Authentic spirituality is awakening awareness and conscious attunement to
the sacred source of life.
– Patricia Mische
Spirituality concerns an ancient and primal search for meaning…as old as humanity itself.
– Diarmuid O’Murchu
This site is primarily an invitation to explore our present spiritual journey – yours, mine, and ours together – it is important to clarify our understanding of spirituality in general.
In my research into how we might begin to describe spirituality in new ways, I learned several important points:
1. Within Western culture, our thinking with regard to spirituality has evolved through several phases, and through a recent period lasting several centuries that appears to have been quite detrimental to our individual and planetary health.
2. In the resurgence of interest and study taking place within the latter part of the 20th century, several approaches to spirituality emerged, claiming key roles in human development and interaction:
- Spirituality is inherent to what it means to be human and dates in our human experience far back before the development of the world’s current formal religions;
- Spirituality is rooted in our experience of connectedness and relationality;
- Spirituality is integral to the growth and maturation of human persons;
- Spirituality is linked to the human search for meaning;
- Spiritual growth and development is at the heart of social justice.
Drawing upon these insights, one can conclude that the term “spirituality” seems to name a complex dynamic of human personal growth in relationship stemming from the reality of our oneness with all creation in the Source and Ground of Our Being. I have developed my own working definition of spirituality:
Spirituality describes our human reality of interconnectedness and our capacity to live ever more consciously and with greater integrity our interrelationship with God, self, and all of Creation.
Spiritual growth takes place on two levels: 1) it involves a continual process of further refining one’s knowledge of one’s own interiority, while 2) also advancing in one’s proficiency at the skills necessary to be in healthy communion (belongingness) with others.
The challenge of the 21st Century is the intention and means to involve more humans globally in this process, particularly within Western culture which lost this knowledge and capacity, but frighteningly is the culture that is spreading rapidly around the globe. It is only this process of attending to the spiritual growth of individuals that will lead to appropriate life-sustaining behaviors at all levels: for the individual, the family, the church, the workplace, the nation, the global village.
Initially, as with other peoples in the ancient world, the early Christian community integrated spirituality with the whole of life. This changed as Christianity institutionalized under the influence of several social factors present in Western culture including patriarchy (“rule of the fathers”) and scholasticism, a philosophy that began to reserve the category “spiritual” for humans apart from the rest of creation.
More detail on how these developments influenced our understanding of spirituality in Western culture, as well as our process of recovery from its detrimental effects, is covered in the subsequent pages in this section.
A final note I want to make here is just to re-emphasize that spirituality and religion, though related, are distinct phenomena in human experience. I have come to believe that those who suggest that we come to our spiritual nature through religion have it quite backwards. We as humans have developed religions out of our inherent spiritual nature. I will return to this point in my thoughts in answer to the spiritual question: “How am I to be here with others?”
Mische, P. (1982) Toward a global spirituality. In Spirituality and world order: The whole Earth papers. 16. Global Education Associates. p. 4.
O’Murchu. D. (1998). Reclaiming Spirituality: A New Spiritual Framework for Today’s World. New York: Crossroad. p. vii