Spiritual Wisdom for Secular Times

The search for meaning and faith.

Spirituality for Beginners 3: What is a Person?

The spiritual dimension seems to envelope and hold together everything.

Da Vinci's 'Man' (detail)
Let's consider this question, ‘What is a person?'

It would be natural to start with some ideas about the body, about the biology of the human organism, and at a simpler level about the atoms and molecules, the DNA and other stuff that goes into reproduction, evolution and so on. Everyone has heard about these, even if you don't understand exactly how they work.

Next, when we think about ‘What is a person?', our thoughts might turn towards the mind, thinking about consciousness, about having thoughts and feelings, the five main senses of touch, taste, sight, hearing and smell, about having impulses and the capability of speech and action. We might also think about memory and imagination, and other human capabilities like intuition and creativity.

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These things are all in the mix and important as we work towards answering the question. So too are ideas about the formation and breaking up of relationships, in other words consideration of family and social groups, communities, societies, tribes, cultures, and nations.

Biology & Psychology - Is this what makes you a person?
To summarize, we have been discussing four ‘dimensions' of human experience. They are: material (the realm of matter and energy, of physics and chemistry), biological (concerning organs and organisms), psychological (about personal mental functioning), and social (about interactions between people and groups of people).

This is a good start, but it is incomplete. A fifth dimension is necessary to get the whole picture: the spiritual dimension. It can be hard to pin down, but it seamlessly envelopes, influences and holds the others together, in a way (perhaps the only way) that renders them profoundly coherent.

Next time, we will look more deeply together into this, and we can start by asking and exploring another of life's vital questions: ‘Who am I?'


Copyright Larry Culliford

Larry's books include ‘The Psychology of Spirituality', ‘Love, Healing & Happiness' and (as Patrick Whiteside) ‘The Little Book of Happiness' and ‘Happiness: The 30 Day Guide' (personally endorsed by HH The Dalai Lama).

 

Larry Culliford, M.B., B.Chir. (Cantab), M.R.C. Psych. (UK), is the author of the Psychology of Spirituality and a psychiatrist in Sussex, England.

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