We are going to explore the concept of 3-natures of a complete human. This is a slightly modified/modernized perspective on Classical Greek thought.
There is a quote that comes to mind whenever I think about spirituality:
We have a God-shaped hole in our consciousness which we've never learned to fill
He never intended for this to be a “proof” of God, rather, as a rebuke of the materialistic view of reality. There are many prescriptions to resolve this empty yearning, but we learned important lessons in the 20th century. The gravest lesson was that materialistic solutions to ‘the God-shaped hole’ result in genocide at the implementation phase. Spiritual problems require spiritual solutions.
Questions of Being
When I was a child, one of my teachers referred to Greek thought, she said that the Greeks believed that humans had 3 parts:
- Heart - what we would refer to as “Mind”
This meme was unusual and stuck with me. I thought, “I have dozens of organs and many parts… how can it be only three?” This concept started making sense to me a few years ago. The concept disregarded the view of people as material entities.
- In the material sense, this concept makes none
- In a broader / 30,000 foot view sense, the concept holds water
Looking through some of the Greek concepts from Aristotle and Plato, specifically referencing the soul I found that they never actually came to this conclusion. What I found instead were references to the “triplicate division” which is a bit more modern. Triplicate Division has been popularized largely within the Christian worldview. I believe these concepts can be applied outside of a religious context but accept both applications, for what that’s worth.
I like this video that goes into a little more detail.
What Makes a Person
Our body is our physical presence within the universe. We cannot think, nor can we do anything in reality without an ability to physically interact with the world around us. This is self-evident based on our sensory perception of the world.
The mind is a bit more mysterious than the body, although without a brain the mind cannot exist. Mind and brain are NOT the same thing, as exemplified by identical twins. Identical twins have identical brains (per their DNA) yet follow different thought processes evinced by distinct behaviors. This is because the physical driver of development (DNA) does not interact with our minds in a fully deterministic way.
Note: we’re not going to get into epigenetics here. There is a link between the brain and the mind.
Our mind is our informational presence within the universe and functions as a metadata repository to reference against information inputs. For example, I see the road in front of me (frame of reference) and the double-yellow lines tell me where oncoming traffic will be (metadata). We cannot use our bodies to physically interact with the world around us without a frame of reference and metadata/symbolism for those inputs.
The physical influences the mind in ways that can be measured probabilistically but not enough to entangle the concepts of a brain and a mind. While some organisms respond to information purely via hardware inputs (such as jellyfish), we do not see these species solving complex problems. Pure speculation: this may be why Cyrex lost the CPU wars; the speed of physical hardware switches eventually gets outstripped by the flexibility and carrying capacity of symbolic processing. This was also the theory behind Intel’s defunct Larrabee.
Spirit or soul is by far the most ethereal and misunderstood concept. There is little concrete evidence to support the existence of spirit, but, like the mind, its impacts can be observed with the senses.
Here is a thought experiment: you develop some code that contains the necessary information to replicate itself like a worm across all of the computers on your local network, but without instructions to do so, what happens?
Nothing happens because it “has a bad motivator.” Without a driving force, the information will not spread, and without informational metadata on the repair and replication of the physical, physical constructions give way to entropy (they erode).
Our spirit or soul is the driving force that requires us to use our minds and bodies to continue existence. Replicating this behavior outside of genetic organisms has been exceptionally difficult and slow-going. The concept is moving along but we’re still in the pre-infancy phase for this technology.
Plato indicated that the soul is the “distinguishing mark of living things”. While you won’t find me quoting Plato frequently, this is one of those things I think he got right.
What is it that, when present in a body, makes it living? — A soul.
Impact Life and Closing Thoughts
Assuming that you understand that you have a mind, a body, and a soul, this says something about how you and I should behave. We need to take care of all 3 to be complete people.
The spirit drives the mind and body. Think about the last time that you tried to read a super boring book, and how it went… now think about reading a super boring book in school, when your grade depended on it; remember which one you finished. Your body has a well-documented fail point that can be overcome with spirit, known as the Navy Seals “40 percent rule”. Your spirit is important and necessary to exceed your normal limitations.
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak
The body nourishes the mind and enables the spirit to accomplish its objectives. Your body helps you figure out which nutrients your brain needs to keep the mind properly activated and accomplishes the tasks for your soul. This link to the physical world is perceptible by others; when there is something wrong with your mind and body others notice.
Excellent minds make better decisions to allow their bodies to do more and acquire information that inspires their souls. An example of a better decision for your body is using a lever and a cart to move a rock, instead of raw braun; don’t try to imagine your time without tools… it would be a waste. The most important use for your mind is to improve your morale; consume positive music, read motivating texts, and spend time with motivating people. Life is a long series of battles and, as with any war, maintaining high morale will allow you to punch out of your weight class. Inspiring information allows us to accomplish amazing feats.
We neglect the spirit in favor of the physical and mental. We live in a society that is obsessed with the material. People use "mind" and "brain" as interchangeable concepts when they are not. TV and magazines honor people for their physical appearance, even the show Jeopardy (one of the few) honors people for their intelligence. When was the last time you saw a magazine or news segment honoring someone for their positive contributions to the world? How viral was the publication you thought of?
None of us take perfect care of our mind, body, or spirit. My mind needs more nourishment from beautiful music and texts, I’ve spent years consuming the wrong material. My body needs more sleep and less food. My spirit has received many years of neglect, this was the biggest trap that I fell into. This blog entry, most importantly, is an invitation to separate ourselves from the lies we have been sold and to do a little bit better tomorrow.
Do not neglect your spirit.