Stages of Faith
By Jane Fleming
The brain and spirituality appear to develop in parallel throughout the human life span. As we grow and develop, our brain grows and develops, and this appears to parallel our spiritual growth. In his book Stages of Faith, James Fowler, an American theologian, identified seven stages of development, 0 to 6, as you will find summarized in this article.
Here is a summary of each spiritual stage in life. You may choose to think about your own experiences during each one.
0. Undifferentiated (Infancy) The first stage, stage zero, is undifferentiated faith in infancy. There is little in the way of higher cognitive functions and no identifiable or differentiated faith or belief system. The infant operates almost exclusively in a stimulus-response mode. But his is the stage where the seeds of trust, hope, and love are developed and, therefore, critical for overall development—both psychologically and spiritually.
Intuitive-Projective (2 to 6 years) Stage one is called the intuitive-projective faith stage. There are vast increases in the brain’s sensorimotor cortex, thalamus, brain stem, and cerebellum. Children are able to gain some control over the world through the use of language and symbolic representation, but their thinking is magical, episodic, and not based on logic. God is conceptualized through fantasy, stories, and dramatic representations. There is tremendous expansion and over-connectedness between neurons of the brain and so many connections being made, that there is a sense of blending many different experiences and ideas, so that children will not likely be able to make sense of really complex issues.
2. Mythic-Literal (6 to 10 years) Stage two, during the school-age years is referred to as the mythic-literal faith stage when a child begins to internalize stories, beliefs, and observances that symbolize belonging to a community or group. Beliefs are related to literal interpretations of religions or doctrines and are usually composed of moral rules and attitudes. Stories, drama, and myth are the primary venues in which ideas are experienced.
3. Synthetic-Conventional Stage three during adolescence is called synthetic-conventional faith stage likely to be built upon notions of religion and spirituality that were established in the childhood stages but there is an elaboration of basic ideas. This is the period in which the person’s basic approach to life, relationships, self, and spirituality are galvanized and fully elaborated. Ceremonies such as bar or bat mitzvah in the Jewish tradition and confirmation in the Christian tradition recognize that the individual has left the childhood belief system and is entering into the belief system of adulthood.
This is a complex stage due to a variety of factors, including hormonal states and sexual maturation, and socially extending beyond the family into peer and other cohort groups. Neuro-physiologically, this stage corresponds to a time in which the overall metabolism in the brain begins to decrease compared to the earlier stages of childhood and growth. Plasticity of the brain decreases notably during the decreasing metabolism phase of brain development. Yet there is still significant room for developing and learning new ideas and concepts. But these ideas are not as likely to be the kind of foundational concepts that were formed in childhood stages.
4. Individuative-Reflective, Late Teens to 30 or 40 years Stage four of Fowler’s model is the individuative-reflective faith stage, when there is a break between the person’s own belief system and whatever or whoever has been the authority figure in his or her life such as parents or church. There is critical distancing from one’s established value system when one begins to take responsibility for his or her choices—irrespective of what others feel. Neuro-physiologically, this stage is associated with the full development of the cognitive and emotional processes more stable than in all of the previous stages.
5. Conjunctive (Mid-Adulthood to 40 years Onward) Stage Five is called the conjunctive faith stage. The initiating factor is disillusionment and recognition that life is more complex than logic and abstract thinking can deal with. This leads to the search for a more multileveled approach to life-truth through other spiritual and philosophical traditions in a quest for meaning and value in life, and understanding how your personal life relates to all humanity. Neurophysiologically, this stage is associated with a decrease in overall brain metabolic activity but does not negate the richness of experiences that bring significant change.
6. Universalizing Faith (Old Age) Stage six may require deep reflection and personal struggle. The ultimate goal is the notion of a more universal concept of religion and the universe. This may represent a sense of union of the self with God or an Ultimate Reality.
