What’s the Difference between “Spiritual” and “Energetic”?

We often conflate the words “Spiritual” and “Energetic,” in the worlds of energy medicine and new-age thought. We assume that the biofield, subtle energies, the aura, chakras, qi, etc, are interchangeable with “Spirit” or “Spiritual.” But when we do that, we cannot see the spiritual forest for the energetic trees.

It’s a materialistic “muddle” (to para-quote Gregory Bateson’s “Steps to an Ecology of Mind”.) I’m not just nitpicking here. Yeah, I very much grok that it’s all one, spirit and energy are one, there are no distinctions, blah blah blah. But using language at all creates distinctions… so let’s at least create better distinctions!

Let’s not think mechanistically about spirituality. Why would we want to diminish the infinite essence of spirit by assuming that it is local – located in the aura or the biofield?

When I hear the phrase “Spiritual Energy” bandied about, I involuntarily, instinctively – and intuitively – recoil. (Almost as much as I cringe when the word “Quantum” is randomly appended to new-age concepts – but that’s a whole ‘nuther rant.)

“Energy” has a zillion different shades of meaning, and none of them are exactly synonymous with spirit. Spirit has energy, like everything else. Spirit manifests with very little form and a lot of void, so we tend to primarily perceive its energy – because that’s about all that our pint-sized perceptions can pick up. But that’s like Plato’s cave reflections plus the blind men’s elephant, multiplied by the Rashomon effect.

In my experience, spirit is expanded consciousness, and spirituality is about opening to, tuning in to, and resonating with, that consciousness.

And for corroboration, it’s no less than Rupert Sheldrake to the rescue. He says that spirituality is “forms of consciousness that go beyond the human level, or the social level. Direct experience of connecting with [consciousness] is what most people mean by ‘spirituality’.” Sheldrake also makes a distinction between spirit, soul, and psychic — where soul is the field of an individual, and psychic connections like telepathy are part of normal communication between individuals — they are not spiritual.*

* Here’s where Sheldrake says all this. Funny how it coincides with my timing of this blogue and upcoming teleseminar. There’s morphic resonance afoot!) http://www.sheldrake.org/audios/science-set-free-podcast

So without resorting to religious terminology, I would posit “spirit” as expanded consciousness, and spirituality as the various connections to that consciousness.

Let’s not confuse spirit with its energetic by-products. The expressions and signs of the existence of spirit vary greatly, depending on the observer. Invoking biofields, auras, chakras, jin, qi or shen, etc… is not necessary, in order to have a direct experience of spirit.

All those forms and footprints of spirit are beautiful, interesting and real. But they are incomplete.

Take the analogy of music: its notes and clefs and quavers, its melody, harmony, rhythm and timbre, its waveforms of frequency and amplitude, its resonance patterns in water, wood, or metal, its emotional affects, its aesthetic effects, or its ranking on the Billboard charts — all those various forms are limited, partial representations of the whole.

For best results, allow spirit to take whatever form, or formlessness, that it happens to manifest in the moment. Don’t assume it has to look like what you learned in that aura reading class, or violet flame training or “how to see a burning bush” weekend retreat. I’m not saying those things aren’t real – just that you don’t need to limit yourself exclusively to them!

Spirit is always infinitely larger than we think it is, and it is far beyond the words we use to describe it… including these words.

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  1. Great article. This is a great perspective about spirituality, spirit, and energy. I always enjoy reading your posts. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Falguni Shah says:

    Dearest Elma, loved the seminar – drooling! Love that spirit is expanded consciousness n spirituality means ways of tuning into it n to allow it to manifest its form n formlessness. Not being aware of its unmanifestation n how awesomely big – infinite it is is almost pessimistic – haha – almost like a cloud cover which u removed for me – thank u again

  3. Joy Goch says:

    Love the differences we all have.
    I appreciate Dr. Vetter’s response as it
    expanded my awareness.
    i thought Elma”s description of soul was interesting.

  4. Elma Mayer says:

    Thanks, Dr. Vetter, I love your Oneness reminders!

    As you say, I speak from a dualistic perspective – but so do we all, because speech is dualistic.

    Otherwise our only possible response to anything would be a single word that means everything:
    “Oneness.” “Oneness.” “Oneness.” (Or better yet, silence.)

    But of course, speech is a holon, or the “explicate” way of talking about Wholeness (to invoke David Bohm’s “Wholeness and the Implicate Order”). The implicate and explicate ways of understanding Wholeness – and being Whole – are simultaneous.

    In my non-speech infinite being, I am non-dual. But just because I “explicate” things, using separate words, does not mean that my explanations are not also Implicate, with an already-existing unbroken Wholeness.

    As the muddle is an expression of Oneness, so is the un-muddling. It’s all good!

    Or, if this alternate reply makes more sense… Oneness! 😉

  5. Yes, thank you. I have the same response when people use spiritual, energetic, and quantum as if they were the same word. I appreciate such a clear definition of the distinctions.

  6. Elma,
    Usually I enjoy your take on the subject of energy etc. And I acknowledge that often you speak from a dualistic perspective. And from a dualistic perspective one can attempt to separate out Spiritual “energy” as something different from “OTHER” energy. Even to the point of labeling consciousness (expanded or otherwise) something different. While paying lip service that it is all one.

    Your assertion that “Energy” has a zillion different shades of meaning, and none of them are exactly synonymous with spirit.” Is not accurate. You may want to check the work of Arnold Patent (Universal Principles) Apparently your meaning for the word “Energy” is different than some. Expecting everyone to have your meaning and then defending your meaning can be a daunting expectation.

    What if someone used the meaning of energy as that which makes up everything, that interpenetrates, surrounds, up holds and carries everything, both physical and non-physical, both moving and potential, infinite and finite, temporary and eternal, limitless and limited,.perfect and imperfect, complete and incomplete. i.e. energy or love or what some refer to as consciousness

    From a Oneness expressing as duality perspective… duality (all the different labels/distinctions/etc) is simply oneness expressing itself. You could call oneness Spirit or consciousness etc and yet it is still all the same thing expressing.

    You wrote… “Let’s not think mechanistically about spirituality. Why would we want to diminish the infinite essence of spirit by assuming that it is local – located in the aura or the biofield?”

    It is only dualistic thinking separated from Oneness thinking that would think that finite is a diminish-ment of infinite and not be able to perceive, feel, and experience both the finite in the infinite and the infinite in the finite. The form and the formless all at the same time and the mechanical and non-mechanical as well.

    Infinite and finite are not separate. They are extensions or two sides of the same coin called Oneness.

    It is only a materialistic muddle if one perceives material as separate and not the extension of spiritual/divine/non-material.

    It is the dualistic perspective separated out from Oneness that see things as either or (muddled) where a perspective of duality as an extension of Oneness sees clarity regardless of the alleged separate polarities.

    To Your Best,
    Dr. Vetter – LucidLiving.co