Reflections on the ownership of consciousness: A contribution to a conference on 'spirituality'

Scientific thinkers tend to avoid the word spirituality. Those who use it often hold onto it as a marker for certain values which they feel strongly are important but which they cannot fully account for. This paper, written by a psychoanalyst, enquires whether there may be a place for such a concept, starting from the need to accommodate the existence of consciousness into the scientific world view. The author suggests that the accumulated experience of some religious traditions (though not necessarily their mythology) indicates the existence of a structure to subjectivity which needs to be taken into account, and which is now being approached by developmental psychology and neuroscience. He suggests that two ways of conceiving the world may be called for and may both be valid: firstly, a revised form of scientific monism, and secondly a vision of the world as composed exclusively of subjects. The latter is, perhaps, the vision which the proponents of spirituality are intuitively glimpsing.
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