The Stages of Life and Spiritual Awakening

The Stages of Life and Spiritual Awakening


  1. The 4 Stages of Life and Spiritual Awakening
  2. The Universal Samsara Life-Map
  4. The Stages, Signs and Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening

Most of us are sleep walking through life believing that things are more random and chaotic than ordered by nature. Structure, patterns and hierarchies are not that easy to see at first. A certain level of cognitive depth is required to begin to understand The Stages of Life and Spiritual Awakening and how they unfold for each of us as individuals. As complex human beings that are part of a much bigger system than the limited concepts of space and time that anyone can experience subjectively themselves. 

What this all means is, is that life for human beings has been going for about 3.7 billion years. This beautiful and strange blue planet has been around for about 14 billion years and there have been 120 billion, or with the zeros for context 120,000,000,000 humans that have lived this life that you are living right now. 

Our lives are so short that they have been compared to the flickering of a candle, a whisper of wind and like a disappearing vapour. We don’t live very long at all. Then, minus the ignorance of youth and the dementia of the aged and it is even shorter as far as our prime is concerned. So why life at all? Why even be here, participate or make a path for yourself or for others. Is there such a thing as an impact or legacy for any of us, and why the hell are we still here, multiplying and ‘doing life’ in the first place? Chaos or order? Mapped or unlinked?

Patterns like 0 and 1, similarities in experience, cycles, stages of life and what we go through, experiences and learning through expanded consciousness from each stage of life is far less hard to map. Some folks even see life as an almost identical experience that that we all have from birth to death. In the Power of Contemplative Intelligence book we delve much deeper into this unfolding that we are all going through. However there are 4 definitive Stages of Life and Spiritual Awakening that we all traverse that are as plain as the light of day to see. Keep in mind that these are not chronological stages we go though. Some 70 year olds are still stuck in the ego-mind with ego defences still as high as they were in childhood. Who doesn’t try at least for a while to hang onto the physiological as opposed to growing old gracefully with a spiritual understanding of life. There is a lot of hanging on ,and just as much letting go, that we do as we swing through the branches in the jungle of life. 

“Every human life contains a potential. If that potential is not fulfilled, that life was wasted.”
― Carl Gustav Jung

The 4 Stages of Life and Spiritual Awakening

Stage 1 – Physiological – games and races, physical appearance, we feel how our body feels, survival, competition and conflict, personality development, contracted consciousness, black and white thinking, social relationships.

Stage 2 – Psychological – thinking, fear of failure, learning and knowledge, develop intellectual skill, resourcefulness, security, self-actualisation, shame or guilt, blaming, flowering consciousness, intelligence (IQ) over-thinking, personal relationships.

Stage 3 – Emotional – reflection, introspection, creative, emotional intelligence (EQ) relationship to others and self, deep reflection, success, expanded consciousness, gratitude, desire for more (longing) empathy, action orientated.

Stage 4 – Spiritual – Serenity, Trust, Honesty, Acceptance, Contemplative Intelligence (CQ) , Expanded consciousness, God realisation

The Universal Samsara Life-Map

This is our road map, our metaphorical clock of how The Stages of Life and Spiritual Awakening unfold.


Life at first is about maturation. In the first half of life we are consumed with building identity, security and survival concepts. Our looks and making friends are important. We are athletes and warriors that develop hardened edges and a certain kind of invincibility. We can become self obsessed. Then, over time, there comes a change, that is usually brought about by some kind of criticism, angst or problem that undoes you inside and out. The first half are the early stages in Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs.” We seek a safe world- view in which to operate, even if it means creating a fantasy world. But personal security, reproduction and survival brain are not what life is about. We will never proceed beyond the two lower stages of life unless we can find a way to let go of the self as it was created.

Our lack of faith, courage and a deeper knowing of reality hold us back and keep us lost in the grip of impulse control, narcissism and personality. Therefore we become angry, then depressed, then lost. A dark night of the soul becomes inevitable. Fear must be overcome. Freedom and a big reveal in consciousness lies on the other side of what we don’t want to face. This rings true in the adage that we once were blind, then we can see, we once were lost and now we are found. Life gets bigger. It becomes we and not me – we lose our degree as an “I” specialist so to speak. We start to connect.

The Stages of Life and Spiritual Awakening

Practically speaking birth is the first stage of life as a human being. There is little argument of that. Now, have you ever noticed the look on a pregnant mothers face as she has given birth? Notice how their expressions are all so similar at the moment of birth, as they observe their child with a loving gaze and fall into a restful state of motherly bliss. These expressions uniformly hold a most wonderful look of peace, and you can see it again and again through observing many births. As the child takes their first breath of life, the big journey of life, bliss and suffering begins. A journey that we can metaphorically liken to a clock. 

At approximately two years old psychology tells us that we make one of the biggest decisions of our lives. We decide whether the world is a malevolent and violent place or a good place to live. It is here that our ego-insurgents or ego-defences are assigned as your guardians to nurture you and keep you safe. This decision is part of what shapes our reality as we grow up towards having to make similar decisions at precise times of our lives again. Even this decision of discerning the Power of your own Contemplative Intelligence you are embarking on, can be a pivotal and life changing tipping point that changes everything.

As early as three am on our metaphorical life clock we start to move away from ourselves. As we grow, we become obsessed with competition, people-pleasing and winning. We can become nasty and cruel, trying to get ahead. We are desperate to be loved, noticed and recognised as beautiful, talented, smart and loving. But the rejections, non-nurturing etc. all eventually gets in our way. 

