Open Access Articles- Top Results for Spirituality


Not to be confused with Spiritualism.

There is no single, widely-agreed definition of spirituality.[1][2][note 1] Surveys of the definition of the term, as used in scholarly research, show a broad range of definitions, with very limited similitude.[3]

It may denote almost any kind of meaningful activity[4][note 2] or blissful experience.[6] It denotes a process of transformation, but in a context separate from organized religious institutions, termed "spiritual but not religious".[7] In modern times the emphasis is on subjective experience.[8] Houtman and Aupers suggest that modern spirituality is a blend of humanistic psychology, mystical and esoteric traditions and eastern religions.[9]


There is no single, widely-agreed definition of spirituality.[1][2][note 1] Surveys of the definition of the term, as used in scholarly research, show a broad range of definitions, with very limited similitude.[3]

According to Waaijman, the traditional meaning of spirituality is a process of re-formation which "aims to recover the original shape of man, the image of God. To accomplish this, the re-formation is oriented at a mold, which represents the original shape: in Judaism the Torah, in Christianity Christ, in Buddhism Buddha, in the Islam Muhammad."[note 3]

In modern times the emphasis is on subjective experience.[8] It may denote almost any kind of meaningful activity[4][note 4] or blissful experience.[6] It still denotes a process of transformation, but in a context separate from organized religious institutions, termed "spiritual but not religious".[7] Houtman and Aupers suggest that modern spirituality is a blend of humanistic psychology, mystical and esoteric traditions and eastern religions.[9]

Waaijman points out that "spirituality" is only one term of a range of words which denote the praxis of spirituality.[11] Some other terms are "Hasidism, contemplation, kabbala, asceticism, mysticism, perfection, devotion and piety".[11]


The term spirit means "animating or vital principle in man and animals".[web 1] It is derived from the Old French espirit[web 1] which comes from the Latin word spiritus (soul, courage, vigor, breath)[web 1] and is related to spirare (to breathe).[web 1] In the Vulgate the Latin word spiritus is used to translate the Greek pneuma and Hebrew ruah.[web 1]

The term "spiritual", matters "concerning the spirit",[web 2] is derived from Old French spirituel (12c.), which is derived from Latin spiritualis, which comes from spiritus or "spirit".[web 2]

The term "spirituality" is derived from Middle French spiritualité,[web 3] from Late Latin "spiritualitatem" (nominative spiritualitas),[web 3] which is also derived from Latin spiritualis.[web 3]

Development of the meaning of spirituality

Classical, medieval and early modern periods

Words translatable as 'spirituality' first began to arise in the 5th century and only entered common use toward the end of the Middle Ages.[12] In a Biblical context the term means being animated by God,[13] to be driven by the Holy Spirit, as opposed to a life which rejects this influence.[14]

In the 11th century this meaning changed. Spirituality began to denote the mental aspect of life, as opposed to the material and sensual aspects of life, "the ecclesiastical sphere of light against the dark world of matter".[15][note 5] In the 13th century "spirituality" acquired a social and psychological meaning. Socially it denoted the territory of the clergy: "The ecclesiastical against the temporary possessions, the ecclesiastical against the secular authority, the clerical class against the secular class"[16][note 6] Psychologically, it denoted the realm of the inner life: "The purity of motives, affections, intentions, inner dispositions, the psychology of the spiritual life, the analysis of the feelings".[17][note 7]

In the 17th and 18th century a distinction was made between higher and lower forms of spirituality: "A spiritual man is one who is Christian 'more abundantly and deeper than others'."[17][note 8] The word was also associated with mysticism and quietism, and acquired a negative meaning.[citation needed]

Modern spirituality

Transcendentalism and Unitarian Universalism

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) was a pioneer of the idea of spirituality as a distinct field.[18] He was one of the major figures in Transcendentalism, an early 19th-century liberal Protestant movement, which was rooted in English and German Romanticism, the Biblical criticism of Herder and Schleiermacher, and the skepticism of Hume.[web 4] The Transcendentalists emphasised an intuitive, experiential approach of religion.[web 5] Following Schleiermacher,[19] an individual's intuition of truth was taken as the criterion for truth.[web 5] In the late 18th and early 19th century, the first translations of Hindu texts appeared, which were also read by the Transcendentalists, and influenced their thinking.[web 5] They also endorsed universalist and Unitarianist ideas, leading to Unitarian Universalism, the idea that there must be truth in other religions as well, since a loving God would redeem all living beings, not just Christians.[web 5][web 6]


Main article: Neo-Vedanta

An important influence on western spirituality was Neo-Vedanta, also called neo-Hinduism[20] and Hindu Universalism,[web 7] a modern interpretation of Hinduism which developed in response to western colonialism and orientalism. It aims to present Hinduism as a "homogenized ideal of Hinduism"[21] with Advaita Vedanta as its central doctrine.[22] Due to the colonisation of Asia by the western world, since the 19th century an exchange of ideas has been taking place between the western world and Asia, which also influenced western religiosity.[23] Unitarianism, and the idea of Universalism, was brought to India by missionaries, and had a major influence on neo-Hinduism via Ram Mohan Roy's Brahmo Samaj and Brahmoism. Roy attempted to modernise and reform Hinduism, from the idea of Universalism.[24] This universalism was further popularised, and brought back to the west as neo-Vedanta, by Swami Vivekananda.[24]

