My own experience of faith has very much mirrored the process set forth in Fowler’s stages of faith. The interesting aspect of reading Fowler’s ideas is that, until I read them, I would not wholly have grasped that my sense of faith has, indeed, followed a logical progression and exhibits the same kind of growth as the human body or of ideas or convictions in general. Although stage one, “Intuitive-Projective Faith” does seem the furthest removed from my recent direct experience, the memories I have of being a child corroborate Fowler’s concept that there is a danger in the unrestrained possession of imagination.
Certainly, we all recall nightmares that, for us as children, were indistinguishable from reality and even when we were told of the nightmares’ relative “unreality,” we still felt them as authentically real. Stage two, the literal interpretation of myth, struck me as the most frustrating. I probably passed through this stage rather quickly, but it seems as though I have argued against this kind of thinking a lot. The fact that Fowler views this as a simplistic form of faith was comforting to me.
Stage three, “Synthetic-Conventional” faith is where I see the majority of people being and probably remaining far past the chronological time that Fowler mentions. There may be an aspect here of intruding skepticism at the college age as to whether or not faith and morality are really that closely aligned. It is possible to view one’s rationality and intellect as the ultimate arbiter of morality, even if one will eventually learn that this is not entirely true. Stages five and six seemed to me to be bordering on what might be called a mystical understanding of reality.
Although Fowler’s logic throughout the stages is consistent, I found it difficult to visualize stages five and six in any meaningful or practical manner. Rather than taking this as a weakness in Fowler’s concepts, I understand this to be a condition of my own level of evolution of faith. Having further stages to try to visualize and realize is extremely important and because Fowler’s description of the stages I am personally familiar with corresponds to my own experience I expect and hope this would be true of the stages I have not yet actualized personally.