Like many, I finished reading the final Harry Potter in which Rowling was ambitiously philosophical. I was rather impressed with the following little exchange between Dumbledore and Snape:
- "Lord Voldemort’s soul, maimed as it is, cannot bear close contact with a soul like Harry’s..."
- "Souls? We were talking of minds!"
- "In the case of Harry and Lord Voldemort, to speak of one is to speak of the other."
This idea of a Mind-Soul identity follows a long intellectual heritage, reaching back in time to Kant, Augustine, Aristotle, and all the way to the early Gnostics. My essay on the soul deals with this fundamentally Israelite idea; with our biblical wisdom dictionary, however, we can easily trace it to an earlier millennium, in words attributed to King David:
“May your mind live forever” (Psalms 22:27)
This verse exemplifies how crucial it is to get the Hebrew lev right. Indeed, to get a right lev. By correctly translating the term as “mind” (NOT the mistaken "heart") we open ourselves to fundamental biblical teachings about something within us that has the potential to exist forever. Its eternal standing is directly correlated with its ability to be ready, set, direct, and pure, leading it to transform, and to reach the total clarity of revelation. So here are few more things that the biblical lev knows how to do:
- TO REFLECT: “Like the face of water to a face, so is the mind of man to man” (Proverbs 27:19). This exquisite verse may concern a “meeting of minds” between people, but more likely the function of the Mind as the inner screen upon which man’s perceptions play. .
- TO BE SET: “If you return to the LORD fully minded… set your minds to the LORD and serve Him alone” (1-Samuel 7:3); “And he did evil, because he did not set his mind to seek the LORD” (2-Chronicles 12:14); “Ezra had set his mind to study the law of the LORD” (Ezra 7:10); “every one that set his mind to find-out God, the LORD” (2-Chronicles 30:19). The Hebrew root n-ḵ-n is used for a mind set on an intention, a house set on pillars, an argument set in words, and for being ready and set to go: “My mind is set, O God, my mind is set; I will sing and chant” (Psalms 57:8)
- TO BE TRANSFORMED: The ability to connect to the divine results from mind-transformation. This was the case of Saul: “When he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another mind… and the spirit of God came mightily upon him, and he prophesied”; “And there went with him a band of men, whose minds God had touched” (1-Samuel 10:9-10, 26). This transformation is what Ezekiel calls having “a new mind” (18:31; 36:26), and what the psalmist prays for: “Examine me, O LORD, and try me; purify my conscience and my mind” (Psalms 26:2).
The purpose of life is to transform your mind, through meritorious and mindful living. According to the Hebrew Bible the preliminary Mind, which one is born with, is innately ignoble: “And the LORD said in His mind: 'I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the nature of man's mind is bad from his youth” (Genesis 8:21). At the other extreme is the prophetic Mind of clear, unhindered perception. According to the Talmud, this is why the Hebrew word for Mind appears in the double form, levav — a coexistence of the ignoble mind and the pure. While in its original state the mind is controlled by the senses, their illusions and temptations (e.g. Mara), wisdom can transform it to the exalted state of bliss:
“Create in me a PURE MIND, O God; and renew a set spirit within me” (Psalms 51:12); “A prophet is a mind of wisdom” (Psalms 90:12).
Thus it may be said of learned and earned enlightenment: “The statutes of the LORD are direct, delighting the mind: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. (Psalms 19:8. "direct" can also be "right"); and finally:
“Light is sown for the righteous, And for those of a DIRECT MIND – bliss” (Psalms 97:11)
I pray this delight may touch your soul.
P.S. (a) Rereading the post I realize that the most important verses are all from Psalms. (b) “If one speaks or acts with Pure Mind, happiness follows one, even as one's shadow that never leaves”; Dhammapada 1:2. (c) The artwork, titled “Prophet,” is by John Gregory Burke; I liked it - despite the cross - for the "core" + Light aspects it associates with revelation, and for the mind reflected in the face.
ונביא לבב חכמה