VITRUVIAN MAN, BY LEONARDO DA VINCI(c. 1492). This picture is used as the cover page for Best & Taylor’s Text Book of Human Physiology. Medical Science and Medical Education is knowledge built upon the foundations of understanding and knowing Human Anatomy ( Structure ) and Human Physiology ( Function).
SPIRITUALISM : MY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY - THE INQUIRY ABOUT SELF, SPIRIT, AND SOUL :
I would submit that we have to arrive at an understanding of ‘self’, spirit, and soul by knowing the structure and functional organization of the being that exists.
THE IDENTITY OF MULTICELLULAR HUMAN ORGANISM :
“ManO buddhyaHamkaara, chittani na aHam, Na karnam, na jihvaa, na cha ghraana neytrey, Na cha vyoma, bhuumir na TejO, na vaayuH; Chidaananda Ruupah, Shivo aHam, Shivo aHam.” Adi Shankaracharya has described that his Identity does not pertain to his mind, intellect, the intellectual pride/ego, mental functions, his organs of sense, the five primordial elements of Nature. His Identity could only be stated as SAT+CHIT+ANANDA, the Identity of Ultimate Reality. However, the human organism has an Identity described by Human Anatomy and the organism’s functions(Physiology) establish and defend this Identity of the Human person in Nature.
Dr. Daniel John Cunningham( 1850-1909 ), Chair of Anatomy, University of Cambridge has provided this Manual of Practical Anatomy to help medical students dissect human cadavers and learn Human Anatomy. Whether humans know and understand Human Anatomy and Physiology or not, they come into existence with full functional knowledge of every constituent cell in the body. The Human Body has Innate Knowledge of its own Structure and Function. I had acquired this Knowledge from Uneducated individuals who had gifted their bodies to promote Medical Education.
I learned about human body while dissecting the body in a systematic manner. The Manual of Practical Anatomy which guides us through this entire process was published in England. The author Dr. Daniel John Cunningham prepared the Manual while dissecting cadavers of British or Irish citizens. He had never encountered cadavers of Indian citizens. At Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India, where I was a student, the Department of Anatomy obtains dead bodies from Government General Hospital Kurnool and most of the deceased are the poor, illiterate, and uneducated people of that region. None of the deceased had a chance to know this man called Cunningham and Cunningham had no knowledge about the existence of these people who had arrived on our dissection tables. But, as the dissection of the human body proceeded, inch, by inch, we recognized the anatomical parts as described by Cunningham. The manual also lists some anatomical variations and we very often exchanged information between various dissection tables and recognized the variations mentioned. The dissections also involves slicing the organs and studying them, both macroscopically, and microscopically. We did not miss any part of the human body. So what is the Identity of this Human person or Human subject? How does the living Human organism maintain its Identity and Individuality? Apart from the Cultural Traditions of India, several Schools of Religious Thought claim that the Human Individual and its Identity is represented by Human Soul. Where does this soul exist in the human body? What is the location if soul is present in the living person? Does man have a soul?
THE KNOWLEDGE OF FIELD AND THE FIELD OF ACTIVITY :’KSHETRA AND KSHETRA JNANA’ :
The term soul has to be carefully defined if I have to find it by exploring the human body. In the Indian tradition, the human body is described as ‘KSHETRA’ or Field. The individual who knows and enjoys this body, kshetra, or field is often described as ‘PURUSHA’. The knowledge of the body is called ’KSHETRA JNANA’. The person called Purusha could explore his body called ‘kshetra’ and acquire knowledge called ‘Kshetra Jnana’. So, I had explored my body to find out if I have a soul and as to where it exists. I can explore my body while I am alive. If I am dead, only a different living person may get the opportunity to explore my dead body, but he may not be able to discover the soul which may have already departed from the body. If soul exists in the cadaver, Cunningham would not have missed it, and we the diligent students dissecting human cadavers would not have missed it. By definition, soul does not exist in dead bodies. It has something to do with life and the characteristics of a living person or organism. With the intellectual insight I had gained by studying human anatomy, I can explore my living body without placing it on a dissection table.
