Tag Archives: Spirituality

A Brief History of Everything: Where Science and Spirituality Converge

In some fields, the deeper you get into them, the more the field seems to approach spirituality. A perfect example of this is science. No doubt, there’s already plenty written about the convergence of science and spirituality, especially if you take a walk through the “self-help” section of a bookstore. And that’s not to detract from it. For some, reading about science and spirituality in this way is very helpful.

Today, I wanted to share with you another one of those science and spirituality convergences, but from someone I didn’t expect: Neil deGrasse Tyson. (Note: when I first watched the video, I didn’t realize that deGrasse Tyson has actually written a fair amount about spirituality and science.) Below, I’ve included a video set to start at the 6:20 mark. Watch the next minute or so of the video, as deGrasse Tyson takes us on a quick journey from the beginning of time to the present and through it, connects the dots between us and the beginning of time.

I totally understand that people have different views on science, spirituality, and religiosity, but it always gives me pause for reflection when it can be so well articulated that there’s this connection between us and the beginning of time. From the video, we can conclude that we are made of the universe, so “technically,” we are the universe discovering itself. You probably already knew that, but I find that every one and awhile, it helps to be reminded of things like this as it may help to put a current problem in perspective.

Watching a video like this also reminds antiquity. In particular, places like ancient Greece where it might have been more common to sit around and think about the things that deGrasse Tyson talked about in the video. But I wonder… was it? If we think about our world today, the percentage of people who have time to sit around and think about things like those in ancient Greece did is probably not very high, but maybe that was also the case back then. Maybe there weren’t that many people who were sitting around and pontificating on the nature of life.

Maybe I’ve just got a glorified view of the “intellectuals” from that time period, but I wonder how different our Western culture would be today, if we had more time to sit around and think ponder the ‘meaning of life.’ Don’t get me wrong, I understand that time to think is a luxury that not all of us enjoy (and if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the lucky ones for which time to think is a luxury), but in thinking about our consumeristic ways, part of me wonders how different we could be in a world where we pursued knowledge and not stuff.

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Roles of a Shaman: A Brief Overview of Shamanism, Part 3

In yesterday’s post, we looked at the ways in which people become shamans. I also shared an anecdote from one of my classes where I learned that a shaman in one part of the world may be seen as someone with a disorder in another part of the world. In today’s post, we’ll look at the various roles of the shaman.

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Roles of a Shaman

The various roles in which a shaman undertakes are closely related to the cultures that one is likely to find shamanism (Walsh, 1989). This is because a shaman plays many roles for their culture. The cultures in which we are likely to find shamans are “simple nomadic hunting and gathering societies” (p. 8). In these kinds of cultures, people do not generally rely on agriculture and have very little political organization or social class. As such, the shaman is left to play many roles: “medicine man, healer, ritualist, keeper of cultural myths, medium, and master of spirits” (p. 8). Krippner (2000) stated similar roles that shamans play: “Shamans were probably humanity’s original specialists, combining the roles of healers, storytellers, weather forecasters, performing artists, ritualists, and magicians” (p. 98). Krippner (2002) added “shamans appear to have been humankind’s first psychotherapists [and] first physicians” (p. 970). References to shamans as physicians can be seen more than once in the literature. Shortly, we will liken a shaman to a ‘general practitioner.’ Krycka (2000) argued that shamanic techniques are “the bridge between ancient and allopathic approaches to healing” (p. 69). The ties between a shaman and therapy are not hard to make, as there is evidence for similarities between shamans and therapists (Stone, 2008; Voss, Douville, Solider, & Twiss, 1999; Wiseman, 1999). Because of the lack of social class, shamans usually possessed a great deal of influence on their culture (Walsh, 1989). Winkleman (1989) noted that as societies evolved into sedentary, agricultural, and social/political stratification, shamanism seems to disappear. Instead of the shaman holding all of the previous roles that they had held, specialists assume some of the roles once had.

