The Journey of Faith

The Journey of Faith

Recently, I shared some observations elsewhere about what I saw as the evolution of faith, in this context to a specific teaching. We may not consider our relationship with a teaching “faith” unless it’s specifically a religious teaching. But the pattern is much the same in any case. In fact, the process is true for anyone in the growth and development of their worldview. Religious or Material.

I’ve found that a typical exploration consists of an early caution or testing of the waters phase, a newbie phase, a keener phase, then a more mature understanding phase.

Maturity develops from their own adaptation based on their own understanding & experience, or there is a falling away or outgrowing of the teaching. This depends on the maturity of both the student and the teaching itself.

[as per Comments, a Disillusionment can occur between Keener and Maturity]

If the keener doesn’t mature, at some point something in the teaching or teacher will not jibe with their expectations. They can then be royally disappointed or traumatized and reject the whole thing. More so if they fail to differentiate the difference between the organization, the teacher as a person, and the teaching/vision.

The maturity of the individual and the vision of the teacher and organization around them can be key to encouraging or discouraging a mature worldview. If the keener’s fundamentalism becomes entrenched, it can become an issue for everyone. True cults are largely built around this.

If the teacher is not part of a tradition, the teacher and teaching can be harder to separate. But there is still a difference between the person and the awakening they embody. And that awakening is equally unique to that person.

After the above comments, someone mentioned The Stages of Faith by James Fowler. Now retired, he was a professor of Theology, a Methodist minister and a developmental psychologist. His model is based more on time of life and religious faith than relationship to a teaching, but it’s interesting how similar it is to my own observations.

Stage 0 (birth to 2 years): Primal or Undifferentiated faith
Early learning of the relative safety of the environment, safe or unsafe.

Stage 1
(age 3 to 7): Intuitive-Projective faith
Fantasy and perception unrestricted by logic and makes lasting impressions. Taboos learned.

Stage 2 (school age) Mythic-Literal faith
Adopting stories, beliefs and observances of community to fit in. Very literal. Reciprocal fairness. Anthropomorphic deities (the personal) Some adults are still here. (One should not confuse this with the more advanced lead-in to God Realization that can also be largely personal)

Stage 3 (adolescence) Synthetic-Conventional faith
World extends beyond family. The basis of personal identity, myth and worldview, conformity and a consistent ideology. May not be aware of having it until some change or crisis.

Stage 4 (mid-20’s to late 30’s, or later) Individuative-Reflective faith
Rising responsibility for one’s worldview. Group identity vs individuality. Various internal struggles can emerge.

Stage 5 (mid-life) Conjunctive faith
Recognition of the unseen or repressed aspects, the unconscious. Acknowledge paradox, the relativity of any position, and transcendence.

Stage 6 (exceedingly rare) Universalizing faith
Radical actualization. Inclusive of all being. Create “contagious” zones of liberation. More often honoured after their death. (This seems to group together layers of awakening)

It strikes me how similar these stages are to my Perspectives model and the related  States of Consciousness model.

Oh yee of faith, how be it seen?
Do you stand on the belief of your father?
Do you see the paradox and the relativity of your position?
Do you stand in inclusively, seeing all as perspectives of the one?

Such a journey it is.

Last Updated on December 11, 2013 by Davidya

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  1. Share

    Hey D, I really like your categories of tester, newbie, keener and matured. I think they apply to other situations too. Like jobs, places, intimate partners. With anything or anyone new in our life, I think we will go through these 4 stages.

    However, I think I’d put a Disillusionment stage between Keener and Matured. Maybe Fowler’s Stage 4. It’s important to recognize that Disillusionment is a distinct stage. And that it’s necessary in order for one to move to Maturity.

    For example in romantic love, the paradox is that Disillusionment, when moved through, actually leads to a deeper and richer, more grounded and more whole love.
    With gratitude,

  2. Davidya

    Hi Share
    Yes, dissolution is after Keener. I didn’t really delineate that well. I described this in the 4th paragraph but the third makes this unclear. I’ll edit it slightly to make that more so.

    I get the impression the later part of Stage 4 would be the disillusionment stage, leading to a “mid-life” crisis and acceptance of the unseen and transcendence.

    In some ways, the sometimes called “dark night of the soul” can happen here if the shift is deep enough.

    Thanks for a great comment and observations.

    1. Beautiful, Gina. And well put. If faith is based solely on stories, it’s just mind and has no foundation.
      So often, our beliefs are part of out identified sense of identity. Even if they make no sense, we’ll defend them as if our life depended on them. Unless we reach stage 4 and review our beliefs in the light of life experience, they won’t hold up.

  3. My apologies. I didn’t realize until the BATGAP interview that “keener” was a very local term. It comes from the old slang “keen” meaning someone who’s really into it.
    This is quite distinct from dictionary meanings of keen. In fact, it can be opposite to the “intellectually sharp” definition.

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