Awhile back I talked about the Pagan concept of salvation being temporal rather than eternal. I’ve been thinking about what that means.
If we start with the premise that Paganism begins with the idea that there is nothing wrong with you, that you are not lost, disconnected, in eternal danger, in need of transcendence or incomplete, then eternal salvation doesn’t factor in. Most religions, and possibly a few Pagan religions, base their entire teachings on some concept of eternal salvation. This might be the cause of the greatest disconnect in interfaith work with Pagans. While religions who have a concept of eternal salvation have a great deal in common, religions that only deal with temporal salvation are working within a completely different mindset and theological framework from Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. This isn’t helped by the fact that eternal salvation in religious circles is valued as higher than temporal salvation. The spiritual is considered higher or better than the material.
But for most Pagans, the material is holy. Our bodies are not dirty, but sacred. The earth is not a place of trial and tribulation, but our beautiful home and mother to our species. There is nothing “base” about our material needs and desires.
I know there is a concern about not treating the Gods as if they are vending machines, and we all know the groan-worthy Pagan tomes on love and money spells. Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows I’m dead set on reciprocity in our relationships with the Gods. But the truth is humans are animals. We have bodies and minds. Those bodies and minds have needs. We need food, shelter, warmth, and water. We need love, friendship, stories, sex and laughter. Sex is no less a real and holy need than meditation. Being able to put food on the table is not less spiritually important than being able to commune with the Gods.
I think it was in The Spiral Dance where Starhawk said she went to a Pagan event where people were asking for blessings. She asked for something for her friend, and a woman insisted she ask for something for herself too. That’s an important thing to remember, that our physical and temporal needs are holy, important and of interest to the Gods. There are reasons the Gods are known for providing temporal assistance to humankind. Aphrodite isn’t the Goddess of love because she’s completely uninterested in our love lives. Asclepius isn’t a God of healing because he doesn’t care about our health. Athena isn’t a Goddess of wisdom because she could care less whether we can afford an education.
I often find small “catch-phrases” in music that have deep meaning for me. One of the phrases I have been contemplating is from Bone Poets Orchestra’s song Family:
Takes a lotta courage to stand up and get what you need.
I think that’s a powerful phrase. It takes a lot of courage to admit you need help with something. To admit you need something “base” and material, even carnal. It can be hard to remember these things are holy when the overculture says they are not.
This morning I’m thinking about the things I need. The things that are material, that are the desires of my body, and that are the basic needs of my human nature. I’m thinking about the things I don’t like to admit I need because they seem “base” or less than spiritual. But I’m also thinking that the virtues of honesty, honor and courage don’t just apply to my spiritual life or my highest aims. They apply to my sex life, my financial well-being and my need for physical security.
So maybe when confronted with needs or desires we think are unworthy of us, we should examine them closely. Maybe we should remember the material is as sacred as the spiritual, and that it “takes a lotta courage to stand up and get what you need.”
Temporal salvation isn’t a lesser form of salvation. Rather it’s practical, immediate and useful. Rather than some pie-in-the-sky afterlife, temporal salvation is what keeps the human species alive. It’s what keeps us evolving, creating and reaching for the stars.