“EKAM EVADITIYAM” – This statement in the Sanskrit language is from Chandogya Upanishad( 6:2:1 ) and it means: “I, one alone and there is no second.” The original intent of this statement is that of seeking the unity of the Objective Reality of Man known as ‘ATMA’ ( the Individual Soul ) and the Ultimate Reality known as ‘PARAMATMA’ or Supersoul. There is no Duality between the two and there is no disunity between Man and God. However, God is not an object which is under Man’s control and the views about God are subjective opinions. I am quoting this statement to find the Unity of Man in body, mind, and soul. Man’s greatest need is not only to know the world around him but also to know himself better. Man must understand what it is to be a substance and what it is to exist. We need to establish knowledge about Man on a firm basis and the information it provides must be tested for its accuracy and consistency with external reality. Dr. William James in his book, The Principles of Psychology, has observed: “True ideas are those we can assimilate, validate, corroborate, and verify.” The separation of man into body, mind, and soul is not supported by a scientific study of man.
The man comes into existence from a single fertilized Egg Cell. This Man cannot be separated into two distinct entities like insentient material being and sentient spiritual being. The physical being and the conscious being are the same. The division of Man into a physical substance and a thinking substance or that of a physical body and a thinking mind is not valid as they have no independent existence of their own. The division of Man into a physical body and an immortal, non-material or immaterial Soul is not also valid as the Soul is described as the vital, animating principle that is the chief characteristic of Life.
The Spiritual Nature of Man is not a mental function. The Spiritual Nature of Man could be discovered and could be described from the biological properties, characteristics, and nature of Man’s corporeal substance found in the fertilized Egg Cell. This substance is Conscious. This Single Egg Cell grows, divides, develops, and builds the cells, the tissues, and the organ systems that constitute the Human Individual. The Spiritual Nature of the substance present in the Single, fertilized Egg Cell brings the functional unity of all the cells, tissues, and organ systems to establish the Physical Reality called Man.
About six days after Conception, the developing Human Embryo implants itself into maternal tissues by establishing an anatomical connection called Placenta. The implantation of Human Embryo does not involve any human thought and the Mother has no cortical awareness of the fact of implantation. The implantation demonstrates the Consciousness of the Human Embryo which is aware of the fact of its own existence. The phrase Spiritual defines the internal, mutually beneficial relationship, partnership, association, and the connection between the cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems for the benefit of the Human Person who exists because of their living functions. The Subject that is born from the Single, fertilized Egg Cell is always a new, original, distinctive, unique, one of its own kind of Object that exists because of the innate Spiritual Nature of the material substance. Being born relates Man to the Subjective and Objective Realities of his biological existence. There is structural and functional unity between Man and his Body, Mind, and Soul. There is no Life, and there is no Human Existence if these entities are separated. Spiritualism is the potency that brings Man’s Essence and Man’s Existence to come together to provide Man the Subjective and Objective Reality of his own biological existence in the physical and material world. Man is not an embodied Soul and Man is a Living Soul.
WHAT IS MAN?
I will be repeatedly asking this same question in several of my blog posts on the subject of Spirit and Soul. I want to remind myself that the motivation for asking this question comes from a statement expressed in the Sanskrit language: “Sarvesham Swastir Bhavatu”, a statement which seeks the well-being of all humans, of all races, of all cultures, of all religions, and of all nations. The meaning and purpose of human life are affected by whatever we think is the real or true nature of man. It is more important to recognize that our efforts to support the well-being of man would require correct understanding and knowledge of the real or true man.
