Age In Relation to Discipleship
Printed in The Beacon July 1971 and November 1999
by M. F. Haselhurst
IT IS STRANGE HOW STRONG an influence age, physical age, the age of the body, not of the soul, has on what could well be crucial points of discipleship training. Men and women negotiate years of necessarily divided effort, of meeting family and social commitments as well as the demands of esoteric effort, and then, in the years of splendid opportunity, when outer obligations lessen, and external demands on time and attention diminish, turn their backs on, close their minds to, the opportunities which are opening. All because of this so powerful illusion of "old age".
It is a tragic loss to the world esoteric group that so many students either lay their work aside, or decrease its intensity, at the precise point in time when they are being presented with opportunity on a wider scale than ever before. Instead of regarding physical age as a period of withdrawal, a time when life is closing in, becoming limited, quiet and restricted, disciples should realise that what is really happening is that spiritual opportunities are multiplying; the vistas of the soul are spreading in increasing glory, as the barriers of smaller daily duties fall away, leaving them free to live as souls. Margaret Forbes wrote a prayer that could have been directed at disciples at this point of their training:
"Not to protected situations guide us. God of All,
Available for guidance also is the clear, unequivocal statement of the Tibetan teacher that the soul can work more easily through bodies long disciplined to its use, than through those that are younger. The factor of paramount importance is that point of conscious awareness, which has to be shifted beyond normal human levels. What better period for this to be consummated than the years in which desire atrophies, duties decrease, and time pressures are miraculously eased?
These are the disciple’s years of opportunity; opportunity to expand existent efforts and to initiate new ones. Now he has precious hours in which the energy of thought can be used creatively, and work in meditation can be deepened. These should be years of radiation, of purposeful expression; years in which the disciple finds, possibly to his own amazement, that he has developed capacities which now can be used to reveal and to radiate the love and light, the will and purpose, of that Divine Self of which he is a fragmentary expression.
In youth and middle age the aspirant and disciple are called upon to cope with diverse, outwardly-oriented commitments. There are demands from family and friends, social obligations, the complicated process of earning a living, bringing up children, meeting the demands of his external environment. All these things distract (rightly, but still distract) attention from the core objective of living as a soul, of directing spiritual energies, of learning to recognise, realise and release, spiritual truth.
If an individual has been a student for many lifetimes, he will have developed considerable skill in maintaining consciousness beyond these limitations, and will be able to use them with some degree of facility as aspects of his esoteric work. For the individual who is taking up esoteric study for the first time, or who is at least relatively new to it, such duties and obligations come between him and his purpose deflecting, temporarily, attention and energy he would fain give to esoteric effort.
It is, of course, only an apparent interruption. Actually, he is training himself in the skills, aptitudes and qualities he needs to unfold or to strengthen, if the soul is to work with maximum efficiency through its outer instrument, the integrated personality. These outer-plane obligations, rightly fulfilled, lead to the atrophy and subsequent discarding of undesirable and hindering character components.
Years of Opportunity
Nonetheless, for a period of the life span or incarnation, a great deal of attention is necessarily centred in the present point of awareness, the world of daily effort and demand. How gladly, then, should disciples welcome the coming of that period usually referred to as "old age" and linked in men’s minds with limitation. Here, in this period of "old age", the years of opportunity are opening. They are years in which the disciple is free to shift his training programme to a higher level, to focus his conscious awareness much more permanently beyond immediate necessities. Now is the era when outer duties, commitments, interests, are the temporary expressions of a life carried consciously forward beyond (or is it above or within?) these limiting obligations.
Words matter little. The fact is that the soul enters into its own. It is free to dominate, with very little interruption, its so carefully integrated vehicles; to flood them with its divine, enduring, eternal life as it demonstrates its reality by means of the phenomenal appearance.
These are not poetic concepts, conceived as youth looks at an idealised old age. They represent the factual experience of a student who has walked the Way for a long lifetime, and now faces those seemingly desolate years which are crying aloud to be mined for their spiritual wealth.
