The meaning of spirituality has developed and expanded over time, and various meanings can be found alongside each other.[note 1] Traditionally, spirituality referred to a religious process of re-formation which "aims to recover the original shape of man",[note 2] oriented at "the image of God" as exemplified by the founders and sacred texts of the religions of the world. The term was used within early Christianity to refer to a life oriented toward the Holy Spirit and broadened during the Late Middle Ages to include mental aspects of life.
The term "spirituality" is derived from Middle French spiritualité, from Late Latin "spiritualitatem" (nominative spiritualitas), which is also derived from Latin spiritualis.[web 3]
There is no single, widely agreed-upon definition of spirituality.[note 1] Surveys of the definition of the term, as used in scholarly research, show a broad range of definitions with limited overlap. A survey of reviews by McCarroll, each dealing with the topic of spirituality, gave twenty-seven explicit definitions among which "there was little agreement". This causes some difficulty in trying to study spirituality systematically; i.e., it impedes both understanding and the capacity to communicate findings in a meaningful fashion.
According to Kees Waaijman, the traditional meaning of spirituality is a process of re-formation that "aims to recover the original shape of man, the image of God. To accomplish this, the re-formation is oriented at a mold, which represents the original shape: in Judaism the Torah, in Christianity there is Christ, for Buddhism, Buddha, and in Islam, Muhammad."[note 2] Houtman and Aupers suggest that modern spirituality is a blend of humanistic psychology, mystical and esoteric traditions, and Eastern religions. 
Words translatable as "spirituality" first began to arise in the 5th century and only entered common use toward the end of the Middle Ages.[need quotation to verify] In a Biblical context the term means being animated by God. The New Testament offers the concept of being driven by the Holy Spirit, as opposed to living a life in which one rejects this influence.
In the 11th century, this meaning changed. "Spirituality" began to denote the mental aspect of life, as opposed to the material and sensual aspects of life, "the ecclesiastical sphere of light against the dark world of matter".[note 3] In the 13th century "spirituality" acquired a social and psychological meaning. Socially it denoted the territory of the clergy: "the ecclesiastical against the temporary possessions, the ecclesiastical against the secular authority, the clerical class against the secular class".[note 4] Psychologically, it denoted the realm of the inner life: "the purity of motives, affections, intentions, inner dispositions, the psychology of the spiritual life, the analysis of the feelings".[note 5]
In the 17th and 18th centuries a distinction was made[by whom?] between higher and lower forms of spirituality: "A spiritual man is one who is Christian 'more abundantly and deeper than others'."[note 6] The word was also associated with mysticism and quietism, and acquired a negative meaning.
Modern notions of spirituality developed throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, mixing Christian ideas with Western esoteric traditions and elements of Asian, especially Indian, religions. Spirituality became increasingly disconnected from traditional religious organizations and institutions. It is sometimes associated today with philosophical, social, or political movements such as liberalism, feminist theology, and green politics.
A major influence on modern spirituality was the Theosophical Society, which searched for 'secret teachings' in Asian religions. It has been influential on modernist streams in several Asian religions, notably Neo-Vedanta, the revival of Theravada Buddhism, and Buddhist modernism, which have taken over modern western notions of personal experience and universalism and integrated them in their religious concepts. A second, related influence was Anthroposophy, whose founder, Rudolf Steiner, was particularly interested in developing a genuine Western spirituality, and in the ways that such a spirituality could transform practical institutions such as education, agriculture, and medicine. More independently, the spiritual science of Martinus was an influence, especially in Scandinavia.
The influence of Asian traditions on western modern spirituality was also furthered by the perennial philosophy, whose main proponent Aldous Huxley was deeply influenced by Swami Vivekananda's Neo-Vedanta and universalism, and the spread of social welfare, education and mass travel after World War II.
