So many of our problems can be resolved if we understand that people are at different levels and stages of growth. The importance of levels of development has come to be recognized by teachers as diverse as Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, Abraham Maslow, James Fowler, Clare Graves, Ken Wilber, and Bill Plotkin. Some speak of six levels, some eight, and some ten, but in general they move in a very similar direction. There is a rather common description for human maturation.
Thomas Aquinas said, “Whatever is received is received according to the manner of the receiver.” As a preacher and teacher, I have found that whatever I teach will be heard on many different levels, according to the inner psychological and spiritual maturity of the listener. It is rather obvious once you say it. Jesus was teaching the same in his parable of the four different kinds of soil that received the seed (Matthew 13:4-9).
My own attempt to correlate the various schemas of development has resulted in nine levels or stages, which I will be describing over the next two weeks. Note that this is merely a teaching tool. In real life, the spiritual journey is much more subtle and complex. Progress through the stages is not usually linear or completely chronological. Also, there is an inherent danger in teaching about levels of growth as the ego will try to use this information to place itself at a higher level than it is! So I invite you to read these meditations with openness, humble honesty, and a desire for the wholeness only God can give.