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Spirit, Soul, or Consciousness?

Updated on October 2, 2017
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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.

Now more than ever there has been an observable societal shift in with more and more people classifying themselves as “spiritual non-religious”. The belief that we as humans have a religiously rooted soul has given way to the perception that while we may likely have some kind of essence that passes on, the restrictions of specific dogma are too much for our over intellectual western society to swallow. 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. One that is based on perception rather than previously designed religious cannon. 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 set of beliefs 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 and actions within their surroundings. Having nothing more than the concept of religion without a foundation to evolve it fromcan be problematic and often offers little more value than an interesting conversational topic. 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 and respect one another for this reason. A more extrinsic theory that falls into this line of thinking is the idea that we are all a part of a fractured consciousness and that when we die we are reintegrated back into the said greater consciousness. Please keep in mind that this is a quick look at a faith that pulls from many eastern ideologies and is in no way meant to denigrate any of the beliefs or faiths mentioned. 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 remove the supporting pillars of religion that promote such things as respect, love and kindness there is a void that is left. This void prevents an individual from answering the questions like "why love", "why respect others" and on a grander level "why live?".

If we take apart the word spiritualism, we see the word spirit. What is usual considered synonymous 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 then they must 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. Instead they 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 a spirit but rather 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 alack of respect for faith in western society that has lead us to the notion that we need nothing more than a partial understanding of our identities outside of sexuality and race. 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 the 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 words like "understanding" or "personal enrichment" which are to replace the better defined spiritual goals defined by most if not all religions. Many personal cornerstones such as one's own morality and creed are based on our beliefs within ourselves and whatever faith we hold. If we have nothing to believe in, how do begin to understand how to believe in ourselves. Our worlds are based on perceptual feedback and comparison. We compare new information with validated information that we have gained through experience or faith. Why is that we can believe this for almost every other aspect of the human existence but religion.

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 to a number of 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 it outlines 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 just as a religion that does would.

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 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.

© 2016 Tylor

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