Thursday, February 25, 2010

Transcending and Including James Fowler's Stages of Faith - The Religious Styles Perspective

While looking for some article for a friend on Fowler's Stages of Faith, I found this interesting article that transcends and includes Fowler's approach into a Religious Styles Perspective. The link opens a PDF version of the article.

For those who may new to Fowler, here are the basic stages of faith:
  • Stage 0"Primal or Undifferentiated" faith (birth to 2 years), is characterized by an early learning of the safety of their environment (ie. warm, safe and secure vs. hurt, neglect and abuse). If consistant nurturance is experienced, one will develop a sense of trust and safety about the universe and the divine. Conversely, negative experiences will cause one to develop distrust with the universe and the divine. Transition to the next stage begins with integration of thought and languages which facilitates the use of symbols in speech and play.
  • Stage 1"Intuitive-Projective" faith (ages of three to seven), is characterized by the psyche's unprotected exposure to the Unconscious.
  • Stage 2"Mythic-Literal" faith (mostly in school children), stage two persons have a strong belief in the justice and reciprocity of the universe, and their deities are almost always anthropomorphic.
  • Stage 3"Synthetic-Conventional" faith (arising in adolescence) characterized by conformity
  • Stage 4"Individuative-Reflective" faith (usually mid-twenties to late thirties) a stage of angst and struggle. The individual takes personal responsibility for their beliefs and feelings.
  • Stage 5"Conjunctive" faith (mid-life crisis) acknowledges paradox and transcendence relating reality behind the symbols of inherited systems
  • Stage 6"Universalizing" faith, or what some might call "enlightenment".
Part of what attracts me to this revision of Fowler is the inclusion of Merleau-Ponty who I have recently started reading and find quite useful. In The Embodied Mind by Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch, Merleau-Ponty's anti-science stance (reinterpreted as an "anti-cognitivist" stance) is translated into an embodied and enactive view of consciousness (which has also been done with neurophenomenology).

This is where Merleau-Ponty is needed in faith theory, as an embodied balance to the reliance of Piaget's cognitive model. I wonder how this model might evolve even more with a deeper understanding of biological, environmental, and cultural influences?

The following article comes from THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL FOR THE PSYCHOLOGY OF RELIGION, (2001): 11(3), 143–158.
Faith Development Theory Revisited: The Religious Styles Perspective

Heinz Streib

Universit├Ąt Bielefeld, Germany
Focusing on Fowler’s (1981) faith development theory (FDT), this article presents a modification of structural–developmental theory of religion. The primacy of cognitive development as motor and guideline of religious development is called into question. The new model, the typology of religious styles, is aimed at accounting more fully for the life-history- and life-world-relatedness of religion, at its principal interactive, interpersonal origin and shape. Thus the phenomenologists Merleau-Ponty (1962, 1988) and Ricoeur (1985/1988, 1990/1992) who provide philosophical perspectives, Noam’s (1985, 1988a, 1988b, 1988c, 1990) developmental perspective, which is based on interpersonality, as well as Rizzuto’s (1979, 1991) view of the psychodynamic development of religion, play a significant role for the reformulation. An overview of styles is described and illustrated in a figure. References to results of empirical research are included, and an explanation of fundamentalism is outlined that follows from the religious styles perspective.

In Fowler’s (1981) faith development theory (FDT), we have, on the one hand, an indispensable explanatory tool for the religious diversity of modernity and postmodern times—a diversity that is becoming even more diverse, as inner (biographical) and outer (societal) religious plurality is growing—spawning from new religious and fundamentalist orientations to a deep but rather diffuse hunger for spirituality. On the other hand, the faith development paradigm, with its focus on religious cognition and its almost unquestioned adoption of the structural–developmental “logic of development,” needs to be qualified in order to account for the rich and deep life-world- and life-history-related dimensions of religion—but also of fundamentalist turns. In my proposal of a classification of religious styles, I want to clear up part of this ambiguity and to try a new start in theory and research.

CRITIQUE
It is my view that cognitively based theorists have overlooked the central structuring activities of the self by defining the epistemic self as the sole representative of structure. In the process, I believe, the cart was placed before the horse, life history became content to the structure of the epistemic self. … Epistemology replaced life history. (Noam, 1990, p. 378)
With these words, Noam stated the point of the problem. The metaphor of the cart (cognitive competencies), which the theories of cognition have placed before the horse (the life history), refers also and above all to the neglect of the emotional, psychodynamic dimension. This critique also concerns the cognitive–structural theories of religious development.Amore substantial regard for the psychoanalytic and psychosocial would lead to displacement of the cognitive–structural view as the exclusive key theory. Noam’s aim thus was “going beyond Piaget” (Noam, 1990).1 Briefly, I summarize the critique of FDT, which I stated elsewhere (Streib, 1991, 1997). It is justified to speak of reductions with regard to religious development whenever the cognitive developmental logic is deemed to be not only the central theme, but also the motor of religious development, thus excluding dimensions of content, experiences, and function of religion. The shift of emphasis to, even the overburdening of, cognitive development is one face of the coin; the other is the disregard for dimensions that are just as crucial for the constitution and development of religion:

• The psychodynamic–interpersonal dimension (the psychodynamic of the self–self relationship).
• The relational–interpersonal dimension (the dynamic of the self–Other relationship).
• The interpretative–hermeneutic dimension (the dynamic of the self–tradition relationship).
• The life-world dimension (the dynamic of the self–social world relationship).