THE FUNCTIONAL UNITY OF MULTICELLULAR HUMAN ORGANISM :
Humans are multicellular organisms. Who or what is the Subject who lives because of the functions of the trillions of cells? Multicellularity found in complex organisms like humans is accompanied by definite capabilities of cells for differentiation. The design of cells has been modified to serve specialized functions of tissues and organs. To achieve proper numerical balance between functionally related cell groups, the death of many cells is necessary for others to reach maturity. This programmed cell death plays an important role during embryological growth and development of human fetus. Waves of genetically driven cell deaths are critical to the proper modeling of organs, and organ systems. Such programmed cell death events are essential if the organism as a whole is to develop its normal final form by which its Identity as an Individual is established. The constituent cells of the organism do not display functional individuality while living as individuals. The cell in a complex organism is not truly an independently functioning unit. The cell exists and functions to achieve Unity of the Organism as a Whole. The one very important part of the environment of a cell is other cells. The Consciousness, the Awareness of individual cells in multicellular organism functions to achieve the Functional Unity of the Whole Organism. Consciousness brings Functional Unity by providing the abilities of recognition, association, and cooperation between all the cells of the multicellular organism. Multicellular organisms are characterized by the ‘Adaptive Subordination’ of the constituent cells to the requirements of the organism as a Whole. For example, mature Red Blood Cells or RBCs have no nuclei and they cannot divide or replicate. They are exclusively adapted to transport Oxygen and serve the whole human organism. The RBCs have short lives as individual cells. The human organism has a life span of its own. During the life time of a human person, RBCs live for short periods of time and are constantly replaced by new RBCs. Thus it may be stated that the purpose of Consciousness at cellular level is to foster Functional Unity of the multicellular organism and establish it as an Individual. If the term ‘Soul’ represents the Identity of this Individual, the Soul is a Functional Attribute of Consciousness at cellular level.
Adaptive Subordination of Red Blood cells to the requirements of the whole Human Organism. The mature RBCs have no nuclei and they cannot divide. They are exclusively adapted to transport Oxygen and serve the Human Organism. During the life span of Human Organism, the RBCs live for short periods of time and are constantly replaced by new RBCs.
THE BIOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF HUMAN SOUL :
Reticular Formation is shown as a single ‘red’ bar in this figure. It consists of numerous Brain Stem nuclei. It is a network of nerve pathways and nuclei throughout the Brain Stem. A single neuron in this network may have synapses/connections with as many as 25,000 other neurons/nerve cells.
Capacity for consciousness is an upper Brain-Stem Function and the Content of consciousness is a Function of the Cerebral Cortex. The Reticular Formation which is located in the central Brain Stem helps to coordinate and integrate actions of different parts of the Central Nervous System such as regulation of muscle and reflex activity;central transmission and composition of sensory impulses; respiration; cardiovascular responses; behavioral arousal; and sleep.
I had explored my body called Kshetra. The Kshetra Jnana, or Knowledge of my body is as follows:
My soul is represented by an anatomical structure described as Reticular Formation in the Brain Stem. Just like my body is composed of trillions of individual cells which collectively represent and establish my physical identity in this world, my soul derives its existence and identity from trillions of these individual units or cells that comprise my body. My soul is actually a composite of trillions of units of consciousness of trillions of individual cells that comprise my human body. The Functional Unity in relation to Consciousness is achieved in the Reticular Formation, the site where Consciousness of the Whole human organism is composed and then is relayed to the Cerebral hemispheres. It is just like a picture or a photo which represents trillions of spots of varying degrees of light intensity or brightness. The term soul has to be defined as the manifestation of “Consciousness”. If there is no “Consciousness”, there is no soul. The existence of soul is witnessed by the presence of “Consciousness”. This biological characteristic described as “Consciousness” exists in every single living cell. If a living organism is made up of one single cell, it has a soul as manifested by its “Consciousness”. For the human person, when identified as an Individual, the anatomical location of his Soul is the Reticular Formation of the Brain Stem which receives input from the rest of the body and shapes the information and sends it to Thalamus and to Cortical Areas of the Brain which provide the awareness, the functional knowledge with which the human organism exists as a living entity. Man enjoys an existence characterized by Peace, Harmony, and Tranquility, as the Soul, or the Life Principle operates most of the vital functions of the complex organism without relaying all the information to the cortical areas where it would be then known to the Man who exists because of these vital functions. Thereby, Man is protected from a huge information overload that is not compatible with mental peace and equilibrium.
