6:30 to 7:30 P.M. Saint Andrew's Forum



 “Comparative Spirituality”


 with Dr. Richard T. Nolan


Does “spirituality” merely mean moving? Are experiences of stirring artistic works or beautiful vistas, touching emotions between or among individuals, a pleasing meal, and the like, truly spiritual? – Robert C. Pingpank 




From a July, 1991, Sermon (RTN):


In recent weeks I have noticed in some news magazines a certain kind of discontent, a hunger, if you will. "Who Are We?" asks a July issue of Time. Elsewhere, a week later an historian of religion is quoted saying, "There is no common agreement today about who we are, what our culture is and where we are going. People are asking questions that traditional churches can no longer answer for them." On the front page of Wednesday's New York Times, an article reports that monasteries are filling up this summer with guests seeking inner peace, quiet, and an undefined spirituality. This need for a sense of who we are, where we're going, and inner quiet is nothing new. "The Search for Something Else" was the name of a television documentary several years ago. In 1983 a magazine cover story entitled "A Search For The Sacred" included these comments: "There's an authentic hunger in people, a feeling that something is missing in their spiritual depths." I suspect such hunger and quests are perennial.





Journal of Pastoral Counseling, Annual 2000 p67(22)

excerpted from What do you mean, "spirituality"? Reggie Marra.




Spirituality, spiritual, and spirit, as they are used in contemporary culture, can mean, well, just about anything. We are concerned with our spiritual growth, so we buy books from One Spirit Book Club, engage in spiritual practice, decry the lack of spirituality in some of our mainstream religious experiences, and work hard at discerning the difference, if there is one, between spirit and Spirit. Elsewhere, we admire the great spirit that the students exhibit at the pep rally, the fighting spirit of our men and women in uniform, and the indomitable spirit of an ill or aging loved one. Some of us pray to the Holy Spirit, we do our best to avoid evil spirits, and we acknowledge those attitudes with which we agree by saying, "That's the spirit!" We continue in this vein, exploring the various meanings attributed to these words, limited only by our conditioned belief that though the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.


Here, we'll consider "spirit's" source, from the Latin, spiritus -"breath," which we will translate, along with Merriam-Webster, as life-giving force or animating principle. So "spiritual" will refer to that which concerns this life-giving force or animating principle, and "spirituality" to that quality or characteristic of being concerned with that which is spiritual. Another way to express this, then, is that spirituality is the quality of being concerned with the life-giving force/animating principle, a.k.a. God, Spirit, True Nature, True Self, Source, etc. Spirituality is our attempt to come to know-or, some would say, to remember-through direct experience, who we truly are.


Having at least this tenuous grip on the slippery serpent of spirituality (while standing on the equally slippery slope of semantics), we must recall that for centuries, day-to-day language more-or-less equated "spirituality" with "religion," and indeed, many (maybe most) day-to-day conversations among contemporary practitioners of this or that mainstream religion still embrace that equation: to use the language of American Catholicism, when I go to Mass on Sunday morning to practice my religion (recite beliefs, partake in rituals, do as I am told), I am practicing spirituality as well-primarily because I have never differentiated the two. (1) Beyond weekly (or daily) religious practice, I do not have a spiritual practice-that which would attempt to directly experience God-True Self, or True Nature. In fact, if I speak too loudly about directly experiencing God, some religious colleagues and leaders will, at best, disown me, and, at worst, persecute me.


So, while we will look at "spirituality" as that which is concerned with directly experiencing our True Nature, we will also acknowledge that not everyone who writes or speaks the word has this meaning in mind. It is possible, but not necessary, to "be spiritual" within a religious framework - we may, but need not, embrace the teachings of a particular religion. Often, mainstream religion looks the other way when spirituality's slippery serpent slithers into view, and runs the other way when the serpent speaks and challenges current dogma. Simply put, we can be both religious and spiritual; we can be religious without spirituality; and we can be spiritual without religion.



Church History, March 2002 v71 i1 p218(2)

excerpted from a book review of American Spiritualities: a Reader  Amanda Porterfield (reviewer).

Edited by Catherine L. Albanese. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001. 530 pp. $70.00 cloth; $27.95 paper.


Catherine Albanese takes the conventional distinction between spirituality and religion as the starting point for this imaginative and ambitious reader. According to many advocates for spirituality, religion is weighted down with rules, bureaucracies, and historical traditions that dampen or divert religious experience, while spirituality is a fluid, highly personal phenomenon involving the individual's experience of, and insight into, the underlying currents of reality. Building on this sort of popular distinction, but also on Wade Clark Roof's definition of spirituality as "the experiential face of religion," Albanese argues that many forms of spirituality have flourished in America both inside and outside the conventional structures of institutional religion. Lifting up various forms of spirituality from their homes inside institutional religion, she places them alongside more free-floating forms of religious expressions and examines their similarities.


In twenty-seven lively and accessible essays written by twenty-nine different authors, Albanese's American Spiritualities brings together a wide-ranging collection of views and perspectives. Reflecting the pluralism of American religious life, the reader includes essays representing Orthodox Judaism, Krishna Consciousness, Neo-Pagan Witchcraft, and Theravada Vipassana* Buddhism, as well as essays representing the experiential face of Puritan, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, and Catholic Christianities. Readers will find essays representing African American, Native American, and Latino viewpoints here, along with essays representing Asian traditions such as yoga and Tai Ch'i. American-born movements such as New England Transcendentalism and New Thought also have their place.


