• YuZhonglu
    219
    But again, see, in your post you're assuming each tradition is discussing the SAME spirit. But if every group writes about "spirit" differently, then maybe that's because every group is writing about a different spirit.

    After all, that's what the evidence shows.
  • Wayfarer
    8.6k
    What evidence are you referring to?
  • YuZhonglu
    219
    The written evidence that everyone writes about spirit differently.

    Christianity: Spirit is the Holy Ghost. Etc. etc.
    Islam: No. It comes from the indivisible God.
    Neuroscientist: It's a product of the brain.
    Hinduism: It was granted to us from the Great Soul.

    Etc. etc.

    Consequently, since everyone writes about "spirit" differently, I conclude that each side is writing about a different spirit.
  • Wayfarer
    8.6k
    Google ‘elephant parable’.
  • YuZhonglu
    219
    There is no elephant. It's actually a giant man-eating cake monster disguised as an elephant (the bottom is like that of an elephant. The top is a very angry cake).

    If everyone is blind, how would anyone know that it's actually an elephant? The parable makes no sense.
  • Wayfarer
    8.6k
    Good, glad that’s settled then.
  • whollyrolling
    427
    This is what philosophy is all about, right? Answering the hard questions, like how do we prove there's something when really there's nothing? By saying words in combination with other words all amounting to a hill of beans, that's how.

    When you have no meaning and no predators to contend with anymore, you have to pretend there are bad guys lurking in the shadows.

    When you think that you and your tribe are the most important aspect of an incomprehensibly vast universe, you have to pretend there's something out there to dignify your larger than life egos.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    But when I think of spirit, am I thinking of the 'same' spirit as you?YuZhonglu

    We don't know. Just as we don't know if you experience red as I do, or what it is like to be a bat. Your objection - and it is a valid one - applies to many (most? all?) issues, and is not specific to this discussion.
  • thedeadidea
    98
    Breath in a poetic syntax that is in constant relation to the world and the ancient function of introspective exercises and therapeutic techniques through breathing, a vital connection to nature or the world.... Then like every other Greek word when the West got them, they became ruinous and something else. Compare the apathy, the stoic indifference of a Marcus Aurelius to the apathy, the 'I don't give a fuck' of the catch me outside girl from Dr. Phil.

    Soul, Spirit, Apathy, Wisdom all of it means something else today than it did in the past. What does spirit mean today ? Don't ask a philosopher ask a new age shithead or an evangelical christian.... For it is that vile spawn that took the word and arrested it to their own vile word soup they dare call truth.
  • YuZhonglu
    219
    Actually we do know when a person is thinking of the color red. There's a specific part of the brain that lights up. Check out this article:

    https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-neuroscience-of-comas-or-what-it-means-to-be-trapp-5966630

    But terms like "spirit" are too vague. Like, I can potentially use a FMRI scanner to see if you're thinking of the color red. But there's no way to check if you're thinking of thoughts "This Spirit is Jesus Christ. Or maybe it's a big huffaluffudus apple." Etc. etc.
  • BrianW
    874


    23. What is spirit?
    "The intelligent principle of the universe."

    24. Is spirit synonymous with intelligence?
    "Intelligence is an essential attribute of spirit, but both merge in a unitary principle, so that, for you, they may be said to be the same thing."

    25. Is spirit independent of matter, or is it only one of the pro properties of matter, as colours are a property of light, and as sound is a property of the air?
    "Spirit and matter are distinct from one another; but the union of spirit and matter is necessary to give intelligent activity to matter."

    - Is this union equally necessary to the manifestation of spirit? (We refer, in this question, to the principle of intelligence, abstractly considered, without reference to the individualities designated by that term.)
    "It is necessary for you, because you are not organised for perceiving spirit apart from matter. Your senses are not formed for that order of perception."

    26. Can spirit be conceived of without matter, and matter without spirit?
    "Undoubtedly, as objects of thought."

    => THE SPIRITS' BOOK (By Allan Kardec), 1857.


