Thoughts on Whether Inanimate Matter is Able to Incorporate Spirit

Thoughts on Whether Inanimate Matter is Able to Incorporate Spirit

The very existence of “spirit” is still in question. When the discussion of it goes beyond an acceptance of “life” as part of certain kinds of matter, most of us have only tenuous views based on preconceptions often developed without much “rigor” in our thinking..

Certainly, those of us who believe in an afterlife accept the “existence” of some kind of “spiritual” world outside of physical reality. And philosophers and others who think about it, continue to pursue concepts of existence and creation that they consider to be “realities” still beyond adequate definition and explanation by modern science. And finally, even some scientists now believe in the existence of a “reality” that is beyond their abilities to “test,” a world of quanta, multiple dimensions and an “orderly chaos” that supports all of existence.

Some who accept the possibilities described in the writings about superstition, animism, religion and fiction are not constrained by science and logic. Whether or not they accept them, they are willing to address, as possibilities, theories of “spirit.” To believe in the existence and manifestation of non-material “presences” or beings is the basis of most religion.

However at the outset, we should recognize the wisdom of the view of Augustine, the 4th Century Christian saint, who when asked about apparent miracles responded, “A miracle is something that has not been explained.” That approach is both rational and open-ended enough to permit speculation.

Discussion of topics of this kind are difficult. The greatest “discussion-killers” are those who are already convinced of the “truth” of something and are willing only to “test” other views against their own.

Now to the question and some preliminary suggestions on what might be considered in a discussion of how “spirit” as an idea is applied to non-living matter.

The Question
Does or can a stone or large rock, or collection or certain types of them, have within or around them, any “manifestation” of its immaterial characteristics to at least some other beings ( and\or perhaps to each other)?

Related questions are, can any manifestation of activity of any observable thing have or assume some type of “spirit” that can be observed or felt or sensed or intuited or reasoned to or otherwise apprehended by “living” beings?

How can we begin to address this? Modern scientific practice requires “theories” to be validated by physical experiments. (Today’s scientists have developed patience, though, because quantum theory has never been “tested” or validated in a laboratory, and theories such as multiple dimensions and string theory are not yet experimentally addressed.)

This discussion began with an offhand remark–”Perhaps a stone has a spirit, too.” And a response that suggested that a stone couldn’t have a spirit or soul. They left it at that, but the thought remained. What if….there was some kind of spirit in stones? How could that be, or be confirmed? A little perspective raises the idea of “worry stones,” smooth stones kept in one’s pocket and rubbed went under tension, or in deep thought. Or one’s “pet rock,” a fad of 30 years ago that resulted in the sale of millions of pieces of rock in various décor, kept for their amusement value.

Beyond that, most tourist destinations have souvenir stores that sell, among other things, small-size stone among the memorabilia in their stock. And the uniqueness, either natural or man-made, of these bits of stone are endowed by the sellers and the buyers with “something” other than their own material self. Do these bits of matter “take on” some of the “spirit’ of the places and persons ivolved in the presentation and sale?

Or places—in mountainous areas without trees, the rocks are the ground and background—mountains, mesas, hills, pinnacles, windswept vistas of sand and stone—that are defined by their location and the climate and locale. There are places with stone of color—the red rock of Sedona, the glare of a limestone quarry in a noonday sun, the mountainous areas above the tree lines, grey and brown and yellow and mottled, that shimmer in the heat of summer, and shiver under their coats of snow and ice in winter. Does the attention paid make a “spirit” grow and take its place as the rock responds to those who find and admire it? Could that be “spirit.”? Perhaps.

But people have for centuries identified places, valleys, hills, mountains, waterfalls, the cliffs above seas and lakes and deserts as “haunted,” or “filled with memories,” or endowed with power. Other places are thought to inspire fear, or peace, or memories of the history of those places where man had done great, or terrible, or inspiring deeds?
The silence of a desert under a burning sun, or a hundred million stars, is it made more quiet by the “spirits” that hide or hover or drift over the sand, between the dunes, under the scrub and cactus that try to grow in the low places where water runs a few days each year. Or are there spirits at the pools where animals and occasional traveler satisfied their thirst, and left memories of their passing among the stones that lined the pool of water they so gladly drank? If so, what are they like, do they change, or migrate, or remain attached, or find a visitor to the pool and attach themselves?

The wind, that sends the sands and dust devils in plains and deserts across the landscapes, does it have a special task—to move the spirits, too, from place to place, and wait for something to make the places that they move across welcome for a wandering spirit with nowhere else to be?

Water too, when the rains come, calls up the seeds of desert flowers—do they, too, have spirits—and make the desert for a day more beautiful than any garden—and touch forever the spirits of the living creatures who see them? What spirits might be there, be transient, or come and go whenever the are called, or if not called, come and go as they please?

If it is spirit…what is it? Must it be “in” something, “of” something, “about” something, “enter” or “surround” or “inhabit” or “accompany” or……..

The effect of “time” on “spirit” has rarely been addressed. But does a spirit have a lifetime, or is it timeless—that is, when it is not “at work” it retreats to…where…?

More Questions
In the previous paragraphs are many questions…but no answers. What kind of “spirit” might be part of a rock, or waterfall, or valley, or stream, some where nothing living comes near, or other places that have living things that may share. Might it be the awareness of each other, and create places that stir the senses of other living beings. The feelings some of us have, of welcome, or fear, or anxiety, or comfort, happiness, awe, or only a feeling that “something” is there…when humans get such feelings, are they intentional or merely “leaking out” and only by accident are felt by the accidental “sensitive” intruder?

Because we don’t know how to even “raise” these spirits, we have little ability to study them and their effects on us. Or, for that matter, our effect on them.

Perhaps we should begin where we ourselves live. Do WE create “spirits” of, perhaps a city, or a highway, or park, or lake, or building, or monument? What instruments might we need to develop? Do we have anything now? Perhaps, but more likely it would be stopping and waiting and feeling and asking and experimenting.

Take a walk in early morning, in your neighborhood? Is your own spirit there? Where do you live, and with whom? The spirit of your house, your flowers, your back yard, rooms in your house, or places in your garden?

Have you lived there longt? Who lived there before? Are there spirits in the trees on your property? If you live in an apartment, what spirits might have been there before you arrived, and could they be there now?
You might feel something that gives you a new thought, or reminds you of when you lived somewhere else—did that spirit come with you—and how, in your luggage, furniture, or in you yourself—your memories, and feelings, and the wonder you might begin to feel about what may be around you, and that you have for the first time, discovered.

John H. Langer, JD, Ed.D. Retired Federal agency manger, former professor of education, public school administrator, and writer of a number of articles and publications on education, public affairs, substance abuse and social issues. In writing a book on attention and memory as it relates to education, this blog is helping to focus attention n current issues, and hopefully, add something useful as well.

Leave a Comment