The stages of spiritual growth
(zitiert aus: Further Along the Road less travelled; M. Scott Peck; ISBN: 0671015818, bei amazon.de kostet das Buch 11,34 €)

Our unique human capacity for change and transformacion is reflected in our human spirituality. There are different stages of spiritual growth or religious development. I arrived at my own understandig of these stages not out of book learning but through experience. (One) of those noncomputing experiences occurred more gradually

After I had been practicing psychotherapy for some years, a strange pattern began to emerge. If religious people come to see me because they were in pain and trouble and difficulty, and they really got involved in therapy, then - more often than not - they would leave therapy as questioners, doubters, sceptics, agnostics, possibly even atheists. But if atheists or agnostics or sceptics came to me in pain, trouble, and difficulty and they really got involved in therapy, then - more often then not - they would leave therapy having become deeply religious or spiritually concerned people.
This pattern just made no sense, did not compute. Same therapist, same therapy, successful yet utterly opposite results. I could not figure this out, until it slowly began to dawn on me that we are not all at the same place spiritually and that there are these different stages. We must look at them with caution and flexibility, however, because God has this rather peculiar way of interfering with my categories sometimes, and people do not always fall quite as neatly into my psychospiritual pigeonholes as I might like them to do.

At the beginning - the bottom, if you wish - is Stage One, which I label "chaotic/antisocial". This stage probably encompasses about twenty percent of the population, including those whom I call people of the lie. In general, this is a stage of absent spirituality and the people at this stage are utterly unprincipled. I call it antisocial because while they are capable of pretending to be loving, actually all of their relationships with their fellow human beings are self-serving and unprincipled, they have no mechanism that might govern them other than their own will. Since the unharnessed will can go this way one day and that way the next, their being is consequently chaotic. Because it is, the people in this stage will frequently be found in trouble or difficulty, and often in jails or hospitals or out on the street. Some of them, however, may actually be quite self-disciplined, from time to time, in the service of their ambition and may rise to positions of considerable prestige and power. They may even become presidents or famous preachers. The people in Stage One may occasionally get in touch with the chaos of their own being. And when they do, it is perhaps the single most painful experience a human can have. Generally, they just ride it out, but if this painful experience continues, they may kill themselves, and I think that some unexplained suicides may fall into this category. Or occasionally, they may convert to Stage Two. Such conversions are usually ? I say usually because there are always exceptions very sudden and dramatic. It is as if God literally reaches down and grabs that soul and yanks it up in a quantum leap. Something astonishing happens to that person and it is usually totally unconscious. lf it could be made conscious, I think it would be as if that person said to himself or herself, I am willing to do anything?anything?in order to liberate myself from this chaos, even submit myself to an institution for my governance." And so it is that they convert to Stage Two, which I have labelled "formal/institutional." I label it institutional because people in it are dependent upon an institution for their governance. For some the institution may be a prison. In such places, in my experience, there is always a prisoner who, when the new psychiatrist comes in to work in the prison, gathers a group of fellow inmates together for a group therapy session, who is the warden's right?hand man, yet who somehow manages never to get a shiv stuck between his ribs. He is a model prisoner and a model citizen Because he is so well adjusted in the institution, he is always paroled at the first possible opportunity. Immediately he becomes a walking crime wave, and within a week of his parole, he is rearrested and put right back behind bars, where once again he becomes a model citizen with the walls of the institution around him to organize his being. For others the institution may be the military. This is a profoundly positive role the military plays in our and other societies. There are tens of thousands of people who would lead chaotic lives were it not for the rather paternalistic and in some ways maternalistic structuring of the military. For still others, the institution to which they submit themselves for their governance may be a highly organized business corporation. But for most people, it is the church. Indeed, the majority of churchgoers fall into Stage Two, the formal/institutional stage. Although there are gradations and nothing is absolutely cut?and?dried within these stages, certain things tend to characterize people's religious behaviour in Stage Two. As mentioned, they are dependent on the institution of the church for their governance, and 1 call it formal because they are very attached to the forms of the religion Stage Two people become very, very upset if someone starts changing forms or rituals, altering their liturgy or introducing new hymns. For example, in the Episcopal church, in the mid?seventies, it was decided that there might be some alternative ways to say the same things on different Sundays, and many people were so up in arms that a full?blown schism resulted, Another example: In the 1960s, the Vatican 11 Council of the Roman Catholic hierarchy led to profound changes in that church, and thirty years later Pope John Paul II still seems to be in the process of trying to undo those changes. And it's not just Episcopalians and Catholics This kind of turmoil goes on in every denomination of every