THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE BANYAN TREE :
WHAT IS SOUL OR SPIRIT ? :
THE STATUS OF MAN IN NATURE :
The First Book of Moses, The Old Testament Book of Genesis describes the story of Creation; in Chapter 2, verse 7, it narrates man’s creation: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
MAN IS A CREATED BEING :
MAN IS A SPIRITUAL BEING :
The status of man in nature describes man as a created object; a new object, one of its own kind, distinctive, and unique. The principle of Creation
involves the use of inspiration and imagination as opposed to the view proposed by the Theory of Evolution. The fundamental issue is about understanding man’s status in nature. Did man come into existence by gradual changes caused by random and unguided events called genetic mutations? Or, does man actually exist in nature because of his relationship with other objects present in his living environment? What defines man’s existence? What establishes the reality of man’s physical existence? Should we focus on the changing form? Alternately, should we give attention to an unchanging relationship that is a prerequisite for the existence of all life forms? If an object cannot come into its state of existence, how could that object get a shape or form? In the context of a discussion about man’s existence in nature, I state that man is a created object, and hence man
exists as a Spiritual being. The term Spirituality describes the nature of this connection between man and His Creator. Soul is the immortal part of man as distinguished from his body; it is the vital principle which moves and animates all Life. Soul may represent the essence of a human being, it could be the quality which confers individuality, humanity, and the moral nature of man. I divide man into two categories; the first category is called the ‘SELF’ which represents man as a physical, mental, and social being; and the second category is called the ‘KNOWING-SELF’ which represents man as a moral, and spiritual being. These two categories function together and the functional unity of the human person is an attribute of a neuro-biological function called Consciousness. Man’s physical being is represented by a changing external or morphological appearance and while the physical Identity is constantly changing, the unchanging Individuality is supported by man’s spirituality or the nature of his constant spiritual relationship.
Religious thinkers have further defined Soul as that part of the individual which partakes of divinity. People of all races, cultures and religions would like to investigate the nature of this God-Connection as they perceive the world and the universe in which they exist as a fact of Creation. I need to find evidence that would fundamentally deny the fact of Creation.
MAN IS A SOCIAL BEING :
Apart from being a created Physical being, man is recognized as a Social being as he displays social instincts and social behaviors in all of his activities. A rudimentary understanding of Sociology or Theories of Social Science would clarify this matter. Social instincts and Social Behaviors are seen in all animals including bacteria. At a cellular level, the social function is called ‘Association’. Man is an association of trillions of cells. Each human organ and organ system represents an association of cells that display functional subordination to perform selective tasks. Life is just impossible without social structure and organization.
MAN IS A MORAL BEING :
Man is an individual who exists in a social group. At the same time, man is a Moral being, as he displays moral behavior even when he is corrupt. Man displays the ability of Repentance for his thoughts, for his actions of commission and omission. Man has the ability to admit his sins, express remorse and may often punish himself for his sinful conduct. Man experiences grief for his actions that are sinful. Man actively searches for solutions for his sinful conduct. Man cannot sustain his biological existence if he had morally failed. A famous example would be that of Apostle Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus.
The basic characteristic of a Living Cell or organism is the presence of consciousness. I recognize a cell as a Living Cell if it displays functions that characterize the presence of awareness or consciousness. The Living Cell or Living Object need not be aware or conscious of the Subject who may be investigating or observing the properties of that Object. The Living Object need to be aware of its own existence and its condition called Living. Atoms and molecules display their properties and interact according to the Laws of Physics and Chemistry. Living organic molecules show individualistic behaviors under experimental conditions that could be repeated and be verified. The Living Cell is very selective and it responds in a variable manner to physical and chemical stimuli. It can communicate or send signals to other Living Cells present in its environment. It responds according to its internal condition in relation to the environment in which it exists. The interactions of non-living physical matter are not goal-oriented. The interactions of Living matter are goal-oriented and they specifically achieve the purpose of sustaining, preserving, defending, and continuing the Living functions.
MAN IS A MORTAL, PHYSICAL BEING :
LIFE AND DEATH IS A CONTINUOUS PROCESS :
When does Life begins? When does Life ends? Every Living Cell is derived from a previously existing Living Cell. Life has not experienced the final event called DEATH. Life continues its act of Living through a function called Reproduction. A given species is considered to be totally extinct only if there is no surviving member to represent that particular species. Death is a programmed event and it gives meaning to the Identity of a Living Object. The dissolution of a single Living Object should not obscure the fact that Life is a continuous process. Life continues as Living Objects get new Identities. It is very reasonable to expect that Life would continue after the death of a given Living Object. People all over the world are a witness to that simple and direct observation. During the Life-Death continuum, the connection between the Creator and the created Living Object is manifested by the biological function called awareness or consciousness. The presence of Soul is evidenced by the presence of consciousness. As long as the Soul is functioning and is united with the physical being, the presence of consciousness could be detected and could be verified.
