The Psychology of Mature Spirituality: Integrity, Wisdom, Transcendence

The Psychology of Mature Spirituality: Integrity, Wisdom, Transcendence

The Psychology of Mature Spirituality: Integrity, Wisdom, Transcendence

The Psychology of Mature Spirituality: Integrity, Wisdom, Transcendence


At the threshold of the 21st Century many people are faced with a spiritual dilemma, where neither secularism nor religion seem adequate. The Psychology of Mature Spirituality addresses this dilemma. In each of the book's three sections - integrity, wisdom, and transcendence - distinguished contributors describe and analyse a mature form of spirituality that will be a hallmark of future years. This timely volume will appeal to those involved in psychology, psychoanalysis and religious studies.


The psychology of mature spirituality in the twenty-first century

Polly Young-Eisendrath and Melvin E. Miller

The opening of the twenty-first century is marked by a peculiar situation in regard to religion and spirituality. On one hand, most people are weary and even demoralized by our constant focus on ‘enlightened self-interest.’ To paraphrase biblical scholar Miles (Revel and Ricard 1999: x), we are becoming bored and more than a little frightened by the widely held belief in the moral code that the world is real and the world’s goods are really worth acquiring. Intense enthusiasm for everything from a credit card to a new baby, a foreign vacation to a museum membership has replaced what, in another period of time, might have been a curiosity or even a sense of awe about existence itself and our purpose within it.

On the other hand, people of the twenty-first century are wary of religious dogma and oppressive creeds and politics that too often require adults to behave intellectually and emotionally as though they were children. Most institutionalized religions have demanded that we fill certain roles that reward us—if they do at all—only with social experiences of community and family traditions, not with spiritual meaning. Many Americans and Europeans no longer engage in formal religious practices within the confines of traditional Western religious institutions—with the exception of some forms of fundamentalism, especially Christian fundamentalism. Most educated people are loath to define themselves by religious dogma that does not reflect their authentic experience of life.

And yet what of this ‘authentic experience’ of life? Often it is overloaded with self-interest and anxiety, especially if one is living in an industrialized society and enjoying the wealth and security of a life free from hunger and physical threat. People living under stressful conditions of poverty, terror, or major health threats do not have the freedom to think about their lifestyle. They may find that more traditional religious practices are helpful because these tend to reduce fear. On the other hand, they may find that traditional practices do not help, but rather abandon them to fear, resentment, and despair. Some people living under the most stressful conditions— for example, the Mother Teresas—become resilient in the process of transforming their suffering into a sense of purpose and meaning through traditional or non-traditional spiritual and religious means. They are the exceptions.

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