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.
NOTE: This book is now in the process of being edited. Once it is completely edited it will no longer be free online. As of 4/4/20 this chapter has been edited.
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 chapter 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. So how does it work?
Because some people don’t like the staircase, or levels, approach they prefer then to represent things unfolding as a spiral. Here instead of going from Level One to Level Seven we go from Level One and take steps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and then Level Two and take steps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and so forth. In a way this is implied in Bailey’s model where you have planes (or seven major levels), and subplanes (or seven minor levels within each major level). In my books Becoming Human, Becoming Soul, and Becoming Spirit I pretty much use this spiral approach as I go through each subplane and attempt to give ideas how each subplane may evolve. The only problem with the spiral model is that like the staircase model it implies that consciousness may unfold in a very smooth way. Again this is not what Bailey implies.
Chutes and Ladders
Perhaps then a better model for spiritual growth and development should look like the 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 for example from square 28 to square 84), and also suddenly go down many levels (such as when you slide down a chute from square 87 to square 24). You only win the game when you stop going up and down so you can clear the board and get to 100.
Using this model we begin to understand some of the reasons we need to establish a difference between states (where someone jumps suddenly from one level to the next) and stages (where someone is able to stay on a particular level without risk of falling down to a lower level). (Note: the words states and stages has been borrowed from the Integral model. Bailey would have used the words mystical experiences to refer to states, and talked about seven levels and Ten Evolutionary Groups in regards to stages).
Filling in the Gaps
What Bailey’s model warns about, however, is that we frequently go up and down the levels. She discusses at length how you need to be careful about judging that someone is advanced spiritually just because they had a mystical experience or some kundalini went off. In her model then, you are not surprised when people “fall” after hitting a certain “high” because any cleavages, or gaps, in their development will bring them down to a level they had sufficiently completed in certain of steady spiritual development.
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.”
This up and down approach reminds me how when I played the Chutes and Ladders game as a kid, 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 even good spiritual habits and good karma that the “dice” will be in our favor.
Bailey’s teachings go then to great lengths to discuss not only what pitfalls we may encounter on each level, but how we can more carefully navigate the level without going through a fall. This is part of the purpose of her various “rules” for spiritual development and why her books are filled with so many recommendations of how to travel the spiritual path with care, how to spot those who are struggling along the way, how to clean up our glamours (or distortions) of what the spiritual path really looks like and where we are, and the various remedies that we need to implement when someone jumps up too fast, or goes through a “fall.”
So even though a staircase or spiral approach to spiritual development may be useful, it might be wise to remember that process may not really work that way as we travel along. 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 fun (once I know I survived it) of going down. What can I say accept maybe it is all just lila (or play) as Eastern religions describe it, and to the best of our ability learn to enjoy both the highs and the lows of the ride a little bit more.
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