Visions of Daniel
A Definition of Spiritual Development
The review of literature in Chapter One about a possible psychological account of spiritual development confirms at least this: there is no consistent and generally accepted understanding of the term "spiritual development" or "spiritual growth." With Tilden Edwards and his associates, all may legitimately wonder "what in the world someone is talking about when 'spiritual growth' comes into his [or her] conversation."1
Nor does consultation of standard texts on the "spiritual life" shed significantly more light. Given definitions are multiple and often enigmatic. Jordan Aumann offers no explicit definition for "spiritual life" but explains it with reference to "mystical" and "ascetical" theology and trusts that the exposition of his text itself makes clear what he is writing about.2 Adrian Van Kaam states that spirituality pertains to what is beyond "mere ego identification in a functional society." It pertains to the "deepest self in God" or, again, to "our true self in Christ."3 Carl Vladimir Truhlar writes that "spiritual" designates "a life according to the 'spirit', understood in a Christian sense, in the sense of the New Testament, especially in Paul, and in contrast to life according to the 'flesh', again taken in the New Testament sense."4 The biblical duality "spirit/flesh" has varied and complex meanings, It contrasts the "Holy Spirit" with sinful humanity. But most basically it implies the tension between good and evil-and not a dichotomy between body and soul, as the Hellenic mind would have it. For Louis Bouyer the "spiritual life" involves the development of an interior life "not in isolation but in the awareness of a spiritual reality, however this be understood, a reality that goes beyond the consciousness of the individual. Yet this 'spiritual reality' is not necessarily apprehended as divine; this character may even be expressly denied it."5 Significantly, Bouyer insists that the "spiritual life" is not simply the "interior life," that rich realm of imagination, thought, and emotion generally associated with poets and artists. Finally, Adolph Tanquerey does define "spiritual life" technically within the system of scholastic theology: its proper concern is "the perfection, of the Christian life,... not only of the natural life of the soul but also of the supernatural life-the life of grace."6
No easily recognizable, generally accepted understanding of spiritual development is available. Still, common elements in the various understandings are discernible. Accordingly, assembling these common elements where possible and filling in the gaps and making reasonable choices where necessary, I shall proceed as any explorer must in areas not yet well charted and myself propose a systematic understanding of spiritual development.
An Intrinsic Principle of Authentic Self- Transcendence
In one way or another, most of the authors cited above note that a transcendent principle is a key factor for any understanding of spiritual development: "one's essence," the "inner man," "God," "Christ," or the "spirit";7 the "Transcendent," the "Holy Spirit," "God";8 the "superconscious" and the "higher self";9 "conscience" and "the voice of the Creator";10 "the dynamism of the human spirit" and "the radical drive for self-transcending authenticity";11 "what is beyond mere ego identification," the "deepest self," or the "true self";12 the "spirit";13 and a "spiritual reality that goes beyond the consciousness of the individual."14 Diverse terminology points to a common factor.
That transcendent principle central to spiritual development is conceived freely both in theist and non-theist terms. A purely psychological understanding of spiritual development must be able to account for that transcendent principle in non-theological terms. Assagioli's "higher Self" and Lonergan's "dynamism of the human spirit" meet this requirement. The overall arguments of both Assagioli and Lonergan explicitly prescind from theological presuppositions. Both speak merely of human realities.
Lonergan provides a technical and fully coherent account of the dynamism of the human spirit. He grounds his statements in the subject's own experience of him- or herself as subject. He moves beyond metaphor and suggestive rhetoric and expresses the matter systematically, by means of a nest of interlocking, mutually defining terms.15 Lonergan's analysis of the dynamic human spirit is an account of an intrinsic, human principle of authentic self-transcendence that can ground a non-theological exposition of spiritual development.
