Friday, November 2, 2012

Maturity of Beings

So I'm currently working on some essay questions for my philosophy class and one of the questions I'm attempting to answer is the origin of my belief in reincarnation. In doing some research on terminology with which to express my argument I found this explanation of the differences and characteristics of the different levels of spiritual maturity. Thought I would post it here because everyone should read this whether you believe any of it or not.

Infant Soul
            Those undergoing the first stage of reincarnation are known as infant souls. Raw, primitive, unsophisticated, they are the novices of physical existence, learning to get used to life in physical form.
            Any soul that volunteers for the journey of reincarnation is courageous indeed. It is a journey of many steps, many difficult lives, many births and deaths — often traumatic. Yet those who are relatively new to the journey are still close to that cosmic urge to experience, learn and evolve. They have more enthusiasm for life than most of us.
            All stages of reincarnation confront the individual soul with certain choices. At this first stage the focus is very much on choices to do with moment-by-moment physical existence and survival. Infant souls are learning to adapt to the human form and to the world around them. There is an emphasis on very basic life-skills, both individually (food, shelter and so on) and as a family or small tribe (protection and reproduction). The major lessons for the soul are to do with experiencing oneself as a separate physical being with one’s own needs and limitations, interacting with a physical environment and with other physical beings, both caring and threatening.


            Since the focus at this stage is to become acquainted with the nature of choice in a physical world, infant souls prefer to live in environments where the culture and the technology are very primitive. Hence, they do not often incarnate in advanced societies, finding modern civilization and lifestyles too complex. Rather, they tend to choose simple lives in raw, natural environments. (Think of remote tribes in places like Papua New Guinea.)
            If living within a modern society, they tend to live on the fringes. Because they lack the rigid social awareness of Baby souls, they can easily transgress accepted moral standards without realizing. They may end up as criminals without even understanding what that means. Hence they might come to be regarded as dangerous sub-humans, or psychopaths, or treated as the “village idiot”. (An infamous example here would be the incestuous serial killer Fred West.)
            That said, there is in infant souls a natural instinct to nurture and care for one’s family, and this is the first opportunity for a form of love to be expressed and experienced in the realm of human separateness. The more we are willing to hold and care for one another, the more we find the terrifying sense of separateness and aloneness diminishes. With this emphasis on the benefits of physical care, it is natural that Server souls adapt to the physical plane more readily than any other soul type. Infant souls probably make up less that 10% of the world’s population.

Infant Soul Perceptions

            The Infant soul’s perceptions derive primarily from the raw sensations of physical embodiment and encounters with a physical environment. The sense of self, others and life is at its most basic. Life is perceived in terms of “ME” versus “NOT-ME” — the body and its environment. There is much fear and little comprehension, other than that they are in a strange and often hostile environment. At the same time, however, the infant soul is still close to the original state of oneness with all-that-is. Having little experience of physical separation as yet, the infant soul retains an inward sense of cosmic connectedness.
The soul that is newly cast from the Tao retains some of that essential alliance with the Tao not unlike the human infant’s closeness to its mother, but the human infant is not aware that it is far from the goal and the newly cast soul is. The ladder must be climbed and the infant soul is aware of this.
Messages From Michael (pp. 43-44)

            Because of their remnant closeness to Home, individuals at this stage also tend to have animistic perceptions. That is, they will readily attribute spirit (consciousness, mind, will) to anything and everything in the physical world — animals, plants, rocks, clouds, flames, etc. The environment is perceived  as consisting of many different agencies who can be either helpful or dangerous — tree spirits and so on. This sense of immersion in living consciousness is often expressed in tribal art and ritual. It is gradually lost during the infant soul stage, and will not be regained until the fifth (old soul) stage, thousands of years later.
 Baby Souls
            Those undergoing the second stage of reincarnation are known as “baby” souls. Lessons during this stage are to do with adapting to the rules and customs of life in an orderly, civilized society.
Lessons of the second stage
            In the second level of soul development, the focus of human life is no longer on day-to-day physical survival but on participating in a social structure that provides order, security and a sense of belonging.
            The major lessons revolve around reconciling one’s immediate personal will  with the greater collective will — often making sacrifices so as to create a  more stable and organised way of living than that at the more primitive infant  stage. This stage emphasizes self-control, restraint and compliance, taming one’s personal, short-term impulses for the benefit of long-term  stability and security. There is a  sense of playing a meaningful role, doing something of value, and  belonging to something that is greater than oneself. Life in society is a system of give and take, and here the  emphasis is on learning to give, thereby supporting the greater good.
In Freudian terms, it’s about having a superego to tame the id. The ego is not yet in focus.
            It is natural for us to seek order in life’s apparent chaos. And at this level of consciousness, we impose order. An order that is simple and absolute.
            A baby soul adopts fixed, permanent structures such as strict rules, enforced law and  order, and rigidly defined roles, including gender roles. All things perceived must be consistent with this rigid framework. If the facts appear to challenge one’s beliefs, the facts must be wrong since the belief system is always “right”. If the Bible says the world was created in seven days, that is The Truth and any evidence to the contrary must be the work of Satan. All actions, too, must be consistent with a clearly defined set of rules. As a result,  baby souls tend think of behavior in  terms of simple dualisms: good  vs. bad, right vs. wrong, us vs. them.  For example, if  being clean is better than being dirty, then cleanliness is absolutely good while dirtiness is absolutely wicked. There are no sliding scales or  grey areas.
Us versus Them
At the previous stage (as an infant soul), the environment was perceived in terms of beings that either help or hinder one’s survival. For the baby soul, however, the world is divided into the uncivilized physical environment versus civilized society. And society consists of good or bad “actors” — human beings who deliberately act in either a good way or a bad way. And so the world at large now consists of two kinds of people: “us” versus “them”,  we who do it right versus those who don’t. We, the decent law-abiding people, versus “the  rest”.
            In psychological terms, the baby soul’s sense of self is culturally embedded — ”I am one of us” — where “us” means others who think and act like me. The sense of personal identity is  also predefined by one’s role in society (e.g., “I am the farmer’s wife”). Similarly, beliefs are predefined by the culture, and actions are predefined by the laws and rules of society. Baby souls do not, as yet, focus on setting their own perspectives, motives or agenda. (That all comes at stage 3.)
            Whereas the infant soul flourishes in some sort of “Garden of Eden” environment, the baby soul likes to be very civilized, finding its feet in a perfectly ordered, rule-bound society. Think of anything from the American Deep South to the Taliban. The various lives undertaken at this stage will generally focus on  law and order, morality, organized religion, ethnic tradition, and being  in a close-knit community. Childhood will typically include  indoctrination into a set of well-defined rules, beliefs and values. Education will tend to be marked by dogmatism, discipline, and a sense of propriety. That said, the soul learns by experiencing both sides of any issue, so there are likely to be incarnations at this stage as criminals and outlaws as well as law abiding citizens, particularly in the early levels.
            Baby soul behavior is heavily colored by a sense of what is correct or acceptable. There is only one right way to do  anything, so let’s do it right or not at all. As  individuals, they are primarily interested in doing what is  deemed  right come what may. Their sense of rightness is largely dictated. by their background and upbringing, and may be extremely conservative, hard-line and xenophobic. A baby soul could, for example, work as a professional torturer and do so with a great sense of righteousness. Because of their rigid beliefs and values, baby souls risk feeling unbearable lifelong shame should  they ever do   something which they believe to be wrong, such as blaspheming or dishonoring the family name.
            For some, this absolute rigidity and inflexibility creates considerable inner tension and conflict (potentially  leading to mental illness). Baby souls can be prone to rage at and excessively punish others who transgress the law, just as a way to take the heat off their own conflicts. Generally, baby souls prefer to stick to their own ethnic  kind within small, quiet towns. They can get by in the modern world, though much of it is not  to their liking. They are not so comfortable in the big  city with all its complexities, ambiguous rules and sinful temptations. Ideally, baby souls would probably like to live together in a sort of  ”Pleasantville” town where life is completely safe and orderly and where there are no troublesome outsiders or free-spirited types breaking the rules.

            In some ways, baby souls represent the pinnacle of civilization. Indeed, the rules and laws that underpin modern society stem from the baby soul impulse to organize community life. But with their fixation on rules, hygiene, and upright moral behavior, they can come across to older souls as distinctly old-fashioned, “uncool”, and “anal”. As a mark of their civilized nature, baby souls like to keep their  homes and themselves especially clean and germ-free, to a degree which  others might regard as obsessive or paranoid. They also tend to dress the same as their fellow community members, as tradition dictates, rather than display any individualism. The whole point is to fit in, not stand out. Because their own ethnic beliefs and traditions are assumed without question to be the only true and right way, baby souls tend to distrust other cultures. In the USA, for example, they make up much of the Christian Right and the “Moral Majority”.
How do baby souls get on with souls at other levels? Not very comfortably.
            Infant souls represent the “uncivilized” aspect of human nature which baby souls are trying to get away from. Young souls are difficult because of their insistence on progress and change, which challenges the baby soul’s desire for stability, permanence and continuity. In addition, young souls are often fixated on ego gratification and personal advancement, which baby souls tend to regard as distasteful and ungodly. And to baby souls, mature and old souls with their complex and liberal ways are simply incomprehensible — the Devil’s spawn.
            With their need for a sense of cosmic order, baby souls are often highly religious. They are usually God-fearing in the most literal sense, both absolutist and fundamentalist. They tend to personify God as the ultimate authority figure who doles out punishments to sinners. Baby souls will tend to regard their religious leaders as infallible and their scriptures as the literal word of God. The religion into which they are born is assumed without question to be the one true religion (even though in each lifetime they might be born into a completely different religion). Because of their overriding sense of order, baby souls like to do everything right and by-the-book — literally, in the sense of the Bible, the Koran and so on. But, rather like toddlers, they are also prone to enraged tantrums when their rigidly defined expectations are not met, such as when their concept of morality is violated or their religious beliefs are attacked.
Some famous baby souls
            Baby souls tend to shun the temptations of fame and fortune so beloved of Young souls, so there are not that many Baby souls who could be classed as “celebrities”. One example, though, is the American singer Pat Boone (b. 1934), a Baby Artisan. There are, however, numerous well-known historical figures. Most notorious was Adolf Hitler, a Baby Priest who acted out his toddler rage across Europe, declaring it was Germany’s duty to rid the land of “filthy” Jews and other “unclean” human beings. Some other high-ranking baby souls of recent history include US President Richard Nixon and Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran. Sarah Palin is a Baby King soul who appears to feel a calling to high office.
            Not surprisingly, conventional religion abounds with baby souls, and many have made a name for themselves as outstanding preachers. Their teachings tend to have a paranoid, fire-and-brimstone flavor and often portray life as an apocalyptic battleground between Good and Evil, Light and Dark, God and Satan.
            A good example is the fundamentalist Protestant evangelist Billy James Hargis (1925-2004), who was a forerunner of the Christian Right in the USA. In the 1950s and 1960s, his Christian Crusade ministry was broadcast on more than 500 radio stations and 250 television stations. Hargis portrayed national and world events as part of a cosmic struggle between Christ, represented by America, and Satan, represented by Communism. Typical of many Baby souls, he saw the purity of his religion under constant threat from various forms of evil. His motto was “All I want to do is preach Jesus and save America.”

            Ken Ham is an example of a baby soul who has attracted a lot of attention for taking on the scientific establishment in what is actually an exercise in sticking defiantly to the script. His “mission” is to defend the Biblical account of Creation from the onslaught of scientific evidence against it. He maintains that there were dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark, for example.

Young Soul

            Those undergoing the third stage of reincarnation are known as young souls. At this stage, life is about asserting oneself as an individual in the world at large. Hence, young souls tend to be ambitious, materialistic and highly driven.

The Ego Has Landed

            Young souls are learning to be independent actors in the world, exercising their free will. Hence, there is a major emphasis on self-assertion and self-advancement, freeing oneself from limiting structures, finding one’s own strengths, discovering “what I’m made of”. The main lesson for souls in the third stage of their evolvement is to do with exploring and expressing individuality, discovering the power of independence in thought, will and action. There is a strong desire to make a personal impact on the outer world, so the focus is very much outwards and with a lot of energy. At the same time, there is a tendency to over-compare oneself to others, evaluating self-worth in terms of “my” achievements relative to “their” achievements. This outwardly-fixated sense of self, the ego, drives a determination to be a “winner” — and to be seen to win. The danger is that the appearance of success can become more important than anything else, including even happiness.

Young Soul Perceptions

            Recall that for the baby soul (at stage 2), the world is perceived in terms of us versus them. For the young soul, however, the world consists of distinct individuals, each with a mind of their own, each with their own agenda. The young soul’s sense of self is as an individual who stands in contrast to other individuals — I am not you, you are not me. Life is therefore perceived as a contest between competing individuals: me versus you and you and you … Or between competing agendas: my way versus your way. And whereas baby souls automatically adopt the beliefs and values of their native tradition, young souls are busy developing their own perspective and agenda, their own way of seeing things and doing things. By asserting their own perspective, they can change what the world believes to be true. By pushing their own agenda, they can determine what happens in the world. They are self-determined agents of change.
            Because young souls’ opinions are of their own making — based on their own knowledge and reasoning — they will naturally feel that their own opinions are inherently right and correct. As a result, anyone with a different opinion is presumably wrong. But because others’ opinions too, right or wrong, can determine what happens in the world, there is a constant sense of competition, and hence a feeling that those who disagree ought to be put right, or put down, or at least proven wrong.
So, for the young soul, “My way is the right way. I know it is because I can see it for myself. So let’s all do it my way.”
            What young souls do not recognize as yet is that all perspectives are equally valid. They are completely identified with their own perspective, certain that theirs is the right way to perceive and to act.

Young Soul Lifestyle

            Young souls are drawn to live in highly competitive environments in which they can push themselves, assert themselves, and prove themselves. Frantic, materialistic cities like Hong Kong and Los Angeles are young soul hotbeds. Because young souls can perceive life as a contest between ambitious individuals, the ideal outcome for many would be to succeed very loudly and visibly so that everyone knows who “the winner” is. Hence, young souls are attracted to material signs of success — fame, wealth, power, glory.

Other Young Soul Characteristics

At this level, love between individuals can be experienced as a reciprocal offering of goodwill:
 I make you feel good, you make me feel good, let’s keep making each other feel good.
            It is also a feeling that can be extended to others who are not directly known to oneself, or to abstractions. For example, one can feel great patriotic love (reciprocal goodwill) for one’s country. As artists and performers, young souls are attracted more to fame and fortune than to seeking meaningful insights into the human condition.
            There is nothing wrong with any of this, by the way. It is a natural and necessary stage of soul evolution for all of us. The audacious ambition and competitiveness of young souls may be distasteful to both baby and mature souls (for different reasons), but it serves to bring out the best in us as powerful individuals — inventiveness, confidence, enterprise. Many of the world’s most remarkable achievements, from ancient empires to the Moon landings, have been young soul projects.

Some Famous Young Souls

            Because they make it their business to succeed in life, there have been a great many prominent and well-known young souls in history.
            One of the most famous figures of antiquity, Alexander the Great was a Young King soul (as well as a young king in life!) who created one of the ancient world’s largest empires. The Young Priest soul Napoléon Bonaparte (below left) led France to take on every other major European power. He was both a tyrant to some and a brilliant military-political leader to others. Another prominent Young Priest in history was the Roman Emperor Constantine (above right) who, according to at least one Michael channel (Holly Coleman), is now the Mature Priest known as Barack Obama. As national leaders, young souls tend to perceive other nations as rivals in a contest. Many wars have been started by young soul opportunists, such as Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War and George W. Bush in the second. Other Young soul leaders in recent history include John F. Kennedy, Mao Tse Tung, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton and Silvio Berlusconi.
 In the entertainment world there are many Young soul celebrities, including Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, John Travolta, Tom Cruise,Eddie MurphyBeyonce and 50 Cent (and in fact most rap artists).
Not all famous entertainers are necessarily Young souls, however. Almost just as many are Mature souls.

Mature Soul
            Those undergoing the fourth stage of reincarnation are known as mature souls. At this stage, life is about embracing otherness — other perspectives, other people, other cultures, other parts of one’s own being.

Knowing Me, Knowing You

            The lives of mature souls focus on exploring the true nature of self, life and especially others. Reaching beyond the forthright independence of the third stage, the major challenge at this fourth stage is to discover how to live inter-dependently with others, and otherness in general.
So …
·         Whereas the young soul focuses on being assertive, competitive and successful, the mature soul focuses on being sensitive, cooperative and authentic.
·         Whereas a young soul insists that its own perspective is right, the mature soul recognizes that other perspectives are equally valid.
·         Whereas for the young soul self-interest is all-important, the mature soul is more concerned with the self-other relationship.

Mature Soul Perceptions

            The mature soul develops an ever-deepening sense of both self and others. Life is no longer simply a matter of what happens out there in the world, but also what is going on “in here”, where we are coming from, what it all means. Through understanding more and more of its own psychology, the mature soul also learns about what makes others tick. They comes to recognize that all others are their equals, at least on the inside. In fact, their own perspective is nothing but one among many equally valid perspectives. In other words:
I see life from my perspective and you see life from your perspective. I accept that my point of view is just another perspective, and not necessarily the only ‘correct’ one. All perspectives are equally valid. And we can arrive at mutual understanding by sharing our perspectives with each other.


            At this level there is also the development of empathy — appreciating others’ experiences from their perspective.
I can appreciate how you experience life. I can perceive life as you perceive it. I know how you feel, and I understand why. Though our perceptions are not the same, we are all the same on the inside.
But the mature soul’s sense of self can become confusing because of this empathy with others:
I am very aware of how you perceive me, how you feel about me. I can also identify with you, yet I am not you. So who am I?
            The mature soul keeps being reminded that all perspectives are valid but not necessarily correct, and that there are perspectives on perspectives on perspectives… So begins the search for a deeper truth that will ultimately lead back to oneness.

Other Mature Soul Characteristics

            In contrast to the outward-bound adventures of the young soul, there is at this level an inward focus on perceptions, meanings, issues, relationships and the meaning of life.
            Mature souls seek understanding, authenticity and integrity, especially in relationships, but also in other aspects of life including art and spirituality. They come to appreciate both the diversity and complexity of life, but there can be a lot of ‘naval gazing’ as they struggle to get to the bottom of it all. Because of their willingness to accept and include others, and their empathy for others’ experiences, mature souls can be overly self-critical at times. While young souls tend to blame anyone but themselves for their own problems, mature souls will readily look for their own faults.     And whereas young souls like to have their own opinions and assert them forcibly, mature souls are more ambivalent when it comes to taking sides on any issue. At the beginning of the stage, they will tend to reject and criticize the competitive, materialistic thrust of young soul culture. (Ironically, many mature soul writers, artists and performers have achieved fame and fortune this way.) But by the end of the stage – sensitive to life’s complexities – the very fact of holding a strong black-and-white opinion for or against anything (even against young soul culture!) comes to seem dubious and even absurd. So rather than being cleverly sarcastic about those with alternative or less sophisticated views, the mature soul becomes more ironic and self-deprecating in their sense of humor.

Mature Soul Relationships

            More than any at other soul stage, mature souls are likely to bond for life in a positive, loving, intimate partnership. It is a time for soul mates to get together and help each other work through their issues to create a mature, healthy relationship. At this level, love is generally experienced and expressed as appreciation, a genuine acceptance of the otherness of another.
Irrespective of whether you make me feel good or not, and irrespective of how you feel about me, I love you for who you are.
            The mature soul is attracted to opportunities to express this appreciation of otherness, or diversity, the more unfamiliar and ‘alien’ the better. For example, one may develop a love of exotic wildlife or of foreign cultures.

Mature Soul Lifestyles

            Mature souls can have sophisticated, avant-garde or post-modern sensibilities, but in private they may struggle with basic emotional issues. Because life is now all about optimizing one’s relationships with anything and everything, mature souls can find life to be intensely complex and stressful, filled with emotional turmoil, sometimes overwhelmingly so. Inner conflict is very common. Hence there is often a need to find time and space for introspection, or psychotherapy, or perhaps an artistic outlet, to confront the confusion and negativity within oneself. Hence also a desire to keep well away from both the enforced limitations of baby soul cultures and the me-first competitiveness of young soul cultures. Do it any place but here is the mature soul motto, and this often shows in their facial expression. There also emerges at this level a desire to explore the deeper and quieter forms of spirituality, such as Zen Buddhism. Mature souls tend to gravitate to liberal, multicultural places like London and San Francisco, though they prefer the relative tranquility of the suburbs to the push and shove of the city center.

Some Famous Mature Souls

            There are many well-known mature souls, predominantly in the arts. In contrast to the “can do, will do” attitude of young souls, it is the subtlety, sensitivity and sincerity behind mature soul accomplishments that makes them stand out. Many of the world’s great artists, novelists and musicians have been mature souls, including Botticelli, Michaelangelo, William Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, Dostoyevsky and Van Gogh as well as Mozart, who apparently reincarnated as Michael Jackson. Many of the world’s great movie actors are mature Artisan souls (as opposed to movie stars, who tend to be young Artisans). As the mature Artisan Michael Caine has said, a movie star will want to change a script to better suit their image, while a movie actor will change themselves to better fit the script. Examples include Kate Winslet, Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, Robert Downey Jr. and Helena Bonham Carter.
            In the field of politics, mature soul leaders tend to be liberal, inclusive and internationalist rather than conservative and nationalistic. This is something many baby and young souls can find incomprehensible and detestable. Recent examples include Tony Blair and Barack Obama (both typically earnest Mature Priests).

Old Soul
            Those undergoing the fifth and final stage of reincarnation are known as old souls. In this stage of soul evolvement there is a search for balance and completion, and an urge to pass on the torch before the end of reincarnation.

