We are all endowed with rationality. This provides us with the ability to perceive life from the standpoint of perpetuity, or the relational quotient that exists between our life on planet earth and beyond. The philosopher Plato equated the human soul, or mind, as being made of three parts: 1. the appetitive soul, where our basic desires originate; 2. the rational soul being the seat of serene abilities; and, 3. the spirited soul, the intermediary “go-between,” from where moral reasoning emerges, without the aid of exclusive rational thinking.
Sigmund Freud, the plumber of consciousness, articulated a similar thought, viz., the id being analogous to the appetitive soul, the ego being the rational part of the mind, and their intercessor, superego, being analogous to our spirited soul. While Plato formulated that harmonious relationships were nothing but acceding control to the rational soul, Freud connected his psychoanalytic radar and compass to the id. This conforms to what modern neurobiology acquiesces to as proper balance, achieved through our emotions and “appetites” — the two foremost components of human temperament. In other words, a simple synthesis of the old and new — where rationality is the pivot that balances our emotions and works smartly to help us achieve our goals, while ushering in happiness.
This brings us to yet another parallel — the Swedish philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg’s landmark theory of rationality. His doctrine, propounded two centuries before Freud, was attuned to our innate ability to evaluating everything in life in the spiritual context, including the lights and shadows of our existence. Swedenborg also propounded that our thoughtful faculties reside in our soul and we use them in our mind, wherefrom our consciousness permeates everything that we grasp, absorb and expand. This only means that the type of individual that “exists” in oneself is established by what one makes of their innate faculties of liberty and prudence. What does this connote? That rationality which relates to our ability to be free and sensible resides primarily in our soul — not so much in our mind. This also leads us to that inevitable question: if our soul is different from our mind, what is our mind?
The best answer that emerges, pronto, is our mind is the spokesperson of our consciousness. So far, so good — because, in a realistic sense, this is just relatively true. Why, you may well ask. The dispassionate response is — there are levels of our mind that are over and above our conscious awareness, predominantly because of the fact that we often relate to only a part of our mind that makes us mindful of our surroundings. This is, perhaps, just the part that you would be using at this moment, while reading this column.
According to Swedenborg, every human being, at birth, has a soul and body, yet there exists just the rudiments of a nascent mind. Most of us are mindful that a new-born baby has but little consciousness. This is also what that gives every parent that supreme joy and happiness of witnessing the development of understanding in their kids — as they gradually grow up and become conscious of the world around them.
This leads us to yet another interesting credo — that our soul, like our mind, is made of a spiritual constituent. It distinguishes our mind from the brain and vice versa. The brain, as everyone knows, is physical matter. It can only be seen by our physical eyesight. This isn’t so for our mind. You cannot “feel” the mind with your physical senses, because it is placed on the higher plane of existence — far beyond the edicts of time and space.
(The writer is a wellness physician, independent researcher and author)