Separating the Spiritual from the Physical:

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Orson
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Separating the Spiritual from the Physical:

Post by Orson » 01 Aug 2009, 15:13

This thread is in response to a comment I made on a different thread, that I have found myself separating things physical from things spiritual. I believe that spiritual truths cannot be proven or disproved by any physical means. On the other hand physical truths cannot be confirmed or refuted by spiritual means. We obtain spiritual truths by spiritual means, and physical truths by physical means. Elder Oaks said in his talk on Testimony – “knowledge of outside temperature can be verified by scientific proof.” (April 2008 Conference) I think it’s fair to assume that it would be improper to seek knowledge of the outside temperature through spiritual means when that type of knowledge is available through physical means. Likewise I think it would be improper to seek spiritual knowledge, or verification of spiritual things through physical means. Personally I feel that the physical and spiritual do intersect (in an obvious way) in the children of God. I see the human medium as the point of intersection – the uniting of the eternal spirit with the mortal flesh if you will. Thus spiritual “truth” is personal and subjective (as Elder Oaks alluded to) and not available for external physical verification.

This thought has given me further reflection on the term “personal revelation.” If revelation is spiritual, and by definition personal and subjective, it is given to us according to our own particular human & flawed understanding. It only makes sense that it would be improper for someone to claim a revelation for someone else, when they couldn’t possibly transfer all the intangibles that make up a spiritual experience. It does makes sense that a parent would receive direction relevant to their household, and a leader would receive direction relevant to their organization. I do accept that prophets (see “Our Prophetic Church” thread for definition of prophet viewtopic.php?f=6&t=329) can receive the word of God to put forth to the world, and then the listeners have the responsibility to receive their own confirmation or interpretation of that knowledge – given to them spiritually and according to their own understanding.

Does this line of thinking dilute or diminish prophetic revelation? On the contrary I feel that it expands, deepens and personalizes revelations. I feel that it anchors the spiritual gifts in a way that makes them an inseparable and immovable part of the human soul. No physical evidence (alone) can place within me spiritual substance, and no physical evidence can take any away. Yes, there are physical experiences that relate closely to a simultaneous spiritual experience, but in my mind they are two separate experiences that occur at the same time. Of course this is my own interpretation, given to me according to my particular understanding.

Reconciling Miracles:

Leonard Arrington raised the subject of the miraculous foundational events of our Church and asked the question “can one accept all of the miraculous events that surrounded the restoration of the gospel?”

He then explained “that truth may be expressed not only through science and abstract reason but also through stories, testimonies, and narratives of personal experience; not only through erudite scholarship but also through poetry, drama, and historical novels. …[Religious myth] is an account that may or may not have a determinable basis of fact or natural explanation. The truth of a myth is beyond empirical or historical accessibility. Examples are the Christian story of the Resurrection, the Virgin Birth, and the creation of the world as described in the book of Genesis. These are ways of explaining events or truths having religious significance that may be either symbolical or historical.” He concludes “I was never preoccupied with the question of the historicity of Joseph Smith’s first vision (though I find the evidence overwhelming that it did occur) or of the many reported epiphanies in Mormon, Christian, or Hebrew history. I am prepared to accept them as historical or as metaphorical, as symbolical, or as precisely what happened. That they convey religious truth is the essential issue, and of this I have never had any doubt.”(Reflections of a Mormon Historian Ch.4)

I appreciate his conclusion: “That they convey religious truth is the essential issue, and of this I have never had any doubt.” Isn’t the meaning or application to ourselves personally what really matters anyway?

I’ll end with a quote from Arrington’s analogy of Socrates in Plato’s ‘Phaedrus’ that relates to this thought of separating the physical from the spiritual - and joining faith with reason:

“The human soul, like a charioteer, must drive two horses as it progresses toward Heaven. The horses must work together or the chariot will just go round and round. …It would be unfortunate if either should outstretch the other. Over-emphasizing intellect to the neglect of spirituality, and over-emphasizing faith without the application of reason are both unworthy of practicing Latter-day Saints. We cannot achieve spiritual excellence without intellectual rigor, and intellectual excellence is hollow without active spirituality. We need to have the spirit as we learn, and we need to have learning as we build faith. Working together, faith and intellect help us achieve the Latter-day Saint goal of eternal progression.”

