The Holy Spirit (Gifts / Fruit) Edit
One of the most significant post-biblical revelations that opens up huge doors of possibility for us as a species is the now widely accepted understanding that human language is inherently symbolic, meaningful, and consequential. What this means, among other things, is that Reality will forever be more than anything we can say or think about it.
Because words are symbols pointing toward that which cannot fully be grasped, our attempts to describe or explain will always fail to capture the essence or fullness of ultimacy. Because words are maps (not the territory), menus (not the meal), whatever may be said about "The Holy Spirit" will, at best, be partially true. And the meaning and significance of these words, if they are to remain enlightening and transformative over time, will necessarily change as we mature individually and collectively. Such is the nature of human language and understanding.
If what we mean by "Holy Ghost" or "Holy Spirit" is identical to what people living hundreds or thousands of years ago meant when they uttered the phrase, we both mock God and do our children and our tradition a terrible disservice.
Here is why: When the Bible was written, people believed that the entire Universe revolved around us, that time extended back only a few thousand years, and that space extended up only a few hundred miles. (How could they have thought otherwise!) Our understanding of the nature of reality now, however, thanks in large part to telescopes, microscopes, and computers (macroscopes), is far more expansive and awe-inspiring than the ancients could have possibly known. It follows, then, that if our understandings of the meaning and significance of what we call "The Holy Spirit" has not grown commensurately, we are probably out of step with what God has been revealing, and what the Spirit is doing, in our day.
From a sacred evolutionary perspective, the Holy Spirit can be seen as (at least!) the enlivening, sustaining, sanctifying, cooperation-building dynamic of ongoing Creative Emergence. Speaking more poetically, the Holy Spirit (Spirit of the Whole) is the in-spiring and lifegiving breath, transforming fire, and guiding Wisdom within and beyond — that Force or Power at work in each and every moment on behalf of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.
The English term "Holy Spirit" is not to be interpreted as some cosmic spook. Rather, it points to that face of Ultimate Reality which enlivens, sustains, heals, and transforms. The traditional image of the Holy Spirit as a dove symbolizes the peacemaking and cooperation-building wisdom of God. The image of the Holy Spirit as like tongues of fire symbolizes the unquenchable passion of a life on-purpose and a soul on-fire with the love of the Whole.
The Fruit of the Holy Spirit can be seen as both the means and end of the spiritual journey, and as the one true indicator of a person's right relationship with God. As Jesus said, "By your fruit you will be known." What is "the fruit of the Spirit"? The Apostle Paul spoke of it as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." To this list we could add "compassion, courage, integrity, self-responsibility, generosity, and passion for life." Those who evidence such fruit are right with God, no matter what their beliefs or religion. Those who do not evidence such fruit are not right with God (again, no matter what their beliefs or religion). It's really as simple as that.
Jesus was emphatic that our relationship with him, and with God, has little or nothing to do with what we say — and everything to do with how we live, with the fruit we evidence. Matthew reports Jesus as saying, "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. By your fruit you will be known."
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor 12-14, include but are not limited to love, faith, hope, and those things that edify the community: the ability to teach, administrate, heal, prophesy, speak in tongues, interpret tongues, do "miracles," etc. In other words, the gifts of the Spirit are those attitudes and actions that draw us into deeper communion with the Whole or any of its parts.
"Let's Stop Trivializing God, the Universe, and Our Role in Evolution!" - foundational essay