The Seven Stages
The Seven Stages
The Seven Stages of Our Spiritual Journey Home
By Lynne Forrest
Lynne is presently working on a book about the stages of our personal/spiritual journey. She writes from the premise that we are all born with a sacred imprint that holds within it our full potential. The stages she presents illustrate the details of every human unfolding. One central theme in the book is her assertion that our desire nature is the driving force towards self-realization.
Lynne operates from a profound belief that we’re all on the path, even when we are involved in what appears to be dysfunctional and painful lifestyles. Reading her words brings meaning and purpose to all the various facets of our lives. She moves us from seeing life as a series of painful symptoms to that of understanding everyday events as symbolic milestones for spiritual growth. You will come away understanding how childhood wounds, addictions and painful relationship struggles are all soul directed, aimed to re-connect us with Source. A wonderful blend of the psychological with the sacred!
You are invited to read the condensed version of the book's third chapter, titled; “The Seven Stages”
Birth: Unity Consciousness
We begin with the story of our own creation. At conception, we begin the journey of being drawn into form, and thereby separated from our original Source which is ever un-manifest. Birth is the delivery out of undifferentiated unity. We call this differentiated form our“ physical body”. It is meant to be the“ house” or“ temple” for that part of us that carries the memory, in fact is still connected to Unity. We call this aspect of our being“ Spirit” or Higher Self. Beyond that, there remains the Divine Source from which all things come. The Higher Self is an eternal, ever-present part of us, which contains our purpose, a kind of spiritual DNA, or blueprint of full potential. Our physical body or lower self, is that in us which is wired for survival on the material plane. It is specially designed to“ house” our higher Self and carry out its mission. Our emotional and mental faculties are also part of the design of the lower self.
Like the young innocent who esotericists call“ The Fool”(as a way of denoting“ beginners’ mind”) we step off the cliff into the great unknown, blissfully oblivious to our fate. Stepping into the world of form, vulnerable and trusting, we are eager to venture forth. Because we yet have no sense of being separate from Source, we naturally assume everything we see is part of us and an extension of that Original Oneness. We continue, for a brief interlude as infants, to maintain this state of unity consciousness as our only experience or point of reference.
Within every one of us, as infants, lies contained the potential pattern, or seed, of ego. Whereas Unity Consciousness eternally IS, ego, or self-consciousness has to be shaped into being. It starts out as mere possibility. It simply lies in wait for the forces of the world to birth it.
First Stage: The Emergence
Somewhere around the seventh or eighth month of our toddler-life, what we come to know as the“ I” begins to emerge. As the ego begins to develop, separation from its surroundings dawns. Suddenly the tiny budding ego realizes;“ I am not my mother . . . my father . . . this bottle. . this blanket”. This stage of development marks the beginning of duality. From that point forward throughout our lives we tend to see the world in polarities . . . we/they, mine/yours, good/bad, right/wrong . . . on and on ad-infinitum.
This can, and most usually is a time of joyful discovery, for everything is a new experience waiting to be relished. As impressionable youngsters, we explore the world around us, all the while becoming more identified with it. However, as we engage more on the worldly level, we simultaneously lose our memory of connection. Our sense of unity with Source fades. We have begun the process of making this illusion called“ reality” our own.
Second Stage: Alienation
Our separation from Unity Consciousness deepens into the second stage of necessary evolvement . . . that of Alienation. This stage occurs at varying ages depending upon the circumstances of our life. The more traumatic our early experiences are, the sooner alienation takes place. At that point we completely forget who we are. Not only do we not remember Source, but also neither do those around us. Because they have forgotten their own true nature, our caregivers are not able to recognize our spiritual essence either.
