Although we’re connected to it our whole life long, we don’t know who our body really is: A being with its own past, future, and individual consciousness.
Today was another totally exhausting day. My brain had to tell my diaphragm to breathe 21,034 times. Command my heart to beat 103,677 times. Thanks to a longer sleep, there weren’t as many orders for blinking as on some other days. Thanks to a small appetite, my digestion was not as laborious as usual and my liver and kidneys thankfully didn’t rebel like they did yesterday when I drank two big beers. Anyway. If I had had to get up today, I think I would have collapsed. And I don’t even dare think about how much work a nervous breakdown brings with it. Just a minute—the hormones need me. I’ll be right back—I have to re-direct the libido.
So, I’m back. Swallow. Heartbeat. Breath. What else did I want to write? Heartbeat. Breath. Blink. Heartbeat. Swallow. Heartb..... Heeeeelllp!
Have you already realised that you aren’t your body? Otherwise your days would probably look a lot like this—and you would wish for a very short life. You are as much your body as an astronaut is his space suit. You have ‘put it on’ for this lifetime in order to have sensory experiences in a physical world and to be able to act, as only a physical body makes possible. The Bhagavad Gita, the ancient Indian book of wisdom, expresses it thus: “Living beings, who are seated as on a machine.” (18:61). But be careful: To see your body only as a kind of bio-machine, a kind of sophisticated clockwork, isn’t being fair to it at all. That would reduce it to nothing more than a fleshly vehicle and most of us wouldn’t become very old. If you strike a watch gently a thousand times, after the thousandth hit it probably won’t tick quite right anymore. How long does it take for you to produce a thousand bad feelings? Feelings of worry, aversion, frustration, envy, jealousy, anger? A year? For our bodies, feelings like these are like those gentle strikes that slowly destroy the watch. The fact that our bodies usually have a life expectancy of 80 years and more indicates that there must be something more than just clockwork keeping us alive.
It is the ability to uphold the maximum perfection of our bodily functions, despite the pitfalls that its inhabitant daily digs for it: malnourishment, chemicals, vaccines, destructive thoughts and feelings, too little sleep and excercise, insufficient breathing, nervous stimulants of all kinds… No, the body cannot fill up all those pits. But it attempts, in an intelligent way, to build bridges over them, so that the organism can continue to function as perfectly as possible. Until the pits are so wide and so deep that all the bridges break and some part of the body gives out. But if there was no intelligence that independently and consciously maintained our body’s perfection, despite human over-exploitation and inefficiency, we would all be the agile grave-diggers of our physique, and grey hair would would be an unfamiliar sight—simply because we would never grow so old in our maltreated bodies.
Our body: 206 bones, more than 600 muscles, and all sustained by nerves. Run your hand through your hair!—Countless muscles just worked together, connected through a network of nervous circuitry that joins the muscles with the central nervous system and transmits the signals that determine the flow of muscle energy. Every single contraction of each muscle involves billions of protein molecules that cooperate in absolute conformity. Every ordered movement that we make requires constant collaboration between our sense organs and our muscles, which runs through our spinal cord and the part of the brain that interconnects sensory perception and motor commands. Just standing upright requires the activity of a large number of muscles to counteract the earth’s gravity.
Muscles need oxygen for their work. This vitally important respiratory gas flows with the blood in the arteries that are so distributed as to reach every muscle bundle. The individual muscle fibres encase these finest cardiac capillaries, which is where the ‘gas exchange’ takes place: oxygen goes into the muscle fibres, carbon dioxide comes out. This waste product of the cell’s metabolism is transported to the lungs with the blood in the veins where it leaves the body during exhalation.
The muscle receives its dynamic from the fibres. These are ca. 80 per cent fine, tiny fibres or myofibril—hundreds or even thousands, depending on the size of the fibre—and the rest consists of countless nuclei, sarcoplasma, and other typical cell components such as energy-producing mitochondria, all of which is encased by a thin plasma skin (sarcolemma).
