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A Primer on Spiritual Development (Part 9)

We dealt yesterday with the relevance of spiritual development to our economic and political life. Today we discuss why despite its relevance to the different areas of our life, spiritual development has not been given due emphasis in our personal development.

22. If spiritual development is so important and relevant to our personal, social, religious, economic and political life, why is it not given due emphasis in our personal development?

There are two reasons for this. One reason is that for most people the human being is composed only of body and soul. The other reason is that of the three components of man the spiritual component is the most invisible.

Most people, because of the influence of Western education which is heavily dependent on the teachings of the Greek philosopher Aristotle, think that the human being is composed only of body and soul.

If you search online, there are some 5 million plus sites displaying the exact phrase “composed of body and soul”, while there are no results for “composed of body and soul and spirit”. And there are only 30 thousand plus sites for the exact phrase “body, soul and spirit”. This only shows that not much has been written on the body, soul and spirit as the components of the human being. How can writers discuss about something which they do not consider as part of our human composition?

In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the word “spirit” is found in the phrase “in a spirit of brotherhood” (Article 1). In Article 26 mention is made of “the full development of the human personality”. But there is no reference in this document to the development of the spirit within us or to the spirit as a distinct component of the human being.

In Article 17 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child the word “spiritual” is there but it is used as an adjective parallel to “moral” in the phrase “spiritual and moral well-being”.

In the list of rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations at the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 20 October 1989, there is no mention of the right to spiritual development. The closest to this idea is the right to practice their own religion and culture.

In the authoritative CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH we read in Number 367: “Sometimes the soul is distinguished from the spirit: St. Paul for instance prays that God may sanctify his people "wholly", with "spirit and soul and body" kept sound and blameless at the Lord's coming. The Church teaches that this distinction does not introduce a duality into the soul. "Spirit" signifies that from creation man is ordered to a supernatural end and that his soul can gratuitously be raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God.”

In all these documents we see that the human race has not yet accepted as common belief or teaching that the human being is composed also of the spirit. But this is very crucial to our topic. If we are not also composed of spirit, in addition to a body and soul, this primer has no reason to continue. There is nothing to talk or write about if there is no such thing as spirit in us.

The Chinese martyr Watchman Nee in his book SPIRITUAL MAN, Volume 1, says: “How can a believer understand spiritual life if he does not know what is the extent of the realm of the spirit? Without such understanding how can he grow spiritually? To fail to distinguish between spirit and soul is fatal to spiritual maturity.” Notice what Nee says, Failure to distinguish these two components is fatal to spiritual maturity.

The other reason why spiritual development is not given its due importance is because of the three components of the human being it is the most invisible. The human body we can see with our eyes. The human soul we can perceive by the speech and actions of a person. But the human spirit is something that cannot be directly observed by the senses or easily deduced by our hearing or other means of perception.

When we hear a person speaking fluently with confidence we cannot say that that person has a good spirit. We say that he has developed his speaking skills, but not necessarily his spiritual capabilities.

Usually the action of the spirit is perceived when we pray or hear someone praying because prayer is an activity of the spirit. But how many of us observe real prayer? Most people know of memorized or spontaneous prayer, but not genuine prayer, as we may come to this topic later on.

And because the spirit is the most invisible of the three components, it is not perceived by most people as such.

This section has been quite lengthy, but I think it is necessary to make us think of the necessity of thinking of the spirit as really another component of the human being. Otherwise we have no point in continuing with this discussion on spiritual development.

Tomorrow we proceed with the topic of how the seed of the spirit is sown in us, how it is conceived and born in us.

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