Theosophy, Anthroposophy, and the Perennial Philosophy

See also: Esotericism

Another major influence on modern spirituality was the Theosophical Society, which searched for 'secret teachings' in Asian religions.[23] It has been influential on modernist streams in several Asian religions, notably Neo-Vedanta, the revival of Theravada Buddhism, and Buddhist modernism, which have taken over modern western notions of personal experience and universalism and integrated them in their religious concepts.[23] A second, related influence was Anthroposophy, whose founder, Rudolf Steiner, was particularly interested in developing a genuine Western spirituality, and in the ways that such a spirituality could transform practical institutions such as education, agriculture, and medicine.[25][26]

The influence of Asian traditions on western modern spirituality was also furthered by the Perennial Philosophy, whose main proponent Aldous Huxley was deeply influenced by Vivekanda's Neo-Vedanta and Universalism,[27] and the spread of social welfare, education and mass travel after World War Two.

Important early 20th century western writers who studied the phenomenon of spirituality, and their works, include William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), and Rudolph Otto, especially The Idea of the Holy (1917). James' notions of "spiritual experience" had a further influence on the modernist streams in Asian traditions, making them even further recognisable for a western audience.[19]

"Spiritual but not religious"

After the Second World War spirituality and religion became disconnected,[17] and spirituality became more oriented on subjective experience, instead of "attempts to place the self within a broader ontological context."[28] A new discourse developed, in which (humanistic) psychology, mystical and esoteric traditions and eastern religions are being blended, to reach the true self by self-disclosure, free expression and meditation.[9]

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. Authors such as Chris Griscom and Shirley MacLaine explored it in numerous ways in their books. Paul Heelas noted the development within New Age circles of what he called "seminar spirituality":[29] structured offerings complementing consumer choice with spiritual options.

Among other factors, declining membership of organized religions and the growth of secularism in the western world have given rise to this broader view of spirituality.[30] The term "spiritual" is now frequently used in contexts in which the term "religious" was formerly employed.[31] Both theists and atheists have criticized this development.[32][33]

Traditional spirituality

Abrahamic faiths


Rabbinic Judaism (or in some Christian traditions, Rabbinism) (Hebrew: "Yahadut Rabanit" - יהדות רבנית) has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century CE, after the codification of the Talmud. It is characterised by the belief that the Written Torah ("Law" or "Instruction") cannot be correctly interpreted without reference to the Oral Torah and by the voluminous literature specifying what behavior is sanctioned by the law (called halakha, "the way").

Judaism knows a variety of religious observances: ethical rules, prayers, religious clothing, holidays, shabbat, pilgrimages, Torah reading, dietary laws.

Kabbalah (literally "receiving"), is an esoteric method, discipline and school of thought of Judaism. Its definition varies according to the tradition and aims of those following it,[34] from its religious origin as an integral part of Judaism, to its later Christian, New Age, or Occultist syncretic adaptations. Kabbalah is a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between an unchanging, eternal and mysterious Ein Sof (no end) and the mortal and finite universe (his creation). While it is heavily used by some denominations, it is not a religious denomination in itself. Inside Judaism, it forms the foundations of mystical religious interpretation. Outside Judaism, its scriptures are read outside the traditional canons of organised religion. Kabbalah seeks to define the nature of the universe and the human being, the nature and purpose of existence, and various other ontological questions. It also presents methods to aid understanding of these concepts and to thereby attain spiritual realisation.

Hasidic Judaism, meaning "piety" (or "loving kindness"), is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality through the popularisation and internalisation of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspect of the faith. It was founded in 18th-century Eastern Europe by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov as a reaction against overly legalistic Judaism. His example began the characteristic veneration of leadership in Hasidism as embodiments and intercessors of Divinity for the followers.[citation needed] Opposite to this, Hasidic teachings cherished the sincerity and concealed holiness of the unlettered common folk, and their equality with the scholarly elite. The emphasis on the Immanent Divine presence in everything gave new value to prayer and deeds of kindness, alongside Rabbinic supremacy of study, and replaced historical mystical (kabbalistic) and ethical (musar) asceticism and admonishment with optimism,[citation needed] encouragement, and daily fervour. This populist emotional revival accompanied the elite ideal of nullification to paradoxical Divine Panentheism, through intellectual articulation of inner dimensions of mystical thought.


File:Mystic Marriage.jpg
Union with Christ is the purpose of Christian mysticism.

Catholic spirituality is the spiritual practice of living out a personal act of faith (fides qua creditur) following the acceptance of faith (fides quae creditur). Although all Catholics are expected to pray together at Mass, there are many different forms of spirituality and private prayer which have developed over the centuries. Each of the major religious orders of the Catholic Church and other lay groupings have their own unique spirituality - its own way of approaching God in prayer and in living out the Gospel.