We then hit puberty with emphasis on how we look to others and how this helps us fit in. Slowly we become free thinkers as we enter stage 2 of the Stages of Life and Spiritual Awakening which is the psychological era of our lives. We start to read deeper books, learn everything we can and discover a general plethora of new things and interests. We become knowledge seekers. 

Then there is the emotional stage. But we can’t get there from intellect alone. We have to go deeper. We have to shift beyond our very own thinking and start to feel our way through life rather than see things in clear, practical psychological boxes as we once did. This is the stage of the ’27 club’ where suicides, drugs and rock ‘n roll, and all things distraction help us to try and avoid the shift from stage 2 to 3. We don’t get emotions easily. They look scary and out of our control and oftentimes they are at first. 


At the bottom of our metaphorical life clock rages a dark ocean, that we will refer to as the dark night of the soul. Way down at 6 o’ clock, we are the furthest away from our starting point than we will ever be again. Our true nature, innate values and true selves are a distant foggy memory. Some people spend more time than others moving away from their true selves. This metaphorical low point is where many people become ill, die or become addicted or depressed. Just remember that this game of life doesn’t stop here. There is a corner to turn, but the problem is most of us don’t know it. Remembering we cannot go back, we become afraid. Like Peter stepping out of the boat to walk on water, we become fearful and start to sink. Many of us long to go back and become somewhat paralysed and feel it is unfair or malevolent that we can’t go back to the innocence of that happy child. But that is not the journey. Not at all.

The dark night is a swim we must all eventually glide through. First, many of us try and shy away from it altogether. We can be successful at avoiding gazing at the dark night of the soul for a long time, but not forever. We can zone out with drugs and distraction. We can try and be someone else or we can pretend, as most of us do, that it only exists in nightmares – that in fact there is no dark night to traverse at all.

It is this shift that the brain knows is coming, that is enviable and creates the avoidance in us. But we know from scientists and Sufi’s alike that when we try and avoid suffering, we get 10 000 times more suffering. This journey across and through life’s storms is what all the ancient religious and spiritual texts refer to as the need to have hope and faith. 

If we can traverse the dark night and allow our emotions to let us radically level up we eventually have a ‘big reveal’ or an awakening experience that shifts us towards our spiritual stage of human development. We find what we call our Sacred Selves. We discover authenticity, truth, connection and an in-depth understanding of life as it is, not as we think it is. 

The Stages, Signs and Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening

When looking at the natural evolution of small-self towards the supernatural-self, this journey is quite plainly and evidently part of the purpose that you and I are observing. We can observe changes, growth, different perspectives and mind sets that emerge as we go through life, space and time. A good way to look at these observations is by measuring them against another system of similar stages of change. The Chakras are just as good a way as any to see how we evolve energetically, consciously and spiritually towards something more than we are today.

People in early stages of Stages of Life and Spiritual Awakening bear certain characteristics. So do people in the expanded and pure states of spiritual awakening. We can observe them with relative ease. The Chakra which means energy wheels, or Shakti which also means energy and power, is detailed clearly in the chart below. We flow through these stages when we allow the flow to happen and only when we are ready, or capable, of containing and bearing the increase in energy, consciousness and power.

This gradual evolution we grow through generally involves three stages of development: the purgative stage, the illuminative stage, and the unitive stage. While these stages are not perfectly linear, they tend to mirror the stages of our human development: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood and mimic our ‘move’ through the physiological, psychological, emotional and then spiritual. When you can observe with self-awareness certain aspects of your thinking, feelings, behaviour and perceptions on the chart, you will begin to track a measurable pattern of growth. Self growth and transformation.

The Stages of Life and Spiritual Awakening


There is no doubt at all of one thing. We are all going somewhere and it is definitely towards a more unitive consciousness than we could ever imagine where of course we perceive that all things are one in a Loving, good and kind universe. Reality itself is being revealed to us all the time and for good reason. There is a metaphorical clock that is taking us around and through the world. We are all ticking towards something and we are becoming ‘more’ as we do it. More conscious. Deeper. Enlightened even. We don’t get harder through life we get softer, and soft is strength in this paradoxical arena. We don’t break down we break through. We break open and we become stronger spiritually.

God as mystery – Because God is totally other than we are, totally of the spiritual order, we cannot know God directly. Our experience of God and the Universe is always mediated. That is to say, that we are touched by the reality of God through events and things visible to us. For Christians, Christ is the great mystery made visible.

There are two things that we need to do in life. One is effort. The other is to develop faith. One seen and understood the other unseen as mystery. Faith and effort underpin our journey back to sacred self. The big conclusion is that there is most certainly meaning to life. There is meaning to space and time and your involvement in it. Perhaps if we only knew how sacred and important this journey of life is, then perhaps we would cling less and open up more to its natural unfolding. No, we don’t understand this life. That’s a given. Perhaps that is the point. We are not the Creator of it but the creation, and our role is just different to that of omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience or all powerful, present everywhere and all knowing. Our journey rather is one of deep mystery and reliance on the power of food, the environment and the laws that govern our universe. When we can know this and accept this journey, then, and only then perhaps, we are ready for our final big reveal. What is that exactly? We will just have to wait and see. 

The Stages of Life and Spiritual Awakening

Published by Mark L Lockwood

Mark L Lockwood (BA)(Hons)(psy) teaches spiritual transformation and is the founder of Contemplative Intelligence. Author of The Power of Contemplative Intelligence, Autotherapy and Recovery Magic. Our work is about the science of finding your spiritual self.

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