As mentioned in the post “Nine Spiritual Inclinations – Start Here,” different people mean very different things when they refer to spirituality in general and to their spirituality in particular, including anything from self knowledge to social activism to immersion in the Absolute. The multitude of answers people give when asked about what spirituality is for them can be classified in different ways. One way used by various thinkers and researchers, is the classification to Spirit in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd person or the Three Faces of God (a concept attributed to integral philosopher Ken Wilber). Other versions of the Three Faces of God refer to I, Thou and It, to the Inner, Intimate and Infinite and to the Subjective, Collective and Objective dimensions of Spirit. The following is a brief description of each of these three “faces”, “aspects” or “dimensions”.
Spirit in the 1st person, the “I” face of God, is also called the Subjective or Inner dimension of Spirit. Here one comes to know oneself, or one’s Self, in satori, kensho and other sorts of “peak experiences” (a term coined by Abraham Maslow) . In Integral Christianity (2012), Paul R. Smith describes it as follows:
In knowing our deepest Self as divine, the boundaries between us and God dissolve… In seeking the face of God in the 1st-person we look in the mirror and see behind all the ego and distortions. If we look deeply enough, we find the image of God as our True Self.”
Depending on one’s inclination toward Supernatural, Natural, or Paranatural spirituality, 1st-person spirituality may relate to one as Spirit, Consciousness, Ātman, the Self Absolute, and so on; or as the culmination of the cosmic creative process; or as the Entity who creates and shapes reality by one’s thoughts and intentions. The movement associated with it is inward, toward one’s core, essence, and the source from which everything begins – be it the divine Self, the integrating self, or the all-powerful self.
Spirit in the 2nd person, the “Thou” face of God, is also called the Collective or Intimate dimension of Spirit. It is experienced in the encounter, interaction and “I-Thou” relationship with Spirit in one’s life.
In 2nd-person encounter, you open into an experience of intimate contact with the ultimate mystery of existence, letting It become Thou. You metaphorically face God, your ultimate Beloved, and become knowable to (not hiding from) that ultimate consciousness.
Wilber K., Patten T., Leonard A. & Morelli M.: Integral Life Practice (2008)
Depending on one’s inclination toward Supernatural, Natural, or Paranatural spirituality, 2nd-person spirituality may relate to Divinity revealed in relationship, “the hyphen of I-Thou”, in Martin Buber’s words; to humanism, Western Enlightenment, and Deep Ecology; or to interaction with non material beings such as nature and ancestral spirits. The movement associated with it is sideways, toward connection, inclusiveness, wholeness, and integrity, be it with the Sacred, with one’s people, with humanity or all of nature, or with the guiding forces and esoteric influences to which one is subject.
Spirit in the 3rd person, the “It” face of God, is also called the Objective or Infinite dimension of Spirit. It is often experienced when observing objects of majestic beauty and elegant patterns of the cosmos. Albert Einstein’s words are a good example of Spirit in the 3rd person:
The most beautiful and deepest experience a person can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as all serious endeavors in art and science. . . To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly. . . , this is religiousness. In this sense, I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that there is.
Depending on one’s inclination toward Supernatural, Natural, or Paranatural spirituality, 3rd-person spirituality may relate to the Numinous, Absolute, Oneness, Eternity, Void, or Truth, etc.; to the Source, Ground of Being, Kosmos, Gaia and Evolutionary Impulse; or to the intricate and complex spirit world we find, for example, in Kabbalah, Theosophy, Anthroposophy, and Scientology. The movement associated with it is upward, toward the most overarching and all-inclusive view, be it out of and beyond the world of time and space, the source of the created universe, or the mixture of esoteric forces that is shaping our reality.