Natality and relational transcendence in humanist chaplaincy

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Every life has a beginning and an end. Natality and mortality are both profound existential fundaments of life that may lead us to question meaning in life as well as to find meaning. In spiritual care, the focus is often on mortality as a source of existential suffering, and on ways to deal with such suffering according to worldview traditions. In humanist traditions, mortality is not only seen as an existential threat but also as an existential given that people need to embrace to find meaning in life. Natality has received much less attention, both in spiritual care and in humanist thought. In this article, we build on philosophical ideas of Arendt and Butler to explore the significance of natality for a humanist perspective on meaning in life and spiritual care. We argue that taking natality into account results in a relational understanding of humanist spiritual care in which the notion of “relational transcendence” is a central element. Natality also means that we can initiate, create, and act in the world, which highlights the political dimension of humanist spiritual care. We reflect on the implications of natality and relational transcendence for humanist spirituality and chaplaincy and formulate some concrete building blocks for working from this perspective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

(This article belongs to the Special Issue Humanist and Secular Spiritual Care: Concepts and Practices in Changing Contexts)


  • humanism
  • chaplaincy
  • spiritual care
  • natality
  • relationality
  • transcendence

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