Blog #21: Seven Stages of Growth

 Every seven years, more or less, we humans move through different stages of growth. While no one has any doubt about this happening on a physical and psychological level, very few have considered that the same thing happens to us spiritually.

 The first seven years are concerned with personal security. There is nothing overtly spiritual about this stage, but it sets the stage for all that will come after. In other words, we are wired to be self absorbed in our early years; self-transcendence comes much later.

 At around seven years of age, we enter heavily into the world of relationships. The child goes off to school. The youngster learns to deal with the opposite sex. By fourteen or so, puberty arrives, whether we want it or not.

 The age from fourteen to twenty one is the time to acquire the courage to live one’s life according to the inner and outer calls of life. During this time, the young adult develops his or her mental capacities, prepares to earn a livelihood, and consolidates the disparate energies of the personality.

 We say that a person is “grown up” at twenty one years of age. This is only partially true. By twenty one years of age or so it is true that the body has generally stopped its natural growth, but so much inner growth still needs to take place.

 Note that during these first twenty one years of age, the focus is usually on the ego, or what Jung calls the “little self.” There is nothing inappropriate about this. Mystics are not commonly found among this cohort. They may be “religious”, but the focus is not normally on a Higher Power. The focus is on much more mundane matters.

 The next seven years, from twenty one to twenty eight, typically mark the stage of the “householder”, a time to settle down into one’s career, marriage, starting a family or one’s calling.

 The stage between twenty eight and thirty five is a key time for a more conscious spiritual awakening to take place. When we look at the great giants of spiritual unfoldment, almost all had their key turning points take place during this time period. Jesus of Nazareth, Siddartha Gautama (the Buddha), Augustine of Hippo, Francis of Assisi, Theresa of Avila, Dorothy Day, John Wesley, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Thomas Merton and Hildegard of Bingen are examples that quickly come to mind.

 The classic age for a spiritual awakening is thirty one and a half years of age. Around this time, a person begins to look beyond themselves and to think of the big picture.

 From thirty five to forty two, wisdom or Christ consciousness (or Buddha awareness) begins to dawn on a person, if all is going according to an optimum pattern of unfoldment. One then senses more of a connection to nature and one finally begins to feel like a child of the Infinite.

 The next seven years, from forty two until forty nine, can lead to an increasing surrender to the mystery of life. The energy is at least latently present to say along with Saint Paul, “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” Put psychologically, one feels radically at one with the source of all that is.

 The blueprint for the above psycho-spiritual unfoldment is part of our hard wiring. Of course, everything from a poor foundation to addiction to trauma can skew the process. But just as our second set of teeth at age seven and puberty at age fourteen will follow their own inevitable schedule, so will the capacity to be at one with the One do the same during the course of our lives.

Next posting: Four Spiritualities

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4 responses to “Blog #21: Seven Stages of Growth

  1. Charles Lindenlaub

    Still enjoying your posts Tom – thanks – a very thoughtful and open approach to the mysteries of our lives and the world/universe in which we exist. Charlie

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  2. On the day I turned 21, I was led to drive up into the Rocky Mountains where I could see the Continental Divide. I didn’t know why I needed to be there, but I got out of my VW bug and sat on a rock overlooking the high peaks. After awhile, I experienced a full-blown existential shattering and fell down on the ground, crying out to who or whatever was out there to help me understand the meaning of life and my purpose in it. My life from that moment on has been centered in a spiritual direction for meaning and purpose. I’ve looked at my 7 year cycles along the way and seem to be right on the multiple of 7!

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  3. Only in the depth of the flow, soul can grow..gedeprama|bellofpeace.org

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  4. This should hopefully give us a sense that there is Divine “timing” to everything. That which is appropriate at one level may be premature at an earlier level. Just as adolescence will come when it is time for it to make its appearance, so will the push to the next level of our spiritual unfoldment come when it is time. A Higher Power is always at work!

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