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The mind and body, the spirit and the flesh

JamesKnight2In the second half of his two-part column Network Norwich columnist James Knight takes a look at the real nature of the relationship between mind and body, the spirit and the flesh.

Many people have tried in the past to identify the real nature of the relationship between mind and body. The Bible says that we are made up of spirit and flesh, thus indicating that there is more to us than just matter. We all know that thought is directly interrelated with the brain. That is, activity in the brain corresponds to the thing that we call ‘thought’. But the idea that each thought is itself an event solely explicable in terms of physical activity within the brain must be nonsense, unless we admit that the activity in which the Spirit is operating must be something which can only be perceived through matter itself, much in the same way that three dimensions of a drawing are only really being perceived by two dimensional angular observations. 
The vast depths of consciousness differ greatly to the activity at a physical level in the brain. The events among atoms that make up the physical nature of the brain surely cannot be the same event as the vast depths of activity occurring at the level of ‘thinking’, or of ‘consciousness’, or at the empirical level, unless we admit a correspondence between the mind and body which is not explicable in terms of sole physicality. In other words, each drop in the vast ocean of ‘thought’ and ‘consciousness’ and ‘emotions’ surely do not correspond to physical changes in the brain in the same way that, say, a physical change occurs when things like ‘excitement’ or ‘fear’ causes us to have a headache; for we all know that they are very different things.
The only sound conclusion is, it seems, a series of events which contain both the spiritual and the physical. And if we cannot locate empirically the spiritual in the physical, then we must do the opposite, we must look for instances of the spiritual within the physical. Now the principal difficulty is that such evidence can only real occur a priori, that is, it can only occur as a personal experience of the individual. I do not mean that we cannot infer from a miraculous event that the Spirit is present in the action - I mean that occurrences of divine impartations can only be experienced individualistically. This is part of the reason why we are told that if we seek we will find, because however strong empirical evidence is for the supernatural (and it is immensely strong) a real experience of God can only occur through the self. 
And if we are thinking clearly, that is exactly how we should expect it to be; after all, we know for example that, say, the smell of coffee - the smell as distinct from any other smell - can be experienced by millions of people but that even an accumulation of all those experiences would still be a mere drop compared to our own experiences of the same thing. No amount of external information about what the smell is like will compare to, or provide feelings for or sentient experiences of, the actual nature of smelling it yourself.
Of course atheists will still continue to claim that this so-called spiritual experience which we have is merely a false conception or a cognitive simulation of the natural, but that is exactly what we should expect to happen if the natural is really a two-dimensional entity operating in a three-dimensional reality. The drunk man in a nightclub can never by examination find anything but prurience in his observation of a woman dancing; the man who watches Psycho cannot expect to find colour images in a black and white movie. Therefore we must at least have sympathy with our antagonists, for the conclusion they draw about our spiritual knowledge must be the only conclusions that one can draw from two-dimensional analyses. 
Having seen that we must do what Christ says, that we must seek if we are to find the higher dimension, we must also understand that the searching process itself contains many of the things that are already being perceived in the lower dimensions; in fact, that such a distinction can occur within the self is obvious if we look at speaking in tongues (SIT). 
From the outside we cannot know for sure if the man speaking in tongues is really experiencing the Spirit within him or whether he is merely deluded. God within us can only be discerned by the Spirit that is working within us, therefore, while there are many examples of empirical evidence of the supernatural occurring, the real knowledge of the living Christ must be events and activities wholly personal to the individual.
I had a snack recently on the Norwich market, and it was easy to sense the ‘spirit’ of the place. I suppose one could characterise it as a ‘spirit’ exclusive to markets, or that particular market perhaps. However much you tried to decipher it with language you would only be describing facts about your own cognition, not about the ‘spirit’ itself. The ‘spirit of a place’ is, in one sense, not a real thing; it is an inescapable interconnection between people’s perceptions and feelings - available to us only in conceptualised form. It seems likely that the ‘spirit of the place’ of which we speak must be in one sense a little part of the higher dimensions within us - after all, we do not see this occurring in the other creatures, even in the higher mammals. If the higher dimension is as powerful as we suspect it must be, it is quite natural that sometimes we will mistake it for things in the lower dimension. That is why the statement that ‘All men have equal access and equal opportunity to know God’ must be, in the spiritual sense, true. 
If we are to remain, as yet, in the dark about the real power of the spiritual, all of us can at least know that whatever this Spirit is, it is much greater than physical things; just as we know that any good action that we perform will, however good in the context of ordinary acts, always be much smaller than ultimate goodness itself. That is why it is ridiculous to expect a good understanding of our spiritual situation from introspection alone, for even introspection can, if prickly enough, shut off all aspects of the Spirit within us. Thus we can only know our real position in relation to God’s position if we offer the spiritual part of ourselves up to Him; and we can only offer the spiritual part up to Him when we have surrendered the non-spiritual parts of the self - for however much we feel that self-surrender is an action most expressed through emotional discharge, it seems to me foolish to think that any part of the surrender is occurring at a spiritual level. I am as certain as I can be that the Spirit helps us to make the necessary propitiations, but that is a different thing. 
To say that God offers hope where there is no hope elsewhere is, in this sense, a literal truth. This is how we can see the distinction between hope and desire. A drunk man in a night-club desires a woman in the sense that he hopes that she might be able to supply him with some sensory pleasure. A man who is eager to find love in the higher sense, desires a beloved in the hope that she will illuminate every area of his life and allow him to do the same to her. With this in mind, if we are going to search for God from deep within our own hearts, we are going to have to recognise the distinction between the higher and the lower, and also the realisation that we can also experience parts of the lower in the higher and vice versa. 
