Spirit and Matter

A line of contemplation very much inspired by John’s thoughtful critique of my ‘body and soul’ piece a few days ago…

John pointed out that a belief in spirit does not automatically lead to dualistic thinking. So, I considered my own attitudes to spirit, trying to pin down exactly what I think. We’re very much in the realms of what cannot be rationally known here, but belief shapes action, and seeing the mechanics of that can be very useful. Our whole understanding of what the world is and what life is for comes from belief, not evidence.

I believe in ideas of spirit and soul, but what does that mean, what do I think it is? Energy, first and foremost, the energy that is life and ideas. But, a glance out of the window is enough to show that such energy is very much tied up with matter, and it would be hard to say which (if either) is the consequence of the other. Energy moves between physical life forms, through eating, and the release of decay. So spirit flows also (as I see it). This does not preclude a notion of individual spirit, just as our flesh forms, and falls away to other things, so might spirit, but perhaps it is also able to continue in conscious form beyond bodily death. I have no clarity of afterlife belief, or any sense of what might continue, but am conscious that early pagans largely did believe in life after death.

There are also things within the world that are present without being material – wind and sunlight for a start. Darkness feels like a very present thing to me. Inspiration the same. Where we perceive the ‘action’ is where this energy interacts with material things.

This material world around us is the one our bodies have developed to perceive and interact with. It doesn’t mean it is the only truth, and perception is not necessarily objective reality, as any stage magician can show us. We have to work with our own perceptions though. I wonder if reality is more layered, the material things we experience only being one facet of a far more complex whole. I can imagine webs of spirit, layers of thread and flow that interact creating connections and meanings beyond our ordinary awareness. My imagining it does not make it so, but my very physical understanding of the world is rooted in experience, and untrustworthy though it is, it is also the only thing I can trust.

My notions of spirit are based on experiencing what it does – not spirit as some abstract concept, but as immediate, energetic forms impacting on me. Wind and sun, tree and bird – things that I can make some sense of. If I can hear something, smell it, or experience it as a tactile presence (there is an invisible cat in my house, I have felt it walk over me) I can do something with that. I don’t expend much energy on contemplating things I can’t in some way interact with – making very abstract notions of gods unappealing.

Spirit, for me, has a numinous quality, it illuminates. Where something is rich in spirit, I get an impression of ‘glow’, of there being depth behind the material surface. Not everything I encounter is qualitatively the same in this regard. There is a world of difference between a mass produced plastic thing (with little or no soul) and something lovingly hand carved out of wood (and bright with spirit). I can say the same of people, places, all that there is, in fact. It seems to me, to be about flow, and what passes through, a process involving give, and love, that I have only the barest sense of, but can see how it changes things.

I realise I’m scraping the surface of possibilities here, and that I have a lot more thinking to do. Thank you John for the prompt, I’ll be exploring these, and other related issues in a lot more detail, personally, and on this blog.


In May (May’s article HERE), I showed you how the Virtues of the Asatru and Druid (ADF) traditions differed and that only three of them were actually the same:

This month, we shall be looking at the Virtue of Perseverance in a little more detail, and, with the help of an Asatru Gythia (gyðja) and a Senior Druid, we will see how this Virtue relates to a Kindred and a Grove, and the members therein.

The Meaning of Perseverance

Sylvie, Gythia ~ Mapleheim Kindred (Asatru):

Steadfastness (or perseverance) is a combination of all the Nine Noble Virtues.  It takes a lot of perseverance to be courageous, truthful, honourable, loyal, disciplined, hospitable, industrious, and independent. It is cumulative effects of the small actions, repeated on a daily basis that makes people reliable and steadfast.  It is prevailing against the quiet desperation of the soul that can set in when life seems ready to overwhelm you.  Perseverance keeps you sitting at your desk for another hour of overtime, when you would rather leave and go to the beach.  It is the repetition of scales and arpeggios for the musician, and the fortitude necessary for the long-distance runner to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  It is the quality that made our ancestors repeat the sowing, weeding and harvesting of their crops, and to keep their animals healthy so they would survive the winter.

Steadfastness helps to ensure the continuation of the individual, the family unit, and society as a whole.   It is far easier for someone to abandon their responsibilities and walk away, than to overcome the situation by staying and trying to resolve their problems.  It takes perseverance to get up every morning to go to a job you might hate, but that you need to assure the survival of your family and your pride.

As the Havamal tells us, “the lying down wolf never got the lamb, nor sleeping wight slew his foe”.

Julie, Senior Druid ~ Thornhaven Grove (ADF):

Perseverance is not unlike courage, in the ability to push through hardship or difficulty. It is also linked to the concept of vision, in the sense that in having a vision, you are able to remain focused and work towards it. Perseverance is an act of will, and taps into one’s discipline, the ability to continue applying oneself to a task or goal regardless of external (and sometimes internal) factors. Perseverance is also a means of dealing with conflict or problems. Dealing with conflict with equanimity, holding on to the vision and pushing through–this would exemplify perseverance in the face of adversity. In offering your suffering/struggle to the Gods, perseverance becomes a holy act, and brings in another virtue: faith. Having faith that what you are doing is part of the “Great Plan” helps you persevere. That being said, there is always a fine line between perseverance and stubbornness–one should always be open to changing course if the original course proves wrong or pointless.

I have to say that both descriptions of perseverance are, in my opinion, spot on. Life, itself, would not exist if not for perseverance, survival is yet another word for it.

When one perseveres and succeeds, the mental, and in some cases physical, rewards are outstanding, the sense of achievement is intense and well deserved, no matter the reason.

We persevere in our lives a lot more than we think we do and often we have no clue that we are persevering until we step back and look at our actions or someone points them out to us.

  • If you took a step back right now, what areas of your life would you recognize as times of sheer perseverance and determination of will?
  • Or is perseverance something you have found to be lacking in your life, perhaps something you need to work on?

To end this month’s article, I would like to share with you an inspirational journey of perseverance taken by one woman:

Blessings to your Hearth,

Edain Duguay.com
Paranormal/Fantasy Novelist, Best Selling eBook Author and Award Winning Blog Writer.

Author of the blogs:
English, Pagan and in Canada
Worlds Of My Own Making
Gramarye, The Magical Homestead

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