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Phillip Beaver

Citizen, Humankind

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What does “spirituality” mean and what are its functions in one’s life?

Aunt Margaret asked, “When did you get the notion that soul is merely an intellectual construct?”
I responded, “I took soul for granted until I thought about it.”
Aristotle and others, to whom we credit ‘soul,’ were commenting on prehistoric ideas or intellectual constructs. I doubt intellectual constructs and suspect intellectual constructs about intellectual constructs.
If one accepts that souls are not real, it follows that spiritualism is merely art--poetry. The idea of contact with spiritual beings seems poetic; religious considerations, for example, at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14229a.htm , seem poetic; the idea that there exists an immaterial reality that is beyond the reach of the senses seems poetic. Yet, poetry seems to promise many people comfort against the unknowns humans face.
Goals lead to planning. Career planning inspired me to think beyond career, toward life planning. My presentation ended with retirement and grandchildren. To follow my religious tradition, I might have included goals for afterdeath. However, even then I trusted my death: I did not control my “beforelife,” so why presume to control my afterdeath?
If one decides to set goals for life, it seems spiritualism offers nothing beyond tentative comfort in a distraction from what is. Yet, many people who call themselves “spiritual” offer peace and empathy. If good conduct is a consequence of spirituality, I appreciate spirituality for the resulting benefits.
I no longer think about soul. However, there are powers that help me. Denying that I am ‘spiritual,’ I try to think with secular terms: goals; motivation; inspiration; imagination; satisfaction; peace; acceptance; focus; faith in reality; energy. These terms seem neither spiritual nor material. So, what are they?
When there are other forces beyond my control, such as a loved one so ill they may die, I may drop to my knees and pray. But it is not spiritual conduct: it is cold, naked begging.

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    Mar 16 2012: I believe that spirituality is connecting with the oneness of the Cosmos. Atomic structure is a universal structure. It is the same throughout the cosmos. All of our science is built upon its consistency. What causes such consistency is beyond anyone's knowledge.

    At nine years old, while meditating on God, I saw the principles of quantum fields. That was clearly beyond anything I was being taught at the time. Eleven years later, in a nuclear physics class, I was formally trained on the subject. How the previous experience was possible still eludes me to this day.

    If we have lived before, we seem to have no knowledge of it at birth. I have a friend that told me she has a daughter, that when she first began to speak, she kept talking about what had happened to her when she was big. She seemed to be recounting another experience. Eventually the thoughts faded.

    If matter and energy are conserved, as is the case in physics, could it be possible that consciousness is also conserved? What exactly that would mean I can't imagine. Eastern philosophy is built upon the notion that life goes on in other (spiritual) realms. But it gives little insight as to the specifics other than that we reap what we sow. I believe that we are part of an evolving universe, and our own future existence (if such exists) is dependent on what we leave behind to inherit.
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      Mar 17 2012: How does “spirituality” help connecting with the oneness of the Cosmos? That is, “connecting with the oneness of the Cosmos” seems sufficient. Please show me what I am missing.

      What consciousness was there before biology?

      Your Holy Bible reference (Galatians 6:7) presents a novel perspective: your assomplishments/not will come back to you in your reincarnation. It’s an interesting imposition of Eastern religious thought onto Western scripture. I doubt mixing the two religions informs humankind better than the individual religions. That is, reincarnation seems no less speculative than afterlife.

      Yet, we can appreciate the thought that one’s accomplishments are critical.

      Thank you. Please return to the "spirituality" question, above.
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        Mar 17 2012: Connecting with the oneness of the cosmos IS sufficient in that it helps us understand our place in it. But how does one connect? Many never do. They live their lives as individuals, never seeing beyond their own existence.

        John D. Rockefeller was a self-made billionaire. At age fifty three, he felt unwanted and unloved. He barely managed his life from day to day. He knew very little real happiness up to this point. It was generally agreed that he would not live another year. In his self contemplation, he realized that he could not take one thin dime with him. It was at that time that he had a revelation; Since money was not a commodity that he could keep once he passed, What could he do to help the world? Upon giving back, he began to sleep restfully, eat normally, and live joyfully. The bitterness toward the world began to flow out of him, and with it, his health began to improve almost miraculously. By changing his mind, he changed his whole being. he felt loved by those he helped, and that love flowed through him. He went on to live to the ripe old age of ninety eight feeling fulfilled and content.
        (taken from "None of These Diseases" by Dr. S.I.McMillen chapter 22.)

        The New Testament is built upon Eastern philosophy; the carnal verses spiritual battle that erupts within us. It is the spiritual ascension of the mind - Christ being the seventh energy chakra of Eastern philosophy. It comes through meditation on a higher power. And once you feel it - the living waters that Jesus spoke of, it enriches your life. That is what leads to the peace and empathy that you speak of.

        What consciousness was there before biology? Eastern philosophy teaches that the spirit enters the body at birth. It originates from a cosmic consciousness, where it returns after death. I don't know much about it other than in belief. There are teachings on the akashic records that claim the universe has a memory. I read "Edgar Cayce on the Akashic Records" by Kevin J. Todeschi.
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          Mar 17 2012: I appreciate your perspective on “connecting with the oneness of the cosmos.”

