Table of Contents
Part II: The Nature of Man
SOUL RE-EMERGES IN THE LABORATORY
One of the problems
blocking the way to any attempt to demonstrate the existence
of the soul as an
autonomous reality was the fact that an early commitment to a
purely physicalist view of the nature of man
had led to an almost total concentration on the development of
scientific instruments capable of dealing
only with physical things. The scientific method depends
on measurement: and measurement means that
the object under review must be quantifiable. If it cannot be
quantified, it has no place in the laboratory.
"Soul-stuff" falls into this verboten category.
Search for method to study psychology
Theodore H. Savory stated the matter
very clearly in 1936 when he said:(1)
Mechanism is the backbone of scientific thought in biology,
since in science we have to act as if
the mechanistic theory of life were true, but we are in no way
committed to it as a metaphysically
valid statement. Scientific progress, however, can be made only
by those who experiment as if
mechanism is true.
1. Savory, Theodore H., Mechanistic Biology
and Animal Behaviour, London, Watts, 1936, p.20, quoting
Joseph Needham, one of the leading embryologists of his day.
It is seemingly impossible to quantify human behaviour.
Thus psychology is doomed to remain an art of
uncertain value so long as it depends upon introspection and
observation only. There are no instruments yet
designed to quantify the almost infinite variety and complexity
of response of which the human psyche is
capable. While the behaviour of the body is often highly
predictable (and so encourages "mechanistic"
interpretations), the response of the human soul very seldom
is . . . which suggests it is not operating as a
mechanism and therefore almost certainly does not arise as an
outgrowth of pure mechanism in the first
But as Paul Weiss rightly observed,
the trouble may be that we have not yet designed the right kind
research tools or methods:(2)
Maybe our concept of our nervous system is
equally inadequate and insufficient, because so
long as you use only electrical instruments, you get only electrical
answers; if you use chemical
detectors, you get chemical answers; and if you determine numerical
and geometric values,
you get numerical and geometrical answers. So perhaps we have
not yet found the particular
kind of instrument that tells us the next unknown.
shall never even attempt to design such instruments if the
zeitgeist of our time convinces us
that there is nothing there to measure.
So psychology, finding its chief
object of investigation was hopelessly unpredictable, turned
to the only
measurable thing that seemed even loosely related to conscious
behaviour namely, reflex activity. It was
really Pierre J. G. Cabanis (17571808), the eighteenth century
physiologist who appears to have initiated
this trend, having become curious as to the significance of the
spontaneous movements of bodies that had
been guillotined! At any rate, the end result has been that psychology
has tended to become little more than
a branch of physiology.
2. Weiss, Paul, in discussion of J. R. Smythies'
paper, "Some Aspects of Consciousness" in Beyond
Reductionism, edited by A. Koestler and J. R. Smythies, London,
Hutchinson, 1969, p.252.
John Broadus Watson (18781958) who was the 'founder' of
Behaviourism, declared flatly:(3)
[Psychology's] sole task is the prediction
and control of behavior, and introspection forms no essential
part of its method. . . . The time seems to have come when
psychology must discard all reference to consciousness.
By this bold
proposal, Watson seems to have hoped to re-establish the status
of psychology as a bona fide
science. But soul may simply not be a subject of enquiry amenable
to the scientific method. Requiring so
much subjective introspection, it seems to involve methods which
are entirely foreign to the objective
stance ideally claimed by the scientist. However, there is no
reason to suppose that the "scientific" method
of enquiry is the only route to understanding just because it
has proved so successful elsewhere. It has not
proved successful in matters of the spirit, and that is all that
has been demonstrated: not that the matters
of the spirit are of no account! But does this mean that we should
frankly abandon the concept of soul
It has been said and rightly,
I believe that with Descartes psychology lost its soul
and found its mind:
with the British Empiricists, soul lost its mind and found its
consciousness: with Watson and the
Behaviourists, soul lost its consciousness and found its reflexes.
Thus, we have reduced man to a mere
machine: we have annihilated the dignity and worth of man entirely.
