When exactly did meditation get hijacked and become a "spiritual" phenomena?
When I was young I was given a book of Sherlock Holmes stories. I loved them and became a life long fan of the them, it was the first place I had ever heard of meditation.
Sherlock meditated, it was the first thing he ever did when people came to him with a case.
This did not involve him sitting cross legged or repeating a mantra/sutra under his breath until he absorbed his mind into the present moment...
It did involve him focussing his mind bringing all his faculties to bear on the problem as presented and contemplating the information he had just received.
Interestingly this defintion of meditation is much older than any spiritual definition you'll find today - in older dictionaries "focussing and contemplating" are likely the be the first definitions presented, in some modern dictionaries that definition is almost completely omitted.
To meditate on something is to reflect, or contemplate, to think. This can mean focussing but can also mean just letting your mind wander over a problem/topic without any guidance or distractions.
Meditation can perhaps be best described at pointing your mind (sometime away from the target).
The modern religious/spiritual/supernatural implications of meditation are not even very accurate. When people wished to commune with the supernatural it is very like meditation but was specifically called prayer. Meditation in eastern terms is most often to seek to achieve a particular state of mind rather than for any supernatural purpose.
In Bhuddism for example, the practice of meditation is more about emotional self knowledge and management.
People think of eastern meditation when they use the word, the images that come to mind tend to override the simpler forms of meditation.
We have effectively lost a word for thinking.
This might not be George Orwells 1984 but popular religion/spiritualism is responsible for a horrible bit of "new speak". One less word that means "Stop and think" and one more word that means "treating the metaphysical as if it's real".
Personally I think the world needs more thinking.