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New Age – Wikipedia

The New Age is a term applied to a range of spiritual or religious beliefs and practices that developed in Western nations during the 1970s. Precise scholarly definitions of the movement differ in their emphasis, largely as a result of its highly eclectic structure. Although analytically often considered to be religious, those involved in it typically prefer the designation of “spiritual” and rarely use the term “New Age” themselves. Many scholars of the subject refer to it as the New Age movement, although others contest this term, believing that it gives a false sense of homogeneity to the phenomenon.

As a form of Western esotericism, the New Age movement drew heavily upon a number of older esoteric traditions, in particular those that emerged from the occultist current that developed in the eighteenth century. Such prominent occult influences include the work of Emanuel Swedenborg and Franz Mesmer, as well as the ideas of Spiritualism, New Thought, and the Theosophical Society. A number of mid-twentieth century influences, such as the UFO religions of the 1950s, the Counterculture of the 1960s, and the Human Potential Movement, also exerted a strong influence on the early development of the New Age movement. Although the exact origins of the movement remain contested, it is agreed that it developed in the 1970s, at which time it was centred largely in the United Kingdom. It expanded and grew largely in the 1980s and 1990s, in particular within the United States.

Despite its highly eclectic nature, a number of beliefs commonly found within the New Age movement have been identified. Theologically, the movement typically adopts a belief in a holistic form of divinity which imbues all of the universe, including human beings themselves. There is thus a strong emphasis on the spiritual authority of the self. This is accompanied by a common belief in a wide variety of semi-divine non-human entities, such as angels and masters, with whom humans can communicate, particularly through the form of channeling. Typically viewing human history as being divided into a series of distinct ages, a common New Age belief is that whereas once humanity lived in an age of great technological advancement and spiritual wisdom, it has entered a period of spiritual degeneracy, which will be remedied through the establishment of a coming Age of Aquarius, from which the movement gets its name. There is also a strong focus on healing, particularly using forms of alternative medicine, and an emphasis on a “New Age science” which seeks to unite science and spirituality.

Those involved in the New Age movement have been primarily from middle and upper-middle-class backgrounds. The degree to which New Agers are involved in the movement varied considerably, from those who adopted a number of New Age ideas and practices to those who fully embraced and dedicated their lives to it. The movement has generated criticism from established Christian organisations as well as contemporary Pagan and indigenous communities. From the 1990s onward, the movement became the subject of research by academic scholars of religious studies.

“One of the few things on which all scholars are agreed concerning New Age is that it is difficult to define. Often, the definition given actually reflects the background of the scholar giving the definition. Thus, the New Ager views New Age as a revolutionary period of history dictated by the stars; the Christian apologist has often defined new age as a cult; the historian of ideas understands it as a manifestation of the perennial tradition; the philosopher sees New Age as a monistic or holistic worldview; the sociologist describes New Age as a new religious movement (NRM); while the psychologist describes it as a form of narcissism.”

The New Age phenomenon has proved difficult to define, with much scholarly disagreement as to how this can be done. Religious studies scholar Paul Heelas characterised the New Age movement as “an eclectic hotch-potch of beliefs, practices, and ways of life” which can be identified as a singular phenomenon through their use of “the same (or very similar) lingua franca to do with the human (and planetary) condition and how it can be transformed”. Similarly, historian of religion Olav Hammer termed it “a common denominator for a variety of quite divergent contemporary popular practices and beliefs” which have emerged since the late 1970s and which are “largely united by historical links, a shared discourse and an air de famille”. Sociologist of religion Michael York described the New Age movement as “an umbrella term that includes a great variety of groups and identities” but which are united by their “expectation of a major and universal change being primarily founded on the individual and collective development of human potential”.

The religious studies scholar Wouter Hanegraaff adopted a different approach by asserting that “New Age” was “a label attached indiscriminately to whatever seems to fit it” and that as a result it “means very different things to different people”. He thus argued against the idea that the New Age movement could be considered “a unified ideology or Weltanschauung”, although believed that it could be considered a “more of less unified “movement””. Conversely, while echoing the view that the “New Age” phenomenon was not “even a homogenous entity at all”, the religious studies scholar Steven J. Sutcliffe rejected the idea of a “New Age movement”, deeming it to be “a false etic category”.

Many of those groups and individuals who could analytically be categorised as part of the New Age movement reject the term “New Age” when in reference to themselves. Rather than term themselves “New Agers”, those involved in this milieu commonly describe themselves as spiritual “seekers”. In 2003, Sutcliffe observed that the use of the term was “optional, episodic and declining overall”, adding that among the very few individuals who did use it, they usually did so with qualification, for instance by placing it in inverted commas. Hence, although the religious studies scholar James R. Lewis acknowledged that “New Age” was a problematic term, he asserted that “there exists no comparable term which covers all aspects of the movement” and that thus it remained a useful etic category for scholars to use.

“The New Age movement is the cultic milieu having become conscious of itself, in the later 1970s, as constituting a more or less unified “movement”. All manifestations of this movement are characterized by a popular western culture criticism expressed in terms of a secularized esotericism.”

Those involved in the movement rarely consider it to be “religion” negatively associating the latter solely with organized religion and instead describe their practices as “spirituality”. Religious studies scholars however have repeatedly referred to the movement as a “religion”. The New Age movement is a form of Western esotericism. Hanegraaff considered the New Age to be a form of “popular culture criticism”, in that it represented a reaction against the dominant Western values of Judeo-Christian religion and rationalism, adding that “New Age religion formulates such criticism not at random, but falls back on” the ideas of earlier Western esoteric groups.

York described the New Age movement as a new religious movement (NRM). Conversely, both Heelas and Sutcliffe rejected this categorisation; he believed that while elements of the New Age movement represented NRMs, this was not applicable to every New Age group. Hammer identified much of the New Age movement as corresponding to the concept of “folk religions” in that it seeks to deal with existential questions regarding subjects like death and disease in “an unsystematic fashion, often through a process of bricolage from already available narratives and rituals”. York also heuristically divides the New Age movement into three broad trends. The first, the “social camp”, represents groups which primarily seek to bring about social change, while the second, “occult camp”, instead focus on contact with spirit entities and channeling. York’s third group, the “spiritual camp”, represents a middle ground between these two camps, and which focuses largely on individual development.

The term “new age”, along with related terms like “new era” and “new world”, long predate the emergence of the New Age movement, and have widely been used to assert that a better way of life for humanity is dawning. It has, for instance, widely been used in political contexts; the Great Seal of the United States, designed in 1782, proclaims a “new order of ages”, while in the 1980s the Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev proclaimed that “all mankind is entering a new age”. The term has also appeared within Western esoteric schools of thought, having a scattered use from the mid-nineteenth century onward. In 1864 the American Swedenborgian Warren Felt Evans published The New Age and its Message, while in 1907 Alfred Orage and Holbrook Jackson began editing a weekly journal of Christian liberalism and socialism titled The New Age. The concept of a coming “new age” that would be inaugurated by the return to Earth of Jesus Christ was a theme in the poetry of Wellesley Tudor Pole and Johanna Brandt, and then also appeared in the work of the American Theosophist Alice Bailey, who used the term prominently in such titles as Disciplineship in the New Age (1944) and Education in the New Age (1954).

Between the 1930s and 1960s a small number of groups and individuals became preoccupied with the concept of a coming “New Age” and prominently used the term accordingly. The term had thus become a recurring motif in the esoteric spirituality milieu. Sutcliffe therefore expressed the view that while the term “New Age” had originally been an “apocalyptic emblem”, it would only be later that it became “a tag or codeword for a ‘spiritual’ idiom”.

Prominent esoteric thinkers who influenced the New Age movement include Helena Blavatsky (left) and Carl Jung (right)

According to scholar Nevill Drury, the New Age has a “tangible history”, although Hanegraaff expressed the view that most New Agers were “surprisingly ignorant about the actual historical roots of their beliefs”. As a form of Western esotericism, the New Age has antecedents that stretch back to southern Europe in Late Antiquity. Following the Age of Enlightenment in 18th century Europe, new esoteric ideas developed in response to the development of scientific rationality. This new esoteric trend is termed occultism by scholars, and it was this occultism which would be a key factor in the development of the worldview from which the New Age emerged.

One of the earliest influences on the New Age was the Swedish 18th century Christian mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, who professed the ability to communicate with angels, demons, and spirits. Swedenborg’s attempt to unite science and religion and his prediction of a coming era in particular have been cited as ways in which he prefigured the New Age movement.[33] Another early influence was the late 17th and early 18th century German physician and hypnotist Franz Mesmer, who claimed the existence of a force known as “animal magnetism” running through the human body.[34] The establishment of Spiritualism, an occult religion influenced by both Swedenborgianism and Mesmerism, in the U.S. during the 1840s has also been identified as a precursor to the New Age movement, in particular through its rejection of established Christianity, its claims to representing a scientific approach to religion, and its emphasis on channeling spirit entities.

A further major influence on the New Age was the Theosophical Society, an occult group co-founded by the Russian Helena Blavatsky in the late 19th century. In her books Isis Unveiled (1877) and The Secret Doctrine (1888), Blavatsky claimed that her Society was conveying the essence of all world religions, and it thus emphasized a focus on comparative religion.[36] Another was New Thought, which developed in late nineteenth century New England as a Christian-oriented healing movement before spreading throughout the United States.[37] Drury also identified as an important influence upon the New Age movement the Indian Swami Vivekananda, an adherent of the philosophy of Vedanta who first brought Hinduism to the West in the late 19th century.[38]

“Most of the beliefs which characterise the New Age were already present by the end of the 19th century, even to such an extent that one may legitimately wonder whether the New Age brings anything new at all.”

Popularisation behind these ideas has roots in the work of early 20th century writers such as D. H. Lawrence and William Butler Yeats. In the early- to mid-1900s, American mystic, theologian, and founder of the Association for Research and Enlightenment Edgar Cayce was a seminal influence on what later would be termed the New Age movement; he was known in particular for the practice some refer to as channeling. Another prominent influence was the psychologist Carl Jung, who was a proponent of the concept of the Age of Aquarius.[42][43][44]

Hanegraaff believed that the New Age movement’s direct antecedents could be found in the UFO religions of the 1950s, which he termed a “proto-New Age movement”. Many of these new religious movements had strong apocalyptic beliefs regarding a coming new age, which they typically asserted would be brought about by contact with extraterrestrials. Examples of such groups included the Aetherius Society, founded in the UK in 1955, and the Heralds of the New Age, established in New Zealand in 1956.

From a historical perspective, the New Age phenomenon is rooted in the counterculture of the 1960s. Although not common throughout the counterculture, usage of the terms “New Age” and “Age of Aquarius” used in reference to a coming era were found within it, for instance appearing on adverts for the Woodstock festival of 1969, and in the lyrics of “Aquarius”, the opening song of the 1967 musical Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. This decade also witnessed the emergence of a variety of new religious movements and newly established religions in the United States, creating a spiritual milieu from which the New Age drew upon; these included the San Francisco Zen Center, Transcendental Meditation, Soka Gakkai, the Inner Peace Movement, the Church of All Worlds, and the Church of Satan. Although there had been an established interest in Asian religious ideas in the U.S. from at least the eighteenth-century, many of these new developments were variants of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sufism which had been imported to the West from Asia following the U.S. government’s decision to rescind the Asian Exclusion Act in 1965. In 1962 the Esalen Institute was established in Big Sur, California.[55] It was from Esalen and other similar personal growth centers which had developed links to humanistic psychology that the human potential movement emerged, which would also come to exert a strong influence on the New Age movement.[56]

In Britain, a number of small religious groups that came to be identified as the “light” movement had begun declaring the existence of a coming new age, influenced strongly by the Theosophical ideas of Blavatsky and Bailey. The most prominent of these groups was the Findhorn Foundation which founded the Findhorn Ecovillage in the Scottish area of Findhorn, Moray in 1962. Although its founders were from an older generation, Findhorn attracted increasing numbers of countercultural baby boomers during the 1960s, to the extent that its population had grown sixfold to circa 120 residents by 1972. In October 1965, the founder of Findhorn, Peter Caddy, attended a meeting of various prominent figures within Britain’s esoteric milieu; titled “The Significance of the Group in the New Age”, it was held at Attingham Park over the course of a weekend.

All of these groups would create the backdrop from which the New Age movement emerged; as James R. Lewis and J. Gordon Melton point out, the New Age phenomenon represents “a synthesis of many different preexisting movements and strands of thought”. Nevertheless, York asserted that while the New Age bore many similarities with both earlier forms of Western esotericism and Asian religion, it remained “distinct from its predecessors in its own self-consciousness as a new way of thinking”.

Sutcliffe argued that between circa 1967 and 1974, the “emblem” of the “New Age” came to be passed from the “subcultural pioneers” of alternative spirituality groups such as that at Findhorn to the wider array of “countercultural baby boomers”, and that as that happened, there was a “fundamental transformation in meaning” of the term “New Age”; whereas it had once referred specifically to a coming era, at this point it came to be used in a wider sense to refer to a variety of humanistic activities and practices. The counterculture of the 1960s had rapidly declined by the start of the 1970s, in large part due to the collapse of the commune movement, but it would be many former members of the counter-culture and hippie subculture who subsequently became early adherents of the New Age movement. The exact origins of the New Age movement remain an issue of debate; Melton asserted that it emerged in the early 1970s, whereas Hanegraaff instead traced its emergence to the latter 1970s, adding that it then entered its full development in the 1980s. This early form of the movement was based largely in Britain and exhibited a strong influence from Theosophy and Anthroposophy. Hanegraaff termed this early core of the movement the New Age sensu stricto, or “New Age in the strict sense”.

In the latter part of the 1970s, the New Age movement expanded to cover a wide variety of alternative spiritual and religious beliefs and practices, not all of which explicitly held to the belief in the Age of Aquarius, but which were nevertheless widely recognised as being broadly similar in their search for “alternatives” to mainstream society. In doing so, the “New Age” became a banner under which to bring together the wider “cultic milieu” of American society. Hanegraaff terms this development the New Age sensu lato, or “New Age in the wider sense”. Stores that came to be known as “New Age shops” opened up, selling related books, magazines, jewellery, and crystals, and they were typified by the playing of New Age music and the smell of incense.This probably influenced several thousand small metaphysical book- and gift-stores that increasingly defined themselves as “New Age bookstores”,[69] while New Age titles came to be increasingly available from mainstream bookstores and then websites like Amazon.com.

