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Spiritualism

SPIRITUALISM

The term "spiritualism" seems to have been coined by 17th-century theologians to signify erroneous forms of mysticism, but was taken over by V. cousin to denote his own eclectic philosophy. Its use in philosophy became common in the 19th century, both in the wider sense of systems opposed to materialism, as with T. S. Jouffroy (17961842) and maine de biran, and in more restricted contexts, as referring for instance to trends of thought originating with St. Augustine. In general usage, thinkers are termed spiritualist if they maintain the existence and primacy of a reality that is distinct from, and not derived from, matter, that of itself is not subject to the determinations of time and space, and that, in its existence, is independent of a bodily frame. Such reality may be conceived as an impersonal, universal cosmic force, or as personal, either in a supreme being or in finite beings; it may be regarded as the only reality, implying the negation of matter; or it may be affirmed as coexistent with matter and associated principally with certain aspects or regions of reality, such as essences or values, or the order and structure of the universe. Under the heading of spiritualism one may therefore include such diverse systems as pantheism, deism, theism, idealism, immaterialism, personalism, and many forms of realism.

Idealism provides the spiritualist philosopher with many valid arguments in favor of the reality and superiority of spirit, without implying that all forms of being are fundamentally spiritual in the sense of being limited manifestations of one primal spirit, or that they are inconceivable except as objects essentially related to, if not immanent in, the act of thought. Catholic philosophy sees such implications as exaggerations of the truths that all finite being proceeds from the creative knowledge of God and that the formal element in all creatures may be seen as the external realization of a divine idea as its prototype. Material beings may, moreover, be seen as relative to mind since they are formally true only for mind and are endowed with higher perfection in the mind when they are known. The affinity of being with thought does not imply that being is essentially either spiritual or immaterial, but that both created thought and created being have their source in the creative knowledge of God.

Forms of realism that teach the evolution of spirit from matter deny in practice the principle of causality. They also imply the denial of the validity of knowledge. But such a denial is itself knowledge, and therefore, if it does not contradict itself, it at least deprives itself of any right to be heeded. The denial of the spirituality of man is itself an act of the mind of man and implies the very spirituality that is denied. If it be granted that thought is not spiritual and is nothing more than the result of the play of material forces, there can no longer be any question of truth for man, in which case the initial supposition cannot be regarded as true. The denial of spirituality thus involves a latent contradiction.

See Also: spirit; spiritism; panpsychism; idealism.

Bibliography: j. macquarrie, Twentieth-Century Religious Thought (New York 1963). a. dondeyne, Contemporary European Thought and Christian Faith, tr. e. mcmullin and j. burnheim (Pittsburgh 1958.). j. d. collins, God in Modern Philosophy (Chicago 1959). É. h. gilson, Being and Some Philosophers (2d ed. Toronto 1952); The Unity of Philosophical Experience (New York 1937). a. g. sertillanges, Le Christianisme et les philosophies, 2 v. (Paris 193941). m. f. sciacca, Il problema di Dio e della religione nella filosofia attuale (3d ed. Brescia 1953). l. brunschvicg, Les Âges de l'intelligence (3d ed. Paris 1947). r. vancourt, Pensée moderne et philosophie chrétienne (Paris 1957). n. a. berdi[symbol omitted]ev, Esprit et réalité (Paris 1943). f. tuloup, L'Âme et sa survivance, depuis la préhistoire jusqu'à nos jours (Paris 1947).

[a. j. mcnicholl]

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