Esoteric anatomy and the seven stages of life:
An inherently comprehensive framework

In terms of human evolution, there is a natural progression to, and unfolding of, the various Realizations within the multi-dimensional Greater Reality described in the last section, based on the esoteric anatomy of human beings, of which the physical (or “gross”) body is just the tip of the iceburg. The full anatomy of a human being includes other bodies as well, each of which, when fully activated, grants awareness to a different dimension of the Greater Reality, even as activation of the physical body grants awareness of the material dimensions of Reality. (Moreover, just as the physical body is comprised not only of “sensors” – the five physical senses – but also “affectors” such as hands and legs, so too the higher bodies have affectors that allow one to “move about” and “manipulate” the associated dimension of the Greater Reality.)

Avatar Adi Da Samraj, describes this progression in terms of seven stages of life. There is a natural correspondence between these stages and the four different Realizations or views described in the last section:

  • The animistic view and awareness of the psycho-physical dimensions stems naturally from mastery of the first three stages of life, and, consequently, mastery of the “bodies” associated with those stages of development. In the first stage (individuation), a child adapts to his physical body and its use:

    This is the stage that basically occupies us from conception to seven years of age (or the beginning of true socialization and complex relatedness). It is the period in which we must adapt to our physical individuality and basic physical capacity. Thus it is not only a period of physical adaptation, but of physical individuation. That is, we must gradually adapt to fully functional physical existence, but we must achieve physical individuation, or physical (and thus mental, emotional, psychic, and psychological) independence from the mother and all others. When this stage is complete, we will not exist in isolation but in a state of conscious relatedness to all others and the world of Nature. Thus, the fulfillment of the first stage of life is marked by the beginnings of the movement toward more complex socialization, cooperation with others, and sensitivity to the total world of Nature.

    Ruchira Avatar Adi Da Samraj
    pp. 26-27, Look At The Sunlight On The Water [11]

    The second stage of life involves adaptation to one’s etheric body (Chapter 2), which is responsible for feeling-sensitivity to the etheric dimension (or energy dimension), and to oneself and others as fields of energy. We are familiar with this body’s expression of emotion, but this is only a small piece (and a typically dysfunctional piece at that, to one or another degree) of the etheric body’s capabilities and responsibilities, most of which remain undeveloped in those of us raised in Western civilization.

    The third stage of life involves adaptation to one’s lower astral body (Chapter 3). The faculties associated with this body include the will, the thinking mind, and the mind of the psyche. It is through activation of the lower astral body that we begin to become aware of the psychic dimension of the Greater Reality, that includes subtle or astral phenomena and worlds, Jungian archetypes, Jung’s “collective unconscious”, extrasensory perception, premonitions, and the like.

  • The Emanationist view and awareness of the Spiritual dimensions (Book 10) naturally arises out of the fourth and fifth stages of life:

    The fourth stage of life is a transitional phase between the material dimensions and the Spiritual dimensions of the Greater Reality. The purpose of this stage is to free up energy and attention from its erstwhile fixation on the material dimensions, so that it is fully capable of exploring the Spiritual dimensions of Reality. In this stage, the heart -- the psychic core of the being -- is awakened to the Presence of the Divine Being, and becomes fully capable of love.

    The fifth stage of life involves adaptation to one’s higher astral body, which reaches beyond personal aspects of the individual human being into the realm of the transpersonal or cosmic. Activation of this body opens up the awareness of higher subtle worlds, views of the Cosmos as an objective whole, and ultimately the formless Bliss of the nirvikalpa samadhi state.

  • The Transcendentalist view and awareness of the Transcendental dimension of Reality (Book 11) naturally stems from entry into the sixth stage of life:

    The sixth stage of life involves identification with the Transcendental Self or Transcendental Consciousness, the root and source of one’s own “self” and "consciousness".

  • The ultimate, Divine view of Reality altogether (Book 11) – naturally stems from entry into the seventh stage of life:

    In the seventh stage of life – the fully Awakened or Enlightened stage of life one is not only identified with the Transcendental Consciousness, but it has become completely obvious that everything and everyone is nothing but a modification of one’s Own Consciousness, much like one recognizes dreams as a modification of one’s own consciousness. One is aware as the Divine Being, in whom all of conditional Reality – both material and Spiritual – is arising.

The rest of this book, as well as the next book, will now explore, each of these views or Realizations of Reality, in much greater detail.

The comprehensive nature of the descriptive framework. If we read textbooks (or scholarly papers) on comparative religion, typically what we will find is a descriptive framework, that is, one which attempts to account for some, or even all religions or spiritual paths. For instance, in Shamans, Prophets, & Sages: A Concise Introduction to World Religions [32], Denise and John Carmody organize world religions on the basis of similarities in the “personality types” of the people who have stood at the center of the world’s religions. They found it useful to cluster these people into three personality types: shamans, prophets, and sages. But they acknowledge up front that these should simply be considered useful categories, without any deeper ontological status:

To call these personalities “types” is to admit that we are dealing with generalizations or abstractions. . . . The type is a tool, not a straightjacket. It should be a means, not something to fixate upon as an end in itself. So we urge that it be taken lightly but seriously as a generalization rather than an unfailing law.

Denise Carmody and John Carmody, Preface
Shamans, Prophets, & Sages: A Concise Introduction to World Religions [32]

That a type such as a “shaman” is a useful one is evinced by the fact that that same type shows up around the world, from Neolithic France and Spain [40], to present time Siberia, Africa, Australia, South America, and North America [32]. But there is no address to such questions as: Why only these three types? Could there be another type that perhaps doesn’t occur very frequently or has yet to appear? And is there (or could there be) a deeper basis for this (or any such) taxonomy, in that it reflects something more fundamental about the nature of Reality altogether?

For instance, when Sigmund Freud divided personalities into types (“Libidinal Types”, in [37]), he based his typology not on surface distinctions, but rather on the deep structure of the psyche as he understood it, which, in his view, was comprised of an ego (with self-preserving impulses), an id (with erotic impulses) and a super-ego (which functions as conscience). In Freud’s view, the dominance of one or another “part” over the other two would then give rise to a different fundamental type. (He allowed for mixed types as well.)

The erotic types . . . are those whose main interest is turned towards love. Loving, but above all being loved, is the most important thing for them. They are dominated by the fear of loss of love . . . The second type is . . . the obsessional type . . . The people of this type are dominated by fear of their conscience instead of fear of losing love. The third type . . . the narcissistic type. . . [has] a main interest directed to self-preservation. His ego has a large amount of aggressiveness at its disposal.

Sigmund Freud, “Libidinal Types”
in The Standard Edition of the Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (Volume 21) [37]

Is there some comparable deeper foundation available for us in taxonomizing religions and spiritual paths? As we have seen earlier in this section, the answer is yes. The framework we are providing here is not merely descriptive, like the above example; it is also comprehensive by the very nature of the way in which it is constructed: there cannot be another religion or spiritual path that doesn’t fall into one of the categories provided here.

This is a strong claim, but the reasoning behind it is quite straightforward. Just as all human beings have the same physical anatomy, all human beings have the same esoteric anatomy and Ultimate Ground. It is our view that all religions and spiritual paths are based on the awakening, activation, or mastery of the faculties and capabilities associated with different parts of that esoteric anatomy (and the Realizations that come from doing so), including the final Awakening as the Ultimate Ground Itself. (Thus a shaman is that type of Realizer who has awakened the etheric and lower astral dimensions of his or her anatomy to a far greater degree than usual.) Hence a comprehensive taxonomy of the components of our esoteric anatomy forms the basis for a comprehensive taxonomy for all the world’s religious and spiritual traditions: past, present, and future.

For most effective growth, base all practice (in the earlier stages of life)
on the view and the Realization of the seventh stage of life