Spirituality: Reality or Religion

Definining Spirituality

A lively debate is taking place over on The Raving Atheist's site about whether or not the concept of spirituality is A) a New Age alternative to religion B) the real reason for religion or C) one's ability to chill out and except Life on Life's terms without succumbing to dogma and superstitions.

While I would side on Number C's side on general principals, I've got another definition that I think best fits a common usage of the word Spirit.

Have y'all ever heard of Prozac? Paxil? Zoloft? The multi-billion dollar inustry which exists to foist these occasionally beneficient medications upon the Health Care Covered public wouldn't exist if there weren't millions of folk who Don't have a clue how to just relax and not let life's difficulties send them (ahem... me) into a panic. I think what the Ivy League prof in TRA's project is doing with his casual disclosure of his own spiritualism is maintaining the mystical connotation of the concept. Despite the hijacking of this fundamental concept by both Religious Monocultures throughout history and the New Age movement more recently, I don't see ANY similarity whatsoever between spirituality and religion.

Living bodies (whe'er plant or animal) create an energy field which is easily detectable but only studied and fairly well understood in parts and portions. Medical Science is progressing but EEG's only look at brain "waves". EKGs only measure the electrical pulses of the heart. MRI's and the like bounce energy off the corpus instead of reading what is already being generated from it. I think we can all agree that, no matter how far from witch doctors and shaman we've progressed, the discipline-art-science of Medicine has a LOT yet to learn.

I really think that we need a modern, atheistic definition of spirituality and that it needs to start with the word spirit. If one says a person has a beautiful spirit, yes, they are probably implying some religious connection but, regardless of their implication, I understand them to mean that this person has an intangible quality which makes them easy to relate to; get along with; is pleasant to be around; optimistic; of a sunny disposition; etc, etc...

Thusly, I would define spirit as a personality trait. Thusly, I would, and do, define spirituality as the way a person Looks at and approaches their life. It can be quite powerful and is amazingly variable, but hardly mystical. It is the reason we know T Schiavo is no longer "at home" in her body. She has no ability to know that she is or isn't here, much less what she to have an opinion or any feelings about it. She isn't suffering because she has no ability to be aware of her own existence. Her physiological spirit mechanism ist kaput.

Mine own spirit has been boosted by an opener mind and more trust in reason than I was ever taught was wise as a child. A new and most wonderful family has done a tonne to motivate me to keep me spirits up as well. Who people see us as is our spirit. How we project ourselves onto the world is thus our spirituality.

K. I'm done...


  1. this is a test mike

  2. you're making this all so complicated.

    matters of the spirit are NOT matters of the intellect.

    when it comes to spiritual receptivity, you either got it or you don't. if you do, great, christ did not come to this world to save the righteous. if you do not, then you must be humble enough to realize that you can't know everything, that there may be things you don't or can't understand. then pray that you will be show the way.

    really, when you boil it all down, the way to happiness and virtue is to serve God by serving Man. That's all there is. The slogan is good enough for the Salvation Army, don't ya know

  3. Since this page is a mundane as it gets when trying to define spirit, I've got to disagree and point out that Everything we think IS a matter of the intellect; even when it is about what we feel.

    On top of that, god is a simple tool for imperial wannabe's. If you think its real then you are indeed one of the sillier humans out n 'bout.

    You might wanna "think" about that a little more...

  4. Hi Michael -

    The place in religion where I think you're likely to find something that you would view as authentic, is in the contemplative (monastic) traditions.

    Michael and Anonymous: I have to wonder what your exchange would have looked like if you'd focused more on the commonalities than the divergences.
    Paul www.spiritualdiablog.blogspot.com

  5. Alas Paul, but that anonymous is one with whom I work. {sigh}

    I believe you wonder a wonderful thing. While he isnae a shill nor a plug to start some dialogue, we do get along fairly well in our work-a-day lives. But the disparity in our views seems to be plainly stated above. C'est la vie. I'm frustrated but used to it (for the most part or I'd more joyfully be amused...)

  6. Hey Mike,
    I had to respond since this is an issue near and dear to me. Defining reality is a difficult task as the folks attempting to measure quarks and neutrinos are finding out. As one explores the vast chasms of the inner landscape through meditation practices (or peyote) the question becomes, "Is is REAL?"
    I have dialogues with "guides", some might call them angels or helpers...Are they really there, or am I tapping into the vast creativity of my mind? When I preceive Spirits around a ceremonial fire, is that also my imagination, or is it some, as yet, unmeasurable experience of beings from another dimension? I had been willing to accept that this was all manifestation of a mind that needed help in making sense of the world, but then I started watching the Science channel and lo and behold there is a wealth of scientific theory out there about the possible existence of such dimensions! And, what do ya know, but some material can actually bi-locate! It's amazing what may actually be "Real".
    I read an author and healer, Barbara Brennan, who refers to all of what I experience as High Sense Perception. It is her contention that we all have the ability to perceive far more then we do on a daily basis and that we simply need to learn how. What I love about her is that she began her career as a NASA physicist. What I love even more is that, after 30 years of healing work, she will still stop and ask her self, "Is this real?". Her answer is the only answer that makes sense to me, "It doesn't matter if it's real or not. The real question is, 'Is it effective?' "
    Bringing this back to Spirituality, I used to label these "other worldly" experiences as spirituality or the experience of the spiritual and immaterial world. Some days that still makes sense, but mostly I just think that, much like a man who's had cataracts removed, I can simply perceive more of what was always there.
    Religion to me is spirituality bastardized and codified by "Imperial Wannabees" as you so adroitly stated. It is a place where folks can feel a part of something but for the most part it aint for me...


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