Christian mysticism refers to the development of mystical practices and theory within Christianity. It has often been connected to mystical theology, especially in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. The attributes and means by which Christian mysticism is studied and practiced are varied and range from ecstatic visions of the soul's mystical union with God to simple prayerful contemplation of Holy Scripture (i.e., Lectio Divina).

Progressive Christianity is a contemporary movement which seeks to remove the supernatural claims of the faith and replace them with a post-critical understanding of biblical spirituality based on historical and scientific research. It focuses on the lived experience of spirituality over historical dogmatic claims, and accepts that the faith is both true and a human construction, and that spiritual experiences are psychologically and neurally real and useful.


Five pillars
Main article: Five Pillars of Islam

The Pillars of Islam (arkan al-Islam; also arkan ad-din, "pillars of religion") are five basic acts in Islam, considered obligatory for all believers. The Quran presents them as a framework for worship and a sign of commitment to the faith. They are (1) the shahadah (creed), (2) daily prayers (salat), (3) almsgiving (zakah), (4) fasting during Ramadan and (5) the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) at least once in a lifetime. The Shia and Sunni sects both agree on the essential details for the performance of these acts.[35]

Main article: Sufism

The best known form of Islamic mystic spirituality is the Sufi tradition (famous through Rumi and Hafiz) in which a spiritual master or pir transmits spiritual discipline to students.[36]

Sufism or taṣawwuf (Arabic: تصوّف‎) is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam.[37][38][39] A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a ṣūfī (صُوفِيّ). Sufis believe they are practicing ihsan (perfection of worship) as revealed by Gabriel to Muhammad,

Worship and serve Allah as you are seeing Him and while you see Him not yet truly He sees you.

Sufis consider themselves as the original true proponents of this pure original form of Islam. They are strong adherents to the principal of tolerance, peace and against any form of violence. The Sufi have suffered severe persecution by their coreligionist brothers the Wahhabi and the Salafist. In 1843 the Senussi Sufi were forced to flee Mecca and Medina and head to the Sudan and Libya.[40]

Classical Sufi scholars have defined Sufism as "a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God".[41] Alternatively, in the words of the Darqawi Sufi teacher Ahmad ibn Ajiba, "a science through which one can know how to travel into the presence of the Divine, purify one's inner self from filth, and beautify it with a variety of praiseworthy traits".[42]

Main article: Jihad

Jihad is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". There are two commonly accepted meanings of jihad: an inner spiritual struggle and an outer physical struggle.[43] The "greater jihad" is the inner struggle by a believer to fulfill his religious duties.[43][44] This non-violent meaning is stressed by both Muslim[45] and non-Muslim[46] authors.

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, an 11th-century Islamic scholar, referenced a statement by the companion of Muhammad Jabir ibn Abd-Allah:

The Prophet [...] returned from one of his battles, and thereupon told us, 'You have arrived with an excellent arrival, you have come from the Lesser Jihad to the Greater Jihad—the striving of a servant (of Allah) against his desires (holy war)."[unreliable source?][47][48][note 9]

Asian traditions


Main article: Buddhism

Buddhist practices are known as Bhavana, which literally means "development" or "cultivating"[49] or "producing"[50][51] in the sense of "calling into existence."[52] It is an important concept in Buddhist praxis (Patipatti). The word bhavana normally appears in conjunction with another word forming a compound phrase such as citta-bhavana (the development or cultivation of the heart/mind) or metta-bhavana (the development/cultivation of lovingkindness). When used on its own bhavana signifies 'spiritual cultivation' generally.

Various Buddhist Paths to liberation developed throughout the ages. Best-known is the Noble Eightfold Path, but others include the Bodhisattva Path and Lamrim.


Jñāna marga
Bhakti marga
Rāja marga
Three of four paths of spirituality in Hinduism

Hinduism has no traditional ecclesiastical order, no centralized religious authorities, no governing body, no prophet(s) nor any binding holy book; Hindus can choose to be polytheistic, pantheistic, monistic, or atheistic.[53] Within this diffuse and open structure, spirituality in Hindu philosophy is an individual experience, and referred to as ksaitrajña (Sanskrit: क्षैत्रज्ञ[54]). It defines spiritual practice as one’s journey towards moksha, awareness of self, the discovery of higher truths, true nature of reality, and a consciousness that is liberated and content.[55][56]

Four paths

Hinduism identifies four ways - mārga[57] or yoga[58] - of spiritual practice.[59] The first way is Jñāna yoga, the way of knowledge. The second way is Bhakti yoga, the way of devotion. The third way is Karma yoga, the way of works. The fourth way is Rāja yoga, the way of contemplation and meditation.

