What does spirituality really mean? Is spirituality distinct from religion? Why is spirituality becoming increasingly popular and how has the term evolved and used today from its Christian roots? Philip Sheldrake, author of Spirituality: A Very Short Introduction, talks about what he thinks are the top 10 facts everyone should know about spirituality.
- ‘Spirituality’ stands for lifestyles and practices that embody a vision of human existence and how the human spirit is to achieve its full potential.
- During the last quarter of the twentieth century, the concept of spirituality moved well beyond its origins in Christianity and even beyond religion itself. It is now a broadly based quest for spiritual experience and spiritual practices expressed in a variety of ways. The term spirituality is being increasingly used in the professional world such as healthcare and business.
- Spirituality that appears in non-religious contexts is often called ‘secular spirituality’.
- The term’ secular saint’ refers to someone who, irrespective of religion, is respected either for their selfless contribution or their inspiring life, e.g. Mohandas Gandhi or Dag Hammarskjöld.
- One can identify four broad ‘types’ of spirituality: ascetical, mystical, active-practical, and prophetic-practical. These types can overlap to some degree.
- The different types foster self-transcendence and transformation via a movement away from what they see as ‘inauthentic’ towards the authentic. They seek to answer questions such as where transformation is thought to take place (context), how it takes place (practices, ways of life), and what the ultimate purpose of transformation is (human destiny).
- Spiritual practices are regular, disciplined activities related to spiritual development. They enable people to progress along a path towards whatever they see as the ultimate goal of human life. They clearly involves a degree of self-sacrifice in that it means setting aside time and energy which might have been given to more immediately pleasurable activities.
- Spiritual practices include various styles of meditation and contemplation, artistic practices, going away on solitary retreats, or undertaking a pilgrimage to a religious shrine or place of religious power.
- The term ‘spiritual capital’ refers to the potential value of spirituality to our everyday lives. This concept is to be used in favour of a humanely productive or successful life and involves quantifying the value to society at large of spiritual, moral, or psychological beliefs and practices.
- ‘Spiritual intelligence’ seeks to provide a spiritual equivalent to the importance in human flourishing of the intellect and of the emotions. The cultivation of spiritual intelligence enables us to better access out deepest meaning and highest motivations.
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