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Spirituality is intrinsic to the human person. It is the self-in-relationship with:


  • self
  • others
  • nature, environment, universe
  • the Transcendent Other/God (where this is part of one’s world view).


Spirituality may be experienced in a quest for meaning, purpose, connection, belonging, hope. It can deepen with growing reflective capacities and self-awareness, and can become more conscious at major turning points in life. Spirituality is always embedded in the unique experience and story of each person, and so is essentially individual and subjective.


Due to this subjectivity, each individual’s story needs to be heard, and the person’s own spirituality discerned case by case, so it is difficult to generalize satisfactorily about what is always a unique reality.

Common themes or aspects may, however, be recognised, perhaps in these areas:


  • Cognitive: A search for meaning, answers to life’s deep questions, hope, a sense of purpose
  • Affective/relational: Connectedness to self, others, nature, the Transcendent Other
  • Ethical: A moral sense of how to live with integrity and in relation to the rights and needs of others.

These common aspects make research into spirituality possible, even granted the uniqueness of each person’s spirituality. More qualitative methods of research may be more appropriate than objective, quantitative methods, in this field.


Spirituality can be expressed in many different ways, often unique to the individual. It can also be expressed in ways that are communal, drawing on the accumulated wisdom of a community. When this is the case, the individual’s spirituality can be expressed in religion (see below). However, spirituality is more primordial than religion, so that even the most religious person may at times explore other expressions of their spirituality beyond their particular religious tradition, especially when religion becomes overly theoretical, dry or removed from personal experience.




Religion is understood as those organized, communal expressions of spirituality which use shared points of reference such as charismatic figures, sacred texts, teachings, rituals and practices, and moral precepts, to express and make accessible the cognitive, affective/relational and ethical wisdom of a faith community for its members.

Religious traditions and communities can range across a continuum of levels of organisation – some much less systematized and focused on teachings than others. In religion, the relationship with the Transcendent Other (often identified as God or gods), is more explicit and to the fore, whereas in personal spirituality this may be much more implied, difficult to discern, or even explicitly denied.


The organized, communal aspects of religion are balanced by the individual’s own personal spirituality and faith. It is a mistake to assume that all adherents of a particular religious tradition are the same. Their personal relationships and story will at times mean that their faith or belief system and practice, while it draws from the organized and communal tradition to a greater or lesser extent, can be nuanced considerably. Again, it is important to listen carefully to the individual and their story, and to respond to the unique person with whom one is relating.


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Buddhism: Facts and Terms

Roman Catholics

The baha'i faith

The Greek Orthodox Church

The Islamic Belief


The Jewish Belief

The Mormon Belief


The Sikh Belief


The Society of Friends Quakers





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