Your spiritual development

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by Snoopy, Dec 11, 2006.

  1. Snoopy

    Snoopy Active Member

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    Hi,

    "Just as there are discernible stages in human physical and psychological growth, so there are stages in human spiritual development. The most widely read scholar of the subject today is James Fowler".
    Fowler's stages of spiritual development complement the stages of moral development developed by Kohlberg.

    What do you think of Fowler's ideas? Could you place yourself and people you know in a particular stage? Or do you find such ideas too prescriptive and limiting?

    Any and all comments welcome.

    The Stages Of Spiritual Growth: M. Scott Peck. Abridged by Richard Schwartz (thanks Mark)

    Fowler Stages of Faith

    s.
     
  2. InLove

    InLove at peace

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    Hi Snoopy. Fancy meeting you here. :)

    Well, I am kind of a slow reader, so I will go back and look at the two views in more depth in the next day or two. But after skimming through, I wonder if it would be a silly thing for me to say that one view looks a bit like "inductive" reasoning and the other more like "deductive"?

    Please no one laugh too much if this is crazy.

    InPeace,
    InLove
     
  3. Snoopy

    Snoopy Active Member

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    Hello to you too!

    Steady, they look like big words.:)

    Now I'm going to have to look them up.

    And I read slowly.

    But I await your insights with patience and anticipation.

    s.
     
  4. Paladin

    Paladin Purchased Bewilderment

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    Any instrument or model has its shortcomings but by careful study I think most intelligent people can begin to fill in the gaps and see beyond a linear approach to understanding. Seeing the bigger picture (I should think) leads to better communication and compassion when dealing with the different types. For example, when in the Christian forum you might just get an abrubt response from what Peck calls a type II person, and understanding that it is easier to dialogue or just simply concede the point. Knowing that people tend to be somewhat "hardwired" helps me to avoid a "why can't you just come up a little higher and open your eyes" knee jerk reaction to more conservative leaning people.
    Here it might be helpful to ask yourself, just how powerful, just how expansive is my love for others, and how much am I willing to entertain savage and aggressive thoughts about them?
    In this regard I must confess progress but not perfection! :eek:

    Peace
    Mark
     
  5. China Cat Sunflower

    China Cat Sunflower Nimrod

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    I dunno. For a while I parroted the idea that me becoming entirely selfless was the way to go. But I'm over that. I now realize that life is always going to contain elements of struggle and ethical tradeoffs. I think that coming to terms with the essential resistance of forces playing against each other is a necessary step toward making peace with the whole process. It's a cruel, crazy, beautiful world. I intend to enjoy it!

    Chris
     
  6. moseslmpg

    moseslmpg Member

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    I agree more with Peck's assesment, generally. Maybe that's because Fowler's is a little more complicated, or it's more complicated to read than Peck's. Fowler seems to take more social implications into account as well, most of which I have little experience with, but his stages seem a little confusing, which I think is the language again.

    I don't think that spiritual development is the right term for this stuff though. I think Fowler has it right with stages of faith, as it has to do more with what you believe and your mind than actual development on the spirit. IMO anyway.

    I reckon I'm an advanced stage 3 with Peck, and just on the edge of stage 4 with Fowler.
     
  7. Eudaimonist

    Eudaimonist In Galt We Trust

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    I'm not quite sure what to make of Fowler (this is the first time I've read anything about his views), but Peck's views seem biased towards a mystical spiritual path, and may not apply to all spiritual paths, such as my own.

    Note how the stage III people are described as "truth seekers" and "questioners", and denied the possibility of having found something. And since reaching the next stage implies mysticism, this implies that Peck is using mysticism as the standard of spiritual development. But why this? Why not place stage III and stage IV next to each other, as alternative paths of development, for instance? (Which may explain Peck's great fear that a Christian might become "stuck" in stage III their whole life even though this is a "scientific" stage just like stage IV.)

    BTW, contrary to Peck, I am not "cowed by Stage IV people".


    eudaimonia,

    Mark
     
  8. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

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    Interesting... I wonder how either one overlays with personality differences. For example, that INFPs and INFJs tend to be mystic/shamanic from the get-go, it just seems hard-wired into them.

