Point Loma edition 1993
Blavatsky Trust edition 2010
Esoteric Science shows the Cosmos to be one functioning whole, governed by inherent Law, one aspect of which is expressed in the alternation of periods of activity with periods of rest. This alternation permeates the whole of the manifested universe, manifestation itself being subject to it. All things, on whatever scale of being, visible and invisible, subjective and objective, reflect the universal process, having their days and nights, their. coming and going. Only THAT, the ONE ABSOLUTE PRINCIPLE, without beginning or end or change, endures for ever.
As above, so below. As an objective universe comes and goes, so does objective man, that is, man as we know him in experience, living in a physical body and manifesting all the attributes of personality. An understanding of the occult constitution of man as described in Chapter III is a necessary preparation for the study of the after-death states. Let us recapitulate briefly: man as a unit of consciousness functions through seven principles. These principles may be grouped in various ways. For the understanding of the death and rebirth processes, they may be conveniently grouped as follows:
I. The Upper Triad
Following the system of numbering given in The Mahatma Letters, these are: Atma, Universal Spirit (7); Buddhi, the vehicle of Spirit (6); Manas, or Mind in its higher aspect (5). Neither Atma nor Buddhi is an individual human principle. They are universal and only relate to man when in conjunction with his manasic principle. This Upper Triad is often referred to as the Ego or Individuality, and is immortal.
11. The Middle Duad
During incarnation, Manas may be said to project a portion of itself into the lower planes of being, where it becomes associated with Kama (4), the
principle of desire or emotion, thus. forming a kama-manasic duality, referred to as the psyche and the mortal soul.
III. The Lower Triad
This comprises the life principle, Prana (3); its vehicle, the Linga-sharira (2) or Astral Body; and the Sthula-sharira (1) or physical body. This Lower Triad, together with the Middle Duad, form the Personality. The Lower Triad is subject to birth and death as we know it and the Middle Duad after death to disintegration, hence the mortality of the psyche.
Antahkarana, defined as "the bridge between lower and higher Manas," becomes, when developed, the means of communication between the two. The two highest principles, Atma (7) and Buddhi(6), are sometimes referred to as the Upper Duad, or, since they really comprise a single Unit, as the Monad. The combination of Monad with Manas is the Immortal Man. Although we go through life identified, for the most. part, with the evanescent Personality, the Esoteric Science insists that the real Self in us is an enduring manifestation of an inner Divine Essence, the Universal and ONE SELF.
Here it is important to distinguish between the subjective and objective states of consciousness. The normal experience of things, people, and events in the environment-the common experience of life in the physical world-is objective; ordinary reality shared with others. Our reactions to those same things, people, and events are subjective, constituting the private world of each individual, one into which no one else can enter. The distinction is an important one in the study of the after-death states of consciousness.
The account of the processes of death and the post-mortem states is derived largely from the teaching given by the Mahatmas in their correspondence with Mr A.P. Sinnett. Some of it is reiterated in The Key to Theosophy, in which Mme Blavatsky summarizes and explains what she had received on the subject from the same Adept Teachers. Nowhere else is such detailed teaching to be found; it is unique both for the information it gives about the process ofdying and what happens thereafter. It also shows how the
understanding of all that death involves depends on a proper understanding of the constitution of man and the total cosmic life process which it reflects.
In general terms, the conditions in and experiences of the post-mortem states are intimately related to the life just lived, as has 'always been taught in exoteric religion. Some of the factors that will determine what happens include the way in which the previous life was lived, the aims and motives and the dominant interests of the individual, the way in which he used his talents and opportunities, how he faced the difficulties he encountered, his relationship with his fellow men, and such obvious factors as the length of his life and the manner of his dying.
According to the account given by the Mahatmas, the death of the physical body is only the beginning of a long and complicated process, for, since man is a complex being, the withdrawal of life from his other vestures or principles must also be complex.