Journey’s End
            Having completed the fourth stage of reincarnation, the soul has come a long way.
·         In the first stage, as an infant soul, it learned about physical existence, life and death, and the need for nurturing.
·         In the second stage, as a baby soul, it learned about society, culture and community, the need for structure, belonging, and playing a role.
·         In the third stage, as a young soul, it learned about free will and self-determination, taking charge of its own destiny, rising to the challenge.
·         In the fourth stage, as a mature soul, it learned about co-existence and inter-relatedness  taking responsibility for its relationships, honoring difference and otherness.
            At last, the soul is ready for the final leg of the journey: the return to unity and the end of reincarnation. This return to unity does not involve any loss of individuality, as some imagine. The end of reincarnation — “ascension” or “enlightenment” or what have you — does not mean fading out of existence, dissolving into nothingness. Rather, the soul completes its adventure as a unique individual, like a distinctive star in the night sky, a completely realized Self.
            So to begin this stage, the soul will tend to focus on true self-expression and self-actualization, seeking experiences which provide personal fulfillment within life on the physical plane. This could be found in, say, acting, painting, wine-growing, gardening, flying old airplanes, or simply being a grandparent. The soul is not interested in success or fame so much as doing something it loves well, and finding inner satisfaction. Then, towards the end of the stage, there is more of an emphasis on teaching rather than simply learning: passing on the lessons learnt, showing others the way. For some, especially Old Priest souls, the teaching focus is explicitly spiritual. Many of the world’s great spiritual teachers are old souls.
            That’s not to say that every self-proclaimed guru is an old soul. Far from it. There are spiritual teachers at all stages of reincarnation. But the advanced old soul has certain characteristics as a spiritual teacher that stand out from the rest: far-reaching wisdom, great compassion, and little or no attachment to material things. The main lesson for old souls is to do with unity in diversity. The old soul already has a well-developed sense of personal identity (from the young soul phase) and interdependence (from the mature soul phase). Now the soul also feels drawn to reconnect with the greater order of things, the underlying cosmic unity.
            This does not mean overthrowing the lessons of the previous stages in favor of some nice, fluffy notion of oneness. Rather, it means coming to terms with all of life’s dualities (self and other, love and hate, joy and pain, etc.) as integral to the whole.
Old Soul Perceptions
            In this fifth and final cycle on the Earth plane, there is a more holistic perception of self, life and everything as part of a bigger picture. So while the mature soul comes to perceive others as its brothers and sisters, the old soul comes to perceive both self and others as integral parts of a greater whole, all unique yet all essential. In other words, the old soul comes to perceive everything, every being, every moment, as part of one great tapestry. The issue now is how to relate to this united reality through one’s own being — how to be at peace with all of the conflicts, how to experience the harmony within all of the diversity. This involves recognizing the validity of each being’s chosen path in life within the broader scheme of things. We are all part of the One, and yet we are many, each pursuing a different path. And no path is wrong. Hence the old soul motto: “You do your thing and I’ll do mine.”
Old Soul Lifestyles
            Old souls become more relaxed, laid back and detached in life. Human existence is familiar and manageable, and there are not so many problems or issues to deal with. The main issues, in fact, are existential rather than material or psychological. Doing their own thing, old souls end up pursuing nothing but their own path whilst allowing others to pursue theirs, just perfecting their own abilities, being themselves in life to the best that they can. Many do so through artistic, humanitarian or philosophical endeavors, though for many their greatest form of self-fulfillment can be something as “mundane” as gardening. Work, rest and play all become the same thing.
            A potential difficulty for old souls is lapsing into apathy, no longer caring about life and the world. As the physical plane begins to lose its allure, the incarnate soul can show signs of being world-weary, even from birth. In fact, depression is the one form of mental illness to which old souls are vulnerable. (Which is not to say that everyone with depression is an old soul, necessarily. It’s just that an old soul who is beginning to see the bigger picture might sometimes feel that ordinary life is a pointless ordeal.) In the end, joy is found in simply being as opposed to doing.
Other Old Soul Characteristics
            How can you spot an old soul? Old souls have a level of self-assurance that is unusual for souls in other stages (with the exception of King souls, who don’t really do self-doubt at any stage). They are generally relaxed and comfortable in their own skins. That’s not to say that they have no issues; many clearly do. But their issues do not dominate them in the way that is often the case with mature souls.
            Old souls tend to emanate a calm, steady quality that has substance, depth or gravitas. In comparison, young souls can appear frantic and superficial while mature souls seem perpetually stressed and assailed by life. You can often hear it in the voice — young souls tend to talk loud and fast, mature souls have a sort of soft tone laced with uncertainty, while old souls tend to have a slow, deep voice – relaxed, assured and unhurried.
            This inner calm and depth is also evident in the old soul’s eyes. Whereas young souls cannot make eye contact for long, and mature souls will do so occasionally, when they’re not too stressed or distracted, old souls tend to make direct eye contact with an unflinching gaze. (Note: This is not the same as the cold stare of a psychopath!) They are unafraid to look another in the eyes and see into their heart.
            Compared to other souls, old souls are generally more relaxed and philosophical about life, at ease with themselves and others, and have fewer material attachments. They tend to be drawn to the quiet life away from the noise of the city. The old soul is more a citizen of the world than wedded to one place. Old Kings in particular will tend to spend their last lives as homeless, wandering teachers.