Walsh (1989) identified a noteworthy parallel to western society in that there was a disappearance of the old medical general practitioner and an “appearance of diverse specialists” (p. 9). Walsh continued saying that priests emerge as the representatives of organized religion and are responsible for engaging with spiritual forces. “However, unlike their shamanic ancestors they usually have little training or experience in altered state” (p. 9). Walsh explained that other members of the culture assumed the various roles of the shaman except for one – journeying. Walsh referred to the suppression of owning a drum in parts of Europe during the last century as being one possible explanation to this disappearance and made reference to the discovery of the powerful states associated with various yogic and meditate practices. It is not clear as to why this role of the shaman would have seemingly vanished into the nether, while the other roles were scooped up into other specialists’ responsibilities. Given how powerful altered states of consciousness are, it is plausible that the ‘powers that be’ when forming social/political stratification decided intentionally not to include this practice in their culture for fear of losing their power. There is no substantial evidence to support this claim, but that does not negate it as a possibility. Even given the seemingly intentional forgetfulness of the people in power during the formation of the earlier cultures that did not include shamans, shamanism is still around today and used by a variety of people. According to Larson (2002), “Shamanic healing was the first mode of healing to emerge, and it still thrives today in both traditional cultures as a principal form of healing and in developed societies as an alternative form of healing” (p. 256).

Given our discussion of the ‘disappearance’ of the shaman into ‘specialists’ with the introduction of social/political stratification, there is an interesting tribe that seems to have kept a ‘number’ of shamans. According to Krippner (2002), “There are many types of shamans. For example, among the Cuna Indians of Panama, the abisua shaman heals by singing, the inaduledi specializes in herbal cures, and the nele focuses on diagnosis” (p. 963). In this tribe, it seems as though instead of splitting up the various roles of the shaman and thusly doing away with the shaman, there already were various roles in place. Krippner does not go into much detail about the Cuna Indians and there is not any (that I was able to find) academic literature on the Cuna Indians. I was only able to find that it is more politically correct to refer to them as the Kuna and this was from Wikipedia, so it may or may not be accurate.

In this section, we have explored a number of topics. We have examined the various roles that a shaman can undertake: healer (psychotherapist and physician), medicine man, magician, storyteller, weather forecaster, performing artist, master of spirits, medium, ritualist, and keeper of cultural myths. We have also explored how the shamans originally assumed many roles and then subsequently relinquished many roles. We looked at some possible reasons as to why shamanic journeying was not assumed as the role of one of the many ‘specialists’ that emerged from the shaman’s roles. We also learned of some of the different types of shamans among the Cuna Indians of Panama. In the next section, we will summarize all that we learned about shamanism.

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Check back tomorrow for the conclusion and the list of references.

How One Becomes a Shaman: A Brief Overview of Shamanism, Part 2

In yesterday’s post, we looked at the history of shamanism. We learned that shamanism goes back at least as far as 25,000 years ago in South Africa. We also looked at the varying definitions of shaman. In today’s post, we’ll look at how one becomes a shaman. Enjoy!

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How One Becomes a Shaman

Given the seemingly differing opinions on the history of shamanism and the definition of a shaman, there seems to be substantially more agreement on the process by which one must undergo to become a shaman. According to Merchant (2006):

The ‘call of the spirits’ to the shamanic vocation is experienced as a serious and disturbing psychological phenomenon early in life (often at adolescence) and this initiatory illness is interpreted as a (mostly unsolicited) calling, which is not only experienced as a destiny/fate but is articulated in these cultures as an election by the spirits. A strenuous and difficult initiation follows, involving altered states of consciousness, dismemberment imagery and death/rebirth phenomena. (p. 133-4)

The candidate is not fully recognized by their cultural group as a shaman until they are able to demonstrate their abilities of mastery over the spirits and communicate with them to acquire information for the purposes of healing (Merchant, 2006). Metzner (1998), like Merchant (2006), referred to a process where the shaman-to-be has visions in which they see themselves being dismembered. According to Metzner (1998), “In some Australian aboriginal tribes, the would-be medicine man [or shaman] is “cut open” with stones; the abdominal organs are “removed” and replaced by crystals, which give him curing and clairvoyant power after he is put back together” (p. 101). Smoley and King (2006) also refer to the dismemberment of the shaman-to-be and reassembly: “The candidate ‘dies’ to his old identity and is reborn to a new one” (p. 160). Given the idea that the shaman has to die under his old identity before the shaman can become the new identity, the rite of passage where the shaman must undergo a process of dismemberment and reassembly is fitting. Merchant (2006) referred to ‘serious and disturbing psychological phenomena during adolescence’ and in the western world (the USA) can easily be mistaken for schizophrenia.

