Seven Stages of Life – 7 Stages of Life

Enlightenment and the Transformation of Man

Selections from talks and essays on the spiritual process and God-Realization

Da Free John, 1983

CHAPTER 4

THE SEVEN STAGES OF LIFE

The ultimate import of our human birth is to Realize the Truth of existence. This, however, is only possible by observing, understanding, and transcending oneself-a process of gradual maturation. Master Da Free John’s “Seven Stages of Life” prove a valuable key to such radical self-understanding. But in order to appreciate the great practical value of this model, one must drop the role of the passive outside observer and allow oneself to be penetrated by the argument underlying this schema, This means one must experience the way of life outlined by the seven-stage model, in the culture of selftranscendence shared by practitioners of Master Da Free John’s Way of Radical Understanding.


 

We can know or Realize what is only through selfunderstanding that becomes not merely self-information but self-transcendence. Therefore, we must first become capable (through self-understanding and self-transcendence) of selfsubmission and free participation in what is prior to our own selfcontraction.

I do not merely propose the idea of God, or soul, or Transcendental Being. Such propositions cannot be rightly believed or presumed by the separate and separative ego. Therefore, the ideas of religion that occupy egos and the egoic culture of self-abstracted scientism are themselves false views, representing a poignant and inevitably frustrated longing for love, release, and ultimate Happiness. On the contrary, I propose self-observation, true self-understanding, and perfect self-transcendence. And if the Way of self-transcendence is magnified as the fullness of participatory capability, then what is will be discovered to be Divine, unbound, eternal, Transcendental Happiness.

The Dreaded Gom-Boo, or the Imaginary Disease That Religion Seeks to Cure, p. 93


 

The unique model of the seven stages of life provides a framework which allows one to understand and rightly appraise the process of psycho-physical and spiritual growth. It also clarifies the spiritual implications of all the individual and collective expressions of human experience and knowledge.

In practical terms, the seven stages of life can be viewed as a spiritual school offering seven lessons about self-transcendence.

 

Truth is in the sacrifice of the whole and entire body-mind, via gradual stages of more and more responsible action, or action as Love-Communion with the Living God, prior to all self-reference. Therefore, the seven stages of life are not truly stages of the accumulation of experience. They are degrees of a single or ultimate sacrifice, in which what would otherwise be accumulated is surrendered, through Love.

The Enlightenment of the Whole Body, p. 188


 

Stage One (Birth to 7)

The first stage of life, occupying the years from conception and birth to age seven, is the stage of the human individual’s vital-physical adaptation to the world into which he or she is born. In this first stage the being learns “simple” skills like focusing with the eyes, grasping and manipulating objects, walking, talking, assimilating and converting food and breath into energy, controlling bladder and bowels, relating to his fellow beings, and toward the end of this stage, somewhat more abstract thinking.

Stage Two (Years 7-14)

The second stage of life is the stage of the development, integration, and coordination of the emotional-sexual or feeling dimension of the being with the gross physical. This coincides with the development of the glandular and hormonal systems of the body. Also, the young personality grows in the awareness of himself or herself as a social being, sharing life in an expanded sphere of relations. Just as in the first stage one learns about and becomes responsible for the assimilation and elimination of elemental food, in the second stage one must likewise learn about, adapt to, and engage a new dimension of sustenance or food.

In the second stage there appears the potential of full relational feeling and the necessity for responsibility for the communication of life-force and sympathy with its vital processes. Thus, the individual develops an expanded bodily life through the extension of feeling, and he also becomes sexually aware, even very early in life.

The Way That I Teach, p. 111

However, genital sexuality is not rightly engaged in the second stage of life. Instead, sexuality is developed as a matter of emotion and energy in relationship with others. At the end of this phase, the growing individual is a fully mobile ego who, providing that no serious maladaptation has occurred, is a strongly self-centered but educable person.

