proper care, but knew his body was not his highest end. He knew his body was at the service of the truth, Jesus who loved us and died for us.
When we wake up and come to our senses, when by the grace of God we come back to truth and reality through the good people around us (secondary causes), we have one more thing to remind ourselves: Stay woke, Brother Ass! Don’t let imagination pull you away. We have lots of works of love to do. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ [at death], so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
*[The discussion of the body as truth follows upon a conference and papers about Jesus being the Truth, not just because he is Logos, but because he is the Logos in the flesh. See more at: https://review.veritasamoris.org/christs-body-as-the-place-of-truth ]
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