Monday, 30 January 2012


At Christchurch, Clarendon Park, for the third session in the course, "Mindfulness & Wisdom", offered by Christians Aware as part of their Faith Awareness programme. The eight-week course has been devised by Ian Grayling and Kevin Commons from the Leicester Serene Reflection Meditation Group.

Our topic this evening: "Wisdom and the Concept of 'Stages of Faith'".

To quote Bob Dylan (not something I often do, faithful reader) "I'm not there". At the time of this meeting, I'm swanning around the Frederick Gore Retrospective III at The Gallery in Cork Street, London, being mistaken for a successful documentary film producer.

So, thanks to Kevin for sending me notes of this evening's session, so I could maintain the blog for the course. 

Ian began the session by inviting responses from attendees, who'd been left at the end of the last session 2 to consider aspects of their faith and its history that demonstrate "spiritually intelligent or spiritually dumb behaviour." The principal issue arising from this discussion was that there had been plenty of examples of spiritually dumb behaviour exhibited by key figures or institutional bodies within the faith traditions represented in the group. There was further elaboration of this point with reference to failure to recognise the interdependence of humanity and an attachment to independence.

Kevin then introduced the main topic of the evening, which involved looking at James Fowler's Stages of Faith, which are as follows:

  • Stage 0 "Primal or Undifferentiated" faith (birth to 2 years), is characterised by an early learning of the safety of their environment (i.e. warm, safe and secure vs. hurt, neglect and abuse). 
  • Stage 1 "Intuitive-Projective" faith (ages of three to seven), is characterized by the psyche's unprotected exposure to the Unconscious.
  • Stage 2 "Mythic-Literal" faith (mostly in school children), stage two persons have a strong belief in the justice and reciprocity of the universe, and their deities are almost always anthropomorphic.
  • Stage 3 "Synthetic-Conventional" faith (arising in adolescence) characterized by conformity.
  • Stage 4 "Individuative-Reflective" faith (usually mid-20s to late 30s) a stage of angst and struggle. The individual takes personal responsibility for their beliefs and feelings.
  • Stage 5 "Conjunctive" faith (mid-life crisis) acknowledges paradox and transcendence relating reality behind the symbols of inherited systems.
  • Stage 6 "Universalising" faith, or what some might call "enlightenment".

Kevin reminded us how our behaviour seems to change from "dependence, through independence to interdependence", which points to a line of human development that had surfaced during the first two weeks of the course and indicated how Fowler, a Christian theologian and developmental psychologist, takes this idea further in his work. He made a very brief presentation of Fowler's taxonomy, pointing to its connection with the work of Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg, that had been touched on in the Mindfulness and Morality course last year. A chunk of time was allocated for participants to study a printed summary of the Fowler's stages and the points of transition between them. Kevin pointed out how stages 1-3 built authority on external factors, whereas internal factors become the source of authority from stage 4 onwards and the independence involved in this becomes the springboard to notions of interdependence in stages 5 and 6.

An atmosphere of quite reflection was built up as individuals considered whether the material presented was borne out by their own spiritual journey. The plenary discussion which followed suggested that what Fowler has to say strikes a chord with many people.

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