Mind over matter

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Mind over matter" is a phrase that has been used in several contexts, such as mind-centric spiritual doctrines, parapsychology, and philosophy.

Merriam Webster Dictionary defines mind as "the element or complex of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and especially reasons"[1] and mind over matter as able to; "a situation in which someone is able to control a physical condition, problem, etc., by using the mind".[2]


The phrase "mind over matter" first appeared in 1863 in The Geological Evidence of the Antiquity of Man by Sir Charles Lyell (1797–1875) and was first used to refer to the increasing status and evolutionary growth of the minds of animals and man throughout Earth history.[3][page needed]

It may be said that, so far from having a materialistic tendency, the supposed introduction into the earth at successive geological periods of life — sensation, instinct, the intelligence of the higher mammalia bordering on reason, and lastly, the improvable reason of Man himself — presents us with a picture of the ever-increasing dominion of mind over matter.

— Sir Charles Lyell, 1863

Another related saying, "the mind drives the mass", was coined almost two millennia earlier, in 19 B.C. by the poet Virgil in his work Aeneid, book 6, line 727.[4][page needed]


In the field of parapsychology, the phrase has been used to describe paranormal phenomena such as psychokinesis.[5][6] Mind over matter can be often attributed to survival. "it's a case of mind over matter."

Mao Zedong[edit]

"Mind over matter" was also Mao Zedong's idea that rural peasants could be "proletarianized" so they could lead the revolution and China could move from feudalism to socialism through New Democracy. According to some, it departs from Leninism in that the revolutionaries are peasants, instead of the urban proletariat.[7]

Controlling pain[edit]

The phrase also relates to the ability to control the perception of pain that one may or may not be experiencing.[8]


  1. ^ "mind over matter". /www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  2. ^ "mind over matter". /www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  3. ^ Bartlett, John; Kaplan, Justin (2002). Bartlett's Familiar Quotations: A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Proverbs Traced to Their Sources in Ancient and Modern Literature (17th ed.). Boston: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 9780316084604.
  4. ^ Stevenson, Burton (1987). The Macmillan Book of Proverbs, Maxims, and Famous Phrases. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0026145008.
  5. ^ Berger, Arthur S.; Berger, Joyce (1991). The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research (1st ed.). New York: Paragon House. p. 341. ISBN 978-1557780430. Psychokinesis (PK). The response of objects such as dice or the environment to a person's wishes is commonly labelled 'mind over matter'.
  6. ^ Gilovich, Thomas (1993). How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life (1st ed.). New York: Free Press. pp. 160–175. ISBN 9780029117064. A panel commissioned by the United States National Research Council to study paranormal claims concluded that "despite a 130-year record of scientific research on such matters, our committee could find no scientific justification for the existence of phenomena such as extrasensory perception, mental telepathy or 'mind over matter' exercises... Evaluation of a large body of the best available evidence simply does not support the contention that these phenomena exist."
  7. ^ Baum, Richard D. (1 January 1964). ""Red and Expert": The Politico-Ideological Foundations of China's Great Leap Forward". Asian Survey. 4 (9): 1048–1057. doi:10.2307/2642397. JSTOR 2642397.
  8. ^ Wiech, Katja; Ploner, Markus; Tracey, Irene (1 August 2008). "Neurocognitive aspects of pain perception". Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 12 (8): 306–313. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2008.05.005. ISSN 1364-6613. PMID 18606561. S2CID 22358667.