Mind, Body, Soul
The Mind-Brain Problem
The question of whether mind and body are separate entities is one of conscious man's oldest conundrums. And what of the soul, is that also distinct?
Conventional science, as expounded most eloquently by Richard Dawkins, takes the stance of monism, ie that brain and mind are one and the same - or rather that the mind is a function of the brain as software is a function of the computer that runs it.
This is a rather depressing view as it would mean that we as unique and sentient individuals don't really exist. We are merely the products of inert matter and energy randomly thrown together by the cosmic winds blowing for an infinite time as a roomful of monkeys bashing at keyboards would eventually type the complete works of Shakespeare.
Oh yeah? But award winning astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle compared the random emergence of even the simplest cell to the likelihood that "a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein."
This article sets out a number of arguments which suggest the (non-physical) mind (and soul) being distinct from the (physical) brain.
The first, and major argument in my view is that of free will. There is nothing in the laws of science, in the blind workings of matter and energy, that allows for freedom of choice. And yet our own experience tells us that we possess this each and every moment of our lives. We choose what shirt to wear, to drink tea or coffee, what TV show to watch... and numerous other equally trivial options each day. As though something outside our body were driving us as we drive our car.
Dean Radin PhD's psi FAQ on psychic phenomena states that "ESP exists, precognition exists, telepathy exists, and PK exists." where the existence of X is defined as "the presently available, cumulative statistical database for experiments studying X, provides strong, scientifically credible evidence for repeatable, anomalous, X-like effects." The brain is physical, yet these phenomena involve non-physical communication, thus implying the existence of some non-physical entity in addition to the brain. Radin is senior scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, California, USA; on the Adjunct Faculty at Sonoma State University; on the Distinguished Consulting Faculty at Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center; and four-time former President of the Parapsychological Association [Wikipedia]. Radin's FAQ is additionally contributed to by six PhDs and two BScs.
Humans are emotional beings. We feel joy, sorrow, anger, fear... Though we try to balance these with logic it's hard to deny we are ultimately driven by our emotions. But to mere automata, which is what we are without a distinct mind or soul, emotion would be redundant and deleterious. But we are not without emotion. Witness the vast volume of music and art our species has produced, and the volume of which is held in high regard by others. Witness the premium placed upon the unquantifiable quality of beauty.
Near Death Experiences (NDEs) are an extremely well documented phenomena in which those close to, or past, the point of physical death report conscious awareness. What's remarkable about NDEs is the degree of commonality between accounts, eg the perception of leaving one's body, observing one's surroundings often from a vantage point different from the location of their body, traveling down a tunnel towards a light, and being greeted by loved ones who have already passed away. There is usually an overwhelming feeling of peace and a reluctance to return to one's body. Equally remarkable is the frequent accuracy of the accounts of activity taking place, eg attempt at revival, reactions of those present...
For more information on the fascinating topic of NDEs, see:
On the Web:
So, if the mind is distinct from the brain, what is the soul?
The soul is an individuated part of the totality of Spirit. The soul is the essence of the self. The body is the transitory vehicle occupied by the soul during a single incarnation. The brain is that part of the body that may be influenced by the mind and which in turn drives the remainder of the body.
The mind is the intermediate layer between the soul and the brain. It is both influenced by, and influences, the brain and the soul. It receives and processes sensory inputs and responds to these inputs with physical instructions for the brain and body. The mind also records and makes sense of our experiences for the soul as well as being open to Spiritual influence from the soul.
While we can no more prove the separateness of mind and brain any more than the monists can prove the opposite, this brief article has articulated good reasons to believe they are distinct entities.