AbstractWestern scholars and other commentators have rarely considered nonhuman animals to have the capacity for spirituality. The tendency to coalesce spirituality with religion and to emphasize the cognitive, interpretative domain in discussions of spirituality has on the one hand led to the exclusion of nonhuman animals as agent-participants from the realm of spirituality, and on the other hand hindered explorations of spirituality as a phenomenon rooted in the body and the more ancient brain regions that humans share with other animals. While religion may be considered more appropriately within the framework of processes characterized by various extents of cognitive closure, spirituality manifests as a propensity of the intrinsically relational non-reflective, experiential consciousness, and may thus best be explored in terms of affective vitality. Cumulative evidence emerging from animal brain and culture sciences supports this proposition, while simultaneously opening doors to nonhuman animals as spiritual agents, helping to dismantle the illusion of human exceptionalism.
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