Intrapsychic Taxonomy: Spirit

Plato viewed the spirit as the highest aspect of the soul. Broadly, spirit is the locus of our needs to comprehend the order of the universe, the world, and our place in these. It is the need to feel a sense of connectedness with something larger than ourselves. Indeed, connection is the fundamental spirital need, present across a holarchy that runs from subatomic particles to galaxies.

Spirit is not limited to humans. Most animals exhibit a need for connection, and it is that need for connection, answering our own, that gives many animals their appeal to humans as pets. This need for connection in animals perhaps belies the critics’ view that spirit is a human contrivance, used to assuage anxieties about mortality.

Wherever connection is experienced, even with subatomic particles, the entity achieves a higher state and greater meaning. Humans derive their personal meaning and purpose from their myriad connections.

Humans' connections are not solely external. The process of human development is one of connections within one's intrapsychic self - body, mind, and spirit. This is the subject matter of a book I am presently writing.

Spirit is a capacity to face adversities, even horrible adversities, and still maintain a sense of efficacy. It is a capacity to see through our adversities to a larger underlying purpose and beauty. It is a means by which we are able to accept our imperfections, including our ultimate imperfection, mortality. It is not valid to state that spiritual experience is unconscious, but it is largely nonverbal, and, like complex procedural knowledge, we seem to not yet have developed a vocabulary adequate to describe either our needs or our experiences.

Expressions of spirit are seen in questions like, “Why am I?”, “What is the nature of life?”, “What is my role in my family, my work organization, my community?”, and “What is the greater whole of which I am a part?” Some music is said to be “spirit lifting,” and spiritual qualities are often attributed to works of art and writings.

Measures of spiritual experience and religiosity, often confused for each other, are many and varied. However, in current scientific investigation the construct of spirituality is poorly defined, therefore poorly operationalized. This is, in part, a natural outgrowth of our lack of an adequate spiritual vocabulary, and in part an aversion of science, and especially psychology, to study in this realm, for study of spirituality in psychology has often been equated with parapsychology. The lack of a vocabulary for spirituality (Maslow, 1970) makes problematic the use of spirituality scales—groups of questions assessing some aspect of spirituality or spiritual experience—in research (Keller, 2005).

One notable exception to the aversion of psychology to study spirituality is Carl Jung. His exploration of spirituality is well described in Boeree's excellent chapter on Jung




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