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The Disembodied Self

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posted on Apr, 4 2015 @ 03:49 PM
The Disembodied Self

"Now mark me: that you may know that the minds and light souls of living creatures have birth and are mortal, I will go on to set forth verses worthy of your attention, got together by long study and invented with welcome effort. Make sure to link both of them to one name, and when for instance I shall choose to speak of the soul, showing it to be mortal, believe that I speak of the mind as well, inas­much as both make up one thing and are one united substance..."

- Lucretius, Book 3, De Rerum Natura


In western philosophy up until now, the notion of the subject rests upon the assumption that there is a disembodied essence or core within us: the mind, the ego, the consciousness, the observer, the intellect, the psych, or an entity that otherwise thinks and feels and controls the body, away from the prying eyes of everyone else. The empirical basis for this assumption is missing from every field that seeks to describe human nature, leaving the idea to be nothing more than a dogma of grammar unto which we are all faithful, an explanatory fiction and metaphor, a tradition, which persists only in our language and discourse.


The “self”, or the notion of what one fundamentally is... this “self” is easy to discover – too easy perhaps – and we find that throughout the whole entirety of human truth-seeking, the one remaining hurdle along their spiritual paths are themselves.

The “self” is equal to that which considers the question “what is the self?”, and upon his conclusion, speaks what he thinks it is. The self says “self”, and we can confirm this by looking in the mirror, or by watching other selves do so.

We are what we have always called “bodies”, a word that people seem to shy from, maybe because of its implications, but is nonetheless the universally consistent metaphor in human knowledge, and the fundamental source from which the notions of the self – in fact every notion ever created – arise from.

Though an innocuous statement at first glance: no human has been born as anything other than a body.


Yet, most of the world believes the opposite, in one form or another, so much so that the idea that there is no such element as a “mind” is counter-intuitive, much like how before Copernicus, it was counter-intuitive to believe the Earth rotated the sun. The fear of being a body lies in the objective concept of what it means to be a body, a concept which has been defamed for thousands of years as being evil, a charge that has never had any basis and is a typical non-sequitor.

Upon categorizing the term “body” – that is, mentally distilling our experience of bodies we come across and interact with on a day to day basis into a term and concept we can apply to all of them – we risk homogenizing the originality of each and every body, originality being a quality inherit in each and every body. Every body is in some sense similar, but always different, never equal. Though the term “body” is applied to every concept of self, whether metaphorically a possession, a property, a part, or whole, each body is empirically unique, and on that account, an original. No objective concept of the body suffices to include this inherent originality within its meaning, and the metaphor often elicits thoughts of corpses or zombies because it seems to be missing something, like the biblical concept of “the flesh” seeks to rhetorically (and only ever rhetorically) dehumanize a body by contrasting it with “spirit”. That something the concept of the body seems to be missing is not a soul, not a mind, not a spirit (for they were never there in the first place) but the originality and possibility of every single body as it is in reality.


The assumption that the self is a brain, a soul, a mind, a homunculus trapped inside a body is refuted the moment we attempt to free it from its bondage. When we get to finally examine this little being upon its release, it no longer possess the same properties, personalities, feelings and consciousness as we hoped it might – that is, if we find it possesses any properties at all. And this is the circularity of the soul hypothesis: it was posited to exist within the human body before anyone looked within the human body. It was, what we call, a wild guess.

The idea that the element of thought, feeling and consciousness is something within the body is refuted the moment we attempt to take this element out. We find it takes a very imaginative, however empirically irresponsible person, to conclude that the element in question, when finally held in his hands for examination, is thinking, feeling and displaying consciousness.

Empirically irresponsible doctrines, those who use sensible phenomena only when it suits their abstractions, turn their gaze when reality speaks otherwise.

edit on 4-4-2015 by Aphorism because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 4 2015 @ 03:50 PM

What we finally did see when we opened the flesh was more and more flesh. But even this amazing discovery which continues to this day – that the body is capable of everything we once attribute to a ghostly or divine essence – did not redeem it in our mythology. Even now, folks long for something else.

