Monday, February 18, 2008
Spirit and Matter
The supposed duality of spirit/matter used to be easy to phathom and we may be returning to a time where it will no longer be a problem. Until the 19th century it was assumed that the spirit world existed and in some ways interacted and affected the material world. But as natural philosophers became scientists, alchemists became chemists and universities added science as a course of study besides the humanities, the spiritual world became suspect. If it could not be weighed, measured, or observed then it did not in fact exist. The material realm became supreme and the spiritual realm was to slip quietly away. But then philosophy split again and gave birth to psychology. The study of human emotion and the human mind led down all sorts of crazy paths. Some of those paths died off and others are still walked today. And one of the most probing questions that philosophy and psychology asks is, "What does it mean to be human?" or more exactly, "What is consiousness?" And this question gave birth to neuroscience, the study of the brain. But it is much more then just the study of the physical stuff held in the head, it is also the study of the mind; how that physical stuff makes thoughts, emotions, memories, etc. And that is the turning point. That brings us full circle. In the brain is the mind. In the material universe is the immaterial consciousness. How the brain creates the mind or how the mind creates the brain is still a mystery. There has not yet been found that mechanism that creates, controls or maintains the conscious. We know that we are self aware we just don't know HOW we know we are aware. And if this self evident awareness is immaterial and not prone to the same type of materialist science that brought the supposed death to the spirit, then perhaps it is wrong and the spirit world still exists and still has some effect on us today. Perhaps just as a science of the mind was created, we now need a science of the spirit to explore such things. Not a theology or a religion, but a skeptical (read: objective) approach searching for methods to resolve questions of the spirit. (I believe that if such a science was created there would be great interest in its fellowship with some of the current trends in quantum physics).