Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751
DE BEER, Fanie. The idea of the spirit. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2011, vol.51, n.4, pp.472-489. ISSN 2224-7912.
We are currently experiencing, and have for some time now been subjected to, a degradation, or a neglect, or even a loss of an awareness of spirit and spirituality on a grand scale. In a time that measurement and calculation are considered to be the decisive dimensions of human thinking the immeasurable and intangible stand to lose ground and are of less and less interest. In addition technical developments of an enormous scope are taking the place of any spiritual engagement and spiritual values. It has to be emphasised that it may be extremely risky to set aside "the life of the spirit" as developed, debated and analysed over centuries, since the Greek philosophers, simply for the sake of shallow ideological reasons and equally weak scientific arguments. Many factors - economic, epistemological, socio-political and individual - contribute to the deflation of spirit. The point of departure for this article is firmly based on the notion of nous in Greek philosophy, especially Plato and Aristotle, and the explorations and developments of this notion through the centuries up to the present by philosophers of special significance. The life of the idea or philosophy of spirit is seated between the passive understanding of nous and the intelligence that thinks itself. The exploration of the idea of the spirit in this sense guarantees the future of philosophy. Spirit in this sense is a personal but also universal activity that brings to life, to the forces of life itself, to the world, and the responses the world imposes on us, meaning and sense. It is the mobilisation of the powers of human beings in their fullness and in their questioning of being itself. Part of the malaise of our times can be related precisely to the neglect and absence of being by fractured human beings. The transformative power of the spirit at work is what needs to be reinvented as a response to this malaise. It has been emphasised that ideas can transgress the physical, perceivable, measureable and calculable reality by far, even up to the point of the infinite. Phantasm and imagination form strong partners in this process of transgression and the functioning of both these human capacities are not at all of an empirical nature, but is altogether nothing else but spiritual work in the full sense. The search for meaning goes beyond physical boundaries into the domain of the infinite. The possibility of the spiritual must be seen as an intentional but "non-real" component of the phenomenological lived experience. This non-reality, or "irreality", this intentional but non-real inclusion of the noematic correlate is neither in the world, nor in consciousness, but it is precisely the condition of any experience, any objectivity, any phenomenality, namely of any noetic-noematic correlation. One can speak of a manifestation - spirit/spirituality manifests itself. This spectral or spiritual structure of phenomenology, the structure of this intentionality, doubles the real as the infinite of the imagination. What is now required is the cultivation of the relationship between idea and spirit. Spirit in the deepest sense is the converging principle that links together diverse matters and ideas from a diversty of sources and directions into an integrated unity - a kind of multiple, connective intellection. This view has significant implications for science and knowledge. The science of the knowing spirit (noology) is quite complex: on the one hand, there is a branch in which nooorganisation (the organisation of the idea of the spirit) refers to the theory of auto-ego-organisation; on the other hand, there is a branch which is logical, ideological, semiotic, linguistic. We are thus back to the real compexity of the interpenetration, via the sciences of spirit, between the natural sciences and the human sciences with the realisation of their mutual dependency and the implication that knowledge in its fullness goes infinitely beyond disciplinary boundaries. Ignorance in this regard is caused by and is at the same time also the cause of "the debasement of spiritual values" and "the underdevelopment of human spirituality". At the same time we have to realise that what happens to spirit and spirituality within the framework of all kinds of theories and disciplines, even if it happens in a negative sense, undeniably happens in the name of spirit. One way of envisaging the problem of the spirit consists in taking into account the tensions that bind together and oppose viewpoints, perspectives and theories regarding spirit, and in taking an interest in them as inhabiting the living core of a complex reality. Even in cases where the urge exists not even to use the term the fact cannot be hidden that spirit is undeniably present in the very system of thought where it is denied. Downloading consciousness, the seat of the spirit, into machines is nothing but an engagement with spirit and the spiritual and reflects a way of thinking about spirit. The importance of reversing the processes of degradation, debasement and underdevelopment of spirit and spiritual values as well as the barbaric and catastrophic actions and policies this may entail, poses an enormous challenge. There are many and very strong powers that must be encountered. Economic and market forces have no time for spiritual endeavours. Technical developments are keen to delegate human spirituality to machines. The justification for these directions should be analysed as well as possible, foreseeable as well as experienced implications must carefully be analysed with a view to counteractions. How can human beings and humanity be "saved" from a complete loss of spirituality? Thoughtfulness of a certain nature, by far exceeding calculation, needs to be awakened, the reenchantment of the world and of being, the expansion of human consciousness as the seat of the spirit, the cultivation, utilisation and organisation of ideas, the deepening of the understanding of knowledge in all its dimensions including the ethics of knowledge, and the extensive promotion and application of multiple, connective intellection. Scientific publications, with the aid of active intellectuals, can and should play a major role in this regard and need substantial support.
Keywords : Spirit; infinite; thought; knowledge; idea; consciousness; calculation; intelligence; noology; science; image of the human being.