Stages of Faith: Infancy and Undifferentiated Faith

The infant understands no distinction between itself and everything else. At some point the infant begins to grasp that objects continue exist outside of his or her immediate awareness. (Precisely when this happens is a matter of some debate, but for our present purposes it is important only to understand that it happens, not when.)

This attainment, which Jean Piaget called "object permanence," is an important step in the individual's development of a differentiated self.

This is a traumatic development, Fowler points out, because this is when we begin "remembering our mothers when they are absent from us and...panic about whether they will return" (Stages, 120). For most of us, the mother (or other primary caregiver) does return, and we begin to develop trust.

Fowler writes,
Those observers are correct, I believe, who tell us that our first pre-images of God have their origins here. Particularly they are composed from our first experiences of mutuality, in which we form the rudimentary awareness of self as separate from and dependent upon the immensely powerful others, who were present at our first consciousness and who "knew us" -- with recognizing eyes and reconfirming smiles -- at our first self-knowing. (121)
Fowler explains that these are "pre-images because they are largely formed prior to language, prior to concepts and coincident with the emergence of consciousness" (121).

The quality of the care we receive as infants will play an important role in our faith development as we get older. As Fowler explains, "the quality of mutuality and the strength of trust, autonomy, hope and courage (or their opposites) developed in this phase underlie (or threaten to undermine) all that comes later in faith development" (italics in original; 121).

The next stage, the first true stage of faith development, "begins with the convergence of thought and language, opening up the use of symbols in speech and ritual play" (121).

Next: Stage 1 - Intuitive-Projective Faith

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Blogger Schnacht said...

Beautiful- thank you -

3:55 p.m.  

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