Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Evolutionary Advantage of Spirituality

If spirituality has survived for so long, there is a very strong likelihood that it also confers an evolutionary advantage. When we make a distinction between religion and spirituality the question of what that advantage is, becomes easier to answer. If we accept that religion is a cultural expression of spirituality, the evolutionary or survival advantage becomes less of a puzzle.

The ability to feel part of something larger than yourself, to feel more than just an individual, to be part of something which is not physical in nature, is what allows us to exist in groups, in society. A spiritual ability allows man to live in large complex groups, and man is much more successful in a community than alone. Man is safer in a group. Man benefits from the combined knowledge of a community.

The level of spiritual ability varies between individuals just as it does for rationality. The level of spiritual experience also varies in individuals according to circumstances, but intense spiritual experience is a deeply satisfying experience for most people, leading to a reduction in stress and an increase in the feeling of general wellbeing. A spiritual ability, i.e. the ability to experience spirituality, seems to be beneficial to individuals as well as to the group as a whole.

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