8. The Comely Human Body
THE chief cause why our bodies give us so much trouble is that they have been dishonored in thought. Much of the religious teaching of the past has rated them as a hindrance if not an enemy to the soul’s progress. We have blamed the body for our own mistaken thought concerning it. For centuries during the medieval period the seen form was so maligned that mortification and even flagellation were regarded as its rightful portion. The whole monastic system which flourished for so long a time—now mostly superseded by a better thought—was based upon a supposed opposition between bodily vigor and perfection on the one hand, and spirituality on the other.
Another prevailing idea about the body, at the other extreme, is far more common at the present time. This is not due to religious teaching, but quite the reverse. Practically, it is that bodily and sensuous gratification is the main object of life. Physical sensation, when of agreeable quality, virtually is the most desirable thing. If this condition prevails, it is only a question of time when it will turn about and punish its dcvotee. Pleasure turns to pain, and liberty becomes slavery.
Everything which is good in itself is liable to abuse, and abuse inevitably brings penalty. The body naturally occupies the secondary place, and when in this relative position, it is beautiful and orderly, and, in a higher sense, rightfully enjoyable. But when lifted by thought and consciousness into the first place, it becomes tyrannical and disorderly. Its normal place is to serve, rather than be served.
The capacity of the material self to absorb good things, which are exclusively upon its own plane, is decidedly limited, and when an attempt is made to crowd it beyond the natural point, it turns and rends its possessor, and owns him instead of being owned.
It is common to envy those who are very wealthy, because it is assumed that, as they can gratify every whim, they must be very happy. They can get everything there is out of life, and what more can be desired? If such an attempt be made, they really get the least, even out of this material existence. The life is lost in a misdirected effort to save it. Attempt to gain a monopoly of the lower kind of pleasure for its own sake, and the result is certain disaster. The world in general is making a grand chase after a kind of pleasure which is only theoretical and deceptive. But in ideal and spiritual realities, unlimited possession and capacity are quite possible. These include everything of a lesser grade, and each is good in its own place.
The remains of the spirit of asceticism are yet much in evidence among religious institutions and dogmatic systems. In varying degree the body is assumed to be common if not unclean. It is looked upon not only as a hindrance to the soul’s welfare, but also as naturally including potential pains, weakness, and disorders. It is expected to be the subject of corruption in varying degree.
Such thoughts and expectations, through the subconscious mind are building their false and disorderly material into the outer form, and sooner or later they come into actual expressive correspondence. Everything that is distorted in mind carries its solidified crookedness into the body, and the process of straightening it out causes pain and friction.
In the light of such laws and principles the body should be continually honored and consecrated in thought. It should be regarded as a holy temple in which a beautiful soul service is perpetual. It is a graceful living statue modelled and shaped with tranacendent delicacy and grace. It is the highest and most perfect of all material creations. Something has been taken from every known substance and blended in beautiful and harmonious proportion to form the finished structure. It is a superlative example of co-operation; a general partnership with many members where each holds a peculiar office. It unceasingly works for others even more than for itself. Every member, whatever its service, is equally honorable. Any seeming dishonor is caused by degrading thought.
The physical organism is like a magnificent musical instrument, to be kept in tune by the soul which is the executive of the whole complex unit.
Man should make his conscious home in soul. His body is only the kingdom over which he is to exercise beneficent control. In proportion as this is complete, his corporeal structure will not be open to every discordant wave that is wafted toward him in the sensuous atmosphere.