In this chapter we are deliberately reiterating points made previously but we are also injecting some new material and drawing some practical conclusions.
An aspect of occult teaching that could dismay many of us when we come across it is the matter of so-called soul death: we are only too aware of our great imperfections of character. We have seen that man, as a spiritual entity or Ego, is virtually immortal, but that this applies only to the Ego, the individuality, not to the personality. The personality is subject to dissolution, and, when death occurs it is extinct forever, except for the worthy spiritual results of its living absorbed by the Ego, and the remaining skandhas which condition the new personality. There remain also the impressions or pictures of it that are left in the Astral Light. These pictures, as we have seen, endure forever, like those in an indestructible family photograph album, and they are of no more concern to the departed than such photographs would be.
We mentioned two deaths - one the death of the physical body and the other that of the psyche, the kama-manasic principle, at the end of the gestation period when the Ego separates out from it and enters Devachan. It appears, however, that not too infrequently and under not uncommon circumstances, the Ego can sever its connection with a person who is still alive in the physical world. In this way a person can most tragically lose his own Soul, his higher human or divine Soul. The inverse of this is also possible: very, very rarely, a personality can become so perfected, so purified, during a lifetime as to establish an enduring contact with the Ego. When this occurs we have a case of personal immortality. Let us see what the literature has to say on these states.
Nevertheless, personal immortality is conditional, for there is such a thing as "soulless men," a teaching barely mentioned, although it is spoken of even in
Isis Unveiled [Vol. II p.368 et seq], and there is an Avitchi (see Glossary), rightly called Hell, though it has no connection with, or similitude to, the good Christian's Hell, either geographically or psychically. (S.D.. Ill, p. 510)
Let us put in an apparent digression here. The passage is concerned with the two levels of mind (Manas), the one tending upwards toward union with the universal spiritual "soul" and the other toward the animal man. In Nature the two minds are one but they separate in the incarnate man, the "bridge" between them being the Antahkarana.
To return to the quotation:
To understand this abstruse metaphysical doctrine fully and correctly, one has to be thoroughly impressed with an idea ... namely the great axiomatic truth that the only eternal and living reality is that which the Hindus call Paramatma and Parabrahma. [See Glossary] This is the one ever-existing Root Essence, immutable and unknowable to our physical senses, but manifest and clearly perceptible to our spiritual natures. Once imbued with that basic idea and the further conception that if it is omnipresent, universal and eternal, like abstract Space itself, we must have emanated from it and must, some day, return into it, and all the rest becomes easy.
If so, then it stands to reason that life and death, good and evil, past and future, are all empty words or at best, figures of speech. If the objective Universe itself is but a passing illusion on account of its beginning and finitude, then both life and death must also be aspects and illusions. They are changes of state; in fact, and no more. Real life is in the spiritual consciousness of that life, in a conscious existence in Spirit, not Matter. and real death is the limited perception of life, the impossibility of sensing conscious or even individual existence outside of form, or at least of some form of Matter. Those who sincerely reject the possibility of conscious life divorced from Matter, and brain substance-are dead units. The words of Paul, an Initiate, become comprehensible. "Ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God," which is to say: Ye are personally dead matter unconscious of its own spiritual
essence, and your real life is hid with your Divine Ego (Christos) in, or merged with, God (Atma); now it has departed from you, ye soulless people. (see Col. 3:3) and S.D.. III, p. 512)
Speaking on Esoteric lines, every irrevocable materialistic person is a dead Man, a living automaton, in spite of his being endowed with great brain power. Listen to what Aryasangha says, stating the same fact: "That which is neither Spirit nor Matter, neither Light nor Darkness, but is verily the container and root of these, that thou art. The Root projects at every Dawn its shadow on ITSELF, and that shadow thou callest Light and Life, O poor dead Form. (This) Life-Light streameth downward through the stair of the seven worlds, the stair, of which each step becomes denser and darker. It is of this seven-times-seven scale that thou art the faithful climber and mirror, O Little Man! Thou art this, but thou knowest it not. This is the first lesson to learn. The second is to study well and know the Principles of both Kosmos and ourselves, dividing the group into the permanent and impermanent, the higher and immortal and the lower and mortal, for thus only can we master and guide first the lower cosmic and personal, then the higher cosmic and impersonal.
Once we can do that we have secured our immortality. But some may say: "How few are those who can do so. All such are great Adepts and none can reach such Adeptship in one short life." Agreed, but there is an alternative. "If Sun thou canst not be, then be the humble planet," says the Book of the Golden Precepts. (V.S. p. 165 v. 155). And if even that is beyond our reach, then let us at least endeavour to keep within the ray of some lesser star, so that its silvery light may penetrate the murky darkness through which the stony path of life trends onward; for without this divine radiance we risk losing more than we imagine.
With regard then to "soulless" men, and the "second death" of the "Soul" mentioned in Isis Unveiled. (Vol. II, p. 368 et seq.) you will there find that I have spoken of such soulless people, and even of Avitchi, though I leave the latter unnamed. ... In the Ritual (now the
Book of the Dead) the purified Soul, the dual Manas, appears as "the victim of the dark influence of the Dragon Apophis," the physical personality of the Kamarupic man, with his passions. "If it has attained the final knowledge of the heavenly and infernal Mysteries, the Gnosis" - the divine and terrestrial Mysteries of White and Black Magic - then the defunct personality "will triumph over its enemy" -- death.