Often well intentioned, (but not always) they therefore cannot possibly know how to foster our own remembrance, or for that matter, even truly meet our needs. We become totally identified with the physical body, which is intended to be merely the vehicle that carries our“ true identity”. This severing from our spiritual nature is worsened through the frequently painful messages we receive from parental influences. We then deepen our sense of alienation with self limiting core decisions made because we feel so separate! These decisions harden into deep-seated beliefs that convince us that we are unlovable, unacceptable, inferior or in some other way defective. Such ingrained ideas can generate painful feelings and even lead to an underlying futility about life. Since everything is experienced as either/or; we begin to view our lives in extremes. We see others, including ourselves, as either good or bad . . . right or wrong . . . lovable or hateful, etc. We lose sight of the in-betweens.
All of us go through this stage, but there are some that experience this alienated state as a life-long, primary reality. Those who have been severely abused by wounded caretakers may struggle with this stage of development throughout their whole lives. All of us however, may return to this place, again and again throughout our journeys, sometimes for mere minutes, other times for hours, days and weeks.
Alienation does have its sacred function however, as do all the stages. For one thing, this stage serves to sharpen our longing for that which we, through necessity, had to leave behind. More important, we would not be able to take the evolutionary journey into individuation without the sense of being completely separate. Division makes choice possible. The word“ choice”, automatically implies division. Which will it be . . . this one or another? If we are to have“ free will”, we must have alternatives. If we continued to live in perfect unity there would be no division and therefore no options available. Alienation provides the necessary separation so that choosing becomes possible. Through alienation and the longing for what is missing, (even though we’ve forgotten what that is) we are set upon our search for Source.
Third Stage: Longing
The goal for Stage Three is personal autonomy, i.e. the ability to take care of ourselves in the world. During this stage, our energies are primarily focused on getting securely situated in life. The desire nature is the ruling force of third stage and our primary tool for getting needs met. Motivation towards successful achievement of every need or goal is initiated through desire. We have to want it first. The longing of desire, whether conscious or unconscious, is what prompts all manifestation.
You might think of desire as an internal force, which emanates“ rays of intention”. Once directed, these emanations reach out and attach themselves to what we want, allowing us to be pulled towards our goal.
The image of a lawn sprinkler shooting water haphazardly round and round might be a fitting one to describe the unconscious use of desire-driven will. We fixate on something and then we go after it, often without thought of what the consequences of attaining it might be. We indiscriminately aim our cravings here and there, and then
complain about the chaos that inevitably results. The tendency is to feel victimized by any resulting negative circumstances without recognizing that we very likely played a big part in causing them.
There’s nothing wrong with desire in and of itself. It is merely the immature and unconscious aiming of it, which needs revision. Remember, it is the desire nature that motivates us. Without it, we can accomplish nothing.
The simple truth is that we are not supposed to escape the effects of desire, in spite of those well-meaning doctrines that teach us otherwise. We were each innately and intentionally wired for desire for the purpose of co-creating our realities. Our desires, though they may be the reactive, impulsive side of our nature, are essentially designed to move us steadily along the path of individuation.
The purpose and task then of Stage Three is in learning to direct the energy of desire towards realizing what we want. What we believe will bring us fulfillment in the beginning is determined by factors such as the circumstances of our birth, whether or not we felt loved and worthy, as well as what we learned, by example, to pursue. We were led to believe that if we achieve this thing or the next . . . the right education, job, or material acquisition, we would be satisfied. We think that if we find the perfect mate, then our desperate need for union will be met. Many turn to a path of excess through drugs, alcohol or gambling as a way to achieve status and belonging.
Unconscious longing for lost connection is the propelling force that motivates us to strive towards self-sufficiency and autonomy. This is the sacred function of Stage Three. Through years of trial and error we slowly develop and refine that force so that it becomes a conscious tool for manifestation. We slowly acquire discernment; the capacity to choose between that which is destructive versus healthy. It is through our desire nature that we learn to fine-tune the ability we’ve been given to manifest our realities.