THE SELF AND THE KNOWING-SELF:
To know about Man, we can observe the various activities that describe the Man. The Physical being known as Man is known from the living functions performed by the tissues and organ systems of his body. This Physical being has Identity or identifying features such as age, gender, race, ethnicity and other biometric information to know the person as a specific Individual. Factors like language, religion, culture, education, social occupation, nationality, and sexual orientation are also used to describe the Man. The Mental being known as Man is described from mental functions such as intellect, thoughts, moods, feelings, cravings, and self-pride. Man, the Social being is known from his social interactions and much of human action and behavior involves interacting with other individuals present in his social environment. Man, the Moral being is known from the choices he makes in the performance of his actions where discernment plays a role to distinguish right from wrong, and good from evil. Man, the Spiritual being is known from the nature of his existence seeking peace, harmony, and tranquility within himself and with others in his environment and community. I designate the term ‘SELF’ to describe Man as a Physical, Mental, Social, Moral, and Spiritual being. I have also observed that the Physical being is in reality consists of about 100 trillion individual living cells that show complex structural differentiation and functional organization. The corporeal substance is of spiritual nature and hence Man, the Physical being has no choice other than that of existing as a Spiritual being. The question is not that of, How Man knows himself? The question that I would like to ask is, How does the body know the Identity of the Man who lives? If the body knows its Owner, there is an anatomical structure that is associated with the function called The Knowing-Self.
THE FUNCTION OF THE KNOWING-SELF:
The Reticular Formation( RF ) is in the central Brain Stem and extends from Medulla to Thalamus. It consists of more than about 100, 000 Brain Stem nuclei. It is estimated that a single neuron in this network may have synapses with as many as 25,000 other neurons. The RF has connections with almost all other parts of the Central Nervous System including Spinal Cord, Cranial Nerve nuclei, Cerebellum, Hypothalamus, Thalamus, Corpus Striatum, Limbic System, and Cerebral Cortex. Thus, the RF helps to coordinate and integrate actions of different parts of the Central Nervous System such as 1. regulation of muscle and reflex activity, 2. central transmission of sensory impulses, 3. respiration, 4. cardiovascular responses, 5. behavioral Arousal, and 6. Alert/Sleep Cycle.
There are two distinct aspects of human Consciousness namely, 1. the Capacity for Consciousness and 2. the Content of Consciousness. When Consciousness is viewed as a psychological or strictly as a mental function, it is represented by the Content of Consciousness called Cortical Awareness which is a function of the Cerebral Cortex. When Consciousness is understood as a biological function that includes the maintenance of vital functions like respiration, and circulation apart from various homeostatic mechanisms to preserve a constant internal environment, it is represented by the aspect of Capacity for Consciousness.
The Knowing-Self is in the Reticular Formation of the Brain Stem and its functions are of critical importance in the clinical diagnosis of Brain Death. During Life, the cells, tissues, and various organ systems of the human body work together for the benefit of ‘SELF’ which is known and recognized by this Knowing-Self.
MAN IS A SPIRITUAL BEING:
THE KNOWLEDGE OF ASVATTHA, THE FIG TREE :
The Hindu Scripture of The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter XV known as Purusottama Yoga speaks about the nature of the Supreme Person. It metaphorically compares the Supreme Being to the popularly known Fig Tree called Ficus religiosa. The first verse reads as follows: Sri Bhagavan Uvacha: “Urdhva-Mulam adhah-sakham Asvattham prahur avyayam, Chandamsi yasya parnani yas tam Veda sa Veda vit.”The Supreme Lord Krishna said: There is a Fig Tree which has its roots upwards and its branches down and metaphorically it is imperishable, and the Vedic hymns are its leaves. One who knows this Tree is the Knower of the Vedas( the person attains the Knowledge of the Ultimate Reality or the Supreme being). When we know the Fig Tree and its apparent imperishable quality, we may understand the true nature of Man.
