Interconnectedness of the Physical and Mental Aspects of Phenomena


Interconnectedness of the Physical and Mental Aspects of Phenomena

The Mind-Body problem is a central subject in philosophy.  The well-known study of Body & Mind based on Dualism was described in Descartes' work; Meditation. It must have been ‘silent’ meditation, because a compelling example of Non-duality of the physical and mental aspects, presents to us the phenomenon of voice, and - in general - all forms of acoustical vibrations including music.

The phenomenon of Voice

In the debate about the Problem of Body and Mind - the phenomenon of voice presents a decisive implication.  Music is also relevant to this observation, being an expression of highly refined mental contents infused within the strict structure of mechanical vibrations.

Nichiren, a 13 century Japan Buddhist philosopher, considered spoken words as a physical expression of the mental powers acting within the speaker:

 “Thus one’s thoughts are expressed in one’s voice. The mind represents the spiritual aspect, and the voice, the physical aspect.

 The spiritual aspect manifests itself in the physical. A person can know another’s mind by listening to the voice. This is because the physical aspect reveals the spiritual aspect.

The physical and spiritual, which are one in essence, manifest themselves as two distinct aspects.” (*)

Voice is created through a physical process of regulating tension of related muscles to modulate vibrating air in the mouth in order to generate mechanical waveforms.  Obviously, this is the physical aspect of the observed phenomenon.  What motivates this physical process, is the desire to convey an encoded message.  The message, which voice carries to us, is two-fold: it reveals meaning and emotions.  

The intellectual contents of the message can be discerned through the conveyed meaning - and this is part of the mental aspect, embedded within the vibrations of the observed phenomenon.  

Further to that, the emotional component is inseparably carried through the speaker’s voice, and this emotional property is also a mental aspect of the message conveyed by voice.

The connectedness of mechanical vibrations, intellectual contents and emotional state – is perfectly expressed within a single phenomenon of voice.  

Voice then expresses the interconnectedness between the physical aspect (of related bodily muscles) and the intellectual contents within the voiced vibrations as well as the state of the emotional aspect of the mind.  

In generally accepted views about the philosophical concept of body and mind, the consideration extends into the three elements of Body-Mind-Spirt, where the Body is related to the physical aspect, Mind to the intellectual aspect, and Spirit is related to the emotional aspect.  It is remarkable that “Voice” integrates these three components (of body-mind-spirit) into one phenomenon.  This may be the background of why voice is regarded with a special value in various spiritual traditions, and a mystery in itself.  



*) The Opening of the Eyes of Wooden and Painted Images.

The Writings of Nichiren, V1. P 86, SGI, 1999.