Phillip Beaver

Citizen, Humankind


This conversation is closed.

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 , 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;

        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: 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 . . .

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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,
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    Mar 17 2012: What does “spirituality” mean and what are its functions in one’s life?

    God, Philip this is quite a question, it took me two days to think about it!

    Spirituality is such a personal relationship with oneself and a higher source : GOD, Boudha, Universe etc...whatever one might think help him or her, to go through hard or sublime situation and/or moment in one life.

    What I find the most intriging in spirituality, is to have the capacity to beleive in something, some force that we never seen...that we are ready to die for it! I'm baffle by the magnitude of that force, it's so powerful, almost like ecstasy, no explanation to discribe it, one have to experience it, hence the profound personal aspect of it.

    Furthermore, when countries are fighting, killing, scaring other people beliefs, it confuse and shock me, because of its personal and fundamental aspect. One can not question or undermine someone else spirituality, it's disrespectful. You can be in a nation that everyone believe about the same thing, BUT if you are the only one, who beleive in something else, this is your right. Your soul knowse what best for itself, your spirtit knowse what best for itself, so that you can become the best you ...not your flesh or the flesh of others!

    Spirituality is to believe in what your heart, your soul and your spirit tells you, and fight all thoughts, doubts or others that will try to rob you from that priviledge, that right...that define every core of your being to be : YOU.

    Become what YOU suppose to be, and by doing so, permit others to become WHOM they suppose to BE.

    Peace and embrace your OWN spirituality!
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      Mar 17 2012: I feel I already appreciated other people being themselves. I feel the conversation has helped me to hold peace and empathy for myself as well.

      Thank you.
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        Mar 18 2012: As you deserve it dear Philip, this is your rights, embrace it and leave it to the fullest!!

        May peace accompany you alwayssssssssssss!
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      Mar 18 2012: Thank you, Mireille, for the charge, kind words, and best wishes. My best wishes to you.
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        Mar 19 2012: Thank you Philip, and I receive it!!
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    Mar 15 2012: i DEFINE spirituality as "a progressive intricate dialogue with reality"
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      Mar 16 2012: Thank you.

      I perceive 4 key words: reality, dialogue, intricate, and progressive.

      Reality is most interesting. There is what is (reality) and what humans and other species do about it (also reality). For example, sun rays burn skin; people who do not protect themselves from sun rays suffer (reality). Viability is key to this fact vs. consequences duality.

      Most people unavoidably live in partial misunderstanding (uniformed), while humankind continues its inexorable, quest toward understanding. Understanding (noun) is a process, and its product is understanding (verb). Among its tools are observation, consideration, discovery, confirmation, and reconsideration. Understanding leads to discovery, technology, invention, and knowledge about both realities (facts and consequences). Humankind is driven by viability. The perception of infinite viability empowers individuals to remain uninformed and entities to maintain misinformation.

      Dialogue implies exchange for benefit; an entity is to exchange with reality – present its arguments in a forum with reality. What benefit does reality seek? And what does the entity offer to reality? I sense disconnect. It seems reality plainly and simply is. The entity can only react to reality – cannot exchange with it.

      Only with intricacy can misinformation be maintained for a lifetime or era.

      "Progressive" seems justifiable. As humanity increases understanding, the entity must modify its misinformation. For example, while humankind understands the earth is 4.6 billion years old, some entities and some people maintain Creation at about 4006 BCE.

      Again, the modifiers “progressive” and “intricate” hold only for the entity’s side of the duality: reality simply exists, whether it be what is or what the entity does with what is.

      Perhaps humans are better served by ideas beyond spirituality, such as, essence of individuality, motivation, energy, etc. Any suggestions?

      I wrote only my perception -- not the truth.
  • Mar 14 2012: Do yourself a favor and watch a movie called "expelled" by Ben Stein. See what all these evolutionists are afraid of everyone knowing. Natural selection is b.s.!! Mind you Hitler was a big fan of it.
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      Mar 14 2012: I oppose everything I ever read by Ben Stein, and therefore would not spend more time with his projects. His projects make me suspect his economics qualifications.

      I read the Wikipedia review and oppose the propaganda in "Expelled."

