The concept of spirituality permeates modern culture: from academic book series on "Classics of Western Spirituality" to self-help manuals, from the use of Buddhist mindfulness meditation (typically detached from Buddhist religious teachings) in medical treatment to "nature spirituality," from spiritually oriented peace activists to spiritually oriented new age music. Spirituality has become a common part of our cultural vocabulary. It is not only an important concept in its own right but plays productive and significant roles in the realms of psychology, ecology, medicine, and even politics. Millions call themselves "spiritual but not religious," academics describe much of contemporary religious life in the U.S. as focused on a spiritually oriented "seeking," and a quick search on Amazon.com turns up hundreds of books whose titles take the general form of The Spirituality of X or Spirituality and Y. At the same time, the concept is used in widely conflicting, often confusing ways. Most people think they know what it is when they see it, but attempts to define spirituality or understand it coherently are frequently limited, distorted, or ahistorical.
Roger Gottlieb provides a lucid and accessible overview of what spirituality is, enabling readers to gain a clear-eyed understanding of the concept, its manifold connections to other aspects of personal and social life, its role as a positive psychological and social phenomenon, and some of the risks that attend it. The book combines thoughtful analysis with a generally sympathetic perspective in which spirituality is viewed as a potentially beneficial form of personal identity and practice, and a possible antidote to a number of the psychic ailments and social pathologies of contemporary society.
Professor of Philosophy, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Introduction ; Part I: What it Is ; Chapter 1: Spirit in Motion ; Chapter 2: The Spiritual Path ; Chapter 3: Spirituality in Religious Tradition ; Chapter 4: How Spirituality Became Modern ; Chapter 5: Spiritual but Not Religious ; Chapter 6: Practice, Practice, Practice ; Chapter 7: Why Now? ; Part II: Why it Matters ; Chapter 8: Spirituality and Healing ; Chapter 9: Spirituality and Nature ; Chapter 10: Spirituality and Politics ; Part III: End/Beginning ; Chapter 11: Grace and Despair ; Acknowledgements ; Notes ; Index