Mindful reality of the soul

It is a given that the ancient philosophy of Plato and Aristotle continues to appeal to us, primarily because the two genii thought of the human mind to be a sophisticated amalgam of energy, zeal, intensity, or compendium of atoms — something that is reckonable, yet intangible.

It was Plato who first articulated the idea of a three-fold soul. It included parts of the corporeal body, with its “mindful” atoms. He placed the “lowest soul” beneath the diaphragm; the “middle” soul in the chest; and, the “highest,” or the rational soul, in the head. He also made sure to elucidate his triad as being free from all blemish of materiality. Aristotle too distinguished the chasm that existed between the lower soulful, or psychical, function and the higher — albeit he did not clarify whether or not they were two things at the same time. The great philosopher, however, had a strong predilection for reason. His “reasoned” doctrine underlined the need for man’s detached sense of attachment and vice versa — for everything and anything material. In so doing, he emphasised the pristine “connect” that exists between the “divine mind,” the first driving force of movement, and pure reason — something that is tangible to our understanding, yet intangible in the physical realm.

This bids fair to another renaissance — Plotinus’s exemplification of the soul as a pleasant, yet warm “breath,” having its own set of atoms. His principle sounds immaterial and perplexing, all right, yet the point is, it celebrated, for Plotinus, the immaterial constituent — something that is present in the body, also in the entire body, and in every part of the body. This, in simple terms, clearly suggests that the soul is, perhaps, divisible, thanks to its presence throughout the body, yet it ought to be considered as indivisible, since it percolates every part, organ, or tissue.

Plotinus was a remarkable protégé of a host of great philosophers that lived before him. He distinguished the mind from matter. He provided for the existence of a perpetually expanding location in space — including the marvellous association that exists between the mind and body, something that modern science has lapped up in a big way and also in a manner born. However, the most interesting and also paradoxical part is — Plotinus’s canon stayed on its pedestal because the principle of the mind was, for long, vague, blurred, indistinct and mysterious. This brings us to modern thought — the mind being the interconnected fusion, also dimension, of both substance and faculties that are palpable and yet impalpable.

This old-new exemplar leads us to the quintessence of Eastern philosophy, primarily Madhvacharya’s “Dvaita” tenets that exemplify the principle of existence, consciousness and reality. The triad could be expressed as space-time continuum, principally through the eternal idea of matter, mind and soul, including the plurality, or the basic disparity, that exists in the nature of souls, based on the concept of karma with its myriad garbs and influences. This connects to Madhvacharya’s unique doctrine of “visesas,” or speciality, too, and its relationship with the underlying perception of difference between individuals, the individuality of each person, as it were, and objects.

Madhvacharya quantified the concept of atoms, where all atoms have taste, colour, smell, and also touch, although they may differ in their qualitative structure. To cull an exemplar, air has just one attribute: touch; while fire has two: touch and colour; water has three: touch, colour, and taste; and, earth has all four, including smell. His philosophy envisages the fact that most scientific descriptions are often postulates of objectivity and independent with the process of “mindful awareness,” or consciousness, and knowing.

(The writer is a wellness physician, independent researcher and author)