It’s all just Matter and Energy Arranged in Various Ways

I am a strict “it’s all just matter and energy arranged in various ways” kind of materialist, not the vulgar reductionist kind that skips the “various ways” part of the equation, but completely unwilling to countenance the existence of a separate transcendent plane of being that influences, interacts with, directs, or gives meaning to our very material reality. Just a single flat plane of immanence in which all things are. A kind of Spinozistic monism shot through with modern physics, Nietzschean will to power, and Heidggerian “being-there.”

Let me explain. God does not exist. Nature is not caused or created by something outside of nature. There are no mystical causes or transcendent effects. It really is all just matter and energy arranged in various ways. Photons, protons, electrons, and all the other particles that makes up our best explanations for things. What physics attempts to understand is what is. Nevertheless…

Quetzalcoatl Aztec god of wisdom. God is dead.
God is dead. Long live the gods.

Yes, demons, gods, fates, furies, muses, Bodhisattvas, and chimeras do exist, but their existences are determined by the flows of matter and energy between actually existing material individuals—the Sun, a human body, a baseball, the drop of dew on the wing of a hummingbird in the morning, which despite being “things” are nevertheless ephemeral, temporary, and always in flux. Heraclitus was right, you can never step in the same river twice; that’s true, and you can also only fuck the same lover once, embrace the same mother once, give alms to the same beggar once, and write a single word only once. All of these prosaic, everyday things and their seemingly mystical, mythical counterparts like Dionysus, the Great Pan, Yahweh, Ba’al, Kali, Quetzalcoatl, Minerva, and Loki are just ever-changing material flows that have a capacity to affect other flows and be affected by still other flows in turn. Flows of shit, flows of oil, flows of wine, sperm, sea water, menstrual blood and the blood from wounds, flows of mud, quicksand, chicken stock, fish guts, and clear plum brandy. Flows of gravity, flows of dark matter, flows of ionizing particles released by the sun, their speeds exceeding the solar escape velocity. Flows of language, pheromones, hormones, stomach acid, bile, intestinal bacteria, and neurotransmitters. Flows even of photons reflected off the surface of bodies and emanating from the destruction of matter rejecting of the dualism of particle and wave.

What physics studies is all there is, but all there is exceeds physics’ (or any human knowledge) ability to understand or categorize it. Just because Dionysus and Apollo and all the rest are not literal, eternal persons who walk and talk and have a will doesn’t mean they are not real; just don’t think they are magic, spiritual, mystical or transcendent. Just like any human construct, the names of the gods, angels, demons, faeries, sprites, djinn, demigods, heroes, souls, wizards, witches, warlocks, phoenixes, and dragons do not refer to the actual existence of things; they refer to capacities for matter and energy to affect and be affected. Once we realize, along with Spinoza, the prince of philosophers, that God and nature are one and the same, room is opened for a new materialist religion and spirituality. The gods are holy because they stand in for our awe, our wonder, our understanding, our overcomings, and our best (and worst) selves. They stand for the way that the whole of all nature or even little bits of nature exceed our ability to perceive, let alone comprehend. So we can stand in holy reverence for real things, the only things that exist. Pour out offerings for the earth, the sky, and our own list of struggles and overcomings. And such religions, rooted as they must be in what’s real, instead of giving us moral cover to deny reality, force us to engage with the world as it is, including its injustice and suffering, affirming what is—as it is—and attempting to transform it and give it meaning from within at the same time. We can do no other. And if all of this seems a bit too serious, remember that it’s all just matter and energy arranged in various ways.

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