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Genealogies of ‘spirituality’: an historical analysis of a travelling term


Peng-Keller, Simon (2019). Genealogies of ‘spirituality’: an historical analysis of a travelling term. Journal for the Study of Spirituality, 9(2):86-98.

Abstract

In the current discussion of spirituality in healthcare, the historical and cultural backgrounds of spiritual terminology and practices are often neglected. Avoiding the standard narratives, which tend to be based on a single concept of spirituality, the present paper provides an overview of the genealogies of the term ‘spirituality’, paying particular attention to the concept’s heterogeneity and history of bifurcation. The historical reconstruction outlines the complex travels of spirituality in delineating the etymological legacies of early and mediaeval Christianity, late-mediaeval and early modern mysticism, romanticism and, finally, of the amalgamations of all these things in the twentieth century. Tracing the development of the terminology in this way will elucidate the historical roots of the current ambiguities of spirituality. Over time, spirituality has crossed different cultural spaces and has been invested with new meanings. The final sections concern the presence of the various pasts of spirituality and the ongoing travelling of this term in the world of healthcare. It will be argued that ‘spirituality’ shares its ambiguous character with the concept of ‘health’. As health-related spirituality is inevitably imbued with value and connected with healthcare politics and law, the task of clarifying this ‘travelling concept’ will remain as important as it is interminable. Research in the field of health-related spirituality must free itself from the illusion of universally valid concepts with stable meanings. An improved understanding of the many pasts of spirituality can make a valuable contribution to the perception and understanding of the fluid, emergent and sometimes contradictory phenomena associated with the concept.

Abstract

In the current discussion of spirituality in healthcare, the historical and cultural backgrounds of spiritual terminology and practices are often neglected. Avoiding the standard narratives, which tend to be based on a single concept of spirituality, the present paper provides an overview of the genealogies of the term ‘spirituality’, paying particular attention to the concept’s heterogeneity and history of bifurcation. The historical reconstruction outlines the complex travels of spirituality in delineating the etymological legacies of early and mediaeval Christianity, late-mediaeval and early modern mysticism, romanticism and, finally, of the amalgamations of all these things in the twentieth century. Tracing the development of the terminology in this way will elucidate the historical roots of the current ambiguities of spirituality. Over time, spirituality has crossed different cultural spaces and has been invested with new meanings. The final sections concern the presence of the various pasts of spirituality and the ongoing travelling of this term in the world of healthcare. It will be argued that ‘spirituality’ shares its ambiguous character with the concept of ‘health’. As health-related spirituality is inevitably imbued with value and connected with healthcare politics and law, the task of clarifying this ‘travelling concept’ will remain as important as it is interminable. Research in the field of health-related spirituality must free itself from the illusion of universally valid concepts with stable meanings. An improved understanding of the many pasts of spirituality can make a valuable contribution to the perception and understanding of the fluid, emergent and sometimes contradictory phenomena associated with the concept.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:01 Faculty of Theology > Institute of Theology
Dewey Decimal Classification:230 Christianity & Christian theology
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Religious Studies
Language:English
Date:27 August 2019
Deposited On:14 Jan 2020 11:03
Last Modified:29 Jul 2020 12:39
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:2044-0243
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Official URL. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/20440243.2019.1658261
Official URL:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/20440243.2019.1658261?needAccess=true#aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cudGFuZGZvbmxpbmUuY29tL2RvaS9wZGYvMTAuMTA4MC8yMDQ0MDI0My4yMDE5LjE2NTgyNjE/bmVlZEFjY2Vzcz10cnVlQEBAMA==
Related URLs:https://www.recherche-portal.ch/permalink/f/5u2s2l/ebi01_prod009688159 (Library Catalogue)

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