Forgive me if I deal with your questions in my own terms rather than your own. If you were to search out and ingratiate yourself with an extant aboriginal Leaver, animist, people today, you’d have a great deal of trouble making them understand a question like “Do you consider yourself to be a spiritual person?” Any definition of the word “spiritual” you might devise is going to include people you probably don’t want to include.

The men who sacrificed their lives to destroy the World Trade Center were undoubtedly highly spiritual; they were engaged in an act of Holy War against the heathen, and they doubtless anticipated a heavenly reward for it. Osama bin Laden is without question a spiritual leader to his followers and co-religionists. Throughout history, the barbaric acts perpetrated against each other by Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and others have all been spiritually motivated. I have stories in my files of people who tortured and killed their own children for spiritual reasons, or knowingly allowed them to die unnecessarily.

If you refuse to classify these people as spiritual, I really can’t imagine what you’re left with, except something like, “Spiritual people are people I admire” (assuming that being spiritual is something you admire). I feel no more need to “express my spirituality” than to express my longevity or my humanity. (You might ask me why Ishmael is subtitled “An Adventure or the Mind and Spirit,” but you’d be asking the wrong person; this is something my publishers added, and, since they graciously let me do what I think I must as an author, I let them do what they think they must as publishers.) I’m afraid that terms like “universal consciousness” and “soul of the universe” merely make me shrug.

ID: 521
posted: 28 Oct 2001
updated: 28 Oct 2001