So an old man becomes an old machine,
which is simply scrapped as worthless. Is this what the scientific
method requires us to do with human
Dichotomy vs. dualism
Now, it is important to bear in
mind the difference between Descartes' concept of Dualism
and the Christian
concept of Dichotomy. In the strictest sense the dualist
splits man's constitution in two and makes it possible
3. Watson, John B. "Psychology as the
Behaviorists Views it", Psychological Review, vol.
20, 1913, p.157, 163.
to study each component
separately and then to add the two together for a complete understanding.
We accept the principle here that one and one makes
two, but we entirely overlook the true meaning of the
little word and. The dualist merely adds: God fuses.
When one and one are fused, they make ONE! Thus the dichotomist
views man as a single whole resulting not so much from the mere
co-operation of two separate realities as from the complete fusion
of them. James 2:26 states that the body "without the spirit
is dead", and Thomistic psychology carried this further
and said that the body without the spirit is not even a body
it is merely a corpse, a collection of molecules. But Descartes
had unwittingly encouraged the view that the body was the whole
man, a view reflected in our habit of using such terms as "some-body,"
"every-body," "no-body," etc., meaning "some
man," "every man," "no man." It was,
in fact, the annihilation of man as such.
Yet, as the course of psychology
has tended towards matters purely physiological, the course of
is now tending in the opposite direction! Taking man's body as
a machine, the re-discovery of the "ghost in
the machine" has been the work of students of the machine,
not students of the ghost. . . . And these
"students" have been largely pupils of Sherrington
in particular, such men as Wilder Penfield of the
Montreal Neurological Institute in Canada who died recently,
and Sir John C. Eccles, now retired after a
lifetime as a neurophysiologist in England and the United States,
and a Nobel Laureate presently living in
The brain: a machine?
Let us therefore consider, very
briefly, the extraordinary work of Wilder Penfield, a man who
operation on more than a thousand epileptic patients that is
probably more dramatic in its nature and
outcome than even a heart transplant, and almost certainly more
remarkable in the permanence of its effectiveness. The operation
involves exposing part of the brain by turning back a rather
large flap of skin on
the scalp, cutting a segment of bone away to permit full view
of a substantial area of the brain surface. The most critical
part of this delicate procedure has to be performed under local
anesthesia which means that
the patient is fully
conscious during the subsequent surgical probing that is required!
observed that there is probably no operation that a surgeon ever
undertakes which involves greater need
for absolute trust on the part of the patient in the doctor and
for the closest possible rapport between the
The secret of success in this most
delicate of operations is therefore dependent on the remarkable
circumstance that it has to be performed under conditions which
permit a continuous exchange of
communication between surgeon and subject. There is no pain felt
as the brain is gently probed with an
electrode after being exposed in the suspected area of damage
causing the attacks of epilepsy. But one can
imagine the potential apprehension of any patient whose brain
has been laid bare in this way: for despite
the enormous care and skill of the surgeon, there is always the
possibility of a fatal error in technique.
Penfield soon began to make
what can only be termed extraordinary discoveries regarding memory
As he gently stimulated the surface of the brain with an electrode
charged with a very small current, the
subject would suddenly find himself or herself remembering long
forgotten events of the past in such detail
that it scarcely seemed possible that it was only a memory!
Detail was so complete, so connected, so like a
rerun of a film with colours, sounds, distances, and even odours
(!), instantly re-experienced not as a vision
or a dream but as a present reality. It was always highly
specific and repeatable at will. Contact with one
spot on one occasion was repeated over sixty times and produced
the same scenario each time!
The purpose was not the
exploration of memory; the purpose was to locate at what precise
stimulation initiated the first sudden symptoms of an impending
epileptic seizure. As soon as this locale of
the problem was established, the object was then to render that
particular spot inactive. No pain whatever
was felt when this was done; but if it was done adequately, the
seizures thereafter were greatly reduced in frequency, or ceased
altogether. The open wound was closed and in due course healed.
The hair grew back
in, and the patient normally recovered without ill effect.
It was quite by accident that Penfield
and his co-workers discovered the extraordinary specificity of
stimulation and memory
recall. More importantly, in the present context, Penfield observed
a kind of "double consciousness." Even in the midst
of recall and reliving of the most dramatic scenes, the subject
retained his or her awareness of all that was actually going
on in the operating room at the same time! This
remarkable fact suggested that there was both an immediate and
directly autonomous consciousness or
mindedness, but also a "recalled consciousness"
engineered by deliberate manipulation of the brain by
purely mechanical means that was not autonomous.
