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The choice between spirituality and fundamentalism is a choice between conscious intimacy and unconscious possession. Spirituality is capable of remaining with ultimate questions, but fundamentalism wants answers: hard, fast, and furious answers. Fundamentalism can arise in any spiritual tradition, whether Christian, Islamic, Hindu, or even in modern ideologies such as Freudian or Jungian psychology Tacey If we were less certain of our beliefs, and more receptive to mystery and wonder, we would paradoxically be closer to God, more intimate with the spirit, and more tolerant of our fellow human beings and their differing conceptions of the sacred.

The confusion of spirituality and religious fundamentalism causes many rational and reasonable people to reject both, in the belief that humanity is better off without the sacred, since it seems to be at the heart of contemporary and historical conflicts. But the ideals of secularism, however well intended, are inadequate for life, since our lives are not rational and we are hugely implicated in the reality of the sacred, whether or not this is acknowledged.

Spirituality is the cultivation of a personal relationship with the sacred. It is the intuition that there is a deeper level of reality, a level we are not always conscious of but which we can apprehend in moments of insight or vision. Spirituality is the gradual awakening of this depth dimension, and a longing to know it more fully and intimately. In , such a recognition came as a great shock to the Christian church, which believed it possessed the greatest truth of all, but today Christianity is more humble about its status, and is being forced to recognise the universality of the living spirit.

Thus Theosophy was a prophetic movement that was far ahead of its time. Spirituality develops an interior life and taps the deepest sources of desire, revealing our mystical longing for unity with creation. Although spiritual depth is not discernible to the ordinary eye, it is discernible to insight, and we are guided by intuition through the hidden universe of the spirit.

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The awakening of spirituality often goes together with an activation of the journey motif: a desire to go beyond the known, to travel into unfamiliar territory, to befriend things that were formerly unknown. We experience this journey as a movement toward integrity, away from anxiety and toward an experience of wholeness. This personal wholeness remains potential and is never fully realised, but it is tasted and glimpsed, and we are never the same again. Recently I was asked by a Sydney newspaper journalist if Australia was a spiritual country, or if it was primarily unspiritual.

This question begs a lot of further questions, not least of which is how we define spirituality, and how we go about looking for it. But our worldliness and secularism could be a kind of official mask or disguise, hiding a great deal of spiritual longing and activity that takes place, as it were, below or beneath the secular persona. We may not be traditional in our spiritual tastes, but this should not lead us to conclude that we have become identified with worldliness, or that Australians have somehow turned away from spirit.

From where I stand, it looks like Australia is going through a spirituality revolution, and there has never been more longing for the spirit and therefore more hope for the future.

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For instance, I am personally aware of interest in spirituality in dozens of areas of human concern and professional enquiry. Over recent years, I have been invited to give talks on spirituality to conferences based on these areas: healthcare and nursing, adolescent health, social work, psychiatry and medicine, psychoanalysis, psychology and psychotherapy, outdoor and physical education, religious education, architecture and landscape design, business management and leadership, anthropology and sociology, environmental activism and ecological concern, and Aboriginal reconciliation and the political process.

It seems to me that we are in the midst of a spirituality revolution, as virtually every traditional discipline or area of knowledge struggles to come to terms with the postmodern interest in spiritual matters. One of the major cultural shifts in recent times is the relocation of spiritual activity from the religious to the secular domain.

This shift is a universal social phenomenon, and is not, of course, limited to Australia.

To the surprise of many, the term spirituality has become democratized. Ideals that for centuries an elite viewed as virtually unattainable now prompt spiritual growth in everyone. Johnston In the United Kingdom, the situation is even more dramatically evident, because the UK, unlike the US, had become almost thoroughly secular during the modern period.

Spiritual Revolution: The Challenge for the 21st Century

It was a spiritual revolution which historians call the Great Awakening. It was marked by waves of religious enthusiasm as preachers like George Whitefield traveled the seacoast from Maine to Georgia, preaching that sinners should repent. American history's most famous sermon—"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"—was preached in by Jonathon Edwards at the height of the great revival.

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter. History records that sinners repented by the hundreds. Taverns closed as whole towns repented. Often people were so moved by conviction they trembled and shrieked and fell to the ground moaning and begging God to forgive their sins.

