Ahimsa & Wicca

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Ahimsa is a philosophical concept that translates literally into ‘not to strike’. It is also generally interpreted as meaning ‘non-violence’ and ‘compassion’. It is mostly associated with Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Of these three, Jainism has the most strict interpretation and adherence. For many Jains, this means not even perpetrating violence for self-defense, and certainly not in war. Of course, one does not need to be a follower of these religions to practice Ahimsa.

Ahimsa means practicing compassion and non-violence toward all living things. In even the loosest interpretation, very few, if any, exceptions can be made. Humans are not held at a higher regard than non-human animals, thus the killing of animals and consumption of meat is strictly forbidden. Violence toward those who themselves perpetrate violence is also prohibited. For example, a follower of Ahimsa shall not endorse the death penalty or any other violent punishment for any person convicted of committing a violent act. The only time an exception may be made is in the case of self-defense or the defense of another innocent person.

The theory behind Ahimsa is the belief that all life is sacred and connected. No one individual is more or less important than another, and therefore you shall cause no harm to a fellow living being. All life is also connected, so when violence is perpetrated against one, it is committed against all. Violence harms everyone, which is why we must refrain from it.

Wicca teaches a deep respect and reverence for nature and life. The most prominent line of the Wiccan Rede, ‘An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will’, only furthers this point. In this way, the philosophy of Ahimsa is compatible with the religion of Wicca. In order to have a respect for nature and life, we must refrain from harming it by practicing compassion and non-violence. The practice of Ahimsa promotes the greatest good, as violence has no positive outcome, as its only purpose is to cause harm to what we hold sacred.

Sex & Spirituality

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. (I will be spending the day posting goofy Valentine cards on Facebook and waiting for the day after when candy will be sold at a discounted price). The holiday’s name comes from that of a martyred saint, but actually has roots in Paganism. To learn more about this subject, I recommend reading the following: http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/imbolcfebruary2/p/ValentinesDay.htm

This article, however, will focus on sex and spirituality. I felt that this time of year would be an appropriate time to write it.

Duality of Sex

Sex is both a physical and spiritual act. It is one of the most intimate acts that people can engage in with one another; physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When we have sex, we are not only sharing our bodies, but also our core energy. Even when we have an intimate conversation with someone, we are connecting with them on a spiritual level, becoming closer both emotionally and spiritually. Sex is even more intense than this, as it is one of the most intimate acts we are capable of in the physical world.

This is why we must view sex in both a physical and spiritual sense, as we are both physical and spiritual beings. By rejecting one or the other, we are not a complete person. If we view sex as only a means of having physical pleasure, we will be left spiritually empty. Similarly, if we completely reject the physical pleasure aspect of sex, we will become physically frustrated and deprived. As with everything else, it is important to have a proper balance of both.

Sexual Morality

Because sexual activity does not positively or negatively affect anyone but the individuals directly involved in the act itself, I do not believe it is logical to argue whether or not sex is ‘moral’ or ‘immoral’. As long as it is between consensual individuals, it would not be right to label it as ‘immoral’. This being said, I am disheartened by the way in which society as a whole views sex. We are moving toward a ‘hookup culture’ in which it is viewed as completely normal and acceptable to have one night stands with complete strangers. While I will not label this as immoral, I will argue that there is nothing positive about it.

As stated earlier, sex is a very intimate act, both physically and spiritually. When people choose to ‘hookup’, they are only viewing sex as a means to obtain physical pleasure. They do not care about the other person. In fact, in this way, sex is a very selfish act. Sex should be something that enhances an already existing relationship and with someone we have  a strong connection to. When we have sex strictly for physical pleasure, we are rejecting the spiritual aspect of ourselves and our partners.

This is not to say that physical pleasure is something to be avoided or that there is anything ‘immoral’ about it, quite the contrary. Because we are both physical and spiritual beings, we should pay attention to both aspects of our being. But when we reject one or the other and strive to ‘feed’ only one of them, we are not a complete person.

The Nature of Spirit & The Afterlife

In this article we are going to explore what exactly a soul is and what the Afterlife may be like. For the purpose of this article I am going to use the terms ‘soul’ and ‘afterlife’. Alternatively, one could use the terms ‘spirit’, ‘life force’, etc. when referring to the soul; and terms such as ‘Otherworld’, ‘Spirit Realm’, ‘Heaven’, etc. when referring the Afterlife. However, I chose to use the fairly generic terms ‘soul’ and ‘afterlife’ so that anyone can relate to what we are discussing, regardless of which specific term they may use.