Not everyone who came to be associated with the New Age phenomenon openly embraced the term “New Age”, although it was popularised in books like David Spangler’s 1977 work Revelation: The Birth of a New Age and Mark Satin’s 1979 book New Age Politics: Healing Self and Society. Other terms that were employed synonymously with “New Age” in this milieu included “Green”, “Holistic”, “Alternative”, and “Spiritual”.

1971 witnessed the foundation of est by Werner H. Erhard, a transformational training course which became a prominent part of the early movement. Melton suggested that the 1970s witnessed the growth of a relationship between the New Age movement and the older New Thought movement, as evidenced by the widespread use of Helen Schucman’s A Course in Miracles (1975), New Age music, and crystal healing in New Thought churches. Some figures in the New Thought movement were sceptical, challenging the compatibility of New Age and New Thought perspectives. During these decades, Findhorn had become a site of pilgrimage for many New Agers, and greatly expanded in size as people joined the community, with workshops and conferences being held there that brought together New Age thinkers from across the world.

Several key events occurred, which raised public awareness of the New Age subculture: publication of Linda Goodman’s best-selling astrology books Sun Signs (1968) and Love Signs (1978); the release of Shirley MacLaine’s book Out on a Limb (1983), later adapted into a television mini-series with the same name (1987); and the “Harmonic Convergence” planetary alignment on August 16 and 17, 1987,[77] organized by Jos Argelles in Sedona, Arizona. The Convergence attracted more people to the movement than any other single event. Heelas suggested that the movement was influenced by the “enterprise culture” encouraged by the U.S. and U.K. governments during the 1980s onward, with its emphasis on initiative and self-reliance resonating with any New Age ideas.

The claims of channelers Jane Roberts (Seth Material), Helen Schucman (A Course in Miracles), J. Z. Knight (Ramtha), Neale Donald Walsch (Conversations with God) (note that Walsch denies being a “channeler” and his books make it obvious that he is not one, though the text emerged through a dialogue with a deeper part of himself in a process comparable to automatic writing) contributed to the movement’s growth.[80][81] The first significant exponent of the New Age movement in the U.S. has been cited as Ram Dass. Core works in the propagating New Age ideas included Jane Roberts’s Seth series, published from 1972 onward,Helen Schucman’s 1975 publication A Course in Miracles, and James Redfield’s 1993 work The Celestine Prophecy. A variety of these books were best sellers, with the Seth book series for instance selling over a million copies. Supplementing these books were videos, audiotapes, compact discs and websites. The development of the internet in particular further popularized New Age ideas and made them more widely accessible.

New Age ideas influenced the development of rave culture in the late 1980s and 1990s. In Britain during the 1980s, the term “New Age Travellers” came into use, while the term “New Age” came to be used increasingly widely by the popular media in the 1990s.

Although there is great diversity among the beliefs and practices found within the New Age movement, according to York it is united by a shared “vision of radical mystical transformation on both the personal and collective levels”. The movement aims to create “a spirituality without borders or confining dogmas” that is inclusive and pluralistic.

The eclecticism of the New Age has resulted in the common jibe that it represents “supermarket spirituality”.

Hanegraaff noted that the existence of divinity was “mostly an integral and necessary part of New Age ideas”. However, he added that within the movement, such ideas regarding the nature of divinity “reflect a marked aversion to rigid, doctrinal definitions”, with New Age theology exhibiting an inclusivist and universalistic approach which accepts all personal perspectives on the divine as being equally valid. This intentional vagueness as to the nature of divinity also reflects the New Age idea that divinity cannot be comprehended by the human mind or language. There are nevertheless a number of traits that are repeatedly associated with divinity in New Age literature, the first of which is the idea that it is holistic, thus frequently being described with such terms as an “Ocean of Oneness”, “Infinite Spirit”, “Primal Stream”, “One Essence”, and “Universal Principle”. A second common trait is the characterisation of divinity as “Mind”, “Consciousness”, and “Intelligence”, while a third is the description of divinity as a form of “energy”. A fourth trait is the characterisation of divinity as a “life force”, the essence of which is creativity, while a fifth is the concept that divinity consists of love.

Most New Age groups subscribe to the view that there is an Ultimate Source from which all things originate, which is usually conflated with the divine. Various creation myths have been articulated in New Age publications outlining how this Ultimate Source came to create the universe and everything in it. In contrast, some other New Agers have emphasised the idea of a universal inter-relatedness that is not always emanating from a single source. The New Age worldview emphasises holism and the idea that everything in existence is intricately connected as part of a single whole, in doing so rejecting both the dualism of Judeo-Christian thought and the reductionism of Cartesian science. A number of New Agers have linked this holistic interpretation of the universe to the Gaia hypothesis of James Lovelock. The idea of holistic divinity results in a common New Age belief that humans themselves are divine in essence, a concept described using such terms as “droplet of divinity”, “inner Godhead”, and “divine self”. Influenced by Theosophical and Anthroposophical ideas regarding ‘subtle bodies’, a common New Age idea holds to the existence of a “Higher Self” which is a part of the human but which connects with the divine essence of the universe, and which can advise the human mind through intuition.

Cosmogonical creation stories are common in New Age sources, with these accounts reflecting the movement’s holistic framework by describing an original, primal oneness from which all things in the universe emanated. An additional common theme is that human souls once living in a spiritual world then descended into a world of matter. The New Age movement typically views the material universe as a meaningful illusion, which humans should try to use constructively rather than focus on escaping into other spiritual realms. This physical world is hence seen as “a domain for learning and growth” after which the human soul might pass on to higher levels of existence. There is thus a widespread belief that reality is engaged in an ongoing process of evolution; rather than Darwinian evolution, this is typically seen as either a teleological evolution which assumes a process headed to a specific goal, or an open-ended, creative evolution.

Within the New Age movement, it is often unclear how divine beings are divided from those entities which are believed to exist between divinity and humanity. In the literature, there is much talk of non-human beings who are benevolently interested in the spiritual development of humanity, and which are variously referred to under such names as angels, guardian angels, personal guides, masters, teachers, and contacts. New Age angelology is nevertheless unsystematic, reflecting the idiosyncrasies of individual authors. The figure of Jesus Christ is often mentioned within New Age literature as a mediating principle between divinity and humanity, as well as an exemplar of a spiritually advanced human being.

The New Age movement exhibits a strong emphasis on the idea that the individual and their own experiences are the primary source of authority on spiritual matters. Thus, it exhibits what Heelas termed “unmediated individualism”, and reflects a world-view which is “radically democratic”. As a result, there is a strong emphasis on the freedom of the individual in the movement. This emphasis has led to some ethical disagreements; while some New Age participants stress the need to help others because all are part of the unitary holistic universe, others have disagreed, refusing to aid others because it is believed that it will result in their dependency on others and thus conflicts with the self-as-authority ethic. Nevertheless, within the movement, there are differences in the role accorded to voices of authority outside of the self.

“In the flood of channeled material which has been published or delivered to “live” audiences in the last two decades, there is much indeed that is trivial, contradictory, and confusing. The authors of much of this material make claims which, while not necessarily untrue or fraudulent, are difficult or impossible for the reader to verify. There are, however, a number of other channeled documents which address issues more immediately relevant to the human condition. The best of these writings are not only coherent and plausible, but eloquently persuasive and sometimes disarmingly moving.”

Although not present in every New Age group, a core belief of the movement is in channeling. This is the idea that humans beings, sometimes (although not always) in a state of trance, can act “as a channel of information from sources other than their normal selves”. These sources are varyingly described as being God, gods and goddesses, ascended masters, spirit guides, extraterrestrials, angels, devas, historical figures, the collective unconscious, elementals, or nature spirits. Hanegraaff described channeling as a form of “articulated revelation”, and identified four forms: trance channeling, automatisms, clairaudient channeling, and open channeling.

Prominent examples of channeling in the New Age movement include Jane Roberts’ claims that she was contacted by an entity called Seth, and Helen Schucman’s claims to have channeled Jesus Christ. The academic Suzanne Riordan examined a variety of these New Age channeled messages, and noted that they typically “echoed each other in tone and content”, offering an analysis of the human condition and giving instructions or advice for how humanity can discover its true destiny.

For many New Agers, these channeled messages rival the scriptures of the main world religions as sources of spiritual authority, although often New Agers describe historical religious revelations as forms of “channeling” as well, thus attempting to legitimate and authenticate their own contemporary practices. Although the concept of channeling from discarnate spirit entities has links to Spiritualism and psychical research, in the New Age movement the Spiritualist emphasis on proving the existence of life after death is absent, as is the psychical research focus of testing mediums for consistency.

New Age thought typically envisions the world as developing through a series of large astronomical cycles which can be identified astrologically. Although the concept of distinct ages has older roots in Western esoteric thought, the New Age movement adopted it from Theosophy, despite the fact that such New Age conceptions of ages are often looser and more eclectic than those in Theosophical doctrine. New Age literature often claims that humanity once lived in an age of spiritual wisdom. In the writings of New Agers like Edgar Cayce, the ancient period of spiritual wisdom is associated with concepts of supremely-advanced societies living on lost continents such as Atlantis, Lemuria, and Mu, as well as the idea that ancient societies like those of Ancient Egypt were far more technologically advanced than modern scholarship accepts. New Age literature often posits that the ancient period of spiritual wisdom ultimately gave way to an age of spiritual decline, sometimes termed the Age of Pisces. Although characterised as being a negative period for humanity, New Age literature views the Age of Pisces as an important learning experience for the species. Hanegraaff stated that New Age perceptions of history were “extremely sketchy” in their use of description, reflecting little interest in historiography and conflating history with myth. He also noted that they were highly ethnocentric in placing Western civilization at the centre of historical development.

A common belief among the New Age movement is that humanity has entered, or is coming to enter, a new age known as the Age of Aquarius, which Melton has characterised as a “New Age of love, joy, peace, abundance, and harmony[…] the Golden Age heretofore only dreamed about”. In accepting this belief in a coming new age, the movement has been described as “highly positive, celebratory, [and] utopian”, and has also been cited as an apocalyptic movement. Opinions about the nature of the coming New Age differ among New Agers. There are for instance differences in belief about its commencement, with New Age author David Spangler claiming that it began in 1967, while various practitioners placed its beginning with the Harmonic Convergence of 1987, with others claiming that it will not begin until several centuries into the third millennium.

There are also differences in how this new age is envisioned. Those adhering to what Hanegraaff termed the “moderate” perspective believed that it would be marked by an improvement to current society, which affected both New Age concerns through the convergence of science and mysticism and the global embrace of alternative medicine to more general concerns, including an end to violence, crime and war, a healthier environment, and international co-operation. Other New Agers adopt a fully utopian vision, believing that the world will be wholly transformed into an “Age of Light”, with humans evolving into totally spiritual beings and experiencing unlimited love, bliss, and happiness.

The Age of Aquarius is not viewed as eternal, but it is instead believed that it will last for around two thousand years, before being replaced by a further age. There are various beliefs within the movement as to how this new age will come about, but most emphasise the idea that it will be established through human agency; others assert that it will be established with the aid of non-human forces such as spirits or extraterrastrials. Participants in the movement typically express the view that their own spiritual actions are helping to bring about the Age of Aquarius, with a common belief also being that there are higher powers in the universe that are helping to birth the new age.

Another core factor of the New Age movement is its emphasis on healing and the use of alternative medicine.[157] The general ethos within the movement is that health is the natural state for the human being and that illness is a disruption of that natural balance. Hence, New Age therapies seek to heal “illness” as a general concept which includes physical, mental, and spiritual aspects; in doing so it critiques mainstream Western medicine for simply attempting to cure disease, and thus has an affinity with most forms of traditional medicine found around the world. The concept of “personal growth” is also greatly emphasised within the healing aspects of the New Age movement. The movement’s focus of self-spirituality has led to the emphasis of self-healing, although also present in the movement are ideas that focus on both healing others and healing the Earth itself.

The healing elements of the movement are difficult to classify given that a variety of terms are used, with some New Age authors using different terms to refer to the same trends, while others use the same term to refer to different things. However, Hanegraaff developed a set of categories into which the forms of New Age healing could be roughly categorised. The first of these was the Human Potential Movement, which argues that contemporary Western society suppresses much human potential, and which accordingly professes to offer a path through which individuals can access those parts of themselves that they have alienated and suppressed, thus enabling them to reach their full potential and live a meaningful life. Hanegraaff described transpersonal psychology as the “theoretical wing” of this Human Potential Movement; in contrast to other schools of psychological thought, transpersonal psychology takes religious and mystical experiences seriously by exploring the uses of altered states of consciousness. Closely connected to this is the shamanic consciousness current, which argues that the shaman was a specialist in altered states of consciousness and which seeks to adopt and imitate traditional shamanic techniques as a form of personal healing and growth.

Hanegraaff identified the second main healing current in the New Age movement as being holistic health. This emerged in the 1970s out of the free clinic movement of the 1960s, and has various connections with the Human Potential Movement. It emphasises the idea that the human individual is a holistic, interdependent relationship between mind, body, and spirit, and that healing is a process in which an individual becomes whole by integrating with the powers of the universe. A very wide array of methods are utilised within the holistic health movement, with some of the most common including acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic, yoga, kinesiology, homeopathy, iridology, massage and other forms of bodywork, meditation and visualisation, nutritional therapy, psychic healing, herbal medicine, healing using crystals, metals, music, chromotherapy, and reincarnation therapy. The use of crystal healing has become a particularly prominent visual trope in the movement. The mainstreaming of the Holistic Health movement in the UK is discussed by Maria Tighe. The inter-relation of holistic health with the New Age movement is illustrated in Jenny Butler’s ethnographic description of “Angel therapy” in Ireland.[157]

“The New Age is essentially about the search for spiritual and philosophical perspectives that will help transform humanity and the world. New Agers are willing to absorb wisdom teachings wherever they can find them, whether from an Indian guru, a renegade Christian priest, an itinerant Buddhist monk, an experiential psychotherapist or a Native American shaman. They are eager to explore their own inner potential with a view to becoming part of a broader process of social transformation. Their journey is towards totality of being.”

According to Drury, the New Age movement attempts to create “a worldview that includes both science and spirituality”. Although it typically rejects rationalism, the scientific method, and the academic establishment, at times those active in the movement employ terminology and concepts borrowed from science and particularly from the New Physics. Moreover, a number of prominent influences on New Age movement, such as David Bohm and Ilya Prigogine, came from backgrounds as professional scientists. Instead it typically expresses the view that its own understandings of the universe will come to replace those of the academic establishment in a paradigm shift.