It requires superb skill to perform
such an operation on a subject who is fully conscious, as well
of a very high order on the part of both patient and surgeon.
Penfield had the ability to inspire the necessary
confidence to make each patient feel at ease, and thus both willing
and able to discuss freely what was
being experienced during the operation. What can only be described
as an awesome penetration of the
individual's private world, became a joint adventure into an
area of research by an entirely unexpected
route; and the excitement was clearly shared by both patient
and surgeon alike.
Yet brain more than a machine?
Penfield points out that his training
in the tradition established by Descartes and his own determination
treat the body as a machine, profoundly influenced his earlier
years under Sherrington. What he was soon to
discover in the course of treating epileptic patients therefore
came as a total surprise. What he expected to
find was that the brain was a computer-like machine of the most
refined sort. What he actually found was
not merely a computer: he found an independent mind that
was the user of the computer as well as being
the initial programmer of it in a highly personalized
way. There was somebody present who was able to
manipulate the computer and to recognize and discuss what the
computer was doing when it was
appropriately activated. The programmer stood apart from his
own computer-like brain, and excitedly talked about the signals
it was displaying on its "screen".
And so, in due course, Penfield
slowly changed his position, forced by the testimony of his own
the repeatable evidence
of his own experiments to acknowledge that man was more
than a mere
electrochemical machine. He thus concluded:(4)
Throughout my scientific career,
I, like other scientists, have struggled to prove that the brain
[i.e., the physical organ itself] accounts for the mind. But
now, perhaps, the time has come when
we may profitably consider the evidence as it stands, and ask
the question: Do brain-mechanisms
account for the mind? [emphasis his]. Can the mind
be explained by what is now known about
the brain? If not, which is the more reasonable of the
two hypothesis: that man's being is based on
one element, or on two? [emphasis mine]
of evidence he repeatedly found as he developed his unique and
highly successful method of
relieving a large number of epileptic patients of their disease,
is well attested in the following. It proved to
be a kind of classic case that, when it was first reported, shook
to its very foundations the current
mechanistic view of the nature of human behaviour. He thus describes
this particular incident in some detail
because it marked a turning point for him:(5)
When the neurosurgeon applies
an electrode to the motor area of one side of the patient's
cerebral cortex causing the opposite hand to move, and when he
asks the patient why he
moved the hand, the response is: 'I didn't do it. You made me
do it. . . .' It may be said that the
patient thinks of himself as having an existence separate from
Once when I warned a patient
of my intention to stimulate the motor area of the cortex, and
challenged him to keep his hand from moving when the electrode
was applied, he seized it with
the other hand and struggled to hold it still. Thus one hand,
under the control of the right
hemisphere driven by an electrode, and the other hand, which
he controlled through the left
hemisphere, were caused to struggle against each other. Behind
the 'brain action' of one hemisphere
was the patient's mind. Behind the action of the other hemisphere
was the electrode.
4. Penfield, Wilder, The Mystery of the
Mind, Princeton University Press, 1975, p.xiii.
5. Penfield, Wilder, "Control of the Mind" in a symposium
held at the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco,
1961; as quoted by A. Koestler, The Ghost in the Machine,
London, Hutchinson, 1969, p.254.
hemisphere was acting as an autonomous mechanism triggered by
an electric current: the other hemisphere was clearly being controlled
by the "resident manager," the subject's own mind or
will or soul
whatever term seems most appropriate. Clearly, the movements
of the two hands were differently
initiated even though the same brain was being used as a medium
in both cases One activity showed the
brain to be a "mere machine": the other activity which
opposed it bore witness to the "ghost" in the
Penfield concluded his report of
this particular incident by saying:
There are, as you see, many
demonstrable mechanisms (in the brain). They work for the
purposes of the mind automatically when called upon. . . . But
what agency is it that calls upon
tthe mind something of different essence? . . . To
declare that these two are one does not make
them so. But it does block the progress of research. [emphasis
Something else "finds
its dwelling place between the sensory complex and the motor
mechanisms. . . . There is a switchboard operator as well
as a switchboard" [again, the emphasis is mine] . Certainly
the brain is in
effect a computer: but no computer works without a programmer
even if the original designer deliberately
builds the programme into it so that it needs no further supervision.
