A Clear Mind: Spirituality
Many people see the world as a mix of the natural and the supernatural. Science studies the natural parts — the things that can be studied in the physical universe. In doing so, science has explained many things that were previously considered supernatural, eliminating much absurdity and damage caused by superstition. But there are, and probably always will be, many matters that science does not handle so well. Supernatural beliefs often try to fill in the gaps and to provide some perspective on science.
In such statements, “supernatural” means something above or apart from the natural universe studied by science. It does not necessarily mean “spiritual.” People do sometimes speak of a person’s soul or spirit as a supernatural entity, physically located inside or otherwise accompanying him/her through life, and perhaps continuing to exist after physical death. But in another sense, the spirit of a thing is related to its essence. Someone who speaks of “the spirit of freedom” is probably referring, not to a ghostly soul, but rather to a political condition. Spirituality, as many people understand it, involves an awareness of, or attunement to, the essence of life in general, or of human life in particular.
In this sense, spirituality refers to individual or possibly group experience. As such, it is not necessarily part of a “science vs. the supernatural” kind of discussion. One person could hate science; another could be an atheist; yet both could have a comparable spiritual experience with a beautiful sunset or a hallucinogenic mushroom. On the other hand, a person could be religious, in the sense of endorsing or being affiliated with some form of organized religion, and as such might formally adopt supernatural beliefs, and yet have little involvement or interest in spirituality.
As these examples suggest, there are many possibilities. Very commonly, though, people have both a spiritual orientation, toward some aspects of their experience, and a supernatural orientation, in the sense of believing or at least being open to the possible existence of divine beings.
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