Studying Spirituality: Two Reactions

Reactions When I Mention Spirituality At Parties

So, I’m busy with a PhD focused on spirituality. Once I mention my topic in polite party conversations, I get reactions which fall somewhere between two extremes. The first extreme is fascination. What is spirituality? How does one study it? Can such an endeavour be useful? Can you tell me what my kind of spirituality is? Each of these questions is important. As my study winds down, I thought I’d try to explain the study of spirituality to the best of my ability and in the most everyday language possible.

Please Join the Conversation

I often ask people who have no stomach for hair-splitting to skip to the end of my articles. While theory is important, I like it a little too much. Knowing my penchant for hair-splitting two dangers lurk. With both, I need your help. First, I might get too highfalutin (I’m doing it already, aren’t I). Second, I will miss some questions and aspects of answers. Thus, dear reader, I ask, please comment on this and the upcoming posts so I can answer where I can and learn where I lack.

Even Skeptics Can Learn Something

I mentioned a second reaction to spirituality at the beginning. The response is often an eye-roll, a polite excuse, or a topic-change. Trust me, I get it. Some days I also wonder if it is not a useless category or at least one which deserves our scorn. For the sceptics out there, I hope this series of posts will help you understand why people still study spirituality. It might just be a silly category like ether was to the sciences or the social to the humanities. By following along, at the very least, one can understand why the first group finds the topic so attractive and why some experience spirituality as such a personal force.

I hope you’ll join me in questioning and debating spirituality.

Question: What do you think about spirituality? Can one study it and how?

Comments 2

Author Details

  1. Spirituality is an important aspect of being human. We should explore the dimensions and complexity of spirituality. That said, studies of spirituality should be much wider that contemporary esoteric musings and religion specific intricacies.

    • Calvyn du Toit

      I agree. At the same time, I wonder how much modernism and anthropocentrism has crept into spirituality. Especially in our time, I think we need a way to reinvigorate a more generalised spirituality. One which addresses more than just human transcendence, responsibility, or consciousness. Here, I’m not thinking about cheap New Agey spiritualities. Those are nothing but anachronistic nostalgias for an imagined lost time where everything was endowed with spirituality. I believe both anthropocentrism and nostalgia are untenable options.

Calvyn du Toit

Calvyn C. du Toit is a PhD-candidate in Christian Spirituality at the University of South Africa (UNISA), and a Research Associated in the Department of Christian Dogmatics and Ethics at the University of Pretoria. He lives in New York City, where he is h(o)us(e)band to Christine, and 6PM Music Director at the Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal).

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