The second phase of life is the time of the development of the etheric or emotional-sexual life, of polarization to etheric life, of feeling alive and flowering, as the primitive physical sense (which once was the primary goad to living adaptation) begins to submit itself to awareness of the greater world of energy relations, the living world wherein solidity gives way to animation and rapid changes. It is the time of the development of sexual polarization (or sexual character) and sensitivity, and of emotional life based on the forces contained in sexual differentiation. Emotion and physical energy of every kind, including sexuality, are simultaneously awakened as parts of the same process.

The Way That I Teach, p. 111

The development of sexual maturity depends on the ability to enter into a mature emotional relationship with others. Most people fail to make this transition into emotional-sexual maturity while in their youth. Consequently, unless they embark on a conscious course of self-transcendence later in life, their psychological-spiritual growth remains stunted. As Master Da Free John observes:

In this second stage [the individual] should develop a more sophisticated awareness of energy and healthfulness, of breathing and of bringing energy to others. The morality of love itself finds its seed form in the second stage.

The Way That I Teach, p. 111

If the awakening sexual energy is not subsumed by love, then in later stages of life the individual’s development is obstructed by emotional-sexual neuroses.

“Sexual communion,” or the yoga of sexual love, is of course a responsibility incumbent on mature individuals who have successfully passed through the first three, or lower vital, stages of life and who have awakened to the feeling dimension of the heart, or the fourth stage of life (described below).

Stage Three (Years 15-21)

The third stage of life is the stage of the development of the thinking mind and the will and of the integration of the vital-physical, emotional-sexual, and mental-intentional functions. The underlying theme of this phase is mental-intentional adaptation to life and the integration of the functions awakened, skills acquired, and the lessons learned in the first two stages. This stage marks the transition to truly human autonomy wherein the first two stages of life are adapted to a practical and analytical intelligence and an informed will or intention, and the individual gains responsibility for and control over his vital life.

When the second stage is essentially mature, generally from twelve to fourteen years of age, the individual should be acknowledged, even by his parents, to be “unparented,” to be essentially responsible for himself (or herself), but within the context of a total educational or cultural structure that will guide him in his adolescent development. From this time on, he is to adapt to life from the point of view of intentional responsibility, until he is capable of being an integrated human being in the common world of human functions and human relations. Thus, in the third stage, the mind as intention and will must be integrated with the whole complex of feeling and activity that are an ordinary human life. It is in this stage that the individual must learn what the matter of life is all about, what relations are all about, what sexuality is all about (without indulgence of the sexual functions), and it is also in this stage that he actually begins to practice moral responsibility for the relational context of human life.

The Way That I Teach, p. 112

When the process of maturation of will and intention is complete, the individual will have a clear self-image and be capable of relating functionally to the world.

The third stage of life is mature when the individual enjoys integrated responsibility for the whole of the living being (physical, emotional-sexual, and mental). Thus, he is in that case able to be present as a clear will and as love under all the otherwise frustrating or pleasurable conditions of lower experience. Those who seek to begin spiritual life must be mature in this sense in order to move on to higher maturity.

The Enlightenment of the Whole Body, p. 196

Stage Four

The third stage is not an end in itself, or the completion of potential human growth. Indeed, it only marks the awakening of selfconscious intelligence and a movement toward personal and individualistic survival motives. Man in the third stage of life is not yet truly human. He only brings individual force and form to the vital and elemental experience and world. He tempers and also extends the frenzy of feeding and sexing by submitting these to the processes of the verbal and analytical mind. Man in the third stage of life is characterized by the frenzy of mind, the frenzy of problems and solutions.

The truly human being appears only in the fourth stage of life, wherein the vital, elemental, emotional-sexual, and lower mental functions come into the summary and unifying dominion of the heart, the psyche of the whole bodily being. Such is the awakened moral and spiritual disposition, in which Truth becomes the Principle in consciousness, and higher structural growth becomes the benign, nonproblematic possibility. Thus, the Law in the truly human realm is sacrifice as the individual, whole, and entire human body-mind, through love, founded in prior intuition of the Divine Reality. The human sacrifice is the spiritual practice of love and intuition of the Real under all conditions of experience and higher growth.