          Through your comments and others, the secular (as opposed to religious or philosophical) perspective that is coming to me is that each person’s essence (character, focus, and courage) empower them to improve their mind and body toward connecting. While this may not satisfy some who contributed, I feel is reflects the conversation and am interested in opposing views.

          Thank you for the Rockefeller story and reference.

          I once referred to “my Jesus,” to assert that my interpretation was sufficient for me. My friend Kishon Seth, PhD, prays to Jesus among others. He refers to his culture’s scriptures as 7,000 years old and thus more original than the New Testament. Our cross-cultural dialogue gives us each peace and empathy. When he wants to talk of soul, he introduces his thought, “of course, according to you there are no souls,” meaning “. . . in your opinion . . .” It’s a wonderful experience, and we often seem like we are in the ultimate conversational posture described in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Circles,” wherein people who communicate at the highest level empathetically converse without speaking.

          Before the Big Bang it seems there was only potential energy. Then, about 13.7 billion years ago, energy partially converted to mass, such that the potential energy was preserved. Some 4.6 billion years ago, earth formed. Then about 4.3 billion years ago there was a first life form. Maybe around 1.2 billion years ago there was multicellular life. Maybe 520 million years ago animals formed. And perhaps homo sapiens appeared 130 million years ago. I guess consciousness came between these last two ages. When would conservation of consciousness begin?

          I read some Cayce years ago.

          Thank you.
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        Mar 17 2012: According to the Mayan calendar, consciousness itself is evolving. I wrote a book about science and religion. One of its chapters outlines the progression of the nine stages of conscious development as determined by Carl Johan Calleman in his book "The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness". The following link will take you to a page on my website that breaks it down fairly well. Here's the link;

        http://scienceandreligionconverging.com/the-mayan-calendar_272.html

        By the way, compare this to the geological record on evolution.

        According to Eastern philosophy, spirit has been descending into matter and is becoming dense matter and very materialistic. And at some time, the process will begin to reverse itself. In looking at the Mayan calendar, I am beginning to understand why it runs out. This is the period of reversal that appears in so many prophesies. The world isn't going to flip on its axis. The poles are not going to reverse. The earth isn't going to start turning in the other direction. All of these claims have been given in error to the above. It is a time of ascending back to spirit. It is part of the ebb and flow of the evolution of life. I see it as a new awakening. I'm anxious as it is a move into the unknown, but not alarmed because I feel I have lived my life well.

        Peace to you my friend.
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          Mar 18 2012: The progression on your website is helpful regarding consciousness.

          Also, it seems humankind's attempts to govern itself have increased consciousness if not performance. Or maybe it's more humankind's threats to its extinction that are increasing awareness.

          With only about 60 years of awareness during the end of some 7 trillion man-years of past and current awareness, it seems the individual must be open minded and agressively learning in order to 1) reduce personal ignorance, 2) choose some area to focus on, and 3) try to help humankind increase its consciousness in that area.

          I am a long way from the self-righteous Protestant I wanted to be and find myself in my seventh decade cheerfully admitting, "I don't know," yet studying.

          I understand cycles and you have made me more interested in December 21, 2012, even though Calleman's estimate has come and gone.

          Thank you.
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        Mar 18 2012: We build upon the current knowledge which has been progressively advancing. We don't have to figure out the things that have already been figured out. We can advance beyond that stage. So all the knowledge that lay behind us adds to our present understanding.

        Also, the ecological system has been steadily advancing. Our farming methods are far advanced from those of earlier times. We have all that going for us. I also believe that our cognitive skills are advanced from earlier periods. Then again, our machines, instruments, and computers have given us tools that greatly multiply our abilities. All that is part of our heritage. We have come a long way.
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          Mar 19 2012: It seems trite to say, but we have advanced in discovery and technology and psychology. However, the least progressive seems to be psychology.

          If so, why?

          I think it is because we do not teach our youth to grow their own psychological maturity. We encourage people who reach "adult" age to think they are adults, when psychologically, they are adolescents or less. Children beget children then become adolescent grandparents.

          I think cultures focus on spirituality when they should focus on character.
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        Mar 19 2012: Hi Phillip,

        My psychology teacher told me that psychology is any intelligent person's best guess. The reason is that psychology is evolving, and many former theories are being brought into question. Sigmund Freud attracted a certain clientele by his manner of presenting himself. As a result, he found all of his patients suffering from similar symptoms. He erroneously applied his finding to include the whole of humanity, when in fact, there are a multitude of issues that apply to different people under different circumstances.

        I am presently reading a book "The New Primal Scream" by Dr. Arthur Janov. The author is dealing primarily with psychosomatic and psychological symptoms that stem from infant child trauma. Unlike many of us who deal with present problems, he is dealing with subconscious problems that refuse to show themselves until he can get the patient into early childhood memory that has been shunted from normal memory recall. The symptoms range from allergies, fears & phobias, hallucinations, to self defeating behavioral patterns. He has taken patients who have spent years in psychotherapy and brought them to closure within months of primal therapy.

