Spirituality Comes of Age

“You could not discover the limits of the soul, even if you travelled every road to do so; such is the depth of its meaning”

– Heraclitus

Spirituality is Inner

FOR A LONG TIME IN THE WEST, spirituality belonged to religion. A person was either religious and spiritual or an atheist and non-spiritual. In particular, spirituality was synonymous with the monotheism – the belief or doctrine that there is only one male God – of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This meant that when religion was degraded by the worst excesses of fundamentalism – arrogant authoritarianism, sexism, homophobia, bigotry, racism and war-mongering – spirituality was degraded by association. In very recent years a resurgence of atheism has become the popular counter to fundamentalism. One leader of the new atheist movement is that master counter-fundamentalist, conceptual swordsman Richard Dawkins. Dawkins, an Oxford University evolutionary scientist, has received a “rock-star welcome” from audiences around the world. In Christchurch he filled the local town hall of 2,500 – a capacity  audience, in a remote country. This would surely be to the envy of any fundamentalist.

HOWEVER SPIRITUALITY IS FAR DEEPER and more complex than fundamentalist movements, religious dogma or an association with orthodox monotheistic religions. In fact, in recent times spirituality is increasingly seen as distinct from external religion. Spirituality which is inner has come of age in a secular postmodern world.  One can be a deeply spiritual non-believer.  For example, for many scientists the idea of a pantheistic spiritual force in the universe and  within the natural world is congenial. As Richard Dawkins has pointed out, this “is light years away from the interventionist, miracle-wreaking, thought-reading, sin-punishing, prayer-answering God of the Bible, of priests, mullahs and rabbis, and of ordinary language.”

SPIRITUALITY IS A PHILOSOPHICALLY MOBILE IDEA which has undergone historical change over the centuries. Despite modernist, and in particular, twentieth century attacks on it by logical positivism and pervasive undermining by scientific scepticism, it is nonetheless a legitimate and credible concept. As will be shown, what spirituality refers to is to be found within the psyche.

The relationship between spirituality and landscape will be explored in subsequent chapters, in particular with respect to archetypes which are embedded in our landscapes.


1.  See The Press, Christchurch, New Zealand, March 12, 2010.

2.  Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (London: Bantam Press, 2006), 19.

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