THE PSYCHIC FACULTY
The Connecting Link Between Soul and Body
The Psychic Faculty is so-called because it endows the body with consciousness, which enables it to be the physical vehicle for the indwelling soul, or psyche. This enables the organism to receive incoming sensory impressions and stimuli, perceive and cognize them, think and reason, and respond in an intelligent manner in the interests of self preservation and furthering one's aims, objectives and mission in life.
The Psychic Faculty's functions are basically threefold: Sensory, cognitive or Intellective, and Responsive, or motor. These three basic functions then have their various organs and subdivisions.
The brain is the principal organ or central processing and control unit of the Psychic Faculty. It is served by the nerves, or the neural network of the organism.
The central nexus or switchboard of this neural network is the spinal column, from whence nerves branch out to all parts of the body. The spinal column and its energy centers are symbolized by the Caduceus, or the magic wand of Hermes.
The nerves that serve the brain are basically of two types: afferent or sensory, which take sensory impressions and stimuli to the brain; and efferent, or motor, which carry the responses and commands of the brain out to the various muscles and effector organs.
The Psychic Faculty as a whole has a Cold, Dry Melancholic nature and temperament. Its coldness makes it governed more by reason than by passion. Its dryness makes it capable of discernment, objectivity and self awareness. The nerves and nervous tissues are also Cold, Dry and Melancholic.
The brain, however, has a wetter temperament than the nerves, which makes it, although cold and rational, Phlegmatic in temperament. The wetness of the brain gives it a certain receptivity and identification with its thoughts, perceptions and ideas. Physically, the wetness of the brain comes from the fact that it's bathed in a sea of cerebrospinal fluid. Greek Medicine also considers the head and brain to be one of the main accumulation sites for excess phlegm and dampness.
The essence of the Psychic Faculty is communication, and the brain is its central switchboard. Through the brain and its neural network, the soul or psyche communicates with the body and with its environment, or the outer world.
The Psychic Force
The Psychic Force is a highly specialized form or derivation of the Vital Force which has been highly refined by the brain to make it capable of being a vehicle for the conscious awareness of the soul, or psyche. From the brain, the Psychic Force flows outwards through the motor nerves and back inwards through the sensory nerves. Through the inherent virtues and qualities of its Psychic Force, the Psychic Faculty is closest to the soul in its basic nature.
The Psychic Heat
Because of the overall coldness of the Psychic Faculty, its kinetic functions predominate over its thermal functions, which are more latent and subtle. Nevertheless, a certain Psychic Heat exists, which enables the brain to digest, assimilate, cognize and process the experiences, energies, impressions, thoughts and ideas it receives. This is psychic pepsis.
The Psychic Heat is well-developed in those of a fiery Choleric temperament, whose brilliant intellects and penetrating insights can instantly get to the heart of the matter. Overwhelming or traumatic experiences that can't be properly processed lead to disorders of psychic pepsis, which are at the root of many, if not most, psychological disorders.
The Intellective Functions
The intellective functions of the Psychic Faculty lie closest to the soul in that they involve thought and reason, cognition and intelligence. The intellective functions, or faculties, are four in number, and correspond in their inherent temperaments to the Four Humors.
The Ideation faculty is responsible for all thoughts, ideas, conceptualization, visualization and imagination. It is Hot, Dry and Choleric, and is most highly developed in Choleric types. It is located in the front of the brain. Ideation is always active and never sleeps, even when we're dreaming.
The Judgement faculty is responsible for all reason, logic, discretion and judgement. It is Warm, Moist and Sanguine, and is most highly developed in the Sanguine temperament. Judgement is located in the middle part of the brain. It is asleep in dreams, which exhibit no discretion, and don't have to make sense.
The Memory, or Retentive faculty is responsible for all memory and retention of experiences, facts, information and details. It is Cold, Dry and Melancholic, and is most highly developed in those of that temperament. It is located in the back of the brain, and is garbled and only partially active in dreams.
