Some Small Thoughts on the Future of Spirituality

What is spirituality? Is it worth understanding? Nowadays, it is out of vogue among academics and intellectuals to be spiritual, but there are still plenty who are.  The problem, for myself at least, is that those who consider themselves spiritual often state things or believe things that make claims about how the world operates, and yet those claims are scientifically indefensible or run against well validated scientific claims. Or they adopt positions claiming scientific backing when there is none.

Suppose we accept that a significant number of people have had spiritual inclinations. And they crave a spiritual life. Is there a recourse for spirituality that is grounded, or at least in agreement, with the most careful and well-validated of scientific results?

Is there a spirituality that does not depend on the existence or functionality of “spirit” in the world? That does not depend on some supernatural tint to the world?

Is there a form of spirituality for which a physicalist can accept without abandoning their other philosophical claims?

Suppose many of us–or all of us–have richer and wholer lives when we embrace something within spirituality. Can we do so in a large scale without creating rifts between how we understand spirituality?

What is the essential psychological quality or experience of spirituality?

Does spirituality depend on ritual?

Does spirituality have anything to do with religion? Or, like many other things, is spirituality something that can be understood from a non-religious perspective as well as , or even better than, religious-tinctured spirituality?

Do people always mean the same thing when they say they are spiritual but not religious? Or religious but not spiritual? One gets the sense that “religious” means in this case membership or identification with one of several institutions or traditions, like the Catholic Church or the Jewish tradition.

Suppose it is something like this: spirituality is not driven by any mystical connection between the self and the world, but rather that it is strictly the perception of how one understands one’s place in the world. Perhaps it is strictly a choice, or maybe a feature of our cultural way of thinking that has us belong or not belong in a certain way to the world.

Perhaps spirituality is an intellectual exercise rather than an intuitive one.

If we wish to live in a world in which more people cared about grounding themselves in a non-supernatural outlook, which embraced a more scientifically validated naturalism and skepticism, that strived to live and think by utilizing Occam’s principle of parsimony– can we still find a meaningful and satisfying spiritualism?

I meet people who are exceptionally resistant or deaf to spirituality. I was and perhaps still am. Is it a prejudice inspired by observing a people who proclaim their spirituality, but also spirituality’s dependence on objects like crystals, stones, or the conduit of “energy” that results in organizing one’s furniture in a certain way?

The “enlightened” atheists since at least the 18th century have sometimes stated that religion is an archaic habit, and that it will slowly weaken as we advance. Newer atheists of the past decades have gone so far as to claim religion will someday be something we’re only exposed to in museums.

Perhaps many traditions and beliefs among spiritualists are fated to wither. But suppose it is true that a significant portion of humanity craves some sort of spiritual life. Even if the things they/we have come to believe are not true, does that necessarily mean that spirituality is not something to be examined, that perhaps something essential and valuable can be found that is satisfying for our future, and that does not call the more skeptical, atheistic, physicalist among us to abandon our beliefs?

Maybe this is the way to describe it: spirituality points to a mode of human perception that is a part of the full human experience. But because of how ideas can often be associated throughout the course of history, spirituality has become deeply associated with ideas whose time has past. And that a skepticism is perhaps the thing we need to disassociate those ideas, to lose those ideas whose time has past, and to find what is valuable in what was left.

We have encountered this progress with ideas many times before: ancient ideas that persisted through time, but were often dismissed because they conflicted with newer beliefs. But then some thinker comes along and understands the old idea was a complex one, with many tightly associated ideas. And that by loosening the knot of those associations, we can better release the valued ideas from the old, and make the worn fresh again.

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