"God created man in his image;
in the divine image he created him;
male and female he created them."
-- Gen 1:27
What does this simple passage mean?
I think it is startlingly deceptive. On the surface, quite simple, but in truth, very complex. It is easy to some away with the literal translation, that man is physically created in the direct image of God. But does the Creator of all really look like Chuck Heston? Does Hollywood know something we do not? I do not think this is the case.
It is my thought that God's image is not a physical concept as we would understand it. God is beyond out mortal understanding, and as such to assume that is it our flesh and blood form that is spoken of in Genesis is rather short sighted, and a sign that we are trying to bring down the totality of the Creator into terms that we can understand. This, in my opinion is a dangerous thing. God is by nature, without nature, and outside our understanding. Attempts to limit him, so that we may understand him, do not do him justice.
It is my thought that it is not the flesh, but the soul, that is refered to in this passage. The flesh is weak stuff, transitory. It is a vessel for us while we are mortal, nothing more. God is eternal, as is our spirit. The flesh is fluid, the many races and phenotypes are testament to this. Humans are both male and female, a consequence of sexual reproductive strategy begun at the dawn of life. Is Gods form, if physical, as maleable as the near 6 billion humans who inhabit the Earth? The constant among all humans is the spirit.
Our physical shell, while capable of maturation, really does not evolve throughout our lifetime. We are born, we grow, we die. Our form is discarded. Our spirit can evolve, growing spiritually, if we so choose. We can move our spirit along to "greater" levels, or advance along some path, based on what faith one holds. In all faiths, the spirit is eternal, and in some cases can even reincarnate, allowing it to use the flesh again as a vessel in which to grow even more. Regardless of method, the spirit can "move" down the "shining path" as i like to call it. In doing so, i believe it moves closer to God, from whom it emanates.
It is our human spirit that allows us to question. It is our soul that allows us to appreciate our condition, our failings, our greatness. It is that which makes us human which allows us to move closer to God.
Can there be any higher aspiration than greater understanding of, and closeness with, God? This may sound like religious zeal, wrapped in pseudo-pagan finery. This is however, what consumes my every moment, both waking, and dreaming. I can see no other path. A greater understanding of God, our place in the universe, what it means to live, to die, a sense of peace with oneself, all these i see as one and the same. In greater knowledge of the Creator, all else will fall into place.
There are many more paths which promise a greater understanding than i could possibly hope to describe. There are more definitions of "greater understanding" than i could hope to understand. My path is one of discovery. Discovery of that which i have forgotten. Every moment of revelation is like a memory reawakened. It is like i am on a backwards walk, to that moment of primal creation, from which i sprang forth, but without knowledge of that which went before.
This is where i see the animals coming into play. They have not forgotten so much as we. It is through they, that we may remember what we have forgotten, and with this, move forward. Forward towards our goal, whatever that may hold. In nurturing our relationship with our animal, we learn what it is to be human. It is hard to see from the inside, just what we are. We truly have no basis for comparison. The animals, even at their most distant, allow us to see ourselves in a new light.
While all things ultimately come from God, be they flesh, spirit, whatever, including the spirits of the animals and our souls, it is our souls which stand out among them all. It is we who question, who seek, who dare to philosophize our place in the scheme. The animals cannot do this thing, except through us. It is not to slight the animals to say that we are closer to God. I'm not sure if such definitions really have meaning where God is concerned. We are simply different. The animals have their place, as do we. While our place may be different, they can be complementary to each other.
It is this complementary nature which, for those who chose to follow this path, leads to spiritual growth and closeness with the Creator. In greater understanding of the animal, what it is to be an animal, in greater closeness to the animal, we learn what it is to be human. We remember that which we have forgotten. In finding what it is to be human, we can open our eyes, and move to greater harmony with the Creator.
I think to try to eclipse the human, in favor of the animal is a dangerous thing. Without the human, the animal would have no vehicle with which to work through. To truly give in to the animal would leave the human with no medium to exist in our world, and it is our world in which we must work with. While many of us seek to truly, fully become the animal, to do so would mean disaster, whether it be in terms of their spirit, or their physical existance, or both.
There seems to be a sort of synergy, when dealing with bringing together the human and the animal, where the result of the combination is greater than the sum of the individual parts. This greater nature leads to wisdom held by neither participants previously. Our human soul is capable of this advancement, it can tread in places the animal may not dare. The animals remember much which we have forgotten. Together, both can benefit.
Our human soul is a special thing, capable of so much, if we have the will and the way. We are cast in the image of God, but we have forgotten much. The animals help us remember.