For the last few years I have learned to bring in the various fields of study by asking several questions of the text in question. These questions come down to considering the Context, Participants, Content, Process and Goal of the text in question. I do not remember where or how I came to study this five aspects of spirituality, but over the last five I have developed the use of them in approaching the art of spirituality.
What follows are examples of questions for each of those aspects:
Context: More than just a geographic location, it involves the social context and personal situation of the classic.
Where is the classic located (history)?
What are the place/situations it addresses? And how are these described?
What is its attitude toward the world/age (seculum)?
How is society described (sociology)
Participants: For Christian Spirituality, this is always in the plural as one cannot be a lone ranger in the Christian Path.
Who is mentioned by the classic? How are they described?
How are they involved in spiritual growth?
Who is God and how is God described (theology)?
How is humanity described (anthropology)?
How is the individual described (psychology)
Content: According to Christian spirituality there are only three books where God's Word (Jesus) is found in order to inform the spiritual classic: The Scriptures (Bible and spiritual writings); Nature (creation and society); and History (personal, and communal).
What are the sources used by the classic?
Where is the Word of God found in the classic?
Is Gods word limited to the Sacred Scripture?
Are the books of History and Nature also places where Gods word is found?
How is Gods word used?
Process: These are the concrete, measurable actions needed for growth in spiritual perfection. These actions combine both the self-implicating and socio-implicating aspects of the study of Christian spirituality.
What practices are suggested for spiritual growth?
Are these traditional, communal, private, etc.?
What virtues (personal and communal) are brought into play?
What vices/sins (personal and communal) are being combated?
How can I improve my social relationships wtih family, friends, my enemies, the needy and marginalized.
Goal: The aspirations of the believer on the spiritual path.
What are the immediate and long range goals of the classic?
What does spiritual maturity look like?
As you can see a lot of questions need to be brought to a spiritual classic, if you are to look at it in a scientific/academic manner. However, the goal of spirituality as an art is not simply to dissect a classic, but to appropriate it for the life of the scholar, a community of faith and the betterment of the world we live in. Therefore, a Christian scholar will not approach a spiritual classic without the aid of prayer and the Holy Spirit. It was the Spirit of God that inspired all the writer of the Sacred Scriptures and has inspired spiritual writers, artists, leaders and the faithful throughout the centuries, so pray that the same Spirit that inspired the author of the text in question inspire your study and appropriation of it, as well.