A Connection Between the Body, Soul, and Spirit
Some say that the intellectual woes of humankind began in the garden of Eden. At the taste of that luscious apple, men’s consciousness took a wild turn. With that simple but rebellious act, mankind renounced his ignorance is blissmentality for a much more tumultuous but stimulating state of mind. While this is a remarkable tale in itself, I believe consciousness began prior to this story.
The study of consciousness cannot be properly pursued without first understanding our own human limitations — namely, the various degrees of consciousness. The two basic levels of human consciousness can be classified as either being conscious or subconscious. Consequently, anything completely unconscious can be assumed to be dead or non-existent.
Within the conscious part of humanity, we have been able to determine what we are capable of knowing amidst varying degrees of confidence. The human knowledge capacity includes the known-known, known-unknown, unknown-known, and unknown-unknown states.
The known-known state is the body of knowledge that is common to us all and is comprised of the information we derive using readily available resources if the need arises. What is known in the conscious mind can be assumed to be known in the subconscious mind as well. The known-unknown state is the part of our subconsciousness that we know holds vital information but yet we do not know what that data entails.
In other words, we know that the information is there but we do not know what that information is. For instance, when you first meet someone, your subconscious mind is able to pick up micro-behaviors that it uses to determine whether the person is trustworthy or not.
The unknown-known state is data that we are not aware exists in our subconsciousness. For instance, sometimes we may struggle with a particular problem for days, months, or even years only to wake up one day with the solution completed provided by our subconscious mind. In essence, we did not know that the solution existed within our subconsciousness but it was there nonetheless.
Then there are things beyond the reach of both our conscious and subconscious mind. I cannot give an example here for exactly the reason why they are unknown-unknown. The body of knowledge would fall into one of the aforementioned states the moment I am able to furnish an example.
These are the known states of consciousness that humans operate in. Within these bounds, we are able to gather and in many cases work out new insights. Another important factor to take note of is that there is a difference between the brain and the mind.
The brain is merely the finite matter which houses the countless reactions and synapses transpiring amidst billions of neurons.
The entirety of neurons and their responses are what is referred to as the brain. While the brain can be considered as the wetware (or biological hardware), the mind is the intangible manifestation of the brain’s numerous reactions.
The mind is the software of the brain.
Yet a software just is. A software isn’t aware of its own existence. Nor is a software conscious. Even the immediate definition of consciousness primarily refers to awareness. So is consciousness a state of mental activity which requires activation of awareness?
Professor Jamie Sleigh of the University of Waikato and professor Catherine Warnaby of the University of Oxford believe so. According to them, consciousness requires widespread parts of the brain to be able to communicate with each other. In this case, a state of unconsciousness is said to arise when there is a disruption at the network level preventing information from one part of the brain to reach other parts.
The famous physicist, Sir Roger Penrose, has also pondered about this mystery. Penrose believes that, perhaps, consciousness arises from a quantum mechanical mishmash of states that breeds the simultaneous existence of billions of patterns out of which a single pattern can be said to collapse into what is known as conscious thought. How exactly the brain knows when this thought is right, however, is unknown. In the Emperor’s New Mind, Penrose gives an exquisite discourse on consciousness as noncomputable. An idea inspired by one of the mysteries of quantum mechanics.
Microtubules are gaining some momentum of late as the part of the brain that houses consciousness. Stuart Hameroff and Penrose are currently exploring experiments to support their converging theory of consciousness that originates from microtubules.
With all these purely scientific explorations of consciousness, you may be compelled to ask so what does consciousness have to do with the body, spirit, and soul? Well, this is where our journey to pinpoint the nature of consciousness takes a wild turn into the metaphysics.
This is a realm beyond the physical and as such is free from many of its limitations. With such freedom also comes our inability for proof. In short, many of the ideas here cannot be proven and are simply a philosophical discourse on what could potentially be consciousness.
It is said that human beings or living things are composed of a body, spirit, and soul. The body is the matter which interacts with reality. Moreover, the spirit is what gives the body it’s lifeforce. And the soul is the force that holds the spirit and body together.
Whenever the spirit and the body are severed, death ensues.
Could what we call consciousness simply be the information channel between the body and spirit? Namely, is consciousness the boundary between the physical and the metaphysical? For any living being/thing, life is the primary indicator of consciousness. The interface between physical matter and a spiritual force is manifested through life. Life, simply stated, is the culmination of soul, spirit, and body.
The relationship between the three is often misrepresented. Three overlapping circles are usually employed to emphasize the connection between the three. This representation, however, is wrong because there are simply too many overlaps that we cannot account for.
For instance, what is the overlapping region between spirit and soul or the one relationship between body and soul? Nonetheless, this enigma is clearly disentangled when we take the spirit and body as our elementary components. Obviously, the body can be broken down into even smaller components but that is the subject for another article.
In this model, the soul derives from the overlapping region between the spirit and body. As far as we the living are concerned, the soul is the convergence of spirit and matter but this is only true for living things. Outside the spirit and body is consciousness. This must imply that consciousness exists outside of the components which give rise to life. Hence consciousness exists outside of the spirit, souls, and body. The diagram below illustrates this hierarchy.
There can be no soul without a conjoining spirit and a body. On a deeper level, the soul represents the overlapping region between consciousness, spirit, and body. Yet, both the spirit and the body exist inside consciousness.
Another relevant analogy for the relationship between consciousness, spirit, body, and soul is spacetime, carbon (I’m aware carbon is part of matter but this is simply for demonstrating), matter, and life respectively. Spacetime, in this case, represents consciousness which no life, carbon or matter can exist without.
Using carbon as the spirit, we also see that no configuration of matter or elements can give rise to life without carbon meaning a body without spirit will still be lifeless. Life, in this case, is the soul in our original conception and as you see only when matter comes together in a specific configuration with carbon do we get life.
The soul, like life in this analogy, only arises when spirit and body converge.
For quite some time, this model of consciousness, soul, spirit, and body was what I believed. But, lately, I am drawn to a much more simpler relationship. This new model is governed by the central idea that the spirit houses consciousness. It is very well possible that consciousness is a component of the spirit. It would also explain why the body loses consciousness after death.
The departure of the spirit from the body directly translates to an exit of consciousness as well.
This model is more compelling primarily because a body without life cannot contain consciousness. This is my chief concern regarding the previous model where consciousness encompasses both body and spirit. That model has to be wrong mainly due to this logic. If consciousness contains both the spirit and the body then both the spirit and the body must be able to exist independently with consciousness.
Yet we know that this is not the case. We are well aware that a body without life is not conscious. Conversely, a spirit is conscious independently so I am led to believe that the last model must be correct if not the closest interpretation of these relationships.
Who could have possibly conceived that one simple rebellious act in Eden would lead men into this rabbit hole of intellectual roller coaster? As blatant as the punishment for a taste of that apple is, I don’t think any of us has regrets during our many intellectual tangents.
As far as human righteousness goes, Adam and Eve may have failed us but perhaps out of that stark darkness emerged one of humanity’s most essential natures. A quality so inherent in our psyche that we often take it for granted. I am speaking of humanity’s ability to doubt — a feature that breeds curiosity which in turn has led to many human discoveries.
I have no doubt that someday it will be this very quality that will guide us into breakthroughs in consciousness.