Such distinctions as these then are important and must be continually borne in mind by all concerned. For example, we can never define or determine a spiritual essence in terms of – say – brain size or bone structure, tool-using or indeed, in any of the various forms of human organization, culture and bonding. For this we must look both within and beyond man, who in his capacity to think and do and even to be, in this (and the only) life we know, is bound by his own mortality.
And there are other ways of seeking to learn more and attain a firmer grasp on spirituality, beside the experiential approach. It was in the early part of the 20th century that important differences began to emerge, in response to a certain kind of question about man’s first awareness and acknowledgement of a spiritual dimension to his life, i.e. what function did it serve? Thus a “functional” response to enquiry concerning the existence of spirituality as an acknowledged phenomenon within man came into vogue for a while, in the sense that “spirituality is what spirituality does”.
The trouble with the functional approach is that it is tied to “doing” and in that sense entails actual phenomena. If some kind of solution comes about when the source of all life in the form of energy and power is attained and tapped into, it is still only accounting for what can be observed and remains, in this sense on the outside, so to speak. This is a consequence of what people experience spiritually, not the cause. Functionalism· – together with what we might call phenomenology·· of whatever kind – can never really come near to dealing with questions concerning truth, which lie on the inside and are never directly observable and in that sense recordable. Written history (commonly the most prolific source of information about the past) teaches us that the question about reliable and acceptable evidence concerning the existence of spirituality as an acknowledge phenomenon within man, is what in reality, gives rise to the most basic, powerful, enduring and continuing feature of all human existence, from prehistoric times right up to the present day, namely, religion.