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This Body, This World

Sex not Symbol

A FEW WEEKS AGO I was teaching Hesiod’s Theogony to my philosophy students. We were moving on to the Pre-Socratic philosophers next: being familiar with the mythopoetic worldview against which these early philosophers define themselves is necessary for really engaging with them. We were discussing the generations of the gods, and how Hesiod’s universe is one powered by erotic love and sex (in contrast to the god of Genesis who speaks the cosmos into existence). Hesiod’s gods reproduce the universe into existence. Not voice, thought, or meaning, but passion and bodily drive are the essence of reality for the Archaic Greeks.

When discussing the first gods, I discovered my students were having a very hard time understanding how we could seriously consider the earth, Gaia, and heaven, Ouranos, as living gods.

“Think about it,” I insisted, “when you stand on the earth it’s alive. Things are born from it, out of it. We feel its responsive living flesh as we garden, as we walk on its grassy skin. Some days, when the clouds are low and fog covers the landscape, you can feel how heaven leans down and nestles upon the earth, leaving the damp and the dew from which new things grow.

“Imagine, as in the story, if heaven refused to get back up, if it insisted upon laying upon earth (its mother and lover) without stopping. Imagine the sky closing in upon the landscape, with no space, no light, and no air into which new life could rise between heaven and earth. This is what Ouranos did to Gaia before she appealed to her unborn son Chronos, hidden within the caverns of her bowls, to turn against his father and force him to retreat by castrating him. Then alone was there space, the space that is our world, in which things could be born and grow beneath heaven and above the earth.”

“Ah,” they said, “it is a symbol and metaphor. That is why it is hard to understand.”

“No,” I insisted. “There is no metaphor here and no symbol. For the poet the earth is literally alive, a reproducing body, as is the sky. The living earth was the first goddess. It seemed such a simple and obvious idea, not creative but readily apparent in looking at the world. The earth lives. The earth gives birth. The earth is a body.”

feuerbach_gaea

“Gaea” 1875 painting by Anselm Feuerbach

I was struck by all the levels of conceptual resistance this simple image had to fight in my students, in contrast to the empirical obviousness with which it would have appeared to Hesiod and the people of his time.

pullTo my students, the earth might contain living things, but it wasn’t alive, it wasn’t a body. It was a collection of resources and raw materials. It was food and fuel—not stomach, heart, and womb.

The earth couldn’t be a goddess, either, because gods and goddesses were transcendent, spiritual, and human-like. Were I to say that the earth had a spirit that could appear as a motherly woman they would immediately understand. But say the earth itself was a goddess, not some transcendent spirit that might appear or disappear and always look more or less like us, and the words just didn’t make sense any more. Gods were spirits and souls, not bodies. Gods were people, not mountains and forests and fields.

Think of the depictions of “mother earth” we are all no doubt familiar with and you get the idea of what my students wanted to think Hesiod meant. We even capture this sense in our insistent use of the word “of” in speaking of Pagan divinities. There are goddesses and gods of the sea, gods and goddesses of the sky, goddesses and gods of the earth. But not the goddess earth or the god heaven. They could make sense of Poseidon, but not Oceanus: one a god of the sea, the other the god ocean. They could work with Demeter but not Gaia: one a goddess of the earth and the other the goddess earth. They could make sense of Zeus, god of the sky, but not Ouranos, god that is heaven. 

So too, the sex of the divinities must be metaphor, as must be that odd moment in Genesis when god was heard “walking in the cool of the garden.” Gods don’t walk, aren’t heard doing so, and don’t enjoy the cool of a shady garden. This is all because gods don’t have bodies.

“But they eat,” I wanted to say, “they have their own food called ‘ambrosia.'”

“Ah,” they might reply, “but it is a spiritual food.”

“But they bleed, there is a special term for their blood, the Greeks called it ‘ichor.’ Again, it is surely spiritual blood.”

There was a time when gods had bodies, and our world was the body of a goddess—a time when the cosmos was a kaleidoscopic orgy of copulating divine bodies.

agricola1

Woodblock print by George Bauer from “De Re Metallica”.

Birth of the Bodiless

MOST OF HUMAN history and thought (certainly Western thought, but it is not limited to this) has a deep problem with bodies. We fear them, we hate them, we are embarrassed by them. When and where they are accepted they frequently need domesticating. They must be purified, beautified, cleansed, and elevated. But the most common trend is that they need to be transcended, rejected, dismissed, or destroyed. The soul, the mind, the self or non-self is what is important, not the fleshy sack it finds itself in, or mistakenly believes it finds itself in. This trend is found alike in philosophy, religion, science, and occultism. Each, in their own way, have served as an escape from the body. Behind this can always be found the nagging insistence: the Truth is not a body. Transcendent and spiritual, the Truth is the opposite of a body. 