THE SOUL AND GOD CONNECTION :
There has been no clearly defined and universally accepted metaphysical conception of the term Soul. It is a term rarely used with precise definition in philosophy, religion, or common life. In this discussion we face the problem of using words to which no definitive meaning is attached. If I make an attempt to define the word ‘God’, you may even speculate that I may belong to a new religious order. We need to come to a consensus even if an entity called ‘God’ does not exist. We need to formulate a view, a hypothetical view about Soul and test that hypothesis by countering it with a skeptical hypothesis. The Science called Physics deals with the properties, changes, interactions, etc. of matter and energy in which energy is considered to be continuous. In the ultimate analysis, matter is a representation of its energy content. The Science called Biology deals with Life and Life processes. While Life is made up of physical matter, Life processes are not explained by simple mechanistic interactions. However, I am willing to use the principles, the methods, and the tools used by Physics. Molecular Biology explains biological events by studying the molecules within cells; the molecular basis of genetics – Nucleic Acids and its relationship to energy cycling and replication. If this universe is seen as matter and energy, I would define God as the Controller of Force/Power/Energy. All living things are essentially made up of the same kind of living matter and yet they appear to be different. Life could be attributed to ONE common principle which has the ability to be simultaneously different. Each living object comes into a state of existence as a new object, as an original object, one of its own kind, unique, and distinctive. This morphological variation is an attribute of the organic molecules that establish the phenotype or the physical identity of that living organism. Physics provides those powerful tools to see the molecules and to recognize their individualistic behavior. Life comes into existence using a creative principle, and creative mechanisms that need inspiration, and imagination apart from the use of simple mechanistic laws. If Life is governed by the Law of Individuality, I would define God as a Creative Force/Power/Energy.
A majority of these life forms that we know and have studied, have synchronized their state of existence with an event that produces alternating periods of light and darkness while that source of light is not being turned ‘on’ and ‘off’. Rather we are forced to experience the effects of an illusion. Sunrise and Sunset is the reality that governs a majority of Biological Rhythms that control the life processes. Illusion is the necessary condition for the biological existence of Life. If Earth’s rotational spin generates this illusion, God uses Force/Power/Energy to cause illusion. In the universe that exists today, to the extent we have verified; there are no two identical celestial objects that exhibit the same rotational spin. In this context, it may be said that the Force/Power/Energy called God has created Earth to provide a home to the life forms that He has created as Individuals. These life forms have the ability called reproduction and yet lack the ability of producing two identical new objects. Sexual or Asexual reproduction always results in the production of new Individuals which could be easily verified by using the Biometric Identification Technology. Even the clones, sharing identical genomes, in reality exist as individuals. This Individuality when investigated by the tools supplied by Physics, it is discovered that the organic molecules behave as Individuals and man is not able to modify that behavior. Under the same experimental conditions, the molecules behave as individuals. When we examine the nature of this biological existence, it indicates that life processes are supported by the provision of energy from an external source. The Living Cell is a thermodynamically unstable system. This means that without a continuous input of energy a Living Cell will degrade spontaneously into a nonliving collection of molecules. This lack of energy independence would direct us to define God as the Power/Force/Energy which delivers Compassion/Mercy/Grace which helps energy acquisition by energy dependent living organisms. Life forms on planet Earth exist depending upon an extraterrestrial source of energy or Cosmic Power/Force/Energy. Life exists because of its ability called ‘Association’. The act of associating, the state of being associated; the companionship, the fellowship, and the partnership is the defining feature of the State or Condition, or Act of Living. Association or patnership between energy seeker and energy provider could be described as God-Connection. Organisms that are single do not live as single cells but develop association with other single cells to form distinct Colonies. Organisms that are multicellular represent an organization of individual cells that are associated having common interests, purposes, sensations, etc., Since association has a purpose, in the context of biological existence, the association or connection, or partnership between the energy seeker, and the energy provider is a meaningful event and not a simple, mechanical, physical event governed by the Laws of Interactions between Matter and Energy. There are Four Fundamental Interactions and they do not regulate or define this Interaction between Living matter and the Cosmic Force/Power/Energy. Living matter uses and exploits energy in a creative manner to build organic molecules and to break down organic molecules. The life processes are very similar and yet the results are totally different. While using energy mostly following a similar metabolic pathway, each organism supports its identity and individuality.
