Last week we explored one aspect of human nature—language—that sets humans apart from animals and we proposed the neural synapse as a mechanism by which a Creator could communicate with humans. In the second part of this article we will consider mind and matter interaction documented by the clinical studies of patients with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Jeffrey M. Schwartz found that OCD is treatable by a plan utilizing focused attention to change the disordered neural synaptic transmission pathways by virtue of their plasticity.1 No physical basis for these changes was observed. Focused cognitive activity willfully initiated by the patient was found to be responsible. This activity transcended the material brain but was observed to cause physical change within its synaptic networks. Mind and matter interacted but are ontologically distinct. Schwartz observed that his patients benefited when their mindful attention permanently altered patterns of brain activity. It was exactly what should be expected if the mind transcends the brain and is capable of physical effects within it.2 Schwartz cited William James, who said long ago about human will that:
…the brain is an instrument of possibilities [stochastic], not certainties, [and]… will, if endowed by causal efficacy, reinforce the favorable possibilities….
This notion contradicted the materialistic perspective of his time.3
Along with matter and energy, information transmitted by human will is a third fundamental quantity, but it is not materially derived. Its transmission involves five levels of activity—statistics, structure (syntax), meaning (semantics), purpose, and action. The stochastic transmission of linguistic neural codes addresses the statistical level of transmission. Will, attention, or intention of an intelligent agent generates information as meaningful codes. The agent also ascribes purpose, whether to move an arm or to express a spoken word, thus giving action to the information transmitted. The syntactic configuration of information according to codes is termed language. Information is transmitted by means of language through the physical synaptic networks with causal effects.4
It is in the speech centers of the brain that humans communicate in send-and-receive fashion by the transmission of coded information as language. The intellective capacity that is unique to human beings interacts with, but transcends, the physical synaptic networks of the brain. Without this noetic (intellective) capacity, communication would only be instinctive or reflexive.
The neural synaptic model can also be applied to interactive communication by humans with the Holy Spirit. Christian theology affirms that the Holy Spirit is personal, has noetic capacity, and communicates with us by language—whether by words, visions, intuition, or dreams. It is a two-way interaction enabled by the gift of language that reflects the imago Dei.5
Since every mind is lighted by the Logos or Reason of God, thought stands behind language…. Manâ€™s ability to think and to speak [is] God-given for certain essential purposes—for receiving a verbal revelation, for approaching God in prayer…. The gift of human speech and language… presupposes the imago Dei….6
God can… reveal truth about Himself through words. Thought exists behind language as its necessary condition. Communication is possible because the human creatures using language are enlightened by the divine Logos….7
In summary, God created human beings to communicate personally with Him, as well as with each other, through language transmitted by sophisticated synaptic networks. Adam talked directly with God. And though his fall into sin destroyed spiritual communication and life, they were restored to human beings by Godâ€™s atoning grace through Jesus Christ. A restored human spirit and the gift of language make interactive communication with the Holy Spirit so easy even we “moderns” can do it.
|Part 1 | Part 2|
- Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Sharon Begley, The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2002), 54-95, 255-375.
- William A. Dembski, “What Thinking Means,” a review of “The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force,” in First Things, May 2003, 58-61.
- Schwartz and Begley, The Mind and the Brain, 260.
- Werner Gitt, “Information, Science and Biology,” Technical Journal Archive 10 (1996): 181-87.
- Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority, vol. 3 (Wheaton, IL: Good News Publishing, 1983): 389-90.
- Ronald H. Nash, The Word of God and the Mind of Man (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1982) 120.