Table of Contents
Part I: Embodiment and The
The Ghost in the Machine
essentially a philosophy of materialism. No self-respecting evolutionist
will countenance the view that evolution provides only a partial
answer to the existence of a living world. Matter, life, consciousness,
and self-consciousness in an ascending scale form part of a great
chain in which there are no discontinuities, nothing that cannot
be quantified and ultimately understood in electrochemical terms.
The chain is deterministically
linked and must be preserved without the introduction of any
mechanism or any source of energy that is not absolutely part
of the system. The Universe is a uni-verse, not a multi-verse,
and one set of laws governs all that happens within it. Divine
interventions are unallowable.
Thus if there is such a thing as
soul or spirit or will or self-conscious mind, it is not another
order of reality but a direct outcome or spin-off of matter that
has reached a certain stage of complexity. Ernst Haeckel (1834
1919) in an address before the German Association (of Science),
assured his audience that once the chemical constituents of a
(carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen,
and sulphur) are correctly assembled, they "produce the
soul and the body of the animated world, and suitably nursed,
become man. . . . With this single argument the mystery
of the universe is explained, the Deity is annulled and a new
era of infinite knowledge is ushered in"! (79)
Today, those evolutionists who
are strictly logical in their thinking ought not to find anything
to quarrel with in this statement. Although they admit that there
are still many unanswered questions, they continue to have confidence
in the thesis. For many generations evolutionary biologists and
physiologists have interpreted their research findings in strict
compliance with this philosophy. Thus, when in recent years a
series of discoveries
have been made that challenge the view that man is effectively
a machine by "rumours of a ghost inside," all were
surprised including the finders themselves.
One of the most
impressive lines of evidence of this "ghost" has come
from the work of Wilder Penfield who died recently after many
years of highly successful treatment of epileptic patients at
the Montreal Neurological Institute. During these years, Penfield
brought relief to well over a thousand subjects by a brain operation
which was daring indeed both in its conception and its execution.
What he found was as much a surprise to himself as it was to
Now, to keep the record clear,
it is appropriate to note the very important distinction that
is being assumed between mind and brain throughout the rest of
this chapter. The mind is the thinking, the will, the conscious
attention, something non-physical, the self which scrutinizes
the situation or contemplates its meaning; the brain by contrast
is the organ which the mind uses, a physical object located in
the skull and composed of billions of nerve cells each of which
may have ten thousand connecting fibres to neighbour cells
an incredibly complex structure.
79. Haeckel, Ernst, reported in Fortnightly
Review, London, vol.39, 1886, p.35.
began his life work in the belief that the brain accounts for
the mind as the brook accounts for the babbling noise it makes.
Stop the flow of water and the babbling ceases; destroy the brain
and the mind is destroyed. Mind and babbling are epiphenomena
not realities with independent existence.
Before describing this work, let
me quote something he wrote in retrospect after his retirement:
"Throughout my own scientific career, I, like other scientists,
struggled to prove that brain accounts for the mind. . . . 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? Can the mind be explained by what is now
known about the brain? If not, which is the more reasonable of
the two hypotheses: that man's being is based on one element,
or on two?" (80)
Very briefly, the technique which
Penfield used was to lay bare a segment of the cortical surface
of the brain by removal of a portion of the skull. The motor
area thus exposed is known to be related to the involuntary movements
of epileptic subjects. The patient was lightly anaesthetized
locally for the opening up of the skull and felt little or no
pain, but was kept fully conscious because his or her ability
to communicate with the surgeon was essential to the success
of the operation.
The surgeon was thus enabled to
probe the surface of the brain in search of the damaged area.
The probe itself was composed of a single electrode, using a
60 cycle 2 volt current. Contact with the brain surface caused
no sensation of pain whatever, but when the damaged area is thus
stimulated, the patient at once becomes aware that an epileptic
fit is pending. By this means the offending tissue could be located
and, hopefully, corrective surgery applied.
