Spirit matter(s)

I've been thinking about "spirit" over the last few days, for today most Christians around the world celebrate the Day of Pentecost—the Whit Sunday of my youth. In the Christian tradition it is a day to focus on the coming of the Holy Spirit to the early Christians after the death of Jesus. Jesus had promised that after he died he would remain with his followers—that his spirit would still be with them. The fulfillment is played out in different stories, in divergent narratives. The Day of Pentecost story is one such dramatic telling.
We could characterize the narrative as "stuff and non-stuff"—a kind of "now you see me, now you don't." Jesus as a beloved teacher was "stuff"—material reality, a body living, breathing, eating, talking. Jesus as spirit is "non-stuff"—non-material reality, more like mind, idea, imagination. 
"Stuff" and "non-stuff" are equally real, equally part of life, and equally important. Neither is more important than the other; both "stuff" and "non-stuff" can be beneficial and harmful—think of the "stuff" of cancer and disease, the "non-stuff" of mental illness; the "stuff" of a new born baby, and the "non-stuff" of Mozart's Symphony in G Minor, K 550 (popularly Mozart 40). "Stuff" and "non-stuff" shape the beauty, complexity, wonder, and fearfulness of life. Such were my thoughts.

Then the terrorists struck again ... and my mind turned to the brutality, stupidity, senselessness, and waste of violent extremism. In the sad events of London last night (and Manchester a few weeks ago, Kabul this week too) "stuff" and "non-stuff" come together in the radical beliefs of Islamist extremists ("non-stuff") and the killing and maiming of ordinary people enjoying their lives ("stuff"). How and what people think, what drives and motivates them—their spirit—through the actions of their bodies, changes the material conditions of others, and hence their spirit. Spirits can be holy or evil, and I daresay many things in between. In religious extremism we encounter an evil spirit.

To focus exclusively on either "stuff" or "non-stuff" is to miss something important. We now know that, in the human animal, the material condition of brains (and bodies) and the non-material reality of minds are inextricably linked. The old philosophical divisions between rationalists  and empiricists, or else realists and idealists, no longer work. It is not matter or spirit, or matter over spirit, or spirit over matter; it has to be both spirit and matter, inextricably linked, forming the complexity of life, for good or ill.
As in the individual person, so in society  With the terrorists, to focus on the "non-stuff" of their religious extremism without considering the "stuff" of the historical-material conditions of their existence misses something important. Equally to focus only on the material condition of post-colonialism, or western hegemony, without considering the religious power of "non-stuff" is also inadequate. 
My hope is that people of good will—good spirit—will find a way to counter the evil spirit of violent extremism. It will take hard work. The future is open.

Be well,
+Ab. Andy