List of basic, universal spiritual principles

Contributed by Stephen Frasier; updated May 18, 2016
butterfly in flight - hiking at Ellington Agricultural Center, NashvilleThis is a growing list of basic, universal spiritual principles which have been taught repeatedly by many of the world’s greatest spiritual teachers throughout history including the Buddha (6th century BCE), Lao-Tsu (6th century BCE), Jesus (1st century CE), and many others before and after that time.

[ Great Spiritual Masters and Teachers (Devon Love, 58-page PDF; fascinating & refreshingly objective) ]

Spiritual principles are often referred to as universal laws by business coaches like Brian Tracy and others; they are the basis of success in all areas of life, including business.

We’re going Beyond Religion here. Our view that most of life’s problems relate to deviations from spiritually principled behavior as opposed to participation in the “wrong” supernatural or religious belief system is an increasingly common one; however, it remains controversial in some circles here within the Bible belt and elsewhere. Nevertheless, we are passionate about promoting just such a view, partly in support of broad missions of people like the Dalai Lama as described in his fantastic book Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World, Thich Nhat Hanh, Pope Francis, and so many others who effectively place spiritually principled thought and action over belief in rigid doctrine.

List of spiritual principles and spiritual practices

cascades - Big Creek - Fiery Gizzard in East Tennessee

  1. Living with integrity; being the same person no matter whom you’re with

  2. Refraining from gossip; when speaking of an individual not present, speaking as though (s)he were present

  3. Employing perseverance and discipline in the face of obstacles, the biggest of which is self; doing what you know you need to do, when you need to do it, whether you feel like it or not

  4. Seeking opportunities to improve the world by asking, How may I serve?

  5. Practicing mindfulness meditation on a daily basis

  6. Practicing quiet contemplation to develop & deepen insight

  7. This is a spiritual principles and practices list. It is not based on any single religion, spiritual path, or worldview. They dovetail beautifully with the practical spiritual teachings of the world’s major religions and spiritual paths. This spiritual principles list is for everyone who is on a genuine path toward ever-deeper spiritual awakenings and realizations – all spiritual seekers, and all who desire spiritual growth and spiritual experiences.

  8. Practicing discernment[5]; deeply considering the nature of reality and the way things really are; contemplating how you move from where you are toward freedom from attachments, fears, patterns, habits, etc.

  9. Understanding that hatred and revenge never cease through returned hatred and vengeful intent; facing hatred with compassion; loving one’s enemies; overtly moving toward equanimity toward all

  10. Aware of the anguish caused by intolerance and zealotry, choosing to remain open-minded and teachable, pliable like clay, like a child, as opposed to being rigid & closed-minded

  11. Being a peacemaker; given to and encouraging pacifism and nonviolence; a dedicated stance against war

  12. This page is updated frequently; please excuse any glaring instances of incompleteness. Thank you for checking out this list of spiritual principles and practices!

  13. Remaining unattached/not permanently bound to present views in order to be open to others’ insights and experiences, superceding discoveries, new/deeper realizations, etc.

  14. Mindfulness of the present moment; not worrying about the future, not dwelling upon past events

  15. hiking at Fiery Gizzard near Monteagle, TN - fall 2008

  16. Non-attachment (to things, people, places, ideas, habits, money, lifestyle, beliefs, etc.); one must be able to walk away from it all if necessary, as the Buddha, Jesus, and many other teachers made quite clear

  17. Deflating the ego[2], the result of spiritual practice over time; the development of humility

  18. Practicing humility: A clear recognition of who and what you are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be (authentic self); not comparing yourself to others

  19. Understanding that coming to one’s self and moving though increasingly deeper and meaningful spiritual experiences and awakenings is a completely subjective experience which cannot be directly taught or transferred to others; understanding that words themselves are only symbols; words are like a finger pointing at the moon (the finger is not the moon); spiritual awakening (aka salvation, enlightenment, or whatever else one chooses to call it) is the result of direct experience of the divine, not through books or church

  20. Deeply realizing that everything is connected, that you are not truly separate from others or from anything; moving away from dualism[3] and toward non-dualism[4]; being aware of & our own deep connection to oneness, to “the Source,” and not having a need to define it (it’s far too subjective) or completely understand it, regardless of what you prefer to name it (Mother Nature, God, Tao, Universal Intelligence, spiritual connection, Creator, creative force, the universe, etc.)