However, most of the academic and scientific establishments dismiss “New Age science” as pseudo-science, or at best existing in part on the fringes of genuine scientific research. Hanegraaff identified “New Age science” as a form of Naturphilosophie. In this, the movement is interested in developing unified world views to discover the nature of the divine and establish a scientific basis for religious belief. Richard H. Jones has presented strong arguments challenging New Age thinkers’ treatment of both science and mysticism.

Figures in the New Age movement most notably Fritjof Capra in his The Tao of Physics (1975) have drawn parallels between theories in the New Physics and traditional forms of mysticism, thus arguing that ancient religious ideas are now being proven by contemporary science. Many New Agers have adopted James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis that the Earth acts akin to a single living organism, although have expanded this idea to include the idea that the Earth has consciousness and intelligence.

There is no ethical cohesion within the New Age phenomenon, although Hanegraaff argued that the central ethical tenet of the New Age movement is to cultivate one’s own divine potential. Given that the movement’s holistic interpretation of the universe prohibits a belief in a dualistic good and evil, negative events that happen are interpreted not as the result of evil but as lessons designed to teach an individual and enable them to advance spiritually. It rejects the Christian emphasis on sin and guilt, believing that these generate fear and thus negativity, which then hinder spiritual evolution. It also typically criticises the blaming and judging of others for their actions, believing that if an individual adopts these negative attitudes it harms their own spiritual evolution. Instead the movement emphasizes positive thinking, although beliefs regarding the power behind such thoughts vary within New Age literature. Common New Age examples of how to generate such positive thinking include the repeated recitation of mantras and statements carrying positive messages, and the visualisation of a white light.

According to Hanegraaff, the question of death and afterlife is not a “pressing problem requiring an answer” in the New Age movement. A belief in reincarnation is very common, being viewed as part of humanity’s “progressive spiritual evolution”. In New Age literature the reality of reincarnation is usually treated as self-evident, with no explanation as to why practitioners embrace this afterlife belief over others, although New Agers endorse it in the belief that it ensures cosmic justice. Many New Agers adopt a belief in karma, treating it as a law of cause and effect which assures cosmic balance, although in some cases they stress that it is not a system that enforces punishment for past actions. In much New Age literature discussing reincarnation, there is the claim that part of the human soul, that which carries the personality, perishes with the death of the body, while the Higher Self that which connects with divinity survives in order to be reborn into another body. It is believed that the Higher Self chooses the body and circumstances into which it will be born, in order to use it as a vessel through which to learn new lessons and thus advance its own spiritual evolution. Some prominent New Age writers such as Shakti Gawain and Louise Hay have thus expressed the view that humans are therefore totally responsible for the events that happen to them during their life, an idea that many New Agers characterise as empowering. At times, past life regression are employed within the New Age movement in order to reveal a Higher Soul’s previous incarnations, usually with an explicit healing purpose.

New Age spirituality has led to a wide array of literature on the subject and an active niche market, with books, music, crafts, and services in alternative medicine available at New Age stores, fairs, and festivals.[citation needed] New Age fairs sometimes known as “Mind, Body, Spirit fairs”, “psychic fairs”, or “alternative health fairs” are spaces in which a variety of goods and services are displayed by different vendors, including forms of alternative medicine and esoteric practices such as palmistry or tarot card reading. A prominent example is the Mind Body Spirit Festival, held annually in the United Kingdom, at which the religious studies scholar Christopher Partridge noted one could encounter “a wide range of beliefs and practices from crystal healing to … Kirlian photography to psychic art, from angels to past-life therapy, from Theosophy to UFO religion, and from New Age music to the vegetarianism of Suma Chign Hai.”

A number of New Age proponents have emphasised the use of spiritual techniques as a tool for attaining financial prosperity, thus moving the movement away from its counter-cultural origins. Embracing this attitude, various books have been published espousing such an ethos, established New Age centres have held spiritual retreats and classes aimed specifically at business people, and New Age groups have developed specialised training for businesses. During the 1980s, many prominent U.S. corporations among them IBM, AT&T, and General Motors embraced New Age seminars, hoping that they could increase productivity and efficiency among their work force, although in several cases this resulted in employees bringing legal action against their employers, claiming that such seminars had infringed on their religious beliefs or damaged their psychological health. However, the use of spiritual techniques as a method for attaining profit has been an issue of major dispute within the wider New Age movement, with prominent New Agers such as Spangler and Michael Fox criticising what they see as trends within the community that are narcissistic and lack a social conscience. In particular, the movement’s commercial elements have caused problems given that they often conflict with its general economically-egalitarian ethos; as York highlighted, “a tension exists in New Age between socialistic egalitarianism and capitalistic private enterprise”.

Given that it encourages individuals to choose spiritual practices on the grounds of personal preference and thus encourages them to behave as a consumer, the New Age has been considered to be well suited to modern society.

Sociological studies of the demographics of New Age practitioners have established that certain sectors of society are more likely to get involved in the movement than others. Sutcliffe noted that although most of the influential New Age figureheads were male, approximately two thirds of its participants were female. The movement is strongly gendered; sociologist Ciara O’Connor argues that it shows a tension between commodification and women’s empowerment.[209] It is a primarily middle-class and upper middle-class phenomenon.

“By the early twenty-first century… [the New Age phenomenon] has an almost entirely white, middle-class demography largely made up of professional, managerial, arts, and entrepreneurial occupations.”

In the mid-1990s, it was asserted that the New Age movement was primarily found in the United States and Canada, Western Europe, and Australia and New Zealand. It is problematic ascertaining the number of New Agers because many individuals involved in the movement don’t explicitly identify themselves as such. While some individuals self-identify as a New Ager, others who participate in New Age practices instead may identify as Jewish, Christian, Buddhist or atheist. Heelas highlighted the range of attempts to establish the number of New Age participants in the U.S. during this period, noting that estimates ranged from 20,000 to 6 million; he believed that the higher ranges of these estimates were greatly inflated by, for instance, an erroneous assumption that all Americans who believed in reincarnation were part of the movement. He nevertheless suggested that over 10 million people in the U.S. had had some contact with New Age practices or ideas.

Sutcliffe described the “typical” participant in the New Age milieu as being “a religious individualist, mixing and matching cultural resources in an animated spiritual quest”. Susan Lee Brown noted that in the U.S., the movement was first embraced by the baby boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964), “through which it was incubated and transmitted to other parts of American society”. Heelas asserted that the movement was “strongly associated” with members of the middle and upper-middle classes of Western society. He added that within that broad demographic, the movement had nevertheless attracted a diverse clientele. He typified the typical New Ager as someone who was well-educated yet disenchanted with mainstream society, thus arguing that the movement catered to those who believe that modernity is in crisis. He suggested that the movement appealed to many former practitioners of the 1960s counter-culture because while they came to feel that they were unable to change society, they were nonetheless interested in changing the self. He believed that many individuals had been “culturally primed for what the New Age has to offer”, with the New Age attracting “expressive” people who were already comfortable with the ideals and outlooks of the movement’s self-spirituality focus. It could be particularly appealing because the New Age suited the needs of the individual, whereas traditional religious options that are available primarily catered for the needs of a community. He believed that although the adoption of New Age beliefs and practices by some fitted the model of religious conversion, others who adopted some of its practices could not easily be considered to have converted to the religion.

He highlighted that those involved in the movement did so to varying degrees. Heelas argued that those involved in the movement could be divided into three broad groups; the first comprised those who were completely dedicated to it and its ideals, often working in professions that furthered those goals. The second consisted of “serious part-timers” who worked in unrelated fields but who nevertheless spent much of their free time involved in movement activities. The third was that of “casual part-timers” who occasionally involved themselves in New Age activities but for whom the movement was not a central aspect of their life. Many New Age practices have filtered into wider Western society, with a 2000 poll for instance revealing that 39% of the UK population had tried alternative therapies.

People who practice New Age spirituality or who embrace its lifestyle are included in the Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) demographic market segment, figures rising, related to sustainable living, green ecological initiatives, and generally composed of a relatively affluent and well-educated segment.[229] The LOHAS market segment in 2006 was estimated at USD $300 billion, approximately 30 percent of the United States consumer market.[230][231] According to The New York Times, a study by the Natural Marketing Institute showed that in 2000, 68 million Americans were included within the LOHAS demographic. The sociologist Paul H. Ray, who coined the term cultural creatives in his book The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World (2000), states, “What you’re seeing is a demand for products of equal quality that are also virtuous.”[232][233]

Some New Agers advocate living in a simple and sustainable manner to reduce humanity’s impact on the natural resources of Earth; and they shun consumerism.[236][237] The New Age movement has been centered around rebuilding a sense of community to counter social disintegration; this has been attempted through the formation of intentional communities, where individuals come together to live and work in a communal lifestyle.[238]

New Age centres have been set up in various parts of the world, representing an institutionalised form of the movement. Notable examples include the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, Holly Hock Farm near to Vancouver, the Wrekin Trust in West Malvern, Worcestershire, and the Skyros Centre in Skyros.

Criticising mainstream Western education as counterproductive to the ethos of the movement, many New Age groups have established their own schools for the education of children, although in other cases such groups have sought to introduce New Age spiritual techniques into pre-existing establishments.

The term “New-age music” is applied, often in a derogative manner, to forms of ambient music, a genre which developed in the 1960s and was popularised in the 1970s, particularly with the work of Brian Eno. The genre’s relaxing nature resulted in it becoming popular within New Age circles, with some forms of the genre having a specifically New Age orientation. Studies have determined that new-age music can be an effective component of stress management.[244]

The style began in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the works of free-form jazz groups recording on the ECM label; such as Oregon, the Paul Winter Consort, and other pre-ambient bands; as well as ambient music performer Brian Eno, classical avant-garde musician Daniel Kobialka,[245][246] and the psychoacoustic environments recordings of Irv Teibel.[247] In the early 1970s, it was mostly instrumental with both acoustic and electronic styles. New-age music evolved to include a wide range of styles from electronic space music using synthesizers and acoustic instrumentals using Native American flutes and drums, singing bowls, Australian didgeredoos and world music sounds to spiritual chanting from other cultures.[245][246]

The earliest academic studies of the New Age movement were performed by specialists in the study of new religious movements, such as Robert Ellwood. However, this research was often scanty because many scholars of alternative spirituality thought of the New Age movement as an insignificant cultural fad. Alternately, much of it was largely negative and critical of New Age groups, as it was influenced by the U.S. anti-cult movement. In 1996, Wouter Hanegraaff published New Age Religion and Western Culture, a historical analysis of New Age texts. That same year, Paul Heelas published a study of the movement which focused on its manifestation in Britain. Most of these early studies were based on a textual analysis of New Age publications, rather than on an ethnographic analysis of its practitioners.

In the 2003 book A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America written by Michael Barkun, professor emeritus of political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs[254] Barkun argues New Age beliefs have been greatly facilitated by the advent of the internet which has exposed people to beliefs once consigned to the outermost fringe of political and religious life. He identifies two trends which he terms, “the rise of improvisational millennialism” and “the popularity of stigmatized knowledge”. He voices concern that these trends could lead to mass hysteria and could have a devastating effect on American political life.

The majority of published criticism of the New Age movement has come from Christians, in particular those on the religion’s fundamentalist wing. In the United States, the New Age movement became a major concern of evangelical Christian groups in the 1980s, an attitude that gradually also influenced British evangelical groups. During that decade, evangelical writers such as Constance Cumbey, Dave Hunt, Gary North, and Douglas Groothuis published books criticising the New Age movement from their Christian perspective; a number of them have been characterised as propagating conspiracy theories regarding the origin and purpose of the movement. The most successful such publication however was Frank E. Peretti’s 1986 novel This Present Darkness, which sold over a million copies; it depicted the New Age movement as being in league with feminism and secular education to overthrow Christianity. This criticism has been sustained since; in 2003 Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention stated that there’s “widespread agreement” by Baptists who regard New Age ideas as contrary to Christian tradition and doctrine.[259]

In his 1989 book, Le Nouvel Age, French scholar and Catholic priest Jean Vernette criticised the New Age movement, which he described as an Anglo Saxon movement which was beginning to invade France. He asked if it represented the coming of the Anti-Christ, a Jewish conspiracy, or a project for a global government. He also noted its parallels with Nazism and said that Christians should be discerning towards it.[260]

The Roman Catholic Church published A Christian reflection on the New Age in 2003, following a six-year study; the 90-page document criticizes New Age practices such as yoga, meditation, feng shui, and crystal healing.[261][262] According to the Vatican, euphoric states attained through New Age practices should not be confused with prayer or viewed as signs of God’s presence.[263] Cardinal Paul Poupard, then-president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the “New Age is a misleading answer to the oldest hopes of man”.[261] Monsignor Michael Fitzgerald, then-president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, stated at the Vatican conference on the document: the “Church avoids any concept that is close to those of the New Age”.[264] The report also advised Christians to respect the sincerity of New Age persons’ spiritual searches, and to witness to them about the Gospel[265]

“Neopagan practices highlight the centrality of the relationship between humans and nature and reinvent religions of the past, while New Agers are more interested in transforming individual consciousness and shaping the future.”

An issue of academic debate has been regarding the connection between the New Age movement and contemporary Paganism, or Neo-Paganism, with the two often being confused. Religious studies scholar Sarah Pike asserted that there was a “significant overlap” between the two religious movements, while Aidan A. Kelly stated that Paganism “parallels the New Age movement in some ways, differs sharply from it in others, and overlaps it in some minor ways”. Ethan Doyle White stated that while the Pagan and New Age movements “do share commonalities and overlap”, they were nevertheless “largely distinct phenomena.” Hanegraaff suggested that whereas various forms of contemporary Paganism were not part of the New Age movement particularly those who pre-dated the movement other Pagan religions and practices could be identified as New Age. Partridge portrayed both Paganism and the New Age as different streams of occulture that merge at points.

Various differences between the two movements have been highlighted; the New Age movement focuses on an improved future, whereas the focus of Paganism is on the pre-Christian past. Similarly, the New Age movement typically propounds a universalist message which sees all religions as fundamentally the same, whereas Paganism stresses the difference between monotheistic religions and those embracing a polytheistic or animistic theology. While the New Age emphasises a light-centred image, Paganism acknowledges both light and dark, life and death, and recognises the savage side of the natural world. Many Pagans have sought to distance themselves from the New Age movement, even using “New Age” as an insult within their community, while conversely many involved in the New Age have expressed criticism of Paganism for emphasizing the material world over the spiritual. Many Pagans have expressed criticism of the high fees charged by New Age teachers, something not typically present in the Pagan movement, which some Pagans pronouncing the word “newage” to rhyme with “sewage”.

