From charlesreid1

Talking about August Comte...

"The fundamental idea of his system is a supposed "law of the development of human thought," which regulates and determines the whole progress of the species in the acquisition of knowledge. This law is announced with the air of a man who has made a great discovery, and who is entitled, in consequence, to be regarded as both an original thinker, and as a benefactor to the world.

"I believe," he says, "that I have discovered a grand fundamental law - the fundamental law of the development of the human mind; the grand law which i have indicated in the first part of my system of Positive Politics, ...where I have divulged, for the firwst time, the discovery of this law."

Now, what, it may be asked, is this marvellous discovery, which bids so fair both to immortalize its author and to enlighten the world? It is stated briefly in the first, and illustrated at greater length in the fourth and following volumes of his work. The general outline of his theory is thus sketched:

"That law consists in this - that each one of our leading conceptions, every branch of our knowledge, passes successively through three different theoretic states: the state theological or fictitious, the state metaphysical or abstract, and the state scientific or positive. In other words, the human mind, by its nature, employs successively, in each of its researches, three methods of philosophizing, whose character is essentially different, and even radically opposed: first, the Theological method; then, the Metaphysical; and, last of all, the Positive. Hence, three systems of Philosophies, which mutually exclude each other.

The first (Theological) is the necessary starting-point of the human mind; the third (Positive) is its fixed, ultimate state; the second (Metaphysical) is purely positional, and destined merely to serve as an intermediate stage."

These are the three great stages through which the collective mind of Humanity must necessarily pass in its progressive advancement towards a perfect knowledge of truth; but of those three, the first, or the Theological Epoch, is again subdivided, and exhibited as commencing with Fetishism, then advancing to Polytheism, and finally consummated in Monotheism.

Ref: M. Comte, "Cours de Philosophie Positive," I. 3, 6, 14; IV. vii, 653, 656, 708, 711, 723; v. 1, 9.