The Value (or Transvaluation) of Lies


“According to utilitarian theory, lying is good if it promotes a greater total amount of happiness (or the sum of the happiness experienced by the liar and the unhappiness experienced by his/her victims) than telling the truth. Lying is also good if it promotes a greater total amount of happiness for a greater number of people than telling the truth. The moral quality of lying is determined by the degree to which it promotes the greatest amount of pleasure or happiness for the greatest number of people.

. . .

“The liar as hero is a subject of ancient Greek mythology, in which a liar may be portrayed as both a hero and a scoundrel. Odysseus, for example, is a hero of Greek mythology who is a skillful liar and deceiver. . . .”

Alex Scott, “The Morality of Lying and Deception”


Too much abstraction leads not only to a sweeping generalization but also to a blatant universalization of the notion of the immorality of lying: The act of lying is malevolent, across the board. As a moral issue, the topic of lying has already reached a level of non-negotiable finality that precludes more serious and in-depth discussions. Lying, lies, liars  . . . there is nothing good in them. With this pre-conceived idea in mind, talking about the value of lies is but an exercise in futility, much less, a stupid attempt to philosophize on an ethically “unredeemable” matter. Overwhelming public opinions have already univocally decided that lying is wrong, lies are malicious and liars are wicked.

But the human condition reveals otherwise. Lying is commonplace. Liars abound everywhere. Lies proliferate in a myriad of occasions here and there irrespective of context, intent and outcome. Because of lies, lying and liars, relationships are wrecked, circumstances are messed up, plans go awry, people are ruined, futures are devastated, hopes are spurned and lives are destroyed. In a wide range of instances, problems and troubles abound, both small- and large-scale, because of lies. This is the existential character of human reality: The real world where we live in is a world of lies inhabited by self-conscious entities with an unlimited propensity to lie.

Parallel to this reality, however, is the ideality of truth. Truth being the opposite of lie is what we desire. In this consideration, we are drawn once again to high-level abstraction with the rigid belief in the inalienable goodness of truth-telling versus the absolute immorality of lying. We are a vocal bunch calling for truth. We generally project the impression that we are incorruptible promoters of truth. We purposely stand up in public and openly express our strong advocacy of truth and vigorous defiance of falsehood, lies and distortion of veracity.

The truth of the matter is we humans are paradoxical creatures exalting truth on the one hand yet consciously committing lies on the other. Like Epimenides the Cretan, we find ourselves in a cycle of contradiction by hollering, “All Cretans are liars!” . . . If what he said was true, then he must be a liar; if what he said was false, then he was telling the truth.

But are all lies truly unilaterally destructive and hence malevolent? Is there not a single instance in human life wherein a lie has benefited the need of an individual person in a positive way, i.e., without harming others or without being detrimental to particular states of affairs? If we are decidedly convinced that all lies are evil and absolutely inimical to the human condition, then why does lying seem to be as natural as an inherent practice in certain human interactions? Why don´t we focus our attention on what realistically happens and concentrate our discussion within its limits?

High-level abstraction, though, is a habitual practice in classical philosophizing which in the process has the spontaneous predisposition to inadvertently dissociate conceptual discourse from existential groundwork. Thus, the challenge we are into at this point is for us to appropriate the issue of lies and lying in its actual state which is the existential location. The task at hand is therefore to correctly explore the occurrence of lies in real human experiences, their triggering factors and their equilateral effects in a variety of instances as we ourselves individually experience them and as we observe them being experienced by others.

The “politics”—i.e., the power structure—of human reality is characterized by benevolent and malevolent forces generated by the dynamics and mechanics of social interactive factors which challenge on the one hand and sustain on the other the more basic essentials of survival and the more advanced meaningfulness of human dignity. Unless we get seriously mindful of these matters, the inevitable course of life slides down to irrelevance, even to the extreme point of dehumanization as we are deprived of the necessary defences against the onslaught of vicious hostilities and aggressive assaults towards our very own humanity. This is the existential battleground where the imminence of decisiveness and action defines its own morality beyond the traditional and trivial conception of good and evil which spontaneously leads to what Nietzsche called “transvaluation of values”.

