Time is the evidence of personal failure. This is often seen in the elderly, as they age their attitudes can either be pleasant or bitter. While my father was a very pleasant man, he had his own vices and prejudices that he kept to himself. As he aged, those vices became more apparent, until just before he passed (where he let go of most of it). My mother is even more extreme of a story. These examples I’ve seen in many elderly people, but not all. Some elderly people become even more humble and caring as they age. Personal problems not fully addressed, become issues in our later years. Relating to our personal issues, we can either use masks, treat the personal problem directly, or transcend it all together.
There is a mask that most wear to cover up personal problems, in order to remain more socially accepted. As we age, the energy required to maintain those masks dwindles – letting lose the real feelings held back for so long. This also occurs when people lower their inhabitation’s through alcohol or other drugs. Wearing a mask is the most common form of pseudo-change. In most cases we think we’re actually changing our attitudes and personality, but in reality we are simply hiding it from the gaze of others. Having sat in many churches, I’ve witnessed that the common experience in religion today (any faith) is for the adherents to not go through significant change, but instead choose to pretend. There’s an old Carol Burnett skit where her family comes from church. At first everyone is wearing those masks, but given a few moments, the masks fall and their intolerance of each other comes out. By the end they are all in a fist fight. This comedy is also a commentary. Lasting change requires effort. Without personal effort, there is never any significant change, as witnessed by those who lower their inhibitions due to the weight of time, or through the use of drugs and alcohol.
Another option, is that of personal therapy. In this situation, a person uses psycho-therapy, or even spiritual practices to attempt re-organizing one’s thoughts and behaviors. Buddhism is an example of the spiritual version of this solution, where one sits in contemplation. In a meditative state, the mind is cleared and then re-habituated in order to deal with personal problems. An angry person meditates on patience, a lustful person meditates on the impedance of the flesh, etc. In this way one’s reactive nature is corrected. To a Buddhist, this relinquishes further negative karma upon the spiritual path and opens the potential to direct perception of emptiness and ultimately enlightenment. Note, that a therapist may attempt similar strategies to change a person’s behavior, but outside of a spiritual directive and as such it is outside of a spiritual reward.
While changing behavior is sometimes necessary to cull disturbances that drive personal problems, another solution to personal problems is that of Transcendence. What is being transcended is the ego personality all-together. From the Spiritual School of the Golden Rosycross, the view is that personality dies with the body. There’s a cycle to complete death, as there are four components to human existence. First the body dies, the in time three aspects of personality die in time. What remains is our essence, which once again incarnates as a human body having three personality aspects. Transcendence seeks to go beyond the personality, as it will be lost no matter what. From this perspective there is no saving the personality, so it is completely jettisoned through a spiritual path of creating space for the Higher (Higher Self, God, Spirit Spark, etc.) to enter our lives.
The mask wearer will fail in time, as no accomplishment is ever made – all one does is fool others and often themselves. However, the person who seeks self development can make some change in their temporary personality. This change may be carnal – through therapeutic processes or it can be more influential through spiritual direction. The spiritual Buddhist, Hindu or Mystic of any path may use this format to attempt to relinquish their karma holding them downward. While the path of spiritual self-development is possible to achieve a great enlightenment, another solution is to release the personality all-together. This final solution seeks to replace the temporary personality with the revolutionary Higher Self. This Truer version of our nature replaces the old personality, as we willfully allow space to enter our nature – space being the lack of ego. Sitting in quietude, tuning into the Higher, keeping the mind upon the Holy, all of this can create the space for the Higher to reside and ultimately for the ego to willfully descend. Of it all, there are two paths that offer solutions and a third that is completely fake. The fake is seen by its fruits, while the merit of the other two paths is difficult to discern which is best (if best can be determined). One must seek the answers on their own, in order to achieve the permanent change they desire.