The Art of Aging

October 21, 2013

The Art of Aging

“Decline and luminous wisdom” *
An ayurvedic and anthroposophic point of view. 
*(N.Glas)

“Sitting peacefully,
without doing anything.
Comes Spring
and grass grows on its own.”

So goes a Zen saying, that may seem a serene Oriental attitude, or more simply, a passiveness hidden by the necessity of events. On the contrary, it is anything but: it is the knowledge granted by the deep and constant observation of the Laws of Nature. That which Western tradition calls nature in an absolute perspective is none other than a “dream” to be contemplated in the light of a defined knowledge; that which Buddhist tradition calls Awakening.

To be Illuminated signifies the ability to observe the phenomena of the persona as a constitutional element of the dream, to recognize reality through the awareness generated by a mind free of illusion. The auto-identification of Self represents the vision of reality that penetrates the moment the “I” is transcended. We will be in conflict with reality for as long as we substantiate the physical decadence of the elderly, and this contrast results in suffering.
The “Awakening” of the elderly signifies the ability to live in solitude in a world where almost everyone else is still asleep. A beautiful verse from the Bhagavad-gîtâ says:

“When it is night for everyone
Then is awake the ascetic, aware of himself.
When the others are awake,
it is night for the silent seer”

The ability to live without limits is one of the greatest aspirations of modern man; to be able to unite the physical world with the world of the senses. The role of man becomes a research of events in an orderly dimension that unites nature to the lost truths.

Man does not live in isolation; experiences cannot be transmitted but only descrive as they serve as a stimulus to personal experiences.
In India this becomes an everlasting tradition that brings us to a timeless state in which reason and being become one. Birth, growth and death become a single entity in the greater whole; the togetherness that regulates life. Amongst the sundry experiences of humanity, the Vedic experience may give us an answer. In the earliest verses of the Bhagavad-gîtâ, one of the oldest poems and prose of Indian literature, the teachings of the Samkya and Vedatic doctrines are united in a veritable holy text, up to the Vedas and Upanishads, the so-called Sacred Books. This text, in the form of dialogue to a third person, tells the story of Krishna. Through the wise answers of Krishna to Arjuna, the Archer, son of Pandu, we can learn of sacrifice and good deeds. The divine protagonist, Krishna, is one of the many aspects of God, or the Absolute, that is incarnated, as an Avatar, to illuminate and teach man in the search of Knowledge.

The manifestation of an Incarnation (Avatar) of God is the result of the need to immortalize the truths of the Scriptures and allows the recognition of Reality, not only through a speculation of pure philosophy, that could be accessible to many, but also through yogish or devotional practices, that support individual predispositions. This teaching becomes reality through Knowledge and does not require any techniques or observations, and aims directly at rendering experience an instrument of higher conscience. The most important characteristic of the text is the importance of wisdom as a manifestation of the absolute Self and Transcendence. This is rendered through a human manifestation become able to regulate the fluxes of life and knowledge, which encloses divine wisdom itself.
Vedic science, that in the the Ayurveda is a medical science whose teachings regulate the physiological rhythms of human life, teaches, through its techniques, from phytotherapy to yoga, from panchakarma to meditation, from Kaya Kalpa to Nadi Vigyan or diagnosis of the wrist, to harmonize the opposing constants of life: decadence and aging, sickness and health. It is in the approach and study of human oscillations and the balance of the Dosha (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) that the understanding of the elderly finds its most explicit explanation, no longer considered the psycho-physical decadence of man but the obtainment of the final objective of life, lived in the most complete harmony with nature and Self.
Knowledge of the interior self leads to knowledge of the absolute Self: unity and multiplicity merge and harmonize to attain the interior truth through the light of Wisdom and Knowledge. These invite us to search them in the effort to reach the hidden and recondite balance of old age. This becomes a period of splendor the moment the human being is reconciled with himself and learns to understand his own existence and the finalities hidden therein. Ayurvedic and Vedic sciences, which dates from nearly five-thousand years, reaches maturity and becomes close to Hippocratic, alchemic and Paraclesian medicine and R. Steiner’s science of the spirit East meets West and determines the attainment of the unbreakable truth of Life.

That which the caterpillar calls the “end of the world” is a butterfly to the rest of the world (L. Tze)

An individual closed to himself is unable to reach Life and its secrets: opening up to life means, as indicated by R. Steiner, being free from oneself and the ties of the physical body.

Dawn and twilight, beginning and end, life and death, are united in an unconfutable truth: the single and immanifest being of the continuità of the Immanent, of the Divine in the humane.