SOUL AND DEATH :
The idea of ‘Soul’ always comes in the context of Death. If man is immortal, we will not be spending our time and energy discussing to verify the existence of an immortal principle. The human subject has a limited life span and it arouses a sense of curiosity about the existence of something that could defy Death. I am trying to define the word ‘Soul’ in a manner to promote an understanding that ‘Soul’ is immortal if we look at man as an Association of individual living cells. We need to establish the Identity of that Individual for whose purpose or interest this Association of Individual living cells exists. If we think of Death as a final event, it is not supported by factual evidence. In this Association, death is a daily event. We simply fail to acknowledge this daily event as there is an immortal principle that is escaping this death experience. The Individual thinks that he is alive and sustains his Individuality without getting overwhelmed by the dying process that is continuous. While the human organism is changing its external appearance and identity all the time, the Individuality survives if ‘Soul’ the vital, or operating immortal principle is functioning. The issue or question about ‘transmigration’ of Soul would not arise if every living organism exists strictly as an Individual with an Individuality. As stated before,man has no choice and he must always exist as an Individual even when we use Reproductive Genetic Engineering Technology to produce identical clones with the same genome. The dissolution of matter may not change the Law of Conservation of Energy. If Soul is defined as the God Connection that gives the ability of energy acquisition, the Soul when removed from a physical object to which it has given Individuality, would operate as per the commands of the Controller of Force/Power/Energy. It provides the possibility of carrying the impressions of a previous state of existence into a new state of existence with a new identity and Individuality. During the life span of a given Individual, an association of cells in which death is a daily event, Soul is a continuous principle as its purpose and interest is to maintain Individuality of that Individual.
SOUL AND THE LIVING CELL :
I define man as a physical, mental, social, moral, and spiritual being as I define the term ‘health’ as the physical, mental, social, moral, and spiritual well-being of the man in his environment and community and not merely as absence of disease. This definition of ‘health’ would help me to provide ‘comprehensive health care’ in my role as a Primary Care physician. Specialists and Super specialists provide health care in specific areas involving an organ or an organ system.
I attach my ideas to some ideas expressed by others. Sartre is a well-known person. He had won the Nobel Prize for literature but declined to accept it. I may not totally agree with him and his views about consciousness. He had stated his view in a manner that people can easily understand. He makes a distinction between objective things and human consciousness. He claims that consciousness is a ‘non-thing'(‘neant’ or nothingness ) and its reality consists in standing back from things and taking a point of view on them. Because consciousness is a non-thing, it does not have any of the causal involvements that things have with other things. If you stand before a mirror, the reflection exists only if it is supported by the presence of a physical being or thing. If the physical thing is taken away, the reflected image is gone but the reflective surface retains its ability to reflect the images of things.
THE BIOLOGICAL MEMBRANE AND CONSCIOUSNESS :
In a Living Cell, consciousness reflects its external environment and its internal condition or internal environment. The Living Cell knows, it is aware of its state, fact, and act of its Living. The Living Cell makes contact with its environment by using a cell membrane, a biological membrane, or a bio-membrane. If you carefully look at some of the functions of this membrane, you would discern that the Living Cell has consciousness or awareness of these functions. The Biological Membrane behaves in a conscious manner and it is not a simple, physical barrier between the Protoplasm, the Living Substance and its environment. If the term ‘soul’ describes a vital principle, or a source of Knowledge, it provides the information with which these functions could be performed. Some molecules and ions can freely move across this Bio-membrane and some are actively pumped in or out of the Cell that involves expenditure of energy. The Living Cell has the ability to recognize the condition of its nucleus, if the DNA is damaged, the Cell can initiate a process and cause its own dissolution.
In multicellular organism, the consciousness works both at the level of each individual cell and to establish the functioning of the organism as an individual unit. Without functional unity, the organism cannot maintain its biological existence. Cell differentiation is the process by which the individual cells use adaptation to perform specific tasks. Red Blood Cells perform specific tasks.
