Not Materialism, but Material Matters!

In my last post, I said:

A lot of modern life is designed to make us into mopey, self-loathing cogs. Eaters and spenders. When you break out of that mold and feel how natural and positive it is to have your testosterone flowing, it’s a bit of a revelation.

What do I mean by natural and positive? Men are, by nature, more aggressive than women. Whether it’s polite to acknowledge it in civilized company or not, men get a rise out of aggressive acts, especially when such aggression is in defense of the man’s self, family, or tribe.

As a non-materialist (what else are we supposed to call ourselves these days? Theists? Supernaturalists? I hate to give myself a negative designation — “non-materialist” — but since I’m not a Christian and I’m not a Jew or Muslim or Buddhist or initiate in the Mithraic mysteries, and since modern people take materialism as their “obvious” baseline, I am left with no other term), as a non-materialist, I bristle intensely if anyone suggests to me that all of my spiritual experiences are merely the products of this or that measurable hormone.

I believe that the brain is a God-conducting organ. That is to say, when scientists find a “God module” in the human brain, it proves not that God-consciousness in humans is a function of some randomly-evolved brain region, but rather that the scientists are reading (through their astonishing modern instruments) the physical echoes of something that precedes brains, humans, and cells.

If humans are half-animal, half-angel, as the Christians and the Hindus (after a fashion) would have it (and I believe they are correct, and believe that no other explanation really answers all of the relevant questions), then it’s quite obvious that our animal bodies (including, duh, the brain) would reflect our spiritual capacities. When scientists “discover” this or that region of the brain that correspond to this or that religious experience (and it’s been done with Christian prayer, with the meditation efforts of Tibetan monks, etc, etc), my reaction is not to therefore discount the nuns and monks. I don’t think (as they clearly intend us to, from their rhetoric), “Wow, there’s a physically measurable link between believing and brain activity!”

Rather (and it’s kind of embarrassing to point this out), anyone with an open mind would recognize that we’ve merely kicked the can further down the road. Finding cellular connections between the physical body and spiritual experience proves nothing whatsoever, on the metaphysical level. Those who deny that metaphysics even exist are still lost in their minutia, and those who have had incontrovertibly real experiences with the “supernatural” (which is actually the natural) still can’t “prove” their experiences, by the laws of modern science, without appealing to the very laws which by definition preclude the supernatural.

So when I talk about testosterone, as for example in the above-linked post, I don’t mean to endorse a purely materialistic view of the world. But, as must be obvious, neither do I deny the link between the body and the spirit. And, as I have already written, and as I intend to show in further posts, I believe that those who understand the (true) metaphysical nature of life have underestimated the degree to which the body influences the soul and, especially, the spirit.

I’m asserting nothing new.

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Sunshine and Testosterone

The other day I was driving back from the gym, after going very hard in the weight room. By “very hard,” I mean lifting until muscle failure, which means there’s involuntary grunting going on, shaking legs, etc. After each set, you know you are making a difference when you temporarily cannot move the muscles in question, then suddenly feel a surge of energy all over.

Driving back, having chugged some whey and whole milk and caught my breath, I turned on the radio. The “classic rock” station was playing Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” I turned it up, bopped around a bit, turned it up more, found myself bopping with even more energy, and finally cranked it full blast. I felt a surge of positive energy.

That’s not a particularly aggressive song (especially compared to what I was listening to when I was actually lifting). And Freddie Mercury is not exactly the most, ahem, traditional man. But it’s certainly peppy, assertive, and has a driving, unapologetic beat, if you will. I used to listen to “classic rock” all the time when I was in high school, working out very hard five days a week on the crew team. Part of that was being a white, teenage male in the 1990’s in the United States (going through a Led Zeppelin stage, for instance, was a bit of a rite of passage where I grew up, whether or not you were an athlete). But as I listened to Queen on the way home, I realized just how closely linked the weight lifting and my current enjoyment of that song were. 

If I had been on my way home from McDonald’s, or a movie about how horrible white people are, or some other such poisonous activity, I would not have enjoyed that song in that moment. I probably would have changed the station, or I might have let it play at a low volume, letting it be a buzz of mindless background noise. But lawdy, in my current amped-up state I was really cranking that stuff and enjoying it with a big smile.