*vipassana: Clear intuitive insight into physical and mental phenomena as they arise and disappear, seeing them for what they actually are -- in and of themselves -- in terms of the three characteristics (see ti-lakkhana) and in terms of stress, its origin, its disbanding, and the way leading to its disbanding (see ariya-sacca).


Ann Bass Perle, HR consultant in Spokane, Washington, interested in spirituality at work:


            Sometimes, it's much easier to say what it's not, than to say what it is. It's [spirituality] not about religion. It's not about converting people. It's not about making people believe a belief system or a thought system or a religious system. It's about knowing that we're all spiritual beings having a human experience. It's about knowing that every person has within him or herself a level of truth and integrity, and that we all have our own divine power (Personnel Journal, Sept. 1995: 64).


Sandra Schneiders describes spirituality as "the experience of consciously striving to integrate one’s life in terms not of isolation and self-absorption but of self-transcendence toward the ultimate value one perceives."

[Sandra Schneiders, "Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals, or Partners?" Horizons 13, no. 2 (1986): 266.]


Bradley Hanson writes: “I define spirituality as a person’s or a community’s life style that is lived according to a conviction about the nature and purpose of human life.”

[Bradley Hanson, “Christian Spirituality and Spiritual Theology,” Dialog 21 (Summer, 1982): 207]


According to Anne Carr, spirituality in its widest meaning refers to the whole of one’s spiritual or religious experience, one’s beliefs, convictions, and patterns of thought, one’s emotions and behavior in respect to what is ultimate, or to God. Spirituality is holistic, encompassing all one’s relationships to all of creation — to the self and to others, to society and nature, to work and leisure — in a fundamentally spiritual or religious orientation.

[Anne Carr, Transforming Grace: Christian Tradition and Women’s Experience (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988): 201]


Nelson Thayer describes spirituality as the integration of various spheres of life into a holistic orientation to being which reflects our relationship to God who “in its infinite capacity for immanence is known as utterly transcendent, and whose transcendence, by our very capacity to experience it, is known as also immanent.”

[Nelson S.T. Thayer, Spirituality and Pastoral Care (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985): 57.]


Rachel Hosmer writes: “Spirituality in the broadest sense defies definition. It refers to whatever in human experience is alive and intentional, conscious of itself and responsive to others.”

[Rachel Hosmer, “Review Article: Current Literature in Christian Spirituality,” Anglican Theological Review 66 (1984): 425, cited in McGinn, "The Letter and the Spirit," 5]





from http://www.philosophy-religion.org/world/native_spir.htm


The general characteristics and origins of Native American religion shed light upon the more contemporary sects. But the development of the numerous individual traditions, passed down orally, remains unclear. The sheer number of groups and the diversity of the nuances of belief complicates matters further.


The religions do share some common tendencies. Religion tends to be closely related to the natural world. The local terrain is elevated with supernatural meaning, and natural objects are imbued with sacred presences. Ceremonial rituals involving these supernatural-natural objects are meant to ensure communal and individual prosperity (Lamphere, 339). These common underlying features unite a diversity of contemporary Native American sects.


The original hunting knowledge brought with the first North American immigrants became influenced or usurped altogether by new horticultural religious influences. Animal ceremonialism, the quest for spiritual power, Male Supreme Being, annual ceremony of cosmic rejuvenation, few stationary cult places, shamanism, and life after death beyond the horizon or in the sky were tenets of hunting pattern religions. Rain and fertility ceremonies, priestly ritual, goddesses and gods, yearly round of fertility rites, permanent shrines and temples, medicine society ritualism, and life after death in the underworld or among the clouds characterized the new horticultural pattern religions (Hultkrantz, 14).


Ceremony plays a vital, essential role in Native American religions. Whereas western religions typically consider ceremony the servant of theology, Native American religions barely recognize the distinction between myth and ritual. Often the ritual proves to be established and secure while the myth is vague and unclear. Indian ceremonies grew up within local groups; some elements of Indian ceremonials have been traced back to the Old World. The ceremonies were adapted locally, using both traditional and borrowed elements, to suit local needs (Underhill, 4). These ceremonies often began as practical actions. Indians were eager to embrace ceremonies or portions of ceremonies that provided power to conquer the difficulties of life. As these practices developed, they were modified and imbued with additional meanings and purposes (Underhill, 7).


The medicine men and priests among the Indians were usually merely those men who thought more deeply and strenuously than the average men in the tribe. These thinkers tended to live among the more successful tribes. To think, one needed at least some time free from the chore of procuring food. These medicine men or shamans were in a different class than the other men of their tribe. This special status was not dependent on their hunting and fishing. Contact with other tribes enabled thinkers to build and expand their belief frameworks, so shamans were more prevalent in tribes that were accessible to outsiders.


As contemporary Native American religious flowerings are best understood by first examining the origins of Native American Spirituality, all of the contemporary sects are best comprehended in light of the traditional religions. As these differ from their New Age and Christian versions, each group is also unique compared to other traditional sects. These traditional sects are best understood as a conglomerate by investigating a few individual traditional Native American religions.




From “New Age,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

New Age describes a broad movement characterized by alternative approaches to traditional Western culture. The New Age movement is particularly concerned with spiritual exploration, holistic medicine and mysticism. Although no rigid boundaries actually exist, the term New Age covers general perspectives on history, religion, spirituality, medicine, lifestyles, and music.