It cannot build itself and supply its own
programme from scratch. The self uses the brain: the self is,
as Viktor Frankl said, "conditioned" by the brain
since it has no other means of operating its body, preserving
its own memories, or even thinking about its
own thoughts. But conditioning is a very different thing from
Penfield expressed it, it is proper
to say that man has a computer but not proper to say that
man is a computer. Man is more than a
computer because he is more than an electrochemical machine.
Mind over matter?
In 1973 H. H. Kombuber extended the evidence
of the dominance of the mind over the brain by an elegant
6. Frankl, Viktor, in discussion of J. R.
Smythies' paper, "Aspects of Consciousness" in Beyond
Reductionism, edited by A. Koestler and J. R. Smythies, London,
Hutchinson, 1969, p.254.
series of experiments.(7) He discovered that willing
an action leads to a wide-ranging negative potential
over the top of the brain, which builds up over an interval of
as much as one second, until it eventually
concentrates on the pyramidal cells that are appropriate for
the willed action.
When an action is willed,
the action is not instantly performed. Evidence shows that the
mind or soul works upon the neuronal machinery of the brain to
generate the necessary impulse patterns
and to organize them.(8)
Eventually the patterned neuronal operation "homes in"
on the correct pyramidal
cells in the motor cortex in order to bring about the desired
action. On average (depending presumably on
the complexity of the movement and perhaps also its familiarity)
the whole preparatory process takes
about 0.8 seconds and this long delay (long, considering that
nerve impulses move along the nerve fibres at
the speed of light) indicates something of the incredible complexity
of the events taking place.
Clearly we have here evidence
of an active influence of the self-conscious mind upon the neuronal
machinery which is the brain. The soul uses the body to effect
its will within the framework of the physical
world. Mind orchestrates brain. This is a far cry from making
the brain the generator of mindedness! The
body has a "mind of its own" even as the mind has a
brain of its own. Each appears to be suited to the other.
Each has a measure of autonomy: the mind is free to initiate,
and the brain once programmed is capable of
sustained "unattended" activity.(9)
7. Kornhuber, H. H., "Cerebral Cortex, Cerebellum, and
Basal Ganglia: An Introduction to their Motor Functions"
in Neurosciences: Third Study Program, edited by F. O.
Schmitt and F. G. Worden, Cambridge (USA), Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, 1971, p.267-280. Some thirty years before
this, Ralph W. Gerard had pointed out that after a chemically
induced coma, during recovery, a man who wills to clench
his fist may find himself unable to do so. But then, having abandoned
the attempt and a few moments later being instructed to move
his foot, he will, to his complete surprise, suddenly discovery
that he has clenched his fist. In this instance, the neuronal
machinery of the brain has taken much longer to organize
itself to perform the originally intended action. The chemically
induced coma has somehow slowed up the mechanism; whether in
the brain itself or in the pathways to the muscles of the hand
is not clear. ("The Scope of Science", Scientific
Monthly, June, 1970, p.502).
8. The time taken between the willing and the action can be demonstrated
quite simply. One person holds a dollar bill by the top edge.
Another person, holding an index finger and thumb on either side
of the bill without actually touching it, will then try to catch
the bill as it falls when the other person, without warning,
lets go of it. It often proves to be a difficult feat.
9. It is possible for an epileptic subject to perform highly
complex actions characteristically in keeping with his or her
known personality but without any consciousness i.e., as
an automaton. (See Wilder Penfield, The Mystery of the Mind,
Princeton University Press, 1975, p.38, 39. This is possible,
however, only to the extent that the conscious individual has
programmed the computer-like brain to begin with. This clearly
gives priority to mind, not to the computer.
Mind and brain: interdependent
After a lifetime of research in
the field of neurophysiology, Sir John Eccles collaborated with
the well-known philosopher of science, Sir Karl Popper, in the
writing of a book originally titled The Mind and the Brain
which was later changed to The Mind and Its Brain.(10) The change is small enough
in respect to typesetting, but its significance should not be
lost in respect to the implications.