      I agree with you that "natural selection" is inaccurate. What's natural is adaptation to changing environment. For example, when I bought my homesite, it rained almost every day in July at about 4:00 PM. I mowed the lawn weekly. Now, I mow about monthly and have installed an irrigation system to try to keep the lawn alive. Such adaptations are going on at both micro and macro levels in nature, without the thoght process that guide me.

      Most of all, in my seventh decade, I only wish I had learned earlier in life my friend Ty Keller's guiding principle, "If it's something I must persuade myself to believe, I have no time for it."

      Nevertheless, I appreciate your comment.
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    Mar 14 2012: Energy is material, we can measure it - electrophysiology is a huge branch of bio-studies concerning the electric nature of our neurons and bodily functions. If souls exist, there is a nature to them like anything else we study in science. What is that energy that constructs these supernatural-paranormal activities? Empirically these claims of existence are false, but as far as history is concerned there is a lot of perceptual evidence influencing evidence other wise. There are a lot of supernatural things occurring in the world, but when they occur, they are not capable with western science, so many suggest to ignore these phenomena. While we should really just keep the question open and not confirm on anything until the facts match the theory - we know that when we can use the facts and theory to build humanity forward.

    The drive to be altruistic is intrinsic in our natures, at the root of all religions is humanism. We have understood this for a long time but neglect it due to superficial differences in culture and processes of thinking* (*foundationalism philosophies).

    There may be an energy system we can drive to do metaphysical actions... Meta meaning "super" meaning beyond our current knowing and understanding of how that nature of things works fully but in this "scope" they seem to work the best. Philosophy of science/mathematics are very interesting to consider here.

    We have multiple processes in our mind that manifest in the brain-body as the forces that guide what makes you personally/socially consider reality and what are the important parts of your perception should be in that reality....

    Simply... We want to love and know, in order to survive on the mental level of living. We are able to not fight and destroy to live daily - but we still have the instincts to do so by the masses.

    Everything in this conversation will be perceptual, and this is my perspective.

    "Words are used to convey thoughts, when the thoughts are grasped the words are lost"
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      Mar 14 2012: In the introduction, “energy” refers to the human conduct of acting on motivation or inspiration; maybe such energy is material, but I would not have thought so. I understand the brain functions on physical laws, but its software, the mind seems influenced by other forces you cite: altruism; love; knowing; survival. I agree that these motives are unseen, but unseen does not imply unnatural. And the consequence of these forces is usually good – opposition to instinctive fighting and war, for example.
      Thus, the enmities and hatred we see daily imposed by religion is what is unnatural. If so, we need not destroy religion, but do need to destroy its support for harm: each person can believe anything they want to believe but needs to guard their conduct such that they do not harm others.
      Please let me know if I am mistaken: there was no need for “spiritualism” as you shared your perspective, yet I understood your perceptions and responded in context.
      Thank you for your appreciation of the question.
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        Mar 14 2012: "I agree that these motives are unseen, but unseen does not imply unnatural."

        I completely do not believe they are unnatural - rather "super" natural because they go beyond a process we can know/perceive in perceptual, empirical and individualistic reality.

        "And the consequence of these forces is usually good"

        No these primary factors make us go to war with "enemies" of the "group" if they are not carefully reflected on... Our instinctual motivations do not make a natural path of goodness, but with the ability to be great, yes.

        However.... I do agree by hating ideas of "religion" we are acting irrational... but we still need that counterculture in my opinion. We need people thinking on opposites and debating in order to figure out where is the middle ground. While we have fundamentalist religions being radical... We need fundamentalist cultures to be radical back. As soon as the ideas supervene into actions then that side is completely wrong - which is why I would call myself and atheist before a theist - the history of the two paradigms are not equal in violence... But "atheism" has brought war to people.

        It comes down to HOW we define spirituality and in every definition I find that it is not "supernatural," and every pseudoscience about such phenomena are suggesting the system of energy we have in our bodies produce the means for this "spirituality."

        Being happy vs. Knowing - is spirituality, because this supervenes into groupthinking - which is then a religious-like in nature. We are a social-animal and this is important to understand our everyday realities we try to manifest.

        thank you
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          Mar 14 2012: “While we have fundamentalist religions being radical... We need fundamentalist cultures to be radical back.”
          By this do you mean cultures should not tolerate harm to people even when it is motivated by religious belief?

          “But "atheism" has brought war to people.”
          About the existence of God, I do not know. And it is alright that I do not know. I refer to this as acceptance.

