Religious/Spiritual Autobiography

September 28th, 2010


Religious or Spiritual Autobiography is a compilation of events or experiences in a person’s life by that person that pertains to their connection to God and His effect on that person’s life and worldview. The author goes through a period of trials that leads to their ultimate salvation experience. In it, the person sometimes doubts his or her salvation and looks for approval of God through the reading of their Religious texts. A religious or spiritual autobiography differs from biography in that it “restricts its scope to a phase of the author’s life early spiritual experience in life and concludes at some point before the time of writing” whereas biographies are about the author’s life to the end. It can be taken from many religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. There are some that are not religious at all, but just spiritual.

Such an example is the below mentioned Spiritual Autobiography, actor Sidney Portier’s , “Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography by Sidney Portier.”

Spiritual/Religious Autobiography  was first written in the 4th Century. The First Real Autobiography was indeed a Spiritual Autobiography clearing the path for future autobiographers to come.

Examples of Spiritual Autobiography

 1. Spiritual/Religious Autobiographies

According to the NTC’s Publishing Group Dictionary of Literary Terms, the first real autobiography was indeed a Spiritual Autobiography “The “Confessions” of St. Augustine ” which presents the events of Augustine’s early life as a spiritual journey and as an opportunity for self- analysis.” The Journal of George Fox is one of the great religious autobiographies. It was written in the 17th Century and has its place with the “Confessions” of St. Augustine, Saint Teresa’s “Life,” Bunyan’s “Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners,” the “Life of Madam Guyon, Written by Herself,” and John Wesley’s “Journal.”

Later, Protestants including Thomas Shepard, Cotton Mather, Mary Rowlandson, Elizabeth Ashbridge, George Fox, Johnathon Edwards, and Johnathon Woolman all sought to discern Gods’ will for their lives and they took Biblical figures as models for their experience.

A couple of examples from the Bible are , times when one was wandering metaphorically in the wilderness, (not feeling close to God spiritually), and the story of being a prodigal child in their life (leaving their spiritual lives for a while and then returning).

“Examples of Spiritual Autobiography include earlier classical examples of Crises of Conversion notably the 4th Century ‘Confessions’ of St. Augustine, the mid 16th Century  ‘Vita’ by Benvenuto Cellini circa 1728, and John Bunyans’ ‘  Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners circa 1666. ”

In this book Bunyan was writing from prison. He was imprisoned for preaching to local protestants. This imprisonment was especially meaningful to him because he could then compare himself with the likes of the disciples of Jesus, and prophets in the Bible who were also imprisoned for preaching.

Image – John Bunyans’ Map – A Map Shewing the Order and Causes of Salvation and Damnation shows John Bunyan’s religiosity and dedication to the Bible  because he took the time and had the knowledge to do this graph . Within each circle is a phrase and directly under it there is an abbreviated Bible Quote from Books in the Bible such as Ephesians, Romans, Corinthians, and Acts.                                                                                                     

2.  Non-Christian Spiritual/Religious Autobiography stated, In 1946, Paramahansa Yogananda (January 5, 1893–March 7, 1952), published his life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, which introduced many westerners to meditation and yoga.[1] It has since been translated into 25 languages, and the various editions published since its inception have sold over a million copies worldwide.[2]

The book describes Yogananda’s search for a guru, and his encounters with leading spiritual figures such as Therese Neumann, the Hindu saint Sri Anandamoyi Ma, Mohandas Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Sir C. V. Raman, and noted American plant scientist Luther Burbank, to whom it is dedicated.

Recent Religious/Spiritual Autobiography

Sidney Portier – Measure of A Man

Religious/Spiritual Biography’s Impact

The impact that Religious/ Spiritual Autobiography leaves on auto/biography is that it is seen as controversial in the autobiographical community. It is often criticized of being misogynistic and racist, but despite these reviews it remains popular among Christian women and people of color.

Works Cited

Barbour, John. “Autobiography”. Encyclopedia of Religion. 2005 . 1 Oct 2010. <>

Mormer, Kathleen & Rausch, Ralph. NTC’s Dictionary of Literary Terms. 1991. NTC Publishing Group. 12 Oct, 2010

Perrine, Tim.  “Autobiography of George Fox”.


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