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A Trinity of Soul, Mind, and Body

    In his 1935 masterwork, Man the Unknown, Nobel laureate surgeon and biologist, Dr. Alexis Carrel, says that the observations of Jan of Ruysbroeck, a brilliant 14 century Christian mystic, were every bit as valid and realistic as those of our contemporary physiologists, each of them simply describing different aspects of the same mystery: the human being. He also wrote:
      In learning the secret of the constitution and of the properties of matter, we have gained the mastery of almost everything which exists on the surface of the earth, excepting ourselves. The science of living beings in general, and especially of the human individual, has not made such great progress. . . Man is an indivisible whole of extreme complexity. No simple representation of him can be obtained. . . Man should be the measure of all. On the contrary, he is a stranger in the world that he has created. . . We must realize clearly that the science of man is the most difficult of all sciences. . . [and it] has become the most necessary of all sciences.

    In 1971, after some early career success which led me to believe I had all the answers, but now deeply in debt and having exhausted all my resources, I was, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, "forced to my knees in the certain conviction that I had absolutely nowhere else to go." I returned to pray at the church I had left 32 years earlier, and began to intensify my avid avocational study of human behavior and the human potential. During the years that followed, I haunted the church, the library, the bookstores, and redoubled my volunteer work at Pace Institute, a life-transforming school occupying a modern Butler Building structurally attached to the Cook County Jail, a school created as a veritable miracle by the saintly chaplain, Reverend John Erwin.

    The practice of meditation fulfilled its promise as "a mirror which shows us our virtues and our vices," by revealing my ulterior, primary motives of self-aggrandizement, which I had always attributed only to fools. And in church, I was sure God spoke to me when, protesting my impoverishment at the collection plate, the whispered word "Hypocrite!" reverberated in my ear, reminding me that I would soon be joining my drinking buddies at the expensive Illinois Athletic Club. In subsequent weeks, He added a litany of censures, seemingly citing every occasion of my many acts of Pride, Idolatry and Hypocrisy.

    But these insights were not disheartening. The fact that God would speak to me at all was encouraging, and I could not doubt the validity of his charges. Later I realized that God had lovingly undertaken the endless task of chipping away at my specious but now calcified self-image, and only very slowly and patiently introducing me to the priceless virtue of humility. He began to relieve me of the onerous burden of presenting a fictitious persona to the world, to relieve me of what Underhill describes as �the ridiculous megalomania which makes each person the center of their universe.�

    (Of course these insights did not remove these faults. Now, 31 years later, they still pop up like prairie dogs, and only daily prayer and vigilance reduce the frequency and mitigate the power of their manifestations.)

    My finances improved only very slowly, not for eight years enough to even stabilize and become current with my obligations. So I was compelled to persist, continuing with prayer, meditation, study, and volunteer work.

    But in addition to my financial problems, I had accepted unequivocally Carrel's assertion that the insights of the saints were as valid as those of our physiologists, and therefore of psychologists as well. His idea that a "science of man" was both the most difficult and necessary of all sciences�an idea also intimated by Maslow and Assagioli�seemed to serve as a personal nagging challenge which would not let me rest. My scientific background and respect for science convinced me that eventually a science of "Man the Unknown" must yield to rational analysis�that someday we would find a meaningful answer to Cardinal de Berulle's question: "What is man?"

    So I read voraciously, adding more than 200 books to my studies, literally steeping my brain in the classics by Evelyn Underhill, Aldous Huxley, William Law, Huston Smith, Augustine, Aquinas, Richard Bucke, Suzuki, Fenelon, Watts, Eckhart, de Caussade, � � Kempis, Ruysbroeck, Idries Shah, Ernest Becker Merton, Walter Hilton; the apologetics of every major religion and their exemplars: Hebrew prophets, Christian saints, Islamic Sufi adepts, Buddhist bodhisattvas, Hindu gurus, Taoist enlightened ones; all the major schools of psychology and psychiatry from Watson, James, Freud, and Jung to Horney, Assagioli, Maslow, Glasser, and Perls; the philosophers from Socrates to Heidegger; Nag Hammadi Library, Upanishads, Dionysius, The Cloud of Unknowing, Theologia Germanica, Bhagavad Gita; scores of other major and minor works; and of course, the Bible though I had already been through several readings of more or less the whole Bible, and enough study of the Gospels to memorize practically all of Christ's sayings.

    Obviously, this was a very perplexing study since the authors all seemed to be speaking different languages, often using ill-defined or undefined terms. Psychologists spoke of the ego, id, superego, repression, parent/child/adult, subconscious, complexes, tapes, transference, denial, isolation, rationalization, psychosis, neurosis, character disorders, basic needs, metaneeds, values, belief-system, self-image, archetypes, shoulds, constructs, ideas, mind, psyche, self-actualization, transactional analysis, etc., whereas theologians and philosophers spoke of the heart, the soul, repentance, purgation, contemplation, liberation, enlightenment, samsara, nirvana, the Kingdom of God; and others spoke of the power of visual imagery, positive thinking, a positive mental attitude, etc. Though I was sure these phenomena all had a real basis in fact, the theories offered of their causes and effects left me thoroughly confused. The possibility of integrating the great variety of opinions and observations of all these writers never occurred to me.

    Therefore it came as a thrilling revelation when, during a sleepless night in March, 1978, after seven years of intensive, agonizing and tortuous, study, thought, and prayer, the apple hit me on the head for about the tenth time, and the two keystones in the yawning arch between the perennial philosophy and most major schools of psychology began to slip neatly into place. Suddenly I realized that these authors, each from their own perspective, like the blind men describing an elephant, had finally provided enough pieces of the puzzle to see how they could be merged into a coherent outline of the whole person. Suddenly, I saw the elephant--saw with startling clarity the essential components and their functions of the heretofore undefined psyche, the governing system of humans--components and functions which yielded a complete explanation of human motivation and behavior.

    In just a few days, these scores of viewpoints and millions of observations all came cascading, coalescing together into a new, relatively simple paradigm of the human being, a paradigm which reconciled all their findings, made comprehensible human motivation and behavior, the development of character and personality; and explained the mental processes of all human functions. In a single stroke, it reconciled the teachings of Christ and the exemplars of several major religions and philosophies, with all the observations though not, of course, all the theories of most major schools of psychology/psychiatry�and later, neurology, physiology, and cybernetics.

    In answer to Cardinal de B�rulle�s question, �What is man?�. . .

      The paradigm reveals that the human,
      created in the image and likeness of a Triune God,
      can only be defined as a trinity of soul, mind, and body.

    This may sound like old news to some. But this paradigm, by providing a cogent delineation of the heretofore undefined "mind," and the apparent needs and faculties of the heretofore undefined "soul," enables us to understand our mental and spiritual components and their functions. It yields a "working model" of the human, a model which illustrates and explains motivation, behavior, and spiritual enlightenment. It gives us that "simple representation" of the person, which 43 years earlier Dr. Carrel said could not be obtained.

    To download the complete book
    The Immortal I
    A Unified Theory of Psychology, Neurology, and The Perennial Philosophy
    by Eugene B. Shea

    2002 version, 234 pages in PDF format, free of charge, send mail or email request with The Immortal �I� in subject line and name, city, country, and title/affiliation in message, to:


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    Originally published by University Press of America