Spiritual Path: What No One Is Talking About

Spiritual Path: What No One Is Talking About

Spiritual intelligence calls for multiple ways of knowing and for the integration of the inner life of mind and spirit with the outer life of work in the world (Vaughan, 2002). It can be cultivated through questing, inquiry, and practice. Spiritual experiences may also contribute to its development, depending on the context and means of integration. Spiritual maturity is expressed through wisdom and compassionate action in the world. Spiritual intelligence is necessary for discernment in making spiritual choices that contribute to psychological well-being and overall healthy human development.

Appreciation is keenly connected to spirituality through a process of reciprocal causality (Fagley, 2012), and both appear to be key factors in psychological and physical well-being and successful performance in the workplace, with each making a distinct contribution. Appreciation fosters well-being and success directly, as well as indirectly, through forging and maintaining social bonds, promoting better sleep, encouraging helping and building trust. 

Appreciation is viewed as having eight aspects: a focus on what one has (“Have” focus), awe, ritual, present moment, self/social comparison, gratitude, loss/adversity and interpersonal appreciation. Although interventions to increase several aspects of appreciation have been successful, they have not been intended for, or implemented formally in the workplace. This blog briefly reviews research on appreciation, suggests possible applications to the workplace, argues that appreciation is an important factor in workplace well-being and success, and urges researchers to pursue this line of investigation. 

We also argue that although spirituality and appreciation have many points of commonality and are likely involved in a process of reciprocal causality, it is most productive for research endeavors at this point to view them as distinct constructs  (Fagley, 2012). Research is needed to determine the most effective ways to express appreciation in the workplace and the most effective organizational and individual workplace interventions to foster appreciation and manifest spirituality. 

Appreciation may help employees feel valued, unleashing their intrinsic motivation and desire to excel and to help others, including customers, supervisors or peers  (Fagley, 2012). This would be good for them and for their employer. At the systems level, what organizational structures, procedures and practices promote spirituality and appreciation, which then foster important organizational outcomes? And finally, research is needed to assess the joint and unique effects of appreciation and spirituality on business outcomes, at the individual employee level and at the levels of the work team, unit and overall company.

Family therapy has roots in social work, anthropology, and psychoanalytic psychotherapy (Allen, 2016). Psychoanalytically based family therapy acquired a new richness through the influence of object relations theory and the willingness of some in the analytic community to acknowledge the value of a systems approach, particularly strategic and structural formulations. Every family has a natural developmental life cycle with identifiable and predictable phases and crisis points. Events and dynamics of preceding generations powerfully influence how a family handles the critical transition points in its development. 

Every family member has a largely unconscious, subjective life of attachments, thoughts, emotions, and representations of self and others that are experienced internally (Allen, 2016). Psychologist Ellen Wachtel suggests that in an integrated approach to family therapy, a psychodynamic formulation, rather than serving to pathologize a child or family, enhances the ability to make good sound behavior and systems interventions. As in all therapy, the relationships are altered from the very moment the therapist joins the system.

A major conceptual dynamic in all major religious traditions is the need for purification and transformation of the individual in order to effect integration and maturation of the personality in the divine (Kourie, 2016). Although the means by which this purification takes place differs according to the cultural and religious configurations of any given tradition, nevertheless a recurring image is that of an inner and outer odyssey. A major example is the threefold path of John of the Cross, which presents a psycho-spiritual journey by which 'divine osmosis' can be realized, passing through the 'dark night of the soul', and culminating in 'spiritual marriage'. 

This blog looks at the correlation between creativity and the spiritual path by comparing contemplative practices to creative ones (Wherritt, 2022). By looking at sitting meditation as it’s practiced in the Buddhist lineage and paralleling it with creative writing practices, we can see how each cultivates a similar mental space. Each practice uses certain parts of the brain resulting in corresponding experiences happening at varying stages. I discuss the lead into meditative states by incorporating both ancient and modern perspectives. The discussion around meditative and creative states is further contextualized with an analysis of flow states, and cultural impacts. Both practices transmute experience into something else. In creativity this takes the full scope of human emotion and experience and turns it into art. In meditation this is done through assessing and releasing karmic accretions. By contextualizing both practices we argue, creativity is a spiritual process and spirituality in turn requires a certain level of creativity.

