The noted physicist Roger Penrose wrote a book called “Road To Reality” which is intended to summarize mathematical physics for the layman. It includes a small section putting it in metaphysical context. In this he says that the larger reality that we inhabit can be broken into three relatively distinct and independent worlds. Besides the world described by physics there is also the subjective world of our direct experience, and in addition there is the world of abstract mathematics, which seems to mathematicians to stand on its own.
The Christian Trinity can be interpreted as an analogous scheme if we add to the domain of abstract mathematical concepts the similarly highly abstract concepts such as Good and Bad, Truth, Beauty and Justice and so on, that we call Platonic Ideals . Then the world of Ideals corresponds to God the Father, the Transcendent; the subjective world is the Holy Spirit, the Wind of God; and the physical world is the Son, the Immanence of God. Some Christians would say that the Good, the Will of God, as apprehended by human subjectivity, is intended to be brought into physical reality by human action, so causality goes downward from heaven to earth. In Penrose’s view however the three are coequal parts of the larger reality so each can influence the others.
Since my own viewpoint is informed by Tibetan Buddhism let us ask what this tradition has to say about the nature of Existence.
In the generally accepted version of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy there are only two realities, the subjective world and emptiness. Emptiness means something similar to the biblical beginning state when the world was formless and void, “tohu v’bohu”. It is not the emptiness of a hard vacuum but the emptiness of the Tao, an open space from which a universe can manifest. Also it claims that the subjective world of forms is entirely a creation of the mind, both the mind of the individual and the collective mind of the society.
Tibetan philosophy held the world of forms to be illusory in large part because our perceptions could prove to be erroneous and might change or disagree. Today the world has accepted the validity of science as a means of obtaining objective knowledge. The scientific view depends on the belief that if the conditions are the same, experiments done by different people or at different times will always get the same results, implies that although our perceptions may be faulty there is some unchangeable reality underlying them, which we call the physical world. Therefore the Tibetan view is incompatible with modern science.
Tibetan psychology is based on many centuries of collaborative meditative introspection of mental processes.Unlike Tibetan philosophy the psychology conforms to the three part scheme. The three parts of the mind are called Kayas, generally translated as Enlightened Bodies. They are as follows. The Dharmakaya or Truth Body is said to be the Source of mental process. All things arise from the Dharmakaya and to there return. The Sambhogakaya or Speech Body is the ground of subjectivity, the world of everything perceived. It is what we would commonly call our mind. The Nirmanakaya or Manifestation Body is the intrusion of the holistic reality into the physical level. Dharmakaya is said to be Emptiness, corresponding to the Ideal or God the Father, Sambhogakaya or subjectivity corresponds to the Spirit or Wind of God, and Nirmanakaya corresponds to the Physical World. We can understand the Kayas as being not literally bodies but minds, sub-parts of the larger Mind. Furthermore the attainment of Enlightenment, the Sanskrit meaning of which is more like “Awakening”, is described as learning to unify or integrate the Kayas. The unification of Nirmanakaya with Sambhogakaya is called Rupakaya, or Form Body, and their further unification with Dharmakaya is called Svabhavikakaya or Self Nature Body.
It will be my thesis here that the three Kayas or sub-minds an be at least tentatively identified as being based in particular parts of the brain and that their internal actions and interactions can be observed by various imaging techniques, and compared to the predictions that can be inferred from the Buddhist model of the Mind. We will go on to examine this in more detail.