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WHAT IS SPIRITUALITY? PART TWO

If you read my recent blog posting and took my suggestion to write down your concept of spirituality, what did you write and how do you think of it?  Did your idea of spirituality bear any resemblance to the following ideas?

Michael Downey (1997) in his book, Understanding Christian Spirituality, Mahwah, NJ; Paulist Press,  characterizes the roots of spirituality as “a deep spiritual hunger” noting that “There is an ache in the soul, a longing for more than meets the eye.”

 Because this hunger is so intense and widespread, he sees the emergence of a great variety of spiritualities through which people are “satisfying this hunger.”  He calls this “spiritual sprawl,” resulting in many different forms of spirituality.  Downey does not want to assume that others mean the same thing as he means when they say spirituality.  While respectful of the diversity of meanings for the word spirituality, he is not uncritical in trying to define it.

 “(W)hat is needed is a clear definition of spirituality, one which would allow enough room for all that is authentic in the quest for the sacred, while at the same time providing some criteria for discernment in the face of the many instances of human self-expression now huddling under the umbrella-like term ‘spirituality.’”

 For Downey the word “spirituality” “describe(s) an element in human experience precisely as experience and precisely as human.  Spirituality here refers to the authentic human quest for ultimate value, or the human person’s ‘striving to attain the highest ideal or goal.’  Spirituality of whatever kind in this very broad sense of the term concerns a ‘progressive, consciously pursued, personal integration through self-transcendence within and toward the horizon of ultimate concern.’”

 Three other definitions of “spirituality” appear in Robert A. Emmons’ (1999) book, The Psychology of Ultimate Concerns: Motivation and Spirituality in Personality, New York: The Guildford Press, p. 93.

 “Spirituality is a process by which individuals recognize the importance of orienting their lives to something nonmaterial that is beyond or larger than themselves…so that there is an acknowledgement of and at least some dependence upon a higher power, or Spirit.” (Martin & Carlson, 1988, p. 59)

 “At its core, spirituality consists of all the beliefs and activities by which individuals attempt to relate their lives to God or to a divine being or some other conception of a transcendent reality.”  (Wuthnow, 1998, p. vii)

 “Spiritual means believing in, valuing, or devoted to some higher power than what exists in the corporeal world…religious applies to any organized religion.”  (Worthington, Kurusu, McCullough, & Sandage, 1996, p. 449)

 “Spirituality and religion are grounded in a dimension of reality beyond the boundaries of strictly empirically perceived , material work…The term religion has come to signify for many the codified, institutionalized, and ritualized expressions of peoples’ communal connections to the Ultimate…spirituality is a deep sense of belonging, of wholeness, of connectedness, and of openness to the infinite.”  (Kelly, 1995, pp. 4-5)

 These definitions all have an academic feel to them.  Do they bear any resemblance to what you may have written as your definition of spirituality?  In my next posting I will reveal a concept of spirituality that has particular meaning to me and for the practice of ContemplAgeing.

Posted in spiritualityUncategorized on 19 January 2010
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