|Photo by Aleš Kocourek|
My principal anguish and the source of all my joys and sorrows from my youth onward has been the incessant, merciless battle between the spirit and the flesh. Within me are the dark immemorial forces of the Evil One, human and pre-human; within me too are the luminous forces, human and pre-human, of God – and my soul is the arena where these two armies have clashed and met (Nikos Kazantzakis, Prologue to The Last Temptation of Christ).
In the past, I have discussed the idea of the Metaxy, how Soul is the meeting-place between spirit and matter. In Plato’s Symposium, Socrates argues that Eros is a daimon who is in-between god and mortal. Indeed, according to Socrates,
the whole of the daimonic is between god and mortal” (202d11-e1).
This state of “in-between-ness” is important in the history of religion and philosophy. Henry Corbin said the Metaxy is the realm of
alam al-mithal, the world of the Image, mundus imaginalis: a world as ontologically real as the world of the senses and the world of the intellect, a world that requires a faculty of perception belonging to it, a faculty that is a cognitive function, a noetic value, as fully real as the faculties of sensory perception, or intellectual intuition. This faculty is the imaginative power, the one we must avoid confusing with the imagination that modern man identifies with “fantasy” and that, according to him, produces only the “imaginary” (Henry Corbin, Swedenborg and Esoteric Islam).
As Kazantzakis observes, it is also the battleground between matter and spirit. Soul is a mediator. Some alchemists believe that Soul can become disconnected and lost. It can either be trapped in matter or it can be so high in the ethereal that it is totally ineffectual. Their answer, in the form of their art, is to dissolve the dense and literal substance into something more gaseous (spirit or mind). This is equivalent to matter giving up a part of itself. Then, the gaseous is worked upon so that it condenses, thus giving up its part. This middle-region between these two processes is Soul. Arnold de Villa Nova (1235-1313) wrote,
For the solution of the body means the coagulation of the spirit and vice versa; each gives up something of its own nature; they meet each other half way, and thus become one inseparable substance, like water mixed with water.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic story, The Lord of the Rings, the refuge of Rivendell, the Last Homely House, is a metaphor for this characteristic of Soul. It is a middle point on the journey between the relatively civilized lands of Middle Earth and the rawness of the Misty Mountains and wilds of Rhovanion. In Rivendell, one could rest from tribulation. Though all of Mordor was set against them, the travelers could enjoy solace and peace, free from the darkening clouds of warfare that were beginning to gather all around them.
The Soul is this place of rest. The opposites of matter and spirit are synthesized in Soul. This is one of the great truths of humanity that many have forgotten.
You feel there’s something calling you
You’re wanting to return
To where the misty mountains rise and friendly fires burn
A place you can escape the world
Where the dark lord cannot go
Peace of mind and sanctuary by loud water’s flow ( Rivendell, by Rush).
How do we get to Rivendell? In an animaterialistic worldview, all matter is dynamic and full of activity, full of life. The Soul that infuses each of us is the same Soul that infuses the entire universe. It is no less a part of us than it is a part of our vast, infinite cosmos. Soul stands as the Metaxy, the Bridge to the Divine for all animaterial creatures. We build our Soul-Houses by daily becoming more aware of Soul. This comes by learning to think mythologically and utilizing Imagination instead of focusing on Aristotelian logic. Nature is our classroom in which Soul has many things to show us. All forms in Nature are symbols for us to assimilate until they permeate our animaterial bodies.
We also get there by treating others as we wish to be treated, not only humans but non-humans as well.
The more time we spend in Rivendell, the closer to God we become.
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