The Spirit

[TL;DR at the bottom]


Terranism recognizes the spirit as a core idea to its doctrine. The spirit is the backdoor out of individualism, the intersection of intersectionality, the fundamental emergent entity that you think of when you think of yourself. It is the tangled recursive computer that looks out and in, it is you.  The spirit is the crystalization of social justice and network thinking into one concept. We’ll use intersectionality to illustrate it.

Intersectionality as Inspiration for the Spirit

According to intersectionality, it is not enough to simply categorize a person within discrete identifiers, particularly in the context of oppression. Oppression does not always follow the trajectory of a single factor in a person’s life; many times it is an interplay of factors that, while definitionally distinct, interact to create something hideously new.  The foundational example is Emma Degraffenreid who was discriminated against by a prospective employer.  She was discriminated against because she was a black woman, but not because she was black or a woman.  The judge of her case ruled that she had not been discriminated against because the employer hired black men and white women, so therefore the employer was not discriminating against race or gender.  The judge was correct, she had not been discriminated against due to race or gender.  But what the judge failed to understand was that she had been discriminated against due to her race and gender.  It was the combination of the two which was the issue, the intersection between two facets of her identity. She is more than the sum of her parts; what is disappointing is that the discrimination against her was able to recognize this better than the justice system.  This is the error that intersectionality tries to fix.  

Functionally, the intersection of intersectionality might be called “emergent oppression;” or oppression that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Recognizing the reality of these oppressions is core to moving forward in social justice because the intersection is both one thing and many things.  An intersection requires two or more factors to be intersecting, it cannot exist on its own. A relationship between two discrete factors is required for the intersection to pop into being. As a result, all intersections are nodes in a network.  For city infrastructure the network is roads, but for a person, the network is so much more.  It is their experiences, environment, culture, health, beauty, intelligence, sex, gender, race, class, diet, age, etc. It reflects intersections of privilege and oppression.  Social justice benefits from this understanding because it respects the factors of someone’s reality without downplaying their agency. While classist thinking isolates the factors and individualist thinking isolates the intersection, intersectionality emphasizes a network which is both the factors and the intersection at once. This emphasis on network, and the emergent oppression that can come from it, give intersectionality a strong and novel foundation to build on.

Intersectionality is criticized for not being specific with its parameters, but such criticism is missing the point. There is a profound epiphany at the core of intersectionality which could reach into the very fabric of everyday life.  Compared to that, intersectionality has a clear focus; combatting discrimination.  It only feels broad because it is a tool to help people see the network they are a part of.  Its restrictions are noble and focused on using its epiphany for a specific purpose.  The result is that the epiphany is framed in negative ways (which does not make it bad).  The intersection is of oppression according to intersectionality, and the factors are memberships in marginalized groups. While necessary to the goal of intersectionality, this negative language enshrouds the depth of the network. People are more than just an intersection of oppression.  While the purpose of intersectionality does not benefit from discussing its epiphany in a broader context, there is still much to explore on our own. So, with respect, Terranic doctrine takes inspiration from intersectionality and moves beyond its boundaries. 

The Spirit as a Stitch of Threads

Terranic doctrine takes the intersectional epiphany and reframes it. Instead of an intersection of oppressions, Terranism embraces the metaphor of a stitch of threads; each thread representing a factor in a person’s life and the stitch representing their relationships.  Just as the stitch is emergent of the threads, so the spirit is emergent of factors in a person’s life.  And just as the stitches are a part of a larger fabric, so too is the spirit part of a larger world.  While oppressions and disadvantages are a part of this fabric, so are loves and priviliges.  While other’s perception of you is woven into the stitch, so too is your view of yourself.  All the parts of you, whether they are named or merely felt, are intertwined in the complex, intricate, and unique stitch which you see when you look in the mirror or hear when you speak to yourself. Your spirit is emergent of the threads seen or invisible, to become the singular moment that you refer to as “I”. To see a spirit is to see a world.  The connections a spirit has into the world around it create a distinct worldview that is specific to that spirit.  These connections might be similar to another’s, or they might be completely unique.  When you witness a spirit, there are innumerable threads connecting it to the fabric of reality around it.  Every stitch sees the fabric in a different way.

To many, the spirit will sound like a distinct entity downloaded into the body at the point of conception (and verified during Christian baptism), which persists after death.  Terranism rejects this vitalist concept of the spirit.  Science has not discovered any such entity, so we must rethink what the spirit is.  To a Terran, the spirit is mortal and unique. There is no essential substance of the spirit, nothing immortal or aetherial.  There is no genie in the bottle or homunculus in the brain.  Instead, there is a stitch, emergent and intricate, which is reliant on itself in order to stay together.  It is the interplay between the threads that create a spirit, creating something precious and contingent on the world around it.

While the stitch is represented by the spirit, the threads cannot be forgotten.  To speak of a spirit is to acknowledge the influences of a person’s life while acknowledging their own agency as well.  The stitch will vanish without the threads and the threads will drift away without the stitch.  Sometimes it is hard to witness a spirit.  Many times we just see the stitch or threads and are blind to their relationship.  It is easy to see a person and dismissively say “that’s just the way they are,” which cuts away the threads from the stitch.  In the same way, there are times when a person is confined to an archetype, which cuts away the stitch from the threads. A stitch cannot hold without the context of its fabric. To understand the spirit is to understand its emergence, and not to try to separate the parts from the whole.  It is difficult to witness a spirit; time, energy, and the appropriate tools are all needed.  But finally glimpsing one is worth the effort for it provides a new view of the universe and yourself.  Even if the spirit you’re engaging with is ugly or evil, the perspective gained from understanding it is worth the effort.  