Furthermore, it appears that this dynamic human spirit is what others intend by suggestive phrases such as "higher Self," "inner man," "deepest self," "true self," "the spirit," and the like. This inner principle of authentic self-transcendence is also apparently behind what Philibert means by "conscience." That one notion includes and accounts for all the others. Therefore, this essay accepts the dynamism of the human spirit toward authentic self-transcendence, as explained by Lonergan, as the intrinsic principle of transcendence needed to explain spiritual development in a non-theological context.
Granted that understanding of the matter, it is clear that all metaphorical talk of "inner" selves and "higher" selves and "deeper" selves is inherently inaccurate and misleading. Such talk is the source of much of the "paradox" and, indeed, confusion in spiritual literature. Assagioli is right when he fumbles to explain, "There are not really two selves."16 There is only one; but it is neither the "Self" nor the "self." There is really no "inner" self and no "outer" self; no "higher" self and no "lower" self. Each individual, every person, is simply one human reality, one self. If there is within the human an intrinsic principle of self-transcendence, this is not to say there is another "self" within. It is simply to posit one factor among others as also necessary to explain the complex human reality and complex human experiences. Eschew all talk of a multiplicity of "inner" and "outer" and "deeper" and "truer" and "higher" and "lower" selves. Lonergan's notion of an intrinsic principle of self-transcendence and his definition of "authentic" render all those others obsolete. The "true self" or the "higher self" is merely oneself when one is acting authentically, for authenticity entails fidelity to the self-transcending dynamism of the human spirit.
Some Methodological Considerations
This acceptance of a completely human factor to explain spiritual development may cause uneasiness among some theologians. Still, most would acknowledge the validity of spiritual development in non-theist religions, and that acknowledgment presupposes the possibility of some non-theological account of spiritual development. Bouyer allows as much: "Yet this 'spiritual reality' is not necessarily apprehended as divine; this character may even be expressly denied it."17 On the other hand, in both. Lonergan's and Assagioli's accounts, insistence on an intrinsic transcendent principle does not deny the theological. While, indeed, pointing to it, it merely prescinds from it. Psychosynthesis does not explain "the great Mystery-it leads to the door, but stops there."18
Nor does the present approach deny the further questions that may arise in a theological context: creation, sin and forgiveness, divine revelation, grace, indwelling of the Trinity, participation in divinity, eternal life. These are legitimate issues, but they entail a set of presuppositions different from what is presupposed at this point. They belong to different disciplines. Indeed, they do add to what is said here; but they do not invalidate it. Rather, they presuppose and expand on it.19 These other issues will be treated later in this essay. The very position of that treatment in a separate part of this study highlights the fact that, while different disciplines must be brought to bear on this complex topic, the scope of validity of each distinct discipline must be clearly defined, and the application of the different disciplines must not be confused. This approach does not belittle the contribution of any of the disciplines. While applying them separately, this approach nonetheless gives each its due and relates all coherently to one another. It provides a comprehensive, systematic treatment.
If this procedure may be offensive to some theologians, it may likewise, but for opposite reasons, be offensive to some psychologists. Can one allow within psychology notions like the "dynamism of the human spirit" or a "principle of authentic self-transcendence"? It seems so. If, on the one hand, these notions are not theological and yet, on the other hand, they are necessary for a complete explanation of the human, then they fall to psychology, the science of the human-if only by default. But more positively: understanding "spirit" to mean intentional consciousness as in Lonergan's analysis, it can be argued that some notion of "spirit" is necessary if psychology is to account for those phenomena that are distinctively human: understanding, self-determination, creativity.20 Sigmund Koch,21 Robert MacLeod,22 and others23 argue for such a broadened view of psychology.
Nor does this insistence on an intrinsic principle of authentic self-transcendence import into psychology preconceived beliefs and values-except commitment to accurate understanding and wholesome living, a commitment constitutive of modern science in its formative years. For that principle is a completely formal one; it is a wholly heuristic principle. The true, toward which it tends, is that which will be known when all questions on a particular issue are correctly answered. The good is that which the authentic person will choose in any particular case. But what the true and the good are in the concrete in any given case remains to be seen. Acceptance of an intrinsic human principle of authentic self-transcendence introduces only this into psychology: the presupposition that the concern for what is really so and for what is really worthwhile is a necessary factor for a complete explanation of the human.
