Elders are free to talk and enjoy as a child:  sagacity is elder mysticism. For when we age, tho' we may physically diminish it's  the culmination of life, a crown of glory and a time of heightened mental development. 

This chapter is for the elders and all the young people who fear aging.  Take joy--there is nothing to fear, only much to look forward to.  As the brain expands in old age the temporal lobe opens up to eternity and ecstatic witness.  End all fears--the future is only fullness with our culminating perfection at life’s end ( our highest blend).


It’s a sick culture that puts down the older generation through the glorification of youth.  It’s not only unfair, it is false because old age is the culmination of life, a crown of glory and a time of heightened mental development. 


The temporal lobes burst open to reveal eternity, and thus eternal wisdom can only be gained from the mentorship of the elder.  We should look forward with glee due to the facts you are about to see.  Everything you have been told--every fear-laden myth you have swallowed whole--is false, for the elder is mentally superior in the sagacious jubilee. 


The time of life when physical powers wane mark the beginning of the magnification of mental powers.  It is the fact that we don’t know this while simultaneously allowing a sick culture to tell us the opposite which creates the degeneration we see all around.  An ageist culture is a sick culture.  




The Vision Quest is an ancient Shamanic rite of passage in which the seeker retreats from civilization, goes to a sacred place in nature and cries for a life vision of purpose.   I took this Vision Quest twenty years ago by leaving society to live in a small desert cabin on 230 acres of wilderness. 


This was the happiest time of my life, in total solitude and natural beauty.  I loved the seasons, the times of day and sharing this beauty with five dogs and a cat.  I spent these  years in solitude, fasting, prayer, meditation, writing, studying, biking, working in the yard and taking long walks.  I entered an entirely new reality. 


It was a transition from the old to the new life--an initiation into elderhood, or becoming a sage.  By individuating into completion I was preparing early for elderhood but by previously clinging to youthful things I was avoiding completion, the thing I wanted most.  


 It wasn’t until I saw elder mysticism—“eldering”--as an inner journey that I understood human aging as a wonderful culmination which should naturally get better until the very end.




This culture shows a deep-seated fear and loathing of old age, which should be the greatest time of life.  Due to the baby boom the elders are the fastest-growing segment of America with 76 million.  The age wave is a tidal wave, yet it comes at a time when ageism is most intense.


To offset ageism the boomers had better understand that aging is harvest time, the culmination of a lifetime of lessons and the true party.  They should see aging as the badge of success it is, a time of unparalleled inner growth--for only at harvest time do we gain the panoramic vision essential to lead the tribe.  Thus the elder is invaluable to the race, not a liability to it.


People enter old age with fear and trembling.  Feeling betrayed by their bodies and defeated by life they expect to suffer from reduced enjoyment, vigor and usefulness.   Their plight is made far worse by the trivialization and minimization by society and family—the signs are all around that they are obsolete, of no value.


How  sad and how false.  The elders are wisdom-keepers for society’s well-being by opening up magnified intelligence transmitted as legacy.  This joy crowns an elder’s life with worth and nobility.  Have you ever noticed their uncanny psychic powers?  They see through walls, they’re our wake-up calls! The notion of sage or elder should replace all negative images while giving us all something to look forward to.


  “Eldering” will release tremendous vitality and vigor into the peak of our  life.  It will be for me, as I see a life of work coming to its culmination and reward.  For the mature, old age is the opposite to bored—for all through history it was the last phase when the saint’s spirit  soared.


Aging is not the problem.  The problem is  the cultural images which tragically guide our lives into fear and panic.  If we have models which are positive, healthy and active we can dramatically expand into a mysterious adventure as we go forward.  Only this time of pure inner richness grows sages, healers and prophets—it’s the most important time of life!




It is physical decline which awakens this elder consciousness of expanded powers.  It is precisely the loss of one which elicits the other.  Let’s explore this further, for consciously embracing aging early triggers the process of individuation and completion (eldering)  while avoiding  the pitfalls of later becoming “elderly.” 


The breakdown of the youthful body leads to the breakthrough of the elder’s higher consciousness.  And so elderhood arises in the context of decline:  When the psyche issues a call to engage in life completion, matter lessens to maximize energy and spirit.


 Less matter, more spirit!  It’s the icing on the cake, the celebration, the party after a life of labor, pain and utterly being controlled by other people.  Why?  Because less is more!


In old age we heal relationships and our pasts, enjoy our achievements and leave a legacy.  The elder can bless all the triumphs and tragedies he came through and re-frame the dreams, disappointments and betrayals into wisdom.  The meaning of the play will now become clear in elderhood, the crowning achievement.




The culture provides no models for aging, so we’re all uncomfortable with it.  In contrast, “elder sagacity” or mysticism—eldering--rediscovers old age as an achievement to savor and enjoy. 


Rather than remorse over the past, the elder recontextualizes his past through panoramic vision, reframing past mistakes to “mine” them for wisdom.  Postmenopausal women who feel invisible in a youthist culture will suddenly become radiant as they release deep-seated tensions. 


The result is a peace, and this is power.  If we avoid distracting (and comparatively boring) worldly amusements and just contemplate we gain a peaceful goldmine of invention and wit as ageist stereotypes are replaced by a deja-vu  of coming attractions.


We’re all so starved for models that even knowing an expanding elder infects us with enthusiasm. It’s like entering the senior year in excited anticipation of attaining the high values we all  crave. 


Having grown beyond the drive for personal power, a deeper humanity emerges as harvesting and deep reflection gives us our place in the cosmos.




Having no models we either fall into depression and decline or strive to compete with youth.  But if we view age as the gold summit, we feel something very special growing inside and nourish it to harvest the  gold. 


We can’t stay hooked to rushing around and conquering.  Women must drop youthful seduction to attain higher standards:  the dignity of elder beauty—thus reclaiming the right to age without stigma!


When elders identify with early works or looks they end in conflict.  The deep psyche urges us to harvest our lives, not obsess with the outer world.  Staying stuck makes us prey to sadness, bitterness and defeat.


Instead just enjoy this sacred  stage:   relax, listen to the inner  voice, take naps!  All our lives we conformed and catered to the convenience of other people, not the promptings of the inner life.  Society completely ignores our bio-relationship to nature so grow up--go within.


 Living to the ebb and flow of this strong force is like ocean going through the veins: this is your own inner nature, so take the reins!  First contemplate, then decide your new agenda for the last and greatest season of life—for the fine finale may even be flamboyant fame and fortune.



Our culture schools us on achieving, but not enjoying the fruits of our labor.  We were never taught that enjoyment was enough.  Instead it’s always more--more pleasure, travel, possessions or relationships. 


 We need the help of mysticism to cultivate calmness and contentment, for this  breaks attachments to the social persona in order to reclaim the True Self we abandoned to socially adapt. 


Aging is really a natural monastery stripping away these phony roles, attachments and pleasures and what emerges is a miraculous sense of discovery and  new energy transcending “doing” in favor of “being.” 


 These are the gifts of contemplative old age and I for one aim to enjoy this phase way before it hits.  Fearing it is the pits for on this hard-won  pinnacle wisdom sits. 




When young one is just too busy to cultivate this quiet inwardness spawning mystical experience.  To please  society youth must put the inner journey on hold, shirking contact with the sacred to master skills instead. 


Elderhood reconnects to the sacred and takes the universe back in.  Rid of demanding and restrictive roles its like loosening a tight-fitting costume and slipping into cozy pajamas.  One should now see naps as the most productive thing to do, for the higher brain is recharging.


Having finally become individualized we are entitled to do our own thing without adapting to anyone else’s standards.  What a wonderful period of life: only the rich can afford this life of leisure when  young!



Once whole the elder’s duty is to infuse the public with higher values, like telling  the powers-that-be they should be ashamed behaving like children playing games of dominance.  As world-mother you’ll see extraordinary things as people bow down  showering you with gifts-- that’s how starved they are for role models. 


As you transcend silly fears you’ll grow to full stature and speak out with greater authority.  At your age you’re sure  of your highest identity and beliefs--so speak publicly.  Just hold your head up high and tell the simple truth, for to cower before youth is simply uncouth.   Become a sage—they’ll line up to your booth.


As elders speak from the authority of the God-made True Self, something wonderful occurs.  Listeners re-discover inner knowing: that heart knowledge that links them to nature and the world.  As elders speak, armor drops and thus they maintain the consciousness of the whole tribe.


 When youth turns to the elder they are yearning for something more: that vast unexplored territory residing in a sage who is only now  peaking  in old age.  When old we can create a  destiny from choice, not expectations.




Elderhood is a great success.  The sage is charged with the evolutionary task of guiding society: what a joy, and you deserve it!  You must inspire society to replace it’s shortsighted bottom-line mentality with the natural:  spirit, nature and God.  As sage-ing takes root in your heart you’ll see a glorious future awaiting you, no matter what your age. 


It’s when the physical fades that the fire alights from within until in our eighties we become most passionate, intense, flaming with a wild life beyond expression--a swelling clarity that expands into lives with passion and mystery.  Our spirits will be questing, not resting.  Our consciousness will grow, not slow.  Elderhood is a quantum leap into the second life of spiritual realization.




Sixty plus is God’s gift to humanity.  No need to compete and be “liked.”  Un-caged energy releases into pure capacities restrained in youth.  No time for trivia--we begin to create.  Sages balance the inward ascetic with the outward human  by expressing the True Spirit in the mundane world whose only hope is growing beyond the materialism which is only misery.


We are the culmination of a huge life process.  If we unfold we open to incredibly higher being:  the secret, mysterious, unique greatness of the True Self seeking expression.  If in a nurturing environment with  just God or other expanders we will experience a brain spurt linked to spirit.


This happens in adolescence but emerging sexuality smothers it: then such a spurt into higher evolution is mistaken for libido and the spiritual is misplaced into sexual/social channels.  The spiritual quest goes underground until now in elderhood.




Old age is a fascinating and  exciting time of exploration, mysterious adventure and spiritual discovery.  As the body gets tired the mind gets sharper.  The challenge is to risk all frames of reference and outer props opening the mind to higher realms.  Lifelong learning is the purpose of our species and when we stop we defeat the plan. 


 Learning may peak in our late eighties when we contact a “giant spring” of skill, giving spectacular demonstrations, and the new habit of unlimited potential evokes new skills.  With limitless possibilities we are open to constant surprise and anticipation--because of our age.




As you look back were you not lived  by family, friends and fickle society?  Were you not kept by jail-guards watching your every move?  Did you not curtail your every natural expression, just to adapt?  Did you not truncate parts of self just to fit in?  What misery—I remember it well. 


 Now we are self-directed flowering spirits in an inner search for God.  By our detachment we promote a direct inner experience of Him and the divine. 


Conventional religion fills the need for social belonging but not necessarily contemplation and harvesting which reduces the ego as it opens the spirit.  How different from the safe and secure social-religious identity--without access to the real depths, people cling to religious brand-names, past fames and mind-games.




Through the inner journey cells are rejuvenated and aging is retarded.  If operating as usual--in superficial, social and secular thinking--we speed up the aging of cells.  But as we move to the silent transcendent, mental activity stops and cells revive.


 I can sure feel this change when relaxing after a stressful work or social situation.  Solitude in silence brings this instant shift to the revelatory rewards of the right-brain.  From too much “left” the elder must refrain, or become insane.


Stop competing with youth!  For those dismissed as “old” are actually agents of human evolution, for throughout history the elder symbolizes the unique flowering of humanity:  a rare once-in-a-time event.  In India the sage functions as father confessor and spiritual  guide. 


These flowering sages have revelations and peak experiences we can all have when older:  mystical perception, creative inspiration, scientific discovery, invention and extrasensory perception.  Intuition is nonlinear, bringing together simultaneous fields in knowledge and perception—leaping way ahead of slow-moving logic by showing the “big picture” instead. 


This instantaneous knowing brings the contagion of joy, whereas everyday logic deadens like lead.   Everyday man is concerned with what someone “said” while the psychic-intuitive sage gives them simple truth so they’re  truly fed.




History shows many elders producing great works of beauty and science in later years.  Frank Lloyd Wright did his greatest work at seventy, Picasso at 90.  Freer air blows in later years--what joy and vitality when free of society (no more tears).  The stakes are less, intimidating jailers are gone and there are new reserves in courage, wisdom and open fields of experiment. 


The creative life is far more  possible later as intuition connects us to the natural environment:  a much higher life, free of strife--the power of God’s wife.  Yes God will support you with power and energy—if free of human society—for He knows you are physically weaker while having His work to do.  


More power is infused into a Majority of One  because you’re not with crew.  How to get to God’s power:  become weak.  Through you just let Him speak, for he always gives energy where needed (without leak).




The most primitive brain is the reptilian,  dealing with basic survival--it is territorial and habit-driven.  The next area is the limbic brain which relates us to the social world--it is rhythmic (hypnotic), ritualized activity hooking us to the herd. 


The third layer is the neocortex of intuition exploding suddenly into communion with God.  It is the social world and habits (we use to distract us from aging) that prevents the opening of this marvelous goldmine.


The frontal lobes of the neocortex have highest intuition, creativity and a cornucopia of magnified perceptions awaiting the elder who opens to it.  This interior universe is vast and infinite. 


Moreover, the temporal lobes of the neocortex are associated with paranormal and psychic experiences.  But if you drag the past into the present you’ll be impervious to the fulfillment, vitality and pure delight of your increasing unfoldment.  No matter what age the expanding elder faces the future optimistically.  


But if at eighty his consciousness is stuck at 40 he’ll stagnate and suffer a haunting despair. Be advised, for you see it all around:  from their hearts and minds no sound, like their only hope is beneath the ground!   There is no wisdom here, only confound.   Their only thoughts are of the past when big in town.



That’s So Uncouth


Heal, by giving up youth appeal.  Although baby boomers have grown through meditation, when it comes to aging they’re still fixated by youth culture.  It’s to these peers that I speak:  It’s so dangerous clinging to youthful things:--it prevents the sagacity to lead the tribe and individuate, the whole meaning of eldering. 


Thanks to natural diet and exercise,  boomers are the fastest-growing elder group in America and the over-sixties are growing twice as fast as the rest of the population.  So become an enlightened sage when older, the esteemed member of your growing tribe: 


Talk to youth, but especially to peers—make them seers, banishing fears, drying their tears.  Tell them:  “Evolutionary aging balances physical decline with mental flowering and skills--as one recedes the other blossoms” and watch their reaction (awesome).




In America “old” is like being a leper. But in India “old” is an achievement of respect and recognition, as people cherish wrinkles and look forward to gray hair.  Some exaggerate their age to gain greater respect, seeing old age as a time to detach from obligations and just ponder and enjoy.


The Japanese see old age as a source of prestige with a national holiday called “honor the aged day.”  Native Americans see elders as wisdom-keepers safeguarding tribal survival.


The Bible is lavish in praise of elders as gray hair is a crown of glory and wrinkles a mark of distinction.  “Thou shall rise up and honor the face of the old man.” 


But the Greek world showed the gerontophobia (fear of age) from negative stereotypes that we see today.  They valued youthful heroism, physical perfection and beauty--and aging was seen as a catastrophe and divine punishment. Just like us:  how myopic and tragic.


Elder-status was raised in ancient Rome where their wise counsel carried great legal authority in the senate:  “young men for action, old men for counsel.”  Cicero wrote “old age is respectable when it asserts itself and is not enslaved to any one.  I admire a young man with an old man in him, and an old one with a young man in him--the man old in body but never in mind.”  


To attain this state he must have “sound nutrition, exercise, sexual moderation and an active mental life of reflection.” 


The bible-based Puritans saw old age as a sign of God’s pleasure, divine election and a badge of supernatural sanctity.  At New England town meetings it was not the rich but the elders who were given places of honor as repositories of knowledge and traditional values.




Throughout history elders were the beloved pathfinders, luring  us to old age in anticipation of powerful usefulness. Tribal elders made their imprint all through the Near East and Mediterranean cultures. 


To be called “old man” in ancient Israel was honored and wielded enormous religious and judicial power.  To the ancients, old men were natural leaders using wisdom for problem-solving from the deep unconscious.  The elders  reveal our potentials—what can possibly be more important than that? 


With no models triggering these archetypal depths we are now lost in this world.   Is it any wonder the degradation of morals, literacy and families—the utter hopelessness, drug addiction, divorces, fatherless homes?  Society needs the elders to sustain it at its highest peak—the elders are the only check on certain degeneration.




In primitive societies elders withdrew from everyday life to just think and transmit highest culture.  But now, sadly, this  social identity is stripped away and  lost through “retirement”. 


In literature we see the archetypal elder King Lear divested of power, living  a wretched old age and descending into madness.  Spiritual eldering provides the solution:  an otherworldly celebrational spirituality, healing the split between spirit and matter and affirming sacred life—not the mundane, superficial, carnal materialism we see today.  


It’s the difference between a boldly flamboyant array and the horror of old folk’s homes (thinking that’s “ok”).  It’s the difference between exciting life and optimistic anticipation of increasing unfoldment to the very end, and the terror of turning thirty—the current trend.   Baby-boomers, unite!  We are the majority so start the eldering revolution now—won’t you, my friends?




Kids need them.  All the world’s spiritual traditions have models of realized elders.  The roshi in Zen, in Buddhism the lama, in Tibetan Buddhism the sheikh, in Islam the rebbe--all see aging as the phase of ultimate self-knowledge.


For the Hindus, four ashramas map the changing spiritual needs of the human life cycle, culminating in the True Self and service to society.  So the Indians think of life as a four-stage spiritual journey:  


Brahmacharya:   gaining the intellectual and moral tools for adult life.  Grihasta: marrying, having children, being social and working  for wealth.  Vanaprastha:  detaching from family and social identity to pursue the spiritual.  And in the final stage sannyasa one transcends all limited identification with family, religion, race and nation. 


 As wondering single renunciates they become citizens of the world devoted to self-realization, spiritual teaching and selfless service to society.  We can remain in family and community and still detach from social roles and deepen the contact with God.   Do it and receive love from a nation famished for elder models!




Today we see the ageism of ancient Greece, every bit as offensive and dangerous as racism and sexism.  It discourages the elder influence, so like any downtrodden group they sequester into retirement communities to commiserate together and strengthen their shoddy  identity. 


The movement called “successful aging” sees the solution in physical health but leaves out the spiritual altogether:  In a one-sided drive to alter, reverse or control the aging process it just impoverishes it more by trying to  “restore youth” rather than appreciating aging as a wonderfully superior stage of the human experience.  The only  solution is the inner journey! Go inside, ride the tide and  become cosmic, bonafide.



Not Make Us Queasy


Because we are not contemplative in our productive years, many face a painful abyss in unstructured retirement.  Let’s see retirement as the Indians do:  a spiritual vocation while being on vacation--something prepared for in middle age by becoming contemplative, artistic, studious, sensitive and gentle. 


Seek this and you’ll be supported from both our own depths and  on high.   As we detach from social and professional identities the whole universe  rushes in to support our “No” answers while “Yes” brings relapse into old ruts. 


By doing inner work when young we won’t disorient or panic when outer props go later, and   thank God they do!  For we’re brand new: past props can’t enter the stew.  This wonderful apex must remain true, fearlessly and powerfully with God through-and-through.  Does this not thrill you too?




In traditional cultures harvesting a life in old age is easy, but in  ours it is painfully difficult.  Harvesting means:  gathering the fruits of a life and enjoying them.  It can be from within as quiet self-appreciation or without through honor, respect and recognition. 


But without eldering consciousness our own gerontophobia destroys the harvest.  The cure-all is to exchange secular for sacred power—making us shamans, healers and priests. 


In the new context of aging, elders have a wild almost prankster-like quality which sees the humor in all situations.  Like Buddha they laugh at everything they see or think!   This new reality is like  going from shabby cotton to mink, but only if elders are respected (not rejected) do they stay in the pink.




Carl Jung developed  elder psychology in terms of individuation, the process of becoming the complete human being of our destiny.  In the afternoon we can’t live by morning’s program but rather turn inward to reconnect with the self which was  silenced by our social slots or slovenly sins. 


This revealed cosmic  being is our personal center speaking through dreams, visions and images.  A human being would not grow to 70 or eighty if longevity had no meaning for the species--later life has great significance of its own, not merely a pitiful appendage.  Whoever carries youth into old age pays through soul-damage, for spirituality must take precedence when energy wanes and friends and family are  lost. 


It’s the  spiritual outlook cure—so make the grandkids call you ma’m and sir!  And never envy youth (the false lure) for despite the glorified image there is much trouble there (in this evil age it’s often impure).  You are much better off here,  in the radiant cosmic elder tour.




Erik Erikson saw life as a sequence of eight turning points which can turn to good or bad results.  Resolving each step leads to new growth and maturity while failure at any point ends in neurosis and stunted growth at that level.


In the final stage of ego integrity vs. despair, completion and self-acceptance is achieved—and it is this which offsets the physical  decline.  Wisdom is the acceptance of our one and only life as something which had to be by necessity and permitted no substitutions. 


And to think we spent our lives in shame and self-doubt for the very destiny that had to be!  Acceptance without shame makes us handsome, ageless blueprints made by God, while shame and guilt makes us aging deformities—a clod.




Fairy tales give insights into youth and elder psychology, reflecting the different concerns of the emerging growing personality:  separating from parents, struggling for world placement, making commitments to spouse and career. 


The elder tales symbolize the tasks of the second half of life:  not growing old but of growing through transcendence  and knowledge of self and God.  Elder tales begin with the old man in isolation and barrenness.  Then by miracle he rediscovers the magic:  by accepting his losses of family, friends, fickle society  and it’s “fun” he is transformed as he confronts issues repressed since youth--the dark unknown side called the shadow


As he breaks free of society and faces this shadow he gains “emancipated innocence.”  He comes together whole an ageless child--by having faced what he had always denied and by detaching from the chaos of the social world.  As the age wave continues we elders must put the spiritual central to our lives.  


 To not do so is like being cut with knives for the messages are everywhere that we are obsolete, of no value—a fiction, a pack of lies!   But spiritually we are the highest achievement, essential, transcendent—as high as the skies.  The cosmic elder  is way beyond cries, since he know his source--it’s eternity and heaven he sees with his eyes.




It is the presence of death which deepens our appreciation of life and prepares us for harvesting.   The more we embrace mortality as a call to life completion the more anxiety turns to awe, thanksgiving and appreciation.


People facing death end their days in zest and joy.  All through life they spent energy avoiding reminders of mortality, but this very avoidance saps vitality and hope.  All experience of life loses clarity and depth in this denial, which hurts: There’s always a free-floating anxiety unsuccessfully drowned out through frenetic activity, entertainment, conquests or obsession with youth.


 Having de-repressed the fear of death that energy is now released and reclaimed.  Wow!  Now we feel buoyed up as streams of creative energy courses through the body, mind and nervous system.  By facing what usually depressed and terrified we feel lighter, freer and more alive as a shift in attention makes us aware of how precious life is.


Then we can accept ourselves, love and lose the anxiety making us grasp at power, wealth and fame to feel confirmed.  Then we can truly see the immaturity of youth  (often so uncouth).  And to think we wanted to be like them or that we actually tried to get their approval! 


When we face death even a wonderful humor emerges.   What a relief transcending the boring, mundane, material world of flesh and games and overnight gained-and-lost fames and flames!  We come in and go out alone and everyone else is now irrelevant.





Freud saw two forces driving the human experience:  libido the life instinct and thanatos the death instinct.  Life is a ceaseless struggle between these two forces.  Libido surges with vitality, seeking pleasure and experience while thanatos longs for silence devoid of all striving and conflict. 


