Spirituality as Originator of Culture

The following is a lecture delivered in the 2011 Spirituality and Culture in the Mediterranean Seminar which brought together experts in various religious traditions that shaped the Mediterranean.


  1. The Context and Framework
  2. Spirituality and Culture: Upholding Identity
  3. The Pre-Modern Approach
  4. Post-Modernity and a Way Forward
  5. By way of conclusion
  6. Footnotes

 1. The Context and Framework

“If you want to know your spirituality, ask yourself about your culture. The function of spirituality is not to protect us from our times. The function of spirituality is to enable us to leaven our times; to stretch our times, to bless our times, to break open our own times to the present will of God. And what does all that mean to us today?” [1]

To delve into the question of the relationship between spirituality and culture reveals perhaps a certain intuition which implicitly or explicitly acknowledges a crisis in the complex relationship between the two areas of human existence which sometimes seem to overlap in their areas of competence inasmuch as both deal with life’s experience.

‘Spirituality’ refers to how we live our lives. ‘Culture’ does the same; in a nutshell culture is the way we live together. So are the two identical? No. For in spirituality there is more of an element of conscious choosing, by individuals or groups, to live their lives in a particular – a deeper – way. Spirituality is about life lived at depth. […] ‘Culture’ is how we think and value, how we behave together, how we shape and fashion our material world; in other words it is ideational, performative and material. [2]

The very fact that throughout the world, especially in the West, institutes and centres of spirituality and culture are being set up, hosting events and seminars, like the one we are participating in today, shows that somehow contemporary people feel the need at one time to preserve the heritage recieved (both spiritual and cultural) as the means of a deep connection with our past. Primarily, this addresses the need to be rooted. In a second moment we get the feeling of being thrusted into deep unknown waters of culture that is radically changing. [3] And this is indeed a frightening experience. Hopefully we can take this challenge of finding our way in deep unknown waters transforming fear into adventure, the adventure of presently passing over from the past to the future. On purpose I did here use two expressions imbued with biblical nuances [4]:

  • being thrusted into deep unknown waters. This is what Christ called Peter for on Easter Sunday: duc in altum. And this is what we are called for as a Church, to accept the challenge of being thrusted into the deep unknown waters of the present and to cast our repaired nets there, letting go of the worn-out nets of a past – the good old days – which perhaps is becoming a burden and an obstacle, a self imposed structure of slavery which keeps us estranged and exiled from the future Promised Land.
  • the adventure of passing over from the past to the future. In biblical terms, to “pass over”, namely, to experience Easter, is to be delivered from the slavery of death in order to be brought into the freedom of a brand new life, or from darkness and blindness to light and clear vision. This is the challenge the Risen Christ posed on his disciples during the forty-days’ period that runs from his Resurrection to his Ascension, gently forming them to search him, find him and behold him in a radically new way. It is not a coincidence that the Easter account of Mark originally concluded with the following scenario: “they [the women] went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and bewilderment took hold of them. And they said nothing to anyone. For they were afraid.” (Mk 16:8). Some exegetes point out that “it is not clear whether Mark intended the women’s reaction to be taken as sheer terror or as holy awe in the face of God’s mysterious workings”. [5] In the original greek text, the expressions used by Mark are tromos kai ekstasis (τρόμος καὶ ἔκστασις) and ephobounto  (ἐφοβοῦντο) revealing a certain mixture of two contrasting feelings and reactions: “reverential fear” (tromos – τρόμος) and “fleeing away or fearfully retiring from something” (ephobounto – ἐφοβοῦντο). [6] What to do with the Presence in the present moment depends upon the courage to “pass over” from reacting to acting upon being faced with this utterly new experience of pregnant emptiness. [7] Paul in his letter to the Ephesians shows that acceptance of this challenge of stretching out (ekstasis – ἔκστασις) towards what is new requires a high dose of “simplicity of spirit”(Eph 6:5) [8].

