Spiritual naturalism and naturalistic spirituality are interchangeable terms for the same philosophical perspective, with the latter term more commonly used. Book searches for the two find no usage for Naturalistic Spirituality before 1956 whereas Spiritual Naturalism may have first been proposed by Joris-Karl Huysmans in 1895 in his book En Route - “Huysmans was the first to defect to 'Spiritual Naturalism' and eventually to a form of mysticism; he was followed by Maupassant:”  and “In 'En Route' Huysmans started upon the creation of what he called ‘Spiritual Naturalism,’ that is, realism applied to the story of a soul. ...”.
Coming into prominence as a writer during the 1870s, Huysmans quickly established himself among a rising group of writers, the so-called Naturalist school, of whom Émile Zola was the acknowledged head…With Là-bas (1891), a novel which reflected the aesthetics of the spiritualist revival and the contemporary interest in the occult, Huysmans formulated for the first time an aesthetic theory which sought to synthesize the mundane and the transcendent: "spiritual Naturalism". This new approach carried him through the remaining volumes of his "spiritual autobiography"
Spiritual Naturalism is a term that can be applied to a variety of philosophical/religious worldviews that are naturalistic in their basic viewpoint but have a spiritual/religious perspective also. Chief among modern forms of Spiritual Naturalism are religious naturalism, religious humanism, dualist pantheism, and humanistic religious naturalism. The term may also apply to the beliefs of some pagans, many Taoists, a number of Hindus, and a variety of non-affiliated independent thinkers who base their spiritual experience directly on Nature itself rather than traditional deities and the supernatural (ie. Epicureans). Some liberal Jewish congregations, nontheist Friends, and Unitarians have similar orientations in their adoption of Religious Naturalism beliefs.
Although the overall movement toward these attitudes remains relatively small and loosely organized, various forms of Spiritual Naturalism have existed since time immemorial, with the pantheistic philosophies of Taoism and similar Eastern nature-mysticisms being perhaps the most notable example. At present, there is a growing interest in adopting a Spiritual Naturalism rational alternative for the modern world because many are losing their belief in more traditional spiritual avenues. This is demonstrated in the recent rapid growth of Religious Naturalism, pantheism (particularly of an avowedly naturalistic variety) and some liberal Christian perspectives. Theologians such as John Shelby Spong and Paul Tillich have embraced thinking that is non-secular naturalist.
Crucial challenges for the spiritual naturalism movement in its various forms currently involve developing and promulgating a conciliate understanding of the somewhat ambiguous terms spirituality and naturalism. The difference in interpreting the difference between religious and spiritual, humanist and naturalist and free will and determinism also needs a consensus. In addition the individualistic nature and thinking of many of the adherents preclude organizing cohesive communities. However a proliferation of recent authors (Ursula Goodenough, Chet Raymo, Karl E. Peters, Loyal Rue and Stuart Kauffman) are highlighting the paradigm via their naturalistic writings.
The most recent work on Religious Naturalism is Donald Crosby’s Living with Ambiguity published in 2008. His first chapter is titled Religion as a Form of Religious Naturalism. Also in December 2008, an in depth look at the history of this worldview was published by Jerome A. Stone. In addition a few modern theologians with liberal orientations have rejected some of the historical claims of some biblical doctrines and supernaturalism and moved to progressive forms of Christianity and Judaism akin to theistic naturalism. Examples are:Mordecai Kaplan, John Shelby Spong, Paul Tillich, John A. T. Robinson, William Murry and Gordon Kaufman. Some of those into process theology may also be included in this movement.
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Spiritual Naturalism has advocates that cover the religious spectrum from neo-theism (neo-Christianity, process theology) to atheism. The majority probably are agnostic or atheistic while many prefer not to be categorized. There is a vast difference in opinions on how to address the question of a deity of some kind, if at all. There are those who see God as the creative process within the universe, those who define God as the totality of the universe (The All), some who use God in metaphoric ways, those that have no need to use the concept or terminology of God even as a metaphor and some who are atheistic proclaiming there is no such entity what so ever and rebel against usage of the term.
