The second half of life can be a time of growth in spiritual understanding and we can recognize this development if we know what to look for. It is only relatively recently that gerontology has begun to recognize this process (MacKinlay, 2001; Atchley, 2009; Coleman, 2011), and it is time to chart and analyze the process of spiritual development in later life. Building on the idea of stages in spiritual growth (Fowler, 1981), in The Five Stages of the Soul I described this process in terms of the Call, Search, Struggle, Breakthrough, and Return (Moody, 1997). Here we offer an approach to these stages not only in conscious experience but also through dreams.
The Call is the moment of awakening of our “soul,” the first of the stages of the soul when this inward dimension comes to life. It is that moment when we “come to ourselves” and ask the perennial questions: Who am I? Where am I going? What is this life all about? These questions are painful because, as James Hollis puts it (Hollis, 2006), by midlife the personality we have become is frequently our chief obstacle to listening to the Call. Yet in the second half of life this inner voice demands to be heard. As Jung (1973, 17, par. 307) put it: “Only the man who can consciously assent to the power of the inner voice becomes a personality.” Yet this “still small voice” is hard to hear. Everything around us conspires to keep us from hearing the Call, from looking inside ourselves, as Sogyal Rinpoche (1992, p. 52) puts it so well:
Looking in will require of us great subtlety and great courage—nothing less than a complete shift in our attitude to life and to the mind. We are so addicted to looking outside ourselves that we have lost access to our inner being almost completely. We are terrified to look inward, because our culture has given us no idea of what we will find.
One of the simplest, and most powerful, images of the “Call” that appears in a dream is recorded by Sheila Moon, from her autobiography inspired by dreams in the second half of life (Moon, 1983, p. 21).