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Observations placeholder

Sherrington, Sir Charles - Man and his Nature - Aggregates and 'mind'



Type of Spiritual Experience


Sherrington looks at the 5 senses and concludes that they too have a set of functions which relate to the sub-assemblies. In effect, the ears have a set of functions [the hearing functions], the eyes as we have seen have a set of functions [the functions of sight], the nose a set of functions[the functions of smell], the taste buds have a set of functions [the functions of taste] and the nerves have a set of functions [the sense of touch]. Every sub-assembly I have mentioned, is itself a collection of cells, so the collection has gained function by agglomeration.

Sherrington calls this set of functions a 'perceptual mind'. But he also says that they are 'integrated psychically' into what we call the mind and the mind, has its own set of functions. To quote him 'the concrete life compounded of sub-lives reveals … its additive nature'.

He gives the example of a cell. That it has a mind of its own and one which can carry on operating even when it is separate from its parent organism. We see, now we have donor surgery, that any number of organs, not just cells, can also live and operate [given the right nourishment ] independently of the parent organism. As such every object has its own software, perhaps a collection of functions, maybe only one, and each object inter-operates with other objects in order to work.

He also makes an important point about mind. That we are apt to even now consider mind to be part of the brain. But we don’t consider the functioning of the nervous system to be centred on one cell. We recognise that in the first place the system operating the cell exists elsewhere and also that the functioning is a co-operating system of trillions of parts

A description of the experience

Sir Charles Sherrington – Man and his Nature

 Are there thus quasi-independent sub-brains based on the several modalities of sense? In the roof-brain, the old ‘five’ senses instead of being merged inextricably in one another and further submerged under mechanism of higher order are still plain to find, each demarcated in its separate sphere. How far is the mind a collection of quasi-independent perceptual minds integrated psychically in large measure by temporal concurrence of experience? … When it is a question of ‘mind’, the nervous system does not integrate itself by centralisation upon a pontifical cell … the concrete life compounded of sub-lives reveals, although integrated, its additive nature and declares itself an affair of minute foci of life acting together ….When however we turn to the mind there is nothing of all this. The single nerve cell is never a miniature brain. The cellular constitution of the body need not be for any hint of it from ‘mind’. A single pontifical brain cell could not assure to the mental reaction a character more unified and non atomic than does the roof-brain’s multitudinous sheet of cells. Matter and energy seem granular in structure and so does life, but not so ‘mind’............

To declare that, of the component cells that go to make us up, each one is an individual self-centred life is no mere phrase. It is not a mere convenience for description purposes. The cell as a component of the body is not only a visibly demarcated unit, but a unit life centred on itself. It leads its own life… The cell is a unit life, and our life which in turn is a unitary life, consists utterly of cell lives

The source of the experience

Sherrington, Sir Charles

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