45 GUIDE COMMENT: There is a mass image about the duration of life. For a long time, this mass image held that humans reach an average of, let us say, forty-five years of age. And the majority did die at that age. Of course, you can say that improved medicine and living conditions are responsible for the longer life span now. I certainly do not deny this.
But because of these improvements, the mass image did change, and as this particular mass image began to dissolve, the improvements could be realized. It works both ways. One is not thinkable without the other.
If humanity had not improved psychologically and spiritually enough to be ready to let go of the old image or illusion, no technical improvement would have extended life. Another mass image is that when one reaches a certain age, one becomes weak and sick. All humanity is affected by it.
45 QUESTION: Since Creation is perfect, what would the age be within perfection?
ANSWER: But my dear, this human sphere, the Earth plane, will never have perfection. It is a temporary sphere, a temporary stage that exists only as long as imperfection exists. When any being reaches perfection, that being will no longer have to go through the process of birth and death. He or she will be an eternal spirit who will be in timelessness.
96 GUIDE COMMENT: Losing energy is not a question of age – not in reality, my friends. Although it is true that a young person has a certain store of energy that spends itself no matter how many obstructions exist, once this energy is spent, self-alienation hinders its regeneration.
Thus you see the outer manifestations and judge them – assuming that energy wanes with advancing age – rather than seeing the true underlying cause. The moment you think this way, you are in error, my friends. Such erroneous thinking shuts a door. You believe an illusion, a superficial manifestation.
When you understand the previous lecture [Lecture #95 Self-Alienation and the Way Back to the Real Self] in its entirety – and this you can do only by applying it to yourself – then you will realize that what you often judge quickly and superficially as “old age” is nothing but a product of your self-alienation.
QA135 QUESTION: In our material world, people are living longer and when they get to the middle eighties, for example, this is considered an old person. Many of these people – this isn’t true of all – but many of them just seem to be vegetating. Yet they go on living and they are not able to be useful. It makes you wonder why do so many – since people are living longer on earth now – exist in this condition of non-usefulness and either need rehabilitation or are not able to function, and yet they go on. Is there an explanation for that?
ANSWER: Yes. Yes. There is, of course, a very simple explanation. Living, continuous living, or dying, when one dies, is not always, as you all know perfectly well, determined by a person’s usefulness, for sometimes very useful people die young, while, as you say, the not-so-useful or not-useful-at-all continue to live and burden others.
It is determined by the sum total of the inner will of the person. The sum total of his will to live, will determine his continued living. If the sum total is that he does not wish to live, he will die. Of course, it’s not only the conscious but the unconscious will that is the determining factor, for often the unconscious may be much stronger than the conscious and it may be opposite of the conscious. That is what determines this. As people grow, generally they will all become more generally useful.
QA136 QUESTION: I have a question about age. I recently have been setting my mind on it, because one recognition I had about my father is that he wasn’t as old as I thought he was when I recognized that my father was perhaps my age. And it made me feel that age is a rather mysterious thing. I wonder whether people realize that they are getting old. For example, I don’t see myself as aging. I see myself as the same person I was as a child. I know my body has grown older and so forth. I see older people and have the feeling that they often see themselves still as very young boys or girls. I wonder if you could tell me why I’m fascinated by this?
ANSWER: Well, because, you see, you happen to be very acutely aware of that child in you, with all its aspects, that fights and that does not want to grow up. I mean, some people do have that awareness or have gained this awareness, and they have that feeling. But most of them may not be aware of it in such terms.
Now, about the fascination. The difference perhaps might best be explained by the difference between childishness and childlikeness as a fresh approach. Or, on the other hand, there is age in the sense of maturity, and age in the sense of tiredness, stagnation, nonlife, lack of life. It is this dichotomy that is the distortion.
The reality is eternal youth and maturity. And the distortion is immaturity and dying, or old age and decay. If you straighten out the distortion of the reality, you hold on to the reality that is underneath the illusion – namely, youth and maturity – while the illusion creates the conflict, the dichotomy, that has, on the one hand, childishness with its helplessness and weakness, and, on the other hand, decay.
QUESTION: But I also have the feeling that as I grow older, I am gaining in flexibility and I feel I am getting, in a sense, younger.
ANSWER: Younger and older at the same time. Exactly. That is the maturing process. You become older in the sense of having much more mature values, insights, perceptions, concepts, realizations, insights, understanding, knowing. But you become younger in the sense of being more alive, more vibrant, more dynamic.
You enjoy more, you have more freshness in approach, and more vitality, more youthfulness, more energy. This is growing into the state of your natural spiritual possibility, right here and right now – into that which you can be, which you essentially and potentially are at all times, underneath the illusion with its dying – dying due to childishness, due to false ideas, due to unnecessary weakness and dependency.
QA154 QUESTION: You have said that the physical life span of a person is indicative of that person’s maturity or mature development. Can you say more about this?
ANSWER: Yes. I indeed said something like that. But this must be understood on a wider scale, not out of context with a narrow framework. Of course, in this narrow framework you may easily find many times that there are people who are relatively mature and integrated and who die much faster than some people who are immature and who nevertheless happen to have a strong physique and they may have a much longer life.
But on the whole there is an absolute relationship in the sense that the overall consciousness of a person determines the life span – of mankind as a whole, perhaps, more than the individual, because with the individuals there are too many unknown counter-factors involved. So in that you may see an overall relative maturity.
