What is a secular alternative to the word spiritual / spirituality?

Since there is no evidence for the existence of a spirit, I wish there was an alternative word to express the conventional meaning of “spirituality” (a connection to the rest of humanity and life on earth, a sense of wonder and awe.) Any ideas?

7 thoughts on “What is a secular alternative to the word spiritual / spirituality?

  1. Um, google some Jack Kerouac quotes or texts and then scan (read) them to see if anything strikes you. What you’re describing is basically Kerouac’s whole thing, but I can think of an example off the top of my head.

    He uses the concept of the Beatitudes (which is religious) when he’s talking about everything being “beat,” and that’s the sense of wonder and awe you’re talking about, but he improvises on the concept, expands upon it until it’s safely secular and definitely connected to humanity and life on this earth.

    But, that’s just one example, I know if you look at his writing you’ll find more, and I’m sure you’d eventually find that one word. I just can’t think of it now.

  2. You should probably know that the word spiritual designates what is contrary to our concept of materiality, i.e. something having matter. It doesn’t necessarily point to some incorporeal thing that floats around inside of us, although it is often used that way no doubt. For instance, if someone were to say “Reality admits of spiritual elements” such a person means more than just something like a immaterial entity inhabiting a body; they mean that there are principals, causes, and other existing things that we readily accept are real but would reluctantly call “material”. For instance, most people agree that thoughts are immaterial things; things not being made up of matter. Thus, one could, if one wanted to, describe thoughts as “spiritual” things. The problem here, though, is that you, like most of us, are too prone to paste religious notions of a soul, angels, or God to this word – which isn’t always the case. Firstly, spiritual simply means “immaterial”. It has other meanings, too, obviously, such as “A man’s spirit” which is meant to signify, perhaps for some, some immaterial entity inhabiting a body. The trick is to be able to distinguish these meanings when someone uses the word “spiritual”. I hope that helps some-what. As for an alternative to the word “spiritual”, used in the context you’ve used it, many atheists have used the word “spirit” in such a way to signify the inward working of a complex material entity; they don’t, however, see it as something immaterial – they see it as a rhetorical or descriptive way of describing some very complex happening “inside” the human “heart” and mind. Further, the word “philosophy” comes closest to what you’re asking for, since it the word it self means “the love of wisdom” and implies an earnest desire to seek out truth and understanding; it comes with a curious bent towards reality and a wish to understand it. You could simply describe such a yearning as “philosophical” as most people do (as when a person says “I wonder what the depths of love are? How long can it last? Can it ever be broken or does it rise above all the rancor and simplicity of this boring life?” – if someone were to say something like that we would probably first ask if he were high or drunk, then, after finding out he wasn’t, we might say “That’s pretty ‘deep'” or “How philosophical of you?”).

  3. Great question. I think self-awareness is key. When we are aware of who we really are, what we love, what we genuinely want to do in life, how our behaviors affect ourselves and others, how we can use our gifts and talents and what our reason for being is, we transcend the usual stuff that bogs us down and enter a new realm of understanding.

    It’s like the person who knows she is a dancer and, when she dances, she connects to the deepest part of herself and achieves a different level of consciousness. Being deeply self-aware and connecting with who we really are creates those moments.

  4. I don’t think there’s just one. There are many, here are a few

    Metaphysical (The most precise I can think of)
    supernatural influence
    fantastic (original meaning)

    I also debated whether to put “awesome” in but in the end decided not because it too has religious connotations

  5. Non-religious but spiritual. It is just a matter of semantics. I think people in general would know what a secular humanist meant if they said they were non-religious but spiritual.

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