Love of the Two-Armed Form, p. 75

And,

The first three stages may generally be associated with the first twenty-one years of life (three periods of seven years), but the last four (which grow beyond the limits of the grosser elements and functions) may not truly be considered in terms of limits of time, whether brief or long. Each stage develops as a process of adaptation (or readaptation) to a specific, functional point of view relative to the totality of experience.

The fourth stage, and all the later stages, cannot be conceived within fixed periods of time. The duration of the higher stages of life depends entirely upon the individual’s qualities and his or her spiritual practice of self-transcendence.

The Enlightenment of the Whote Body, pp. 186, 192

The realization of the physical, emotional, mental, and moral responsibilities of the first three stages of life provides the necessary foundation for the testing and transformation that inevitably accompany true spiritual life. Without that basis one might come to enjoy yogic and mystical experiences, for example, but remain unable to exercise real intelligence, freedom, and love under the most ordinary of human circumstances.

However, to mature through and beyond the mechanics of the first three stages of life is not a casual, conventional matter of “growing older and wiser.” Rather, the individual’s entrance into the fourth stage of life begins with the awakening of the “psychic heart,” which is marked by a clear sensitivity to the Life-Current, In this stage, the Divine Presence or Life-Force is felt to exist independent of, or senior to, the body-mind. By cultivating a conscious relationship to this Presence, the spiritual practitioner begins to demonstrate and enjoy the spiritual qualities of faith, love, and surrender. Thus, devotional surrender to the Living Reality is the essential feature of the fourth stage of life. The individual is obliged to persist beyond religious conventions and traditions, as Master Da himself emphasizes, by means of “continuous and concentrated self-devotion via heartfelt feeling-attention to the Ultimate Reality.”‘

Stage Five

The fifth stage is associated with the mystical aspect of spirituality. The individual’s attention is withdrawn from the theatre of outerdirected experience and inverted upon the inner or subjective realm of experience, disclosing the “subtle physiology” of the brain-mind. The mystical ascent through the psychic centers of the body-mind is conditioned by the nervous system. Experience in this stage reaches its peak in the state of “conditional nirvikalpa samadhi,”2 or formless ecstasy. At this apex of the fifth stage, the individual has transcended his fascination with mental forms and images. Master Da comments further.

1. Da Free John, Nirvanasara, p. 188.

2. For a detailed explanation of this culminating experience of conventional Yoga, refer to

chapter 8 (pp. 90ff.).

In the fifth stage of life, yogic mysticism raises attention into the extremities of subtle experience-or the heavens of ascended knowledge. But Liberation in God is not Realized at that stage or by such means. In order for the Life-Current to cross the Divide between the body-mind and Infinity, the gesture of attention and the illusion of an independent conscious self must be utterly Dissolved in the true Self.

The highest extreme of the ascent of attention is called “nirvikalpa samadhi,” or total Absorption of self-consciousness in Radiant Transcendental Consciousness. But, in fact, the seed of differentiated self remains in such ascended Absorption of attention. Attention is yet extended outside the heart, or the root of self-consciousness, as a gesture toward an independent Object, and, therefore, such “samadhi” is not only temporary, but it remains a form of subject-object Contemplation.

The Enlightenment of the Whole Body, pp. 422-23

Stage Six

Through further spiritual growth, by means of the transcendence of the ego that has been disclosed in the experiences of the first five stages of life, the spiritual practitioner no longer presumes any illusion of independent psycho-physical existence, though still not freed from the primary ego-contraction (as the exclusive self-essence). The sixth stage of life, wherein self and attention are sacrificed in Truth, leads not to the annihilation of the self, but rather to awakening as the Self. Master Da Free John explains:

The sixth stage of life is the last of the progressive stages previous to Transcendental Awakening. It is the basic stage in which the transition is made from terrestrial and cosmic conceptions of the Divine or Real Being to conceptions of the Ultimate as the Transcendental Reality and Condition and Identity of all apparent beings and conditions. And the process of self-sacrifice is thus transformed from an effort that serves the development of knowledge and experience in the planes of the psycho-physical personality to a direct effort of utter self-transcendence.

