1. 1. Immature Individual Selfishness
2. 2. Mature Individual/Family Selfishness
3. 3. Doubting of Descartes
4. 4. Social Acceptance
5. 5. Hegelian Religion
6. 6. Kierkegaard’s Beyond Faith
7. 7. Individual Virtue
There are seven basic steps that are available to take during our life cycle. They are not mandatory for any particular development in life, but it is possible that a person could progress through all seven steps and reach a pinnacle that is closest to God, preparing for an afterlife. Skipping some of these steps would not hinder your reaching the top of that mountain, step seven, but it might eliminate some of the experiences which would enlighten you, making you better prepared and focused for the final tests.
I call these seven steps a life cycle because if you fail the final tests, you might have to go back through the cycle again, assuming we are in a closed universe where everything is recycled. What tests am I talking about? The Bible is very clear about judgments that will occur. For every choice made during life, there are consequences awaiting somewhere in the future: in your life and/or afterlife. There may be tests administered by God in the afterlife, as well. The above Life Cycle is important to prepare you for making better choices during life and the afterlife. By reaching step seven, you should be ready for whatever comes your way. You should be prepared.
Step One. Immature Individual Selfishness.
This is when an individual focuses on him or herself, typically in childhood, and demands everything that they want, no matter what the consequences to others. As children mature, they may still think of themselves as the most important person in the world. These spoiled children may turn into spoiled adults, but generally the experiences of the world make them change at some point and recognize the needs of others are also important.
Step Two. Mature Individual/Family Selfishness.
This stage can evolve from the first step into a selfish desire to satisfy adult individual or family needs at the expense of others. The greedy corporate executives and politicians make as much money as they can without feeling guilty about how it was done and who it hurt. They may rationalize that they are doing this for their family, but this is the same mentality as you find in the Mafia families.
Step Three. Doubting of Descartes.
This phase can occur in high school, college, or anytime you start thinking about things besides yourself. You may start to doubt that you were on the right path when you were satisfying your every need without a conscience. The doubting can actually come from the rising of the conscience from deep within you.
Rene Descartes, a French philosopher and mathematician referred to as The Father of Modern Philosophy, started with a basic principal as the foundation for philosophy: “I think, therefore I am.” In other words, Descartes believed that his thoughts were the only thing that he knew existed.
His senses could easily deceive him, so he did not rely on them. He knew that he was thinking because even if he doubted that he was thinking, that would prove that he was, indeed, thinking. Since experiences from the senses would not serve him, he relied on his thoughts and doubted everything else until he could prove it. He was also Father of Subjective Thinking, emphasizing that things were known through deduction, a priori.
God is known by inference as our Creator since there is no physical evidence of His existence. God is known a priori, not a posteriori.
Descartes is the philosopher who created this manner of thinking.
Step Four. Social Acceptance.
Social acceptance is important to a great majority of people. Being accepted by your peers, your family, your neighbors, your community members, your friends, etc. is extremely important. Very few people choose to live alone and cut themselves off from everybody. If you want to be accepted in society, you typically must conform to the prevailing standards and laws of the land. Misfits of society are found on Post Office walls in wanted posters. These individuals decided not to conform for whatever reason. Sometimes it was because they were still in either stages one or two, attempting to obtain money without worrying about consequences to others.
Step Five. Hegelian Religion.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, a German philosopher, who believed that every idea had to be related to other ideas or those ideas were meaningless. We can think of something only by relating it to the qualities of something else. Hegel’s writings were very comprehensive and difficult to understand. But he believed that everything he thought led to the opposite thought. The knowledge of opposites unifies them into one. Thesis, antithesis, and synthesis lead to reality. This comes very close to Aristotle’s “golden mean.” For example, the opposite of individualism might be considered conforming for the common good. A synthesis of these two might be found in politics that unifies the stimulation from individuals with a government like democracy that accepts and includes individualism in its governance.
Hegel’s religion straddles the two extremes of good and evil, as well. The opposites that we experience through our senses must be synthesized for religion to be successful. In other words, we must have a faith that transcends the daily battle between two moral extremes, generally dictated by political and religious leaders. This faith leads to a peaceful and moderate approach. The Hegelian religion recognizes God as the system of relationships in which all things have their being and significance. The design of God’s world is very real when your reasoning is based on a rational and reasonable faith.
