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Chapter 3 On the Form of the Mind

It has been one of the vagaries and fantasies of the philosophy of Mind, that it has sometimes taught that our interior being which we call the soul or spirit, was without form. The mind has been taken to be a formless, unsubstantial something of which no definite idea could be conceived. It has been reduced in the conceptions of certain metaphysicians to something like a mathematical point, which is defined to be position without magnitude. Such a thing, if it be not absolutely nothing, is next to non-entity. It is at least on the dividing line between entity and nihility.

Wa have seen that mind is a real and positive substance. That which is not substance is nothing. For in order to be a something or a somewhat, it must be a substance or essence. And it is self-evident that a substance cannot exist without a form, nor can a form be conceived without substance. By the constitution of our minds, and the necessary laws of thought, we are compelled to connect the ideas of substance and form. By form we mean the external manifestation of a substance, or it is the boundary of an essence. It does not belong merely to matter. Material things have shape, but perfect form does not exist in the realm of matter.

The geometrical figure we cell a circle is not found except in the world of mind. There is not a straight line, nor a perfect square, nor a cone, nor a cube, in the material universe. These exist only in the world of spirit. We may find in nature rude approaches to these mathematical forms, but under a powerful combination of lenses they are found not to answer the definition of those geometrical figures. They are purely mental creations, and can never be realized in the outer world.

The shape of the body is a resemblance, or an external manifestation of the spiritual form, the inner man. Matter has no dcfinite form or shape of its own. The shape it assumes is always an effect, the result of the action of some spiritual cause. In the case of the body, its form is an effect of which the soul is the cause.

That the soul or mind of man is in the human form, we might prove from several considerations. The divine Being is an infinite Man. This is an intuitive truth, for it is the idea that all men instinctively form of Him. Love and Wisdom are the necessary elements of personality. But a formless personality is impossible to thought. As our bodies receive their shape from the indwelling soul, so this receives its form from the Divinity within. Because God is the Divine Man, and all things have gone forth from him, they exhibit a conatus to assume the human shape. The higher they rise in the scale of life the more manifest this tendency becomes.

We might show that angels are in the human form, and that they are only the spirits of men, who have graduated to the inner world, and passed into the heavens. This is the unmistakable teaching of the Scriptures, and also commends itself to our intuitive reason. But we will not insist upon this.

That the spirit, which may be properly called the interior man, as has been done by Plato and Paul (Rom. vii. 22; 2 Cor. iv. 16; Eph. iii. 16), is in the human form, is an intuitive truth, and a necessity of thought. Our minds are so constructed by the Creator, that we cannot think otherwise of our departed friends than as existing still in the human form on the plains of immortality. This enters necessarily into our conception of them.

That such is the truth, is a perpetual revelation from God, as it is not supposable that He would so constitute our minds that they must of necessity conceive a falsity. We always view our friends after death, or their emancipation from the material body, as persons, and the human form enters into our idea of personality. Subtract from the conception of them this element of form, and it is equivalent to their annihilation. If the soul is not in the human form, after the dissolution of its emortal covering, if it exist at all, it is dissipated into an indefinable and formless principle, which cannot be an object of thought. For of that which has no form, it is not possible for the mind to gain any idea.

That the spirit is the inward man, as Paul and Swedenborg denominate it, is a truth constituting their foundation on which alone rests an intelligent belief of its immortality. Remove this, and faith in our personal existence hereafter falls to the ground.

The mind being the interior man, is not confined to the brain, nor, as Descarte supposed, included in the Pineal gland. But it pervades and is interfused through the whole body. This is a truth of vital importance in the system of Mental Hygiene The body is not merely an external robe, the outward shell of the living soul, but the mind interpenetrates every atom of it This was a Platonic form of speech, and many, following in the wake of the Grecian philosopher, have represented the body as the vestment of the soul. But it does not express the true analogy, for the spirit is coextensive with the physical organism. It thrills in every nerve, and pervades every fibre.

The same objection lies against the Pythagorean form of speaking of the body as the tent or habitation of the soul. A man does not fill the house he lives in, but the spiritual principle pervades the whole outward organism. The latter is but the echo of the former. It corresponds or answers to it in every part. This idea we shall unfold more fully hereafter.


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