    There aren't many books out there that surpass the aforementioned book in its exposition of spiritual phenomena. So maybe it can help with this discussion.
    For example, when it says,
    It is necessary for you, because you are not organised for perceiving spirit apart from matter. Your senses are not formed for that order of perception.
    I realise just how precise it is even scientifically. Because everything we infer and refer to through the meaning of intelligence, from consciousness to mind, is arrived at through interaction with matter. So, even intelligence itself is derivative, often as a product of deduction. So, unless we're speaking the same language (terminology and articulation not tongue) there's bound to be misunderstanding.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    Actually we do know when a person is thinking of the color red.YuZhonglu

    That's not what I said. I referred to the (human) experience of seeing red. It's a very different thing.
  • Bodhisattva
    7
    my perso al definition of Spirit is that it is the very essence of who we are as human beings. It is very difficult to articulate this belief in words. I could say that it is our Source, our Soul, our essential Energy. And, as energy never dies, our Spirit never dies. It is strongly connected to our true nature, our character. I had a very strong bond with my late mother. If I need extra courage, for example, I ask her to help me. And I have felt her loving presence very strongly at those times. I would call that her Spirit
    But nothing whatsoever to do with "ghosts". I dont believe in all that rubbish. I realise this is all very subjective! It is an interesting question.
  • Wayfarer
    8.6k
    I could say that it is our Source, our Soul, our essential EnergyBodhisattva

    I’m afraid that is something that bodhisattvas do not suppose. The hallmark of the bodhisattva path is no essential self. So by all means believe it, but do at least consider changing your forum name.
  • Bodhisattva
    7
    A Bodhisattva is a person of loving kindness, which I have practised all my life and still try to achieve. I did not mention Ego, which is a different, narcissicist concept of "the Self". Buddhists can believe in a sub conscious state, to be achieved in deep meditation. But, we are still human beings with free will and I can and will call myself a Bodhisattva.
  • Janus
    8.5k
    Yes, I am assuming the very much established definition of a common word.

    I realize I'm pointing out the obvious. You're the one trying to redefine the word. Proving that definition is your job, not mine.
    NKBJ

    How the word "idea" is defined reflects what people ordinarily think an idea is. If you think that ideas are only had by humans and you conclude from that that they cannot be anything other than what we know about them by virtue of having them, you are ruling out the possibility that animals or advanced alien species have ideas.You are also ruling out the possibility that they may exist in their own right somehow, perhaps in the way that Plato imagined. However implausible such possibilities may seem the refutation of them is not given by mere logic or definition, as you have suggested.
  • 0 thru 9
    828
    my perso al definition of Spirit is that it is the very essence of who we are as human beings. It is very difficult to articulate this belief in words. I could say that it is our Source, our Soul, our essential Energy. And, as energy never dies, our Spirit never dies. It is strongly connected to our true nature, our character. I had a very strong bond with my late mother. If I need extra courage, for example, I ask her to help me. And I have felt her loving presence very strongly at those times. I would call that her Spirit
    But nothing whatsoever to do with "ghosts". I dont believe in all that rubbish. I realise this is all very subjective! It is an interesting question.
    Bodhisattva

    Thanks for that. I similarly think that there is some correlation and/or connection between spirit and energy. They both seem to be the invisible “yin” to matter’s (mostly) visible “yang”, to be speculative for a moment. Of course, I don’t think spirit and energy are close to being synonymous. But there might be some kind of Venn diagram type overlap. (This is all metaphysics, so I hope no one is waiting for charts, graphs, and hard numbers! :grin: )
  • 0 thru 9
    828
    I could say that it is our Source, our Soul, our essential Energy
    — Bodhisattva

    I’m afraid that is something that bodhisattvas do not suppose. The hallmark of the bodhisattva path is no essential self. So by all means believe it, but do at least consider changing your forum name.
    Wayfarer
    Thanks for your input, as always. I see your point, and wouldn’t necessarily completely disagree. But... with all due respect, your reply could perhaps come across to some as a little terse, narrow, or cut-and-dried. Most likely unintentional. One would think an answer to that question might be more nuanced. If you could expound upon your answer, that might leaven the bread a bit (so to speak). Your reply to me earlier in this thread was a helpful thumbnail sketch:

    actually that quotation you’ve provided on buddhanature does come close to heterodoxy from a Buddhist p.o.v. That’s because the Buddha always denied an unchanging kernel, essence or nature, in distinction from the Brahmin principle of there being a higher self. Buddha-nature refers to an innate capacity or potential for enlightenment, but that is not the same as positing an unchanging essence or self. It’s a subtle but important distinction. (Also important to note that not all Buddhist schools accept or teach in terms of buddha nature - you would rarely if at all find it mentioned in Theravada Buddhism.)Wayfarer