Jñāna marga is a path often assisted by a guru (teacher) in one’s spiritual practice.[60] Bhakti marga is a path of faith and devotion to deity or deities; the spiritual practice often includes chanting, singing and music - such as in kirtans - in front of idols, or images of one or more deity, or a devotional symbol of the holy.[61] Karma marga is the path of one’s work, where diligent practical work or vartta (Sanskrit: वार्त्ता, profession) becomes in itself a spiritual practice, and work in daily life is perfected as a form of spiritual liberation and not for its material rewards.[62][63] Rāja marga is the path of cultivating necessary virtues, self-discipline, tapas (meditation), contemplation and self-reflection sometimes with isolation and renunciation of the world, to a pinnacle state called samādhi.[64][65] This state of samādhi has been compared to peak experience.[66]

There is a rigorous debate in Indian literature on relative merits of these theoretical spiritual practices. For example, Chandogyopanishad suggests that those who engage in ritualistic offerings to gods and priests will fail in their spiritual practice, while those who engage in tapas will succeed; Svetasvataropanishad suggests that a successful spiritual practice requires a longing for truth, but warns of becoming ‘false ascetic’ who go through the mechanics of spiritual practice without meditating on the nature of Self and universal Truths.[67] In the practice of Hinduism, suggest modern era scholars such as Vivekananda, the choice between the paths is up to the individual and a person’s proclivities.[56][68] Other scholars[69] suggest that these Hindu spiritual practices are not mutually exclusive, but overlapping. These four paths of spirituality are also known in Hinduism outside India, such as in Balinese Hinduism, where it is called Catur Marga (literally: four paths).[70]

Schools and spirituality

Different schools of Hinduism encourage different spiritual practices. In Tantric school for example, the spiritual practice has been referred to as sādhanā. It involves initiation into the school, undergoing rituals, and achieving moksha liberation by experiencing union of cosmic polarities.[71] The Hare Krishna school emphasizes bhakti yoga as spiritual practice.[72] In Advaita Vedanta school, the spiritual practice emphasizes jñāna yoga in stages: samnyasa (cultivate virtues), sravana (hear, study), manana (reflect) and dhyana (nididhyasana, contemplate).[73]


Main article: Sikhism

Sikhism considers spiritual life and secular life to be intertwined:[74] "In the Sikh Weltanschauung...the temporal world is part of the Infinite Reality and partakes of its characteristics."[75] Guru Nanak described living an "active, creative, and practical life" of "truthfulness, fidelity, self-control and purity" as being higher than a purely contemplative life.[76]

The 6th Sikh Guru Guru Hargobind re-affirmed that the political/temporal (Miri) and spiritual (Piri) realms are mutually coexistent.[77] According to the 9th Sikh Guru, Tegh Bahadhur, the ideal Sikh should have both Shakti (power that resides in the temporal), and Bhakti (spiritual meditative qualities). This was developed into the concept of the Saint Soldier by the 10th Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh.[78]

According to Guru Nanak, the goal is to attain the "attendant balance of separation-fusion, self-other, action-inaction, attachment-detachment, in the course of daily life",[79] the polar opposite to a self-centered existence.[79] Nanak talks further about the one God or Akal (timelessness) that permeates all life[80]).[81][82][83] and which must be seen with 'the inward eye', or the 'heart', of a human being.[84]

In Sikhism there is no dogma,[85] priests, monastics or yogis.

African spirituality

In some African contexts, spirituality is considered a belief system that guides the welfare of society and the people therein, and eradicates sources of unhappiness occasioned by evil.

Contemporary spirituality

The term "spiritual" is now frequently used in contexts in which the term "religious" was formerly employed.[31] Contemporary spirituality is also called "post-traditional spirituality" and "New Age spirituality".[86] Hanegraaf makes a distinction between two "New Age" movements: New Age in a restricted sense, which originated primarily in mid-twentieth century England and had its roots in Theosophy and Anthroposophy, and "New Age in a general sense, which emerged in the later 1970s

...when increasing numbers of people [...] began to perceive a broad similarity between a wide variety of "alternative ideas" and pursuits, and started to think of them as part of one "movement"".[87]

Those who speak of spirituality outside of religion often define themselves as spiritual but not religious and generally believe in the existence of different "spiritual paths," emphasizing the importance of finding one's own individual path to spirituality. According to one 2005 poll, about 24% of the United States population identifies itself as spiritual but not religious.[web 8]


Modern spirituality is centered on the "deepest values and meanings by which people live."[88] It embraces the idea of an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality.[89] It envisions an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being.

Not all modern notions of spirituality embrace transcendental ideas. Secular spirituality emphasizes humanistic ideas on moral character (qualities such as love, compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, responsibility, harmony, and a concern for others).[90]:22 These are aspects of life and human experience which go beyond a purely materialist view of the world without necessarily accepting belief in a supernatural reality or divine being. Nevertheless, many humanists (e.g. Bertrand Russell) who value the non-material, communal and virtuous aspects of life reject this usage of the term spirituality as being overly-broad (i.e. it effectively amounts to saying "everything and anything that is good is necessarily spiritual")[citation needed]

Personal well-being, both physical and psychological, is an important aspect of modern spirituality.