The New Age movement has also been accused of cultural imperialism, misappropriating the sacred ceremonies, intellectual and cultural property of indigenous peoples.[275][276][277] Indigenous American spiritual leaders, such as Elders councils of the Lakota, Cheyenne, Navajo, Creek, Hopi, Chippewa, and Haudenosaunee have denounced New Age misappropriation of their sacred ceremonies[279] and other intellectual property,[280] stating that “[t]he value of these instructions and ceremonies [when led by unauthorized people] are questionable, maybe meaningless, and hurtful to the individual carrying false messages”.[279] Traditional leaders of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota peoples have reached consensus[275][281] to reject “the expropriation of [their] ceremonial ways by non-Indians”. They see the New Age movement as either not fully understanding, deliberately trivializing, or distorting their way of life,[282] and have declared war on all such “plastic medicine people” who are appropriating their spiritual ways.[275][281] The United Nations General Assembly has issued a declaration protecting ceremonies as part of the cultural and intellectual property of their respective Indigenous nations:

Article 31 1. “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions.” Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples[280]

Indigenous leaders have spoken out against individuals from within their own communities who may go out into the world to become a “white man’s shaman,” and any “who are prostituting our spiritual ways for their own selfish gain, with no regard for the spiritual well-being of the people as a whole”.[282] The term “plastic shaman” or “plastic medicine people” has been applied to outsiders who identify themselves as shamans, holy people, or other traditional spiritual leaders, but who have no genuine connection to the traditions or cultures they claim to represent.[276][277][283]

While many commentators have focused on the personal aspects of the New Age movement, it also has a social and political component. The New Age political movement became visible in the 1970s, peaked in the 1980s, and continued into the 1990s.[284] In the 21st century, the political movement evolved in new directions.

After the political turmoil of the 1960s, many activists in North America and Europe became disillusioned with traditional reformist and revolutionary political ideologies.[285] Some began searching for a new politics that gave special weight to such topics as consciousness, ecology, personal and spiritual development, community empowerment, and global unity.[286][287] An outpouring of books from New Age thinkers acknowledged that search and attempted to articulate that in politics.

According to some observers,[288][289] the first was Mark Satin’s New Age Politics (1978).[290] It originally appeared in Canada in 1976.[291][292] Other books that have been described as New Age political include Theodore Roszak’s Person / Planet (1978),[293][294]Marilyn Ferguson’s The Aquarian Conspiracy (1980),[295][296]Alvin Toffler’s The Third Wave (1980),[297][298]Hazel Henderson’s The Politics of the Solar Age (1981),[289][299]Fritjof Capra’s The Turning Point (1982),[297][300]Robert Muller’s New Genesis (1982),[301][302]John Naisbitt’s Megatrends (1982),[302][303]Willis Harman’s Global Mind Change (1988),[304][305]James Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy (1993),[304][306] and Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson’s Spiritual Politics (1994).[304][307]

All these books were issued by major publishers. Some became international bestsellers. By the 1980s, New Age political ideas were being discussed in big-city newspapers[308][309] and established political magazines.[289][310] In addition, some of the New Age’s own periodicals were regularly addressing social and political issues. In the U.S., observers pointed to Leading Edge Bulletin,[295][311]New Age Journal,[312][313]New Options Newsletter,[302][314] and Utne Reader.[312][315] Other such periodicals included New Humanity (England),[316]Alterna (Denmark),[317]Odyssey (South Africa), and World Union from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram (India).

As with any political movement, organizations sprang up to generate popular support for New Age political ideas and policy positions. In the U.S., commentators identified the New Age Caucus of California,[318][319] the New World Alliance,[320][321] Planetary Citizens,[302][322] and California State legislator John Vasconcellos’s Self-Determination: A Personal / Political Network[302][323] as New Age political organizations. So, on occasion, did their own spokespeople.[324] There may have been more New Age political organizing outside the U.S.;[322] writer-activists pointed to the Future in Our Hands movement in Norway (which claimed 20,000 adherents out of a population of four million),[325] the early European Green movements,[326] and the Values Party of New Zealand.[327]

Although these books, periodicals, and organizations did not speak with one voice, commentators found that many of them sounded common themes:

Over time, these themes began to cohere. By the 1980s, observers in both North America[289][330] and Europe[338][339] were acknowledging the emergence of a New Age political “ideology”.

Toward the end of the 20th century, criticisms were being directed at the New Age political project from many quarters,[340][341] but especially from the liberal left and religious right.

On the left, scholars argued that New Age politics is an oxymoron: that personal growth has little or nothing to do with political change.[342][343] One political scientist said New Age politics fails to recognize the “realities” of economic and political power;[330] another faulted it for not being opposed to the capitalist system, or to liberal individualism.[285] Antinuclear activist Harvey Wasserman suggested that New Age politics may be too averse to social conflict to be effective politically.[344]

On the right, some worried that the drive to come up with a new consciousness and new values would topple time-tested old values.[322] Others worried that the celebration of diversity would leave no strong viewpoint in place to guide society.[322]

Neither left nor right was impressed with the New Age’s ability to organize itself politically.[345][320] Many explanations were offered for the New Age’s practical political weakness. Some said that the New Age political thinkers and activists of the 1970s and 1980s were simply too far in advance of their time.[346] Others suggested that New Age activists’ commitment to the often frustrating process of consensus decision-making was at fault.[320] After it dissolved, New World Alliance co-founder Marc Sarkady told an interviewer that the Alliance had been too “New Age counter-cultural” to appeal to a broad public.[347]

In the 21st century, writers and activists continue to pursue a political project with New Age roots. However, it differs from the project that had come before.

The principal difference was anticipated in texts like New Age Politics author Mark Satin’s essay “Twenty-eight Ways of Looking at Terrorism” (1991),[348]human potential movement historian Walter Truett Anderson’s essay “Four Different Ways to Be Absolutely Right” (1995),[349] and mediator Mark Gerzon’s book A House Divided (1996).[350][351] In these texts, the New Age political perspective is recognized as legitimate. But it is presented as merely one among many, with strong points and blind spots just like all the rest. The result was to alter the nature of the New Age political project. If every political perspective had unique strengths and significant weaknesses, then it no longer made sense to try to convert everyone to the New Age political perspective, as had been attempted in the 1970s and 1980s. It made more sense to try to construct a higher political synthesis that took every political perspective into account, including that of the New Age.[352][353]

Another difference between the two eras of political thought is that, in the 21st century, few political actors use the term New Age or post-New Age[354] to describe themselves or their work. Some observers attribute this to the negative connotations that the term “New Age” had acquired.[287][354] Instead, other terms are employed that connote a similar sense of personal and political development proceeding together over time. For example, according to an anthology from three political scientists, many writers and academics use the term “transformational” as a substitute for such terms as New Age and new paradigm.[328]Ken Wilber has popularized use of the term “integral”,[355] Carter Phipps emphasizes the term “evolutionary”,[356] and both terms can be found in some authors’ book titles.[357][358]

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What Is Spirituality? | Taking Charge of Your Health …

Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life. As such, it is a universal human experiencesomething that touches us all. People may describe a spiritual experience as sacred or transcendent or simply a deep sense of aliveness and interconnectedness.

Some may find that their spiritual life is intricately linked to their association with a church, temple, mosque, or synagogue. Others may pray or find comfort in a personal relationship with God or a higher power. Still others seek meaning through their connections to nature or art. Like your sense of purpose, your personal definition of spirituality may change throughout your life, adapting to your own experiences and relationships.

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What Is Spirituality? | Taking Charge of Your Health …

Spirituality Books – Goodreads

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Even total nonbelievers will find this attractive book fun to read. Everyone loves to read about him or herself. It makes for a fascinating & entertaining party game, to find out just how true you think these comments are for you. Its possible that everyone you know will say they’ve been nailed to a Tee by this book.

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Quotes About Spirituality (5807 quotes)

For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness. Hermann Hesse, Bume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

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Spirituality – Wikipedia

For the belief in being able to contact the dead, see Spiritualism.

Traditionally, spirituality refers to a religious process of re-formation which “aims to recover the original shape of man,” oriented at “the image of God” as exemplified by the founders and sacred texts of the religions of the world. In modern times the emphasis is on subjective experience of a sacred dimension and the “deepest values and meanings by which people live,” often in a context separate from organized religious institutions. Modern spirituality typically includes a belief in a supernatural (beyond the known and observable) realm,personal growth, a quest for an ultimate/sacred meaning,religious experience, or an encounter with one’s own “inner dimension.”

The meaning of spirituality has developed and expanded over time, and various connotations can be found alongside each other.[note 1] The term “spirituality” originally developed within early Christianity, referring to a life oriented toward the Holy Spirit. During late medieval times the meaning broadened to include mental aspects of life, while in modern times the term both spread to other religious traditions and broadened to refer to a wider range of experience, including a range of esoteric traditions.

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 spiritualit,[web 3] from Late Latin “spiritualitatem” (nominative spiritualitas),[web 3] which is also derived from Latin spiritualis.[web 3]

There is no single, widely agreed definition of spirituality.[note 1] Surveys of the definition of the term, as used in scholarly research, show a broad range of definitions ranging from very narrow and uni-dimensional definitions such as a personal belief in a supernatural realm to broader concepts such as a quest for an ultimate/sacred meaning, transcending the base/material aspects of life, and/or a sense of awe/wonderment and reverence toward the universe. A survey of reviews by McCarroll e.a. dealing with the topic of spirituality gave twenty-seven explicit definitions, among which “there was little agreement.” This causes some difficulty in trying to study spirituality systematically; i.e., it impedes both understanding and the capacity to communicate findings in a meaningful fashion. Indeed many of spirituality’s core features are not unique to spirituality alone; for example German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (a famous atheist) regarded self-transcendence, asceticism and the recognition of one’s connection to all as a key to ethical living (see)

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 there is Christ, for Buddhism, Buddha, and in Islam, Muhammad.” In modern times the emphasis is on subjective experience and the “deepest values and meanings by which people live,” incorporating personal growth or transformation, usually in a context separate from organized religious institutions. Houtman and Aupers suggest that modern spirituality is a blend of humanistic psychology, mystical and esoteric traditions and eastern religions.

Spirituality is sometimes associated with philosophical, social, or political movements such as liberalism, feminist theology, and green politics. Some argue (though far from universally acceptedsee those who espouse secular humanism)spirituality is intimately linked to resolving mental health issues, managing substance abuse, marital functioning, parenting, and coping.

Words translatable as ‘spirituality’ first began to arise in the 5th century and only entered common use toward the end of the Middle Ages.[17] In a Biblical context the term means being animated by God, to be driven by the Holy Spirit, as opposed to a life which rejects this influence.

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”.[note 2] 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”[note 3] 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”.[note 4]

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’.”[note 5] The word was also associated with mysticism and quietism, and acquired a negative meaning.[citation needed]

Modern notions of spirituality developed throughout the 19th and 20th century, mixing Christian ideas with westen esoteric traditions and elements of Asian, especially Indian, religions. Spirituality became increasingly disconnected from traditional religious organisations and institutions.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882) was a pioneer of the idea of spirituality as a distinct field.[22] 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, the skepticism of Hume,[web 4] and Neo-Platonism. The Transcendentalists emphasised an intuitive, experiential approach of religion.[web 5] Following Schleiermacher, 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]

An important influence on western spirituality was Neo-Vedanta, also called neo-Hinduism 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” with Advaita Vedanta as its central doctrine. 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. 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. This universalism was further popularised, and brought back to the west as neo-Vedanta, by Swami Vivekananda.

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.

Another major influence on modern spirituality was the Theosophical Society, which searched for ‘secret teachings’ in Asian religions. 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. 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.[31][32]

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 Swami Vivekananda’s Neo-Vedanta and Universalism, and the spread of social welfare, education and mass travel after World War Two.

After the Second World War spirituality and religion became disconnected, and spirituality became more oriented on subjective experience, instead of “attempts to place the self within a broader ontological context.” 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.

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”:[35] 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.[36] Even the secular are finding use for spiritual beliefs.[37] In his books, Michael Mamas makes the case for integrating Eastern spiritual knowledge with Western rational thought.[38][39]

The term “spiritual” is now frequently used in contexts in which the term “religious” was formerly employed. Both theists and atheists have criticized this development.[40][41]

Rabbinic Judaism (or in some Christian traditions, Rabbinism) (Hebrew: “Yahadut Rabanit” – ) 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,[42] 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.

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.

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.[43]

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.[44]

Sufism or taawwuf (Arabic: ) is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam.[45][46][47] A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a f (). 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 more rigid and fundamentalist groups such as the Wahhabi and Salafi movement. In 1843 the Senussi Sufi were forced to flee Mecca and Medina and head to Sudan and Libya.[48]

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”.[49] 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”.[50]

Jihad is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihd translates as a noun meaning “struggle”. There are two commonly accepted meanings of jihad: an inner spiritual struggle and an outer physical struggle. The “greater jihad” is the inner struggle by a believer to fulfill his religious duties.[52] This non-violent meaning is stressed by both Muslim[53] and non-Muslim[54] 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 Jihadthe striving of a servant (of Allah) against his desires (holy war).”[unreliable source?][55][56][note 6]

Buddhist practices are known as Bhavana, which literally means “development” or “cultivating”[57] or “producing”[58][59] in the sense of “calling into existence.”[60] 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.