Given all that I have read about schizophrenia and shamanism, it is possible that people who are classified as schizophrenic in the western world are actually ‘hearing the call of the spirits,’ but because they were born into a society that does not appreciate this as a gift, but rather an illness, are treated distinctly different. I have not found any evidence to support this point of view, but it is worth mentioning. Rock, Abbot, Childargushi, and Kiehne (2008) conducted a study where they were attempting to determine the effect of a shamanic-like stimulus (a procedure that was very similar to shamanic journeying) on those who could be classified on the schizotypy continuum. The study included the appropriate control group(s) and had the following conclusion: “One’s score on the CP [cognitive-perceptual] factor of schizotypy appeared to influence one’s ability to experience alterations in phenomenology. Consequently, high CP factor individuals may be strong candidates for shamanic training” (p. 94). The results of this study are seemingly in congruence with the description that those in adolescence undergo psychological hardship offered by Merchant (2006).

There is an activity that I remember participating in during my ‘psychopathology and diagnosis’ class in the winter semester of this year at ITP. During this activity, the class was divided into 4 or 5 groups. The professor gave us a case study of a tribe of people in Africa who had been relocated from their original land and who had some people that were seemingly ‘ill.’ We were to pretend that we were a prospective business vying for the right to ‘cure’ these people. Many of the ‘symptoms’ that were present in the people would have made them categorically schizophrenic, if we were to use the DSM-IV [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders]. During the presentation portion of this class, we worked our way around the room as all the groups identified their possible ‘plan of action’ to cure the people. It was at this point that each of the groups made mention of the fact that the people who were ‘ill’ might not have been ‘ill’ by the standards of the tribe. However, the ‘illness’ was something that was observed by the people who were examining the tribe from the outside. After each of the groups shared, the professor praised all of us for recognizing this and made note that other classes he has taught at non-transpersonal schools would probably not have recognized this factor. While this example might just show the openness of the students who enroll at a transpersonal psychology school, my hope was that it might have shed light on the possibility that non-transpersonal schools rarely (if at all) take into account the norms of the tribe they might be diagnosing. My reason for sharing this story is that it seems to tie in with the shamanistic ‘rites of passage’ discussion. If the people who were shamans in tribes in other countries, instead, grew up in America, it is quite possible that they would be categorized as schizophrenic and placed in a hospital. This makes me wonder if the people that are categorized as schizophrenic in our society today are not necessarily people who need to be feared, but instead, people who need to be revered and taught to embrace their shamanic qualities.

In this section, we have examined the process one undergoes to become a shaman. We have learned that there is a great deal involved in becoming a shaman including the following: ‘schizophrenic’-like symptoms in adolescence, altered states of consciousness, dismemberment/reassembly of one’s body, and an ability to display one’s skills in communicating with the spirits to obtain information to heal people within their community. We have also explored the possibility that people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia in America are actually candidates for shamans. In the next section, we will take a closer look at some of the roles that shamans can play for their community.

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Check back tomorrow for the next section: Roles of a Shaman.

The History of Shamanism: A Brief Overview of Shamanism, Part 1

Sometime during the past week, I was conversing with someone about shamanism. Throughout our conversation, I remember that I’d written a paper about shamanism when I was still at Sofia University. Since it’s been a couple of weeks since I last shared a paper, I thought that this synchronicity was a good opportunity to share it. This was a paper I wrote for a class called: “Proseminar in Social and Community Process: Culture & Consciousness.” In today’s post, we’ll look at the history of shamanism and the different definitions of shaman.

