mind body interaction

Maria the Jewess, a legendary alchemist of the first centuries ce, reputedly quoted that “One becomes two, two becomes three, and out of the third comes the one as the fourth.” While the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) localized the axiom to the sphere of analytical psychology as symbolic recognition of the lifelong process of individuation or self-actualization, most esotericists and occultists have understood it as the cosmic schism initiated by the friction between the active, masculine “Sol” and the passive, feminine “Luna” to enable a third state. The third denotes a condition of creative unity through synthesis, but also the fallen Adamic state of conceptual limitation, inertia, petrification, devolution, stagnation and neutralization. One could call it the inverse of Jungian individuation; an annulment of the two volatile formative powers hastened by their conflicting charges. The cross of the elements and the quasi-historical crucifixion of the Christ are figurative transliterations of this mode of existence.

In defiance of the Jungian perspective, the just mentioned condition is not exclusive to the psychological realm but extends to encompass all processes of creation. The Swiss polymath Paracelsus (1493-1541) named these three principles of primal matter Philosophical Sulphur (soul), Mercury (spirit) and Salt (body). Proceeding from this Neoplatonic-flavoured division of the cosmos Paracelsus argued that the first exhibited a neutral charge, the second a positive charge, and the third a negative charge.Sulphur or ‘soul’ is the mediating principle between ‘spirit’ and ‘body’ that fuses the polar opposites together for a complete life cycle of the organism or object whilst concurrently accounting for physiognomy and growth, Mercury or ‘spirit’ is the intangible essence that mimics corporeal vapour or water and eludes direct observation and quantitative analysis, and Salt or ‘body’ binds the physical form together so that it doesn’t dissipate and adheres to the ashes once the organism or object is alchemically burned.

Frater Albertus’s (1911-1984) spagyrical method for the isolation of the life principle or vital force of a particular plant or herb is based on the same theoretical premises. In his vivifying, concise, and instructive work The Alchemist’s Handbook, Frater Albertus reintroduces practical alchemy to a hitherto untutored American audience and makes a startling revelation in the process; the blueprint, signature, life principle, vital force–call it what you will–can in fact be can be isolated from an organism or substance through conventional chemical procedures. According to Albertus subjecting a fresh or dried herb to the distillatory process generates a twofold division of matter into oil and dead residue. The latter can be charred to black and light grey cinders; this is physical Salt. Unlike Mercury whose characteristics and vibrations are uniform across each of the three primary kingdoms, the fundamental makeup of Salt is different in organisms or substances that share a particular classification. The reason for this might lie in the fact that Salt carries the individual qualities of the organism, the outward and inward features which make it unique in the cosmos.            

When transposed to the microcosm Salt assumes multiple forms and possesses a double meaning; it is the corporeal vessel itself, the human body and brain in which the mind and unconscious will are confined, as well as the corpus of physical senses that keeps one bound to carnal pleasures and conditioned to archaic perceptions which inadvertently withhold the widening of individual consciousness. Its power of inertia disables the conjunction of ego with the paraphysical multiverse that illuminates an underlying cohesion to all life and facilitates meaning, like a transistor delimiting the passage of electrical signals to an electronic gadget. If watery Mercury acts as a dissolving and evaporative agent and fiery Sulphur as a combustive and coagulative one, then Salt, like its purely physical constituent, must be the calcined ashes that delineate the contemporaneous form of the volatile spirit.  

In the repeated conjunctions of Sulphur (soul) and Mercury (spirit) that enable the alchemical movement from prima materia to ultima materia, Salt (body) serves as the mold enabling the limitless and eternal powers to intersect and creatively unite in quite the same way that the rungs of a ladder allows one to vertically ascend along the wall of a multistory building. In transposing this cosmic state to the human microcosm and macrocosm we see that, when hermetically purged of its egoisms, its self-centred and self-gratifying urges and its sexually-orientated lusts, the mind-body interaction facilitates contemplation of these individual ‘fixative’ states by incarcerating the multifaceted field of suprapersonal psychic energy emanating from the primordial abyss of the collective cosmic psyche. One could compare Salt (body) to a stone bridge arching over a torrential waterway, enabling a bird’s eye view of the subjectively experienced kaleidoscope of consciousness, or a digital camera which captures portraits of the same individual as he or she traverses the eternal sands of time. Much like the stone bridge or digital camera, Salt permits the divine intellect to objectively sense and perceive, to interpret and comprehend the causal interaction between an outer, natural world existing in time and space and an inner, spiritual and psychic realm of forms and ideas in which time and space are nonexistent. It is, without a doubt, an intuitively felt, objectified and clearly demarcated echo of cosmic anatomy.    

In alchemical esotericism, Philosophical Salt is exemplified by a circle bisected by a horizontal line.

As both medical anthropologists and clinicians struggle to view humans and the experience of illness and suffering from an integrated perspective, they often find themselves trapped by the Cartesian legacy. We lack a precise vocabulary with which to deal with mind-body-society interactions and so are left suspended in hyphens, testifying to the disconnectedness of our thoughts. We are forced to resort to such fragmented concepts as the bio-social, the psycho-somatic, the somato-social as altogether feeble ways of expressing the myriad ways in which the mind speaks through the body, and the ways in which society is inscribed on the expectant canvas of human flesh.
—  from Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Margaret Lock (1987) The Mindful Body: A Prolegomenon to Future Work in Medical Anthropology. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 1(1): 6-41.