Spiritual Naturalism is chiefly concerned with finding ways to access traditional spiritual feelings without the inclusion of supernatural elements incompatible with science and a broad naturalism. Adherents believe that Nature, in all its diversity and wonder, is sufficient unto itself in terms of eliciting the intellectual and emotional responses associated with spiritual experience, and that there is no need for faith in the traditional anthropomorphic concept of 'god' and similar ideas.
Adherents of Spiritual Naturalism are generally scientifically-oriented in most aspects, with their primary difference from other naturalists being their belief that the abandonment of superstition does not necessarily entail the abandonment of spirituality. To adherents, the intellectual and emotional experience of something greater than oneself is seen as a phenomenon of enduring value, a positive facet of the human condition to be preserved even while they purge themselves of so much that has traditionally accompanied it. Furthermore, some adherents of spiritual naturalism view their philosophy specifically as a form of mysticism.
There is some debate as to the similarity of, and differentiation between, the view of spiritual naturalism and the related view of religious naturalism. They are both clearly form of pantheism but it is unclear which category they fit best. The term "spiritual" seems to imply that spiritual naturalism is Monist idealist Pantheism. This debate is generally viewed as purely academic or meaningless semantics.
New Religions, A Guide states that:
after the Second World War, the religious landscape in the West dramatically changed” and cites the reasons for this, two being religious pluralism and better communication of all kinds. Also “Religion is increasingly a private rather than a public matter… as religion is simply a matter of personal preference, and since there is little evidence to establish the validity of one choice over another, or indeed to establish the validity of any choices, there are few reasons to limit choice….consequently, spirituality is being explored in some unexpected areas of Western life… it is not a return to previous ways of being religious, but rather the emergence of new ways of being religious.
The Guide continues “the term ‘spirituality’ tends to be associated more with non-institutional forms of practice and a radical rethinking of tradition, space, community and the body. In this sense, postmodern spirituality reflects the collapse of religious authority and institutional practice…. Post modern spiritualities question the division between the transcendental and the immanent… the transcendent is seen either as present or a false division, making creation divine.” Thus Spiritual Naturalism (Naturalistic Spirituality) along with its related naturalisms, can be seen as a rebellion against traditional religious thinking and a naturalizing of the concepts of God.
- Religious naturalism
- Religious humanism
- Secular spirituality
- Naturalistic Pantheism
- List of new religious movements
- Nature worship
- Cosmic consciousness
- The Catholic Periodical and Literature Index - Catholic Library Association, 1956, page 357.
- Lilian R. Furst, Peter N. Skrine - Literary Criticism, 1978, page 31.
- The Yale Review - Yale University, Blackwell, 1915, page 288.
- uuworld (org).
- uurn (org).
- Imagining a Progressive Revolution.
- Donald Crosby - Living with Ambiguity: Religious Naturalism and the Menace of Evil, State University of New York Press, 2008, ISBN 0-7914-7519-0.
- Jerome A. Stone - Religious Naturalism Today: The Rebirth of a Forgotten Alternative, State University of New York Press, 2008), ISBN 0-7914-7537-9.
- New Religions, A Guide - edited by Christopher Partridge, Oxford University Press, 2004, pages 362-364, ISBN 0-19-522042-0.
- 2008 - Jerome A. Stone - Religious Naturalism Today: The Rebirth of a Forgotten Alternative, State U. of New York Press (Dec 2008), ISBN 0-7914-7537-9
- 2008 - Chet Raymo - When God Is Gone, Everything Is Holy: Making of a Religious Naturalist, Sorin Books (September 2008), ISBN 1-933495-13-8
- 2006 - Loyal Rue - Religion is not About God, Rutgers University Press (September 25, 2006), ISBN 0-8135-3955-2
- 2004 - Gordon Kaufman - In the Beginning….Creativity, Augsburg Fortress Publishers (July 2004), ISBN 0-8006-6093-5
- 2000 - Ursula Goodenough - The Sacred Depths of Nature, Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (June 15, 2000), ISBN 0-19-513629-2
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