New Age is not a belief system per se, but is instead an aggregate of beliefs and practices (syncretism), some of which come from established myths and religions. Inside the New Age category one may find individuals who use a "do-it-yourself" approach, other groups with established belief systems resembling religions, and still other fixed belief systems, such as clubs or fraternal organizations.

Meanwhile, some individuals whose beliefs may be labeled New Age (including neo-pagans) may feel this is inappropriate because it might link them with other beliefs and practices. Any broad category can appear meaningless or misleading; one use of New Age may be: not a mainstream Christian church.




Let us prey

Many new students starting university are curious and idealistic. Which makes them vulnerable to the increasing number of cults targeting campuses, reports Lynne Wallis in The Guardian Wednesday October 1, 2003

Few parents will consider it necessary to warn their children about the dangers of mind control cults as they leave for university this week, but perhaps they should. Cults and new religious movements are looking increasingly to university students as a potential pool of devotees, and autumn is the prime time for recruitment. Ian Howarth of the Cult Information Centre says that the numbers of cults recruiting from universities has almost certainly increased - they estimate that there are 500 cult movements active in the UK today. "They look for intelligent, idealistic, spiritually curious young people who will have good earning potential, and students meet their criteria in every way. Add to that the fact that they will be disorientated, in a totally new environment with nothing familiar around them, and they are a perfect target for these groups.


"Universities need to be more aware of the dangers, because the groups will rarely identify themselves as what they really are until it's too late, and they can seem so plausible."


Involvement with a cult can cause lasting damage. Sarah Cope-Faulkner, now 34, became a member of the now disbanded International Church of Christ during her second year at Edinburgh University in the early 90s. A member of the Christian union, she lost friends after her first year when various fallings-out occurred and she found herself in a shared house with strangers. When "Jodie" invited her to a Bible study group, she found herself flattered by the offer of friendship from this slim, pretty young woman in jeans and trainers, and was touched by her apparent care and interest.


"The atmosphere at the events I went to was angelic," says Cope-Faulkner, "and I thought, 'Wow, all these people want to know little old me.' It was all 'Amen' and 'Come on, sister' and I wanted more. The only way to have more was to continue Bible study. That's when they get you to make a sin list, and what they put me through was so black and bad I wanted to kill myself. They were still being lovely, saving me, and they said I had to redeem myself and repent which meant becoming a full member."


Baptised in a cold garage in a freezing paddling pool, Sarah thought she had cracked it and found the key to everlasting life. Instead, it was the beginning of a miserable two years that ended in her abandoning her studies, getting into serious debt through all the donations she had to make to the cult, and having a full nervous breakdown.


She remembers: "I attended 20 meetings a week and became estranged from my family and friends. I was up at 4am for Bible study, and I spent all my time trying to please everyone. If I recruited someone and Jodie liked me again, I would feel utterly elated. I fasted frequently because they said we had to understand the suffering Jesus went through for us."


Cope-Faulkner blacked out and came to on a train on her way to see her parents, to whom she eventually told everything. She saw a psychiatrist for three years and was put on antidepressants, and with help from cult experts she learned that she had been mind-controlled. "I still find it hard to trust people, and I can't get close to anyone," she confesses.


At least 34 campuses have banned cults from their premises, but somehow these groups still manage to recruit students, either by wandering in and chatting to people or by recruiting in town centres around the universities. Verity Coyle, vice-president of welfare for the National Union of Students, says, "Cults recruit in a sly way, and it's all about misinformation. We've had radical Islamic groups recruiting here where police have been called, and there has been a definite rise in 'Christian' groups, like the group formerly known as International Churches of Christ, who prey on vulnerable people. These cults are very good at distributing information, but universities don't always like to publicise the fact that they have a cult problem."


When a student sets up a group at university, which many do during an organised "Societies Week", they must create a constitution, and any sexuality, race or gender issues that run against the grain of equality legislation will prevent the group being formed. Most cults, however, are more insidious and recruiters are trained to recognise a good target whom they will court off campus.


It's only when a student leaves a cult that any warnings about cult activity may spread through university populations, but this happens rarely as the person is usually too traumatised to remain around other members and will often switch to another university or drop out altogether.


Jeannie Mills, former member of the People's Temple, famously said: "When you meet the friendliest people you have ever known, who introduce you to the most loving group of people you have ever encountered, and you find the leader to be the most inspired, caring, compassionate and understanding person you've ever met, and then you learn that the cause of the group is something you never dared hope could be accomplished, and all of this sounds too good to be true - it probably is too good to be true! Don't give up on your education, your hopes and ambitions to follow a rainbow." After Mills left the group, she was found murdered.


