The Brain, The Body, The Soul, The Mind: An Exploration

Published in Books & Authors (Daily Dawn) on December 10, 2006 – Original Link
By Muzaffar A. Ghaffaar
Ferozsons, 60 Shahrah-i-Quaid-i-Azam, Lahore
Tel: 042 630 1196-8
UAN 111-62-62-62
ISBN 969-0-02034-X
176pp. Rs295

Muzaffar A. Ghaffaar is not a specialist. He does not write for specialists. He writes from his seemingly profound knowledge of the various branches of science and mixes philosophy with them. Some of his arguments are supported by religious sayings, etc, but not all of them. In fact, he has refrained from the inclusion of any religious reference in several places. His past works include How Governments Work, a book advocating the concept of a responsible government but one with limited powers, Unity in Diversity, etc. He is also a poet, has translated Punjabi poetry and has included some of his poems in this book. The title of the book is according to a descending order of importance/preference, in the view of the author. As obvious by the hierarchy, he places utmost importance on the human brain. He says, “The brain also delineates our spiritual geography which is a mixture of myth, morality, faith, history, experience, pain and joy.”

Ghaffaar has, however, discussed each of the four aspects in equal detail. His aim is to bring his readers closer to reality; to everything that is so entirely significant to their existence and individuality. All the questions are not completely new or unheard of but they have been put together to make people ponder. Ghaffaar addresses various aspects of genetic engineering. He explains the reason behind the increasing number of hermaphrodites in society and for gender confusion amongst human beings as well as animals. He draws parallels between human beings and their environment or, in other words, presents us with an interesting analogy.

The author has opined that DNA is “fate”. He says that external factors do affect a person but again places a lot of importance on a person’s genes. However, his arguments for this statement cannot be deemed as very substantial. Ghaffaar questions the vague relationship between the body and the soul. He discusses the Muslim belief regarding the soul in more detail than other beliefs (though he has mentioned them) and also philosophical movements such as existentialism and the religious philosophy of the Sufis.

In the chapter on the mind, Ghaffaar briefly comments on the conscious, the subconscious, the unconscious and the Freudian school of psychology. The first two chapters are thus about our tangible side, whereas the last two discuss the intangible and how it comes in contact with the tangible and he sheds light on the background of matter and antimatter.

It is heartening that though the author does give his own opinion, his tone is not judgmental and does not coerce one to believe in everything he says. There are some controversial topics such as the ‘transsexual phenomenon’ –– opinions vary on the point of whether this is a natural or inborn trait or a result of circumstances. The author has not shied away from the subject of changes from male to female functioning, since it is an issue that is prevalent all over the world. Each society needs to think about the cause behind such attitudes or inclinations.

Ghaffaar quickly jumps from one subject/question to another. At the same time he maintains flow or rhythm successfully. The language is simple and scientific jargon has been avoided where possible. This helps to acquaint any layman with the facts without creating confusion. In certain places, as mentioned in the foreword, the text has the semblance of a conversation, since some of the content was part of the lectures delivered by the author. The discourse in the conclusion leads to further questioning and allows man to think and form his own opinions regarding his existence.

The book is an exploration and leads to further investigation. Most of us are already well aware about the problems surrounding genetic engineering and that the brain is the major control unit of the human body. However, the book has a certain tinge of originality which makes it worth reading. Conclusively, in Ghaffaar’s words, “That being has no physical substance. And all physicality is present in it.” –– Ayesha Hoda