I subscribe to Father Richard Rohr’s newsletters every day even though I am generally not a fan of his theology. On occasion, though, there is a gem in there, making it worth the subscription (even though my cousin had to send me this one). This one was on spiritual growth:
There is remarkable overlap and agreement among the various schemata of development, and we find psychology and spirituality beautifully coming together here. What they are all trying to say is that growth is going somewhere, and the trajectory is toward union: union with God, with the self (of mind, heart, and body), with others, and with the cosmos. All seem to agree that the lower (or beginning) levels are dualistic, while the higher (or perhaps I should say “deeper”) levels are non-dual and unitive. The early stages are egocentric; the later ones are cosmocentric.
On a good day, the most you can stretch yourself to understand is toward people one step beyond yourself. It shows how narcissistic we all are, I am afraid. People at the higher levels look ridiculous, wrong, heretical, or even dangerous to people at lower levels. Now you can see why the Jewish prophets, Jesus, and Martin Luther King, Jr. were killed. On the other hand, people at the higher, non-dual levels have the breadth and the depth to understand, to accept, and to forgive people at the earlier or “lower” levels. Their honesty allows them to see that they were once there themselves.
The way you move from stage to stage is basically by some form of wounding, failure, or darkness. John of the Cross called these experiences “nights.” The old system that worked for a while has to stop working for you, and it will. All seem to agree that you have to go through a period of unknowing (sounds like faith to me) to know at a higher and more mature level. You have to go through a period of confusion and shadowboxing, dealing with your own conflicts and contradictions. And to be honest, we have little good teaching on how to walk in darkness, which is the very essence of Biblical faith.
If you do not have someone to guide you, to teach you, to hold onto you during the times of not knowing, not feeling, not understanding, you will normally stay at your present level of growth. This is the work of a good spiritual director or teacher, or even an effective homily. Now you perhaps see why Jesus praised faith even more than love. Love is the goal, but faith is the laborious journey toward it.