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.[61] Within this diffuse and open structure, spirituality in Hindu philosophy is an individual experience, and referred to as ksaitraja (Sanskrit: [62]). 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.[63][64]

Traditionally, Hinduism identifies three mrga (ways)[65][note 7] of spiritual practice,[66] namely Jna, the way of knowledge; Bhakti, the way of devotion; and Karma yoga, the way of selfless action. In the 19th century Vivekananda, in his neo-Vedanta synthesis of Hinduism, added Rja yoga, the way of contemplation and meditation, as a fourth way, calling all of them “yoga.”[note 8]

Jna marga is a path often assisted by a guru (teacher) in one’s spiritual practice.[69] 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.[70] Karma marga is the path of one’s work, where diligent practical work or vartta (Sanskrit: , 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.[71][72] Rja 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 samdhi.[73][74] This state of samdhi has been compared to peak experience.[75]

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.[76] 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.[64][77] Other scholars[78] 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).[79]

Different schools of Hinduism encourage different spiritual practices. In Tantric school for example, the spiritual practice has been referred to as sdhan. It involves initiation into the school, undergoing rituals, and achieving moksha liberation by experiencing union of cosmic polarities.[80] The Hare Krishna school emphasizes bhakti yoga as spiritual practice.[81] In Advaita Vedanta school, the spiritual practice emphasizes jna yoga in stages: samnyasa (cultivate virtues), sravana (hear, study), manana (reflect) and dhyana (nididhyasana, contemplate).[82]

Sikhism considers spiritual life and secular life to be intertwined:[83] “In the Sikh Weltanschauung…the temporal world is part of the Infinite Reality and partakes of its characteristics.”[84] 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.[85]

The 6th Sikh Guru Guru Hargobind re-affirmed that the political/temporal (Miri) and spiritual (Piri) realms are mutually coexistent.[86] 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.[87]

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”,[88] the polar opposite to a self-centered existence.[88] Nanak talks further about the one God or Akal (timelessness) that permeates all life[89]).[90][91][92] and which must be seen with ‘the inward eye’, or the ‘heart’, of a human being.[93]

In Sikhism there is no dogma,[94]priests, monastics or yogis.

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.

The term “spiritual” is now frequently used in contexts in which the term “religious” was formerly employed. Contemporary spirituality is also called “post-traditional spirituality” and “New Age spirituality”. 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””.

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.”[97] It embraces the idea of an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality.[98] 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).[99]: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 clearly 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 and virtuous is necessarily spiritual”)[100] Similarly, Aristotleone of the first known Western thinkers to demonstrate that morality, virtue and goodness can be derived without appealing to supernatural forceseven argued that “men create Gods in their own image” (not the other way around). Moreover, theistic and atheistic critics alike dismiss the need for the “secular spirituality” label on the basis that i) the term “spirit” is commonly taken as denoting the existence of unseen / otherworldly / life-giving forces and ii) words such as morality, philanthropy and humanism already efficiently and succinctly describe the prosocial-orientation and civility that the phrase secular spirituality is meant to convey but without risk of potential confusion that one is referring to something supernatural.

Although personal well-being, both physical and psychological, is said to be an important aspect of modern spirituality, this does not imply spirituality is essential to achieving happiness (e.g. see). Free-thinkers who reject notions that the numinous/non-material is important to living well can be just as happy as more spiritually-oriented individuals (see)[101]

Contemporary spirituality theorists assert that spirituality develops inner peace and forms a foundation for happiness. For example, Meditation and similar practices are suggested to help practitioners cultivate his or her inner life and character.[102][unreliable source?][103] Ellison and Fan (2008) assert that spirituality causes a wide array of positive health outcomes, including “morale, happiness, and life satisfaction.”.[104] However, Schuurmans-Stekhoven (2013) actively attempted to replicate this research and found more “mixed” results.[105] Nevertheless, 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[106]

“Spiritual experience” plays a central role in modern spirituality. This notion has been popularised by both western and Asian authors.

William James popularized the use of the term “religious experience” in his The Varieties of Religious Experience. It has also influenced the understanding of mysticism as a distinctive experience which supplies knowledge.[web 9]

Wayne Proudfoot traces the roots of the notion of “religious experience” further back to the German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher (17681834), 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.

Major Asian influences were Vivekananda and D.T. Suzuki.Swami Vivekananda popularised a modern syncretitistic Hinduism, in which the authority of the scriptures was replaced by an emphasis on personal experience.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 10][web 11] 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.[114]

Waaijman discerns four forms of spiritual practices:

Spiritual practices may include meditation, mindfulness, prayer, the contemplation of sacred texts, ethical development,[99] and the use of psychoactive substances (entheogens). Love and/or compassion are often[quantify] described as the mainstay of spiritual development.[99]

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.”[117]

Since the scientific revolution, the relationship of science to religion and spirituality has developed in complex ways.[118][119] 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.”[119]

It has been proposed that the currently held popular notion of antagonisms between science and religion[120][121] has historically originated with “thinkers with a social or political axe to grind” rather than with the natural philosophers themselves.[119] Though physical and biological scientists today avoid supernatural explanations to describe reality[122][123][124][note 9], some scientists continue to consider science and spirituality to be complementary, not contradictory,[125][126] and are willing to debate.[127]

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.[128]

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.[119]:322 These holistic conceptions were championed by New Age spiritualists in a type of quantum mysticism that they claim justifies their spiritual beliefs,[129][130] though quantum physicists themselves on the whole reject such attempts as being pseudoscientific.[131][132]

Various studies have reported a positive correlation between spirituality and mental well-being in both healthy people and those encountering a range of physical illnesses or psychological disorders.[133][134][135][136] Spiritual individuals tend to be optimistic, report greater social support,[137] and experience higher intrinsic meaning in life,[138] strength, and inner peace.[139]

Whether the correlation of spirituality with positive psychological factors represents a causal link remains contentious. 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.[140] There is also evidence that an agreeable / positive temperament and/or a tendency toward sociability (which both correlate with spirituality) might actually be the key psychological features that predispose people to subsequently adopt a spiritual orientation and that these characteristics, not spiritually per se, add to well-being. There is also some suggestion that the benefits associated with spirituality and religiosity might arise from being a member of a close-knit community. Social bonds available via secular sources (i.e., not unique to spirituality or faith-based groups) might just as effectively raise well-being. In sum, spiritual may not be the “active ingredient” (i.e. past association with psychological well-being measures might reflect a reverse causation or effects from other variables that correlate with spirituality),[100][141][142][143][144][145][146] and that the effects of agreeableness, conscientiousness, or virtuepersonality traits common in many non-spiritual people yet known to be slightly more common among the spiritualmay better account for spirituality’s apparent correlation with mental health and social support.[147][148][149][150][151]

Masters and Spielmans[152] conducted a meta-analysis of all the available and reputable research examining the effects of distant intercessory prayer. They found no discernible health effects from being prayed for by others.

Neuroscientists have examined brain functioning during reported spiritual experiences[153][154] finding that certain neurotransmitters and specific areas of the brain are involved.[155][156][157][158] Moreover, experimenters have also successfully induced spiritual experiences in individuals by administering psychoactive agents known to elicit euphoria and perceptual distortions.[159][160] Conversely, religiosity and spirituality can also be dampened by electromagnetic stimulation of the brain.[161] These results have motivated some leading theorists to speculate that spirituality may be a benign subtype of psychosis (see).[142][162][163][164][165] Benign in the sense that the same aberrant sensory perceptions that those suffering clinical psychoses evaluate as distressingly in-congruent and inexplicable are instead interpreted by spiritual individuals as positiveas personal and meaningful transcendent experiences.[163][164]

In the health care professions there is growing interest in “spiritual care,” to complement the medical-technical approaches and improve the outcomes of medical treatments. For example, Puchalski et al., who argue for “compassionate systems of care,” offering the following definition of spirituality in the operationalization of spiritual care:

Spirituality is a dynamic and intrinsic aspect of humanity through which persons seek ultimate meaning, purpose, and transcendence, and experience relationship to self, family, others, community, society, nature, and the significant or sacred. Spirituality is expressed through beliefs, values, traditions, and practices.

However, again the problem here is that numerous atheists such as Arthur Schopenhauer, Bertrand Russell, A.C. Grayling and Aristotle who would personally recoil at being labelled spiritual or believers in the supernatural would nevertheless still endorse the pursuit of meaning and purpose and personal efforts to transcend the self. Put frankly, those who term themselves spiritual do not have a monopoly on either compassion or civility.[168] Once the views of such humanist philosophers and the results from psychological surveys are accepted spirituality seems to boil down to a label given to a particular sub-type from among the broader set of compassionate/civil people.

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Spirituality – Wikipedia

Exploring the Meaning of Spirituality – dummies

By Sharon Janis

One of the great gifts of spiritual knowledge is that it realigns your sense of self to something you may not have even ever imagined was within you. Spirituality says that even if you think youre limited and small, it simply isnt so. Youre greater and more powerful than you have ever imagined. A great and divine light exists inside of you. This same light is also in everyone you know and in everyone you will ever know in the future. You may think youre limited to just your physical body and state of affairs including your gender, race, family, job, and status in life but spirituality comes in and says there is more than this.

Notice that spirit sounds similar to words like inspire and expire. This is especially appropriate because when youre filled with spiritual energy, you feel great inspiration, and when the spiritual life force leaves your body, your time on this earth expires. These are two of the main themes of the spiritual journey:

The study of spirituality goes deeply into the heart of every matter and extends far beyond the physical world of matter. Spirituality connects you with the profoundly powerful and divine force thats present in this universe. Whether youre looking for worldly success, inner peace, or supreme enlightenment, no knowledge can propel you to achieve your goals and provide as effective a plan for living as does spiritual knowledge.

Perhaps the best way to think about a spiritual approach to the world is to contrast it with a more common materialistic approach.

One of the main teachings of spirituality is to look within and find what you seek within yourself. The external world is ephemeral, temporary, and ever changing; in fact, your body will die one day, sweeping all those worldly accoutrements away like a mere pile of dust. Your inner realm, on the other hand, is timeless, eternal, and deeply profound.

Although religion and spirituality are sometimes used interchangeably, they really indicate two different aspects of the human experience. You might say that spirituality is the mystical face of religion.

Looking beyond outer appearances to the deeper significance and soul of everything

Love and respect for God

Love and respect for yourself

Love and respect for everybody

Different religions can look quite unlike one another. Some participants bow to colorful statues of deities, others listen to inspired sermons while dressed in their Sunday finery, and yet others set out their prayer rugs five times a day to bow their heads to the ground. Regardless of these different outer manifestations of worship, the kernel of religion is spirituality, and the essence of spirituality is God or the Supreme Being.

Spirituality is:

As one becomes more spiritual, animalistic aggressions of fighting and trying to control the beliefs of other people can be cast off like an old set of clothes that no longer fits. In fact, many seekers begin to feel that every image of divinity is just one more face of their own, eternally ever-present God.

Loving and respecting all religions and images of God doesnt mean that you have to agree with all their doctrines. In fact, you dont even have to believe and agree with every element and doctrine of your own religion! This goes for any teachings you may encounter along your path. Everybody thinks that what they are doing is right. Thats whats so fun about the world. Everybody is doing something different, and each one believes deep in his soul that what he believes is right some with more contemplation and conviction than others.

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Exploring the Meaning of Spirituality – dummies

Embracing Spirituality | For the elevation of mankind

Yesterday a peeper sent me this from the Jamaican star. I know I have written more than once on this topic, which is real, but the Pastors reply had me rolling, lol. Jamaicans say licky licky never fail, and craven choke puppy. Men,do not be too quick to eat from women and women do not be so quick to eat from men, although there are many ways to hang a dog without putting a rope around his neck. Nevertheless, these things are common among all the races, and bad people are all about. If you are ever tempted to do this, please do not. It alters destiny, not only the person you are doing this evil to, but to you also. Remember life is a journey, and people pass through your lives, to teach you something or to open you up to your true potential, and then you both have to move on. If the lesson is harsh, then this is how you chose to receive it. You may have had to experience it many times during your many incarnations here. Also do not forget that you may, in your desperation, bind/tie on (crosses) someone who will cause you your own demise. Try out good ways, and low de people dem pickney, ole Devil oonuh! (Not oonuh mi bloggers, but oonuh just de same, pick de sense outta de nonsense) More

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Embracing Spirituality | For the elevation of mankind

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What is spirituality? | ReachOut.com Australia

This might help if:

Spirituality and religion can be hard to tell apart but there are some pretty defined differences between the two:

Kicking the ball around a park, without having to play on the field or with all the rules and regulations, can also give you fulfilment and fun and still expresses the essence of the game, similar to spirituality in life.

People may identify as being any combination of religious and spiritual, but to be religious does not automatically make you spiritual or vice-versa.

Authoritarian spirituality is a particularly strong form of spirituality based around a need for definition and rules. This type of spirituality is particularly common in specific religious practices.

Intellectual spirituality focuses on building knowledge and understanding of spirituality through analysing history and spiritual theories. This approach can be found in the study of religion, also known as theology.

Service spirituality is a common form of spirituality in many religious faiths. This is predominantly built around serving others as a form of spiritual expression.

Social spirituality is often practiced by people who experience a spiritual feeling in the company of others. Social support is often seen as one of the important aspects of spirituality in general.

Spirituality is also used as a way of gaining perspective, recognising that our role in life has a greater value than just what we do every day. It can separate a person from dependence on material things and establish a greater purpose. Some people also see spirituality as a way of coping with change or uncertainty.

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What is spirituality? | ReachOut.com Australia

Spirituality and stress relief: Make the connection – Mayo …

Spirituality and stress relief: Make the connection Taking the path less traveled by exploring your spirituality can lead to a clearer life purpose, better personal relationships and enhanced stress management skills. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Some stress relief tools are very tangible: exercising more, eating healthy foods and talking with friends. A less tangible but no less useful way to find stress relief is through spirituality.

Spirituality has many definitions, but at its core spirituality helps to give our lives context. It’s not necessarily connected to a specific belief system or even religious worship. Instead, it arises from your connection with yourself and with others, the development of your personal value system, and your search for meaning in life.

For many, spirituality takes the form of religious observance, prayer, meditation or a belief in a higher power. For others, it can be found in nature, music, art or a secular community. Spirituality is different for everyone.

Spirituality has many benefits for stress relief and overall mental health. It can help you:

Uncovering your spirituality may take some self-discovery. Here are some questions to ask yourself to discover what experiences and values define you:

The answers to such questions help you identify the most important people and experiences in your life. With this information, you can focus your search for spirituality on the relationships and activities in life that have helped define you as a person and those that continue to inspire your personal growth.

.

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Spirituality and stress relief: Make the connection – Mayo …

What is Spirituality? – Peter Russell

The essence of spirituality is the search to know our real self, to discover the true nature of consciousness.

Throughout the history, it has been said that the self we know — the separate individual self — is a limited form of what we truly are. Unaware of our true self, we identify with our thoughts and feelings, our memories and our personality.

Such experiences are always changing, but the self that knows them remains the same. We may be very diffferent people than we were twenty years ago, but the “I” that is aware of the difference is the same “I” as twenty years ago. It is omnipresent and eternal. It is the “I” that knows that it knows. The very essence of being aware. It is always present, whatever we may be experiencing, sacred or profane.