Though I am charged with reductionism, as if I should be embarrassed that I reduce systems to their component parts for ontological purposes, I think physicalist reductionist conceptions of mind, as for instance the good intentioned eliminative materialists, have taken it too far by equating mind with brain. No where have we witnessed a brain think, feel and act conscious. Every brain imaging scan is scanning human bodies, not brains; it is only bodies that climb into an MRI. The respiratory system, the endocrine system, the digestive system, the circulatory system – each and every systematic component of a living organism is required to produce a single one of its thoughts, feelings or conscious moments, not only the parts that light up. Why this is not considered, and why the element of mind must be something within the body, and not the body itself, is simply discarded by mainstream philosophy and cognitive science, save for the growing empirical research in embodied cognition.

But some thought experiments rely on this assumption. The Brain in a Vat scenario assumes that a mind, an experience, and the brain itself can persist as long as a brain is hooked up to various inputs and submerged in some futuristic formaldehyde, which apparently is a sufficient substitute for the body. Along these same lines, the Matrix movie, and even some futurists, imply that an experience can be uploaded to our minds via mechanistic or invasive means. The premises of these ideas, of the mentalism that grips the cognitive sciences, and the entire computational theory of mind itself – besides being mediocre science fictions – can be discarded as being induced from an assumption, and not deduced from any sort of truth. Like computational theories of mind in cognitive and AI research, the premise assumes the body is merely a bridge, a middle man, a buffer, a conduit consisting of inputs and outputs, "hardware", only conveying meaningless data from reality to some imprisoned little element or motherboard from which meaningful language is expressed. This bridge goes nowhere except to solipsism.

I, in turn, charge them with "deflationism", the attempt to mentally eviscerate and deflate the self, the very object of their rumination, in order to find the air within, air that they could only hope is in there, thereby concluding that what may be left in this act, if there is anything at all, is the subject.


Aberrations of philosophical thought have grown from this polluted soil, from the idea of a disembodied subject, leading nearly all spiritual endeavors awry.

The ecclesiastical dichotomy of free-will versus biological determinism require this disembodied assumption in order to make any meaningful statements. For instance, the irrational fear and fallacy that we are pushed around and determined by our genes, our impulses, or our basest instincts, are unfounded when we find there is nothing for them push around. We find determinism versus free-will to be a false-dilemma – the conundrum melts away – when we finally conclude that we are our genes, we are our hormones, we are our impulses, our brains, our organs, and our base instincts, and not some disembodied entity chained to an organic rack to be perpetually tickled by the feathers of our biology.

Conversely, to think we are a subject in control of the body, as if the body is a mere vehicle, is equally as false. The overuse of the analogy of a car needing a driver, or a computer needing a user, to imply the body needs a mind, simply does not follow, and is fallaciously assuming the initial point. That the body is something like a machine which requires an operator is unfounded, based on nothing, and in the end, a poor way of describing human nature.

We do not use submarines to describe fish; we do not use airplanes to describe birds; we do not use robots to describe humans. Rather, the roles are reversed, and we use the principles of fish to imagine submarines, and the principles of birds to imagine planes, and the principles of humans to imagine robots and computers. To assume the mechanistic view, that the universe is a machine varying only in complexity from clockwork, is gravely mistaken. Machines have designers, purposes and operators; beings do not.


Where does the mind end and the body meet? A question no mind-proponent can answer.


Why must we "grasp" a concept if a mind has no hands? Why do we "stand firm" in our convictions if the mind has no legs? Why do we "see" thoughts if the mind has no eyes? Why is a notion "over our heads" if the mind has no head? Simply because our thinking and conceptual systems are embodied, not disembodied. The body is the consistent metaphor underlying the base of all metaphors.


We are objects, evidenced by the fact that we bump into other objects. Though it seems a convenient and comforting avenue to adhere to the spiritual idea of "no-thing-ness", such a view is no less spoken by an object that bumps into other objects. Thus, it is refuted the moment it is asserted, and only through blind faith and attraction can one remain enraptured by it. We have a boundary, a surface, a beginning and an end.