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2. Spirituality and Culture: Upholding Identity

Joan Chittister notes that Spirituality or piety “is cultural”, and if “culture is the way people think and feel and behave as a people” [9], it is therefore a dynamic reality. Hence when culture is radically transformed, spirituality is challenged to allow transformation to take place. From another perspective, if we understand spirituality as a process of gradual transformative union with the Ultimate Truth, and eventually from a christian perspective, as “the way we live out the life and teachings of Jesus in this particular culture at this particular time”, [10] it should take us by no surprise that spirituality must necessarily embrace the challenge of change and transformation, so as not to become an uncalled for relic of the past. The question is not that what is past is to be considered wrong, but “that past pieties are past and that there is a present that calls for a piety applicable to the present.” [11]

This will lead us to the delicate paradoxical issue of continuity and discontinuity. In recent Christian history, for example, there is an emerging awareness that in the last fifty years or so, sometimes due to a lack of proper discernment, the euphoria for adaptation to what is new led to a mere copying and consuming of the prevailing culture. [12] This in turn was percieved as a certain unbalanced rupture or discontinuity with our history, in a time when post-structuralist “Western cultures currently appear to be becoming history-less and memory less. In the long term this will have a serious impact on our spirituality”. [13] Thus it is becoming clearer that we are faced with the challenge of coming to terms with the fact that even this way of thinking and acting is “past”. Pope Benedict XVI with much insight is infact calling to embrace the challenge of reinterpreting the Greek concept of continuum taken up again by the post-renaissance lex continuitatis through what he calls a “hermenutic of continuity” which enables a movement forward into the future. [14]

This does not mean, however, to simply retrieve past keepsakes and leftovers from a culture that is no more. Such a short sighted plan of action would merely be an act of resistance, a petrifying reactionary impulse aimed at protecting ourselves from inevitable transformations and changes in both culture and spirituality. On the contrary, to embark onto this hermeneutic of continuity is a challenge and an effort in itself inasmuch as spirituality and culture “are of a piece. They are the same thing”. [15] The present way to the future is to embrace the antinomy of continuity and discontinuity. I would dare say that “the principle of discontinuity is the criterion of discernment of reality”. [16] Discontinuity infact uncovers movements of change and transformation, indicating turning points in history. This noteworthy theory for understanding reality was particularly developed by Pavel Aleksandrovič Florenskij (1882-1947) the Russian polymath and neomartyr of the Russian Orthodox Church. Through his fine but complex argumentation, he “shows how, alongside unconditional objectivity concerning Truth, there is a need for a completeness which resists surrendering to univocality, a need which is able to correlate intuition with the consequential formalized systems of thought and the actual infinity with that which is purely potential.” [17] Consequentially, “from this we can see that the subject of the continuous arose out of the subject of infinity and divisibility, just like that of the one and the many, which ‘becomes evident at the very heart of continuity’.” [18]

Hence a culture marked by discontinuity and which is constantly and rapidly changing indicates movements of transformation in spirituality. According to Florenskij, all culture

can be interpreted as the organization of space. In certain cases it is the space of our vital relationships, in this case this organizational activity corresponds to technology. In other cases culture refers to the mental space, namely, a mental model of reality. This type of organization, is then called science or philosophy. Finally, the third type of organization stands between the first two. In them space, or rather spaces, are visible as technological spaces, but at the same time these do not allow the interference of life as scientific and philosophical spaces do. The organization of the third type of spaces is called art. [19]

According to this vision, technology, science/philosophy and art, taken together reconstruct (re-form) reality since each space is intimately related to the other. [20[ “It could not be otherwise, since culture is unique and at the service of one subject [subekt].”21 In line with the philosophical speculation of Mikhail Mikhailovič Bakhtin (1895-1975), Florenskij states that the subject is the unifying source of these spaces. [22] What are we to do with this? How are we, seekers of ultimate meaning, to face the antinomic challenge of discontinuity/continuity in an age of radical constant change? In a certain sense we may say that this is perhaps a new challenge, at least in the way those who are intent to finding an answer to such questions as: “What cultural realities are challenging the Gospel now? And how can the Gospel best challenge the culture, if we, here and now, are really to be a holy people, a progressive people, Christians at all?”. [23] Fundamentally we have to ask whether we are really attentive (in Jesus’ word’s “awake”) enough to percieve the divine irruption – identified by Mircea Eliade as hierophany – in the contemporary cultural trilogy of technology, science/philosophy and art?

