Universal Phases of Spiritual Development
Updated: Aug 1, 2022
I have been on my own path to spirituality for many decades. I have explored far and wide, lived on three continents, and studied countless religions, paths and approaches. I work as a spiritual teacher and I am surrounded by other people who teach, search and who are generally on the path. I have thousands of clients and I have seen the same patterns over and over. I have also lived these patterns. Along with spiritual development, I have also been studying psychology for decades.
I am still working on this concept and I am not sure if there are more stages I can't see yet. When I was in the earlier stages I could not see the ones where I am now.
This is not intended to be used as a grading system but rather to be a road map. If you are using this as points, chances are you are still on phase 3.
This is entirely my perspective and based on my observations.
0- I am body only. This phase is characterized by looking down on spiritual people, being skeptical to the extent that you won’t even entertain that someone’s spiritual beliefs could be valid and real. An “us vs them” mentality is common in but not exclusive to this phase. Most people never make it past this phase.
1- Seeking truth. Realizing there's something more and searching. Trying on different spiritual paths or practices. This phase is often characterized by spiritual consumerism (trying to buy spirituality by buying things) or toxic positivity ( thinking spirituality means good vibes only). People in this phase still mostly identify as body but are waking up to the fact that there is more to who they are than just body.
2- False arriving. Thinking that you have cracked THE code for you and therefore everyone else and that you are now ready to lead others to the light. This phase is often characterized by people selling enlightenment or believing that they can do the work for you.
Examples: Buy my embodiment masterclass. Evangelical Christians saying Jesus is the only way.
This phase is often characterized by overly identifying with spirit and nurturing only that part of the self and neglecting other aspects of this reality. This phase is usually accompanied by euphoria at discovering that there is a deeper truth to existence but this euphoria is temporary. Some try to sustain it with more spiritual consumerism and toxic positivity. Many people stop here.
3- Disillusionment / despair. Recognizing and acknowledging that there is still something missing, something that isn't harmonious within yourself or some more learning and work to be done. Sometimes this phase leads people back to 0 or into the perceived safety of some cult mentality like organized religion or brand name spirituality. The initial euphoria of the false arrival has worn off and if you have found your way into spirituality through a phase two leader chances are you are feeling ostracized from the community that once welcomed you. You might feel like you are failing at being spiritual because you are failing at being happy all the time or keeping up with your spiritual practices when things get tough.
4- Liminal phase. Liminal is a word from anthropology used to describe an initiate while they are going through an initiation ritual. When they enter the ritual they are one thing (for example a boy) in the eyes of the tribe and in their own mind and when they are done with the ritual they will be something else (for example a man). But while they are participating in the ritual or rite they are neither of these things. This standing on the threshold is what is called the liminal.
During this phase you recognize that you need to master both the light and darkness within you to be whole. You start doing the work, truly confronting and unpacking the shadow. This shit is really really hard and lonely and individual. This is not the big family embrace of phase 1, this is your deepest wounds being uncovered. It's individual and scary because you are facing the parts of yourself that you believe are toxic, unlovable or evil. Many people can get lost here. Some will give up. This phase is best attempted with a guide.
5- Humility and balance. You are no longer judgemental about those ahead of you or behind you on their journey. You realize that there is no one code to be cracked that works for everyone because everyone has their unique set of demons that they need to confront in their own liminal phase. You are no longer taking responsibility for others or trying to do their work for them and you no longer expect others to do your work for you. You are willing to help anyone who asks but you recognize that ultimately they have to walk the walk. You know there's no one answer that fixes everything or works for everyone. You no longer tie your spiritual value to helping others wake up. You have an individualized practice incorporating what works for you but don't force it on anyone. You are able to hold healthy boundaries. You are not afraid of feeling negative emotions from time to time. You expect them and understand that they are not failures of spirituality but necessary teachers and phases. Compassion is natural but you are no longer controlled by the need to fix. You recognize self as a whole integrated being of mind, body and spirit. You have learned that you need to take care of all aspects of your existence on Earth.
6-? I don't know yet.
One cannot skip through these phases. They have to be gone through in succession and each must be allowed to run its course. They may be in a different order for some people, but you cannot really control this order.
“The shadow is the sum of all personal and collective psychic elements which, because of their incompatibility with the chosen conscious attitude, are denied expression in life.”