  21. …and consequently demonstrating this in both thought & action

  22. What are spiritual principles? Spiritual principles are essentially universal truths relating to the deepest values and meanings by which people live in order to achieve genuine inner peace. Spiritual principles embrace the idea of an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality. Spiritual practices are spiritual principles applied in daily life which define an inner path enabling one to discover the essence of one’s being.

  23. Extending goodwill and practicing right action not only toward humanity, but to nature in its entirety

  24. Spiritual ecology: Common-sense stewardship of nature/creation in its entirety; acknowledging the critical need to recognize, understand, and address the spiritual dynamics at the root of environmental degradation

  25. Expressing hope; maintaining a positive outlook even in the face of despair; deeply understanding that there is no need to worry about anything, ever

  26. hiking Fiery Gizzard trails: Monteagle, Tennessee

  27. Focusing upon unity, oneness, and sharing rather than division, separateness, and differences; look for the similarities, focus on the common ground

  28. Practicing love, tolerance, and acceptance; refraining from criticizing, condemning, and complaining (classic Dale Carnegie)

  29. Forgiving others when we are wronged; this is how we forgive ourselves, this is how we are forgiven

  30. Displaying courage in the face of fear; acting out of love as opposed to fear

  31. Freedom from worry with regard to the opinions and beliefs of others; avoiding habitual conformity

  32. Open-mindedness, flexibility, willingness to learn and to objectively explore and study, rather than blindly accepting whatever you are told you “should” do or “ought” to believe

  33. Common-sense application of critical thought to potentially consequential views and activities

  34. Bringing truth to error

  35. Looking deeply at yourself, your actions, and others with eyes of compassion

  36. Treating others as we’d like to be treated (the Golden Rule [chronology of Golden Rule]), or the law of reciprocity); kindness and love of others in thought and deed

  37. mammatus clouds at sunset, Green Hills Mall: Nashville, Mar 14, 2012, Stephen Frasier Photography 2012

  38. Practicing honesty; telling the truth, avoiding lies

  39. Expressing genuine compassion; wanting as much or more for others as you do for yourself

  40. Avoiding fideistic, rigid, fundamentalist worldviews that declare all others to be wrong; avoiding us vs. them thinking, or believing that members of other religions and spiritual paths are not as right as you are; avoiding spiritual or religious elitism

  41. Aware of the hardship caused by imposing our views upon others, refraining from forcing others to adopt a set of beliefs through any means whatsoever, be it propaganda, indoctrination, money, authority, etc.

  42. Expressing gratitude and appreciation at all times; remaining grateful for everything and everyone you have in your life; also, being grateful for what others have in their lives

  43. sunset in Green Hills, Nashville, on Dec 29, 2011 - Stephen Frasier Photography

  44. Service-orientation: Our lives, including all business activity, should be focused on providing real service to others

  45. Not taking anything personally; this goes for any statement or action of another person (One of the classic Four Agreements by spiritual teacher Miguel Ruiz)

  46. Always doing one’s best (Another of The Four Agreements by spiritual teacher Miguel Ruiz, along with others in this list)

  47. Doing what you say you’ll do; being impeccable with your word

  48. Practicing what you preach (integrity)

  49. Giving, acting, helping as anonymously as possible (a great way to practice humility)

  50. Practicing silence, restraint of tongue/pen/electronic messaging

  51. Refraining from egotistical descriptions of one’s own spirituality; keeping your spiritual practices to yourself and choosing to lead by example (that’s not to discourage teaching spirituality or spiritual practices to others, especially when feedback/advice/thoughts are requested)