    I think the concept/teaching of anatta is most relevant to this thread. And (to risk a metaphor), our culture in general is suffering a scurvy-like disease from the general lack of this “nutrient”. (IMHO, we construct vast cities and tall buildings on the murky swampland of “self”. The separate self may be the archetypal fiat currency, the foundation of our civilization... as well as its discontents).

    To be perhaps overly general.... it appears to me that the crux of the concept is on there not being a permanent, unchanging, and separate self. The relative self could be said to exist, as in “the small self”. A non-absolute self, with a lowercase “s”, always in the state of flux, and interdependent with the rest of life and existence. That’s just my quick take (and open to revision or correction) on this very profound teaching...

    This article from Tricycle magazine is interesting. (a little long, rest of it is hidden):

    The Buddha was careful to classify questions according to how they should be answered, based on how helpful they were to gaining awakening. Some questions deserved a categorical answer, that is, one that holds true across the board. Some he answered analytically, redefining or refining the terms before answering. Some required counter-questioning, to clarify the issue in the questioner’s mind. But if the question was an obstacle on the path, the Buddha put it aside.

    When Vacchagotta the wanderer asked him point-blank whether or not there is a self, the Buddha remained silent, which means that the question has no helpful answer. As he later explained to Ananda, to respond either yes or no to this question would be to side with opposite extremes of wrong view (Samyutta Nikaya 44.10). Some have argued that the Buddha didn’t answer with “no” because Vacchagotta wouldn’t have understood the answer. But there’s another passage where the Buddha advises all the monks to avoid getting involved in questions such as “What am I?” “Do I exist?” “Do I not exist?” because they lead to answers like “I have a self” and “I have no self,” both of which are a “thicket of views, a writhing of views, a contortion of views” that get in the way of awakening (Majjhima Nikaya 2).


    Reveal
    So how did we get the idea that the Buddha said that there is no self? The main culprit seems to be the debate culture of ancient India. Religious teachers often held public debates on the hot questions of the day, both to draw adherents and to angle for royal patronage. The Buddha warned his followers not to enter into these debates (Sutta Nipata 4.8), partly because once the sponsor of a debate had set a question, the debaters couldn’t follow the Buddha’s policy of putting useless questions aside.

    Later generations of monks forgot the warning and soon found themselves in debates where they had to devise a Buddhist answer to the question of whether there is or isn’t a self. The Kathavatthu, an Abhidhamma text attributed to the time of King Ashoka, contains the earliest extant version of the answer “no.” Two popular literary works, the Buddhacharita and Milinda Panha, both from around the first century CE, place this “no” at the center of the Buddha’s message. Later texts, like the Abhidharmakosha Bhashya, provide analytical answers to the question of whether there is a self, saying that there’s no personal self but that each person has a “dharma-self” composed of five aggregates: material form, feelings, perceptions, mental fabrications, and consciousness. At present we have our own analytical answers to the question, such as the teaching that although we have no separate self, we do have a cosmic self—a teaching, by the way, that the Buddha singled out for special ridicule (MN 22).

    “There is no self” is the granddaddy of fake Buddhist quotes. It has survived so long because of its superficial resemblance to the teaching on anatta, or not-self, which was one of the Buddha’s tools for putting an end to clinging. Even though he neither affirmed nor denied the existence of a self, he did talk of the process by which the mind creates many senses of self—what he called “I-making” and “my-making”—as it pursues its desires.