Rapport between patient and surgeon
had to be at all times extremely close, and Penfield himself
inspired enormous confidence. But what he discovered unexpectedly
was that the electrode stimulation of very specific areas
80. Penfield, Wilder, Mystery of the Mind,
Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1975, p.xiii.
brought an experience
of recall for the patient which was so vivid that the subject
frequently suspected Penfield of using tape recordings. The recall
involved sound, coloured vision, and even odours. Any one area
could be contacted again and again and the recalled events would
be perfectly replayed in great detail in the patient's consciousness.
On one occasion the electrode was applied to the same spot 60
times and the recall experience was on each occasion precisely
the same. (81)
What was so surprising was that
the recall in no way at all interfered with the patient's full
awareness of all that was taking place in the operating room,
including conversations among the staff and even street noises
outside. The subject was experiencing two kinds of consciousness:
one from some long past situation, and the other from the circumstances
surrounding the operation. It was therefore quite possible for
the subject to live in two worlds and to discuss in great detail
the recalled events with those who occupied the operating theater.
It was also quite
possible for the patient, wherever the recall involved music,
to both whistle or hum the piece being played: and often even
to identify it.
One day, Penfield had an
experience which opened his eyes in a new way to the existence
of a ghost in the machinery. Here is how he described the event.
When the neurosurgeon
applies an electrode to the motor area of the patient's cerebral
cortex causing the opposite
hand to move, and when he asks the patient why he moved
his hand, the response is: 'I didn't do it. You made
me it. . .' It may be said that the patient thinks of himself
as having an existen separate from his body.
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.
one hand, under the control of the right
81. Penfield, Wilder and Phanor Perot, "The
Brain's Record of Auditory and Visual Experience: A Final Summary
and Discussion," Brain, vol.86, (4), Dec.,1963, p.685.
82. Penfield, Wilder, in the "Control of the Mind",
a Symposium held at the University of California Medical Centre,
San Francisco, 1961, quoted by A. Koestler, Ghost In the Machine,
London, Hutchinson, 1967, p.203f.
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.
driven to conclude, therefore, that the brain was not causing
the mind but was the servant of it and its instrument for willed
action. This chance finding was repeated many times and has since
been experimentally demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt. The
brain controls the action but the electrode controls the brain.
In all willed action, precisely the opposite is true: the mind
controls the brain and uses it to effect its purposes upon the
material world. To the extent that the brain is a physical organ
whose development has resulted from a combination of genetic
endowment and the accidents of experience, it must be said, as
Viktor Frankl put it, that while the brain conditions
the mind, it does not give rise to it. (83)
A second striking
proof of precedence of will over matter, of mind over brain,
has now been provided by some elegant experiments by H. H. Kornhuber.
To describe his findings with scientific
precision would be to snow the reader, and lose him! But very
simply, here is what he discovered. Whenever an action of any
kind is willed, measurable electrical potentials are generated
in the motor area of the cortex that controls the action. These
potentials are observed prior to the action that is willed but
only after the "willing." Thus between the conscious
exercise of will and the activity that results there is a clearly
measurable delay of sometimes up to several seconds duration.
In this brief but significant interval,
there is a flurry of electrical impulses over a wide area that
gradually narrows down and concentrates the signal to bring about
the precise movement willed. The delay between willing and activity
is quite measurable, and the nature of the will and the
83. Frankl, Viktor, in a discussion of J.
R. Smythies' paper, "Some Aspects of Consciousness"
in Beyond Reductionism, edited by Arthur Koestler and
J. R. Smythies, London, Hutchinson, 1969, p.254.
84. Kornhuber, H. H., "Cerebral Cortex, Cerebellum and Basal
Ganglia: an Introduction to their Motor Functions" in Neurosciences:
Third Study Programme, edited by F. O. Schmitt & F. G.
Worden, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1973, pp.167-80.
resulting activity correspond.
