Where are You in the 4 Phases of Belief?

Came across this profound quote today about how our belief (and skepticism) evolves as we mature:

First there is a time when we believe everything, then for a little while we believe with discrimination, then we believe nothing whatever, and then we believe everything again – and, moreover, give reasons why we believe.
- Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

1.  First there is a time when we believe everything,
2.  then for a little while we believe with discrimination,
3.  then we believe nothing whatever,
4.  and then we believe everything again – and, moreover, give reasons why we believe.
* * * * * * * * *
PHASE 1.  First there is a time when we believe everything.  This refers to childhood. I remember my own. I have raised or am still raising six kids.  How trusting my young daughters are. All of them are less than 13 and they believe everything I tell them about God-the-Mother, God-the-Father, Jesus, Magdalene (and about Daddy for that matter…hee hee). Young children eat up facts and opinions, “absorbing” as it is sometimes called. Conveying our adult beliefs to our kids is part of feeding and nurturing.
Next, like their 3 older siblings, they will no doubt “wise-up” a little bit, get skeptical, when they become teens.  I have two teens and one young-twenties. About the age of 12 or 13 they got downright quarrelsome over Bible stories and religion, although they would still come to me and ask what was the deal with this or that spiritual figure — from everything to Buddha, Jesus, Lucifer, Sophia, Shiva. Or what is the deal with Wicca and “spells”.  They wanted to know, but they were dubious, no longer eating up my words, beliefs and opinions like they eagerly ate up the Happy meals and Taco Bell I sat before them. That means I guess they entered phase 2.

PHASE 2. then for a little while we believe with discrimination.
Yeah, believing with some healthy skepticism. After going on for a little while like this, we become burned, and then after a season of pain, we end up jaded, right? That leads to the next stage of believing in nothing at all — when it all seems like a bunch of crap.

PHASE 3.  then we believe nothing whatever,
We have been misled! we cry. We have been deluded all these years. All that religion junk our Mama taught us is not real. Fairy tales for kids. O how sucky that phase was. Occasionally I still get an “agnostic fit” here and there. Such a pain. During those fits I have to talk to god like this, “Okay, so why is this happening Lord. I mean, IF you even exist and are even hearing me… But let’s say you DO exist, then what is going on…or why is this troubling me…or what is the answer to THIS mess…?”  yada yada.  I remember once in my early 30s giving away a TON of spiritual books on traditional Christianity because I was no longer in-belief of that shtuff. I thought it wasn’t authentic enough, too many humans had messed up Judaism and Christianity. I believed none of it (for about two months…hah).  I thought perhaps I could find the “authentic” belief-system in Gnosticism or pre-Christian beliefs of MY ancestors. But of course nothing feels authentic when one is in this phase 3 of dis-belief.  How depressing that phase is. I think a lot of people lose spouses during this time. Surely many people die stuck in this phase, too. Even more may never make it to this phase…yikes.  Much less, to the NEXT and final phase. Supposedly it is the final phase of belief, but maybe there is a phase 5, a transcendent phase follows that Lichtenberg didn’t notice or chose not to speak of.
PHASE 4.  and then we believe everything again – and, moreover, give reasons why we believe.

Now this is cool. I have been there — or, I should say, am still here — and done/doing that! <smile>

I remember when this phase began because I found my mouth speaking, and my hands typing apologetics.  Me, an apologist!? It felt so odd…yet exhilarating. It didn’t happen til I was 40. <snort>  Interesting the Jewish Kabbalists insist you must be 40 before they will start teaching you true Kabbalah.  Since then I have never sunk completely back into phase 3, just dipped in for fleeting moments of doubt or despair. A few years ago I pondered why I hadn’t had one of my “agnostic fits” in so long. Evolving had escaped my notice. I had become an apologist, evolved (finally!) beyond the agnostic “professional skeptic” stage.

I had become a “Believer” all over again (as in childhood)….and I had become a brainwasher of my friends, family and my children, as some of them no doubt accused me of. Heh heh. Ah, the art of persuasive speech when one really believes this stuff. <laugh>  Now, don’t let on to my students 15 years ago (some of you on here have been with me that long) that I was not altogether certain about every iota, jot and tittle back then…



Published by


Katia is a consecrated independent sacramental bishop. She directs the online Esoteric Mystery School and Interfaith Theological Seminary. Check it out at NorthernWay.org.

6 thoughts on “Where are You in the 4 Phases of Belief?”

  1. Greetings all and blessings!

    This is an extremely interesting subject and one that I find myself considering quite often. I believe Lichtenberg, and Katia, are both correct in their assessment of the four phases of belief. Based on my studies, and personal experience, I think that most people in the Western world evolve through these stages of personal faith in one way or another.
    However, there is another, equally interesting school of thought that suggests that many of us need to believe as we develop into the ‘mature’ stages of adulthood. Just as the Kabbalists only teach those who have reached the age of 40, perhaps it our middle-aged mind, trained by experience, that reaches out to grasp an understanding of faith, its purpose and design. Perhaps, as some suggest, it is the fear of our own mortality that brings us to the alter in our later years.
    For me personally, I believe that our universe is too great and too unexplainable for there to be no purpose. We must be more than the accidental marriage of atoms in a swirling soup of chemicals blended by time and volcanic heat.
    As I enter the “fourth phase” and stand at the door of my fifth decade in existence, I am trying to gain a better understanding of my faith, religion and our collective relationship with the deity that must exist in some dimension. I pray that we all may continue this journey together, in peace and harmony, learning from each others experience and wisdom. I believe that one day, regardless of our beliefs, we will all end up in the same place.
    Peace and Love
    Reverend Eddie

  2. I do so agree with you about there being stages in religious belief. Having been strongly conditioned since early childhood to FEAR non-belief, I have never had the stage of not believing anything, but I have discarded some beliefs and taken on other new ones that would make my family’s hair curl! I have become much less anthropomorphic about G_D. I try not to ascribe gender to the deity or to assume that God want’s this or that just because the scriptures seem to indicate them, because they were written by people in an anthropomorphic stage of history. The older I get (65 now) the bigger and more inclusive my God gets, and the less willing I am to announce any limitations for God I become.