This ever-present sense of being is so obvious it is easily overlooked. We fall into believing that we are the individual senses of self that appears in our mind. Like a character in a novel, this separate self engrosses us with its hopes and fears, plans and deliberations. It believes that fulfillment comes from what we have or do in the world, from our roles and possessions, from our personality and how others see us. It promises us happiness, but any happiness it does bring is usually short-lived, and we soon find ourselves chasing some new promise.

Identifying ourselves with the vulnerable, ever-changing character of our personal story, the “I” misses its true nature. Our thinking and behavior become “self-centered”, leading far too often to suffering in ourselves and others.

When we awaken to the true nature of self, we are freed from many of the fears that plague us so unnecessarily. We discover an inner peace that does not depend upon events or circumstances in the world around, a quiet but profound inner fulfillment. We become less self-centered, less needy of others’ approval or recognition, less focused on collecting possessions and social status. We become happier, healthier and more loving people, less likely to cause suffering to ourselves or others.

This is self-liberation. And its transforming impact has made it the essence of the spiritual quest.

Date created: 23-Feb-06

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What is Spirituality? – Peter Russell

Patheos | Spirituality

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Fr.Sen Laoire’s creative rendering of what went on in the garden at Gethsemane helps us see the humanity and divinity of Jesus.

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The mantra I AM, I AM relates to the finite identity of the first I AM with the infinite identity of the second I AM. Karuna’s video teaching shows how to combine the two in a practice that brings wholeness.

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Patheos | Spirituality

Towards a Naturalistic Spirituality | Naturalism.org

A naturalistic understanding of spirituality

The spiritual experience – the experience of meaning, connection and joy, often informed by philosophy or religion – is, from a naturalistic perspective, a state of the physical person, not evidence for a higher realm or non-physical essence. Nevertheless, this understanding of spirituality doesnt lessen the attraction of such an experience, or its value for the naturalist. We naturally crave such feelings and so will seek the means to achieve them consistent with our philosophy.

But the question for the naturalist arises: how, as someone who doesnt believe in transcendent, otherworldly connections, or in ultimate meanings or purposes, can I legitimately evoke such feelings? That is, how, consistent with naturalism as my guiding philosophy, can I find the same emotional resonance or the same sorts of consolations that my religiously or supernaturally inclined friends experience? What is spiritually uplifting about naturalism?

For naturalism to evoke spiritual states akin to those evoked by religion, the follower of naturalism must find that the conclusions of her philosophy have profound, positive psychological consequences. The conclusions must resonate with her basic human needs for connection and meaning, even though, paradoxically, naturalism tends to undercut the easy presumption of overarching purposes. What then, are some of the conclusions of naturalism, and how might they affect the person who holds them? Although the conclusions for the most part seem negative, in that they deny dearly held assumptions common to most religious views, it may be that the very act of freeing ourselves from these assumptions can generate the exhilaration and joy of freedom, of discovering a tough but liberating truth, in which uncertainty moves us in the same way that certainty does others. This is an experience which counts as spiritual, even though no spirits are involved.

Most generally, naturalism places us firmly within the natural realm, extending from quarks to quasars. The scope of this realm as depicted in our sciences is nothing less than staggering. It is a far more varied, complex, and vast creation than any provided by religion, offering an infinite vista of questions to engage us. What naturalism takes away in terms of a central, secure role for us in Gods kingdom is more than compensated for by the open-ended excitement of being part of something whose dimensions, purpose and precise nature may never be known. In accepting a naturalistic view of ourselves, we trade security for surprise, certainty for an unending, perhaps unfulfillable quest for understanding, and easy platitudes about salvation for a flexible, mature accommodation to the often difficult facts of life and death.

That we are alive and sentient, with the capacity to form an understanding, however provisional, is the source of much amazement to the naturalist, since after all, none of what we consist of is sentient. Such amazement (and there are thousands of natural facts that can evoke it) can be the start of spiritual experience. That the stuff of our bodies came originally from the initial big bang, transmuted by stars and expelled in supernovas, seems a supremely satisfying connection to the most far flung corners (in both space and time) of the universe. This deep sense of connection forms a central aspect of spiritual feelings. The aesthetics of the natural world contribute as well, from the most sophisticated of the human arts, to the colors of Brazilian agate, to the grand structure of the great galactic wall. Best of all, though, is that naturalism shows that creation cant be tied up neatly by our understanding: we will always stand in wonder at the vastness of possibilities in nature, those realized and those unrealized, knowing that we comprehend just a fraction of what might be known, and knowing that there is no end to it. Faced with all this, the naturalist, if she is capable of letting go into a non-cognitive response, may discover feelings of profound awe, delight, and surrender, feelings typical of religious revelation but now felt in the context of a world view consistent with the most hard-edged empiricism. Although it is not widely known, the full appreciation of naturalism and its implications can be as intoxicating, perhaps more so, than any religion yet devised.

Philosophy link: Faith, Science, and the Soul.

It is easy to see that from a naturalistic perspective there cannot be any ultimate purpose to existence: as soon as any purpose is proposed, one can simply ask why that purpose should drive existence, as opposed to some other purpose. Even if God created us to glorify him and his works, we are still creatures that can ask why God himself exists. As questioning creatures, we will always be in the position of being able to second guess any overarching meaning someone attaches to the universe. In short, our intelligence guarantees that we will never rest secure in a comfortable interpretation of existence, since we can see that existence is always prior to its interpretation.

The initial psychological response to this dilemma is often the melancholy feeling that life is therefore devoid of meaning. Since we can never construe an ultimate purpose, whats the point, anyway? But on second thought, once we see the logic of the desire for ultimate meaning – that by its very nature it is an unsatisfiable demand – we can begin to laugh about it, and savor our position as a very curious one indeed. It turns out that smart creatures will never be in a position to satisfy themselves about meaning, at least of the ultimate variety. That fact itself is rather a compelling discovery about existence, one that prevents a complacent, boring acceptance of the status quo from ever setting in. There is no way things are ultimately meant to be, so existence becomes a work in perpetual progress (not towards a goal, however), whose outcome is never settled. We therefore stand perpetually surprised, curious, and wondering. We cannot easily set aside our demand for meaning, but instead of being disappointed about its frustration, we find ourselves free to play with existence (or to be its playthings, perhaps), to create local meaning in activities we find intrinsically satisfying, and get caught up in our human drama, knowing that the drama is set on a much larger stage whose dimensions may never be determined, and which exists for no reason. The direct appreciation of this “no meaning, no reason” aspect of existence can have a profound, and positive psychological impact: we are free of any confining purposes; we are free of the deadening certainty that we have a set role to play and a “correct” goal to achieve; we are liberated to be perpetually amazed at the sheer, startling fact that something exists, not nothing, and that we are part of it. Amazement, wonder and the feeling of connection are arguably central components of the spiritual experience.

A naturalistic understanding connects the human organism to the larger physical world in all respects, via genetics and environmental influences. Since we dont, on this understanding, exist as independent, immaterial agents directing our behavior from a causally disconnected vantage point, this means we dont have free will in the traditional sense. We cannot have done other than what we did in a given situation.

This means that persons are not first causes, rather they are links in the natural unfolding of the world in space and time. As much as we experience ourselves as separate egos, deliberating our fates one decision at a time, our very deliberations are entirely included in this unfolding.

This insight may at first disturb us, since we might suppose we are nothing more than passive puppets, moved at the whim of forces beyond our control. But we are not even puppets, since there is no one separate from the various forces, processes, and states that comprise the person-environment complex to be pushed around. We are, in fact, fully connected parts of the whole, identifiable as separate persons to be sure, but neither causal masters nor victims.

The psychological consequences of this realization are manifold. Without giving up the sense of our own identity and particularity (pretty much impossible, short of profound experiences of ego loss, which may themselves be of value in the right context) we feel a deep connection to the world around us, since that world is, after all, where each aspect of ourselves originates. A relaxation ensues from letting go of the illusion that we must continually “steer” ourselves through life, from realizing that our decisions themselves arise on their own out of the circumstances that constitute our body and its environment. We dont choose our character or motives from some independent vantage point; they are the creations of life and culture themselves, not the artifacts of a causally autonomous ego. Freed from the burden of being our own creators, we nevertheless dont passively resign ourselves to fate, since we understand that as creatures fully embedded in the world, our actions do indeed have causal effects which sometimes make all the difference. The naturalistic dismantling of free will frees thus connects us and liberates us: we are parts of the evolving whole that can witness the evolution and add interesting twists to the outcome by virtue of the capacities that life has given us. But since we are such parts, we can let go of the rather arrogant and ultimately disabling presumption that we stand outside creation. As Alan Watts said, You Are It, and the direct appreciation of this connectedness becomes part of a naturalistic spirituality.

Philosophy link: Free will page.

As naturalists, we understand there are few certainties, either in how life will work out, in how we are supposed to behave, or in what to believe. There is no finally correct way to be and no master plan that determines our role, either as individuals or as a species. Instead, we are part of nature which unfolds on its own, in a grand experiment to no point or purpose. For us, this experiment involves pain and pleasure, these being aspects of nature in its form (our form) as semi-autonomous, sentient beings. So despite our best efforts, life will shock us with unexpected tragedy and if were lucky, some triumphs. We cant help but act as we do, constituted as we are, but we cant, except within very broad limits, predict just what well do next, or what will happen to us. We dont know just what well think or feel or say in the very next moment, let alone the next day, week, or year.

This lack of certainty about life and its outcome adds an inevitably tragic aspect to the naturalistic stance, since things may not work out to our liking, and often don’t. But equally, it adds the element of perpetual surprise and novelty: we don’t ever know quite what’s next. Both the possibility of tragedy and the probability of surprise add their distinctive flavor to a naturalist’s spiritual experience. There is darkness as well as light, the unknown as well as the known, and the pull between them.

Another conclusion of naturalism is that the mental and physical are one, that perceptions, feelings, emotions, thoughts and the rest all consist of suitably organized matter, the brain. As much as it may seem to be the case that our mental lives constitute a separate realm, science shows that there is nothing over and above the brain, or any similarly organized system, whatever its physical makeup, that needs to be invoked to explain consciousness.

This non-dual conception of consciousness gives us new respect for the “merely” physical, for our bodies and our fleshly existence. In what we call our mental lives, the material world evokes a representation of itself that takes on a rich set of qualitative characteristics determined by a massively complex functional architecture. From a naturalistic perspective, there is no insubstantial essence behind or inherent in such qualities, instead they arise mutually as a system of relations and differences that the brain uses to track the world. Although it isnt literally miraculous that the world of experience just is the physical brain, it is indeed a marvel that such is the case; it is quite an astonishing fact. That every nuance of feeling and every twitch of thought is the material world at play can spark a profound experience of wonder, and provides a satisfying, unified conception of oneself: the mental and physical bound together as a natural phenomenon.

Philosophy link: Function and Phenomenology.

Naturalism disallows the existence of the soul. There is nothing about a person that survives death, so we cannot hope for a better world in the hereafter, or for reincarnation in this world. But, there is no nothingness at death, either. One is not plunged into the void, to rest there eternally. Just as we dont experience any “nothingness” before birth, neither will we experience it after death. Therefore, we need not fear death as an ending that we can experience.

How should we feel about death, then, as naturalists? Although we still have our biologically programmed fear of death to contend with, and we may regret projects unfinished or the loss that our death might inflict on others, our death itself does not concern us directly at all. But if we still dread our ending, we should keep in mind that consciousness overall does not end, since others are still alive and being born. Death and birth actually insure the radical refreshment of consciousness, and that might be construed as a good thing (although some Buddhists, for instance, would just as soon consciousness stopped arising altogether, so this view may not give them comfort).

What we dont know, at the moment of our deaths, is what will be next (although it wont be nothingness, we know that). As naturalists, death confronts us with a total cognitive impasse, an ultimate limit on what we as individuals can predict or control. We may at first reflexively recoil at this prospect, but maybe we can jump in, and give ourselves up to this ending of knowledge and control with an enthusiastic curiosity. Not that we ourselves, as this particular person about to end, can ever know whats next, but that there will be a next moment for someone, at least, we can be assured. Our last moments, then, can be ones of profound anticipation and surrender, not to the void, but to the inevitable change in which we participate that sweeps all before it.

Philosophy link: Death, Nothingness, and Subjectivity.

A corollary of being a fully integrated part of a naturalistic whole is that we cannot step outside the system to observe it. We look at the universe from a particular perspective, and even science inevitably reflects our particularly human constitution: we see what we are “designed” by evolution to see, even in our mathematics, perhaps. This means that our world views and philosophies, including naturalism itself, do not occupy a finally privileged position; they are subject to pragmatic change and improvement, and do not represent what the world might be “in itself”.

The naturalist, then, may not be as dead serious or dogmatic in how she espouses naturalism compared to how others espouse their philosophies or religions. This is another aspect, driven by naturalism, of not knowing what is ultimately the case, of being forced not to cling to any certainty. Part of the spiritual experience is to leave the realm of thought for a non-discriminative state (or at least a state in which cognitive distinctions play a lesser role). Being less attached to a particular conception of how the world necessarily is, or must be, may leave the naturalist more receptive to entering such a state. (Not that the naturalist abandons her cognitive style or preferences; such a feat is nearly impossible, short of brainwashing or drug overdose.) Fewer preconceptions about what a spiritual experience must be like, or involve in the way of dogma, make it possible for the naturalist to find wonder and enchantment in many ordinary aspects of life. The distinction between the sacred and the profane gives way to the possibility that a simple, unheralded moment might be the gateway to an immediate apprehension of connection. The here and now become primary, since there are no guarantees of a perfect truth to be attained or a salvation to come later. As much as we strive to achieve understanding, there is no final understanding to achieve (except perhaps this very insight), which means there is no point in putting off the celebration of the present, if we find we are so moved.

Philosophy link: Post-modernism page.

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Towards a Naturalistic Spirituality | Naturalism.org

Spirituality vs Religion what is spirituality

Spirituality: what it truly means to you!

Spirituality is one word which puts a human being on the highest pedestal of life. It is field of Spirituality traveling which one reaches the last leg of cosmic life nay the form of human being himself!

The goal of Spirituality is attaining salvation moksha in Hinduism! From the beginning of the first manifestation as an amoeba to the last manifestation (the 8.4 millionth manifestation)… the goal of every life remains the same.

The phase of life as a human being announces that the life has come full circle. It is only as a Human Being that one can get enlightened (reach the stage of Nirvikalpa Samadhi) and attain salvation moksha in Hinduism. Reaching stage of enlightenment is the last step in the field of Spirituality.

