George Clifford



JSS 5.2

Past News

JSS 5.2 Making the Ethereal Earthy: A New Definition of Spirit

by Revd Dr George Clifford, Independent Scholar, USA
Journal for the Study of Spirituality 5, no. 2, 2015, pp. 113-127

The lack of generally accepted, operationalizable definitions of human spirit, spiritual and spirituality has handicapped scientific discourse as well as limited the validity and reliability of the scientific study of those topics. This article proposes defining ‘human spirit’ as the sum of six quintessentially human characteristics: self-awareness, linguistic capacity, limited autonomy, creativity, aesthetic sense and loving/being loved. The article examines each of those six facets of the human spirit using scientific and religious lenses to show that the proposed definition (1) incorporates elements widely considered a part of the human spirit, (2) is operationalizable, and (3) has multidisciplinary utility. The proposed definition advantageously neither presumes nor precludes the human spirit also incorporating an immaterial, eternal aspect. Additionally, the proposed definition preserves the vital links between spirituality and religious traditions without conflating religion and spirituality.

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