Passion and Intelligibility in Spiritual Education

Abstract
David Carr argues that the intelligibility of spiritual development as an educational activity is dependent upon there being a framework of propositions that relates to spiritual experience and that there is a methodology for establishing their truth. These propositions and the accompanying methodology need to be constructed along the lines of a traditional but re-worked form of religious education. Michael Hand argues to the contrary that there can be no methodology for the evaluation of the truth claims in relation to 'spiritual'propositions since they invariably psychologically, if not logically, involve reference to a transcendental being and are therefore seen as substantially matters of faith. Since the presentation of faith-based propositional knowledge is inappropriate to the secular school, the only route for spiritual education is in terms of those emotional qualities that we identify with the human 'spirit', that is, generosity, magnanimity, good heartedness, etc. In this paper it is argued that neither position is satisfactory in addressing the existential anxieties and tensions that underlie the construction of religious and other spiritually relevant forms of articulation. We do not need Carr's 'true' spiritual propositions. Analysis of spiritual discourses can take the same epistemological form as enquiry in arts criticism, one that recognises the elasticity of its propositions in terms of meaning and a fluidity in terms of its boundaries. The 'truth' of such propositions depends upon how they answer to the existential tensions felt by the pupil. Insofar as Hand's analysis is concerned, to reduce spiritual education to a form of emotional and social development neglects the clear intelligibility of spiritual discourse to the religious and non-religious minded alike. The unifying element in spiritual discourse is those existential questions that lie at its foundations. Spiritual education seeks to address these questions as ones of both passion and intelligibility, helping pupils to make choices in light of their own experience of the tensions and anxieties that are embedded within them.
Keywords elasticity in meaning  intelligibility  passional  existential tensions  truth
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