The modern individual is able to meet another person and see through to his or her essential presence as an individual human spirit. To do this the various other ‘lesser bodies’ are momentarily disregarded, such as the person’s race, sex, nationality, language, religion, class, political affiliation and profession. To be able to behold the other, one has to momentarily renounce the otherwise continuous experience of self-feeling. This experience of feeling oneself as a self has grown both in its magnitude and intensity. It thus becomes increasingly resistant to the necessary renunciation for the purpose of receiving the revelation of another’s individuality.

The intensity of the experience of feeling oneself as a self has the side effect of promoting a disregard towards all the ‘lesser bodies.’  We’ve all probably heard someone claim how they are not an American, (or some other nationality) but rather ‘a citizen of the world.’ In this sentiment is expressed a reluctance to identify with one’s nationality. It is a tendency of the individual human spirit to be reluctant or to outright reject identifying with any one of the lesser bodies.

Along with this rejection comes the tendency to hyper-identify with this or that lesser body.  Nationalism is a familiar case; the essence, however, is not restricted to national identity. Hyper-identity results when an individual identifies with one of her lesser bodies, and to such an extent that she experiences her identity as existentially inseparable from that lesser body. In such a case that body is no longer experienced as an instrument of the individual but as indistinguishable from it.

Nothing more effectively cements the individual human spirit to one of the lesser bodies than fear. Storms of thought-phantoms are let loose into the world with the explicit intention to polarize people into factions of ‘hyper-group-identity.’ These groups then become charged against their opposites. Conflict between the groups becomes as inevitable as the natural laws governing magnets. In such a state of hyper-identity as we witness presently in political groups, individuals lose their ability to gain perspective above the prevailing thoughts which define their political bodies, their political selves.

In this situation we are in need of Michael’s gaze, which would help us crack the cement of fear imprisoning us within any lesser body of identity. We need his gaze to see through to the essential human spirit of the person we would otherwise condemn as ‘wrong.’

Michael’s way does not seek to sever us from our ‘lesser bodies’ but rather to honor, respect, and bare the burden of responsibility inherent in the bodies given to us from birth and during the course of our upbringing — and those we choose as adults. He leads us to understand the mystery of the name.

“Those who did receive him were able to reveal themselves, through him, as children of God; those trusting in his name who: not of blood, nor of the will of flesh, nor of human will but are born of God.”

Through this verse from the Prologue of the Gospel of John we encounter the mystery of the name. Contained in one’s name are most of the essential elements of how we manifest in the world through the sheaths of all the lesser bodies: race, sex, family, language, culture, nation, religion. The elements that in the Prologue are described as: blood, the will of flesh and human will. These are the ephemeral, mortal aspects of our existence and compose the human personality in all of its various ingredients. To the extent to which a human spirit individualizes the personality is the extent to which the immortal spiritual self is revealed in the world through the name.

We are all known by our names. In the course of our lives our names take on new meaning through our work in the world. Michael, champion of the human spirit’s name, guards us from devaluing ourselves on the scales of the lesser bodies.

Hugh Thornton