Fourth Stage: Inflation
At this stage we are convinced that realizing our external aims is the way to a full and connected life. We become intent upon getting ourselves firmly grounded. Security, on every level, is the focus of Fourth Stage. We are fully egocentric and that’s as it needs to be. We have to be able to function well on the material plane before we can move on to inner realities. Our ability to meet the needs of the ego provides us with the foundation needed for building the spiritual body. But there are consequences. It’s easy to forget our spiritual roots when the ego is at its zenith. Instead we put our faith in personal acquisitions and accomplishments. The ego becomes our god. This creates a state of inflation, a primary characteristic of this stage. We have reached the top by relying strictly upon our wits and brute strength, having no idea there is anything greater. We have the answers . . . we know the facts . . . we believe we’ve arrived!
These first four stages of life formulate the basis of material existence. They make up the“ symptomatic life” . . . an externally focused existence based on concrete manifestation. Many never exceed beyond a limited, physical comprehension of the world. However, these first four stages can also create the grounded vessel needed for Spirit to operate. In truth, we cannot build a spiritual body until we have a well-established container in which to carry it forward. The four stages then, formulate a playing field of sorts through which Spirit can be made manifest.
Moving forward from fourth stage depends upon the strength of our desire to experience life beyond reaction-based symptom. Most of us go beyond the life of material comfort only as the result of some kind of traumatic event. It sometimes seems that extreme discomfort is necessary in order to spur us forward. It’s as if fate taps us on the shoulder and demands us to awaken . . . as if we have been“ soul selected” to deepen our journey. Something happens that makes it impossible to return to our former life of external fixation. Usually, only then do we begin to make the shift from an externally focused, symptomatic life to one of internal focus. Thus we initiate the symbolic life of Fifth Stage.
Fifth Stage: The Metanoia
The Fifth Stage is when we truly begin to direct our attention towards the symbolic life. This is when we are given opportunities to work with our substance through the inner path. We begin to awaken to our intuitive selves. Only after much vain striving in the attempt to fill that aching void within us do we finally direct our gaze inwards. I call that moment of turn around the metanoia. A wonderful illustration of this stage of the journey is Michelangelo’s depiction in the Sistine Chapel of man stretching for God and God reaching back with their fingertips touching. This is a wonderful metaphor, symbolizing that moment in our lives when we have finally turned our attention and longing towards the Divine. The wonder is that Divine Source also wills contact with us!. It is not just an empty reaching-out on the part of mankind . . . but a mutual longing for connection.
This stage of the journey presupposes an ongoing process of clearing away the mental and emotional blocks that obstruct clear communion with Source. Connection with Higher Purpose comes only through an open heart. Usually by the time we have arrived at this stage we have suffered much loss and heartbreak . . . a necessary part of being“ cracked open” so that something bigger can begin to flow through us.
Through our daily struggles we learn how to combine the passion from our lower self with the wisdom of our higher mind. This combined energy is the stuff of compassion, a necessary ingredient for service and right-relationship, with ourselves, as well as others.
Our tribulations serve to sharpen our yearning for something other than what we’ve previously known, thus serving to turn us from the outer world to the inner. Having achieved a fully integrated ego, we now begin the process of refining it into a vessel of service. This is done by paying attention to our dreams, images and inner knowing or intuitive self. In these ways we build the bridge between our ego and Higher Self.
Sixth Stage: Crucifixion
There is a spiritual intention present in sixth stage, of which we were not previously capable. This intent allows us to resolve issues with intensified clarity. We better comprehend the meaning of a“ both and” reality over the“ either or” one of bygone days. A balancing of extremes becomes possible. Eventually, when we’ve done enough of the mental/emotional clearing and are maintaining a daily spiritual practice, we achieve a powerful soul connection. We are now ready to go through the“ fires of refinement”. Finally, we are ready to be pierced by Spirit! This may not be a blissful experience, however . . . as a matter of fact, it is more often a kind of crucifixion.
