Concepts and misconceptions in the scientific study of spirituality

Miguel Farias and Elisabeth Hense

in Religion, spirituality and the social sciences

Published by Policy Press

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9781847420411
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447303190 | DOI:
Concepts and misconceptions in the scientific study of spirituality

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Spirituality is deemed a universal feature of human experience which addresses a feeling of a transcendent force or presence, which need not be framed within any particular theological or belief system but can instead rely solely on the individual's experience. In recent years, the term ‘spirituality’ has been embraced by many scholars as distinct from religion, despite of its very flaky historical grounds, on which they base their differentiation. The warm embrace for the popular understanding of spirituality was spurred by the search for meaning that appeals to the modern ‘homeless’ minds and sensitivities and by the awareness of commonalities in different human cultures expressed in terms of ‘global consciousness’. However the term ‘spirituality’ elicits ambiguity, subjectivity, and is read in different ways in academia. This chapter discusses the construction of spirituality as a marginalised aspect of religiosity. It discusses the major ways in which academia constructed spirituality. It also tackles the empirical attempts to test spirituality as a universal experience. The chapter argues that scientific constructs and measurements of spirituality should not be taken uncritically. Rather, they should be considered as offering new insights into a range of social factors.

Keywords: spirituality; religiosity; academia; human experience

Chapter.  6574 words. 

Subjects: Sociology of Religion

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