Observations of the light and the dark of what is, was, and might be in the Pagan community's expansion and evolution.
I Am Am I
This is part two of a two-part blog that tries to move beyond the binary distinction of life and death. Please read the first part if you have not as you will get more out of this post if you do. To break out of the dichotomy of life and death we need to introduce identity as another measure of the attributes of existence. In order to explore how identity helps us to expand our understanding of life and death, let's start with the very large and then move down into the very small.
Streams Of Evolution
The universe has been likened to a thought, a song, and the dreaming of God/dess/es. It has also been conceived to be like a great ocean which I find to be an apt and appealing comparison. Life and spirit, like the water in an ocean can take many forms and undergo many journeys. Water arises to form clouds that fall as rain that fill rivers whose waters eventually return to the ocean. The journey that each river takes confers its water with a unique taste, color, texture, and many of its distinctive qualities. The landscape is changed by and changes the river over time and as Heraclitus observed, we can not step twice into the same river. It is not a difficult thing to understand that although all the rivers of the world partake of the same water, that they are also unique and separate entities. Applying the same perspective it is also possible to grasp the truth that although all life is of the same life and of the same spirit, each species is its own stream of evolution. Diverging streams of evolution result in the formation of separate streams of spirit that are the group souls, group minds, and life energies of species. The rules in biology for what constitutes a unique species have become a bit fuzzier as we have learned more about genetics. The rules for what constitutes the boundaries between the group souls/minds/life energies of different species is even more difficult to enumerate.
Let's shift from comparisons to water to comparisons to light. If we imagine the totality of spirit to be a brilliant white light passing through a prism, then the streams that we call species are the different colors separated by that passage. We can clearly see that red is not the same as yellow but matters become more difficult if you try to decide where orange becomes red or where blue becomes green. Where do you draw the line? It is very likely that different individuals would place the lines in different places. Since colors are specific frequencies of light, you could decide that particular ranges of frequencies are the official boundaries for the colors. But if you were to zoom in, closer and closer, down to the level of individual frequencies, you would find that the difference between the colors that border that boundary is no greater than the difference of those that are their next door neighbors. The distinctiveness of both colors and species is a matter of context, contrasts, and complementation, all of which are relational attributes.
Forces & Forms
It should be noted that when we speak of streams of evolution and of species, our primary observations are about their forms. Forms are most easily grasped by applying: frames of reference, time flow, and perspective. Forces, on the other hand, are most easily grasped by examining the forms that they create and/or animate. The number of possible forms is infinite, but the number of forces is finite. This is one of the hidden and essential polarities between Force and Form that fuels the engine of manifestation and evolution. Therefore, to understand streams of evolution we must focus on their forms while never forgetting the underlying forces that enliven them. Moreover, since the number and the interplay of forces will always be smaller than the number and the interplay of forms, it is the pattern of forces that should guide us in making categories.
Our fascination with forms and our attachment to them, can often lead us to misjudgments. There is a common and powerful teaching in many systems of magick that to name something is to have some degree of power or access in relation to it. This is true on certain levels, but certainly not all. When we name forms we are in the same paradoxical circumstance that we have when we think that we can name the branch of a river without naming the truth of its unity with the greater river and for that matter, all the waters. Those that can name and categorize the species, spirits, or people do not necessarily know anything useful about them. That said, it is also equally unproductive to discard or to disregard names and forms in an attempt to work at the level of essence or spirit alone. Differentiation into assemblages of interlocking forms and patterns is evident in every part of the universe that we can perceive. Ask yourself why Essence would inform such patterns into the universe unless they were important and necessary or perhaps inevitable?
Life, Death, & Self
So what does all this have to do with life and death? It is a loss, change, or termination of an identity that is one of the most emotionally charged markers for questions about life and death. Depending upon what you think and what you believe about life, death, reincarnation, or an afterlife, you will draw lines and create categories in different ways. But what if personal identity is as slippery a thing as is drawing the line in the spectrum were blue & green begins? If the spirit, the essence, the animating force that resides in my body is but a ladle full taken from the human stream of spirit, then what is it that ends when I’m poured back into the river? Perhaps what ends is the illusion that my individuality, my personality, and my memories are the measure of my identity. It is my belief that every force evolves a form. In my tradition we also make a distinction between Spirit and Soul. Spirit generally relates to that which is eternal and outside the bonds of normal linear time. Soul is, the phase change, the transformation spirit undergoes when it is harnessed to linear time and bounded within a distinct form. Another way of saying it is Spirit is like a wave and Soul is like a particle.
So to return to the main topic of this post, identity is something that extends from the smallest unit of the individual to that of its whole species, and beyond that to larger scales of life. What I hope is that there will be many discussions about what identity means when we include the forms in the constructs that exist outside of the earth plane. Identity is a form and as such is defined by context, contrasts, and complementation, all of which are relational attributes. I am repeating myself here because I would like you to reread what I said about force and form and rivers and colors. Then take some time to think on what is life and what is death when identity can span their domains.
I hope that we will consider new terms for the sorts of identities that are collective consciousness. We will have to coin new words. Beyond that is also the consideration of how long does a specific aggregation of consciousness have to exist to count as a unique identity? How much of a being’s Spirit must be invested in the physical plane for it to be considered to have the Soul and an incarnation? Rather than going on with more questions, I will leave you with a request that you take up these sorts of discussions with your friends and colleagues. I will probably return to this topic in some future blog.
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