Contemporary authors suggest that spirituality develops inner peace and forms a foundation for happiness. Meditation and similar practices may help any practitioner cultivate his or her inner life and character.[91][unreliable source?] [92] Ellison and Fan (2008) assert that spirituality causes a wide array of positive health outcomes, including "morale, happiness, and life satisfaction."[93] Spirituality has played a central role in self-help movements such as Alcoholics Anonymous:

...if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead....[94]

Spiritual experience

Main article: Religious experience

"Spiritual experience" plays a central role in modern spirituality.[95] This notion has been popularised by both western and Asian authors.[96][97]

William James popularized the use of the term "religious experience" in his The Varieties of Religious Experience.[96] It has also influenced the understanding of mysticism as a distinctive experience which supplies knowledge.[web 4]

Wayne Proudfoot traces the roots of the notion of "religious experience" further back to the German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), who argued that religion is based on a feeling of the infinite. The notion of "religious experience" was used by Schleiermacher to defend religion against the growing scientific and secular critique. It was adopted by many scholars of religion, of which William James was the most influential.[98]

Major Asian influences were Vivekananda[99] and D.T. Suzuki.[95] Swami Vivekananda popularised a modern syncretitistic Hinduism,[100][97] in which the authority of the scriptures was replaced by an emphasis on personal experience.[97][101] D.T. Suzuki had a major influence on the popularisation of Zen in the west and popularized the idea of enlightenment as insight into a timeless, transcendent reality.[web 9][web 10][23] Another example can be seen in Paul Brunton's A Search in Secret India, which introduced Ramana Maharshi and Meher Baba to a western audience.

Spiritual experiences can include being connected to a larger reality, yielding a more comprehensive self; joining with other individuals or the human community; with nature or the cosmos; or with the divine realm.[102]

Spiritual practices

Main article: Spiritual practice

Waaijman discerns four forms of spiritual practices:[103]

  1. Somatic practices, especially deprivation and diminishment. The deprivation purifies the body. Diminishment concerns the repulsement of ego-oriented impulses. Examples are fasting and poverty.[103]
  2. Psychological practices, for example meditation.[104]
  3. Social practices. Examples are the practice of obedience and communal ownership reform ego-orientedness into other-orientedness.[104]
  4. Spiritual. All practices aim at purifying the ego-centeredness, and direct the abilities at the divine reality.[104]

Spiritual practices may include meditation, mindfulness, prayer, the contemplation of sacred texts, ethical development,[90] and the use of psychoactive substances (entheogens). Love and/or compassion are often described as the mainstay of spiritual development.[90]

Within spirituality is also found "a common emphasis on the value of thoughtfulness, tolerance for breadth and practices and beliefs, and appreciation for the insights of other religious communities, as well as other sources of authority within the social sciences."[105]



Since the scientific revolution, the relationship of science to religion and spirituality has developed in complex ways.[106][107] Historian John Hedley Brooke describes wide variations:

The natural sciences have been invested with religious meaning, with antireligious implications and, in many contexts, with no religious significance at all."[107]

It has been proposed that the currently held popular notion of antagonisms between science and religion[108][109] has historically originated with "thinkers with a social or political axe to grind" rather than with the natural philosophers themselves.[107] Though physical and biological scientists today avoid supernatural explanations to describe reality[110][111][112][note 10], many scientists continue to consider science and spirituality to be complementary, not contradictory,[113][114] and are willing to debate.[115]

A few religious leaders have also shown openness to modern science and its methods. The 14th Dalai Lama has proposed that if a scientific analysis conclusively showed certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then the claims must be abandoned and the findings of science accepted.[116]


Main article: Holism

During the twentieth century the relationship between science and spirituality has been influenced both by Freudian psychology, which has accentuated the boundaries between the two areas by accentuating individualism and secularism, and by developments in particle physics, which reopened the debate about complementarity between scientific and religious discourse and rekindled for many an interest in holistic conceptions of reality.[107]:322 These holistic conceptions were championed by New Age spiritualists in a type of quantum mysticism that they claim justifies their spiritual beliefs,[117][118] though quantum physicists themselves on the whole reject such attempts as being pseudoscientific.[119][120]

Scientific research

Health and well-being

In keeping with the growing scientific interest in spirituality and complementary and alternative treatments, prayer has garnered particular attention among some behavioral scientists. Masters and Spielmans[121] conducted a meta-analysis of the effects of distant intercessory prayer, but detected no discernible effects.

Although psychology of religion research findings have led many to suggest that spirituality might protect believers' mental health, most of this research is of a poor scientific standard. Both supporters and opponents of this claim agree that past statistical findings are difficult to interpret–in large part because of the ongoing disagreement over how spirituality should be defined and measured[122] and also because of evidence that positive emotions might be a necessary precursor for having a spiritual experience in the first place.[123][124][125] If true, this implies that spirituality is not the cause of higher well-being, but rather both well-being and spirituality may result from positive emotionality[126] and a sociable disposition.[127][128][129]

Nevertheless, a negative correlation between spiritual well-being and depressive symptoms has been found among the elderly — that is, those who felt "good" spiritually were less depressed.[130] Similarly, cancer and AIDS patients who were more spiritual had lower depressive symptoms than religious patients. If spirituality is a cause of health and well-being it may possibly be because spiritual individuals tend to be optimistic and also report greater social support,[131] higher intrinsic meaning in life,[132] strength, and inner peace.[133] These factors are all especially important for very ill patients.[134] However recent research shows the claimed association between spirituality and social support is spurious. Specifically, the positive correlation between spirituality and social connectedness found when examined in isolation can no longer be found if the effects of agreeableness and conscientiousness — personality traits common in many non-spiritual people yet known to be slightly more common among the spiritual — are also taken into account.[135] Similarly, the health and well-being effects typically attributed to spirituality have been found to be moderated by these same personality traits.[136]