When the muscle contracts, it is responding to a command from the central nervous system. The nerves terminate near the sarcolemma and release transmitters. These neuro-transmitters trigger a wave of electrical activity that spreads across the entire muscle fibre. Calcium ions—electrically charged particles, which fire the mechanical contractions—are emitted into the sarcoplasma at the muscle membrane.—To go into more detail regarding muscle contractions, we would need about 30 more lines of text. In reality, the action described above takes place in a thousandth of a second.
When I imagine what has to happen in my body for me to be able to type this text quickly, I get dizzy. And we haven’t even thought about all the other functions that take place in this universe we call a body and that we only notice—thanks to pain—when their harmony has been disturbed.
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.” (1 Cor 6:18-20). A well-known biblical quotation from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. So, we have received our bodies from God. We can agree to that without much trouble (unless our thoughts are so short-sighted that we refuse to acknowledge any ordering power behind all appearances). But that we don’t belong to ourselves? Who does our body belong to then? To God? To itself? And if that’s true, what consequences does that bring? This quote in the Bible alludes to the fact that our body has its own individual consciousness. In the Bible quote above, it is treated as a ‘thing’ that has its own identity. Francis of Assisi, too, spoke of his “Brother Body”.
“For which cause we do not lose heart; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” (2 Cor 4:16). Again, Paul distinguishes between two ‘men’: the inner and the outer. Which one do we identify with? Are we conscious of the fact that there is a fundamental duality in our being?
Let’s let the cat out of the bag: Our ‘I’ is the inner man, our spiritual consciousness, the voice in our heart, our eternal being. This ego inhabits a fleshly form that is in turn a being for itself.
Yes: Our body is a being with a past and its own consciousness. It is also our true and faithful servant through all of our incarnations. For though when we die our physical body also dies, its etherial substance, the intelligence in our body, travels to the Other Side as our spirit does, to recuperate. Until it again enters into service and begins to construct this marvel called ‘body’ in a new mother’s womb.
The thought that our body is an individual, unique being with just such a consciousness may seem strange at first, but when you let logic prevail, you realise it could not be any different. For is not every manifestation of nature, from a drop of rain to an oak tree, ensouled and guarded by an elemental being? And then the physical body, probably the most complicated ‘construction’ on earth, should get by without an intelligent being to regulate, organise, and direct it? Certainly there is a cell consciousness, and true, the blood is also the soul’s carrier. But our bodies’ complex, always diverse, behaviours don’t originate simply from some kind of fleshly ‘mechanism’. The spirit that furnishes our body is, whether you want to believe it or not, far superior to its inhabitant in certain respects.
For example, perseverance. Our body elemental (this is the correct term, since it comes from the elementary kingdom) has a very specific idea as to which body we need for this life. This form is related to our soul-level nature and sometimes also with our ancestry. A person who originally comes from the nature realm—where he was for example a dwarf king—would have a small, compact and awe-inspiring body, whereas someone from the angelic kingdom would possibly retain an etheric air. This being said, the substance that the body elemental has available from earlier lives is unfortunately most often deficient. But it makes the best of what it has available. It has an exact picture in its mind of what our body should be like. And it stays true to that image as long as its inhabitant will allow. This is one explanation for the yo-yo effect of dieting: It could simply be that our body elemental wants to be a little more round than what we’ve got our heart set on. Maybe because it knows, for example, that it won’t be able to manage the low blood pressure of its twiggy inhabitant. Or maybe because it’s upset about the erratic nourishment that it has to put up with: A week long eating only pineapple and then only eggs, then bread by the pound and then only salad again. And in between these starvation phases, too much refined sugar, white flour and alcohol. Maybe it just doesn’t want to get thinner. And so it shovels as much nourishment as possible into the rubbish dumps—i.e. fat deposits—as soon as the next starvation phase begins. During the white flour and sugar orgies in between, it doesn’t have any other option anyway. Et voila: The individual gets fatter the more he suffers over his food.