Despite the rejection of the body, its central importance has never been erased. Our politics for millennia has been a politics of bodies. Shaping and organizing bodies, placing them in ordered spaces, determining which bodies are in and what out, using bodies to manipulate, control, and destroy. This involves making some bodies unlivable, crafting cities where certain bodies have no space or cannot travel, crafting cages for other bodies.

pullRejecting bodies, encouraging people to reject the body as a whole, is a strategy and method for controlling those bodies whether it takes the form of religious focus on asceticism and transcendence, or fascist purifications of the political body of “degeneracy.” Finally, of course, we have capitalism’s drive to turn the body into a machine as discussed so powerfully by Silvia Federici’s excellent essay “In Praise of the Dancing Body” and the second half of Rhyd Wildermuth’s recent talk “Witches in a Crumbling Empire,” both works that have heavily inspired this essay.   

There are many fascinating paths along which the peoples of the world traveled from embodied gods and the world-as-body to rejecting the body and aiming for its destruction. It has amusingly been argued, for example, that Socrates’ ugliness—and the assumption in Classical Greece that body reflects soul—was a problem that Plato had to answer through a strengthening of the mind/body dualism. It is not the body that is virtuous, but the mind and soul.  The body, argues Socrates in Plato’s Phaedo, is a prison and nothing more. This idea would gain in importance in Neo-Platonism, the early Christianity it influenced, and many of the so-called Gnostic religions. It becomes the central spoke of most Western religion and mysticism alike.

Rejection of the body leads to all kinds of problems whether theological, metaphysical, or psychological. In this regard, the centrality that the monotheistic incarnation came to play in Christianity is ironically a solution to an invented problem. The rejection of the body and abstraction of god led to too great a tension to be maintained. Considering that god is so distant, transcendent, spiritual, infinite, what possible relationship can there be between it and us? Miraculously, divinity deigns to the ultimate sacrifice: the taking on of body. The entire thing can’t help but feel like something of a puppet play unless one has already come to deeply accept that being embodied is a disgusting horror. It is a solution to a problem invented in the first place.

Hesiod wouldn’t have known what to make of the incarnation. The gods are the ultimately embodied. This wasn’t because his thinking was more “primitive” but rather because he wasn’t suffering from an unnecessary dilemma. When it came to the challenge and danger of having a body, the Pagans were much more brave than those who would follow after.

wenceslas_hollar_-_the_greek_gods-_tryphon

Depiction of Typhon by Wenceslas Hollar

When the Gods had Bodies 

I HAVE ALWAYS FOUND the Norse myths, captured in the Poetic and Prose Eddas, intoxicating. Here is a vision of embodied divinity, and the earth as body, that is strikingly different from the Greek vision while sharing in its essential insight. The world as we know it comes from the body of the giant Ymir, with some of its earliest inhabitants growing from the giant’s armpits, or being licked out of blocks of ice. The world is built out of the body of Ymir after he is killed (there are similar renditions of Greek myth, in which key elements of the world and life are built out of an ancient dismembered divinity). If Hesiod’s is a story of sex, the Norse story is one of existence arising from flesh, entrails, guts, and bones. In either view, the world is body, but there is something rather important in wondering whether it is a living divinity or a cosmic undead corpse. 

The Norse gods are consistently embodied. They drink and eat with gusto and fight with equal pleasure. It is easier, though I would claim mistaken, to see in Greek embodied divinity a metaphor for spiritual truths, than in the raucous escapades of the Norse gods. In either worldview, however, there are gradations and variations of embodiment that are worth discussing.

My earlier consideration of the difference between a goddess of the earth and the goddess who is the earth was not meant to imply that our use of the genitive in speaking of the Titans and Olympians is wrong. There are important differences between Demeter and Gaia, between Poseidon and Oceanus, between Zeus and Ouranos. The simplest distinction is also the most obvious: the generations of the gods grow more human over time particularly because of the form their embodiment takes. Gaia is the earth and looks like the earth, while Zeus looks like a man. A similar process happens in Norse mythology in the movement from the monstrous gargantuan Ymir, whose remains eventually go towards making up the world, to the much more human seeming Odin, Freyja, and Thor. Between the primordial divinities of cosmic scale and the ruling human-like divinities of the latest generation there is found a third group, those we might call the monstrous.

