The Meaning of Genuine Spirituality in Life

This is now the second post on the article of Dr. Gianni Zappalà. Again the title of this article is “Spirituality is the new black …and it has social impact!” Its source URL is

If you want to read the whole article, please click that URL.

Again as in the previous post, the words written by Dr. Zappala are in italics. My reflection follows after the section in Dr. Zapalla’s article.

What is this thing called spirituality?

It may seem like a futile exercise to attempt to define something that is different and personal for everyone. The concept or definition of spirituality in part eludes many in the social sciences because of its ‘fuzzy’ nature and a lack of consensus on what it means. As with many such concepts, we often intuitively know what we mean by them even though we struggle with trying to logically define them. As David Hay observed of the experience he and his colleagues had on embarking on an empirical study of spirituality:

[T]he variety of opinions that emerged [among academics who were knowledgeable of the subject] simply increased our confusion, but something interesting did emerge from this apparent failure. Everybody agreed that whilst pinning spirituality down to an agreed definition seemed impossible, they were able to recognize it when they came face to face with it. 13

The following small selection of definitions of spirituality gives a flavor of how social scientists, many of whom are writing about spirituality and business and/or organizations and/or workplace understand the concept:

• Spirituality is ‘the careful and reflective art of developing a relationship with the sacred’. 14

• Spirituality is the ‘basic desire to find ultimate meaning and purpose in one’s life and to live an integrated life.’ 15

• Spirituality exists wherever we struggle with the issue of how our lives fit into the greater cosmic scheme of things…an idea or practice is “spiritual” when it reveals our personal desire to establish a felt-relationship with the deepest meanings or powers governing life..16

• Spirituality is a concern ‘with our deepest sense of meaning, purpose and interconnectedness with one another and the earth we live on.’17

• The spiritual in human beings makes us ask why we are doing what we are doing and makes us seek some fundamentally better way of doing it. It makes us want our lives and enterprises to make a difference. [emphasis in original]. 18

• ‘Spirituality has to do with the paths people take in their efforts to find, conserve, and transform the sacred in their lives.’ 19

13 Hay, op.cit. p.130
14 David Tacey, The Spirituality Revolution,Sydney: Harper Collins, 2003, p.28
15 II Mitroff & EA Denton, A spiritual audit of corporate America: A hard look at spirituality, religion and values in the workplace, San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999, p.xiv
16 Robert C Fuller, Spiritual, but not Religious, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
17 Tim Costello, „Spirituality and love at work. in C. Barker and A Payne (eds) love @ work, Qld: John Wiley & Sons/Australian
Institute of Management. 2006, p.212
18 Danah Zohar & Ian Marshall, Spiritual Capital – Wealth we can live by, London: Bloomsbury, 2004, p.29
19 Brian J Zinnbauer, Kenneth Pargament & Allie B Scott, „The emerging meanings of Religiousness and Spirituality: Problems
and prospects., Journal of Personality, 67(6), p.909

Here now is my own reflection on this section:

My first comment on this section of Dr. Zappala’s article is that I am happy that now social scientists are embarking on an “empirical study of spirituality.” This implies that social scientists now acknowledge that spirituality can be studied empirically, just like any other social phenomena. Because of this spirituality has a new meaning for all of us. Where before it was the area of theologians and mystics, now it is an area of sociologists. It has more than a theological meaning, spirituality now has a sociological meaning.

That is why “pinning spirituality down to an agreed definition seemed impossible”, as we read in the article. This is because it has become a very rich concept with its entrance into the social sciences. It has become like the elephant to the perception of 7 blind men: one thought it was a tree branch, another thought it was a hand fan, etc.

But despite their disagreement on its definition, the social scientists agree that they recognize what it is when they come face to face with it. In other words, the meaning of spirituality can be grasped intuitively, if not logically.

The elements in their definition are: art, relationship, sacred, ultimate meaning, integrated life, beyond our selves.

First, genuine spirituality is an art. It is not a science. It is something that we practice, not something that we read about and forget, like the characters in a book. It is something that cuts into our personality. It is something that we are supposed to foster every day, otherwise we lose it, like the skill of painting.

Secondly, genuine spirituality has to do with a relationship with others, beyond ourselves. It is not delving into ourselves and losing track of the time and place we are in. It is not thinking of the I, me and mine. Spirituality is a relating with others.

Thirdly, this relating is open to the sacred, that dimension of our life which is beyond our mundane world. Here we acknowledge that there is a reality other than that which is seen by our eyes and perceived by other senses and deduced to by our reason.

Fourthly, genuine spirituality has to do with the ultimate meaning of our life, not just with our present needs and desires. There is something more to than just eating, drinking, and enjoying the present turn of events. Life has a grander purpose than just the enjoyment of pleasure.

Fifthly, genuine spirituality integrates our life. It makes us whole. In other words, spirituality is a unifying factor in our life. It unifies the many elements of our life: the physical, the material, the mental, the psychic, the financial, the ups and downs of our life.

These are the elements of a genuine spirituality and this is from the viewpoint, not of priests, pastors, religious people and theologians, but from the viewpoint of social scientists.

My last comment is that now social scientists can spot spirituality when it appears and they can distinguish the genuine one from the fake. Hopefully the social scientist can spot the genuinely spiritual person from the fake one.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this information

    Yogi Sriji is an enlightened spiritual leader; founder of Trikarana Yoga Charitable Trust and Trikarana Transcendental Meditation (TTM) Center, a unit of the Trust, started in the year 2009 in Coimbatore, an Industrial City in Tamil Nadu