Between his birth and his latter end, man passes through four chief stages of development, – infancy, adolescence, old age and death. In infancy, his vital force is concentrated, the will is simple, and the general harmony of the of the system is perfect. External objects produce no injurious impression and to the moral nature nothing can be added. In adolescence, the animal passions are wildly exuberant. The heart is filled with rising desires and preoccupations. The man is open to attack by objects of the sense and thus his moral nature becomes enfeebled. In old age, his desires and preoccupations have lost their keenness and the bodily frame seeks for repose. External objects no longer hold the first place in his regard. In this state, though not attaining to the perfection of infancy, he is already different from what he was in adolescence. In death he comes to his rest and returns to the absolute.1
Infancy is that state of unparalleled purity. A person has the whole of their natural abilities intact. Although the natural abilities are nearly at their peak, due to inexperience in properly applying them, they are underdeveloped. The infant only wants infant things. This is not a so terrible: the things sought after by an infant are those things that tend to be in line with their natural needs and wants. An infant’s ability to grasp concepts beyond those basic needs is non-existent. The need to dwell upon things beyond the basic needs is not of major import to and infant. So to with the neophyte initiate. It is the basics that are of utmost concern. There can be no definitive progressing to higher knowledge and abilities without having a firm footing In the basics.
Adolescence is a time of exploring the self and the surrounding environment. Curiosity is a good thing. It is the impetus to experience . . things. Adolescence extends beyond the youthful ages. The are fully grown adults who chose to carry on as if in their youth. Sensual abandon. Material pursuits. Unconscious behaviors. Many adolescents choose to explore ‘things’ Instead of exploring and getting to know ‘self’. The dark recesses of body and mind remain hidden because things, sensual pleasures, material pursuits take precedence. The body feels so alive at this point in (one’s) life. The six senses (taste, touch, smell, hearing, seeing, mind) can be fully indulged. Yet what is the cost for indulging them. One can utilize their energy in exploring the sensual and material aspects of the mundane plane. However, this dallying, in said manner, would be a drain on the person’s spiritual advancement.
In old age maturity can be portrayed, displayed. Paced reservation is part of daily functioning. There is no need to expend energies un-necessarily, per se. The ability to understand when and when not expend (said) energies (hopefully) comes with the territory of older age. One takes stock of their life at this point and assesses where they are at, so to speak. Old age can be a place where mental perturbations can be amplified or dampened. This results from how much one has resolved their ‘internal dilemmas’. Everyone has dilemmas that they have encountered and internalized over the years. This is the point at which they can be viewed under the lens of introspection. The old age period of life will be characterized by the degree to which one has practiced various ways of monitoring, augmenting and reigning in their energies. This period will be either balanced or imbalanced based on how one is in contact with their issues and has come to terms with them.
Death is often viewed as a finality, oblivious finality. It is seen as a point of not-being-ness. However, all religious, spiritual traditions, over the ages, have deem otherwise. Death is seen as a point of beginning. It is conceptualized as the realizing of one’s actions and activities on / in the earth plane. For good or for ill, one will carry on in the etheric planes based on their views, socializations, ideological proclivities and manifested actions engaged in and carried out in the earth plane. Basically, the stage that is set during life will be experienced (in the) afterlife. There are those who conduct themselves under the auspices of believing (in) a certain doctrine will impact the afterlife journey. There are those who engage in certain practices that (presumably) set the stage for their afterlife journey. Visions of heaven and hell are presented in both, of these, points of view. Death is inevitable. How one prepares for it, or not, is totally up to them. The path that one takes leading up to their death must make sense to only them. They will be the recipients of the path that they have chosen. Absolution results from personal choices and actions.
The four stages of life are path upon which all living being embark. As humans, we are able to mentally categorize and compartmentalize each segment of the journey. Ideally, each segment would involve one becoming more conscious of their existence in the earth realm and their working to understand their place within the totality of the cosmos. This is a lifelong endeavor. To say that it begins and ends by attaching to one point of view that does not encourage further self-examination, spiritual-development or insight into the oneness of all (things) is to place limits on the how one arrives into this realm and how they depart from therein. That is to say it limits how the cycle of life is interwoven into all life cycles and is ultimately just a reflection of the All Encompassing Total Source (or how ever one chooses to refer to such).
1 – Lionel Giles, M.A., “Taoist Teachings: From the book of Lieh Tzu”, London John Murray, Albemarle Street, W. (1912), pg. 25