The fascinating thing about the embodied divinities of Pagan cultures is that they are not only the beautiful and the ugly, not only the perfected and horribly human, there is a vast category of the embodied Other of whom I have spoken before. Gaia, for example, gave birth to the three dreaded Hecatonchires who had a hundred arms and fifty heads. Amongst the generations before Zeus we also have Echidna, a beautiful nymph from the waist up and a horrifying snake from the waist down. There is also Typhon, born to Gaia after Zeus’ defeat of the Titans when she became enraged at the gods’ attack upon her children. Descriptions of Typhon are many and inconsistent, but he is often described as if he had the body of a man mounted by a hundred snake or dragon heads. In Norse mythology we have all the giants generally, but also the children of Loki: the massive Midgard serpent which grew so large it enwrapped the world, the terrible wolf Fenrir who was destined to kill Odin and devour the sun and moon, and Hel who appeared on one side as a young maiden and on the other as a rotting corpse of a dead maiden. We could multiply these examples endlessly, from Giants to Gorgons to Furies. 

Bomarzo 15

Statue of Echidna by Pirro Ligorio, 1555, in the “Park of Monsters” Italy.

One thing we can learn from this juggling of bodily variation is that the Pagan worldview embraces the-body-in-contestation. I’ve argued previously that despite featuring divine monarchies, the Pagan worldview is not a solidly hierarchical or authoritarian one. Monotheistic religions depict a cosmos in which authority and absolute rule is written indelibly into the very structure of being. This tyranny is unalterable. Pagan mythologies, on the other hand, depict an entire cosmos in which order is always in contention and negotiation. Order and structure, like life growing from the earth in general, rises and falls through shifting and unexpected changes outside any control whether divine or human. Zeus’ reign is tentative, as indeed is the rule of the Olympians in general, and Odin knows he will die eventually and the entire world will change.

This essential instability and force of change at the heart of the Pagan cosmos is body, the bodily nature of reality. For the Greeks is was eros, or the bodily sexual drive. For Hesiod, eros was born along with the very first goddesses and gods and provokes their actions and the birth of each successive stage of reality. The cosmos for Pagans is living, is growing and changing, dying and being reborn. There is no more control on the parts of the gods than we have over our own aging and fragile bodies. But more than this, though the generally young ruling divinities certainly tend to be seen through the lens of supposedly perfect bodies, the divine world is populated by wild and unruly pluralities of bodies from the earth itself, through the monstrous and unusual, to the heights of human beauty. The embodied gods are as diverse and chaotically fertile as the divine desire-driven cosmic body itself.

There is a particularly potent message concerning the Pagan view of body in the status of Hephaestus. Hephaestus is the god of smiths and the crafts in general. He is also commonly the butt of jokes in Olympus because his body does not fit the “perfection” of the gods around him. He is partially lame. We are told how his wife, Aphrodite, cheats on him with Ares and one of the most chilling scenes in Homer’s Iliad concerns a conflict on Olympus in which the gods nearly come to blows until Hephaestus breaks the tension by limping around serving, and spilling, wine—thus provoking the other gods to laugh at him. Here is a hint of the horrors that privileged bodies can perform on those lacking this privilege. But the situation is rather more complex than this. Judging by place-names and confirmed temple locations, Hephaestus was one of the most important and popular gods for the Ancient Greeks. Zeus may be king, but lame Hephaestus was in many ways more central and beloved.     

pullThe body, whether that of the cosmos, the gods, humans, plants, or animals, is ultimately ungovernable.  This is the message of the place of body in Pagan reality. Embodied desire and need, the motor of the unstoppable cosmic changes we might as well call fate, can at best be temporarily negotiated into an order. But it cannot be dominated, cannot be governed, cannot be stopped—at least not for long.

There is a reason power has always feared the body, and always attempted to crush it or convince us it is unimportant. The power to resist and change is a bodily power. Nowhere is this power more concentrated than in those bodies that society would seek to make unlivable: bodies not fitting into social standards of beauty, health, or capability, bodies with desires and drives rejected by social forces, bodies of the ‘wrong’ shape, size, or color, and ultimately the abject nature of all bodies in general. What society would make unlivable is really ungovernable in the very best and most promising sense. 

The wealth and promise of Paganism is captured in the way it reintroduces us to the body: a body that we share with the earth and the gods, a cosmos unified in its bodily fragility and drive. It is this that dooms all tyranny and empire, this body, this world. 