In commenting on this discovery,
the neurophysiologist Sir John Eccles remarks, "it is rather
like the sergeant saying 'Company. . .' before giving the specific
command which is to follow. It seems to warn that the will is
about to act on the mechanism."
Eccles concludes, "Thus we
can regard these experiments as providing a convincing demonstration
that voluntary movements can be freely initiated independently
of any determining influences within the neuronal machinery of
the brain itself." (85) In short there really is a ghost in the machine,
capable of giving orders to the machinery and able to use the
machinery for its own purposes.
The problem that still remains, of course,
is how the mind or will (or, in our context, the spirit)
actually makes contact with the brain. I can normally move my
hand at will, but I cannot move the hands of my clock on the
wall. Clearly there is no connecting link with the clock hand
over which to mediate the message. But if my will is a non-physical
spirit, where is the actual connection with my own brain that
makes it move my own hand? The process is just as elusive. It
has been suggested that if we could really resolve this problem,
we might have a better idea of how God acts upon the physical
world, of how faith could move mountains; even of how the Lord
instantly stilled the violent storm on the Sea of Galilee. *
recognized this interaction of spirit and body, and also that
it works both ways. Today we speak of these two kinds of interaction
as psychosomatic and somatopsychic, i.e., spirit/body and body/spirit
85. Eccles, Sir John & Karl R. Popper,
The Self and Its Brain, Springer Verlag, International,
* Perhaps the Lord Himself can take over the autonomy of the
human mind to use that mind's brain to effect a desired end:
for example, in the writing of Scripture, or in giving skill
to the hands as He did to Bezaleel for the embellishment
of the Tabernacle (Exodus 36:1). And perhaps there is more truth
than we realize in the saying that the devil finds work for idle
hands to do.
depending upon which
takes the initiative. But like Descartes who finally abandoned
the search for the "contact point," we too have come
little or no nearer to a solution.
However, Descartes did uncover
a phenomenon that we all recognize readily enough when it is
pointed out to us in the right way, a phenomenon which clearly
demonstrates (as Penfield and Kornhuber have shown) that there
is someone there in the machinery making it work for us.
What we have in mind is the ability
we all possess to see the objective world stereoscopically, that
is to say, in depth, in three dimensions and not just in two
as an ordinary photograph presents it. We can perceive distance
between objects and we can perceive the roundness of things,
so that they are neither all at the same distance from us nor
are they flat.
We are able to do this because
we have two eyes spaced on average 650 mm. apart. By using a
camera with two lenses similarly spaced so that two separate
photographs of a scene can be taken at the same instant from
these two different positions, and by mounting these two photographs
appropriately so that each eye sees only one picture, we suddenly
find ourselves back in the three-dimensional world.
I have, and use, just such
a camera and never cease to be thrilled by the stereoscopic effect.
One wonders why these cameras are not more widely used, except
that one needs a special viewer.
Now the interesting thing is that
when one first looks into the viewer, one is met by two different
pictures. They are very little different, though they are momentarily
irreconcilable. The difference between the two pictures is clearly
revealed if we superimpose the one over the other and project
them together on to a screen. The picture on the screen will
be fuzzy and blurred, rather like a photograph taken by a camera
that has been moved slightly at a critical moment. No amount
of focussing of the projector will resolve the blurred or fuzzy
have emphasized this because it is of crucial importance. The
fact is that the two pictures cannot be reconciled in any way
by mere overlapping projection onto a screen, nor even by
projecting the two pictures through the lenses of the two eyes
on to the two retinas. Descartes presumed that the signals
from the two retinas which are screening two irreconcilable pictures
reach a single place in the brain where they coincide and fuse
themselves into a single picture in three-dimensional form. He
was never able to trace the nerves, or he would have discovered
that these two signals do not fuse as a single picture in the
brain but remain as independent signals
in the visual cortex, one in the left hemisphere and one in the
How, then, do the two conflicting
scenes come to be viewed as one? The conclusion is that the MIND
and not the BRAIN fuses and synthesizes them. So far it has been
impossible to say how this is done.
