Phase 1. There you are, trucking along, minding your own business, when wham! something happens to jolt you out of your complacency - maybe a contact with the numinous, or something that upsets or expands your current paradigm.
Phase 2. You try to ignore it, but it just comes back, louder and more insistent.
Phase 3. You give in to it and get involved. Suddenly all your prayers are answered (evangelical types), all your spells work (occult types)! "Woo-hoo", you think to yourself, "I've found the truth". "I must spread the word" (evangelical types); act all superior because "I know everything" (occult types); become a hermit (mystical types); or go on a pray-a-thon (CU types).
Phase 4. Your prayers (or your magic) stop working. Setback! "The God/Goddess doesn't love me any more / I've lost my super occult powers."
Phase 5. The pit of despair. Long dark teatime of the soul. Doubt. Assault by "demons" in the wilderness. Wrestling with angels.
Phase 6. You meet an inner guide, possibly an enlightened one. Possible responses to this:
- Get massively involved in the tradition associated with the guide, assuming it is the Only Truth. As in the game of Snakes and Ladders (originally an Islamic analogy for the spiritual journey) go back to phase one.
- Decide that all your journey prior to this point was worthless because you have now found the Truth, and previously you were deluded by the "powers of darkness". Go back to phase one.
- Realise that all the guides that have ever appeared to humanity are messengers from the Divine Source. Proceed to phase seven.
Phase 8. Decide to both serve the world and enjoy its beauty. Share the blessing.
Observant readers may notice the similarity of this with Joseph Campbell's Hero Journey. I have seen facets of this journey in accounts of Christian mystics, the prayer lives of Christian bloggers, the spiritual journeys of Pagans and occultists. With variations, it seems quite widespread - perhaps even universal. Some people get stuck in one of the phases for a long time, in others they may last only a few days. And the journey may be a spiral around the mountain - we may revisit these phases several times in different ways.
"Faith is a state of openness or trust. To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float. And the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging to belief, of holding on. In other words, a person who is fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe, becomes a person who has no faith at all. Instead they are holding tight. But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be." ~ Alan Watts