Table of Contents
The Mysterious Matter of Mind
by Lee Edward Travis
assumption held by psychologists today is that the human being
is body and nothing more and what is real can be perceived only
by the sense organs or by a physical instrument. Based on this
assumption, persons are essentially totally defined by the physical
parts that constitute them and to know them one must ultimately
understand their anatomy and their physiology. They can be reduced
completely to physics and chemistry, and there is nothing left
The ordinary person does not share
this assumption. Such people believe that there is something
else, that there is a conscious mind that takes control, possibly
even of one's whole life, and to a large degree determines one's
destiny. It is true, they think, that genetics plays a large
role in one's development and that chance enters into the picture.
But mainly they believe that consciousness faithfully attends
them as long as they live and reluctantly leaves at their death
to live on forever in another world. Scientists and philosophers
have too quickly dismissed the testimony of the common person
about his or her experience. As a scientist Dr. Custance not
only respects the common person but also solicits the aid of
other noted scientists to tell of their lifelong work on mind-body
One could say
either that the brain produces the mind as an epiphenomenon,
the melody that floats from the harp, or that the mind programs
the brain, using it as a faithful servant in the complicated
job of living. The evidence that Dr. Custance gives us strongly
supports the second possibility. It comes largely from the great
works of two men, the neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield and the neurophysiologist
John C. Eccles.
Penfield would stimulate electrically
the proper motor cortex of conscious patients and challenge them
to keep one hand from moving when the current was applied. The
patient would seize this hand with the other
hand and struggle to
hold it still. Thus one hand under the control of the electrical
current and the other hand under the control of the patient's
mind fought against each other. Penfield risked the explanation
that the patient had not only a physical brain that was stimulated
to action but also a non-physical reality that interacted with
the brain. Could this non-physical reality be the mind? With
other patients being stimulated in other cortical areas, a double
consciousness was produced. Patients, while being fully aware
of their immediate surroundings on the operating table, were
also experiencing a suddenly re-enacted scene from the past,
a scene so clear that it included sounds and even the odour of
coffee being brewed. Penfield considered such double-consciousness
experiences as an argument for independent mind action, for a
dualism of object and subject and for a separateness of brain
Eccles became fully
persuaded after his lifelong work in neurophysiology that mind
was not an emergent out of the brain but somehow an independent
programmer of it. The mind acts on the brain in a purposeful,
manipulating, and actively creative way. Dr. Custance draws attention
to the congruity between the revelation of Scripture and the
conclusions of these two modern scientists.
Both the Old and the New Testaments
proclaim the union of the mind and the body as essential to the
existence of the whole person. The Bible sees a form of severance
between the mind and the body at death that will be neither undone
nor remedied until the body is resurrected and united
with the mind. For the whole person as portrayed in the Bible
the mind and the body belong together, always with the former
as master and the latter as servant. Behaviourism is not a psychology
of man but only of man's object self. Man has a computer,
not is a computer.
I like Dr. Custance's beautiful
description of the new body to which the mind is returned when
the whole person comes back to life. Basically his description
is based on the story of Jesus Christ after his resurrection.
I believe this
little book is sound and stimulating, and I will plan to use
it in my classes.
For Further Reading
Eccles, Sir John C., Facing Reality.
Springer Verlag International, 1970.
This is subtitled "Philosophical
Adventures of a Brain Scientist," and it would be difficult
to describe the volume more aptly. It is at times a rather technical
study that requires some dedication, but it is relieved throughout
by what must surely strike the reader as both brilliant and refreshing
excursions into some of the more philosophical aspects of mind/brain
Koestler, Arthur and Smythies, J. R.. editors,
Beyond Reductionism. London, Hutchinson,
1967; New York, Macmillan, 1970.
A record of the Alpbach Symposium
held in Switzerland in 1968 under Koestler's initiative. The
rostrum of participants reads like a "who's who" of
those in the scientific community who are concerned with the
problem of the origin and nature of consciousness in man and
his attendant aspirations. The entirely free exchanges which
followed the reading of each paper are included, making the volume
a reservoir of fresh, stimulating, and sometimes surprising ideas.
