The premise:

Spirituality has consistently promoted a gradated worldview; from the subtle to the dense, from the invisible to the visible. Take the subtle soul. It’s immaterial, intangible, and invisible yet it infuses music, art, poetry, love, food, and even the world as Anima Mundi. The soul becomes visible through the body and human expression. It’s also very present in Nature and animates the planet with its multitudinous life forms.

Spirituality has also consistently had a nested model of reality; body, mind and soul in its simplest expression. The body houses both mind and soul. Body and mind are inert without the soul. The soul is subtle and invisible, yet it’s the most expansive ‘container’ bringing all the elements and aspects of human existence into a whole. Body and mind are functions of the soul.

The gradated and nested models of reality work hand-in-hand and apply to more extensive interconnections. For instance, an individual exists in a family, which is within society, which is within a geographic location, within a nation in the world, which is on a planet of natural and cosmic forces that allow life and habitation.

Putting it altogether, it could look like this:

PERSON: Body, Mind, Soul » ENVIRONMENT: Family, Social, Nature/Planet Earth » Solar system » Milky Way » Cosmos » The Divine.

Before moving on, let’s reiterate some of the material in a related post, How Spirituality and Health are Linked. Here’s how Richard Harmer, PhD summarizes it:

Spirituality is a universal phenomenon. It doesn’t matter where in the world you live or what “tribe” you are a part of; you can be assured that spirituality will be a part of the psychological and social fabric of your immediate world. Why? Humans have a strong will toward meaning. Extensive psychological research suggests that spirituality makes human life more vibrant. Further, spirituality provides us with a sense of morality and ethics and allows us to find a sense of peace in the face of life’s trials and tribulations. In fact, spirituality is central to being and becoming a healthy and well-adjusted human being.

The nested view of health:

It’s not surprising that there are correlations between spiritual models of reality and human health. Health can’t be found only through the health of the physical body. As Elliot Dacher, MD puts it, “We grow up learning that we aren’t healthy unless our body is sound, our physiological markers are normal, and we aren’t at risk for disease…”

Health is dependent on a network of factors and influences. Family, community, culture, and environment are examples. Within these there are other important determinants.

In other words, health is not a single ‘container.’ It’s supported by containers within containers. Monica Sharma, MD’s approach exemplifies this:

In addressing HIV-AIDS, I have worked in places such as South Africa, Ethiopia, India, and the United States…We know, of course, that HIV-AIDS is about a virus. But the problem is really not about a virus… What patterns in a society cause women or those living with HIV to be stigmatized? What patterns in the administration create obstacles to the funds flowing? What are the patterns that cause NGOs not to collaborate?

Health is a series of interrelationships. Environmental factors, socioeconomic class, local food sources all contribute to good health or prove to be detrimental. There are connections between iron deficiency and lead poisoning; insecticide use and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s; income disparity and asthma.

There’s a global aspect to health as well:

With the connectivity we have in today’s world, with the globalization of the planet, whatever we do in one part of the world – whether in the United States or in India, for example – affects every other part of the world. We live in an interdependent world.


— Monica Sharma, MD

We share the planet’s water, air and soil. Health concerns are common to all of humanity, just like all other concerns we have living on an overpopulated and largely industry- and technology-driven world. Human health is interrelated with the health of the planet. Which solutions we implement when and how remains to be seen. One thing remains certain. Our common bonds run deeper than may at first appear.

Elliott Dacher, MD explains that the ancient Greeks called well-being “eudaimonia, or human flourishing.” Common bonds are real, as Dacher further articulates:

In ancient Greek tradition, human flourishing is called the true, the good, and the beautiful—an unchanging knowledge of the truth of life, the goodness of heart, and the beauty of existence. In the Christian tradition, it’s called divine love and agape. In the Buddhist tradition, it is called wisdom and compassion. The Hindus call it satchidananda—awareness, knowledge, bliss. The Oriental tradition refers to it as the tao. Life lived in our deepest self has many names, but it is one. It is the flourishing of our deepest nature. It is the perfection of health. It is the capacity to sustain an optimal and stable well-being through all our adversities.

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Health Nested Within Larger Systems

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