With the word ‘spirituality’ i still involuntarily think of monasteries or congregations and of the subtle differences that used to exist between them. For that is the context in which i’ve gotten to know the word. There was for example a benedictine, a dominican and a franciscan spirituality. That way of ecclesiastical life or that mentality could be more or less described by experts and even in its effects be read on faces, but it was mostly a matter of empathy and inner kindredness. I never got really far into that myself, but i think i remember that ‘redemptorists’ had a somewhat creaky voice and strong-willed chins because of their high collars. But despite those odd memories the word ‘spirituality’ has remained extraordinarily dear to me and the value of spirituality has never become the object of any skepticism. For it has to do with the characteristic of being ‘spiritual’ and therefore isn’t completely dictated by things that are material, worldly and fashionable, but more by an interest of matters of the mind -to put it solemnly. With that comes firstly the refusal to deduce those matters to more superficial affairs. In which way and within which tradition a person is spiritual is then already much less relevant and i assume that there is little interest for it outside of the convents.
Why the word had been used so little for a while i couldn’t say with certainty, but it is possible that it is related to the fact that it used to be connected to some explicitly religious and clerical associations. Lots of people seem to have become allergic to that. Despite that, for the last couple of years i’ve been seeing the word more often and it seems as though the religious pressure has been lifted off of it. It still fits very well for religious affairs, but it looks as though a spiritual dimension has been discovered outside of religion, for example in austerity, a culture in which the environment is spared and the destructive tendencies of commercialism and consumption are acknowledged. But what was predictable, has in the meantime happened: for spirituality too a market was discovered. And if there’s one thing that isn’t spiritual, it is a market. The word will therefore probably not be around for long, even when different brands of spirituality start competing, like they did in the old days. In this situation spirituality can show how resistant it is. If it turns out not to be, it will rightfully be discarded as one of the uncountable fashions that are based solely on imitation and have no content of their own. Then it would have to start again as a hidden, inner life.
Austerity as a spiritual attitude and a characteristic of a spiritual life has long been preached, perhaps solely to justify a poverty that was considered inevitable. In a time of poverty it then becomes almost something suspect, but in times of plenty it gets the chance to become a style of living that cannot simply be reduced to a lack of fat and vitamins. Spirituality, from my point of view, is mostly a matter of style, and style is at its best when it is a voluntary restriction of available means, therefore a form of austerity. The new spirituality has possibly risen from a resistance to a style-less submission to the dumb fat and wallowing in consumptive abundance. For this abundance feeds an insatiable gluttony and develops into a form of poverty to which there is no end. Spirituality represents the style that can limit this.