Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rambling About What "Spirit" Means

I wrote about "spiritual" beings over the weekend:
After I'd posted those, I realized that I hadn't nailed down just what "spirit" and "spiritual" mean.

Here's what a dictionary says "spirit" means:
  • Noun
    1. The vital principle or animating force within living things
    2. The general atmosphere of a place or situation and the effect that it has on people
    3. A fundamental emotional and activating principle determining one's character
    4. Any incorporeal supernatural being that can become visible (or audible) to human beings
    5. The state of a person's emotions
    6. The intended meaning of a communication
    7. Animation and energy in action or expression
    8. An inclination or tendency of a certain kind
  • Verb
    1. Infuse with spirit
    (Princeton's WordNnet)
Offhand, it seems to me that the definitions of "spirit" as noun, numbers 1 and 4, are fairly close to how I've seen "spirit" used in a Catholic context.

Emotions are Okay

As for the emotional angle, I've discussed emotion before. (August 5, 2010, November 24, 2009, March 17, 2009, for starters)

Briefly, in my view there's nothing intrinsically wrong with emotions: they come standard-equipment with our human nature. Emotions can be useful warnings that we ought to pay attention to something.

But I prefer to think with my central nervous system, and feel with the endocrine system - not the other way around.

Which is another topic. Topics.

The Soul, the Holy Spirit, and Spiritual Life

I took a quick look in the Catechism, and didn't find "spirit" in the Glossary. I did find these related concepts:
"HOLY SPIRIT: The third divine Person of the Blessed Trinity, the personal love of Father and Son for each other. Also called the Paraclete (Advocate) and Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit is at work with the Father and the Son from the beginning to the completion of the divine plan for our salvation (685; cf. 152, 243)."

"SOUL: The spiritual principle of human beings. The soul is the subject of human consciousness and freedom; soul and body together form one unique human nature. Each human soul is individual and immortal, immediately created by God. The soul does not die with the body, from which it is separated by death, and with which it will be reunited in the final resurrection (363, 366; cf. 1703)."
(Glossary, Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Which brings up another point. In a way, I can't die. Not permanently. Which is a sort of good news/bad news thing. (Catechism 988-1014) The Resurrection isn't the same thing as reincarnation, by the way. At all. I've got one shot at this earthly life, and that's it. (Catechism, 1013)

And those are more topics.

By the way, as I've said before: my opinions carry the full weight of "some guy with a blog." Which is why I've got so many links to more authoritative sources.

"Spirit," Catholic Style?

It still looks to me like "spirit" in the Catholic sense means pretty much what the numbers 1 and 4 definitions of "spirit" as a noun say: "The vital principle or animating force within living things," and "Any incorporeal supernatural being that can become visible (or audible) to human beings."

As a child, I had a very hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that angels, and two persons in the Holy Trinity, had no physical bodies. At all. I still have a hard time imagining that: it's 'way too easy to start thinking of them as a sort of gas. Or energy - which we're now pretty sure is the flip side of matter. Sort of. That E=mc2 thing. And I've gotten into yet more topics.

Back to "spirit" and "spiritual," Catholic style.

"Spiritual Life"

Because of some of my personal history, I tend to cringe when "spiritual experiences" and that sort of thing come up. But never mind that. Here's a little of what the Catechism has to say about the Catholic spiritual life:
"There is an organic connection between our spiritual life and the dogmas. Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure. Conversely, if our life is upright, our intellect and heart will be open to welcome the light shed by the dogmas of faith.50"
(Catechism, 89)
Preferring almost two millennia of accumulated wisdom and learning to what each of us cobbles together hasn't been fashionable in America's 'better' circles.

I became a Catholic anyway: and that's yet again another topic.

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.