1 Socialization – 21. Framing a definition of spiritual development1.1 What is meant by the term spirituality in religious traditions?The term spirituality is used in a number of religious traditions, although not inall. It had been defined in diverse ways and the various definitions anddescriptions remain controversial. However the term is often used in:.1 a broad sense to describe the beliefs, values, practices, lifestyle and goalsof a particular tradition.2 a more restricted sense to refer to the inner person, an inner journey or theaffective or experiential side of a religionSpecific traditions usually offer their own definitions with their own particularemphases. Some influential recent attempts to offer an overall definition ofspirituality are: “……. that inner dimension of the person called by certain traditions ‘the spirit’. This spiritual core is the deepest centre of the person. It is here that the person is open to the transcendent dimension; it is here that the person experiences ultimate reality.”Ewart CousinsIn McGinn B, et. al. (1986) pxiii“The experiential side of religion as opposed to outward beliefs, practices andinstitutions, which deals with the inner spiritual depths of a person.”in Goring R Ed. (1992) p.499“….. those attitudes, beliefs, practices which animate people’s lives and helpthem reach out towards super-sensible realities.”Gordon Wakefieldin Wakefield G Ed. (1983) p.361The spiritually developed person is described in a number of traditions as onewho is fully alive or awake, as enlightened or able to see to the heart of things.1.2 What is meant by the term spirituality in non-religious contexts?The word spirit is used in everyday language in such phrases as ‘high spirits’,‘low spirits’, ‘a spirited performance’ or ‘team spirit’. When speaking of themake-up of a person the phrase ‘body, mind and spirit’ is often used. The termspiritual is also used when no other term seems adequate. On 6 September 1997,the day of the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, the editorial in the Timesasserted,“But there is a plane above that of politics, a spiritual sphere whence a rareindividual can inspire a nation”On the same day in his tribute to his late sister at the funeral in WestminsterAbbey, Earl Spencer, speaking of the two young princes, said,
2“…..we, like you, recognise the need for them to experience as many differentaspects of life as possible to arm them spiritually and emotionally for the yearsahead….”
3The terms spiritual and spirituality are now also widely used outside traditionallyreligious and everyday contexts to describe:.1 aspects of areas such as art, architecture, music and sport.2 a wide range of techniques, practices and therapies which seek to liberateand heal people.3 dimensions of the work of a number of professions, for example much hasbeen written recently about the spiritual dimension of nursing, e.g. Bradshaw(1994)The term spiritual often has a range of different and sometimes distinctivemeanings within these various contexts.1.3 Spirituality and spiritualism are not the sameThe term spirituality should not be confused or linked with the term spiritualism.The term spiritualism is usually associated with a belief in the possibility ofcommunicating with the spirits of the departed and, more specifically, with amovement started in 1848 in America by the Fox sisters from New York State. Itis not a mainstream religious movement and is often associated with theparanormal.1.4 What is meant by the term spiritual development in a religious context?The term spiritual development when used in a religious context usually meansboth:0 the goal of the spiritual life in that tradition, and1 the teachings, disciplines and practices which enable an adherent or thecommunity to achieve its spiritual goal.Some traditions place an emphasis on the spirit as opposed to the body (or thephysical and material), but many do not do so and see them as complementaryaspects of the person. It is mistaken to assume that ‘spirit’ is necessarily opposedto ‘matter’ or ‘body’, even though this false dichotomy is endorsed by somedictionary definitions of the word spiritual. It is also mistaken to simply equatethe word spiritual with the term ‘mystical’ although they are connected. The termspiritual has a broader meaning than the term mystical in many traditions.1.5 What is meant by the term spiritual development in an educationalcontext?At its simplest, spiritual development can be described as a concern to foster thegrowth of the human spirit. However, this definition is insufficient to assistschools as it raises further questions such as:0 what is the human spirit?1 what activities foster the flourishing of the human spirit?2 what aspects of the ‘life of the spirit’, should be fostered in a school?
