Spiritual evolution is an important part of our human development and yet, in the current environment of “instant spirituality,” it can be challenging to understand where we are in our spiritual development and identify our most appropriate next steps. Organizations such as the School for Esoteric Studies exist to provide structured training; however, any such training assumes some clarity about our own process.
To help support individuals’ ongoing spiritual growth, Dr. Riddle undertook research under the auspices of the School for Esoteric Studies to verify the factors central to spiritual development, independent of any specific religious tradition. To do so, she designed the Spiritual Evolution Assessment Scale™ (SEAS), which was then field tested between November 2005 and February 2006 with 417 participants in 22 countries representing a wide range of spiritual traditions. Comments from the participants include the following:
- “Taking the SEAS made me think about things more deeply or in ways I hadn’t thought of before.”
- “Absolutely fascinating.”
- “I found that the questions really got me thinking about myself and my belief system.”
- “The SEAS really helped me to focus on certain aspects of living spiritually, and to refine my thinking in some areas.”
- “Taking the SEAS was fun and provided a lot of food for thought.”
- “The questions were very interesting and thought-provoking.”
Factor analysis of the results showed a common patterns across all spiritual traditions of three key factors:
- One’s awareness of spiritual reality
- One’s own spiritual process of development
- How one interacts with others on a spiritual level in daily life
which correspond roughly to the three common components of esoteric work: study, meditation, and service.
Based on the research results, it became clear that the stage of spiritual development could be validly measured by a core set of 26 questions, supplemented by one of four sets of up to 32 additional questions depending on the responses given to the core questions and representing one of the following perspectives on spiritual development:
A: Individuals experience the divine or the One Life as the entity responsible for change in our universe. Spiritual awareness is of having been saved and supported by a force greater than oneself. Spiritual practice is focused on obedience to that higher will.
B: Individuals experience themselves as having a soul whose awareness extends beyond this physical existence, bringing with it a sense of karmic responsibilities. Spiritual practice is focused on having emotional clarity and devoting oneself to the soul and its purpose.
C: Individuals experience themselves as participating in a sense of group soul. Spiritual awareness is of the impact of one’s energy on the universal energy field. Spiritual practice is focused on mental discipline to take responsibility for one’s feelings, thoughts, and actions.
D: Individuals experience themselves as connected to all other forms of life, organic and non-organic. Spiritual awareness is of being an active collaborator or co-creator in an evolving universe. Spiritual practice is focused on clarifying ethical choices to be made.
Once programmed so that the appropriate questions and resulting reports are generated automatically, the SEAS will help individuals identify the next steps in their ongoing spiritual development and assist organizations in identifying students’ curriculum needs and evaluating the effectiveness of spiritual training. Potential Uses of a Finalized SEAS outlines the types of reports that individuals, trainers, and researchers could obtain.
While other spirituality measures show a ceiling effect with persons very experienced in meditation or having studied in spiritual traditions for a number of years, the SEAS is able to differentiate successfully among persons that appear quite homogeneous on other spirituality measures. The following are some general findings from the demographic data:
- The total SEAS score was significantly higher the more years an individual had engaged in meditation or in esoteric study.
- Individuals describing themselves as being from an esoteric or spiritual affiliation scored higher than those from traditional religious practices.
- The total SEAS score was significantly higher for those who reported studying in an esoteric school (with a formal curriculum of study) rather than with an individual teacher, with colleagues, or on their own.
- The longer individuals had studied, the more likely they were to be involved in a school or studying with colleagues; however, 57% of participants reported studying on their own.
- Only 31% of individuals were able to identify their Soul Ray, and 78% of those identified themselves as Soul Ray 2.
The underlying model of spiritual evolution embedded in the SEAS draws on common elements of the world’s spiritual and religious traditions and assumes only that there is One Life of which we are each particular manifestations, along with the following methodological considerations:
- The underlying constructs are common to as many spiritual traditions as possible.
- The underlying developmental model reflects, from a positive perspective, the range of stages that persons typically move through in regard to spiritual development.
- Taking the scale is intended to be an educational process in itself by assisting the person to focus on a range of spiritual issues.
- Response options represent a range of positive choices, each linked to a different perspective on spiritual development.
- Scale items represent measures of both knowledge and the application of that knowledge.
- The language of the scale is neutral regarding spiritual traditions and in “plain language.”