As the poet T.S. Eliot said (Upton, 2008), 'Where is the wisdom lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge lost in information?' Our postmodern 'information culture' forces us to be over-cerebral, but it doesn't teach us to think; consequently it becomes nearly impossible for us to imagine a knowledge that is beyond information, much less a Wisdom that is beyond knowledge. We all know what it is to uselessly 'spin our wheels' in barren thought and fantasy; certain valid contemplative disciplines even have as their main goal the pacification of the 'monkey mind', the overheated brain that prevents us from genuinely living our lives, from being fully present to the world, to each other, and to ourselves. But such pacification can also have a nihilistic side to it. It can subtly fool us into believing that the pursuit of meaning, the attainment of intellectual stability and certainty, is neither possible or desirable - a belief that is of great use to the political and economic Powers That Be in the emerging global society, who are always delighted to hear people express the opinion that there is no such thing as objective Truth, that we can't really know what is real, or if anything is real, beyond our own subjective experience. 

To the degree that the people start to believe that nothing can be known (our hidden masters reason), they will stop asking embarrassing and inconvenient questions (Upton, 2008). The notion of objective truth - not to mention Absolute truth - immediately suggests oppression, tyranny and fanaticism to the postmodern mind. Why? Because we have been systematically taught to see things this way by those Social Engineers who construct and impose the terms by which Reality is to be viewed. In order to break free from this socially-imposed subjectivism, we need to remember that Reality is not something determined by belief, but rather that belief is only true when it conforms itself to Reality. 

If we see nothing beyond this material/social world, we will be forced to take our own subjectivity as the only way to awaken from the social trance, and so fall even more deeply into that very trance, which is precisely a collective subjectivity (Upton, 2008). But if we know Objective Truth as metaphysical, beyond material nature and human society, then we have begun to catch a glimpse of the One Way Out. The traditional notion of Knowledge maintains that, 1) Truth can be known with certainty, and, 2) that the reason for knowing Truth is to transform our lives from a state of chaotic uncertainty, vulnerable to all the suffering that illusion and impermanence can produce, into one of eternal certainty and stability, where the knower becomes one with the Thing known - a state that goes by the name of bliss. 

To begin the path toward this bliss, however, we will need to know how to know; and this requires, as the necessary first step, that we know how to take knowledge seriously (Upton, 2008). As metaphysician Frithjof Schuon put it: 'Knowledge only saves us on condition that it enlists all that we are, only when it is a way and when it works and transforms and wounds our nature, even as the plow wounds the soil'. The shifting illusions of individual and collective subjectivity cannot protect us, and will always betray us. But if we are firmly rooted in that Truth which, in the words of Lew Welch, 'goes on whether we look at it or not', then we have a Protector - one Who is always there, upon Whom we can always rely, and to Whom we can always turn, when we can no longer remedy or deny or escape from the suffering and insecurity of conditional life. So let's begin.


Fagley, Nancy S., and Mitchel G. Adler. "Appreciation: A spiritual path to finding value and meaning in the workplace." Journal of management, spirituality & religion 9, no. 2 (2012): 167-187.

Allen, Pat. "Art making as spiritual path: The open studio process as a way to practice art therapy." In Approaches to art therapy, pp. 271-285. Routledge, 2016.

Kourie, Celia. "The Way of the Mystic: The Sanjuanist stages of the spiritual path." HTS: Theological Studies 72, no. 4 (2016): 1-11.

Vaughan, Frances. "What is spiritual intelligence?." Journal of humanistic psychology 42, no. 2 (2002): 16-33.

Wherritt, Laine. "Creativity and the Spiritual Path." (2022).

Upton, Charles. "Knowings: In the Arts of Metaphysics, Cosmology, and the Spiritual Path." (2008).

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