          “Being happy vs. Knowing - is spirituality.”
          In the above thought is your “spirituality” like my “acceptance?”

          Thank you.
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        Mar 14 2012: "By this do you mean cultures should not tolerate harm to people even when it is motivated by religious belief?"

        I think that answers itself Phil - and anything "religious-like" such as patriotism, nationalism, etc.

        "Atheism" is a position... historically "irreligion" or "anti-religion" today "Atheism" has super-imposed on that position that is very ancient - rather than just taking the position of no immaterial God. When atheism is the prior to science, it suggest that we can know the entire universe, which isn't false, but the developed process today makes for a contradictory system. Since there are clearly things that exist that empirical science cannot measure as of today. Rather "skeptical-naturalism" should be the respects today atheist strive for - rather than a vague sense of "rational thinking."

        See... my thing about spirituality is that like everything else in the psyche of a person and persons. It is on a complex process that is not simple a point A to B spectrum but rather a cycling system. Although we receive a "conscious claim" how our body receives that information is entirely unqiue than our "minds." So you are asking if a conscious spirituality is needed? That is a no, but I would want to say yes always, because we have the innate nature already preexisting that establishes a spirituality regardless. So if we do not reflect on what is "spirituality" we allow ourselves to be taken in by our instincts without a full metaphysical investigation of what those instincts are telling us to do... ideally they tell us what group to follow in order to be happy.... feeling acceptance is apart of spirituality but it is much more intense than that. If we can figure out "why we want happiness" and "why we want to know" I believe we can find what makes us spiritual-beings.
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          Mar 14 2012: Your last parapraph seems to describe imagination, which is essential to discovery: a cycling process; investigation; avoid blinding instincts.
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    R H

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    Mar 14 2012: Dear friend. Let me participate in this question.You ask what does spirituality mean, you doubt intellectual constructs, you accept that souls are not real, and alternative, or 'spirit', life is only poetic. You then build your thesis on what isn't, and interpret 'spiritual benefits' as an interpretation of 'goals' and 'forces beyond your control'. Therefore your question is valid. You really have no idea of what spirituality means. (I'm not trying to be critical here.)But you want an explanation you can understand. But you doubt intellectual constructs. But you have no sprititual knowledge or understanding. Therefore you've sort of created a conversational paradox. Really though, you answered your own question, and created a platform for your self proclaimed non-intellectual construct.
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      Mar 14 2012: Let me choose just one point and try to understand your message.
      You seem to be asserting that life threatening illness is something I can control.
      Please elaborate.
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        R H

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        Mar 14 2012: Sure. I apologize if I came across a bit harsh. I get frustrated with the wholesale disregard of the possibility of life beyond what we know, because many people think they do know and have done such a poor job of presenting their case throughout history. But it's my frustration, not yours. So, I apologize. My comments were that with what you gave, it was impossible to answer the question meaningfully. I made no assertion that "life threatening illness is something I can control". You started with what your assessment was of what Aristotle was doing (which I believe there are other possibilities), then you're suspicious and doubt 'intellectual constructs' all together, then immediately jump to '...souls are not real' and build your case. You presented the concept of alternative life (spirituality) as poetry, and that rationally and intellectually developed 'constructs' were unreliable. I felt I had nowhere to go. So let's say I was too literal. The underlying theme I take away from your evaluation of what 'spirituality' means and 'how it functions in one's life' is that it serves the imagination and personal moral character to cope. I say that assessment is like looking at the surface of the ocean from the sky, seeing the boats and the jumping fish and the waves, and determining that you have now been made capable of determining what the ocean is. Then you put your foot in the ocean, and someone describes the ocean to you in words they can find, and you then determine that it's not like that at all, it doesn't make sense to you, so there is no ocean, only fish and boats and waves. Hopefully I'm getting close to answering the question, with undeveloped vocabulary for the concept. Again though, I'm sorry if I was harsh. That is not acceptable here to me.
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          Mar 14 2012: What a wonderful response.

          Perhaps the frustration comes from the perception that I think in my essay I am writing the truth. I should have put a disclaimer: I am not writing what is, only what I think after careful study.

          Aunt Margaret is real, and that philosophical conversation I related was the last of about twenty years wonderful dialogue. She was devoutly Catholic and I was moving away from relgion altogether. My ideas about soul constituted the only heresy she could not appreciate. On the way home, I told my wife that I would not have philosophical conversations with Aunt Margaret again, because I did not want to upset her again; conversations about daylillies would suffice.

