A Note on Spirituality

While I am laying down the law regarding the proper usage of controversial words, allow me to express a few thoughts about spirituality.

P.Z. Myers gave this post, in which he comments on the awarding of the Templeton Prize, the following title: “Spirituality?” Another Word for Lies and Empty Noise.

Mark Chu-Carroll took a different view, in this post:

So what do I mean when I say spirituality? There’s something more to my life than just a bunch of chemical reactions. I love my wife. I care about other people. I core about the way the world is, and work for things that I think will make it a better place. These things – these emotions, desires, concerns – they may well be nothing more than emergent phenomena resulting from the basic physical and chemical processes that I am a part of. But for my own experience of my life, even if they are nothing more than an illusion, they seem real – as real as other abstractions like free will, morality, and other such things.

Mike Dunford expresses similar thoughts in this post:

For me, the word “spirituality” includes that special sense of wonder and awe that arrives at unpredictable moments. I can’t come within a country mile of an adequate description of the feeling, but I suspect that I’m not the only one who has experienced something like it.

Awe and wonder are not really things I feel very much, so I don’t have much of an opinion on Mike’s view of the matter. I recognize myself in Mark’s description (well, I’m not married, but you get the idea). On the other hand, I would not describe an awareness of such feelings as “spirituality.”

I tend to agree with several of Mark’s commenters that this is really a definitional issue. If Mike and Mark want to define spirituality the way they do, they are welcome to do so. Personally I tend to see things pretty much the way P.Z. does. There are uses of the word that are measured and sensible, but most of the time when the word comes up you should be on your guard.

For example, my local bookstore has a Spirituality section. The books shelved there are wall-to-wall nonsense. For me what comes to mind when I hear the word is some sort of vague, watered-down pseudoreligion along the lines of Deepak Chopra. It probably involves a lot of praise for quantum mechanics and a lot of criticism for ignorant materialist atheist types.

Allow me to close with an anecdote. A few years ago I was sitting in Palmer Square in Princeton, NJ. In one hand I had a sub from Hoagie Haven, which for my non-Princeton based readers means it was a very good sub indeed. In the other hand was a copy of the new issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. There was an icy cold bottle of Stewart’s Root Beer on the table in front of me. The Sun was shining, the birds were chirping. Life was good.

Then I noticed two gentlemen approaching the group of tables where I was sitting. One was carrying a large camera, the other looked like a reporter of some kind. They were going from table to table, talking to the people sitting there for a few minutes and then moving on to the next one. From the way the tables were laid out it was clear I would be the last one they would come to.

Finally they worked there way over to me. Reporter guy sat down and gave me a brethtakingly serious look. He explained that he was working on a special for an obscure cable channel called Odyssey. Then he said, “I’d like to talk to you about a subject that many people find difficult to discuss.” I was intrigued, but said nothing. “I want to talk about spirituality.”

“Okay,” I replied, scarfing another bite of that most excellent sandwich. His look growing, if possible, even more serious, he said, “Do you consider yourself a spiritual person.”

“No,” I replied.

He seemed a bit taken back of the bluntness of, and lack of hesitation in, my answer.

“Really,” he said, sounding surprised. “Why not?”

I said, “Well, I’ve never seen any evidence that would lead me to believe that there is anything beyond the material world we see around us. I don’t see any particular reason to think that God exists or that any particular relgion has much to offer in terms of understanding the world.”

Then he pounced. “Ah! I didn’t say religion. I asked about spirituality.”

“Then you’ll have to explain to me what you have in mind,” I said. “To me spirituality and religion are very similar.”

“I mean things like feeling one with nature, or having a mystical experience.”

“Well,” I said. “I think those are really just nonsense phrases people use but that don’t really mean anything.”

He laughed at that and we chatted for a few more moments. Then he moved on. My views on the matter haven’t changed since that interview was done.

And I never found it if my remarks made it into the final cut.

