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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


DE BEER, Fanie. What is happening to spirit in the meantime? Some exercises in the impossible. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2013, vol.53, n.4, pp.497-514. ISSN 2224-7912.

This article reflects on the vicissitudes of spirit and spirituality during the course of time. In the early phases of human history until fairly recently, spirit and spirituality were essential to their history and shamelessly confessed and promoted. Examples of this attitude are apparent in the works of Aristotle, Augustine, Spinoza, Hegel, and the philosophers of the spirit, Bachelard and Gadamer. They generally see spirit as the organizing, fundamental and forceful principle that guides and inspires humans towards many great achievements, the principle responsible for organising all special attributes and qualities of humans such as psuche, phusis and logos -science, art and religion. Gradually this self-evident and taken for granted presence and force of human spirituality, responsible for making human history and establishing great and exciting human achievements, has been quietly but sometimes even ruthlessly eroded in diverse ways. Its fate is multi-faceted. It is either simply forgotten or pushed aside, or active efforts ofdespiritualisation became effective. From another perspective it becomes emasculated and loses its force, or becomes seconded to machines up to the point of complete elimination in the sciences of various kinds, until eventually, in some circles, an aggressive antagonism towards the idea of spirit and explicit rejection of this idea emerged. Merely mentioning spirit becomes a shameful event, a laughing matter, and even a subject of jokes. What goes relatively unnoticed in these processes is the extent to which these dismissive attitudes regarding spirituality bring about catastrophic and barbarous consequences, with devastating implications for human existence, human societies, scientific endeavours, social initiatives and aesthetic expressions. World wars, unbridled violence of humans against humans, exploitation of humans by humans, the absence and loss of meaningful human existence, the development of symbolic misery, the emergence of dis-affected individuals, the sociopathologies that reign in societies, the darkening of the world manifested in the flight of the gods, the celebration of mediocrity, the standardisation of humans and the destruction of the earth are some of the devastating and ruinous consequences. According to some these developments pose a serious threat to the future of the human race - humankind may be on the edge of disappearing. If this scenario is true and real, which clearly seems to be the case, deep and serious attention should be given to these developments in view of the future not only of specific individuals but of humankind as a whole. This creates the imperative that there needs to be a reawakening of spirit and spirituality; it should be reinvented for the contemporary milieu, circumstances and demands which differ extensively from previous times. What is required is the creation of a milieu that will facilitate this re-awakening and re-invention of spirituality: a deep rethinking of the notion of community; extensive efforts to pursue without hesitation the battle for intelligence; a serious embracement of comprehensive and compositional thinking; a rediscovery of the deepest possible understanding of what knowledge really means. The suggestion is that the re-invention and reawakening of human spirituality, through attentive thoughtful listening to Being, will enable human communities to deal constructively with the huge problems with their catastrophic proportions that threaten humankind, enabled by the concurrent re-awakening and re-invention of human attitudes of friendship, love and care with socio-therapeutic consequences on a wide scale and pertinent for our unique situations and conditions. This calls for the deliberate, explicit and communal development on a continuous basis of "the art of being" with Being.

Keywords : spirit; catastrophe; barbarism; invention; future.

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