From a Christian perspective, as a Church we are called to be a prophetic and holy people. Moreover, prophecy and holiness are all about pointing out a spirituality proper to the times. [24] This means that first of all we are called to be attentive “to the signs of the times” and to discover the spirituality that animates a particular culture, diagnosing it first and then breathing into it the spirit of Jesus, enriching it and when necessary constructively criticize it. [25] May we recall that attentiveness is a keyword in spirituality and mysticism. [26] Florenskij reminds us that authentic culture takes its meaning from церковность’ (cerkovnost’- the ecclesial dimension) and is rooted in worship.[ 27] Perhaps in these two constitutive and unifying pillars of every culture (assembly/group/church and ritual worship/cult) can help us to find the key of understanding the identity of the radical spiritual and cultural transformation we are witnessing today.

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3. The Pre-Modern Approach

The pre-moderns had their own way of being attentive and of responding to these fundamental questions. For them the oneness of culture and spirituality must have been clearer than it is for us today. Temples and sacred places – a combination of philosophy (world view), technology (organization of space) and art (creativity) – witness to the powerful attempts of cultivating the spiritual experience of the sacred making it tangible. Of course we can argue that for our forebears the oneness of culture and spirituality was perhaps too clear and idolatrous! We may justly ponder upon what infact happened when a clash of cultures (and therefore of deities) ensued. In simple terms, what happened when a particular culture was faced with and challenged by another (alien) culture, founded on a totally different world view, embracing a different faith, religion and spirituality, governed by different political strategies and models?

In the universal history of spiritual and cultural correlations, on a global level, the reactions to this challenge took the form of two contrasting models of behaviour for survival and preservation, both based on the fear of losing one’s own spiritual and cultural identity:

  1. a self-imposed retirement into one’s own world, as if in a ghetto, alienated from society at large, in suspicion of every move towards change that challenges traditional values and customs; hence, a sterile sectarian attitude. At its worst, this is translated into a fundamentalist withdrawal as a means of condemning the prevailing culture. [28]
  2. challenging the other into a holy war, in an attempt to reveal which of the contestant spiritualities and cultures prove to be more powerful, and therefore, the guaranteer of the reflection of the Eternal Divine Truth. Usually forced conversions together with the imposition of demarcation lines upon those who resist the winning culture, will follow. It is indeed a history at once tainted with oppression and but also glorified with the sacrifice of victims, later hailed as prophets of new eras.

These two models of behaviour are rooted in the fear of undermining the certainty that culture was part of the natural order created by God. Thus, each culture considered itself as the sacred personification of the true natural order created by God. [29] Perhaps these two models of behaviour fuelled the contemporary divorce between spirituality and institutionalised religion wherein more and more people define themselves as spiritual but not religious. [30]

In a more positive and balanced tendency this personification gave rise to two particular ways of expressing the relationship between spirituality and culture: the establishment of a “sacred society” and the formation of a “holy community”. [31] On the one hand, “sacred societies” integrated themselves into the socio-historical context they emerged from, translating spiritual values into civil structures which would uphold and protect these values even on a political and legal level. As an exemplar of a “sacred society” one can take Hindu spirituality wherein Brahminical texts are believed to have originated the caste system in the organization of society at large. [32] Another model could be that of Christendom or the Christian World with all that it stands for (Christian culture, civilization, law and ethics, etc…).

