This paper argues for a soft perennialism, distinct from the hard perennialism which suggests that spiritual and religious traditions are expressions of the same underlying spiritual realities. There are two reasons why it is necessary to think in terms of a soft perennial model: firstly, because of a number of important common themes or trends across spiritual traditions; and secondly (and most importantly) because when the process of expansion of being or awakening occurs outside the context of spiritual traditions, broadly the same themes and tendencies appear, suggesting that there is a common landscape of experience which precedes interpretation and conceptualization by spiritual traditions. This applies to the perception of an all-pervading spiritual energy or force which may—in some traditions—become conceptualized as an allegedly ultimate reality but is not necessarily seen in those terms. It is suggested that transpersonal psychology would benefit from loosening its association with spiritual traditions and focusing more on studying expansive states of being in a non-traditional, secular context.

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