With the changes that accompany aging, I increasingly appreciate that our lives are inherently mysterious by nature. In his renowned work, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Carl Jung provided some critical insights into how we each perceive ourselves as we proceed through life. He pointed out that men and women may go through four perceptual stages during a life. These he called the Athlete, the Warrior, the Statesperson, and the Spiritual Person. Sometimes, people remain stuck in the first or second stage while some people leap directly to the fourth stage. Then there are others who bounce back and forth between stages, so the physiology of these stages is not strictly defined, and they may overlap and often branch off depending on circumstances.
The Athlete is that stage in our development when life seems impossible without a mirror and a steady stream of approval to make us feel secure. The stage of the Athlete is the time in our development when we are almost completely identified with our performance, attractiveness, and achievements. Many people outgrow this stage of the Athlete as they make other considerations more significant. Some of us, depending upon our personal circumstances, move in and out of this stage. A few stay in the athlete stage all of their lives.
The reasons behind such behavior, as proposed by Jung himself, are the direct result of the significant physiological changes that we go through during our teenage and early adolescent years. That’s why this particular phase generally occurs when we’re yet to become adults.
The Warrior stage is the time when our ego dominates our lives and we feel compelled to conquer the world to demonstrate our superiority. We see ourselves as important and separate from everyone else. The Warrior stage is filled with anxiety and endless comparison of our success compared to that of others. Trophies, awards, titles, and the accumulation of material objects record our achievements. At the warrior stage, status, and position in life are obsessions. Convincing others of our superiority is the theme of this other-centered time of life in which the ego is the director. Every material success one can dream of is striven for in this Warrior stage. We fight like a warrior to become something better and to feel better. It is this pursuit that usually engages a person until his/her middle age. It eventually shapes our physical, mental and social conditioning, thus labeling us a socially accepted definition of a successful human being.
The third stage of life is the Statesperson stage, where we have largely tamed the ego and shifted our awareness. This phase is perhaps the buffer between the spirit phase and the warrior phase. You can call it the psychological adolescence since it marks a gradual shift from a less mature warrior and athlete stage to a more emotionally mature spiritual stage; much like the way, our adolescent years catapult us into the years of adulthood. In this stage, we realize the emptiness that awaits to haunt us.
The looming questions become: “What have I achieved outside of myself?”; “What did I do for others/society/humanity?”; “Am I something more than what I have gained in all these years?” This shift in mentality usually happens when we become more compassionate towards others. When our soul tires of the material world, it starts contemplating something beyond the world of commercial gains and starts thinking along altruistic lines. As a transition phase, it eventually leads us toward increased spiritualism.
At the Statesperson stage of life we want to know what is important to others. Rather than obsessing completely about our own needs, we begin to ask about the needs of others with genuine interest. The inner drive becomes to serve others. Mother Teresa and Florence Nightingale lived their lives largely at this level.
The Statesperson stage of adulthood is about service and gratefulness for all that shows up in your life. At this level you are very close to your Highest Self. The primary force in your life is no longer the desire to be the most powerful and attractive or to dominate and conquer. You have entered a realm of inner peace. It is always in the service of others, regardless of what you do or what your interests are, that you find the bliss you are seeking.
The ultimate stage of being a successful human being is the Spiritual stage. When you enter this stage of life, regardless of your age or position in life, you recognize your truest essence, the Highest Self. When you know your Highest Self you are on your way to becoming a co-creator of your entire world, learning to manage the circumstances of your life and participating with assurance in the act of creation. You literally become a person who can manifest his or her own destiny.You become an observer of your world and can freely move into other dimensions of consciousness. The inner infinite energy you begin to recognize is not just in you; it is in all things and all people who are alive now and have ever lived. You begin to know this intimately. You come to realize the spirit that is you is not contained by the physical domain at all. It has no boundaries, no form, no limits to its outer edges. You are aware of the real source of your life, even though you have been conditioned to believe otherwise.
At this stage you are, as Jesus Christ put it, “Being in this world, but not of it.” At this level, you loosen your emotional attachment to what you view as your reality. This detachment is followed by a knowing that the observer within you who is always noticing your surroundings and your thoughts, is, in reality, the source of your physical world. This awareness, along with your willingness to enter this domain, is the beginning of learning to attract to yourself that which you desire and need while you are in a physical body.