Many people, when apparently alone, have felt a presence and, on looking around, have seen nobody. Others have even seen people who had earlier died, often unknown to the observer. This idea of beings interested in us, yet rarely perceivable, can be a most consoling one. One learned sage, more observant than most, wrote, “Man is never less alone than when he is alone!”
During a period of several years when I lived alone, I was able to understand that statement and in fact I was never lonely. I believe that people who complain of being lonely are, in general, materialistic. Further, they have in many cases used their intellect but little in their lives. I have met old men, living alone, who did not know what it was to be lonely, not because they had plenty of company, they did not, but because they had disciplined their minds by acquiring skills and developing hobbies. Most importantly, though, they had practised the ability to sit in silence and think, or not think, at will. This is probably the most therapeutic action that anyone could take when alone.
Many people are surrounded by noise for twenty-four hours a day. They are virtually never in a quiet atmosphere. If they encounter silence, they will break it by creating a noise. As an example of this, a London man hired a canal boat for a week’s holiday. After spending one night in it in a peaceful, rural environment, he told the hirer that he had had enough and he was going home. When asked if there were something wrong with the boat, the man replied, “Oh,no. I awoke in the middle of the night and could hear absolutely nothing. I just can’t stand the silence”. I think it is a pity that people become dependent upon the presence of noise to remind them of their existence in the physical world. If they could regularly sit in silence for an hour or two at a time, they would eventually become aware of their real existence, the timeless one. In many homes, if the radio is not switched on, the television set is and, if that is not on, the record player or stereo outfit is.
Another factor in life that influences the thoughts and behaviour of people is that of age. Age is used as an excuse for inaction, in so many cases. This probably results from the commonly held belief that one is a body. The ageing of the body may be observed by all but what of the individual, the person him or her self? Do they age? If one can accept that one has always existed and always will, then age is irrelevant. So, in the eternity of infinity of which we are a part, we cannot age!
Ask any healthy, active old person how they feel and they will almost certainly tell you that they feel no different from the way that they felt in their twenties. If the physical body is giving trouble, then the reply might be different. We do not age! Only the physical body ages since it is dependent upon time cycles for its funtion. The sleep cycle and the skin-change cycle are but two examples.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, said on the subject of age, “The measurement of life by solar years robs youth and gives ugliness to age. The radiant sun of virtue and truth coexists with being. Manhood is its eternal noon, undimmed by a declining sun. Neither age nor accident can interfere with the senses of soul and there are no other real senses”.
This shrewd observer of the spiritual existence also said, “There is no life, truth, intelligence nor substance in matter”. She too, was thinking in terms of eternity. People sometimes say to me when discussing an activity such as swimming or sailing, “Oh, I’m too old for that sort of thing”. Often they are under fifty. My reply is that, if they really wanted to do something, they would not use age as an excuse for not doing it and that all one needs is the determination to succeed in addition to physical and mental health.
Many examples have been set by people of advancing years to prove the point, such as the eighty-year old man who crossed a high waterfall on a tight-rope and others who, in Britain, are taking degrees through the open university system. A woman of twenty-four told me recently that she did not want to live to be middle-aged. So effectively must she have been conditioned to believe that old age is undesirable that it had almost turned into a death-wish. To some, every advancing year is a penance. If only people would stop thinking of themselves as bodies, they could liberate themselves from the false yoke of age I have become happier as I have grown older. This has come about in proportion to the increase in my understanding of life and to the extent that I have discovered truths concerning my continued existence after the death of my body. To realise that there is no death has a deep effect that permeates thought and radically alters one’s outlook.
You are as old as you are and nothing can alter that. Age has no real significance. We all die. That is inevitable. Also, we all continue to exist and that is equally inevitable. Why not, then, just regard the moment of death as simply closing one door and opening another.
Alan Valiant, Supreme Spiritual Master