I get asked that question a lot. Not often so explicitly, but implicitly. People wonder how, when I used to believe so strongly in certain religious teachings, now I don't.
The implication is that my "losing faith" was a betrayal of some sort – that I discarded the spiritual system that I once clung to so tightly for no good reason, like a spouse dumping his or her partner on a whim.
Well, what these people don't understand is that we all grow. Or at least, we should. Not in height and, disturbingly, girth, but in spiritual maturity.
Which relates to stages of human development, a subject of a previous post. I shared a diagram of Ken Wilber's compendium of developmental stages.
This is an abbreviated version, ten stages rather than twelve, that I came across today while reading Wilber's "Integral Spirituality." (He uses colors to identify the levels.)
1. Infrared – archaic, sensorimotor
2. Magenta – magical-animistic
3. Red – egocentric, power, magic-mythic
4. Amber – mythic, ethnocentric, traditional
5. Orange – rational, worldcentric, pragmatic, modern
6. Green – pluralistic, multicultural, postmodern
7. Teal – beginning integral, low vision-logic, systemic
8. Turquoise -- global mind, high vision-logic, higher mind
9. Indigo – para-mind, trans-global, illumined mind
10. Violet – meta-mind and overmind
Now, I don't know what all of these levels mean. And this isn't just because I'm unfamiliar with the terminology.
A bigger problem is that you have to actually be at a stage to really know what that level is like. Sort of like describing higher mathematics to a toddler. The child may nod when you explain calculus, but they haven't actually gotten it.
When we move to a higher stage, the same phenomena appear different to us. It isn't so much a question of losing faith in them as it is seeing them from a fresh perspective.
Do you remember what it was like to realize there's no Santa Claus? I do. I learned to read early. I distinctly recall holding a plastic toy and reading "Made in Japan" in small letters at the bottom of it.
I told my mother, "How could this be made in Japan when Santa Claus brought it?" Without hesitation she told me the truth. "There's no Santa Claus."
Wilber says that Santa Claus is a reality at the Magenta level. Above that, Santa Claus doesn't exist in the same fashion. A child has to be above the Magenta level to figure out Santa Claus.
Similarly, religious beliefs take on a different color, so to speak, as we mature and reach higher stages of consciousness. These are distinct from states of consciousness, as noted in the previous post.
You can meditate like crazy and have mystical experiences at any of Wilber's color-coded stages. You'll interpret those experiences in the light of what your consciousness is capable of.
I haven't stopped believing in anything that I experienced during my thirty-five years as a believer. All that's changed is my understanding of what I thought, felt, perceived, and imagined.
I don't know where I am on the 1-10 stage list. But Amber used to describe my spiritual devotion quite well. I bought into religious myths. I accepted the traditions of my chosen faith. I toed the theological line. I didn't question what I was taught. At least, not much.
It's easy for me to remember how I used to be. I know that if I'd met someone like who I am now, back then, I'd have said to him: "My friend, you need to rekindle your lost faith. Your skepticism is blinding you to spiritual truth."
But here I am, doing what the previous me would have found abhorrent. Just as when I believed in Santa Claus, the prospect of having that belief balloon burst would have filled me with tears – if I could even have envisioned it.
Yet when I read, "Made in Japan," it was with a calm sense of Yes, this is the way things are. No disappointment.
Just a sensation of having left a belief behind that didn't belong to who I'd become.