Spirituality - A Brief History 2e
Buy Rights Online Buy Rights

Rights Contact Login For More Details

More About This Title Spirituality - A Brief History 2e


Engagingly written by one of the world’s leading scholars in this field, this comprehensively revised edition tells the story of Christian spirituality from its origins in the New Testament right up to the present day.

  • Charts the main figures, ideas, images and historical periods, showing how and why spirituality has changed and developed over the centuries
  • Includes new chapters on the nature and meaning of spirituality, and on spirituality in the 21st century; and an account of the development and main features of devotional spirituality
  • Provides new coverage of Christian spirituality’s relationship to other faiths throughout history, and their influence and impact on Christian beliefs and practices
  • Features expanded sections on mysticism, its relationship to spirituality, the key mystical figures, and the development of ideas of ‘the mystical’
  • Explores the interplay between culture, geography, and spirituality, taking a global perspective by tracing spiritual developments across continents


Philip Sheldrake is Senior Research Fellow at the Cambridge Theological Federation, UK, regularly a visiting professor in the United States of America, and a former president of the international Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality. He is the author of numerous books including Explorations in Spirituality: History, Theology & Social Practice(2010), Spaces for the Sacred: Place, Memory & Identity(2001), and Living between Worlds: Place and Journey in Celtic Christianity(1997).


Preface xi

1 What is Spirituality? 1

Origins of the Word “Spirituality” 2

Contemporary Meaning 3

What is Christian Spirituality? 6

Spirituality and Mysticism 7

The Study of Spirituality 9

Spirituality and History 11

Interpretation 12

Types of Spirituality 15

Periods and Traditions 17

Conclusion: Criteria of Judgment 18

2 Foundations: Scriptures and Early Church 23

Christian Spirituality and the Scriptures 24

Scriptural Markers 25

Spirituality in the New Testament 27

Spirituality and the Early Church 30

Liturgy 31

Spirituality and Martyrdom 32

Shrines, Devotion, and Pilgrimage 33

Spirituality and Doctrine 34

Origen 35

Evagrius 36

The Cappadocians 36

Augustine 37

Pseudo-Dionysius 38

Christian Spirituality as Transformation and Mission 39

Theories of Spiritual Transformation 41

Conclusion 43

3 Monastic Spiritualities: 300–1150 47

The Emergence of Monasticism 50

Widows and Virgins 50

Syrian Ascetics 51

Egyptian Monasticism 52

Wisdom of the Desert 53

Monastic Rules 56

Benedictine Expansion 59

The New Hermits 61

The Cistercians 63

The Spiritual Values of Monasticism 65

Spirituality and the Conversion of Europe 67

Local Spiritualities: Ireland 68

Spirituality in the East 70

Syriac Spirituality 73

Conclusion 74

4 Spirituality in the City: 1150–1450 79

The Gregorian Reform 80

Apocalyptic Movements 81

The Vita Evangelica 82

Twelfth-Century Renaissance 83

The Rebirth of Cities 84

Cathedrals and Urban Vision 85

The City as Sacred 86

Universities as Sacred Space 87

Vita Evangelica and Urban Sensibilities 88

The Mendicant Movement 89

Dominic, Francis, Clare, and Bonaventure 90

The Beguines 94

Fourteenth-Century Mysticism 96

Julian of Norwich 98

Crossing Spiritual Boundaries: The Influence of Islam 100

Devotional Spirituality 101

Spirituality and Eastern Christianity 102

The Renaissance 104

Conclusion 106

5 Spiritualities in the Age of Reformations: 1450–1700 110

Seeds of Reform: The Devotio Moderna and Christian Humanism 113

The Crisis of Medieval Spirituality 114

Spirituality and the Lutheran Reformation 115

John Calvin and Reformed Spirituality 117

The Radical Reformation: Anabaptist Spirituality 118

Anglican Spirituality 120

George Herbert 121

Puritan Spirituality 124

Early Quakers 125

The Catholic Reformation 126

The New Orders 126

Ignatius Loyola and Early Ignatian Spirituality 126

Spirituality Beyond Europe 131

Carmelite Mysticism 133

Lay Devotion 135

Seventeenth-Century French Spirituality 137

Russian Spirituality 140

Conclusion 141

6 Spirituality in an Age of Reason: 1700–1900 145

Spirituality in the Roman Catholic Tradition 148

Pietism 150

Wesleyan Spirituality 151

American Puritanism and the Great Awakening 153

Shaker Spirituality 154

Orthodox Spirituality 156

Post-Revolutionary Catholicism 159

The English Evangelicals 161

The Oxford Movement 164

John Henry Newman 166

A Distinctive “American Spirituality” 167

Conclusion 170

7 Modernity to Postmodernity: 1900–2000 173

The Impact on Spirituality 175

The Prophetic-Critical Type 175

Charles de Foucauld (1858–1916) 176

Evelyn Underhill (1875–1941) 177

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945) 179

Simone Weil (1909–1943) 181

Dorothy Day (1897–1980) 183

Thomas Merton (1915–1968) 184

Spiritualities of Liberation 186

Gustavo Gutiérrez (1928–) 186

Feminist Spirituality 188

Spiritualities of Reconciliation 190

Ecumenical Spirituality: The Example of Taizé 192

Spirituality and Inter-Religious Dialogue: Bede Griffiths 193

Eastern Orthodox Spirituality 195

Making Spirituality Democratic: The Retreat Movement 197

Making Spirituality Democratic: Pentecostal and Charismatic Spirituality 199

Conclusion 200

8 Twenty-First Century Trajectories 203

Will Christian Spiritualities Survive? 203

A Globalized World 205

Cyberspace 206

Inter-Religious Encounter 208

Christian Spirituality and Secular Spirituality 210

Spirituality, Business, and Economics 210

Spirituality and Healthcare 213

Spirituality and the Meaning of Cities 216

The Spiritual and the Spatial 217

The Spiritual and Urban Virtues 218

Other Factors? 219

The Contemporary Turn to Practice 220

Conclusion 222

Select Bibliography 223

Select Glossary 232

Index 240


“This volume would be an excellent text for the upper-level or seminary student. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals/practitioners.”  (Choice, 1 October 2013)

"[Sheldrake's] grasp of the key figures and movements within the western Christian tradition is consistently sure-footed, and the book will be very useful for those seeking an accessible one-volume introduction to the subject by an acknowledged authority ... This is an excellent book and can be safely recommended to students and others alike." Theology (of the previous edition)

“Wonderfully encapsulates the complex manner in which the term spirituality has taken on various meanings within the Christian tradition … Those who are interested in learning more about the major movements in the Christian tradition are sure to find this book a wonderful introduction into learning more about thinkers who have ardently longed to attain wisdom.”  The Heythrop Journal (of the previous edition)

“One gets the sense that Sheldrake knows and loves his subject, and more importantly, wants to share his knowledge with others. I strongly recommend this book.” Anglican Theological Review (of the previous edition)

“The best available introduction to a fascinating subject. This new edition expands the geographical coverage to Asia, Africa, and Latin America, with new material on apocalyptic movements, Eastern Christianity, and the historical development of spiritual practices. No one can match Sheldrake for a winning combination of accuracy, comprehensiveness, and lively writing.” Arthur Holder,Graduate Theological Union