The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
August 2002 Vol. 5 Issue 6
Old age need have no fears for you. One who has lived aright, one who has lived cleanly, and thought highly, as age comes on him and the body weakens and the physical veils thin, sees, and seeing knows. His vision passes behind the veils of matter, for he is slowly becoming acquainted with the mysteries beyond the veil which men call death.
For a certain period of time, dependent upon the interval preceding death, the soul is withdrawing from the aged body. This accounts for the so-called advance in the symptoms and physical phenomena of old age. But such withdrawal of the soul, in the normal course, is peaceful and quiet, and is nature's way of making death come as a quiet blessing of peace and harmony.
Death is birth; death to our old ones comes in peace and quiet, stealing like an angel of mercy into their being, releasing the bonds binding the soul to its vehicle of flesh; and the passage is as quiet and gentle as the coming of the twilight preceding night, and it is a blessed sleep.
Any human being can avoid a painful old age, or at least very largely modify its troubles; and this can be attained by living humanly, by living in your higher self, instead of idealizing the wants and desires of your body. Then old age comes stealing upon you, bringing blessings with it, and increase in all the higher faculties and powers; so that the approach of old age is vibrant with the harmonies of another world, and beautiful with its visions of truth and glory. Old age is a blessing, if the previous life has been lived aright. It brings with it things otherwise unattainable, such as an expansion of consciousness which youth knows nothing of. It brings with it increased intellectual power which, because of its very reach, the undeveloped person, the youth, the man of middle age, does not understand. A fine old age brings an expansion of soul, not only of the intellect, but of the spiritual consciousness and its vision.
But sometimes, when the life has been lived in gross physical desires; when, so to say, the bonds uniting the soul to the body have been riveted into the vehicle of flesh by self-indulgence in the gross appetites, then even in age death is painful; for the natural withdrawal of the soul has not taken place, or at least not to such a large degree, nor is the physical age attained so great before death finally comes.
Old age is nothing to fear. It is a blessing. It is a splendor seen as through a veil, of the life beyond, the higher life, the life in which the higher incarnating ego lives. -- G. de Purucker
It happened twenty-five hundred years ago when the young Hindu prince, Siddhartha Sakyamuni, ventured beyond the palace grounds and into the city. The pain and suffering he saw appalled him and awakened in his soul ancient yearnings to help all in need. The first "awakening sight" was seeing, for the first time in his life, a very old man. The second, "a stricken wretch," writhing with pain, gasping, and begging for help. The third sight brought the prince face to face with death and the agony of those left behind.
In soul-searching desperation to know the reason for disease, old age, and death, Siddhartha left home and position to seek the counsel of wise and holy gurus. For six long years he followed their methods of meditation and austerity, but found them barren. Exhausted and near death, he sat under a great Bo-tree determined to remain until the truth was known. And then it came, knowledge of the cause and cure of human misery and the purpose of life.
Let us consider the questions that troubled the Buddha: old age, disease, and death. Those who believe in reincarnation, as he did, see birth as the doorway through which souls enter earth life, and death the door of their exit. They regard each soul as the "aggregation of karma," acquired in past lives. Integrated into the individual's composite nature, these aggregates not only shape its body, mind, and psycho-logical and spiritual nature, but also bring it into conditions and situations appropriate to its needs and desires -- situations possibly of misfortune, accidents, or disease which offer opportunities for the evolving soul to harmonize what it formerly brought into being or disturbed. By this method we develop and perfect the many qualities of our natures and set into motion effects that will benefit or harm ourselves and all living beings. -- Eloise Hart
"Old Age, Disease and Death" is our subject. We will be discussing such questions as: What meaning do old age, disease, and death have for us? How can we come to terms with them and make best use of them? Why do we suffer? What causes disease and physical infirmity, and what are the best ways to deal with them? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge.
The topics for the monthly discussion group for the next few months are:
September 19: Mind: The Slayer of the Real
October: How Powerful Are Our Genes?
November: Exploring the Theosophic Tradition
December: Is Taking Life Ever Justified?
Throughout history the wise have taught that the one fundamental sin against life is separateness. Life being One, the all-living wholeness is weakened when any individual focuses upon himself. His selfish concerns cause chaos, strife, disease, and pain for him and for the whole he helps to form. These disruptive thoughts and feelings can range from hate, greed, and intolerance to various kinds of self-pitying depressions and dissatisfactions. When we allow our minds to engage in this type of thinking, we invite these thoughts and feelings to imprint themselves on our inner mental fabric where they become poisonous thought-substances wreaking all sorts of havoc, and eventually working themselves out through various ailments and troubles.
This virulent thought-substance corrodes not only our mental and physical health but, more importantly, our spiritual health. For the poison of separateness and selfishness tends to harden and condense consciousness, preventing our inner god-light from penetrating to us. In time it creates a world filled with deep-seated anguish and discontent -- an appalling emptiness that millions try to escape or fill with drugs and sensual pleasures, only to find in the end more pain and disappointment. Yet, paradoxically, it is through this very pain that our lives are found and saved. There is no better catalyst for shattering ignorance than our own self-created and self-induced pain and disharmony, which pinpoints precisely where we need to learn and grow. Life is giving us an opportunity to clear away whatever impedes our growth, helping us to move beyond our lower selves and evolve forth our greater selves. Pain and illness arrest our attention, strengthen our character, and increase our compassion. If we can begin to understand the workings of universal life in its far-reaching harmonies and disharmonies, we can begin to regain the knowledge that oneness is essential for health and inner peace.
The ways we transgress against this spirit of unity are often subtle. Much of the time we are unable to see our disharmony because it is too much a part of us. Yet this negativity can frequently be perceived through the character of our illnesses, because the mind with all its forces and activities is a subtle body that reflects onto the physical body the state of our inner being. If we think and feel disruptively, so will be our health; if harmoniously, so again will follow our health. Our true state of being is consciousness, and the physical body, as a condensed copy of our mental forces and activities, mirrors in time whatever inner force is making its way down and out of the human constitution. Since it is through negative thought that we shape the characteristics of our illnesses, by taking note of the fundamental problems of any ailment, we may be able to see where we have gone wrong either in our present or a past life -- for some conditions do undoubtedly stem from character traits active in former existences that are only now clearing themselves out of the system. Realizing that we are able to detect disharmonies within our own nature gives us the opportunity to right these wrongs, and also to find some answer as to why we suffer from a particular condition. Understanding why we suffer can bring much-needed acceptance and peace of mind and help us to face our afflictions more positively.
Grasping that suffering arises from thoughts of selfishness, we realize that only oneness can quiet the spasms of separativeness. It is one sure way in which to heal all troubles and illnesses. At some point we must begin to look for healing within the heart; to leave behind our fears and turn towards our divine essence; to take part in a nobler existence that transcends ordinary earth-life; to feel the splendor and beauty of a love that is all-compassionate and all-enfolding, that neither fears nor feels any evil, that brings solace and comfort to those who suffer. By forgetting ourselves we raise our heart and mind to this majestic stream within us and bring to ourselves and those around us a healing essence.
If we can unite ourselves through devotion to this spiritual source of love and oneness, it then is the one true healer. Permeating our consciousness, it relaxes mind, organs, nerves, and tendons, allowing disease to flow out unrestricted. It softens pain and discomfort -- not only for ourselves but for those around us. For when the mind is raised and focused on love for all, it no longer senses the self with its problems. Instead, it touches others with an uplifting embrace that mends and heals.