Man is a spiritual being. The truth or falsity of this proposition depends on the fact of man’s having a substance that is of spiritual nature. Such a substance of spiritual kind is perceptible to the senses, is amenable to direct observation, and could be subject to verification by experimental science. To establish the fact of man’s spiritual nature, it needs reasoning based upon scientific validity. The structure and the behavior of things contribute to their individual being and function. If a man has a set of defining features based upon his structure( Human Anatomy ), function( Human Physiology ), and behavior( Human Behavioral Science ), the spiritual nature of man could be proved on theoretical and practical grounds and could be verified by scientific experiments. I am not seeking to discover a soul or spirit that could have an existence independent of man’s physical being. It will be important to note that it is not possible to conceive of a soul or spirit if it is never associated with its human body. My purpose is that of describing the spiritual nature of the human organism and of other living beings. To understand the true nature of human being, we need to ascertain the validity of Knowledge that pertains to the Spiritual Self.
MAN IS A MORTAL BEING:
Man’s greatest need is not only to know the world around him but also to know himself better. Man must understand what it is to be a substance and what it is to exist. Man is a physical being or thing with matter and form. The corporeal body of man is composite of two principles; matter, and form. What is called matter is a potentiality, and what is called form is an actuality. The corporeal substance called protoplasm becomes an actuality and is recognized as a living person because of the uniqueness of its genome that operates its living functions and defines its size, shape, color, and external form or morphological appearance. However, life comes into existence only when matter or substance has the ability to acquire energy from its external environment. The human being comes to life when his corporeal substance uses its potential ability and power called ‘Nutrition’ to acquire energy and material from its environment. Life begins with fertilization, the union of sperm with an egg cell, and this event called conception proceeds to develop a human being after an important event called implantation. The life journey after conception continues if there is a connection between the energy seeking embryo and its maternal energy provider. To exist means that the substance is maintaining a relationship, a partnership, a connection, or association with its source of energy. Man leads an energy dependent existence deriving energy and material from nature which supports other living forms with a similar corporeal substance called protoplasm. The mortality of man must be understood as the dissolution of man’s physical form. The dissolution of living man into non-living molecules and physical elements would not alter that potentiality of protoplasm to acquire energy and material to create its own substance. Things in Nature change with Time, but what is called Nature remains unchanged even under the influence of Time. As per The Laws of Conservation of Mass and Energy, as described in classical Physics, mass or energy remain constant. The potentiality of living substance to acquire energy and material to form its own kind of substance has remained unchanged or unaffected by major natural calamities and other cataclysmic events. Life forms perish and yet Life continues as new life forms. During the billions of years of existence, planet Earth experienced several minor, and major Extinction Events described in its geological history. The Science of Paleontology offers scientific evidence to support an argument based upon theoretical and practical grounds to propose that the substance called protoplasm could be eternal, immovable, immutable, and indestructible. At a fundamental level, it could be stated that man is a mortal or materialistic being who derives his physical form because of its association with an imperishable substance. During any stage of his existence, the form called a man cannot be separated from the eternal nature of its substance.
WHAT IS SOUL OR SPIRIT?
Traditionally, man has been divided into two parts; body, and soul. In common usage, the term soul represents the immaterial aspect of a human being. The Soul is further defined as that part of the individual which is considered to survive the death of the body. The term spirit is often used to describe a disembodied soul. As per various human traditions, on separation from the human body, the soul or spirit has a life of its own, a capacity for independent existence or self-subsistence which describes its immortality.