I’ll probably have additional thoughts that will come out with a little discussion.

Thoughts/comments?
My avatar - both physical and spiritual.

I first found faith, and thought I had all truth. I then discovered doubt, and claimed a more accurate truth. Now I’ve greeted paradox and a deeper truth than I have ever known.

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hawkgrrrl
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Re: Separating the Spiritual from the Physical:

Post by hawkgrrrl » 01 Aug 2009, 15:55

Orson - a great post. I agree, and this reminds me a lot of some of what @jmb275 has said elsewhere. I tend to agree and would add that:
- using physical/scientific means to find spiritual truth doesn't serve. At best, we get sociology and psychology, which are noble pursuits, but don't necessarily lead to enlightenment.
- using spiritual means (e.g. Prayer) to obtain physical truth is silly and also quite common in the church when we assume a spiritual witness is evidence of a literal physical truth rather than taking it for the spiritual value of it.
I can see many examples of people misapplying both:
-creating checklists for righteousness (physical to get to spiritual)
-assuming a spiritual witness means something is literally true. It may or may not be, but the point of a spiritual witness is to provide personal spiritual direction, not to provide universal physical evidence.
-trying evidence to attempt to prove whether the church is true (physical to attain spiritual)
-assuming faith-promoting stories (physical) are factual evidence of spiritual truth.

All of the above are prone to confirmation bias and all are pretty common, IMO. It's hard to avoid these pitfalls, but it's all part of growth.

swimordie
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Re: Separating the Spiritual from the Physical:

Post by swimordie » 01 Aug 2009, 19:49

Wow, great thread orson!!
Orson wrote:I appreciate his conclusion: “That they convey religious truth is the essential issue, and of this I have never had any doubt.” Isn’t the meaning or application to ourselves personally what really matters anyway?
To me, this is the key to it all, both physical and spiritual. We all derive our own meaning from any spiritual or physical phenomena anyway; though as children raised in the church, the meaning given to us is immovable and inflexible, so the ability to derive our "own" meaning becomes somewhat problematic.

Hence, the "crisis of faith" when cognitive dissonance is consciously discovered; without a deliberate practice of deriving meaning for oneself through trial/error and stretching both spiritual and intellectual muscles, these "crises of faith" become incredibly debilitating to the whole process.

Either one rejects all previous meaning in search of an entire new universe of meaning, or one pulls the intellectual blinders (and in the process, usually the spiritual blinders, as well) and stoically clings to previous meanings.

A lucky few (from my anecdotal evidence) can engage the previous meanings, re-shaping and tweaking to their hearts content, deriving new meaning from old meaning, retaining the outward appearance of the old meaning while embracing the inner-soul of the new meaning in a super-personal way.

Finally, I love the concept of the two-horsed chariot, one being intellect, the other spiritual. This concept may actually be the "proof" of "higher power" or "other power" or "gift of the universe": the fact that humans can even conceptualize this and give it meaning, in my mind, is proof of "something".

Conscience, empathy, abstract meaning, are uniquely human instincts; the need to reconcile these instincts for the good of the community and still derive individual meaning for oneself, is the fodder for the inner-life that only humans get to live. What a blessing (curse?)!!
Perfectionism hasn't served me. I think I am done with it. -Poppyseed

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Orson
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Re: Separating the Spiritual from the Physical:

Post by Orson » 01 Aug 2009, 20:00

swimordie wrote:...the fact that humans can even conceptualize this and give it meaning, in my mind, is proof of "something".