In the context of our present discussion on the value (or transvaluation, if you will) of lies, the existential determinant of its morality is therefore dependent on how we humans confront the forces of benevolence and malevolence. In this connection, lying may either be destructive or constructive. “Constructive lying” concurs so well with the benevolent forces and wages war against malevolence whereas “destructive lying” does the opposite. In this very process of existential transvaluation, we smash to smithereens and hence transcend the traditional myth that all lies are evil. In other words, there are very realistic instances in the human condition where lying becomes a benevolent act that sustains human flourishing through (1) relief from suffering; (2) resolution of conflict; and (3) promotion of wellbeing.

An oft-cited example is in a situation of large-scale conflict as in a war where a POW being interrogated by the enemy in a prison camp is not supposed to tell the truth even to the point of death as to information leading to tracing the whereabouts of his comrades. Lying to criminal elements on matters that if truth is revealed, the situation of innocent people would be in serious jeopardy is another instance. In less grave circumstances but would still put into a risky situation another person if truth is told, a “constructive lie” is appreciable as long as in the issuance of it, no collateral damage would be generated towards other people, much less, those who are not originally and directly involved in the problem on a wider scope.

Other types of lies are likewise deemed constructive when uttered as a defensive stance in cases where the issue of personal survival is at stake, but again, with the caveat that such would not necessarily create collateral damages to innocent people anywhere and anytime. This particular consideration is in acknowledgment of the fact that every individual has certain jealously guarded secrets that must not be publicly revealed. Otherwise, the possibility of weakening the fibre of his personal dignity would be severely affected and at worst damaged. But an inevitable circumstance could unexpectedly occur at the most inconvenient time and a most jealously guarded secret could unwittingly be put on the spot and inadvertently challenged. This is a particular instance where a constructive lie works without generating damage to anybody much less to one´s very own self.

In the utilization of constructive lies purposely (1) to preserve the worth of one´s person, (2) to sustain and strengthen order in human interaction when destructive forces dare and jeopardize it and (3) to achieve better conditions in life when truth becomes aggressively ruthless and existentially out of hand, the one and only caveat emptor is that this type of lies must absolutely not in any way cause harmful effects to other people as well as to events both foreseeable and unforeseeable anywhere and anytime.

Contrary to constructive lies are of course the destructive ones. These are lies sustained and in turn further strengthen the clout of malevolent forces in human interaction. Their sole intent is to wreck relationships, mess up circumstances, obliterate plans and ruin people. These are the lies that originally and unilaterally conditioned our minds to think across the board that all lies are immoral.

With the transvaluation that we have so far done on the issue of lies, something has been made clear in our broadened consciousness. In this very process, we have been able to categorize lies as either constructive or destructive and while focusing now our attention more on the destructive variety, the same abhorrence remains: Lies of the nefarious type are and will always be evil.

© Ruel F. Pepa, 29 January 2014



light filters through the smoked glass windows

of the living room and surely it´s not the sun

for the day has been cloudy since this morning

when i woke up. but why should i be concerned

about where it´s coming from when what really

matters now is the light itself which has gladdened

my spirit and has guided me to do my heart´s desire.

light penetrates the dark corners of the room

and lets me get a full view of the magnificent objects

that have inspired my life all through the years—

volumes and figurines, busts and statuettes,

framed photos of youthful vigour and vibrant motions

in fearless modes of  a carefree existence reflected

in broad smiles and hearty laughter—beyond measure.

light floods and illumines my soul with exuberance

like a power that liberates from the tyranny of darkness

and leads my path to a higher point where i can see

infinity and feel with my inner sense the bursting colours

of cosmic awe beyond the trivial and the commonplace.

and at the point of timelessness in perfect solitude

i am now face to face with the source of my enlightenment.


