I found this piece very enlightening about the stages we often go through in our spiritual/conscious journey of life.  This is just the first 1/3 of the article or so.  Please click the link at the end to continue reading.

The Stages Of Spiritual Growth

By M. Scott Peck, M.D.
(The
Different Drum
by M. Scott Peck, pages 187-203)

Abridged by Richard Schwartz


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 of Emory University, the writer
of
Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the
Quest ...
. But I first came to an awareness of these stages
through my own personal experience.

The first of these experiences occurred within I was fourteen and
began attending Christian churches in the area. I was mainly
interested in checking out the girls but also in checking out what
this Christianity business seemed to be about. I chose one
particular church because it was only a few blocks down the street
and because the most famous preacher of the day was preaching there.
It was in the day before the "electronic church," but this man's
every sermon was broadcast over almost every radio frequency across
the country. At fourteen I had no trouble spotting him as a fraud.
On the other hand, up the street in the opposite direction was
another church with a well-known minister--not nearly as famous as
the first but still probably among the top thirty in the Who's Who
of preachers of the day-a Presbyterian named George Buttrick. And at
age fourteen I had no trouble spotting George Buttrick as a holy
man, a true man of God. What was I to think of this with my young
brain? Here was the best known Christian preacher of the day, and as
far as I could discern at age fourteen, I was well ahead of him. Yet
in the same Christian religion was George Buttrick, who was
obviously light years ahead of me. It just didn't compute. So I
concluded that this Christianity business didn't make any sense, and
I turned my back on it for the next generation.

Another significant non computing experience occurred more
gradually. Over the course of a decade of practicing psychotherapy a
strange pattern began to emerge. If people who were religious came
to me in pain and trouble, and if they became engaged in the
therapeutic process, so as to go the whole route, they frequently
left therapy as atheists, agnostics, or at least skeptics. On the
other hand, if atheists, agnostics, or skeptics came to me in pain
or difficulty and became fully engaged, they frequently left therapy
as deeply religious people. Same therapy, same therapist, successful
but utterly different outcomes from a religious point of view. Again
it didn't compute--until I realized that we are not all in the same
place spiritually.

With that realization came another: there is a pattern of
progression through identifiable stages in human spiritual life. I
myself have passed through them in my own spiritual journey. But
here I will talk about those stages only in general, for individuals
are unique and do not always fit nearly into my psychological or
spiritual pigeonhole.

With that caveat, let me list my own understanding of these stages
and the names I have chosen to give them:

STAGE I:

Chaotic, Antisocial. Frequently pretenders; they pretend they are
loving and pious, covering up their lack of principles. Although
they may pretend to be loving (and think of themselves that way),
their relationships with their fellow human beings are all
essentially manipulative and self-serving. They really don't give a
hoot about anyone else. I call the stage chaotic because these
people are basically unprincipled. Being unprincipled, there is
nothing that governs them except their own will. And since the will
from moment to moment can go this way or that, there is a lack of
integrity to their being. They often end up, therefore in jails or
find themselves in another form of social difficulty. Some, however,
may be quite disciplined in the services of expediency and their own
ambition and so may rise in positions of considerable prestige and
power, even to become presidents or influential preachers.



STAGE II:

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. They are threatened by anyone who thinks differently from
them, as they have the "truth," and so regard it as their
responsibility to convert or save the other 90 or 99 percent of
humanity 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. Instead
they choose the formulations, the stagnation of prescribed methods
and doctrines that spell out life and attempt to escape fear. Yet
these theological reasonings simply cover over fear, hide fear and
do not transcend it in spite of with acceptance in expanding
movement. All those outside of Stage II are perceived to be as Stage
I, as they do not understand Stage III and Stage IV. Those who do
fall, reverting from Stage II to Stage I are called "backsliders."

There is a Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Benny Hinn, Pat Robertson,
mentality (one-sided thinking - ignorance that produces hostility)
in every religion, the one-sidedness, in every ideology.
Christianity cannot be condemned as responsible for the
fundamentalists who claim to represent such. One just has to look at
Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King, Jr. to see the opposite of such
thinking. You can find the Falwell in Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism,
Jainism, Mohammedism and of course Christianity. That is the narrow
one-sided exclusiveness that limits insight to one set of rules and
one objective truth, under the literal logic or rationialism, that
fails to apprehend the unseen intuitive essence of existence and
ignorantly labels outsiders as misled sinners, while surrounding
themselves with interior neurotic and finite walls of security and
certainty. 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.

There is also a Bin Laden (evil intolerance) in every religious
culture and teaching, in every social, political and cultural view.
Islam cannot be condemned as responsible for the extreme
fundamentalists who incorporate harm and war. One just has to look
at the other side within Islam, to the Sufi of compassion and peace,
that of Bawa Muhaiyaddeen or Hazrat Inayat Khan. Yet the evil of
extreme fundamentalism resides in all facets of society, those who
would kill and destroy, torture and humiliate, all in the name of
their theological and ideological views. They are of course the
extreme fundamentalists, yet all forms of fundamentalism, both
moderate to extreme, Stage II mentality, fails integration with
non-acceptance, that of one-dimensional perception. And yet, in each
of these same cultures, although the minority, there exists communal
and mystical persons, Stage IV persons, those transmitting
inclusiveness and compassion, who transcend all divisiveness in
oneness.