(S.D., 111, p. 513)
This alludes to the case of a complete reunion, at the end of earth life, of the Ego with its Lower Manas, full of "the harvest of life. " But if Apophis conquers the soul, then it "cannot escape its second death."
These few lines from a papyrus, many thousands of years old, contain a whole revelation, known, in those days, only to the Hierophants and the Initiates. The "harvest of life" consists of the finest spiritual thoughts of the memory of the noblest and most unselfish deeds of the personality, and the constant presence during its bliss after death of all those it loved with divine, spiritual devotion.
Remember the teaching: The Human Soul, lower Manas, is the only and direct mediator between the personality and the Divine Ego. That which goes to make up on this earth the personality ... is the sum of all its mental, physical and spiritual characteristics, which, being impressed on the Human Soul, produces the "man". Now, of all the characteristics it is the purified thoughts alone which can be impressed on the higher immortal Ego. This is done by the Human Soul merging again, in its essence, into its parent source commingling, with its Divine Ego during life, and re-uniting itself entirely with it after the death of the physical man. Therefore, unless Kama-Manas transmits to Buddhi-Manas such personal ideations, and such consciousness of its "I" as can be assimilated by the Divine Ego, nothing of that "I" or personality can survive in the Eternal. Only that which is worthy of the immortal God within us, and identical in its nature with the divine quintessence, can survive; for in this case it is its own, the Divine Ego's "shadows" or emanations which
ascend to it and are indrawn by it into itself again, to become once more part of its own Essence. No noble thought, no grand aspiration, desire or divine immortal love can come into the brain of the man of clay and settle there, except as a direct emanation from the Higher to, and through, the lower Ego; all the rest, intellectual as it may seem, proceeds from the "shadow," the lower mind, in its association and commingling with Kama, and passes away and disappears forever. But the mental and spiritual ideations of the personal "I" return to it, as parts of the Ego's Essence, and can never fade out. Thus of the personality that was, only its spiritual experiences, the memory of all that is good and noble, with the consciousness of its "I", blended with that of all other personal "I's" that preceded it, survive and become immortal. There is no distinct or separate immortality for the men of earth outside of the Ego which enformed them. That Higher Ego is the sole bearer of all its alter egos on earth and their sole representative in the mental state called Devachan.
This is what we call the Devachanic state, the reward of the personality, and it is on this old teaching that the hazy Christian notion of Paradise was built, borrowed with many other things from the Egyptian Mysteries wherein the doctrine was enacted. And this is the meaning of the passage quoted in Isis, [Vol. II, p. 368]. The soul has triumphed over Apophis, the Dragon of Flesh. Henceforth, the personality will live in Eternity, in its highest and noblest elements, the memory of its past deeds, while the "characteristics" of the "Dragon" will be fading out in Kama-Loka. If the question is asked, "How live in eternity, when Devachan lasts but from 1,000 to 2,000 years?" The answer is: "In the same way as the memory of each day which is worth remembering lives in the memory of each one of us." For the sake of an example - the days passed in one personal life may be taken by us as an illustration of each personal life, and this or that person may stand for the Divine Ego.
To obtain the key which will open the door of many a psychological mystery it is sufficient to understand and remember that which precedes and that which follows.
Many a Spiritualist has felt terribly indignant on being told that personal immortality was conditional; and yet such is the philosophical and logical fact. Much has been said already on the subject but no one to this day seems to have understood the doctrine. Moreover, it is not enough to know that such a fact is said to exist. An Occultist, or he who would become one, must know why it is so; for having learned and comprehended the raison d’ etre, it becomes easier to set others right in their erroneous speculations and most important of all, it affords ... an opportunity ... to teach ... people to avoid a calamity which, sad to say, occurs in our age almost daily. This calamity will now be explained at length,
One must know little indeed of Eastern modes of expression to fail to see in the passage quoted from The Book of the Dead, and the pages of Isis. a) an allegory for the uninitiated, containing our Esoteric Teaching; and b) that the two terms "second death" and "Soul" are, in one sense, blinds, "Soul" refers indifferently to Buddhi-Manas and Kama-Manas. As to the term "second death," the qualification "second" applies to several deaths which have to be undergone by the "Principles" during their incarnation. Occultists alone understanding fully the sense in which such a statement is made. For we have I) the death of the Body; 2) the death of the Animal Soul in Kama Loka; 3) the death of the Astral Linga Sarira, following that of the Body; 4) the metaphysical death of the Higher Ego, the immortal, every time it falls into matter, or incarnates in a new personality. The Animal Soul, or lower Manas, that shadow of the Divine Ego which separates from it to enform the personality, cannot by any possible means escape death in Kama Loka, at any rate that portion of this reflection which remains as a terrestrial residue and cannot be impressed on the Ego. Thus the chief and most important secret with regard to that "second death" in the Esoteric teaching was, and is to this day, the terrible possibility of the death of the Soul, that is, its severance from the Ego, on earth during a person's lifetime. This is a real death (though with chances of
resurrection), which shows no traces in a person and yet leaves him morally a living corpse. It is difficult to see why this teaching should have been preserved until now with such secrecy, when, by spreading it among people, at any rate among those who believe in reincarnation, so much good might be done. (S.D.. III, pp. 514-16)
We should note another passage regarding the possible death of the "soul", which summarizes the foregoing:
And now we must speak of the tenet of the "second death". What happens to the Kamic Human Soul, which is always that of a debased and wicked man or of a soulless person? This mystery will now be explained.
