Incarnation Not Embodiment

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In my Sacred Sunday offering yesterday I posted a video from Adi Da which talks about the body becoming a sacrifice to God. He also describes the process of the body opening up and becoming radiant. I think this theme of body opening and working with and as the body is really important--particularly when there is I think a great deal of confusion with the over-emphasis on embodiment (for more on why I think that, here).

David-SpanglerSpiritual author and mystic David Spangler teaches what he calls incarnational spirituality. I really appreciate the distinction he lays in the following quotation between embodiment versus incarnation.

When we think of incarnation, we usually think of taking on and having a body. But it is more than that. Incarnation is the means the soul uses to connect with this world in order to create a mutually productive and beneficial relationship of wholeness with it. As such incarnation is more than just embodiment. It is the whole range of interactions and engagements that we create and experience as we go through life. Rather than the event of taking on a body, incarnation is an ongoing process.

To be embodied is to just be part of the environment to which that body belongs. A physical body makes me part of the physical world. A "body" of being an employee of Microsoft makes me part of the Microsoft world. American citizenship and residency is a "body" that makes me part of the United States.

Incarnation, though, is more than just embodiment. It is the dynamic process of connectedness and interaction that not only makes me part of something larger but enables me to be a participant in its unfoldment and wellbeing. I become a co-creator, helping that environment achieve a state of optimal performance and being that I call wholeness.

3 types of bodies gross body sthula sharira subtle astral body linga sharira causal body karana sharira 1In integral spirituality (following the tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism and Vendanta Hinduism), there is the teaching of the three bodies. We each have three bodies: gross, subtle, and causal. The gross being the physical body. The subtle is the body we reside in during dreams, allowing us to move and interact through imagination, feeling, energy, thought, and emotion. The causal (also called in the Vajaryana tradition 'the very subtle') is the body we are during dreamless sleep. It's the body of deep meditation, the body of our spirit. 

When we hear talk of embodiment it's often left unspecified which body (or bodies) are being invoked. Usually however embodiment means the gross or physical body and here there is actually a potential problem. If a person enters a causal state and experiences causal energy (via their causal body) and then are told to embody this--and embodiment means the physical body--then they might try to bypass their subtle body and go straight to their physical body. But the physical body cannot hold such energy/consciousness if it has not first been mediated ("brought down"). 

In Spangler's terminology we have to build chalices--spiritual containers that can hold, mediate, and funnel the consciousness and energy of Spirit through the whole of our being.  

Ice Crystal Chalice by rockgem

At minimum then, we should talk about tri-bodiment (triple embodiment). But I agree with Spangler that the better term is incarnation which cultivates the sense of interrelationship between body and its enviroment (gross body and gross environment, subtle body & environment, causal body & environment).  

Spangler's work on blessing, subtle activism (a great term), and energy hygiene (another great one) are far more lifegiving, empowering, and wise (I believe) than so much common teaching on the supposed necessity of embodiment.  

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  • Comment Link Chuck D Monday, 24 September 2012 17:00 posted by Chuck D

    Oh I'm glad to see Spangler's work brought to light on this site. I've been following him for a few decades now and he's easily the most insightful and articulate teacher out there.

    In the realm of spritual practice and understanding he makes profound connections and in descriptive ability he has no peer in English IMHO, unless it's William Irwin Thompson who connects dots in much the same way but more in the realm of esoteric scholarship.

  • Comment Link Chris Dierkes Monday, 24 September 2012 22:16 posted by Chris Dierkes

    Hi Chuck,

    I'm glad you liked this piece. I've only read a few of DS's books. Sounds like you've read more of them. Would you be interested in maybe writing a bit on what you appreciate about his work?


    PS I loved your work in Public Enemy :).

  • Comment Link Ian Johnson Wednesday, 26 September 2012 17:54 posted by Ian Johnson

    Thanks for sharing this article about David Spangler. I am greatly enjoying reading his newly published (Aug 2012) memoir "Apprenticed to Spirit" which is available from Banyen Bookstore in Vancouver (of course)

  • Comment Link Steven Brody Thursday, 27 September 2012 01:59 posted by Steven Brody

    One of my very earliest spiritual influences was Spangler's "Laws of Manifestation". I loaned it out about 25 years ago, so a couple of years ago looked for in on the inet -- seems to be out of print, and I paid about $60 for a used one. Great reading, though it feels quite dated since I'm out of my New Age; Now Old Age. Dont see much about Findhorn anymore, but they seem to still be going.

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