Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Constitution of Man

The constitution of man is the most common misconception about Triessentialism. I do not deny the existence of body, mind, and spirit, but I believe them to be less than the whole truth.

"Physical" usually refers to the particle-based body in this space-time continuum. However, "Physical" also describes any plane of existence which plays by approximately the same rules. You push something, it moves away. You pull something, it comes closer. You cut something, it is split. In the context of a Christian cosmology, the usual thinking goes like this: there is a spiritual plane of existence called Heaven, in which we will have new spiritual bodies that never need food or cleaning or anything else. Will it be made of particles of matter like this universe? I doubt it; I think it'll be much cooler. However, it will be made of some sort of matter; we won't just be thoughts and emotions swimming in a sea of other minds. Keep in mind this is usually what guys mean when they say "spirit" or "spiritual," since guys are usually physically intuitive.

So already in one category we have both body and spirit -- at least, one definition of spirit.

You also said "mind." I consider mind to be a combination of emotion and logic; at least, human minds. Logic is all about truth, structure, and reasoning. Emotion is, contrastingly, totally and completely irrational. However, emotion is all about identity, purpose, importance, and desire, which logic has nothing to do with. The classical duality, the Mind/Body Problem, is not finely enough defined. Once you split Mind into Logic and Emotion, it becomes clear why the ancients were confused.

Some consider this to be spirit, because it is completely nonphysical. (Although the brain is the container of the mind, and damage to the brain impacts the mind, the brain is no more the mind as the candle is not the flame.) However, some people consider mind to rever solely to the intellectual (logical) capacity, and not the emotions.

Now we come to spirit. Some say it is a paraphysical or pseudophysical reality. Others say it is completely the opposite of physicality. A third option, one which I am loath even to mention, equates spirit and emotion. For example, a "spirited argument" is an emotionally passionate argument. People who are nice are often said to have "a good spirit." Positive or upbeat emotions are said to be spiritual by the world, while a "spirit of devotion" is often spoken of highly in the church. And so on. This option tends to be put forward by women, because they are usually emotionally intuitive.

So in a traditional tripartate constitution of man, "Body, Mind, Spirit" refers to one or possibly two things in two ontological categories, and one or up to three things in one ontological category each. The best possible Triessentialist interpretation of "body, mind, and spirit" is to call mind logical and spirit emotional. Yet surely most people, especially Christians, would chafe at equating emotions simply with spirit. After all, emotions can be influenced with drugs, the mood of the room, or a lack of sleep. Surely that does not imply that if a person dies while in a grumpy mood, they will go to Hell.

There must be a better constitution of man.

I suggest a sevenfold constitution of man. Primarily, the body, intellect, and emotions. Secondarily, the instinctual, philosophical, and innovative capacities. Thirdly, the moral capacity. Everything except philosophy requires a body. Everything except innovation requires emotional capacity. Everything except instinct requires some level of logic. They are not separable; any being without part of each of these would not be human.

That being said, where in this scheme is there room for the spiritual? What about the as-yet unmentioned "soul"?

In Triessentialism, I consider the moral capacity of man to be his soul, and "spirit" to refer either to a paraphysical plane of existence, or the emotional capacity. (I hate ambiguity, but since the words are already defined by the world at large, this level of clarification is the tightest possible.)