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In this paper, I will explore the history of shamanism along with the origins of the word shaman. I will identify varying definitions of what it means to be a shaman and explain some of the different roles that a shaman may carry out. I will identify how some shamans have lost their roles through the development of political/social stratification. I will also examine how it is that one becomes a shaman and have a small dialogue with regard to schizophrenia. To begin, we will delve into some of the history of shamanism along with a derivation of the word ‘shaman.’

History of Shamanism

Shamanism has been part of history for quite some time, but that does not necessarily mean that there is agreement within the academic community as to when shamanism began. According to Walsh (1996), “Paleolithic art from Europe dated to over 17,000 [years] ago and from South Africa dated to 25,000 years ago appear to show shamanic practices” (p. 96). However, the earliest known archaeological record of a shaman excavation was from a burial site in Israel, which dates back 12,000 years (Grosman, Munro, & Belfer-Cohen, 2008). Another viewpoint states that shamanic traditions have been around for 30,000 years (Krippner, 2002). According to Rosano (2006), “Evidence from Upper Paleolithic (UP) cave paintings suggest that these ideas may extend back tens of thousands of years” (p. 347). The argument put forth by Rosano (2006) seems to be similar to the arguments put forth by Krippner (2002) and Walsh (1996). Given the similar nature of Rosano (2006) and Walsh’s (1996) argument, it seems that there is evidence that shamanism has existed for at least the last 20,000 years. This is by no means an extensive overview of the history of shamanism, but a brief summary from various sources on shamanism. Part of the ‘discovery’ that humans have existed for as long as they have is because of the cave paintings by some of the first humans. As well, there have been bones of humans that have been recovered that help to date how long humans have been around. Given the way in which the discovery of the first ‘human,’ it makes it hard to fall onto one side or the other when it comes to the first appearance of shamanism in history. It is possible that shamanism existed 30,000 years ago, but there is concrete evidence that shamans existed 10,000 years ago because of the excavation. Regardless of the argument of the first discovery of humans, it is safe to say that shamanism has existed for at least the last 10,000 years, and there is evidence that suggests that it has lasted for 20,000 years or more. Now that we have come to this inference, let us examine the etymology or the derivation of the word ‘shaman.’

‘Shaman’ originated from the language of a Siberian tribe known as the Tungus (Peters, 1989; Smoley & Kinney, 2006). More specifically, it comes from the word ‘saman,’ which means “one who is excited, moved, raised” (Walsh, 1989, p. 2). Walsh goes on to say that “[shaman] may be derived from an ancient Indian word meaning ‘to heal oneself or practice austerities’ or from a Tungus verb meaning ‘to know’” (p. 2). It would appear that there is much more consensus on the origin of the word shaman than there is on the first appearance of shamanism in history. It is interesting to note the derivation of the word shaman because it relates to some of the various roles that shamans take on and definitions of shamanism, which we will learn about later on in the paper. Briefly, part of a shaman’s role can involve healing and it is frequently tied to an altered state of consciousness, which explains the reference to austerities. As for the ‘knowing’ part of the etymology, shaman’s commonly engage in ‘conversations’ with spirits in order to gain information to heal. To this point, we have learned that shamanism dates back at least 10,000 years, but there is evidence to support that it has existed for 20,000 years or more, and that the word shaman originated from a Siberian tribe known as the Tungus. In the next section, we will explore some of the various definitions of the word shaman.

Definitions of Shaman

Shamanism has not been a concept with one succinct definition over the years of its existence (Walsh, 2001). However, there have been varying degrees of specificity within the definition. In the broadest definition, “the term shaman refers to any practitioners who enter controlled ASCs [altered states of consciousness], no matter what type of altered state” (p. 32). Given this definition, there is room for mediums and yogis to be classified as shamans. Because of the prestige of shamanism, one might ascertain that shamans would prefer not to be placed into the same category as mediums and yogis, especially since they do different things for their community. There is a definition offered by Michael Harner, who is an anthropologist that “spent years with Amazon tribes in the 1950s and 1960s” (Smoley & Kinney, 2006, p. 158), and later became a shaman himself. Harner (1982) defines a shaman as “a man or a woman who enters an altered state of consciousness at will to contact and utilize an ordinarily hidden reality to acquire knowledge, power, and to help other persons” (p. 25). The definition offered by Harner (1982) is similar to the one offered by Walsh (2001) except in the definition offered by Harner, there is more specificity concerning what the shaman will do when they enter into the ASC. Walsh (1989) offered a much more elaborate, summative, and descriptive definition of shamanism:

