Six Stages of the Spiritual Life

A rough map of human journeying

  1. Stage One: Trust

The newborn is unaware of its own existence as distinct from the world and therefore at one with the world. Trust is the first response to this sense of oneness.

  • Stage Two: Loss of trust

The child is becoming aware of themselves and of their own needs in a challenging climate. They are oblivious to the needs of others. In the face of powerlessness, survival is crucial. The ego emerges with a plan. A separation is taking place, gentle or harsh, depending on the forces at work around them. Trust in the process is damaged.  

  • Stage Three: Conditioning

Deductive reasoning becomes possible: ‘this is how things work’. The awareness in the child of what brings pain and what brings relief or delight….the emergence of the personality both to protect and advance their cause. Mental representations of the world appear, in search of order: ‘This is how the world is; this is how I will survive.’ This stage is particularly open to parental and social influence and conditioning.

  • Stage Four: Conformist

The need to find a group. Adopting and abiding by values of surrounding group/family/social/religious culture. The interests, practices and beliefs of the group, and the need to stay in it, take precedence in personal decision-making. It is a gang/tribal model: ‘These are my people’. The appearance of group think/right and wrong things to say and believe. Borrowed thinking and behaviour repress true feeling.

  • Stage Five: Individual

Progress is made towards independence of mind. Independent thinking  begins to trump safety, security and the need to belong. There is a moment when the balance tips away from group and towards independence and critical thought. It is a significant juncture and many don’t reach it. The ability to take individual responsibility for this life being lived; to self-parent the difficult legacies and patterns of childhood which remain. The awareness of what is helpful and unhelpful in your emerging existence.

  • Stage Six: Integration

Beyond independence, which can be walled and fearful, the taking of our true and equal place in the rich diversity of humanity. The un-walling, a sense of oneness. A sense of connectedness with all things and all people, personal agendas now dissolved or resolved. A more present life…here is freedom.

P.S. You may find you move around the stages, back and forward, up and down…like snakes and ladders.