Like all stage development theories M. Scott Pecks Four Stages of Spiritual Development is a fluid and circular model. It offers a useful reference point for the journey of self understanding. We can be predominantly in one stage and yet move between others. Only level two is associated with the need for formal belief in a religious expression or framework of belief.
Stage 1. Anti-social/Chaotic: the self is without a sense of connection or meaning; predominantly superficial, hedonistic, egocentric and self-centred, with little concern for others. An example of Stage one from a religious standpoint is the character of the younger brother in story of the prodigal son, wanting hedonism and rejecting commitment and responsibility (Luke 15:11-32)
Stage 2. Formal/Institutional: Religious beliefs rooted in certitude are considered as highly important at stage two. I would add [and is my own idea and not Dr Peck’s idea] that this stage may also include people with the need for belief in militant secular dogma. I would use Dr Richard Dawkins as an example of this stage also. This stage relates to to structures such as religion, tradition and teaching authority, which are central to a sense of personal containment and ordering. Often characterised by dualistic morality (right, wrong, good, bad), where certitude is a comfort zone, and in which the individual struggles with uncertainty, paradox and nuance, stage 2 is about the safety of absolutes. A stage two character would be the older brother in the story of the prodigal son who stays at home and follows duty, but then resents the mercy and compassion of the father for the returning son.
3. Stage 3. Doubt/Skepticism. The individual is no longer guided by dualistic absolutes. They are often more agnostic towards ideas. They are engaged with the deconstruction of past beliefs to make way for the reconstruction of a new and more fluid less and absolutist positions. They may reject religious beliefs or take a less dogmatic position of uncertainty in current religious affiliation and be more open to possibilities in the search for meaning. For example the individual can sit with the paradoxical story of the character, Job, from the Old Testament who lives a good life but loses everything without seeking simplistic notions, e.g., virtue being rewarded and vice being punished.
Stage 4. Mystical/Communion or Unitive: this is a stage of non duality, with a deep sense of unitive consciousness. This stage is relational, finding the divine within and between rather than above and beyond and is attracted to mystery in the proverbial ‘cloud of unknowing’. Embracing all life, ethical without certitudes; and a movement from egoic judgment and certitude to compassion, forgiveness, and unitary connection to all, the individuals understanding the nature of the universe in terms of complexity and divergence but within absolute divine unity and oneness. Faith is an experience of oneness and communion not creedal affirmation.
Peck, M. Scott. A Different Drum: Community Making and Peace. Touchstone Press. 1987.