Mind, Body & Spirit


This genre encompasses both fiction and nonfiction titles, but what they have in common is that they deal with holistic concepts of the human being—mind, body and spirit as a whole instead of dissecting them as parts. The books in this genre embrace what psychologist Kenneth Pargament called the “search for the sacred.” Underlying this genre is the belief that the human soul uses the body in the material universe and extracts sensations from it. In this sense the human body can be seen as an instrument of the soul, or as a connecting device between the spiritual and the physical. The body is constituted of both physical and spiritual elements. The human soul and the human mind exist separately from the body but all three are influencing one another. The great 17th century philosopher, Rene Descartes, developed the first systematic analysis of the mind-body issue. Descartes reasoned that the mind could not be physical because all physical things are characterized by measurable spatial extent and mechanistic causality, while the mind could not be measured and it possessed free will. Furthermore, while mental events obviously occurred in time, they did not occur in space at all. Descartes concluded that the mental and the physical were two, radically different substances. Descartes' idea that the mind was non-physical is called mind-body dualism since it divides the world into physical and non-physical domains. Anything else non-physical, like God, souls and spirits, fit into the mind's non-physical domain. Philosophers after Descartes refined his distinction between the qualities of the mental and the physical. The mind is active, invisible and intangible, while physical objects are inactive, visible and tangible. Minds cannot be seen or touched, but physical things can be. Also, all physical things were believed to have mass, but not the mind. Indeed, it is meaningless to ask about the size or mass of a thought. How big is one's memory of grandma? It's rather like asking about the mass of the number 5, which is a nonsense question because mass is not a property of numbers. In more modern contexts, mind, body, spirit is a movement of holism, the idea that natural systems (physical, biological, chemical, social, economic, mental, linguistic, etc.) and their properties, should be viewed as wholes, not as collections of parts.

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