Seven Stages of Spiritual Growth

The seven stages of spiritual growth are presented here in sequence, but various elements of all the stages may be present at the same time in a person. The traditional language for spiritual growth and development in the Christian tradition is “spiritual formation,” but the word “formation” can imply growing into or being shaped into a static condition. True spirituality in God is formless and flexible. The explanation and descriptions that follow are not a formula that can be understood or followed like a recipe. Flashes of insight, moments of liberation, brief episodes of freedom, or the bliss of unconditional love can find expression at any moment. What comes easily for one person may be difficult for another. Brilliance may exist side by side with cruelty. The combinations may be surprising and frustrating as we experience them in ourselves. The grace of God may touch and transform our being at any moment, rendering our effort and discipline meaningless. The ordinary and simple parts of life may contain the most profound and complex truth. We cannot make assumptions for others, nor can we presume that the path we follow will lead to the same truth for someone else. A person who functions primarily in the early stages of spiritual development may have love and faith just as strongly as a person in later stages of development. One way to think of this is to consider a beginning musician. As a beginner, the skill level, or competency in performing music, is less than in a concert musician. But that beginner can love music as much as anyone at any skill level. Persons of love and faith can do extraordinary things and act with complete selflessness at any moment in time, thus transforming everything and everyone around them. It is important for us to accept each other and the world as the perfect expression of spiritual need and complete grace in every moment, no matter the appearance.

The process of spiritual development through the stages of spiritual growth leads to the full expression of God—the realization of God—in the human being. The realization of God becomes an awareness and a consciousness contained in every dimension of existence from the material to the non-material. This realization in its most comprehensive state of being is the oneness of God. In the following pages, the mindset and consciousness of the person and their expression of personal spirituality is described in each stage. The boundaries between stages are somewhat arbitrary and are not exact; they are organized in this fashion simply as an aid to understanding.

The excerpts from the readings that follow each stage are provided as examples of my own process and my wife Stelli’s. I have placed sample readings within the stage I feel most closely demonstrates each stage, but many readings contain elements that fit more than one stage. You may want to read through the sample readings after you finish reading about each stage, or read through the description of the stage and then return to the readings later. My experience with the readings is they sometimes require returning to them and rereading them. As my understanding grew, the readings revealed things I had not noticed when I read them the first time. I do not present the readings as statements of facts or truths that others should follow. However, I hope some of the content is useful and provokes a deeper questioning and thinking about the material presented.