 

lokis_children_by_frolich

“Loki’s Children” by Lorenz Frolich, 1906.


Kadmus

kadmusKadmus is a practicing ceremonial magician with a long standing relationship to the ancient Celtic deities. His interests and practice are highly eclectic but a deep commitment to paganism is the bedrock upon which they all rest. Kadmus is also a published academic with a Ph.D. in philosophy teaching at the college level. You can find some of his reflections on the occult at http://starandsystem.blogspot.com/ or look him up on twitter at @starandsystem.


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13 Comments »

  1. Any thoughts on how this connects with or provides an alternative to the reductive materialism of many of our modern scientists? I’m thinking of the recent pronouncement that the Large Hadron Collider disproves the existence of ghosts…

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    • I had planned on discussing the issue of scientific materialism and reductionism but the piece kept ballooning and I had to cut back on that. There is a lot to say here. For starters, materialism has always had a rather difficult time making sense of “life” and the difference between body and, well, just stuff. I mentioned Systems Theory in my comment to Greenwisewoman and this is often how contemporary physics/chemistry tries to make sense of biology. Life can be distinguished from non-life on the level of fundamental physics by defining anything living as a self-sustaining “far from equilibrium system”. In other words, living systems are ones which resist entropy by maintaining complexity and uneven distribution of energy despite normal pressures. This works well as a description if we already have the guidance of our nonscientific worldly assumptions, or the assistance of general biology, (i.e. if we already assume we know where one living thing ends and a non-living thing starts) but it gets really problematic when we put aside simple assumptions concerning what is and isn’t living and begin asking purely from the level of physical system analysis what makes an individual living entity. In other words, there is a huge boundary problem. Where does a given system start and stop? What is the timeframe in which we are making assumptions about what counts as self-sustaining? As mentioned below, the planet earth as a whole seems a self-sustaining far from equilibrium system. We begin to see things a bit more like Spinoza would, with individual systems only really being understandable within larger ones most or all of which are going to have to be understood as far from equilibrium and self-sustaining when looked at against some time frames and not when looked at against others. So, general, what counts as “far from equilibrium”, what counts as A system (versus many etc.), and what counts as “self-sustaining”, all depend on determinations that are question begging. There is a tendency to collapse entirely into the idea that everything is living (which honestly I am just fine with) which makes the definition fairly worthless or just make fairly arbitrary declarations about where to draw various lines (lines in time, lines between supposed systems, lines as to what counts as “far”, lines as to how long something has to be self-sustaining, and so on). It isn’t a worthless way of thinking, in the end, but it fails as a consistent one that would allow for a successful reduction (i.e. we might be able to say that tables just ARE collections of atoms fairly successfully but we can’t say that living things just are self-sustaining far from equilibrium systems without running into all kinds of failures and difficulties).

      Let’s talk about ghosts. The entire basis of the article you mention and the comments made by Brian Cox is that there is an ultimately reductive theory (subatomic physics) and anything that exists has to be explainable in terms of it. Since the type of information-preserving-structures necessary for ghosts don’t seem to be discernible in the theory we are reducing things to, i.e. we can’t find a mechanism for them at the subatomic level, then ghosts must be impossible. The assumption is that the reduction is valid. There are many reasons to think it isn’t, and the inadequacy of systems theory as the lovely bridge between biology and physics is one such reason. If your reduced explanatory level can’t distinguish between rocks, dogs, and forests there is likely something deeply inadequate here. Either life becomes meaningless because it is universal (in which case “life after death” becomes rather a nonissue) or your distinction between my body as living but the energetic fluctuations in my seance room as not because, well, because you just say so damn it – begins to look really arbitrary.

      Ultimately we would need to wander a bit into philosophy of science here (which we have already been doing to be honest). I personally side with a fairly instrumentalist view of scientific theory that sees reductionism as a failed project from the start. We can reduce one description to another description for a given purpose, but these reductions will always lose something. The question is whether the cost matters for what you are trying to do. However, saying that one theory is ultimately true and all your worldly goals and experiences have to line up with it and be reducible to it is, from my view (and that of a lot of very smart scientists like Ernst Mach for example) rather naive. The philosopher Richard Rorty made this point by pointing out that no matter how detailed your understanding of the subatomic structure of a piece of paper covered in ink is it will never allow you to understand the writing on that page. Some things just are irreducible to a given theory (though they might be reducible to others with greater or lesser losses).

