I would like to share with you a portion of a very interesting and spiritually-stretching book, The Five Stages of the Soul, by Harry R. Moody, Ph.D. and David Carroll. This book looks at the development of the soul in five stages: the call, the search, the struggle, the breakthrough, and the return. He starts out with this list of the whys and hows of the spiritual journey.
1. From a spiritual perspective the purpose of life is to achieve soul-realization. There is a transcendent spiritual quality within the heart of every man and woman, a potential known and sought after from time immemorial. If fully awakened, this spiritual quality removes seekers from the ordinary sorrow and confusions of life, and provides heightened states of aliveness, joy, and certainty. The meaning and purpose of life is therefore not hidden but clear. It is to find and awaken this higher part of ourselves. We call this higher part the soul.
2. The importance of spirituality is largely ignored in modern society. All of us are born with a degree of spiritual potential. But due to the immeasurable and intangible nature of spirituality and because we live in a materialistic age, the existence of this invisible potential remains largely speculative and unacknowledged. It has not always been this way. Up to the last century the greatest philosophers, scientists and artists believed in a Divine Intelligence, and sought to integrate it into their teachings. It is only our present scientifically-oriented age that ignores the importance of religio-spiritual values in a person life, and that denies the universality and in many cases the possibility of transcendent states of consciousness.
3. Spirituality completes us. The idea of a search of the soul presumes that the ordinary man and the ordinary woman are, in a manner of speaking, unfinished. In this sense, we are all incomplete beings, with many secret and hitherto unexplored parts of ourselves that lie fallow all our lives unless they are wakened and cultivated. Human beings this idea insists, have the possibility of achieving a state of being that far surpasses anything we ordinarily know, and that far exceeds both the emotional and intellectual boundaries set by our ordinary, everyday consciousness. We can be different people than we are; it is possible. Some would even insist that this transfiguration from the ordinary to the extraordinary is the very quintessence of all spiritual undertaking.
4. Spiritual awakening is most likely to happen in the adult years. Though a person’s spiritual potential can express itself at any point in the life cycle, even in early youth, it tends to become most active during the adult years. Expressions of spiritual interest are especially likely. to appear after people have lived though a certain number of life experiences: the birth of children, the death of parents and other loved ones, and begin to question whether their present life gives them the gratification they’re seeking. Yet while there is no question that deep psychospiritual changes typically occur during midlife and beyond, there are also individuals who go through all the stages of awakening during first half of life. According to tradition, Jesus died at age thirty-three. Shankara, the greatest exponent of the. Hindu Vedanta., lived only thirty-two years. The spiritual journey, in other words, while it is most likely to unfold in the middle or later years, cannot be ultimately tied to a specific age. In fact, when all is said and done this journey should be understood not so much as a time bound system, but as a story, a metaphoric model that portrays the higher life in all its mysterious and manifold possibilities.
5. Spirituality unfolds in a series of steps and stages. I call these steps the stages of the soul. All of us are invited to participate in this drama of self transformation at some point in our lives. There is no guarantee, however, that we will take advantage of the chance when it comes. Some people choose not to. While the invitation to the spiritual journey is a birthright, it is entirely our own choice whether or not we embark on the journey once we are called.
6. Spiritual awakening requires struggle and effort, Unlike physical aging, the spiritual function within a person does not unfold and progress automatically according to a biologically preprogrammed schedule. Our spiritual capacity exists as a possibility only. If it is to unfold in all its five stages, it must be intentionally and consistently encouraged over a period of time via struggle, commitment, and effort.
7. Not everyone passes through all the stages. Though the stages of the soul tend to follow one another in sequence, this sequence is not written in stone. There is no way of predicting whether a person will pass through all the stages from beginning to end. A person may, for instance, experience the first stage, but go no further. Unlike our inner biological clocks the development of the soul unfolds according to a schedule of its own that is independent of both manipulation and desire. As with the growth of a plant, spiritual potential can be watered and nurtured, but it cannot be coerced into flowering.
8. Each person’s experience of the stages of the soul is different. Every person experiences the stages of the soul in a different way. Each person’s spiritual journey is unique. At the same time, enough similarities exist between individual journeys to allow us to speak in terms of patterns and to identify a common chronology. The unfolding of the spiritual stage can be observed in other people and can be experienced with undeniable certitude within ourselves.
9. The Stages of the soul are spiritual stages. By spiritual I mean that the experience of the five stages shifts our center of being away from the external world and toward the inner life of the soul, encouraging a sense of disengagement from the ordinary problems of daily living, and increasing our commitment to virtuous behavior, kindness, generosity, unselfishness, and love. These stages raise our normal state of consciousness to a higher transpersonal level that awakens new and extraordinary faculties within us, creates a desire to give back to the world what we have gained spiritually and to devote ourselves in service to others.
The Five Stages of the Soul
By Harry R. Moody, Ph.D. and David Carroll
Chapter One pgs. 32-33