Comments

  1. #1 The Science Pundit
    March 16, 2007

    I always fall back on the Salman Rushdie view of that word. I find it works quite well for me.

    When asked what spiritual practice he used in his writing, if any: “I have no spiritual practice. The word spirituality should be banned from the English language for at least 50 years… Talk about a word that has lost its meaning! You can’t walk your dog without doing it in a ‘spiritual ‘manner, you can’t cook without talking about spirituality!”

  2. #2 Jonathan Vos Post
    March 16, 2007

    Jason: “Awe and wonder are not really things I feel very much”

    I’m puzzled, then, about what you FEEL from doing mathematics. Can’t math be beautiful? Does a really deep mathematical truth make you feel a sense of wonder? I use “sense of wonder” in the way it is also used to describe the feeling from reading good science fiction.

    I know that most mathematical discourse is on very precise denotaion, but I am asking you for the atmospherics, the emotion, the connotation.

    Some Mathematicians feel that they are engaged in a spiritual act when they do Mathematics.

    In extreme cases, they claim to have gotten the Math from Goddess (Ramanujan) or God (“Proofs from the Book” — Erdos). Setting aside the religiosity, which provkes more heat than light in the Science Blogs lately, what drives you to do Math? Surely not the money?

  3. #3 Greta Christina
    March 16, 2007

    This is actually something I’ve been wrestling with a lot.

    I do sometimes experience something that sure sounds like what religious people call a mystical or religious experience — a feeling of transcendence and epiphany, an experience of being intimately connected with the vastness of space and time, a sense (to paraphrase something I once wrote in a porn novel) of being “filled with the immensity of the moment, the clear understanding that infinity and eternity are present in this minuscule sliver that is my life.” A fleeting moment when the chatterer in my brain shuts up for a few seconds, and I’m really and truly present in my life.

    In fact, one of the few things that bugs me about being an atheist is that there’s no place to share that experience with other like-minded people and where we can help one another experience it. (I keep threatening to start an atheist church one of these days… but I suspect I’d probably just be re-inventing Unitarianism…)

    And if someone wants to call that experience “spirituality,” then as long as they don’t act like jerks, I ultimately don’t care very much.

    But it does bug me somewhat. Because I think calling that experience “spiritual” implies that it has something to do with spirit — i.e., the ghost in the machine, a metaphysical substance inhabiting the body, rather than an aspect of consciousness as it’s created by the brain and the rest of the body.

    And I think identifying the experience of transcendence and epiphany with metaphysics does make it subject to a whole host of goofy bullshit nonsense — the stuff Jason talks about when he talks about the Spirituality section of the bookstore. Crystals and past lives and all the rest of it. And while I think that stuff’s not as harmful as, say, the Christian Right or the Taliban, it can be somewhat harmful, and it does still bug me.

  4. #4 Koray
    March 16, 2007

    Greta: Then you might be interested in Susan Blackmore’s career and writings. Also, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to experience such feelings as an atheist (sorta like taking drugs).

    However, I do object to phrases like “being connected with the universe and eternity, infinity, etc.” as they don’t mean anything to me except in porn novels.

  5. #5 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    March 16, 2007

    Happy James Madison’s birthday!

  6. #6 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    March 16, 2007

    There was an icy cold bottle of Stewart’s Root Beer on the table in front of me.

    Distinctly middle-brow.

  7. #7 Blake Stacey
    March 16, 2007

    In one hand I had a sub from Hoagie Haven, which for my non-Princeton based readers means it was a very good sub indeed.

    The most “spiritual” food in my diet is probably the suan la chow show at Mary Chung’s. Like Purgatory, it’ll burn your sins away. Follow it up with the Yu Hsiang eggplant. . . ooh. . . .

