Q: Are we required to finish all the soul ages?
A. It's not so much that it is a requirement as that it simply doesn't work not to. If you are twenty-five, you cannot skip over twenty-six to get to twenty-seven. It is not that it is prohibited; there's just no way to do it.
Let's say someone is second-level old, and at the moment is feeling, "I've had it with the physical plane! I want to finish this up and cycle off now. I don't want to have to go through third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh old." That would be like dropping out of school, which you are certainly welcome to do, but then you haven't finished school, and this whole thing is school. Eventually, in the school of life, you will jump back in.
There are periods when incarnating as a human is more difficult, and this is a very pressurized time. Almost everyone is feeling the heat; it's not easy. It may comfort you to think about not having to come back, but after you complete this lifetime and take as long a vacation on the astral plane as you want to, you will eventually feel called back if you are not done, and it will not always be this difficult.
Theoretically, if you still feel the way you feel now after you complete this lifetime (in other words, after you die), you could take a thousand earth years off. The reason you would probably not actually do that is because you've been working on things with other souls with whom you'd probably like to finish. If you have started a particular monad (a lesson, or compact unit of experience) with someone, you would probably want to do the other half of that with that same soul; if you wait a thousand years, that soul may not be available to do that with you. However, you certainly can take as much time as you need between lives to be ready to come back.
Channeled by Shepherd Hoodwin