    In other words, he focused on the karma of selfing. Because clinging lies at the heart of suffering, and because there’s clinging in each sense of self, he advised using the perception of not-self as a strategy to dismantle that clinging. Whenever you see yourself identifying with anything stressful and inconstant, you remind yourself that it’s not-self: not worth clinging to, not worth calling your self (SN 22.59). This helps you let go of it. When you do this thoroughly enough, it can lead to awakening. In this way, the not-self teaching is an answer—not to the question of whether there’s a self, but to the question that the Buddha said lies at the heart of discernment: “What, when I do it, will lead to my long-term welfare and happiness?” (MN 135). You find true happiness by letting go.

    Some ways of selfing, the Buddha and his disciples found, are useful along the path, as when you develop a sense of self that’s heedful and responsible, confident that you can manage the practice (Anguttara Nikaya4.159). While you’re on the path, you apply the perception of not-self to anything that would pull you astray. Only at the end do you apply that perception to the path itself. As for the goal, it’s possible to develop a sense of clinging around the experience of the deathless, so the Buddha advises that you regard even the deathless as not-self (AN 9.36). But when there’s no more clinging, you have no need for perceptions either of self or not-self. You see no point in answering the question of whether there is or isn’t a self because you’ve found the ultimate happiness.

    The belief that there is no self can actually get in the way of awakening. As the Buddha noted, the contemplation of not-self can lead to an experience of nothingness (MN 106). If your purpose in practicing is to disprove the self—perhaps from wanting to escape the responsibilities of having a self—you can easily interpret the experience of nothingness as the proof you’re looking for: a sign you’ve reached the end of the path. Yet the Buddha warned that subtle clinging can persist in that experience. If you think you’ve reached awakening, you won’t look for the clinging. But if you learn to keep looking for clinging, even in the experience of nothingness, you’ll have a chance of finding it. Only when you find it can you then let it go.

    So it’s important to remember which questions the not-self teaching was meant to answer and which ones it wasn’t. Getting clear on this point can mean the difference between a false awakening and the real thing.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.4k


    Nothing to do with the topic, but I like the new avatar. Curiously, for some reason I was just thinking about Wacky Packages yesterday, thinking I need to look for info about them online because I hadn't seen them in so long. And then I see your avatar. ;-)
  • Wayfarer
    8.6k
    your reply could perhaps come across to some as a little terse, narrow, or cut-and-dried.0 thru 9

    I was kind of 'testing the water'. However, in your case, it's worth discussing in depth, because I think you're seeing the point.

    To be perhaps overly general.... it appears to me that the crux of the concept is on there not being a permanent, unchanging, and separate self. The relative self could be said to exist, as in “the small self”. A non-absolute self, with a lowercase “s”, always in the state of flux, and interdependent with the rest of life and existence.0 thru 9

    Bhikkhu Thanissaro's interpretation is always reliable, but I will put it a slightly different way.

    The underlying problem in the Buddhist view is 'objectification' - that we seize upon objects, often in the form of ideas, and say 'this is it!' or 'this is not it!' 'Higher self' is one of those ideas; 'spirit' another. When we name them, we 'make something of them', so to speak. 'Look! That's the important thing to understand!' But that is the process of reification, of making something out of a concept. (A lot of talk about 'God' is exactly like this.)

    In this sense, Buddhism is near to some themes found in existentialism. It's not as if there is some 'self-essence' which we have to apprehend somehow; it's rather that there's nothing that can be grasped, and we demonstrate our understanding of that by not grasping at it. So it's actually a stance or a dynamic action - the dynamic of not clinging. That becomes, in Mahayana Buddhist terminology, a skill or a mental competency - the skill of non-attachment.

    (In saying that, I don't want to come across as all sage-like - my own skills are rudimentary. But I completed an MA in the subject, and I'm also a technical writer, so I can express it in words. But I'm certainly not claiming any mastery.)

    our culture in general is suffering a scurvy-like disease from the general lack of this “nutrient”0 thru 9

