4 Stages of Spiritual Development

According to M.Scott Peck, a Christian mystic and the author of the bestselling book, The Road Less Traveled, we have 4 Stages of Spiritual Development. This blog post is actually a response to the said concept as well as my personal reflection on how I was able to “level up” or “level down.”

As I assess myself, my current spirituality is in a peaceful chaos. The oxymoron is very real.  Its a chaos because the evolution of my belief system is very fast. My beliefs yesterday [literally] are challenged by my beliefs today. My beliefs today will be challenged by my beliefs tomorrow. On the other hand, it is peaceful because one belief system is connected to another system, regardless if its complementing or contradicting. I am at Stage 3.

So if you are curious about each stages, please continue reading.*

*Since I am a Christian, I choose to discuss this based on the Christian context

STAGE 1

keywords: Chaotic. Antisocial. Pretenders. Unprincipled. Selfish. Ambitious.

We all started somewhere and in my case, I started here. Majority of us started here.   Glad that I wasn’t able to stay here longer.

STAGE 2

keywords: Formal. Institutional. Fundamental. Legalistic. Parochial. Dogmatic

“They are threatened by anyone who thinks differently from them”

They try to convert the others…who are not “true believers”

“They are religious for clear cut answers, with the security of a big daddy God and organization, to escape their fear of living in the mystery of life, the mystery of uncertainty in the ever moving and expanding unknown”

“…one sided thinking – ignorance that produces hostility”

“All is safe in this illusion, but all is not just, nor fair, and does not transcend prejudice that surpasses tribal identity, an identity that must be scrapped in order to bring higher consciousness of planetary cultural peace and love based on principle with intuitive insight”

Whew. Now that was tough right? Majority of people with religion belongs in this stage. For 10 years, I was trapped in this stage. I am very safe. I am very judgmental. I call people “sinners”. I call people who drinks beer sinners. I only listen to Gospel music because I thought that secular music is evil. I fear atheists because its hard for me to defend my very comfortable faith. I am a Christian because of my parents and because of my culture.

I also have a fair share of experience with Stage 2 people. My friends in Highschool who told me that I will go to hell if I’m not going to join their church. That woman in the church who asked the young people if they speak in tongues or not [because according to them, its a MUST]. My friend who laughs at my church because of our “ancient forms” of worship. Pastors who judge me for my lack of quiet time.  Pastors who ask too much…

In a nutshell, all the tiring things about being a Christian.

But at the back of my mind, I am asking myself, “Can I be a real Christian?” I was thinking of Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. who were both Christians and made a difference in our World. Also, what does it mean to be a real Christian? Do I really have to speak in tongues? There must be a reason on why I believe this. I wasn’t equipped to face the uncertainty of my “outside world.” I am afraid to ask questions. I am afraid to challenge my own faith. My faith is safe. I conceal my weaknesses by using the word “God” in every sentences. Why am I like this? There must be more than this Christianity. Christianity doesn’t work for me anymore.

That moment of honesty and questioning led me to STAGE 3.

STAGE 3

keywords: Skeptic. Individual. Questioner.

Quotes from M. Scott Peck:

“They (Stage 3 people) demand a measurable, well researched and logical explanation”

“They are often deeply involved in social causes.”

” They make up their own mind about things and are no more likely to believe everything they read in the papers than to believe it is necessary for someone to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior in order to be saved”

“Active truth seekers.”

Again, as per personal assessment, I am a Stage 3 Individual (backsliding from Stage 4 every now and then).  Before continuing, I would like to acknowledge my influencers. First is Ksenya Nikiforova, one of the few people I have met who laughs like there is no tomorrow and who loves so purely as exemplified by Christ. Second is our resident Pastor who challenges our small group’s faith by discussing hard to understand,  hard to discuss and [some] hard to swallow theologies and theories. Third is my cousin Jared who I consider as my “buddy” as we journey along this stage.

Going back…

Since I moved forward from the legalistic Stage 2 to the cynical Stage 3, I planned on deconstructing my belief system. I started to ask questions about my life, my faith, and so on and so forth. I became more logical. This stage is very challenging for me. I have sleepless nights spending on reading online and offline. I have been meeting people with different faith backgrounds which I rarely do when I was in Stage 2.  I thought doubting and questioning will make my faith blurry. I was wrong. My relationship with God is getting deeper and deeper as I explore the depths of His Greatness and as I uncover some of His mysteries.

STAGE 4

keywords: Mystic. Communal.

“Able to transcend their backgrounds, culture and limitations with all others.”

“They are religious, not looking for clear cut, proto type answers, but desiring to enter into the mystery of uncertainty, living in the unknown”

“The Christian Mystic, as with all other mystics, Sufi and Zen alike,  through contemplation, meditation, reflection and prayer, see the Christ, God’s indwelling Spirit or the Buddha nature,  in all people, including all the Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews and so forth, recognizing the connectedness of all humanity with God…”

” In the Christian example: “Jesus is my savior,” Stage II often translates this into a Jesus who is a kind of fairy godmother who will rescue us whenever we get in trouble as long as we remember to call upon his name. At Stage IV, “Jesus is my savior” is translated as “Jesus, through his life and death, taught the way, not through virgin births, cosmic ascensions, walking on water and blood sacrifice of reconciliation – man with an external daddy Warbucks that lives in the sky – mythological stories interpreted as literal accounts, but rather as one loving the whole, the outcasts, overcoming prejudices, incorporating inclusiveness and unconditional love, this, with the courage to be as oneself – that is what I must follow for my salvation.” Two totally different meanings.”

Aim for Stage 4! Sometimes, I get the chance to step at Stage 4 but because of my prejudice, I backslide to Stage 3. I am still in the process of accepting/understanding hard thoughts that are foreign to me. I know it takes time.

I have met Christian mystics in my life and every time I think about them, I can’t help but smile. They really are reflections of that authentic and genuine Christianity I have been looking for all my life.

I want to end this very long post with a quote:

Seek not to find the right answers, but to ask the right questions…

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