“I AM CONSCIOUSNESS, THEREFORE I AM” :
DESCARTES, RENE (b. March 31, 1596, d. February 11, 1650 ), French Mathematician and Father of Modern Philosophy.
Could we extend scientific methodology of investigation into every field of inquiry? Could we find Truth, and Reality as an external experience? Is it possible to visualize Truth and Reality in the realm of Intuition and Conscience? Jean Jacques Rousseau, the French philosopher had suggested that man has to find his way to his pure nature, and this through feelings. Man’s duty is to look for his most deep interior feelings and follow them. Rene Descartes advanced a philosophy based on certitude. He sought to devise a method of inquiry for reaching the Truth. He proposed a method for guaranteeing Knowledge. He argued that in order to provide a secure foundation for Knowledge it was necessary to discover “clear and distinct ideas” that could not be doubted and could serve as a basis for deriving further truths. He found such an idea in the proposition “I think, therefore I am” ( “cogito, ergosum” ). Descartes stressed a world of metaphysical truths that could be discovered by pure reason. He had subjected his beliefs to a series of skeptical hypotheses. He had invoked skepticism as a means of reaching certainty. As per his conclusion, “I think, therefore I am” is beyond skeptical doubt.
CARTESIAN PHILOSOPHY – THE VALUE OF “SYSTEMATIC DOUBT” :
Human body is composed of cells and each of these cells is a conscious entity. Consciousness is a biological, cellular function which brings about Functional Unity of the Whole Organism. Cellular consciousness provides the abilities of recognition, association, and cooperation between cells. Cells are characterized by Adaptive Subordination to meet the requirements of the organism as a whole. Rene Descartes proposition to divide human body into two parts; a thinking part, and a mechanical part is incorrect.
I truly admire Descartes for adopting a strategy of withholding his belief from anything that was not entirely certain and indubitable. Skepticism is an attitude that rejects claims to certainty. Its basic philosophical contention is that the possibility of knowledge is limited by the limitations of the mind itself or by the inaccessibility of the object. Descartes is known as the Father of the Mind-Body Problem. He claimed that human beings are composites of two kinds of substances, mind and body. A mind is a conscious or thinking being, that is, it understands, wills, senses, and imagines. A body is a being extended in length, width, and breadth. He thought that minds are indivisible, whereas bodies are infinitely divisible. The “I” of the “I think, therefore I am” is the mind that he had claimed could exist without being extended, so that it can in principle survive the death of the body. Descartes argued that colors, sounds, tastes, heat, cold, and pain are merely sensations existing in mind/thought and that there is nothing in bodies that resembles the sensation. He thought that all complex functioning of living organisms including human bodies could be explained solely by mechanistic physics. He even denied that consciousness could be attributed to animals in order to explain their behavior. Descartes had influenced the whole course of philosophical enquiry. Using the same Cartesian Philosophy, I found Descartes proposition to be invalid and incorrect based upon my understanding of human body, mind, and consciousness. The proposition which I would use is, “I am Consciousness, therefore I am”. This clear, and distinct idea, which is beyond doubt would help me to discover man’s awareness of God or what I describe as the “GOD CONNECTION”. This “Connection” is the foundation for man’s existence in the natural world.
Kindly also view a related blog post titled ‘A Squirrel Story to Explore Consciousness’.
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,
M.B.B.S., Class of April, 1970.
Biographical Information :
1. Place of Birth : Mylapore, Madras City, Chenna Patnam, Chennai, Madras State, Tamil Nadu State, India. Born : Hindu(Brahmin-Niyogi,Smartha), Telugu-Speaking.
2. Date and Place of Marriage : January 29, 1973, Congregational Town Church, Cuddapah, Kadapa District, Andhra Pradesh, India.
LORD KRISHNA IN THE HINDU SCRIPTURE OF BHAGAVAD GITA, Chapter 10, The Opulence of the Absolute, verse 22 claimed that “…in living beings I am Consciousness.” Similarly, in Chapter 7, verses 9 and 10, Lord Krishna claims that “I am the life of all that lives”, “I am the Original seed of all existences.”