James Fowler's Stages of Faith

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Brian Johnston
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Brian Johnston » 02 Jul 2010, 17:50

Thanks for emphasizing that again Ray. I forgot to do it. There is no better stage or best stage. Dr. Fowler calls it "finding equilibrium." If someone finds equilibrium mostly in a certain stage, that means it is working for them. THAT is the most important. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. ;) But some of us are wired to move, so move we do. I can't really say this is better. It usually causes a lot of problems ;)
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by SilentDawning » 02 Jul 2010, 23:07

Stage 5 is a fundamentally different way of seeing the world compared to other stages (thus, each has a name and a number. they are all different). Rationalization implies a lack of discipline or making excuses for not following a set of group expectations. That is a Stage 3 perspective of a stage 5 expression. Stage 5 people just don't see it the same way. They are no longer inside their group's framework. They are standing outside looking in. They might in fact be more disciplined about "the rules," but it will be for very different reasons. I think of Rumi (the poet in Islam) and Jesus Christ as key examples. Rumi was not a naughty Muslim. He was supremely Muslim, playing with his faith like a true stage 5-er.
Brian, or anyone -- can you give an example of how you did this? For example, pick one of the symbols or things that bothered you enough to put you into Stage 4, and describe how you viewed it differently to get you into Stage 5 regarding that concept/issue/practice -- whatever has meaning to you.
Dr. Fowler describes the transition from 4 to 5 as being prompted by a sense of flatness or lack of "magic" in life. The person decides to jump back in and let things speak their stories to them -- a willing naivete' . Someone asked him how to make that happen. He said "Son, if you aren't standing on the tracks, you can't get hit by the train." You have to get to a point where you can allow religious symbols and metaphors to speak to you again, just letting them tell you their story and take you where they go without trying to force them into your paradigm of "truth." Its hard, but it is worth it.
I did feel a flatness toward life about a year ago -- i got sick of being a priesthood leader, and that sickness generalized into my life in general. I also got tired of just about every aspect of life, including part of my family life, and my work -- and especially Church. So, I compensated by indulging in a very worthwile and rewarding hobby that was unfulfilled from my childhood -- music. I started a band and have been gigging with professional musicians -- that supercharged my life up and makes me feel self-actualized -- it put the zip back into life. Church still doesn't have zing to it anymore, but at least other areas in my life a sizzling, which has helped. I also asked to be released from a calling because about 10 months after starting the band I just didn't want it the priesthood leadership anymore. That led to some objectionable behavior from the people I reported to, which pushed me way deeper into Stage 4.

I don't think I'm sick of being in Stage 4 yet, unfortunately, I just don't like the feeling of teaching Sunday School while not really believing half of what I'm teaching anymore.

It isn't a matter of praying harder, obeying harder, pretending better or slacking. It is a fundamental shift in how you see things. Those previous descriptions are a regression to stage 3 or stagnation in stage 4. They will be painful.
Again, help me see how someone else engineered the funamental shift, and how it eventually moved them into Stage 5.
EDIT: I forgot to add this. A transition between stages could also happen with a change in faith content -- leaving the Church and seeking other content. We don't really explore that fully here. Our mission at StayLDS is to find ways to transition and stay in the LDS Church, how to make that happen as easy as possible. It is totally valid to leave though. That happens a lot to people in all faiths.
This makes sense, but I don't feel I could ever go to anything else at this point. I'd rather make it work inside the LDS Church.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Brian Johnston » 03 Jul 2010, 07:04

SilentDawning wrote:
Stage 5 is a fundamentally different way of seeing the world compared to other stages (thus, each has a name and a number. they are all different). Rationalization implies a lack of discipline or making excuses for not following a set of group expectations. That is a Stage 3 perspective of a stage 5 expression. Stage 5 people just don't see it the same way. They are no longer inside their group's framework. They are standing outside looking in. They might in fact be more disciplined about "the rules," but it will be for very different reasons. I think of Rumi (the poet in Islam) and Jesus Christ as key examples. Rumi was not a naughty Muslim. He was supremely Muslim, playing with his faith like a true stage 5-er.

Brian, or anyone -- can you give an example of how you did this? For example, pick one of the symbols or things that bothered you enough to put you into Stage 4, and describe how you viewed it differently to get you into Stage 5 regarding that concept/issue/practice -- whatever has meaning to you.
I do not consider myself to be a "stage 5" person. I don't think there is a life achievement of becoming Stage 5, like one day, all of a sudden, you are there. This theory is a way of describing HOW we think about faith (not that actual content, just the mechanics of it psychologically). I sometimes step back from myself and examine my thoughts about faith (which in fact is a indication of not thinking in Stage 3 mode). I catch myself deconstructing symbols all the time, and breaking them apart and resisting their freedom -- NOT letting them just tell their story. I find myself doing this while attending Church, thinking about all the reasons why a lesson I am listening to is the way it is, the history of the ideas people are talking about, the flaws in the scriptures and doctrines. That is ME thinking in Stage 4 framework. I am pulling apart everything around me into true and false, and all the little tiny pieces that make it tick.