And yet there may be negative factors embedded in this particular psyche that determine a shorter life span in this particular appearance on this planet. They may all be within the scope and framework of his own personal history that makes sense, that is meaningful. But on the whole, the more a person experiences the continuum of life and is therefore unafraid of its relative, temporary interruption, the more life must actually expand and the borderline of life and death must become thinner.
Now, this may seem like something completely senseless to you, for from where you are, you cannot possibly conceive of death not taking place in an abrupt way. Jesus Christ has demonstrated and foreshadowed – centuries and centuries and millennia ahead of his time – that path of spiritual development toward which mankind is moving, which is that the physical substance gradually thins so that there is no abrupt change of consciousness between one dimension and the other dimension of experience. That will be a gradual, inevitable process of evolution.
Mankind is beginning to move toward it, which perhaps manifests now in nothing else, from this point of view, but a greater life expansion in this time than in former times and which increases also several other manifestations: certain knowledge of the relationship between matter and energy.
All this and many other things are symptoms of this change in evolution. Now, if you interpret what I’ve said here from this point of view, you will see what I mean. As far as the individual is concerned, each individual who is on such a path, when you reach self-realization or even its first manifestations and occasional inklings, you proceed and experience factually in your own consciousness the truth of this by a deep knowing that there is no such a thing as death.
By knowing this, fear reduces, and by the reduction of fear the expansion of consciousness naturally moves toward a relative experience of eternity.
QA221 QUESTION: Ever since I’ve admitted to my age, it’s been paramount in my mind and I have used this to keep myself from going into certain areas. I’d say, “Oh, I’m 58; I don’t have to go into those areas.” I also frighten myself with my age and say, “It’s too late and I don’t know what I’m really trying to accomplish.” I would like to ask is for some help in why I should always be thinking about my age?
ANSWER: This is the price you pay for choosing this particular form of excuse and escape. You disconnect yourself from doing this deliberately. Another person might use any other things – tiredness or physical inabilities – there are many, many other possibilities why this can be used. But I say to you, you do not need to choose this.
QA245 QUESTION: Recently I read that a certain Indian tribe believes that there are three major stages of growth in the human life cycle. The first they call the student stage, in which all of one’s energies and endeavors, from birth to around the age of 25, are primarily directed towards acquiring knowledge and experience – to learning. The second phase is called the homemaking stage. In this stage, one’s energies are channeled primarily into work, establishing a home, dealing with and shaping the material and practical necessities of everyday living. The third phase of growth these Indians call the pilgrimage stage. They believe that human beings begin this phase at around the age of 50 or 60. This is the stage that is most revered by this particular tribe, for they believe that it is at this time that the soul’s energies are primarily channeled into the inner journey towards God. Although I believe that these stages interphase, and on certain levels are one, I feel a resonance with this Indian tribe’s sense of the human life cycle. With this as background, my question is the following:
What is the spiritual meaning of old age? Although a life task is specific to the individual soul that has incarnated, are there also tasks generic to various age groups? If so, could you speak of the task or the “test” of old age, as well as of some common obstacles that present a challenge to the older person’s meeting of this task? Finally, could you give some guidance as to how older people might be helped to meet their task?
ANSWER: Ideally, old age is a pinnacle, a high point in the human incarnation. It culminates all the wisdom learned in the course of a lifetime, as a result of a profound commitment to growth and personal development. It implies serenity, which is, of course, a by-product of fulfilling one’s personal task to the utmost.
Whenever you, who are still younger and on your path, find yourself in a mood of disharmony and disturbance, you have come to realize that this is a key indicating that somehow, you are blind and stuck momentarily on your path. When you are in a state of joyousness and peace, you are fully following your destiny, your path, as you should and are capable of doing.
Old age, and the state of mind that accompanies it, is a likewise indication. Old people who have inner peace, joy and a deep sense of having fulfilled themselves in this life, have truly done just that.
Obviously few human beings have done so. The older people you will help will mostly come to you because they find themselves vaguely unfulfilled, lonely, afraid. They may and will have all sorts of outer explanations for this and they will surely commiserate that old age itself is responsible for their unhappy state.
It is important for you to understand this fully, but it may not be wise to immediately express this in so many words. This would create great anxiety and rebellion, a sense of failure and despair. Your guidance has to come slowly and very intuitively. You need to ask directly for inspiration in this respect. You need to help these people see, to gradually focus on their inner life that is rich and full of unfound possibilities, rather than fearing it.
They need to learn that outer contact, which is badly yearned for but often equally feared and denied, is possible only in proportion to not avoiding man’s inner life. Your group will be a place of learning new values and new truths. Such instruction has to be given subtly and tactfully. For instance, discussions about fear of feelings, of imperfections, of avoiding inner life, can take up a great deal of time.
Even an intellectual discussion will open new vistas and new possibilities, and can remove some inhibitions. New understanding may filter through old misconceptions, false ideas and prejudices. This alone will mean a lot. Stimulation in thinking and therefore new knowledge can filter through the consciousness and further prepare the way.
This may indeed lead some people to a more intense self-search and considerable fulfillment even at such a late date. For others it will mean opening the consciousness, for after leaving the body this makes all the difference.