Soul, Spirit, Heart, and Mind

“The individual who is not anchored in God can offer no resistance on the strength of his own resources, to the physical and moral sway of the world. For this man needs the evidence of his own inner, transcendent experience…” –Carl Gustav Jung from one of his last major works, “The Undiscovered Self: Present and Future”

union of spirits2a

Those who have followed along with me here over the past few years know well that my writings often cross over a variety of boundaries between ideas, thoughts, feelings, and considerations of phenomena, all of which surround the central issue of the nature of human consciousness. While acknowledging the challenges represented in the many complexities of the subject, and striving always to illuminate them in as comprehensible a manner as I can, there are often times when even the most earnest and heartfelt intentions invariably result in the inclusion of my personal bias toward a spiritual or transcendent energy at the heart of it all. I do not shrink away from this acknowledgement, nor do I focus solely on this aspect of the subject to the exclusion of all the wonderfully illuminating science and scholarly treatments available in the general scientific, philosophical, psychological, and neuroscientific literature of the day. It has been my goal all along to present as broad a range of information and theory as I am able, in the interest of contributing in a positive way to the worldwide effort to explain and understand consciousness.

The image above is a starting place for anyone genuinely seeking a greater understanding of the nature of consciousness, and the idea of “namaste,” can initiate the conversation in a most helpful way for anyone who might need a place to begin a serious contemplation of their own inner experience. Nowhere else is the concept of a transcendent aspect to consciousness so vividly alive and accessible, especially to those unfamiliar with such ideas, than in the awareness of a place where all souls are recognized as being one. That place in you, your innermost self or soul, when it encounters the same in someone else, can be a profound recognition of an existence beyond temporal, subjective experience. In the weeks to come, I will begin in earnest, the introduction of my own expression and synthesis of years of contemplation and study, in the service of examining and discerning the true nature of human consciousness, as I have come to understand it.

In a previous post, I wrote about how scientists at the forefront of modern physics seem far more willing to tolerate ideas of unobservable phenomena, inaccessible dimensions, and multiple universes, than they are to even entertain the existence of a transcendent aspect to our experience of the world. And yet, my own experience of the world points to the very real possibility that many such non-physical layers exist. Philosophically speaking, what seems possible isn’t much to go on, and actual subjective confirmation of my personal intellectual and philosophical constructs is only truly subjectively available to me, but even the most extensive and illuminating progress in the scientific realm has clearly required venturing, at some point, into the infinite realm of possibility.

William Blake Soul

“We are led to Believe a lie when we see (with and) not Thro’ the eye, Which was Born in a Night to perish in a night, When the soul slept in beams of light.” — Auguries of Innocence, 1803, William Blake

There are various interpretations of the four words chosen for the title of this posting, and while I do not wish to suggest that my own interpretation might be more or less correct than those preferred by others, I felt that it was important to express my view of what these words imply for me, in order to understand better how I formulated my conclusions. There is plenty of room for a variety of ideas in the world, and my intention in presenting my view is explanatory, and not intended to limit what these terms might mean to others or imply generally.

SOUL

BrigantineSunrise

“There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul.”–Victor Hugo, “Les Miserables, 1862

Throughout recorded human history, regardless of the region or culture or time-frame, the notion of the existence of a connection between the events in the physical universe to a source beyond or outside of our direct perception and full understanding has appeared in their various mythologies, and also informed, to some extent, the whole spectrum of religious rituals of the world. Ancient mythologies and the earliest primitive shamanistic cultures devised elaborate explanations for temporal events that were clearly beyond their abilities to comprehend or explain otherwise, but even in the 21st century, where sophisticated scientific instruments, space travel, and astonishing technologies have informed us in ways they could not have imagined, we still have a sense of something beyond it all; the notion of a connection to some intangible, inscrutable, and ineffable existence that is at the heart of life everywhere. Not everyone feels this way today, but one need only observe the numerous philosophical, psychological, spiritual, and existential musings available today in every corner of the world to see that this idea is still very much alive.

Even when we examine the ideas being investigated in the world of modern physics, we see evidence of a context, within which a non-materialist view of consciousness might be formed. Quantum theory, which posits among other ideas, that the very act of observing quantum events alters the outcome of those events, might be a vitally important aspect of comprehending them. Indeed, if consciousness is supported by activity on the subatomic level in the micro-tubules of our brain cells, as proposed by Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose, then the appearance of and access to consciousness in humans may be a fundamental consequence of quantum effects, supporting the idea that our intentions, and the subsequent manifestation of those intentions in our conscious acts, may indeed have their foundations in the non-material or “spiritual” realm. Where most of the trouble occurs is when we use the word “spiritual,” or “divine,” to describe these non-materialistic aspects of our existence as temporal beings. In a most profound way, the very intangibility of matter in this context, is the very underpinning of physical reality.