shamanism might be defined as a family of traditions whose practitioners focus on voluntarily entering altered states of consciousness in which they experience themselves, or their spirit(s), traveling to other realms at will and interacting with other entities in order to serve the community. (p. 5)

A definition with specificity is much more useful because it identifies the type of altered state, prototypical experiences, and the practitioner’s goals (Walsh, 2001). This specific definition allows for much of the ambiguity to dissipate as any traveling anthropologist could use a checklist of the points offered in this definition to determine the ‘shaman’ in the tribe from the other members. However, there is the possibility that the difficulty in defining a shaman or shamanism is because there really is no real summative definition. Maybe the difficulty in pinpointing an accurate definition of shamanism is because shamans do not call themselves shamans. According to Smoley and King (2006):

This concept [shamanism] is the creation of scholars and anthropologists. Jews regards themselves as Jews, Christians as Christians, even Witches as Witches; but most native shamans do not call themselves that, nor do they think of their religion as “shamanism.” The term has been created by academics to describe a certain facet of religious experience. (p. 158)

The argument presented by Smoley and King (2006) is useful in the process of defining shamanism because they tell us that shamans do not want to define who they are nor do they want to define what it is that they do. To this point, we have learned that shamanism has a broad range of definition that begins with an altered state of consciousness and can be as specific as identifying the type of altered state, prototypical experiences, and the shaman’s goals. We have also learned that shamans do not like to call themselves shamans nor do they like to call their religion shamanism. In the next section, we will examine how one becomes a shaman for their respective tribe.

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Check back tomorrow for the next section: How One Becomes a Shaman.

Similarities & Differences of Religion & Spirituality in Public Administration Literature: Religion, Spirituality, and Public Administration, Part 3

In the first post of this series, we looked at the introduction and the first two articles from the paper. In the second post of the series, we looked at the three other articles that were examined in the paper. In this last section, we’ll look at the similarities and differences between these articles and wrap up the paper.

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Similarities and Differences

Spirituality and religion. Only Farmer (2005) failed to distinguish between spirituality and religion. In fact, Farmer failed to even mention spirituality. This might be because Farmer was interested in placing public administration theory in conversation with religion, rather than addressing the similarities between spirituality and religion. The other four articles had similar definitions and distinctions of religion and spirituality. It was made clear that these two concepts were very similar, but not the same. Whereas religion had more of a community focus, was more formal, and organized, spirituality was more individualistic, informal, and less systematic.

Religion, spirituality, and public administration theory. The biggest similarity of these five articles is that they are all making the case that religion should be studied in the context of public administration. Farmer (2005) argued that public administration had been studied in the context of postmodernism and critical theory, and so it should also be studied in the context of religion. King (2007), on the other hand, was more interested in how religion was influencing public administration today. Houston and Cartwright (2007) argued that spirituality had received attention in other disciplines like business and social work, so public administration should also study spirituality. Houston, Freeman, and Feldman (2008) echoed Houston and Cartwright’s (2007) argument that other academic disciplines had studied religion and so should public administration. Freeman and Houston (2010) made the best case for studying religion and public administration through five arguments. In particular, the argument that the growing religious heterogeneity of the American population requires a more representative bureaucracy was particularly strong.

Model for religion-spirituality integration. Only King (2007) proposed (or adapted) a model for integrating religion and spirituality. King found many problems with adapting the model, most notably, the language. King felt that when religion is discussed in the context of public administration, people are quick to raise the point about the Constitution and the separation of church and state. On the point about the Constitution: Houston, Freeman, and Feldman (2008) believed that these concerns have played a minor role. They argued that, among other things, secularization had more to do with religion not being discussed in the context of public administration.

