SPIRITUALITY SCIENCE – THE PROMISE OF GOOD OLD AGE:
The concept of Life-Span implies that there is an Individual whose existence has a definite beginning and end. The human body develops from a Single, fertilized Egg Cell called Zygote which is produced by the union of a male sex cell called sperm and a female sex cell called egg. Human life includes clearly distinguishable stages such as infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age. From the instant called conception, human organism grows and develops continuously to enter adulthood at age 20. At about the age of 25, the progressive developmental changes are completed. While there are individualistic variations in the aging process, most human beings can be identified to be living in a condition called old age by the time they attain the age of 80-years. The exact duration of human life is unknown. Guinness World Records has verified the age claims of old, living persons in the world and the highest authenticated human age is 122 years.
There could be a maximum life-span for the human race that is established in the human genome. To account for human longevity, it could be important to study all the human records. In that exploration of written human records of human longevity, I have studied Bible, particularly The Old Testament Book of GENESIS which is recognized as The First Book of Moses. Bible derives information concerning the inheritance of longevity from the study of the genealogical records of Hebrew people such as Adam, Noah, and Abraham. In my view, the statements concerning the age at death of Hebrew people cannot be dismissed as religious fiction.
THE BIBLICAL RECORD OF HUMAN LIFE-SPAN:
There is no evidence to suggest that the span of human life has increased since the beginning of recorded history. Advances in Medical Science and the understanding of the principles of nutrition, sanitation, environmental hygiene, and disease prevention have contributed to a remarkable increase in the life expectancy of the general population. However, there is no valid reason to make a similar claim about human life-span. On the contrary, the Hebrew record of human longevity depicts a sudden, and dramatic drop in the expected span of human life.
The Biblical Record of man’s creation and his mortality reveal that the LORD God Creator played a crucial, and decisive role to change the length of the human life-span while external factors like food, and environment could easily tilt the balance in the direction of long-lasting life or premature death. I would like to briefly go over a few details about the recorded life histories of Adam, Noah, and Abraham who was originally known as Abram. Genesis, Chapter 5 claims that Adam at the age of 130 years, had a son named Seth. Adam lived for another 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Adam lived 930 years and then he died(Genesis 5:5).
Methuselah(grandfather of Noah) lived 969 years and then died(Genesis 5:27). It is an interesting fact for he had lived longer than Adam who was created by God, and longer than Noah with whom God made His Covenant to defend all Life that lives on planet Earth(Genesis 9:17). The father of Noah, Lamech altogether lived 777 years(Genesis 5:31). After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. However, the LORD God Creator makes a very dramatic decision and said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal, his days will be a hundred and twenty years.”(Genesis 6:3) It appears that God had expelled Adam from the Garden of Eden and had condemned Adam to lead a mortal existence. But, at that time, God made no decision about human life-span. During the lifetime of Noah, God had announced a predetermined human life-span and had fixed it as 120 years. Noah was six hundred years old when the “FLOOD” waters came on Earth(Genesis 7:6). Noah survived the “FLOOD” and God made a Covenant with Noah and it extends to all life on the Earth. Yet the same time, God makes no concession, and made no promise to extend the life-span which He decided to fix at 120 years. In this account of Hebrew life histories, the author was not making any attempt to increase or decrease the life-spans of the Biblical characters to show any individualistic preferences. The Book of Genesis traces the genealogy of Abraham(originally called Abram) after the death of Noah at the age of 950 years. The reproductive vigor continued to survive the aging process and Terah after living for 70 years, became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran(Genesis 11:26). And Terah, (father of Abram) lived 205 years and died(Genesis 11:32) and the Book of Genesis offers no further explanation for the shortened life-span of Terah. But, the life history of Terah is highly relevant for he had lived longer than Abraham with whom God made a Covenant and told him, “You, however will go to your fathers in peace, and be buried at a good old age.”(Genesis 15:15)
THE PROMISE OF GOOD OLD AGE:
The relationship between age and longevity becomes very vivid in the life history of Abraham. He was fully aware of his old age and knew that he was childless and it could be impossible to have his own offspring with his wife Sarah while both of them had already experienced the effects of old age. Abraham had a son named Ishmael through his wife’s maid-servant and was ninety-nine years old when he got circumcised. Eventually, Abraham’s wife Sarah became pregnant and bore a son who was named Isaac. After Sarah’s death, Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah(Genesis 25:1). Around the same time, Abraham’s son Isaac had already reached the age of reproductive maturity and married Rebekah at the age of 40. Abraham had several children with his second wife and it clearly demonstrates the fact of being in good health in his old age. Altogether, Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years, and he was gathered to his people(Genesis 25:7-8).
The life history of Isaac is very interesting for he died at 180 years of age, 5 years longer as compared to his father Abraham. But, Isaac was not given the Promise of Good Old Age. The aging process gave him plenty of misery and he became blind and lost the ability to make the distinction between his two sons, the first-born Esau and the younger son Jacob.