religion in the world And it's no wonder that people in Stage Two become so upset when the forms of their religion are changed, because it's precisely those forms that they depend upon to some extent for their liberation from chaos. Another thing that tends to characterize people's religious behaviour in this stage is that their vision of God is almost entirely that of an external being. They have very little understanding of that half of God which lives inside each of us what theologians term immanent?the dwelling divinity within the human spirit. They almost totally think of God as up there, out there. They generally envision God along the masculine model, and while they believe Him to be a loving being, they also ascribe to Him a certain kind of punitive power which He is not afraid to use on appropriate occasions. It is a vision of God as a giant benevolent cop in the sky. And in many ways, this is exactly the kind of Cod that people in Stage Two need. Let's say that two people who are firmly rooted in Stage Two meet and marry and have children. They raise their children in a stable home because stability tends to be of great value to people in Stage Two. They treat their children with dignity and importance because the church says that children are important and should be treated with dignity. And while their love may be a little bit legalistic or unimaginative at times, nonetheless they are loving because the church tells them to be loving and teaches them a little something about how to be loving. What happens to a child raised in such a stable, loving home and treated with dignity and importance That child will absorb his parents' religious principles?be they Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, or Jewish?like mother's milk By the time the child reaches adolescence, these principles will have become virtually engraved on his heart, or "internalised" to use the psychiatric term But once this happens, they will have become principled, self?governing human beings who no longer need to depend upon an institution for their governance. lt is at this time, which in healthy human development is usually at adolescence, that they start saying, `Who needs these silly myths and superstitions and this fuddy?duddy old institution?" They will then begin??often to their parents' utterly unnecessary horror and chagrin ?to fall away from the church, having become doubters or agnostics or atheists. At this point they have begun to convert to Stage Three, which I call ?skeptic/individual. Again speaking generally, people in Stage Three are ahead of people in Stage Two m their spirituality although they are not religious in the ordinary sense of the word. They are not the least bit antisocial Often they are deeply involved in society. They are the kinds of people who tend to make up die backbone of organizations like Physicians for Social Responsibility the ecology movement They make committed and loving parents. Frequently they are scientists, and certainly scientific?minded. Invariably they are truth seekers. And if they seek truth deeply enough, and widely enough as SPIRITUALITY AND HUMAN NATURE / 125 I've suggested, they do begin to find what they are looking for and get to fit enough pieces of truth to catch glimpses of the big picture and see that it is not only very beautiful, but that it strangely resembles many of those primitive myths and superstitions their Stage Two parents or grandparents believed in. And it is at this point that they begin to convert to Stage Four, which I call mystical/communal I use the word "mystical" to describe this stage even though it is a word that is hard to define and one that has been given a pejorative connotation in our culture and is usually misdefined. But certain things can be said about mystics. They are people who have seen a kind of cohesion beneath the surface of things. Throughout the ages, mystics have seen connections between men and women, between humans and other creatures, between people walking the earth and those who aren't even here. Seeing that kind of interconnectedness beneath the surface, mystics of all cultures and religions have spoken of things in terms of unity and community. They also have always spoken in terms of paradox. Mystical has as its root the word mystery. Mystics are people who love mystery. They love to solve mysteries, and yet at the same time, they know the more they solve, the more mystery they are going to encounter. But they are very comfortable living in a world of mystery whereas people in Stage Two are most uncomfortable when things aren't cut?and-dried. These principles hold true not only for Christianity and not only in the United States but in all nations, cultures, and religions. Indeed, one of the things that characterize all of the world's great religions is that they seem to have a capacity to speak to people in both Stage Two and Stage Four as if the very teachings of a given religion have two different translations. To take an example from Judaism, Psalm 111 ends with The fear of the Lord is the begimung of wisdom." At Stage Two this is translated to mean, "When you start fearing that big cop in the sky, you really wise up." That's true. At Stage Four it is translated to mean, "The awe of God shows you the way to enlightenment." And that's also true. "Jesus is my Saviour" is a favourite statement among Christians and provides another example. Among Stage two people, that tends to be translated to mean that Jesus is a kind of fairy godmother who can rescue me whenever I get in trouble as long as I can remember to call upon His name. And that's true; He will exactly that. Whereas in Stage Four, people read it to mean that Jesus, through His life and death, taught me the way that I myself must follow for my salvation. And that is also true. As I noted, this quality of dual translation holds true not just for Christianity and Judaism but also for Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Indeed, I think it is what makes them great religions. They all give room for both the Stage Two and the Stage Four believers.