Looking at this stage from a neuroscientific perspective, the experience of union with God likely arises from the interruption or destruction of nerve cells and cognitive inputs into the orientation areas of the brain. The orientation centers of the brain provide us with our sense of self during our lifetime. If the brain structure normally provides us with our sense of self, then decreased activity may be associated with a loss of the sense of self, and the greater the loss of the sense of self, the greater the person may begin to feel connected to, or at one with God or some ultimate reality, an absolute unitary state.
There seems to be a connection between this final stage and near death experiences. The most interesting aspect of near-death experiences at any age is how they can be so life changing and transformative. People no longer fear death, and they have a new way of looking at life and relationships. People say they are more spiritual and less religious.
The brain normally changes slowly over time, but in a flash of an instant during a near-death experience, people frequently change all the ways they think about themselves and the world, and describe the experience as being “bigger” than religion. This state of mind seems to be like Fowler’s universalizing final Stage of Faith. When a person experiences this state through a near death experience, not only do they perceive it to be real when they are in it, but even when they are no longer in it, the brain keeps telling them that the experience represented the true reality. In fact it seems to supersede all other experiences of reality.
ASHA healers do have a unique Faith in a higher power when they provide spiritual healing. They completely trust that a higher intelligence is working through them to provide whatever healing is needed at the time for both the recipient and the healer. ASHA is non-denominational and does not set out any spiritual or religious creed and beliefs, but rather engages in the simple skill of providing healing energy from a higher source to a recipient. They do this with trust and love. We healers seem to be moving toward the
Article: Tribute to Gabriella Enyedvary
By Jane Fleming
Many ASHA healers will remember Rev. Gabriella Enyedvary who served regularly as a healer on Monday nights for over 20 years. She was a tall, statuesque beauty, stylishly coiffed, wearing elegant clothes with simple yet stunning jewelry. She stood grounded and gracefully aligned to give spiritual healing to recipients on a regular basis.
Gabriella Enyedvary had been an active healer with ASHA since the late 1990’s as well as a board member serving with passion, concern and vision. She had a very unique personality, made strong commitments, took immediate action on issues, laid the ground work carefully for any projects in which she was involved and had real staying power with steady focus. Like most healers Gabriella came to ASHA after suffering many of life’s traumas. The following article is based on an interview with Gabriella in 2004:
Gabriella’s interest in natural healing began very dramatically. In 1988 she was on the brink of death. She had endometriosis and fibroids that resulted in two major surgeries within a one month period. For another two years she continued to suffer bowel obstructions. After one operation the doctors were so stymied by the total dysfunction of the bowel that they called upon a reflexologist to activate it again, which was successful. However, she continued to suffer repeated obstructions and found that reflexology and a tummy massage for a full hour reversed the situation.
In Gabriella’s words she experienced divine synchronicity when a friend who had studied the works of Louise Hay arrived for lunch and to give her a reflexology treatment. The friend recommended the Louise Hay book You Can Heal Your Life which Gabriella immediately purchased. She was very impressed by the advice given and began to buy many more books on reversing health conditions through mental preparation, the body-mind connection and spiritual growth. She developed a life long interest in breaking negative emotional patterns and developed many techniques and was always open to learning more.
Gabriella made the connection between her poor health, negative emotional states and the serious traumas she suffered as a very young child. As a four year old growing up in the beautiful city of Budapest, Hungary, Gabriella experienced some of the horrors of World War II. She remembered playing with a large group of children kept safely in a basement. Although the children were able to play and delighted in each other’s company, they inwardly suffered the terrible fear and helplessness of the adults.
From this experience of deprivation and fear Gabriella grew up determined to get what she wanted and to work for it. By twelve years of age she worked for a Community Cultural Center during the summer selling tickets and subsequently had many other paying jobs. At the age of fourteen she attended Normal School, which offered a four year study program and a fifth year practicum under a licensed teacher, to become a teacher of the primary grades one to four. But once again war interfered with Gabriella’s life and she was unable to finish training as an elementary school teacher.
