Emotion & Spirituality

spirituality

It is likely spirituality is just an emotion. But…

There are threads throughout this blog that touch on religion. One may not agree with my interpretation, but it’s certainly a valid one. It’s fascinating to observe the ways in which emotion and religion feed off of one another. I question whether religion could succeed without our tendency to be deeply affected by our emotions. Many like to believe religion is driven from spirituality.

  • Religion being based on the belief in and worship of a supernatural being.
  • Spirituality being of or related to the human spirit or soul.

The latter is harder to precisely nail down, and not as well understood. When I label someone as religious, we all know what I mean. A characterization of spiritual means….what exactly? It may conjure images of a Buddhist in a temple in Tibet or a pot-smoking hippie in Haight Ashbury. The former, by the way, is a religion. As a religion, Buddhism seems to get more of a pass as being more spiritual in nature, at least in our western culture.

Some religions do seem to have more of a pure connection to our spirituality than others, but there’s a distinctly subjective component to such an assessment. To a Catholic, her religion may be deeply personal and spiritual, but to a different Catholic, or an outsider who practices another religion, it can seem more like a business. Nice if someone happens to get some spiritual benefit from it, or if it helps society in some way, but the manifestation feels more like a business in its day to day actions. Again, this is subjective – a view I am not declaring as my own, but observe. Don’t mean to pick on Catholics. They are an easy target, but nearly every religion suffers from some of the same. You can think of it as a PR problem, or more.

People who declare themselves as spiritual often have a sort of almost condescending disdain for “organized religion.” They believe those organizations aren’t pure – tainted by hypocrisy and human agendas, not to mention the unsustainable science (not that science is infallible) – and while they can be helpful, they are just as often harmful to society and the world. We all know there is ample evidence to support this claim, which is one reason why it prevails. (Other reasons are that we sometimes believe what we want to believe and what’s convenient for us, and often look at and only “see” evidence that validates those desires or already held beliefs. This debate will likely rage until the end of time, and I have little to no ambition of resolving it here.)

So spirituality seems to exist on some moral high ground in our linguistic interpretation. It is almost by definition pure, and so one who is very spiritual, or connected spiritually, not only doesn’t “need” religion, but is thought to be operating on a higher plane, even if that person happens to also practice a religion. When viewed this way, it sure does start to sound like religion is frivolous. Like a bunch of rules stapled to the real or true underpinnings that are supposedly what make it viable in the first place.

But what is spirituality really? Once we get past the linguistic interpretations and visual images that concept conjures, what actually is it really all about? The human spirit is often thought about outside of the confines of spirituality, even though they’re presumably based on the same thing. Again, our linguistic interpretations get fuzzy, making meanings soft, and able to shift around in different contexts.

Is spirituality just a manifestation of whatever our human spirit happens to be, or is it some mystical quality – or even a force – that we don’t/can’t fully understand, but can only hope to tap into through disciplined practice? Spirituality doesn’t require a God, but it does seem to require…something. Something not part of us, at least biologically.

Several years ago I told a dear friend that I speculate God is in each of us (as opposed to some metaphorical king on a throne in heaven). Sounds kind of “spiritual,” eh? We have a very respectful disagreement about religion, but it hasn’t included me fleshing out this idea of what I meant by that. The depths of what I’d have to go through to do it here aren’t practical, unless the reader is seeking a treatment for insomnia, but I can summarize a couple of options.

  1. Some abstract manifestation of the Holy Spirit. 1/3 of the Trinity (even if you don’t believe in the other two parts). Not something separate from our spirit, or something that influences our spirit, but it actually is our spirit. Or our spirit is it. Whichever way you want to look at it. It is this quality that is in us that gives rise to everything we ultimately associate with spirituality and religion. I don’t necessarily mean this to indicate it is false, and we made the rest up (though that is a distinct possibility). Taking it a step further (than I would), it could even be that this quality is a part of a greater whole in some capacity that connects us on a very deep, unconscious level, or acts as a sort of force that directs us in subtle yet profound ways. Taken far enough, that interpretation could get us pretty close to conventional wisdom about religion – right up to that greater whole being God, or part of God.
  2. It’s emotions. Our body chemistry doing what it does, and our mind applying all sorts of deep significance and meaning to it. On the surface this makes it seem like something that only manifests within us – chemistry and cognition combine to produce something psychologically, which implies it isn’t real in a conventional spiritual (and certainly religious) sense. That’s possible, but it’s also possible those things are real, and do in fact connect us in very deep and profound ways that we may only be beginning to have the understanding to leave room for. One possibility here is to view it in a quantum context. At the quantum level, things that don’t seem like they even could be connected, are. We do not understand how or why it works, but it is demonstrable. In other words, there are forces (and I use that term loosely) at work that we cannot pinpoint to a cause, or understand how they work. (Sorry, but a whole treatise on quantum theory is well beyond the scope of this writing. To get you started with the tip of the iceberg, look up quantum superposition and quantum entanglement. Then work from there). When things are mysterious to us – can’t be explained – they tend to get assigned all sorts of mystic qualities because in our linear/cartesian (non-quantum) way of generally perceiving the world, we assume there has to be a “force” (in our limited linguistic definition of force) that is acting on them. For example: before humans understood weather, we knew storms were driven by a force, but couldn’t explain it, so it was mysterious and became tied to everything else that was mysterious about the world. It’s easy to see how this would give rise to the concept of a master controller, and how we might still be doing that in other domains today. But I digress. Anyway…

1 & 2 have a lot of potential overlap between them in a sort of Chicken and Egg way, though they can each stand on their own as well.

Or, it’s really just purely emotion, and chemistry, and nothing else.

But there’s that nagging feeling (emotion) that there is something else going on.

Yeah, it’s probably just emotion that becomes a belief.

Advertisements

4 Responses to “Emotion & Spirituality”


  1. 1 Vivian McAdams October 26, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    As a tangent, my observation of religious people would further divide them into branches that I tend to label “churchy” and “religious.” I know, using religious again is not good labeling for a discussion but there it is. Religious people, to me, may be closer to your “spiritual” as I see them putting the tenets of their beliefs into practice, ie working in a homeless shelter or to a charitable organization that is not tied to a specific religion/church. This could include support monetarily. Churchly people go to church and yes, often give money. But, the church is frequently large, almost always very ritual (your Catholic example) and the donations go more to being self sustaining than doing good.

    Clearly and obviously, you do not have to be religious in any way to do good works.


  1. 1 Religion is More than Belief | Just a job to do Trackback on November 4, 2016 at 11:40 am
  2. 2 Atheism: Instrumental versus Intrinsic | Just a job to do Trackback on November 8, 2016 at 7:38 am
  3. 3 Cloudy | Just a job to do Trackback on November 28, 2016 at 7:24 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s




Pages

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: