As an individual outwardly passes through five different stages of life, so inwardly a soul passes through five different stages of life. As there is infancy, childhood, youth, middle age, and advanced years, so there is an unfoldment of the soul which shows five stages towards the ripening of the soul. And therefore, whatever be the age outwardly, the soul can have its own stage of development; it does not depend upon the outer age. There is one time when the life to a soul is attractive; there is another stage when the life to the soul is tempting; there is another stage when life to the soul is bewilderment; there is another stage when life to the soul is futile; and there is another stage when life to the soul is most beautiful.
It is the soul’s infancy when the life to the soul is attractive. Everything, right or wrong, good or bad, has an attraction for that soul. It is ready to jump in a pit, to fall in a ditch, to run into thorns, to fall in mud, everything is attractive, good or bad, whatever comes along. That is the soul’s infancy. The soul at that time is new and vigorous, appreciative and observing, just like an infant. For an infant even fire is most beautiful, it would like to put some fire in the pocket. And that is the condition of the generality [i.e. the general public]. You must never think that infant souls are seldom to be found, you must know that the largest number of humanity is infant souls.
I will never forget, one day in Calcutta I saw a Madzub standing in the midst of the street, laughing whole-heartedly. No one would know what was there for this Madzub to laugh; there was nothing apparent. But it took me some time to find out what made him laugh so, and I found out that everything made him laugh: the running of people so absorbed and involved in their little fancies and their interest in life; the great importance that every person gave to the little things of life which amount to very little in the end. And to see them so excited and so absorbed in their little fancies, that was enough for the Madzub to laugh for hours together and amuse himself. Anyone tuned to that pitch sees from there how it looks. Before him it was a doll’s play.
And then comes an age when everything does not attract the soul. All that the soul has taken to heart, it is that which attracts. “Their heart is where their treasure is.” That is the time when comes temptation. Everything that one desires, one wishes to have, one values, one gives importance to, it is that after which one goes, and that is where is his temptation. What very often happens is a disappointment. But still if one thing disappoints, there is another temptation again to make him forget his disappointment; there is something else. And so he goes on, one thing after another. Always building hopes, always fixing his mind upon things, always finding that it came to nothing, and again always ready to be given into temptations. And so he goes on through life. There is never an end to his temptations: if not one thing, then another thing. And there is never satisfaction gained in the things that he is tempted with; for they are only the shadows, covering reality.
And there is a third stage, that which is likened to the middle age of the soul, when life is not necessarily attractive, not tempting; it is wonderful. It offers him an interest to look through it, to study it, to understand it, and this very world in which he has lived several years then begins to change at every moment. His field of study becomes vast; every experience, every condition, every action, every person teaches him. What he has learned today he unlearns tomorrow, because there is another experience, a new experience, perhaps contrary to what he knew yesterday. And so he goes along the way of unfoldment, and life offers greater and greater wonder in all things one sees. He observes and he sees and he wonders, and at times he is completely bewildered at it: nnature apart, its mystery, its secret, its character aside, human nature that one sees from morning till evening, the ways of the wise, and the ways of the foolish, and the ways of the right doer and the wrong doer, and how things change and turn, and hide and manifest. It gives him so much to think about and to study and to observe, that not one moment in his life seems to have been wasted; it is filled with a wonderful vision.
Then there is a stage further, when the soul begins to lift the curtain which hides hopes. He begins to lift, so to speak, the curtain which hides human nature. It seems as if a veil is lifted from all things and from all conditions, and that the colors which once seemed bright become faded, the light of gems and jewels becomes pale. He sees behind the attachments and detachments, and love and hate, the threads sustaining them. He sees, as Omar Khayyam says, “A hair’s difference between the right and wrong.” Heaven and earth seem to him touching one another. Gulfs between things which are opposite have been removed from his sight. Then he begins to feel indifferent, he begins to feel independent. He is not hurt at the pinpricks of everyday life, nor he feels exalted by red roses. He builds hopes, but not as every person. He has only one hope, and that hope is in reality; all other hopes for him mean nothing. His indifference is not unfriendly, his independence is not conceited. By indifference he does not neglect others, only his indifference is his independence. He does not mind if he is neglected. By his indifference he does not avoid doing all he must do for others. Only he is independent of the doing of the others for himself. It is that right kind of indifference and independence which is called in the language of Hindus “Vairagya.” This spirit becomes developed.
And then follows that ideal stage of the soul’s unfoldment. When the world with all the limitations and persons with all their faults, they are all tolerated, they are all forgiven. There is a continual expression of sympathy and love, which continue to expand just like a little pool of water expanding and turning into an ocean. And in this expansion the divine spirit expands; and man, with all his limitations, stands only as a lover, hiding that divine perfection which is expanding behind it. To that soul the world is not attracting, nor tempting, neither is it wonderful, nor futile; it is most beautiful.
“God is beautiful, and He loves Beauty.”