Mind over Matter
Spirit over Mind over Body
We live in a world with three intertwined dimensions: physical, mental, and spiritual (see my previous posts for details). I want to elaborate on the relationship between these dimensions. In this post, specifically, I mean to make one point: the world does not start with matter and work upwards. It starts with spirit and goes downwards.
We have fallen into the error today of thinking that we start with physical matter, and mental and spiritual ideas and persons just kind of emerge out of that physicality, through a particular arrangement of atoms or neurons or cells. This is simply incorrect; the physical cannot produce the mental or spiritual. But it can be the other way around.
I am going to give several examples, although, like Sherlock Holmes, I’m a little afraid to give away my secrets, because the things I say are so obvious once explained I am afraid you’ll think I’m trite and boring. Still, let us begin.
The Agent and the Terrorist
Simply put, values shape thoughts, and thoughts shape actions. Suppose the agent of a futuristic government is trying to make a captured terrorist change sides and tell him the location of the next terrorist attack. Furthermore, the agent of this future government has technology that allows him to choose what every cell in the terrorist’s body does, physically speaking.
Despite this complete physical control, the government agent is as far from gaining mental or spiritual control as he ever was. There is no surgery he can do, no brain scan he can run, no concussion he can give, that will remove that thought from his prisoner’s mind and stick it into his. It is utterly inaccessible physically, because it does not exist in the physical dimension (although it is influencing both parties’ physical actions).
Now imagine we give the government agent even more power; he is now able to control every bit of information that enters the terrorist’s mind. He has complete mental control. Now, doubtless, the government agent will gain the information he seeks, perhaps by making man the man think that he is among friends. But even now – even now! – the agent does not have full control over the man.
You see, the agent may physically torture the terrorist until he betrays his values; he may mentally convince the terrorist that cooperation agrees with his values. But he cannot, through physical or mental manipulation, change the terrorist’s values; he still does not have spiritual control. He may take control of the terrorist’s body or even his mind, but the terrorist still chooses his reaction to that; his spirit remains his own. And his spirit will react based on his values, no matter what mental or physical circumstances it encounters. Those values – and the man’s character – extend beyond the physical and mental dimensions.
The Leader and the Child
Now imagine the leader of the terrorist’s organization, the man he considers his spiritual guide and commander. The leader has spiritual control of the terrorist, and even incomplete spiritual control gives the leader mental and physical control over the terrorist’s actions, control over how the terrorist views the world and his role in it. The leader may not control the torture, but he will shape how the man reacts to said torture, whether he breaks or keeps fighting, whether he tells what he knows or not.
The spiritual rules all; the physical, in the end, rules nothing. You may put your hand over mine, or somehow control my neural pathways, so that you can make my hand fire a gun and put a bullet between a child’s eyes. You may control my mind and play some sort of trick, so that I think the child is an enemy and unknowingly kill her. But you cannot make me choose to kill the child – if you did, it would no longer be my choice. And you cannot by any physical or mental force alter my value judgment that gratuitously killing a child is wrong.
One disclaimer: This thought experiment is not meant to talk about the ethics of torture or the subtleties of mental control or conscience; it had one point and one point only: to demonstrate that if we start with the spiritual, we can make sense of all three dimensions, while if we start with the physical, we will never reach the other two levels.
The Beginning of it all
Imagine, if you will, three concentric circles: the innermost is the physical dimension, the next largest the mental dimension, and the outermost the spiritual dimension. Everything that exists in the physical dimension also exists in the mental and spiritual dimension, and everything in the mental dimension also has spiritual significance. But there are things in the spirit-realm that do not have mental and physical existence, because they precede those.
I am now talking about the most eternal things, the permanent things: the good, the true and the beautiful. I cannot go much deeper without getting into trouble, I am painting this picture with such broad and inexact strokes. But I will say one more thing. The outermost circle is made up of a Good that is beyond both space and time, for it created them. And yet it is not a Good that has had characteristics stripped away from it, because it is the origin of all the personality and flavor that the world holds. This is not something below personhood, but above personhood. It is something entirely Other, and yet approachable, because from it came all of the familiar world we know. But that is a topic for another day and another post.