Body, mind, spirit

[First posted on MyT]

The symbol in the photo, along with dozens of other markings of various types, is on a huge rock near where I live, on the edge of the Boyne Valley complex of Megalithic sites. It is thought to have been made by sun-worshippers around 5,000 years ago – perhaps 200 generations of humanity before ours. Nobody will ever know what it signifies, if anything.

Looking at ancient structures and artefacts always makes me wonder about the minds of the people that made them, and how different they must have been from ours.

We in the West are mentally the products of a couple of thousand years of reason and logic, and the conscious part of our minds reflects this. Each of us tends to think that our body and our thoughts constitute ‘me’ (or ‘I’). The thoughts in our minds encompass our memories, our culture (in the widest sense of the term), our sense of identity and the narrative of a life. We tend to mistake what might be called the body/mind complex for ‘ourselves’.

I believe that there is more to us … that our bodies and thinking minds are a necessary interface for living in this world, but are not the sum total. Religious people and mystics believe this too, although the organized religions often play down the implications, in my view.

It seems to me that the development of the mind has had its price … a blessing is a curse. It has left us cut off from a vast underlying consciousness to which we may gain access from time to time if we can silence the babble of our attention-demanding thoughts, and which may shape our lives unknown to us. This could be seen as ‘God’, but not in the sense of ‘great humanoid in the sky’, which I believe is a human invention.

The world as it appears to us is the interpretation of our limited minds … not ‘the world itself’. The barriers are arbitrary, maintained by long-established custom. I think they would have been far less solid in the psychic world of the person that made that mark on the stone, 5,000 years ago.

Our excessive belief in our ‘island’ status causes problems. Alienation, it can be argued, is at the root of all the world’s conflicts. Our fanatical belief in ‘me’ and ‘not-me’ is writ large in our obsession with ‘us’ and ‘them’, which underpins most if not all wars.

We are capsules of life in self-imposed isolation. Many of us worry about the extinction of our minds … our consciousness … at death, when in fact consciousness may merely rejoin the sea of consciousness whence it sprang … the spirit.

Perhaps we are charged with developing and enhancing the measure of consciousness we have been given in this life, and life hence has meaning and purpose that our hide-bound, dualistic, ‘rational’ thinking obscures.

Maybe we are outcrops of spirit acting in the ‘physical’ world, and it is merely the illusion of separateness … our ‘original sin’ … that will die with death, when the husk of the body is discarded.



Filed under Ireland, Philosophy of life, The music of what happened

48 responses to “Body, mind, spirit

  1. Beautiful words Brendan with vast depth of meaning and enormous insight in reality, yet so human and gentle. We are so fragile yet we try our best sometimes to destroy the purpose which we need to develop into fully contented organisms.

    Keep them coming please.

  2. Thanks very much, Ike … glad you liked it.

    As for ‘keep them coming’, I’ve been recycling some old posts as well as writing a few new ones … I don’t have much time for writing these days, but I’ll see what I can do.

    I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend.

  3. Nice post Brendan.

    Reminds me this:

    “….The key to the world is in the hand of man and is attached to his self. For while being apparently open, the doors of the universe are in fact closed. God Almighty has given to man by way of a Trust, such a key, called the ‘I’, that it opens all the doors of the world; He has given him an enigmatic ‘I’ with which he may discover the hidden treasures of the Creator of the universe. But the ‘I’ is also an extremely complicated riddle and a talisman that is difficult to solve. When its true nature and the purpose of its creation are known, as it is itself solved, so will be the universe.

    The All-Wise Maker gave to man as a Trust an ‘I’ which comprises indications and samples that show and cause to recognize the truths of the attributes and functions of His dominicality, so that the ‘I’ might be a unit of measurement and the attributes of dominicality and functions of Divinity might be known. However, it is not necessary for a unit of measurement to have actual existence; like hypothetical lines in geometry, a unit of measurement may be formed by hypothesis and supposition. It is not necessary for its actual existence to be established by concrete knowledge and proofs.