THE CONCEPTIONS OF SOUL:
There are a variety of conceptions about soul or spirit. Some of the traditional conceptions of the soul are the following: 1. The Soul is the immaterial substance, form, or principle of self-motion, vitality, life force, or life in living things. The insentient body is completely distinct from the sentient soul. 2. Soul describes the Doctrine of the Self and is considered to be synonymous with the True-Self. In a human being, the soul confers the Individuality and its nature of humanity. 3. The Soul is often described as a thinking substance and is equated with the ‘Mind’. The soul has knowledge of itself by reflection of its acts. The soul is the knower and it knows the physical, and mental acts of the human body where it resides. 4. The Soul is important to maintain and to preserve life. The Soul may not directly participate in the activities of the human body. However, the activities of the human body may have a polluting effect on the Soul. If the Soul is tainted or contaminated by the sinful acts of the body, the soul may obtain purification by its release from the body. Some form of human effort, activity, attitude, and behavior is essential to keep the soul in its natural, pure, and perfect condition. 5. The soul that has experienced the polluting effects by its association with a human body would be forced to experience perpetual reincarnation by a process called transmigration. The soul continues to reside as a prisoner in different bodies until such time it attains its original state or condition of purity and perfection. 6. The Soul is a transcendental or noumenal object that is real but not visible and could not be detected by human sensory perception. The human body that is visible is, in fact, unreal or is a product of sensory illusion.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SOUL AND HUMAN BODY:
Most religions and cultures speak about soul and describe it as some incorporeal or immaterial substance/principle of human life that is distinct from the body. Despite the frequent acceptance of the existence of a soul, different religions and philosophers have developed a variety of theories as to the nature of the soul and its relationship to the human body. There are divergent views about the origin of the soul, when and how it gets implanted into the human body, and the mortality or when and if the soul dies. I would like to share the view that is attributed to Lord Krishna, the avatar or reincarnation of Hindu God Lord Vishnu.
ADHYATMA VIDYA – THE BHAGAVAD GITA:
The word ‘vidya’ is related to acquired knowledge derived from studies. The term ‘adhyatma’ pertains to the individual soul, Atma, or atman which describes the Spiritual Self. The phrase ‘Adhyatma Vidya’ could be described as the Knowledge of the Spiritual Self. The legendary Indian Sage Veda Vyasa or Krishna Dvaipayana, the author of the epic poem ‘The Mahabharata'( Great Epic of the Bharata Dynasty ) is recognized as the compiler of ancient Hindu texts known as Vedas. In the Book VI of Mahabharata, Lord Krishna had a conversation with Prince Arjuna while the warring parties of Pandavas and Kauravas had assembled at the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Lord Krishna revealed His views about the soul, the human body and their relationship in “The Song of the Lord” known as ‘The Bhagavad Gita’. These poems of The Bhagavad Gita give a synopsis of the religious thought and experience of India through the ages. Chapter X of The Bhagavad Gita is titled ‘Vibhuti-Vistara Yoga’ and it describes the divine or transcendental attributes of the Supreme Lord. In verse #39, the Lord claims, “I am the generating seed of all existences. There is no being, moving or unmoving( “Chara-acharam” ) that can exist without Me.” In verse #32, the Lord proclaims, “….of all the branches of Learning and Knowledge, I am the Knowledge of the Spiritual Self( “Adhyatma Vidya” ). In verse #22, the Lord describes the nature of His connection with the living beings that He has generated, “…. and in living beings, I am Consciousness( “Bhutanam Asmi Chetana” ).” He had also clarified that Consciousness or Chetana represents a different functional activity and has separated it from activities of mind, intellect and sense perception. The Mind is traditionally viewed as the major organ of sense perception, the seat of thoughts, intellect, emotions, feelings, and self-ego. Chetana is associated with the characteristics of a Living Thing that sets it apart from Non-Living Things. The Lord had also cited The Vedanta Sutra to make the distinction between the body, the