Essays: Mind and Spirit
The mind is the center of human experience. It contains our will, memory, reason, intuition and it is the center of our perception. Recent scientific study has traced the mind’s attributes to the functions of different parts of the brain. These parts of our brain process what we see, hear, taste, feel and smell. Our brains also store and process countless memories of these perceptions. The total of these functions, we are told, make up our awareness.
The historical view of the mind is tied to religious and spiritual beliefs. According to most spiritual beliefs, the soul is that part of our awareness that transcends physical being. God is said to be spirit, and He has a mind, or a will, that we must follow if we are to be on the right path. Mysticism and eastern faiths teach about a spiritual path to enlightenment.
The human will is what makes us achieve greatness or great evil. Much speculation about what makes us will to do shocking and barbaric things. Also great achievements throughout history are made because the will helped someone to overcome all opposition and adversity. The human will can defeat disease and it can overthrow entire societies.
Traditionally, someone who does great good or evil was thought to have been acted upon or supported by a spiritual force. Satan controls the will of the evil, while God controls the will of the good. To enslave a person, it is necessary to break the will so that they do not act of their own accord. In society, Law-abiding citizens follow the will of their lawmakers. Corporate will dictates the actions of employees.
In part, then, the will is our perception of the desires of humans. If we seek to obtain that which we desire, we are acting on our own will. A willful child is one what ignores the rules set for him or her by authority. In other words, the child who ignores the will of a parent or authority figure in favor of his own will is willful.
Human perception is known by science to be the way our brains process information. We encounter sights, sounds, tastes, and physical feelings. These perceptions cause us to react with emotion that we also perceive. The things we remember are perceived. The way everyone processes all of this information is different, and based on our own memories and our perception of experience.
Cognitive behavior therapy is a therapeutic science devoted to changing our negative perceptions, and the resulting negative reactions. Recent science tends to dismiss the existence of spiritual forces at work in the minds of people. Rather, people tend to do good and bad things regarding their perception of the world around them.
Rather than a moral dilemma, insanity and criminality are now seen by science as dysfunctions of the brain. A chemical imbalance causes neurons to function incorrectly, causing distortions of perception. The way our brains function is by neurochemical process, and a disruption in these processes can cause serious delusions or disruptions of perception. Reality as we know it is perception. So if our brains cannot process perceptions correctly, what the outside world sees is a loss of contact with reality.
Our brains are able to store countless pieces of information. The purpose of this, from a scientific standpoint is the ability to survive. If humans were not able to process past experience and make quick decisions based on memory, we would neither have survived nor advanced as a species. The pathways of neurons that store this information are accessed, and the memory is reconstructed based on our current perception and needs.
In religious traditions, memory does not seem to be addressed as such. Some religions believe that our spirits lived other lives before this one, and can carry those experiences into this life in some ways. This would serve the path to enlightenment, so long as we are able to keep learning. The ability to remember and learn laws and parables has been essential to a successful spiritual walk. Those who were unable to learn the required patterns of religious observance would be shunned, or worse.
The ability to learn is a function of memory in modern society. Socioeconomic status depends greatly on a person’s ability to process and follow expectations. The human will often necessarily becomes the will of society as they learn how to survive within its limits. There are implications for this corporate will in legal matters and a corporation or large group can operate outside the law contrary to the will of society or the individual.
The ability to reason is the human mind’s ability to apply memory and perception to the present task. Those with different beliefs can define reason differently. To say someone is unreasonable implies that their ability to perceive and process a set of facts is not the same as our own. To a monk in Tibet, reason can mean something entirely different than to a corporate executive.
The purpose of education is to teach people accepted methods of reason. This can also mean different things to different societies. What we see as reasonable, then, is the sum of what we have learned is reasonable in our lifetime. Scientifically, the seat of reason is the total of our learned experiences and the way our brains process the information. To a spiritualist, we receive the ability to reason from our soul.
The creative imagination is credited with human invention, art and music, culture and many great things. The imagination of the creator is said to have brought all of creation about, generally speaking, in most religious circles. Science has once again found that imagination is part of how the brain operates. How humans come up with the things we imagine, is beyond speculation. The imagination has served to advance the human race in countless ways in recent history. How we experience the world around us, and our will to create, is what we call imagination.
Intuition is a very helpful tool for survival. Humans can process the actions of other people and formulate a reaction based on our prediction of their behavior. This is called intuition. Part of the spiritualist’s ability to look into the future and predict things, is based on a strong intuitive sense. Our processing of current situations based on perception and memories of past situations is what gives us intuition. Being able to intuitively predict a situation accurately is a great benefit, and results in social success.
The human mind is a complex and fascinating thing. Studying its functions and learning how it works, what can go wrong and why, is perhaps the greatest mystery to be solved.
Children of Azusa Street: Pentecostal Spirituality
The Pentecostal movement began in a storefront church in Los Angeles, California in 1906. African American preacher William J. Seymour led the service. Dissatisfied with the status quo of Christianity at the time, believers began seeking a spiritual experience similar to that of the apostles in the book of Acts. This revival led to the modern day Pentecostal movement. Belief that God is a spirit, and that we all have souls that must be saved is central to Christian faith. The idea that God’s spirit dwells in us has had varying interpretations throughout history, however. Part of the central belief of Pentecostals involves the evidence of the manifestation of God’s spirit in us.
