What are you? When you think, exactly who or what is doing the thinking? When you stare into a mirror, who is doing the looking?
There’s a story of a young philosophy student who went to see his professor. ‘Please help me,’ he pleaded. ‘There’s a question that’s been eating me alive. I can’t sleep through worrying about it. Tell me, do I exist?’
The professor turned to him with a withering look and replied, ‘Who wants to know?’
The question of what we are and why has always occupied great minds. Socrates, for instance, advised anyone who would listen to ‘know yourself’. Someone asked, ‘You tell others to know themselves, but do you know yourself?’ He replied, ‘No, but I do understand something about this not knowing.’
Nowadays, we know a great deal more than in Socrates’ day. Powerful microscopes reveal the building blocks of our physical form at cellular level and quantum level. We now understand the brain so well that we know which clusters of tissue house which types of mental activity. We can even predict whether an individual is at risk of certain diseases from their thought patterns and emotional make-up. And yet how many of us can truly say we know ourselves?
A human being is a complex organism made up a body, a mind, and an energising force that brings life to the physical form. This energising force – call it Spirit, soul or anything you like – is present in every atom and cell, and when it leaves, we die. That’s why we don’t become spiritual beings – we already are.
‘You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.’ (C.S. Lewis)
©David Lawrence Preston, 28.5.18
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How To Books, 2007