Is There A Spiritual Dimension To Life?
When we ask this question, if we are not careful, instantly we are in the usual philosophy game of “how do we define” something. In this case if we choose to play we end up having to define the 3 nouns and then on the basis of the 3 nouns definitions we can answer in any way.
This is not helpful if we are truth seekers. So let me ask the question – would I recognise a spiritual dimension to life if I saw it? For two thousand years or more the question would have been regarded as being silly. Of course there was a spiritual dimension to everything. God or gods or spirits intervened all the time. Then as science progressed the notion that everything was explicable by science became more and more apparent until today the consensus I think is science provides a very useful description of the universe and as the scientific method goes deeper and deeper it provides an ever fuller description. It seems that we don’t need to invoke outside forces or beings to explain anything. In fact the invocation of spiritual forces to explain anything is regarded as bad science. If it turns out that we need a new force to describe the universe more closely the scientists would describe the force and then employ it in further equations.
It is difficult to conceive of anything that scientists would or could describe as spiritual. However lets try. If it turned out that by praying I was able to do something (anything) then this would be a good candidate for consideration as a spiritual act. So let us choose that I try to heat my body by praying. Hang on you say that’s not spiritual – you know you can do that- it’s called bio feedback. OK so let’s try and turn a television on. I know that I haven’t been able to do this yet. I know if I try one more time it might happen but it seems unlikely. If it happened once we’d put it down to a pure fluke of electrical circuitry but if it happened say 50% of the time then we’d set out to search for a reason for my amazing ability. And if we came up with a physical answer then we’d accept it but if there was no answer we (most people) would not invoke spirits they would simply say that it was inexplicable.
How about the Church. Is that in the business of explaining things? Well it seems to want to explain spiritual things. Or does it. What is the Church for? A good question. Looking at the mission statements of various churches on the web (yes some do have them) they are concerned with looking after the spiritual and moral welfare of their congregations, maybe converting others, collecting cash to pay for their activities and general good works. They do not seem concerned with actually explaining much. It seems to be a matter of faith, you believe our message and we’ll all help each other. The mission statements don’t do much to explain the church services either. They seem to be just part of the spiritual and moral welfare programme.
So the general position with churches seems to be – there are spiritual things and we the church will help you with them. There is an assumption going on here that there are things spiritual. It’s kind of like there are things temporal which no one would dispute and there are things spiritual. The two are not equal though. In the real world we can all agree that an oak tree exists but there is no such agreement about the existence of anything spiritual.
I suppose for us to agree on anything spiritual we must believe in a spirit which is distinct from the brain, the ghost in the machine. If this exists then we may sensibly start to consider the implications. There are two choices it either exists in which case we can ask questions to define it or it doesn’t. Proving a negative or the non existence of anything is very difficult so let us try to prove the existence. We are looking to prove that there is another entity separate from the brain which influences the brain. It must lie beyond physical laws so it is impossible to define it in terms of science. This must follow because if we conceive of a ghost/spirit that we can detect it simply becomes another piece of the brain jigsaw- like a previously undiscovered gland.
So we are looking for a non material entity, a non physical entity that influences the brain. I have no way of testing for it. I am not aware of it in myself. You may say that you are aware of it, but you may be deluded. If we are limited to such checks then we cannot begin to say anything useful. It is a case of you either have faith or not depending on which voices in your head you listen to.
So I can’t get to first base I can’t even prove of a spiritual dimension in the human. I can only prove physical things but by definition the spiritual is not physical and hence I cannot prove it exists. Neither can I prove it doesn’t exist.
It is helpful to assume it does exist in many ways. And more - I want a spiritual dimension to be real, it could be so reassuring and I’d like an after life. Unfortunately just wanting something doesn’t make it true and personally my prejudice remains that the spiritual dimension does not exist.