The mindbody connection1

Man has no Body distinct from his Soul: for that called Body is a portion of Soul discerned by the five senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.

(William Blake)

Life is a fascinating journey and at some stage or another each one of us will ask questions such as 'Who are we?', 'Is there life after death?', 'Does God exist?' To address these questions in all their complexity, we would need to consider the relationship between humans and the universe, their more immediate natural and inanimate environment, between individual persons and other individuals, and groups, and whole societies; between individuals living now and in past times; the cultural traditions of their own societies and other societies. And this of course is an enormous topic of enquiry. However, what I propose to discuss in this chapter is more limited: what we are in relation to our own minds and bodies - or, seeing that there is no single word, let us use it in a hyphenated form - our own mind-bodies? So what are we in relation to our mind-body? What are we in relation to this total organism in which we live? (Huxley 1992). From a common-sense point of view, there is no problem at all. Most of the time, as we go about our everyday activities, we experience such transparency between the mental and the somatic aspects of our being that we are not led to reflect on their differences. For us, it is just natural and immediate to be who we are, without feeling the necessity to reduce ourselves either to mind (or soul) or body. Let me give you an example. Right now my mind wants to write this sentence and my fingers move across the keyboard and make the words appear on the computer screen. This action may seem natural and unproblematic to most of us; however, the moment we start thinking about it in greater detail, the problems start. If I wish to write this sentence, I simply type it. But who is the 'I' who does the typing?

It is obvious to me that it is not exclusively the 'I' who is sitting here thinking about it, the 'I' who writes it, because I do not have the faintest idea how my fingers can type! All I know is that I expressed the wish to write this sentence, whereupon something within me set to work a number of little muscles in perfect harmony so as to produce this movement in my right arm and fingers.

Similarly, we can ask ourselves, how did we form in the womb of our mothers? How did we grow up? How did we learn to walk, or to talk? Or more 'simply', how does our heart beat? How do we breathe? How do we digest our food? Just to mention some of the few imponderables - we don't have the faintest idea. All these actions are left to an ineffable deeper intelligence, which is far greater than our thinking self. The question then arises: 'How are we connected to it?' This enquiry requires some historical analysis.

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