The Strata of Christian Belief - Possible Ways Forward Part 2

Stages of Faith, by James W. Fowler (published in paperback by Harper Collins, 1995.)

Stage 1--Magical World

ages 2-6, perceives the world through lens of imagination and intuition unrestrained by logic e.g., lives in a magical world in which anything is possible

Stage 2--Concrete Family

ages 6-12, sees the world as a story - concrete, literal, narrative family of ritual and myth e.g., "In the beginning, God created the . . ."

~Stage 2 collapses when teenagers use newfound power of abstract thought to deconstruct previous understanding of the world e.g., risk of rejecting religious beliefs of parents, and identifying with surrounding secular culture

Stage 3--Faith Community *

teenager to early adulthood or beyond, sees the world through the lens of the peer community e.g., unconsciously "catches" faith, values, and way of thinking from peer group or subculture tends not to question the accepted ways of thinking e.g., "if the Bible says . . . it must be true" or "if some group says . . . it's the Truth" difficult dealing calmly and rationally with issues that touches on one's identity

Stage 4--Rational Constructs *

adulthood (if) traditional answers stop making sense e.g., beliefs previously unquestioned are called into account; develops the capacity to step back (usually for the first time) and examine beliefs with reason universe is reconstructed with self-chosen concepts might experience deep disappointment/anger on finding some beliefs did not stand up to investigation

Stage 5--Numinous (Supernatural/Mysterious) Universe

mid-life or latter (if) it seems we have run up against the limits of rational thought e.g., the search for certainty can end in feelings of failure/despair; we come to live in a spiritual universe of mystery, wonder, and paradox e.g., we might return to sacred symbol, story, tradition, liturgy, spiritual
community, but no longer captured in a theological box

Stage 6--Selfless Service **

rare stage for many; identifies deeply with all humanity, and spends themselves in service of worldwide issues of love, and justice e.g., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, etc.


(*) To those in stage 3 or higher, the next stage looks like a loss of faith, and the previous stage is repulsive. This can be seen when stage 3 engages in witch hunting, and stage 4 baits and taunts stage 3.


I have entered stage 5 and am interested in sacred symbol. There are many metaphors used for the mystery that is God such as light and wind.  I would like to explore the metaphor of music being life and God.

Suppose that all the music that had ever been composed was played one after the other. The melodies, harmonies, chords, scales, tone, timbre, rhythm, time signatures - everything that has to to do with melodic music is the physical universe that can be explored by empirical science. It is a grand art form. You are a short melodic phrase somewhere amongst the billions of melodic phrases - da-da da dum. That's you and your life. It is different form other melodic phrases because it is played at a different time and on a different instrument. Even if it is quite similar it is not exactly the same as to placement.  You melodic phrase finishes but the song cycle continues.

Suppose that all the percussion elements are God. God is the drums, triangle, tambourine, etc that give the melody its backbeat. Except for timpani they are usually not tuned to a specific note. They are about striking an object and about silence. Some music pieces have no percussive elements at all yet they do have a time signature and a rhythm. Scores for percussion are different to scores for melodies and harmonies. percussion instruments vary as much as melodic instruments and each has its own specific tone and timbre. 

This is about everything to do with God that is completely different to melodic elements of music.  Exploring melodic elements may give you some hints as to the percussive elements but it is quite vague and unsubstantial.  In the same manner exploring God through empirical science does not give understanding of a God who is completely different to anything physical and measurable. Nor can one only examine one elments of the percussive elemnts, say cymbals in a drum kit, and think that one knows all about the drums.  Cymbals by themselves may sound completely strange and chaotic compared to say a regular snare drum beat.  There is also the element of silence. Silence is as important as the striking in percussive elements.  Experience of the silence might lead you to believe that percussion does not exist.  Thus the percussive elements demonstrate a transcendence of silence but at other times an immanence of the striking.

If God is the Ground of all being then being is the melodic elements and the Ground is the perscussive elements. There are completely different and need to be explored in different ways.  One does not explore music by abandoning all melodic elements. They are importnat. However, equally important are the percussive elements. One does abandon all percussive elements in order to explore music.  Both melodic and percussive elements make up music. Music is the grand theory of everything. The explantion of all that is - both Ground and being.

The very big question is HOW we explore this percussive element when we mainly have tools only for exploring the melodic elements. We cannot explore percussion in the ame way as melody. New tools are required. WHAT are those tools?

My guess is that we explore the mystery of God through the tools of mysticism.  However, this tool is  a primitive tool much like we would now view a stone age axe.  It is not particularly precise.  It may be misused.  There are many inferior copies.  I have no answer. All I have is a possibility that may or may not work. It is a tentative step forward. Explore the mystery of God through possibilities.