On the other hand, “holy communities” through their separation from the surrounding cultures created an alternative cultural and societal order. [33] Such “holy communities” developed especially in the Indian Buddhist Sangha and in the Mediterranean Jewish Synagogue. The Jewish notion of the kadosh, which is necessarily separated from the rest, gave rise to an alternative way of living separated from others. In this particular spiritual experience and perspective God is thrice holy, utterly separated from the material world. His relationship with the world is based on discernment, to be understood in the literal sense of the word, inasmuch as God chooses (separates) the one from other (in the act of creation, for example). God, ultimately, chooses a holy people, separated from the rest, to reveal himself. [34]

Although Christian spirituality is in continuity with the latter cultural and spiritual setting, its faith in – and therefore, its spirituality of – the Incarnation constitutes a definite rupture or discontinuity with its Jewish grassroots, becoming in itself an originator of a new culture. Christianity in fact oscillates between the “sacred society model” – in its claim to transform the world (to use Augustinian terminology) into the City of God, through evangelization – and the “holy community model” – through its claim for exclusive uniqueness -. While ideally these antinomic models should be integrated, in actual fact, there was always the temptation to resolve to a reactionary Christianity which swings from one to another, according to the challenges faced in specific historical circumstances.

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4. Post-Modernity and a Way Forward

Post-modern theologians, first in Protestant then in Catholic circles, influenced by postmodernism, with its rejection of an absolute Truth based on metanarratives and with the idea of reality as a construct and void of meaning or reason (logos), [35] emphasized the historical nature of revelation and consequently its being culturally bound. This represented a radical distancing from neo-scholasticism which postulated the existence of immutable eternal ahistorical truths contained in the divine deposit of faith. The main task for the theologian was to preserve and defend these truths. [36]

Leaving aside the overstatements from both sides one should acknowledge that divine truth was revealed “at the heart of human history” through the Incarnation. [37] Thus from a Christian perspective it is history and the sociocultural setting “the context for spiritual transformation”. [38] Without exagerativey stating that post-modern thought is the bleakest and darkest period in the history of western thought [39], Starting from the contemporary socio-cultural environment, as a way forward I will here propose two insights from the core mystery of Christian spirituality, i.e.: the Incarnation, and from the principle that history is the context for spirituality.

1. Attention to the socio-cultural environment is of fundamental importance if we are to understand the contemporary human quest for meaning. The answer to this quest and to the existential needs of our contemporaries, lies dormant in the socio-cultural forms themselves. Thus for a proper understanding of these forms, which are everchanging, it is essential to shun irrelevant generalizations, sweeping statements and prejudices which reveal nothing about the historical context except our own projections. For example, scholars today are revisiting their own projections and predictions of the secularization phenomenon. [40] Other radical changes are the passing from Multiculturalism to Interculturalism and the Digital Revolution compared by Pope Benedict XVI to the Industrial Revolution for the radical cultural changes it is bringing not only in changing the way we communicate but also for bringing an unprecedented change in communication itself. [41]
In acknowledging that we are “living through a period of vast cultural transformation” [42] the basic question regarding spirituality and culture should be to discover the animating spirit behind forms and structures in an attempt to transform and transcend the latter, avoiding being stuck into them, blocking the action of the Spirit of God acting in human history. From a Christian perspective, the approach or methodology should reflect the loving nature of the Trinitarian kenotic movement as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, the Incarnated Logos, “the poor in spirit”, “humble and meek of heart”, the Crucified God:

In Christianity kenosis is not an attribute (however important it may be) of God, but the fundamental nature of God. The kenotic God who totally empties Godself and totally sacrifices Godself is the true God. And it is precisely this kenotic God who thoroughly saves everything, including human beings and nature, through self-sacrificial, abnegating love. Only in God’s total kenosis is everything, including the unjust and the sinner, natural and moral evil, forgiven, redeemed and satisfied, and the love of God completely fulfilled. […] In Christianity, the notion of the kenotic God is essential as the root-source of the kenotic Christ if God is truly the God of love.[…] God is not a what but a Who, a Subject: the Ultimate Knower: Consciousness. Not a substance but an act, a relationship, a process. Not statically fixed but dynamically giving Himself away. God knows Himself by giving Himself away: this is the Trinitarian interaction in the divine unity; the First Kenotic Movement is the Eternal Act. The Trinity is a dynamic oneness, and the Totality is dynamically self-relational. Likewise we are relational beings, and we only know ourselves by giving ourselves away, by losing ourselves: kenosis. Love is kenosis. The mystical meaning of kenosis is humility and detachment, again, a letting go, a giving away.[…] Form is the realm of the Mind; it is the Logos, the Reality of imposing structure, order and limit, and these bring manifestation. They impose structure on the Emptiness or draw out into actuality its undifferentiated potentialities. This is like the Son. Between Emptiness and Form is a dynamic movement or the Eternal Breathing, which is the Spirit. The Divine Breath is what allows form to actualize from the Emptiness. The Breathing is the ebb and flow of Energy, the Energy of Love within the matrix of the Trinity. This can be called the First Kenotic moment: the Eternal Now of the Trinitarian inner life of the Godhead. The Second Kenotic Moment is the Incarnation, the self-emptying of the Son in assuming the human condition; while the Third Kenotic Moment is the passion and death of Jesus: the surrendering of the human dimension of Christ and His return to His Eternal condition through the Resurrection and the Ascension. The eternal condition is the dynamic Love of the Trinity. In this Third Kenotic Moment, the finite surrenders to the Infinite, and time is taken up into eternity. [43]

Thus, the first step towards a new evangelization strategy, is not to organise ourselves into a sort of spiritual and religious activism, but to take the risk of being silent and humble observers casting a contemplative gaze upon contemporary cultural forms in an attempt to identify the underlying spritual needs of our borthers and sisters. Only in this way we can then lovingly pour out ourselves kenotically
to those whom we are called to serve.

2. Embracing insignificance stems out of kenotic spirituality. In the Gospel narratives we find a myriad of symbols and statements centred around this reality: “poor in spirit”, “choosing the last place at table”, “becoming the least of all”, etc… In the Christian spiritual tradition, mystics refer to “annihilation”, “nada”, being the “poorest of the poor”. From the Old Testament we learn that God in fact harbours a “preferential option for the poor” [44], for the minores of society, those who are emarginate. Faced by the slavery and suffering of a minority group in Egypt, God embraced their cause overturning powerful Pharaoh. [45] As we know the same dynamic repeats itself throughout the story of salvation, reaching its climax in the Incarnation and the abominable death on the cross. Spiritual credibility and relevance are only viable when taking the courageous step of moving forward from “doing something for” to “being one with” the least, serving these in the spirit of Jesus Christ washing the feet of his disciples. [46] To embrace littleness is the finest form of being with the minores and the emarginated who today tend to aggregate themselves into the so called sub cultural groups or the minority groups who voice themselves for recognition in society and the predominant culture. Perhaps a first reaction to these groups is to envisage them as a threat to the establishment – and in a certain sense they are – but our spiritual baggage, rooted in the history of salvation, equips us to perceive the God of our contemplation at work in the pleas of these brothers and sisters. Let us not forget that Christianity itself was a Mediterranean minority group inheritor of the Greek and Latin culture, who wisely originated European Culture based upon human and spiritual values. What we are witnessing today in Europe is the result of this “european spirit” that brought about a cultural and political model based on reason and “subject to ethical norms rooted in religion, but not modelled according to a theocratic system”. [47] If we are wise enough, as spiritual wayfarers, we can sieze the opportunity to infuse Christian spiritual values that purify and ennoble the deep quests of contemporary Europe founded on “the recognition and protection of freedom of conscience, human rights, freedom of science therefore on a humanist liberal society. These achievements of the modern era should be protected and developed, without falling into the inconsistency of a reason that excludes transcendence and which neutralizes from within its own
freedom.” [48]