Acceptance of this presupposition distinguishes irreducibly different realms within psychological studies, for that presupposition is the very one that distinguishes the positivist from the philosophic viewpoint.
Psychology within the positivist viewpoint, rigorously following the model of the natural sciences, limits its concern to human realities available to public observation and as they in fact are. It determines the publicly observable structures, mechanisms, and processes that explain the human. It correlates with a sociology or an anthropology that determines what are the actual structures or mores of a given society. But it prescinds from the further questions, whether or not things ought to be as they are, whether or not the determined structures, mechanisms, and processes are being used correctly. In brief, it prescinds from the question of authenticity. As a practical discipline, such psychology is adjustive; it helps clients to live comfortably within the expectations of a given society. But it does not ask whether or not such adjustment is really good, whether or not the expectations of the society in question are wholesome. Freudian analysis, behaviorism, and biological psychology are examples of psychology within the positivist viewpoint.
In contrast, the presupposition accepted here determines psychology within the philosophic viewpoint. Acceptance of human spirit as an intrinsic, human self-transcending principle directed toward the true and the good opens psychology to those further questions of meaning and value. Indeed, the suggestion is that without such openness one has missed the distinctively human factor, one is not really dealing with humans, one does not have an adequate human psychology.
Obviously, this presupposition is major. Yet it is not without parallel within the broad field of psychological studies as currently known. Humanistic psychology-as perhaps in Gordon Allport, Rollo May, Roberto Assagioli, Erich Fromm, Abraham Maslow, Ira Progoff, or Carl Rogers-has presuppositions similar, if not identical, to the presupposition accepted here. So, if this approach is offensive to some psychologists, it may well be congenial to others. Granted, the line between disciplines that this presuppposition draws, cutting right through the broad field of psychological studies, is decisive. It even implies a normative redefinition of human psychology. Still, its legitimacy can be argued within psychological studies themselves.
Finally and more immediately: it will be evident in Chapters 3 and 4 below that developmental theory cannot avoid consideration of some intrinsic principle of self-transcendence. For ultimately, something is needed to account for the undeniable human drive toward development, especially in its post-conventional achievements. Thus, whether commonly welcome or not, the issue of an intrinsic human principle of authentic self-transcendence-human spirit-has clearly entered the realm of psychological concern; and at least in the present study, it is posited as a basic presupposition.
The Definition of "Spiritual"
This essay defines spiritual development by reference to an intrinsic principle of authentic self-transcendence, the dynamic human spirit. This understanding, presupposing Bernard Lonergan's analysis of intentional consciousness or spirit, has been explicated in some detail, especially by insistence on authenticity as the prime criterion of spiritual development. In all this, this account remains in substantial agreement with the other authors cited in Chapter 1.
Note that this position clarifies-and, in comparison with most other usage, redefines-the meaning of "spiritual." Here the term refers to a strictly human reality. The term has no necessary theist or Christian connotations; there is no inherent reference to "religious" faith or practice, as generally understood in the Judeo-Christian world. Within a comprehensive and systematic account of the matter, other terms must be provided to account for those other connotations. Parts II and III of this essay address that need. Finally, this position assumes that, in the contemporary world of increasing specialization of fields, psychology-within the philosophic viewpoint-is the discipline that properly treats the spiritual. Though theologians and religious believers, probably more than any others, will be concerned about spiritual development, theology and theist or Christian religion as such are not the appropriate arenas for the study of spiritual development as defined technically in this essay.
