Contemporary alternative spirituality, as studied by sociologists, is usually seen as a recent phenomenon dating from the 1960s and 1970s. However, when viewed from a longer-term perspective this form of religious expression is actually seen to reintroduce concepts that recur throughout Western cultural history. This book argues, therefore, that spirituality in the 21st Century actually shares many of the same characteristics as Classical, Mediaeval, Renaissance and Modern spiritualities. It is neither entirely new, nor is it clearly alternative to more established religions.
The book is divided into two parts. The first sets out the context in which contemporary alternative spirituality has formed, charting its development as an academic term and a social phenomenon. The second part looks at how these two elements have developed in countries that are historically Catholic, focussing on specific examples in contemporary Italy: spiritualities based on the sacralisation of nature; those concerned with health and wellbeing; and those which are fascinated by mystery.Catholic majority countries are particularly interesting in this instance, as the Catholic Church has a unique cultural hegemony with which to compare alternative spiritual practices. It concludes that spirituality, if framed in a longer historical perspective, is a way of acting and seeing the world which was built, and continues to be built upon complex relations with various contradictory sources of authority, such as religion, magic thinking, secularism, rationalism, various spheres of lay culture.
This is a bold take on the spirituality milieu and as such will be of great interest to scholars of Religious Studies working on the sociology of religion, contemporary spirituality and the rise of the "spiritual but not religious".
Stefania Palmisano is Associate Professor in the Sociology of Organization and of the Sociology of Religious Organizations at the Università degli Studi di Torino, Italy.
Nicola Pannofino is Lecturer in Sociology of Knowledge and Sociology of Language at the Università degli Studi di Torino, Italy.
1 Frenemies, Spirituality and Religion Enchanted World of Nature
2 Contemporary Spiritualities: A Genealogy
PART II Italy. Spirituality in the field
3 Contemporary Spirituality in Italy
4 Enchanted World of Nature
5 Enchanted World of Wellbeing
6 Enchanted World of Mystery
7 Key Insights and Future Challenges
Contemporary Spiritualities is a needed exploration of how today's seekers are doing something both old and new, something different from religion, but drawing on it. Whether focused on nature, wellbeing, or mystery, the religious culture they have inherited provides the backdrop for new experiments. With fascinating examples from their deep knowledge of Italy, these authors open new ways to understand today's spiritual moment.
Nancy T. Ammerman,Professor Emerita, Boston University and author of Sacred Stories, Spiritual Tribes: Finding Religion in Everyday Life.