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A Process Theory of Spiritual Transformation
copyright 2003-7 by Roger B. Clough

In his book, "The Hero With a Thousand Faces", Joseph Campbell [1] shows that the many myths and stories [2] follow a process of psychological descent and then spiritual ascent called the Hero's Tale. In the Hero's Tale, the hero leaves home under a mandate to perform a mission, performs it, and then returns home. The complete series of Major Arcana cards of the Tarot show these stages [3], although the order, starting with the archetypal Divine Child (The Fool), archetypes for the Divine Father (The Magician and the Emperor) and the Divine Mother ( The Empress and the High Priestess) is the reverse of the Jungian individuation process described below. In the Tarot, the Major Arcana describe a spiritual path which seems to describe a complete lifetime, beginning fairly high in childhood under the spiritual tutelage mostly of parents (Empress, Priestess, Emperor), descending in the middle (The Devil, The Tower) and then rising toward the end at old age with an independent spirituality which might be better classed as wisdom (World). Jung, instead, treated only the second half of life, in which personal demons had first to be cleansed before spiritual growth could take internally, under the internal guides of Divine Child, Mother and Father

This model also fits the process of spiritual transformation corresponding to Jung's theory of individuation [4]. Individuation is the integration of one's personality by becoming aware of, confronting, and assimilating personal unconscious tendencies through their archetypal images, drawn from the collective unconscious of mankind.Individuation is both a goal (that will never be completely reached) and a life-long process with a twofold movement of descent and ascent.

Jung, imaginative but not overly systematic, never seems to have specified the stages of his individuation theory, nor of the archetypes appropriate to each stage, although he once likened individuation to the Chakra system. Arthur Young in his book, "The Reflexive Universe" [5] proposed a model of process applicable to such a transformation based on the "Fourth Way" of the Gurdieff disciples. Young called it "Process Theory" [See also Lenhart's thesis), which relates the model to Genesis.] The levels in process theory are not the four levels of reality (the Four Worlds) described in the Kaballah.It fits a wide variety of the esoterics in descent/ascent through the basic four Jungian functions -- from fire to earth in descent:

Level Name Element
IV Spirit Fire
III Feeling Water
II Thinking Air
I Doing Earth
...and back up again in ascent.

Below we took the most common archetypes in Jung's theory of individual and fit them into Young's model, giving the 7 stages of spiritual tranformation. These also fit, without a change in order, the seven stages of spiritual transformation based on experimental data that psychologist Lewis Rambo discusses in his book, "Understanding Religious Conversion" [ 6 ].

1 Fire IV PERSONA, the instinct to conform socially; context (inflated ego)(spirit) (inflated ego)
2 Water III ANIMA/ANIMUS, the reproductive instinct; crisis (alienated ego)(feeling) (alienated ego)
3 Air II HERO/GODDESS, the instinct to excel and to lead; quest (alienated ego)(thinking) (alienated ego)
4 Earth I SHADOWS (BOTH FORMS): friend/enemy encounter (with self) (doing)
a. Friend - positive self-preservation via the herd instinct;
b. Enemy - negative self-preservation via the destructive instinct

5 Air II DIVINE FATHER (Soul) interaction (thinking) (encounter with self)
6 Water III DIVINE MOTHER, the clinging instinct; or commitment (feeling)
DIVINE CHILD or Adorable Little One, (encounter with self) the protective instinct; (Self)
7 Fire or Earth IV GOD, the instinct for order; (Self) consequences (spirit or doing) (encounter with divine self)

One can see that this model is symmetrical, story-like in nature, and could be applied to Campbell's Hero's tale, where

#1-2 The hero leaves home
#3-6 The hero performs his mission
#7 The hero returns

The seven stage process model of spiritual transformation fits a wide range of esoteric fields. We touched on the structure of the myth and the Major Arcana above.It can also be shown to correspond directly to the meaning of numbers (numerology), and seven-stage alchemy. It can also be fit to the seven chakras if the order is changed so that the base chakra is at the center. The correspondence to the Kaballah seems to be more complex.

Finally, for those wishing to pursue such a transformation, there is a very readable, non-technical seven-stage manual, "Stages of the Soul", by Father Paul Keenan [7]


1. Joseph Campbell, "The Hero With a Thousand Faces" (1972), Princeton Univ. Press.

2. For the structure of stories in general, see my online article, "Ouroborus: Story Composition and Analysis Using Feng Shui and the Enneagram" in the electronic journal, The Ennegram and The MBTI, Vol. 1, No.8

3. Whitley Strieber,"The Path" (2003)Walker & Collier. (a self-published trade paperback).

4. Ruth Berry, "Beginner's Guide - Jung" (2000), Trafalgar Square.

5. Arthur Young, "The Reflexive Universe" (1976), Doubleday.

6. Lewis Rambo, "Understanding Religious Conversion" (1995), Yale Univ. Press.

7. Paul Keenan, Father, "Stages of the Soul, the Path of the Soulful Life" (2000), Contemporary Books.

The author is creating a new type of Tarot deck based on the Revelation of John, which has many seven-fold sequences. Accordingly, instead of a Major Arcana and Minor Arcana, there is a two-dimensional (7x7 matrix) Major Arcana of 49 cards. In the Tarot set, the Apocalypse is not taken as literal destruction and salvation, but as the inner process of spiritual transformation described above. The images will be taken from the woodcut series by Albrecht Durer, "Die Apokalypse".

You can contact Roger with your comments by sending him an email here.

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This page was created February 8, 2003 and updated 2007-06-08.