|If a death is required between every stage—a period of darkness and not knowing—then surely an even larger letting go is necessary to move from Stage Three to Stage Four. This is probably why most Western cultures are at Stage Three. Without great love (and I mean great love of someone beyond myself) and great suffering, where there is a major defeat, major humiliation, major shock to the ego self, very few people move to Stage Four. This is the great dying that all spiritual teachers are talking about. As Jesus puts it, “Unless the grain of wheat dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it will bear much fruit” (John 12:24).
Historically, classic initiation rites were programmed to move people to at least an initial experience of Stage Four; if you can get people to Stage Four, normally growth will continue to happen from there, because now you know that dying to self is central and necessary. You have begun to learn the art of letting go. You have learned that you do not need to be certain every step of the way. The meaning of faith is slowly becoming clear for you: walking in darkness and trust. A certain tolerance for ambiguity and paradox is learned in the movement from Stage Three to Stage Four. But to be honest, many backslide from Stage Four when they see how high the price is (1960s hippies, the broad-minded but arrogant liberal, etc.).
Adapted from The Art of Letting Go:
Living the Wisdom of St. Francis, Disc 5 (CD)
Gateway to Silence:
Open me to wholeness