Here is an example of me thinking in Stage 5 mode. Someone might think, based on my lack of literal belief and knowledge of Church history that I would have a problem with the temple or garments. In fact, I don't. I find the symbols speak to me deeply. I do not resist them for some reason. Well ... I know why, but that is a long topic. I studied sacred geometry, Egyptian mathematical philosophy and other forms of ancient "mystery" teachings for years before I went into my faith crisis. So it was outside supplementation that brought me back to a connection to those things within Mormonism. Anyway, I partially wear garments these days. That is the "symbol" I wanted to get to. I don't partially wear them because I am angry or disbelieving. I am not slacking or being rebellious. I don't think they are "magical" or that God really cares. I wear them because of the symbols, which speak to me. I let them speak to me. They are also nearly worn out ... which also speaks to me. It symbolizes how I feel about life and the Church (worn out and threadbare). The symbol of being different speaks to me. The symbol of being "holy" while walking around in my day-to-day life speaks to me. Do you see what I am getting at? I am not wearing them because I am "TBM" and regressing to stage 3 thinking. I really don't care anymore what my "tribe" (the Church) thinks of them. I fundamentally do not see the same thing, or work with them, in the same way as a typical "Stage 3" type of believing LDS Mormon would see them.

How do you make this kind of breakthrough in thinking? You stand on the tracks, and let the train hit you. Stop resisting the symbols. Stop tearing them apart. Just let them sing to you ... and listen.

To be clear though. I catch myself in Stage 4 mode, Stage 5 mode, and sometimes I ponder or look at some really far out Stage 6 ideas (rare). So what am I? I am just me trying to navigate the world around me, through my faith in any given moment.
SilentDawning wrote:I did feel a flatness toward life about a year ago -- i got sick of being a priesthood leader, and that sickness generalized into my life in general. I also got tired of just about every aspect of life, including part of my family life, and my work -- and especially Church. So, I compensated by indulging in a very worthwile and rewarding hobby that was unfulfilled from my childhood -- music. I started a band and have been gigging with professional musicians -- that supercharged my life up and makes me feel self-actualized -- it put the zip back into life. Church still doesn't have zing to it anymore, but at least other areas in my life a sizzling, which has helped. I also asked to be released from a calling because about 10 months after starting the band I just didn't want it the priesthood leadership anymore. That led to some objectionable behavior from the people I reported to, which pushed me way deeper into Stage 4.

I don't think I'm sick of being in Stage 4 yet, unfortunately, I just don't like the feeling of teaching Sunday School while not really believing half of what I'm teaching anymore.
Being burned out on life or angry or depressed are not Stage 4 characteristics. Those feelings might accompany a transition, but Fowler Stage Theory only addresses the mechanics of faith. It follow human psych development, so others things often coincide (like mid-life crisis and a stage transition). You may never be sick of being Stage 4. You may find equilibrium there. To be clear, you are very likely to not change in respects to your "feeling of teaching Sunday School while not really believing half of what I'm teaching anymore" even if you see it from a Stage 5 perspective. We are just as likely to be unmotivated, perhaps more likely, in a Stage 5 perspective. The pressures and the connection to guilt, and the need to please the group will probably not return...

I think you are talking above more about the content of your faith than the mechanics. You are finding something the you "believe in" (music, in the broad sense), that energizes you (which is awesome! don't get me wrong). You are not describing a different way of looking at faith.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Curt Sunshine » 03 Jul 2010, 07:43

SD, if I were to try to explain succinctly how I have moved to Stage 5 in those areas where I have done so, I think I would say that I determined to craft "my own faith" within MY "faith community". I decided CONSCIOUSLY that my faith is my faith - and that there is so much good and right and true and inspiring and ennobling and empowering . . . within what I came to call "pure Mormonism" that I can find joy and peace and growth within the LDS Church. Frankly, I made that conscious decision much earlier in life than most people do - simply because I recognized much earlier in life than most people do that the way I read and saw things was quite different than most of the people around me.