    I think I like Peck's more; it certainly seems more user-friendly. I hestitate to put spiritual growth into stages, though. It seems to delegate certain people who are more literalist, fundamental folks to lower stages than the more eclectic and open mystics like myself.

    I don't tend to think in terms of stages (i.e., other people should get to X point) but rather in terms of needs. Some of us need some things on our path, and others of us need other things. I need a lot of freedom of thought and a great deal of experiential spiritual stuff. Maybe others are just as "advanced" as me, but they need rules and boudaries and an orthodox community.

    I guess as a Christian (well, Christian + More ;) ) I tend to think the evidence of spiritual growth is in action. You can be a Peck Stage II literalist fundie for all I care, but if you care about other people, show love to them, take care of the poor and helpless, and take care of the earth, you're spiritually advanced in my book. (Not that my book matters, but you get my drift.) Conversely, an intelligent and learned person in any of the mystical traditions can talk about mystical experience, but if their actions do not show love for other beings, then there is something missing there.

    Just my two cents. I suppose I just dislike classifying people that way, since we all have different gifts, needs, and purposes.

    And besides, the models can't be all right, because if so I was a really, really wierd kid and pretty much skipped all stages to the mystic stage. That's why I don't think these are stages per se. I didn't work to move through the stages. I was born with an INFP personality, which lends itself to mysticism, and I was the daughter of an INFP, so it was reinforced rather than squelched (which is far more common in the US). I really believe it was more the combination of personality and environment that started me on my spiritual path in a "stage" that is considered abnormal by both models, not any virtue of myself. I can take credit for being open to the opportunity and for consistently trying to grow spiritually, but from a spiritual viewpoint I believe I only am what I am by the grace of God, and from a social scientist viewpoint I believe personality and environment is more to thank than my own movement through predefined stages.
     
  9. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

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    Good point. As a mystic, I've learned a ton from some of the logical atheists I know. Some of them have certain things, like accepting death and living life to its fullest really figured out.

    And I think of Stage III and IV and sometimes being interwoven in a single path. I'm very mystically oriented, but I'm also really into science and reason. I often flip back and forth on my journey toward truth, and each approach to the search has its advantages.

    I can learn things from everyone, no matter who they are. I have an uncle who is severely handicapped. He doesn't belong to any of the Peck stages. He can't understand doctrine and so isn't dogmatic, he's incapable of the sort of reason and logic of Stage III, and if he has mystical experiences, he certainly can't express them in the usual eloquence of Stage IV people. Yet he is completely unselfish. His whole life he has had a child's faith in God and Jesus, and he just loves people, all people. His face just lights up when anyone talks to him, and his devotion to God is unwavering. Now this is not a man who has not known hardship. He was ten years old when a combination of illnesses robbed him of his ability to walk, to care for himself, or to ever think beyond the level of a child. He remembers what it was like to walk and swim and play with other boys and be normal. And yet years later, his faith is completely unwavering and he never complains or asks why or even wishes his life were different. So where's that on Peck's scale? All I know is that I've learned a great deal from my uncle. I may be the one getting my PhD and studying religion for years, but he's the one that has a few things figured out that are beyond me, and I find his unwavering faith and love for other people, completely bereft of the usual quanderies and questions of adults, a pure and touching inspiration.
     
  10. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    I would say that each individual has their own pattern of spiritual development, which may or may not conform to the two systems described in this thread.
     
  11. Eudaimonist

    Eudaimonist In Galt We Trust

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    I'm not particularly favorable to abstract descriptions of personal development that involve stages, since one will almost inevitably find exceptions that will foil one's model, but this is my alternative to Peck.

    I) Unexamining and Unintegrated (the "child")

    Even as adults, people in this stage are like children -- they tend to passively absorb the opinions of others. Whether they have accepted a single dogma or a hodge-podge of views, they are fully immersed in their culture and are not particularly self-examining. Because they do not fully understand why they believe what they believe, they are unintegrated inside -- their beliefs, and thus their views of the world and themselves, are unconnected and fragmentary.