An important influence on western spirituality was Neo-Vedanta, also called neo-Hinduism and Hindu Universalism, a modern interpretation of Hinduism which developed in response to western colonialism and orientalism. It aims to present Hinduism as a "homogenized ideal of Hinduism" with Advaita Vedanta as its central doctrine. Due to the colonisation of Asia by the western world, since the 19th century an exchange of ideas has been taking place between the western world and Asia, which also influenced western religiosity. Unitarianism, and the idea of Universalism, was brought to India by missionaries, and had a major influence on neo-Hinduism via Ram Mohan Roy's Brahmo Samaj and Brahmoism. Roy attempted to modernise and reform Hinduism, from the idea of Universalism. This universalism was further popularised, and brought back to the west as neo-Vedanta, by Swami Vivekananda.
After the Second World War, spirituality and theistic religion became increasingly disconnected, and spirituality became more oriented on subjective experience, instead of "attempts to place the self within a broader ontological context". A new discourse developed, in which (humanistic) psychology, mystical and esoteric traditions and eastern religions are being blended, to reach the true self by self-disclosure, free expression, and meditation.
The distinction between the spiritual and the religious became more common in the popular mind during the late 20th century with the rise of secularism and the advent of the New Age movement. Authors such as Chris Griscom and Shirley MacLaine explored it in numerous ways in their books. Paul Heelas noted the development within New Age circles of what he called "seminar spirituality": structured offerings complementing consumer choice with spiritual options.
Among other factors, declining membership of organized religions and the growth of secularism in the western world have given rise to this broader view of spirituality. The term "spiritual" is now frequently used in contexts in which the term "religious" was formerly employed. Both theists and atheists have criticized this development.
Kabbalah (literally "receiving") is an esoteric method, discipline and school of thought of Judaism. Kabbalah is a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between an unchanging, eternal and mysterious Ein Sof (no end) and the mortal and finite universe (his creation). Interpretations of Kabbalistic spirituality are found within Hasidic Judaism, a branch of Orthodox Judaism founded in 18th-century Eastern Europe by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov. Hasidism often emphasizes the Immanent Divine presence and focuses on emotion, fervour, and the figure of the Tzadik. This movement included an elite ideal of nullification to paradoxical Divine Panentheism.
Progressive Christianity is a contemporary movement which seeks to remove the supernatural claims of the faith and replace them with a post-critical understanding of biblical spirituality based on historical and scientific research. It focuses on the lived experience of spirituality over historical dogmatic claims, and accepts that the faith is both true and a human construction, and that spiritual experiences are psychologically and neurally real and useful.
There is a rigorous debate in Indian literature on relative merits of these theoretical spiritual practices. For example, Chandogyopanishad suggests that those who engage in ritualistic offerings to gods and priests will fail in their spiritual practice, while those who engage in tapas will succeed; Svetasvataropanishad suggests that a successful spiritual practice requires a longing for truth, but warns of becoming 'false ascetic' who go through the mechanics of spiritual practice without meditating on the nature of Self and universal Truths. In the practice of Hinduism, suggest modern era scholars such as Vivekananda, the choice between the paths is up to the individual and a person's proclivities. Other scholars suggest that these Hindu spiritual practices are not mutually exclusive, but overlapping. These four paths of spirituality are also known in Hinduism outside India, such as in Balinese Hinduism, where it is called Chatur Marga (literally: four paths).
In some African contexts,[which?] spirituality is considered a belief system that guides the welfare of society and the people therein, and eradicates sources of unhappiness occasioned by evil.In traditional society prior to colonization and extensive introduction to Christianity or Islam, religion was the strongest element in society influencing the thinking and actions of the people. Hence spirituality was a sub-domain of religion. Despite the rapid social, economic and political changes of the last century, traditional religion remains the essential background for many African people. And that religion is a communal given, not an individual choice. Religion gives all of life its meaning and provides ground for action. Each person is "a living creed of his religion". There is no concern for spiritual matters apart from ones physical and communal life. Life continues after death but remains focused on pragmatic family and community matters. 041b061a72