(Seriously, when you are 7 years old, are a natural parser and realize that the Book of Mormon and Bible you are reading really don't say what your Bishop and parents think they say in some cases . . . :? When you can't discuss Talmage's "Jesus, the Christ" in Primary . . . :P )

One of the things that helped me is that I am drawn more to the "big picture" than to the "details". I'm a philosopher more than an engineer. Those who obsess over the details struggle more when they hit Stage 4, I believe. Also, I'm not an angry person, by nature. I was raised in a peaceful and accepting home, generally, and that has helped tremendously.

Also, in the name of total openness, my personality lends itself more to not caring what others think about me than many others' personalities do for them. Iow, it's easier for me to say, "This is MY faith, and I don't care what you say or do. Nobody can make me leave, so deal with it." With that foundational decision, I have spent decades honing my heterodox orthopraxy - figuring out CONSCIOUSLY what I can and can't say and do and retain equilibrium within the community - and, just as importantly, how to be a visible leader there. (It also helps to find obvious role models, who are there at all levels - like Joseph B. Wirthlin over the last decade or so.)

I guess my attempt at being concise would be to emphasize that I made a conscious decision - and that decision involved a serious pursuit of charity and an intentional focus on principles and ideas over obsession about humans and their foibles and follies. It wasn't instantaneous, but it now is deeply ingrained and essentially natural - in that my first response to most things now leans toward charity, even though I'm still working on it in many ways and situations.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by SilentDawning » 03 Jul 2010, 08:00

How do you make this kind of breakthrough in thinking? You stand on the tracks, and let the train hit you. Stop resisting the symbols. Stop tearing them apart. Just let them sing to you ... and listen.
Perhaps you can expand on this -- particularly the train analogy, and also letting the symbols "sing to you", as this seems like part of the crux of the matter for you. For me, I'm struggling with tithing primarily right now; I'm seeing the Church as money motivated given their investments in businesses and secrecy about the use of funds. I see the Church as caring more about its own interests than the individual circumstances of poor members who can't afford tithing. Sometimes I also fall into believing that JS had a strong sexual appetite, and when it was found out he was intimate with a number of women in private he legitimized the practice with a plural marriage revelation. Kind of how you make a mistake and then pretend you meant to do it all along.

So, as a hypothetical example, are you saying that regarding tithing, one could look at it as simply symbolic of my love for God, and pay it for that reason, not because its required for a Temple Rec, or even a basic commandment? Look at it as an expression of selflessness, and look at the ensuing lack of financial reserves it creates as an expression of of my willingness to depend on God for those things? Consistent with the Bible scripture that we shouldn't worry about our day-to-day needs too much -- as the flowers of the field and birds live day to day?

Obey the commandment, but do it for a different reason that has greater meaning for me?

[I realize each person probably has to create their own meaning for the commandment, so I hope you'll treat my list of perspectives on tithing above as purely theoretical as I try to understand a mindset of Stage 5].

Also, if you only partially wear a garment, how do you answer the temple recommend question "do you wear your garments night and day?"
Last edited by SilentDawning on 04 Jul 2010, 09:46, edited 2 times in total.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Curt Sunshine » 03 Jul 2010, 10:05

SD, I don't know how soon Brian will be able to check in and respond, so let me just say that Brian doesn't hold a current temple recommend. Solves the interview dilemma nicely. :lol:
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by cwald » 03 Jul 2010, 14:35

I think this is REALLY good discussion. I'm anxiously awaiting further comments and answers to SD questions. Good stuff - thanks Brain and Ray --- hopefully some of you other "wisemen" (and wise women :) ) will weight in as well.
  Jesus gave us the gospel, but Satan invented church. It takes serious evil to formalize faith into something tedious and then pile guilt on anyone who doesn't participate enthusiastically. - Robert Kirby

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by SilentDawning » 03 Jul 2010, 17:29

Ray Degraw wrote:SD, I don't know how soon Brian will be able to check in and respond, so let me just say that Brian doesn't hold a current temple recommend. Solves the interview dilemma nicely. :lol:
But I would like to hold the temple recommend....and do it willingly....however, I don't want this response to distract from the questions I've posed above as I'm sincerely interested in knowing more about Stager 5'ers and how they got there.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Curt Sunshine » 03 Jul 2010, 21:15

I hold a temple recommend willingly - and without ANY reservations whatsoever.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by SilentDawning » 04 Jul 2010, 05:49

Ray Degraw wrote:I hold a temple recommend willingly - and without ANY reservations whatsoever.
Ray - just curious -- what put you into Stage 4, and what attitudes/perspectives did you adopt that moved you beyond that phase? And, do you think Stage 5 is synonymous with holding a current temp rec without any reservations? Or did you ever leave Stage 3?

Again, I recognize each person has their own journey, but I'd like to understand yours....to the extent you're willing to share it.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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