Sunday, August 28, 2005

the source of life

All souls alive have souls; not so soul itself.

There's bread to suit all men, but what feeds bread?

You can shift and make do for any good thing

In life except for the source of life itself.

#1450: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Search word: live

This morning I have been preoccupied with the idea of presence and the communication that comes from that, as contrasted with words. I feel tired of words. Presence can only communicate directly through live encounters, so I sought the live sound in Rumi. This first line attracts me because I recognise it from somewhere. Just now, I can't place it exactly but I've seen this idea before, that God or the world has no soul or, more precisely, cannot be said to "have" a soul.

There seems to be a universal human passion - perhaps it is a need, perhaps simply a form of entertainment to fend off boredom - to seek transcendence, to push forward or venture out or dig down (as the case may be), to reach apparently insuperable limits and then go beyond. One form of this passion seeks a source of life and being. It does it through a series of questions: How do I live? What keeps me alive? If a kind of bread does this, what makes this bread? How is the bread alive? What is it's source? Expressed in a purely physical or material language, we can say that bread, as food and fuel, does keep us alive; that what feeds bread is the sun through photosynthesis in plants; that what feeds the sun is whatever is behind the Big Bang at which point the religious answer "God" is as good as the one the scientist can provide.

In soul language, we can ask: What motivates me to live? What is the meaning or purpose of my life? If a kind of spiritual bread keeps me going, what makes that bread? That bread will usually take shape as a religious symbol or scriptural formulation. Whence does it come? We say that it comes as a revelation from God. Modern psychologists (of the Jungian type) will say that meaning is primarily formed through the archetype of the Self. Our psyches are made to make these symbols and formulations. But then, what makes our psyches so? Why is man a religious being? Does it come naturally to woman? Is woman also a religious being? Some argue that woman is complete simpy in her being, that a man must become a man, and that religion is primarily about that difficult transformation. According to the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus requires that a woman should also become a man:
Gospel of Thomas Saying 114 (Blatz trans)

Simon Peter said to them: Let Mariham go out from among us, for women are not worthy of the life. Jesus said: Look, I will lead her that I may make her male, in order that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who makes herself male will enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Historically, women have found their primary meaning in being themselves the source of new life, the vessel within which new life develops and from which new life emerges. It is no wonder that female symbols are popular for this source idea. The World Soul, which simply is, that is, does not have soul was represented by the alchemists as the Anima Mundi:

Anima Mundi @

Rumi himself often refers to this source as "she". There is no suggestion that "she" is simply Rumi's mother or grandmother. This simply begs the question of what is the source or origin of these immediate sources of life. At the psychic or spiritual level, man has identified a source of life as his own capacity to receive revelations from a male deity called "Lord". It is this "Lord" that gives humanity its direction, its vision, its goal and purpose. The modern scientifically trained mind can look on and say: "These religious prophets and holy men are just making it all up!" And indeed they are, in much the same way that I am making up the words of this blog. One after another, the words flow out through the keyboard and onto the screen. What provides the energy for that? Where is the motivation? If we dig deep enough, if we reach out far enough, if we aspire high enough, don't we all meet at the same point? Is it not the same world soul that inspires us all? Man and woman alike?

I'd like to think so but, more importantly, I'd like us all to think so. A lot of unnecessary bloodshed might be avoided thereby. A lot of martyrdom might be seen as the tragic and futile mistake that it is. Doubt, however, also comes from the same source and doubt says that I might be quite wrong and quite deluded in all this. Perhaps even the source doesn't know.


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