THE NEURO-BIOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF CONSCIOUSNESS :
In the human Brain Stem, several neurons, and nuclei which are in an area called Reticular Formation are functionally adapted to compose the contents of human consciousness. The Reticular Formation gives the Capacity for Consciousness. The contents of this consciousness are read in the cortical areas of the cerebral hemispheres and described as Cortical awareness. Most philosophers, most of the psychologists, and several of the religious thinkers pay attention to this Cortical awareness and describe that as human consciousness. We tend to ignore the fact that there would be no Cortical awareness unless there is a Capacity for Consciousness. Most recently, the surgeons had removed the complete left cerebral hemisphere from a child to stop convulsive seizures. The child is alive, fully conscious, and hopefully would continue to live in future with some neurological deficits. Just like the human heart which has four different muscular chambers and each has a function of its own; we need to understand consciousness by knowing its components. We need to use separate terms to distinguish these different components. There would be confusion if a term is used without attaching a specific meaning. Cortical awareness is important and is very interesting and yet man can exist and survive with minimal cortical awareness. We have seen children with severe degrees of mental retardation, and they can keep their biological existence if they retain the ability to Compose Consciousness. I want to designate the upper Brain Stem as the Seat of Consciousness and the word consciousness itself must describe the functions of the Brain Stem which are most important for man’s biological existence. A man is clinically dead in the absence of these Brain Stem functions involved in the Capacity of Consciousness. In Clinical Medicine, the term conscious is often used to measure the degree of Arousal or Cortical awareness and hence this subject matter would remain confusing for a long time. If a subject is unconscious, I would not issue a ‘death certificate’. In Clinical Medicine, the term used is ‘Brain Death’ and when Brain Death is diagnosed, the human person for all practical purposes is dead. I would suggest that we must use the term ‘Unconscious’ specifically to indicate the Brain Death which is diagnosed by testing the Brain Stem Reflexes. If the human person is viewed as a single physical thing or object, the integration of functions is achieved at the Brain Stem( Reticular Formation), and he maintains his individuality throughout his physical existence only when this part of the brain is functioning. If you like the term individual soul or Jeeva Atma, its existence is a reflection of this function. To see a reflection, we need two things; the physical object and a reflective surface. The quality of reflecting objects may depend upon presence of Knowledge. It is not known if this particular kind of knowledge exists as organic molecules; however, it is very well understood that most of the knowledge to perform a variety of biological functions is contained in organic molecules and the most well-known group of these organic molecules are known as DNA. There are Viruses which can function with RNA. Hence, there is still a possibility of finding organic molecules that could be associated with the functional ability called consciousness, awareness, cognition, recognition, responsiveness, perception, memory, intelligence, and association. The most important aspect of ‘association’ is ‘God Connection’ and without this function of ‘association’ man cannot keep his biological existence.
IDENTITY AND INDIVIDUALITY :
The issue of spirituality, the nature of Soul and consciousness must be explored in the context of arriving at an understanding of man’s Identity and Individuality. If man is viewed as an association of trillions of cells, we need to know the Identity of that Subject who lives because of the functions of the trillions of cells. The purpose of consciousness at cellular level is to foster functional unity of the multicellular organism and to establish it as an Individual. In a multicellular organism, cells have short lives as individuals. The Subject or the whole organism has a life span of its own and it has effects on individual cells. Multicellularity is accompanied by adaptive subordination of all cells to the requirements of the organism as a whole. To achieve proper numerical balance between functionally related cell groups, the death of many cells is necessary for other cells to reach maturity. This programmed cell death plays an important role in embryological development. Such programmed cell death events are essential if the organism as a whole is to develop its normal final form. Waves of genetically driven cell deaths are critical to the proper modeling of organs and organ systems. We need to know and understand that death of cells is a must to establish the Identity and to sustain the Individuality of the human being. The dying process helps man to understand his Individuality. The Individuality is preserved while death is a daily event at the cellular level. The phenotype or the morphological appearance of the human Subject undergoes constant change during the Life journey and yet the Individuality remains unchanged. We recognize the death of this human Subject when his Soul departs from his body. Soul may be stated as an entity which is regarded as being immortal or spiritual part of the person. The Spirit of a dead person generally refers to a principle separate from the body and leading an existence of its own. If Soul is viewed as a Non-thing or Nothingness, it comes into the world of existence by entering the physical being at its conception which becomes conscious or aware of its existence. This consciousness has also existed in a previously existing Living Egg Cell which is the Mother of Life, Energy, and Knowledge. Consciousness by its very nature is immortal, it is eternal, and it has no birth or death. We recognize the arrival and departure of the new product during the Life-Death continuum where the Individuality is unaffected by the changes that are caused by the powerful influence of Time.
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,
M.B.B.S., Class of April, 1970