The Subject's Openness to the Spiritual
A first key factor in the definition of spiritual development has already been noted-an intrinsic principle of authentic self-transcendence. A second factor is the subject's openness to that principle. An increased sensitivity to the urge of that drive is an indication of increased spiritual maturity and a determinative of possible further spiritual development. Assagioli, the CHD Report, Tilden Edwards and his associates, and Henry Simmons support this understanding. In their pastoral presentation, mixing psychological and theological terms, Grant, Thompson, and Clarke speak of this same factor in terms of human freedom, choice: "While there is an element of givenness and grace in every coming to wholeness, it is also contingent on choice-we must desire wholeness, as a pearl of great price, and be willing to let go of everything else in order that we may gain it."24
Personal Integrity or Wholeness
A third characteristic of spiritual development is that it involves the whole person; it entails personal integrity or wholeness. Not any one or some few aspects of the person, but the development of the whole human is at stake in spiritual development.
"Wholeness" is one of the common factors in the descriptions of spiritual development in Spiritual Growth by Edwards and his associates. In its holistic view of spirituality, the CHD Report assumes the same major starting point. Philibert's appeal to Rogers 's consonance of experience or feelings with ideas insists again on integration of the whole person as an essential characteristic of spiritual development.25 Likewise, all the other authors reviewed in Chapter 1 share this presupposition, except perhaps Benedict Groeschel.
The specific intent of this insistence on wholeness or integrity is that the intrinsic dynamism toward authentic self-transcendence must not be forgotten when one speaks of human development. It, too, is a part of the whole person. Thus, wholeness implies a growing self-consistency, a consistency within the whole. It implies a mutual influence between the concrete structures of human being and acting, on the one hand, and the intrinsic dynamism of the human spirit, on the other, resulting in an increasingly self-consistent being.
Wholeness also implies self-constitution. It suggests that human being is becoming, that in the process of daily activity humans gradually make themselves to be what they are. As humans follow the drive toward authentic self-transcendence and not only come to acknowledge what is really "so" but also, then, decide and act appropriately on what they know, they effect changes not only in the external world on which they act but, more importantly, on themselves who are acting. Their decisions affect what they themselves are as well as what other things will be. They become as they do. They constitute themselves in an ongoing dialectic between themselves as agents in an outer world and their own dynamism toward authenticity in the realm of interiority.26 Spiritual development concerns this ongoing process whose result is the whole human being as he or she is.
This conception further explicates what Philibert indicates when he argues for an understanding of conscience broad enough to account not only for one's knowledge of what is to be done but also for the doing and, so, the very becoming of the agent. The review of Jane Loevinger's conception of ego development below-concerned with an all-pervasive yet, from the point of view of spiritual development, still partial aspect of the human-will shed more light on these issues.
An Adult Phenomenon
Those considerations lead to a fourth characteristic of spiritual development-its adult nature. All human development is a process of self-constitution. This is true not only of adults who think and weigh evidence and judge and decide for themselves what they will do and, so, become. It is also true, but in a different way, for children who unthinkingly and unknowingly and, so, without responsibility, uncritically caught up in the world of intimates, "go along with" whatever is offered. They, too, make themselves be what they will be, but in the process they really have little choice. Max Scheler makes this point clearly as follows:
"The ideas, feelings and tendencies which govern the life of a child, apart from general ones such as hunger and thirst, are initially confined entirely to those of his immediate environment, his parents and relatives, his elder brothers and sisters, his teachers, his home, his people, and so on. Imbued as he is with "family feeling," his own life is at first almost completely hidden from him. Rapt, as it were, and hypnotized by the ideas and feelings of this concrete environment of his, the only experiences which succeed in crossing the threshold of his inner awareness are those which fit a kind of channel for the stream of his mental environment. Only very slowly does he raise his mental head, as it were, above this stream flooding over it, and find himself as a being who also, at times, has feelings, ideas and tendencies of his own. And this, moreover, only occurs to the extent that the child objectifies the experience of his environment in which he lives and partakes, and thereby gains detachment from them. The mental content of experience that is virtually absorbed "with one's mother's milk" is not the result of a transference of ideas, experienced as something 'communicated.' For communication entails that we understand the "communicated content" as proceeding from our informant, and that while understanding it we also appreciate its origin in the other person. But this factor is just what is absent in that mode of transference which operates between the individual and his environment. For in this case we do not primarily "understand" the passing of a judgment or the expression of an emotion, or regard it as the utterance of another self. We fall in with it, without being consciously aware of the element of cooperation involved."27