  52. Understanding that spiritual and/or religious paths (or anything else) are not excuses for fighting, killing, or war

Amazon products relating to spiritual principles

Spiritual principles behind the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs

  • Step One: Honesty
  • Step Two: Hope
  • Step Three: Faith
  • Step Four: Courage
  • Step Five: Integrity
  • Step Six: Willingness
  • Step Seven: Humility
  • Step Eight: Self-discipline
  • Step Nine: Brotherly love; love for others
  • Step Ten: Perseverance
  • Step Eleven: Spiritual Awareness
  • Step Twelve: Service

Spiritual principles in the 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs

I’m not sure if all of these qualify as spiritual principles, per se…

  • Tradition One: Unity
  • Tradition Two: Trust
  • Tradition Three: Identity
  • Tradition Four: Autonomy
  • Tradition Five: Purpose
  • Tradition Six: Solidarity
  • Tradition Seven: Responsibility
  • Tradition Eight: Fellowship
  • Tradition Nine: Structure
  • Tradition Ten: Neutrality
  • Tradition Eleven: Anonymity
  • Tradition Twelve: Spirituality


[1] Faith

Faith: A personal example: The author’s faith could be stated as the sincere belief that living by these basic, universal, common-sense spiritual principles necessarily leads to a vibrant life overflowing with compassion and gratitude, service and giving, deep friendships, allowing one to excel in areas of passion and interest, delivering ever-increasing spiritual awakening, inner peace, and enlightenment; the peace that passes all understanding; or, the realization that there is no need to worry about anything, ever.

[2] Deflating the ego

Ego deflation is a central pillar of genuine, thorough spiritual practice. Even so, this terminology — ego deflation — is not often used to describe it. Perhaps the phrase sounds too negative to the Western psyche. Ego deflation is used in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and elsewhere.

[3] Dualism

Moral dualism is the belief of the great conflict between the benevolent and the malevolent. It simply implies that there are two moral opposites at work, independent of any interpretation of what might be “moral” and independent of how these may be represented. The moral opposites might, for example, exist in a world view which has one god, more than one god, or none. By contrast, ditheism or bitheism implies (at least) two gods. While bitheism implies harmony, ditheism implies rivalry and opposition, such as between good and evil, or bright and dark, or summer and winter. For example, a ditheistic system would be one in which one god is creative, the other is destructive.

[4] Non-dualism

[5] Discernment

Mission of the Search for Truth blog

In closing, here’s another shameless plug for the mission of the Search for Truth blog. If you generally approve of this list of spiritual principles and spiritual practices, please help spread the message any way you can.

  • The way forward for all mankind is to embrace basic universal spiritual principles in all affairs.

  • Individuals, groups, and nations should not expect others to adopt their own culture-specific or religion-specific traditions, practices, or beliefs; instead, mutual respect should reign.

Resources: Spiritual principles

The items listed in this section of web resources for spiritual principles are NOT referencing twelve-step programs in particular.

  1. Principles of Spiritual Activism – a list of thirteen (13) spiritual principles – Satyana — These principles emerged from several years’ work with social change leaders in Satyana’s Leading with Spirit program; offered not as definitive truths, but rather as key learnings and guidelines that, taken together, comprise a useful framework for “spiritual activism”…

  2. Ten Spiritual Principles of Discipline: What I Learned from Adi Da Samraj – Frank Marrero

  3. Principles of Spiritual Evolution (Part I) – a list of nine (9) spiritual principles

Resources: Spiritual principles from a 12-step recovery perspective

NOTE: This section of resources for spiritual principles relates to 12-step programs originating with A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous), and later, N.A. (Narcotics Anonymous), O.A. (Overeaters Anonymous), and hundreds of others. It should be noted that the separation of general spiritual principles (above) from these 12-step-recovery related links is not because the latter are any less valid or helpful. Simply, many people these days are searching for spiritual principles that are stressed in 12-step recovery.

In my experience thus far, it seems the majority of web resources resulting from searches for terms like “spiritual principles” have been written from the perspective 12-step recovery programs.

Other resources for spiritual principles and spiritual practices