I love this essay! So many things that needed to be said. I recommend reading Agrippa’s ‘Occult Philosophy’ with an open mind. It projects you into the pre-reformation mind set. Examine your prejudices every time you think “hmm... that’s a bit unlikely “. Also I think it’s incredibly important to realise that it can be argued that the medieval church/Christianity was in many ways closer to the pre-Christian pagan mindset than it was to the post-reformation Church. Thank you

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Oct 21, 2023·edited Oct 21, 2023

A week ago I spent 4 days in the redwooded Santa Cruz mountains with high schoolers having a crash course experience in hands-on forestry. We stayed in a camp used usually for Christian retreats. I noticed when I left the campground by myself into the forest I felt the living non-human being or spirit of the forest. From my perspective it was not demonic, angelic or the Spirit of God all of which I have known. I couldn’t determine whether it was an emergent property of the collective being of a maturing second growth forest or some sort of created “intermediary spirit”, that precise differentiation may not be that relevant. It was something you could be in an awed, respectful brother/sister/friend/neighbor relationship with. Speaking of that earlier Christian perspective you spoke of - aspects of that were placed by C.S. Lewis in his science fiction trilogy, especially in the third volume.

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I read through this a few times. Hope you haven't given up on the next in the series. Seeing as my background is as a biologist; I wonder if it's helpful for me to say which things in this essay stick in my craw and which don't and which I'm confused by. Defence of 'vitalism' is obviously something that rings some serious alarm bells rigged up in my undergraduate days. I think of vitalism as the idea that there is something like a fifth fundamental force. That, yes, there's gravity, electromagnetism and the strong nuclear force, and there's also life energy. And probably some supervillains can extract it from superheroes; and it looks like pearly light - or golden light for the extra powerful. When it's extracted from a victim, that victim ages prematurely in seconds.

But when you say 'force, essence, or organizing principle.' Well, I have a lot of trouble with force and - especially - essence. But 'organizing principle?' Sure! It's the same when you are talking about fermentation and say that the spirit is the process itself. Nihil obstat on that.

It's true that we have a deep intuition that there's some irreducible spark of life, at least in human beings. This is even affirmed in Star Trek. But that doesn't mean it's literally right. Perhaps it is not wrong either, but more like a dream which is in need of interpretation. I just feel that this search for an irreducible something might be barking up the wrong tree. Why is something more important if it isn't made of anything else? Why should we focus on that level. Surely 'reductionism' is, by definition, the search for such things. Why should we search for them?

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