Now, enjoying Queen songs is pretty value-neutral, if you ask me. Lifting weights isn’t good because it makes you crank the classic rock music. It’s good because it’s very good for your health and your psyche. It increases muscle mass, which is very closely linked to overall longterm health; it increases testosterone which is the natural miracle drug of male bodies, and it makes you a more physically capable person in everyday life. (Dennis Mangan is my favorite non-meathead proponent of weightlifting. Some of the meathheads are pretty great too, but I’ll let you find them on your own.) But I submit there is a real link between extremely rigorous, rippingly painful exercise (plodding jogs don’t count) and the sort of sunshiny aggressiveness I was feeling in my car that day.

And I’ll go a step further and say that a healthy man in his prime should feel sunshiny aggressiveness. Not all the time, of course, but it should be common and almost a baseline. A lot of modern life is designed to make us into mopey, self-loathing cogs. Eaters and spenders. When you break out of that mold and feel how natural and positive it is to have your testosterone flowing, it’s a bit of a revelation.

Body, Soul, and Spirit

A human is a tripartite being — body, soul, and spirit. There are many different schema that take account of this basic reality, and so there are many different terms that have been used to denote these three levels of being. Furthermore, the dividing lines between each one and the next are not fixed and impermeable. There are fuzzy zones between body and soul and spirit. 

What the “body” entails is pretty obvious to most people. The difference between soul and spirit is harder for many people to understand. “Soul” is made up of the mind, the will, the moral agent. It also encompasses everything integral to a person that is not bodily-defined. This includes one’s role in society, insofar as it is an expression of and an influence upon that person. It also includes sex, and race. Here we can see how interdependent body and soul are. A man’s sex is reflected in his body, but it is also reflected in his soul. Likewise for a woman.

[Of course, hard Leftists pretend that there is no such thing as “gender” outside of our beliefs about gender. That is, “gender is a construct.” I believe, on the contrary, that maleness and femaleness precede humanity itself. That there is a man and a woman in our species is merely a reflection of the deep nature of the universe. The Chinese have known this for thousands of years — the principles of yin and yang. But then, of course, all people have known this, for all time. Foolish moderns are the first ones not to know it. They call their ignorance holiness and wisdom.]

The spirit is the least determined part of a human being — the least material and therefore the least obvious. Although in fact every spirit is unique, and in many senses more specific than bodies and souls, because the spirit is the part of the human being that is closest to the eternal and the divine there is a sense in which the spirit is the most universal part of each person, the least differentiated. It all depends on what perspective you take; if you consider how matter is just highly organized atoms and molecules and how easy it is to disintegrate those organized patterns into meaningless goo, one can call our bodies the least specific part of our selves. What part of our being we consider most essentially individual is a question of emphasis — clearly all three levels are indispensable. Without one level or the other, the being is no longer recognizable as a human.

I’m interested in how very important all three levels are. So many people today live in willful ignorance of the spirit. They even deny the soul, though the denial is mostly rhetorical — they replace it with terms from neuroscience or whatever; no one can operate for 10 minutes in everyday life without a provisional theory of the soul. Modern people are so deeply messed-up in their appraisals of society partly because their own rhetoric about the non-existence of the soul forces them into provisional, slapdash explanations for human behavior.

But among people who understand and cultivate the soul and the spirit, I find there is often a corresponding neglect of the body. I am not speaking strictly about matters of bodily health (though of course health is hugely important). I am speaking also of how greatly matters of the body can affect matters of the soul and the spirit.

That the spirit has no physical location in the body (it doesn’t go away if you chop off someone’s leg, for example) does not mean that there is no link between the two. 

Many of the manifestations of the body-soul-spirit connection are so obvious and everyday that it seems silly to point them out. A weakened body can very obviously contribute to a depressed soul, either through illness or through poor diet or lack of exercise. 

But other ones, such as the connection between sexuality on the bodily level and spirituality, are less obvious and more controversial in modern times. Or the effect of behavior upon hormones, and the corresponding effect of hormonal harmony/imbalance on the will and indeed upon the beauty of the spirit. 

I will have more to say about the specifics of how we neglect and nourish our bodies, souls, and spirits in later posts. 

Happy Holidays!

And no, I don’t mean that in the secular, crypto-anti-Christmas sense. But in the sense that we’re just between Thanksgiving and Christmas now, with New Year’s soon to follow. It is indeed the holiday season. 

I’ve got a few posts brewing, and want to alert anyone who still gets has this blog in his bookmarks or feed that I will be putting something up right soon. Do check back if you are interested. This isn’t officially a revival of the blog full-time. But since it’s still here, and I feel like writing, people who are interested might as well be invited to read.

Blessings to all.