An Overview of the Seven Stages of Life

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Stage Three—Integration: In the early to mid teens, the third stage of life becomes established. The key development of this stage is the maturing of mental ability—the capacity to use mind and speech in abstract, conceptual ways—together with the power to use discrimination and to exercise the will. On the bodily level, puberty is continuing (having begun during the later years of the second stage of life) with all its attendant bodily and emotional changes.

The purpose of the third stage of life is the integration of the human character in body, emotion, and mind, so that the emerging adult becomes a fully differentiated, or autonomous, sexual and social human character. If the process of growth in the first and the second stages of life has proceeded unhindered, then this integration can take place naturally. If, however, there have been failures of adaptation in the earlier stages—a chronic feeling of being separate and unsustained or chronic feelings of being rejected or unloved, and consequent difficulties in relating happily to others—then the process of integration is disturbed.

In fact, in most individuals, the process of the third stage of life becomes an adolescent struggle between the conflicting motives to be dependent on others and to be independent of them. This adolescent drama tends to continue throughout adult life. It is one of the signs that growth has stopped, that the work of the third stage of life was never completed. The truly mature adult—someone who is characterized by equanimity, discriminative intelligence, heart-feeling, and the impulse to always continue to grow—tends never to develop, although a nominal adaptation to the first three stages of life is usually acknowledged by twenty-one years of age.

So how does one begin to grow again? By participating in a culture of living religious and Spiritual practice that understands and rightly nurtures each stage of development. This is Avatar Adi Da’s recommendation, and the circumstance that He has Worked to create for His devotees by establishing the Way of Adidam. Anyone, at any age, who chooses the Way of Adidam can begin the process of understanding and transcending the limits of his or her growth in the first three stages of life and in all the stages of life that follow.

Avatar Adi Da refers to the first three stages of life as the “foundation stages”, because the ordeal of growth into human maturity is mere preparation for something far greater—for Spiritual awakening, and, ultimately, for Divine Enlightenment. This greater process begins to flower in the fourth stage of life on the basis of a profound conversion to love.