But this is also not the body elemental’s desire. It especially suffers that its inhabitant, whom it has so faithfully served for so many thousand years, now suddenly begins to hate it. ‘You find me ugly? Well, I can’t offer you more than you grant me! Handle your life and your energy differently and next time I can build you a more beautiful body!’ Thus might it rebel in its time of tribulation. It then sometimes happens that the ‘Spirit of the Flesh’ moves into open rebellion against its inhabitant. It lets the body go to absolute ruin. It goes on strike. With the result that all kinds of afflictions crop up and maybe the body even loses its form so that its inhabitant is finally forced to accept it as his own with loving care.
Humanity has not been as obsessed with an ideal body image as it is today since the time of ancient Greece and Rome. Certainly body consciousness is not all bad! Rickets and scurvy and consumption are part of the past and many people strive to give their bodies the best food with all the vitamins, trace elements and minerals that they can. But on the other hand, our bodies have to deal with countless hidden industrial poisons in their food, are constantly exposed to nerve-wracking electro-smog, and otherwise are given too much leeway. Most bodies are also lacking spiritual content. What? Yes, you read that right. The person is the master, the body, his servant. But what does a servant do whose master doesn’t act like one? He becomes insolent. He dares to play the master himself.
And most body-fixated western people at the beginning of this third millennium applaud this body-made-master. Today, a good ‘body’ can be the entry ticket to a world career. The New York Times stated that for many people in Hollywood “outer beauty has become a secular religion”. 41 million US Americans and 6 million Germans often work out several times a week in fitness studios. Already in the 1990s, male US Americans spent 800 million dollars every year to cover bald patches where others have hair, while 250,000 US Americans had their excess fat scraped away with a scalpel. Even fifteen years ago, cosmetic surgery was no longer just a craze among the already beautiful and rich: two-thirds of the millions of US Americans who underwent cosmetic surgery in 1997(for ca. 1.75 billion dollars per year!) had a yearly household income of less than 50,000 dollars. The use of cosmetic surgery procedures has soared even more in popularity in recent years, with a total of 13.8 million plastic surgery procedures performed in 2011 in the United States, based on statistics provided by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Breast augmentation (307,000 procedures), rhinoplasty or nose jobs (244,000), liposuction (205,000), eyelid surgery (196,000) and facelifts (119,000) remained most in demand last year. Botox alone scored high with 5.7 million procedures. And that’s just in the USA.
Ralf, a German student, took anabolic steroids for an extended period of time. His muscles were eventually supposed to balloon into real muscle-mountains. The amount that he consumed daily was enough “to fatten up a cowshed ready for slaughter,” wrote the German news magazine Der Spiegel. And how his muscles swelled! It was so impressive that Ralf even accepted that his libido was also swelling like crazy and could only be stilled by sleeping with his girlfriend two or three times a day. She eventually fled. Ralf also became increasingly aggressive. Fights at nightclubs took this hitherto gentle young man before the juvenile court twice. Luckily, Ralf recognised that he was headed in the wrong direction before it got even worse. His great role model, Andreas Münzer, paid for his own muscle craze with his life. When Münzer was 31, his body elemental slipped away. Andreas died an early, senseless death. His prize-winning, muscle-swelled body, for which he had lived, and which he had over-worked, fattened, starved, and—for better muscle definition in competitions—deprived of water, was buried in the ground. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. You can’t take your body with you to the other side—unfortunately.
The other side? That doesn’t matter to the body-fixated. They hope to find heaven on earth in a good body—and in our externally enslaved world, they often succeed, at least superficially. “Sport gave me stability, poise, and self-confidence. My ego is as hard as steel, I don’t cave in with the first failure,” said Arnold Schwarzenegger many years ago in an interview. He continued: “For me, training is as important as eating, drinking, and sleeping. I am an addict, a fitness fanatic. When I train, it has an immediate effect on my brain, on my moods and my wellbeing. There are some people in our industry who are unbelievably successful in their film business but who aren’t doing as well in their family lives. Others are happily married but are miserable because their career isn’t advancing. Everything is working in my life: Success, family. It’s like heaven on earth for me.” But just shortly after these words, in 1997, Arnold Schwarzenegger underwent an operation for a heart valve defect and they gave him a pig-valve as replacement.