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Posts Tagged ‘Spirituality Quotient

The Meaning of the Spiritual

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Spiritual Intelligence?

Mark Vernon is a journalist with an interesting website about science, religion and human sociabilility, which has in it a test called the “spiritual intelligence test”, bizarrely called the SQ test, not the SIQ test, leaving you wondering where the “intelligence”, the “I”, went! IQ is the abbreviation for intelligence quotient, because it is the mental age divided by the actual age, and so shows whether anyone is ahead or behind the average in mental or intellectual development. It was meant as an educational aid, for testing people as they developed, and so becomes a fixed value in adults simply showing whether they are above or below average intelligence.

The SQ or SIQ test is not a quotient, and so there is no need for the Q at all, and it seems to be meant simply to draw attention to the supposed parallel with IQ. When you have done the test, you discover that it is really a test of humility, the scores of 0-100 apparently being on a scale from humble to overweening arrogance. My own score, answered as honestly as possible, which meant several answers could not be given because none of the three choices were adequate, was 45. Answering them all in what I thought was an obsessively scientific way gave me a score of 52, and answering in the way I thought religious believers would answer gave me a score of 72.

Doubtless, it is all meant as a bit of fun, and not seriously, but such bits of fun have a way of being taken seriously by half the population, probably the half with IQs below 100. Whether that is so or not, it is true that a large number of people think that spiritual is a meaningful word, and Mark Vernon seems to be among them. It is a word that everyone wants to use, largely to show their anti-reductionist credentials, but few can agree upon when it comes to discussing meaning. A definition from a dictionary has it that spiritual means pertaining to the human spirit as opposed to the material or physical.

So, it seems to be equivalent to imaginary, for what is not material or physical other than thoughts in the mind? It is a certain bet that most religious people would not count spiritual as meaning imaginary. No, religious people, think spiritual things are somehow real, even though they are not physical or material. In other words what is spiritual is somehow supernatural. Spirituality, to the believer, is supernaturality. Those who claim not to be religious but nevertheless believe that spiritual things are real in some such supernatural way are secretly religious.

There is a feeling, often described as awe, not meaning pure fear as it once meant, but a frightening sense of wonder, that people sometimes get and often when they see something entirely wonderful in nature, such as a stunning vista or spectacle, or a wonderful event, such as the birth of a child, a ferocious storm, and so on. The same feeling can come about unexpectedly, when it is called mystical, and is attributed, for no sound reason, as signifying the nearness of God. The feeling is utterly natural, and most people have had it in its milder form. According to surveys, even about a third of people have had the mystical experience itself. There is absolutely no reason why God or spirituality should be associated with this feeling. It merits attention, certainly, but is much more likely to be the sense of unity suddenly felt of ourselves with the world we live in.

Usually, we think purely selfishly. Self is a characteristic which has evolved to help us survive. If we did not have it, we would be much more altruistic if simply because we would realize how unimportant each of us individually is in the vast scheme of things. Self makes us seem more important than anything else, and therefore worth preserving. That is what spirituality is. It is a moment in which the sense of self dissolves leaving us knowing how wonderful the totality of Nature is. It is related in a sense to schizophrenia, when the self breaks down pathologically leaving us unable to even function as ourselves!

In a temporary, or better still, if it is possible, in a controlled, way it is a marvellous feeling that makes us appreciate God in the purely Einsteinian sense of the wonder of Nature. We are truly humbled before this purely natural interpretation of the divine. The opposite is to put yourself, or your beliefs, which are simply part of yourself, before it. Spirituality, then, is the sense humans have of kinunity. The whole world is kin. That being so, the spiritual person is the one who does least to harm the world we live in. It is the basis of Adelphiasophism. To harm it is to harm ourselves.

Updated from the original post on 27 November, 2006.

Written by mikemagee

8 July, 2012 at 3:38 pm