Edwards writes about a young woman in his congregation who was so convicted of sin she declared that "it was pleasant to think of lying in the dust all the days of her life, mourning for sin. The preaching about turning from sin and the importance of salvation over the rituals of the state church in places like Massachusetts, was important in the light of history.

The result of the revival, which continued strong for 15 years and the effect of which continued for many more years, was to establish early in American life the importance of a man serving God as his conscience, not the state, dictated. Thousands of newly converted people were forced by their churches to leave because their new convictions about the importance of salvation often threatened the existing ecclesiastical power structure.

This fostered the growth of new churches like the Methodists and toppled any hope of one denomination becoming dominant and becoming the American state church. Some historians consider the Great Awakening a major turning point in American history, yet it is frequently overlooked. While the national remembers its th anniversary this year and next, the Christian community can be inspired by remembering one of the greatest revivals on this continent.


The Great Awakening, besides being a major spiritual renewal, did much to foster a feeling of independence in the colonies and helped wipe out the class structure brought to the New World from Europe. It also fostered education and several major universities like Dartmouth, Princeton and Brown, had their genesis in the revival. In addition, it stimulated missionary work among the Indians and slaves. Historian Monroe Stearns wrote: "The Great Awakening's essential purpose was to fulfill the royal law of love—to cause men to serve not themselves but one another and to join in an effort to improve society.

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The vision it revealed of the social good led to a challenge of the rulers of colonial society in America and into the discussion and activity that produced the movement for independence. The Great Awakening has been, however, relegated to relatively minor role by most historians who view it as only emotional hysteria that they say has characterized revivals throughout our history.

The truth is, however, that despite emotionalism that characterized some of the Great Awakening from to , it was the first great move of God on this continent and was the first of many revivals that have come to America since then. To understand the importance of the revival and its impact on America, it's important to understand the religious and social structure of the day. Many of the early immigrants to America came because of religious oppression in Europe. The French Huguenots were the first Protestants to flee to America.

In , more than half a century before the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock, a small group of Huguenots arrived in Florida in present day Jacksonville, hoping to escape the massacres of Charles IX of France. But within months, their settlement was destroyed by an agent of Philip II of Spain. Not one Huguenot survived. In , the English Separatists among them soon headed for Rhode Island with Roger Williams looking for religious freedom the Puritans did not give them. The Pilgrims were followed in by the early Quakers who, being unwelcomed in New England, settled in New Jersey, then in in Pennsylvania. By the early 's, group after group of other Protestants seeking freedom from European intolerance began to arrive. Of course, not every new settler in the new world came for religious liberty. Many came for economic and political opportunities not available to them in Europe.

But many of the immigrants did come to worship God as they saw fit. This desire for religious liberty and their deep faith in God was all that strengthened many of these early colonists to brave the perils of the American wilderness. But after a few decades the original closeness to God that drove the early settlers to seek religious freedom was replaced by the coldness and rituals of the churches the settlers established. Frelinghuysen was a member of the Pietists who believed the power of the Holy Spirit could only be felt because it worked on the heart, not the brain.

They put no emphasis on complicated church doctrines, but on having a "change of heart," and becoming one with God. Frelinghuysen preached that in order to be a member of the church and take communion, one must be born again. He caused quite a stir among the young and the poor who readily responded to his message. The established, more prosperous members at first resisted, then began to become converted.

Within five years his congregations had so increased and so many people had become converted, other ministers began inviting Frelinghuysen to preach at their churches, hoping for similar results. Frelinghuysen greatly inspired a Presbyterian minister, Gilbert Tennent, and worked with him, breaking down denominational walls.

When he became minister in of the church of Northhampton, Mass.


In addition, the churches of that area were controlled by the wealthy merchant class—the same people who controlled the government and who oppressed the people. The Puritan Church had for many years preached salvation, but as the merchants began to seize control, more liberal ministers began to say salvation was not necessary for church membership.

Edwards resisted this trend, and preached faith in Christ was necessary for salvation. He began to see results. In , after five years at the church, he reported "a concern about the great things of religion began Scarcely a person has been exempt, and the Spirit of God went on his saving influences Word of the revival spread up and down the Connecticut River valley and by May, , 25 towns had experienced similar awakenings.

The revival subsided until when a year-old minister from England named George Whitefield began to preach in the New York area.

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