• Matter is tangible; spirit often goes unnoticed
  • The more spiritual an entity, the higher its intelligence
  • Transformation can be instant in the spiritual world
  • The spiritual world transcends space
  • The spiritual world transcends time

“Material” vs “spiritual” — definitions

Spirituality has as many meanings as its interpretations. In other words, there cannot be a standard definition of spirituality, especially since spirituality and religion aren’t necessarily synonyms.

All religions are, or at least should be, based on spiritual discovery and beliefs; however, not all spiritual people are religious.

For example, I don’t identify with any religion or doctrine in particular, yet I am into spirituality and spiritual practices e.g. meditation.

So… what is spirituality, then? I like Google’s definition (from Oxford Languages) as it’s very broad yet precise. Here it is:

Definition of spirituality

Notice how spirituality is defined as “the quality of being concerned with” rather than a cult, religion, or set of doctrines.

Also notice how the objective/purpose of spirituality is referred to as something that goes beyond “material or physical things”.

In this sense, disciplines like psychology and philosophy are actually linked to spirituality; some psychological theories reflect spiritual ones, and vice versa.

Thoughts, psyche, inner demons… these certainly don’t belong to the material world, yet they influence our behavior. And then there’s transpersonal psychology, which takes it even further.

The truth is, the spiritual experience is always subjective, and I personally encourage anyone who’s into spirituality to find their own meaning and definition.

By contrast, what we define as material always is (or should always be) objective, that is, it doesn’t change depending on the observer’s perspective.

We’ll expand on this later, but for now we’ll define matter as anything that is clearly tangible — that can clearly and objectively be seen, touched, etc.

Which leads us to the next important point…

The infinite planes: a lesson from Hermeticism

For the purpose of convenience of thought and study, the Hermetic Philosophy considers that the Universe may be divided into three great classes of phenomena (…): the Great Physical Plane; the Great Mental Plane; the Great Spiritual Plane.

The Kybalion

These divisions are more or less artificial and arbitrary, for the truth is that all of the three divisions are but ascending degrees of the great scale of Life, the lowest point of which is undifferentiated Matter, and the highest point that of Spirit.

The Kybalion

In reality, the distinction between material and spiritual worlds (or planes) is always one of degree. It doesn’t mean that matter and spirit are the same; however, it means they are both manifestations of Life.

Furthermore, what is spiritual can affect what is material, and vice versa. Mind creates matter just like matter creates mind. To argue which one is more powerful or comes first is pointless.

In philosophy, materialism holds that matter always comes first and is more “real” than anything related to thoughts and spirit; and idealism the opposite i.e. that spirit is the ultimate source of everything.

For the purpose of this post, we’ll simply say that all the “planes” — from gross matter e.g. rocks to the highest forms of mind e.g. spirits — are all deeply interconnected and all influence each other.

Material world vs spiritual world: differences

1. Awareness

Everyone acknowledges that there is matter and a material world; few know or even suspect there are spiritual planes as well.

This is the first main goal of spirituality: awareness — the ability to perceive what isn’t always tangible or obvious.

Thoughts, ideas, positive or negative energy, meaningful coincidences etc. will always exist no matter what.

If you are aware of them, you can rise above them and be in control; if you are unaware of them, they will shape your life in ways that aren’t always beneficial.

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.


2. Intelligence

If all differences in the universe are only differences of degree, then what we call “life” may as well be called behavior.

For example, gross matter behaves and so in a way even things like rocks or wood are alive and “think” (have a mind).

Same for plants, same for animals, then human beings, then spirits, gods, demons, entities of higher planes etc.

What separates them is their intelligence i.e. their ability to behave and think. For example, the mind of trees is not as intelligent as the human mind.

By using the principle of Correspondence, we then realize that entities of spiritual dimensions can be much more intelligent compared to not just plants or animals, but us humans too.

Some religions argue that there is an overarching, ultimate, infinite Mind or Intelligence — divine intelligence or “God”.

3. Speed

The lower and more material a dimension, the lower its speed. The higher and more spiritual a dimension, the higher its speed (changes, transformation).

Here’s a practical example — in lucid dreaming (dreams where you are aware of dreaming), reality changes instantly according to your own will; everything is quite pliable and fluid.

By contrast, physical reality can also change and transform itself but the same changes would take much longer, perhaps months or years.

This is why we use the words manifest or materialize when it comes to making our dreams come true. The original desire, being spiritual, is instant, but its manifestation is a process.

4. Immensity

If we allow for the existence of other dimensions, then what we consider to be real goes beyond what’s tangible.

The physical world-universe that is observable is already vast to the point where we don’t know where it ends (or if it ends).

However, if possible, the spiritual realm is even bigger in the sense that it often transcends both time and space.

Everything you can imagine is real, it exists. Perhaps not in the material world, but it’s there. And because it doesn’t have to obey the rules of matter, it’s even bigger.

Everything you can imagine is real.


5. Lifespan

Everything in the material world — from plants, to artificial creations, to planets and stars — has a lifecycle, which means it is born and then eventually dies.

We don’t know whether entities of the spiritual world follow a similar life cycle, but in theory these things could be eternal (outside of time).

We say that brilliant ideas are “timeless”, and that’s the obvious example, but it doesn’t end there.

If it’s true that one’s awareness remains after the death of body and mind (if awareness exists independently, as meditative practices would suggest) then its lifespan may be… endless.

Well, maybe not endless. But if matter dies and its “soul” or “spirit” remains, then what is spiritual definitely lives longer.

How awareness of spirituality benefits you

If you didn’t know about the seasons of the year (e.g. winter followed by spring) you would call each change in temperature a miracle.

And here’s the thing — in this example, the weather exists regardless of your awareness of it (or lack thereof).

Anything spiritual is the same. It doesn’t care about your views or opinions. It exists regardless. Your choice is to either acknowledge/discover it or ignore it.

Just like we can predict changes in temperature by observing the weather and its cycles, similarly we can take advantage of spiritual phenomena by becoming aware of them.

And just like we may avoid hurricanes or natural disasters, similarly we may avoid negative events in our inner world (e.g. depression, self-sabotage) if we become aware of them.

Psychotherapy is a good example. Though there are many different approaches and treatments depending on the issue, the essence of psychotherapy is almost always the same — awareness.

It’s very hard to escape mental health problems (and by extension problems related to the spiritual world such as spiritual parasites) if you know nothing about them.

Even worse, we tend to identify with our problems. We have depression and say we are depressed. We have demons of low self-esteem and say we are a failure. And so on.

The higher your awareness, the more immune you’ll be to negative energy or even just negative thoughts.

The material world isn’t all there is, and to be aware of it means to have more freedom and more power.