This volume is somewhat unique
in its structure, being in the form of a dialogue. Both authors
man is a duality of something that is spirit and something that
is body, although they differ on the origin of
the spiritual component. Popper thinks that evolution
could account for it, though he leaves it an open
question. Eccles, whose knowledge of the anatomy and physiology
of the brain is both firsthand and very
extensive, does not believe the mind can have emerged in this
way. He is convinced that it has somehow
been introduced from outside.
At the end of the volume is what
amounts to a transcript of one of their daily discussions. Eccles
has this to
So I am constrained to
believe that there is what we might call a supernatural origin
unique self-conscious mind or my unique self-hood or soul; and
that gives rise of course to a
whole new set of problems. How does my soul come to be in liaison
with my brain that has an
evolutionary origin? By this idea of a supernatural creation
(of the soul) I escape from the
incredible improbability that the uniqueness of my own self is
genetically determined. There is
no problem about the genetic uniqueness of my brain. It
is the uniqueness of the experienced
self that requires this hypothesis of an individual origin of
the self or soul, which is then
associated with a brain that thus becomes my brain [emphasis
mine]. That is how the self
comes to act as a self-conscious mind, working with the brain
in all the ways that we have been
and controlling job on the neural machinery of the brain.
10. Popper, Karl R. and John C. Eccles, The
Mind and Its Brain, London, Springer-Verlag, 1977, p.472,
11. Eccles, Sir John C., in The Mind and Its Brain, London,
Springer-Verlag, 1977, p.559, 560.
is physiological evidence, therefore, that man is a dichotomy
of body and spirit, each independent in origin but interdependent
in function. The brain appears to be essential for the
soul to give expression toitself and to act upon the world of
matter. The soul appears to be essential for the body to function
purposefully and so to direct its actions meaningfully.
Soul and body, or mind and brain (if
one prefers), are somehow uniquely wedded and this "wedding"
constitutes the individual. How each acts upon the other remains
a mystery but the fact is experimentally
demonstrable, and has a great deal of significance. Western man's
medicine is discovering what other
cultures have long been aware of: namely, that a distressed spirit
can mean a sick body and a healthy body
can contribute to the well-being of the spirit. As Proverbs 17:22
put it long ago, "A merry heart doeth good
like a medicine."Science cannot, of course, do any more
than speculate about what happens to the soul when the body dies. But
Eccles believes that the very existence in the body of a guiding
and ordering spirit which is not of bodily origin suggests the
continuance of the spirit after the body ceases to function.
Yet it is important also to note that there is good reason
to believe from what evidence we now have that consciousness
is somehow dependent on brain to express itself. The question
is not, therefore, whether the disembodied spirit can persist
but whether it can persist in a state of consciousness. As
he says (quoting A. Fessard), "There is much neurophysiological
evidence that a conscious experience arises only when there is
spatio-temporal pathway of neuronal activity in the brain,"(12) i.e., there is no evidence
when there is no evidence of any electrical activity in the brain
a condition which is termed cerebral
Eccles expresses the view
that when death destroys the brain, the self-conscious
mind "now finds that the
brain that it has scanned and probed and controlled so efficiently
and effectively through a long life is no
longer giving any message at all. What happens then is the ultimate
question." This does not signify the
annihilation of the mind or spirit the "ghost
in the machine." It merely suggests that it is effectively
12. Eccles, Sir John C., The Brain and
the Unity of Conscious Experience, 19th Sir Arthur Eddington
Memorial Lecture, Cambridge University Press, 1965, p.17.
silenced. It has no
vehicle of expression, no modus operandi. The only answer
must be a resurrected body,
if the self-conscious mind or soul is to recover its appointed
mode of expressing itself identifiably.(13)
Thus "no brain"
(through the destruction of the body) would seem to be necessarily
equated with a "no
consciousness" situation and therefore to require the resurrection
of the body in order to guarantee to the
individual a self-conscious state of being.
But it would be a mistake to suppose
that the disintegration of the brain means the annihilation
of the mind
or soul. It may indeed leave the mind or soul without means of
self-expression, but if it is re-united with
some form of resurrected body it would, once again, be capable
of giving fully conscious expression to itself
and of recovering its own personal identity. By implication,
it would seem to require also that the
resurrection of the body must be a resurrection specifically
of our own body and therefore also of our
However, bodily resurrection is
surely a matter of revelation, not of the logic of scientific
evidence, a fact
clearly demonstrating the limitations of the scientific method.