For me, the soul remains the absolute description of and reference to the transcendent aspect of our existence, and describes that aspect of our existence as best as we can as temporal beings.

SPIRIT

crisis apparition

According to the empirically-minded amongst us, now that we have finally progressed to the point where we can resolve many of the questions regarding how the Universe came about and to comprehend reasonably well the underlying principles of the physical laws which govern the universe we observe, whatever value the contemplation of other realms might have is interesting to discuss, but unlikely to yield much in the way of explanation of our fundamental character as cognitive, sentient creatures. Those whose emphasis is concentrated in the ineffable or spiritual realms tend to dismiss the idea that the scientific view could contain anything more than the physical facts unrelated to the transcendent. However, it seems likely to me, that a comprehensive theory of consciousness surely must include elements from both ends of the spectrum of ideas in this matter. Transcendence as a concept seems beyond empirical scrutiny, and the astonishingly complex workings of our cognitive capacities requires us to acknowledge that there is a fundamental connection to cognitive functioning with our experience of consciousness. That consciousness requires and utilizes a functional and timely integration of the various regions of the brain, providing a distinct and identifiable neural basis for its perception of the world is a fairly straightforward assumption that can be stated without much dispute generally.

However, No matter what arrangement of brain regions and neural networks result in the integration that causes particular conscious states to exist or to be perceived, and no matter what degree of neural functioning might be said to be the basis for gaining access to consciousness generally, all such states are accompanied by a subjective experience of that existence, and no explanation of a neural basis alone will be completely satisfactory in presenting a comprehensive theory that explains consciousness.

“Man has been robbed of transcendence by the short-sightedness of the super-intellectuals. Man’s task is to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious. The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” — Carl G. Jung from his autobiography, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections.”

What I have often described as “the Human Spirit,” is, for me, the juxtaposition of the transcendent with the temporal, beautifully expressed in its manifestation as human consciousness. This distinguishes spirit from soul, inasmuch as the soul is what is being manifest through the human spirit, and the spirit is the expression of the soul in human experience. They are, at once, separate and inextricably linked. “Spirit” is an abstraction which alludes to the soul, but which is merely the focal point in the temporal world for the expression of the soul.

HEART AND MIND

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“The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of.”–Blaise Pascal, in Pensees, 1670

“Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.”–Leonardo da Vinci, from his Notebooks, 1508

The simultaneous possession of the qualities of fragility and fortitude, perfectly represented by the human heart, has always seemed to me to be a metaphor for the body and soul of humanity. For centuries it was believed that the heart was our center of gravity; the location of our intelligence; the place where all our choices were made, hopes created, and emotions experienced. It was also the repository for all our negative feelings, and where bitterness and disappointments could be found. Modern science has, in a funny way, reaffirmed these ideas, since we know now that there is an absolute connection to our feelings and states of mind with the heart, and unfortunately, it is also where the consequences of modern stress are often manifested. The heart is not a logical organ, but it is also not where choices are made, where hopes are created, nor where emotions are experienced. That is what we now know all takes place in the mind, even though each of those experiences, as ever, are felt keenly in the heart.

For most of us, at one time or another, we find ourselves filled with mixed emotions and confusion, and during these times, we often scarcely know where to begin to sort out our lives in the middle of it all. As I ponder the questions that face me, I can’t help but recall moments of serenity in the now non-existent past; its fleeting moments, its ecstasy, its believability, its brevity, and above all, its qualitative difference from the present. My mind slips easily into memory, pensive recollection, representations and demonstrative echoes of an abstraction more real than the moments of realization which dart in and then out of my daily life. More often than not, it pleases me to remember the moments gone by, though I dare not deliberately dwell on them. It is often in retrospect that I see what is held from my eyes now.

What compels me now to express these thoughts? I believe the answer can be stated this way:

I am seeking peace. My heart and mind and spirit and soul are seeking something inwardly peaceful. Until I succeed, it is as though there was a haze hanging over me, obscuring my vision, but not entirely dulling my senses…

….more to come…