Levels of Spiritual Development
Taken From Richard Rohr’s “Naked Now” Appendix One
One of the more important breakthroughs in understanding why some people seem to get it – whatever “it” is – while many do not get it or even oppose or distort it – is due to the fact that every person is limited to the level of spiritual development they find themselves in. Thomas Acquinas puts it this way “whatever is received, is received according to the mode of the receiver.”
Whatever you teach or receive will be heard on at least eight to ten levels, according to the inner, psychological, and spiritual maturity of the listener.
In my experience we move from level 1 to level 9. (Note: this is only a teaching tool; real life is much more subtle.)
1. My body and self image are who I am.
Leads to dominance of security, safety and defense needs.
2. My external behaviour is who I am.
Needs to look good and to hide or disguise the contrary evidence from others. I become so practiced at this game that the evidence is hidden from myself too. This submergence of shadow is very common among conservatives.
3. My thoughts/feelings are who I am.
Development of intellect and will to have better thoughts and feelings and also control them so others do not know, and so, finally, that I do not see their self-serving and shadowy character myself. This education as a substitute for transformation is very common among liberals and the educated.
**Normally a major defeat, shock or humiliation must be suffered and passed through to go beyond this stage.
4. My deeper intuitions and felt knowledge in my body are who I am.
This is such a breakthrough and so informative and helpful that many become stymied at this level. Leads to individualism, self-absorption and inner work as a substitute for any real encounter with other-ness.
5. My shadow self is who I am.
The dark night. My weakness comes to overwhelm me, as I face myself in my raw, unvarnished, uncivilized state. Without guidance, grace, and prayer, most go running back to previous identities. Time is of the essence here.
6. I am empty and powerless.
Gods Waiting Room. Almost any attempt to save the self by any superior behaviour, technique, morality, positive role, or religious devotion will lead to regression. All you can do is wait and ask and trust. Here is where you learn faith and discover that darkness is the much better teacher. God is about to become real.
7. I am much more than who I thought I was.
Death of the false self, birth of the True Self. But because you are not at home yet here, it will first of all feel like a void, even if a wonderful void. “Luminous darkness” as John of the Cross would call it.
8. I and the Father are One.
Henceforth there is only God, or as Teresa says, “One knows God in oneself and knows oneself in God.” All else is seen as a passing ego possession, and I do not need to protect it, promote it, or prove it – to anyone.
9. I am who I am.
Just me. Warts and all, it is enough to be human, no window dressing necessary. This is the most radical critique of religion possible, because now you know religion is just a finger pointing to the moon but not the moon itself. There is no need to appear to be anything but who I really am. Fully detached from self-image and living in God’s image of you – which includes and loves the good and the bad. The serenity and freedom of the saints. Total non-duality.