Additionally, some studies have reported beneficial effects from spirituality in the lives of patients with schizophrenia, major depression, and other psychological disorders. Indeed a few cross-sectional studies have shown that more religiously involved (which is not necessarily identical to spiritual) people had less instance of psychosis,[137] but again this may reflect little more than the well-established health effects of having close social ties and/or religious directives regarding health behaviors (i.e. not to use drugs etc.) and may not be due to spiritual experiences themselves. This possibility cannot be dismissed lightly because a recent study that separately measured virtues (such as hope, kindness, etc.) and spiritual experiences found that although spirituality was positively correlated with well-being, this association vanished (even became negative) after controlling out the effects of virtues.[138]see independent review That is, virtue (not spirituality) predicted well-being.

In summary the underlying associations among well-being, other psychological, and spiritual variables appear especially complex. This makes the task of identifying the true causal relationships among them particularly onerous. Nevertheless, presently the science seems to be indicating that living a purposeful, conscientious and sociable life, whether this be done in relation to some form of spirituality or not, may be sufficient to explain the health and well-being benefits many mistakenly believe arise from spiritual experience and practice.

Spiritual experiences

Neuroscientists have examined how the brain functions during reported spiritual experiences [139][140] finding that certain neurotransmitters and specific areas of the brain are involved.[141][142][143][144] Moreover, experimenters have also successfully induced spiritual experiences in individuals by administering psychoactive agents known to elicit euphoria and perceptual distortions.[145][146] These results have led some leading theorists to speculate that spirituality may be a benign subtype of psychosis.[147][148][149][150][151]

See also


  1. ^ a b Koenig e.a.: "There is no widely agreed on definition of spirituality today".[1] Cobb e.a.: "The spiritual dimension is deeply subjective and there is no authoritative definition of spirituality".[2] A survey of reviews by McCarroll e.a. dealing with the topic of spirituality gave twenty-seven explicit definitions "among [...] there was little agreement".[3]
  2. ^ Snyder, a proponent of Positive psychology, defines spirituality as a "search for the sacred",[5] which can also be sought through movements such as liberalism, feminist theology, and green politics. Spirituality is also now associated with mental health, managing substance abuse, marital functioning, parenting, and coping. Spirituality also leads to finding purpose and meaning in life.[4]
  3. ^ Waaijman[10] uses the word "omvorming", "to change the form". Different translations are possible: transformation, re-formation, trans-mutation.
  4. ^ Snyder, a proponent of Positive psychology, defines spirituality as a "search for the sacred",[5] which can also be sought through movements such as liberalism, feminist theology, and green politics. Spirituality is also now associated with mental health, managing substance abuse, marital functioning, parenting, and coping. Spirituality also leads to finding purpose and meaning in life.[4]
  5. ^ In Dutch: "de hemelse lichtsfeer tegenover de duistere wereld van de materie". [15]
  6. ^ In Dutch: "de kerkelijke tegenover de tijdelijke goederen, het kerkelijk tegenover het wereldlijk gezag, de geestelijke stand tegenover de lekenstand".[16]
  7. ^ In Dutch: "Zuiverheid van motieven, affecties, wilsintenties, innerlijke disposities, de psychologie van het geestelijk leven, de analyse van de gevoelens".[17]
  8. ^ In Dutch: "Een spiritueel mens is iemand die ‘overvloediger en dieper dan de anderen’ christen is".[17]
  9. ^ This reference gave rise to the distinguishing of two forms of jihad: "greater" and "lesser". Some Islamic scholars dispute the authenticity of this reference and consider the meaning of jihad as a holy war to be more important.[47]
  10. ^ See naturalism