Ottoman Music Therapy (Article: Nil Sari) 
(Listen : Ottoman Music Therapy for Happiness and Against Fever /// Ottoman Music Therapy Against Depression and Insomnia /// Ottoman Music Therapy Against Confused Thoughts )

Music has been used as a mean of therapy through the centuries to counter all kinds of disorders by various peoples. Physicians and musicians in the Ottoman civilization were aware of the music therapy in continuation of previous Muslim similar practices. There are numerous manuscripts and pamphlets on the influence of sound on man and the effect of music in healing, both in works on medicine and music. Ideas of Al-Farabi, Al-Razi and Ibn Sina on music were followed by several Ottoman physicians.

Turkish communities have also been practicing music therapy since the pre-Islamic era. Kam, the Turkish shaman tried to get into relation with the spirits of the other world by means of his or her davul, the drum and oyun, the ritual ceremony; hence they tried to benefit from their supernatural powers. The kam tried to affect the spirits by utilizing music, either driving evil spirits away, or attracting the help of good spirits so as to achieve treatment. Ideas of Al-Farabi, Al-Razi and Ibn Sina on music were followed by several Ottoman writers such as Gevrekzade (d. 1801), Şuuri (d. 1693), Ali Ufki (1610-1675), Kantemiroǧlu (Prince Dimitrie Cantemir, 1673-1723) and Haşim Bey (19th century). The study of music by these writers as a therapeutic means and comprehensive information given by them on the effects of music on man’s mind and body note the existence of interest and curiosity on the subject during the Ottoman period. Ottoman medical writers such as Abbas Vesim (d. 1759/60) and Gevrekzade offered music to be included in medical education, along with mathematics, astronomy and philosophy, as in order to be a good physician one ought to have been trained in music. 

The belief that God was comprehended through words and sound being perceived as letter, the essence of existence was believed to be “sound”. The number and differences of letters were related with the variety in the creation and existence. Hence, words were believed to be the cover of essence. This relation played an important part in fostering the belief that music therapy might re-establish the upset harmony of the patient, creating a sane balance between body, mind and emotions.

Patients suffering from a certain illness or the emotions of persons with a certain temperament were expected to be influenced by specific modes of music. Certain makams, that is musical modes, were prescribed for therapeutic purposes. Makam is “a concept of melody which determines tonal relations, as well as an overall indication of the melodic patterns.” Modes, as patterns of organized sounds, were believed to express special meanings. Though there are about 80 Turkish modes; usually only 12 were prescribed for therapy, in accordance with the limitation of the related theories of cosmic elements and numerology, as it is in the Islamic and ancient sources. The aims of Ottoman music therapy by playing specific modes prescribed for certain physiognomies and nations can be classified as: treatment of mental diseases; treatment of organic diseases; maintaining/re-establishing the harmony of the person – a healthy balance between body, mind and emotions by pleasing him/her; leading the way to emotions, such as getting people laugh or making them cry etc., preventing vicious feelings and attracting good ones, training the self and thus reaching perfection

.The responses to music were supposed to have both physical and emotional effects. Those who suffered from anxiety, insomnia, indigestion, paralysis, dysuria etc. were all expected to be treated and cured through the effect of suitable music. For example, sciatica was expected to be treated by nevâ, an Ottoman musical mode. Even malicious infections were recommended to be treated by musical modes, which can be traced back to the antique ideas of Democritus. For example, Ottoman writers advised the mode hüseyni against fevers, and the musical modes zengule and irak for the treatment of sersam, that is meningitis. Ottoman physicians and musicians of the 17th and 18th centuries were not informed of modern physiology and psychology, but were aware of the body-mind interaction. The manifestations of the autonomous nervous system have been observed through the ages since ancient times. We find evidences of it both in literature and illustrations, displaying the influences of music on various parts of the body or specific organs, mainly the heart. The physiological responses to musical vibrations could not be measured, but changes in the cardiac and respiratory processes, that is heart beats and breathing were described. Today we know that emotional impact of music may provoke certain involuntary physiological responses, such as changes in blood circulation and breathing. It is also a fact that the heart is an organ whose function is deeply effected by emotions.

The philosopher, the physician and the Sufi, observing that some music modes have joyful and others have saddening influences, they utilized the effects of sounds. It was generally believed that using music’s influence in the right way trained the soul. Ottoman writers on music expected music to be also a means to develop an ideal character. Attaining harmony between intellect and emotions could lead a man to become conscious of himself. We recall that ancient philosophers Plato and Aristotle believed that certain musical modes possessed an ethical value and produced certain effects on the morality of the listener and helped in the development of character.
For the Sufi, purification and enlightenment came through the heart. The heart was described as the most virtuous organ and the symbolic center of man’s existence and the feeling of love felt through the heart was accepted as the key of being aware of the existence of the Creator. This was an educational approach to music. Sufi music was used as a means of training for ideal perfection, which also meant becoming harmonious with oneself. Man, being accepted as the symbol of the universal creation, was described and evaluated as a micro-cosmos. It was believed that all the characteristics of the universe were awarded to man by the Creator. Therefore, the ultimate aim of music was to attain freedom of the self (nefs), so as to reach his/her soul to the divine origin.

It frustrates me: Neither clothes nor makeup make up my gender, yet for some trans women they can become our armor of sorts against arousing hostile suspicion, a way to lessen the chance of a sound and fury that signifies all too much. To be transgender is to confront a question of how mind and body interact, and so often things that can seem unimportant or trivial to many cisgender women loom large in the minds of trans women as our bodies approach the same destination.
—  A Trans Woman Enters the Restroom | Gabrielle Bellot for Slate