1998 GSS. Two articles used data from the 1998 GSS to test hypotheses. Houston and Cartwright (2007) found that public sector workers were more spiritual than private sector workers and Houston, Freeman, and Feldman (2008) found that public sector workers were more religious than private sector workers. Given the overlap in spirituality and religion, these results are unsurprising, but are noteworthy for the sake of consistency.

2004 GSS. Freeman and Houston (2004) used data from the 2004 GSS to test their hypotheses. They also confirmed the findings from the two articles that used the 1998 GSS. The two findings: public servant seem to have more spiritual attitudes than the public (Houston & Cartwright, 2007) and public servants are more religious and less secular than the public (Houston, Freeman, & Feldman, 2008). Their own hypotheses had to do with religious affiliation and the results indicated little difference between public servants and the general public.

Farmer’s 10 suggestions. There are a few of Farmer’s (2005) that are worth reviewing. “3) It is hard to know how to talk about religion objectively across a religious divide.” This suggestion gets to the same point raised in other articles about the Constitution and the ‘separation of church and state.’ Farmer made the argument that when not in the appropriate company, it can be difficult to broach the subject of religion. “5) It is easy to suppose that religion can participate in shaping the moral landscape.” This suggestion is pointing to the fact that maybe there are other (abortion and marriage being two of the main ones) central questions in the moral debate. Farmer suggested that ‘treatment of others’ might be one, but that it is hard to know without studying religion and public administration. “9) It is sensible to be self-revealing when discussing PA in religion, whether or not it is embarrassing.” It is easy to see where some people may whole-heartedly disagree with Farmer in being self-revealing when discussing PA in religion, but Farmer’s point is well taken. The argument parallels that which you would expect from a journalist to disclose their biases or ties to the subject of their article. Just as was gleaned from Freeman and Houston (2010), religion affects one’s attitudes and behaviors, so it seems natural that one would disclose this affiliation in the context of a scholarly discussion that included religion. The problem being that some might argue that it infringes on their right to privacy.

Conclusion

Prior to starting this project, it never occurred to me the various ways that religion could and does affect public administration. Like some of the articles have mentioned, I would have thought the ‘separation of church and state’ axiom would have kept people far away from doing research on religion and public administration. After reading through this small sample of public administration articles relating to religion, there certainly seems to be a strong argument in favor of studying public administration in the context of religion in a number of different ways.

References

Farmer, D. J. (2005). Talking about religion. Administrative Theory & Praxis, 27(1), 182-195.

Freeman, P. K., & Houston, D. J. (2010). Belonging, believing, behaving: The religious character of public servants. Administration & Society, 42(6), 694-719.

Houston, D. J., & Cartwright, K. E. (2007). Spirituality and public service. Public Administration Review, 67(1), 88-102.

Houston, D. J., Freeman, P. K., & Feldman, D. L. (2008). How naked is the public square? Religion, public service, and implications for public administration. Public Administration Review, 68(3), 428-444.

King, S. M. (2007). Religion, spirituality, and the workplace: Challenges for public administration. Public Administration Review, 67(1), 103-114.

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If you liked this paper/series, you might want to check out some of the other papers/series I’ve posted.

Studying Religion & Spirituality in Public Administration: Religion, Spirituality, and Public Administration, Part 2

In the first post of this series, we looked at the introduction and the first two articles from the paper. In this next post in the series, we’ll look at the three other articles that were examined in the paper.

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Houston & Cartwright – Spirituality and Public Service (2007)

Houston and Cartwright (2007) argued that spirituality has received attention in the literature of other disciplines (e.g. business, social work, etc.), but not public administration. They found this odd given the roots of service at the core of public administration. Given the idea of ‘public service as a calling,’ they hypothesized that individuals in public service occupations are more spiritual than individuals in non-public service occupations. They highlighted four components of spirituality from the literature: 1) belief in transcendence; 2) interconnectedness; 3) empathy; and 4) a sense of life purpose or meaning.