Some Famous Old Souls
            Old souls who become famous tend to do so by virtue of their mastery, insight and wisdom rather than ambition.
            Many of the finest minds in history have been old souls: Marcus Aurelius (121-180), Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Carl Jung (1875-1961). In the arts we have the composer J. S. Bach (1685-1750), the painter Paul Gauguin (1848-1903, now apparently reincarnated as artist Peter Teekamp), and the writers Walt Whitman (1819-1892) and William Blake (1757-1827).
In the acting profession, there are numerous old souls who are brilliant at playing characters who are, essentially, younger souls — mainly because there aren’t that many scripts featuring old soul characters! Consider, for example, Anthony Hopkins playing Hannibal Lecter or Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast. Morgan Freeman is well known for the gravitas he brings to every role. 
Clint Eastwood’s acting reveals a mix of Warrior soul combativeness with old soul detachment, but it is as a director that he has achieved mastery.
            Finally, many of the world’s great spiritual teachers have been late-stage old souls passing on their wisdom: Gurdjieff (1866-1949), JidduKrishnamurti (1895-1986), Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950),Anandamayi Ma (1896-1962), Neem Karoli Baba (d. 1973), the Dalai Lama, Ammachi (Mātā Amritanandamayī Devi), and Thich Nhat Hanh.
The End of Reincarnation
            There are seven levels to every stage of soul evolution, including this one. So after completing the 7th level of the mature soul stage, the soul begins its next life as a 1st-level old soul. The soul then undergoes the whole sequence of development as an old soul, one life at a time, until finally it reaches 7th level. This is the final step, step 35, in the 35 steps of reincarnation.
            Now, I occasionally meet people who are convinced that they must now be in their final incarnation simply because they are so “spiritual” and have no liking for the material world. This is not how it works. The goal of evolution is not to escape from the wretched physical plane, despite what many teach. The end of reincarnation is not some sort of reward for good behavior. Human existence is not a prison, or a wheel of torment, from which only the most worthy gain liberation.
            We incarnate because we want to and we choose to. We keep doing it precisely because we want to come to terms with it. We know that in each life we will probably spend several decades not remembering who we are, not remembering our eternal Home, buying into the illusion of separation, experiencing fear. This is the very stuff which inspires us to become more conscious.
            Completion occurs when it matters not whether you are incarnate or discarnate: you see through the illusion and you always feel at Home. If you have issues with being physical, then you still have a way to go. So the last lifetime is one in which you are very content to be in physical form, using it as an opportunity to teach and enlighten others.
            Ramana Maharshi is an example of someone in their last life, reaching the end of reincarnation. Towards the end of his life, some of his students begged him not to die, not to leave them. His answer was: “But where could I possibly go?” He knew that both he and everybody else are already Home, and always will be, having never really left it.
Beyond the Old soul
            On completion of the seventh level of the old soul stage, there is no longer any need or desire to reincarnate. The soul will unify its consciousness with soul mates who have also completed, and it may serve as an elder spirit guide to others still undergoing reincarnation. But there is no longer value to be had in incarnating as a human being. There are some rare exceptions, however.
            A number of old Priest souls such as the philosopher Socrates, the Prophet Mohammed and Mahatma Gandhi are said to have incarnated to become vehicles for a higher level of consciousness capable of inspiring a cultural revolution. The higher consciousness manifested through these individuals only in later life. From that point on, they are referred to in the Michael teachings as “transcendental souls”. Rarer still, Jesus Christ and the Buddha are said to be examples of old King souls who returned to become the physical embodiment of divine love, pure consciousness and ultimate truth, the Tao itself in human form. In other words, avatars. Again, the transformation did not occur until some point in adulthood. But from then on, these individuals are said to be manifestations of the “infinite soul”.

Barry. "Personality & Spirituality." The Five Stages of Reincarnation. N.p., 24 Dec. 2010. Web. 02 Nov. 2012. .

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