soul, and the Supersoul. The Vedanta, the insights from Vedic Scriptures describe three manifestations of the Supreme Lord’s Energy. These are 1. Annamoya or dependence upon Food for existence, 2. Pranamoya or the manifestation of the living symptoms and life forms, and 3. Jnanamoya or the Knowledge of the distinction between the body the field of activity and the Knower who resides in the body. If a living being needs food for its existence and performs its living functions in a state or condition called awareness or consciousness, it could be described as the manifestation of the Supreme Lord’s Energy. In Chapter VII titled ‘Paramahamsa Vijnana Yoga’ or Knowledge of the Ultimate Truth, in verse #9 Lord Krishna claims: “I am the life( “Jivanam” ) of all that lives.” He had demonstrated a connection between life and consciousness to describe the spiritual nature of Self. The Chapter XIII of The Bhagavad Gita titled ‘Kshetra – Kshetrajna Vibhaga Yoga’ deals with the dichotomy or distinction between the material body, immortal soul, and the Supersoul. It states the view that the material body is called the field of activity or Kshetra. One who knows this body, the field of activity is called the Knower of the Field or Kshetrajna. The Knower of the Field is the Owner of the body. The Supreme Lord is also the Knower of the field of activity in all bodies( verse #3 ). In this human body, there is another indwelling observer, a Sanctioner, a Preserver, an Enjoyer, and indeed ultimate Controller called ‘Paramatma’ or Supersoul. The Supreme Lord or Paramesvaram is residing equally in all living entities( verses # 23, 27, and 28 ). Just like the Sun who illuminates the entire living world, the soul within the body illuminates the entire field of activity of the physical body by Chetana or Consciousness( verse #34 ). This view as stated suggests that consciousness is the proof or the symptom of the presence of the soul. A similar view is shared in Chapter II titled ‘Sankhya Yoga’. The imperishable or indestructible soul pervades or permeates the entire physical body( verse #7 ). What is spread all over the body? Consciousness could be described as spread over the entire body and it leads to the interpretation that the symptom of the soul’s presence is perceived as individual consciousness.
The final Chapter XVIII of The Bhagavad Gita titled ‘Moksha-Opadesa Yoga’ comes to an interesting conclusion about the Single Reality that pervades all existence that is divided into innumerable forms. Verse #20 reads as follows:”Sarva bhutesu yenaikam bhavam avyayam iksate avibhaktam vibhaktesu taj jnanam viddhi Sattvikam.””Understand that Knowledge by which one undivided, imperishable( “Avyayam” )reality is seen within all diverse living entities is in the nature of goodness( Sattvikam” ). What is that undivided reality that is imperishable that connects all the diverse, living entities?
THE BODY-SOUL DICHOTOMY:
In the Indian tradition, the individual soul is known as Atma or Atman. The Supreme Soul or the Supersoul is known as Paramatma, Paramesvaram, or Brahman, the Ultimate Truth, and the Reality. However, the concepts about Atma or individual soul vary and Hindus belong to different schools of thought. While the concepts about individual soul are different, there is general agreement among various Indian thinkers and philosophers about the distinction between the material, insentient, and perishable human body and the immaterial, sentient, and imperishable or immortal soul. The Soul is independent and is not attached and it still requires the substance of the corporeal body. However, I am not able to draw that distinction and make that separation from the substance and its function. To describe the function, I need the substance. Man lives and functions with consciousness because of the fundamental nature of the corporeal substance called protoplasm, and this substance is apparently imperishable, indestructible, and immortal. We could destroy the physical form of man and of several other living forms. But, either man or nature and the influencer called Time has not demonstrated an ability to destroy this living substance which has survived on planet Earth continuously over billions of years. Man cannot create life and man cannot destroy life. Man can only live or exist because of the spiritual nature of his corporeal substance with which he can not seek separation until the time of his death. The substance has a life of its own and continues to create a new substance of its own kind and becomes visible as a living life form with a different identity or morphological appearance.