    Question: Why is knowledge of the attributes and Names of God Almighty connected to the ‘I’?

    The Answer: Since an absolute and all-encompassing thing has no limits or end, neither may a shape be given to it, nor may a form be conferred on it, nor may it be determined; what its quiddity is may not be comprehended. For example, an endless light without darkness may not be known or perceived. But if a line of real or imaginary darkness is drawn, then it becomes known. Thus, since God Almighty’s attributes like knowledge and power, and Names like All-Wise and All-Compassionate are all-encompassing, limitless, and without like, they may not be determined, and what they are may not be known or perceived. Therefore, since they do not have limits or an actual end, it is necessary to draw a hypothetical and imaginary limit. The ‘I’ does this. It imagines in itself a fictitious dominicality, ownership, power, and knowledge: it draws a line. By doing this it places an imaginary limit on the all-encompassing attributes, saying, “Up to here, mine, after that, His;” it makes a division. With the tiny units of measurement in itself, it slowly understands the true nature of the attributes.

    For example, with its imagined dominicality over what it owns, the ‘I’ may understand the dominicality of its Creator over contingent creation…..”

  4. Very good and interesting, Levent. So the purpose of humans is to divide, break up, the universe?

    • I have copied only a part of a long subject, sorry Brendan.

      They say the purpose of the humans, is to get to know Him and love Him. Acknowledge the praise of the other creatures blessings and present them within their worshipping to Him.

      Thanks for the interesting poem, Brendan.

  5. Reminds me of this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

    Pied Beauty

    GLORY be to God for dappled things—
    For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
    Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
    Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
    All things counter, original, spare, strange;
    Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
    He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
    Praise him.

  6. claire2

    Brendano; hi…
    Your last paragraph intrigued me…
    ‘Maybe we are outcrops of spirit acting in the ‘physical’ world, and it is merely the illusion of separateness … our ‘original sin’ … that will die with death, when the husk of the body is discarded.’
    It reminded me of Sophie’s World, and the part where the philospher is trying to explain to the little girl the concept of dying in the view of Buddists, I think it is.
    Anyway, I may have got the detail wrong, but what struck me about that book is the striking analogies for human experiences in order to give them philosophical definition.
    So the child’s perspective of the world is compared to that of the flea on the end of a rabbit’s hair because it is strange, exhilarating and on the edge. The child growing up and losing that sense of wonder and being on the edge is compared to the flea which gradually burrows down into the rabbit’s hair.
    Similarly, dying is compared to a drop of water which becomes absorbed into a vast sea; still conscious and being, but as part of a greater whole.
    When I first read the dying analogy, I thought – strange. no, can’t relate to that. But then I realised that was the feeling I had when I first heard Beethoven’s 5th; existing, not as me, but as part of something huge; the universe maybe.
    I’m rambling – sorry. I’ve always said Beethoven is strange 😉

  7. Hello Claire … nice to see you; thanks for that. I hardly get any comments on my blog anymore (sob!).

    ‘existing, not as me, but as part of something huge; the universe maybe.’

    No, you’re not rambling at all … I think many of us probably get such feelings of transcendence from time to time when something derails our normal train of thoughts … which are a distraction from the greater reality.

    I hope all is well with you.

  8. Hi Levent … yes, sorry for the lack of new blogs. For one thing I am busy and for another so few people are commenting these days that it hardly seems worth while … a vicious circle, perhaps. I shall take stock in due course.

    MyT has largely been left to the dregs, unfortunately … TUG, Badger, Larry and the like.

  9. Yes, very strange, Levent. I had an email from the mods this morning warning me that my account would be deleted if I mentioned D.G. Haslam’s name again.