  8. #8 Ben
    March 16, 2007

    I think it’s all about the interpretation of the feelings that are being described. I’ve had moments in my life where I’ve had perfect clearity, or I’ve felt what I could only describe as nirvana, or I’ve seen something just incredibly amazing… but I’ve never felt the need to connect those things to something external. Some sort of higher power or put them in some sort of spiritual context. They were just wonderful moments in my life.

    Event during moments when I’ve had some passing fancy about the interconnectedness of life… or felt really connected to other people. I’ve never felt the need to evoke some higher power. Life is amazing and astounding, that’s the end of story.

    I think once you get an appriciation for how absolutely incredibly the Universe and life really is… you really don’t need to ascribe these moments and emotions to something as nebulous and as fleeting as spirituality.

  9. #9 Blake Stacey
    March 16, 2007

    Greta Christina:

    And I think identifying the experience of transcendence and epiphany with metaphysics does make it subject to a whole host of goofy bullshit nonsense — the stuff Jason talks about when he talks about the Spirituality section of the bookstore. Crystals and past lives and all the rest of it. And while I think that stuff’s not as harmful as, say, the Christian Right or the Taliban, it can be somewhat harmful, and it does still bug me.

    This sums up my feelings pretty well. It also inspires (innuminates?) me to break out the Alan Sokal:

    Thus, I am indeed mildly disconcerted by a society in which 50% of the adult populace believes in extrasensory perception, 42% in haunted houses, 41% in possession by the devil, 36% in telepathy, 32% in clairvoyance, 28% in astrology, 15% in channeling, and 45% in the literal truth of the creation story of Genesis. But I am far more profoundly worried by a society in which 21–32% believe that the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein was directly involved in the attacks of September 11, 2001, 43–52% think that U.S. troops in Iraq have found clear evidence that Saddam Hussein was working closely with al-Qaeda, and 15–34% think that U.S. troops have found evidence of weapons of mass destruction. And if I am concerned about public belief in clairvoyance and the like, it is largely because of my suspicion that credulity in minor matters prepares the mind for credulity in matters of greater import — and, conversely, that the kind of critical thinking useful for distinguishing science from pseudoscience might also be of some use in distinguishing truths in affairs of state from lies. (Not a panacea, mind you, but just of some use.)

    References for the percentages can be found in the original paper (from 2004).

  10. #10 Torbj÷rn Larsson
    March 16, 2007

    Seems Rushdie has his act together as usual.

    Though epiphanies are feelings that can pop up when I grasp new things and sense of wonder when methods work, I don’t consider these personal experiences as different from other similar.

    There is another word, quite beautiful, that captures a different and important quality though. That word is “freethought”.

    Now I wonder why Rob Knop didn’t want to use that word?

  11. #11 allison
    March 16, 2007

    I do agree that the word “spirituality” is overused. I’m not sure, however, if there needs to be a different word for tarot and crystals or if there needs to be different word for that hint a person gets from time to time that there may be something beyond what we can see.

    The poster says, “I’ve never seen any evidence…” When I was an undergrad, to fulfill my “Arts and Letters” requirement, I took one philosophy class – on the philosophy of religion. One of the essays assigned essentially asked the question, “Can my spiritual experience convince you to believe?” Of course the class (nor the essay) answered the question, but my personal response was “No.” I’m a devout agnostic and every description I’ve ever gotten of “being saved” or communing with spirits has made me screw up my mouth and say, “Ok…”

    But every once in awhile when I’m in the forest by myself, I wonder if I can hear the trees or hear words in the wind in the trees. It’s of course absurd and I expect the same reaction from you that I give to others. It’s at the edge of my hearing – like hearing a siren from far away and not knowing whether or not it’s a siren or a ringing in your ears. If you haven’t experienced it, you will not ever be convinced. It may only be a trick of cognition – like seeing Jesus’ face in smoke – but it being a trick of cognition doesn’t necessarily say it’s without meaning. It’s from within that question – does it or does it not have meaning – that spirituality comes.

