On December 23, 1971 President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act to direct efforts to conquer the problem of cancer through investment in cancer research and biomedical science. On the occasion of this 40th anniversary of the signing of the National Cancer Act, we need to reflect upon the problem of cancer. It begins with a single mishap or mutation within the nucleus where 23 pairs of chromosomes on which 20, 000 to 25, 000 genes are scattered. Genes hold the instructions for regulating a variety of cell functions, and proteins carry out the instructions to perform these cell functions. Cancer is a problem associated with abnormal cell proliferation or cell divisions. Cancer study helps us to understand normal functions of cells and to learn about the instructions that tell the cells to grow or to stop growing to make new cells. Normally, cell division begins in response to a signal or instruction received. Cells have circuits or pathways to send instructions. Genes send signals to each other along pathways. When a cancerous cell divides, the new cells receive signals to continue proliferation or cell divisions with the characteristics of immortality. The immune surveillance system may detect the presence of cancerous cells by detecting unique surface marker proteins present on the surface of the cancerous cells and the cells of the immune system neutralize or kill the cancerous cells. The study of cancer provides insight into individual signaling pathways and mutations that are characteristic of cancer. The diagnosis of cancer involves the identification of the cells involved, and their location in the body. For each type of cancer disease, there are many genetic variants. Each cancer has to be defined by knowing the genetic mutation that has affected the individual cell. For example, currently, cancer researchers have identified about 56 sub-types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Each sub-type has its own genetic signature. Cancer treatment involves the killing of cancer cells and the therapy may often cause damage or death of healthy cells and tissues. Cancer research is developing targeted therapies that specifically address cellular flaws and spare the normal, and healthy cells, and tissues.
CANCER AND THE THEORY OF HUMAN NATURE :
The understanding of the problem of cancer would help us to answer the question: “What is Man?” We need to know and understand man if we have to fight the problem of cancer. Man is an organism represented by a biotic community of about 100 trillion individual living cells and ten times more of other living organisms that inhabit his gastrointestinal tract. The problem of cancer involves the study of the nature of biotic interactions among members of this biological community. If the members, the individual living cells interact in a manner that show characteristics such as mutual assistance, cooperation, sympathy, understanding, devotion, and functional subservience, man will keep his biological existence and the quality of this existence becomes an attribute of his health and well-being. In this context, I define the word ‘Spiritualism’ as a mutually beneficial interaction between individual living cells of the human organism and the Whole Organism represented by the human individual. For example, the Red Blood Cells deliver Oxygen and remove waste products from other cells in the human body displaying the characteristics of a spiritual relationship or partnership. In the problem of cancer, we encounter cancerous cells that fail to display the chracteristics that I have mentioned. The cancer cells behave like an internal enemy; they invade the territory or space of normal and healthy cells and tissues. Cancer grows and causes both structural and functional changes in the tissues and organs where it is located. The cancer cells show the propensity to spread or invade the local and distant parts and sites of the body apart from occupying the place of their origin. Most of our medical interventions aim at destroying these enemy cells that threaten the biological existence of the cancer victim. The cancer variants describe the genetic variations found in the nuclei of cancerous cells and not that of any variation in the cytoplasm of these cells. This corporeal substance found inside the living cells is ‘spiritual’ in its nature where the word ‘spirit’ means the potential for immortality, imperishability, and immutability. This spiritual substance remains unchanged while the cancer disease affects the genes altering the structure and function of genes to deliver normal instructions. Man always comes into existence from a previously existing egg cell and inherits the maternal cytoplasm. Man survives because of the spiritual nature of this inherited maternal cytoplasm. Hence cancer research must explore the spiritual nature of man that has the potential to survive from generation to generation.
JOY IN LIFE, LOVE AND COMPASSION IN HEART :
The spiritual well-being of man is reflected as joy in life, love, and compassion in heart. In health care, the term ‘comprehensive care’ describes the preventive, the diagnostic, the curative, the rehabilitative, and the restorative care of the entire person and not merely treating the symptoms of the disease. Cancer like several other disease entities imposes stress upon the human organism. The fear of premature death, the fear of disability or disfigurement, the risks imposed by chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery, the medical costs, and the loss of employment or of employability contribute to psychogenic stress. The human body is further exposed to physical and chemical stress because of the nature of medical interventions. Cancer as a disease causes ‘biotic stress’. The cells of the immune defense mechanism may detect the presence of cancerous cells and initiate a battle to destroy them. This immune response causes internal stress and very often there is no cortical awareness of this inner battle to defend life. The hostile biotic interactions between cancer cells and healthy cells produces a stress reaction which is mediated by the same stress pathways; the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal pathway. A cancer victim would have a better chance to become a cancer survivor if he is stress resistant and has greater stress tolerance. The restorative care in cancer patients must commence as soon as the diagnosis of cancer is made as the body has already experienced the stress reaction before the clinical diagnosis of cancer could be made. To make a person stress resistant and stress tolerant, it needs the understanding of the spiritual nature of man.
