If I have not forgotten anything unintentionally, these are the principal opinions concerning the soul. I have omitted Democritus, a very great man indeed, but one who deduces the soul from the fortuitous concourse of small, light, and round substances; for, if you believe men of his school, there is nothing which a crowd of atoms cannot effect. Which of these opinions is true, some God must determine: The great question is: which is most similar to truth?M. Tullius Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, I.XI | As translated literally by C. D. Yonge with some very recent assistance.
I find it remarkably clever and beautiful, that Cicero’s perhaps most influential work, the Tusculan Disputations, opens with the question of death, and whether or not to fear it. From this very simple, and by no means rare, discourse, Cicero begins to pull a thread of great metaphysical wisdom out from this initially rather vulgar and tangled philosophical question. I pulled the opening quote for this piece from this opening question, as I think it is quite self-evident in its relevance to the modern condition of unrelenting rationalism. Indeed, why bother with rationale when discussing metaphysics? What is also so very self-evident is our divine, yet very much so fallen, nature. As Cicero says, the great question is to determine the philosophical theory that is closest to Truth.
There is nothing “True” about the science of the atom beyond its usefulness in describing our world. It bears no relation to our human, natural experiences. Our lives are not defined by the material, I think we can all agree, but instead are defined by our emotional reaction the material, and that is something which is not felt nor smelled nor tasted and thus bears absolutely no relation to the atomic world. So, the Church of Sods and other likeminded people seek a philosophy of Truth which is bereft of absolute rationalism, while remaining reasonable towards the realities and machinations of our inner and outer worlds. Besides, who is to say that, if you accept that all must be atomic and material, that each of our breaths, chaotically pushing air out into the universe cannot create a spirit unto itself: in the weather, the tides, the grasses and eventually all? Even Cicero himself remarks upon the fact (as I often do as well), that the Latin word for “Soul” is effectively the same as the Latin word for “breath”. In Cicero’s (translated) words:
There is great dispute even what the soul is, where it is, and whence it is derived: with some, the heart itself (cor) seems to be the soul, hence the expressions, excordes, vecordes, concordes; and that prudent Nasica, who was twice consul, was called Corculus, i.e., wise-heart; and Aelius Sextus is described as Egregie cordatus homo, catus Aelius Sextus—that great wise-hearted man, sage Aelius. Empedocles imagines the blood, which is suffused over the heart, to be the soul; to others, a certain part of the brain seems to be the throne of the soul; others neither allow the heart itself, nor any portion of the brain, to be the soul, but think either that the heart is the seat and abode of the soul, or else that the brain is so. Some would have the soul, or spirit, to be the anima, as our schools generally agree; and indeed the name signifies as much, for we use the expressions animam agere, to live; animam efflare, to expire; animosi, men of spirit; bene animati, men of right feeling; exanimi sententia, according to our real opinion; and the very word animus is derived from anima.M. Tullius Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, I.XI | As translated literally by C. D. Yonge.
Cicero begins into some wonderful linguistic work here, while also addressing a metaphysical topic with beautiful tact and brilliance. His writing here should be an inspiration and admission to all that linguistics are at the core of all lasting truth and wisdom. This is why the translator decided not to translate Cicero’s words in certain areas. They cannot be properly translated in the context here. Wonderful. Beautiful. Even more wonderful: linguists today have zero opposition to his linguistic assertions made ever so long ago in this book.
To digress from my musings and wonderment of the antiquities, we should all see that there is reality in all these propositions that Cicero mentions: our blood is what will nurture the soil in our death, blood spilt similarly so. Should we be cremated, then it is primarily our blood that goes up with the smoke. What shall that do to the atmosphere? What should it do to the soil? Our breath, again, can be asked the same questions, and I needn’t address the proposition of the brain, yet I shall:
The brain is indeed the seat of the soul, but it is not the home of the soul. The soul is a venturing and voyaging conqueror from far abroad and indeed far on high; the soul’s true home is in Heaven and with God. It is to here where the soul originates and it is here to where the soul shall return, greatly moved and reformed by its tenure in our bodily caravels.
So do not fret death, but you would also be sorely mistaken to openly rebel against your own soul’s dominion and deny yourself life and your soul their personae, with which the soul shall return to heaven with.
