In Theosophical philosophy there are three “upadhis” or “bases of consciousness.” (see Secret Doctrine I, pp. 157-8) The (a) physical body, the (b) mental self or personal ego; and the (c) spiritual self are all capable of operating on their own, separate from other aspects of the six principles (plus universal “Atman”) Theosophical psychology separates our being into. We are 3 separate creatures in one in this respect.
“According to the classification of the Taraka-Raja-Yoga philosophy, man is divided into three upadhis which are synthesized by, and are the vehicle of, the highest principle or atman. These three upadhis are: karanopadhi, the upadhi of the causal or spiritual mind; sukshmopadhi, the upadhi of the higher and lower manas plus the astral vehicle and the life-essence combined with kama; and the sthulopadhi, the physical body, which thus is the general vehicle or upadhi of the six principles composing the human constitution.” (Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which has been epidemic in Veterans returning from the Middle East has been extremely difficult to treat by conventional psychological methods, and I think this is so because it is not a disability of the mind, but a disability of the body, or the lowest “upadhi” in Theosophical philosophy. The body has a mind of its own, and in ideal conditions is controlled or directed by the personal ego, or “oneself.” We’re, in one sense, three different beings within one experience, – body, mind, and spirit, and normally identify with the mind or personal ego. When the body has experienced sufficient trauma in the terrors of war or otherwise, it breaks free of the normal control of mind into its own reaction of fear, rage, or other expression, and is not amenable to “reason.” Its limited animal-like consciousness has learned in War that things can go terribly wrong, and anticipates that they can do so again at any time. It doesn’t understand psychological counselling, and is too thoroughly tramatized to be brought under control.
That the body has a separate consciousness of its own might be seen in sleep-walking, where one can go through most any type of behavior and not have any recall on waking. I had a curous experience along this line once on being hauled to the hospital unconscious. As I began to regain consciousness the first thing I was aware of was someone talking. I realized then that it had been myself talking, or the body spouting some fearful nonsense. A Doctor had been calming me down and assuring me I was in no danger, – and I believe this calmed the body down enough that my consciousness – “me” – was able to properly use it again.
The body can go “on strike” if conditions are too extreme. Overworked Founder of the original Theosophical Society H.P. Blavatsky once unexplainably passed out. She couldn’t be roused for 3 days, and then was normal again. Her Teacher said that her body needed a rest and took it.
Another example of body-only consciousness might be that of advanced senility or Alzheimer’s Disease. The brain progressively decays, and after a certain point the central consciousness, the mind or personal ego, can no longer use it as a vehicle. What is left is a disabled body-upadhi, with its own karma and life-span, which eventually can’t even function properly for its animal body-consciousness because of the debilitated brain. Perhaps the real person, – ourselves as the middle upadhi, then waits in a dream-world until the body dies and we are freed to after-life experience (“Devachan” in Theosophy).