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How to define spirituality?

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To understand the meaning and the evolution of the word “spirituality”, it is necessary to define the Latin name spirit us (at the origin of the word “spirit” in French). Spiritus refers to the breath coming from the air we breathe. This breath represents what God breathed into the first human being to give him life in the Old Testament account. Thus, he creates a solid intimacy with humans and allows him to share a divine and sacred aspect of himself. It believes that this divine breath present in the body is the origin of human strength and qualities and the source, among other things, of creativity, love, kindness, responsibility, understanding, etc. (McQuarrie, 1972). Several derivatives will succeed spiritually.

The meaning gradually brings to immateriality until the word “spirituality” in the French language is around 1350. The term “spirituality” has appointed until the late eighteenth-century reality, the spirit different from a physical body and reality; from the xx century. It is defined as a set of rules that guide a person’s spiritual life in a group. In current French dictionaries, spirituality relates to immateriality first, but it can also have a religious meaning. However, when we pay attention to the bilingual French and English dictionaries (we retain this comparison because scientific publications in English are predominant).

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We see that only its philosophical meaning has been included. It, therefore, seems that currently, in the current use of both languages, spirituality is understood more as a philosophical concept rather than a religious one. However, it is regrettable that these definitions do not point to the characteristic elements of the idea (Koenig, McCullough and Larson, 2001), which is harmful on the one hand, to evaluate it, on the other hand, to discriminate against religion objectively. Consequently, the current stake consists in a clarification of the concept for better practical comprehension.

How To Define Spirituality In Psychology

In the scientific literature relating to psychology, the definitions of spirituality are multiple. Especially since they came from various disciplines and expressed through multiple points of view so much so that it turns out to be impossible to achieve consensus (De Jager Meezenbroek et al., 2010). We can nevertheless point out some elements which are more and more redundant in the literature but which are not yet consensual (in particular, its universality and its expression outside a traditional religious framework or not).

In general, we note that spirituality is often defined as a universal relationship to a higher and transcendent order and a search for the meaning of life, which may or may not is related to a divine figure (McClain-Jacobson et al., 2004). It, therefore, includes both existential beliefs, values ​​linked to meaning, and a raison d’être, as well as religious beliefs and practices (Selman et al., 2011). It is a personal quest for answers to the meaning of life that can develop outside of spiritual practice and community membership, which does not exclude religious involvement (Wink and Dillon, 2002). Spirituality corresponds to an inner work of truth, to a “quest for meaning and coherence” (Cazin, 2005), to a quest for oneself (Wink and Dillon, 2002).

In this sense, it responds to the fundamental human need to attribute “meaning to the experiences of existence and to understand the “spirit of things.” (Janssen, 2008). Note that meaning is a concept in its own right, which differs from spirituality, but to which it is closely linked. We note, moreover, that the term “spirituality” is often used in the literature to describe personal experiences relating to nature, love, euphoria, etc. Mary LS Vachon (2008) says that indeed. just as religion is one of the modes of expression of spirituality (undoubtedly the most frequent), nature, art, music, family, for example, are others. However, for this to be true, certain “conditions” must meet, i.e., the term “spiritual” must be used with care and parsimony, in the sense that not everything can be called “spiritual”.” (Hill et al., 2000).

For example, vegetarianism can be considered spiritual if membership in this group is based on nature’s principles and refers to transcendence. Conversely, a passion for football cannot be regarded as spiritual, even if it presents aspects close to religion by the zeal, ardor, and enthusiasm that it can cause because it is not based on principles. Morals of religion (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). On the other hand, the adjective “spiritual” is frequently used to qualify facts as “useful”, “important”, “fulfilling”, which is a mistake according to Peter C. Hill et al. . (2000), because “ideologies, activities, and lifestyles are not spiritual (although they may be fulfilling, moving, important or useful) […] unless they involve considerations of the sacred”.

It, therefore, seems, according to some authors, that the notions of transcendence and the sacred are specific characteristics of spirituality. Spirituality is distinguished, for example, from “humanism, values, morals, sanity. », Insofar as it has the particularity of being linked to the sacred and transcendence (Koenig, 2010). Although recent (Wulff, 1997), the theoretical distinction between spirituality and religion is now well accepted in psychology and is even evident (Peterson and Seligman, 2004). A majority of authors, therefore, opt for this separation (Saroglou, 2003).

More and more authors do indeed consider spirituality to be a broader concept than religion. By way of comparison, William R. Miller and Carl E. Thoresen (2003) state that religion is to spirituality what medicine is to health. Therefore, an individual can have spirituality without believing in a religion (Rowe and Allen, 2004) because spirituality concerns both believers and non-believers (Baldacchino and Draper, 2001). et al., 2004). Religion is a type of spiritual experience (Rowe & Allen, 2004).

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One can nevertheless reproach the authors that their distinction sometimes leads (for example in American works) to a “polarization” of the two concepts which opposes an institutional, dogmatic, constraining, static religion, to personal spirituality, more functional, dynamic (Zinnbauer and Pargament, 2005) and whose expression is free of all constraints (Koenig et al., 2001). Religion has therefore become, over time, an increasingly narrow concept, uniquely institutional and no longer individual, while spirituality defines as a personal expression reflecting the best of human capacities (Pargament, 1999).

Such polarization of concepts then confers a positive image of spirituality and, conversely, a negative impression on religiosity (Zinnbauer and Pargament, 2005). While researchers define spirituality and religion in multiple ways, so do the individuals who practice them (Zinnbauer et al., 1997). Religiosity and spirituality coexist without difficulty for most people (Peterson and Seligman, 2004). However, some need to recognize the possibility of having coherent beliefs about transcendent aspects of life outside the traditional framework of religions (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Moreover, since no definition of religion and spirituality is consensual and does not make it possible to identify the two concepts’ components, it isn’t easy to evaluate them and distinguish a believing person from a spiritualist person (Koenig et al. al., 2001). Finally, spirituality is expressed in a social context and is part of a culture (Zinnbauer and Pargament, 2005).

The cultural differences existing between the United States and France imply, for example, the precaution of controlling the relationship to religion. Moreover, suppose we decipher the definitions of spirituality. In that case, we see that the authors who defend a universal spirituality of which religion is one of the modes of expression are often Europeans, Australians, even if Americans tend to join them. It is, therefore, necessary to reflect concretely on the cultural transposition of tools aimed at assessing spirituality, mainly when these are used for clinical purposes, such as meeting the spiritual needs of patients with chronic illness.

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