Stages of Religious Development: Moving from Atheism to Sainthood
By George A. Boyd ©2022
Q: How do people transform from having no belief in God—they are atheists—to becoming saints?
A: There appears to be a 12-step progression from atheism to sainthood. We can briefly describe these stages as follows:
- Atheism – you have no belief in God, you believe that only the body and brain are real and that believing in God is a delusion
- Agnostic – you are open to the idea that God may exist, but whatever God might be is outside of your experience
- Awakening of faith – You first begin to believe in God; you remember a Higher Power and pray to it
- Initial doctrinal programming – you are taught what to believe about God and what God requires of you; this varies for each sect and faith tradition
- Evangelical fervor – you are told to spread the message of faith to convert others to see the truth, as you know it; you attempt to proselytize others
- Quest for political power – you are part of an effort to bring your group’s beliefs to influence policy and law, and to elect those who believe as you do to rule over your community, your county, your state, and your nation
- Compassionate advocacy for those who are suffering – you get into touch with feelings of love and compassion, and you do volunteer service, charity, or active advocacy for an aspect of human or animal suffering
- Moral reformation – you work on yourself to improve your character and begin to live holy virtues in your life
- Mystic experience – you begin to commune with guides, angels, the Holy Spirit, or the Divine, as you know it in your religious tradition, through entering into altered states of consciousness
- Transformation – you experience the Light transform the spiritual essence with which those in your religious tradition identify; you awaken new abilities, intuitive knowledge and understanding, and enhance your love, compassion, and virtue
- Vision and revelation – as you move closer to the Divine that you know in your tradition, you have a series of visions and revelations; sometimes these experiences will give clear guidance that orients you and bestows wisdom—but in other cases, they will give you distorted information and lead you to fanaticism and madness
- Assumption into Grace – as you continue the transformational process, you will move into the Presence of God as the Divine is known in your tradition, and you will be anointed to minister, teach, counsel, and/or guide others
Before the awakening of faith, there is nothing to give people any certainty that God exists. There are a variety of things that can awaken faith:
- Listening to a religious message conveyed through preaching, sermons, religious writing, or satsang
- Spontaneous awakening through Grace
- A traumatic or emotionally painful experience that makes you ask for help
- Reawakening of childhood religious beliefs that you had abandoned
- A decision made based on philosophical analysis and a search for meaning
- An encounter with a saint that changes your beliefs and behavior
- Focusing attention on the Superconscious mind through active meditation or passive means such as ingestion of psychedelic drugs that produces a peak experience in which you experience God, and this awakens belief in you
The initial programming you receive after faith awakens in you conditions what direction your religious life will take. This may lead you to an external focus of expression, where you:
- Evangelize others
- Engage in political advocacy
- Pursue social justice and advocacy for some group that is suffering
- Seek moral reformation—to improve your character and to act towards others in a kinder and more loving way
In other cases, this initial programming you receive after your initial awakening of faith may lead you to an internal quest. This may inspire you to seek out:
- Mystic experiences
- Visions and revelations
- Ascension into heavenly realms and into the Presence of the Divine
Apollonian faith traditions emphasize directing you to external expression; Dionysian faith traditions encourage internal experiences of mysticism and transformation that ultimately lead to establishing the spiritual essence developed in their spiritual tradition in the Presence of the Divine.
Commonly, Western religious traditions anchored in the First Exoteric Initiation emphasize this external expression; in contrast, Eastern religious traditions anchored in the First Cosmic Initiation, and selected Supracosmic or Transcendental Paths cultivate this internal expression—you also find an emphasis on this internal expression in the New Age groups that operate in the Psychic Realm.
Leaders of religious and religiously influenced political groups, who regularly tap into the band of vision and revelation, may disseminate misinformation, conspiracy theories, and other forms of distorted messaging. Followers of these misguided leaders amplify this message through spreading it to others, and advocating on behalf of the leader to influence social, corporate, and political decision-making to enact the group’s agendas. Hate mongers, racists, and religious fanatics tap into this band of distorted revelation and turn it into speech and behavior that targets those whom these groups persecute or blame for the troubles in the world.
Those who typically come to Mudrashram® are those who seek mystic and transformational experiences, and who want to make their conscious ascension to Liberation and spiritual Mastery. Those who have been dyed in the color of distorted revelation, however, do not do well pursuing our teachings and using our practices.
Those who have learned these distorted beliefs must unlearn them; they must be willing to move from conviction about these beliefs to a willingness to release them and learn a set of truths founded upon the Soul’s authentic discovery and direct experience beyond the filter of conspiracy theories and flawed conjecture.
Those who achieve sainthood must (1) experience the awakening of faith, (2) select an internal development method that promotes mystic experience, (3) generate transformation of their spiritual essence, (4) discourage distorted revelation, and (5) progressively transform the spiritual essence cultivated in that religious tradition into the Presence of the Divine, where it can be Divinely anointed and empowered to minister the Light to others.
Unfortunately, many are waylaid on this inner journey through fascination with visions and revelations, and are led astray. To embrace genuine spirituality, they must jettison their false beliefs and simply observe what is there in their heart, their mind, and their Soul. Once they can verify and replicate the steps of their progressive inner discovery, they can begin to construct an accurate mapping of the Path and identify those elements within their heart and mind that are stable, reliable, and sound.
Those who are searching for mystic experiences and transformation may learn the inner methods to produce them in our intermediate meditation courses. These intermediate meditation classes are the in-person Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation and the by-mail and online Accelerated Meditation Program. Those who wish to prepare themselves to perform the more advanced meditations of our intermediate programs may benefit from first taking the Introduction to Meditation Program.