    In the same vein, I have come to the opinion that many things tradition says God does NOT want may also be mistaken notions extrapolated from ancient writings. In my fundamentalist background, certain things (yoga, meditation, development of psychic gifts, spiritualism, shamanism, etc.) were sins because they supposedly encourage self development instead of dependence on God. I now believe that any abilities we have should be freely developed because they were part of our endowment from the creator.

  3. Hi Katia,

    Yes, this list does bring up a lot of things, but it doesn’t actually fit everyone. My phase one as a child was agnostic, because my parents weren’t sure God existed.

    So as a young adult I did my own seeking. First I recognized the truth of the Goddess, of the Creatress, she was all around me, in nature, I could see and feel her.

    I explored many religions and as you know, wrote books that reflected my explorations. I came to see things like spells – prayer – and positive affirmations, as branches of the same tree. That tree tells us that we are a part of Our Maker, and as such, we have creative powers. What we do with them out in the world, is a huge topic of course for another time.

    But regarding suffering, whether we like it or not, and generally we don’t cause it hurts, it’s suffering that introduces us to deep parts of ourself. We get opportunities to react, to cope, to deal with whatever it is. And the challenge, particularly after learning about the love of Jesus and of Our Maker, is to keep that love going in the face of challenge.

    Anyway, enough podium stuff, got to get my day going and deal with some of my current challenges… !

    Love ya,

  4. Yes and no… it’s rather a procrustean bed. Either you get stretched to fit it, or some bits have to be trimmed off. 🙁 I find the phases recognisable, but I think the sequence is often more complex than described.

    Personally, these days I seem to phase back and forth from miserable agnosticism to dark-night believer. Recently I stumbled upon the “Jesus Prayer/Prayer of the Heart” as practised by the eastern Orthodox: “O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner,” repeated quietly or even silently as often throughout the day as possible. This seems to help more than anything else I’ve found, is comfortable for me as I am already accustomed to mantra, and needs no creed to be repeated.

    The mainstream churches are not reaching so many of us whom they should be reaching. The “cure of souls” is a forgotten part of today’s Christianity.

    The Lord bless us all, +Katia.

  5. I think I pretty much skipped over stage #1. But I made up for that by remaining in stage #3 for a very long time.

    Then about 4 years ago something “switched on” and I began deeply reading a number of subjects ranging from comparative religion and mythology to energy healing to psychology (I thoroughly enjoy reading Jung’s works!) to tarot (which I view through the lens of Jung’s synchronicty and archetype). Nothing was verboten!

    I now feel like I am beginning to come out of stage #3 into #4. I feel that I have moved from a simplistic childish set of beliefs, to having become almost completely agnostic, or at least largely unconcerned with my spiritual development for many, many years, to forming a mature set of spiritual beliefs which offer me value.

    I suspect I will always remain agnostic when pushed against the metaphorical wall — except for those beliefs offering either proof (and therefore no longer requiring belief) or for those beliefs illuminated by personal experience.

    (For example, my earliest memory is actually of the “fading” of a previous life — therefore due to this experience I “know” reincarnation is real — it requires no “faith” on my part, nor complex mental/philosophical gymnastics. Although, to be fair, this doesn’t mean I understand it!)

    The root of my default agnostic attitude is that the Divine transcends the human condition. It is beyond our ability to comprehend. Full stop.

    This leaves attempting to apprehend the Divine, be it through intuition or something derived from a mystical experience providing a glimpse of the Shadow of the Transcendent. However, given the very nature of that which is truly “Transcendent” while trapped inside the human condition, I must ultimately remain ignorant.

    And what is more, I assume any conclusions I draw from my current perspective must also ultimately be wrong.

    So the Question shifts from what is “True” or “Right” to what is Useful to my spiritual growth, and that of others? And alongside this, what “feels right” given my apprehension of the Transcendent? These are of course, subjective measures, and applicable to others only in the broadest of terms. They are esoteric and personal in nature, not exoteric and universal.

    Fast-forward through 4 years of studies…. For all my readings, I think I have found several approaches that speak to me….

    Buddhism offers much in terms of overcoming our ego and realizing a number of very practical points, such as while pain is inevitable, suffering is a choice.

    Core shamanism offers a number of meditational techniques for structuring a journey into the Dreamtime, which provides a means of apprehending something of the Archetypal Realm.

    But neither is a religion as I see them.

    For my spiritual growth, I am increasingly drawn toward the Christian Gnostics. Perhaps due to my bias — I was raised in the Christian faiths. But at the same time, I have a distrust for what I see as the human manipulations upon Christianity, moving it from spiritual illumination to forming as an enduring Institution.

    So as a result of my investigations of the early gnostics and Carl Jung with a sprinkling of Joseph Campbell, I believe I am coming out of the agnostic forests and into the Light! (As a self-identified Christian Gnostic.)

    Such are my thoughts….

    +Erik Weaver

  6. I have been through stages 1,2, and then went to 4. Never went through 3, but I can certainly understand why someone would.

    After going through stage 2 I retained my belief in religious text as being something significant, yet lost all enthusiasm for literal interpretations. Good post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.