The fact is that when anyone for
the first time looks through my viewer, he or she will find that
the two views are not reconciled at once. But then quite suddenly,
in a way which is very hard to define but is a very real experience,
they are reconciled and two contradictory pictures in the flat
are instantly experienced as one in the round. The 'shift' is
remarkable and is very sudden. The two scenes converge unexpectedly
and, voilá, the picture emerges in three dimensions!
It is an interesting experience and a wonderful demonstration
of "mind" at work.
Moreover, from the moment the viewer
has achieved one three dimensional resolution, thereafter one
can go through several hundred pictures, and there is no such
experience of delay and sudden resolution as occurred in the
first viewing. Indeed, one develops a kind of 'pre-set' facilitation
that allows reconciliation to proceed much more rapidly, even
long after having laid aside the viewer. Days and months can
intervene, but the skill to obtain immediate stereo vision is
not lost. It would appear that the mind has learned the trick
is not the two eyes which look out upon the distant scene that
give us a view of things in the round: it is the fusing
power, the reconciliation of two quite discrete and
Diagram showing how the pathways of the separate signals
from the two eyes lead to two separate areas of the brain.
subtly conflicting pictures
that is done by the mind. The brain provides the materials in
coded form: the mind or
soul or spirit uses these discrete materials to form a view of
reality that corresponds to reality in depth. Without this fusion,
all would be confusion. When the two signals are presented incorrectly
due to a fault in focussing power of either one of the eyes which
may have occurred as a result of a breakdown of the machinery,
it is the mind or soul or spirit which compensates by ignoring
one of the two inputs and thus resolves the irreconcilable conflict.
It is true that when this happens we lose depth perception but
at least the mind "makes sense" out of what the eyes
are signalling confusingly. The mind can only fuse what the brain
is presenting in the correct relationship.
Were it not for this power of the
mind to do what neither the camera nor the eyes themselves can
do, we would have to cover one eye to eliminate the contradictions
in the two pictures! But without stereovision we could
not perceive the depth or thickness of things, nor reach out
with perfect confidence and grasp them, nor even thread a needle
except with some difficulty and by constant trial and error.
To drive a car, we should have to gauge our distance from the
car ahead by its changing size, and the picture of the world
we have would be flat. We would get used to it. People with only
one eye do. But many kinds of "comprehension" of reality
in the physical world would be far more difficult, if not impossible.
It is doubtful if the soldering of an extremely small electronic
circuit manually could be done. In a thousand ways there
would be confusion until we had learned in each situation and
at that particular moment how to relate to space and distance.
By it, we know where we are within the framework of things.
The mind does for us what the eyes
cannot do, what the stereocamera cannot do, what the stereomicroscope
cannot do, what the stereoprojector cannot do in short,
what no machine can do. It does this by fusing two flat
pictures that conflict, into one picture which provides the added
dimension of depth.
Without the mind to manage the input, there is no creation of
order, no meaningful fusion. The machine itself no more does
the fusing than the computer "adds." There is no adding
going on in the computer. It is just a machine re-routing signals
according to design in such a way as to give us a signal meaningful
only to the mind. The computer doesn't know what it is doing.
Now it is obvious that many animals
below man have stereoscopic vision, though not over quite as
wide a range in some cases. It must be assumed, therefore, that
in these animals, as in man, there is a ghost in the machinery
integrating the two discrete signals reaching the brain. Does
this then mean that animals also have a body/spirit constitution,
so that they too are souls?
The answer appears to be, Yes.
Indeed, the Hebrew word for soul (nephesh) is frequently
used of animals and was actually applied to animals (in Genesis
1:20, 21, 24 and 30) before it was applied to man! Is there no
difference, then, between man and the animals in this regard?
