Spirituality is matters of the spirit, a concept tied to a spirit world, a multidimensional reality and one or more deities. Spiritual matters regard humankind’s ultimate nature and purpose, not as material biological organisms, but as spirits with an eternal relationship beyond the bodily senses, time and the material world. Spirituality implies the mind-body dichotomy, which indicates a separation between the body and soul.
The spiritual is contrasted with the physical, matter and the temporary. A sense of connection is central of spirituality — connection to a reality greater than the physical world and oneself, which may include an emotional experience of awe and reverence. Spirituality may also include the development of the individual’s inner life through practices such as meditation and prayer. Spirituality is the personal, subjective aspect of religion and mysticism.
The spiritual and the religious
While the words religion and spirituality are often incorrectly used interchangeably, an important distinction exists between spirituality in religion and spirituality outside of religion. In recent[update] years, spirituality outside of 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. There are, however, non-creedal mature religions (e.g., Unitarian Universalism) whose adherents can be spiritual in the sense of having a more personal faith.
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 and the rites of group worship shared by all members of a given faith.
Those who speak of spirituality outside of religion often identify themselves as “spiritual but not religious” and generally believe in the existence of many “spiritual paths” and deny that there is an objectively definable best path to follow. Such people often emphasize the importance of finding one’s individual path to the divine. Some 24% of the United States population identifies itself as spiritual but not religious. Secular spirituality is consistent with holding any supernatural belief, or with holding none.
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)
Some modern religions see spirituality in everything: see pantheism and neo-Pantheism. Religious Naturalism in a similar vein has a spiritual attitude towards the awe, majesty and mystery seen in the natural world.
For a Christian to refer to themself as “more spiritual than religious” implies relative deprecation of rules, rituals, and tradition while preferring an intimate relationship with God. 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 in the Bible, Gospel of 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.
Spirituality and personal well-being
Though many people[who?] practice prayer and believe it affects their health (for example adherents of Christian Science), no 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 some behavioral scientists. Masters and Spielmans have conducted a meta-analysis of the effects of distant intercessory prayer, but detected no discernible effects.
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….”
If spirituality is understood as the search for or the development of inner peace or the foundations of happiness then spiritual practice of some kind is essential for personal well being. This activity may or may not include belief in supernatural beings. If one has such a belief and feels that relationship to such beings is the foundation of happiness then spiritual practice will be pursued on that basis: if one has no such belief spiritual practice is still essential for the management and understanding of thoughts and emotions which otherwise prevent happiness. Many techniques and practices developed and explored in religious contexts, such as meditation, are immensely valuable in themselves as skills for managing aspects of the inner life.
Relationship to science
A number of authors have suggested that there are spiritual consequences of quantum physics. Examples are physicist-philosopher Fritjof Capra;Ken Wilber, who proposes an “Integral Theory of Consciousness”; theoretical nuclear physicist Amit Goswami, who views a universal consciousness, not matter, as the ground of all existence (monistic idealism); Ervin László, who posits the “quantum vacuum” as the fundamental energy- and information-carrying field (“Akashic field”) that informs not just the current universe, but all universes past and present (collectively, the “Metaverse”).
Since 1954 the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science has debated the merits of combining scientific thinking with religious perspectives.
Near-death experience – If consciousness exists apart from the body, which includes the brain, one is attached not only to the material world, but to a non-temporal (spiritual) world as well. This thesis is considered to be analyzed by testing the reports from people who have experienced death. According to Mr. Anil K. Rajvanshi, If the brain is dead but consciousness lives on it would prove the existence of something outside the material world and open up an interesting scientific study of the soul. However, some researchers consider that NDEs are actually REM intrusions triggered in the brain by traumatic events like cardiac arrest.
The scientific method takes as its basis empirical, repeatable observations of the natural world. Critics such as William F. Williams have labeled as pseudoscientific and opposed ideas and beliefs that include supernatural forces yet are presented as having a scientific character, citing the imprecision of spiritual concepts and the subjectivity of spiritual experience.
Spirituality has been studied in positive psychology and defined as the search for “the sacred,” where “the sacred” is broadly defined as that which is set apart from the ordinary and worthy of veneration. Spirituality can be sought not only through traditional organized religions, but also through movements such as the feminist theology and ecological spirituality. Spirituality is associated with mental health, managing substance abuse, marital functioning, parenting, and coping. It has been suggested that spirituality also leads to finding purpose and meaning in life.
Relationship to technology
This section requires expansion.
Renewable energy practitioner Anil K. Rajvanshi has written extensively on the relationship of spirituality and technology. His thesis is that spirituality together with technology can lead to sustainable development.
Origin of spirituality
History of spirituality
Spiritual innovators who operated within the context of a religious tradition became marginalised or 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. 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”: structured offerings complementing consumer choice with spiritual options.
In English the word “spirit” comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning “breath” (compare spiritus asper), but also “soul, courage, vigor”, ultimately from a PIE root *(s)peis- (to blow). In the Vulgate, the Latin word translates Greek (πνευμα), pneuma (Hebrew (רוח) ruah), as opposed to anima, translating psykhē. The word was loaned into Middle English via Old French.
The study of spirituality
Many spiritual traditions promote courses of study in spirituality.
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.
Overall, scholars in disciplines such as theology, religious studies, psychology (but more accurately parapsychology–‘beyond psychology’–pneumatology, monadology, and esoteric philosophical logic,) anthropology and sociology sometimes concentrate their researches on spirituality, but the field remains ill-defined.
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”.