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5. By way of conclusion

Attentiveness, in an age still under the grips of disenchantment (Entzauberung/de-mysteri-zation) [49] – namely the cultural rationalization and devaluation of spiritual or mystical experience – will enable us to percieve movements towards re-enchantment which we may also call “deep attraction” to transcendance. We have to admit though that this is a somewhat reactionary movement, every so often fundamentalist in its approach, to what is perceived as the inheritance of both a godless world and of a patronizing religion. Existentially we are in fact facing the danger of a mutual fundamentalist rejection of both science and spirituality and moving through a period of cultural obscurity, darkness. During the night “life in sleep reveals aspects of ourselves that are unclear […] History has it’s own days and nights. In the nocturnal phase the mystical principle, the noumenal will, sensibility and femininity prevail.” [50] This is precisely why, I believe, the present moment constitutes a perfect time of grace for spirituality to be once again an originator of a new culture.

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  1. JOAN CHITTISTER, Spirituality and Contemporary Culture, WATAC Conference ‘Women
    Making the Vision Happen’ (July 2007), Sydney 2007, 1. pro manuscripto.
  2. PHILIP SHELDRAKE, ‘Spirituality and Culture’, in The New SCM Dictionary of Christian
    Spirituality, edited by Philip Sheldrake, SCM Press, London 2005, 26. Hereafter SCM
  3. Due to these radical changes, Pope Benedict XVI, on the 29 June 2010 announced the institution of a Dicastery for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation to respond to “the need to offer a specific response to a moment of crisis in Christian life which is occurring in many countries, especially those of ancient Christian tradition.” [Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization (30 May 2011), Clementine Hall, Vatican City. Recalling the cultural changes, as forseen by the Council Fathers in the Decree Ad Gentes, Pope Benedict is calling for a renewed manner of proclamation since “The groups among whom the Church operates are utterly changed so that an entirely new situation arises”: ID.
  4. Although this contribution will delve into the subject from a general viewpoint examples and insights will be mainly brought out from a Christian perspective.
  5. JOHN R. DONAHUE – DANIEL J. HARRINGTON, The Gospel of Mark (= Sacra Pagina Series 2), edited by Daniel J. Harrington, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville/MN 2002, 459.
  6. Most scholars, appeal to the evangelist’s “skill as a writer (though some have called him clumsy) and especially to his literary genius in leaving the story of Jesus opneended and demanding a decision from the reader”, to hold that “Mark deliberately broke off his narrative at 16:8 (“For they were afraid”)”: Ibid., 460.
  7. If Mark 16:8 was the original ending of the Gospel, we are emphatically left with women who failed to act upon this experience: “they said nothing to anyone”. The male disciples failed to see and understand God’s workings (see chap 14-15) whilst their female counterparts failed to carry out the mission entrusted to them by the “young man”. The promise that the Risen Christ is present in Galilee before the disciples arrive echoes restoration after failure, “turning darkness before them into light”: Ibid., 460 – 461.
  8. For a deeper study, see: GLEN ATTARD, La resurrezione di Gesù e la reazione delle donne secondo il primo epilogo del Vangelo di Marco, Rome 2011, 7-8. pro manuscripto.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. ANDY CROUCH, Culture making. Recovering our creative calling, IVP Books, Illinois 2008,
  13. SHELDRAKE, ‘Spirituality and History’, in SCM Dictionary, 38.
  14. This is especially seen in his gentle advocacy for liturgical renewal as the catalyst of renewal in the whole sphere of Christian life. See: JOSEPH RATZINGER (PAPA BENEDETTO XVI), Teologia della liturgia (=Opera omnia 11), edited by Edmondo Caruana – Pierluca Azzaro, translated by Ingrid Stampa, LEV, Città del Vaticano 2010.
