It is no new revelation that humans are egocentric creatures, and although many of us prefer to disregard this simple fact with acts of ‘humanity’ and charity towards genus not our own, it is ultimately the unadorned, primitive truth. I am not purporting that we ought to cease to care for our environment and other organisms- in fact if anything we ought to humble ourselves in the knowledge that our lives are so heavily contingent on mother nature’s provision, on the very florae and faunae which we so usurp. Nonetheless, it is important to acknowledge that we like to detach ourselves from other animals, often erroneously believing that our ability for consciousness eradicates our primitive nature and civilises us to an inaccessible level. Ironically however, our greatest strength appears also to be our greatest weakness. Whilst we see ourselves as being the centre of the cosmos, the top of the food chain and fighters, second best to none (perhaps this serves as an inbuilt survival mechanism, in which case I guess we may be ever so slightly excused), this misplaced sense of supremacy over all, including oneself and over others, repeatedly causes us to overlook a sovereign force within our very own physical makeup; the power of the mind. True it is indeed that a physically healthy body may live for a hundred years, but such vigour can be cut short by the mind’s instability. The battle of the soul is an age-old contest and one, which is not unfamiliar to most of us- the mind is so often filled with caverns of illusions, which the soul readily credits.
Though the saying goes that your harshest critic is yourself, I do not think that this is necessarily true (for there exists those who in fact are able to attribute no perceivable fault to themselves). We are only the harshest critics in so far as we do not match a peripheral ideal, in which case we are not sincerely scrutinising our true selves, but rather merely the fragment image of ourselves in that particular archetype. In matters such as these I always seem to find myself regressing to ancient sentiments for counsel, and why not? After all these issues were just as prevalent in the ancient world as they are now in the modern, and the chief mistake we make is trying to distance the two. Aristotle once stated, “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.” Fighting the external enemy does not require one to muster much courage when you really think about it, but it is forcing oneself to sojourn, reflect and control one’s volitions in an domestic battle, that is far more exhausting, for eventually it become a battle from which you cannot flee. It is this very knowledge of inability to escape, which makes it all the more harder to face and renders it easy to mislay control over the mind. Returning further back in time, Socrates’ analogy of the charioteer and the two horses most famously demonstrates this. The wild horse represents the body’s carnal lusts (sexual gratification, ravenous appetite etc.) whilst the tame horse is emblematic of the honourable man who has achieved eudaimonia– the ultimate state of the soul as being contented, salubrious, prosperous and first and foremost, virtuous. And finally, the charioteer, who theoretically is meant to control both these horses, symbolises the mind- or the capacity for reason. The body and its capacities are worth very little if they cannot be controlled by the mind and though we have the facility and the choice to allow our mind to control our actions, our bodies and their desires, it is up to the individual to impose this authority.
The question, which next arises as we digress further into this discussion, is whether the unconscious mind is more powerful than the conscious. To define the conscious mind, would be to associate the part of the brain, which allows us to create new and original ideas. The unconscious mind on the other hand is a pre-programmed part of the brain, which is fixed in its behaviour and patterns. I guess one could say, it is to some extent a kind of ‘computer’- put in crude terms. It is very easy to implicate the unconscious part of our mind as being responsible for our actions, especially when scientists suggest that our subconscious mind is the driving force behind our actions, and the conscious one merely the messenger. I’m not entirely sure where my own thoughts lie in regards to this matter, but I think that to ignore the great weight that our subconscious mind can exercise over our conscious could prove precarious indeed.
I feel that I have thus far portrayed the power of the mind as a malevolent force, when of course; this is not always the case. Undeniably, it is a powerful force, which at time lies and is deceitful, but it is also a force, which when controlled and directed, can produce outstanding results. I recently learnt water divining- it’s a very spiritual and primitive way of allocating water, a process which takes a lot of mind power to master. I still have a lot of practice to even begin to call myself half-decent at it, but the process so far has been incredible- it has really made me question my sense of perception and perhaps deeper than this, my relationship with my mind. It has probably been one of the rarer times in my life that I’ve felt completely in sync with my mind, both of us working towards the same goal of locating water. And I know that this probably sounds pretty cheesy, but it took something as simple as that to make me realise how un-reconciled we are sometimes with our mind, and how muchconscious effort is required to fully connect with it.
A good friend of mine recommended a book to me, entitled Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.
The book is about customs and traditions of the Igbo tribe in Nigeria and explores how this society is disrupted and destroyed by the British colonialism and Christian missionaries. When reading this book, I came across a concept that has stuck with me since. This notion that each individual has achi or a personal god in which when the individual says yes, the personal chi also says yes as well. I personally didn’t take this chi figure to be an actual personal god but rather a sort of persona of our mind itself. The relationship we have with our minds is probably one of the strangest and most intimate ones, and the only parallel, which I can seem to draw is that of lovers. The mind knows your strengths and weaknesses the same way in which you know its own and as much as the mind is able to lie to us, so too are we able to coerce it into agreeing with our own beliefs. If you keep telling the mind that something is impossible it will believe it readily.
It always seems that is moments of great importance language fails to express my thoughts and seems insufficient to the point of dissension. But anyway, as Horace once said: dum loquimur, fugerit invida aetas- while we are speaking, envious time has escaped.