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Spirit, Soul, or Consciousness?

Updated on February 21, 2016
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While I have only been formally studying psychology and working in research for the last 3 to 4 years, It is one of my favorite topics.

There has been a recent increase in the amount of those that classify themselves as “spiritual non-religious”. What is defined by some as the belief in the existence of the human spirit and whether it be our current form of consciousness or the belief in the possibility that we move on to a greater state of being after death. This stems from a societal trend in which many people have decided to forfeit any kind of religious dogma and instead opt for a more individualized approach to their existence. While in some ways this can be considered the first step into a more united and more accepting society in which everyone is considered different and unique with regard to their faith, there may also be some potential downsides to this.

There are a few practitioners that would claim that spiritualism without a root or core concept is like a house without a foundation. While the concepts of religion vary from faith to faith, each one has a set of core principals from which a person identifies his or herself within their surroundings. Having nothing more than the concept of religion without a foundation to evolve it from makes it difficult to go any further and often having little more value than an interesting conversational piece. This leads us to the real question: what exactly is spiritualism and do we need it?

If spiritualism were to be solely based on the feelings or emotions people get from different events or people, then we can all be considered spiritualist to some degree. Some look at it as a peaceful understanding that we are all united as humans and should both love as well as respect one another for this reason. A more extrinsic theory that falls into this line of thought is the idea that we are all a part of a fractured consciousness and that when we die we are reintegrated back into a greater consciousness. Please keep in mind that this is a quick look at a faith that pulls from many eastern ideology. I by no means down play this idea and feel that this idea is very nice, it seems to be just a little hollow and somewhat broad for me.

If we take apart the word spiritualism, we see the word spirit. What is usual considered a synonymous with spirit is soul. I bring this up because I recently asked someone who referred to themselves as a spiritualist if they believed in a spirit. They confirmed this to which I asked if they believe in a spirit, do they not also believe that the spirit is basically the soul of human being. The individual then seemed to wince and instead said they did not prefer either but instead believed that consciousness would be a better word for it. To sum it up quickly, the person referred to themselves as a spiritualist but did not believe a in aspirit but instead a collective consciousness. While this may make sense to some, the line between spirit, soul, and consciousness is a bit blurred for me.

While these are three distinct words that hold different meaning to different people, many would agree that they all reference a person’s identity. What makes you, you? Your consciousness, soul, or spirit? Or is it all three? Perhaps it is because we have lost respect for faith in western society. These once understood and separate terms have now become arbitrary and hold little to no solid value to our next generation. Instead of the soul, it was spirit, and now instead of spirit, it is consciousness. Could this new interest in individualized faith be result of a larger societal problem? A problem of identity?

It would seem that we have reached a time in which we want to create something completely new and fresh. A new form of belief that is all inclusive. A faith in which even the word faith will lose it’s meaning and instead be replaced with word like "understanding" or "personal enrichment". Many personal cornerstones such as morality and creed are based our beliefs in ourselves and whatever faith we hold. If we have nothing to believe in, how do begin to understand how to believe in ourselves.

Take for example an atheist that says he believes in science. Even this can be considered a type of faith in that his perception of what is unknown and known about the world around him will be passed through his understanding of the laws that govern science. The calculations and formulas that identify his world's characteristics make up the foundation of his perception. Much more than this, this person would be able to identify himself based on this knowledge and understand who he is in the grand scheme of things. I wanted to use this example because many of the people that have claimed this kind of scientific faith are, in fact, very intelligent and have contributed a number great things to society. Much of the same can be said for a number of other forms of faith. What is important to note with this example is that within it there is a belief in absolutely no spiritualism which in my opinion still leads to a central belief system much like other faiths that support spiritualistic ideals. The man or woman of science may not believe in the existence of the soul, spirit, or collective consciousness, but their faith has helped them identify themselves.

This brings me to my larger point. My next piece will address why spiritualism without some type of faith can be dangerous and in some cases down right ridiculous. For this piece I only want to share my thought that all of the various forms of belief and individualized faith may be the result of a lack of identity in today’s generation. It would seem that we do not know ourselves as well as we claim to. Whether this is because we live in a time where information comes at us by the millisecond creating an atmosphere of over stimulus or because we have as a species have reached a point where organized religion holds less value remains to be seen. Freedom of religion is not a bad thing, spiritualism without any kind of religion or faith seems to be the beginnings of a chaotic and argumentative society.

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