The Spiritualistic Tradition
Rebecca Murray and Michael E. Nielsen
Spirituality is a broad term that frequently conveys different meanings to different people. The word itself has Latin origins, with spiritus meaning breath, evoking images of starting and sustaining life. Indeed, most writings about spirituality link the term to the concept of soul and one's very essence. Definitions of spirituality abound, and many can be found in the psychological literature beginning with James and Jung, moving through the work of the humanists and transpersonalists, and culminating in the contemporary writing of psychologists who are interested in the connection between mental health and spirituality (Elkins, 1998). In practice, a spiritualistic orientation to religious matters suggests an amalgam of beliefs that draw from Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and other religions originating in eastern Asia. These beliefs may or may not include elements of Christianity or Judaism, as well as paganism.1
The current interest shown by psychologists in spirituality is exemplified in the lead article of a recent Monitor on Psychology (APA, 2003) that discussed the importance of mental health professionals addressing spirituality with clients. Like many writers, the authors of that work frequently interchanged the terms spirituality and religion—not recognizing
1Spirituality and spiritualistic tradition refer to an interest in matters of the spirit, drawing
primarily from Eastern religious traditions. It does not necessarily include what is com-
monly referred to as spiritualism, a practice aligned with occult practices such as speaking
with the dead.