Spirituality and Appreciation of the Body

A large percentage of mainstream religions and spiritualities have either guidelines on the body, commentary on “self,” or a combination or variation of these things. The Bible, for example, equates the body with a temple due to the holy spirit residing in those who are Christian, as well as the fact that due to the body being a design and creation of God, it is to be respected.

Ironically, from my own personal observations, those devout in their Christianity seem to do a fairly decent level of respecting the body the way in which their holy book instructs them to do so. But the general “pagan” (or even nonChristian for that matter) community seems to be lacking in this aspect.

Multiplicity of Self 

A concept that has been around for century states that there are multiple levels or components to what the “self” is. This can also be found in variations of witchcraft, neo-Paganism, and New Age practices such as Huna (which is merely a false representation of Hawaiian culture and is cultural appropriation at best, though this is beside the point.)

These “levels” of the self are usually along the lines of: The conscious, the “inner child,” and the divine. There are other titles or levels depending on which practice or belief is behind the concept, and even in psychology this seems to be the case. However, I noticed one aspect of the “self” seems to be absent in nearly all of these: The body.

In a spiritual aspect, the general thinking is that you transcend the physical, or a “soul over matter” concept. In psychology, with a naturalistic perspective, the body is merely a physical part of us that one day decomposes while the true “selves” are lost forever. The body is thereby not counted as “self” because a corpse would not be considered by most people to still truly contain whoever the individual might have been.

Due to the fact that I regard my spirituality as personal, and more about my own relationships with various facets of life than a theory that explains something  that could be true of everyone, and that it does not fall under any specific tradition or religion (though I consider myself Pantheist), I tend to keep my spiritual perspectives private. However, this is a matter on which I’d like to include my thoughts.

It is in my opinion that the body is vastly underappreciated. In regards to this concept, multiplicity of self, the body is often not accounted for at all. And I have a problem with this because I see the body as much more than a mere vessel. The body constitutes a lot of what makes up our so-called “other selves.” Our conscious is a product of the mind, and the mind is in turn, a part of the body. The mind is affected by the body, and the body, by the mind. Our subconscious, or “inner child,” is also a matter of mind, or of experiences and memories, which are gathered and processed by…the mind. Furthermore, if it were possible for one to literally physically transcend the physical form and only have their other or “true selves” remain, I can honestly say that I doubt I’d be able to recognize someone without a body. A body is a key part of existence, experience, and communication. Logically, it only seems that something with such a close tie to these other “selves” and is a vital part of even existing should be recognized as part of the self.

Sex and Spirituality

When the body is accounted for, and even embraced, as far as I’ve seen most Pagan communities go, this is almost always limited to being in a sensual manner. I have no scruples in embracing sexuality, and support those whose sex lives empower them. But I cannot phathom how this can, and it often does, dominate one’s life. Perhaps because I myself am not incredibly interested in pursing sexual relations, and am rather bored by the prospect. But the human body is so much more than that of a sexual creature, its functions obviously not limited to sexual reproduction. These other abilities of the body, and how they are done tend to fascinate me much more than sex (for recreation, cell differentiation in the development of a human life is definitely more than interesting) does. Regardless of how much one enjoys being sexual, the body certainly can be appreciated for much more than sexual reasons. To claim otherwise is akin to objectifying humans and only valuing them for the ways in which they might provide you with pleasure, which is inherently selfish thinking.

In terms of witchcraft, it also lies true in that practices which affect and/or embrace the body are not limited to rituals involving sex.

I see no logic behind claiming to “embrace the body” and being “body positive” if this does not extend to areas, or practices, outside of sex. “Sex positive” works just fine in specifying your meaning.

Loving Oneself

Many individuals struggle with acceptance of the body. This may be due to insecurity, physical aliments, dysphoria, or a product of other individuals perceptions. I have always been one of these many individuals, often catching my reflection with my first thought being “I hate my body” or feeling as though this body in particular should not have ever been mine. 

But ever since I began not only studies in physiology and anatomy (particularly cardiology), but also in how knowledge of the body corresponds with ones “mind over matter” abilities, I have gained a much better sense of what it means to be. My body has spent years keeping me alive, and I feel as though, even if I am not fond of its appearance or feeling sometimes, it deserves some credit for that. I’ve gained a much better understanding on why things happen internally, and how. And knowing these things has in turn helped me with overcoming anxiety, grief, and basic illnesses. Understanding how everything in the body works together is a reflection of life in general, how everything is of the same design, but on different levels.