Because we have reached a place of self-responsibility, we are now given the opportunity to see ourselves in totality . . . the glorious as well as the not so glorious. We are led into the very core of our own inner darkness. This is the true experience of the dark night of the soul. Our ideas and beliefs, all those storylines to which we are most deeply attached, are challenged for necessary surrender. This is what it feels like to be overshadowed by Spirit.
We are being given the opportunity to release any remaining attachment to our melodramas. We are learning to see a bigger picture which makes it difficult to get caught up in old storylines . . . our own or others.
As Spirit penetrates us, a psychic opening is created. We stand in the gateway between realities. Heretofore what was sporadic glimpses of the Divine now become more sustained. We receive direct communication from other, higher realms. Contact through our dreams, inner voice, visions and distinct knowing provide regular assistance and guidance in our daily affairs. By this time, we have a certainty about the nature of our particular path. Our lives become primarily aimed towards that service. It becomes first priority.
Each stage contains many phases, all aimed towards the process of evolvement. By the end of sixth stage, we have acquired humility. Illusion has mostly dissolved . . . we see ourselves more clearly than ever before. We know who we are. It’s not that we have gotten rid of our ego, but there’s an authenticity and levity which was previously lacking. As we pass through the arduous tests that each stage presents, we come into a spiritual wisdom, compassion and maturity. When others encounter us, they recognize us as having profound wisdom. Sometimes we are referred to as“ old souls”.
Seventh Stage: The Merger
Seventh Stage represents the ideal union with Monad. This is the goal towards which we all aspire, but few actualize. Every religious culture has its word for this attainment, whether it be Nirvana, Samadhi, Cosmic or Christ consciousness. Essentially, it is the return to a state of inner unity with consciousness. Having fully recovered the memory of ourselves as divinity residing in matter, our every thought and act is directed by Inner Source. This can only happen when we’ve surrendered up the will of ego to a Higher Good. At that point, soul and ego become combined into one purified garment of service and the physical body becomes a sacred vehicle for spiritual function. Personal desire merges with Divine Will. This transformation, which is the result of Sixth Stage crucifixion, occurs in the alchemical vessel of the heart.
As our lower passions are joined with higher mind, we come fully into what we are intended to be. Our spiritual DNA is realized . . . the blueprint finally becomes the holy dwelling. We remember who we truly are . . . reconnecting with Unity Consciousness, our origins, this time in full awareness. Chosen of our own free will . . . we invoked and did the work necessary to come consciously into a state of union with Source. We become what in esoterics is termed a“ soul infused personality”. What we previously experienced as soul is no more, neither does ego exist as it once did. Instead we become of totally new substance, with ingredients from both, but remnants of neither. Like pureed soup made up of herbs and vegetables, we have been“ cooked” into a smooth, perfect blend. All that’s left is service. We have no other agenda . . . no ego desires running the show. Spirit has overtaken everything.
We continue to go about our daily business, but we do it with mindful focus on the“ Now“. Our every thought and move is directed by Source. We have moved into authentic being. Whether it’s teaching, taking care of children or working in a restaurant or shoe store, we see our lives as being a ministry for service. Our only desire becomes to love and serve, recognizing that as the way to grow consciousness.
The Seven Stages
These stages are not just a sequence of events that we complete before moving onto the next stage. Even though we may not, in one lifetime, evolve beyond a particular stage overall, we will however go through many, if not all of the stages every time we progress through a new phase of life. These seven stages designate not only a particular place on the journey, but also the design or the way we move through life circumstances. Even though we may get stuck and spend our whole life in Stage Two Alienation, for instance, it is still likely that most everyone gets at least a fleeting glimpse of Seventh Stage Divinity as we move through various experiences along the way.
*This is a condensed introduction to the stages of our life journey contained in “The Seven Stages of Our Spiritual Journey Home” written by Lynne Forrest. Be on the lookout for the book in completion sometime over the next year.
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