From Outward Bound to Inward Bound: The prophetic voices and discursive practices of spiritual management development

E Bell, Scott Taylor

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    113 Citations (Scopus)


    This article seeks to identify the theoretical foundations and practical features of spiritual management development (SMD) through social movements which have enabled the diffusion of religious practices into secular life and led to the development of a more spiritualized psychology. Although similarities can be seen with outdoor management development, SMD is distinctive because it encourages subjects to search for meaning in their everyday working life through engagement with an inner self. It thus encourages an internalized, implicit form of religiosity where the search for self-understanding and the search for meaning are closely aligned. Through a recontextualized, critical reading of the idealistic, Utopian visions portrayed by Maslow and Fromm and the spiritual, transpersonal psychologies of Jung and Assagioli, the intellectual foundations from which SMD practice has developed are traced. Analysis of the texts associated with SMD practice illustrates how these discourses are made meaningful to managers through the concepts of self-realization, holism and personal and embodied experience which define events as implicitly religious. However, by defining managerial identity in terms of the inner self and placing responsibility for change on the individual, SMD is isolated from possible critique and transformed from a potentially enlightening into a potentially repressive project.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)439-466
    Number of pages28
    JournalHuman Relations
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004


    • transpersonal psychology
    • workplace spirituality
    • new age
    • human potential
    • management development


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