The Theosophical Forum – September 1946

WHAT IS MIND? — ITS NATURE AND FUNCTION — John H. Manas

One of the most controversial, least known and most misunderstood subjects today is that of "Mind." Webster defines mind as "the intellectual or rational faculty in man, consciousness, intelligence, memory, soul." This is not exactly true. In the Greek language, for mind we have the noun "dianoia" and the verb "dia-nooumai." Both are composite words from the preposition "dia," which means through, by way of, by means of, and "nous," which is the thinking agent, or that which thinks in man, the human soul. Therefore, "dianoia" for mind in the Greek language means the substance or the instrument through which the soul of man functions in thinking.

This etymological fact brings us to the acceptance of a dual principle in man, that of Spirit and of matter. This dual constitution of man, the microcosm, necessarily brings us to the acceptance, too, that God, the Macrocosm, also is of the same dual principle.

Everywhere in Nature, in the heavens, on earth, in all physical forms and material substances, one sees two outstanding things, matter and motion. The latter is the phenomenon of an invisible force acting upon visible substance. Since this phenomenon is universal, in all heavenly bodies and in the atoms of all substances on earth, we come to the logical conclusion that this force is Universal permeating all things and all beings in Nature. This invisible Universal force we call the Spirit of God, which, by acting upon Cosmic Matter, brings forth creation.

In the same way the human soul as a spark of Divinity, an invisible force, acts upon its four physical bodies, physical, etheric emotional and mental. This explanation agrees with the Greek definition of mind as being a material substance through which the soul of man functions.

WHAT IS THOUGHT?

All persons who have evolved to the stage of being conscious of the independence of their soul from the shackles and the influence of their physical bodies, can understand how the soul works through this finest material body in man, his mind.

Man receives impressions from the outside world through his five senses. These impressions are nothing else than vibrations reaching the mind through the brain cells. These mental vibrations and images the soul perceives according to its development and forms respective conclusions through its faculty of reasoning. It works like the movies. The man in the theatre sees a series of luminous pictures on the screen. The soul of man sees similar pictures on the screen of its mind.

When man thinks, the opposite operation takes place. His soul, the thinker in him, creates its own pictures on his mind, or his mental canvas. As the painter paints, using paint, brush and canvas, what he sees outside, or what he sees inside in his mind, in the same way, the soul uses the faculties of imagination and visualization and projects on its mental body, as on a canvas, the creations of its consciousness. The product of this junction of the human soul projected and taking form in its mental body, we call thought, and the operation by the soul we call thinking.

The faculty of the soul that compares several, various mental pictures and seeks a harmonious relationship between them to its inner satisfaction, we call reasoning. The painter who can paint the clearest and the most vivid picture with such an arrangement of the objects involved as to cause a pleasing feeling in the spectator, is considered the best painter. In exactly the same way, the soul that can imagine and create in the human mind (mental body) the clearest and most vivid mental picture with the most harmonious relationship to the human desires, motives, emotions and objects, is considered the best thinker. We, therefore, can see that thinking depends upon the development of the consciousness of the human soul, the training of the mental body and the thought materials available to the soul and its ability to imagine, to visualize and correctly to compare among several, various mental pictures, or thoughts.

HOW HABITS ARE FORMED

Each physical body has its own properties. The main characteristic of the mind is to invigorate, to make grow through its vibrations any mental picture received on its fertile soil from without, from objects, from books and so forth, and from the thoughts of other men, intentionally or unintentionally.

If the soul allows any thought to possess or to attach itself to its mental body, these thoughts, especially evil thoughts, will begin to grow to such proportions that the human soul gradually grows accustomed to expressing itself through these mental avenues, and through these deep grooves in the brain, and it will lose its control over the material mind. In this way, all bad habits, with all their sad consequences, are formed in man.

Evil thoughts are like weeds, or tares that our enemy sows in our field when we are asleep. The fact of this mental law proves beyond any doubt, that bad books, shows depicting murder and crime, obscene magazines, vulgar language and immorality, can cause destructive habits to be created in the minds of weak souls, or the souls who are taken unaware by the incoming bad mental image. Thus, these mental weeds find a way to take root and grow in the mental body, or mind of a person. On the contrary, beautiful surroundings, exquisite pictures, moral shows, good books and fine, harmonious music, certainly are the moulders of the minds of persons for real Progress, peace and happiness.

This was the reason for the many beautiful temples, statues, stadia, public dances, all kinds of games and festivals held regularly by all the people of the community in all cities and villages of ancient Greece.

HOW TO HAVE PEACE AND HAPPINESS

From the above facts explaining mental laws in operation, one can clearly see the reason for our present day chaos, inharmony, wars unhappiness, sickness, poverty and all kinds of trouble in which humanity is found and is suffering today.

No man-made law or any human power can win over the tremendous soul force of the individual who was brought up in, or has allowed himself to acquire bad mental, emotional and physical habits. The nature of the human soul is continuous activity. This action is directed and expressed in society in good or bad deeds, according to the habits existing in its members.

The salvation of humanity as a whole today depends upon the creation of moral discipline in the physical, emotional and mental natures, or bodies of the individual, everywhere in the world. This is the only way out of the national, racial, social, economic and religious chaos that exist in the world today.


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