Spiritual Hierarchy

“The three great classes of symbols which I propose to consider, appeal to three deep cravings of the self, three great expressions of man’s restlessness, which only mystic truth can fully satisfy. The first is the craving which makes him a pilgrim or wandered. It is the longing to so out from his normal world in search of a lost home. … The second is that craving of heart for heart, of the soul for its perfect mate, which makes him a lover. The third is the craving for inward purity and perfection, which makes him an ascetic, and in the last resort a saint. These three cravings, I think, answer to three ways in which mystics of different temperaments attack the problem of the absolute: three different formulae under which their transcendence of the sense-word can be described.” ~Evelyn Underhill

Mystical Restlessness

There are probably many ways to categorize those who are awakening to the needs of the spirit, and Ms. Underhill’s are as good as any other. These are often more like stages that different paths, but they can be either. I call the first group the Seekers. The are searching for something that they know is missing from their lives, but they don’t quite know what. I would make the second group more general and say that they are those who seek peace and love for all, not just for themselves and a soul mate. The third group is those who seek perfection for themselves and others.


The Seeker might realistically be considered to be at the bottom of the hierarchy of spiritual needs. These are the ones who sense that the life of total materialism is wanting, unfulfilling, lacking. What they don’t usually know is what is missing, so they may flounder around for years seeking answers. Some turn to greater drugs, some become pleasure seekers, others thrill seekers. Some of them do become spiritual seekers, and they are the ones Underhill is addressing. In many cases, a dramatic event such as the death of a relative or a near death experience of their own causes them to realize the emptiness of materialism, and start looking beyond for something more. In other cases, it may be simply a slow realization that can take years.


The lover is one who seeks love of some sort. It may be a personal relationship with another person, but is generally more than that. In the spiritual hierarchy of needs, this is generally a higher level than the seeker because the lover at least knows what he is looking for.

If you use social media, you have probably seen many memes about how we just need love. A few decades ago, it was all the rage to write and sing a song about It. What few say, and probably don’t even realize, is that this high love of love can be achieved only by awakening the spirit and soul for only the soul can truly recognize our oneness with all and that is what love truly is.

Purity and Perfection

Finally, there are those on the spiritual hierarchy who are seeking purity and perfection. They are trying to make themselves better through spiritual improvement, spiritual growth. This can be considered a higher level on the spiritual hierarchy of needs because those in the other two groups will inevitable reach a level where they become part of this group. These people are seeking to be all that they can be, and they know that material improvement is not really improvement, but just more of the same, so they seek beyond the material. They believe Jesus when He says we can all do the things he did. They believe other great prophets who tell us that we must all develop spiritually, or parish as a race.

Higher Levels

It is foolish of us to think that the three levels of this spiritual hierarchy are all there is, unless you want to think of the pursuit of perfection in an absolute sense. Once we have left the material plane and advances a few levels, we will likely find that there are even higher things to seek for, even greater goals to achieve, and that is a good thing. So instead of wishing for our “dead” friends and relatives to rest in peace, wish for them to continue to grow in wisdom and consciousness until they reach the ultimate level.


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