in a narrow sense, concerns itself with matters of the spirit, a concept closely tied to religious belief and faith, a transcendent reality, and God. Spiritual matters are thus those matters regarding humankind's ultimate nature and purpose, not only as material biological organisms, but as beings with a unique relationship to that which is beyond both time and the material world.
As such, the spiritual is traditionally contrasted with the material, the temporal and the worldly. A perceived sense of connection forms a central defining characteristic of spirituality — connection to a metaphysical reality greater than oneself, which may include an emotional experience of religious awe and reverence, or such states as satori or Nirvana. Equally importantly, spirituality relates to matters of sanity and of psychological health. Spirituality is the personal, subjective dimension of religion, particularly that which pertains to liberation or salvation (see also mysticism)
Many spiritual traditions, accordingly, share a common spiritual theme: the "path", "work", practice, or tradition of perceiving and internalizing one's "true" nature and relationship to the rest of existence (God, creation (the universe), or life), and of becoming free of the lesser egoic self (or ego) in favor of being more fully one's "true" "Self".
History of spirituality
Until recent centuries, the history of spirituality remained integral with the history of religion. Spiritual innovators who operated within the context of a religious tradition became either marginalised/suppressed as heretics or separated out as schismatics. In these circumstances, anthropologists generally treat so-called "spiritual" practices such as shamanism in the sphere of the religious, and class even non-traditional activities such as those of Robespierre's Cult of the Supreme Being in the province of religion.
Eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinkers, often opposed to clericalism and skeptical of religion, sometimes came to express their more emotional responses to the world under the rubric of "the Sublime" rather than discussing "spirituality". The spread of the ideas of modernity began to diminish the role of religion in society and in popular thought.
Schmidt sees Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) as a pioneer of the idea of spirituality as a distinct field. Phineas Quimby (1802-1866) and New Thought played a role in emphasizing the spiritual in new ways within Christian church traditions during the 19th century.
In the wake of the Nietzschean concept of the "death of God" in 1882, people unpersuaded by scientific rationalism turned increasingly to the idea of spirituality as an alternative both to materialism and to traditional religious dogma.
Important early 20th century writers who studied the phenomenon of spirituality include William James (The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902)) and Rudolph Otto (especially The Idea of the Holy (1917)).
The distinction between the spiritual and the religious became more common in the popular mind during the late 20th century with the rise of secularism and the advent of the New Age movement. Paul Heelas noted the development within New Age circles of what he called "seminar spirituality" : structured offerings complementing consumer choice with spiritual options.
The study of spirituality
Many spiritual traditions promote courses of study in spirituality which happen to culminate in the unflowering of their own world-view systems or practices.
More generally, building on both the Western esoteric tradition and theosophy, Rudolf Steiner and others in the anthroposophic tradition have attempted to apply systematic methodology to the study of spiritual phenomena. This enterprise does not attempt to redefine natural science, but to explore inner experience — especially our thinking — with the same rigor that we apply to outer (sensory) experience.
In the late 19th century a Pakistani scholar Khwaja Shamsuddin Azeemi started writing books and teaching the somewhat hidden science of Islamic spirituality, of which the best known form remains the Sufi tradition (famous through Rumi and Hafiz) in which spiritual discipline is transmitted to students by a spiritual master or "pir".
The spiritual and the religious
An important distinction exists between spirituality in religion and spirituality as opposed to religion.
In recent years, spirituality in religion often carries connotations of a believer having a faith more personal, less dogmatic, more open to new ideas and myriad influences, and more pluralistic than the doctrinal/dogmatic faiths of mature religions. It also can connote the nature of believers' personal relationship or "connection" with their god(s) or belief-system(s), as opposed to the general relationship with a Deity as shared by all members of a given faith.
Those who speak of spirituality as opposed to religion generally meta-religiously believe in the existence of many "spiritual paths" and deny any objective truth about the best path to follow. Rather, adherents of this definition of the term emphasize the importance of finding one's own path to whatever-god-there-is, rather than following what others say works. In summary: the path which makes the most coherent sense becomes the correct one (for oneself).