  12. #12 dan
    March 16, 2007

    It strikes me as peculiarly intriguing that those who practice Scientism as if it were a religion are loath to acknowledge that there are objective and subjective experiences and that Science is unlikely ever to explain or understand subjectivity. By its very nature, Scientism must cleave to the objectively provable in the world and in experience. And that is as it should be.

    If it is true that one must account for the influence of the observer on the observed — as I think is for the moment at least settled science — then the very nature of that influence must become a subject of scientific interest. Absent a demonstration that this influence is due entirely to a measurable physical force that is connected to chemical or other physical functions in the body, it seems to me that one must consider the issue of consciousness. Many scientists today are investigating that very subject…and finding it to lie outside the realm of the objective which is subject to measurement and detection, and to the “rational” explanations to which such tangible forces are subject.

    For me, the real fascination lies in the points of convergence where modern science, particularly quantum physics, meets ancient mystical teaching and tradition in ways that increase the experiential and explanatory value of both.

    This need not be an “either-or” situation. It can be “both-and.” Scientism is no more entitled to absolutism than is spirituality.

  13. #13 KeithB
    March 16, 2007

    “Distinctly middle-brow. ”

    At least it wasn’t Barq’s.

  14. #14 mike-2
    March 16, 2007

    Whatever your personal feelings toward “spirituality”, its clear that people have unique experiences that they call spiritual, and its well-documented that these experiences correlate with a specific type of brain state. Zen and the Brain, a serious scientific book published by MIT Press, considers these mystical experiences. Some of the more interesting findings are that “oneness” experiences are caused because the sensation of “I”-ness, that there is a “me” that sits somewhere behind my eyes is a kind of illusion that can be shut off by using one’s attention in certain ways. Using one’s attention in this way through meditation results in permanent, usually beneficial changes to the brains of long-term meditators. All of this is discussed free from any spiritual speculations, which is in keeping with the Zen tradition, which discourages metaphysical speculation of any sort.

  15. #15 Richard
    March 16, 2007

    I’m with you, Jason. Awe and wonder are not things I experience much either. Magnificent sunsets, snow-capped mountains, warm breezes off the Pacific, all leave me cold. I wish I was a good spiritual person so I could enjoy life and appreciate the oneness of the universe. But no, I’m condemned to the tedious, unfeeling life of a skeptic. I’m going to go to my windowless room now. I’m wearing black.

  16. #16 Michael Glenn
    March 16, 2007

    Awe and wonder are not really things I feel very much.

    Magnificent sunsets, snow-capped mountains, warm breezes off the Pacific, all leave me cold.

    Sounds a bit like being color-blind.

  17. #17 Blake Stacey
    March 16, 2007

    Richard:

    I’m wearing black.

    Actually, I just bought (from Cambridge’s Garment District, the “alternative department store”) a pair of black pants, a black belt and a black trenchcoat to go with my black shirt, so I can attend my friends’ cyberpunk party.

    I also picked up a pair of mirrorshades at the pharmacy.

  18. #18 Tyler DiPietro
    March 16, 2007

    This is actually one of the reasons I suspect, though am not completely convinced, that one’s propensity toward atheism or religionism has some sort of neuro-genetic basis. I remember Razib referring to himself as a “cold atheist”, which pretty much means that one is impervious to the emotive instrumentations of religion. When people talk about the awe and wonder or epiphanies they feel at certain moments, it’s hard for me to empathize. JVP asked Jason about feeling “awe and wonder” at mathematics. As someone going down that particular road myself, I can say that I wouldn’t describe my feelings as “awe and wonder”. I have a certain aesthetic enthusiasm for it, but in general I’m averse to romanticism. I actually find it kind of discomforting at times.

    An example of how “cold” I am the things like “spirituality”: When Jason started talking about the sandwitch, I got distracted. I just happen to be eating a ginni-grinder from Amato’s right now, and getting vegetable oil all over my keyboard. ;)

  19. #19 gary
    March 17, 2007

    Here is MY definition: What would be left of religion if the dogma were removed.