Koestler, Arthur, The Ghost in the Machine,
London, Hutchinson, 1967; New York, Macmillan, 1968.
A stimulating volume by one who
has established an international reputation as a highly informed
layman who approaches the evidence for reductionism and finds
it unsatisfactory. He demonstrates that the reductionist position
is insufficient to account for the evidence in history of some
serious flaw, some built-in deficiency, in the working of the
human mind resulting from the explosive growth of the human brain.
The book is a fresh approach to an old problem: the inability
of man to diagnose his own nature correctly and order himself
and society successfully.
Luria, A. R., The
Man With a Shattered World, New York, Basic Books, 1972.
A book that is in a more
popular style and may disappoint at times, but which does give
a valuable insight into the world of a man who, as the result
of a head wound, has virtually no short-term memory. So short
is his memory span that even the beginning of a sentence may
be forgotten before the end of it is reached. The record shows
dramatically how important it is (and why) to have both a short-
term and a long-term memory operating normally.
Penfleld, Wilder, The Mystery of the
Mind, Princeton University Press, (Toronto, Little,
Brown & Co.), 1975. This is
an overview of Penfield's research while treating epileptic patients
in the Neurological Institute in Montreal. It is subtitled "A
Critical Study of Consciousness and the Human Brain." Though
the subject is often technical, Penfield's effective style, which
is both pleasant and informative, easily manages the details
of his pioneer work in this area. He describes how his findings
led to some remarkable demonstrations of the primacy of the mind
(or the "will") over the circuitry of the brain, showing
that the mind appears quite capable of using the brain as a tool
for its own purposes.
Popper, Sir Karl, and Eccles, Sir John, The
Self and Its Brain, Springer Verlag International, 1977.
The subtitle is "An Argument
for Interactionism." This volume essentially takes the form
of a debate between a philosopher of international repute and
a neurophysiologist of similar stature, conducting an inquiry
into the origin, nature, and even the possible destiny of human
consciousness. In considering these three fundamentally important
subjects, differences of opinion do not in any way make the volume
disjointed or contradictory. It is a large volume, both in size
and reach, and makes what is perhaps a unique contribution to
the current debate between those who see mindedness as a mere
epiphenomenon of brain and those who see it as something of independent
origin whose very nature suggests continuance even after the
dissolution of the brain. There is, moreover, a real agreement
between the two authors that the mind is master of the brain,
making it its own. The original title, "The Self and the
Brain," was accordingly later re-worded to read "The
Self and Its Brain."
Sherrington, Sir Charles,
Man on His Nature, Cambridge University Press,
1951, 2nd edition.
This is the text of the Gifford
Lectures presented by Sherrington in the University of Edinburgh
during the winter of 193738. Revised and updated, it now
represents the distilled wisdom of a prince among scientists
contemplating the nature of the mind/brain relationship. It is
written in retrospect of a life time spent in research, reflected
upon by a man no longer concerned merely to preserve his reputation
as orthodox and therefore entirely free to express some doubts
as to the sufficiency of current reductionist views of the nature
Custance, Arthur, Journey Out of Time,
Doorway Publications, Hamilton (Canada), 1981.
In Part II of this book, the author
deals with the question of the constitution of man, as a body/spirit
Best, J. Boyd., "Protopsychology."
Scientific American, February 1963, pp.5562.
Kety, Seymour S., "A Biologist Examines
the Mind and Behavior," Science, vol.132, 1960, p.186169.
Penfield, Wilder, "Engrams in the Human
Brain," Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine,
vol.61, 1968, p.83140.
Penfield, Wilder, "Epilepsy, Neurophysiology
and Some Brain Mechanisms Related to Consciousness" in Basic
Mechanisms of the Epilepsies, edited by H. H. Jasper, et
al., Toronto, Little, Brown & Co., 1969.
Penfield, Wilder, and Perot, Phanor, "The
Brain's Record of Auditory and Visual Experience: A Final Summary
and Discussion," Brain, vol.86, 1963, p.595696.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved
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