MAN IS A SPIRITUAL BEING :
THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE BANYAN TREE :
The Hindu Scripture of The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter XV known as Purusottama Yoga speaks about the nature of the Supreme Person. It metaphorically compares the Supreme Being to the popularly known Fig Tree called Ficus benghalensis. The first verse reads as follows:
Chandamsi yasya parnani yas tam veda sa Veda vit.”
The Supreme Lord Krishna said: There is a Banyan Tree which has its roots upwards and its branches down and metaphorically it is imperishable; and the Vedic hymns are its leaves. One who knows this Tree is the Knower of the Vedas( the person attains the Knowledge of the Ultimate Reality or the Supreme being). When we know the Banyan Tree and its apparent imperishable quality, we may understand the true nature of Man. Man is a spiritual being. The truth or falsity of this proposition depends on the fact of man’s having a substance that is of spiritual nature. Such a substance of spiritual kind is perceptible to the senses, is amenable to direct observation, and could be subjected to verification by experimental science. To establish the fact of man’s spiritual nature, it needs reasoning based upon scientific validity. The structure and the behavior of things contribute to their individual being and function. If man has a set of defining features based upon his structure( Human Anatomy ), function( Human Physiology ), and behavior( Human Behavioral Science ), the spiritual nature of man could be proved on theoretical and practical grounds and could be verified by scientific experiments. I am not seeking to discover a soul or spirit that could have existence independent of man’s physical being. However, it will be important to note that it is not possible to conceive of a soul or spirit if it is never associated with its human body. My purpose is that of describing the spiritual nature of human organism and of other living beings. To understand the true nature of human being, we need to ascertain the validity of Knowledge that pertains to the Spiritual Self.
MAN IS A MORTAL BEING :
Man’s greatest need is not only to know the world around him but also to know himself better. Man must understand what it is to be a substance and what it is to exist. Man is a physical being or thing with matter and form. The corporeal body of man is composite of two principles; matter, and form. What is called matter is potentiality, and what is called form is actuality. The corporeal substance called protoplasm becomes actuality and is recognized as a living person because of the uniqueness of its genome that operates its living functions and defines its size, shape, color, and external form or morphological appearance. However, life comes into existence only when matter or substance has the ability to acquire energy from its external environment. The human being comes to life when his corporeal substance uses its potential ability and power called ‘Nutrition’ to acquire energy and material from its environment. Life begins with fertilization, the union of sperm with egg cell, and this event called conception proceeds to develop a human being after an important event called implantation. The life journey after conception continues if there is a connection between the energy seeking embryo and its maternal energy provider. To exist means that the substance is maintaining a relationship, a partnership, a connection, or association with its source of energy. Man leads energy dependent existence deriving energy and material from nature which supports other living forms with a similar corporeal substance called protoplasm. The mortality of man must be understood as the dissolution of man’s physical form. The dissolution of living man into non-living molecules and physical elements would not alter that potentiality of protoplasm to acquire energy and material to create its own substance. Things in Nature change with Time; but what is called Nature remains unchanged even under the influence of Time. As per The Laws of Conservation of Mass and Energy as described in classical Physics, mass or energy remain constant. The potentiality of living substance to acquire energy and material to form its own kind of substance has remained unchanged or unaffected by major natural calamities and other cataclysmic events. Life forms perish and yet life continues as new life forms. During the billions of years of existence, planet Earth has experienced several minor, and major Extinction Events described in its geological history. The Science of Paleontology offers scientific evidence to support an argument based upon theoretical and practical grounds to propose that the substance called protoplasm could be eternal, immovable, immutable, and indestructible. At a fundamental level, it could be stated that man is a mortal or materialistic being who derives his physical form because of its association with an imperishable substance. During any stage of his existence, the form called man cannot be separated from the eternal nature of its substance.
WHAT IS SOUL OR SPIRIT ? :
Traditionally, man has been divided into two parts; body, and soul. In common usage, the term soul represents the immaterial aspect of a human being. Soul is further defined as that part of the individual which is considered to survive the death of the body. The term spirit is often used to describe a disembodied soul. On separation from the human body, the soul or spirit has a life of its own, a capacity for independent existence or self-subsistence which describes its immortality.