There certainly is, for although the fate of the bodies of both
men and animals is to return to the dust, the fate of the spirit
is quite different. Ecclesiastes 3:21 tells us that the spirit
of man goes upwards (i.e., returns to God who gave it, Ecclesiastes
12:7) but the spirit of the beast goes downwards to the earth
to share the fate of its body. In other words, the destiny of
the two is diametrically opposed.
We have been
using a number of terms such as mind, mindedness,
will, soul, spirit, etc.,
indiscriminately. It is unfortunate that there are so many terms
to describe the activities of the
ghost in the machine. All of these terms are appropriate and
each one of them is essentially a
spiritual faculty rather than a physical one. I want to say a
word about what is meant by
consciousness and the even more difficult-to-define phenomenon,
Children are occasionally born
without a brain. Yet they react to sounds and odours and to physical
In spite of this reactivity,
there is no evidence of actual consciousness and, of course,
there is no brain to mediate it. Thus, in effect, there is "no
one there." They are alive but act like a person in a deep,
deep coma, except that they never will and never can come out
of it. They have no conscious contact with outside reality because
they have no cortex. This situation points up the fact that a
surprising level of reactivity is possible in the total absence
If animals have consciousness,
then one must ask whether there are levels of consciousness corresponding
to the level of development of their central nervous system.
Plants, of course, "sense" the environment by various
means without a central nervous system and therefore presumably
cannot be said to have consciousness. Animals, on the other hand,
even the simplest of them like the amoebae, have consciousness
at least of other bodies around them: but man is intensely
self-conscious, i.e., conscious uniquely of his OWN body,
both in times of health
and in sickness.
The last point is important. Animals
seem obviously conscious of their own bodies in times of sickness
or when wounded, but man is conscious of his own body most of
his waking life. When a baby first discovers its hands and feet
are part of itself, the first glimmerings of self-consciousness
have probably been born. It is to be noted, therefore, that in
man the body introduces itself early in life and engenders a
new kind of consciousness, consciousness not merely of
other bodies but of one's own. We see our own bodies as something
something we can stand apart from and consider objectively.
In this matter of personal body
identity, I think it is highly significant that man is the only
creature who cares for the bodies of his dead including
his own! No animal is known to take anything more than a momentary
and passing interest in a dead body (except as food of course),
not even the dead body of its own mate. No attempt is made to
protect the body from predators once it is dead.
But even from the earliest times, as is known by the
presence of flowers in the grave, man has buried his dead quite
deliberately. Not infrequently the dead are placed in a foetal
position, a fact which some suggest is witness to a hope of re-birth
Theodosius Dobzhansky noted "that
all people everywhere take care of their dead in some fashion,
while no animal does anything of the sort." (86) And it is a significant
fact of human behaviour that a dead body continues to be protected
by custom or by law from injury. Indeed, we seem to have stricter
rules about the mutilation of the dead than we do of the living.
Man's consciousness of his own body or of the bodies of his fellow
men seems to be very different from mere animal consciousness.
Sir John C.
Eccles (Nobel Laureate for his work in neuro-physiology) in 1977
co-authored with Sir Karl R. Popper a fascinating book supporting
the reality of the soul or spirit and thus the dual nature of
the human constitution.
In the process of writing the book,
they had planned to title it The Self and The Brain. But
subsequently, they both became so convinced by the consideration
of the steadily accumulating experimental evidence of a managing
spirit or mind within the machinery, that they changed the title.
The change was a very small one from the typesetter's point of
view, but it was a highly significant one in its implications.
The new title became The Self and ITS Brain.
Eccles concludes that the self-conscious
mind is not simply engaged in passively observing the signals
from its body but in actively sorting them out. Continuously
displayed before it is a whole complex of neural inputs from
the eyes, the ears, the nose, and be it noted the
skin (which is the largest organ of the body). It selects from
this chain of signals in the brain whatever is of interest to
it, blending the result from different areas of the cortex. The
body supplies a rich input, and the mind deliberately disregards
some and attends to others.
