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Casting Light on the Pitfalls of 21st-Century Spirituality

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As in all centuries, people in the 21st century look to the spiritual for meaning and virtue in daily life; they use spiritual practice to peer beyond the mortality of the body into the eternity of the soul. The big difference between the older forms of spirituality and 21st-Century Spirituality is the movement away from an external authority figure and a movement toward an empowerment of each seeker.

This article appeared in the Spring 2000 issue of Spirituality & Health. Insider's Guide to 21st-Century Spirituality For years I’ve tried to affix a single label to this large movement that we all, in one way or another, take part in, a label that includes new ways of worshiping within traditional organized religions, as well as the hybrid spiritual traditions and healing systems of our times. Wrestling with that question, I titled my recent book The New American Spirituality: A Seeker’s Guide, describing a spiritual movement deeply stamped by American thinking and values, especially democracy and diversity. The American spiritual story is the tale of a diverse people, gathered in close proximity, absorbing one another’s ways of worshiping, ritualizing, and mythologizing the great mysteries of life. It contains the nature-centered traditions of the original peoples of the Americas. It is part science, which has underscored, for most of the 20th century, our unspoken collective philosophy. It respects both a mistrust of heavy-handed authority, and the willing surrender to a greater power. It draw …

Elizabeth Lesser is cofounder of Omega Institute, this country’s largest holistic education and spiritual retreat center.


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