How cults recruit

· Chanting and singing: eliminating non-cult ideas through group
  repetition of mind-narrowing chants and phrases

· Confession: encouraging the destruction of individual ego through
  confession of personal weaknesses and innermost feelings or doubts

· Isolation: inducing loss of reality by physical separation from family,
  friends and normal society

· Controlled approval: maintaining vulnerability and confusion by
  alternately rewarding and punishing similar actions

· Change of diet: creating disorientation and increased susceptibility
  to emotional arousal by depriving the nervous system of nutrients
  through diets or fasting

· Sleep deprivation and fatigue, creating disorientation and vulnerability

· Removal of privacy: achieving loss of ability to evaluate logically by
  preventing private contemplation

· 'Lovebombing': creating a sense of family and belonging through
  hugging, kissing, touching and flattery

· Hypnosis: inducing high suggestibility by hypnosis, often thinly
  disguised as relaxation or meditation

· Peer-group pressure: suppressing doubt and resistance to new ideas
  by exploiting the need to belong

· Rejection of old values: accelerating acceptance of new lifestyle by
  constantly denouncing former values and beliefs


· For a copy of the leaflet Cults on Campus, contact The Cult
  Information Centre, BCM Cults, London WC1N 3XX

  or telephone 0870 777 3800. www.cultinformation.org.uk.  




a common context for “spirituality”

[sometimes labeled “classical mysticism” or “mystical religion”]


Many philosophers, theologians, and clergy/religious leaders believe that all religions are to be understood within the context of some version of the “Perennial Philosophy,” that all religions are poetic expressions of the “Perennial Philosophy” and are therefore essentially identical. Others propose that this view fails to do justice to the uniquely different context and convictions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. 



R. T. Nolan, The Perennial Philosophy at http://www.philosophy-religion.org/perennial/main.htm

A. Huxley, “Introduction” in The Song of God: Bhagavad‑Gita

A. Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy

L. Loemker, “Perennial Philosophy” in the Dictionary of the History of Ideas

N. Smart, “Perennial Philosophy” in The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology­

H. Titus, M. Smith, and R. Nolan, “One Asian View of God” Living Issues In Philosophy  [9th ed.] available

      at  http://www.philosophy-religion.org/living/philosophy/19.pdf




a.        Ultimate Reality, which may be called “God,” is pure physical

           spirituality; God is supra‑personal, Wholly Other,

           Oneness, Being or Non‑Being, eternal, absolute, infinite, and 

            transcendent.  This concept of ultimate reality may be labeled

            Brahman, (sometimes Nirvana), sometimes the Tao,

            sometimes the “God beyond God,” sometimes “The One,”

            sometimes “The Divine Ground.”

b.         All named Gods (whether Brahma, Krishna, Allah, Yahweh,

            the Holy Trinity, etc.) are equivalent,         

            symbolic “pointers” to Ultimate Reality.

c.         Some named Gods (e.g., gods of nature, gods of popular

            mythology) may be less sophisticated,            

            personalized “pointers,” but pointers nonetheless.

d.         The belief that any personalized God [such as in “b” or “c”

            above] is ultimately real  falls short of approaching an

            understanding of Ultimate Reality as It truly is.


2.         THE UNIVERSE


a.         The Universe, the visible and the invisible (including

            time/history), is either:

                        i.  an illusion, appearing‑to‑be‑reality [maya], or

                        ii.  less real than ultimate reality, separate from It, or

                        iii. less real than ultimate reality, flowing from It, or

                        iv. a “fallen” reality, separated from true Ultimate


b.         The Universe is either neutral (neither good nor bad) or

            evil/sinful, to some extent.


3.         HUMAN NATURE


a.         Persons consist of a perishable ego and body plus an eternal

            soul (or non‑soul), which is of the same nature as the Divine


b.         The body/ego is either neutral or evil/sinful/shackled to some


c.         One’s true reality is trapped, imprisoned within an alienated

            existence, separated from Oneness.

d.         Death is liberation for eventual reunion/union with God.

                        i.  eternal unconsciousness, or

                        ii. eternal beatific vision





a.         Human reflection and language are limited to the finite world,

            the Universe.

b.         Human beings can “know” the Divine Ground by direct unitive

            experience that transcends rationality.

c.         The “mystical experience” may be

            i. supra-rational absorption into or “touching” the Divine

               Ground [the “dreamless sleep”], or

            ii. being in the presence of Ultimate Reality.

d.         “Descriptions” of the mystical experience may be expressed by

                        i.  total silence [profound enlightenment], or

                        ii.  poetic symbols in speech, art, & literature (scriptures), or

                        iii. “negative” language.




a.     The purpose of life is the uniting of one’s true, eternal “self” (soul or

        non-­soul) with

        the Divine Ground.

b.     Life may be regarded as inauthentic, a shadow, purposeless, and


c.     Some possible values - with implications for “spirituality”:


            detachment from material things

            detachment from relationships with others

            flow with maya (The “seeming-to-be” of nature or physical existence)

            all experiences oriented toward the Divine Ground, which alone is real


            beyond good and evil

            Love the “soul” in everyone.

            Be active as long as the Divine Ground is believed to be the only true


            Accept what is.

            It doesn’t matter.

            Longing for the Infinite

*                     *                       *                       *                        *                       *                        *

from http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/mys/prenphil.htm


The philosophia perennis or Perennial Philosophy affirms that a direct insight into the nature of Reality is a universally human possibility -- whether it be gained after practice of spiritual disciplines and study of scriptures or through a wholly unanticipated illuminating experience of union with God or the Ultimate. A result of such awareness is the confidence that we have devolved from a single Source and the process of spiritual development is completed and perfected in our return to that One.


To call this perennial is to say that such an insight reappears in diverse times and places, not limited to any particular culture, class, or community. In more formal words, this philosophy has been described as


"the metaphysic that recognizes a divine Reality behind the world of things and lives and minds; the psychology that finds in [one] something identical with divine Reality and the ethic that places [one's] final end in the knowledge of the Immanent and Transcendent Ground of all things."


