It is common today to believe that we are our brains. All of that exciting electrical activity, synapses firing must surely be the home of all thought and feeling, especially because we can trace the movement of that electrical activity to certain areas when we are feeling or thinking about specific things.
The brain is indeed an important central organ for our bodies, it keeps everything in pace and in check, it processes our experiences and stores our memories. But is it really the whole of who we are?
Past cultures didn't think so: (quotes from around the web)
The Egyptians believed that the heart, rather than the brain, was the source of human wisdom, as well as emotions, memory, the soul and the personality itself. Notions of physiology and disease were all connected in concept to the heart, and it was through the heart that God spoke, giving ancient Egyptians knowledge of God and God's will.
Many classical philosophers and scientists, including Aristotle, considered the heart the seat of thought, reason or emotion, often rejecting the value of the brain.
The Christian religions also embraced heart symbology early in their history. An example is the Catholic belief in Jesus' "Sacred Heart." Christians also recognize the heart as the center of human emotion. Eastern religions observed a similar symbology in the "Sacred Heart of Shiva." And the Islam religion considers the heart to be the center of spirituality.
Lets think about a computer: It has a mother board on which is a processor, memory chips, and various other components which affect and allow its operation. It is a conduit and storage for data, but a computer is not data, and data is not a computer.
I think that we are like this, we have brains and hearts and stomachs and all these busy things working to keep us walking and talking and thinking. They provide us energy to fuel the brain, pump the heart and move the muscles, and the signals that cause us to use these abilities are electrical and are traced from the brain. However, in a computer those signals are traced to and from the processor...
But that still doesn't mean that the processor and the data are one and the same. If you understand how a processor works, it makes it easier to understand what I'm saying. Essentially all computer components function from an extremely simplistic system - binary - and they can process more complex data by (essentially) stacking binary on binary on binary until we get nibbles and bits and bites and eventually giga-quads of data processing capability.
The data itself is understood by the system in binary, but again, the data itself is not binary it is only described that way. So the synapses in our brains are describing our thoughts and feelings to the body so that we can experience them in a conscious way - but the synapses and electricity that jumps between them is still not our actual thoughts and feelings and memories. Those are something else, something more, something that is managing to interact with our phsyical bodies somehow...
We have an ancient description of how: It's called the chakras, or the tree of life. We are believed to have seven open chakras - and at the center, the hinge, the meeting place is the heart chakra.
When ancient mythology was read and compared to our own understanding, we thought that they must have been mistaken to think that the essence of our being resides in the heart: after all, they thought the brain was a useless organ and here we are finding all this mystery and activity there! So how do these two views reconcile?
Our soul is not contained within any one organ of our body: rather it meshes into our body at node points which have been called chakras by some. The strongest node point is that of the heart, the one of the most overlap and thusly the center of our emotional contact from our souls.
It is also the place from which our intuition or gnosis springs, and the most open channel of communication between the two parts of us. This is part of the reason that we are not quite so aware of what is beyond the physical world... our perceptions and interperetations of the world around us are processed in our brains, which has an indirect connection to the soul. The information that comes through at the heart chakra is transfered to the brain, but often remains a bit obscured for the journey. We cannot clearly see anything beyond that which is in our heads because our consciousness is obscured from the soul and vice versa.
Through the advancement of evolution, the soul progresses across the chakras, continously connecting to the body at higher points. Our next progression will be to the throat chakra, putting us even closer to a connection of soul and consciousness. Rather than just feeling truth from our soul, we'll be able to express it. After that we'll hit the third eye, allowing us to not only feel and express truth from our soul, but to see it in the world around us. At the top of our phsyical body is the crown chakra - which will enable us to know all truth and begin to leave our bodies as they are behind. It is like the slow climbing out of a chrysalis, or the slow climb up a ladder from within a cave to the surface. As you climb you can see more and more light, hear more of the sounds going on up there, and eventually you reach the top and you can join in the festivities.