Many adherents of orthodox religions who regard spirituality as an aspect of their religious experience tend to contrast spirituality with secular "worldliness" rather than with the ritual expression of their religion.
People of a more New-Age disposition tend to regard spirituality not as religion per se, but as the active and vital connection to a force/power/energy, spirit, or sense of the deep self. As cultural historian and yogi William Irwin Thompson (1938 - ) put it, "Religion is not identical with spirituality; rather religion is the form spirituality takes in civilization." (1981, 103)
For a religious parallel to the approach whereby some see spirituality in everything, compare pantheism.
To Christians, referring to one's self as "more spiritual than religious" implies relative deprecation of rules, rituals, and tradition while preferring an intimate relationship with God and/or talking to Him as one's best friend. Their basis for this belief is that Jesus Christ came to free man from those rules, rituals, and traditions, giving them the ability to "walk in the spirit" thus maintaining a "Christian" lifestyle through that one-to-one relationship with God. Some excellent resources that further explain the "spiritual Christian" are found obviously in the Bible, John 4:24 for example, and in the works of [Watchman Nee] . Nee probes deeply into the building blocks of mankind and derives that we are Spirit, Body and Soul.
"Being spiritual" may aim toward:
- simultaneously improving one's wisdom and willpower.
- achieving a closer connection to Deity/the universe.
- removing illusions or "false ideas" at the sensory, feeling and thinking aspects of a person.
Plato's allegory of the cave in book VII of The Republic gives one of the best-known descriptions of the spiritual development process, and may provide an aid in understanding what "spiritual development" exactly entails.
Spirituality can comprise both inner growth, changing oneself as one changes one's relationship with the external universe, and the outer process of transforming the physical reality around oneself as a result of the inward change.[citations needed] Some authorities connect the two, suggesting that outer change arises through the inner realization that all is oneself; whereupon the divine inward manifests the diverse outward for experience and progress.
Spirituality and personal well-being
Spirituality, according to most adherents of the idea, forms an essential part of an individual's holistic health and well-being. In this respect, some supporters of the idea of spirituality see it as a supportive concept even in workplace environments.
Though many people practise prayer and believe it affects their health, only limited scientific evidence supports the efficacy of prayer. In keeping with a general increase in interest in spirituality and complementary and alternative treatments, prayer has garnered attention among a growing number of behavioral scientists. Masters and Spielmans have conducted a meta-analysis of the effects of distant intercessory prayer, but detect no discernible effects. They review the literature regarding frequency of prayer, content of prayer, and prayer as a coping strategy; then make suggestions for future research, including the conduct of experimental studies based on conceptual models that include precise operationally-defined constructs, longitudinal investigations with proper measure of control variables, and increased use of ecological momentary assessment techniques.
Spirituality and science
Analysis of spiritual qualities in science faces problems — such as the imprecision of spiritual concepts, the subjectivity of spiritual experience, and the amount of work required to translate and map observable components of a spiritual system into empirical evidence.
Science takes as its basis empirical, repeatable observations of the natural world, and thus generally regards ideas that rely on supernatural forces for an explanation as beyond the purview of science. Scientists regard ideas which present themselves as scientific, but which rely on a supernatural force for an explanation, as religious rather than scientific; and may label such idea as pseudo-science. In this context scientists may oppose spirituality, at least in the scientific sphere.
New Age physicist-philosopher Fritjof Capra has articulated connections between what he sees as the spiritual consequences of quantum physics. Ken Wilber, in an attempt to unite science and spirituality, has proposed an "Integral Theory of Consciousness".
Ervin László posits a field of information as the substance of the cosmos. Using the Sanskrit and Vedic term for "space", akasha, he calls this information-field the "Akashic field" or "A-field". He posits the "quantum vacuum" (see Vacuum state) as the fundamental energy- and information-carrying field that informs not just the current universe, but all universes past and present (collectively, the "Metaverse").
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