The Tibetan says flatly and categorically that physical fatigue need not necessarily impair, in any way, the disciple’s usefulness, since disciples have a curious capacity to continue with their work no matter what may be happening to them physically. They learn to live with physical disabilities under adverse conditions, and still maintain their work on a high level.
Part of the training of a disciple consists of learning to tune into, to recognise and to precipitate those emergent divine ideas with which the Hierarchy aims to seed the thinking of humanity. These must then be translated into the concepts which will condition human thought in the cycle just ahead. Such work demands a trained sense of timing, capacity to refrain from precipitate or premature action. How clearly this lights up the opportunity lying open to "older" disciples, who have trained themselves to patience, and have learned from experience how deceptive are the time values which condition much outer action.
In his book Discipleship in the New Age,Vol. II, pp. 502-4, the Tibetan sets out with great clarity the reasons why a disciple should continue his work in the later stages of an incarnation, pushing on "in spite of fatigue and the increasing ‘creaking’ of the human apparatus". Epitomised, these reasons are:
Following these three "needs" there is a threefold statement which defines with almost cruel clarity the heights toward which disciples should be climbing, heights from which neither physical age nor physical weariness should be allowed to keep them.
"For any disciple in my ashram", we are told, "the problem in this time of world crisis is peculiarly urgent for the following reasons:
a. through my ashram (working under the inspiration of that of the Master K.H.) the newer esoteric presentation of truth is to be given out, and this will make much of the older teaching exoteric.
b. consequently disciples in my ashram have a dual responsibility; to stand steady in a preservation of
Reading such words, how can any disciple look on his years of "old age" as anything but a time of splendid, specialised opportunity, a time-bonus to be spent with royal generosity as he continues his unending quest?
c. the final point of this trilogy stresses the terrific re-adjustments in human consciousness "incident to the inauguration of a new culture, civilisation, and world religion", and stresses the opportunity to preserve intact and free from all deterioration the state of mind of the members of the ashram throughout the remaining years of this life, through the process of dissolution, and on into the freedom of the other side of the veil. This preservation of conscious integrity is no easy task; it requires understanding and most deliberate effort.
As if all this were not sufficient incentive to perseverance, we have this further plea from the Tibetan:
I would ask you, as life proceeds and you face eventually and inevitably the discarding of the vehicle, to hold increasingly on to your knowledge of the Hierarchy, and thus to pass over to the other side with complete dedication to the hierarchical plan...this is an attempt on my part to call to your attention the concept of a spiritual continuity of knowledge and of a rightly oriented attitude. Thus time will not be lost; you can . . . attain a true continuity of consciousness and it is one of the factors which will serve to hold this group of disciples together.
And we have the further promise that "when the student or disciple returns to incarnation this knowledge (stored in the soul’s content) will be usefully available".
Here is indicated the type and scope of the work the Masters aim to accomplish through their disciples for mankind. It is work which they can outline and indicate, for which the needed training is available, but which, in the last analysis, must be done through, carried out by, their disciples. And chiefly, perhaps, through those disciples of long standing who, having worked for many years, are now at the point where the vital shift of consciousness can take place, making possible the new and necessary recognitions and realisations. For it must be remembered that it is the disciple who has established a usable contact with his soul, of which he can avail himself at any time he so chooses, who can begin to register impressions coming directly to him from the Master.
Again turning to the Tibetan Master, we are told that one of his functions is to "anchor ideas in the mind of man and carry down into the realm of words certain emerging concepts, so that they may begin to influence the higher levels of thinkers. These latter are responsible for precipitating the ideas into the human consciousness".
Surely it is to the "old-age" group of disciples that he should be able to look for the needed human co-operation. To a great measure they stand free of the demands of group affiliations and family responsibilities. They have time; they have brain cells conditioned to the required high vibratory level, and they have that so rare other necessity, long, quiet periods of alone-ness during which research can be prosecuted, meditative thought deepened and intuitive response to divine ideas cultivated.