Conscience, empathy, abstract meaning, are uniquely human instincts; the need to reconcile these instincts for the good of the community and still derive individual meaning for oneself, is the fodder for the inner-life that only humans get to live. What a blessing (curse?)!!
Yes! Amazing insights! Thanks for that Swimordie.

Along Hawk's line of thought I wonder how often we’re praying for physical verification without realizing it. One book about Mark Hofmann says his dad received a spiritual witness that Mark was innocent (when the charges were first brought). The physical reality was obviously different, but if we look for a spiritual meaning can we find something? Was there an underlying spiritual value to that answer? Could it be that if Mark were always his “best self” he never would have done those things? Could that (or something like it) be the spiritual “truth” that a father realized?
My avatar - both physical and spiritual.

I first found faith, and thought I had all truth. I then discovered doubt, and claimed a more accurate truth. Now I’ve greeted paradox and a deeper truth than I have ever known.

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hawkgrrrl
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Re: Separating the Spiritual from the Physical:

Post by hawkgrrrl » 01 Aug 2009, 20:35

Perhaps it points to Mark Hoffman being mentally ill.

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jmb275
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Re: Separating the Spiritual from the Physical:

Post by jmb275 » 03 Aug 2009, 22:27

hawkgrrrl wrote:Orson - a great post. I agree, and this reminds me a lot of some of what @jmb275 has said elsewhere. I tend to agree and would add that:
- using physical/scientific means to find spiritual truth doesn't serve. At best, we get sociology and psychology, which are noble pursuits, but don't necessarily lead to enlightenment.
- using spiritual means (e.g. Prayer) to obtain physical truth is silly and also quite common in the church when we assume a spiritual witness is evidence of a literal physical truth rather than taking it for the spiritual value of it.
I can see many examples of people misapplying both:
-creating checklists for righteousness (physical to get to spiritual)
-assuming a spiritual witness means something is literally true. It may or may not be, but the point of a spiritual witness is to provide personal spiritual direction, not to provide universal physical evidence.
-trying evidence to attempt to prove whether the church is true (physical to attain spiritual)
-assuming faith-promoting stories (physical) are factual evidence of spiritual truth.

All of the above are prone to confirmation bias and all are pretty common, IMO. It's hard to avoid these pitfalls, but it's all part of growth.
@Orson
Brilliant (I've said this to you before). I really like it.

@hawkgrrrl
I couldn't agree more. I am currently taking an intro to psychology course. I find it fascinating to learn about why we are the way are, and why we think what we think. It's very clear to me that psychology has limitations (I don't think anyone would deny that), and it's clear to me that religion/spirituality has limitations as well. I think we have shoehorned ourselves into a culture where we have misunderstood the roles that these things play in our lives. We try to mix and match and use a hammer when we really need a screwdriver as it were.
I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priestcraft, lawyer-craft, doctor-craft, lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, and the authority of perjured executives, backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women--all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there.
- Joseph Smith, (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304)

jeriboy
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Re: Separating the Spiritual from the Physical:

Post by jeriboy » 08 Aug 2009, 09:10

Orson that was a great piece. I will go back and read it many more times just for the nourishment (physical & spiritual).
Don't know if I'm right on this so some feed back would help, you said, I believe that spiritual truths cannot be proven or disproved by any physical means. On the other hand physical truths cannot be confirmed or refuted by spiritual means. We obtain spiritual truths by spiritual means, and physical truths by physical means.
A high councilman once said in a talk, that he worked at a place that payed such poor wages that if he did not pay his tithing he could not afford to work there. He said that by paying tithing all of his physical assets lasted so much longer, and as he enjoyed working where he did he was able to enjoy his poverty so much better.
I personally suspect that a more perfect blending of the spiritual and physical can be acheived on a personal level, even though it may not be possible to convey it to someone else by word of mouth. The comment in the BofM " our life passed by as in a dream " makes me think of such an instance as well as Joseph Smiths " wheather we were in the body or out of the body I could not tell. Neither can I tell if any of this will add up to any thing that will make sense to you, but I loved what you wrote.

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