In other words, the term philosophia perennis is intended to describe a philosophy that has been formulated by those who have experienced direct communion with God or the Ultimate. However brief the experience, it transforms the thinking mind of the experiencer, so that they are never the same again. Such revelatory experience, captured however dimly in symbols supplied by human language or by whatever artistic expression, however often repeated through the ages by people of all races, genders, cultures and religious beliefs, open onto the Perennial Philosophy.


More than half a century ago, Aldous Huxley gave this title to an anthology that he edited. In the type of experience central to it, whether called archaic or primordial or mystical, the veil of materiality is rent and mistaken certainties are dispelled.


For the reader, Huxley's anthology may validate and verify that moment in which self-knowledge moves one beyond the felt limitations of "a foul stinking lump of himself," as the classical British text of spiritual instruction, The Cloud of Unknowing, described it. Are such texts of spiritual instruction and the experiences of traditional mystics still of value today? Perennial Philosophy responds with an emphatic Yes!


One way of expressing the central insight of the Perennial Philosophy is with the phrase That Thou Art, taken from the Sanskrit of the ancient Upanishads. The phrase teaches that the immanent eternal self is realized to be one with the Absolute Principle of all existence, and that the true destiny of human beings is to discover this fact for themselves, to find out Who and What they really are. Among the other vivid expressions of this insight are these:

BYAZID OF BISTUM: "I went from God to God, until they cried from me in me, "O Thou I!"

ST. CATHERINE OF GENOA: "My Me is God, nor do I recognize any other except my God Himself."

YUNG-CHIA-TA-SHIH: "The inner Light is beyond praise and blame; like space, it knows no boundaries, yet it is even here, within us, ever retaining its serenity and fullness. It is only when you hunt for it that you lose it. You cannot take hold of it, but equally, you cannot get rid of it."

MEISTER ECKHART: "The more God is in all things, the more He is outside them; the more He is within, the more without. Only the transcendent, the complete other, can be immanent without being changed by the becoming of that in which it dwells."


And what is the That which the Thou can discover itself to be?


RUYSBROECK: "In the Reality unitively known by the mystic ...we can speak no more of any creature but only of one Being... There were we all one before our creation, for this is our super-essence."

ST. BERNARD: "Who is God? I can think of no better answer than He who is. Nothing is more appropriate to the eternity which God is. If you call God good, or great, or blessed or wise, or anything else of this sort, it is included in these words, namely, He is."


How can one attain inner certainty of That?


Perennial Philosophy offers a seemingly paradoxical answer. The obstacle to unitive knowledge of That is obsessive consciousness of being a separate self. Attachment to I, me, or mine excludes unitive knowledge of God.

WILLIAM LAW: "Men are not in hell because God is angry with them . . . they stand in the state of division and separation which by their own motion, they have made for themselves.

ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS: "The soul that is attached to anything, however much good there may be in it, will not arrive at the liberty of divine union . . . held by the bonds of human affections, however slight they may be, we cannot, while they last, make our way to God."

ALDOUS HUXLEY: "We pass from time to eternity when identified with the spirit and pass again from eternity to time when we choose to identify with the body."


What help is available?


PHILO OF ALEXANDRIA: "They are on the way to truth who apprehend God by means of the divine, Light by the Light."


When is it available? Consider the following affirmations:


JOEL GOLDSMITH: "I am in union with the divine Intelligence of the past, the present and the future. No spiritual secret is hidden from me . . . There is this transcendental Being within me which I am and to which I have access forever. . . . That infinite divine Consciousness of God, the Consciousness of the past, and the present and the future, is my consciousness at this moment."

ALDOUS HUXLEY: "We are on a return sweep towards a point corresponding to our starting place in animality, but incommensurably above it. Once more life is lived in the moment. The life now of a being in whom love has cast out fear, vision has taken the place of earthly hope, selflessness has put a stop to the positive egotism of complacent reminiscence and the negative egotism of remorse.

"The present moment is the only aperture through which the soul can pass out of time into eternity, through which grace can pass out of eternity into the soul, and through which love can pass from one soul in time to another soul in time."



VII. Specifically Christian Spiritualities


The Rev. Robert L. Lewis, Jr., Boston University School of Theology - Th.D. Student


“Spirituality is a lived experience of faith that includes some conscience form of seeking a transforming Other who challenges and transforms us while at the same time offering us comfort.  I believe that Spirituality is best describe within some cultural and/or theological context.  For me that cultural and theological context is Western, Moderate Christianity.  Thus, Christian Spirituality is a life opened to a God who is paradoxically both transcendent and immanent.  This openness leads to growth which in turn leads to a deeper intimacy with God, through Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit.  This deeper
intimacy with God should also lead us to a deeper relationship with the people, community and world.”


Bernard McGinn describes Christian spirituality as “the lived experience Christian belief” and “the effort to appropriate Christ’s saving work in our lives.”

[McGinn, introduction to McGinn et al., eds., Christian Spirituality, Vol. I, xv; and “Christ as Savior in the West,” in Christian Spirituality, Vol. I, 253]


According to Walter Principe, Christian spirituality means “striving for an ever more intense union with the Father through Jesus Christ by living in the Spirit.”