In an unthinking, uncritical, undifferentiated way, children do have a part to play in what they become as they are reared. With adults, however, the case is significantly different. Still the agent of their self-constitution, they can be so reflectively, critically, analytically. To some extent, at least, they can reflect on what they are because of earlier experience, can evaluate that, and can decide what they will retain and what they will work to change. When they can begin the process of self-constitution from a reflective, critical stance, they have come to a critical turning point in life: "One has to have found out for oneself that one has to decide for oneself what one is to make of oneself."28
Spiritual development properly speaking begins only at that critical turning point. Spiritual development entails self-critical and self-responsible growth. All that comes before that critical turning point does, in fact, concern one's growth in authenticity. Children grow in authentic virtue as well as adults do. Indeed, one's childhood significantly sets the condition for the possibility of one's subsequent self-responsible self-constitution. Yet different phenomena are at stake in child and in adult self-constitution. The former is adequately named "learning," "upbringing," "education," or "formation." These terms imply the influence predominantly of an extrinsic force on the individual. But self-responsible self-constitution alone is properly the stuff of spiritual development. And when it moves along the line of authentic self-transcendence, it is spiritual development.
In one way or another, all the sources cited above presume that spiritual development is an adult phenomenon. More specifically, Assagioli's overall program for Psychosynthesis, George Simmons's concern that at about thirty years of age and beyond people receive special help for growth in their religious life, and the CHD Report's understanding of spiritual growth as movement from a conventional to a post-conventional viewpoint, all explicitly acknowledge the adult nature of spiritual development. Subsequent consideration of theories of adult development will further explicate this issue, for it is clearly a developmental one.
Departures from Assagioli's Position
I have defined spiritual development according to four distinctive characteristics and have emphasized authentic self-transcendence as a key factor. Precisely here, this position represents a significant departure from Assagioli's richly developed one.29 Insofar as the dynamic human spirit accurately represents also the intent of Assagioli's metaphor "the higher Self," both positions are in accord. Moreover, in this case it appears that his "self-realization" represents the subject's possible extraordinary experience of the dynamism of his or her own spirit, which in principle is open to transcending all space and time.30 Yet for Assagioli reference to "the higher Self" as definitive of the spiritual is secondary in comparison with reference to the superconscious. This issue is significant and deserves treatment.
There are at least two separate sets of contents in Assagioli's "superconscious": first, the ethical, humanitarian, and altruistic; second, the esthetic, artistic, philosophical and scientific, mentally superior (genius), ecstatic, and "higher" psychic and parapsychological. Insofar as the first intends movements toward authentic self-transcendence, they are already adequately accounted for by the above-mentioned intrinsic principle of authentic self-transcendence; they pertain to the essence of spiritual development, as defined here. But the second do not.
There is no reason for naming "spiritual" what is unusually intelligent or giftedly creative, what pertains to artists, poets, and geniuses. No doubt, these phenomena are expressions of the human spirit-and not merely expressions of the "imagination," according to the now popular but ambiguous usage of the term.31 But these phenomena participate in human spirit in a way significantly different from what is categorized here as definitive of spiritual development. Artistic and intellectual genius is a function of the first and second levels of consciousness in Lonergan's analysis, whereas spiritual development is a function of the fourth level of consciousness, which sublates all the other levels in an integrative process of self-constitution. Other categories indicate these phenomena sufficiently well: intelligence, creativity, genius, giftedness. They are but unusually intense instances of the intelligence and creativity that all humans share in a more prosaic degree. So these phenomena are no more "spiritual"-and, so, no more to be named as such-than those similar occurrences in all human beings.
