Of Soul and Mind

Duality is two-ness connected, perhaps even contingent. Connection and contingency are not identical; they do not share absolute synonymy, no, perhaps only a loosely tethered connotation. Things in dichotomy are too disconnected, perhaps even without the ability to connect or re-connect. There is distinction in these terms we need to understand, that we need to define whenever discussions of our humanity arise. We face, confront, create, manipulate, examine, analyze, talk about many dualities and dichotomies throughout the course of our lives. One such duality, or is it a dichotomy–and this is another very interesting and important fact in our discussion of duality and dichotomy; through one lens, things under examination might be seen as a duality, through another, as a dichotomy. Two such things are mind and soul.

Mind and soul are dichotomy in English. In French they are a duality, l’ame is the one word for both in French, in English–it is clear they share no etymology. Closing one’s mind in French is closing one’s soul. I remember having missed this once when a French woman had asked me about a book she was looking for, The Closing of the American Soul. I did not know what book she was talking about although I knew, somewhere in my mind that day that there was a book which had been recently published, The Closing of the American Mind.

Thinking in the English language, we imagine that we can close the mind and keep the soul open, or vice-versa, close our soul, as we sometimes mean when we talk about opening and closing the heart. We do imagine we can keep the mind open and the soul closed, but we also imagine that closing the soul narrows the mind. We say things like, keep an open mind about keeping your heart opened to love, for instance. But soul as something deeper? bigger? whatever have we in words that can handle the theological construct that is soul, soul in the religions of the world, and herein I am not going to go in for a closer or more articulate examination of the differences or the similarities between spirit and soul. Her we are examining the words in English, ‘soul’ and ‘mind,’ and how they  are related, how they are even a duality in other cultures, read languages, namely here, French. Again, in French, there is one word for both, each one never veering too far from the other. In English at best they are a dichotomy, otherwise they stand as mutually exclusive categories of mind, each one what Kant would call noumena. Interesting how the mind conceives of itself not as phenomena, but as noumena, at least as I understand this. Soul is an idea in the mind as mind is an idea in the mind.

Linguistically splitting mind from soul into a dichotomy has had dangerous repercussions for our humanity, how we elect to be human, or what we call being human and thus set as a choice to be fulfilled in determining the human.  I’m talking about meaning, not what the French practice. We too have to connect to the meaning of our humanity, of our being human because we cannot set our sights on our practice alone, we’d drown in the hypocrisy.

Mind is the cognitive faculties that allows for consciousness in itself, allows for perception, judgement, thinking, memory . . . many of the characteristics we associate with humans exclusively or predominantly or in hierarchy within. We are not going to discuss the mind of dolphins or collective mind, which we could call mentality, as I have always separated mentality from psychology. The former is what a people have, the latter, an individual. Soul is an incorporeal essence of a person, it is in many traditions, the immortal essence, in some, a transmigratory one. Both in duality leaves each contingent with the other, both mutual and reciprocal. For French, for example, there is no soul without consciousness; in English, we can soul without what we call consciousness, or so it seems. Higher elections in thought do not directly affect the progress of the soul, at least as far as their existence as a dichotomy goes. Where mind and soul are a duality, higher election in one directly affects the other; this is unavoidable through their duality, their contingency, their mutual and reciprocal metaphysical state. One is not better than the other, one can only be preferable in a subjective way to anyone disposed to thinking about mind and soul and the existence of these non-locatable essences. The most intelligent way of handling these ideas is the most articulate way of handling them, and is to employ the What if. What if mind and soul are a dichotomy, then what? What if they are a duality, then what?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.