Spiritual Evolution

1 of 9 – Spiritual Evolution

By Marlyse Carroll
(Author of ‘Am I Going Mad? The Unsettling Phenomena of Spiritual Evolution’ – www.amigoingmad.com.au)

In this article, we’ll start with a few general observations relating to spiritual evolution. We will then explore a little known Jungian psychological model that explains our shared human journey along the spiritual path.

Would you agree that, as human beings, we all change over time? Not just during childhood, but throughout our adult years as well?

No doubt you have noticed that some personalities expand in various ways whilst others contract. Because in terms of personal evolution, the variety of human experiences is enormous.

We all dance to a different tune – we choose different partners and different paths. Yet at some point, most of us encounter similar landmarks along our journey. Some experiences are wonderful whilst others challenge our ego!

On top of that, the fact that growth isn’t linear often brings up uncertainty and anxiety.

Picture spiritual evolution on a continuum between pain and pleasure or fear and love. But rather than imagining it as a straight line going up, add lots of ups and downs along the way. That’s because most people experience growth as a series of progressions and regressions with an overall up trend.

A bit like the following chart!

Ups and downs of life

This is why I wrote Am I Going Mad? followed by these nine articles. Because the better we understand what’s happening in our psyche, the smoother our journey becomes.

As a starting point, let me briefly introduce Dr Carl Gustav Jung. I’ll keep referring to some of the concepts he developed during his brilliant career.

Carl G. Jung (1875-1961)

Jung's paradigms are compatible with traditional Eastern worldviews

Carl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist with broad cultural, philosophical and spiritual interests. He was unique in his approach to mental health because he embraced two tenets that challenged mainstream psychology and psychiatry.

In fact, his views are still so controversial today that they aren’t taught in medical schools.

Yet most of Jung’s paradigms are compatible with traditional Eastern worldviews, which are slowly making inroads in our Western culture. Here they are:

  • Jung interpreted mental and emotional disturbances as an attempt to find personal and spiritual wholeness.
  • He made a distinction between the ‘personal unconscious’ – the repressed feelings and thoughts developed during an individual’s life – and what he called the ‘collective unconscious’ – thoughts, feelings, instincts, urges and images shared by all.

Because the collective unconscious (also known as ‘collective consciousness’) holds shared material, it is called ‘transpersonal’, meaning beyond the personal. So the field of Transpersonal Psychology was born.

And Jung called the thoughts, feelings, instincts, urges and images shared by all ‘archetypes’. This word holds the same meaning today.

Which brings us to a very insightful perspective on personal evolution that Jung first shared with the world in 19311.

The Four Archetypal Stages of Life

Jung explained that human beings who evolve go through four major archetypal stages of development in their life. The number of years spent at any stage will vary from person to person. Many people remain stuck at one stage and don’t move on. And according to Jung very few make it to the fourth and final archetype.

Stage 1: The Athlete

This is the archetype common to most young adults who strongly identify with their body for recognition in the world. Looks, clothes, sex life and physical performances are all of utmost importance. Most of their attention, money and energy are spent in this area and being perceived as physically attractive is a major concern.

Most young adults who strongly identify with their body for recognition in the world

Some people remain identified to the Athlete archetype all their life, which is of course well supported by advertising and the Western obsession with looking young and beautiful forever!

The Athletes’ main question is ‘What do others think of me?’ Because their focus is so external, they believe that their happiness depends on what other people do or say. So they tend to blame others for their unhappiness, following the tribal mind rather than their own values.

If we link this archetype to the chakra system, this stage of personal development relates to the first two chakras.

Stage 2: The Warrior

At this stage, competitiveness is the name of the game! We have moved from body to mind. Competition for an impressive job or career, more money, a bigger house, a more powerful car, a more attractive mate, accumulating possessions have become the main reasons for living.

Warriors have discovered their personal power and use it for their own benefit. The motto of the warrior is ‘What’s in it for me? What can I get?”. This stage is typically experienced by people around 30 to 50 years of age. And the end of this stage – when it does end before death – is often linked to a serious personal crisis.

In the chakra system, this archetype relates to the third chakra. According to Dr John E. Nelson, contemporary American psychiatrist, a third chakra’s stage of development represents the average level of consciousness in the world today2.

Stage 3: The Statesman

Massive change. Because people embodying the Statesman archetype know who they are at a spiritual level. They have also discovered their major life mission and want to live it.

Their quest is a whole new one, having grown from ‘What’s in it for me?’ to ‘In which ways can I contribute to others?’ – in other words “What can I give?”

This reflects a serious shift in values linked to spiritual awakening. It leads to a stage in life where one wants to be of service. The Statesman’s attitude is one of selflessness. The greatest reward is to make a positive difference in the world.

This archetype corresponds to the integration of fourth and fifth chakras’ values.

“The foolish and the dead alone never change their opinion.”
James Russell Lowell (1819 – 1891)

Stage 4: Spirit

This is the stage of pure Beingness. Being content has become the ultimate reward of a life well lived. The person who lives life from the Spirit archetype is at peace and detached from all expectations, those of others and those they once held. There is no need to perform in any way, no need to please anyone, no need to accumulate material goods, no need to change the world, no need to do anything in order to be happy. All is well just as it is.

Which doesn’t mean that they don’t care, or don’t look after themselves or others. Highly spiritual people do care. The main difference from the previous stage of consciousness is that they have transcended their ego’s attachments to beliefs, people, situations, goals and desires.

They enjoy life in a stable state of loving compassion and find happiness in each moment. They live from the heart, with great spiritual awareness. Their sixth and seventh chakras are fully open and connected to Universal Energy – ‘the Force’ in Star Wars’ lingo, or God in more mystical terms!

Now, how do we evolve from one stage to the next?

Well, it depends. Some of us need hard knocks to kick us forward! Life is good at that, isn’t it? – Most of our challenges usually happen at the Warrior’s stage. It’s as if our soul was attempting to wake us up because it wants us to fulfil a higher mission.

Other people grow and move along more gracefully. We’ll explore various scenarios in this series of articles.

To start with, in the next article, we’ll take a good look at spiritual initiations. These are subtle psychological tipping points that mark a transition from an old to a new level of attainment.

Spiritual initiations are also described in the story ‘The Death Wish’


  1. Jung C.G. 1931, ‘Modern man in Search of a Soul’, currently published by Routledge
  2. Nelson John Dr, ‘Healing the Split’ (SUNY 1994), page 256.


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