Stage 2 - Mythic-Literal Stage

The second stage is defined as “mythic-literal faith”, which is developed at the age from approximately 7-11/12 years. During this phase, thinking skills increase and “enable the ordering of experiences” (Hughes, 1997, p. 1). With regard to Coelho’s life, this mythic-literal stage fell into the childhood and schooldays (1953-1961) phase when he was 6-14 years old. However, several of the developments in the mythic-literal stage can only be recognised during Coelho’s teenage years and in the life period from 1962 to 1966, from 14 to 19 years.

Childhood and Schooldays (1953-1961)

According to Elifson and Stone (1985, p. 1), time and space concepts develop and narratives are enjoyed while individuals do not differentiate their own self from these narrations. At the age of eight, Coelho started enjoying reading and he became the best storyteller in the estate while not achieving success in school (Morais, 2009). Narrative and narrations become highly important during this stage of faith development (Stroud, 2004) and help the individual to understand the world through narrative. The child depends less on feeling and fantasy (Fowler, 1984) and starts to understand the world through the perspective of the self and others (Fowler, 1981). It can be assumed that Coelho started to understand the world more through reading and through the perception of stories and narrations written by others. However, he wrote his own stories and won his first school writing competition (Morais, 2009, p. 43). He created his own worlds and stories and invited his readers into new realities already at this age. Straughn (2010) emphasises that children at this age understand stories on a concrete level; however, they lack understanding at a deeper conscious level. Through stories, reading and writing Coelho seemed to improve his self-understanding and the change towards multiple perspectives, as described by Croucher (2003) and Fowler (1981, 1987). The data do not show a development of Coelho in which he learnt to include the perspective of God while seeing the perspective of others.

At the age of 12, the stories and self-narrations developed a new meaning for Coelho through tape-recording and writing. These tapes served to record emotions, describe actions and critically self-reflect (Morais, 2009). He interpreted his thoughts, feelings and actions on a conscious level, as described by Piaget (1976). No information is presented on how Coelho started to interpret the meaning in life at this age.

Fowler and Dell (2004) highlight that the world view becomes more lineal, more predictable and orderly and Fowler (1981) points out that children’s experiences are not as dependent on feelings and fantasy as during the stages before. Coelho’s development cannot be determined from the information gained from the data.

Coelho developed his self-esteem, his self-awareness and his identity, as described by Levine (1990). Being the best storyteller in the estate, a very good reader and prize winner helped Coelho to explore his self-awareness, his limits, emotions, needs and his autonomy on a conscious level. Data show that Coelho was skinny, physically weak and sickly, with respiratory problems. His reading and writing talent contributed to gaining attention and to impressing his friends (Morais, 2009). He gained parental attention through his letters about his feelings and thoughts (Morais, 2009). In the context of Levine’s research these family letters might be interpreted as Coelho’s exploration of his autonomy and his limits within the family.

With regard to faith and God, children at this age construct God in personalised terms with highly differentiated internal emotions and interpersonal sensitivities. No information is provided in the data on Coelho’s development between 7 and 14 years of age, but it is assumed that through his Catholic upbringing Coelho recognised that „goodness is rewarded and badness is punished (Fowler & Dell, 2004, p. 22), which goes together with the usual development of children’s beliefs (Fowler & Dell, 2004). The concepts and definitions of goodness and badness are based on the stories, rules and implicit values of the family and the community (Dykstra, 1986; Fowler, 1984), while the creation of identity is shaped by the family and community and their beliefs (Fowler, 1984).

The concept of “11-year-old atheists” (Fowler & Dell, 2004, p. 22), who temporarily or permanently give up their belief in God when they recognise that bad things also happen to good people, is not reflected in the data on Coelho during this time. However, he must have experienced the need to develop in response to clashing and contrasting stories and narrations. Morais (2009) described that Coelho had recorded his ideas, feelings and thoughts on tapes and had scribbled them onto paper and afterwards hidden them in secret places (Morais, 2009, p. 51). This might be based on the idea that Coelho reflected his thoughts and ideas within the family context and came to the conclusion (Fowler, 1986) that his ideas did not conform with the family values and norms.

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