SmokeonWaterWe should expect that if we are on the right road, our feelings of lust will be of a lower dimension than our feelings of love, just as our observations of a two-dimensional drawing should be able to perceive the three dimensions made from the various two-dimensional angles. Those who are not yet Christians, but have some ambiguous sense of the spiritual, are really experiencing mere extrapolations of the higher into the lower. Those who have experienced Christ in the fullest sense, are those whose experiences are largely from the higher, but do from time to time (in the case of sins and errors) extrapolate from lower things.
This might explain a little bit why such a glorious and necessary thing is anathema to many people and also why it often seems that we have a natural resistance to divine things. If the intrusive nature of the lower dimensions are able to reflect some of the real qualities of the higher dimensions (as is the case when lust is preferred to love), it is bound to seem to us that the surrender that God says is necessary for us to know Him must be quite unappealing to those whose preoccupation is for the transitive, or lower, dimensions. 
But if we are to know God, we must make great efforts to guard against this sort of thing happening. We must see the pleasures not as reflections but as real things; and in the process we must see the reflections for what they really are - for in the sense of being pleasures that impede our spiritual growth, they must be seen as opposites to the real nature of pleasure. We must begin to see pleasures, not just as sensory things, but as elements of the Christ that is in us, and factors of the Christ that we are trying to imitate. 
From this we must draw several conclusions. In the first place, the problem of finding a distinction between mind and body is not like looking at two separate drawings, it is like looking at different dimensions of the same drawing. In the second place, the difference between several men who all feel very differently and have different perceptions about Christianity, are differences not in the sense that an empty glass differs from a full one but in the sense that a chrysalis is different from a butterfly. The life-cycle stage, during which the larval form is reorganised to produce the definitive adult form, is much like spiritual transformation - it is not a replacement, but development. 
Let us use an analogy to show the nature of exploration and unknown revelation. Let us picture a small undeveloped village in a very small and remote island. Now let us suppose that a woman leaves Britain to live on the island and within one year has a daughter. The daughter grows up on the island with no knowledge of the outside world whatsoever. But let us say that the mother has concealed within a locked drawer several photo albums of what life is like in Britain. With these photos she tries to explain to her daughter what life is like outside of this primitive island, and that such things such as cities, computers, mobile phones and airplanes exist. 
An assiduously minded daughter would be able to be convinced that the outer world was more interesting than the world about which she knew on the island but her ideas would be limited to those produced from the photographs and the subsequent imagination which one can distil from photographic images. As soon as the woman’s daughter begins to think of a world outside of photographic images, she can only think of realties which are exclusive to life on the island on which she lives. The realities of the outer world which define themselves by higher dimensions are much the same as the realities of love which defines itself by a higher dimension than lust and, much higher, by the spiritual things which define themselves as higher than the physical. 
The experiences of those who do not know Christ are much like the experiences of the girl who only has the photographs. If they disappear in the higher sense, they will disappear only as the photographs are absent from the true wonders of the outer world. When a man becomes aware of the Spirit within him; that is, when he first comes to know Christ, he will find that it is not an experience like that of a small lamp being turned on in a dark room. Rather it is as though the light of a small lamp has disappeared in the whole glare of the sun shining through. Therefore the darkness in which one is said to be by not knowing Christ is not darkness in the sense that there is no light, it is only darkness in the sense that a lamp has been left to shine in the shadows of blocked out sunlight. One can say that at the moment of salvation we are transported into divine things, but I think a more accurate description would be that the divine has been a part of us all along, and that the transformation is a realisation of the divine that is in us. 
This, I think, also explains why any scientific analysis of the brain does not reveal anything about the Spirit. We use our brains for reasoning, but reason itself is an old thing - older than creation. The brain is not. The brain is the tool which adds the physical to the eternal - it is the harp which allows the angelic music to be played. The brain is drawn into reason just as man himself is drawn into the divine. I have tried to show in this essay that those who look at Christianity from the lower dimensions are only looking at the reality in a partial way. I lack time and, of course, knowledge of a better way to convey the message; perhaps partly because all the glory of the higher knowing can only come to each of us in a personal sense. 
I said a moment ago that those who are analysing from the lower dimensions are doing exactly what the daughter is doing on the island when she is looking at photographs of a more expansive reality. She is observing three dimensions on two-dimensional print. The lower dimension contains within it instances of what is happening in the transformation. At the beginning I said that a man who turns round to examine love finds something different to that which he had before he turned around. He might even think that his introspection is more of a reality than the thing he is trying to capture. But he would be guilty of seeing the higher and lower as two separate things - he would be seeing two separate pictures. 
Those who explore Christianity at the most basic level always try to make it fit in with their own desires and fancies. They look at a photograph and forget that it is merely an image of something more real and more glorious. It is the difference between choosing life and choosing death (Deuteronomy 30:19). Every attempt to live a happy and fulfilling life through the reflections of the higher dimensions will bring only false hope and disguised joy. But if one has the courage to step up to the higher dimensions, the true beauty of revelation will be experienced. It will transform all of the lower things into higher things. 
The difference between mind and body is the difference between the photographs and the real thing - between two and three-dimensional reality - in the sense that both are a part of the same thing. In the photographs the girl had only pixels instead of the real thing. The inadequacies of the images and the intimation of the realities are both able to bless us if they are seen for what the really are. If the reflections of the highest things are properly understood in the context of reflection into the lower things, then we really can feel the warmth of the sun by looking beyond the lamp.  But we can come into this glorious transformation only by allowing the light to illuminate every part of us; for then we shall be truly blessed by the One who is light - the real light of the world. 


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