So Sam is going to rehabilitate “spiritual”. I hope succeeds, but I’d like to see how he’s going to define spiritual. I know of another, very astute thinker, Bruno Marchal, who similarly wants to rehabilitate “theology” as the study of what is most fundamental. He notes that it shares the root of “theory”. But I’m afraid “theology” is too far gone…and “spiritual” may be too.
I don’t know…. I think Sam and Hitchens were spot on. Personally, I think that I came to the same conclusions about the use of the word ‘spiritual’ many years ago, in my preteen years when my love and interest in science and space was being stoked. The connection the word ‘spiritual’ had with religion dissolved away during that time; I share Hitchens’, Sam Harris’s, and others take on the word being an apt descriptor, encompassing all of the reverence, awe and amazement of the cosmos and the marvelous things contained within it,....without any conscious or unconscious connection with religion or the supernatural.
From the time I was young, science in general—physics and the space sciences in particular—held a supreme respect and fascination with me, and I have never had any problem using the word ‘spiritual’ in the sense of it meaning deeply intellectually fascinating (and in turn, emotionally moving),.. sans theological implications.
“… the total number of stars in the universe is greater than all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the planet Earth…” Carl Sagan
If Carl Sagan’s estimate of the number of stars in our universe is correct and you believe (as I do) that man has evolved from earlier forms, here’s an enigma for you. Not withstanding SETI’s long and careful hunt for extraterrestrial life, it appears that we’re alone in our solar system and perhaps the galaxy. And even if there exist billions of worlds teeming with life, still, intelligent awareness must be an incredibly rare commodity across the universe (after all, it’s a rarity even here on earth.)
Somehow, among all the untold atoms comprising our universe, a few have managed to come together under precisely the right conditions for life, and beyond life, consciousness. Think about that … molecules aware of themselves. What a glorious trick! What’s the probability of that?
There is an unbroken link between us and the first primordial forms two billion or so years ago. Of course that could also be said of most organisms … blades of grass, redwood trees, bacteria; all of those living things throughout the ages… unaware. But instead of developing a pair of claws and the ability to scuttle across the slime of some abyss we’ve managed to evolve an awareness of ourselves and our universe. I propose that individually, the odds of that are so great as to be impossible. It’s like winning the cosmic lottery …and therein lies a kind of spirituality.
Well said Wreck…. I agree. Will post a response later ( no time right now)
I don’t really see a need to re-define or “rehabilitate” the word spiritual so that it fits in with a secular understanding of the world. By definition spiritual means:
relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
Its scientifically possible to understand why and how humans can vastly alter their state of consciousnesses and perception of reality without invoking a word that by definition goes against a material understanding of the universe.