Read more from the Being Truly Human June 2010 Newsletter
By Phiroz Mehta
Continued from part 1 and part 2
Are anybody’s emotions and ideas and desires worth expressing — either in art or any other field of daily life? Usually, not much — and the evidence of this is the existence in human lives of dullness, boredom, mediocrity, and the perpetually recurring and unassuageable craving for un-healthy (and un-spiritual) excitement. Sometimes, in a microscopic minority of cases, our emotions and ideas are worth expressing, not only on account of their intrinsic merit, but also because our intellectual and aesthetic nature has undergone sufficiently healthy and disciplined growth as to give the right form to these inner urges from the depths of the soul. When this is the case, their expression in poetry, philosophy, science, dancing, or any form whatsoever, is certainly enriching and enlightening.
We find in fact, though we may begin in our consideration of “Health and the Spiritual Life” by considering the body separately, that body and soul cannot be divorced from each other. There is interplay between them. This interplay is not merely a parallelism between them, nor merely an interaction in a strictly mechanistic and causative (i.e. cause and effect) sense. It is both these, and something more.
What is the “something more”? Here we come to the core of our new outlook. Man is not a body and a soul — two separate entities acting in imperfect partnership. He is not “mortal” in one aspect — body — and “immortal” in another aspect — “soul” or “spirit”. He is an organic whole; a complete microcosmic biological, that is, living unit, reflecting within the extraordinarily minute sphere of his personal existence the macrocosmic universe, in totality, physical and spiritual, seen and unseen. This organic wholeness of the individual is the supreme self-discovery that each individual has to make for himself. And to this end — for man — work all religion, science, philosophy and art, all cultural efforts, all the forces of the universe and life.
The realization, even in part, of this organic wholeness profoundly affects all practical procedure. For we can feel, and see, that this “biologic” unity of body and soul means that all action is completely expressive at all times of the whole individual. In reality, this wholeness is indivisible. But the mind, by virtue, of its peculiar constitution, has the power to analyse and separate, and hence interpret from “different angles” as we call it. If the mind did not have this power, it would always interpret from “the sphere as a whole”. But this interpretation from the sphere as a whole is also always existent — as a permanent background — to the interpretation from different angles. This background — mostly unconscious — is the key for understanding this “something more”.
To return to practical politics. Since body and soul are so interwoven into a single web of being, and also since action is completely expressive of the whole individual, any culture, physical and otherwise, is a whole culture, embracing the whole personality. Thus, true physical culture embraces in its scope the culture of the soul, (i.e. the intellectual and the aesthetic sides of man). An objection can be raised here: would not this inclusiveness tend towards confusion? People like something “definite”, something they can “get hold of”, so that they “know where they stand” We all agree on that point. But closer examination of the idea of organic wholeness leads to a greater sense of being at home with this idea; and this will prevent any clouding of our discriminative faculties. So we shall clearly see that the difference between a physical and any other culture or education lies simply in recognising first on which element the greater stress is laid — physical, aesthetic, intellectual, moral, — and second its proper relationship to the remaining elements.
Now we can have a true perspective view of what is meant and implied in physical culture. The actual system of physical movements used, whichever they may be, should give full scope for the evocation and expression of the mind and the emotions. Then we have creative activity, and we achieve one of the great ideals of education, viz. “learning by doing”.
The practical part of physical culture may be divided into: a) Relaxation, and b) Rhythmic Movements, co-ordinated with Rhythmic breathing. These two main elements need a treatise, and must perforce stand here as mere statements. Strength and health are natural consequences of the cultural outlook on the body.
And so the meaning of health emerges clearly now. When body, emotion and mind are freely and co-operatively functioning as a harmonious whole, the individual is in the full possession and enjoyment of health. This means that he is living a full life, intensely and self-expressively. He is a vital being, poised, creative, and fulfilling his appropriate part in the scheme of things.
Is not this living the Spiritual Life?
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