I encourage you all, friends, to read William Blake’s very short (and thus by no means book-length) Book of Thel. It is a short poem, but indisputably Sodean in every single avenue. It is the first relation that I can find in which modern man is openly proven through the art of poetics to be intrinsically of the soil. The biblical wisdom that we are formed from clay is nothing but Truth, and it is what describes our fallen nature, our wickedness, or ambivalence towards our desires and fears. The only acceptable path forward is accepting this fact. Our souls have fallen, and have been imparted upon the body, but should we forget this, we begin to sin in such prideful ways that they become so vulgar and vile that I shrink from even offering examples. In this excerpt, Blake relates man both to Clay and a “Worm” — a symbol that he uses throughout his entire work to both represent male sexuality as well as the condition of infancy — ie. to be able to weep, eat, sleep, drink, but not speak. We, the communicative Sods, are all “Clods of Clay”. In Thel, “Clod of Clay” refers to the mother of the “Worm”, which he illustrates as a woman and infant respectively and thusly:
The Clod of Clay heard the Worm’s voice, & raisd her pitying head;William Blake, The Book of Thel, Cap. III
She bow’d over the weeping infant, and her life exhal’d
In milky fondness; then on Thel she fix’d her humble eyes.
“O beauty of the vales of Har! we live not for ourselves;
Thou seest me the meanest thing, and so I am indeed;
My bosom of itself is cold, and of itself is dark,
But he that loves the lowly, pours his oil upon my head,
And kisses me, and binds his nuptial bands around my breast,
And says: ‘Thou mother of my children, I have loved thee
And I have given thee a crown that none can take away.’
But how this is, sweet maid, I know not, and I cannot know;
I ponder, and I cannot ponder; yet I live and love.”
The daughter of beauty wip’d her pitying tears with her white veil,
And said: “Alas! I knew not this, and therefore did I weep.
That God would love a Worm …”
Verily, take these last lines with you everywhere Sod, for you, despite your failings and spiritual uncleanliness, are loved by God as a mother loves her infant. A young child will often be punished by their mother or father, but an infant is surely not punished unless subject to truly inhuman and thus soulless parents. Despite this, you are still compelled, for Her giving you life, to return the favor in the most Beautiful and Truthful way that you possibly can.
Vita Amorque Veri: Poesis
If the most truthful thing in our lives is our emotions, rather than the material in which we are to exist unto death, then there is naught to do but embrace it fully. But, dear and beloved Sod, do be careful: there is magic in this garden. For sometimes, we must toil and pain and struggle for the majesty of a garden, but in this symbol of life, the roses are not always thorny and the honey not always sweet. Love for your Sodality and significant others is wasted if not embraced with the utmost fullness and truthful devotion. It is core to life that you be captured and struck down by this almighty emotion, which stems from the Monad itself, as our souls.
Your life is also not measured by its length but instead its poetic beauty, something I will continue to stress; but, will always add the caveat that if it is wasted for pointless and infantile causes that are not, at their core, romantic and human in nature, then you may as well have hung yourself — you’d be doing less evil and committing to less sin.
Ultimately the nature of Poesis within life is simple can be summarized thusly: do as these wise men all said and thus later found themselves in the midst of poesis, and commit your life towards God and life itself rather than the atom, the dollar, or any other thing which is dependent on some material construct. I assure you, your soul will have no use for such dedications when it has departed your body.
Most importantly for you, avaricious and fallen little Sod (as I too), a life that has become poetry itself is a life enjoyed — a life which can be reflected upon fondly. Even if you cannot bring yourself to believe that there is something beyond the material (which I find to be a tragic condition, but it is simply the case, as Cicero said two millenia ago, that some people cannot be stripped away from Democritus’ Atom), then you, even at a moment’s notice of death, will be able to kindly reflect back on your life without much regret nor resistance. If you must die, and especially if you believe that death means obliteration, then surely the greatest good you can do unto yourself is to have peace in your death. To reflect upon your personal poesis, the poesis of your age, and the love you have shared with your family and friends or sodality, is the ultimate peace in death.
Regardless, our souls will live on carrying the burden of our memories, and, as in the Carmina Sodalium, death is “hell until heaven”. We must repent in eternity for our sins, and our time spent in this condition is contingent upon the graveness of them. We all will return to God given that we have souls, but the clean-up job is not a fun one should we fail in these things: of maintaining a generous yet faithful attitude towards all of our fellow human kin, towards love for God, towards poesis…
Towards heaven both above and below…
post scriptum: “poesis” is not the same as “poiesis”. Poesis is the condition of poetic harmony, poiesis is something else entirely. It has come to my attention that this is a common misunderstanding as “poiesis” is the definition you get when googling poesis. Apparently the engineers at Google have not yet realized that new word creation is essential to the progression of humanity, despite themselves creating a whole new verb: “to google”. Not that I would expect them to create a definition for poesis, but the mere assumption that a word can be “wrong” despite having a distinct meaning among those who know it, is revolting to me.