Many years ago, I strung together two words to create a seeming new oxymoron. spiritual atheism. Why? I was an atheist. I stopped believing in a God, or gods, or creators, or controllers, or super beings of any kind. I could find nothing that held the universe together consciously. But, at the same time, I did not accept the atheistic contention that life stopped with death. As a young adult I had gone through some experiences that proved, to me, my life would go on past death. But what to call those experiences to differentiate them from religious beliefs, or even some philisophical beliefs, like heaven, hell, paradise, or nirvana, etc. All those beliefs suggested that life had a stopping place, whether right after death, or in some wondrous place accessible only by death. Even the eastern religions (what I could find out about them, there was no internet yet, and my local library had very little on Asian religions) with their beliefs in reincarnation, still seemed to have a set target for a final resting place. That was contrary to my own experiences. As I could understand it, life has no foreseeable end.
But what do you call that, using the very limited vocabulary of the English language. My search may not have been as exhaustive as was ultimately possible, but for my young self it was as exhaustive as I was capable of. And the only word that I could find to even come close to my needs was spirituality.
Where the Abrahamic religions, in particular Christianity and what we then called Mohammedism (I was never able to really tie Judaism down to a particular belief about life after death, even with having countless Jewish friends and acquaintances. However, since Judaism was the forerunner, the father of the other two, I decided to wrap the three of them together under the collective name Abrahamic.) used the word soul, that word did not fit for me. Soul spoke to an individual aspect of life-after-death, that people would continue to be people, just disembodied souls, and that was not how I understood life to work. According to these religions, good souls went to heaven, and evil souls went to hell. That did not fit with anything I had experienced.
So I commandeered the word spirit! For me, spirit spoke to the life force within every living being, not just human beings. I do not know that even sfter all these years I can explain, in English, my definition of spirit as I use it, but I will try, once more. But we cannot start with spirit, we have to start with life. Life is a word we take very much for granted. We are alive, so we have life. In fourteen definitions of the word life in the Oxford English Dictionary, none of them speak to a life force, and that is all I see, spiritually speaking. Like gravity is a force, a thing which acts on other things though gravity itself is not a material thing, life is not a material thing, yet, life is what enables us to act in the material world (or any world, for that matter). It is the force of life within us that allows us to be alive. Yet, like gravity, which is with us at all times, as long as we are on a revolving mass, such as the Earth, no matter who we are, life is always with us too. Gravity is neverending in the universe, life is neverending in the cosmos. As long as something is alive, be it a one-celled organism or a multi-billion celled organism, or a non-celled collection of energy, life is there acting on our molecules or anti-molecules to allow them to live. This is how I see life, and that bit of life that acts within us as individuals is what I call spirit. And like gravity, like life, spirit too is neverending.
But here is where the water gets really muddied, and, in my understanding, almost impossible to explain. That life force within every living being, that spirit, is not itself individual in the way we see ourselves as individual. Some people believe in what they call a collective consciousness. If I understand them correctly, there is, somewhere, an undefined something where all consciousnesses resides, like a balloon filled with uncountble air molecules all acting together to keep the balloon inflated. At some esoteric level, and please forgive me if I screw this up, our individual consciousnesses come together to influence how we think, feel, and act. The existence of a collective consciousness would be a beautiful, wonderful thing. Not that I would have a choice, but had I a choice, I would join a collective consciousness in an instant. Without having to think about it! But I do not see conciousness working that way. How would that explain people like Adolphe Hitler, Donald Trump, or Vladimir Putin. People such as them operate completely on their own, with no regard for anyone but themselves. I do not want to go any deeper into this here, but a collective consciousness would seem to infer that all conscious beings would inherently know to act for the good of all. Since that is not the case, I do not think we share a collective consciousness.
But there is something we do all share, at a level more basic than consciousness, and that is life. Life does not mean we all have to feel, think, and act the same, it just means we all get to act, feel, and hopefully, think. Collectively, we, all living beings, get to be alive. Individually, in our material world, we each get to live as we see fit. And that includes every species of life, and every individual within every species. To put this into my own words, we all share spirit, we all have spirit.
So, back to Spiritual Atheism, we all share spirit, but there is no guiding or ruling consciousness. We are all on our own. We each get to choose how we live.