What is a soul?

The first thing we must consider is the nature of the soul. What exactly is it, and how is it defined? First, a soul is immaterial, nonphysical. It comes from, and will return to, the spiritual realm of existence. It is immortal, meaning it cannot die or be destroyed. In essence, it is purely spiritual energy. The soul is what gives us consciousness, sentience, and self awareness.

Which came first: the body or the soul?

When our body reaches a certain stage of development, a soul is attached to it. It is difficult to pinpoint when exactly this occurs. It may occur when the heart starts beating, when activity begins in the brain, or at the moment we are born. There are many different theories regarding this issue. Some argue as early as conception, others argue when the individual reaches puberty (although I find this idea particularly absurd). I am inclined to believe it is when activity begins in the brain, but I cannot say this with 100% certainty. What I will say with a fair amount of certainty is that the body is given a soul at some point between conception and birth.

The soul, when first attached to the body, is ‘blank’. As I wrote about previously, I do not subscribe to the idea of reincarnation. When the person is born, the soul attached to the body never inhabited another body, nor does it have any karma following it. The soul is an entity of pure spiritual energy that gives the person consciousness. It has no prior experiences with the physical world attached to it at this point.

Are we a body or a soul?

During our life on earth, we are both a body and a soul. This is commonly referred to as ‘duality’. During physical life, the soul is attached to the body. [This is not always the case, as explained by out of body experiences, astral travel, and generally being aware of the spiritual world. However, we are not going to explore these concepts in any great depth for the purposes of this article.] As the mind and body develop, the soul develops along with them. Because the soul is attached to the body, all memories, feelings, thoughts, etc. become a part of the soul. In essence, the soul is who we are, and the body is the soul’s housing unit for the duration of our lives in the physical world.

Which is more important?

Both body and soul are important, but the soul is arguably more important. Without it, there would only be a physical body, and ‘we’ would not exist. It is not possible for a purely physical object to give consciousness, self awareness, or sentience. With this understanding, the soul is clearly the most important. However, it is worth noting that the physical body is what makes the soul capable of experiencing life on the physical plane of existence, so it would be foolish to neglect the importance of the body.

Death

The body, being of the physical world, is mortal. Therefore, it will of course one day die. The soul, however, being of the spiritual world, is immortal. It cannot die or be destroyed. When death of the body occurs, the soul leaves its physical housing unit. The soul is ‘you’, your conscious self. Every memory and thought you’ve ever had is engrained in your soul, it is you. You did not die when your body died, you simply left your body when it died.

You’re ‘dead’, now what?

What exactly is the Afterlife? What is it like? The Afterlife exists on the spiritual plane of existence, or the spiritual world. There is but one spiritual world. This does not mean that it is simplistic, quite the contrary. However, the concept of ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ is flawed. Every soul goes to the same afterlife, although experiences may differ. The purpose of the Afterlife is not to be rewarded or punished for earthly deeds. Rather it is where the soul returns to its nature as a purely spiritual entity.

In the Afterlife, we are reunited with past loved ones. It is common for those who have had near death experiences to report seeing, and sometimes speaking with, loved ones who have passed on. During our life on earth, our soul becomes close with other’s souls through relationships. When we move onto the spiritual world, our souls are reunited. Some have even theorized that the most important attribute of the soul is its ability to love other souls.

Is the Afterlife a pleasant experience?

For the majority, yes. If you have lived a fairly decent life on earth, you will have a positive experience in the Afterlife. However, there are no doubt individuals who have committed atrocities beyond any justification. These individuals will face repercussions in the Afterlife for their actions on earth, However, this is not referring to hell. These individuals will go the same spiritual realm as everyone else, but their experience could be quite different.

When our soul fully transcends into the spiritual realm, we are able to comprehend much more than we could during our physical lives. We are granted great knowledge and understanding of pure forms and ideas. For most, this creates a feeling of great peace. However, those who have committed terrible atrocities become aware of the nature of their actions. They are overcome with guilt and grief. This creates a personal ‘hell’, if you will. The soul must then work through what they’ve done, with a pure understanding of how their actions have affected others. Many believe that with time, any soul can eventually be at peace.

Based upon my own introspection and research, I believe these ideas to be true. Of course, the specifics of the functioning soul and Afterlife are much more complex than what we have talked about here. However, the purpose of this article was to talk in general terms and give an overview of the nature of the soul and the Afterlife. One could easily write a book (or several) discussing all of the intricacies of these topics.