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Mistaken Identity - the Consciously Intuitive Heart and Reasoning Faculty of the Brain

by Dr Toff (Christopher) Freeland(more info)

listed in mind matters, originally published in issue 225 - October 2015

Humans like nothing better than a neat summary of ‘what’s going on’. This has become part of our modern empirical paradigm and it consolidates nicely the materialistic standpoint. The synthesis, for those with a penchant for Greek terms, sums up the complexity of sense-deduced information provided by the processes which for the sake of practicality we refer to as the brain. A synthesis would imply the need to assemble differentiated elements, so we are instantly in the domain of the material where difference rules.

The very notion that we can keep things simple presumably has an origin somewhere. Perhaps life is simple, and there are a few heretics who even support that idea. Might it be because the world is a unified entity? Every thing connected, somehow; every thing dependent, because of that relation.

Probably one of the neatest stories we, in the west, have been fed since the time we started to learn history, is that our civilization is founded on Greek wisdom. Yet, the Greeks themselves recognized Egyptian teachings as the veritable source of their knowledge and wisdom. Plato and Pythagoras, to mention just two celebrated characters, studied in Egypt for lengthy periods and borrowed heavily, as is only natural if you are learning. The questions of the origin of knowledge and recognition of its source are intriguing ones but beyond the scope of this small contribution.

Weighing of the Soul

Weighing of the Soul

It might be an oversimplification in statement although not of intention, but it was probably Aristotle, Plato’s acolyte, who broke with the Egyptian tradition and determined that the only method to assess the world around us is with what he decided quite vicariously we humans possess, namely, a rather paltry five senses operating through organs in direct contact with the external environment. Such a decision was very probably the start of what was later to become known as empiricism. It is easy enough to forgive him this obvious exclusion of our birthright of multiple instincts and senses; one can imagine the demands placed on a man who served such a young but exacting master - Alexander the Great.

You would perhaps agree that it would be safe to assume that any information, teaching, religion, philosophical system which disregards our human experience is suspect. The Hindu tradition has a very useful construct whereby a message is held to be worthy of belief if it corresponds to your individual experience, is corroborated by authoritative literary reference and has the support of your preceptor. All well and good, but unfortunately we have become so sceptical that sacred texts are no longer on the agenda, let alone a guru to keep you out of mischief. So, back to experience even if it means standing on one leg compared with the tripod of the Indians. Experience is, however, based on reality encountered in the waking state alone, and the equally ‘real’ states of dream and sleep are not taken into account but ignored when dealing with practical knowledge.

Be this as it may, in the final analysis we know, as in gnosis, only one thing - I am.

Knowing involves what appear to be two intelligences, the intuitive heart with its internal or subjective insight and the brain with its reasoning faculty operating solely on information provided by the senses obtained from the external world, the objective input if you will. It seems to be an experience common to all, at some stage if not often, that the information provided by the senses is erratic and consistently subject to emotional and educational input, making it a dubious source, which we rarely, if ever, question until such time as we realize the error of our ways. Is it not a form of folly to define reality in objective terms uniquely? Employing only a part of what we know to determine the whole is prone to serious bias, what about the subjective?

While the brain works on the gross ‘physical’ information, the heart deals with the subtle forms of energy, frequencies, which constitute the universe, or at least the part which we live in, and by inference one can assume the rest too. The ‘heart’ knows that ‘I am’ because of the constant vibration that pulses in it whilst alive, day in, day out, giving it the intimate conviction of existence. This awareness of life as we call it, without clarifying or defining the function, is shared by the heart as part of all that surrounds it in the phenomenal world, a resonance. The heart seems to regulate the organism in relation to the rest of nature and ensures the correct role of the metabolism as a function of its immediate environment. It all works as a vibrational ONE.

Almost all ancient civilisations give a special place to the heart and it is only in the last century or so that ours decided that it is the brain which has precedence over the heart, although there is a changing trend underway in the medical/scientific community.

The Chinese had an Art of the Heart, xin shu, mentioned in the Book of Rites. The Indians believed the heart to be the seat of Consciousness (with a capital C please, you only have one!). Judging by the frequency with which the heart hieroglyph appears on Egyptian monuments and in papyrii, it was more than a banality.

So, the individual heart could be said to be the meeting ground between the vital energy that pulsates in one and all, the energizing movement emanating from the cosmos and the receptive and sustaining creativity from the earth. It is a window onto the immense, invisible harmony, for the heart is calm and peaceful, otherwise it would not be possible to imagine, let alone return to a state of harmony when thought or the emotions have upset the apple-cart. Yet at the same time, it enables the dynamic of thought, fed by the cerebral intellect, thanks to its capacity to develop intention and desire, resulting in the complexity of the material world.

This is where the mistaken identity creeps in, an insidious association with the material - which we know scientifically to be fundamentally a beautifully disguised complex of particles - albeit revealed and animated by the same Consciousness which underlies whatever exists. This does not imply that the material world is not real, make no mistake, but it is not the whole story and if you are of an enquiring nature you will leave no stone unturned to find the solution to its real nature. There may be numerous ways to accomplish this objective but they would all seem to commence with the intellectual discrimination as to just what is the role played by the brain, which, interestingly enough, is not considered as an organ as such, rather a large mass of marrow with some remarkable glands functioning in its midst, and the heart, that immensely underestimated agent of life.

