Sacred Flesh

"But this dark is deep: now I warm you with my blood, listen to this flesh. It is far truer than poems." -- Marina Tsvetaya


Heaven on Earth, Angels All Around

Knockin' on Heaven's Door
by Diotima Mantineia

The results of a recent poll tell us that 76% of the American people, asked if they believe heaven is an actual place, replied that they did. Apparently, the poll did not follow up with the next obvious question - where did the poll's respondents think it might be located? With heaven full of astronauts, as Joni Mitchell once observed, the sky - such a convenient location for millennia - is no longer a viable option. The hollow Earth theory seems unlikely to be very popular; if not for scientific reasons, then certainly because it conflicts with the prevailing mythology. So where, then?

Perhaps they imagine it on another planet, or another galaxy, or even in another universe. Star Trek and Star Wars and a flowering of both science and science fiction have given us a new mythology of stories, pictures, ideas and concepts to help us integrate our ever-expanding body of scientific knowledge into our spiritual understanding.

Nonetheless, planets, galaxies and universes are all still places that physically exist. It would seem that many people believe that the afterlife is just a different, nicer, but still physical life: it's clear that our current cultural mythology is at odds with both modern science and the wisdom of mystics from many religions, both ancient and modern.

There may have been some Pagans among the poll's respondents, who simply substituted the Summerland or Valhalla for heaven and answered in the affirmative, but Pagans, most of whom have some kind of psychic training, generally understand the reality of the non-physical better than most. As a group, we also tend to be well read, computer-literate, and have a better-than-the-average-bear's understanding of current scientific knowledge. Our mythology, rituals, and stories reflect this knowledge, as they reflect an understanding of the Infinite that comes only from inner experience. It is a measure of the sophistication of Pagan thought that our belief systems seek to incorporate the discoveries of science, not deny them. For the majority of Pagans, physical reality and spiritual reality are seen as intertwined, not as two separate realms.

Of course, some scientists inevitably disagree - often heatedly - with even the concept of any reality that is not physical. They will be the first to jump in and tell you that [harrumph!] "Consciousness is an epiphenomenon of the brain." In other words, if brains had not been created through the purely material process of evolution, consciousness would not exist. They really believe that if you don't have a functioning brain, you don't exist. You have no consciousness. There is no possibility of consciousness without a body/brain. Brain must equal consciousness. Consciousness must equal brain.

Most Pagans would, I suspect, reject this assertion out of hand, and they find themselves in excellent scientific company when they do so. The incredible discoveries that have been made in the field of physics in the past century have left most physicists astounded, awed and not a little confused. More than a few have come to believe that physical reality as we know it is inseparable from consciousness, and perhaps even created by Consciousness, no matter how much that idea seems to fly in the face of our experience.

Even with an ingrained predilection for swimming beyond the bounds of the five senses, lately physicists have often found themselves in very deep water. Many of the discoveries of modern physics apparently defy all reason and logic, not to mention common sense. In fact, however, those discoveries show us both the limitations of human reason and logic while encouraging our mental expansion. The current cultural mindset has lead us to depend on - even worship - external knowledge and reasoning to the extent that if we cannot make what we consider to be logical sense out of something, then we reject its very existence. It isn't real. It's an illusion - a trick of the mind. However, as it turns out, we are having trouble making sense of the very basis of physical reality...until we consider that perhaps it doesn't exist. It isn't real. It's an illusion - a trick of the mind.

Physics - the study of the interaction of matter and energy - and metaphysics - the study of the nature of reality - are truly inseparable. The experiences of those who are willing to explore these fields has and will continue to indicate that consciousness can exist without matter - but not vice versa. Consciousness is First Cause. Intuition working in tandem with reason will lead us towards a more comprehensive scientific understanding, which, it now seems, must include a view of reality that is so far removed from our current everyday experience as to be profoundly disorienting.

Disorienting, perhaps, unless you happen to have been making a concerted effort to expand your view of reality, and have been meditating and communing with the non-physical realms for years, while others told you that what you experienced didn't exist...wasn't real...was an illusion - a trick of your mind. For example, Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater, Theosophists and authors of a book called "Occult Chemistry" were laughed at for years for their seemingly wildly inaccurate psychic perceptions of the atomic structure of various elements, which they wrote down between 1900 and 1932. But Stephen M. Phillips, a particle physicist with a Ph.D. in the subject from the University of California, has studied Besant and Leadbeater's work, and has argued that they have accurately represented the structure on the levels of quarks and superstrings.

Mystics of many religions have been telling us for millennia "You are not your body, you are not your brain, you are not your thoughts, nor even your emotions. You, your true Self, exists beyond even these concepts." The reality behind the one we experience is a reality of infinite love. It is a reality that both physicists and mystics tell us is inextricably entwined with our minds and our conscious existence. We are part of the ever-expanding creativity and infinite joy of the Whole, the Tao, God/Goddess/All That Is, as it is learning to know itself through our experience.

How do we discover that joyous, creative and expansive reality for ourselves? We need discover nothing, only open ourselves to what is within us by being aware, being fully open to life, by expanding our minds to connect with other, different facets of the one Consciousness. We change our awareness through meditation, patient observation, allowing the mind to be still, to turn inward, to just

Here's a memo for those who are looking for a manifest heaven: You are not defined by your body, mind, thoughts or emotions. You are able to be physical because you are ultimately not physical. You are a creator, part of God/Goddess/All That Is, and you...yes, you...can create all the heaven you need with just what's inside you. Welcome to the real world. Welcome to heaven's door.

Diotima Mantineia