It is important to note that the aging process had consequences and had adverse impacts on the lives of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. The Book of Genesis, Chapter 47, verse # 9 reflects the sense of disappointment felt by Jacob about his life-span; “The Joseph brought his father Jacob in before Pharaoh. After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, Pharaoh asked him, ‘How old are you?’ And Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.” It is the most impressive, and truthful statement about the experience of the aging process that I read in the Book of Genesis.
THE BIBLICAL THEORY ON AGING:
In the Book of Genesis, God created Adam as an adult and had blessed him and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. From that time, God instituted the universal Principle of Generation in which human reproduction is achieved by the union of an egg cell and sperm cell. From the moment called conception, the human organism uses an aging process to grow and to develop into a human being. If God had not driven Adam and Eve out of The Garden of Eden, they would still be living on Earth for they would have surely eaten from “The Tree of Life.” To ensure man’s mortality, Adam was permanently banished from The Garden of Eden and yet he lived a long life. The aging process may eventually lead to death, but God had apparently changed His mind; and this change was proclaimed in Genesis, Chapter 6, verse#3 which I have already mentioned. It appears that God made a decision to limit the human life-span without exclusively depending upon the aging process which undermines man’s ability to live a long, fruitful life. Apart from the reduced longevity, the Promise of Good Old Age given to Abraham was not extended to his offspring. Jesus who is a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, lived His mortal existence for a very short period and died before reaching old age. However, Jesus may not have escaped the natural aging phenomenon after His Resurrection. This interpretation is supported by The New Testament Book of REVELATION, Chapter 1, verse #14 in which Jesus Christ is portrayed with the characteristic gray hair of old age; “His head and hair were white like wool as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.” Jesus Christ took a human birth and may be experiencing an aging process even after the fact of his Resurrection after death. However, the aging process cannot undermine the Longevity of Jesus Christ for God has promised man an everlasting life through belief in Christ.
SPIRITUALITY SCIENCE – AGING AND LONGEVITY:
I would like to pay my tribute to Blaise Pascal who shared his views about man and human nature; “Man is a nothing in comparison with the Infinite, an All in comparison with the Nothing, a mean between Nothing and Everything. Since he is infinitely removed from comprehending the extremes, the end of things and their beginning are helplessly hidden from him in an impenetrable secret; he is equally incapable of seeing the Nothing from which he was made, and the Infinite in which he swallowed up.” Since man exists as a Mortal Being, man has a natural tendency to investigate the Beginning of Life and the End of Life and seek a better understanding of the natural processes liking Aging that propels man to travel and reach the destination termed ‘Death’ without any choice. Aging is a widespread biological phenomenon and all living things display a natural tendency towards a decline of biological functions and a time-related disability to adapt to metabolic stress. At the same time, I ask my readers to note that the ‘Protoplasm’, the living substance that makes up both the cytoplasm and nucleoplasm appears to be potentially immortal. The term ‘Longevity’, the length or duration of a life or lives, must be interpreted in the context of the potential ability of Protoplasm to survive while individual members of species take birth, live, and die after a period of time. The term Life-Span describes the longest period of time that a typical individual can be expected to live. Similarly, Lifetime is the period of time that someone lives, or that something lasts, functions, or is in effect. Human beings have the unique ability to use their Lifetime to create a legacy that can endure giving an aura of immortality to that specific human individual who may have finished his or her mortal existence.
THE PHENOMENON OF LONGEVITY:
The concept of Life-Span implies that there is an individual whose existence has a definite beginning and end. Within the Phylum Protozoa, organisms that consist of a single cell, are numerous species that reproduce by fission which is a form of asexual reproduction in which the parent organism divides into two or more approximately equal parts, each becoming an independent individual. In such organisms where it is not easy to establish the beginning and end of an individual organism, the growth seems to continue indefinitely and a potential immortality can be observed. In organisms that use sexual reproduction, the limits of the life-span of each species appear to be determined by ‘Heredity’ which refers to the transmission of characteristics from parent to offspring by means of genes in the chromosomes. Each individual member of any given species has a life-span during which something of that individual lasts when transmitted to offspring as heritable information. The term heredity and the Laws of Inheritance and the Science called Genetics will have validity if, and only if some biological characteristics survive in spite of the death of any individual member of a species. It is very interesting to observe that there are several species of living things which have continuously lived for exceptionally long periods of time retaining their species-specific identity. Such organisms can be claimed to be immortal as they appear to be fully capable of surviving indefinitely. This faculty has been attributed to some insects, some simpler forms of invertebrate marine life (such as Tube Worms, Jellyfish, Clams, and Lobsters), certain fishes and reptiles which appear to be capable of unlimited growth. As the complexity of an organism increases, the internal changes associated with the aging process contribute to senescence and death of the organism. Even under the most favorable external conditions, there is a predetermined age beyond which a given individual of a species may not be able to survive. The Maximum Life-Span is often an estimate based on the longest lived organism of its species that is known to date. The Average Life-Span is a statistical concept that is derived by the analysis of mortality data for populations of each species. The Average Life-Span is related to Life Expectancy, the statistically probable length of time that a typical individual of any given species can be expected to live. Life Expectancy varies as it depends on the changing death rate over a period of time. Even species that have very slow-growing rates can experience higher than natural death rates due to external factors and may even face the threat of total extinction.
