Of Three Minds

[God] said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.”Genesis 3:11-12

Dear members and friends,

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) shared a great insight regarding the inner nature of the human mind. According to Freud, there are three major parts in our mind: libido representing instincts, superego representing principles, and ego representing the balance between libido and superego. Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) shared a similar insight about two centuries before Freud. According to Swedenborg, there are three minds in a human: the sensual mind representing instincts and sensory perceptions, the emotional mind representing feelings and affections, and the rational mind representing the capacity of to make objective discernment. The ancient story of the serpent, the woman, and the man, according to Swedenborg, symbolize the sensual, the emotional, and the rational mind of a human. The core of the problem in the story is that the sensual mind, which is the serpent, appears to be leading the emotional mind while somehow the rational mind is absent!

Our own experiences may reveal why it is problematic to let the sensual mind play a leading role while the rational mind is absent. And often, our emotional mind is not capable of seeing things and matters objectively, consequently not capable of rising above the personal and subjective reality. The intent and design of God for human beings was that the rational mind would lead our thoughts supported by the emotional mind, while judging the desires from the sensual mind. However, for some reason, if we let our sensual mind lead us, it easily persuades our emotional mind to fall into its desires, which essentially blind the rational mind. What does it mean to be rational? According to Swedenborg, being rational means to be capable of seeing and distinguishing the matters in one’s mind: knowing what is good as good and what is evil as evil.

One lesson to remember from the story of the serpent, the woman, and the man is that the true potential of being a human may blossom only when we are capable of being objectively discerning of our instinctive  desires and emotional impulses.

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee