Or, do we stop growing at some point, and begin to die back, just the way our bodies do.
Note: one could argue, by the way, that the eventual withering of the body can become the occasion for even further evolution in awareness. In other words, the two, body and mind, do not necessarily proceed in lock step, parallel, all our lives. It all depends. It all depends on US. What is your perspective on yourself, and what are your goals for yourself as you grow older?
Back in my 20s, when a Ph.D. student in philosophy, having just barely pushed aside the bars of my fundamentalist Catholic cage, I suddenly found myself utterly entranced with the developmental theory of the psychologist Jean Piaget. Beginning with what philosopher William James famously called the “buzzing booming confusion” supposedly experienced by the newborn, Piaget traced the gradual evolution of the me/not me (self/other) distinction and on to the further developmental stage of abstract thought, wherein a word, a name, could be substituted for the object to which it referred and then manipulated, according to the rules of formal logic. That capacity, he said, is present by the time the child is twelve years old, and from then on, the mind is separated from the body and the child fully assimilated into the adult world.
In other words, Piaget’s view of our evolutionary capacity as human beings suddenly stops at the age of 12. Huh? Even back then, knowing nothing, but questing eternally, I simply didn’t believe it.
Furthermore, what Piaget thought of as an achievement, even then, back in 1969, I viewed as a tragedy, a cultural reflection of the Cartesian mind/body split that has rendered us isolated inside our own conceptual frameworks, from not only our own bodies and each other, but from the earth under our feet and the cosmos over our heads.
Within a few years of my recognition that not only did Piaget not go far enough, but that his description of “adulthood” was actually a reflection of our generalized cultural dis-ease, I discovered astrology which, when viewed as a developmental process, I was happy to realize, correlated Piaget’s final evolutionary “stage” at 12 years with the 12-year Jupiter cycle — and then, to my sheer delight, invited further, larger, more inclusive stages: the Saturn cycle at age 30, the Chiron cycle at 51, the second Saturn cycle at 60, and on — the Uranus cycle at 84, the Neptune cycle at 165, the Pluto cycle at 248.
Now of course though we might live long enough to experience the eureka moment that attends one full cycle of Uranus, we do not live long enough to experience full cycles of either Neptune or Pluto. The fullness of their cycles, and therefore the human meaning attending them, remains mysterious to us. Since we cannot experience their full cycles, we can not learn to predict or control them. Instead, we can only attune to them, resonate with their fullness, ever eager to see and feel and absorb more, more, more!
In other words, each of us lives inside an ever widening field of consciousness that consists of concentric cycles, worlds within worlds, and as we complete one cycle of any planet, we then have the opportunity to not just bend back again, doing the same cycle exactly the same way the second time around, this time with awareness of its meaning and possibilities. Instead, especially if we sense our attunement with the very long cycles of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, we can then actually break the circle, and begin to spiral. which brings me to today’s post, for which I thank Martin Geddes, and his remarkable weekly newsletter.
While of course, I don’t agree with everything said about each stage, or even whether or not there actually are discrete stages or jumps in awareness (others might call these “dimensions”) I very much appreciate this attempt to recognize that if and when we do keep growing throughout our lives, then we are continuously given opportunities to contact, and even, at times, learn to embody, larger and larger spheres of awarenesss over time.