The personal Soul in this case, viz., in that of one who has never had a thought not concerned with animal self, having nothing to transmit to the Higher, or to add to the sum of the experiences gleaned from past incarnations which its memory is to preserve throughout eternity - this personal Soul becomes separated from the Ego. It can graft nothing of self on that eternal trunk whose sap throws out millions of personalities, like leaves from its branches, leaves which wither, die and fall at the end of their season. These personalities bud, blossom forth and expire, some without leaving a trace behind, others after commingling their own life with that of the parent stem. (S.D.. III, p. 520/1)
The long passage quoted above clothes, in explicit and living terms, some of the bare facts of the constitution of man and what happens after death.
Apart, however, from giving us a more colourful description, this account begins to reorient our thinking. Instead of associating our feeling of being an entity, exclusively with the ephemeral personality, we are now beginning to get the idea - some might say getting used to the idea - that we are immortal beings, so far at least as our deep inner Selves are concerned. Perhaps, in practice, we have little or no awareness of that Self and reflect very little of it in our earthly lives. Nevertheless, the passage tells us that much of the prompting for our better deeds and thoughts originates there.
Further, in this teaching we have one concerning death which not only removes fear but gives us a feasibly explained basis for believing
in survival, but survival in this sense and not in quite the way we may previously had thought of it. We commonly think in terms of personal continuation in some after-death state reflecting, in possibly an improved way, our state of existence on earth, in idealized earthly surroundings in company with the "spirits" of the dead who would be essentially as we had known them on earth but perhaps "purified" and more "spiritual." We perhaps do not know what we mean by the words purified and spiritual but we have somehow been conditioned to think that they must indicate the state of affairs in the after-life. Can we not now see that these ideas could be what has come down to us through the ages in our conventional scriptures and theologies, of the original knowledge about the subjective state of Devachan?
The passage also gives us an idea of our own responsibility for our spiritual regeneration. We may think that because we derive our conscious life and subjective beingness from our spiritual Self - our Ego - the forces playing down on us from that realm are in themselves regenerating. They must be, and in this the religious idea of "Grace" may be justified, but for these influences to affect us significantly we, as persons, have to reach out for them and be able to respond to them. In other words, the regeneration process has to start in the living effort and resulting growth of the personal worldly man during life on earth. He has to initiate and sustain the effort for his own salvation from, so to speak, the bottom up, while he is still in the world of causes. The next world is the world of effects. By the law of justice this must be the case. There can be no outside saviour, however divine, to save us in spite of ourselves. Our imperfections and sins result from ignorance and weakness. It is these that have to be eradicated and we ourselves have to do it, but we can call on our own limitless inherent strength and wisdom.
The relevance of all this to our discussion on the after-death states may not be obvious, but we are very conditioned to the idea that we can find our way to heaven only after some forgiveness and that if we believe this, we are "saved." The significance of our even getting the idea that we do have the powers of our own higher Selves to draw on lies in the fact that we are admitting to ourselves, perhaps only as a tentative idea to start with, the fact or possibility of our having a higher Self. This is the belief required of us. We are then no longer obdurate materialists. There is now some possibility of "divine grace" penetrating to our ordinary levels of being and setting in motion the processes of regeneration. An indication of
the working of "grace" in us is conscience, one's own certain inner guide. When we can hear its voice and learn to heed and trust it, the process of our salvation has started.
We know that life is stern. In the light of Occultism we can know it to be just. We know that the after-life in Devachan is not for an eternity but is a recuperative state of rest, like sleep, in which we "dream" dreams according to our past life. We cannot make effort in Devachan; we cannot get any new experience. Our effective living has to be done, in ordinary life, on the physical plane, where also indeed the effects of our previous earthly misdeeds are inevitably and inexorably visited upon us. There is not, nor could there be, any such thing as the kind of forgiveness of sins, now or hereafter, promised by the proselytising preacher.
Some of the effects of our sins, however, may be mitigated by our further actions. We can repent in this way, but repentance can have no effect unless it results in action.
Surely these teachings have a sense and maturity which attracts us. To accept them places squarely on our own shoulders the responsibility not only for our own well-being but also for that of our fellows, and even of humanity at large. Even though we may feel quite inadequate to bear it, we cannot but sense its essential rightness.
The only God there is for each of us is the God within each of us, itself a spark from and of the One Eternal Flame. We have, surely, to learn to accept that this is so, both as an idea and as an ideal.