“Spirituality” is an inspiring word but it can also be a confusing word. Is my spirituality as good as your spirituality? Who decides? Does it matter? Is it even something we can talk about meaningfully?
I have a particular viewpoint because of my interest in Christian spirituality, and according to this viewpoint, it seems that spirituality is transcendent, historical, communal and dynamic.
Spirituality has a transcendent source: God.
God is described in a wide variety of images: creator, father, mother, light, shepherd, rock, shield, sustainer … There is an appropriate endlessness to this list, because what is transcendent can never be exhausted. As Richard Rohr writes:
“Mystery isn’t something that you cannot understand – it is something that you can endlessly understand.”from The Divine Dance
But spirituality is also very grounded in human experience. We can find out how different people have responded to the transcendent throughout history. We can read about ancient peoples and their visions, stories and dreams. We can use the same words they did in prayer. We can connect with living spiritual traditions, like the Franciscans, or the Benedictines.
Which neatly takes us to the point that spirituality is not merely private. It is personal but it is also shared.
For example, I belong to a Christian church, so my spirituality is shaped by how my local church does spirituality – the hymns and songs that are chosen, how people pray, what the sermons say, what kinds of activities the church organises.
And we all belong to human cultures. I am influenced by how British culture celebrates Christmas, for example (there are no Christmas trees in the Gospel accounts, sadly!). I am influenced by the practices of British society regarding money (e.g. taxation, charity) and freedom (lockdowns!).
Finally, spirituality is a journey.
“When I was child I thought like a child … When I became a man I put the ways of childhood behind me”.
But even as adults, men and women continue to develop, learn, and grow (or regress!).
Spirituality involves different disciplines (e.g. prayer, silence) and personal development (e.g. study, dialogue). To be spiritual is to be open to change and growth.