Nirvanasara, p. 189

And:

In the sixth stage of life, the body-mind is simply relaxed into the Life-Current, and attention (the root or base of the mind) is inverted, away from gross and subtle states and objects of the body-mind, and toward its own Root, the ultimate Root of the ego-self, which is the “Witness” Consciousness (when attention is active) and also simple Consciousness (prior to objects and self-definition). The final result of this is conditional Self-Realization or the intuition of Radiant Transcendental Being via the exclusive self-essence (inverted away from all objects).

The Bodily Sacrifice of Attention, p. 30

When the heart-root is penetrated, there is a corresponding feeling-association in the living body. Thus, the devotee points to a place slightly to the right of the median of the chest, and slightly below the level of the nipple. That place epitomizes the “I”-sense, the whole bodily person. And it is the region wherein the “I”-sense of the complex body-mind is utterly transcended.

The Enlightenment of the Whole Body, p. 389

Stage Seven

During the first six stages of life, the various aspects of human potential are awakened and tested to the point of real maturity. But the complete sacrifice of the whole body-being into the Radiant Transcendental Being is realized in the seventh stage of life. The transcendental Self which was realized in the sixth stage is no longer pitted against the phenomenal world. The Self no longer seeks to remain concentrated in the heart-root, exclusive of all objects. The “eyes” of the heart open. The liberated “individual” now Realizes everything to be a modification of the Radiant Transcendental Being. The world is recognized as continuously arising in the Ultimate Being, which is coessential with the Self. Master Da Free John explains:

The significance of the seventh stage is that we are Transfigured in the perfect awakening of the heart, or absolute responsibility for the sense of independent existence, even as the body. We realize responsibility for the subjective ego in the early stages of development, but we become fully responsible for the body itself as the ego or “soul” in the sixth stage of life, in the stage of Self-realization, or jnana samadhi, which matures into Sahaj Samadhi. In that freedom the whole body-being becomes a sacrifice, and the body itself as ego is released into the Infinite. This sacrifice leads to the ultimate Translation of the whole body-being into the Divine Radiance, beyond all ordinary human destinies.

The Way That I Teach, p. 126

Thus, Master Da summarizes the samadhis of the seventh stage as follows:

In the seventh stage of life there is native or radical intuitive identification with Radiant Transcendental Being, the Identity of all beings (or subjects) and the Condition of all conditions (or objects). This intuitive identification (or Radical Self-Abiding) is directly Realized, entirely apart from any dissociative act of inversion. And, while so Abiding, if any conditions arise, or if any states of body-mind arise, they are simply recognized in the Radiant Transcendental Being (as transparent or nonbinding modifications of Itself). Such is Sahaj Samadhi, and it is inherently free of any apparent implications, limitations, or binding power of phenomenal conditions. If no conditions arise to the notice, there is simply Radiant Transcendental Being. Such is Bhava Samadhi, about Which nothing sufficient can be said, and there is not Anyone, Anything, or Anywhere beyond It to be Realized.

The Bodily Sacrifice of Attention, p. 30


 

Once fully Realized, the seventh stage of life becomes the perpetually Enlightened foundation of existence, even beyond death and in any future lifetimes. The gross body-mind is progressively Transfigured in Divine Radiance, and the subtle or higher mind becomes the vehicle of Transformation, wherein that Radiance manifests extraordinary powers and faculties (such as psychic and healing capacities, genius, longevity, etc.) as spontaneous expressions of Divine Self-Abiding. Ultimately, this continuous God-Realization leads to Divine Translation, or conversion of the individuated being beyond all phenomenal appearances into the “Divine Domain” of Radiant Life-Consciousness.

The seven stages of life thus mark the natural or structurally inevitable evolutionary development of human existence from ordinary egoic birth to the ultimate stages of God-Realization.