"The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge." -Albert EinsteinWelcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless. This installment deals with one word that's gotten pretty far into "plain meaningless" territory: "Spiritual."
The definition I used right up until I abandoned the word was pretty close in line with Einstein's quote up there: A sense of wonder that drives a person to understand the world around him and make it a better place. Of course, that definition has very little to do with spirits, so it doesn't really fit.
One of the common uses involves people who describe themselves as "spiritual, but not religious," usually to suggest they aren't a part of an organized religion. I've encountered one or two people who used the phrase to defend themselves against observations that they debated like religious fanatics. Thankfully, "spiritual, but not religious" people are less likely to summon The Spanish Inquisition (which is a good thing), but bull[poo] is bull[poo], whether it's a Mom & Pop generic brand or mass produced by corporations large enough to duke it out militarily with giant robots with lasers and... (Sorry, lost my train of thought. Was getting caught up on Armored Core this weekend, and giant robots are just plain cool. If the Adult Swim intro to Eureka 7 is telling the truth, someday, we will all own mecha.)
Anyway, another use is to describe different groups of values, usually to separate what they're promoting as different from "materialistic" values: Money, possessions, etcetera. In this case, "social" would probably be a better word. But some even go a step further and separate their "spiritual" valies from social and material ones. If anyone's aware of a "spiritual" value that doesn't translate into "brownie points for getting into everlasting cosmik bliss," please tell me.
Oh, and you can thank Adam for moving this one up the list.