What I mean by Spirit
I’m using the term “spirit” in a dual sense: “Incorporeal consciousness”[sup]1[/sup], and “The essential nature of a person or group”[sup]2[/sup]. Spirit is therefore not composed of matter or energy and can’t be sensed corporeally. Because it is a singular consciousness (since it isn’t corporeal), the spirit is a closed system or wff[sup]3[/sup]. Therefore, it is an Identity. It is at the root of our being. It is our ontological definition: [We = Spirit] And [Spirit = We].
What I mean by Suffering
I’m using the term “suffering” in the transitive sense, as “To undergo or sustain (something painful, injurious, or unpleasant)”[sup]4[/sup]. Suffering in this sense, then, is more than simply a feeling. It is a journey, a process, an ongoing struggle with pain and injury. It is an action. In fact, because of our free will, it is a praxis.
The teachings of Jesus
Since definitions have been given up front, please, when debating, refer to these meanings of spirit and suffering, and not to the many other meanings that are not relevant to this matter. I have suffered much criticism for walking into discussions using undefined terms in uncommon ways. Any such protest has been obviated by the offerings above.
According to Jesus, God is spirit.[sup]5[/sup] Jesus Himself cuts the dichotomy between spirit and flesh and acknowledges both the incorporeal and closed nature of the spirit with this remark: “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”[sup]6[/sup] Thus, the spirit is disassociated from flesh and is closed unto itself. You cannot therefore discern the spirit with your brain though you can discuss it with your brain. You cannot experience it with your body though you can express its joy and suffering with your body. You cannot see it with your eyes though you will most certainly know it when you see it.
As recently as a few months ago, I held the errant (or at least incomplete) view that the spirit suffers when it is coerced. Gaudere, however, offered an argument against this view that I considered compelling. And when I am confronted with reason that compels me to accept a conclusion, I always change my mind. I despise rationalization (the antithesis, in my opinion, of reason) and so sought to study more thoroughly and learn what spiritual suffering really is.
What follows is revelation that was a byproduct of study. These are my interpretations of matters, and your interpretations may vary. And herein lies the debate. This thread is not about whether there is or is not a spirit. Nor is it about whether there is or is not suffering. And it isn’t about whether Jesus is or is not an authority on spiritual matters nor about whether Jesus did or did not give these teachings. It is about what Jesus means when He talks about the metaphysics of spirit, given that He does in fact talk about it. Does He mean what I think, or have I misunderstood Him?
He says, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”[sup]7[/sup] Mainstream Christians hold that the reference to water is a reference to baptism. I disagree. I believe that the reference to water is a reference to physical birth. (As in a woman’s water breaking just before giving birth.) I believe that a careful study of the syntax and taxonomy of the entire passage[sup]8[/sup] of His conversation with Nicodemus conclusively shows that Jesus means once again that there is an unbridgable, hyperdimensional chasm between the physical universe and the spiritual one.
In fact, I believe that Jesus teaches that the physical universe is morally insignificant (and therefore morally neutral). Only the spiritual universe matters. He says, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.”[sup]9[/sup] I don’t know how much plainer He could possibly be about that.
Further, He teaches that the spirit is free and ubiquitous: “God gives the Spirit without limit.”[sup]10[/sup] That implies, in my view, that God will give us whatever we desire. (Remember the context: nothing is real but spirit; there is therefore nothing outside it to be desired.) The spirit exists independent of our observations, findings, comprehensions or apprehensions. He teaches, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”[sup]11[/sup] Yet again, he draws the dichotomy between the physical universe (“the world”) and the spirit.
After much prayer, mediation, and thinking on these teachings, I came to the conclusion that God is not the source of happiness, except in the indirect sense that He always allows us to pursue what we desire, guaranteeing only that, if we desire Him, He will give Himself to us.
God is the source of goodness; but our own desire — and specifically its fulfillment — is the source of happiness. Some people desire goodness. Some people don’t. Goodness is goodness, an absolute attribute of the Identity mentioned above. But happiness is a very subjective thing. What makes one man happy might likely make another miserable. Goodness, to be truly good, must fulfill a categorical moral imperative.[sup]12[/sup] Happiness occurs when our desires are fulfilled, and our desires are wholly disparate, one from another, due to the closed nature of our consciousness.
Thus, even evil people are not deprived of happiness (at least not by God), so long as they are fulfilling their desires. Jesus says to evil people (in this case, religion politicians), “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”[sup]13[/sup]
In fact, God deprives no one of the desires of his heart. It’s just that sometimes our desires are soooooooo trivial. Jesus comments on the desires of hypocrites: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”[sup]14[/sup] In other words, they want recognition from other men. Okay. They get recognition from other men. But had they wanted recognition from God, they would instead have prayed in private where only God could see their piety. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”[sup]15[/sup]
In summary, as I now see it, spiritual suffering is a manifestation of unfulfilled desire. If we desire evil, then we pursue evil, and evil is our reward. If we desire goodness, then we pursue goodness, and goodness is our reward. Those who are in hell (whether physically alive, dead, or not yet born) are not unhappy. They are in hell because they choose hell. They delight in evil and suffer nothing whatsoever spiritually from the absence of God. And God grants them the freedom of will to choose evil over goodness.
Those who suffer spiritually are those who desire goodness but have not yet found it, or else those who desire evil but are afraid to pursue it, or else those who have in some other way deprived themselves of pursuing their own happiness in their own way. When the essence of our being cannot achieve its own identity, it suffers. What we desire and what we are are one and the same. Thus, Jesus teaches, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”[sup]16[/sup]
The spirit suffers so long as it is deprived of what it desires.
[sup]1[/sup]The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company, definition 1b
[sup]2[/sup] Ibid definition 5b
[sup]3[/sup]Glossary of First-Order Logic Peter Suber, Philosophy Department, Earlham College
[sup]4[/sup]Op cit, definition 1 as v. tr.
[sup]5[/sup]Jesus of Nazareth John 4:24
[sup]6[/sup]Ibid John 3:6
[sup]7[/sup]Ibid John 3:5
[sup]8[/sup]John 3 A conversation between Jesus and the Pharisee Nicodemus
[sup]9[/sup]Op Cit John 6:63
[sup]10[/sup]Ibid John 3:34
[sup]11[/sup]Ibid John 14:16-17
[sup]12[/sup]Kant: The Moral Order ©1997-2001 Garth Kemerling.
[sup]13[/sup]Op Cit John 8:44
[sup]14[/sup]Ibid Matthew 6:5
[sup]15[/sup]Ibid Matthew 6:6
[sup]16[/sup]Ibid Matthew 6:21