[Walter Principe, “Toward Defining Spirituality,” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 12, no. 2 (Spring, 1983): 127-141]


Sandra Schneiders hones her more inclusive definition of spirituality: "If the ultimate concern is God revealed in Jesus Christ and experienced through the gift of the Holy Spirit within the life of the Church, one is dealing with Christian spirituality."

[Sandra Schneiders, "Spirituality in the Academy, " in Hanson, ed., Modern Christian Spirituality, 23.]


Canon Richard T. Nolan:


“Christian Spirituality is consciously living out one’s baptism every moment of each day whether at prayer, work, or leisure.  Like Christ, we do not need to strain, anguish, complicate, take additional vows, learn meditative techniques or secure inner glows to live spiritually as his disciples.


“Rather, we prayer His prayer, break his bread, sip his wine, discover the Word beneath the words of Scripture, read the morning paper, have our meals, do the dishes, attend to other personal needs, work (with all its joys and battles), play, serve others as we can, grow in our family relationships (with their ups and downs), take out the dog, and rest.” [in Episcopal Life (February 1997, page 18)]


Do We Really Need Spiritual Directors Or Are They Just Our Latest Spiritual Fad?

                                    by Richard T. Nolan  [from EPISCOPAL LIFE, September, 2003]


            Today, the movement in fashion is "spirituality" - the deepening of one's relationship with God. “ “‘Spirituality’ ... sounds significant,” says “The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought,” “with a touch of mystery, seeming to allow escape from the intellectual quest and wearisome wrestling with mental problems. We turn with relief from theology to spirituality, but may find ourselves enmeshed in a bewildering variety of techniques, or excitedly following a trail leading nowhere.”


            I was once asked to serve as a spiritual director. I wasn't sure what that meant, but I lapsed into a false notion of omni-competence and agreed. I discovered that the individual wanted a reliable friend to lean on; she wanted to pray together asking God to make most of her decisions; she wanted to feel a bit holier than others; she wanted an unmistakable divine seal of approval on her life; and, quite frankly, she needed a great deal of counseling beyond my skills. I was about to retire, so after six meetings we were able to part amicably, and I was relieved.


            The issue came up again in the diocese where I live in retirement. I inquired about standards regarding spiritual direction. Are there clear goals and guidelines?, I asked. Is there some kind of certification of spiritual directors? I learned that there are no stated goals, guidelines or certifications. I suspect that this is representative of most dioceses. The words “spirituality,” “spiritual direction,” and “director” are as ambiguous as “therapy” and “advisor.” Anyone can proclaim him/herself a therapist, advisor, or spiritual director. However, ordination, divinity degrees or life experiences do not automatically qualify anyone to be a spiritual mentor. At present, spiritual terrorism and quackery are unchecked inside and outside the church. Self-anointed spiritual directors are ubiquitous. McSpirituality is a growing industry.


            The corrective to any ambiguity about Christian spirituality is the prologue to John's Gospel. This good news prevents a rootless, addictive spirituality easily hijacked by fashionable individualism, pop psychology or spiritual demagoguery. John's theological imagery provides the context for all Christian ministry: the wonder-filled declaration that the Creator's Word, the divine Purpose for humanity, is evident in a person who came among us. Jesus the Messiah is the personification of God's intentions for all human beings. If anyone wants to know who we are and why we're here, regard the Christ.

            Occasionally we need supplementary strengthening of our faith. Throughout history people have truly benefited from particular mentors. Retreats and other pastoral ministries can be grace-filled and helpful. But these processes are not ends in themselves; they are not the key to vocation, and addictions to them must be avoided. We are called to come down from the transfiguring mountain and resume ordinary daily life together, deepening our relationship with God through worship, religious education and pastoral care. We must be careful not to be sidetracked by worthy or delusional activities.


            We have chosen to accept God's invitation to be a community of faith that follows Jesus as Lord. He is our primary spiritual director; His way of living and praying is the spirituality with which our own varied pathways should be guided. He provides all essential spiritual matters that we require and gives us power to become children of God. What more could we possibly need?




from http://www.philosophy-religion.org/criticism/suffering.htm


Some specific notions of spirituality and religious practices are found among those whose religions are indeed characterized by internal suffering, whether by temperament or neurosis. Such anguishing forms of Christianity are usually preoccupied with guilt, sin, death and judgment, Good Friday, martyrdom, certain types of fasting and self-denial, gruesome statues, and other symbols depicting agony and torment. Moreover, uncomfortable in the Creator’s universe, they yearn for an escape from physical existence into ecstatic union with God or “Sacredness” – or an eternally stagnant “beatific vision.” (Ironically, a sense of spiritual superiority creeps into the psyche of many a sufferer.) This is not to suggest an utter absence of healthy-mindedness among all interior sufferers; nonetheless, a lesser place in their own emotional/spiritual lives allows for fully experiencing mercy and forgiveness, their own innate goodness, everlasting life beginning now in this world, Easter/victorious living, self-regard as well as neighborly regard, symbols depicting joy and peace, and a maturing communion with God.[1] 




another context for “spirituality”



See “Biblical Thought,” Kirkpatrick, and Cherbonnier subsites at www.philosophy-religion.org/. 




a.         God is "Someone" characterized by purposeful acts; God is a caring

            intelligence whose actions

            include creating, self‑disclosing, and empowering.

b.         Though personal, God is not in any way confined to mortal limitations.

c.         God, whose names include Yahweh and Allah, is the only God.

d.         In the Bible and Qur'an, God is involved in history, yet sovereign.

e.         This motif focuses upon God's acts, not "location" or “essence.”