–r. f. pepa, 20 january 2013

The Importance of Childhood


“Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul.”

–Dave Pelzer, A Child Called “It”

“Sunsets, like childhood, are viewed with wonder not just because they are beautiful but because they are fleeting.”

–Richard Paul Evans, The Gift

Once we were all children not mindful of the passing of time while savouring “the joy,” “the fun” and “the seasons in the sun” (with apologies to Terry Jacks who popularized the song “Seasons in the Sun¨. in the 70s . . . Now, what we have are only memories of our childhood both faint and vivid. Joyful times and sad instances. . . . Obsessive wishes and spurned fancies. . . . Hearty laughter and tears of disappointment. . . . Sunny days and cloudy occasions. . . .  Seemingly endless games vigorously played with friends but also taking pleasure in sluggish moments when being alone was the best preference. Then one asks the question: How precious childhood really is?

As an axiological question (a matter of philosophical valuation), the importance of childhood to a child is immeasurable. It is a stage in life dominated by limitless wishes, gigantic dreams and boundless fantasies. It is a growth phase in the human condition characterized by energy, exuberance and brightness that inspire awe and admiration, curiosity and inquisitiveness. At least this is the exciting side of childhood which is generally true in normal circumstances.

But childhood has also a flipside which is characterized by wariness, gullibility, fear and anxiety. Growing up in many ways is a confrontation with “the unknown”. There´s a lot to be discovered and learned in the unfolding world of a child and some of which, though not totally unpleasant, are somehow disquieting and perplexing to the tenderness of a budding consciousness. This particular factor makes the issue of the importance of childhood a very critical concern not from the point of view of the child but from the point of view of an adult steward or guardian (commonly a parent) tasked to take the responsibility of giving a child proper care and nurturance.

I think this is the more crucial perspective from which the matter of the importance of childhood ought to be viewed. In this connection, a parent/guardian should be asking basic questions like: How should I properly nurture this child until s/he gets to her/his age of independence? What, in the first place, is proper nurturance? What basic steps should I take as a parent to instil moral virtues in her/his mind that would serve well-meant endeavours s/he will aim to fulfil in her/his adult life? What are the essential ways I should effect in the life of this child to instil in her/him a deep sense of responsibility, courage, criticalness, appreciation and integrity vital to the formation of a sober, stable and principled personality?

The fragility of a child´s psychological, emotional and intellectual constitution is the major point being raised here. In the course of this consideration, we are more seriously concerned with a parent´s/guardian´s manner of nurturance that will not stifle the child´s healthy self-image which has a necessary bearing on the spontaneous development of her/his self-confidence as s/he grows up. Without getting deeply into the behaviouristic theory of personality, it is a settled fact in the field of Psychology—more specifically in Child Psychology—that the conditioning process is very intense during the formative years of a child which occurs within the 0-to-7-years age range.

This age range is very critical in the nurturance of a child. We say that it is a “make-or-break” juncture for the psychological, emotional and intellectual “programming” that occurs within this period will have a lasting—even a lifetime—effect on the kind of person that will emerge in the child´s future adult life. We have here an intellectually, emotionally and psychologically delicate entity that is almost helpless without the understanding, guidance and nurturance expected to be responsibly provided by an adult steward. This is the phase of human development wherein the personhood of a human being is externally created and the “creator” is none other than the parent/guardian. In a lot of instances, grave failures can be committed at this stage and the possibility of having a dysfunctional adult in the future is a substantial risk.

The eminent biologist Richard Dawkins remarks towards the end of the video version of his highly controversial bestseller, The God Delusion [ ] as follows: “A child is genetically pre-programmed to accumulate knowledge from figures of authority.” This makes the child utterly dependent on the notions stuffed into her/his mind by the parent/guardian who for her/him is her/his figure of authority. An observation of the human condition brings us to the reality that the world is replete with emotionally imbalanced and psychologically inadequate adult individuals whose childhood had been destabilized, impaired and scarred by a kind of “programming” perpetrated by “figures of authority” who failed miserably in bringing out the best in these individuals´ humanity when they were yet children.