As for the rest-the ecstatic, psychic, and parapsychological: common usage does speak of these as "spiritual." The reference is to "spiritualism," the belief in communication with the dead by means of a medium. The reference is to the "supernatural," the eerie, ghostly, and inexplicable. And the reference is to psychic and parapsychological phenomena like psychokinesis, "out-of-the-body experiences," automatic writing, levitation, and extra-sensory perception: telepathy, clairvoyance or distant viewing, and precognition. There is reason to believe that these extraordinary phenomena are easily possible for people who have significantly integrated within themselves the full capacities of the human spirit.32 That is to say, these phenomena may accompany high levels of spiritual development as understood in this essay. Yet these phenomena are not essential to spiritual development. Traditional Christian theology calls these phenomena "extraordinary" or "charismatic"-distinguishing them from what is "essential" "concomitant," or "constitutive"-and insists that they are not determinative of intense spiritual development.33 Tibetan Buddhist teaching likewise minimizes the importance of these phenomena.34 Moreover, all religious traditions warn against the possibility of using psychic and parapsychological powers for evil.35 That is to say, one could have such powers and still be operating at a petty self-serving level of moral development comparable to a child's in Kohlberg's pre-conventional level.
Psychic giftedness, possible in a child, and levels of even ordinary adult human development are separable realities. All the more so is psychic giftedness not a necessary concomitant of authentic self-transcendence.36 If possibly related, the two realities are significantly different. Accordingly, the term spiritual development is reserved here for growth along the line of authentic self-transcendence. The terms psychic and parapsychological adequately name the other reality.
The insistence here is parallel to Bouyer's37 concern in distinguishing the "interior life" of poets, artists, and other gifted people from the "spiritual life." On this point I emphatically depart from Assagioli's conception and usage. Indeed, I view them not only as confusing but also as dangerously misleading. This is not foolishly to deny the reality of "psychic phenomena" nor to discourage the study of them. It is merely to insist that psychic and parapsychological phenomena and other examples of extraordinary human giftedness are not essential factors in spiritual development.
A Definition of Spiritual Development
I have proposed four distinctive characteristics of spiritual development: 1) an intrinsic principle of authentic self-transcendence, 2) openness in the subject to this principle, 3) the integrity or wholeness of the subject in question, and 4) the self-critical self-responsibility of an adult. Thus, spiritual development is the ongoing integration that results in the self-responsible subject from openness to an intrinsic principle of authentic self-transcendence.
That sentence represents an initial statement. Subsequent discussion will further explicate and expand it. Yet this initial statement is sufficiently detailed to clarify the basic hypothesis of this essay: spiritual development is human development conceived according to a particular set of concerns. The four elements in the definition specify the concerns according to which human development is spiritual development. So conceived, spiritual development is not to be considered primarily a religious or theological phenomenon. It is a human phenomenon. As such, it is essentially the proper object of study, not for theology, but for the human sciences and particularly for psychology within the philosophic viewpoint.
All the sources quoted in Chapter 1 acknowledge the relevance of psychology to an understanding of spiritual development. In Holiness Is Wholeness Goldbrunner argued convincingly that holiness is not antagonistic to psychological wholeness but, on the contrary, precisely entails such wholeness, despite the sometimes bizarre spiritual ideals prevalent in former times. The CHD Report deals with spiritual growth according to empirically measurable criteria; and Assagioli argues explicitly for a non-theological account of spiritual development. Thus far, this essay has taken these positions and integrated them into a theoretically coherent one. An initial definition of spiritual development is the result. The following chapter will review the research of developmental psychologists in order to determine the discernible stages of adult human development. Then, again assuming its fundamental hypothesis, this essay will accept those conclusions to propose the stages of spiritual development.
1. Edwards, Mead, Palmer, and Simmons, Spiritual Growth, 1.