Spirituality: a useful and inclusive definition

Thames at night (3)

I often hear the distinction made about being spiritual but not religious. However, spirituality is hard to define.

I came across a useful working definition of spirituality by Simon Robinson;
‘Awareness and appreciation of the other (including the self, other person, group, environment or deity)
Capacity to respond to the other
The development of significant life meaning based upon these relationships’

This kind of meaning, Robinson argues, includes ‘the development of faith and hope, both in a generic sense, life purpose and reconciliation.’

This rings true for me when I think of the many conversations with students and staff who are reflecting on their growing understanding of how they relate to the full range of their own experiences, how they relate to others, and how they are making sense of God, nature, or the cosmos (for this definition the ultimate ‘Other’ does not have to be God).

Religion, Robinson argues, involves ‘a particular, systematic practice of spirituality, with shared doctrine which focuses on the Divine’. The difference is having ‘shared doctrine’. Of course, ‘doctrine’ can be secular as well as religious.

Simon Robinson is Professor of Applied and Professional Ethics at the Leeds Metropolitan University.

Robinson, S and Katulushi, C (eds.) (2005)Values in Higher Education. Leeds: Aureus & The University of Leeds.
Robinson, S. (2008) Spirituality, ethics and care. London: JKP.
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