Of subjective experiences, the personal point-of-view in question is the body, which is the point from which we view, smell, hear, feel and persist in the world. No body is another body, nor can it be another body, and thus one body cannot feel or think exactly like another. The unique point of view is subjective only insofar as it is an object, with its very own form, orientation and coordinates in space and time that it shares with no other object. Everything that comes out of that body represents that one point of view of that one object. In other words, there is no subject or subjectivism, only an object describing itself, what it has seen, felt, heard, etc., in its own words.

edit on 4-4-2015 by Aphorism because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 4 2015 @ 03:51 PM

An unchanging awareness or observer is the same disembodied self theory, only exaggerated. This way of seeing oneself as something eternal or immutable is common throughout these themes. Of course, as can be observed, this notion is only ever expressed by an ever-changing, ever-moving, articulate body, which no doubt fears its own frailty and responsibility, that any notion that seeks to negate the reality suffices as any narcotic might.

As usual, the notion is circular; it posits itself within the initial premise which then leads to itself as the conclusion. Why are we aware? Because “awareness”. It’s like saying things fall because they have the quality of “falling-ness”. The answer is only a repetition of the initial question, the mark of an assumption.

But as we know, “aware”, “conscious”, “mindful”, “observant”, are adjectives describing something – in our case, the human being. These adjectives and qualities, though derived conceptually by interacting with other human beings and ourselves, are mistakenly abstracted away from the thing we are describing (a body), and further conceptualized to be things and substances, leading he who knows not his own power over language, to become superstitious of the very fictional entities he’s created, while what he has always been trying to describe is discarded in favor of these new idols.


The ethics of the mind theory, when taken to its extremes, is shocking. If one is an immutable and immortal soul, or a disembodied self driving a machine, there should be no problem with discarding the body. Machinery is disposable. Worse, there is no harm in killing another body, and it may even be beneficial to the victim, for to do so would be to liberate that which is imprisoned within.

The logical notion that entire groups of bodies can be categorized into “race” or “class”, does not account for the originality of every body, and assumes everyone with a certain gene, pigment, or culture is in some way the same. In other words, one assumes that something like a mind, an awareness, or in the case of racism and classism, a “sameness”, resides somewhere within each of these bodies. George Orwell illustrates this point perfectly:

“At this moment, a man presumably carrying a message to an officer, jumped out of the trench and ran along the top of the parapet in full view. He was half-dressed and was holding up his trousers with both hands as he ran. I refrained from shooting at him. It is true that I am a poor shot and unlikely to hit a running man at a hundred yards, and also that I was thinking chiefly about getting back to our trench while the Fascists had their attention fixed on the aeroplanes. Still, I did not shoot partly because of that detail about the trousers. I had come here to shoot at ‘Fascists’; but a man who is holding up his trousers isn't a ‘Fascist’, he is visibly a fellow-creature, similar to yourself, and you don't feel like shooting at him.” - Looking back on the Spanish War

What Orwell saw was not a “fascist”, and especially not a mind, but a body, a creature not unlike himself, embodied, persisting and moving in the same environment: an object in relation to himself as an object. When we see someone in danger, it is only by witnessing their bodies, and in turn, relating to that body with our own, that we help them. It is the reason for, and source of, any benevolent, charitable or loving act ever performed.


The negation of the self and its relationships occurs the very moment a body expresses he is not a body. He thinks of himself, and consequently others, as disposable flesh, akin to a dress made by Buffalo Bill, despite the evidence that speaks otherwise. He sees himself and others as mere material, stuff, or dust – and as such, describes every body in a similar manner, despite the evidence that speaks otherwise. What the evidence doesn’t speak to is his initial assumption. The foundation from where he derives his conclusions about reality and human nature is built upon a fallacious axiom, especially since it possesses no reality nor humanity.

Rather, the body is a sufficient axiom, a heuristic principle, since it is the axiom from which all axioms arise. It is the one fundamental thing we have observed and witnessed in our discourse on human nature. Conversely, it is the one fundamental thing that capable of observing, witnessing and discoursing.


