Science and the Soul
Part I: The Mind-Body Connection
(Note: This article was written by David McMillin in True Health Newsletter – July, 2002)
Is God in the brain? Can our most sacred mystical experiences be reduced to chemical reactions between neurons in the cerebral cortex? Are chemicals, whether medicines or street drugs, the ultimate mediators of spirituality? These are some of the questions raised by recent breakthroughs in neuroscience.
God and the Brain
The body-soul connection was featured on the cover of Newsweek last year (May 7, 2001). An extensive section exploring the latest scientific research on the subject was titled “God and the Brain: How We’re Wired for Spirituality.” The Newsweek articles bespeak the new field of neurotheology, where the primary focus is on spirituality and the brain. The basic idea is that scientists are uncovering the biological basis of spirituality. Neurotheology focuses on changes in specific areas of the brain that are associated with experiences regarded as religious or spiritual in nature. Have these studies discovered the footprint of the soul?
The idea that the soul has definite anatomical connections in the physical body goes back many centuries. Plato believed that the brain and spinal cord are coordinators of the vital force of the soul. Hippolytus postulated that the soul couples with the body via the pineal gland in its connection with the cerebellum of the brain and the spinal cord. Descartes believed that the pineal gland itself is solely responsible for the soul’s inhabitation of the physical body. In all of these traditions, the nervous system (especially the brain and spinal cord) and glandular system (especially the pineal gland) are well represented. Considering these historical sources, I don’t find the recent scientific findings at all surprising.
Actually, neurotheology is not inherently incompatible with Edgar Cayce’s views on the body-soul connection. The main difference is that Cayce didn’t reduce the psyche to a biochemical reaction in the brain, but recognized that the nervous system was one aspect of how the soul entity incarnates in the physical body. Cayce most often used a triune model of incarnation in which the soul as an entity, comprised of a spiritual body and a mental body, manifests in the physical body via the nervous and glandular systems. Because this is such a complex subject, this article will focus on how the mental body (mind) manifests through the nervous systems. Next month we will focus on the spiritual body and the glandular system.
Edgar Cayce recognized the significance of the brain, especially with regard to mental functioning, but refused to reduce the mind to a strictly physical phenomena: “Thy brain is not thy mind, it is that which is used by thy mind!” (826-11)
Aldous Huxley took a similar position by describing the functioning of the brain as a plumbing valve that remains closed during normal states of consciousness. Writing in The Doors of Perception, Huxley observed that “… each one of us is potentially Mind at Large. But in so far as we are animals, our business is at all costs to survive. To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this particular planet.”
Huxley’s view is sort of a reverse reductionism. Whereas modern science tends to reduce the mind to biochemical reactions in the brain, Huxley regards our experiences of material reality as a reduction (“measly trickle”) of the larger, ultimate reality that is our heritage as souls. The equipment, at a physical level, is essentially the same – the brain and nervous system. Huxley recognized various ways of opening the valve of the brain including “deliberate ‘spiritual exercises,’ or through hypnosis, or by means of drugs.”
The Flow of the Mental Body
Edgar Cayce went far beyond the brain when discussing how the mental body manifests in a physical body. Cayce was asked, “In certain types of insanity, is there an etheric body involved? If so, how?” The response illustrates Cayce’s concept of the mental body as more than just nerves in the brain: “… through pressure upon some portion of the anatomical structure that would make for the disengaging of the natural flow of the mental body through the physical in its relationships to the soul influence, one may be dispossessed of the mind; thus ye say rightly he is ‘out of his mind.’” (281-24)
To be sure, the brain is part of the “anatomical structure” that Cayce was describing in this reading. But there is much more involved here. Many readings involving insanity were explicit about the “anatomical structures” by which the mental body flows through the physical body. Some of the primary structures are spinal centers associated with specific nerve plexuses.