        My father became an alcoholic because of his belief in purgatory. He had a very vivid imagination, so to him, purgatory wasn't something that he could just put out of his mind. If it wasn't for a priest telling him that they no longer believe it to be true, he may have never recovered from his alcoholism.

        As far as spirituality versus character, I believe that these are intertwined. Spirituality in the Eastern philosophical perspective was about rising to higher levels of consciousness where character could be molded by greater vision or insight.

        Science, education, beliefs, subconscious memories, and social environment are all part of the process. When you look at the whole picture, psychology is an elusive and evolving subject.
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          Mar 20 2012: Hello, Roy,

          As usual, you have interesting comments and references. But, “best guess” of what? What client type did Freud attract--those sexually abused in childhood? Regarding Dr. Janov, is it really necessary to relive the past in order to be psychologically mature now? I don’t think so. I am so glad your father recovered from alcoholism, but did he really need to learn that the Church adapts? Was it possible for your father to discover and develop his character and thereby overcome alcoholism?

          But I am not talking about psychological maturity as a subject of study or social services. I am talking about a person learning to rise early—no later than 5:30 AM--and take his own life seriously because it is inexorably ticking away; the early riser who early-on exercises his body; who recites his goal; who reviews his action list for self improvement before his duty list for that day. A person who prays, not for advantages, but to express gratitude for his opportunity to serve. A person with integrity.

          The psychological maturity I advocate is described by H. A. Overstreet, The Mature Mind (1949) and James Q. Wilson, The Moral Sense (1993). Someone may know of some similar books. I'd like to know about them.

          Thank you again.
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        Mar 20 2012: your philosophy is commendable. Your comment however, leads me to believe that you are looking for a "one-size-fits-all" psychology. I doubt there is such a thing. We all have to work out our own salvation, which means we all have to find our own way to peace and happiness.

        Not everyone needs primal therapy. But those suffering from primal psychosis cannot find help any other way. Their whole psychic being is affected by something they can't understand. And just setting goals will not overcome it. The psychosis will sabotage whatever goals they set for themselves. That is what Dr. Janov came to understand.

        My father grew up in a poor rural farmland in Nova Scotia. Due to family obligations, he never went past the seventh grade. Despite that fact, he became a master carpenter and became a citizen of the US.
        He grew up in an area where sorcery and religion were rampant. He had seen things in his childhood that couldn't be logically explained. He believed in things not seen, and the teaching on purgatory deeply affected him. Because he believed in the authority of the church, it would take an equal authority to dispel his fears.
        His faith nearly destroyed him. My faith was my salvation. I took it beyond the words. I spent time researching religion so that I would know why people believed what they did. I uncovered many misconceptions on how religious beliefs came to be handed down through the ages. I wrote a book on the subject "The Merging of Two Worlds" so that those plagued by distorted belief systems may come to see the light in a scientific world. Eastern philosophy was all about taking it beyond the words. What we see today in religion is more a social plague.

        Progress is finding needs and then fulfilling those needs. Whatever does not fulfill the needs of the times is wasted effort. You're looking for those needs, and so am I, but we are looking in different places. I wish you well as you seem to have noble ideals.
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          Mar 20 2012: Hi Phillip and Roy, as this discussion is closing I was wondering if you, Phillip, could notice any differences between how you saw spiritually during our last discussions some months ago and how you regard it now?
          This debate is very much more 'to the point..'

          Seems that one source of info might be a book about the spiritual realm based on almost thirty books written by Swedenborg. He was a man that impersonated perfectly the unity of science and religion. I do not know if I ever gave this link to you before Phillip, but this is to the book "The Spiritual World" A 'place' humanity seems to find its way back to.
          http://webhome.idirect.com/~abraam/documents/TheSpiritualWorld.pdf
          Best wishes
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          Mar 20 2012: Roy, I do not agree that I am looking for something to fit all. I think whatever is good for someone is good for them. But it may not be good for me; that's it. I agree I have noble ideals; however, what I want is some action. Spirituallity is so subjective, I don't want to look there. That does not mean those who do are wrong.

          I think we communicated well and appreciate it very much.

          Till the next conversation . . .

          Phil
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          Mar 20 2012: Hello, Adriaan,
          Yes, I do recall our conversation and my disinterest in Swedenborg's ideas.
          I don’t know what change you refer to, but I think this conversation has been very helpful for me. I started with the thought that “inspiration,” “motivation,” and a few other words were my substitutes for “spirituality,” in light of my thought that souls are mere intellectual constructs. My conclusion after this conversation is that whereas some people want to focus on their spirit I want to focus on my character.
          Character counts more than spirit is not an idea I wish anyone to follow because of me. I want people to stay on their paths until they see a fork and make a choice. How else can they offer forks for me to consider. Yet, I would hope they celebrate my decisions for me, just as I celebrate their decisions for them. (That is, as long as they don’t harm other people, in which case I hope to be alert enough to be intolerant to the extent necessary.)
          There’s still time for you to clarify the difference you perceived, and I would be interested.
          Best regards,
          Phil

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