  15. CHITTISTER, 1.
  16. MARCO TIBALDI, ‘L’infinito vivo di Pavel Florenskij. Una voce nel confronto tra voce e
    scienza’, in L’Osservatore Romano (11 febbraio 2010).
  17. NATALINO VALENTINI, ‘Introduzione: La simbolica della scienza in Pavel A. Florenskij’, in PAVEL ALEKSANDROVI FLORENSKIJ, Il simbolo e la forma. Scritti di filosofia della scienza, edited by Natalino Valentini – Alexander Gorelov, Bollato Boringhieri, Torino 2007.
  18. BEGOÑA ILARREGUI – JAIME NUBIOLA, ‘The Continuity of Continuity: A Theme in Leibniz, Peirce and Quine’, in Leibniz und Europa, VI. Internationaler Leibniz-Kongress (18-24 July 1994), Gottfried-Wilhelm-Leibniz-Gesellschaft, Hannover 1994, 361-371
  19. PAVEL ALEKSANDROVI FLORENSKIJ, Lo spazio e il tempo nell’arte, edited by Nicoletta
    Misler, Milano, Adelphi, 1995, 51.
  20. ANTONIO MACCIONI, ‘Pavel A. Florenskij. Organizzazione dello spazio, arte, cultura
    come unità’, in Between I/1 (Maggio/May 2011), 3.
  21. FLORENSKIJ, Lo spazio e il tempo, 51. In line with the thought of Bachtin, the subject of unity is the human person. «unità soltanto nella persona che le rende partecipi della
    propria unità»
  22. MACCIONI, 7.
  23. CHITTISTER, 1.
  24. See: CHITTISTER, 1.
  25. CROUCH, 29, 86.
  26. Other expressions from the history of spirituality and mysticism are: vigilance, vacare deo, attente de Dieu.
  27. MACCIONI, 2. His vision is based on the mathematical and theological principle of triunity (multiplicity in oneness). See: PAVEL ALEKSANDROVI FLORENSKIJ, The Pillar and Ground of the Truth. An essay in Orthodox Theodicy in Twelve Letters, translated by Boris Jakim with an introduction by Richard F. Gustafson, Princeton University Press, Oxford 1997, 39-52, 420-424.
  28. CROUCH, 84.
  29. D.J. FASCHING, Cultura, in Nuovo dizionario di spiritualità, edited by Michael Downey –
    Luigi Borriello, LEV, Vatican City 2003, 197-198.
  30. It is estimated that at least one in every five people define themselves in this way. Recent studies by a group of social scientists show that “The increasing prestige of the sciences, the insights of modern biblical scholarship, and greater awareness of cultural relativism all made it more difficult for educated American to sustain unqualified loyalty to religious institutions.” These studies show that “Religiousness, was associated with higher levels of interest in church attendance and commitment to orthodox beliefs. Spirituality, in contrast, was associated with higher levels of
    interest in mysticism, experimentation with unorthodox beliefs and practices, and negative feelings toward both clergy and churches.” See: ROBERT C. FULLER, Spiritual but not religious. Understanding unchurched America, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2001.
  31. Ibid., 196-197. In Buddhism Sangha is third of the Triratna (Triple Gem) which provides spiritual refuge and guidance to Buddhists, namely: Buddha (The enlightened one: Siddhartha Gautama or the Buddha nature innate in each person), Dharma (The teachings of Buddha) and Sangha (The community of enlightened Buddhas or the monastic Sangha).
  32. The four categories under which Jatis (guilds, castles, tribes or sects) gather are: the Brahmins (scholars, teachers, fire priests), Vaishyas (farmers, cattle raisers, traders, bankers), Kshatriyas (kings, warriors, law enforcers, administrators), Shudras (artisans, craftsmen, service providers).
  33. Ibid., 197.
  34. See: LEO J. PODLES, The Church Impotent. The Feminization of Christianity, Spence
    Publishing, Dallas 1999.
  35. Postmodernism is related to post-structuralism, deconstructionism and social constructivism.
  36. J.M. NUTH, ‘Storia, coscienza storica’, in Nuovo dizionario di spiritualità, 949.
  37. SHELDRAKE, 38
    spiritualità cristiana nell’età contemporanea, Roma 1985.
  39. KALLE LASN – BRUCE GRIERSON, ‘A Malignant Sadness’, in AdBusters 30 (June/July
