Alex Bennet 

Founder, Mountain Quest Institute, USA

 Let us fully engage our spiritual nature to balance the accelerated mental development mankind has enjoyed during this Millennium. The spiritual dimension often drops out of the conversation when we are thinking along the lines of knowledge for development. By definition, knowledge is tied to the actions we take; and we as humans are reluctant to lay bare the depths of our self, our soul, the ‘animating principle of human life in terms of thought and action’ (Bennet et al., 2017a, p. 44). 

Yet, people are holistic. While different aspects of what it is to be human may appear dominant in different situations, the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual cannot be separated out. At some level they are connected, and—whether consciously or unconsciously—always affecting who we are and how we act, thus unremittingly linked to our knowledge. The spiritual, ‘standing in relationship to another based on matters of the soul’ (Oxford, 2002, p. 2063), is specifically focused on the moral aspects of life, the emotional part of human nature, and higher development of the mental faculties. 

In exploring this relationship further, we increasingly understand that our brains and development are linked, that ‘we have evolved as social creatures and that all of our biologies are interwoven’ (Cozolino, 2006 p. 3). In a knowledge-based community, there are clear connections among businesses, human centers and people, facilitating a continuous flow of energy and the exchange of ideas. Human centers are places where people congregate and participate. Centers such as restaurants, sports arenas and shopping malls support the instant emergence of knowledge moments (Dvir, 2005). Centers such as churches and schools become a mainstream of interaction based on, as is the case for churches, a common belief set and related ritual behavior (the application of knowledge); or, as is the case for schools, a desire for and openness to learning (the creation of knowledge). While places of worship, regardless of their religious affiliation, are generally perceived as places for spiritual development, wherever people exist spiritual knowledge is woven through the very fabric of connected and caring people as they learn through the experience of life.

Learning itself has a spiritual nature. A 2007 research study discovered a positive correlation between representative spiritual characteristics and human learning (Bennet & Bennet, 2007).  The 25 representative characteristics emerging from a literature review fell into two categories: those considered emotional in nature such as caring, compassion, empathy, presence, harmony, joy, love and respect; and those representing a state-of-being such as authenticity, aliveness, connectedness, morality, openness, service, wonder and grace. These 25 characteristics were mapped to the learning process through emergent themes, specifically, in terms of priming for learning, shifting frames of reference, animating for learning, enriching relationships, and moving toward wisdom.  

The concepts of inclusiveness, connectedness, openness, authenticity, empathy and respect are foundational to cooperation and collaboration, the highest virtues of the material world (Bennet et al., 2017b), and which serve as the avenue for creating and sharing knowledge for development. As we engage in the continuous search for truth, living these concepts in service to others provides the connectedness of choices that moves us through the knowledge economy towards the next step in human development.