Threads connect the stitches.  All spirits influence each other; to witness another spirit is to develop your own.  Thread is stitched in many different places, allowing different spirits to discover a deep connection with each other.  They will see that their spirits influence and are influenced by each other; they will see their common threads.  These spirit-mates may then look upon their other threads and recognize that there are many more connections between them than either has individually.  This understanding will lead to others.  They will see that their threads aren’t just of other spirits, they are of the World around them. They will see the threads in their environment, objects, kin, land, tools, foods, shelters, and so much more.  All things a spirit has a relationship with is a part of their World.

Meditation upon the spirit will bring a new understanding of death and ghosts, without the supernatural vitalist influences.  Death will come to be understood as a relationship more than an end.  To die is for your threads to be rearranged; for your stitch to loosen and threads to be recycled.  Death is a profound continuation of the relationships a spirit had; to follow the threads in which the stitch was connected to.  Ghosts are where the spirit used to be.  To experience a ghost is to bundle up the threads that were once a part of the spirit’s stitch and make them emerge once again, if only for a moment.  The ghost is not an aetherial globule floating through a haunt, it is a moment when you see the World as if the spirit were still alive. To witness a ghost is to notice where someone would’ve been, or what they would’ve said, or what they would’ve done. It is to make the threads interact like they once did, a collaboration between the memories of the people and environment which knew the deceased spirit.  The threads remain, the ghost is where the stitch used to be.

Implications of the Spirit

The spirit is the means to walk away from individualism and avoid falling into the trap of fatalistic worldviews.  For too long have people been exploited and oppressed under the pretext of “well they should just choose a better job,” or “why don’t they just move away?”  Individualism asserts that the spirit is one aetherial thing, not an emergent thing.  The notion that a person can just “choose” a better situation or “choose” to make their lives better overlook the innumerable threads that influence why a person is in a bad situation in the first place. This individualistic spirit is cut out of its context, exalted above all else, then blamed for being hurt.  A spirit stuck in a food desert in the middle of a city or trapped in a job that doesn’t pay them enough to live is blamed for its own situation; if it is free to do anything, then it must not have the merit required to accomplish what it needs.  It is like starving a child then blaming it for not being strong enough to fight back.  Such thinking stifles introspection, stunts societal improvement, and destroys lives.  Conversely, racism, classism, sexism, and other destructive worldviews try to say the spirit is only one thing.  They isolate the threads over the stitch, implying that a spirit can be completely reduced to one particular thread that makes it up.  From these perspectives, the spirit dissolves into a classification until empathy is impossible.  To hurt or kill is nothing to these worldviews. To reduce a spirit so completely to its threads is to remove all opportunity to understand their agency and value. All these worldviews make the mistake of saying the spirit is one particular thing; an aether for individualism or a particular classification for the rest. To move forward, we must recognize that the spirit is not one thing, it is many things at once.

The Terranic definition of the spirit is so important because it views the spirit as emergent; which is why the metaphor of the stitch is central. The spirit cannot be reduced with this understanding, just as a stitch vanishes if you try to remove its thread from it.  The stitch does not exist without the threads and the threads do not hold together without the stitch.  Additionally, emergence provides a reason for the spirit’s existence that doesn’t rely on the supernatural like individualism does. The threads are based in reality, a vitalist aether is not.  Honest meditation upon the spirit will help a person find the balance necessary to move forward into a more just world.  It is a way out of individualism and the reductive worldviews of old.  

Finally, the spirit is an antidote to alienation.  Engaging with the spirit is to break through the oppressive alienation individualism forces down our throats and then capitalism sells the drugs for.  To look at yourself and see your spirit is to see your connections to the world, why you are in the position you are in, and to realize that circumstance (good or bad) plays a big role in your life.  We can already see the benefits of this kind of thinking with the popular discourse on privilege and oppression that intersectionality spearheads, but we can push it further. You are not the only person with a spirit. You can undo the alienation in your life by studying other spirits.  To see yourself as a part of a larger fabric is to find a place in the World. Other spirits need you just as much as you need them; after all, the stitch falls apart without the fabric.  Individualism will tell you that your spirit only matters to God because He is the one that made it, no one else truly matters.  Already this thought is alienating, but add in atheism and a scientific worldview and suddenly that alienation becomes a stabbing dagger through the mind and heart.  If God did not give you a spirit, then what is your value?  There is none, you are an economic calculation within the capitalist machine.  Nihilism is all that is left at the end of this individualist, alienating path.  However, the good news is that it is totally untrue.  Nihilism only works because the person is still looking at themself as if God was looking at them.  But God does not exist outside of humanity, so that perspective must be shifted, leading us to the epiphany of the spirit.  We must understand that there is no one who looks at the fabric from the outside, there is only us, the stitches, and we are valuable because of the threads that connect us.  No outside arbiter of value is necessary for us to find ourselves valuable in our relationships with everything else. We are all interdependant, connected, necessary, and valuable.

TL;DR – The spirit is an emergent entity of the factors in a person’s life.  Terranic doctrine uses the metaphor of a stitch of thread to illustrate the spirit.

Further Study: 

Flesh in the Age of Reason – Porter
So You Want to Talk About Race – Oluo
Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid – Hofstadter

Introduction to Intersectionality

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