Sunday, April 13, 2014

Different aspects of our mind

What is the meaning of mind? Mind has many different meanings in different disciplines and different approaches in the same discipline. When people say mind, they may mean quite different things.

When Descartes wrote: I think therefore I am (Cogito ergo sum), he meant our mind defines our existence. One cannot talk about existence, and anything, without a mind. In extrapolation, before human existence, there must be a Mind to make existence of the physical world possible, which pointing to the existence of God, however one defines God. There are endless debates about whether God exists. Good for mental training. But like all ontological issues, each speaks within his own system of constructed concepts, each, rightfully, believes that he is totally logical (within his own system), and therefore any discussion seeking for any ultimate truth across systems is futile. A more complex and finely argued system may not necessarily be superior to a sloppily argued system in terms of ultimate truth. The classical difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Besides the Divine might prefer comedy over philosophical drama!

The postulation of a Universal mind can lead to the postulation of the existence of telepathy, the transmission of information from one person to another without using any of our known sensory channels or physical interaction. According to teachings of Buddhism and Taoism this is a special power of enlightened practitioners obtainable through the training of deep meditation. Experiencing that special power is however still the experience of an individual's conscious mind, as far as what evidence scientists can see, it never steps beyond psychology into physical science. Of course that doesn't diminish its significance or importance. Miracles are oftentimes needed for uneducated believers. Our major religions nowadays have more or less do away with miracles. Special power is therefore de-emphasized. As such telepathy nowadays belongs more to popular culture in the form of popular fictions, TV dramas and movies, though telepathy is still eagerly pursued by some New Age spiritualists who are fond of experimenting with all kinds of contacts, including hypnosis, shamanism and telepathy, with the spiritual world. As one of my spiritually inclined friend once wrote: you may think that I am superstitious, but shamanism offers an avenue to get in touch with the spiritual world, and this avenue has existed for thousands of years in all cultures. What he meant probably is I place more truth in my direct internal experience than what scientists say. Fair enough.

For psychologists, there is our Conscious mind and our Subconscious mind. Our Subconscious raises its sometimes ugly head during our Freudian slips. The common usage of mind in our daily language only means our Conscious mind. Our subconscious mind, according to psychoanalysis, is the cause of most of our psychological disorders as experienced by our Conscious miind. The cure of such disorders will be counseling for minor cases and psychoanalysis (now almost a lost art) or prescription of psychiatric drugs in major cases, with a lot of in-between treatments. Nowadays, our psychologists have taken over the duties of shamans, though for minor cases, many people will seek alternative treatments like astrology, fortune telling, and mind-body exercises.

For mind-body exercises, the mind is an entity to be trained so that it can be in sync with the body. The process is to allow the mind to temper the body and then allow the tempered body to re-temper the mind, in a circular upward spiral. For the body it becomes a tuned-up and healthy body. For the mind, it becomes free from stress, frustration, anger, irritation, phobia and other psychological problems. How effective it is depends on different systems, teachers and individual students. Mind-body exercises can also lay an essential foundation for people seeking spiritual objectives. Spiritual pursues without tempering the body in the process can possibly lead to cases of psychological disorders.

In summary, a philosophical quest on the mind produces insight. A spiritual quest on the mind produces enlightenment. A psychological quest on the mind produces understanding. And a mind-body quest on the mind produces.... results.

Our mind

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