...many perceive there to be a split between being concerned with the realm of the spirit (prayer while kneeling, eyes shut, clenching a Bible) and concern with more material objects (bodies, land and possessions). That split goes to the very core of western civilization, toward the earliest assertion of a dichotomy that perceived something incompatible between spirit and body, between an essence of soul and an essence of physical carnality. That chasm affects us to this very day . . . . In our age, many identify a spiritual life precisely with an otherworldly attitude, one that looks upon physical things as somehow destructive, one which evaluates biological bodies as somehow less significant, and one which understands the core action to be in the realm of spirit, somehow distinct from physicality. We owe this division in large measure to the Greek philosopher, Plato, and to his student, Aristotle.
It's hard not to quote most of this excellent article on Embodied Spirituality by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University. He outlines how he thinks the soul/spirit became equated with the mind/thought and opposed to the body/material. He provides three examples of ways that perceived dichotomy has been helpful in the Jewish faith in particular, and then argues that its costs are far greater, because it devalues diversity, trivilializes social justice, and discourages concern and engagement with the environment and world around us. What a great example of the far-reaching effects of the binary and the interrelatedness of the body, spirituality, and justice!
Photo above by Roger May, text by photo session partner. From the Laid Bare project, which frames form and land together to explore loss and vulnerability. May is a colleague, my mountain "brother," and fellow both/and adherent (who believes, among other things, you can support coal and coal miners and also feel outraged and spiritually wounded by mountaintop removal).
Counselor/Coach, Consultant, Folklorist, High Priestess of Where Things Meet and the Places Between