          I do not want to invoke harshness and regret it when I do.

          Thank you.
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    Mar 14 2012: I consider myself a 'spiritual non-religious person', to some degree. I'm not sure if we have a 'soul'. I think science does a good job at explaining what we are as humans, and is continuing to better describe human qualities. I think it's not unreasonable to make the claim that 'the mind is a complex relationship between many different brain functions".

    That being said, I think spiritualism only has a personal role in life. For me, spirituality helps me understand human nature more than it does some divine nature.
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      Mar 14 2012: I appreciate your sharing.

      in "spirituality helps me understand human nature," what are you referring to about human nature? A person's culture, emotions, hopes and dreams, psychology?

      It seems to me "spirituality," which implies other worlds and other beings and such is not needed to explain these other human practices.

      Just trying to understand.
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        Mar 14 2012: I've always held the belief that 'all things are connected'. I don't believe this to be a scientific or philosophical belief; We are bodies of joined sub-atomic particles, on a planet of joined sub-atomic particles, in a dense universe where even the 'void' is a thing which connects worlds to stars and comets.

        You're correct when you interpret my use of "human nature" as representing "A person's culture, emotions, hopes and dreams, psychology", which I believe spirituality helps me understand.

        Spirituality does imply other worlds, but it's difficult for me to conceive of other worlds 'found' by spirituality. I don't like telling a person they're wrong, and in my believing there is no greater spiritual world it could often be assumed that I must also believe that opposed beliefs are wrong, which I don't. But I must model the universe according to my understanding of 'true' nature.

        So when I study a spirituality, I think of it as having its roots in a long history and in our current world. I try to understand how these roots impact the person, and how the person impacts the spirituality itself. How the person uses the spirituality to justify some emotions, and how the spirituality creates some other emotions. I find spirituality can help you learn a lot about a person and about a people, and since so many human cultures have created spirituality, understanding the phenomenon of spirituality can help one understand being human entirely.

        While I don't believe in 'spiritual worlds', I do believe that spirituality is inherit in our nature and try to understand how to apply 'spiritual truth' to myself without accepting the mysticism of spirituality. This allows me to easily explore morality without accepting a universal moral doctrine, or to understand deep human relationships without seeing them as part of some plan. It allows me to live as if I were spiritual, without being religious.
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          Mar 14 2012: I appreciate your response and feel associated.

          When I encounter someone, for example, a stranger at an airport, I feel empathy: here’s someone else coping with the unknown. It’s a neutral posture that goes no further, for example, involves no further consideration, unless circumstances require more. If there is an appeal for help, I will offer it. If I see evidence that a bomb is about to be activated, I will try to stop it and suffer the consequences.
          In my view, what you are referring to as “spiritual” has to do with the existential assumptions one makes – the assumptions that give that person comfort in the face of humankind’s unknowns. Most of the assumptions were handed down from a culture, and the individual is trying to fit those assumptions into his/her hard-earned opinions about how they comport with reality. Where they stand on that evaluation is something to be appreciated. However, if they are about to harm someone, I want to express my opposition, or as I mentioned, try to stop a bomber.
          However, I wish to avoid letting assumptions guide my life. I prefer to conduct myself daily with the posture, “I do not know, and it is acceptable that I do not know.” I recognize that making assumptions is natural, so I try to keep my assumptions positive: I will survive and flourish; the person(s) I will experience today will have integrity; my daughters and wife will make good choices today; humanity understands how to achieve peace better than ever before.
          Does this sharing comport with your wonderful essay?
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    Mar 17 2012: The conversation, at about half-way through the chosen time, has helped me accept aversion to spirituality. Thank you.

    Spirituality seems subjective. The possibilities are boundless. And the potential to understand a given spirituality, whether existing or new, is almost non-existent. Pick any well established spirituality and dedicate yourself to understanding it and marvel at the work required. Of course, there is nothing wrong with spending life that way, but it is not my choice.

    Reflecting on Ken Brown’s thoughts, you might say I have gotten over being non-spiritual. While I love art in all its forms (including, if not especially, provocative fiction, like Chekhov or Faulkner or O’Connor), I do not wish to spend time on spirituality. Furthermore, I enjoy the psychological benefits of all forms of exercise, especially Yoga, with its good will and inspiration among practitioners; I expect no more from it than the consequences of practice. The same is true of singing; I love to sing merely for the practice and joy of the songs and sharing but expect no more from it. I could go on.

