Saturday, 5 May 2012

Body and Soul?

Philosophically, I am dialectical materialist. I think that each of us is a single psychophysical organism, not two conjoined entities, a body and a soul. However, the language of "body and soul" makes some sense if it is understood that the "soul" must be mortal, not immortal. If your "body" is your visible physical social appearance and role whereas your "soul" is your consciousness, then "body" and "soul" can be differently related. Consciousness may be completely identified with physical satisfaction and enjoyment and/or with social appearance and role. Alternatively, it may be completely detached from them.

People around us treat us as if we were simply identical with the person (persona =mask) that is visible to them. We are socially trained to accept this identification but can see things differently. It is as if the soul has entered the world with a mission to stop identifying with the body by becoming more conscious of the reality underlying roles and appearances. My public persona can be a role that I play for social purposes, but not what I think I am. I think that my consciousness has grown organically with my body, not that it has entered this body from a previous life or another realm. But it is as if it has come here to learn non-attachment to the body in the sense of "body"  suggested here. This does not entail negation of the body. The Buddhist teaching of "no soul" entails a middle way between asceticism, emphasising the "body", and hedonism, emphasising the "soul".

As we meditate, we become dispassionate observers of our past social interactions. We are no longer simply the person who was in conflict with others but observers of the conflict who are more likely to avoid unnecessary conflict in future.

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