4.1 what is the goal of this process of development?1.6 A definition of spiritual development from Kent SACREA definition for schools needs to be more detailed and precise if it is to serve as aworkable definition that can be easily unfolded and translated into school policyand practice. The Kent SACRE’s definition is:Spiritual development is the concern to develop the most distinctive anddesirable capacities of the human person, i.e. those capacities that, above all,distinguish human beings from other living creatures. It is a concern whichgoes beyond what a pupil can know and can do and relates to what sort ofperson they are and are becoming.It is thus essentially to do with a pupil’s ‘being and becoming.’ Certain featuresof this definition should be noted. This definition of spiritual development:.1 is deliberately inclusive with a focus on a common spirituality.2 involves nurture in particular spiritual values for it requires a school tomake choices about the human capacities it wishes to develop.3 does not seek to nurture children in a specific religious or spiritualtradition but will require the study of a range of alternative spiritual traditions.4 enshrines an inescapable moral dimension to spiritual development in thatsome capacities, such as empathy, will be encouraged whilst others, such asindifference to human need, will be discouraged.5 is similar in intention to what some have described as developing virtuesor forming character.6 has as its goal spiritual maturity, wisdom and literacy.7 has as its goal not only the ‘child with spirit’ but also the ‘spiritual child’.1.7 Seeking common ground amidst a diversity of spiritual traditionsStewart Sutherland, a former Chief Inspector of Schools (HMCI) and Professorof Religious Studies, suggested that any understanding of spiritual developmentwill be based on views about human nature and fulfilment. He wrote,“The account we give of spiritual development will, in the end, have to do withour understanding of what it is for a human being to flourish. One’s view of thespiritual development of pupils will, in the end, be based upon one’s view ofwhat human beings are and what they might be.”Westhill College RE Centre Consultation January, 1993, p.1However, there are different religious and non-religious views about “what it isfor a human being to flourish” and so different view about:.1 human nature and what it means to be a person.2 ways to develop the human person.3 the goal of human development
5These different views about the nature of humanity are associated with differentviews about the nature of reality and whether, for example, they are or are notbased on a belief in God.It is necessary however, especially in a maintained, non-denominational school,to seek common ground in identifying those human capacities and goals fordevelopment which most will accept as both worthy of further development andcapable of being developed in the school. However, any account of human natureand what it means to be a spiritually educated and mature adult will not be valuefree and will emerge out of a particular cultural context. It cannot be entirelyneutral. The account of desirable spiritual capacities given here is no exceptionand has been influenced, in particular, by the values of the Judaeo-Christiantradition and Western thought about the person.1.8 Recognising and learning and about diverse spiritual traditionsDifferent and often conflicting views about reality and human nature, what itmeans to be a person and the goal of spiritual development should not bebracketed out or overlooked. Pupils as they mature should become aware of thediversity of belief and practice in the various spiritual traditions. There is thus aclear cognitive dimension involved in teaching about these different traditions.Andrew Wright (1998 p.87-88) has suggested there are four types of spiritualtradition:.1 an atheistic spirituality which denies or is uncertain about the existenceof God and which seeks to foster the human spirit through a range of secularspiritual traditions such as humanism.2 an agnostic spirituality which applies to those with no religiousallegiance and little desire to engage in religious practices.3 a religious spirituality which applies to those who only nominally orloosely adhere to a religious tradition but who, if pressed, would deny that theywere atheist.4 a theological spirituality which applies to those who are religiously activeand committed to a particular community such as a Christian denomination,Orthodox Judaism or one of the new religious movements.Some writers have mistakenly suggested that the different spiritual traditions andthe various views they hold about spiritual development are all, at their heart,really saying the same thing, i.e. they are all seeking the peak of the samemountain but by pursuing different routes. A careful examination of differentspiritual traditions will indicate that this is not the case. For example, sometraditions claim that a conscious relationship with God is central and essential togaining full spiritual maturity, whilst others deny the existence of God. Spiritualtraditions do often have much in common but they do have distinctive features.As has been suggested schools will, whether they recognise it or not, induct theirpupils into some kind of spiritual tradition and set of spiritual values. A schoolneeds to ensure that this is not an induction, by default or by design, into:.1 a merely secular form of spirituality which brackets out or ignores forexample in collective worship, any religious options
6.1 a vaguely and superficially religious spirituality which blurs thedistinctions between theological traditions and excludes any consideration ofsecular alternatives.Some ultimate questions:The following list of questions gives examples of the sort of questions that have been calledultimate or fundamental questions. It is important to realise that sometimes young children may beasking an ultimate question about for example the fact of pain or evil, if they ask a question like,“Why are there stinging nettles?”1. AuthorityWho can I trust?Who should I listen to?Who should I obey?What can I believe?Who can I believe?Whose rules should I follow?Why shouldn’t I steal?Where can I find the truth?Am I answerable to anyone?1. MoralityHow do I decide what is right?Where do our ideas about right and wrong come from?Why is honesty better than dishonesty?Why shouldn’t I cheat at sport?Do I need values?1. ValuesWhat really matters to me?Do people matter more than things?Why is courage better than cowardice?Why is justice so important?Are people more important than animals?1. OriginsHow did the universe begin?How can something come from nothing?Why is there anything rather than nothing?Is there a Creator or is everything really just a cosmic accident?If there is a God, who made God?Are we alone in the universe?Source:Guidance on spiritual EducationFrom Kent SACRE revised 2004