Spiritual Awakening, Growth, and Enlightenment/spiritual growth


Hello, Could you help me with understanding what the stages to spiritual growth are? How will I know that I am making progress in my studies and meditation?

Hi Ronda,

Thanks for this question. Different people mean different things when they speak of spiritual growth. Some mean increasing ability to access the supernatural, while others mean increasing feelings of religious devotion. The type of spiritual growth I am qualified (and willing) to speak to you about is an increase in spiritual maturity. This is independent of any supernatural abilities, and independent of your relation to any particular religion.

To make a very complex topic as simple as possible, spiritual growth can be described as an ever enlarging circle of connection. At the least mature stage, the person is ego-centric - really only cares about himself, and will do anything to fulfill his own whims, regardless of how they might affect others. I have called this the Lawless stage. You can read more about it here: http://www.exploring-spiritual-development.com/The-Lawless.html.

A somewhat more mature person will feel himself part of a specific group. This could be his church group, family, nation or even political party. We call this ethnocentric. Since his circle of concern is wider than himself, we consider him more mature, not to mention more ethical, than the Lawless person. But because he sees his group as somewhat more entitled than those outside his group, we call say he is ethnocentric. I have called this group the Faithful. More about them here: http://www.exploring-spiritual-development.com/The-Faithful.html.

The next group considers himself part of a larger group - perhaps all humans. This is more mature than the ethnocentric group because these people include more into their circle of concern. They are considered worldcentric. I have described them as the Rational stage, and described them more fully here: http://www.exploring-spiritual-development.com/The-Rational.html

And the most fully mature we are able to describe at this time has an even broader worldview. They see themselves as part of the entire universe, and they include everyone and everything in  their circle of concern. We can call them Universal or Unitive. I have described them as the Mystic group: http://www.exploring-spiritual-development.com/The-Mystic.html

So basically you know if you are making progress by how much you can include in your circle of concern, how much you can feel a part of. It turns out you have asked me the perfect question, because I have written a book about this very thing: Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind. (GOLD WINNER OF THE 2013 NAUTILUS BOOK AWARD IN RELIGION/SPIRITUALITY) It describes the stages, as defined by twelve different theorists, but also uses true stories from real life people to illustrate the stages. I hope this has helped you.  

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Margaret Placentra Johnston


I am particularly interested in answering questions about the stages of spiritual growth, faith development, religious stages. The term spiritual growth or spiritual development can have many different interpretations. In some cases, it refers to the ability to have para-normal or mystical experiences. Others use it to describe the ability to communicate with beings that are not present here on earth with us at this time, such as dead people or our own prior lifetimes. This is not where my knowledge and expertise lie. The type of spiritual growth questions I can address concern here and now issues about religious belief versus non-belief, the stages of religious development and spiritual development where spirituality is defined as living deeper than the surface things of life, knowing there is more to life than the latest new car, questioning the deeper meanings of our existence.


For at least the past twenty years I have been a serious student of the various spiritual development theorists. The concept of spiritual growth occurring in stages throughout our lifetime is a vitally important factor that, if more widely known, could help decrease a lot of the religious intolerance and societal tensions we are putting up with today. My book of stories about real people growing beyond the need for traditional religion was published by Quest Books in October, 2012: Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind.

Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation(and many others unrelated to this topic.)

www.mpjauthor.com Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind.(Quest Books, October, 2012.) http://www.exploring-spiritual-development.com http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margaret-placentra-johnston/

Four college degrees, including an undergraduate degree from the Catholic University of America where required theology and philosophy courses formed the equivalent of a college minor.

Awards and Honors
GOLD WINNER of the 2013 Nautilus Book Award in Religion/Spirituality.

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