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THE SOUL AND ITS MECHANISM

THE SOUL AND ITS MECHANISM







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6. THE SOUL AND ITS MECHANISM

Our attitude toward the philosophical and psychological thought of the East is, for the most part, one
either of undiscriminating awe or of equally undiscriminating distrust. It is a pity that this is so. The
worshippers are as bad as the distrusters. Neither advance us toward a fair appraisal of that large body
of Eastern thinking which is so curiously different from our own and yet, as one discovers after a while,
is so fundamentally the same in its essential quest.
It is this undiscriminating attitude which is no doubt to blame for the well-nigh entire omission of
Eastern thought from our philosophical and psychological books�this, and another thing. The East has
its own idioms which are difficult for the West to understand. Untranslated, they make Eastern writing
seem a strange jargon either of confused poetizing or of self-mystification.
Mrs. Bailey, in this book, has done the great service of bringing a critical mind to bear upon Eastern
thought, a mind ready to recognize that Eastern, precisely like Western thought, can lay no claim to a
finality of wisdom. She does not come with awe-inspiring garb and gesture, bidding the Westerner
relinquish his crude inadequacies to embrace a mysterious doctrine all the more wonderful because, to
him, it may seem absurd. She says, in effect: "This Eastern thought has the significance of a research
into the deeper problems of existence. It is not necessarily better than the Western. It is different. It
starts from another angle of approach. Both East and West have specialized in their thinking. Each,
therefore, has the virtue of its own sincerity and its own peculiar penetration. But specialization has its
value only as it leads to an ultimate integration. Is not the time ripe for bringing East and West together
in this profoundest region of the life of each of them, the region, namely, of their philosophical and
psychological thinking?"
If for no other reason, this book is significant as an attempt, not only to interpret East to West and West
to East, but to bring the two trains of thinking into the harmony of a single point of view. Whether she
has successfully achieved the integration remains for the reader to decide. But the attempt is a notable
one and should bear fruit in a more intelligent approach to both types of thought.
What gives this book its especial significance, however, is the unique comparison which the author
makes between the Western study of the glands and the Eastern study of the "centers." The Western
philosopher, Spinoza, long ago noted the indisseverable parallelism of what he called body and mind in
the life of the Absolute and in the life of those expressions of the Absolute that we call individuals. If
such a parallelism exists, one will expect to find, for every outer manifestation, the inner, or psychic
force that thus manifests itself. Hitherto we have taken that assumption of inner and outer only in the
most general way. This book, by centering, in the main, on the study of the glands, that are the pacemakers,
so to speak, of our personality, presents the body-mind relation not only in a way unexpectedly
rich in suggestion for a more adequate training of the individual, but in a way that opens up fascinating
possibilities of further research. In the West, we speak of the thyroid or the adrenals altogether in terms
of their physiological behaviour. Is there likewise a psychic counterpart of this behaviour? It seems a
queer question to ask and one that at first blush would be scoffed at by the physiological scientists. And
yet, unless we are hardened dogmatists who have not yet emerged from the darkness of nineteenth
century materialism, we do speak of the psychic counterpart of that physiological organ we call the
brain. Why not, then, the psychic counterparts of the thyroid, adrenals, and the rest?
If we pursue this question to its logical end, we shall doubtless learn to extend our thought of what the
psychic life of the individual is far beyond the rather naive intellectualistic point which regards that life
as centering solely in the brain.
I am holding no brief for the tentative conclusions reached by the author of the book. The particular
conclusions may need modification or even rejection. But that the author has opened up new
possibilities which may eventually lead to physiological and psychological research that will be of
profound significance I have no doubt whatever. The book is not only challenging but singularly
illuminating. It will come as a surprise to the Western mind, but with the surprise will, I think, be
mingled a very real admiration for processes of Eastern thinking with which we, in the West, are
altogether too unfamiliar.
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