Those who advocate that we are minds, consciousness, awareness, souls, spirits, are guilty of forming a politics of the body, among other things. One faculty governs another faculty. The intellect controls the emotions; the hormones control behavior; the soul animates the body; and so on. This is a sort of faculty psychology, not unlike phrenology, which serves only to mentally fracture an object into its component parts for the sake of convenience, goes against the idea that every process of the body is working in tandem as one. There is no boundary between one faculty and the next. There is no line between thinking and digesting. There is no crevasse between seeing and feeling. One who asks them to show where consciousness and body meet will be very disappointed by the answer.

Such as it is with every caste system, the idea that one body possesses and is governed by purity while another possesses and is governed by un-purity, is the acting out of this politics, and not unlike the assumption of the mind.


Presumption, and believing a presumption it to be true based on no evidence, is arrogance. The disembodied self is a presumption. Therefor, to believe in it is arrogance.
edit on 4-4-2015 by Aphorism because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 4 2015 @ 06:12 PM

'Practice meditation. Stop all vain talk.
The highest state is beyond reach of thought,
For it lies beyond all duality.'

-the amritabindu upanishad

All search for essences and for the ultimate relationship ends with Atman, the Self. This concept is the glory of the Upanishads. The etymology of the word is not entirely certain, but most likely it is derived from an, “to breathe,” and thus shares an important linguistic as well as philosophical connection with prana. This richness of meaning is testimony to the very simplicity of the concept. Atman just means “self”; in Sanskrit it was used as the reflexive pronoun. Yet so much is contained within that simple concept: untold energy and devotion, the explanatory power of a scientific formula, the evocative power of poetry, and initally the sheer drama of the tremendous discovery made by the sages over and over again – one of the most authoritatively verified hypotheses in the universe – that the Self is God.

This Self cannot possibly be subject to any change, not even death. This is perhaps why belief in reincarnation died hard even in the West. It was a cherished belief not only in pagan but in various Jewish and Christian groups in the early centuries of our era, but was brusquely rejected by the emerging orthodoxy and seems an unsettling and unverifiable hypothesis to most of us today. Yet it differs only slightly, almost by a question of semantics, from the modern concept of evolution, which holds that the individual dies with the death of the physical body. Indian religious systems hold as a core belief that the individual is not that which dies: it is more accurate to think of ourselves as the forces which brought our body and personality into existence – forces that will continue shaping our destiny beyond what we call death, “as the wind takes on the fragrance from the flower” (Gita 15.8).

- Ecknath Easwaren

Successful or not, a sincere approach is the only course.


edit on 082SaturdayuAmerica/ChicagoApruSaturdayAmerica/Chicago by BlueMule because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 5 2015 @ 11:15 AM
a reply to: BlueMule

You bring up a fine example of taking an old hypothesis and exaggerating it for dogmatic reasons. As you can see in the discussion by Ecknath, it is purely conceptual, meaning he is talking only about the ancient conception of the self, and no self as such. If "all search for essences and for the ultimate relationship ends with Atman", we better be sure the concept is correct. But upon simple observation and reason, we find it is not, and the entire Hindu "search for essences" is built upon a false foundation. Sincerity is hence lost.

posted on Apr, 5 2015 @ 07:42 PM
a reply to: Aphorism

I am

Who is I am? Shouldnt you be writing "Aphorism is". Or maybe the body known as Aphorism...Or maybe the truth lies in Ni

The Knights Who Say Ni are a band of knights from the comedy film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, who are feared for the manner in which they utter the word ni (/ˈni/, like knee but clipped short). They are the keepers of the sacred words: Ni, Peng and Neee-Wom

posted on Apr, 5 2015 @ 08:06 PM
a reply to: Aphorism

we better be sure the concept is correct. But upon simple observation and reason, we find it is not, and the entire Hindu "search for essences"

But if it works for some and the ideology is not used to harm others where is the harm?

posted on Apr, 5 2015 @ 10:18 PM
a reply to: TheConstruKctionofLight

Who is I am? Shouldnt you be writing "Aphorism is". Or maybe the body known as Aphorism...Or maybe the truth lies in Ni

Yes. The subject is a grammatical fiction. We are the only objects that can refer to themselves in the first person.

But if it works for some and the ideology is not used to harm others where is the harm?

It leads to caste systems. It was likely used to promote Nazi ideology. Himmler carried around a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, and included the Veda's philosophies into his speeches.

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