Spirituality is living life as it was meant to be… not as we may have desired or wanted living it. Living a life of choice is not the forte of all human beings. Those on the path of pure Spirituality… the true seekers of Spirituality are sometimes able to manifest destiny by establishing absolute control over it.

It is a certain fact that only the true seekers of Spirituality become the masters of their destiny. Knowingly or unknowingly many people who have a materialistic goal in life travel the path of spirituality and become successful in life. It was not a happening by chance… all was the result of a law which cannot err. These highly acclaimed individuals unknowingly tread the path of pure Spirituality and achieved the goal of their life.

Spirituality in other terms means that before we ask God Almighty for material riches to be bestowed upon us… we need to compensate by giving something equivalent or more back to the community. This is the path undertaken by most successful entrepreneurs.

In terms of Spirituality we are not supposed to get anything unless we promise to do something in return… in the system of God there is fair play all throughout. As we desire… so shall be the corresponding karma we would be required to perform. Mere false promises bring us nothing.

It was the forte of JRD Tata that he always loved his country and the countryman. The benefit of the society was foremost in his mind all the time. The prime reason why the Tata Empire is known as the foundation builder of India! Tata name itself is representative of building a technological Empire for the benefit of entire nation. This is what Spirituality is all about.

JRD Tata was a trustee par excellence. According to him everything belonged to God and he was merely a trustee carrying out the dictates of God. In his lifetime he never built a house for himself. His love for the material riches of life did not seem to exist at all. His every endeavor was aimed at improving the quality of life of human life and the country as a whole.

What a noble persona JRD Tata was… a true Karma yogi indeed! He did not live Spirituality rather Spirituality lived in him. He was a perfect example of how a true spiritual seeker must live his life. JRD may have never admitted that he lived a spiritual life but unknowingly he practiced Spirituality every moment of his life.

JRD Tata followed the dictates of Bhagwad Gita throughout his life unknowingly. Apart from being a true karma yogi… he also excelled in teaching the core values to the society. He was one of the rarest kinds that have ever dwelled on mother earth as material riches and comforts in life never attracted him come whatever may.

JRD Tata excelled in human values to the extent that even most accomplished people on the path of pure Spirituality get dwarfed by his accomplishments. Spirituality is not only seeking the domain of God but even in day-to-day matters of life every human being needs to practice Spirituality.

The famous saying, “whatever we want others to do unto us… we should do unto them” forms the core teachings of Spirituality. It is not merely a saying. It has to be practiced in reality as was preached and advocated by Napoleon Hill in his famous books “Think and Grow Rich”, “The Master-Key to Riches” and the famous “The Law of Success In Sixteen Lessons”.

These three Bible books by Think and Grow Rich … “Think and Grow Rich”, “The Master-Key to Riches” and the famous “The Law of Success In Sixteen Lessons” form the core of Spirituality. There is no argument about that. At every stage Napoleon hill has prophesied that before we can expect anything from God we need to give something back to the community. He was also a true practitioner of Spirituality from heart.

Spirituality definitely helps one take control of destiny. As we proceed on the path of pure Spirituality we tend to develop a positive approach towards life. Reeling all the time under a positive attitude of mind… One is able to fine-tune those critical aspects of life which are an absolute must if one needs to become the master of his own destiny.

Spirituality makes a perfect man out of a negative thinker. In the field of Spirituality there is no place for any negative thinking. One who has fixed a goal in life and always indulges in positive oriented thinking can not be a loser in life. It can never happen!

Spirituality imbibes the following virtues in a human being:

Spirituality makes you feel all the time that there is something higher than the mere existence as a human being.

Spirituality spells out that God exists within every living being as our soul the atman within. It is God within us which guides us on the right path whenever we tend to go wrong.

Spirituality inculcates in every human being a feeling of positive ness all throughout. Floating on the positive mental plane brings one closer to our goal of life.

It is Spirituality and spirituality alone which prompts and guides one in the right direction whenever we feel cheated by the senses prevailing upon us. To come out of the clutches of the five senses is what Spirituality is all about.

If we desire to know God truly then we need to follow the path of pure Spirituality. It is only as a true spiritual seeker shall we realize God one-day.

It is a Spirituality which cuts short the path and makes the whole world look like a family. In the spiritual domain there is no space for different religions, dogmas or creeds. Our wanton desires cease to exist… the moment Spirituality takes complete control over us!

Spirituality truly is the essence of life. However materialistic we maybe On earthly plane… there shall come a day when Spirituality would completely wipe us clean of all the impurities within us.

Without Spirituality the life or a human being is like a rudderless boat going round and round in the unfathomable sea of life.

It is Spirituality which teaches every human being the real value of life… being spiritual is not being religious alone… Spirituality teaches us the core values of life… the real essence of us!

It is only through the medium of Spirituality that God is able to guide the mankind towards its destined goal. As many human beings… as many different spiritual paths!

Right from day one when we are born and until the last breath… it is Spirituality which keeps our heart pumping all through. It is Spirituality which clears all doubts that our soul (the Atman within the body) is the real master and our body is but to decay and die.

Spirituality clears all doubts related to the concept of God. Whenever in doubt… the wise follow the dictates of the spiritual masters of the era! Every spiritual being merges his identity with the Supreme Being (the Almighty God).

Spirituality confirms that life has to go on… it is a journey to be completed in many phases (8.4 million manifestations in fact). It is Spirituality which confirms that the life of a human being of 70 to 80 years is but a trickle in the total life a span of our soul the atman within. The total life span of the soul being a maximum of 96.4 million earthly years!

Spirituality has no relationship whatsoever with religion. Following a religion means following the dictates of a successful spiritual master… one who has already covered the journey and has become capable of guiding the mankind to its logical end.

Religion is meant for living a single span of earthly life. On the contrary Spirituality guides every living being to its logical end in the unending cosmic journey undertaken by the soul our atman within.

It is Spirituality alone which removes the fear of death from those who have released the pinnacle of spiritual life. Spirituality gives you a commanding position in life. One can work for above 23 hours per day having gained absolute control over sleep. This is not only possible but can be observed by watching the topmost rung of spiritual masters.

The presence of Spirituality in our lives cannot be done away with for it forms the inner core of our manifested physical life. Behind every success lies the core of Spirituality which guides one inherently all throughout cosmic journey.

In practice… when I started in search of God at an early age of 13 years… I was so confused about life that I thought it was only the religious masters who shall guide me on the right path. I was so wrong.

It was at the age of 37 that I came in contact with God one-to-one basis. It was the pinnacle of my spiritual pursuit. My life had come full circle. This was to be my last manifestation. I had reached the end of cosmic life. The distinction between spirituality and religion were now absolutely clear to me.

Having been able to traverse the path as a true seeker of Spirituality and reach the end goal has been a really pleasant experience. Everything I try to convey to the community is based on true personal experience of life. Being my last sojourn on Mother Earth I have but to impart the pearls of Spirituality I have learned before I leave the mortal frame.

Spirituality is not to be practiced merely in theory. Spirituality is not contained in the sacred textbooks alone. We simultaneously need to practice pure Spirituality and try reaching the end of the cosmic life. Achieving salvation in present life would be something every human being would desire.

Why not all of us practice pure Spirituality all the time! back to what is spirituality

The difference between Spirituality and Religion is the most often asked question on the net. For a layman both seem to be the same. All one has learnt since childhood is going to a temple, mosque or a church for praying to God. What other purpose can Religion have for one who is ignorant of different facets of Religion? One inherently follows Religious practices from the start. One may be born a Hindu but may be a strong believer of Christianity. Why does one change over?

If Religion provides succor to one: why the dissatisfaction while following one Religion? Is there something beyond the mundane, that we cannot see? Why one needs to go to a church, temple or mosque and pray to god? If we do not follow the religious practices … shall we be doomed to die a terrible death? What if I do not want to follow any Religion at all? Live a lively Life with compassion for all beings. Why would God bring me death if I do not commit any sin?

In all the Religions of the World, the presence of a higher power within us, our atman the soul within is accepted. No dispute on this issue, what is the nature of atman the soul within. None has seen this spirit, the most powerful source of energy in the Cosmos, much more mightier than the biggest of Suns and Stars in the Brahmaand (Cosmos). Study of this spirit (our Atman, the Soul within) and of the mightiest of all the Spirits (GOD … the Almighty Creator of the cosmos) is what Spirituality is all about.

Spirituality is that aspect of Life of a Jiva (Manifested Life of an Atman, The Soul Within), which forms the core of all Life on Mother Earth. Without Spirituality, Religion cannot survive. Spirituality can survive without Religion.

Around 3600 years before when there existed no Religion, Humanity existed. How did people live without guidance from Religion? How did these persons live as Buddha, Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammed had not yet been born? What of following the Religion, which gradually evolved as a following of these Spiritual Masters?

Lord Krishna, Mahavira, Buddha, Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammed were not religious but Spiritual Masters of their time. Their following is known as a Religion. Followers of Buddha practice Buddhism … the eight fold path. The followers of Jesus, the Christians study Bible, the doctrine administered by Jesus Christ and his associate disciples. Prophet Mohammed preached what is contained in Qoran, the sacred document of the followers of Islamic Dharma.

Followers of Jaina doctrine are known as Jains. Jains are never known as followers of 24th Tirthankar Mahavira who strongly advocated that every Human Being is imbibed with the power to become a Mahavira like him. Jaina Philosophy is unique in itself that Jain word is derived from ‘Jina’… One who has won his real self, one who “Realizes” GOD in his Lifetime. Followers of this doctrine and what Mahavira and the earlier 23 Tirthankars preached is what we know as ‘Jainism’.

Religion broadly is study and following what is laid down in the scriptures for improving upon our level of Life. To live a Life full of moral values and ethical practices.

Spirituality is delving deep into the inner domain of self … studying scriptures to know atman the soul within and GOD (The Almighty Creator). Followers of Spirituality without exception are after the absolute truth. They do not hanker after fleeting and temporary pleasures of Life. Seekers of Spirituality live a contended Life where as religious followers believe more in pleasing one GOD after another to seek their material wants fulfilled in the present manifestation.

True seeker never seeks bodily pleasures for self and family nor makes material pursuits as goal of Life. One is not attached to the body of the master but to what he has to preach.

Religion and Spirituality difference – brief Audio Hindi (66.6 MB) (this clipping takes few seconds to load initially – suitable for broadband internet connection preferably above 256 kbps) back to spirituality and religion

Religion and Spirituality – what differentiates Religion from Spirituality?

Religion is “absolute truth of life” of the physical manifested world. It is Religion and not Spirituality which forms the basis of the present society we live in. In the present the needs for following a Religion being at its minimum… it is easy to follow any Religion. Anyone… even a layman can follow any Religion but not Spirituality?

What vastly differentiates Religion and Spirituality? Religion… if it forms the core of the physical manifested world… it is the Spirituality (the truth of our Soul within) which upholds the values in the society. Without Spirituality the physical manifested world cannot sustain for long but in the absence of religion… the society can survive on its own.

It is Spirituality (the truth of our real self… our Soul within) which forms the core of the cosmic world. The physical manifested world is a reality in terms of senses (which guide every human being on its earthly journey). In the cosmic world… our physical manifested world does not hold good for there is nothing solid in the Cosmos. Everything in the cosmos is made up of the basic building block of the cosmos which comprise of atoms and molecules alone.

Religion is meant for passing of the physical manifested life in a meaningful manner. Unable to understand the nature of God… humanity has built for itself various religious centers all over the globe. These religious centers are they a mosque, temple or a church… provide a succor to the ever ailing society. They quench the thirst of an average human being… one who does not have time or the resources to contemplate directly on God Almighty.

Indulgence in Spirituality is not meant for the average human being. To fathom the depths of the Scriptures of the various religions of the world (the core truths of Spirituality)… one needs to dive deep into the pearls of wisdom contained in the various sacred Scriptures of the world. Spirituality is totally oblivious of a religion. In the field of Spirituality one need not go to a mosque, temple or a church in search of God. It is contemplation and only contemplation which shall lead one to God Almighty.

Spirituality (contrary to religion) is all about the spirit existing within every human being nay every living being (Jiva in Hinduism). It is truth of every life prevailing on Mother Earth. It is the real self of us that exists within every living being since the birth of that body in form of an individual soul. Spirituality and Religion are the two fundamentals of life which every living being is required to follow simultaneously.

One can live without Religion but not without Spirituality for Spirituality forms the core of very existence of every living being. It is the spirit within every human being that we exist as a physical form on Mother Earth. We may or may not indulge in understanding Spirituality or a Religion but inherently every living being pursues the path of spirituality in every manifestation. Spirituality is that fundamental of life which cannot be ignored by one.

To understand the basics of the Spirituality (not religion) one needs to understand the underlying meaning of the various sacred Scriptures existing on Mother Earth. Whatever our religious masters teach us on the physical plane may not be a truthful representation of whatever is contained in the sacred Scriptures. Many commentaries may exist related to a particular sacred Scripture but all may not be correct or rightly represent the facts contained therein.

To interpret the sacred Scriptures correctly one needs to understand the inner meaning of the core teachings contained therein. Spirituality in other words can only be best understood from a realized master. Only those who have reached the level of Mahavira, Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammed can deliver the humanity of its ills.

On the contrary going to a temple, mosque or a church can provide temporary succor to the ailing humanity but it is only Spirituality which can provide a permanent relief. Religion provides relief in day-to-day life but Spirituality liberates one forever from the cycle of birth and death. Religion is primarily a following of an enlightened master… it is only the correct interpretation of his teachings that one can follow spirituality to its logical end.

Buddhism Religion relates to the teachings of Gautama Buddha. The Islamic Religion is based on the teachings of Prophet Mohammed. Jainism (which can not be rightly called as a Religion but a way of life) is based on the collective teachings of the various Tirthankars (enlightened souls). Similarly Christianity is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Following the teachings of Mahavira, Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammed… One can definitely reach the higher portals of Religion but to become one like Mahavira, Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammed one needs to understand the core teachings of the realized masters themselves in a totally unadulterated form.

In a nutshell, if we desire to understand the fundamentals of life itself and reach the end of cosmic journey… we need to understand Spirituality in totality. And on the contrary if we desire to live the present physical manifested life in the best manner possible then following the dictates of Religion alone would suffice. back to religion and spirituality

Essays By: Vijay Kumar “Atma Jnani”

Vijay Kumar… The Man who Realized God in 1993 explains more on Spirituality. For more details on being spiritual visit – Spirituality. Send your query – click here Ref.

