Out of my Body and Losing my Mind: Do I have a Soul?
We can never lose our body as long as we are alive, even when we lose our way, so we cannot be “out of our body.” This is a handy expression for personal loss of concentration and meaningful connection to others and environmental surroundings. As a phenomenologist, I look behind naturalized expressions, and try to describe or interpret them. It is easy to speak about disembodied people. No one alive is disembodied. Someone might have a loss of feeling, but this is not spatial separateness or temporal disembodiment. Loss of sensation or meaningful connection can be understood and addressed as such. How do therapists or teachers address someone’s being "out of their body"? Instead, we could ask into the underlying meaning of this expression.
Soul is a variable, poetic and remarkable quality of being that we all have if we claim it. For today, I say that soul for me is intensity of feeling, expressivity, and a longing for something larger than myself, which I often experience and talk about. My soul can never be lost, except I cease to care for myself, and in this case, it is simply in hiding, not split off from my body. Soul never leaves me, but I can be more or less aware of soulful affects in my life. Spirit never leaves me. Mind is likewise a constant.
According to Unity Philosophy threading from Baruch Spinoza to Antonio Damasio, nature never leaves us; soul is a quality of nature and our own natures. The soul's nature is individual yet connective, ever emerging, and cannot be separated or stolen. Nature and soul are qualifiers, words in the English language that have attained meaning in many contexts.
My body is not simply a container. It exists along with my mind as a parallel interactive attribute of my being, but it will always be more than I can write about or imagine. Spirit is entwined with body.. Spirit never leaves me. I might not always call spirituality to attention, but it is nevertheless there reminding me that there are more significant matters than meet my eye. I am not the be-all and end-all of life and spirit; I am just a participant. Spirit cannot be tarnished, except in religious traditions that teach spirit as a precious essence subject to corruption. If people interpret spirit as something separate hovering around the body, tarnished by guilt and shame, then they probably experience it as such.
Phenomenology asks into experience, and experience has every valence and feeling imaginable, including splits of attention, compromises of health, and mental illness. Phenomenological dualism speaks to such conflicts, but would not represent metaphysical dualism. Dualism is our Western passion and the heritage of Western religion. Western philosophy left metaphysical dualism behind a long time ago, as I take up in Dancing Identity: Metaphysics in Motion (2004). It would be difficult to ascribe metaphysical dualism to Plato and Aristotle. Their writings on mind, spirt, and soul posit the aliveness in everything. Descartes theorized separations. Nietzsche left dualist tropes in the dust of his philosophy and poetry, and philosophy since then has critiqued dualist language and understandings.
“I you say and are proud of the word, but greater is that in which you have so little faith, your body and its great reason, that does not say “I,” but does “I.”
In Zen, body, mind, spirit, soul are one. All of these represent words and attributes of being that attain meaning as we ascribe meaning.
As a philosophies of experience, phenomenology and neuroscience solve the body/mind identity problem by saying that body and mind are parallel attributes of the same substance. We can turn back toward the 14th century and Spinoza to gather this view also. The nervous system is a marvelous connector, also giving us access to a larger lifeword. Then how do we explain differences and disconnects? We ask into experience. Despite underlying unities, human beings have experiential disconnects of all kinds.
Substance dualism (metaphysical dualism) in Western contexts, accepts that body, mind, spirit, soul are separate essences of life and being. Self is caught up in this dualism; dualism of substance sees self and other as wholly distinct. Nature and culture would also be essentially different and distinct. These represent great gulfs in substance dualism, but not in unity philosophy, East and West. There is a reason I call my work Eastwest Somatics. I see connectivity and teach unity: that spirit is ours, soul is ours; the body is, the mind is, and all in one. Everything comes and goes at once. We only seem to be coming and going separately. The living and the dead are never far apart.
In our Shin Somatics work, we bring attention to what is already one.