Water Mosaic echoes from home

pondering the mysteries, simplicity, and humor of life

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Wendell Berry on Dualism

“Dualism manifests itself in several ways: as a cleavage, a radical discontinuity, between Creator and creature, spirit and matter, religion and nature, religion and economy, worship and work, and so on. This dualism, I think, is the most destructive disease that afflicts us. In its best known, its most dangerous, and perhaps its fundamental version, it is the dualism of body and soul. This is an issue as difficult as it is important, and so to deal with it we should start at the beginning. The crucial test is probably Genesis 2:7, which gives the process by which Adam was created. “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed in to his nostrils the breath of life: and man became a living soul.” The formula given in Genesis 2:7 is not man = body + soul; the formula there is soul = dust + breathe. According to this verse, God did not make a body and put a soul into it, like a letter into an envelope. He formed man of dust; then, by breathing His breath into it, He made the dust live. ‘Soul’ here refers to the whole creature. Humanity is thus presented to us, in Adam, not as a creature of two discrete parts temporarily glue together but as a single mystery.”

Thus, as Berry continues, we can make a duality of our one living soul by disassociating with the breath of God as our common bond with one another and with other creatures. More over, we can create duality in disowning the dust element of each one. Our bodies and this earth are not to be abused or neglected because of the forthcoming eternal bliss called heaven. By no means. Heaven is not a warehouse of “souls” disembodied from our flesh and bones. “But to despise the body or mistreat it for the sake of the ‘soul’ is not just to burn one’s house for the insurance, nor is it just self-hatred of the most deep and dangerous sorts. It is yet another blasphemy.”

from Berry's essay "Christianity and the Survival of Creation"