Most people envision spiritual growth like a staircase or even a spiral. This post looks at another approach of how spiritual growth might really happen explaining why in spiritual development there may be so many gaps to fill.
MODELS FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH
I have already mentioned in the chapter The Problem With Levels about the difficulties with coming up with a model that might truly reflect spiritual growth and development. I shared in that post how even though Bailey uses a staircase type of model where you move from level to level that is not how she states her model really works.
Because some people don’t like the staircase, or levels, approach they prefer to represent things unfolding as a spiral. The only problem is the spiral model implies in a way too smooth a process. It is as if we have 10 levels and 10 steps on each level, and some how we smoothly go from LEVEL ONE and take steps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10…. then LEVEL TWO and take steps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10… and so forth. Yes step 1 on Levels 1, 2, 3, and so on have some similarities on a “higher turn of the spiral,” but essentially they are different
Chutes and Ladders
Perhaps then a better model for spiritual growth and development should like be this this. This is a classic children’s game that used to be called Snakes and Ladders but then became Chutes and Ladders, which is a game I actually played as a child.
As you see this game includes the idea of levels (you have ten levels going up), and even has the spiral idea in it (going ten steps across ten levels going up). But, the game includes something that is quite interesting to me. It shows how you can suddenly jump up several levels (going up the long ladder from 28 up a ladder to square 84 for example), and also suddenly go down many levels (such as when you slide down the chute from square 87 to square 24). You only win the game when you are able to stop going up and down enough to clear the board and get to 100.
Filling in the Gaps
Quoting from my The Problem With Levels chapter, “In short, people rarely develop evenly. At some point in a person’s spiritual growth and development, especially during times of stress, the cleavages, or gaps, in an individual’s development may become more apparent. When this happens it is time for the the individual to do some catch up work, which may even require taking a break from intense spiritual development.”
That it why I am coming to believe that we actually exist on a number of levels and travel up and down on them like the Chutes and Ladders game. I remember when I actually played that game as a kid how I would look at the board with dread as I saw the chutes coming up in front of me. I would pray on the dice as I tossed them hoping I would make it past a particular chute. Maybe the spiritual path is like this. Only instead of praying for our “luck” to be in our favor as we role the dice, we can look at the various pitfalls that are likely to come up with each stage of spiritual development and do our best to cultivate good enough karma that the “dice” will be in our favor. What helps us cultivate that good karma? Be aware, try to be humble, have a good support group around us to help us get through, follow the recommended “rules” for how to get through each stage with care. And, if we fall? Then with even more awareness “be aware, try to be humble, have a good support group” and so forth.
So even though a staircase or spiral approach to spiritual development may be useful in some ways, it might be wise to remember that is not how the process really works as we actually travel through the combined staircase and spiral approach. It might also be healthy to stop idolizing certain spiritual teachers as if they are so far advanced they might not hit a “chute” and go splat themselves. At least in my experience the more I learn about the spiritual path and try to actually travel it myself the messier it seems to get. Like one big roller coaster ride there seem to be a lot of ups and downs. But then I always enjoyed roller coasters that includes both the anticipation of climbing up and the terror and (once I know I survived it – fun) of going down. What can I say accept maybe it is all just lila (or play) and to the best of our ability we need to all enjoy the ride just a little bit more.
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