Mind, Body, and Spirit
©2015 Robert Chuckrow
Mind, body, and spirit are terms used in self-development arts such as Yoga and T’ai Chi. However, the meaning of these terms in combined context is often unclear. The following is my attempt at clarification:
The body, of course, consists of the organs, glands, bones, muscles, nervous system, and such.
The question then arises whether or not the mind is physical. In Spiritual Teachings, mind is not thought of as the brain or nervous system, which are physical and part of the body. Instead, mind refers to consciousness, which can exist in the absence of a physical body. Otherwise, why make a distinction between mind and body?
Modern psychology, on the other hand, views consciousness in biological terms and states that it results from a sufficiently large number of neural connections (mind = brain). For an assertion to be scientific, it must be of such a nature that it can be either proven to be true or false. There is no way to scientifically prove or disprove that consciousness results from a sufficiently large number of neural connections—especially when consciousness has yet to be measured or even adequately defined.
For a science to be tied down to the world it describes, there must be at least one fundamental quantity that is defined not in terms of other quantities but by a process involving an interaction within the world it describes. In physics, which is the most venerable science, there are three fundamental quantities, namely, length, time, and mass. These quantities are operationally defined; that is, these quantities are not defined in terms of other quantities. Instead, their meanings are contained in the way they are measured and utilized.
In order for psychology to take a similar initiative, at least one quantity would need to be analogously defined. If consciousness cannot be defined adequately in terms of other quantities, then, perhaps, it should be defined operationally. All those who are the objects of the world of psychology—or are interested in or involved in discussing its realm—possess and experience the very attribute of consciousness. So why not let our individual experience of consciousness tie that concept to the psychological world and let it go at that? Doing so would also obviate any need to characterize consciousness as biological, a characterization that is quite limiting and flies in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.
Each consciousness has, to the degree it is evolved, an underlying understanding of its purpose, which permeates action and thought. Perhaps spirit, then, is an attribute that appears once consciousness is embedded in a physical body in the physical world and now has intention to fulfill its higher purpose for learning, growing, expressing, and assisting others to learn and grow. The spirit is brought to bear whenever we are engaged in carrying out that purpose. Likewise, the spirit is brought to bear when anything appears that interferes with or threatens our ability to continue to fulfill that purpose.
It follows that the spirit is nourished and cultivated by studying spiritual teachings, doing meditation, and aspiring to manifest those higher teachings in life. During meditation, the spirit is absent (pure consciousness), but the spirit is renewed and nourished because we have connected with our true purpose.
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