    I want to continue to respond but want to delete the sentence, “Denying that I am ‘spiritual,’ I try to think with secular terms: goals; motivation; inspiration; imagination; satisfaction; peace; acceptance; focus; faith in reality; energy.” I am non-spiritual seems sufficient.
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    Mar 17 2012: I define the word spirituality as The bridge to the source,that bridge is made of the one he sent to bring us back to him,the source,the prime intellect who is outside of time and probability and this universe.Nothing we have can account for him as he doesn't reside here,it's in the book all the way through. it says he resides in heaven,people have to get over being catholic bashed,presbyterian bashed,fundermentalist bashed,if they ever were bashed which i find highly unlikely as most like to generalise something they only read in passing.

    But i'm also of an ethnic people that still remembers what it is to feel the pulse of the bush and the land,the ocean,we knew alongtime ago that talking to plants made them respond though we couldn't see it we knew it happens.If i'm right then science would have to build a scanner that can see if there is spin going on in the brain.

    I just read some of the other posts and some of them have been bashed,i have a friend whose mother forced him which goes against my personal beliefs of freedom of choice.No this post is really aimed at those who belong to this age and have never read the book,those who like to get on the bandwagon so to speak.
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      Mar 17 2012: I appreciate the ideas you have shared. Especially the idea that people do not need to be defensive about their ideas (I assume no harm to others, in which case the law should be encountered and enforced).

      I am in awe of nature and spend much energy maintaining flowers my wife provides and other natural enhancements of our home, like splashing water at our back yard patio. I have some favorite poetry in lamenated pages and various pieces of art located there. However, I normally prefer just studying a bloom, often a rose.

      I appreciate nature as it is and art as presented, without trying to modify them, whether based on someone else's statements (the book, for example), family traditions, or my own creativity. But my way is not the only way.

      Thank you.
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    Mar 15 2012: (...Continued)

    I reject the idea that God or Thing, is still involved, save for the evolutionary processes invoked at the time of creation. We can call the ongoing processes Nature. Nature being the sum of all cycles of life from the universal down to the individual. I see humans as one of the functions or sub-functions of Nature. Here again is my spirituality rooted.

    This is the context of my use of the word 'spirituality' --and while it entails unsolved mystery, it is not religious. I pay no homage to God or Thing, I merely acknowledge it existed, whatever it is, at least long enough to originate our universe.

    My spirituality deals with the creation and disposition of my essence, my soul is the character of that essence.

    Have I explained my earlier statement?
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      Mar 15 2012: “Have I explained my earlier statement?” Yes, and we appreciate your time to express it.

      Perhaps I now understand why Ched Lambert added “energy” to my list of human qualities the word “spiritual” might invoke.

      “That which is our selves, our character, our essence, is destroyed in the process of that energy changing state at our death.” This is perhaps the key benefit of your statement: a reasonable explanation of the effect of death.

      Your explanation brings to mind the importance of integrity and accomplishment. For example, when people write to attract the audience, their legacy cannot be distinguished from falsehood. None of Albert Einstein’s writings about religion are understandable, because he leaves it to the reader to define “religion.” Some say it’s a Spinoza-like religion, but what do they know? And what did Abraham Lincoln mean when he attributed responsibility for the Civil War to God? Was he writing to be published?

      Your definition of “soul” might help a person understand John Coltrane music, Van Gogh painting, Ralph Waldo Emerson writing, and Abraham Lincoln politics.

      Thank you.
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    Mar 15 2012: I was born into the Catholic faith but left it. Even young I had a difficult time accepting the allegories of the faith that were represented to me as factual happenings. I was considered disruptive in catechism because I kept asking "what is space in?" I still ask this question. To me, my reality dictates that everything is "in" something. Our planet in the solar system, the system in a galaxy, the galaxy in a universe, the universe in a ...what?

    I also did and do believe that everything comes into existence by a process. Our science tells us compellingly that everything is built of energy, and energy can be neither created or destroyed, it can only change state. This is a conundrum to me. Where did this energy that can't be created or destroyed come from? Something brought that energy into existence and gave it the parameters of existence.

