We often find it convenient to talk about our lives as a series of stages. But when does one stage start, and another begin? Morphologically, there are gross differences between an infant and a child, between individuals in their majority (I reserve "adult") and a dotard. At what point does an infant become a child? If we can't identify the transitions, what value are these classifications in guiding our behavior and relationships?
The same is true of the intellectual and social categories. Obviously, a youth of 16 may be the intellectual equal of a 35-year-old in less advantaged social circumstances. Then again, the social graces of the 35-year-old may allow him to parlay his ideas into wealth that affords him far greater choice than the youth.
If the gross categories do not provide much leverage, we might still hope to formulate an organized plan of development. Behavioral psychologists and educators have such plans for social and intellectual development; athletic trainers and doctors have parallel plans for physical development.
I am not going to reproduce, analyze, or even criticize those programs here. I believe that even their developers would recognize them as guides, rather than programs. What I will offer is a picture that characterizes the stages of our lives in terms of the concepts put forward here. As we build our understanding of spirituality, I will deepen this model.
There is nothing terrifically new about the discussion that follows. My intent is to illustrate the use of the terminology being developed in a familiar context.