    The dregs of the site are mainly what remain … with a few exceptions. 🙂

  10. claire2

    Hey Brendano; Levent. NIce to see you again…I will try to pop in more regularly.
    I enjoy your blogs. I’ve just been doing my usual ‘now you see me now you don’t’ routine. I blame it on the hormones 😉 It’s nice to feel welcome somewhere, actually…

  11. You know you’ll always be welcome here, Claire. 🙂

  12. claire2

    thanks Brendano.
    I don’t know what’s got into me lately. Sniff!

  13. You’re probably not singing enough, Claire. 🙂

    It’s my wedding anniversary tonight … 50th birthday tomorrow. We’re saving most of our celebrating for next weekend … going to see Leonard Cohen and stuff.

  14. Thanks, Levent … very kind of you!

    I hope we’ll live to see our 50th anniversary. Certainly life is very good right now. 🙂

  15. madeoforléans

    Happy birthday and anniversary Brendano.

  16. Rainer the cabbie

    Happy Birthday my friend.
    I hope you have a happy day and keep up the spirit for another fifty years. 🙂

  17. Thanks very much, Rainer. Great stuff. 🙂

    I’m really looking forward to seeing old Leonard next week … haven’t seen him since 1979. Apparently he’s as good as ever.

    The gig is at Lissadell House, where W.B. Yeats spent a lot of time and wrote much of his poetry. Cohen is a big fan of Yeats, so that should make the evening extra special.

  18. JM

    Hello Brendan,

    At last! I see you more clearly now as a kindred spirit ; what was vague is becoming plain. Yes, the world we live in is not the primaeval world that exists outside of our collective awareness ; rather it is a world that we have made for ourselves in our minds, the seat of experience.

    And that world can be made goodly or it can be made badly. That indicates our role and our responsibility as co-creators.

  19. Thank you, Jamie … nice to see you. Glad you see me as a kindred spirit. 🙂

    The idea of people as co-creators is interesting. A sort of engine of consciousness or grit in the oyster, perhaps. A motive force in a passive, fatalistic universe that would otherwise curl in on itself.

  20. claire2

    Hey Brendano; sorry I missed you before. Happy Anniversary – belatedly, and I hope all is well with you…

    • And many thanks to you, Claire. All is very good, thanks … apart from being overworked and underpaid as usual. Still, a few things are coming up that I’m looking forward to …

  21. jaimeatdnmyt

    Happy belated birthday! And joyous anniversary!

  22. claire2

    oh, and Happy Birthday as well…
    Sorry to hear of your troubles on MyT btw but I hope you’re ok.

    • Thanks, Claire. I wouldn’t say ‘troubles’ … it’s only blogging, after all. 🙂

      I’ve always been targeted on that site by lowlives of one stripe or another. At some point you realize that when you engage with them, they clearly get something out of it and you don’t.

      • Ike Jakson


        That’s the spirit, and it is wisdom speaking too. Let them “have their fun and games on their own” and do as they please; let us build something while they play their silly games.

    • Thanks, Ike. Yes, energy should be expended more constructively.

      Unfortunately, I’m expending virtually all of mine on work right now.

  23. Cymbeline

    (apart from the first paragraph)

  24. Nice to see you again, Cymbeline.

    How are you?

  25. Ike Jakson


    I got another one from the scumbag in my Spam box but noticed in my Google Inbox that he had slipped one into your Post.

    Me theenks we have to stop this sod because they are now getting adept at invading WordPress. It’s fine if we can catch them in Spam but this bum posts at all hours and by the time we find him some of the damage that he intended has been done.

    I can find a pattern of those coming in to my Site in My Dashboard. It’s a team effort; they hide there whereabouts but they leave discernable footmarks in Dashboard.


  26. Ike Jakson


    You have a wonderful Post running in MyT

    I glance in there more regularly of late but I have no intention of ever participating in discussions or Posting there. It is my own personal decision and I will remain a reader, but I am pleased that you are there; it is also so nice to see Jamie back.

    Maybe, if others agree with me, you could consider “double posting” the same article here for our benefit and give it a “longer lifespan” at WordPress.

    Do go well.

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