To understand old age and evaluate it properly one has to understand the nature of man and the purpose of life here on earth. Man is essentially a soul, an immortal intellectual, moral and spiritual being. He is not an animal.
The object of life on earth is the evolution and perfection of the soul. The earth is the sphere of that evolution, and life on earth with all its efforts and experiences, failures and successes, thought and learning, is the way the soul grows. It learns by contrasts, by experiencing "the pairs of opposites." The process of evolution is one of drawing out and giving expression to the almost infinite capacities locked up within the soul and then learning from experience the lessons life has to give. This process of unfolding or coming out into activity of the higher nature and its intellectual, moral and spiritual faculties is, or should be, continuous and progressive throughout life.
In infancy the newly incarnated soul is very busy learning to handle the most perfect and complicated of all instruments, the human body and its faculties. Youth is the time when one equips one's self for the battle of life. In maturity one gives expression to what is within him; makes his conquests and failures. At about fifty when the exterior energies begin to slow down the spiritual man should begin to escape from the thraldom of the senses and to live more and more on its own plane and engage more and more in its own native concerns, that is in intellectual moral and spiritual thoughts, studies and activities. All regrets for the past should be put aside and all past experiences considered and used as lessons from which to learn to begin to really live.
At a time when all attention was being given to heroic youth going over the top, Henry Ford threw a bombshell into contemporary thought by declaring that if it were not for men of fifty and over, organized civilization would go to pieces for lack of wise and competent managerial ability. The idea was that too much attention was being given to mere activity when in truth and reality the more important factor in any man's life and in civilization as a whole is the part that intellectual ability, wisdom and judgment play in world affairs. It is for lack of wisdom that the world has now gone mad. But storms in nature and fits and convulsions in man are not normal; they pass away, giving place to normalcy and leaving the man or the civilization sadder but wiser.
In a conversation with my brothers and myself Mme. Tingley quoted Henry Ford, as above, and strongly endorsed his position. She then added that the best part of one's life should begin at about fifty when a man begins to transfer from exterior to interior activities. Then the real life of man as an intellectual, moral and spiritual being begins to flower and become dominant, if the previous life has been lived aright, no matter how feeble the body may become.
When the life has been lived mostly in the physical with strong desires and attachments and with little spirituality, old age may be a pitiful state even in the case of quite intellectual but materialistic people. It is a growing inclination towards spiritual things that frees the consciousness, the mind and thought, from slavery to the distressing physical conditions of old age.
In a cycle like the present where actual spiritual knowledge is rare and religious belief is only held as faith the average man thinks only of his personal self and its concerns. In such cases the man is riveted to the body and his happiness depends upon its conditions. Such cases are pitiful.
We all know, and especially every nurse knows, that there are people who go through the greatest degrees of privation, pain and suffering and remain cheerful, kind, thoughtful for others and happy clear up to the hour when peaceful death brings well-deserved relief.
The Theosophist knows from his studies what I have herein before tried to write. He therefore deliberately tries to govern his life accordingly and to live in a world of beautiful and ennobling thought and so far as possible to forget himself in the cheerful performance of daily duties and the love of other things than himself. That is the secret — forget yourself. Live in a world of impersonal love and thoughtfulness for others with the mind and consciousness absorbed in high ideals, cheerfulness and love. Then age and death are as a peaceful sunset for the body and a glorious sunrise for the soul.
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