Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Body is a Frame

In one of the Masters' earliest talks, in fact the first that I wrote down which I give in its entirety here, they* said the words that I have taken as the title for this piece. The body is a frame. Here I would like to consider what they might have meant by that because a correct relationship with the body is something all spiritual aspirants must acquire. In the past the tendency has been to lean too much towards a negation (as much as possible) of the body. Now we often go too far in the other direction, regarding the body as an intrinsic part of what we are. I think the Master's words can be very helpful in giving us a correct perspective in this matter.

First of all, they tell us that our real self is not the body. Many people in the West today would probably dispute that. Brought up on a diet of scientific materialism, we imagine that the body is what we fundamentally are, and anything else we might seem to be, mind, emotions, even consciousness, derives from that. That is not the Masters' view nor, of course, is it the traditional religious view. We are souls in bodies and the body is actually a projection of the soul not the other way round as present day conventional wisdom would have it.

So the body is not who or what we are but an outer aspect of who or what we are. In fact it is a frame. What is the function of a frame? It is to set off a picture. To provide a solid outer structure for the picture and enable it to be displayed. But the picture is the important thing. The frame is not unimportant and it's necessary if you want to hang the picture, but it is not what matters and the picture is just the same without it.

To say that the body is a frame does not in any sense mean one should reject, neglect or not take care of it. After all no gallery curator would display pictures unworthily with chipped or dirty frames. But it does mean that, although one should look after the body and observe its needs, one should not identify with it or follow its desires. It has its 'functions', as the Master said, and these are what they are. We should not deny or suppress those we might dislike or fear but nor should we indulge any of them either. To do the former is to make the body the enemy of the soul and set up a dualistic battle between mind and body. To do the latter increases our identification with the body and its power over us.

So the course we need to adopt if we wish to realise our true spiritual nature is to treat the body with respect as a divine creation and the vehicle for our functioning in this world but, at the same time, know it to be just that, a vehicle. That means doing what is required to enable the body to act correctly in its role as support for the soul, in terms of diet, exercise, maintaining good health and so on, but not giving it undue prominence or excessive focus or it will usurp attention which should be directed elsewhere. As the Buddha came to appreciate after several years of austerities which led nowhere, a well cared for physical frame is not a barrier to spiritual understanding but necessary for the mind to have sufficient energy be able to attend to the spiritual task in hand.

I called the body a divine creation and so I consider it to be. The Master, after all, spoke of its having been designed, and I both believe him as a knowledgeable authority in this matter and intuitively feel it to be so as well. But this does not mean I fall into the creationist camp. With regard to the human form, I understand this to have originally been conceived as a blueprint in the spiritual world, on a plane corresponding to that of the Platonic archetypes, and then that blueprint realised, as best it may given the resistance of physical matter to spiritual impulse, over a period of time. Pre-existing forms may well have been adapted to bring forth the human form, but I don't see even these animal forms as entirely arbitrary. Again, the spiritual idea precedes the material form but these also develop and change through currently accepted evolutionary means. In other words, the form of incarnated beings comes about through a mixture of spiritual ideation and evolution as it is understood from the modern scientific perspective. I would place the primary impulse on the spiritual side and regard evolution more as a tweaking mechanism which might develop new and interesting variations on an archetypal theme.

What this means is that the gulf between those who believe in a spiritual origin and design of the human body and those who see the body, indeed the whole human being, as coming about through random mutations and 'survival of the fittest' can only be crossed when each side accepts that the truth contains elements of the insights of the other as well as their own. Neither is sufficient by itself. I would certainly place the emphasis on spiritual principles guiding the process overall but what you might call the unconscious or material side also plays a part in the development of form, by no means as big a part as presently surmised, but an important part nonetheless. For those who think that this is hedging my bets I can only say that when human beings take diametrically opposed positions on a subject the truth often falls between the two or perhaps transcends them both, including them but seen from a higher perspective. Moreover if we regard manifesting life as the product of the creative interplay between spirit and matter then it is reasonable to suppose that both of these polarities must have an influence on the end result. However, as I wrote in the book, the origin of human bodies is of secondary importance given that we are not bodies but souls and these are of purely spiritual origin.

We are living in a material world, encased in a material form, and it can be hard to detach ourselves from that and realise that the latter is just an outer aspect or frame. And yet I truly believe that we can know ourselves to be souls by listening to the still, small voice in the heart which is always present though often drowned out by external noise and commotion coming from our own thoughts, prejudices and opinions as well as those that prevail in the society in which we live. The truth is ever-present, accessible to all not just a minority of esoteric adventurers or the spiritually gifted. We can reject that truth, deny it, rebel against it for whatever reason, but it will remain, and the truth is that human beings are spiritual beings currently experiencing life in matter for reasons pertaining to the development of consciousness. The body in which they find themselves, and with which they may confuse themselves, is but a frame, by no means to be identified with but to be used and respected as a vehicle or support for the manifestation of what they truly are which is spiritual consciousness.


* Note.
I often write 'they' instead of 'he' when speaking of the Masters, even individual ones, because they presented themselves as a group in which individualities were certainly present but subsumed in the unity of their awareness. Here may also be a good place to say that I would estimate I was spoken to by around six or seven different Masters, though some more frequently than others. Names were not given but I could usually identify, or think I could, which Master was speaking. There was a definite unity to them, as though they were speaking from the same place or state of consciousness, but that was filtered through an individuality which always had its own 'flavour' or tone.



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