Dr. James Fowler, the author of the famous book on spiritual growth and development, Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning, has died.
Of all the books I’ve read, this one belongs in my top 10 influential books in my life. I read it first in the early 80’s, just after it came out. What it did for me was open my eyes to where I was at and where I could possibly go. So it was, in a way, a prophetic voice into my spiritual journey. By prophetic I mean it spoke into where I was, opening my mind to jolt me out of a kind of complacency, but it also spoke hope into where I could go, that I had lots of room to develop, grow, and mature. The sixth and final stage is eloquently and succinctly described here as a kind of “enlightenment”:
“The individual would treat any person with compassion as he or she views people as from a universal community, and should be treated with universal principles of love and justice.”
It is strange, isn’t it, how this stage would be repugnant and disagreeable to some of the earlier stages? So, I’ve come to the conclusion, from my own observation and experience, that there is a mixture of automatic, natural, and organic growth, and intentional growth. At some point in the journey the person becomes self-aware and participates in their development. For me, it was around this time of switching from mainly auto-pilot to mainly manual that I read this book, and it helped me to do it with wise guidance. Or, perhaps to put it better, it helped me to stop blocking my development into becoming the person I was and could be. I talk about it in my own recent book, Questions Are The Answer: nakedpastor and the search for understanding.
Whether you believe in heaven or not, I believe this cartoon is true. There is a place where we realize there are no stages and faith, although these are helpful tools and metaphors for our journey there.
I’ll be forever grateful for Fowler’s work. It changed my life.
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