The Role of Transpersonal Psychology in a Postsecular Society Mike King, Centre for Postsecular Studies, London Metropolitan University

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What is Postsecular?

The term ‘postsecular’ is relatively new, and its meaning as yet rather pliable. It has emerged in various contexts, and hints at a world that is prepared, after long abstinence, to re-engage with the spiritual. In the course of discussion and debate the following elements have emerged as contributing to a definition of postsecular:

  • a recognition that the spiritual impulse is innate, genuine, distinct, multifaceted and worthy of fostering in its own right

  • a renewed interest in the spiritual life as a mode of being in the world

  • a growing recognition of the legitimacy of spiritual questions

  • a recognition that secular rights and freedoms of expression are a prerequisite to the renewal of spiritual enquiry

  • a spiritual and intellectual pluralism, East and West

  • a cherishing of the best in all spiritual traditions, East and West, while recognising the repression sometimes inflicted on individuals or societies in the name of 'religion.'

To summarise: the postsecular recognises both the tremendous advances made in the secular era, and at the same time that the spiritual impulse, far from being an archaic irrelevance, is innate and worthy of fostering. It says therefore that the secular world was right to reject the absolutist and authoritarian structures of the feudal era, but that it was wrong to reject the spiritual impulse along with those structures.

The term postsecular suggests a quite different way of looking at history. It suggests that we can usefully divide history into three eras: the presecular, the secular, and the postsecular. This division creates for us a questions which have previously had little impetus: for example what is the anatomy of the secular worldview and how did it come into being? After all, if the secular worldview is simply the historical destination of all previous development of thought, then all that matters is that ignorance and superstition has been banished. If on the other hand the secular worldview is seen to be a transition, perhaps a necessary and painful stage in growing up, or even an aberration of the human intellect, then it becomes more urgent to dissect its nature and origins.

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