This method has gone a long way towards
filling out the picture, but theology which is based firmly on
the revelation of Scripture is needed to make the
The "ghost" in the machine
Two facts of importance in
the present context have emerged as a result of this experimental
The first fact is that man
is no longer to be considered as merely an electrochemical machine.
Something variously identified as a "ghost" in the
machine, or a self-conscious mind, or a soul, has been clearly
demonstrated to exist as a reality in its own right. "Mind"
is capable of acting upon the body by using the
brain in order to give expression to its own will, and makes
use of its body as a means of manipulating the physical world.
Though of independent origin, mind or soul is evidently designed
to act upon the world through the agency of the body.
13. Popper, Karl R. and John C. Eccles, The
Mind and Its Brain, London, Springer-Verlag, 1977, p.372.
second fact is that there is an on-going interaction between
this soul and its body, and this on-going
interaction unifies the total activity of the person as an organism
and gives its functioning both purpose and
meaning and (in health) a certain "fit" which encourages
the harmony of co-ordination between body type
Edward McCrady states the case
I, for instance, certainly have a stream of consciousness
which I, as a whole, experience: and
yet I include within myself millions of white blood cells which
give impressive evidence of
experiencing their own individual streams of consciousness of
which I am not directly aware. It
is both entertaining and instructive to watch living leukocytes
crawling about within the
transparent tissues of a living tadpole's tail. They give every
indication of choosing their paths,
we observe in larger individuals. . . .
So I feel compelled
to accept the conclusion that I am a community of individuals
somehow become integrated into a higher order of individuality
endowed with a higher order
of mind which somehow coordinates and harmonizes the activities
of the lesser individuals
of freely moving components, each of which is designed to contribute
to the whole, is
somehow "unified" by the presence of the soul. When
the soul departs, this unity is lost and the body begins
to become disorganized almost at once. Eccles holds that the
unity of our consciousness is actively
imposed upon the body by the self-conscious mind as it
surveys the constant stream of incoming signals
and integrates the output.(15)
These two components of man's constitution
together fulfill the purposes for which each is evidently
intended and form the "identifiable individual person."
At the present time the evidence clearly suggests
that there is no conscious existence that is not accompanied
by cerebral activity of some kind. This seems to
14. McCrady, Edward, Religious Perspectives
of College Teaching in Biology, New Haven, Ct., Edward W.
Hazen Foundation, 1950, p.19, 20.
15. Eccles, Sir John in Mind and Its Brain, edited by
Karl Popper and John Eccles, London, Springer-Verlag, 1977, p.507
indicate that the soul
can only express itself and identify itself through the agency
of its brain, acircumstance which further suggests the necessity
of a resurrected body in some form analogous to the present one
if that identity is to reflect the individual's personality.
If the soul cannot be derived from
the body as some kind of evolutionary emergent, we have to suppose
its origin lies outside the natural order. This in turn invites
the conclusion that it may have a future continuance
that also lies outside the natural order, yet will function in
some kind of vehicle of expression compatible
with the form of its expressive functioning as developed in this
The scientific view admittedly
stops here. It has no further data save what may be supposed
extrapolation. Such extrapolations form at best the basis of
a hope, but they do not bring the strong
convictions which come to the Christian as the result of a faith
engendered in the heart and mind by the Holy
Spirit through the reading of the Word of God. We are fortunate
to be able to learn about and reflect upon
what the scientist believes in this respect, but it is a pity
that attempts to persuade such men to learn about
and reflect upon what the Christian believes about these things
are almost always doomed to failure, not for
lack of knowledge or intelligence but for lack of faith.
The spiritual rebirth of the soul involves also a
spiritual renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2(16)), an experience initiated by God through his Holy
by man through logical argument. When the mind has once been
renewed, the situation is wonderfully
changed and a whole new world of understanding is opened up to
the believer. This new understanding is
not at all unreasonable, granting its premises: it merely goes
beyond the kind of reason that is based on
currently accepted presuppositions.
16. "And be not conformed to this world:
but by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is
that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." Romans
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
Previous Chapter Next