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Excersus XXXVI: The Way of Some Flesh


Hatred of the body is such a common trait of world religion that you could almost call it a necessary condition for being a religion. Almost. The examples in Christianity, and particularly Protestantism, are too many to enumerate. Hinduism's many purification rituals speak to a baseline notion that the body is, left to its own devices, untrustworthy. Likewise Judaism and Islam with regard to the cleansing of the female body. It's a good move for a religion - if you can get people to despise their bodies and its pleasures, you have obscured the brightness of life enough that abstract future rewards seem like a decent recompense instead of a sham. More than that, the body does tend to let us down eventually - it gets sick and hurt an awful lot, and more so back when these religions were being invented, and if you can direct that annoyance at its passing faults into a thorough scorn of its basic nature, you've got something. So, slam dunk, right - if you're a religion you'd be foolish not to have hatred of the body at the center of your belief system.

Which brings us to the almost. The Greeks - those wonderful, wonderful blokes who knew what they liked and let their gods like the same stuff. I feel like every other post here has been "Here's something awful that everybody does... except the Greeks." They weren't willing to break the body as step one in breaking the mind. They thought it was just too damn awesome. They couldn't learn enough about it, or praise its form and complexity enough, and that strikes me as by and large the way to go.

- Count Dolby von Luckner