Stage One: The Beginning of Self-Awareness
During Stage One we begin to self-reflect on our experiences and the results of our choices. We recognize that our behavior has been influenced by social and cultural forces, and that even our parents raised and disciplined us according to the social needs of people around them, including needs of their own. This socially constructed context is usually built around physical security and material well-being. At almost the same time we identify these patterns, we begin to realize that we can choose to live contrary to these limits. There are consequences to be sure, and our friends and family who live within these “systems” might exert pressure on us to conform to what they believe are objectively determined values, principles, and “good” choices.
A person in this stage experiences God as outside of the person and reality is understood as dualistic. There is the material and there is the unseen spiritual. We see the material manifestations of spirituality: the churches, the crosses, the stained glass windows, the books, the hymnal, the communion elements. This dualism is also expressed in concepts of “good” and “bad.” If someone has faith, it is thought of as belief—a set of statements, a creed perhaps—that one accepts without question. For a person in the first stage of spiritual growth, everything spiritual appears to function in a rule-based system. Follow the rules and you receive a reward. Questions about who we are arise, but the answers are within the context of the “objective” values we have been given of what is good or bad and how all of human thought and behavior stand in relation to the rules and commandments. These values are culturally determined and accepted, and authority is given to those who voice these same values.
If we are in Stage One:
- We realize that social and cultural forces have conditioned our minds to function along specific, identifiable patterns. Almost simultaneously we realize some of these limits can be removed, yet we are unsure how to alter these patterns, and they continue to hold us.
- We realize that accepting and following social and cultural dictates do not alleviate spiritual suffering. We do not fully recognize our own contribution to this suffering.
- We believe that what is considered valuable or important is an objective determination.
- Questions about who we are and why our world is the way it is emerge.
- Spirituality functions in a rule-based system.
- We understand faith as belief.
- We understand God and reality within a dualistic system of thought:
- There is good and there is evil; there is the material and there is the spiritual. The mental and intellectual aspect of our life is thought of as spiritual. Aspects of inner spiritual reality—thoughts, inspiration, dreams, intelligence—are left undifferentiated in our understanding. The sources and/or manifestation of these inner experiences are unknown and mysterious.
- We express devotion to God outside of the person in material ways— crosses as jewelry, vestments, cathedrals—perpetuating dualistic thinking.
From The Readings
2011-01 There are very few people who understand the ways that their free will is connected to their spirituality. Many people live a rule-based system. They follow rules and actually have very little internal process. This is very much without direction because they know not the direction they come from and therefore are unable to know the direction they are headed.
2011-46 (I’m having a hard time staying focused and engaged with my work. I’d like to make a change now, but I feel like I need the money. How can I deal with the inner turmoil I feel every day where I feel like I have to sit there doing something I don’t want to be doing?) At present, you are working with one of the most difficult groups to work with—a group of people driven by financial gain, by material success, by a material presence in the world, by the use of the mind as a reasoning tool—and the mind’s purpose is seen as a way of figuring out, rationalizing, reasoning, justifying, and making judgments based on a largely unexplored worldview. We say that these aspects are combined with an unexplored worldview because the values that make up this worldview are based on principles and values, many of which are popular or espoused by popular people, or have as their foundation
a strong system of what should be done and sometimes misses some of the things that can be done, because this worldview is so dominant. This group represents tremendous potential for good in the world. And the good that they see is primarily a material benefit, yet these are the very people that in some shape or form, you are going to find to be your most committed and available clients. It doesn’t matter if they are in manufacturing or banking or other industries where the material manifestation of energy is so prominent, because the mindset, the worldview is what dominates. And so many things are sacrificed to this point of view, to this perspective. Part of the puzzle for you is to find the spiritual presence in the midst of this paradigm of the world because a large part of your appeal to people is going to be an appeal to people who are not like-minded, and there is nothing that you can do about that, because that is the condition of the world in which you live. You have a significant role in the company where you can see the perpetuation and the use of this paradigm, and yet you have this spiritual foundation that nourishes you and gives you strength to get up every day and work. You need to know that there are other people there with that same desire, with that same foundation—this hidden network that is binding everything together. And so finding a way to speak to that world is important.
2012-18 Everything in the present life for Stelli and Jeffrey can be understood in the context of learning to communicate with a broad spectrum of people: from high level, technical, to more simplistic means and ways of explaining the world, to sophisticated understanding of ideas, and art, and how they relate to the spiritual. We’re talking about intention and motivation, and how these things arise in the person and become spiritualized. You know that they come from a spiritual origin, but others do not always understand this source or this origin. Though they speak of God being inspiration, often they see all of this in terms of the exterior world. They separate God from the world, God from the light that enlightens every human being. To them this wall is impenetrable. You are breaking down the barriers of this wall, showing ways for light to pass through.
2012-33 You are building strength now, a different kind of strength. Part of what you are growing can be described as having care and compassion, but with a proper detachment that allows you to teach and empower others without becoming their source of support. You may support them through your effort, but as you have been learning it is very important when people come to you because they are ready. The spiritual path always contains obstacles, it always contains difficulties, and those who express readiness often are stalled or stopped by the very early obstacles and difficulties on the path. You have not seen anyone really ready to step over these obstacles or leave them behind. It’s still lip service on a certain level. They do not understand the magnitude of change, nor do they understand where the magnitude of change needs to occur. There is still a sense among many that it is others in the way of the change, not themselves. They are unable to speak for change.
2012-38 Many people, through their ideas and through their concepts of God, limit God. This is not actually true, but it becomes true in their lives, where they can only see God acting in certain ways, or only loving certain people, or having a God that they can control by following rules. But God is not bound in any way by these limitations. These are limitations that are a product of narrow minds, lack of vision, lack of understanding. Jeffrey needs to be careful that when this is expressed, he needs to remember that any concept of God that finds expression in the physical world is going to be limited, and he’ll find himself bouncing up against this limitation. This is why he can find the same stubbornness, the same truculent behavior in both liberals and conservatives. In some ways, to speak prophetically is to stir the pot, and no matter how hard one might try to reach consensus or to build some agreement, there is always going to be something that is un-reconciled or someone who is not reconciled. Even when there is consensus in a group—and there may be a period of peace or cooperation—over time people move on or change, and this is a normal process and necessary for the growth of the human soul.
2012-235 Many seek answers in authority, outside of themselves. They do not understand the authority that resides within themselves, even to the point where they take external authority and psychically try to impose it on their interior life. This is a difficult and troubling process, frustrating, and is what leads to very erratic behavior and to misunderstanding. In the future you’ll be working with people seeking this inner realization, this personal growth and development that recognizes and accepts all forms of inner-developed, authentic authority. This prophetic model of understanding human beings is what will lead you and can be seen and understood as a guide for your own discernment.