    These two questions are the fundamental mysteries of existence, and they seem to have two different answers. One is "I don't know" and the other is "God did it." My personal preference chooses option two, but only on agreement that "God" is a term descriptive of some process as opposed to a deity. I would be just as content to name it "Thing." The term is merely a handle identifying an unknown process of origination.

    So now I come back to the question of spirituality, and with reference to the concept of a soul. My idea of a soul is that collection of energy that makes up our physical selves and the essence of them. Because energy can't be made or destroyed, I believe that the most reduced form of our energy will continue in cycle until the heat death of the universe --the container which holds it. Ergo, my perspective denies the possibility of an afterlife, except in the most rudimentary sense. That which is our selves, our character, our essence, is destroyed in the process of that energy changing state at our death. The state change returns that energy to the "general pool" of energy in the universe. (Continues ...)
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    Mar 14 2012: I am indeed writing about living people because I do not believe that any cohesive part of us, what might be termed a 'soul,' exists beyond death so I placed my context firmly among the living. Our souls, if we have them, are analogous to the nature of the living person. We are made of energy which is returned to its origin on death, and I describe that origin as the sum of energy in the universe. I don't attach 'spirits' to spirituality, instead I relate it to human perspective on belief as opposed to faith, where faith is a religious belief set --in the context of this discussion.

    What motivates interest in spirituality? People are curious about one another and all things relating to human existence. It needn't be based on a belief in afterlife as you appear to imply.
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      Mar 14 2012: It seems you write about the "essential principle of" each person, which indeed involves the living person. I appreciate that idea.

      "I relate it to human perspective on belief as opposed to faith, where faith is a religious belief set --in the context of this discussion."

      Mimicking a word sense from Abraham Lincoln, who said, "I have a policy against policy," I have a belief against beliefs. I do not want to follow Albert Einstein's example of beleiving in a static universe so firmly that he would fudge his own mathematics -- his own brilliance.

      I accepted that neither my mind nor heart followed the religion I was born into and reconsidered my faith. I trust and am committed to reality, much of which is unknown: I perceive my faith is in reality. Often, my faith leads me to conclude I do not know and its OK that I do not know.

      I perceive religion to be the practice of making assumptions about an unknown reality, then trying to live according to those assumptions. For example, one may assume that a particular scripture is God's word (actually two assumptions when you include God is) then try to master that literature. Clearly, my faith assumes reality is sufficient and therefore my trust and commitment are well placed.

      Another TED Conversation, , concluded: "Religion is each person’s acquisition and implementation of preferences for how to experience the unknown and variously integrate the resulting understanding or privation into their life" (my interpretation of the conversation). That definition seemingly accomodates my faith.

      Thank you for interesting ideas, and please keep sharing.
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    Mar 14 2012: "While we have fundamentalist religions being radical... We need fundamentalist cultures to be radical back." Would it be correct to restate this idea as follows: harm to other people with justification on religious belief will not be tolerated.

    Like you, I do not condone the absolutism involved in atheism. It has taken me about a decade to figure out what I am, and my assessment is that I am neutral. Regarding the question, "Does God exist," my response is: I do not know. Beyond this thought, there is no more: I do not know. And it is alright that I do not know. I think that leads to your comment copied below.

    "Being happy vs. Knowing - is spirituality." That's your expression, but I prefer "acceptance" to "spirituality."

    Please respond if you like, and if not, thank you for helpful input.
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    Mar 14 2012: I don't make the association between spirituality and religion. I believe they can intersect, but they don't necessarily have to. As to the soul, some of the most soulful people I know are atheists with absolutely sterling character. Some of the most soulless people I know are religious and possessed of poor character. But my gauge of these people is biased by my own perceptions of what soul and character are.

    Religion is perhaps the greatest of human conundrums: It is responsible for tremendous good and generosity of spirit, and, at the same time, responsible for more hatred and suffering than any other motivator.
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      Mar 14 2012: "I don't make the association between spirituality and religion."
      Is spirituality unnatural?

      "As to the soul, some of the most soulful people I know are atheists with absolutely sterling character. Some of the most soulless people I know are religious and possessed of poor character."
      You seem writing about personalities of living people. The soul I wrote about would survive death of the body.

      It seems to me belief in survival of death motivates attention to spirituality. If not, what motivates interest in spirituality?