Being Awake

11 Nov 2018 Comments 0 Last Updated on 11 Nov 2018

Spiritual freedom and self-expression are vital parts of the process of responding to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century, both for the individual and for our various cultures. Contemporary spirituality with its move away from the traditional paternalistic approach can be seen as a positive approach leading to a more global, secular and accepting form of spirituality.

This does not imply a rejection of the rich history of traditional religion but a movement towards developing an authentic self-expression.

“Religion is one of the most important forces in the world. Whether you are a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew, or a Hindu, religion is a great force, and it can help one have command of one’s own morality, one’s own behaviour, and one’s own attitude.” Nelson Mandela.

Secularisation includes a move towards sacralisation through which we rediscover an awareness of, and connection with, the Divine in our everyday life. As O’Donahue suggests, we need to listen to our inner knowing:

“Behind your image, below your words, above your thoughts, the silence of another world awaits.” (O’Donahue 1997)

We express this connection, or inner knowing, each according to our culture. Hartelius has some valid observations regarding how culture affects our transformation (Hartelius, 2016).

Environmental destruction, climate change, violence in schools and terrorism, amongst other challenges, are forcing us to re-evaluate our spiritual beliefs and values. The freedom to seek, spiritually, allows us to become authentic in the way we live and connect to others.

Given our current global crisis, embodied spirituality cannot be divorced from a commitment to social, political, and ecological transformation—whatever form this may take (Ferrer 2008). Self-realisation, if it avoids the trap of self-absorption can lead to self-expression that works for the greater good. With self-realisation comes responsibilty for the self and one’s actions. Inclusivity and Corporate Social Investment are examples of how self-realisation can lead to social transformation and a more holistic and meaningful way of being. Murphy refers to contemporary changes in spirituality as the development of evolutionary pantheism and suggests that this is a vision that will eventually capture the world’s imagination (Murphy 2012). Houtman and Aupers suggest in their Hypothesis 2 that less spiritually inclined older generations are being replaced with more spiritually inclined younger ones (Houtman & Aupers 2007). This is exemplified in the Generation Y or Millennial kids, whose ways of behaving are quite different to those of previous generations . They do not conform for the sake of conformity, yet are optimisitic about the future, are socially conscious, and believe in justice and corporate responsibility( Morrison-Williams 2018).

As a final thought, the Ubuntu of African Traditional Religion means "I am because we are". We are interdependent and each of us must “assesses spiritual paths according to the degree to which they foster both an overcoming of self-centeredness and a fully embodied integration that make us not only more sensitive to the needs of others, nature, and the world”(Ferrer 2011).


Ferrer, J.N. What does it mean to live a fully embodied spiritual life? International Journal of Transpersonal Studies. 27.2008, pp1-11.

Ferrer, N.J. Participatory Spirituality and Transpersonal Theory – a ten-year retrospective . The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. 2011, Vol. 43, No. 1.

Hartelius, G. (2016). Participatory transpersonalism: Transformative relational process, not the structure of reality. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 35 (1).

Houtman, D. & Aupers, S. (2007). The Spiritual Turn and the Decline of Tradition: The Spread of Post-Christian Spirituality in 14 Western Countries, 1981-2000. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 46: 305-320

Mandela, N. (2013). The Legacy of Mandela. Retrieved 22/04.18 from:

Murphy, M. (2012). The Emergence of Evolutionary Pantheism. Retrieved 14/10/15 from:

Morrison-Williams, S. (2018): Millennials – changing the face of higher education. Retrieved 21/04/18 from:

O’Donahue, J. (1997) AnamCara. London: Bantam Books.

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