I am of the opinion that proper child guidance/nurturance is more of a facilitative task whose most important components are the releasing of the child´s creative power, the intensification of her/his sense of awe, and the freeing of her/his propensity to discover new levels of awareness in better understanding the world where s/he lives with the rest of humanity.

In conclusion, let me quote a piece of Kahlil Gibran´s wealth of insight from his monumental magnum opus,The Prophet:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. . . .

© Ruel F. Pepa, 22 January 2014

Symbolic Recording of Meaning


Homo sapiens sapiens is the only species in Class Mammalia that is always in search of meaning and significance—a homo poetica [cf., Ernest Becker, in “The Structure of Evil: An Essay on the Unification of the Science of Man”]. In normal circumstances, s/he is a homo loquens—a “talking being”—and a homo grammaticus—a language-using being—capable to communicate meanings by spoken language [cf., Johann Gottfried Herder in Treatise on the Origin of Language (1772) and Frank Robert Palmer in Grammar (1971) . . . see ].  Moreover, as an animal symbolicum [cf., Symbol, Myth, and Culture: Essays and Lectures of Ernst Cassirer, 1935-1945 ed. by Donald Phillip Verene (1981)], s/he is also uniquely equipped with the power to express meanings in symbols. As a homo faber, homo sapiens sapiens has been able to fabricate tools used to communicate her/his thoughts by material representation called symbolic recording. “As long ago as 25,000-30,000 years BP, humans were painting pictures on cave walls.  Whether these pictures were telling a ´story´ or represented some type of ´spirit house´ or ritual exercise is not known.” [“The History of Writing” . . . ]

Through time, human civilization has witnessed the evolution of “symbol-recording” tools from the crudest forms like: (1) the bronze or bone tools used to scratch moist clay tablet (ca. 4000 BCE); (2) the reed brushes or reed pens used by the Egyptians to write on papyrus scrolls (ca. 3000 BCE); (3) the metal styluses used by the Romans to etch on thin sheets of wax spread on wooden tablets (ca. 1300 BCE); and (4) quill pens (which first appeared in Seville, Spain) dipped into a vessel of ink (between 600-1800 CE) among others, to  the most sophisticated modern pencils and pens of all types. [“History of Writing Instruments” . . . ] We of the modern era have also been benefited users of more complicated technologies like the almost-extinct typewriter (manual or electric) and the modern computer of various types and sizes.

Human communication via symbolic recording has evolved since prehistoric time in cave paintings [cf., David Diringer in The Book Before Printing: Ancient, Medieval and Oriental (1982)] and petroglyphs or carvings on rock surfaces [cf., David Diringer in History of the Alphabet (1977)]. Thereafter, pictograms were used to represent objects, activities, events and concepts through illustrations and graphical symbols. Pictograms called cuneiforms by the Sumerians and hieroglyphs by the Egyptians further advanced into ideograms or the logographic system of writing aimed to symbolically record ideas in their smallest semantic units. The rest is history and what we have now in the modern world are writing characters (e.g., Chinese, Japanese and Korean, among others) and alphabets (e.g., Hebrew, Greek, Roman, Arabic, Cyrillic, among others).

Reckoned along with these developments in the field of human communication is the diversity of languages written in different symbolic representations. Nevertheless, inclusive of the dominance of western civilization in the modern world is the ascendancy of the use of Roman alphabet in symbolic recording. So that, even if the Chinese and the Japanese don´t seem to budge in the use of their respective writing characters, there is an implicit compelling factor that in certain international conditionality, they have to learn to write in Roman alphabet.

Despite all these, however, the complexities in communication on global scale have always been a problematic state of affairs as we consider the fact that the “babel” of a myriad of languages has always created a crisis in human understanding. There have even been attempts to formulate a single international language aimed to be spoken in the civilized world like Esperanto. But all these efforts have simply ended to add more new languages in the basket.