    That may not be the best definition, but I think it is better than yours.

  20. #20 MarkP
    March 17, 2007

    I think those are really just nonsense phrases people use but that don’t really mean anything

    As are “scientism” and “quantum physics”, as used by proponents of spirituality.

    I too was distracted by the sandwich as I recall fondly my last great one from that part of the world. My leftover chinese I’m eating right now just isn’t the same. And my answers to the reporters questions would have been the same as Jason’s.

    Although I love the mountains and am fascinated by music, I wouldn’t call my experience with them one of awe and wonder.
    My take on the term “spirituality” is that its a term used by people who like the warm fuzzy feeling traditional religion can give, and they are attracted to the notion of “something greater than ourselves”, but they are not interested in being ignorant and dogmatic about it.

  21. #21 Greta Christina
    March 18, 2007

    Dan: “If it is true that one must account for the influence of the observer on the observed — as I think is for the moment at least settled science — then the very nature of that influence must become a subject of scientific interest.”

    AAAAAAAARGH!

    This has been bugging me ever since I read it. This is only true on the quantam level. It is NOT true on the human, macro level — except in the very broad psychological sense that people sometimes act differently when they know they’re being watched.

    Sorry for the scream. But New Agers going ga-ga over quantam mechanics when they don’t understand the first thing about it just drives me up a tree. (I’ll freely admit that I don’t really understand quantam mechanics either — but I don’t pretend to.)

    “Science is unlikely ever to explain or understand subjectivity.”

    First: On what basis do you make that claim? Science has advanced — and radically altered — our understanding in an immense variety of fields once considered to be permanently mysterious. I don’t see why subjectivity and consciousness shouldn’t eventually be one of them. The fact that science can’t currently explain a phenomenon doesn’t mean it never will.

    Second: When you look at the history of the world, you see thousands and thousands of supernatural/ spiritual/ religious explanations being replaced — successfully and incontrovertibly — with naturalistic ones.

    And how many times have supernatural/ spiritual/ religious explanations of a phenomenon successfully and incontrovertibly replaced a naturalistic one? Exactly zero.

    Given that track record, it seems more likely, by several orders of magnitude, that any given unexplained phenomenon — such as consciousness — has a naturalistic explanation rather than a spiritual one, even if we don’t currently know what it is.

    There’s a wonderful quote on this subject in a recent New Yorker article (“Two Heads,” by Larissa MacFarquhar, 2/12/2007) by philosopher Patricia Churchland, talking about our current understanding of consciousness.

    “‘Suppose you’re a medieval physicist wondering about the burning of wood,’ Pat likes to say in her classes. ‘You’re Albertus Magnus, let’s say. One night, a Martian comes down and whispers, “Hey, Albertus, the burning of wood is really rapid oxidation!” What could he do? He knows no structural chemistry, he doesn’t know what oxygen is, he doesn’t know what an element is — he couldn’t make any sense of it. And if some fine night that same omniscient Martian came down and said, “Hey, Pat, consciousness is really blesjeakahgjfdl!” I would be similarly confused, because
    neuroscience is just not far enough along.'”

  22. #22 Blake Stacey
    March 18, 2007

    Greta Christina:

    Sorry for the scream. But New Agers going ga-ga over quantam mechanics when they don’t understand the first thing about it just drives me up a tree. (I’ll freely admit that I don’t really understand quantam mechanics either — but I don’t pretend to.)

    Finally, some company in my tree!

    One of the main triumphs of quantum physics in the last half-century — really, since Dieter Zeh’s work in 1970 — has been to reduce the glory which must be accorded to “conscious observers”. Once upon a time, one could have claimed that it took consciousness to turn quantum strangeness into a solid, classical world, but now we know that jittering molecules can do the job without the need for an emergent mind. As Tegmark and Wheeler say, “Loosely speaking, decoherence calculations show that you don’t need a human observer to get this effect — even an air molecule will suffice.”

