Beyond Self. (Continuation of previous posting).

.First of all, let me, as promised, briefly recap by amplifying somewhat the contents of the previous blog. Spirituality – so we have established – is as integral to life as is the air that surrounds us. Our word “spirit” comes from the Latin “spirare” meaning simply, “to breathe”. It may be no coincidence that in various languages, the word for breath came also to mean “essence of life”·. So perhaps we can say that spirituality is an essence; the essence of life; a life-force that originates, animates, directs and inspires all that we are, do and may in the future become. Maybe we can also add at this juncture that the focal point of that essence is what we refer to as the “psyche”··.

So far so good: somehow, even primitive (but by now, thinking) man was quick to recognized and acknowledge an important truth, namely that something does not and cannot emanate from nothing and – if you see what I mean – the “made” or “created” does and must presuppose a “maker” or a “creator”. For instance, early man made tools and primitive forms of jewellery from unusual (and as he later came to evaluate them) precious stones, metals etc. Whatever he made to increase his chances of survival and enhance his life style, seemed somehow ever to reinforce the thought, which quickly developed into a principle or – as we might say – a maxim and eventually, a truth as set out immediately below.

If everything that has been made presupposes a maker or creator (possessing the necessary skill and know-how to so create) it follows that the maker or creator is essentially superior to what he/she has made or created, since he/she possesses and has demonstrated the power to make, create, destroy, employ or otherwise, whatever that item/object may be. (There is an important distinction to be made here, between “making” or “creating” and what one might call “begetting”. A man creates a statue but begets a child. A badger creates a set but begets a badger cub. What is begotten is of the same substance. What is created is not and is at best, a likeness).

So we might now go further and conclude that anything and everything that has been made or created presupposes a maker or creator. And it was presumably – at least in part – this recognition by early man on the grand scale, together with that a’priori awareness referred to in a previous letter, that caused him to look beyond himself and to experience the earliest sense of belonging and of attachment to a “beyond self”. Quite understandably, man’s first view outwith and beyond himself would have been of natural phenomena all about him, e.g. great feats and features of the natural world such as towering mountains, roaring seas, thunder, raging storms and the like; the moon, the sun, the planets of our solar system and the stars. All – and more beside – seemed natural and appropriate to be regarded as both subject and object of worship and sacrifice.

In other instances – and where natural phenomena of the kind referred to above failed to qualify or satisfy – images were built with temples and holy places within which to ‘house’ them, together with a priestly class whose job it was to supervise, care for and represent them. Thus we witness the birth of a kind of primitive format and structure (or to use the more enduring word, “religion”) with associated and attendant forms of worship, sacrifice, ceremony and ritual practice.

  • The Greek word “pneuma”, the Hebrew words “nephesh” and “ruakh” and the Latin “spiritus” and “anima” all bear reference to breath and the essence of life.
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