STAGE III:

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. Although individualistic, they are
not the least bit antisocial. To the contrary, they are often deeply
involved in and committed to social causes. They make up their own
minds 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 (as opposed to Buddha or Mao or
Socrates) in order to be saved. They make loving, intensely
dedicated parents. As skeptics they are often scientists, and as
such they are again highly submitted to principle. Indeed, what we
call the scientific method is a collection of conventions and
procedures that have been designed to combat our extraordinary
capacity to deceive ourselves in the interest of submission to
something higher than our own immediate emotional or intellectual
comfort--namely truth. Advanced Stage III men and women are active
truth seekers.

Despite being scientifically minded, in many cases even atheists,
they are on a higher spiritual level than Stage II, being a required
stage of growth to enter into Stage IV. The churches age old
dilemma: how to bring people from Stage II to Stage IV, without
allowing them to enter Stage III.



STAGE IV:

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. 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, Gods 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, never separating oneself
from others with doctrine and scripture, recognizing that all
scripture acts as fallible pointers of inspiration, unable to
capture the essence of truth outside of both human perception and
the linguistic straight jacket of language and articulation, that
is, the words of fallible men who experienced the nature of God,
that of their inner true self, and attempted to record their
experience in human words, words constrained by the era of time they
were written in that became compromised the moment they were penned
and are further removed from objectivity when interpreted by us,
fallible men and women who read them. (Words in Blue Font Added)

It is as if the words of each had two different translations. 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.

The Stage IV - the mystic - views the conception of "back sliding"
as the movement away from the collective consciousness and true
inner nature, returning to the separate self - the ego, as opposed
to the Stage II - the fundamentalist, whose conception of "back
sliding," is the movement away from mapped out security to that of
chaos. Two totally different views.


Continue reading here for an expansion of concepts: http://www.factnet.org/Stages_Of_Spiritual_Growth.html#Expansion_of...

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Replies to This Discussion

Mike,
Thanks for posting a review of some of M. Scott Peck's writings. He is one of my favorite authors. His books are wonderful and full of good advice and insight that helped me navigate several difficult places on the path out of Mormonism. His book, "People of the Lie' gave me insight into narcissism that helped me see that my first marriage to a TBM would never work-- especially if he stayed active in Mormonism. "The Road Less Traveled" just let me know that my new found beliefs were a part of the 'road less traveled' that few people find and that I wasn't crazy.
I think, like in all things, some of us have the gift of a spiritual self that allows us to be mystical. Rather than stages of progression, as likened to going down a path and passing through gates, I do think some are born in a stage they stay in for their entire lives. There are others who do shift from one stage to another, both who are seen as, "spiritually progressing," to those who are seen as, "falling back into the abyss of non-belief."

Although I agree with the principles of spiritual growth, I do not think we all are cut out to be stage IV material, and that is ok, too.
I totally agree! We each stay/change to where we fit best currently. For some, that doesn't change much or at all their whole life, and there's nothing wrong with that.
What a crock!! This is 15 minutes of my life I've lost forever.

I was raised atheist, socially converted to LDS to fit into the culture at age 14. I lost my "testimony" within 6 months and had to endure living as a jack Mormon for the next 9 years until I could escape Salt Lake City and move to Boulder. Anyway, when I read this passage from stage I just about burst out laughing:

"I call the stage chaotic because these people are basically unprincipled. Being unprincipled, there is nothing that governs them except their own will. And since the will from moment to moment can go this way or that, there is a lack of
integrity to their being. They often end up, therefore in jails or find themselves in another form of social difficulty."


How self-righteous to assume without having a god to believe in you have no control over your will. I was taught the golden rule at my mother's knee. Believing in Christ or God or a bearded, fictional character living in the sky sharing all your problems is not a precursor to being a solid, outstanding individual fully capable of governing their will power. When your religious foundation is non-existent you take responsibility for all of your actions. You have no deity to turn your problems over to nor do you need one. Peck's point of reference for a non-religious person is delusional.
I don't think you read far enough to understand that you more likely fall under Stage III than Stage I. Stage I doesn't apply to atheist as I think you presumed. Here is stage III which might surprise you:

Stage III
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. Although individualistic, they are
not the least bit antisocial. To the contrary, they are often deeply
involved in and committed to social causes. They make up their own
minds 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 (as opposed to Buddha or Mao or
Socrates) in order to be saved. They make loving, intensely
dedicated parents. As skeptics they are often scientists, and as
such they are again highly submitted to principle. Indeed, what we
call the scientific method is a collection of conventions and
procedures that have been designed to combat our extraordinary
capacity to deceive ourselves in the interest of submission to
something higher than our own immediate emotional or intellectual
comfort--namely truth. Advanced Stage III men and women are active
truth seekers.

Despite being scientifically minded, in many cases even atheists,
they are on a higher spiritual level than Stage II, being a required
stage of growth to enter into Stage IV. The churches age old
dilemma: how to bring people from Stage II to Stage IV, without
allowing them to enter Stage III.
I do believe you are right!
Thanks for the interesting article. I will definitely look into this.
Thanks for sharing this. I'm not sure what stage I'm in at the moment. Have still not sent my resignation letter to SLC yet, but it is definitely going off soon.

Bumping, because I can 

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