  1. ^ a b c d Koenig 2012, p. 36.
  2. ^ a b c d Cobb 2012, p. 213.
  3. ^ a b c d McCarroll 2005, p. 44.
  4. ^ a b c d Snyder 2007.
  5. ^ a b Snyder 2007, p. 261-261.
  6. ^ a b Sharf 2000.
  7. ^ a b Wong 2008.
  8. ^ a b Saucier 2006, p. 1259.
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  14. ^ Wong 2009.
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  34. ^ Kabbalah: A very short introduction, Joseph Dan, Oxford University Press, Chapter 1 "The term and its uses"
  35. ^ Pillars of Islam, Oxford Islamic Studies Online
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  38. ^ Nuh Ha Mim Keller, "How would you respond to the claim that Sufism is Bid'a?", 1995. Fatwa accessible at:
  39. ^ Zubair Fattani, "The meaning of Tasawwuf", Islamic Academy.
  40. ^ Hawting, Gerald R. (2000). The first dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate AD 661-750. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-24073-5.  See Google book search.
  41. ^ Ahmed Zarruq, Zaineb Istrabadi, Hamza Yusuf Hanson—"The Principles of Sufism". Amal Press. 2008.
  42. ^ An English translation of Ahmad ibn Ajiba's biography has been published by Fons Vitae.
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  46. ^ Rudolph Peters, Islam and Colonialism. The doctrine of Jihad in Modern History (Mouton Publishers, 1979), p. 118
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  48. ^ Fayd al-Qadir vol.4 pg. 511
  49. ^ Matthieu Ricard has said this in a talk.
  50. ^ "Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 503, entry for "Bhāvanā," retrieved 9 December 2008 from University Chicago". Retrieved 2014-01-04. 
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  52. ^ Nyanatiloka (1980), p. 67.
  53. ^ See:
    • Julius J. Lipner, Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, 2nd Edition, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-45677-7, page 8; Quote: “(...) one need not be religious in the minimal sense described to be accepted as a Hindu by Hindus, or describe oneself perfectly validly as Hindu. One may be polytheistic or monotheistic, monistic or pantheistic, even an agnostic, humanist or atheist, and still be considered a Hindu.”;
    • Lester Kurtz (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace and Conflict, ISBN 978-0123695031, Academic Press, 2008;
    • MK Gandhi, The Essence of Hinduism, Editor: VB Kher, Navajivan Publishing, see page 3; According to Gandhi, "a man may not believe in God and still call himself a Hindu."
  54. ^ Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary, क्षैत्रज्ञ Jim Funderburk and Peter Scharf (2012); Quote:
    • क्षैत्रज्ञ [ kṣaitrajña ] [ kṣaitrajña ] n. ( fr. [ kṣetra-jñá ] g. [ yuvādi ], spirituality, nature of the soul Lit. W.; the knowledge of the soul Lit. W.
  55. ^ See the following two in Ewert Cousins series on World Spirituality:
    • Bhavasar and Kiem, Spirituality and Health, in Hindu Spirituality, Editor: Ewert Cousins (1989), ISBN 0-8245-0755-X, Crossroads Publishing New York, pp 319-337;
    • John Arapura, Spirit and Spiritual Knowledge in the Upanishads, in Hindu Spirituality, Editor: Ewert Cousins (1989), ISBN 0-8245-0755-X, Crossroads Publishing New York, pp 64-85
  56. ^ a b Gavin Flood, Brill's Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Editor: Knut Jacobsen (2010), Volume II, Brill, ISBN 978-90-04-17893-9, see Article on Wisdom and Knowledge, pp 881-884
  57. ^ See:
    • John Lochtefeld (2002), The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Rosen Publishing New York, ISBN 0-8239-2287-1, see articles on bhaktimārga, jnanamārga, karmamārga;
    • Bhagwad Gita (The Celestial Song], Chapters 2:56-57, 12, 13:1-28
  58. ^ Feuerstein, Georg (2003), The deeper dimension of yoga: Theory and practice, Shambhala, ISBN 1-57062-935-8, page 3;
    • Quote: “Yoga is not easy to define. In most general terms, the Sanskrit word yoga stands for spiritual discipline in Hinduism, Jainism, and certain schools of Buddhism. (...). Yoga is the equivalent of Christian mysticism, Moslem Sufism, or the Jewish Kabbalah. A spiritual practitioner is known as a yogin (if male) or a yogini (if female).”
  59. ^ D. Bhawuk (2011), Spirituality and Cultural Psychology, in Anthony Marsella (Series Editor), International and Cultural Psychology, Springer New York, ISBN 978-1-4419-8109-7, pp 93-140
  60. ^ Feuerstein, Georg (2003), The deeper dimension of yoga: Theory and practice, Shambhala, ISBN 1-57062-935-8, Chapter 55
  61. ^ Jean Varenne (1976), Yoga and the Hindu Tradition, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-85116-8, pp 97-130
  62. ^ See discussion of Hinduism and karma yoga in two different professions in these journal articles:
    • Donald W. McCormick, (1994) "Spirituality and Management", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 9, Issue 6, pp 5-8;
    • Macrae, Janet (1995), Nightingale's spiritual philosophy and its significance for modern nursing, Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 27(1), pp 8-10
  63. ^ Klaus Klostermaier, Spirituality and Nature, in Hindu Spirituality, Editor: Ewert Cousins (1989), ISBN 0-8245-0755-X, Crossroads Publishing New York, pp 319-337;
    • Klostermier discusses examples from Bhagavata Purana, another ancient Hindu scripture, where a forest worker discovers observing mother nature is a spiritual practice, to wisdom and liberating knowledge. The Purana suggests that “true knowledge of nature’’ leads to “true knowledge of Self and God.’’ It illustrates 24 gurus that nature provides. For example, earth teaches steadfastness and the wisdom that all things while pursuing their own activities, do nothing but follow the divine laws that are universally established; another wisdom from earth is her example of accepting the good and bad from everyone. Another guru, the honeybee teaches that one must make effort to gain knowledge, a willingness and flexibility to examine, pick and collect essence from different scriptures and sources. And so on. Nature is a mirror image of spirit, perceptive awareness of nature can be spirituality.
  64. ^ Vivekananda, S. (1980), Raja Yoga, Ramakrishna Vivekanada Center, ISBN 978-0911206234
  65. ^ Richard King (1999), Indian philosophy: An introduction to Hindu and Buddhist thought, Edinburgh University Press, ISBN 0-7486-0954-7, pp 69-71
  66. ^ See:
    • Harung, Harald (April 2012), Illustrations of Peak Experiences during Optimal Performance in World-class Performers Integrating Eastern and Western Insights, Journal of Human Values, 18(1), pp 33-52
    • Levin, Jeff (2010), Religion and mental health: Theory and research, International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 7(2), pp 102-115;
    • Meyer-Dinkgräfe, Daniel (2011). Opera and spirituality. Performance and Spirituality, 2(1), pp 38-59
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    • CR Prasad, Brill's Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Editor: Knut Jacobsen (2010), Volume II, Brill, ISBN 978-90-04-17893-9, see Article on Brahman, pp 724-729
    • David Carpenter, Brill's Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Editor: Knut Jacobsen (2010), Volume II, Brill, ISBN 978-90-04-17893-9, see Article on Tapas, pp 865-869
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  72. ^ Rochford, E. B. (1985), Hare Krishna in America, Rutgers University Press; ISBN 978-0813511146, page 12
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    • Ramakrishna Puligandla (1985), Jñâna-Yoga - The Way of Knowledge (An Analytical Interpretation), University Press of America New York, ISBN 0-8191-4531-9;
    • Fort, A. O. (1998), Jīvanmukti in Transformation: Embodied Liberation in Advaita and Neo-Vedanta, State University of New York Press, ISBN 0-7914-3903-8;
    • Richard King (1999), Indian philosophy: An introduction to Hindu and Buddhist thought, Edinburgh University Press, ISBN 0-7486-0954-7, pp 223;
    • Sawai, Y. (1987), The Nature of Faith in the Śaṅkaran Vedānta Tradition, Numen, 34(1), pp 18-44
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  • Sharf, Robert H. (1995-B), "Buddhist Modernism and the Rhetoric of Meditative Experience" (PDF), NUMEN, vol.42 (1995)  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  • Sharf, Robert H. (2000), The Rhetoric of Experience and the Study of Religion. In: Journal of Consciousness Studies, 7, No. 11-12, 2000, pp. 267-87 (PDF) 
  • Sheldrake, Philip (1998). Spirituality and history: Questions of interpretation and method. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. ISBN 1-57075-203-6. OCLC 796958914. 
  • Sinari, Ramakant (2000), Advaita and Contemporary Indian Philosophy. In: Chattopadhyana (gen.ed.), "History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization. Volume II Part 2: Advaita Vedanta", Delhi: Centre for Studies in Civilizations 
  • Snyder, C.R.; Lopez, Shane J. (2007), Positive Psychology, Sage Publications, Inc., ISBN 0-7619-2633-X 
  • Waaijman, Kees (2000), Spiritualiteit. Vormen, grondslagen, methoden, Kampen/Gent: Kok/Carmelitana 
  • Waaijman, Kees (2002), Spirituality: Forms, Foundations, Methods, Peeters Publishers 
  • Wong, Yuk-Lin Renita; Vinsky, Jana (2009), "Speaking from the Margins: A Critical Reflection on the ‘Spiritual-but-not-Religious’ Discourse in Social Work", British Journal of Social Work (2009) 39, pp.1343-1359 