The issue of Life-Span of plants and trees and of Human Life-Span need special consideration. In all animals, where the organism is formed by sexual reproduction, the beginning of life is defined by the formation of the fertilized egg cell or zygote. Very often, physical birth is considered to be the beginning of the Life-Span. The end or death of an organism is reflected in its inability to support its structural and functional organization that gives it a distinctive physical identity. This generation of Life by the union of an egg and sperm is a most remarkable event. In the entire Animal and Plant Kingdom where the organisms achieve reproduction sexually, the Generative Mechanism remains the same and is unchanged over millions of years. This Generative Potential of Sexual Reproduction is unaltered and it describes a most creative process that is involved in the beginning of all living creatures. In my view, the immutability of Life’s beginning is dependent upon the Unchanging Principle called Soul or Spirit.
SPIRITUALITY SCIENCE – AGING IS AN ETERNAL LAW:
Aging is God’s eternal law with respect to man and as such the principle of aging exists in the human nature and man has no choice other than that of submitting to the Natural Law of Aging to begin his mortal existence.
Lord Gautama Buddha(c. 563 to c. 483 B.C.,) known as “Siddhartha”(He who accomplishes) had correctly observed to claim that, “Whatever is born, produced, conditioned, contains within itself the nature of its own dissolution.” In biology, the term aging is used to describe the progressive structural, and functional changes in an organism that lead to senescence or a decline of biological functions and of organism’s ability to adapt to metabolic stress. It must be carefully understood that the process called aging begins right after the moment of conception and the newborn arrives because of the mechanisms that operate and control the aging process.
Age is a fundamental characteristic of most living organisms. The speed of the aging process varies and it is not the same in the entire organism. To establish human birth with a recognizable physical appearance, the cells of the embryo and fetus rapidly multiply and several of them have to simply die after a programmed sequence of cell divisions. Aging is that inevitable process that causes cell death after the lapse of a specified time interval which is programmed. At adulthood(age 20), age acceleration is around 40% and it is 100% in newborns.
AGING – BIOLOGICAL CLOCK – BIOLOGICAL RHYTHM:
Biorhythm or Biological Rhythm describes the cyclic pattern of changes in physiology often synchronized with daily environmental changes in response to daylight or dark. Circadian Rhythm is the 24-hour clock that drives wakefulness and sleep. Most living organisms use a timing mechanism that use clues or external environmental stimuli like that of light, and temperature that influence the internal Biological Clock. The concept of an operating Biological Clock is important in the understanding of the aging process.
HORVATH’S CLOCK – EPIGENETIC CLOCK – DNA METHYLATION AGE:
Dr. Steve Horvath, Professor of Human Genetics, UCLA, USA has discovered with a new technique of age measuring that uses aging marker called DNA Methylation. He described 353 epigenetic markers on the DNA which measure DNA methylation of cpG dinucleotides.
The human organism experiences the consequences of the aging process and the condition called senescence or old age is easy to recognize. There are several theories about the aging mechanism and as to how the aging process is operated and controlled by hereditary factors. Some deterioration of normal bodily functions is always a component of the biological aging process.
I define Spirit or Soul as the vital, animating, and unchanging, operating Principle that establishes human existence in a constantly changing world. Age is a measurement of the time interval between two events such as the birth and the death. The aging phenomenon is a variable expression which is influenced by both heredity and external environmental factors. At the same time, it could be important to identify the factors that operate within the internal environment of each, individual, independent, living cells. The immediate external environment of DNA, genes, chromosomes, and the nucleus is called the cytoplasm, or cytosol if the cell is viewed as a nucleus and cytoplasm bounded by a limiting membrane. I often write about the unchanging nature of this cytoplasm which may be recognized as its spiritual attribute. The cytoplasm has the Power described in Physiology as “NUTRITION”, the power or ability with which it attracts matter found in the cell’s external environment. In other words, the cytoplasm has the spiritual ability to establish a connection, association, bonding, relationship, or partnership between the energy-yielding molecules of the environment, and the energy-demanding molecules of the human individual and establish the fact or reality called the living being. The DNA, the genes, the chromosomes and the nucleus have no such ability for they simply lead a dependent existence deriving energy and matter supplied by the cytoplasm and its structures such as the mitochondria, and the ribosomes. The DNA is able to express a change and is able to generate a variation in the structures or a variation in the physiological functions such as the rate of protein synthesis because of the fact of its dependence upon an unchanging Principle that is not influenced by the time factor.
If age is viewed as a natural phenomenon characterized by changes in structure and function, the change is explained as the Power of Time over material things. This change is possible and can be recognized as the process is supported by an Unchanging, Spiritual, or Eternal Principle that is not affected by the time factor. For that reason, aging has to be explained as an Eternal Law which operates and regulates human existence from conception to death. Man has no choice other than that of leading a dependent existence, a Dependence that is Primarily provided by the Power/Force/Energy often named as the Divine Providence.