The Passions of the Soul
Rene Descartes
1650 AD

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  1. In 1650 AD, Rene Descartes described the body as a machine that was inhabited by a spirit, where intelligence, memory and personality originate. "Cartesian Dualism" is Christian theology. Chemical psychiatry, including the DSM-IV like to mislead the untaught by suggesting first, that this idea was something new, and second, that Descartes thought the pineal gland was the soul. In fact, Descartes' view was standard Judeo-Christian theology 101. Eccl 12:7 shows that the body returns to dust and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Jesus story of the Rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:21 clearly show that personality, memory, thoughts, feelings etc, consciously survive the death of the body while awaiting the second coming and resurrection. When this is pointed out, psychiatrists will then come clean (a bit) and say that Plato thought the same thing. They almost always fail to point out that "Cartesian Dualism" is really a primary Hebrew and Christian theology. Even worse, Chemical psychiatry fails to note that every historic culture on earth believed in "Cartesian Dualism" including the ancient Egyptians, Semites, Chinese and all world religions including Buddhism, Hinduism and that late-bloomer, Islam. It is important to note that Descartes did not say that the pineal gland was the soul, just that the soul used the pineal gland as its physical connection to the body. "That there is a little kernell in the brain wherein the soul exercises her functions more peculiarly than in the other parts ... all the other parts of our brain are paired ... but there is no other place in the body where they can be so united, unless it be granted that they are in this kernel ... Let us then conceive that the Soul holds her principal seat in that little kernel in the midst of the brain, from whence she diffuseth her beams into all the rest of the body" Chemical psychiatry laughs at the idea that the pineal gland IS THE SOUL and mockingly asks Christians, "where does the soul go when the brain is destroyed?" Apart from being stupid, it is a deliberate misrepresentation of what Descartes said. Further, since Christian know that the spirit uses the brain as a way of connecting with the body, perhaps scientists should devote a bit of research money to this hypothesis. While the soul might use the pineal gland alone, as its interface connection with the body, we reject this, however, and feel that the soul uses the entire brain as its connection device/port with the body. fMRI imaging shows that the entire brain is used in thoughts and emotions. When the body dies and the brain is destroyed, the soul detaches from the brain, which then turns to dust. Death is the separation of the body from the soul in the Bible. Descartes was in fact, voicing the majority view for his time. It was not until the 1900's that psychiatry rejected Christianity for the idea that man is nothing but a pile of chemicals. (The passions of the soul, Rene Descartes, 1650 AD)
  2. "When Descartes formulated his ideas of l'homme machine whose functions like those of the animal body could be explained mechanistically, he was faced with the difficulty of how to account for the mind or soul of man this fundamental difference between him and animals and the essence of the body (or brain) mind relation. He solved it by allowing the soul, the origin of all thought, a supernatural, immaterial quality distinct from body and gave it a location in the pineal gland. With this he revived the teaching of the Alexandrian School (c. 300 BC) according to which the pineal was a sphincter regulating the flow of thought from the ventricles of the brain, then considered the seat of the mind, an idea which arose from its anatomical situation as a single central organ situated above the third ventricle with a pair of habenulae or reins running forwards by which it was concretely thought to exercise control. Although in man long recognised as a vestigial functionless organ, the idea of a special relation to mind has recently been revived in a report of experiments with pineal gland extract in the treatment of schizophrenia (The Times, lc, January 1958) an example perhaps of one of the circles in which psychiatric theories and therapies seem to move. Cartesian dualism with its essential distinction between the body as a machine and mind its superior partner later gave great impetus to the development of psychology in its own right." (300 years of Psychiatry, Richard Hunter, 1963, p133)

The passions of the soul, Rene Descartes, 1650 AD

Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
Philosopher and mathematician

The passions of the soule in three books, 1650 London, for A.C.( 173) PP. 25-9

First published in French, Paris and Amsterdam 1649


That there is a little kernell in the brain wherein the soul exercises her functions more peculiarly than in the other parts

It is also necessary to know, that although the soul be joyned to all the body, yet there is some part in that body wherein shee excercises her functions more peculiarly than all the rest, and it is commonly believed that this part is the brain, or, it may bee, the heart : the brain, because thither tend the organs of the senses; and the heart, because therein the Passions are felt; but having searched this businesse carefully, me thinks I have plainly found out, that that part of the body wherein the soul immediately exercises her functions is not a jot of the heart; nor yet all the brain, but only the most interiour part of it, which is a certain very small kernell, situated in the middle of the substance of it, and so hung on the top of the conduit by which the spirits of its anteriour cavities have communication with those of the posteriour, whose least motions in it cause the course of the spirits very much to change, and reciprocally, the least alterations befalling the course of the spirits, cause the motions of the kernell very much to alter.

How this kernell is known to be the principall seat of the soul

The reason which persuades me that the soul can have no other place in the whole body but this kernell where she immediately exercises her functions is that I see: all the other parts of our brain are paired, as also we have two eyes, two hands, two ears: lastly, all the organs of our exteriour senses are double : and forasmuch as we have but one onely, and single thought of one very thing at one and the same time, it must necessarily be that there is some place where the two images that come from the two eyes, or the two other impressions that come from any single object through the double organs of the other senses, have some where to meet in one, before they come to the soul, that they may not represent two objects in stead of one; and it may bee easily conceived, that these images, or other impressions joyn together in this kernell by intercourse of the spirits that sill the cavities of the brain; but there is no other place in the body where they can be so united, unless it be granted that they are in this kernel.

How the Soul and the Body act one against another

Let us then conceive that the Soul holds her principal seat in that little kernel in the midst of the brain, from whence she diffuseth her beams into all the rest of the body by intercourse of the spirits, nerves, yea and the very blood, which participating the Impressions of the spirits, may convey them through the arteries into all the members; and remembring what was formerly said concerning this machine our body, to wit, that the little strings of our nerves are so distributed into all parts of it that upon occasion of severall motions excited therein by sensible objects, they variously open the pores of the braine, which causeth the animall spirits contained in the cavities thereof, to enter divers wayes into the muscles, by whose means they can move the members all the severall wayes they are apt to move, and also that all the other causes which can differently move the spirits, are enough to convey them into severall muscles : let us here adde, that the little kernell which is the chief seat of the soul hangs so between the cavities which contain these spirits, that it may be moved by them as many severall fashions as there are sensible diversities in objects; but withall, that it may be moved severall wayes by the soul too, which is of such a nature, that she receives as many various impressions (that is, hath as many severall apprehensions) as there come severall motions into this kernell. As also on the other side, the machine of the body is so composed, that this kernel being only divers wayes moved by the soul, or by any other cause whatsoever, it drives the Spirits that environ it towards the pores of the brain, which convey them by the nerves into the muscles, by which means it causeth them to move the members.

 By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for comments, input or corrections.

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