    II) Examining, but Unintegrated (the "adolescent")

    Waking up from stage I involves starting one's journey of self-examination. It is no longer enough to accept the opinions of one's parents, neighbors, friends, teachers, ministers, etc. One wants to know why one should believe certain things. One desires firsthand knowledge. One wants an integrated worldview and awareness of existence. This might come across to people in stage I as "rebellious", and stage II people may often seem adolescent-like in their fickleness to certain ideas, but this is only because they are exploring and questioning.

    Such an individual might consider himself an athiest, agnostic, or seeker, but may believe instead in God, gods, a unifying force, Buddha consciousness, or just about anything else. Since this is the start of one's journey of self-examination, such an individual is not yet integrated.

    III) Examining and Integrated (the "adult")

    Having progressed far in stage II, the self-examiner has knitted together various ideas, experiences, and psyche into a cohesive whole. Whether such an individual is an atheist, a theist, a mystic, or whatever, such an individual has achieved internal integration. This is the mature form of her spiritual path, regardless of which road she took.


    I think this pattern of development should encompass just about any sort of spiritual path. I also think it is possible to change roads, thereby falling from stage III into stage II, and then progress up to stage III again.


    eudaimonia,

    Mark
     
  12. Francis king

    Francis king New Member

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    cheers snoopy
     
  13. China Cat Sunflower

    China Cat Sunflower Nimrod

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    I think that people start out either inventing, or more likely piecing together a personal mythos. At some point they reach saturation. Some people then begin to deconstruct themselves, others seek to reinvent themselves- perhaps several times, while still others are happy to remain as they are.

    Chris
     
  14. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    All quite interesting and enlightening reading as it has been repeatedly reinforced to me lately the value in the fundamentalist. I mean there are issues, Ruby here told us of her upbringing and it touched my heart. Yet that very lifestyle which abused her, led her to revolt and be the phenom she is. As my buddy says don't dis the path that got you here.

    I know so many people who have gone thru and stayed and played at these various stages it is like reading their life story. And backsliders, I are one.

    I don't see any of the levels of either of the concepts as concrete, in various points and places in your life you may act like and actually be at differing levels in their spectrums (assuming either of both have some value)

    We do need to embrace people where they are...as we were there, or may be there yet again...or maybe for the first time someday...but it is all a benefit for our journey.

    This board I find as great training ground for being whole, and developing an understanding for the variety and scope of thought. And the value inherent in each...the place keepers, that bring folks to the path. It is all so incredible. You are all so incredible.
     
  15. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Mark -

    I echo your sentiment entirely – Peck seems to posit the mystic as the measure of spirituality, which is a false premise (at least in the Christian Tradition).

    Also – it seems to me - first reading, I might be wrong – that there are certain contradictions here:

    "For those of us in professional ministry and studying in seminary, we spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on the rational element in religion - we can't seem to avoid it in the West."

    But this is after stating the four stages? Perhaps the author might be better served taking a leaf from his own book? Is this whole document then, an attempt to quantify that which cannot be quantified? What is the point, other than selling books in a popular niche market?

    "But no amount of Aquinas will ever serve to explain the true meaning of religious experience."
    Aquinas never set out to explain 'the true meaning', he set out to offer a systematic philosophy in light of 'the true meaning'. Isn't this a 'straw man' argument?

    "Reading Aquinas is like studying a technical manual of spirituality - it destroys the very meaning of it."
    Rubbish. For a start Aquinas never attempted 'a technical manual of spirituality' – that's left to the likes of Peck and Fowler, it seems – (for surely that's what this document tries to be?).

    Also I wonder if the author has read his prayers or his commentaries, which are widely regarded as lucidly spiritual ... the question is, if he has read them, can he see it? Or does it not tick the right boxes for him?

    Or is he simply pandering to an audience who might know that Aquinas wrote the Summa, but unlikely to know anything else?

    "All intuitive knowledge, all experience outside of scientific measurement and factual construction is rejected, as the Greek frame of mind of intellectual analysis is favored and the Hindu frame of mind, that of the essence of inexpressible "being," and "existence," is rejected as fallacious."

