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Contemporary Voices from Anima Mundi

A Reappraisal

Edited By Frédérique Apffel-Marglin and Stefano Varese

This book is a reconsideration of spirituality as a lived experience in the lives of the contributors. The authors speak both as well-informed scholars and as individuals who experienced the lived spirituality they give voice to. The authors do not place themselves above and outside of what they are writing about but within that world. They speak of living psychospiritual traditions of healing both the self and the world; of traditions that have not disembedded the self from the wider world. Those traditions are from indigenous North and South America (5 essays), a Buddhist/Shakta from Bengal, an Indo-Persian Islamic psychoanalyst, and a mystical Jewish feminist rabbi. The book also includes a historical essay about the extermination of the Renaissance worldview of Anima Mundi.

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Chapter Five: Between Matter and Spirit: An Unfinished Journey (Stefano Varese)


chapter five

Between Matter and Spirit: An Unfinished Journey

stefano varese

At age sixteen, I became a hesitant traveler in search of my father. That initial trip to the distant shores of Peru soon became an existential journey marked by the constant dialectics of materiality and spirituality, or what I perceived to be the unsolvable tension between tangible matter, which occupies concrete space and time, and the intangible but undeniable presence of other entities that are spaceless and timeless. In the following pages, I will use the Campa-Asháninka and other Indigenous peoples’ cosmologies as metaphors—or rather, emotional devices—for my attempts to unravel and understand these paradoxes. I am choosing this unusual method and narrative, a kind of intimate memoir, more as a tribute to the Indigenous peoples of the Americas and their uncanny way of seeking knowledge than as an intentional critique of my modern Western, rational background. Therefore, I am not going to support my text with numerous sources and careful reviews of academic analyses. Rather, I will pursue what theoretical quantum physicist F. David Peat (2002, 2014) has identified as Native/Indigenous people’s approach to knowledge, which he calls “coming-to-knowing.”1 In this approach, “Knowledge … is not a dead collection of facts. It is alive, has spirit, and dwells in specific places …. Coming-to-knowing means entering into relationship with the spirits of knowledge, with plants and animals, with beings that animate dreams and visions, and with the spirit of the people...

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