The faculty of Empathy enables one to sympathize and connect with the thoughts, emotions and feelings of others. It is Cold, Wet and Phlegmatic, and is most highly developed in Phlegmatic types. Empathy is located in the core of the brain, or limbic system. It is the basis of all charity and compassion, love and devotion.
The Sensory Functions
The sensory functions of the Psychic Faculty are of two basic types: Common Sense and Special Sense.
The faculty of Common Sense is like a great central sensorimotor switchboard, or like the central processing unit of a computer. It takes in data from all the five senses and puts together a picture or facsimile of the outer world and relays this to the intellective faculties of the brain, which use these pictures and data to reach a decision and act. The commands of the intellective faculties are then sent out via the faculty of Common Sense to the appropriate motor effector organs for the desired response.
The faculty of Common Sense is also called the Mundane Mind, because its main function is to keep us in touch with the world around us. It also excels in basic learning and adaptation, and in the mastery of basic skills and competencies.
The faculties of Special Sense are the five sense organs. Each one has its own particular affinities and correspondences of element, humor and temperament. These are as follows:
The eyes, or Visual Faculty, is Cold, Wet and Phlegmatic in temperament, and belong to the Water element. Think of the eyes as pools of clear Water that reflect the light of the opposite yet complementary Fire element back to the brain. The eyeballs are filled with watery fluids, the Aqueous and Vitreous humors, which channel and focus light and visual images onto the retina.
The ears, or Auditory Faculty, is Cold, Dry and Melancholic in temperament, and belong to the Earth element. The ears are like hollow caves and shells of solid, resilient material that resonate to and amplify sound vibrations in that subtlest of elements and contrary counterpart to Earth, Ether. Like a cavernous cave, the ears echo and amplify sound vibrations back to the brain.
The nose, or the Olfactory Faculty, is Hot, Dry and Choleric in temperament, and belongs to the Fire element. Volatility is a key attribute of Fire, and a substance must have a certain volatility inherent in it to disperse through the atmosphere and be smelled. Like a burning stick of incense, Fire excites aromatic substances and disperses them through the atmosphere.
With the olfactory receptors being so close to the brain, the sense of smell is the gateway to the mind. It is also our most primitive sense, and certain smells arouse strong subliminal memories, passions, emotions and states of mind. All this is amply exploited and made use of in aromatherapy.
The tongue, or the Gustatory Faculty, is Warm, Moist and Sanguine in temperament, and belongs to the Air element. The Sanguine Attractive Virtue is fully embodied in the sense of taste, because when we say we have a taste for something, it means we're attracted to it, and have an appetite for it.
The tongue has a close reflex relationship with the digestive organs, and signals to them what they need to secrete via its sense of taste. The sense of taste probably evolved as a kind of protective mechanism, to tell which substances were wholesome and good to eat, and which were noxious and not acceptable to the organism.
The skin, or the Tactile Faculty, has no single affinity of element, humor or temperament because it encompasses them all. Considering the wide variety of sensory receptors in the skin, and the wide range of sensations it can experience through the sense of touch, how can it belong to any single one? The skin is also the most neutral and balanced in temperament, and therefore contains an equal proportion of all temperaments and qualities.
The Psychic Faculty and the Natural Faculty
As we have seen, one's constitutional temperament and dominant humor determine the relative strength and development of the various faculties of the mind and intellect. But acquired imbalances and aggravations of the Four Humors can also influence and unsettle the mind, as we saw in the section on The Psychological Effects of the Four Humors.
The Psychic Faculty and the Vital Faculty
The two way communication between the head, or Psychic Faculty, and the heart, or Vital Faculty has already been described under the Vital Faculty. So has the effect of our mental and emotional states on our breathing patterns.
I wish to add here that yoga and other esoteric sciences have also known and utilized the tremendous capacity of the breath and breath cultivation to expand and deepen the powers of the mind and its ability to concentrate and cognize. Modern scientific research affirms this, and has found that the brain is one of the greatest consumers of oxygen in the human organism.