In 2003 I started looking at the science of emotion in order to determine if it would be useful for robots. When I had to do an English paper that year (middler year writing @ Northeastern University) I decided it would be something about emotions, but I wasn't sure at first what the specific theme would be. One question I had was, why do people often associate emotion with spirituality (or do they)?
Is it simply that some people never bothered to consider how emotion works, so it just gets classified with other mysterious phenomena like spirits? Or is it because religion has laid claims to human emotion?
I figured it wouldn't hurt to talk to a religious leader (not sure if the leader himself was religious, but he should at least would be more knowledgeable than me in religious matters). I was aware of the Unitarian Universalist church which is a strange mixture of various faiths. I had a meeting with the pastor (or minister? whatever he's called) at the Unitarian Universalist church in Harvard Square. I didn't record the meeting unfortunately (I couldn't afford recording devices back then) but he seemed to be familiar with some of the emotion books I was reading back then by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio.
One interesting thing that I remember him telling me is that the word "spiritual," or the modern usage and popularity of it, is actually relatively new. I'm not sure about its popularity, however, according to the Oxford English Dictionary , "spiritual" has been used in most of its current senses since at least the 1300s (based on the quotes OED provides). The exception is the sense of "spiritual home":
(with no religious connotation), a place or milieu, other than one's home, which seems especially congenial or in harmony with one's nature, or to which one feels a sense of belonging or indebtedness.
1481 Myrrour of Worlde (Caxton) ii. iv. 69 Ther ben yet plente of other places so delectable, so swete, and so spyrytuel that yf a man were therin, he shold saye, that it were a very paradys.
Then we get to a modern usage:
And some quotes:
Any agitation or disturbance of mind, feeling, passion; any vehement or excited mental state.
1660 Bp. J. Taylor Dvctor Dvbitantivm (R.), The emotions of humanity..the meltings of a worthy disposition.
1762 Ld. Kames Elem. Crit. ii. §2. (1833) 37 The joy of gratification is properly called an emotion.
A mental ‘feeling’ or ‘affection’ (e.g. of pleasure or pain, desire or aversion, surprise, hope or fear, etc.), as distinguished from cognitive or volitional states of consciousness. Also abstr. ‘feeling’ as distinguished from the other classes of mental phenomena.The quotes for that start in the 1800s:
1808 Med. Jrnl. XIX. 422 Sea-sickness..is greatly under the dominion of emotion.
1841–4 R. W. Emerson Friendship in Wks. (1906) I. 81 In poetry..the emotions of benevolence and complacency..are likened to the material effects of fire.
1842 C. Kingsley Lett. (1878) I. 61 The intellect is stilled, and the Emotions alone perform their..involuntary functions.
1871 J. Tyndall Fragm. Sci. (ed. 6) II. xi. 231 He..almost denounces me..for referring Religion to the region of Emotion.
1875 B. Jowett tr. Plato Dialogues (ed. 2) I. 249 The..emotions of pity, wonder, sternness, stamped upon their countenances.