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The 3 stages


In reading some of the literature of Dutch Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (ie. Fear and Trembling), I have noted his 3 stages of life, which he has called: 1. Aesthetic (pleasure and play...), 2. Ethical (justice and responsibilities), 3. Religious (higher truths and transcendence...).
It is a construct that is obviously, basically true, for people do seemingly go through stages akin to these, but Kierkegaards' system is not without flaws. The name for the low stage, called "Aesthetics" sounds too much like art appreciation, something not low. The first stage should be called "hedonistic". After about age 25 most start to merge into the more ethical or 2nd stage. People get married and are pushed into thinking of spouses and children, although we know that some never get out of the first stage. If they are not married most still mature and merge into the 2nd stage too but put more time into education perhaps.
Kierkegaard speaks of special issues with the 3rd stage and brings in the patriarch Abraham, who experienced special conflicts and paradoxes. Abraham was prompted to sacrifice his son, which caused great conflict, due to his high sense of justice. It seems that in the highest stage (3) one encounters paradoxes and conflicts. Age and experience have given them wisdom.
Kierkegaard does not speak of a 4th stage. I think a fourth stage exists where one has brief moments of extreme joy sometimes with a an experience of light, but it is very brief.
If one is advanced in the 2nd or 3rd stage he or she is not going to be liked by those in stage one, for they have little in common. I often notice younger female cousins splitting away from a boyfriend who just wants play and excitment or is still acting like he is 22, but she is 30 something with teens at home. A less pronounced friction might exist between someone in stage 2 with a stage 3 person.
Folks reaching the 3rd stage will appreciate the book of Ecclesiastes.
I went through each stage by age 30 and have occasionally touched what I call the 4th. I want to hear from others. I believe introverts are more likely to advance through the stages faster.

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  • A child compelled to grow up too fast struggles as he awkwardly must process stage 2 & perhaps 3 while apparently not fitting in with peers of stage 1. And then you have a child who is supernaturally revealed something of stage 4 while in stage 1, which makes all the more of an unconventional journey to maturity. This might seem ambiguous, but you are likely discerrning and fathom my meaning. My personal experience early during stage 1 involved a glimpse of stage 4, which changed everything with a purpose that I realized much later. God has His mysterious ways of setting things right.


  • I believe I've gone thru similar stages as Brother Steve here. In my 60's now, I can understand the process and also think a 4th stage is needed, for as Steve says here, an experience of light is occssionally felt and I've experienced a centered sense of being close to God at times in prayer and meditation.

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