shapes of developmental stages

“Life is in stages.
There is a stage where, like grasshoppers, we hop from grass to grass.
And another, where we move from grass to grace”

― Michael Bassey Johnson

The Shapes of Developmental Stages is a simple, graphic two-dimensional approach to a basic representational understanding of maturation, from origin to the final destination. The point of origin is, as might be anticipated, represented with a dot, or a point.

shapes of developmental stagesThe dot may appear to be the simplest of forms, and yet contained within that dot, that point, is the bluepint for the unfoldment of the destination. By way of analogy, the apple seed contains within it the blossoms, and fruits, which is the destiny of the seed. From a dot to a line is not a complicated transition; in a manner of speaking, the dot simply added itself to itself, and in so doing expanded space, and set the scene for a line, and time, and measurement, and comparison, gradations, spectrums. A line creates ‘here’ and ‘there’ as well as ‘now’ and ‘then.’

The line represents the initial stages of relationship, of me and you, us and them, two points in space, relative to each other, in relationship with each other; in fact, each dependent upon the other to exist as a line. When a third point is added, a triangle is formed.

triangle stage

The triangle is an expansion of the polarized duality in a line adding a third point, like a husband and wife, entirely absorbed in each other, now having a child. The triangle often appears in many mythological legends and spiritual stories. From the trident to the trinity, triangles suggest a third perspective, a third angle, beyond or more inclusive than the dyadic polarities represented in a line.

The triangle also introduces variation. Triangles come in different ‘flavors’ such as equilateral, isocoles, scalar and obtuse. The combinations and permutations of triangles alone can make for complicated structures. Imagine several families, a dozen families, each of three, mother, father, child, all living together, working together, eating together, communicating, playing….as a large family. It’s a lot more complex than a single ‘nuclear’ family of 3.

From a line to a triangle is a big shift in developmental stages. It arises from within the original dot, which now having added one more of itself, adds another giving way to a new shape, represented as a new developmental stage, along with developmental tasks, challenges and ‘crisis.’

From 3 to 4 is the natural progression and just as triangles have variations, with equilateral being the representative of all triangles, so 4, though represented as a square, is also a rectangle, trapezoid, parallelogram and rhombus. The square is perhaps one of the most stable of all shapes. Square, or rectangular, blocks are commonly used as foundations for buildings. (If the two pair of opposing points in a square box connect, the square box then contains, and can be said to be made from, 4 triangles.


Blocks are basic components in building, including building cultural, and personal, cosmologies. Basic blocks of understanding build a personal, social, and global ‘village.’ For example, the ‘four elements’ of fire, earth, air and water is a well known quadratic construct in most all cultures. Personality tests are often organized in blocks, generally of 4, as in, four seasons or four directions, which are then used as a framework to categorize personality types. Are you a west winter person, or more a south spring type….

One could posit that development up to the square box is about finding one’s foundation, one’s base, one’s ground. From there, one can add a point and enter into the pentagon phase of developmental stages


The pentagon has a rich history in many cultures as a significant and symbolic shape. It can be viewed as a 4-sided shape with a triangle on its top, as if the building blocks are now set and pointed in a particular direction. That direction is towards a 6-sided shape, named ‘hexagon.’

sixth shape of developmental stages

The transition from a pentagon to a hexagon is perhaps the most challenging of all developmental stages. It requires a shift from a boxy kind of construct to the rough beginnings of a circle, becoming more refined with subsequent developmental stages, through heptagon (7-sided), octogon (8-sided) and nanogon (9-sided)

seventh shape of development stages

eighth stage shape of development

ninth shape stage of development

The number of sides a circular-like shape can have is extensive. The intrinsic ‘plus 1‘ nature of the original dot allows for expansion and inclusion.

Picture the nanogon (9) above with lines connecting from each point to each of the other points. Imagine you are one of those points, and you are connected, linked, by a line, to every other point, and every other point is connected, linked, to you. The theme of ‘interconnectedness’ becomes dominant and ever refined in subsequent developmental stages. The jump from nanogon to circle is immense, but once the process of ‘plus 1’ is accommodated and embraced, from 6, to 7, to 8 and then 9, the ways of development are understood, incorporated and applied to a life of ongoing development, a life of becoming outwardly that which is contained within the dot. From singularity to totality; from individuality and exclusiveness to totality and inclusiveness.

circle stage of development

The circle represents completion, wholeness, fullness. It also represents the null set, emptiness, void. It is a place holder, and a ‘whole space.’ 0 is a circle in which all numbers find harbor. The circle is the dot or point which has expanded to include and incorporate all points; +1 is ever welcome. All inclusiveness in an interconnected tapestry is the culmination, the destination, of development.

shapes of developmental stages

And, even then, there is yet one final stage to go beyond, one final step to the ultimate destination, beyond all logic and reason, to be that which has no form, no shape, no name, no definition….. to be a circle……. without a circumference……. without a center.

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