2.         THE UNIVERSE


a.         The universe, the visible and the invisible (including time/history)

            is real.

b.         The universe is being created good.

c.         Certain alien philosophical reflections on the Bible interpret the very

            fabric of the universe as

            having become inherently corrupted.


3.         HUMAN NATURE


a.         Human nature, endowed with the capacity for intelligent, purposeful

            and caring acts, is fundamentally good.

b.         Certain philosophical reflections view human nature as having become

            inherently sinful.

c.         Human beings, whether sinful inherently or by choice are in need of

            radical or realigning salvation.

d.         Human nature is social or corporate, not individualistic.

e.         Persons have been/are interpreted in various ways, including as

                        i.          an animated, organic unity which dies (ancient biblical).

                        ii.         a being with a body and a transfigurable ego.

                        iii.        a resurrectable being.

                        iv.        a body and an immortal soul. [under Greek philosophical


f.          Life­-after‑death is interpreted in various ways, including as

                        i.          not expected.

                        ii.         not automatic; it must be deserved.

                        iii.        automatic with possibilities of:

                                                a.   heaven, purgatory, hell.

                                                b.   continued growth toward greater communion

                                                      with God.

                        iv.        particular (individually when death occurs) and general

                                   (corporately at the end of the world.




a.         Human beings can grow in their understanding of God's purposes for

            humanity by comprehending the fundamental themes of the:

                        i.          Hebrew Scriptures (Judaism).

                        ii.         Old and New Testaments (Christianity)

                        iii.        Qur'an (Islam)

b.         Continuing sources of religious knowledge vary [revelation, not

            introspective enlightenment]




a.         The purpose of life for humanity is covenant living as God's

            accountable guests, as "children of God." [understandings vary]





New York Times October 14, 2003 excerpts from “Where Faith Grows, Fired by Pentecostalism”



IN THE LAGOS-IBADAN EXPRESSWAY, Nigeria — For many, this highway leads to the future of the Christian faith, and at 9 o'clock on a Friday night, traffic is heavier than a Los Angeles rush hour.


The worshipers are drawn by a program of rousing song and dance and by an eminently practical gospel promising health and prosperity. They come seeking quick fortunes or protection against mundane maladies, from hunger to arthritis to armed robbers. They shout hallelujahs until close to daybreak, when the highway, famous for accidents and bandits, is safe to make the crawl back to Lagos.  Here nobody, it seems, can afford not to pray.


The new Christian expansion is particularly striking in Pentecostalism, a denomination born only about 100 years ago among blacks, whites and Hispanics in an abandoned church in Los Angeles. Emphasizing a direct line to God, its boisterous, unmediated style of worship employs healings, speaking in tongues and casting out demons.


Spreading Pentecostal congregations — a quarter of all Christians worldwide — are bumping up against established Christian churches and Islam in Africa, and chipping away at what has long been a virtual Roman Catholic monopoly in Latin America.  Across the tropics and the south, Christian worship, especially Pentecostalism, has captured hearts and minds in countries where the precariousness of ordinary living — blackouts, robbery, disease, corruption — makes rich and poor alike turn to divine intervention.


"It allows for spiritual or divine agency, so that God has the power to fix and heal and also to protect you," said Lamin Sanneh, a professor at Yale Divinity School who specializes in West Africa. "You might fall into a ditch, or you might be in a car accident, roads such as they are. You are always in present danger. Pentecostalism speaks that language very well."


In Africa, a big part of the success of Pentecostal movements, scholars say, rests on the ability to tap into traditional cosmology, in which gods have long been solicited in pursuit of specific, worldly favors. "God has become a modern-day juju God," said Chichi Aniagolu, a Nigerian sociologist and a Catholic who, by her own admission, dips into Pentecostal services. "You appease him. You bring him yams, goats, make sacrifices, and you get what you want. Today, you're not making sacrifices. You're giving tithes."


Churches have become formidable economic empires. Most troubling to critics is the enrichment of enterprising preachers, who say their fine cars and expensive suits can convince others of what God's grace can provide. Critics accuse them of duping the poor and doing little to ease poverty or repair endemic corruption. Yet their appeal has been seemingly irresistible. Worship today is a far cry from the rituals once imposed by European missionaries. Services are conducted in Swahili and Igbo. Most of all, services can be much livelier than their European antecedents.


Like other proponents of prosperity theology, the pastor likes to remind his congregation that God multiplies what the faithful give to the church. "If you don't sow, you don't reap," he says. "I have heard God speak," the pastor went on, "and I can tell you, I have heard the sound of abundance." But for the poor, the very presence of the rich in the same sanctuary serves as a powerful lesson, much like the testimonials that those who say they were miraculously healed deliver: If God answered their prayers, maybe he will answer mine.


These Pentecostal churches have made a special effort to appeal to women, who often complain of being limited to a supporting role in the Catholic church. The Pentecostal movement, in contrast, encourages them to be more than wives and mothers: deaconesses, missionaries, even pastors.


Belatedly, the Catholic Church is responding with a movement that has come to be known as Charismatic Renewal, borrowing Pentecostal thunder, including speaking in tongues.


