Spirituality as an expression and extension of the human capacity for wonder is a healthy and thought provoking activity. Beyond belief and prior to religious dogma is a reverence for being alive in a cosmic event. And any approach to social development and sustainability must recognize the deep human needs, values and resiliencies at the heart of the spiritual life. We are in many ways spiritual animals.
The Rising Culture and Worldview of Contemporary Spirituality: A Sociological Study of Potentials and Pitfalls for Sustainable Development
by Annick Hedlund-de Witt
Several social scientists claim that the rise of the culture of contemporary spirituality is a pivotal part of the gradual but profound change taking place in the Western worldview, both reflecting the larger cultural development, as well as giving shape and direction to it. Its emergence is therefore not to be neglected in attempts to create a more sustainable society. The aim of this study is to generate insight into the culture and worldview of contemporary spirituality and explore its potentials and pitfalls for sustainable development. An investigation of the sociological literature on the so-called “New Age” phenomenon results in a delineation and overview of these and shows that this culture is both a potentially promising force, as well as a phenomenon posing specific risks. A structural–developmental understanding is introduced in order to be able to distinguish between regressive and progressive tendencies in this culture, and comprehend the deeper logic behind the observed potentials and pitfalls. This may serve to facilitate the actualization of the culture's potentials while mitigating its pitfalls, and in that way contribute to the timely challenge of creating a more sustainable society.
Annick Hedlund-de Witt is presently a PhD researcher at the Institute for Environmental Studies at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. In her work she explores the relationship between ‘worldviews’ (or: ‘philosophies of life’) and the ways these relate to goals and issues of sustainable development, including social-cultural change, individual environmental behaviour and policy attempts to influence these.