Dr Michael O’Sullivan of SpIRE, the Spirituality Institute for Research and Education, gave a lecture on 15 February to the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University on the subject of ‘authentic interiority and the study of spirituality’. The aim of his paper was to demonstrate that the field of spirituality is a fit field to be studied as an academic discipline. In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, he outlines a methodology with a view to justifying this idea of objectively looking at spirituality.
Michael notes that some of the criticism levelled at the academic study of spirituality argues that it is too subjective and interior to become a valid objective field of study. He counters, however, that authentic interiority leads to objectivity and action. He maintains that human cognition involves a dynamic process and that the process is driven by the call of the transcendentals, namely beauty, goodness, and truth. Michael acknowledges that this is not a perfect process – people can be frail or otherwise flawed – but that those who strive for authentic interior spiritual experience based on self-awareness tend to move from the sphere of the subjective and private into the sphere of what is public and shared.