What is Spiritual Coffee?

Let’s start with the easiest part: coffee is what gets me going in the morning. It’s a stimulant: it helps wake me up.  And since we are living in an age valuing “wokeness,” or being “woke,” evidently some of us are asleep and need some help.  This value gives the sense that we better wake up, and smell the coffee.

And what about the “spiritual”? Nowadays, many people claim to be spiritual, but hardly anyone knows how to define the term. I know this for a fact, because I regularly teach a class titled “spiritual lit.”  When I ask students on the first day how many consider themselves to be spiritual, most hands go up.  When I ask them to tell me what it means, no hands go up.  “It’s different for everyone,” is about the best that I get from my students. Or, “everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” which is a nonsense phrase that is surprisingly big on campus these days. Given its notorious complexity, we spend a semester trying to expand on that concept, thinking about how it relates to our lives.

In fact, the term “spiritual” is in the New Testament, primarily in the works of St. Paul.  The Greek word that is translated in most Bibles today as “spiritual” is pneumatikos, and becoming spiritual turns out to be a quintessential goal throughout Paul’s teachings. (This may also be a surprise.) A spiritual being is driven by the spirit, in the same way that a sailboat is driven by the wind. Paul describes a spiritual person as one who listens to the Spirit, walks by the Spirit, and is led by the Spirit. How are you doing so far?

Basically, a “spiritual” person suggests that our lives (and brains) are to be fully attuned to and fully driven by the Spirit. In theological jargon, I am speaking of a “cosmic pneumatology” with a dash of “panentheism”: a profound way of thinking about all of creation as permeated by the Spirit. In this blog, I will simply try to model in my writing what I am calling the “spiritual life of the mind.” What if we have lost touch with the elevated language in the New Testament about the transformation of our brains by the power of the Spirit? And what if part of our calling is to reach for and attain a serious, joyful, God-breathed life of the mind? Because in Ephesians we are told that we have been “blessed with every spiritual blessing” (1:3).

Lofty goals, no doubt. To attain them, we need all the coffee we can get, in this worthy pursuit of being “woke” to the Spirit, and how the Spirit is continuously at work within us and within all of Creation. As the great Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote:

“Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings!

I love the “ah!”—don’t you? Similarly: my musings here on “Spiritual Coffee” are meant to provoke, prod, and inspire my readers to continue this journey that is the life of the Mind, in the hope that by our sympathies and meditations we can show ourselves to be worthy of the One Great Mind Who is the ground and source of all Being, “brooding” over us. Pass the cream!