Also note that Cayce is describing the “mental body” in its relationships to the “soul influence.” Thus the mind-body connection is one aspect of how the soul entity manifests in the physical body. For a woman suffering from bipolar disorder, Cayce provided this explanation of how the spinal centers function as connections for not only the mental body, but the entire soul entity:
“Hence we find there are specific centers … [where] the incoordination is shown; as in the lumbar (4th to the 2nd), the 9th dorsal and specifically the 1st, 2nd and 3rd cervicals. These are centers where the coordination between … not only the mental and physical but the spiritual activities – or the source of the entity itself [soul] in its connection with the physical body. Thus there are periods produced when the body is over-hilarious, but the more often there is produced melancholia … (1087-1)
In the first issue of this newsletter (October, 2001) we explored the imbalance of creative energies that can manifest as bipolar disorder or the cycling between depression (“melancholia”) and mania (“over-hilarious” reaction). The basic concept is that creative energies flow through anatomical centers in the body. Disruption of this energy flow can result in various physical and mental illnesses.
The idea of energy centers in the body is another very old concept. Notably, the yogic traditions speak of chakras or energy vortexes in the body. Cayce didn’t directly refer to chakras. He did discuss various energy manifestations (such as kundalini, life force, creative energies, etc.) that operate through centers in the body, especially along the spine.
The three primary spinal nerve centers are located at the third cervical, ninth thoracic, and fourth lumbar vertebrae. These are the centers that Edgar Cayce told the osteopathic physicians to coordinate with manipulations. These are the centers that were most often used for laying on of hands or magnetic healing. These are the centers where the energy medicine appliances such as the wet cell battery were most often attached to the body.
For example, a reading for an eight-year-old deaf boy included instructions for attaching the wet cell battery to the body. The following three centers were specified as locations for attaching the battery anodes: “… the 3rd cervical … the 9th dorsal … the 4th lumbar… These are the three centers through which there is activity of the kundalini forces that act as suggestions to the spiritual forces for distribution through the seven centers of the body.” (3676-1) The electricity from the battery was said to pass through these centers to glands and nerve plexuses in the body.
For those students of the Revelation, the preceding excerpt contains an important reference to the “seven centers of the body.” Yes, these are the endocrine glands that function as spiritual centers. But it is the spinal centers that “distribute” the energies. In the Revelation, this is symbolically represented at the beginning of chapter five. The Revelation uses the image of “a book written within and on the back side, sealed with seven seals.” In Cayce’s interpretation, the book is symbolic of the body. The seven seals on the “back side” are spinal centers that are cited in numerous physical readings that discuss therapeutic interventions to regulate the life force energy of the soul.
Manual therapy, especially traditional osteopathic treatment, can be used to influence the connection of the mental and spiritual bodies with the physical body. The case of Mr.  is exemplary in this regard. This man was almost killed in an auto accident. His spine was injured and he was seeking help to improve “physical vigor and mental alertness.”
Cayce observed that, “Each and every entity, as indicated, finds itself body, mind, soul – or body, mind, spirit. There are, then, those connections, those areas, those activities in a physical body through which spirit and mind function in the physical being for definite reactions or results in the body…Those tensions need to be released in the physical forces of the body, in those centers where there are the coordinating forces between the mind and the physical reactions…or the spirit and mind system with the physical organism – 9th dorsal, 4th lumbar, and throughout the cervical areas.” (2528-2)
Understanding the mind-body connection has very practical implications:
Prevention – Keep the nervous system healthy. Naturally this includes common sense precautions to protect the brain (such as wearing a seat belt in an automobile). Also keep the spine healthy to enhance the flow of the mental body through the spinal centers. Consider having your spine examined by an osteopathic or chiropractic physician as part of your regular health maintenance program.
Treatment – If you become ill with a neurological or psychiatric disorder, consider natural therapies that enhance the body-soul connection. Manual therapy (spinal massage and manipulations) and energy medicine (such as the wet cell battery) were common Cayce prescriptions for such illnesses. Drug treatment may be helpful and appropriate for serious or life-threatening conditions.
Next month we will continue with our exploration of the body-soul connection by focusing on glands.