86. Eccles, Sir John, Facing Reality,
New York,, Springer-Verlag, 1975, p.94, quoting Dobzhsnsky's
The Biology of Ultimate Concern.
In this way the self-conscious mind achieves a unity
of experience which becomes entirely personal. The brain
is its own brain, a personalized computer that it uses. According
to this hypothesis, the prime role in this process is played
by the self-conscious mind, exercising both its selective and
its integrative abilities.
They were impressed with the bond
which exists between spirit and body, a bond often commented
upon by theologians in the past from Thomas Aquinas (1224 1274)
to James Orr (18441913), and right down to a number of present
writers. All have sensed the closeness of this bond which arises
out of or generates in man a strong sense of personal identity,
far more profound than is to be observed in any animal. It is
a form of consciousness that is related entirely to the spirit's
awareness of its own body, which is now acknowledged by some
of the best modern students of animal life as being unique to
James Orr made much of this bond
and attributed to it the abhorrence of physical death which seems
to have characterized man's thinking throughout history. (87) The spirit in man, though
burdened by the body that spoils so many of his highest aspirations
because of its demands, nevertheless is so strongly attached
to it that it fears the rupture of death throughout life. The
most dramatic and most perceptive definition of death, and the
truest theologically considered, is still "the separation
of the spirit from the body." This is what death is.
We long to be freed because it
is a house in ruins, but we tremble at the prospect of this separation
as one might tremble at the loss of a companion of a lifetime,
and that is what the body has been.
Mind or spirit is the seat of authority.
The brain is an instrument which serves it. The whole is integrated,
unified, ordered by the mind. This non-physical reality is master
of the meaningful operation of the body which is, ideally, its
servant, but due to the Fall may and does become its master all
87. Orr, James, God's Image in Man,
Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, reprint 1948, p.252.
struggle is graphically described by Paul in chapter 7 of Romans.
The Fall had consequences as fatal to the body as to the spirit.
We see interaction for both good and ill exemplified throughout
The Lord remarked sadly upon it
in Matthew 26:41, "The spirit is willing but the flesh is
weak," as He came to his companions in his terrible hour
of anticipation and found them, alas, asleep. Paul bewailed it
when he cried out, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall
deliver me from this body of death" while at the same
time saying that he really had no desire at all to be unclothed,
i.e., disembodied; though meanwhile he groaned in the body he
had (2 Corinthians. 5:4). Here was an unwanted interaction.
But the Bible speaks of co-operative
interaction as well. In a passage seldom noted (Mark 9:29), after
the disciples had come to the Lord in surprise that their newly
delegated power to heal sickness had failed them, Jesus said,
"This kind comes forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting."
By prayer which is a discipline of the spirit, and by fasting
which is a discipline of the body. There are some battles with
Satan that require the whole man, body and spirit despite
the fact that the battle is a spiritual one.
Man has a brain
that is clearly a kind of computer. This is what man HAS, but
it is not what man IS. Man is truly a spiritual creature but
he is an incarnate, embodied creature, unique among all other
creatures because of the uniqueness of the origin and destiny
of both his body and his spirit.
It is remarkable that a man of
Eccles' stature and experience who nevertheless does not share
our Christian convictions, should arrive at this same conclusion,
and in doing so should reject the evolutionary origin of the
soul. He did so in spite of the fact that his co-author, Karl
Popper, accepted it without equivocation.
In another of his recent works,
Facing Reality, Eccles observes that statements about
"the progressive emergence of conscious mind during evolution
are not supported by
any scientific evidence,
but are merely statements made within the framework of a faith
theory, as it now is, will at least in principle explain fully
the origin and development of all living forms including our
This "faith" is
being steadily eroded by experimental evidence. There IS a ghost
in the machine.
88. Eccles, Sir John, Facing Reality,
New York, Springer-Verlag, 1975, p.91.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
Previous Chapter Next