  1. ^ a b c d e "Online Etymology Dictionary, ''Spirit''". Retrieved 2014-01-04. 
  2. ^ a b "Online Etymology Dictionary, ''Spiritual''". Retrieved 2014-01-04. 
  3. ^ a b c "Online Etymology Dictionary, ''Spirituality''". Retrieved 2014-01-04. 
  4. ^ a b "Stanford Encyclopdeia of Philosophy, ''Transcendentalism''". Retrieved 2014-01-04. 
  5. ^ a b c d Jone Johnson Lewis. "Jone John Lewis, ''What is Transcendentalism?". Retrieved 2014-01-04. 
  6. ^ "Barry Andrews, ''The Roots Of Unitarian Universalist Spirituality In New England Transcendentalism ''". 1999-03-12. Retrieved 2014-01-04. 
  7. ^ "Frank Morales, ''Neo-Vedanta: The problem with Hindu Universalism''". Retrieved 2014-01-04. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Robert H. Sharf, ''Whose Zen? Zen Nationalism Revisited''" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-01-04. 
  10. ^ "Hu Shih: Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism in China. Its History and Method". Retrieved 2014-01-04. 

Further reading

  • Downey, Michael. Understanding Christian Spirituality. New York: Paulist Press, 1997.
  • Hanegraaff, Wouter J. (1996), New Age Religion and Western Culture. Esotericism in the mirror of Secular Thought, Leiden/New York/Koln: E.J. Brill 
  • Charlene Spretnak, The Spiritual Dynamic in Modern Art : Art History Reconsidered, 1800 to the Present.[1]
  • Eck, Diana L. A New Religious America. San Francisco: Harper, 2001.
  • Schmidt, Leigh Eric. Restless Souls : The Making of American Spirituality. San Francisco: Harper, 2005. ISBN 0-06-054566-6
  • Carrette, Jeremy R.; King, Richard (2005), Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion, Taylor & Francis Group 

External links

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