The Neuro-biological aspects of Consciousness:
In the Human Brain Stem, several neurons, and nuclei which are in an area called Reticular Formation are functionally adapted to compose the contents of human consciousness. The Reticular Formation gives the Capacity for Consciousness. The contents of this consciousness are read in the cortical areas of the cerebral hemispheres and described as Cortical awareness. Most philosophers, most of the psychologists, and several of the religious thinkers pay attention to this Cortical awareness and describe that as human consciousness. We tend to ignore the fact that there would be no Cortical awareness unless there is a Capacity for Consciousness. Most recently, the surgeons had removed the complete left cerebral hemisphere from a child to stop convulsive seizures. The child is alive, fully conscious, and hopefully would continue to live in the future with some neurological deficits. Just like the human heart which has four different muscular chambers and each has a function of its own; we need to understand consciousness by knowing its components. We need to use separate terms to distinguish these different components. There would be confusion if a term is used without attaching a specific meaning. Cortical awareness is important and is very interesting and yet man can exist and survive with minimal cortical awareness. We have seen children with severe degrees of mental retardation, and they can keep their biological existence if they retain the ability to Compose Consciousness. I want to designate the upper Brain Stem as the Seat of Consciousness and the word consciousness itself must describe the functions of the Brain Stem which are most important for man’s biological existence. A man is clinically dead in the absence of these Brain Stem functions involved in the Capacity of Consciousness. In Clinical Medicine, the term conscious is often used to measure the degree of Arousal or Cortical awareness and hence this subject matter would remain confusing for a long time. If a subject is unconscious, I would not issue a ‘death certificate’. In Clinical Medicine, the term used is ‘Brain Death’ and when Brain Death is diagnosed, the human person for all practical purposes is dead. I would suggest that we must use the term ‘Unconscious’ specifically to indicate the Brain Death which is diagnosed by testing the Brain Stem Reflexes. If the human person is viewed as a single physical thing or object, the integration of functions is achieved at the Brain Stem( Reticular Formation), and he maintains his individuality throughout his physical existence only when this part of the brain is functioning. If you like the term individual soul or Jeeva Atma, its existence is a reflection of this function. To see a reflection, we need two things; the physical object and a reflective surface. The quality of reflecting objects may depend upon the presence of Knowledge. It is not known if this particular kind of knowledge exists as organic molecules; however, it is very well understood that most of the knowledge to perform a variety of biological functions is contained in organic molecules and the most well-known group of these organic molecules are known as DNA. There are Viruses which can function with RNA. Hence, there is still a possibility of finding organic molecules that could be associated with the functional ability called consciousness, awareness, cognition, recognition, responsiveness, perception, memory, intelligence, and association. The most important aspect of ‘association’ is ‘God Connection’ and without this function of ‘association’, man cannot keep his biological existence.
IDENTITY AND INDIVIDUALITY:
The issue of spirituality, the nature of Soul and consciousness must be explored in the context of arriving at an understanding of man’s Identity and Individuality. If a man is viewed as an association of trillions of cells, we need to know the Identity of that Subject who lives because of the functions of the trillions of cells. The purpose of consciousness at a cellular level is to foster functional unity of the multicellular organism and to establish it as an Individual. In a multicellular organism, cells have short lives as individuals. The Subject or the whole organism has a life span of its own and it has effects on individual cells. Multicellularity is accompanied by adaptive subordination of all cells to the requirements of the organism as a whole. To achieve a proper numerical balance between functionally related cell groups, the death of many cells is necessary for other cells to reach maturity. This programmed cell death plays an important role in embryological development. Such programmed cell death events are essential if the organism as a whole is to develop its normal final form. Waves of genetically driven cell deaths are critical to the proper modeling of organs and organ systems. We need to know and understand that the death of cells is a must to establish the Identity and to sustain the Individuality of the human being. The dying process helps man to understand his Individuality. The Individuality is preserved while death is a daily event at the cellular level. The phenotype or the morphological appearance of the human Subject undergoes constant change during the Life journey and yet the Individuality remains unchanged. We recognize the death of this human Subject when his Soul departs from his body. The Soul may be stated as an entity which is regarded as being immortal or spiritual part of the person. The Spirit of a dead person generally refers to a principle separate from the body and leading an existence of its own. If Soul is viewed as a Non-thing or Nothingness, it comes into the world of existence by entering the physical being at its conception which becomes conscious or aware of its existence. This consciousness has also existed in a previously existing Living Egg Cell which is the Mother of Life, Energy, and Knowledge. Consciousness by its very nature is immortal, it is eternal, and it has no birth or death. We recognize the arrival and departure of the new product during the Life-Death continuum where the Individuality is unaffected by the changes that are caused by the powerful influence of Time.