  40. MARTIN PERCY, ‘Secularization’, in SCM Dictionary, 571.
  41. See: Pope Benedict XVI, Message for the 45th World Communications Day (5 June 2011) Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age (24 January 2011).
  42. Ibid.; ‘Dossier: Comunicare nel’era digitale’, in Vita pastorale 5 (2011), 64-88.
  43. PATRICK HENRY MASAO ABE – WAYNE TEASDALE, ‘Sunyata and Kenosis. The rise of Universal Compassion in the Spiritual Journey’, in Monastic Interreligious Dialogue Bullettin 48 (1993) (on-line): http://monasticdialog.com/a.php?id=704 [4 June 2011]. In Buddhist mystical experience one finds the notion of sunyata (emptiness/dynamic function of emptying) as the ultimate reality.
  44. “In 1967, Gutierrez coined the term, the “preferential option for the poor.” The concept appeared at the Latin American Bishops’ Conference at Medellin and found expression at Puebla. Aspects of Marxist terminology and methodology utilized by its postulators caused it to be viewed as reprobate by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and by Pope John Paul II. Eventually, the idea was later refined and incorporated into papal and episcopal documents. It now serves as a cornerstone of official Catholic Social Teaching, reflected in documents of the United
    States Conference of Catholic Bishops and in the later allocutions and writings of Pope John Paul II such as Centesimus Annus, Pastores Gregis, Tertio Millennio Adveniente and Ecclesia in America.” (Mellen Press Review). See Gerald Twomey, The “Preferential Option for the Poor” in Catholic Social Thought from John XXIII to John Paul II (= Roman Catholic Studies 22), Edwin Mellen Press, New York 2005.
  45. Deborah Sawyer discusses salvation history from the perspective of Divine omnipotence that protects a minority group of people from political superpowers. See: ID., God, Gender and the Bible (=Biblical Limits), Routledge, London 2002.
  46. The Archbishop of Dublin has recently called for acknowledgement of the reality of a cultural revolution and for change in the “pastoral structures and strategies [which] are no longer fit –for-purpose. They presume that the country is driven by a culture of mass-Catholicism while this can no longer be presumed”. Wisely he points that “Too often the renewal agenda of Irish Catholics is driven by an inward-looking agenda of reform of Church structures. Such an agenda will have very little appeal to those who have really lost contact with the Church and regard such reform as interesting but of little relevance to their lives, indeed it might lead them only to further alienation”. See: Martin Diarmuid, Address to Eucharistic Congress Delegates (2 June 2011), Hallows College, Dublin 2011.
  47. JOSEPH RATZINGER (Papa Benedetto XVI), ‘L’Europa un’eredità vincolante’, in Perchè
    siamo ancora nella Chiesa, edited by Massino Faggioli, translated by Valentina Rossi, Rizzoli, Milano 2008, 169.
  48. Ibid., 183. “Conscience has to be understood as the forum of personal responsibility before God, oneself and humanity.”
  49. Max Weber coined the term Entzauberung to describe the character of modernized, bureaucratic, secularised Western society where scientific [wissenschaft] understanding is more highly valued than belief and faith, and where processes are oriented towards rational goals. See: WILLIAM H. SWATOS, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Society,Hartford Institute for Religion, Altamira Press; MARCEL GAUCHET, The Disenchantment of the World. A Political History of Religion, translated by Oscar Burge with a foreward by Charles Taylor, Princeton Univeristy Press, Princeton/NJ 1997; STEVE D. SMITH, The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, Harvard University Press, Cambridge 2010; CHARLES TAYLOR, A Secular Age, Harvard University Press, Cambridge 2007.
  50. PAVEL ALEKSANDROVI FLORENSKIJ, La concezione cristiana del mondo, edited by Antonio Maccioni, Pendragon, Bologna 2011, 39.

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