The world has been shrinking as new communication technologies and facilities are being developed. Globalization has become more real now than in its early stages of advancement.  The issue of better understanding and communication through symbolic representations has likewise become more imminent in the present dispensation while setting aside the endeavour to come up with and develop a single international tongue. In the face of problems brought about by the impossibility of direct communication and understanding among people of different nations in a “babel” of diverse languages is a serious international “debabelization” endeavour  through the formulation of internationally standardized pictograms easily recognizable and comprehensible by “globalized” denizens of different societies and nations on planet Earth.

In the 1930s, the International Foundation for the Promotion of Visual Education by the ISOTYPE Method based in The Hague, The Netherlands launched a programme called the International System Of Typographic Picture Education (ISOTYPE).The distinguished Austrian philosopher of science and language, Otto Neurath (1882-1945) of the Vienna Circle and Logical Positivism fame was tapped to lead a group of researchers tasked to do an initial exploratory survey and later an expansive and in-depth study on the matter and come up with an extensive proposal which in its final form was published by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd in London in 1936 bearing the title International Picture Language: The First Rules of Isotype [ ]. Stated in the initial pages is the rationale of the proposal as follows:

“The desire for an international language is an old one, and it is more than ever in men´s minds at this time of international connections in business and science. But ´debabelization´ is a very hard and complex work.The attempt to make one international language has given us a parcel of new languages. The best way out seems to be the use of instruments which are, or have become, international. For this reason this book is in Basic English, because this international language is part of an old language in general use.

“The question of an international language has now become important. There are a number of signs pointing to a great development of international organization in the future—though we are living in a time of warring interests and broken connections. Any work done on the question of international languages—with a view to making a word language, or a helping picture language—will give support to international developments generally. An international language has to take into account international needs, and at the same time it has to be as simple as possible.”

In this particular project, we find human civilization in the age of globalization being in a cycle that now returns to the ultimate significance of picture language or the utilization of pictograms as the most effectual means of communication on global scale. With all its limitations like giving symbolic representations to highly abstracted ideas, “post-modern” pictograms is an ever evolving system of communication understood in normal circumstances by people regardless of their native languages. These pictograms are common sights at visible and strategic locations in public places like subway stations, highways, supermarkets, libraries, restaurants, international airports, among others. On the cyberspace, internet sites are replete with handy pictograms (e.g., emoticons) now universally and automatically recognizable by “veteran” netizens.

As a philosophical matter in the specific area of the philosophy of language, symbolic representation/recording of meaning in its modern form is more officially associated with the philosopher Otto Neurath who was a distinguished co-founder and active member of the Vienna Circle of Logical Positivists formed at the University of Vienna in 1922. The founding of the Circle was basically inspired by the publication in 1921of Ludwig Wittgenstein´s monumental Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus [ ].

One of the most important theories presented in the Tractatus is the “picture theory of meaning” which, according to Wittgenstein, is operational in statements that are deemed meaningful if they can be defined by being mentally pictured to actually be in the real world. [This theory however triggered a highly controversial expansion and elaboration that stirred the long-established domain of metaphysics in classical philosophy when the logical positivist Rudolf Carnap came up with a series of philosophical papers disparaging traditional metaphysical statements as utterly meaningless—with the inclusion of theological statements which are basically metaphysical—for they cannot derive their meaningfulness from the real world through the operation of the picture theory of meaning. (E.g., Rudolf Carnap in “The Elimination of Metaphysics Through Logical Analysis of Language,” trans. by Arthur Pap . . . ) ]

