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Re: [xmca] fetishism

On Apr 26, 2011, at 12:25 PM, Monica Hansen wrote:

> I'd just like to point out that the origin of the word "spirit" is breath
> (which is a bodily activity), so it is interesting to me that spirit/soul
> became so strongly used and associated with a mental force contrasting with
> the body. The history of this particular word shows a lot of conceptual
> development :).
Morris writes about this:

"Similarly, in the early stages of human thought, there is no sharp opposition within religious ideology or practice of an immaterial spiritual soul to the physical body. Indeed, the soul begins its career as the breath of life which distinguishes the living organism from the corpse. This breath continued on after death, retaining its longing for the body. It lived on in the grave, demanding food, and hovering about the body, so elaborately preserved and duplicated by the Egyptians to provide a fit habitation for the breath of life" (2). 

For the early Greeks, "The Logos or World-Reason is objective mind, and it is not at all unlikely that this notion was formed on the analogy of the concept of soul as the breath of life. Anaximenes specifically held that 'just as our soul which is air holds us together, so it is breath and air that encompasses the whole world.' In Burnet's words, air was held to be 'the life of the world, just as the breath was the life of the body.'"

Morris suggests that this "earlier recognition of a breath of life which animated the body and which entered and left it" was one of the factors from which "the ground is laid for the conception of a substantial immaterial soul" (11), a ball which Christianity took up and ran with, of course.

The result was a deep seated "conception of the soul as the breath of life, the principle of motion in the individual and in the cosmos at large" (15). 

I think one could go in a number of directions from these observations. What strikes me is how what might strike us today as a rather abstract conception had its roots in a very quotidian - if unsettling - observation: the dead are no longer breathing.



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