The idea that God is a spirit and can dwell in us raises questions in the minds of some. How can two spirits occupy the same body, and what is a spirit? The use of the word spirit can be confusing, since it refers to something that is beyond our physical being, yet is us.
So how can something that transcends physical being, is the essence of who we are, yet cannot be seen or proven to exist, exist? The acceptance of traditional religious authority dictates, even outside Pentecostal circles, that we must accept not only that we have a spirit, but that there are spirits surrounding us, that can dwell in us if we allow them to. Some religious leaders go so far as to say that the emotions we feel are the result of spiritual entities acting on us, from outside of our being.
To most secular society, the existence of any spirit is simply absurd. Science has studied and mapped the function of our brains to a cellular level. Science has a good grasp on the chemical processes that make us be who we are. It is the desire of humankind to know where our souls are and how the spiritual essence works that led scientists to map the brain. Yet, spirituality dismisses science, and vice versa. The problem with spirit, from the perspective of science, is that there is nothing about it that can be seen or measured.
Christian traditions allow us to understand aspects of our humanity that cannot be measured scientifically. There are other sets of ancient beliefs that perform the same function, but they are beyond the scope of this paper. Humankind has always believed that a spiritual force, or something beyond us, acts with a will for good or bad toward humankind. Traditionally, following the bath toward good results in happiness while the path toward evil results in unhappiness. This is the essence of spirituality.
Pentecostal tradition in the twentieth century seeks to gain spiritual enlightenment through following the first two chapters of the Biblical book of Acts. While the authority of the Bible is under scrutiny in the modern world, Pentecostals generally believe that the Bible is the Word of God, infallible and inspired by God. As such, it is the ultimate authority in all spiritual matters. To deny the accuracy of any part of the Bible, for some, is to commit the ultimate sin. Spirit, then, is defined exclusively by the Pentecostal leadership’s interpretation of the Bible’s definition of spirituality. To make the point clearer, a literal interpretation of how spirit is defined by the Bible, is seen as the final definition of spirituality by most. Without getting into debate about what constitutes a true Pentecostal, a Pentecostal definition of spirituality involves a literal interpretation of the Bible.
Isolation in Modern Society
This paper is in response to recent events and articles about people who were isolated. Too often, we hear about the loner who lashes out at society. Isolation is seen as bad, but it is increasing in our society. Are some people more predisposed to thrive in isolation? This article explores social implications of isolation. How is it so destructive to some, yet sought after by others.
Studies have divided people into personality types, ranging from passive and introverted to aggressive and extroverted. Personality is the genetically determined nature of people that remains constant over a lifetime of environmental change. Upbringing and environment can influence us, but generally basic personality traits do not change.
Introverts are considered the most likely to thrive on isolation. Some people are less able to collect their thoughts unless they are alone. For some, social situations are always draining and stressful, and to try to stigmatize this nature and treat it as an illness does more harm than good.
For others, a few minutes alone can cause irritation. For an extroverted personality type, a lifetime of isolation can be quite damaging to their sanity or well-being. Because socially connected extroverts are in the majority, people have a hard time accepting that a person would choose to be isolated. Not many people would choose solitude, and something seems unnatural about those who do.
Mental or Physical Challenges.
Some people become isolated due to health issues that prevent them from taking an active part in society. For the majority, who need a certain level of positive interaction, the isolation is just as damaging as the illness. The inability of elderly people to go out and enjoy life the way they used to, for example, can lead to rapid decline in health.
Mental illness is isolating for everyone involved. Although mental illness is not as feared and stigmatized as it used to be, there is still often a moral failure attached to those who suffer from mental illness. As a result, they become further isolated. For those who already struggle to maintain contact with reality, rejection from society simply loosens reality’s already tenuous grip.
Some mental health problems cause a person to want to isolate. In spite of all the efforts of friends and loved ones, the ability to give and receive compassion is not there. Therapy can help some, as well as treating any chemical imbalance. To those who have a personality that calls for isolation, labeling them as disordered is harmful, although learning new skills and addressing their need to be alone can be a great benefit.
Physical disability also tends to isolate, as people fear and isolate that which seems to threaten in some way. Fear of the unknown plays a role in why some people cannot become a part of society the way they would like to. Education is the best way to prevent disabled people from being isolated. The more people can be taught that this is a person; the more likely the disabled person is to be accepted as such.
Criminality also serves to isolate from society. The lone gunman strikes fear into the hearts of people, such that anyone who prefers solitude is looked at with suspicion. The Robin Hood or Billy the Kid persona may be romanticized, but the reality is not so good. When innocent lives are taken, no one wins. To attach criminality to everyone who seems to prefer isolation, is unwise and counterproductive for those who do need to become more engaged.
Americans are becoming more isolated from one another during an economic crisis that seems to call for mutual support. The breakdown of social ties and support systems is leading society in the wrong direction. If the majority of people need to support one another, than continuing to isolate can only make our situation worse.