Any attempt to define, rather than describe, Stanley's spiritual outlook must find its way through a maze of his ever-developing convictions. From childhood, he was aware of the orthodox facts of accepted Christianity, and at first relied heavily on New Testament interpretation. As he entered his student days he became acquainted with other perspectives. During the Great War he enjoyed the Catholic tutelage of Desmond Chute. From the 1920s, he and Hilda began exploring Eastern religious thought, particularly Buddhism.

During Stanley's early years, a spate of archaeological discoveries was under way which were opening up knowledge of the varieties of religious or mystical thought brought into the western world in Roman times by the expansion of their empire into the Near East. There is a case, for example, for arguing that Stanley's understanding of the principles of counterpoint went back way beyond its use in music to theological principles thrashed out in days when the prevailing plurality of gods was gradually reduced under the influence of eastern thinking, at first to the duality of two gods - the creative God and his counterbalance, the destructive God (the demiurge who survives as Satan today) - and then to their unity as a single God, initially the exclusive God of Jewish monotheism, and then the inclusive God of modern Christianity and Islam, a process which is the precise simulacrum of counterpoint.

Early Christians were restricted for information mostly to Greek transcripts of incomplete Aramaic texts, the originals of which were thought lost. Among these early transcripts was an incomplete Coptic text called the Gospel of Thomas which summarised Sayings of Jesus, seemingly at an early time when he was regarded as a teacher of wisdom without attribute of divinity. Although the transcript contained no biographical detail, some of the sayings were later incorporated into the King James Bible.

Then in 1945, startlingly, a copy of a much fuller text of the Gospel of Thomas was unearthed as part of a cache of gospels once belonging to an early Christian sect in Egypt. Its compiler called himself Didymus Judas Thomas, meaning that he was a 'twin' or duplicator of the recollections of the disciple Thomas the Twin, possibly the disciple known as Doubting Thomas. Whether so or not, the compilation revealed further Sayings which are not in our Bible but which can have had no influence on Stanley's thinking as they were not translated into English until after his death. However, the surprise is that we find many of the new Sayings to promote ideas which parallel Stanley's most profound metaphysical thought.

For instance, in reference to Stanley's concept of the counterpoint of  'unity and duality' and his 'reversal' or 'back-to-front' thinking we read in the new version of the Gospel :  Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his disciples, "These nursing babies are like those who enter the (Father's) kingdom." They said to him, "Then shall we enter the (Father's) kingdom as babies?" Jesus said to them, "When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom]." 

There are other suggestive connections in the newly-discovered Gospel. One such is the meaning of Light:  Jesus said to them, "Anyone here with two ears had better listen! There is light within a person of light, and it shines on the whole world. If it does not shine, it is dark."  This can in one context be paralleled by Stanley's assertion, when I see any thing I see everything, and when I do not see one thing I see nothing, and in another by his comment on light in The Cookham Resurrection :
I think of light as being the holy presence, the substance of God, so that everything is in part of that substance.

Then again
Jesus' comment that : If the flesh came into being because of spirit, that is a marvel, but if spirit came into being because of the body, that is a marvel of marvels can be transliterated into Stanley's language as:  If the down-to-earth came into being because of the up-in-heaven, that is wonderful but if the up-in-heaven in his life came into being because of the down-to earth that is a miracle (ie. it is holy.)

It is a tribute to Stanley's power of thought that he so often went straight to the underlying principles of the ideas, dismissing or adapting their subsequent outward forms. 

At the same time as
early Christianity was being influenced by such Near Eastern ideas, they was spreading eastwards, so that many were adopted into Buddhism. As Stanley and Hilda continued their reading into Eastern religious thought, they came across equivalent versions of the same precepts, and evidently felt doubly assured of their validity in their thinking and his art.

If we are to arrive at a comprehensive version of Stanley's spiritual thought, we might also need to refer to other forms of ancient thinking, such as Mithraism, which had close biographical and mystical parallels with biblical portrayals of Jesus, but which, being an exclusive and esoteric faith, was superseded by the inclusive popularism of Christianity. There were also the beliefs incorporated into the Eleusian Mysteries, which too came from the Near East, and expounded the
archetypal Renewal and Resurrection concepts which Stanley interpreted so brilliantly in The Nativity and The Cookham Resurrection.

Then again, in Stanley's unexpected remark that I did not think there were any wicked people in the world. and particularly in his notion that Christ was divine only when conceptualised in up-in-heaven mode, we find him touching on residual Gnostic ideas
such as those on which the Gospel of Thomas was based. They promoted ideas about the preservation in our material form of that spark of divinity (Stanley's Love of-from-God?) thought to be inherited at birth which makes all of us, even the wicked, part of the universality we call God. The response of each of us throughout our lives should be to use our creative powers to foster 'gnosis' ('knowledge') of our 'divine spark' - Stanley's up-in-heaven - in expectation of ultimate assimilation. Condemned by the mediaeval Church as heretical and vigorously - and at times violently - suppressed, diverse forms of Gnosis continued to survive in the shadows and are deemed to show up in the work of thinkers like William Blake and Carl Jung. Perhaps we can now add Stanley Spencer to the list.

The subject is vast, and it is evident that Stanley's thought remained fluid. He took what he needed where and when he found it, and there, surely, the topic must rest to await more detailed research.