Exponentially Accelerating your Growth thru Qualification
Part I: What kind of growth is best for you?
by Jef Bartow
The term spiritual growth has been so overused and misused over the last few decades that it has lost its numinosity. I consider the term spiritual growth to have lost its energetic symbolism. What this means is that does not carry Spirit like it used to. Therefore, I'm going to use a term that does carry Spirit: growth in Spirit. To be clear about what growth is Spirit means, we all need to better understand what growth means. It's fairly simple to understand how growth in life occurs naturally throughout nature and humanity. In this case, growth is the middle process between birth and death. From birth, we go through a myriad of types of growth in life. Once this process stops, whether physically or psychologically, we begin the death process. You might say that we are either continuously birthing or continuously dying. This growth in life is now an instinctual automatic process. This is not the growth I'm using in this two-part article.
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In differentiating growth in Spirit from other types of growth, I've come to the conclusion that the easiest way to delineate it is by defining three types of growth: human growth, psychological growth and growth in Spirit. Understanding the differences between these three general types of growth is necessary to truly understand what growth in Spirit means. Also, what growth in Spirit requires. So, let's better define these three types of growth. First, let's delineate what human growth is. Differentiating consciousness from our bodies is fairly easy. The vast majority of human growth is a type of growth in consciousness. From our time of birth, we begin developing consciousness concurrently as we develop the various aspects of our personality. To assist this process in childhood, we are conditioned by our parents, family and teachers. During the first seven years of life, significant amounts of psychic energy become part of our consciousness from our parents. In essence, we automatically assume certain ways in which they think, imagine, emote and sensate. This process is both conscious and unconscious. Unfortunately, it's about an 80% unconscious transfer from our parents to us. This is why it is fairly difficult to get to this consciousness and psychic energy in later life, because it is not our own. A good example of this is our ethical beliefs and standards. Most children do not think through these things themselves. They take them on from their parents, family and teachers and assume that they are good and right. Differentiating one's own ethical beliefs and standards from those conditioned is a process in human growth. Another part of our imaginative and emotional natures that we assume early on are our values. These values range from what is important to us to how others should relate to us. How many times have you heard the reality that an abusive parent was abused as a child. How often have you seen how highly materialistic parents bring up children with highly materialistic attitudes. Without going into a lot of detail here, various different physical, instinctual, emotional, imaginative and mental attitudes and orientation that we think are our own in adolescent and young adulthood, turn out to be only conditioning. Overall, the process of human growth is to differentiate our own attitudes, orientation and behaviors that we determine to be best for us. This helps our personality to reflect our own individual character. It allows us to become who we can be individually as a human being. Individually, we determine what is a healthy physical lifestyle. We resolve whether aggression, fear and living by the "herd instinct" is a part of who we want to be. Many times, we learn by experience whether envy, jealousy, possessiveness, sympathy and lust are healthy for us emotionally. What is naturally a part of everyday life in fantasizing, we evaluate and adjust our imagination to make it a tool in helping us achieve our goals and success in life. Much of our habitual thinking we also inherit. We are all highly conditioned by our entertainment, media and government as to the right and wrong ways to think. In early parts of meditation, our primary focus is on stopping this incessant internal dialogue, so we can concentrate without interference. And just as important in human growth is dealing with the question "Who am I?" This ranges from the particular roles we play in daily life to the higher values and principles we choose to live by. All in all, these various processes in human growth are all very important for us becoming a fully individualized personality with character. Another term that has become popular over the last few decades is that of psychological growth. Many would equate it with what we've just discussed as human growth. But there is an important difference. It begins by coming to the decision that there are normal human ways to live and more altruistic ways to be. Psychological growth is about change. Not just defining, but consciously changing our attitudes, orientation and behaviors based on who we want to become, not just who we have been, or have been conditioned to be. What does this entail, you might ask? Since our body consciousness is almost wholly unconscious and automatic, psychological growth rarely involves our physicality. So we begin with our instinctual nature. Aggression is a natural instinct which helps our survival. Beyond that, for many, it becomes our competitive orientation. We all want to win because it helps us feel satisfied and a better person. Psychologists would say that there are healthy levels of competitiveness and not