The picture theory of meaning was especially highlighted by the logical positivists as a highly significant theory of meaning-clarification to facilitate understanding in human communication using language. It is this particular factor that Otto Neurath developed and extended further on the basis of the notion that pictures of reality have the unique properties capable of verifying statements issued out regardless of what particular language is used. In other words, Neurath aimed to concretize pictures by liberating them from the limitations of linguistic articulation recorded through words in alphabet and universalize them as symbolic representations of meanings aimed to be understood by all. From these efforts was born the ¨international picture language¨ guided by the principles that constitute the International System Of Typographic Picture Education (ISOTYPE) spearheaded by the International Foundation for the Promotion of Visual Education in the 1930s. On pages 18 and 19 of International Picture Language: The First Rules of Isotype, Neurath explains:

“Education by pictures in harmony with the ISOTYPE system, advertisement by ISOTYPE signs, will do much to give the different nations a common outlook. If the schools give teaching through the eye in harmony with this international picture language, they will be servants of a common education all over the earth, and will give a new impulse to all other questions of international education.

“The ISOTYPE picture language is not a sign-for-sign parallel of a word language. It is a language which may be put into words in very different ways. The units of the picture language have different senses when they are in different positions. It is possible to give a word for every part of such a picture or a statement for every group of parts. The parallel in a normal language of a complete ´language picture´ is a complex group of statements, and an account in words of what is in a group of language pictures would make a book. The sense of every part of these pictures is dependent on the sense of the complete picture and on its relation to the other parts of the picture. Like words they are used again and again to make quite different statements.”

© Ruel F. Pepa, 16 January 2014

On Spirituality


“Sciene is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life, then the soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.”

–Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as Candle in the Dark

“My religion consists of a humble admiration of  the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.”

–Albert Einstein

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having human experience.”

–Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Introduction: Is Spirituality Religiosity?

On a very casual plane of thought, spirituality is automatically associated with religion. In fact, a religious person is readily said to be spiritual at the same time. In this very superficial sense, the meaning of spirituality is hence derived from religiosity which is not anomalous at all for in certain instances, a religious person exemplifies the characteristics of a spiritual person. Now, we are drawn to the nitty-gritty of the issue at hand as we focus on the question: What are the characteristics that define a person to be called spiritual?

Since the present initial understanding of spirituality is derived from religiosity, a spiritual person is one who shows piety. A religious person being spiritual is thus said to be pious and being such is basically manifested in the performance of certain religious duties and responsibilities prescribed by the religion of which the person is an active member like for example: prayers, confession of sins, penance, regular church (service or mass) attendance, partaking of the Eucharist, tithing, engaged in a special apostolate, among others. Outside church-related activities, a person is reckoned as spiritual in the religious sense if s/he is obviously well-mannered and considerate, pleasant and gentle, not used to mouth cuss, offensive and vulgar words in the course of a casual conversation, not an excessive drinker or a glutton in gatherings, not conceited and overtly arrogant towards other people, among others.

But do all these outward appearances truly define spirituality which in the present discussion is yet correlated with religiosity? Can´t a person be called spiritual even without getting involved in the likes of the aforementioned religious practices or without toeing the line of what society expects from a religious person? Is there a way to get rid of the religious and get to a better understanding of spirituality in a secular, humanistic sense? Or perhaps there is yet a much more fundamental phase to consider before we get to this level of discussion and that is exploring more deeply the essence of spirituality sans religiosity. At this point, we get to take the challenge of isolating the issue of spirituality from the sphere of religion.

To Be Endowed with The ¨Spirit¨

A spiritual person is one who is basically endowed with the ¨spirit¨. But what is that so-called ¨spirit¨? In certain instances, we hear comments like, ¨That guy has overcome a tremendous challenge in his life because of his indomitable spirit.¨ . . . ¨Coping resolutely with all the difficulties and tragedies after the horrendous super typhoon that recently hit the Philippines was a sheer display of the Filipinos´ undaunted spirit.¨ . . . ¨Victory goes not to the skilled but to the spirited.¨ . . . ¨That´s the spirit! Don´t give up! You will prevail!¨ . . . ¨They could have won the game had they not lost the spirit towards the end.¨ . . . ¨Let´s uphold the spirit of sportsmanship.¨  . . . ¨The unrelenting spirit of patriotism in the hearts of the people of East Timor won for them their most cherished independence.¨