It needs to be remembered that the Tibetan has given as his further objective the task of writing "for the generation which will come into active thought expression at the end of this century, and which will inaugurate the new age which will start with certain premises which today are the dream of the more exalted dreamers".
The end of the century is now on our doorstep, and if these new thinkers are to accomplish their destiny they will need the understanding and support of those who can bridge between the emergent new age and the age that is passing away. Here, again, is dynamic opportunity for disciples in the older age brackets. They can be alert to note any genuine expression of this "new" presentation (which will, after all, be merely the Ageless Wisdom they know so well in a new dress); to encourage those who voice these new expressions, and to give aid in spreading the proclamation. They can stand ready, also, to uphold the new workers, who are likely to face difficulties of many types, to encounter opposition, and to stand in sore need of the understanding, fellowship, and wise guidance which "old" disciples, who are maintaining actively their inner links, will be able to give.
Consider carefully the Tibetan’s statement that the major task of aspirants "is to cultivate the higher sensitivity; to render themselves so pure and selfless that the mind remains undisturbed by the happenings in the three worlds" and that they should seek that attentive spiritual sense that will enable them to be impressed, and then to interpret correctly the impressions received.
It is true that disciples immersed in world activity may have achieved so stable a mental orientation that their minds are "undisturbed by the happenings in the three worlds". This is, nonetheless, a condition more likely to demonstrate when the demands of outer service have decreased, and the mind can be turned steadily toward that reality which enfolds all happenings within itself.
Here, again, the opportunity, the privilege, facing disciples in the older age groups is made clear. They need only to forget the established concepts, the clichés. the attitudes of withdrawal and limitation, which normally colour and influence their assessments of service opportunities at this later stage of their life span. In discarding these habit-produced bonds they find themselves free to act within widening realisations, and to exploit fully the highly specialised fields of service now open to them.
A Continuing Experience
The point of over-riding importance is realisation of life as a continuing process, of discipleship as a continuing experience. The journey is one, though the scenery changes and the conditions fluctuate. Today’s thoughts, attitudes, approaches, efforts, are rooted in the past but are also sending strong growth toward the future. Today’s efforts are not a desperate clinging to a hope one dare not abandon. They are part of a process which flows from one life to another, from one phase of living to another. If the next demonstration is to achieve maximum efficiency in its early stages, present effort must be continued as long as the physical vehicle is capable of response to the impulses of the soul.
There is a tremendous challenge in the years of "old age" service, because spiritual work is essentially subjective work, and the years of "age" are the years when subjective effort can be developed enormously. "You can", says the Tibetan, "help construct the thought form of the new age teaching; you do this above all by your thought, by your practical application of any truth which you may have understood to your personal life at any cost; by your sacrifice and your service to your fellowmen, and by the constant dissemination of any knowledge which you may possess."
This is an achievable objective. All that is needed is to hold firmly to the recognition that the soul knows no age, and can use its instrument for as long as that instrument is maintained as a useful and usable tool.
In these special years it is very necessary to remember that "work" is not synonymous with physical plane activity. We have a most clear directive which relates to the how of this later-age effort. "Work through others. This is the way the Hierarchy works, watching and suggesting, and developing the innate faculty of prevision...train others to do the detailed work and work yourself behind the scenes, as we work."
This is not an easy task. There is no glamour in it, no lure and thrill of public acclamation, no colourful panoply of outer show. It is almost purely will-inspired effort, and so represents the next great shift of motivation and energy-use that disciples are required to achieve. It is a tremendous challenge. It means active effort to play one’s part in establishing the required re-focusing of the point of conscious awareness. It demands deliberate effort to register and transmit divine ideas, regardless of the possibly devastating effect these may have on established life patterns. It means going forward as if one knew life as a continuing, expanding, total experience, a wholeness in which each fragment has unique value provided it is rightly blended with all others. It means living purposefully every minute of every day, knowing that in this way, with this co-operation, divine purpose will eventually demonstrate in the world of men. [-]