The path home to God involves a gradual process of one’s awareness moving from the physical world to the spiritual, from the external to the internal.  Different thinkers and Christian writers have traced this; this is just one line of development of growth, however, according to Ken Wilber.  There are two kinds of “maturing.”  One involves a psychological/philosophical shift in worldview perspectives that also corresponds to the historical periods of humankind’s path to the present day. The other kind of growth is experiential, and it has typically been the domain of religion.  This goes back to early Desert Fathers like St. John Cassian, and medieval master, St. John of The Cross.  See the chart below.

stages of the christian mystical path

stages of psychological/philosophical development

The other kind, psychological and philosophical in nature can be briefly summarized using Ken Wilber’s Integral terminology.  This work also corresponds to notable theologian Dr. James Fowler, from Emory University, who recently passed on.

  1. Archaic: No distinction between self and other. 1st person.
  2. Magic Tribal: Impulsive, superstitious, self/other still blurred
  3. Magic-Mythic: PowerGods, power drives, hunger, give me
  4. Mythic-Traditional: Ethnocentric, absolute beliefs, traditional, fundamentalist
  5. Rational Modern: World-centric, Reason, Logic, Universal truths, empiricism, achievement, financial success
  6. Pluralistic Postmodern: Sees universe, self, and other, and relflects on the nature of having perspective, Relativism, Human Rights, Post-colonial theory, Roland Barthes, no universal truth
  7. Integral: Everything is connected. All previous stages are necessary building-blocks. Understands the stages themselves and favors wholism, unity, personal development, and is aware of the spiritual nature of things as well as the physical and psychological.

Also, worth mentioning is the simpler version derived by Dr. M. Scott Peck in Further Along The Road Less Traveled.   Drawing from his experience as a psychiatrist, the chain-smoklng, cannabis-loving, best-selling prophet of the Christian 1980s came up with only four stages of psychological/philosophical development.

Corresponding to Wilber/Fowler models above:

M. Scott Peck 4 stages :

  1. Wilber’s first three stages.  All corresponding to psychological developmental ages 0-5.
  2. Wilber’s Mythic-Traditional.  Corresponding to developmental ages 5-12.
  3. Wilber’s Rational-Modern.  Corresponding to age 13-19.
  4. Wilber’s post-modern, Integral and Beyond.  Peck called this the Mystic stage.   Like Wilber, Peck estimated only 5% of the world’s population (or less) was fully in this phase.

It is worth reiterating, if this material seems too abstract and far-out, please do not fret.  Sometimes stages like these are validation for people who feel a lack of connection with other kindred spirits or a lack of community.  At the end of the day, of course, it’s all simply about growth, getting closer to God.

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