These stages are identified within nearly all spiritual traditions and they are designed to serve as an outline for interfaith spiritual direction and practice. Each stage contains numerous methods and exercises that contribute to further Soul development.
Realization: One becomes aware of the fact that there is something higher and more meaningful in life, and then develops a desire to pursue knowledge and experience of it by engaging in activities and practices that are beneficial to spiritual growth. This might include reading and researching spiritual topics, joining a religious society or organization, and perhaps even seeking the guidance of a Spiritual Director.
Edification: One becomes more knowledgeable in noetic concepts as a personal ‘spiritual philosophy’ is further defined and refined. This may include the ‘working out’ of the ‘big questions’ of life and beyond, leading to greater clarity and understanding. While this is all well and good, and lays a good foundation, deeper spiritual growth is not a solely a matter of mind, but more so of the heart. This calls then for the learning and practice of spiritual methods that can lead one towards a more direct and personal encounter with Deity.
Transformation: One comes to the realization of the relationship between the material and spiritual worlds, and how the former ultimately fails to satisfy and often prevents us from reaching our highest potential. One then begins to make changes in one’s way of life that are not conducive with our true nature. The noetic concept of transmutation is of key importance in this stage, and more advanced spiritual methods of are taught and practiced at this point.
Illumination: One attains a state of deep awareness of the Soul and its relation to and within God, and is granted the grace of a direct experience of True Being. This awakened Soul now fosters a healthy alignment of body and mind as it continues to move into a deeper relationship with Deity. Certain spiritual attributes (Fruits) and abilities (Gifts) develop and manifest within this stage.
Unification: One experiences a personal and direct connection with Deity and partakes of that consciousness. In this condition, one does not merely catch glimpses of God, or move in and out of ecstasies, but remains in a constant state of At-One-Ment. Those who work on this level are able to become vessels through which God can work in seeming miraculous ways, and they are particularly identified by their repose within and radiance of Divine Love.
© Dr. Michael E. Ludwig, PhD