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23. Stages of Spiritual Growth Login/Join 
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posted
What does spiritual growth look like? How would we evaluate it in ourselves and others?

These and similar questions have been addressed through the centuries, with several descriptions having stood the test of time. During the past few decades, as the topic of spirituality has become more "mainstream," additional approaches relating spirituality to psycho-social growth have also been published. Additionally, our increasing contact with other world religions has put us in touch with some of their methods evaluating spiritual growth.

What follows are summaries of some of these more recent and traditional ways of describing spiritual growth. Each has its own unique perspective; see if you can identify yourself in these descriptions, and, after a few sessions, discuss this with your spiritual director, if you have one. See what determinations the two of you together come up with. If you're willing to share how you see yourself on the forum discussion thread (or anything else on this topic), that would be great.

The web site url for each of these provides much more detailed information and description. Be sure to check it out.


M. Scott Peck’s four stages (late 20th C.)
http://www.escapefromwatchtower.com/stages.html

  • Chaotic, Antisocial. Frequently pretenders; they pretend they are loving and pious, covering up their lack of principles. . .
  • Formal, Institutional, Fundamental. Beginning the work of submitting themselves to principle-the law, but they do not yet understand the spirit of the law, consequently they are legalistic, parochial, and dogmatic. . .
  • Skeptic, Individual, Questioner, including atheists, agnostics and those scientifically minded who demand a measurable, well researched and logical explanation. Although frequently "nonbelievers," people in Stage III are generally more spiritually developed than many content to remain in Stage II. . .
  • Mystic, communal. Out of love and commitment to the whole, using their ability to transcend their backgrounds, culture and limitations with all others, reaching toward the notion of world community and the possibility of either transcending culture or -- depending on which way you want to use the words -- belonging to a planetary culture. . .


James Fowler: Stages of Faith Development (late 20th C.)
(http://faculty.plts.edu/gpence/html/fowler.htm)

  • Intuitive-Projective faith is the fantasy-filled, imitative phase in which the child can be powerfully and permanently influenced by examples, moods, actions and stories of the visible faith of primally related adults. . .
  • Mythic-Literal faith is the stage in which the person begins to take on for him- or herself the stories, beliefs and observances that symbolize belonging to his or her community. . .
  • Synthetic-Conventional faith, a person's experience of the world now extends beyond the family. A number of spheres demand attention: family, school or work, peers, street society and media, and perhaps religion. . .
  • Individuative-Reflective faith is particularly critical for it is in this transition that the late adolescent or adult must begin to take seriously the burden of responsibility for his or her own commitments, lifestyle, beliefs and attitudes. . .
  • Conjunctive faith involves the integration into self and outlook of much that was suppressed or unrecognized in the interest of Stage 4's self-certainty and conscious cognitive and affective adaptation to reality. . .
  • Universalist. The persons best described by it have generated faith compositions in which their felt sense of an ultimate environment is inclusive of all being. They have become incarnators and actualizers of the spirit of an inclusive and fulfilled human community. . .


Teresa of Avila’s Seven Mansions (16th C.)
(http://www.ourgardenofcarmel.org/castle.html)

  • The souls in the First Mansions are in a state of grace, but are still very much in love with the venomous creatures outside the castle -- that as, with occasions of sin -- and need a long and searching discipline before they can make any progress. . .
  • The soul is anxious to penetrate farther into the castle, so it seeks every opportunity of advancement -- sermons, edifying conversations, good company and so on. It is doing its utmost to put its desires into practice: these are the Mansions of the Practice of Prayer. . .
  • although the soul which reaches the Third Mansions may still fall back, it has attained a high standard of virtue. Controlled by discipline and penance and disposed to performing acts of charity toward others, it has acquired prudence and discretion and orders its life well. . .
  • Here the supernatural element of the mystical life first enters: that is to say, it is no longer by its own efforts that the soul is acquiring what it gains. Henceforward the soul's part will become increasingly less and God's part increasingly greater. . .
  • It marks a new degree of infused contemplation and a very high one. By means of the most celebrated of all her metaphors, that of the silkworm, St. Teresa explains how far the soul can prepare itself to receive what is essentially a gift from God. . .
  • The soul is, as it were, betrothed to its future Spouse; in the Sixth, Lover and Beloved see each other for long periods at a time, and as they grow in intimacy the soul receives increasing favours, together with increasing afflictions. The afflictions which give the description of these Mansions its characteristic colour are dealt with in some detail. . .
  • Here at last the soul reaches the Spiritual Marriage. Here dwells the King -- "it may be called another Heaven": the two lighted candles join and become one, the falling rain becomes merged in the river. There is complete transformation, ineffable and perfect peace; no higher state is conceivable, save that of the Beatific Vision in the life to come. . .


Classical Christian Stages (early Christian)
(http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14254a.htm)

  • The purgative way is the way, or state, of those who are beginners, that is, those who have obtained justification, but have not their passions and evil inclinations in such a state of subjugation that they can easily overcome temptations, and who, in order to preserve and exercise charity and the other virtues have to keep up a continual warfare within themselves. . .
  • The illuminative way is that of those who are in the state of progress and have their passions better under control, so that they easily keep themselves from mortal sin, but who do not so easily avoid venial sins, because they still take pleasure in earthly things and allow their minds to be distracted by various imaginations and their hearts with numberless desires, though not in matters that are strictly unlawful. It is called the illuminative way, because in it the mind becomes more and more enlightened as to spiritual things and the practice of virtue. . .
  • The unitive way is the way of those who are in the state of the perfect, that is, those who have their minds so drawn away from all temporal things that they enjoy great peace, who are neither agitated by various desires nor moved by any great extent by passion, and who have their minds chiefly fixed on God and their attention turned, either always or very frequently, to Him. It is the union with God by love and the actual experience and exercise of that love. . .


The Seven Chakras of Hinduism (many sources, hundreds of years BC)

  • Root. Associated with base of spine. Security concerns.
  • Sacral. Associated with navel area. Emotional intimacy, sexuality.
  • Solar plexus. Power, control.
  • Heart. Love, compassion, balance.
  • Throat. Communication, self-expression.
  • Third eye. Insight, visualization.
  • Crown. Enlightenment, cosmic consciousness.
 
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