Spiritual Life & Sanity in the Modern World – From Elihu’s Key – Mal Garvin
“Mental health requires that the human will submit itself to something higher than itself. To function decently in this world we must submit ourselves to some principle that takes precedence over what we may want at any given moment.”
We are body, soul and spirit. It is not that we have a body, soul and spirit; the three are feeding into our experience of reality all the time. 1 Thess. 5:23
Through my body (my soma), my five senses I can immediately be in touch with the world around me, that is, assuming I’m well and my soul with its anxieties and archaic emotions doesn’t intrude.
Through my soul (my psyche, my ego), I have a sense of myself however distorted by my emotional history or tortured by the underlying exquisite ache demanding I do things to compensate for feelings of inadequacy. This part of me is on an endless quest to help me think well of myself.
Through my spirit (my pneuma), if my ego doesn’t intrude, I can have a sense of the transcendent, the big and awesome reality which is bigger than my sense of me. When I’m attuned to my spirit, the power of the need to think well of myself evaporates. I can then have a sense of the eternal values that enrich life – love, beauty, truth and that timeless sense of hope that draws me on to an awareness of personal destiny and divine purpose.
The human awareness of a big and rich life waiting to be known:
In Job 33:4 Elihu unveils the secret we all half know, “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me real life.” What is this real life?
In Latin the word spiritus means life and breath. There are two Hebrew words for spirit, ruach and neshamah, and we are told God breathed into man’s nostrils the neshamah of life and man became the completed being. The breath of God is not simply the air that fills the lungs; it is the divine breath that fills and enlivens the soul and brings spiritual energy to the body. We’re told in Proverbs 20:27 “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord.”
It is this remarkable spirit referred to by Elihu that gives life its meaning, puts a sparkle in the eye, gives life to the whole being and personality and helps us move forward with hope toward shalom or peace.
What is life and what gives life?
If I took a mosquito pulled it apart then glued it together again with super glue, would it be a mosquito? No, it may look like a mosquito but it would lack the unique life of a mosquito. It would have the external characteristics of a mosquito but will not have that unique x factor that makes a mosquito a mosquito.
The human X factor
In the same way humans have certain ways of being. At our best, we have the capacity to be loving and compassionate and to see the bigger picture; we have a moral compass that enables us to know right from wrong and to choose right even when it’s difficult. We have the capacity to look over our own shoulder and tell ourselves unpleasant but honest truths about ourselves, and when we’re integrated we feel fulfilled. Sadly, we’re not always like this but if we could be convinced we could sustain it, it’s the way we would love to live.
Three year study shows that spiritual sensitivity is a common fact of life.
A recent three year international study from Oxford has concluded that a sense of God is an essential part of our human nature – that we are naturally predisposed to have an awareness of a divine presence and that some vital part of us survives death. Co-director of the project, Professor Roger Trigg said the research shows that religion is not just something a peculiar few do on Sundays instead of playing golf. “We have gathered a body of evidence that suggests that spiritual awareness is a common fact of human nature across a whole range of different societies.”
He said, ”This suggests that attempts to suppress spirituality and religion are always likely to be short lived. Human thought itself seems to be anchored in spiritual concepts such as the existence of God, supernatural agents and the possibility of an afterlife or pre-life.”
We instinctively know there is more to life than human thought can grasp.