    What's happened, as I think I said earlier in this thread, is the consequence of a dialectical process. One side of the dialectic is theistic religion, the other side is atheism. Atheism has grown out of the rejection of dogmatic belief so has become dogmatic unbelief, if you like. Whereas Buddhism never set itself up in those terms to begin with (which is not to say that Buddhists can't be dogmatic, as they most certainly can.)
  • 0 thru 9
    828
    Nothing to do with the topic, but I like the new avatar. Curiously, for some reason I was just thinking about Wacky Packages yesterday, thinking I need to look for info about them online because I hadn't seen them in so long. And then I see your avatar. ;-)Terrapin Station
    All thanks to Google images. :smile: Like the saying goes... leave ‘em laughing, and leave ‘em thinking. With a silly avatar, there is a chance for the former. If one can’t even leave ‘em laughing, then just leave!
  • 0 thru 9
    828
    The underlying problem in the Buddhist view is 'objectification' - that we seize upon objects, often in the form of ideas, and say 'this is it!' or 'this is not it!' 'Higher self' is one of those ideas; 'spirit' another. When we name them, we 'make something of them', so to speak. 'Look! That's the important thing to understand!' But that is the process of reification, of making something out of a concept. (A lot of talk about 'God' is exactly like this.)

    In this sense, Buddhism is near to some themes found in existentialism. It's not as if there is some 'self-essence' which we have to apprehend somehow; it's rather that there's nothing that can be grasped, and we demonstrate our understanding of that by not grasping at it. So it's actually a stance or a dynamic action - the dynamic of not clinging. That becomes, in Mahayana Buddhist terminology, a skill or a mental competency - the skill of non-attachment.
    Wayfarer

    :up: Thanks for the in-depth reply. Much appreciated. Oh yes, not grasping is absolutely central. (Noble Truth #2, the cause of suffering, IIRC). At the very least or as a start, seeing how comically pathetic it is! We laugh at the naive fool in a movie, but usually the character learns their lesson by the end of the two-hour film. We should be so lucky! :blush:

    I tend to think that (outside of meditation, but perhaps even there at times) some reification is perhaps inevitable, and not necessarily a problem. Being so omnipresent in the calculating and naming part of the brain, that recognition/awareness of the process (and the attendant skepticism or caution) is usually sufficient to avoid confusion, I would think. I can have a model toy 1957 Chevy convertible and enjoy it. As long as I don’t try to cruise the boulevard in it, everything is fine. If Lao-Tsu would have stopped after writing “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao”, we would have been the poorer for it. Form is emptiness, emptiness no other than form, as the mind-bending (but strangely comforting) sutra whispers to us.

    We call energy, dreams, rivers, music, and evolution “its”. We make nouns out of verbs and adjectives. We want to freeze the dynamic interdependent world into little solid bite-sized nuggets. We make language, and language returns the favor. It may be part of our reptilian brain, seeing the world as food, shelter, danger, or background. I would love to shed my reptilian mind like a snake sheds its skin, but until then perhaps the helpful thing would be to see all things and concepts as empty. But wonderfully empty, for the emptiness is the flow of unlimited energy and connection. In a way, it is like our cosmic electricity, Wi-Fi, and food delivery all rolled into one, times a million (to wax poetic for a moment).
  • Wayfarer
    8.6k
    Well said. To bring it back to the original question - does the spirit exist? I think the answer I would offer is that it does not exist, but it also does not not exist.

    The reason for this is, that to assert the existence of something, is to say that it is this, as opposed to that. In Western philosophy, this became formularised through Cartesian dualism as 'spirit, as distinct from body'. Then this lead to a false conception of the nature of 'spirit', because of the subsequent question of how 'spirit' could relate to 'body' when they're so utterly different (this is the 'ghost in the machine'). It made it a relatively simple matter to then dispose of the notion of spirit altogether, as it couldn't be seen or measured and appeared to make no difference, and to then assume only the reality of 'body', which can indeed be seen and measured - which is precisely the basis of today's scientific materialism.

    But Buddhism subverts this, not by asserting the existence of spirit or any kind of 'immaterial substance' (which is an oxymoron) but by re-examining the process which lead to the division in the first place. But that re-examination is not a matter verbal or a discursive analysis, but of perceiving the way in which the mind and language divides up the world into these conceptual categories. So it takes a kind of meta-cognitive act, by which the mind begins to understand the way in which it construes experience (usually unconsciously) - leading to confusion about meaning, symbol, reality, concept, and so on, in which modern cultural discourse (and we ourselves) finds ourselves enmeshed.

