‘Conscious of its spiritual and moral heritage the European Union is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity.’ This remarkable assertion in the Preamble of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (EU) has received scant regard because the meaning of ‘spiritual’ is considered unproblematic. There is no interpretive guidance regarding the Preamble and still no convincing attempt at defining ‘spiritual’ in the European context. Discussions about the Union’s ‘spiritual dimension’ invariably insinuate references to its religious roots and historical relationship with Christianity. Similarly, ‘spiritual’ and ‘spirituality’, used interchangeably, are emerging as umbrella terms for, and alternatives to, ‘religion’. The ‘spiritual’ terminology favoured in European political discourse is a more generic, neutral and inclusive expression suited to the secular sensitivities of a pluralist society. However, over time spirituality has emancipated itself from its religious origins to plant new roots in various academic and professional disciplines. A multi-faceted non-theistic ‘new spirituality’ has since emerged but has yet to migrate to the field of European studies. The founding fathers of the European Union had the vision of post-war Europe as a united political and spiritual entity. In light of today’s global crises, the Union must radically redefine itself as more than a regeneration project for continued and sustainable integration. Given the teleological tradition of the European Court of Justice, the Charter Preamble could impact on EU law interpretation and development, spelling the advance of a spiritual age for European integration. This calls for a more informed conceptualization of this ‘spiritual heritage’.
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