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"Rational Scientific Theories from Theism"


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28.4 Stages of spiritual growth

In Chapter 23, we made a sketch of the sub-degrees 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 that should be expected in the spiritual degree. They are the degrees related to love of good loving, love of good understanding, and love of good actions, respectively. Since all physical and mental growth begins from the third degree 3, and works up towards the first degree 1, the same pattern must hold for spiritual growth. The pattern can be used to infer the stages of proper spiritual growth, no matter how it is described by the person himself. That growth starts in our mental understandin-, in sub-sub-degrees 2.13, 2.12 and 2.11, and then carries on in our spiritual will specifically, in sub-degrees 1.3, 1.2 and 1.1, in those orders. These various sub-(sub-)degrees are illustrated in Table 28.1. The progression of spiritual growth proceeds by means of steps through these degrees.

The first step (S1) is to acknowledge that there does exist a spiritual degree(!). Many people who adhere to naturalist or humanist world views deny even the possibility of spiritual processes (as we discussed in Section 25.1). The first step, therefore, is to break out of the ideological constraints of those world views (in sub-sub-degree 2.31, in the scientific rational) and allow that there is ‘light’. Let a new day dawn by accepting that there exists somewhere something absolutely good and true.

Once that step has been made, there is a progression of three further steps as our understanding is reformed and raised up. We come to understand next (S2) that these new ideas of good and truth are of two kinds. There are those within us that are mixed up with all our habits of thinking and, separate from these, also further understandings (not belonging to us) that are unconditionally good and true. After this, actions may begin (S3) that are guided by knowledge from that unconditional source, even if we do not always act this way because we are not yet acting from love. Then (S4) our understanding finally begins to see the source of these things as love (like a sun), and a good faith is founded that begins (like a moon) to reflect that love and truth into our lives.

The above stages of growth are with sub-degree 2.1 and are hence primarily concerned with our understanding. They result in a life that is managed from our understanding of truth. That is, we always have to be thinking about what to do and consequently make mistakes when our attention wanders. It would clearly be better if our life could be guided by a good love, rather than (rather consciously) forever by our intellectual understanding of what we should be doing.

The next three stages (S5, S6 & S7) involve the growth of love in our will and the conjunction of our understanding with those new kinds of love. The first stage (S5) involves the first formation in the will of good loves (in 1.3) leading to obedient action and to the new life of our understanding that comes from conjunction with this love that is good for the first time. Our understanding is now able to understand the deep principles of spirituality and religion and also think ‘high flying’ thoughts about these things.

The following stage (S6) is where our loves achieve a life in degree 1.2, and hence a good love of understanding is now readily achieved. Now all those deep and high thoughts are integrated into the human form as an image of God. Insights concerning everyday life are now easily visible, and these guide our spiritual life. Finally, stage (S7) is where our loves have been regenerated to the first spiritual degree (1.1), and hence our life is then governed (as it should be) by actions from love (not merely from insights). In that way we are more completely in the likeness of God.

Those acquainted with the story of Genesis Chapter 1 may see a pattern of correspondences in this progress of spiritual creation. Examining the details of possible correspondences of these stages with natural progressions is left as an exercise for the reader. Never forget that the spiritual degree is equally as real as the physical and mental degrees.

Previous: 28.3 What spiritual growth is not Up: 28. Spiritual Growth Next: 29. Errors and Evils

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