Spirituality related links…

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Spirituality vs Religion what is spirituality

The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality: Andre Comte …

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Exploring the Meaning of Spirituality – For Dummies

One of the great gifts of spiritual knowledge is that it realigns your sense of self to something you may not have even ever imagined was within you. Spirituality says that even if you think you’re limited and small, it simply isn’t so. You’re greater and more powerful than you have ever imagined. A great and divine light exists inside of you. This same light is also in everyone you know and in everyone you will ever know in the future. You may think you’re limited to just your physical body and state of affairs including your gender, race, family, job, and status in life but spirituality comes in and says “there is more than this.”

Notice that spirit sounds similar to words like inspire and expire. This is especially appropriate because when you’re filled with spiritual energy, you feel great inspiration, and when the spiritual life force leaves your body, your time on this earth expires. These are two of the main themes of the spiritual journey:

The study of spirituality goes deeply into the heart of every matter and extends far beyond the physical world of matter. Spirituality connects you with the profoundly powerful and divine force that’s present in this universe. Whether you’re looking for worldly success, inner peace, or supreme enlightenment, no knowledge can propel you to achieve your goals and provide as effective a plan for living as does spiritual knowledge.

Perhaps the best way to think about a spiritual approach to the world is to contrast it with a more common materialistic approach.

One of the main teachings of spirituality is to look within and find what you seek within yourself. The external world is ephemeral, temporary, and ever changing; in fact, your body will die one day, sweeping all those worldly accoutrements away like a mere pile of dust. Your inner realm, on the other hand, is timeless, eternal, and deeply profound.

Although religion and spirituality are sometimes used interchangeably, they really indicate two different aspects of the human experience. You might say that spirituality is the mystical face of religion.

Looking beyond outer appearances to the deeper significance and soul of everything

Love and respect for God

Love and respect for yourself

Love and respect for everybody

Different religions can look quite unlike one another. Some participants bow to colorful statues of deities, others listen to inspired sermons while dressed in their Sunday finery, and yet others set out their prayer rugs five times a day to bow their heads to the ground. Regardless of these different outer manifestations of worship, the kernel of religion is spirituality, and the essence of spirituality is God or the Supreme Being.

Spirituality is:

As one becomes more spiritual, animalistic aggressions of fighting and trying to control the beliefs of other people can be cast off like an old set of clothes that no longer fits. In fact, many seekers begin to feel that every image of divinity is just one more face of their own, eternally ever-present God.

Loving and respecting all religions and images of God doesn’t mean that you have to agree with all their doctrines. In fact, you don’t even have to believe and agree with every element and doctrine of your own religion! This goes for any teachings you may encounter along your path. Everybody thinks that what they are doing is right. That’s what’s so fun about the world. Everybody is doing something different, and each one believes deep in his soul that what he believes is right some with more contemplation and conviction than others.

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Exploring the Meaning of Spirituality – For Dummies

Catholic spirituality – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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.

Catholic piety is based on the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Although Jesus along with the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the focus of Catholic faith, Jesus was also the founder.

The fundamental relationship of Jesus Christ, Son of God is with his Father. As Son, Jesus is always in communion with God the Father. All throughout his life, his prayer starts with “Father’, and the prayer he taught his disciples starts with “Our Father”.

From this the Catholic Church has developed a piety that mirrors Jesus’s attitude. The Mass, the central prayer of the Church, also refers to the Father.

Desert spirituality is a way of seeking God that is characterized by the “desert theology” of the Old Testament that is at the very heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition, namely God keeping his People wandering for 40 years in the desert,[1] and also throughout the subsequent centuries repeatedly calling them into the desert, as a testing ground where they may experience a change of heart and, by proving themselves obedient to his ordering of human living, accept him, their Creator, again as their Lord.

In New Testament times it is likewise for the reason of proving his obedience that Jesus of Nazareth underwent testing in the desert (cf. Matthew 4:1-11 = Mark 1:12-13 = Luke 4:1-13).

The Christian eremitic vocation has the same purpose, as the name hermit applied to those that embrace it indicates.

Among those most widely known for living a desert spirituality during the early Christian centuries is St Anthony of Egypt (251-356). He lived as a hermit for ten years, practiced asceticism for his whole life, and grew his own food for sustenance.

From the life of someone alone being dedicated to seeking God in the desert, which is the earliest form of Christian monasticism, the monastic life in community has emerged, although the eremitic vocation continues as a distinct way of seeking God even today.

In practical terms this spiritual quest is pursued through prayer in solitude and asceticism.

Some adherents of desert spirituality whether as eremitic or cenobitic monastics, or as Christian faithful outside the religious life practise centering prayer. Though seriously disputed as anachronistic and of modern, Eastern origin, this practice is in truth prominent in Catholic practice (at least) as early as the 13th century, as evinced by works such as The Cloud of Unknowing – written anonymously in Middle English by a Catholic monastic. This is meditation on a single, sacred word that is meant to draw the believer closer to God by withdrawing compulsive infatuation with particular sensory objects and conceptual constructions

Benedictine spirituality is characterized by striving towards Christian perfection in community, liturgical prayer, and separation from worldly concerns. St. Benedict (480-550) is considered to be the Father of Western Monasticism. He wrote The Rule and established his first monastery at Monte Cassino, Italy. Lectio Divina is a Benedictine prayer form based on praying with the Word of God. Lectio Divina has four “moments”: Lectio (Reading Scripture), Meditatio (Reflection on the Word), Oratio (Praying), and Contemplatio (Silently listening to God). Key people involved in the 20th and 21st century include Thomas Merton and Basil Pennington.

Franciscan spirituality is characterized by a life of poverty, love of nature, and giving charity to those in need. St. Francis of Assisi (11821226) was the son of a wealthy merchant. He rejected all of his possessions and founded a community of brothers (friars) who lived in poverty and helped the poor. Franciscan prayer recognizes God’s presence in the wonder of creation. This is seen clearly in St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun. Franciscan spirituality is focused on walking in Christ’s footsteps, understanding God by doing what Christ asked, experiencing and sharing God rather than discussing God.

Dominican spirituality is characterized by poverty, love of preaching and devotion to truth. St. Dominic (11701221) encountered heretics on a journey in France. His opinion was that the people were not to blame – the preachers were. If there are good, orthodox preachers, then the people will be good and orthodox also. So, he founded the Order of Preachers, known as Dominicans who are drawn to contemplation of the Sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ. Throughout history, the Dominicans have helped to develop ways of praying which have aided people in deepening their relationship with God. The Rosary is an example of a prayer developed by the Dominicans. Some traditional legends say that the Rosary was given in its current form to St. Dominic by Mary. The Rosary is characteristic of Dominican spirituality because it focuses attention on the principal mysteries of the life of Jesus Christ, can lead to contemplation and is a way of proclaiming the truths of faith. Some members of the Dominican Order have made significant contributions to Catholic thought. The theological insight provided by St. Thomas Aquinas continues to be a major reference point for the Church today. Further, St Thomas made several defenses against critics who would suggest that physical labor was essential and missing for the relatively new order. He argued that intellectual, and consequently teaching, tasks were the equal to the Benedictine idea of physical labor being a superior form of contemplative prayer.

Ignatian spirituality is characterized by examination of one’s life, discerning the will of God, finding God in all things (hence their motto “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam”, or “For the Greater Glory of God”), and living the Resurrection. St. Ignatius of Loyola (14911556) was a wounded soldier when he first began to read about Christ and the saints. He had a conversion experience while healing and decided to found the Society of Jesus, known as the Jesuits. His classic, the Spiritual Exercises is a guide for making a retreat. Jesuits are quite diverse, despite rumors to the contrary, but are united by a zeal that comes from every Jesuit making the Spiritual Exercises. Lay Catholics are allowed to take a shortened version of the Exercises at retreat houses, which are based on an individual spiritual guidance; wherein the retreat master guides each retreatant separately to what (s)he is going through and what the Holy Spirit guides.

Ignatian Spirituality takes from other orders concepts and incorporates them. For example, finding God in all things – aka ‘contemplative in action’ – is heavily based on the spirituality of St Francis of Assisi, whom Ignatius admired. Another example is meditating on Scripture that comes from the Benedictine concept of Lectio Divina. However, it must be noted that Ignatian Spirituality is adaptable to the times, as is clear when one reads the Exercises. For instance, Pedro Arrupe (1907-1991)- A famous and beloved Superior General of the Jesuits from 1965-1983 – was known for incorporating Zen meditative techniques to assist in his concentration. Another example of adaptability is the suggestion that one retreatant can heavily use their imagination to assist in discerning whereas another needs to empty their mind.

Carmelite spirituality is characterised by interior detachment, silence, solitude, the desire for spiritual progress and insight into mystical experiences. The roots of the Carmelite Order go back to a group of hermits living on Mt. Carmel in Israel during the 12th Century. Ss. John of the Cross (15421591) and Teresa of vila (15151582) were both Carmelite mystics whose writings are considered to be spiritual classics. In his work The Ascent of Mount Carmel, St. John of the Cross teaches that purgation of the soul through mortification and suppression of desires is necessary for the soul while it journeys through darkness before entering into divine union with God. Teresa of Avila emphasized the importance of mental prayer which she defined as “spending time with a friend whom we know loves us.”

Other important figures in Carmelite Spirituality include Thrse of Lisieux (Doctor of the Church), Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Sister Lcia of Ftima, Nuno of Saint Mary, Elizabeth of the Trinity, Marie-Antoinette de Geuser known as “Consumata”, Edith Stein, Teresa of the Andes, Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart, Joaquina de Vedruna, Angelus of Jerusalem, and Brother Lawrence

Redemptorist spirituality consists of:

In other words, the Redemptorists follow Christ in his incarnation, death and resurrection and believe that he is always with them. They hold the belief that there is always a great encounter with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, hence Saint Alphonsus wrote the Visit to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary. He also wrote the popular Way of the Cross, and composed Christmas carols. The Redemptorist spirituality is a practical one, render help to the abandoned both spiritual and material. The heart of Redemptorist spirituality is the Gospel Invitation “to follow Jesus Christ.” One of the most tangible ways they do this is to proclaim the gospel in simple ways to ordinary people, and to radiate the motto of Christ who read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. to preach Good News to the Poor. liberty to captives. sight to the blind. to proclaim the year of the Lord’s Favour. (Luke 4:18-19)

The spirituality of the Servite order is focused on contemplating Mary at the foot of the cross as a model for Christian life, and service to the suffering. Moreover, because the order has Seven Holy Founders, rather than one individual founder, there is a particular emphasis on the communal aspect of Christian life. This spirituality finds expression particularly in the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows.

God Alone was the motto of Saint Louis de Montfort and is repeated over 150 times in his writings. God Alone is also the title of his collected writings. Briefly speaking, based on his writings, Montfortian spirituality can be summed up via the formula: “To God Alone, by Christ Wisdom, in the Spirit, in communion with Mary, for the reign of God.”

Although St Louis is perhaps best known for his Mariology and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, his spirituality is founded on the mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, and is centered on Christ, what is visible in his famous Prayer to Jesus.

The Second Vatican Council accelerated the diversification of spiritual movements among Catholics, and some lay Catholics now engage in regular contemplative practices such as Centering prayer, although this is still controversial. Many contemporary spiritual movements emphasize the necessity both of an interior relationship with God (private prayer) and works of justice and mercy. Major 20th century writers who sought to draw together the active and contemplative poles of Christian spirituality have been Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr.

The purpose of all lay movements in the Catholic Church is to spread in society a deep awareness that every single person is called to live a holy life and each in his own way to become an apostle of Jesus Christ. For the majority of Christians, God calls them to sanctify themselves through their ordinary lives by works of charity and devotion cultivated in the family, the domestic church, in the neighborhood and parish life as well as the workplace all of which are paths to holiness.

Not far from the Ignatian spirituality in regard to its understanding of faith, Charismatic spirituality is in fact the re-exploration of different Catholic spiritual currents with an emphasis on personal experience generally shared in groups.

Schoenstatt emphasizes a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, upholding her as a perfect example of love and purity. Schoenstatt seeks to invite the Blessed Mother (and, hence, her divine Son, Jesus Christ), into the home by establishing a spiritual Covenant of Love with her. It encourages its members to have the faith and purity of children, and to think of Mary as their mother.

In 1943 in Northern Italy during World War II, Chiara Lubich, together with a small group of friends, concluded that God is the only ideal worth living for. The Focolare movement was founded as a result. The goal was to strive towards the fulfillment of Jesus prayer to the Father: That they all may be one. (John 17:21). A spirituality of unity resulted and gave rise to a movement of spiritual and social renewal. Now embracing over 5 million members in 182 countries, Focolare (which means hearth) draws together groups of families, neighbors and friends to share build community and extend the works of the Gospel.

The Sant’Egidio community began with a group of high school students in the 1960s who were convinced by a local priest in Rome to try an experimentto try to live for a time as the early Christian disciples did, gathering for prayer and shared meals daily in their neighborhood as well as joining together in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The community thrived and has now become a global movement of communities working for peace and justice in a spirit of daily common life and prayer.

Opus Dei predated the Second Vatican Council in its emphasis on the laity. Founded by St. Josemara Escriv, Opus Dei’s spirituality is based on life lived in the secular world. The “sanctification of work” consists in offering all work, however ordinary, to God. This implies that one always does one’s best. To be a contemplative is to integrate one’s life (“unity of life”) in faithfulness to the Catholic Church and in solidarity with all those with whom one comes into contact, living a life of faith in all circumstances of each day. As John Allen says: people who follow this spirituality enter a church and leave it for the same reasonto get closer to God. The members of Opus Dei and its cooperators have committed to convert their daily work into prayer. Pope John Paul I, a few years before his election, wrote that Escriv was more radical than other saints who taught about the universal call to holiness. While others emphasized monastic spirituality applied to lay people, for Escriv “it is the material work itself which must be turned into prayer and sanctity”, thus providing a lay spirituality.[2] Expressed this way, Opus Dei builds on “finding God in all things” from Ignatian spirituality and emphasizes the universality of this call to holiness.

Regnum Christi focuses on the mission of every baptized person to evangelize. Each member is called to pray, meet in community and do some form of apostolate (which varies from member to member). Their motto is “Love Christ, Serve People, Build the Church.” They express their ethos as loving CHrist, Mary, Souls, the Church, and the Pope. Regnum Christi is somewhat unique among the lay movements as it is bound to a religious community, the Legion of Christ.

Lay spirituality

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Catholic spirituality – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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