Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spirit in its Most Concentrated Form

There is a tendency for those who get involved in the sorts of mystical practices of the sorts I am discussing to become disdainful of the body. This is a mistake, in my opinion, as the body is as much a part of who one is as is the mind or any other part with which one identifies. Indeed, it is in part through contemplation of the body moving through space that we can come to a more full understanding of the self.

One of the ways of interpreting the idea of the world as emanating from a central well, as my own cosmology (derived from ancient sources, as I have previously discussed) has it, is the “emanationist” school. In this concept, common to a number of occult philosophies, the world of experience is the product of spirit being progressively derived, as it were, from emanations radiating from the central source. While some interpret this as a “degeneration” of the pure spiritual influences, another way to consider it is as the diffuse spiritual forces being concentrated into a denser, more highly packed state. In this interpretation, matter is less malleable than thought because it has more inherent inertia. While I don't hold with this interpretation particularly (I will discuss matters of “reality” at another time – I should note here, though, that I don't particularly discount this interpretation either), it is an interesting one that both provides a title for this entry and gives an emphasis to physicality that is often missing in spiritual discussion.

When working with trance states and visionary experiences, it is easy to lose track of the body. When that happens, it is easier still to begin to favor the images in the head over physicality. In my experience, this tends, however, to cause a degradation of the visionary state. This is due to the loss of many sensory experiences that provide a sense of profundity and realism. It transforms visions from ecstatic, visceral experiences into something more akin to watching a movie – flat, alienated, and removed from reality.

To prevent this loss of focus, it is helpful to engage in regular physical activity. Sports are, of course, one way to approach this. The particular sporting types that are most associated with werewolves historically are the martial arts. I recommend regular martial arts practices, myself, though others may prefer some other physical activity. I've discussed martial arts previously as they come from Celtic and particularly Gaelic sources.

Through becoming more aware of one's body, one develops a stronger internal image of oneself. This is useful in meditation and in deep trance, by giving one a solid view of the self, which leads to a firmer foundation for remembering the insights and experiences of these otherwise primarily mental activities. One's dreams become more focused and concrete.

Of course, this is to simply talk about the mental and spiritual benefits of physical exercise. It is also good in itself, as a way to maintain the body in good condition. Keep in mind that we are not just our mental and spiritual selves, but also our physical bodies. We live in our bodies, and spend nearly all of our experience of this life in those bodies. Certainly we might, at times, experience existence at a distance from our physical forms, in trance states and out of body experiences, but it is also true that without our bodies to return to, we move over into the realm of the dead entirely. The characteristic of the werewolf is that he moves between this world and the world of the dead. As a result, the werewolf chooses to survive in this life for as long as it is possible to do so.

One of the notable aspects of the Gaelic Fianna warbands was their focus on being able to survive any hardship. By becoming capable of fending for themselves in the woods through hunting and other survival techniques, by learning techniques of fighting (long called in Europe the Art of Defence, or Fencing), and so on, the Fianna (an Irish reflection of the werewolf bands) aspired to live through difficulties, to be the perfect survivors.

Learning techniques of survival, camping, and the like are also important skills for the modern werewolf. Camping, living away from the support systems of civilized life, is a wonderful and enjoyable way of reminding oneself that one's body is there, and coming in tune with its rhythms. It will also serve as a reminder that the world of other things than humanity is real and has its own needs and wants.


  1. Totally agree that an awareness and caretaking of the body is essential to any trance type practices. Aside from martial arts and sport, yoga and dance can be good tools. More to the point of "straddling the worlds" - a person who is too prone to leaving the body behind during trance could perhaps work on pathwalking, which *requires* a physical component, and teaches one to blend the physical/material and spiritual worlds while moving through each simultaneously.

  2. That is an excellent set of suggestions. Interestingly, there is a close tie between martial arts and dance in Gaelic culture. One noted proverb is, "Never give a sword to a man who can't dance" (though it is apparently misattributed to Confucius, of all things). One martial dance has even survived, collected in Vancouver, BC by the Fletts from Mary MacNab.

  3. Oh, damn. I was going to talk about sex, too. Having sex, making out, touching people, being touched. These are also helpful to healthy trance life. Ah, well. That's what I get for setting myself deadlines.

  4. I'm constantly reminded of my body by pain, but I know I need to live in it. It may not work very well, but it's mine.

  5. Indeed--we don't just live in our bodies, we are our bodies.