Inspiration can be taken from a number of traditions which offer not only readily recognisable and accessible methods to access understanding, but of course that will depend on your cultural proclivity and taste. There seem to be no candidates extant from western traditions able to explain satisfactorily the relation between the physical and the spiritual, for that is how the predicament may be tidily expressed. If one turns to Asia and China, however, there are some discrete, esoteric systems which provide some very coherent and cogent solutions.

Mistaken Identity

The foremost of which, in my experience, is the Vedanta as propounded by Shankara, a non-sectarian system, Hindu inasmuch as the corroborating authority is to be found in the Upanisads, a section of the Vedas dealing with matters of essential reality. To my knowledge it is the only philosophical frame of reference that considers the three states (waking, dream and sleep) familiar to man which have to be addressed if one wants to consider the totality of life, rather than the limited experience offered by the waking world alone.

The Vedanta does not have a great press for the simple reason that is cuts to the chase and shows the way to eliminate the illusion of our false apprehension of the world with the resulting conviction of unicity and the true meaning of love inherent in all-embracing oneness. Furthermore, there is no personality cult involved; all of the authors of the Upanisads are anonymous as is only just when dealing with such matters. There is no room for sensationalism, mystery or vain intellectuality and even worse, you have to do the hard work not only of removing the ideas received from prior education but replacing them with reasoned argument derived from contemplation and meditation!

The scope of options covered by Hinduism is exceptional. Where else can one find methods adapted to individual personality? You are of an emotional nature, try bhakti-yoga, you are the energetic sort, try karma-yoga, you are obsessed with the physical, try hatha-yoga, by sex, try tantra-yoga, and so on.

Mistaken Identity sanskrit_small_ebook_cover

Having sung the praises of Indian traditions, let’s consider one of the few disadvantages for those still insistent on finding the physical-spiritual relation. Basically for the Vedanta, it is all-or-nothing, absolute reality on the one hand, and Maya, the beguiling illusion of the world and all it has to offer, on the other. There is little (scanty references made in certain Upanisads and the Brahma-Sutra) written about this no-man’s land of how the spirit or life energy (if they are to be equated) animates the physical for the simple reason it is not deemed worthy of our attention. The translations into English of the Upanisads and Brahma-Sutra from the Ramakrishna Math or the Advaita Ashrama, principally made in the 1930s and 1950s, are true to the spirit of Vedanta, by eloquent and well-versed monastics.

For the Chinese, however, there are several texts, especially in the medical category which not only refer to this but propose a very intriguing theory; that of the shen, natural forces or heavenly (because coming from above rather than the earth) spirit. The idea being that there is a combining of cosmic and earth energies in a human shortly after conception and from that time on, the hun and the po take over the guiding of human life towards its completion. The hun being earth spirits with a heavenly aspiration, responsible for our diviner moments, whereas the po correspond more to our basic instincts, equally essential for survival but lacking the spiritual graces.

The Huainanzi, the Suwen and the Lingshu of the Huangdi Neijing, the Liji, the Laozi, the Lushi Chun Chiu are some of the more useful texts in this respect, although the question of interpretation when translating texts from other cultures so as to make them coherent to our mindset is a veritable minefield. Having said that, my money would be on the translation works of Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée and Claude Larre; they have, I believe, managed to maintain the original integrity of spirit while avoiding the temptation of grinding their own axes!

At the end of the day, the solution seems to be the establishing of a harmonious relation between the cerebral and the heart mind. It would surely be a welcome process achieving a balance by at least giving a hearing to the intuitive heart, which is after all in tune with Nature, whether you recognize that or not, and not allowing total over-ride by the cerebral, which is the domain of education and the ‘system’ we all adhere to, totally or in part.  

There is not very much that we can and do truly understand in so many aspects of our lives for a whole variety of reasons, some apparent, others less so and maintaining a myth is therefore perhaps quite normal practice, but it would be of interest to develop the notion of ID recognition further, for if we want to live to the maximum of our abilities it might be a good idea to reconsider and stop accepting what we are told without question. Take a day off and try being a heretic!

If we are sincere in seeking a sense to life the need for demystification might well be a good place to start.


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About Dr Toff (Christopher) Freeland

Dr Toff (Christopher) Freeland BA PhD, born, bred and schooled in England, was educated elsewhere. He spent three years as a British army officer with the Gurkhas in the late 60s, photographic safari guide in Africa, dashnami sannyasin (orthodox Hindu monk) for four years, Arab horse-trainer, model, English teacher and university professor, hotel director, translator from Sanskrit and French. Linguist (BA and PhD in linguistics), with three best-seller dictionaries to his name. His work as an independent researcher into natural laws is all about harmony. If, as seems to be the case, life energy is an extension of Consciousness, there is every reason to believe that the feeling most of us have of unity or love is due to our being a part of the totality, quite inseparable from it.  As a Hindu monk he translated the Yoga Vasishta Ramayana with his preceptor and compiled a Sanskrit-English Philosophical Wordlist, both available from the author. He recently published The Way of the Skeptic on leaving a teaching position at Mahachulalongkorn University in Chiang Mai where he taught diverse subjects on the international Buddhist monk programme. Dr Freeland is a student of TCM [Traditional Chinese Medicine], radiesthesist, alternative energy researcher and instructor of Realaxation® and inventor of practical devices (FDV®, Vitalizer, Alkalizer, etc.). He may be contacted via

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