When the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 broke out, Gabriella immigrated to Canada and left her family behind. She started life as a young woman in Ottawa working as a meat wrapper for a large grocery store. Not surprisingly, she was fired for crying too much! Next she got work in a Ladies Department Store as a clothes shipper and then moved on to the Ministry of Pensions as a file clerk and switchboard operator. None of these jobs seemed satisfying so she tried work as a file clerk in the Statistical Department of the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, moving up quickly to a higher position. Later she worked as a secretary for an architect.
While in Ottawa Gabriella met and married her husband, Thomas Enyedvary. Thomas was a mechanical engineer trained in Hungary. He immigrated to Canada in the spring of 1957, six months after Gabriella. He was first employed in Montreal with the CNR (Canadian National Railway) but was given a two year assignment in Ottawa for the National Research Council returning to Montreal with his new wife in 1962. Later, Thomas moved to Calgary in 1977 to establish a new home and new job, and Gabriella followed in January of 1978. They have one daughter, Sylvia.
After a decade of married life in Montreal, Gabriella realized a need for further education in an area of personal interest. She decided to go to university to study full time from 1971 to 1975. She had a strong social conscience and a compassion for those who suffered so she took a degree from the School of Social Work at McGill University, graduating in 1975. This was followed by a three year practicum: one year spent with a senior citizen’s home to observe and write papers, a year working with foster care families and then a year with a YWCA project to create a women’s shelter and residence.
Gabriella felt that her natural talents probably lay in the world of fine arts but her own personal suffering as a young person led her to have a deep compassion for the suffering of others; she was attuned to the plight of those in need. She began work for a community center, Notre Dame de Grace, that created resources for single parents. Through this community center she became involved with Centre-aid, an equivalent organization to the United Way. She became the coordinator for two campaigns for Centre-aid. Gabriella already had latent organizational skills but was also well trained as a social worker in innovative approaches to community building. She brought original ideas to the campaign, one of which was to contact key spokesmen for the organizations that used the funding. These spokesmen became speakers at fund raising events. They told first hand stories of how the fund benefited real people, such as destitute families that got back on their feet, handicapped people that were rehabilitated, etc. The moving stories gave meaning and purpose to the role of donors and increased their generosity.
After the family moved to Calgary in 1978, Gabriella was Director of Volunteer Services at Glenmore Park Auxiliary Hospital until 1985. In 1985 she founded and ran the Art Nest Gallery at Glenmore Landing along with Thomas until they sold the business in 1998.
Gabriella had a natural interest in the visual arts as well as the performing arts. She was an opera buff, avid theatre goer and art gallery devotee. She felt that she would have excelled in the fine arts if her life had not been so fragmented but her main goal in life became to excel at being herself! She was always busy. She and Thomas enjoyed traveling, and while they never watched much TV, the two of them enjoyed a diet of movie comedies or documentaries. As a productive artist she painted in oils and often had several commissions in process. She also studied Science of Mind and became a licensed practitioner and later an ordained minister. She first attended the Centre for Positive Living associated with the Science of Mind movement which evolved into the Centres for Spiritual Living. Upon her ordination in April 2009 the Westside Center for Spiritual Living was brimming over with bouquets of flowers! Gabriella connected to so many people.
Gabriella added many ‘strings to her healing bow’ and was glad to take an active part in ASHA. She considered ASHA an excellent organization of great value and fostered its growth and healthy future. She felt that people with determination kept the organization going and she willingly served on the board for many years. While honoring ASHA traditions she felt that there was always a need for flexibility, for change and for experimentation in any organization. Gabriella was not afraid of change and innovation throughout her entire life as revealed in this interview.
Rev. Gabriella Enyedvary passed peacefully into Spirit on November 30, 2021. Thomas Enyedvary predeceased his wife on February 20, 2020.
Invitation: If any healers wish to make a short tribute, comment or memory of Gabriella, please send to Jane Fleming: email@example.com .