In the last moments of his life, before the brain ceases to function, the dying person reviews in detail the life just ending. Every incident is dislodged, as it were, from the dying brain, and each is seen in its proper perspective. According to the kind of person he has been, the dying man will pay more attention to some memories than to others. This is the moment of truth when he sees himself as he really was, not as he had habitually tried to imagine himself to be. His last thoughts, as he sees his own past passing before him, will cast their influence on to the next personality which he will assume when the time comes for his return, and because of its crucial importance for his future, the very private concentration of this period should not be disturbed.
With the ending of this review and the consequent striking of the keynote for the next incarnation, unconsciousness supervenes. Whatever the manner of death, consciousness goes out "like a snuffed candle flame." Life gradually withdraws from the lower vehicles, firstly from those of the lower triad and then much more slowly from the middle duad. As life departs from them, the vehicles sooner or later disintegrate and their constituents return to the general pool of living stuff to be reused.
The testimony of people who have been pronounced clinically dead but who subsequently recovered and related their experiences (near-death experiences [NDE], as told, for example in Dr Moody's Life after Life) provides evidence that before, during or after the review, the individual may become conscious of an impressive, intimate, and powerful Presence. It may be experienced simply as light, or a holy light, or a luminous being, sometimes likened to Christ or the Deity. In theosophical terms, this might be an awareness of the Divine Spiritual Ego shining into consciousness in this last extremity. The review itself is frequently reported among the recorded cases. Another common experience is that of being aware of a barrier that prevents further advance; some felt they were in a tunnel or a dark valley that had to be traversed in order to reach the light beyond. Perhaps reaching the light would have been the moment of death, which in these cases was not reached.
The next phase, after the loss of consciousness that follows the review, is described in The Mahatma Letters as a "death" struggle-an unfortunate term, perhaps, since it seems to connote an acutely painful and conscious experience: the struggle, as appears from the later information, is rather an automatic separation of the Egoic from the personal elements in the man's life-experience. As was shown earlier in this chapter, the Manasic or Fifth principle is dual in incarnation, partly, its higher aspects, remaining associated with the Monad and partly, its lower aspects, becoming attached to Kama, the Fourth or desire principle. These two modes of functioning of the one Manasic principle explain the terms "upper" and "lower" Manas. In association with the Monad the higher Manas forms thus the Upper Duad, while in association with Kama the lower Manas forms the Lower Duad. The struggle is between these two.
When man dies his second and third principles die with him; the lower triad disappears, and the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh principles form the surviving Quaternary ... Thenceforth it is a "death" struggle between the Upper and Lower dualities. If the upper wins, the sixth, having attracted to itself the quintessence of Good from the fifth-its nobler affections, its saintly (though they be earthly) aspirations, and the most Spiritualized portions of its mind-follows its divine elder (the 7th) into the "Gestation" State;
and the fifth and fourth remain in association as an empty shell ... Mahatma Letters (101, 103) The word Quaternary is used here differently from its usual sense when it applies to the four lower principles of man's constitution.- GAF
Where there are no unusual circumstances the Gestation State continues until-many years later (in terms of earth time) - consciousness returns. Then follows a second review of the life just past, succeeded by a gradual emergence into a state of blissful happiness, with an awareness of familiar surroundings and of dear relatives and friends. These experiences, however, are entirely subjective, like a vivid dream, but they have at least as much reality as those of what we call real life. This state, which for the dreamer is reality, is known as Devachan.