Services that incorporate rock-style hymns and intense devotion to the Virgin Mary have made the Rev. Marcelo Rossi, 36, of São Paulo, a pop star who sells millions of CD's. In October he is starring in a movie in which he plays Archangel Gabriel.


But the Pentecostal movement continues to grow. Besides Catholicism, it aggressively challenges Brazil's traditional animist cults like candomblé, macumba and umbanda, which have many of the same African roots as Caribbean voodoo and santería and are practiced by millions of Brazilians who consider themselves Catholics.


Yet part of what draws followers may be a certain stylistic resemblance: the trance-like state of Pentecostalists speaking in tongues resembles that of macumba adherents when they are "receiving a saint."


The chief appeal, however, appears to lie in preachers who offer rural newcomers advice on adjusting to blighted, violent urban neighborhoods, and a gospel of self-esteem, a message of empowerment.


The growing assertion of the Christian south is provoking fierce doctrinal arguments, too, often over their preference for literal readings of the Bible and a conservative view on social issues.


In the view of critics, the flourishing of Christianity has only added to Nigeria's poverty and corruption. "The movement is clearly reflective of everything that's wrong with Nigeria," said Nosa Igiebor, the outspoken editor of Tell, a weekly newsmagazine. "Poor people are forced to pay these tithes, and by doing so, every problem they take to the pastor will be solved. The pastors know it won't be. Just the same way our political leaders deceive people, by making promises they have no intention to keep."


"They've been able to attract the young ones," he said of the Christian churches, who have received Muslim converts. "They made it so simple. You don't even have to read the Koran. They poisoned them. If you read verses of the Bible, all your problems will be solved."





What is Anglican Spirituality?


By The Rev. Clair McPherson, PhD
Adjunct Professor, The General Theological Seminary, NYC


       First, it is the most personal and intimate, and therefore the most subtle and elusive, aspect of the life of faith. It involves how we live in the Spirit: the shape and texture of a Christian lifestyle. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold of PECUSA has called it "intentional discipleship"; the great French theologian Louis Bouyer has defined it as "the concrete application of the Gospel to everyday life."


      Second, in contrast to theology-loosely, what we believe and how we believe it-spirituality involves practice and action. In contrast to liturgy-how and why we worship together-spirituality is individual (and therefore infinitely varied in its forms). In contrast to ethics-our understanding of what we must do to live according to God's purposes-it involves not what we must or ought to do, but possibilities we might explore in order to open ourselves to the dynamic of the Holy Spirit.


      In short, spirituality is the circulatory system of the Body of Christ: it touches everything, it suffuses the system, and without it, we perish. Now by "Anglican spirituality" we mean that intimate texture of the spiritual life as it has been experienced within the larger Anglican tradition. Rooted in the medieval English church, given focus and expression by the unique experience of the Reformation in England, blossoming through the five centuries of the modern era, Anglican spirituality, like the Anglican communion, is now a global reality, represented on every inhabited continent and by every "family, language, people, and nation" (Revelation 4; Canticle 18, The Book of Common Prayer 1979).

[1] See Cherbonnier, “Biblical Faith and the Idea of Tragedy” at http://www.philosophy-religion.org/cherbonnier/tragic.htm .


(MARCH, 2006)

      How's this for equal time? Reaching across the Baptist spectrum to the right, we reprint cautionary words against elevating "spirituality" to normative status.

      R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, takes issue with a writer's claim that American political liberals should embrace individualistic spirituality as a means of countering the influence of conservatives and traditional Christians. (The writer had quoted Illinois Sen. Barack Obama as saying, "My mother saw religion as an impediment to broader values . . . but she was a deeply spiritual person," and Rabbi Michael Lerner's concern that those "who actually do have spiritual yearnings" have been marginalized.)

      Mohler: "What exactly is spiritual about Lerner's 'spiritual yearnings'? Where did Obama's mother discover her 'broader values'? What is their specific content? Without reference to some specific truth claim or structured thought, all this is little more than nonsensical wordplay, similar to pragmatist William James' definition of spirituality: 'Susceptibility to ideals, but with a certain freedom to indulge in imagination about them. A certain amount of "otherworldly" fancy.'

      "Personally," Mohler says, "I have more respect for a clearheaded secularist than for someone who espouses this kind of mind-numbing relativism. If spirituality simply means a 'susceptibility to ideals,' does it even matter what those ideals are?

      "Paul Powers of Lewis and Clark College got it right: 'Softheaded spiritualism is its own form of fundamentalism. The suggestion that the "true essence" of all religions is spirituality implies that if only people were not so stupid as to believe what their tradition teaches them, they would see that behind all this mere cultural baggage is the supreme "spiritual" truth. . . . Why American liberals who seem so happy to embrace difference in various contexts want, when it comes to religion, to sweep [different truth claims] under the rug of some invented, undefined, supposedly universal "spirituality" remains one of the true religious mysteries of our times.'

      "In reality," Mohler says in words that ring truer than his equation of liberalism with soft spirituality, "it isn't such a mystery. Spirituality is all that remains when truth claims are removed. Spirituality represents little more than an effort to claim higher 'values' without the demands of truth, revelation, and obedience. Of all people, Christians should be the first to see this for what it is--an effort to replace the Christian faith with an empty 'spiritual' shell. Biblical Christianity is profoundly spiritual--but Christian spirituality is an expression of Christian truth, not its substitute."

--Wilson Quarterly, Winter 2006