Exhumator Esoterics

Encyclopedia of Spiritual — Letter S - SPIRITUALITY, CONTEMPORARY APPROACHES TO DEFINING

SPIRITUALITY, CONTEMPORARY APPROACHES TO DEFINING
Exhumator Esoterics
Exhumator Esoterics





An examination of research on spirituality yields three distinct approaches to the relationship between spirituality and religiosity. There are researchers who view spirituality as an integral part of religiosity; those who view spirituality as separate from religiosity; and those who view spirituality as synonymous with religiosity. Among other reasons, such as epistemological and ontological changes that Western culture and civilization are undergoing in the postmodern era, the recent increase in articles and studies on spirituality may well be a consequence of diffuse and one-dimensional definitions of religious and secular concepts in the modern world. The existence of these diverse trends and definitions epitomizes the bewilderment around the concept of spirituality and attests to the need to widen the scope of the definitions of spirituality. Spirituality is largely associated with religiosity, as it addresses the connection between the human and the sublime, between the concrete and the abstract, and between man and God. As such, spirituality is typically connected with conventional measures of religiosity like closeness to God, institutional beliefs, and religious practices. However, spirituality is also recognized as an expression of human longing to approach a supreme entity or power situated beyond human control and grasp, thereby expressing the existential uniqueness of humans over animals. Spirituality is realized in abstract aspects of human life that constitute part of one's existential secular or religious being.

Studies that deal with religiosity have mainly focused on behavioral aspects of its manifestations. Focus on behavior clearly limits the scope of religiosity as a concept, leaving uncharted territory in the human spiritual world that defies positivistic definition. Moreover, it gives rise to a monolithic system of dichotomous definitions in which one who does not conform to the behavioral patterns labeled "religious" is defined as "secular" and vice versa. Modern society, however, endorses differentiation. Spirituality may be manifested among religious and secular people alike, thereby demanding a redefinition of the concept of secularity, not as the absence of religion but rather as an independent entity that embodies various realms of spirituality.

Spirituality is one of the ways in which people construct knowledge and meaning; spiritual identity is regarded as the framework within which the ultimate questions of life are meditated. Indeed, spirituality is regarded in the literature as a universal human capacity that is mainly related to well-being. This takes on a broader meaning when spirituality is examined in the context of the relatively new branch in psychology known as positive psychology. The aim of positive psychology is to transform psychology from a preoccupation with repairing the bad things in life, to an emphasis on a salutogenic-health-promoting- perspective of human existence. Spirituality is related to hope and happiness and, therefore, can be seen as an integral part of positive psychology.

Most research on spirituality has been conducted in the fields of psychology and sociology of religion and is based on empirical studies. Only a small part of this research addresses the philosophical aspect or contributes to the construction of a conceptual theoretical framework. Much of this research is based on Fowler's (1981) stage theory of faith development, which rests on cognitive psychology. Fowler's theory was intended to describe religious development, but it was subsequently adopted by researchers in the field of spirituality because no other theories were available. However, adopting a theory from research on religiosity again assumes that religiosity is identical to spirituality. Several scholars found that the most spiritual are, by a variety of measures, those who are also the most religious. In contrast, other scholars found that most of those who view themselves as spiritual do so by default; they are less religious rather than more spiritual.

A discussion of spirituality needs to be based on the premise that spirituality epitomizes postmodernity. In a postmodernist era, where sorrow, despair, alienation, and depression dominate, spirituality can shed new light and convey a new message. What characterizes the postmodern era is the disappointment with rationalism and the preference for the contextual cultural factor over the rational. The expansion of research on spirituality seems to be a direct outcome of the secularization process in the postmodern era, accompanied by the revival of the privatization and individualization of religiosity. Scholars have found that spirituality is connected to the affective, the rational, the cognitive, and the unconscious symbolic domains.

The spirituality movement is often viewed as part of a sociocultural trend defined by both deinstitutionalization and individualization. The deconstructionist trend of the meta-narrative and differentiation processes creates fundamental changes in the scope of religiosity. The trend toward spirituality seems to challenge the coherence of religiosity and creates anxiety among researchers and educators, especially in America. Peter Berger (1979) has stated that pluralism is a threat to religiosity. Pargament claims that the spiritual movement may be seen as a sign that "something is missing in the way religion is currently defined and practiced" (1999, pp. 6-7).

If secular people define themselves also as spiritual and if secularism is viewed as the opposite pole to religiosity on a continuum (i.e., less religious means more secular), then additional dimensions (beyond an absence of religiosity) are needed to conceptualize secularity. Moreover, perhaps if attention is given to the parameters for measuring secularity and religiosity from a more broad and diverse perspective, this will open a new way to better understanding spirituality in the modern era.