    Quantum physics indicates that at the sub-atomic, atomic and sometimes molecular levels, Nature is fundamentally probabilistic. When we deal with things that small — and we’re talking about things less than one ten-billionth of a meter across, here — we can only make statements about likelihoods. Complete knowledge seems forever out of our grasp, through no fault of our own, and yet was that kind of total information ever necessary? Incomplete understanding is a staple of life. Somehow, more or less, we deal with it. At least here in Massachusetts, for example, neither men nor women understand their wives, yet the institution of marriage goes trundling on. Likewise, the discovery of the quantum laws did not make physics implode in upon itself (quite the contrary), nor has it had to make room for mystical notions of some sacred subjectivity.

  23. #23 Damien
    March 28, 2007

    Scienceblogs seems to hate leaving cookies with me…

    The current Skeptic, vol 13 #1, has
    ” The Origin of Superstition, Magical Thinking & Paranormal Beliefs: An Integrative Model by Marjaana Lindeman and Kia Aarnio”

    It takes the ideas bouncing around about folk physics, psychology, and biology in human brains, and suggests that superstitious beliefs come from confusing the domains: mentalizing the physical, physicalizing or biologizing the mental. I.e. attributing mental states to non-animals, thinking of souls or emotions like love as persistent substances, applying contamination ideas to mental states (such as modern Westerners becoming reluctant to wear a sweater if told it was worn by a serial killer, or conversely getting excited if told a pen was used by Einstein.) They also talk about the attribution of purpose to random events, and very briefly about the whole “everything’s connected”/”everything shares an essence” thing.

  24. #24 valhar2000
    March 29, 2007

    All this awe and wonder talk… I don’t know.

    I have a feeling that if I could “get inside the mind” of some of the commenters here, I would figure out that what they are talking about is omething I experience every now and then, and consider nice but no big deal.

    Nonetheless, those phrases like “I’ve had moments in my life where I’ve had perfect clearity” or “an experience of being intimately connected with the vastness of space and time”; I have absolutely no idea what those could possibly mean, and they seem to hint at thoughts or emotions that are alien to me.

    There are people I love, and things I like, and ideas that fascinate me, but beyond that… is there even a “beyond that”?

  25. #25 Vijay Kumar Jain
    March 24, 2011

    True… Spirituality is path travelling which human beings reached their true inner self… their soul atman… the spirit within! Realizing self… realizing god one finally reached stage of enlightenment (termed kaivalya jnana in Hinduism) and finally salvation (moksha)!

    God Almighty could only be reached via path of spirituality… never religion… path of rituals! Path of spirituality was best travelled following teachings contained in sacred Bhagavad Gita of Hinduism… foremost of all sacred scriptures existing on mother earth!

