Every human being experiences development on a personal level as we go from child to adult. This happens both on a physical and a psychological level for us and we encounter it as a kind of personal evolution. We are also experiencing it with increasing intensity on a cultural level as the modern communication revolution appears to be speeding up cultural change. Added to this is the relatively new consciousness of our evolution as a species which has enveloped us since Darwin’s, The Origin of Species. It is not surprising then that the world of spirituality is replete with references to this archetypal experience of development.St. Paul makes the parallel, opining:
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
In most spiritual traditions the archetypal experience of personal evolution or development is turned into a process which we are encouraged to play a part in. This process is usually given an archetypal goal. In the case of the the Buddha the goal is enlightenment and the dissolution of the illusion of the self, for the mystic it is theosis, for the everyday believer it is most often a kind of sanctification and dedication to god though ordinary life. A narrative is given to the development of the self.
In more recent times the popularity of psychology has led to a more secularized version of this narrative. One of the goals of the “new priesthood” of psychologists was then self development.By its nature a focus on human development and evolution tends to be optomistic.