    This is unworthy of a philosopher – its ill-informed and simply offensive ... like saying all black people have rhythm ... 'the essence of inexpressible "being," and "existence," is rejected as fallacious' is not the fault of Greek philosophy, but post-Enlightenment Relativism. Peck seems vague on the details of his own tradition, let alone any other ...

    ... in fact I find the text riddled with 'pop philosophy' that lacks depth and rigour ... but that's me ... the whole exercise smacks of 'coffee table spirituality'.

    Thomas
     
  16. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Chris –

    "I think that people start out either inventing, or more likely piecing together a personal mythos."

    I have just started to dip my toe in the waters of Paul Ricoeur – I've been looking at 'post-mopdern Christianity' - and specifically I'm looking at Scripture as narrative, both Revealed and reflexive:

    "Language contains within itself resources that allow it to be used creatively. Two important ways in which these resources come to light are (a) in the coining of metaphors and (b) in the fashoning of narratives. In The Rule of Metaphor, Ricoeur argues that there is a linguistic imagination that "generates and regenerates meaning through the living power of metaphoricity." For him, fresh metaphors, metaphors that have not been reduced to the commonplace, reveal a new way of seeing their referents. They creatively transform language. Thus they are not merely rhetorical ornaments. They have genuine cognitive import in their own right and are untranslatable without remainder into literal language. In a similar manner, as I will develop more fully below, acts of narrating create new plots and characters, thereby also producing new meanings. Thus to become aware of the metaphorical and narrative resources resident in language is to see that notwithstanding the many rules and codes that govern language usage, it is always able to be used to be inventive, to produce new meanings."
    Paul Ricoeur (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
    (my emphasis)

    Any thoughts, comments, pointers would be welcome ...

    Thomas
     
  17. Paladin

    Paladin Purchased Bewilderment

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    Without getting tangled in a web of mentation, Peck's ideas while being somewhat biased toward mysticism do have some usefulness. For all we know or might guess, going beyond stage IV is where we all will end up eventually. Of course this supposes that there is the desire to do so. At whatever "stage" (and I'm not sure I even like that concept) we find ourselves in there is a tendency to defend it as a positionality. I think Thomas makes this point in the other thread on Eclectic spirituality in a most poignant way by saying what we lack is "humility"

    I do rather like his assessment of the efficacy of being useful by being only one step ahead in being able to help others. Too lofty a positon isn't helpful as, much to my chagrin, I found in dealing with sponsee's in twelve step programs.

    Even too complicated an approach to spirituality isn't necessary for growth and taking these stages as better than or less than is a mistake.
    The Jesuit Anthony De mello uses this story to illustrate the point:

    There was once an accomplished Theologian and missionary touring the south sea islands as a follow up to previous missions some years before. This man was well versed in all aspects of Christian scripture and philosophy. On one small island he found three brothers living together plying their trade as fishermen. "You seem a religious family" the Minister said "tell me, how do you pray?" The brothers looked at each other and the eldest said " when we pray we look to heaven and say 'you are three, we are three, have mercy on us!"
    the erudite minister smiled at their naivette' and said " I think we can do better than that" and forthwith taught them the lords prayer, complete with commentary on its deep and hidden meanings.
    That night as he rested on the deck of his small ship, gazing at the fading sun and feeling the glow of a good day's work, he spotted a light coming closer to the boat. Sure enough it was traveling over the water getting larger as it approached the ship. finally it was alongside and the fearful minister looked down to see all three brothers surrounded by a golden light walking on the water. They looked up at the minister, and said " Oh kind sir, in our stupidity we have forgotten the pretty prayer you gave us! will you tell us once again please?"
    The minister looked down at them, almost tearfully and smiling said " When you pray, just say, you are three, we are three, have mercy on us!"

    Peace

    Mark
     
  18. Snoopy

    Snoopy Active Member

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    Hi,

    Well having ground my way through that little lot all I think I can say is: I agree. It was interesting in places but overall I was reminded of descriptions of astrological "types", if you write enough then some of it is bound to ring true.

    s.
     
  19. Paladin

    Paladin Purchased Bewilderment

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    The "Forer effect?"
     
  20. Snoopy

    Snoopy Active Member

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    I don't know. Hang on while I look it up!
     

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