Step Six. Kierkegaard’s Beyond Faith.
Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher known as the Father of Existentialism, was one of the few Christian existentialists. Kierkegaard departed from Hegelian faith to go beyond that faith. His reasoning was radical and departed from a moderate course. He did not require that we prove that God exists, since that was impossible. Instead, he focused on preparing for God through faith on steroids. Kierkegaard wanted Christians to swim in deep waters without having one foot touching the bottom. Forget the senses. His faith had to go beyond Hegel’s reasonable faith.
He started by emphasizing the individual’s responsibility and integrity. Kierkegaard’s individual was the singular entity that would come face-to-face, one-on-one with God. There would be no family, friends, or ministers who would intercede and support that entity. You were on your own. It would be entirely between you and God. Again, forget your senses. They would be irrelevant. Kierkegaard went beyond the “I” of Descartes and reached into the depths of choices and consequences. He also passed over social acceptance. In order for you to analyze yourself as this individual, you must avoid the distractions around you and isolate yourself from the crowd. Only when you are alone, away from societal influences, can you examine your faith.
In your self-examination, you must ask if you are ready for the leap of faith, which goes beyond faith. If God asked you to sacrifice your son to Him like He did with Abraham, could you do it? This is a leap that you probably had not considered since it involves committing a crime. Imagine explaining to the police that you murdered your son because God told you to do it. Abraham made that leap of faith, believing that God would resurrect his son, Isaac, in some manner even if he killed him. Would you make that leap? That’s the kind of faith that Kierkegaard believed in, distancing himself from Hegel.
Step Seven. Individual Virtue.
Individual virtue is the ultimate step toward reaching God. The Bible references both faith and works as being important in God’s judgments. Even though Kierkegaard is concerned about choices and consequences, he does not show the nexus of works to God’s judgments. Individual virtue is the combination of Kierkegaard’s ultimate faith with your lifestyle and actions modeled as closely to Jesus as possible. All your works, all your thoughts, everything that is part and parcel of you must be improved upon each day. If you move half-way closer to being like Jesus every day, you will never be like Jesus, but you will improve every day and get closer to that goal. You, in effect, will be attempting to conform to Jesus. Conformity is a virtue with God at this stage.
Individual virtue will be guided by your conscience and the Holy Spirit. As Jesus taught in the Beatitudes, even your thoughts must be cleansed. When you stand before God, just like Kierkegaard envisioned as being “one-on-one,” your thoughts must be pure. God will be within you, so your thoughts will also be His. If you have hopes of passing His test, your thoughts must conform to His.
If you are lucky, you will pass His tests and God may allow you to exercise your creativity and individualism on a small scale in His universe, where creation can only occur. However, a small scale in God’s eternal universe would be unimaginable in ours. Many scientists believe our universe is closed, making time (past, present, and future) an infinite cycle. The Creator’s universe, where time does not exist, is outside the boundaries of our universe. Even though we can imagine infinity, we cannot comprehend God’s eternity. We have nothing to compare it to, so we will have to prepare for it, not knowing exactly what it is. But we can infer that God will allow us to try our hand at individual creativity if we are fortunate enough to be accepted into His kingdom.
This life cycle is like sound or ocean waves, alternating back and forth, creating a ripple effect. The cycles run between: (1) independence and conformity and (2) reasonable and radical, which can be repeated as we attempt to understand why we exist. We may start out being a selfish, independent individual wanting his or her own way, but then, as we get older, justifying this selfishness as being done for your family. When we start to question everything, we trigger cycles. We may find wisdom in conforming to society, and then return to an earlier cycle when greed and ambition take control of your life. You may see the value in having a reasonable faith in God, conforming to a group’s beliefs; while some embrace an extreme radical faith, which rejects church groups and leaders in favor of an individualistic approach to religion. In the final cycle, you must conform to God’s way, perhaps allowing us to return to creative independence in God’s universe.
Believe me; you will have no chance in God’s world if you do not rely on God. I think, therefore God exists and He is within me. If my thoughts are distilled, we will be unified as one, and He will lead my spirit to His kingdom.