Thursday, January 31, 2013
Summary of the issue//
“There are some things I will never know. There are somethings I will never fully grasp.” These are the words that I continually have to remind myself. “My thoughts are higher than Your thoughts,” speaks God to my spirit (Or is it my mind He speaks to? Or is it my brain? Or... my soul?). In the past, the study of theology and philosophy has led me to doubt Christian faith. Are we really free? Are we just puppets in God’s puppet show? What is reality? What can we really know? What is truth? What constitutes a human being? These questions opened up my eyes to what I didn’t know, and frankly, what nobody fully can know for sure. There is so much we cannot prove. Can we even really prove anything at all?
In class, we brought up the ancient metaphysical mystery of the mind and body of man. What distinguishes man from any other creature? Many different ideas exist regarding what makes up a man. William Hasker wonderfully summarizes the philosophy in his book called Metaphysics: constructing a World View.
A few popular beliefs are as follows. The materialist would say that man is simply material; we are our physical bodies. The materialist view fails to address mental properties and denies the spiritual or immaterial. Dualism attempts to account for physical and mental properties by separating the body from the mind and addressing the immaterial. The mind is separate from the physical and has no tangible location; yet it is constantly interacting with the physical. Dualism fails to explain how exactly the mind, being fully unphysical, can interact with the brain, a fully physical object. Emergentism, the belief held by Hasker and other Christian philosophers, suggests that the human mind is produced by the brain. The physical, material aspect of man creates the immaterial. However, the mind is distinct from the brain and its activities are not explainable in terms of brain function.
How does this relate to counseling//
What I’ve grown to question is how I, a humble counseling graduate student, can form an opinion regarding something that philosophers, theologists, and scientists have argued for years upon years and have not figured out.
Yet, it is worth the effort to come to a personal conclusion; as a counselor, this very question affects the way I perceive myself, and the way that I approach each client that I will see. My counseling theories will depend on my personal philosophies and my worldview. If I hold to materialism, I will believe that a client’s physical body should be the focus of treatment. Problems are biological, since man is merely biology made up of physical material. Because the mind cannot be empirically measured or tested, modern science is not concerned with immaterial man and problems of the mind.
The field of mental health implies the existence of the mind/soul by nature. If I hold to dualism or emergentism, I acknowledge the existence of the mind/soul, and can treat both the mind and the body, knowing that the two entities interact in one way or another. The difficulty is pinpointing the location of the mind, and understanding how the immaterial relates to the material.
I don’t think that I can adequately even begin to summarize this metaphysical question in a blog post; nor do I think we can adequately come to any conclusions as a class regarding the issue. There seem to be short comings to every view. Every view requires faith: trusting in what is unknown. As stated eloquently by Wilder Penfield, a neurologist, “Whether there is such a thing as communication between man and God and whether energy can come to the mind of man from an outside source after his death is for each person to decide for himself. Science has no such answers.”
I can only conclude that science, or materialism, has no definitive answers regarding the mysteries of the mind/body; therefore, I turn to faith in God. I turn to the Creator of science and the originator of faith. I believe that man is more than skin and bones; man was created intentionally by God to be more than biology. I believe that the mind/soul does exist and is not something physically detectable in man, but is something spiritual and breathed into the man, setting him apart from all other creation. Perhaps the mind is separate from the brain; perhaps the mind is created by the brain. Nevertheless, a portion of the mind/soul will exist for eternity. Can I prove that scientifically, or really even connect the immaterial with the physicality of man? Nope. But, I chose to cling to the promises of God, the words that He gently speaks to my mind/soul in sweet reminder:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9.