healthy levels, just as with most all of our instinctual, emotional, mental, etc. etc. complexes. The process of psychological growth is to change and/or eradicate the unhealthy levels with the goal of us becoming a fully mature balanced personality. Early on, this is what C.J. Jung meant by the term individuation. Much of psychology today is focused with this goal in mind. Emotionally, it involves identifying and changing the lower emotions of lust, envy, possessiveness, jealousy, sympathy, etc. to more refined emotional states. We move from being sympathetic to empathetic. We move from dependent and codependent possessiveness and jealousy, to interdependent relationships involving in-love, respect, trust and loyalty. We move from envy and lust to appreciation. We move from getting what is mine or should be mine, to giving as much as we take. Our focus is to create a balance of giving and receiving. As another example of psychological growth, we move mentally from greed to sharing. We release our wanting to take revenge or live in spite to a place of intellectual faith that every wrong done will receive its consequences. We internalize a more altruistic approach to life, rather than just the materialistic "rat race" we see around us. We refine our shoulds and should nots to a more healthy what's right for one may not be right for another, what is best for me may not be best for you. In general, we develop a more acceptance and inclusiveness of the variety of ways in which humans live and grow. Many believe that human and psychological growth equates with spiritual growth. It does not. Simplistically, we can equate human growth with personality growth and psychological growth with growth in Soul. Growth in Spirit is very different, and not even applicable for a majority of humans at this time. Dealing with the challenges of human and psychological growth will test many humans to the limit. If we simply define Spirit as the essence of things, "esprit de corp," intention or purpose and enthusiasm and vitality, we can have a fairly difficult time understanding growth in Spirit. For me, a better way to understand growth in Spirit is through the characteristics of Spirit. These 12 characteristics include Integrity, Love, Justice, Harmony, Truth, Faith, Order, Peace, Purity, Beauty, Serenity and Innocence. In our Living Spirit educational archives, we have an article on each of these characteristics with spiritualizing exercises. These characteristics go beyond our human understanding of the words. Let me use a number of examples to bring Spirit better into view. Let's begin with Integrity. The human equivalent is honesty, which most think is a very positive quality. But most of us, especially parents and family members internally know that it's not always best to be honest. "For the good" of someone close to us, honesty is best melded with love and avoidance of truth. Spiritual integrity is a willful aligning with a higher principle, or purpose. Whether you live Will to its utmost, Love in its entirety or active intelligence to the extreme, each is living with integrity. As to Love, what dependent in-love is humanly, Eros or inter-dependent love is psychological, and objective detached compassion is in Spirit. Another way to put it is that sympathy is to a human, what empathy is to our soul and compassion is to our Spirit. Justice is another example. What compromise in mediation does humanly, fairness brings more soul into action. Spiritual Justice create a new numinous alignment of energies based on "treating equals equally and unequals, unequally, but in proportion to their relevant differences." Regarding Faith, humans are taught to live with blind faith in what has been taught as right and wrong or good and evil by our religions, or those we look up to. Psychological faith is being loyal to one's beliefs or principles; keeping a trust and reliance on what one has accepted as good for themselves. As a characteristic of Spirit, Faith is the nurturing supportive healing characteristic of Spirit; producing an unfailing trust, reliance and security in the success of Spirit’s intent. Human beauty is what we consider aesthetic and pleasing to us. Psychological beauty is the clarity or meaning which lies behind materiality. Spiritual Beauty is anything that reveals Spirit within matter. As a final example, serenity to most humans is a state of non-disturbance, calm and peacefulness. Psychologically, serenity equals tranquility or an exalted state of equanimity. From Spirit, Serenity produces tranquility within the storm of materialized life. It is a translucent clear quiet motivating implicit confidence within Spirit. Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but tranquility within the storm. Committing one's life to living by Spirit is in essence committing oneself to become and live these 12 characteristics of Spirit. It does not mean just adding another dimension to human and psychological growth. In order to grow in Spirit, we must be willing to sacrifice and eradicate many aspects of our human condition and growth. We must be willing to embrace change at the level that most humans would not accept, or agree with. A fairly easy way to look at this is that those individuals throughout history, who have grown and lived by Spirit, have usually been harassed, condemned and destroyed by humanity. Only looking back from a historical perspective have we been able to embrace the essence (Spirit) of their thinking, feeling and behavior. Spirit is highly disturbing and intimidating to our humanness, as well as to normal materialistic life. Unfortunately, what is so very difficult for humans to understand as Spirit is the real source of our everlasting life, joy and security.