19 March 2010

Mind Over Matter?

General Audience of October 31, 1979

When did Adam become conscious of his body?

I think this is an important question, because it speaks to a need we all have to understand our selves and our bodies. Where does one start and the other end? Are they even different things? Human beings are the only beings out there that are both physical and spiritual. I remember getting into a huge argument in one of my seminars when we read where Jung says that our feelings are a product of the physical - i.e., that we feel sad because we cry, instead of we cry because we feel sad. This claim led to a lot of impassioned debate, with people seeming almost insulted that their bodies could have such control over their spirit. I was one of these people! And it's no wonder - we hear things all the time that support the idea that the body's power is negligible. Mind over matter.

But is the body's power really negligible? At the time I sat in the seminar room, I thought it was a matter of pride to not be subject to my body. But in retrospect, I think this is wrong.

At the very beginning, Adam was conscious of his body, conscious of the relationship between his body and soul and of the complexity of his structure. We see this in the way the Yahwist author accounts for the creation of man: "The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being" (Gen 2:7). Adam wasn't a living being until body and soul united. None of us are. We are body AND spirit, and we cannot be alive without both.

Adam was conscious of his body from the second he drew his first breath. I imagine he always knew how important his body was. I think we could all probably learn that from him.

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