For all that science aims to comprehend and account for all of nature, rendering it into facts and theories and laws, measurable and rationalized—the supernatural still haunts us from the sidelines of science.
There seems to be something beyond the ken of measure and methodology, unaccountable to such rule and law as governs the material realm. We have called it “spirit” or “animus” or “elan vital,” supposing it irreconcilable with rationality.
Though remaining mysterious, it yet seems palpable to some, and imaginable as spirits or angels or deities, occult forces and presences existing behind the scenes of the phenomenal world: numinous and beguiling.
Yet rational empiricists call all such testimony fantasy and delusion, tolerable in children but a sign of mental immaturity in improperly educated adults. Imagination and fiction are fine amusements in our lives, by way of entertainment and escape, but must be closeted when serious matters come to hand.
Paradoxically, though, spirit matters, and it will not keep to the closet, won’t be brushed aside like a foolish court jester.
To be “spiritually” inclined is to be amazed that life exists in the universe, and all the more amazed to think that, for all we know, life exists only here on Earth. Still more amazing is that unique consciousness we humans possess which recognizes and reflects upon our being alive on a planet teeming with life, on (some say) a living planet. To feel awe and wonder in this knowledge is a spiritual emotion, the highest rung on the ladder of human sensibility, expressed as ecstasy, exaltation and glory—the mystical dimension of consciousness, which we are wired to manifest, sometimes spontaneously, more often through the devoted discipline of a spiritual quest.
For a college to attend only to the mental, intellectual, physical and social needs of its students, and not to provide for their “ultimate concern” as human beings (to quote Paul Tillich), not to nurture their spiritual potentials—would be utilitarian but not exalted, and surely not humane.