Devachan, a Sanskrit word meaning "the dwelling of the gods , is defined as
A state intermediate between two earth-lives, into which the Ego (Atma-Buddhi-Manas, or the Trinity made One) enters, after its separation from Kama-rupa and the disintegration of the lower principles on earth. Theosophical Glossary, Devachan
The nature of Devachan as a state, not a place, is underlined in another definition where it is described as
... a condition, a state of mental bliss. Philosophically a mental condition analogous to, but far more vivid and real than, the most vivid dream. It is the state after death of most mortals. Key to Theosophy, 100
While in that condition, the entity is referred to as a Devachanee. He has about him all those he loved during life, in idealized surroundings; furthermore, he experiences the fulflllment of cherished dreams and worthy ambitions, everything that was most noble in his earthly aspirations. The state is an entirely spiritual one, devoid of any baser elements; it is a state of bliss, rest, and recuperation, and of recompense for suffering. Being
subjective, however, it is a private world that cannot be shared with anyone else, similar in this respect also to the private world of dreams: in short, in spite of its vivid actuality, it is a state of self-created Illusion. Our friends there, and our environment, are not objective reality.
The question of a return to the world that the Ego has left is categorical: the vehicles necessary for existence in the lower planes have disintegrated, and consequently no return is possible. The Devachanee in his private world can have no knowledge of what is happening in the world he has left. At the Egoic level he may on occasions communicate with other Egos, including those who are still living in the physical world. But the ability of those still on earth to be aware of such communication in their waking consciousness will depend on their development and sensitivity; where the conditions allow, their consciousness may, according to Mme Blavatsky, be so impressed as to give them a sense of having been in touch with a departed one and to be comforted thereby.
Like all other states and processes, this phase of the after-death experience eventually comes to an end. As it began gradually, so it ends gradually, and once more unconsciousness supervenes, but in the normal case only after a period corresponding to many years of earth life. Then the time comes for a new incarnation, the lowest inner principles are re-formed, partly from material discarded from the old ones. When the new birth is imminent the Ego has a pre-vision of the main bent of the life to come and of what it should accomplish. Unconsciousness then returns until infant eyes look out again upon earth.
The circumstances of the child's birth, the environment of time and place, of family and circumstances, the tendencies that accompany the return and the likely events to be encountered, all this is determined by Karma. They are the accumulated balance not only of the preceding incarnation but of all previous lives.
Where an incarnation is cut short prematurely, as by illness, accident, war or suicide, the normal cycle of experiences between death and rebirth will undergo corresponding variations. For example, in the case of death in early childhood, those phases described as the review, the struggle and the gestation period will be short, since there will be little experience to be assimilated. It may happen, when death occurs in infancy, that the child's
inner principles do not disperse but return to the new body. This is reincarnation in the very literal sense. A young person meeting sudden death - a soldier, for example - may not even realize for a time that he is dead, until the time for the disintegration of the principles, normally a gradual process, arrives. Then he will become unconscious, and the normal death processes will start. Meanwhile, so long as some degree of consciousness survives in the lower principles, as is usually the case, and until the departure of the Ego into Devachan, some real communication may take place, but only through a medium. Once the normal processes of death begin to take their course, and the Ego departs, there is no such possibility; thereafter only the shell, the abandoned middle duad, can be contacted.
Suicide presents a different picture. Unlike the soldier, the suicide is deliberately responsible for his own death. It is said that he retains a degree of consciousness. He may suffer remorse, remaining in an unhappy state until such time as his life would have ended normally, but his mental state will depend upon his motive for ending his life on earth. Suffering will also be the lot of those who die 'with some still ruling abnormally strong passion, such as uncontrolled desire for the physical satisfactions of food, drink, sex or material possessions, or a compelling ambition still unsatisfied. Apart from the suffering that an individual brings upon himself by his attachment to gross physical satisfactions, there is no experience corresponding to the traditional hell. Nor is there any post-mortem punishment for evil conduct while in the body, for Karma redresses the balance on this earth for the wrong-doing that took place here; what is sown in the physical world must be reaped in the physical world, for the Law is perfectly just.
Some further information, including the more technical aspects of the subject, will be presented in Part 11. In the Esoteric Science, death is seen to be a release from the cares and sufferings of earth life, and an end too to its joys which are inevitably temporary. When the time comes, it is welcomed by many people for it is the long sleep "that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care, the balm of hurt minds, Great Nature's second course" that prepares us for another day of life on earth.
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