      Long story short (and there is still so much to say) personality and meaning don’t reduce well to physics so we shouldn’t be surprised if physics has a rather hard time “finding” them at its ultimate level of reduction. This is the level at which, in my opinion, we should think about ghosts and spirits. Something very similar goes for life and body, the cost of reducing them is very high and so we can say the reductive theories are generally inadequate for discussing them in any robust sense. What is particularly amusing is that scientific theories can also themselves be “reduced” to higher level explanations (this is largely what folks like Hegel and Marx do). In other words, they can be understood from the level of lived-bodies, or history, or culture, or economics, and so on and in the process they lose their claim to be privileged descriptions. This is largely what instrumentalism is, understanding the scientific motivation and the grounding of science’s success at the level of culture and life and not metaphysical truth.

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  2. Many students of biology, unlike your philosophy students, perceive Earth as a being. If not believers, they would describe Her as a system, definitely an organism. My take is that Mother Earth elegantly created life by means of evolution, conserving the flash ‘making’ Power for the niggley bits.
    Lovely essay, that.

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    • Oh absolutely. I am familiar with systems theory is it has been applied to biological models of the earth and, for example, Lovelock’s “Gaia Hypothesis” and so on. There are definitely scientific perspectives that are attempting to embrace the earth as a living entity in various ways. Thank you for bringing this up, I certainly can’t claim that only overtly pagan worldviews can accept this.

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  3. I’m curious: how would you say that the idea of embodied gods you discuss here relates to Neo-Platonic philosophy? I’m mostly familiar with Neo-Platonic theology from the works of Edward Butler (though a lot of it goes over my head), and my understanding from him is that Neo-Platonist would consider the gods ontologically prior to “bodies”. He takes the stance that each god is in everything, and that identifying Gaia as just “the Earth,” would be a reduction of her identity (as all gods can be found in all things). What are your thoughts on the matter?

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    • Thanks for the question Matthew, it is indeed a topic I had in mind while writing (thus my brief discussion of Plato and Neo-Platonism in the piece). I won’t comment on Butler’s excellent work in particular but rather share some thoughts about Neoplatonism more generally.

      I’m of the opinion, though Bulter and others wouldn’t likely agree, that Neoplatonism is actually philosophically a species of monotheism as is the work of Plato himself if we take some of his statements to represent his own positions (for example, if we accept that he held a “theory of the forms” as Neoplatonists will). In fact I think Plato invented the philosophy of monotheism that later comes to be, whether via Plato and the Neoplatonists or Aristotle, the dominate philosophical grounding of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

      At least two things happen in Plato and later Neoplatonism that I think dramatically differentiate them from earlier pagan culture (the culture I am more interested in). First, the diversity of gods are grounded in one ultimate divine force/source and, second, the gods are made transcendent and non-material. So, yes, for a Neoplatonist the gods are absolutely ontologically prior to bodies. This is a step, I would suggest, in the growing process of making the gods (and eventually one ultimate god) more and more abstract and less and less meaningful. It is also part of the process whereby we come to reject/hate the body and the world. World becomes illusion and/or mistake and body becomes prison. See Neoplatonically influenced Gnosticism for some pretty dramatic examples of this.

      So, my stressing the fact that gods once had bodies is in direct opposition to, at the very least, the tendency of Plato and Neoplatonism (and probably more than just their tendency, in my opinion).

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      • Thanks so much for your response! I’m often torn between the more Platonic view of paganism and the materialist view presented by yourself, so it’s nice to get alternate perspectives.

        I don’t mean to bother you, but I was listening to the History of Philosophy WIthout Any Gaps Podcast (https://www.historyofphilosophy.net/) just last night, and its episode on “Socrates Without Plato” brought up an issue that seemed directly relevant to your discussion here, and I was wondering if you had any comments on it.

        Specifically, the podcast notes that, in Aristophanes’s play, “The Clouds,” Socrates is presented as somewhat indicative of philosophers and sophists in general. Some of the personal flaws attributed to him are, of course, impiety and worshiping the clouds. While this is obviously, in part a metaphor for intellectualism being “ungrounded,” the podcast also suggests that this may have also referred to pre-Socratic philosophers with a tendency to identify air as a divine principle. Coupled with the accusations of impiety, this suggest to me that Aristophanes as a poet, and also attempting to act as a representative of non-philosophical, non-intellectual traditionalism, is implying that it would actually be impious and ridiculous to identify the gods as identical to natural phenomena. He seems to be identifying “cloud worship” as something the audience would be expected to find worthy of ridicule. Would you say that I am incorrect in interpreting Aristophanes interpretation of traditional piety, that he does not represent traditional piety, or that there is some distinction between your identifying Ouranos as literally the sky and Socrates as represented as worshiping the clouds that I am not considering?