I therefore plead in favor of removing an obstacle to more-perspectiveness on religious development: The primacy of the cognitive structures as motor and guideline of religious development should be terminated. We should stop placing the cart before the horse. Instead, life history and life world, as shall now be explained, should move into the focus of the developmental perspective on religion.

CONTRIBUTIONS TO A MORE-PERSPECTIVE VIEW OF RELIGIOUS DEVELOPMENT
Philosophically, the new perspective finds support in the writings of the French phenomenologists Merleau-Ponty (1988) and Ricoeur (1990/1992). Notwithstanding some differences of opinion, they contradict a developmental perspective that is associated with decentration, suggesting a different concept of decentration.2 For a path of “going beyond Piaget,” Merleau-Ponty’s (1988) lectures at the Sorbonne from 1949 to 1952 are of special importance because there, based on his phenomenological key concept of perception and of being-in-the-world, he develops, in explicit contrast to Piaget,3 a portrait of a unique logic in infancy and childhood—that thus contradicts its interpretation as prelogic, as Piaget would say—which leads to a new perspective on the development of language acquisition, of children’s drawings, of their causality, and of their self–Other relationship.

One of the important contributions from phenomenology, as presented in Ricoeur’s (1975/1981, 1981, 1985/1988, 1990/1992) and Merleau-Ponty’s (1962, 1988) works, thus, is the decisive account for the primacy of the life world and of the Other—the internal and external Other. For a revision of FDT, I therefore refer to and make use of two developmental perspectives, which I understand as ways of genuine psychological explication of the primacy of life world and Other and from which I have adopted not only terminological but also conceptual decisions.

First, I include Noam’s (1985, 1988b, 1988c, 1990) and Noam, Powers, Kilkenny, and Beedy’s (1991) critiques and moderation of the exclusive attribution of developmental dynamic to the development of cognition, and their fresh approach to the developmental dynamic in terms of interpersonal relationships. Biography, in a broad, multiperspective understanding, redirects primacy to interpersonality, social relationships, and life world as the basis for life history. This has decisive implications for religious development.

Second, for my revision I refer to the psychodynamic tradition represented by Erikson’s (1968) and Rizzuto’s (1979, 1991, 1996) work and to their contribution to an understanding of life history. Rizzuto’s contribution is of special importance because she has integrated the development of God representations into the psychodynamic view. Religious development appears in a new light when the mother–child dyad is understood as the origin of religion, when the transitional space between caretaker and child and the transitional objects that arise here are assumed to be the origin of the God representations. Religion, then, is conceived as a basically interactive process; religious development can be correlated with the development of object relations in a psychoanalytic perspective.

I therefore appreciate the extensive references to psychoanalytic contributions about infancy and early childhood that Fowler (1996) included to offer a rich description of the early stages. Although I agree with this portrait of the origin of faith in early childhood, I suggest that this portrait of faith and faith development is expanded on the other stages or styles of faith, and I do not agree, without qualification, which I will explicate later, with Fowler’s statement that the faith stages could still be “held to be invariant, sequential, and hierarchical”(p. 57).

The focus on interpersonality is common to both theoretical perspectives, which I refer to as key contributions to a revision of FDT: The relationship of the individual to interpersonal others in the social environment (external objects) and the relation to objects in terms of object-relations theory (internal objects) parallel each other and interrelate. Religious development is a complex process of entangled factors: of structural development, of schemata of interpersonal relationships, and of themata, which are presented to the individual by experiences—and sometimes traumas—in earlier life history and that may change and vary as the interpersonal, social, and societal relationships change over a lifetime. Thus the view that is closest to my perspective is the one by Noam (1988a, 1988c, 1990) who suggested understanding development as the complex interrelation of themata and schemata.

1See also, Noam and Kegan (1982). One could also speak of converting the theories of religious development “from top down to bottom up,” as Sutter and Charlton (1994) proposed for Piagetian theory.
2For a more detailed account of Ricoeur’s philosophy, including the problem of decentration—and its critical implication for FDT, see Streib (1991).
3For an extensive reconstruction of the dialog between Merleau-Ponty and Piaget that never took place (because Piaget did not respond to Merleau-Ponty), see Liebsch (1992).
Read the whole article.


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