Einstein has a well-shared quote in our modern day which says, “we cannot solve a problem with the same level of consciousness that created it.” This is a powerful realisation for humanity to embrace as we explore pathways to regenerate the vitality of our living planet and build systems for living that will sustain us harmoniously into the future. But if a shift in consciousness is what is required… how do we actually do (or be) that? How do we create a shift in who we are being such that it positively impacts our visions and our actions in the world? And how do we gauge our progress on the path?
In recent times, our path of personal and planetary development has been influenced by a myriad of different perspectives in science, spirituality, indigenous wisdom and multiple schools of self awareness, self development, movement and thought. Ancient and modern practices have merged with the intent of helping us shed limiting patterns and past experience in order to more powerfully align with the infinite possibilities of life.
In the mid 1980’s, author and founder of Agape International Spiritual Center Michael Beckwith introduced a simple model for understanding the Four Stages of Spiritual Growth and Development. While this is not the only guide to understand the stages of human consciousness, the context of Beckwith’s model is a practical and empowering perspective on our journey from victim-hood to empowerment, connection and oneness with the greater forces of life. Let’s take a look.
Stage one: ‘TO ME’
The first stage of spiritual development is what Beckwith calls the ‘To Me’ stage. It’s also referred to as the victim stage as it is an early level of awareness where our primary perception is that life is happening ‘to us’. Like a child new to the world, or someone who has not yet claimed full responsibility for his/her life, in the ‘To Me’ stage we experience ourselves at the effect of the people and circumstances of our life. There are times in each of our lives when we feel like we are on the receiving end of challenges, opportunities, relationships, job assignments, etc. and while we may have desires for a different circumstance, at the time it really feels as though ‘life is happening to us’.
As with each of the four stages, in order to move from one stage to the next, Beckwith tells us we must be willing to let go of something en route to claiming a new aspect of who we really are. In order to move from the ‘To Me’ stage of our development into stage two, what we must be willing to let go of… is blame. After reacting, resisting and blaming others (or life itself) for our circumstance, eventually we come to a place where we are ready to claim more of a sense of personal responsibility and become more of a generative force in our life. Through choice or necessity we make a shift and begin to experience ourselves taking matters of our life into our own hands.
Stage two: ‘BY ME’
Even if we are fully justified to blame others for our current situation, there comes a time when we must realise that as long as we are making others responsible for our circumstance, we are giving away our power and limiting our ability to make the necessary changes. As we let go of the need to blame anyone (including ourselves!) for where we are, we open ourselves to shift into our next stage of development, becoming active manifestors of the path we truly want/need to be on.
During stage two, the ‘By Me’ phase of our journey, we may initially feel stretched or challenged by our circumstance, but this challenge is often what is needed for us to dig deeper and become a causative agent in our experience. This is the stage of the journey where we get to discover that we are far more capable than we realised. We are not victims of circumstance but rather creators of it.
The ‘By Me’ stage of development is often a building (or rebuilding) phase, where our actions must be grounded, real, focused and self-driven. Breakthroughs in this arena often require focused determination (and sometimes sweat!) and they leave us with the sense of personal accomplishment, “I did it! I can do it!”. In the stage of ‘By Me’, we move past victim-hood and begin to emerge with a sense of personal ownership of the life we create, earn, cause and achieve. This is a powerful step on the path.
Stage three: ‘THROUGH ME’
When we have worked hard at developing skills in any activity or endeavor (from music to sports to mathematics), there is a moment when we cross over from pure focused effort to a feeling of grace and flow with what we are doing. We may have been building skills and trying the same thing over and over for quite some time, when suddenly, we go from playing the music to feeling as though the music is actually playing through us. We go from being the surfer using our skills to surf the wave, to feeling the energy of the ocean guiding our flow upon it. From being the writer of the story, to feeling as though the creative essence of the story itself is expressing through our pen onto the page.