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      • This is a great question, sorry for the delay in my response but I was out of town for the last several days. If the depiction of Socrates worshipping clouds is meant to be a reference to the Pre-Socratics it would likely be to Anaximenes who is thought to have claimed that everything is made of air, even the gods. This last claim is indeed a materialist proposal and would be seen as impious because it suggests that the forces governing the condensation and dispersion of air are more powerful and fundamental than the gods. To understand the cosmos would be to understand the matter (or primary element) out of which the cosmos and everything in it including the gods is made.

        So, I do think this would be impious and thus not the standard Greek view as you suggest. However, it is not the view I am suggesting. When I focus on the body of the gods I am not focusing on the matter out of which these bodies might be made. It is a tricky point, and not one I have discussed (again, another thing I wanted to talk about but the essay was already getting way too involved – maybe material for a future piece). There is a possible distinction between body and matter, as indeed there is a distinction that is still challenging between matter and life. To move from body to matter is to propose a reductive explanation of body that assumes we can understand body and life from the level of the unliving and non-bodily. My perspective and, I would argue, the standard Archaic and common Classical view of the Greeks is a form of animism in which LIFE and body as the form of life come first and are primary. Hesiod builds the cosmos from bodies, he doesn’t build bodies from some primary constituent material of the universe as many of the Pre-Socratics try to do. So, I would not describe my view as materialist. Notice that you can see this contrast in some of the official charges against Socrates. In the “Apology” Plato has Socrates state that he has been accused of believing that the sun is a rock and not a god – he says this is a silly thing to accuse him of as it mistakes him for the same class of folks as Anaximenes (i.e. the group we now call the Pre-Socratics). Taking this contrast seriously we see that there must be another position between gods-are-matter and gods-are-spiritual. The sun as a god is neither matter nor a spirit. It is a body. So, it would be impious at the time to suggest that the earth isn’t a goddess, or to suggest that the goddess earth is just made up of the element earth and that element is therefore more basic than the goddess.

        This is a tricky point because we are rather addicted to reductive views and we tend to think if an explanation does not aim at simplification through reduction to basic constituents then it isn’t really an explanation (this is a major aspect of what occurred in the revolutionary rise of modern science). Aristotle and Plato alike don’t find this method an adequate approach. Each, in their own way, seek to explain the constituents of the whole through the causal and conceptual priority of the whole. In other words, you don’t get to the body (or the cosmos, or a city, etc. etc.) by understanding how to put together its parts until you have the whole. The whole has priority and the parts are only what they are, and can only be understood as what they are, through reference to the whole.

        Another part of the essay-as-planned but not the essay-as-written was a focus on the oddity and uniqueness of the bodies of the gods. Clearly these bodies are different from ours in many ways and there is a lot of interesting things to say about the way in which divine bodies are understood.

        As a final note, I do think Socrates was likely guilty of impiety (though I certainly don’t think this is something that should have been punished, the Greeks were frequently fond of impiety or religious speculation/experimentation). But he does suggest at points (with a nod to the fact that it is damn near impossible to clearly separate Plato from Socrates consistently) that what is truly divine is not at all like the gods found in the poetic traditions. Plato at least, and possible Socrates, suggests that truly divine things can’t change, can’t transform or move, can’t care about the world or humanity. Aristotle also takes this up. What people call gods might exist as more powerful creatures similar to humans but these aren’t divine in the fullest sense for them.

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  4. Thanks so much. This clears up a lot of confusing points and raises several topics for me to chew over for a while, like how this view of body and cosmos might relate to texts like the Song of Amergin. Also, if I’m understanding you, this view of the body as a unit which organizes it’s component parts, rather than the sum of the component parts themselves, might not actually be that far off from Butler’s view of the henads as ultimate units/persons in Neo-Platonic work, or at least not obviously irreconcilable with it. It’s a lot for me to chew on, and I’d be fascinated to read anything further you choose to publish on the topic.

    And that podcast really is great. I’m not very far in, but every episode so far has given me some meaty ideas to reflect on. I’m really fortunate that I listened to the “Socrates without Plato” episode in such close conjunction with reading your article, otherwise I may not have made some of these connections. Thanks again!

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