Studying models of human developmental stages can be interesting, especially for those of us who like to understand the process of change. Spiritual development is one unique area where there are literally dozens of models describing this arena of growth. Some models are based in specific religions or belief systems, while others correlate spiritual growth to specific ages. Some psychologists contend a child has certain spiritual understandings; adolescents, another stage; young adults, the next level; and so on. These models can be difficult to comprehend, as children’s and adolescents’ spiritual understanding varies greatly, often influenced by family belief systems. And, all of us know spiritual growth can happen at any time in a person’s life.
In reviewing these various models, one model, from the Arthur Ford Academy, is distinctive. The stages are intriguing and may prompt you to think about your own spiritual journey differently. The five stages are: spiritual curiosity and interest; spiritual recognition; spiritual experiences; spiritual knowing; spiritual responsibility. We will explore these five stages over three articles, written as a series. The first two will be detailed below, while the next two will be examined next month, and the final one will be addressed in the third article.
Spiritual curiosity and interest is the first stage – and doesn’t the journey always begin with one question? Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? Is there a Supreme Being? The questions will vary, depending on the beliefs a person already has. For those who were either raised in a particular religion, or continue to practice a religion, the questions might include: Are there deeper meanings in these teachings? Am I more involved in following rules than developing my spiritual life? Do I accept all the tenets of my chosen religion?
Genuine curiosity and interest leads a person to do her own searching, whether it is through books, classes, church services, or discussion groups. An answer leads to a new question, and the interesting and exciting process of searching continues. In this stage, the spiritual information is gathered from the external world and is not yet integrated into a person’s internal understanding.
The second stage is spiritual recognition, meaning there is an awareness of a world beyond the material aspects of earthly life. There is a transition from gathering facts to the beginning stages of internalizing the information. During this stage, the person may have a few experiences that have no logical explanation. For instance, a synchronicity may occur that defines all logical reasoning. Or, goosebumps will appear on the forearms when a spiritual truth is spoken. While the awareness is growing, the spiritual journeyer is still questioning the possibilities of such occurrences and may look for scientific explanations. These experiences captivate the imagination; eventually, wonderment replaces intellectual skepticism. The brain is engaged, but the heart knowing is in seedling form.
When these two stages are viewed together, one sees a growing fascination with the spiritual world. However, it is still “out there,” not yet integrated into the journeyer’s spirituality. The door is opening…and more exciting growth is on its way. Stay tuned for further exploration of the stages of spiritual development!
(This is an article that first appeared in the March issue of New Age News ezine.)