Libido yearns for sex and creative activity while thanatos drives for death and the cessation of all activity.  Freud’s view ignores the spiritual for his thanatos is seen as the psyche’s bleakest force especially since our culture  denies death. 


It’s a serious split since our bodies know about dying and at one point are totally committed to it and yet the culture abhors and avoids it.  It deals comfortably with libido expansion and achievement yet panics at contraction, silence and inwardness--the domain of thanatos. 


  Eldering work--the inner journey--embraces and ennobles the death instinct removing its mask and welcoming it’s guidance to a much larger life—the comfortable happy existence of mere contemplation and relaxation. 


Thanatos is the messenger of transcendent love and wisdom—this is God.  But how could a culture hating death and aging ever accept  the inward life of the saint and mystic?  It cannot—it makes it impossible.




Thanatos is synonymous with the ego transcendence and enlightenment portrayed by Hindus.  Yogis break attachment with desire to attain samahi--a totally suspended transcendent state of thanatos.  Sufis practice fana, a blissful state of non-self.  Buddhists enter nirvana, a desireless state of silence. 


They all teach there is a natural inborn reflex to seek quiescence as a balance to outgoing energy.  Centrifugal complements the centripetal energies.  Thanato’s inward force brings self-actualization and completion. 


We are detached from the more indiscriminate social world to extreme selection in relationships and projects attuned to this emerging self:  a time to rest and reflect, a time to act and decide, a time to become inspired, a time for creative action and (most importantly)--a time to be very careful in choosing associates (not less careful because you’re lonely).


Libido and thanatos are bipolar electrical forces with two settings:  on/off, life/death, activity/rest.  When we are young we make a mark on the world.  When we grow old we gradually experience less energy and seek inwardness. 


 The “off” switch is exactly what brings the completion, contemplation and  carefully selected actions and friends--all stamped with the seal of growing uniqueness.  The OFF is what makes us energetic, attractive, glowing cheekbone-carved older specimens that the younger generation is so  grateful for, looks up to and tries to emulate. 


The ON is what makes us embarrassing caricatures—baby Janes bringing ridicule and rejection—plastic surgery’s election,  a lost affection, a useless dusty  antique collection.




Thanatos is the urge to individuate: cutting loose everything in the second half of life.  Aging people should know they are no longer conquering and expanding but inexorably contracting.  For youth, self-preoccupation is a dangerous sin  but for an elder it is a necessary duty!


Thanatos creates contemplation by limiting libidinal activity.  It replaces quantity for quality of experience by insisting we deepen our awareness when we can’t expand or conquer any more.


But modern drugs like Viagra prevents this natural joyful inwardness--with age libido should shift from sex to mentoring and harvesting and other ways to generate like preserving a legacy through writing and teaching.  We are now passing on wisdom, not propagating the species.




Libido is the instinct to begin, while ignoring meaning and wisdom.  It’s only interested in self’s experience--exerting and establishing self in the world.  As libido sows seeds, thanatos collects them and  brings them as fruits to the harvest. 


As it’s more interested in closure and meaning thanatos is the completing instinct.  Only by facing my death could my books come out for thanatos  does not always seek physical death but acts as a magnet drawing together and arranging patterns of meaning from our lives.  This may mean death or completion of a life’s work with decades left to enjoy the bounty coming from it.


Age: we should just celebrate it. But when thanatos first appears we panic---exercise madly to compete with youth, redouble our work to prove our worth or have cosmetic surgery--anything but come to terms with thanatos which destroys youth’s idols. 


When mid-life dissatisfaction appears this is thanatos.  Having no training for it we mistake the cue-to-completion as a call to death.  Not so—the opposite is true:  Thanatos marks the appearance  of the enlightened self behind the social persona. 


Karen Kellock Ph.D.: If we accept our aging we simply start spending more good time with loved ones, take long walks in nature, play good music and just ponder while looking out the window to the mountain vistas and starlit skies at night.  As for me I’m looking forward to old age—it ends the fight, solves the blight, means I’m finally right and higher than a kite.   Baby-boomers unite!