THE CONCEPTIONS OF SOUL :
There are a variety of conceptions about soul or spirit. Some of the traditional conceptions of soul are the following:
1. Soul is the immaterial substance, form, or principle of self-motion, vitality, life force, or life in living things. The insentient body is completely distinct from the sentient soul.
2. Soul describes the Doctrine of the Self, and is considered to be synonymous with the True-Self. In a human being, soul confers the Individuality and its nature of humanity.
3. Soul is often described as a thinking substance and is equated with mind. The soul has knowledge of itself by reflection of its acts. The soul is the knower and it knows the physical, and mental acts of the human body where it resides.
4. Soul is important to maintain, and to preserve life. Soul may not directly participate in the activities of the human body. However, the activities of the human body may have a polluting effect on soul. If the soul is tainted or contaminated by the sinful acts of the body, the soul may obtain purification by its release from the body. Some form of human effort, activity, attitude, and behavior is essential to keep the soul in its natural, pure, and perfect condition.
5. The soul that has experienced the polluting effects by its association with a human body would be forced to experience perpetual reincarnation by a process called transmigration. The soul continues to reside as a prisoner in different bodies until such time it attains its original state or condition of purity and perfection.
6. Soul is a transcendental or noumenal object that is real but not visible and could not be detected by human sensory perception. The human body that is visible is in fact unreal or is a product of sensory illusion.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SOUL AND HUMAN BODY :
Most religions and cultures speak about soul and describe it as some incorporeal or immaterial substance/principle of human life that is distinct from the body. Despite the frequent acceptance of the existence of a soul, different religions and philosophers have developed a variety of theories as to the nature of the soul and its relationship to the human body. There are divergent views about the origin of the soul, when and how it gets implanted into the human body, and the mortality or when and if the soul dies. I would like to share the view that is attributed to Lord Krishna, the avatar or reincarnation of Hindu God Lord Vishnu.
ADHYATMA VIDYA – THE BHAGAVAD GITA :
The word ‘vidya’ is related to acquired knowledge derived from studies. The term ‘adhyatma’ pertains to the individual soul, atma, or atman which describes the Spiritual Self. The phrase ‘Adhyatma Vidya’ could be described the Knowledge of the Spiritual Self.
The legendary IndianSage Veda Vyasa also known as Krishna Dvaipayana was the author of the epic ‘The Mahabharata'( Great Epic of the Bharata Dynasty ). Veda Vyasa is recognized as the compiler of ancient Hindu texts known as Vedas. In the Book VI of Mahabharata, Lord Krishna had a conversation with Prince Arjuna while the warring parties of Pandavas, and Kauravas had assembled at the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Lord Krishna revealed His views about soul, human body and their relationship in “The Song of the Lord” known as ‘The Bhagavad Gita’. These poems of The Bhagavad Gita give a synopsis of the religious thought and experience of India through the ages. The Chapter X of The Bhagavad Gita is titled ‘Vibhuti-Vistara Yoga’ and it describes the divine or transcendental attributes of the Supreme Lord. In verse #39, the Lord claims, “I am the generating seed of all existences. There is no being, moving or unmoving( “Chara-acharam” ) that can exist without Me.” In verse #32, the Lord proclaims, “….of all the branches of Learning and Knowledge, I am the Knowledge of the Spiritual Self( “Adhyatma Vidya” ). In verse #22, the Lord describes the nature of His connection with the living beings that He has generated, “…. and in living beings, I am Consciousness( “Bhutanam asmi Chetana” ).” He had also clarified that Consciousness or Chetana as a different characteristic and has separated it from mind, intellect and sense perception. Mind is traditionally viewed as the major organ of sense perception, seat of thoughts, intellect, emotions, feelings, and self-ego. Chetana is associated with the characteristics of a living being. The Lord had also cited The Vedanata Sutra to make the distinction between the body, the soul, and the Supersoul. The Vedanta, the insights from Vedic Scriptures describe three manifestations of the Supreme Lord’s Energy. These are 1. Annamoya or dependence upon Food for existence, 2. Pranamoya or the manifestation of the living symptoms and life forms, and 3. Jnanamoya or the Knowledge of the distinction between the body the field of activity and the Knower who resides in the body. If a living being needs food for its existence, and performs its living functions in a state or condition called awareness or consciousness, it could be described as the manifestation of the Supreme Lord’s Energy. In Chapter VII titled ‘Paramahamsa Vijnana Yoga’ or Knowledge of the Ultimate Truth, in verse #9 Lord Krishna claims: “I am the life( “Jivanam” ) of all that lives.” He had demonstrated a connection between life and consciousness to describe the spiritual nature of Self. The Chapter XIII of The Bhagavad Gita titled ‘Kshetra – Kshetrajna Vibhaga Yoga’ deals with the dichotomy or distinction between the material body, immortal soul, and the Supersoul. It states the view that the material body is called the field of activity or Kshetra. One who knows this body, the field of activity is called the Knower of the Field or Kshetrajna. The Knower of the Field is the Owner of the body. The Supreme Lord is also the Knower of the field of activity in all bodies( verse #3 ). In this human body, there is another indwelling obeserver, a sanctioner, a preserver, an enjoyer, and indeed ultimate Controller called ‘Paramatama’ or Supersoul. The Supreme Lord or Paramesvaram is residing equally in all living entities( verses # 23, 27, and 28 ). Just like the Sun who illuminates the entire living world, the soul within the body illuminates the entire field of activity of the physical body by Chetana or Consciousness( verse #34 ). This view as stated suggests that consciousness is the proof or the symptom of the presence of the soul. A similar view is shared in Chapter II titled ‘Sankhya Yoga’. The imperishable or indestructible soul pervades or permeates(“tatam” ) the entire physical body( verse #7 ). What is spread all over the body? Consciousness could be described as spread over the entire body and it leads to the interpretation that the symptom of the soul’s presence is perceived as individual consciousness.