“Return to the roots is calm,
Meaning to return the mandate
Returning the mandate is eternity.”
(Tao Te Ching)

As the child grows and matures, becoming a man through his physical and vital body, that which anthroposophy calls “etheric” (in India Prana, in China Chi) so the elderly reaches internal maturity through the transformation of his corporal components: vital and organic forces are utilized to develop the internal forces of spiritual nature. In R. Steiner to reach the “spiritual man” means reaching the absolute body of immortality, the reaching of the true Self, with the possibility to transcend and surpass the preceding levels. It is the same concept of transcendence and pure conscience that we find in the transcendental meditation of Maharishi.

“That which rests hidden in the human soul and that hovers as the great half of humanity is the “Father in the skies”. If man wants to so evolve, he must have the force to develop his three superior parts (the spiritual Self, the vital spirit and the spiritual man) and the four inferior (physical, etherical, astral body, the I) to the point where they can rightly preserve the physical body, that the etherical or vital body can live in man so there is equality with the debt that lives inside hi, that the astral body will not be led into temptation, that the body of the I be delivered from evil. Man must reach for the skies, towards the Heavenly Father, with his three superior constitutive parts, through name, kingdom and will. The name must be felt to be sanctified….As in the world light is made of seven colors and sound of seven notes, so the seven-part human life that is elevated to God is expressed in the seven different sentiments that refer to the the seven-part human nature, n the seven requests of the “Our Father”.
Rudolf Steiner

The aged person who sees the approaching of decadence and the failing of his physical strength, partially, as a result of disease, or totally, as a result of death, frequently reaches a particular spiritual status, a moral attitude that can only be defined as acceptance, an awareness of painful detachment of all things loved, and often of all cultivated ideals. In most cases, those between the ages of sixty and seventy miss being able to work with zest, and regret all that could be done in their age of physical vigor. This spiritual condition manifests itself in many details of daily life and can extend to obscure the existence of both him and those close to him. In other cases, the decline of all functions can lead to internal conflict, lying and cheating the self.
First of all we must better cultivate the consciousness of the self, compassion and patience, virtues that are well described in the old texts and the replace the “painful surrender” (Norbert Glas) with what may be called the acceptance of a serene detachment. The surrender should be accompanied with the trusting expectation of what will be, once the cycle of evolution of earthly life is complete. Whoever is able to grasp the depth of the destiny of man will always recognize its wisdom and justice. To demonize old age in its physical essence is also to slander its virtues of wisdom and its patrimony of interior qualities that each individual accumulates and refines in the cycle of existence.
Today we give little or no credit to the elderly, and in the current social schemes they are even accused of being parasites to the society in which they live. The image of Aeneas that carries his father on his shoulders as they escape from a burning Troy has become a used and abused icon of the myth.
Until recent times, the community used to turn to the elderly for their experience, as they had already been through troubled times, and were therefore able to give sound advice. Today we do not revert to this wisdom, as old-age is synonymous with dementia. And often it is the elderly themselves that fuel this fire of prejudice, by doing everything possible to emphasize their exterior vitality rather than gloating an interior vigor, forged by existential vicissitudes.
The finality and objective of anthroposophic inspired therapies, ranging from, medicine to eurhythmics, from massages to art-therapy, is to re-create a balance that can tend both towards a decadence of the forces of life as their transformation into a spiritual irradiation: the psycho-spiritual development profits from the forces liberated from physical control to evolve actively and consciously.

The race without ethics of our scientific world to find the myth of eternal youth, of Faustian memoirs, should not deviate the just progression of scientific research: as Nicola Tesla stated, “science becomes perverse if its ultimate goal is not the psycho-physical improvement of man and humanity.”
However, the discoveries of the scientific world allow us confirm also the theories given to us by anthroposophic science.
The discovery of proteins that regulate oxidative systems such as the AC5 protein (adenil ciclasi), that withheld from mice determines a greater production of the ERK2 protein, produces a regulation of the endo-cellular oxidative processes and therefore a longer life-span; the discovery of the ubiquitina/proteosome system that allows us to determine the reparation processes of the cell during oxidation; the discovery of specific genes, such as SIRT3 and SIRT4, that activated in conditions of stress resulting from the privation of nutritive substances, protect you from the processes of aging; the process of apoptosis.
These discoveries allow us to sense what we are upholding; that the privation and liberation from the “body” leads to the opening of the “heart”. Science allows us to understand the secrets of man and his “entropic” process, but does not open the doors of the understanding of his interior microcosm, hidden under a fragile will of eternity.

He who knew how to venerate and pray as a child,
Will be blessed in his advancing age
(R.Steiner)

If we learn how to look with patience, intimacy and delicacy

“in the eyes of the elderly, we can see the light” (V.Hugo)

, a soft, sweet , stellar light that sooths the soul.

Twilight at the doors of a man liberated from all passion, all egoism, determines in the elderly, through their calm, patient and serene presence, a profound and generous light where the mystery of time fructifies and where the lamp of the soul can gradually turn off.