I just received an email from Sam Harris explaining why he is retaining the word “spiritual,” a sort of rescue of the word from its mystical connotations because, in his words, “there seems to be no other term with which to discuss deliberate efforts some people make to overcome their feeling of separateness—through meditation, psychedelics, or other means of inducing non-ordinary states of consciousness.”
How about “connected?” “alive” “conscious”
I looked up “spiritual” and my first hit got this:
Of, relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material. See Synonyms at immaterial.
Of, concerned with, or affecting the soul.
Of, from, or relating to God; deific.
Of or belonging to a church or religion; sacred.
Relating to or having the nature of spirits or a spirit; supernatural.
...there’s quite a lot of woo woo in there.
Sam goes goes on to say “And I find neologisms pretentious and annoying.” Neologisms is a word I didn’t know, so I looked it up.
1.a newly coined word, or a phrase or familiar word used in a new sense
2.the practice of using or introducing neologisms
3.(rare) a tendency towards adopting new views, esp rationalist views, in matters of religion
“Spirit” in the way Sam wants to use it *is* a neologism in the first sense, which would make him guilty of neoligism in the second sense (and it is a heroic effort in the third sense, but he’s clearly not using the word that way).
I figure the idea will be well received, however, by believers and non-believers who just want to get along, to paper over their differences. It’s like using the term God for “love.” It’s simply placation—that’s very nice, but if God is just love, we already have a word for love. Using “spirit” on both sides of this chasm—when the word clearly refers to the unsubstantial—will have this same sort of effect. Is he trying to *change* the meaning of spiritual? That wouldn’t be possible, or worthwhile. I’m a big fan of his, but I don’t agree with Sam on this one.