    (It's interesting to reflect that this is comparable in many ways to Heidegger's attempt to understand the nature of being-in-the-world which likewise attempts to articulate or make explicit the background assumptions through which the process is instinctively grasped.)

    Of course, as you say, that doesn't necessarily undermine the usefulness of discursive analysis in place. There are many areas where it is indispensable. But it also has limits, and these limits are exactly what modern philosophy has tended to lose sight of.
  • 0 thru 9
    828
    Well said. To bring it back to the original question - does the spirit exist? I think the answer I would offer is that it does not exist, but it also does not not exist.

    The reason for this is, that to assert the existence of something, is to say that it is this, as opposed to that. In Western philosophy, this became formularised through Cartesian dualism as 'spirit, as distinct from body'. Then this lead to a false conception of the nature of 'spirit', because of the subsequent question of how 'spirit' could relate to 'body' when they're so utterly different (this is the 'ghost in the machine'). It made it a relatively simple matter to then dispose of the notion of spirit altogether, as it couldn't be seen or measured and appeared to make no difference, and to then assume only the reality of 'body', which can indeed be seen and measured - which is precisely the basis of today's scientific materialism.
    Wayfarer

    Thanks for the reply. That covers it nicely: “it does not exist, but it also does not not exist” , as you put it. There are times that words seem to fail, are just too imprecise. Like trying to perform eye surgery with blocks of wood. Dark matter and dark energy might be under our control before that which people call spirit is even satisfactorily described. Kant’s concept of noumenon (as contrasted with the observable phenomenon) might be helpful. (Though I use Kant only in case of emergency, lol). The whole Transcendentist movement tiptoes in this area, of course. Internal experience vs external “stuff”. Ken Wilber’s Four Quadrants (comprising interior and exterior, individual and collective) I find to be a useful and balanced way of considering matter and mind. He acknowledges that mental events have physical aspects (neurological chemicals and so forth) but refuses to “collapse” the mental/spiritual to merely being (and wholly explainable) in terms of their material components. Denying the extreme scientific materialism, as you also alluded to.

    But Buddhism subverts this, not by asserting the existence of spirit or any kind of 'immaterial substance' (which is an oxymoron) but by re-examining the process which lead to the division in the first place. But that re-examination is not a matter verbal or a discursive analysis, but of perceiving the way in which the mind and language divides up the world into these conceptual categories. So it takes a kind of meta-cognitive act, by which the mind begins to understand the way in which it construes experience (usually unconsciously) - leading to confusion about meaning, symbol, reality, concept, and so on, in which modern cultural discourse (and we ourselves) finds ourselves enmeshed.Wayfarer
    Yes. Dividing any whole into parts, and naming them is theoretically an endless process, with arguably diminishing returns. Dissect the golden goose, or not? All things being equal, having scientific data about X is a wonderful thing. But in our relative world, all things are rarely if ever completely equal. How could it be if everything is constantly changing in some way? I’m curious about subatomic particles and space travel. But the skepticism about the amount and priority of such research being militarily useful is difficult to ignore, for one thing. We apply math to the world. Dividing, multiplying, adding, and subtracting this, that, and the other. Which is fine, as long as we can turn off the calculator now and then, and see what happens.
  • Artemis
    1.4k
    If you think that ideas are only had by humans and you conclude from that that they cannot be anything other than what we know about them by virtue of having them, you are ruling out the possibility that animals or advanced alien species have ideas.Janus

    I said:

    They cannot exist apart from cogent beings.NKBJ

    Animals are, to varying degrees, cogent beings, and advanced alien life probably are as well.
  • Schzophr
    78
    Yes it does.

    A brain doesn't function without the heartbeat.

    When the heart and brain are *linked*, what is that phenomenon?

    Mind and body are created out of the spirit of heart and brain! Soul, is different from spirit, soul is something the mind and body can create.

    The question is if heart and mind are *necessary* for spirit, and what forms of spirit might exist.

    A hell for a spirit may be that you have no free will but you are this moving thing that crawls on elbows and kneecaps.
  • Janus
    8.5k
    Fairy Nuff :smile:
  • creativesoul
    6.2k
    What is a unicorn?
    — Daniel

    Only in philosophy.
    S

    Show him the picture...
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