To test their hypothesis, they used data from the 1998 GSS, which had questions pertaining to spirituality. There were over 1000 respondents included in this study. They found statistically significant evidence that those workers in the public sector are more spiritual than workers in the private sector. They also found that public sector workers were more likely to believe in transcendence, experience interconnectedness, have higher incidences of empathy, and have a greater sense of life meaning than their private sector counterparts.

Houston, Freeman, & Feldman – How Naked is the Public Square? (2008)

The central questions in Houston, Freeman, and Feldman (2008): 1) how religious are public servants; and 2) how secular are the attitudes held by public servants. Before answering these questions, the authors discussed how religion had been a topic of study for other academic fields, but not public administration. Instead of the argument put forth by King (2007) that the Constitution is a major factor in the lack of study of religion in public administration, Houston, Freeman, & Feldman (2008) argued different reasons: “1) acceptance of secularization theories by academics; 2) the epistemology adopted early on by scholars of public administration; 3) the characteristics of the Progressive Era of America, when the field of public administration developed; and 4) uneasiness with the recent surge in political activity by religious conservatives,” (p. 429).

Like Houston and Freeman (2007), Houston, Freeman, and Feldman (2008) use data from the 1998 GSS to test their central questions. There were over 1000 respondents included in this study. The results showed that public servants tended to be more religious than their private sector counterparts. Public servants also tended to have less secular attitudes than did their private sector counterparts.

Lastly, Houston, Freeman, and Feldman conclude with five reasons why public administration should be studying religion: 1) public administration is missing from the debate of religious rhetoric in the political arena; 2) religion could play a key role in restoring civil society; 3) advocacy of faith-based initiatives in the delivery of social services; 4) religion is often left out of debates of multiculturalism; and 5) religion impacts a public manager’s behavior.

Freeman and Houston – Belonging, Believing, Behaving (2010)

Like the four other articles summarized above, Freeman and Houston (2010) made the case that it is important to study religion in the context of public administration. They did so through five arguments: 1) the prominence of religion in the delivery of public services; 2) the effectiveness of public services may be related to religion; 3) a representative bureaucracy should include religion; 4) “[the growing] religious heterogeneity of the American population has implications for the internal operations of public organizations;” (p. 698) and 5) religion affects one’s attitudes and behaviors in the workplace.

The central research question for Freeman and Houston (2010) was comparing the religious background, beliefs, and behaviors of public servants to the general public. Unlike Houston and Cartwright (2007) and Houston, Freeman, & Feldman (2008), Freeman and Houston (2010) use data from the 2004 GSS. There were over 2000 respondents included in this study. On religious affiliation, the results indicated little difference between public servants and the general public. The results also indicated that public servants were more active in and committed to their religious communities than the general public. The results from this study are consistent with Houston and Cartwright (2007) in that public servants seem to have more spiritual attitudes. The results from this study are also consistent with Houston, Freeman, and Feldman (2008) in that public servants are more religious and less secular.

Religion and Spirituality in the Workplace: Religion, Spirituality, and Public Administration, Part 1

It’s not secret that one of my interests is spirituality. After having been exposed to a variety of spiritual traditions when I was young, I was naturally curious about some of the other ways that these experiences percolate in the population. This is, in part, the reason that I initially chose to do my PhD in clinical psychology at a school like Sofia University. It allowed for that exploration and more importantly, it teaches its students about the importance of recognizing/allowing this exploration in patients/clients.

During one of my last couple of classes at George Mason University, I had the opportunity to take a class in Administration in Public and Nonprofit Organizations. After having completed all of the business classes for the MBA program, I found it quite interesting to think about these principles in the context of public and nonprofit organizations.

One of the papers I wrote for that class looked at something that piqued my interest during the law/ethics requirement for the MBA — spirituality and religion in public administration. I remember considering the difficulties that managers might face depending on their level of cultural intelligence in a given situation. So, today, I thought I’d start another series where I share the pieces of that paper. Let’s look at the introduction and a couple of the first sections.

