Friday, December 4, 2009

Who is a Spiritual Rationalist?

As far as I know, I'm the only person who calls himself a “Spiritual Rationalist.”
About a year ago, I described the tenets of “Spiritual Rationalism in my blog post, The Philosophy of Heather Manning. In that post, I organized S.R. into 10 separate planks.

However, I didn't believe - and still don't believe - that a “Spiritual Rationalist” must believe in all 10 planks. Rather, my intention was to organize Heather’s personal version of S.R as described in The Mustard Seed. After all, S.R. is a philosophy of individualism and creativity which - by definition - could never have the dogma of an organized religion. And besides, dogma would severely limit its appeal.

Having said all that, I do think that a “Spiritual Rationalist” should have the following 3 qualities…

1) Respect for Reality and a commitment to using Reason to master Reality

2) Acceptance of the spiritual element to Life, and finding pleasure in that element

3) A conviction that it is appropriate, and indeed beneficial, to use Reason to understand Spirituality

That’s it. Just those 3 things. Everything else is commentary.

Who can be a Spiritual Rationalist?

*She can be a member of an organized religion (such as Christianity or Islam) as long as she thinks that Revelation is an aid to Reason instead of a substitute for Reason (i.e, anyone who isn't a fundamentalist).

*She can be a Darwinist.

Who CAN’T be a Spiritual Rationalist?

* She can't believe that Religion and Reason belong to separate spheres that shouldn’t overlap (i.e., someone like Dr. Francis Collins)

* She can't believe that Reality is an illusion (i.e, most Buddhists)

*She can't be an agnostic who is leans more towards atheism than theism (i.e., someone like Arthur C. Clarke)

With that in mind, here’s a list of historical figures who I think would probably qualify as “Spiritual Rationalists…”



Rene Descartes

Francis Bacon

John Locke

Charles de Montesquieu

Adam Smith


Thomas Jefferson

Ben Franklin

George Washington

Abraham Lincoln


Thomas Paine

Samuel Johnson


Albert Einstein

Alfred Wallace


Rudolf Steiner

Emanuel Swedenborg


John Templeton

Other Possibilities:

Jiddu Krishnamurti, Philosopher

Albert Schweitzer, Philosopher

David Bohm, Scientist

Freeman Dyson, Scientist

This is surely an incomplete list, and I will add to it as time goes on. And if you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Also, I’d like to begin a series in which I go into detail about each of these person’s philosophical and spiritual beliefs (like I did with Alfred Wallace). So stay tuned!


Yours Truly said...

I was just contemplating my stand on religion and spirituality and realized that I should classify myself as a Spiritual Rationalist. A short google search on the term and it led me here. Thanks for defining the term. Good to know that there are others who feel the same way.

Todd White said...

Yours Truly - I'm glad, as well :)