With all these states of affairs being realistically considered, we are led to a point where the issue of the spirit becomes a natural and spontaneous aspect of concrete human experience that finds its signification not only in reticent musing but likewise in linguistic expression. In other words, the spirit is not simply a matter of personal and private feeling but a shared empirical event whose articulation is not questioned but accepted as something inherent in the human condition. In practically all instances, the ¨spirit¨ evokes the significance of a life-giving energy. A sheer exercise of uncomplicated imagination presents the ¨spirit¨ as a power/force—an energy—that bestows an upward push. We could think of some moments of discouragement in life when someone who cares comes along with her/his high energy to lift us up. Following this line of thought brings us to the notion that the spirit reckoned as a force or energy is akin to life. It is the spirit that sustains and lifts life whether we take it literally or metaphorically. The spirit is therefore a life-bestowing power: to appropriate Henri Bergson´s terminology, the spirit is the élan vital, the life-force.

Spirit as Life-Bestowing Energy . . . Life as Spirit-Endowed

Hebrew ontology (applied and hence reflected in theological formulation via the Jewish Holy Scripture called the TANAKH which also constitutes the Old Testament of the Christian Bible) brings to light how the concept of the spirit (ruach in Hebrew) is necessarily tied up with the concept of life. The indisputable Hebrew ontological principle is that there cannot be a living nepesh (being) without the life-giving ruach (which in Hebrew theology is exclusively associated with human life).

A more detailed study of the Hebrew concept of ruach leads us to its most basic meanings as ¨wind,¨ ¨air,¨ and ¨breath¨ which is not alien to the concept of force, power and energy. Whether we take it theistically as in the Jewish scripture or non-theistically/atheistically by a semantic understanding, ruach in the physico-naturalistic sense as breath, wind or air, or in the philosophico-metaphorical sense as spirit (i.e., force, power, energy), one incontrovertible issue stands out and that is the fact that ruach as such is necessarily connected with life. The spirit is therefore not only life-giving but may logically be construed as life itself for life manifests energy. In contrast with this conception is a life that treads the path of death while its energy is fading away.

A Spiritual Life . . . An Energetic Life

A spiritual life is an energetic life. In this sense, spirituality is more meaningfully understood in its inalienable correlation with life itself. Further stretching this line of thought brings us to the notion that spirituality is life-promoting, life-loving, life-appreciating, life-empowering, life-preserving. A spiritual person is therefore a committed defender of life.

There is no question that death is inevitable for death befalls all living organisms alike, including humans. But a vicious human being who has caused irreparable damage to and destruction of life by way of an irrational action and wanton violence to achieve a selfish ambition or goal is a foremost violator and transgressor of the supreme virtue of spirituality. This precise understanding of the notion of spirituality diametrically opposes all atrocious and malevolent instrumentalities and agencies that sustain the culture of death.

Life being energy-endowed likewise characterizes the Earth. This very planet we call home is replete with energies in its geological and atmospheric constituents that sustain life for its flora and fauna. The earth is therefore alive. In this connection, there is something very spiritual in focusing on ecological concerns and advocacies to save the Earth from destruction in the hands of idiotic humanity.


In the final analysis, we have come to the conclusive point that spirituality understood much better as an inherent aspect of cosmic reality—whereof human reality is part and parcel—looms larger than religiosity. Religion that brazenly claims spirituality as its exclusive possession damages the profound essence of spirituality. Spirituality cannot be contained within the limited space of any religion for it is more fundamental than religion. In this light, a particular religion may only be perceived as a respectable human institution if it is well-entrenched on a solid spiritual foundation—a religion committed to promote the culture of life—for spirituality in its most genuine sense is the abundant emission of energies that love, promote, appreciate, sustain, preserve and empower life within and without religion.

© Ruel F. Pepa, 05 January 2014