The soul in the philosophical writings of ancient Greece has a modern corollary — it connects to consciousness and mind, aside from mind-body and body-mind intelligence. For Socrates, the idea of reason too emerged from the soul; this was, he outlined, not related just to the psyche, but it was a form of ‘light weighted’ silhouette of the body that dwelled in Hades, the god of the underworld, after death. He called the soul man’s true self — the faculty that celebrates our intuitive insight and endows us with the ability to make the distinction between good and evil and vice versa. The purpose of life, as Socrates articulated, was, therefore, the perfection of the soul, achieved by knowledge, particularly self-knowledge, or knowledge of oneself.
According to Plato, Socrates’ greatest disciple, our material, yet ‘mindful,’ body reflected no less our interface with our resident soul. He explained that the acquisition of knowledge was imparted to the body when it powered the soul through the process of its senses. He, however, added that it was only the reasoning soul that aspired man’s fundamental means of understanding the true nature of life and the world — as one unified whole.
The body and its sensations, as Plato explained, provide us with our appearances, albeit they are simply reflections, or mirrored images, of our personality prototypes, or universal forms, that define the structure of the world. What this suggests is that the soul is a universal form, endowed with instinctive knowledge — one that helps us to recover anything with our soulful power of reason. This also emphasises that the soul is nothing but a well-defined, yet not tangible, ‘form of life,’ having the natural ability to make the body move and act — or, not act, or move. This process again defines a Platonic thought that our soul is a perceptive, knowing instrument. It is the fountain of consciousness and reason — one that manipulates the body through the exercise of our will, or volition. The intelligent body, as Plato observed, acts on the soul, forming impressions on our consciousness through our sensory and nervous mechanisms.
Our current understanding of the neural functions of the brain does not embrace such a Platonic, or Cartesian, ‘dualistic’ model of the spirited soul, or the nervous system and the pineal gland, all right. Yet, the fact is — our ‘old’ philosophy challenges us to distinguish from specific neurophysiological theories of ‘how’ and ‘why’ our conscious minds interact with our brain. In fact, our new, detailed neurological model of how our ‘conscious will’ exerts motor control and other brain functions through quantum mechanical events that trigger the release of neurotransmitter substances, or neurons, ‘to fire’ is as fascinating and realistic as any explained by our emerging sciences. It also bids fair to the foundational principle of psychology, behavioural sciences and mind-body medicine — although quantum theory is relatively probabilistic.
Interestingly however, quantum mechanics embraces observed behaviours of large, tangible systems that relate delicately upon the activities of atomic-level entities. It suggests that our brains are conscious systems — because, our behaviours, to cull a neurological example, are based powerfully upon the effects of certain ions that course into our nerve endings, although classical physics effectively excludes our conscious thoughts from ‘causal’ roles in the mechanical workings of our world, or nature. Yet, the reality remains that the quantum interpretation of our consciousness provides adequate room for the underlying conscious role in the reflex workings of nature.