When we enter ‘Through Me’ consciousness we go from a sense of personal significance grounded in our own achievements, to feeling a sense of humility about being part of something greater than ourselves. In order to move from the ‘By Me’ stage into stage three, what we must be willing to let go of is our need for control. As we let go of having to be the soul generator and controller of each outcome, we open ourselves up to discover a new sense of trust and connectedness to the bigger story/currents/song ready to flow through us.
Sometimes the experience of ‘Through Me’ comes as a graceful extension of personal exertion, and sometimes it arrives more abruptly as we reach the limit of our own personal skills or abilities and have no choice but to surrender, opening ourselves up to be conduits or instruments of the higher energetic forces within.
Stage four: ‘AS ME’
When we let go of blame and move from our perception of life as something that happens ‘To Me’, we begin to discover our true power in life happens ‘By Me’. When we let go of the need to control, we move from our experience of life happening ‘By Me’, to discovering our connection to the greater powers of life moving ‘Through Me’. As we allow our individual expression to merge completely with the energy we are experiencing or creating in the world, we realise we are actually part of the infinite creative force of the universe, which is expressing and experiencing itself individualised ‘As Me’.I am God/spirit/universe/nature/consciousness.
As we travel through the third stage of our development and experience a sense of the greater flow moving ‘Through Me’ consistently in life or endeavour, we begin to reach this fourth leaping-off point and the simple but profound realisation that whatever is moving ‘Through Me’ is also inside of me. That this greater energetic force and I are actually made of the same source material. Like a ray of the sun or a wave in the ocean, I am actually an individualised expression of this greater force, which is now moving, breathing and acting in the world ‘As Me’.
A picture must possess a real power to generate light, and for a long time now I’ve been conscious of expressing myself through light, or rather in light. – Henri Matisse
To move beyond the experience of life occurring ‘Through Me’ and into the ‘As Me’ stage of spiritual development, what we must be willing to let go of is our sense of separation. As we do this (or rather ‘be’ this), we open ourselves to discover the experience of genuine unity or oneness in life and endeavor. We release our perception of the infinite nature of the universe as a causative energy that exists outside of us, and we open ourselves to experience this infinite nature in and ‘as’ our very being. The music, the ocean, the story are not only moving ‘Through Me’… they are the living expression of who I am. This is flow in its greatest sense and many would say it is our ultimate reason for being here. Through our actions, experiences, relationships and being, to remember and experience ourselves as unique expressions of the absolute.
Takeaways and Reflection
We each have experiences of these stages of development at different times in different areas of our life. Whether or not we arrive at a permanent state of ‘As Me’ in every aspect of our existence, it is powerful to consider what shifts we can make within ourselves to support our steps along the path.
Stage one: ‘To Me’
Life is a series of events, relationships and circumstances that happen to me.
In order to move to beyond stage one, I must be willing to let go of: blame.
In doing so, I claim/discover: responsibility and personal empowerment.
Stage two: ‘By Me’
I move into my role as a manifestor, claiming my ability to create and influence my circumstance in life.
In order to move beyond stage two, I must be willing to let go of: control.
In doing so, I discover: trust and connection with energetic forces beyond my individual self.
Stage three: ‘Through Me’
I am an instrument and conduit for Life to move and express through me.
In order to move beyond stage three, I must be willing to let go of: separation.
In doing so, I discover: oneness.
Stage four: ‘As Me’
I and the infinite forces of the universe are ONE. I am God/spirit/life, being me. At once unique and intrinsically part of the greater whole. I am one with all of life.
Is there an area of your life that you are currently seeking to create a shift in your experience?
If so, what stage of development would you currently place yourself in this area?
What might you need to let go of or claim in order to cause a shift in your own consciousness and open the path for your next stage of experience?
Each one of us is Life personalized. We are each Life as a person; therefore, each one of us contains within himself all the intelligence, the power, the faculties and the instruments for the expression of Life… To know that Life became you for a purpose and that you occupy a place no one else in all the world occupies. – Dan Custer (The Miracle of Mind Power)
Feature Image: Detail from ‘Arise’, by Amanda Sage