The final Chapter XVIII of The Bhagavad Gita titled ‘Moksha-Opadesa Yoga’ comes to an interesting conclusion about the Single Reality that pervades all existence that is divided into innumerable forms. Verse #20 reads as follows:
“Sarva bhutesu yenaikam bhavam avyayam iksate
avibhaktam vibhaktesu taj jnanam viddhi Sattvikam.”
“Understand that Knowledge by which one undivided, imperishable( “Avyayam” )reality is seen within all diverse living entities is in the nature of goodness( Sattvikam” ). What is that undivided reality that is imperishable that connects all the diverse, living entites?
THE BODY-SOUL DICHOTOMY :
In the Indian tradition, the individual soul is known as Atma or Atman. The Supreme Soul or the Supersoul is known as Paramatma, Paramesvaram, or Brahaman, the Ultimate Truth and the Reality. However, the concepts about Atma or individual soul vary and Hindus belong to different schools of thought. While the concepts about individual soul are different, there is general agreement among various Indian thinkers and philosophers about the distinction between the material, insentient, and perishable human body and the immaterial, sentient, and imperishable or immortal soul. Soul is independent, and is not attached and it still requires the substance of the corporeal body. However, I am not able to draw that distinction and make that separation from the substance and its function. To describe function, I need the substance. Man lives and functions with consciousness because of the fundamental nature of the corporeal substance called protoplasm, and this substance is apparently imperishable, indestructible, and immortal. We could destroy the physical form of man and several other living forms, but man or nature and the influence of Time have not demonstrated an ability to destroy this living substance which has survived on planet Earth continuously over billions of years. Man cannot create life and man cannot destroy life. Man can only live or exist because of the spiritual nature of his corporeal substance with which he can not seek separation until the time of his death. The substance has a life of its own and continues to create new substance of its own kind and becomes visible as a living life form with a different identity or morphological appearance.
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.
Please also review my earlier post titled “Spirituality,Soul, Consciousness, and the God Connection” which is reproduced below this post.
Image via Wikipedia
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 created being. Spirituality explores the connection between man and his Creator. The Trimurti at Elephanta Island Cave Temples near Mumbai, India represents God as the Creator(Brahma), the Preserver(Vishnu) and the Destroyer(Shiva).
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.
THE ETERNAL REALITY OF SOUL’S IMMORTALITY :
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.
MATTER, ENERGY, AND KNOWLEDGE :
Greek philosopher Aristotle had observed that corporeal substances are composite of two principles, form and matter. What is called matter is potentiality, what is called form is actuality. The totality of things have been divided in various ways. The three fundamental distinctions are 1. the distinction between the natural and the supernatural, 2. the distinction between the material and the spiritual, and 3. the distinction between the lifeless and the living. When we make the distinction animate/inanimate, living/non-living, and inorganic/organic, a question arises about the nature of that distinction. The difference, is that one of kind or degree? The Mechanistic View claims the continuity of nature in terms of the universality of purely mechanical principles. I have defined Life as ‘Knowledge in Action’. Please view the blog post at http://bhavanajagat.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/what-is-life-life-is-knowledge-in-action/
I define Life as organization of matter with implanted supernatural Knowledge. The establishment of supernatural Knowledge in matter decribes the operation of ‘God Principle’, Spirit, or Soul. Life comes into existence when matter and energy come together with the establishment of ‘God Connection’.
LIFE AND CONSCIOUSNESS :
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,