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The central theme of the five articles summarized is that there is an undeniable hole in the literature of religion and public administration. Most of the articles make it clear that there is a difference between religion and spirituality, but maintain that these two concepts are very closely related. Only in Farmer (2005) was the issue of spirituality not discussed, but there were 10 suggestions for thinking about public administration in the context of religion. King (2007) attempted to adapt a model of religion-spirituality integration from the business world to public administration and offered four caveats. Houston and Cartwright (2007) found evidence in the 1998 General Social Survey (GSS) that public administrators were more spiritual than their private sector counterparts. Houston, Freeman, and Feldman (2008) also used data from the 1998 GSS and found that public servants tended to be more religious than their private sector counterparts. They also found that public servants tended to have less secular attitudes than did private sector employees. Freeman and Houston (2010) made the strongest case for studying religion and public administration through five arguments. They also used data from the 2004 GSS and found that public servants were more active in and committed to their religious communities than the general public. The results from Freeman and Houston (2010) are consistent with Houston and Cartwright (2007) in that public servants seem to have more spiritual attitudes. In addition, Freeman and Houston (2010) are also consistent with Houston, Freeman, and Feldman (2008) in that public servants are more religious and less secular. In this paper, the articles are summarized in chronological order and contrasted with each other throughout. Following the summaries is a brief discussion of some of the similarities and differences.

Farmer – Talking About Religion (2005)

The central idea from Farmer (2005) was that the literature in public administration theory has failed to adequately address religion. Farmer argued that public administration has been studied in the context of critical theory and postmodernism, but not within the context of religion. He believes that religion is part of the context of public administration and as a result, should be studied.

He submitted that talking about religion in the context of public administration is difficult and offered 10 suggestions for thinking about public administration in the context of religion: “1) It is hard to know what religion is; 2) It is hard to know whether the separation of church and state is a done deal; 3) It is hard to know how to talk about religion objectively across a religious divide; 4) It is easy to suppose that religion is implicated in the constitutive magma of our society, and also a window toward understanding the constitutive framework; 5) It is easy to suppose that religion can participate in shaping the moral landscape; 6) It is easy to suppose that religion has both an up side and a down side, and that this down side is also part of our societal dynamic; 7) It is sensible to think that PA [public administration] should emulate religious ‘best business practice’ to the extent, at least, that religion is in competition with government; 8) It is sensible to think that PA should not be indifferent to the kinds of religious activities which exist in society; 9) It is sensible to be self-revealing when discussing PA in religion, whether or not it is embarrassing; [and] 10) It is lunatic to think in rigid boxes (boxism) [sic] about PA in its religious context,” (p. 182-3).

King – Religion, Spirituality, and the Workplace (2007)

Like Farmer (2005), King (2007) emphasized the lack of study of religion and public administration. Specifically, King was interested in the influence that religion had on public administration. King began with a brief literature review showcasing the differences between religion and spirituality in the context of the workplace. The key difference being that, “spirituality is distinct from but related to religion,” (p. 104). This led into the section where King discussed various court cases in which religious and/or spiritual expression was/were implicated: workplace cases, employers’ rights, employees’ rights, and political measures. King concludes this section by stating that one of today’s challenges for public administration is determining how these two concepts (religious and spiritual expression) fit together.

This led into a discussion of a model of religion-spirituality integration that came from the business world. King attempted to reconcile the differences with public administration and raised four problems: 1) public administrators are stereotyped by the values they seek; 2) how to account for the different aspects of a public administrator’s life (e.g. family, outside world, global context, etc.); 3) professional turf wars; and 4) language. The last problem is what King saw as the most important to public administration because whenever religion/spirituality are raised, people are quick to point to the Constitution and ‘the separation of church and state.’ King argued that this happens in discussions of administrative ethics, which usually pit utilitarianism (greatest good for greatest number of people) against deontology (universal principles of right and wrong). King’s main point here was that the language used in the debate of administrative ethics has a basis in sacred religious texts.

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Note: Check back tomorrow for the next section of the paper. I’ll include the list of references in the last post in the series.