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The Human Body as a Temple

The physical organism of man, without question, is the masterpiece of the whole material creation. Even when considered simply as a complex mechanism, apart from mind, it occupies the superlative rank. From the anatomical viewpoint, its grace, proportion and perfect adjustment to environment fill one with wonder. It is also a marvelous demonstration of the principle of cooperation. The office of each organ or member is unique, and its activity is not more for itself than for all the others. Every one is a standing object lesson of altruism and ministry. It takes them all to make a unit. Under normal conditions the part of each, like the various characters in a drama, is promptly and intelligently performed. Such is the beautiful and harmonious human structure when untouched by abnormal conditions.

Technically defined, according to the nomenclature of the animal kingdom, man is a vertebrate, but within closer limits he is a mammal. Still more definitely, he is a primate among mammals, but even this distinction he shares with the apes. But though far superior to them in delicacy, refinement and complexity of functions, the actual structural differences seem not so very important. But evolution has put in some fine work, as instanced by the human hand, which is only a high development of the animal paw.

A comparison of various human qualities with those of the units of the vegetable and animal kingdoms shows that unnumbered flowers have rarer combinations of color and fragrance, and more beautiful contour; trees, greater size, solidity and symmetry; animals, superior speed, endurance and physical power; birds, and even insects, keener senses and instincts, and many other accomplishments, which by material measurement excel man in every direction. Relatively, as a biological product, he is deficient in sight, hearing, smell, taste, feeling and speed, and is subject to a prolonged helpless infancy.

Why then is the human body—though composed of like perishable materials—so intrinsically unlike any other material organism? Because it is a Temple. A temple is a consecrated edifice. Its stone and brick components may be like those of other buildings, but they are set apart for a distinct and different purpose. This makes the body more than an organism. It is a Sanctuary. The light within shines out through every portal. Behold the changing emotional glow upon the countenance, the light of the eye, the ripple of laughter, the thoughtful expression, and we begin to feel the tremendous step between the highest brute and humanity. If the body be a temple, it is or should be consecrated. Said St. Paul in his letter to the Romans: "Nothing is unclean of itself; save to him that accounteth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean." Again, in a similar letter to the Corinthians, he describes the body as "a temple of the Holy Spirit." It is evident that that which consecrates the body is a peculiar quality of thought. While it is highly important to keep the physical organism cleanly—in the ordinary sense of the term—it is clear that consecration means more than a physical process. The term "holy" comes from hal, which means whole or well. In reality, the definition of" Holy Spirit" is the Spirit of Wholeness. It is, then, not only the consecrating influence, but also the essence of perfection and completeness. In no way does it detract from the peculiar sanctity and divinity of the term to restore its original psychological and even therapeutic aspects, and thus conserve its full-orbed and inherent significance. The profound, and even scientific psychology of Paul, has been largely missed or hidden by arbitrary and doctrinal interpretations which have been shaped to fit prevailing systems of thought. Uncolored by these accretive influences, and unbiased by conventional preconceptions, we find that Paul was wonderful, not only in Apostolic religious zeal, but in the degree of his philosophical insight.

Unlike temples made with hands, the sanctuary for the use of man is built from within. The thought and ruling mental pictures of its owner outwardly articulate themselves, not only in its facade, but in the proportion of every architectural detail. The process of consecration or profanation goes on unceasingly by means of the activity of the consciousness. Both are cumulative. If the inherent sacredness of the human temple were constantly felt by the imaging faculty of man, what would become of abnormal outpicturings? There would be no negative from which they could be printed. Then would the office of the fleshy sanctuary be held in high honor. Its aisles and corridors never would be contaminated by the fumes of nicotine, or the unhallowed mastery of stimulants, nor could the deformity of shape which is dictated by Parisian models replace the beauty and symmetry of the divine ideal. Is it not sacrilege to carelessly violate the Higher Law by destroying that perfection of form which is the acme of the Creative Handiwork? How is the beautiful organism of woman sapped of its vitality and marred by the crowding of vital organs into abnormal shapes, until the advent of a child into the world becomes an agonizing and unnatural operation instead of the normal event for which nature has made ample provision! Gracefulness, poise and freedom are transformed into unresponsiveness and rigidity, and the resulting ills which come from hygienic sin are counted as "mysterious dispensations of Providence." Confusion and penalty uniformly wait upon vain attempts to improve upon Mother Nature.

If the human temple be consecrated with clean thought, and high respect be given to its sacred office of soul-expression, it will measurably respond and reflect the honor upon its resident executive. That will be a "blood purifier," by the side of which the most available patent panacea will pale into insignificance. The reflex influence of the pure body upon the man whom it houses will also be harmonizing and helpful. The temple will closely correspond to the service which goes on within. It will faithfully echo back honor or dishonor, clean thought or unclean, harmony or discord, optimism or pessimism.

Whether or not "The Man with a Hoe" be the shaping of "lords and masters" without, the man with the body has that instrument molded by a master from within. The inner man, who wields either implement, determines both its quality and that of the product.

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Henry Wood

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