Authentic Man and His Many Disguises

“We know that man is not a thing of only one element; he has a soul and he has, whether instrument or adjunct in some other mode, a body; this is the first distinction; it remains to investigate the nature and essential being of these two constituents.

“Reason tells us that the body as, itself too, a composite, cannot forever hold together; and our senses show us it breaking up, wearing out. … If this body then, is really a part of us, then we are not wholly immortal; if it is an instrument of ours, then, as a thing put at out service for a certain time, it must be in its nature passing. The sovereign principle, the authentic man, will be as Form to this Matter or as agent of the instrument, and thus, whatever that relationship be, the soul is the man.” ~Plotinus

A Composite Being

Man is a composite being on the physical level. He has many organ, many parts. And it is even more complicated than Plotinus probably knew or suspected. Not only are we a composite of many parts, but we have other beings living within us. Bacteria that are essential for us to digest our food. Since they are necessary for us to live, one might argue that they too are part of our physical self.

And at the next level beyond the physical body of matter is energy. While it is often ignored by most people, we are energy beings as much as we are physical beings. We give off electricity and light that can be measured. We take in and send out radiation of many types. His level of our being might be considered the mental or psychic level.

Authentic Man

beyond the mortal body and mind, we have another level of being, a permanent level. Plotinus calls this level the soul, but that is an oversimplification. This is our spiritual level that consists of a spiritual body and a spiritual mind. Soul is another name for the spiritual mind. It is reasonable to call this level the Authentic Man since it is permanent. The physical body ages and dies, the spirit and soul do not.

Instrument of Authentic Man

Plotinus argues, perhaps correctly, that if we are eternal beings, yet out physical bodies are not, then the physical body cannot be a part of authentic man. It is more like a tool that we use, or a vehicle that we ride in. It isn’t truly us, just something we use.

I’m sure most of us has known a teenager, or young adult, who gets so attached to car that he thinks of it as a part of himself. When it is involved in an accident, he acts like it was himself that was injured. When it breaks down, he acts like a mother with a sick child.

Many of us have become like that teenager with our physical bodies. We have become so used to them, that we think we are nothing without them. Many, in fact, actually believe that they are nothing without their physical body. I remember some years ago when Lorena Bobbitt made the news for cutting off the penis of her abusive husband. At the time, I was living only a few miles from where that happened and everyone was talking about it. I remember one guy saying that if somebody cuts off your penis, you might as well dig a hole and bury yourself because you are already dead. And many others agreed with that! Dead for the loss a single body part. How can you possibly explain to such a person that he is not his physical body, that it is just a tool he uses, a vehicle he rides around in? You don’t even try.

Awakening Authentic Man

But there is a growing number of people who are awakening to varying degrees who realize that their physical body and brain-mind is not all that they are. There is a permanent and authentic man beyond that temporary appearance, that party costume. A few are realizing that their spiritual self is their authentic self and the physical body is not really them at all. They are truly awakened.


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