  26. #26 V P Singh
    June 8, 2011

    Spirituality is the fundamental part of all of our religious and philosophical systems. It is the core of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and all other religions. It is also at the core of every thought system that we as humans have ever created: modern physics, communism, atheism, humanitarianism, and all the others too! This is because we, as humans, all have the same basic needs and wants. Like it or not, we all wear trousers or skirts, and eat a meal or two (if we’re really lucky) each day. So, spirituality is concerned with our deepest and most important desires for happiness, peace, and a bit of fun.
    The spiritual part of our nature is subtle and ordinarily quite difficult to fully experience. It is usually so deep down inside of the heart that, most of the time, one can barely hear it. The many experiences and sensations of mind, body and the external world also tend to draw it out. Thus, spiritual practice is all about learning to get in touch with our most precious part, our spiritual nature. Spirituality builds upon personal psychology and well-being. But it is not the same thing.
    Traditionally, the approach to spirituality can be either exoteric or esoteric. Exoteric refers to outer, more tangible aspects–things that we can see, touch, hear, smell, taste, and do. Examples would be praying, engaging in charitable and volunteer work, singing devotional songs, and attending lessons by a spiritual teacher. Also, some forms of meditation such as Vipassana and Zen are exoteric. For instance, Vipassana aims to keep the mind from wandering about by grounding it in actual experience. The mind is anchored more in the process than the content of direct sensory experience. So for instance, one would be just as aware of the sense of hearing as to what one is hearing. Likewise, Zen emphasises experience in the current moment and takes ordinary everyday activity for its meditational object. Esoteric refers to inner, more subtle aspects–things that are usually not apparent to our everyday consciousness. Examples would be visualisation practice ( seeing oneself in the form of a deity ), subtle perception ( clairvoyance ), psychic abilities ( telepathy, psychokinesis ), developing subtle energies ( tai chi, pranayama ), communicating with subtle life forms ( occult practices ), and meditations that emphasise deep, unwavering concentration on a single object ( repetition of a short prayer or mantra, holding to a single sensation such as the rise and fall of the abdomen, focus on a subtle energy centre or chakra ). Jesus Christ.
    In fact, exoteric and esoteric are relative terms. They are more a matter of degree along a common spectrum rather than being unrelated spheres of experience. What is taken for esoteric is really just an extension of the exoteric. For instance, praying for a few minutes would be exoteric, but the saying of that same prayer by a devout person for many hours on end would, over time, become esoteric. Similarly, what is taken for exoteric is in fact really esoteric. For example, countless mystics have declared the sheer wonder and mystery of our commonplace experience of day-to-day living. What for us appears normal, and even dull at times, appears as miraculous and worthy of reverence to them.
    What this means is that the esoteric is a natural progression to the exoteric. It encompasses the exoteric but does not deny or negate it. Both have their place in human experience. It is simply that our common experience–what we get if we do not develop our spiritual faculties–is exoteric. To experience the esoteric normally requires an informed and sustained effort over many years. Another name for the esoteric is the mystical. And it is mysticism that is the common thread to all of the world’s religions and spiritual traditions. On the surface, religions and spiritual practices are quite different, however, at their core they are all very much the same. The world’s mystical traditions vary somewhat in their focus and emphasis. Some may highlight surrender while others may highlight transformation and purification. But, they all follow the same basic progression and formula for reaching complete spiritual maturity–a state known as enlightenment.
    Since, at the core, all mystical ways share a common vocabulary, only the representative examples from the major eastern and western paths have been used here. It has been tried hereinabove to describe these esoteric traditions and relevant modern thinking in broad terms and to offer a summary of their essential parts. Further, having touched upon key ideas and examples that point to the reality of spiritual experience, it has been intended to explain how one may practically apply some of these insights into one’s own life.
    All the same, spirituality relates to the world beyond the surrounding material world. Different religions present different mythology pertaining to this so called spiritual world. Moreover, different religions present different theory, methodology and technique of spiritual science discussed in the respective mythologies. But, surprisingly, the effects and results obtained from these different methodologies and techniques are almost the same. This proves that spiritualism is not only infinite knowledge but it is multi-dimensional too.
    Moreover, Soul or Spirit is though not at all a materialistic entity, but during its temporary stay in a materialistic body it has to support at top priority the materialistic functions (like eating, drinking, drenching, dissipating, working, earning, treating etc.) of the body lest the body should be no more and the soul should become houseless. Similarly, we may though be highly spiritualistic, but, during our stay on this earth, we should support at top priority the functions (all economic, political, social and cultural) of the materialistic world otherwise this materialistic world (our house) will become totally slashed whereby the whole humanity will come to its end. God in no way would like this end. God has created both the spiritualistic souls and the materialistic world. It is our prior duty to contribute towards the functioning of this world and the solution of its worldly problems. I honour respected spiritualists (saints), especially in India, for their achievements on spiritual front. But, very sad, their contribution to solve worldly problems remained not much more than the negligible.

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