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EXPLORING THE GREAT BEYOND -
There are innumerable accounts of what happens to us when we die. In Western literature, many of these originate from Spiritualistic sources, from those, it is said, who are already "there". This gives the stories great validity for those who believe that the actual "spirits" of the dead manifest at séances, either through a medium in a trance or by speaking through a clairaudient sensitive. The sensitive, if he or she is clairvoyant, may also see the "spirits," as seems to be the case at the more ordinary kind of spiritualist meeting where persons in the audience receive messages from departed ones, whether members of the family or otherwise. These messages are not, in themselves, of any consequence to anyone except those receiving them, but the phenomenon is significant. Accounts of what happens when we die, received in this fashion, are, as we have already said, inconsistent with many discrepancies in matters of fact.
The account given here stems from men - living men, not disincarnate ones - who claim to know what they are talking about through having been made to experience the post-mortem states during their initiation into the deeper aspects of the Esoteric Science. It is further claimed that there is not, nor has there been for thousands of years, any discrepancy between the descriptions given us by those who have had this experience.
A quite detailed account of the processes and subjective states after death according to these initiates is given in some of the letters of two such initiates to A. P. Sinnett, received between 1881 and 1884.
Briefly, the process for the normal case, exceptions to which are dealt with later, is that the life or vitality of the dying person ebbs out of the physical body. While this is happening the astral body is separating from, but remains for a time attached to, the physical body through "the silver cord," so often referred to in spiritualistic and psychic literature.
This cord is the connecting link, of fine atherical substance between the physical and the inner principles. At death this cord breaks, and when this has occurred the inner and irreversible processes of death begin. Nothing then can call the person back to life.
When this severance has taken place, the astral double, together with the physical body, begins to disintegrate but, it is said, it stays in the vicinity of the body. Sometimes, so the stories go, this phantom is seen in favourable atmospheric conditions over a new grave. The vital principle leaves the disintegrating double and returns to the general pool of life force (Prana).
Life, as the higher spiritual principles (five, six, and seven), is now centred in the mind-cum-emotional vehicle (the fourth principle), the psyche, of the deceased person. Then begins a process of "gestation" or assimilation of the significant experience of the last personality by the upper levels of the fifth principle, the higher mind, of the persisting individuality, as defined previously in Chapter 6. This individuality or Ego, however, is a purely spiritual entity of the highest order, and only the really spiritual essence of the previous life experience is of interest to it and can be assimilated by it.
During the earlier part of the period between lives on earth this assimilation takes the form of the transformation of the elements of experience into faculty, i.e. the ability to do things; and this will in turn be reflected in the capabilities of the next personality. This gestation process, we are told, takes a long time, sometimes centuries. When it is completed the ex-personality is said to pass through a second death. The Ego then awakens slowly to consciousness from a slumbering or torpid state which it usually falls into at death. On awakening, it enters a long period, again some centuries, so we are told, of unalloyed happiness. This is a period of recuperation and recompense for unmerited suffering and for the fulfillment of all the worthy hopes and ambitions of the late personality, in a blissful subjective state. The objective realizations of these things can be achieved only in the next physical life.
This blissful state, called in the literature Devachan, comes slowly to an end. When it is completely over, the Ego puts a ray, or spark, of itself down into the psychic realms where, at the various levels, the appropriate substances for a set of mental and emotional vehicles, are re-collected to form the psyche of a new person to be.
This psyche, however, will be conditioned entirely by the nature and doings of the previous one: even its previous constituent materials are gathered together again, so it is said.
When the psyche is thus reconstituted the astral double is formed and quickened and then awaits attachment to the embryo of a new physical vehicle. This in turn takes on the form and certain characteristics of the already existing new astral body, which acts as a pattern for it. The primary physical characteristics will be derived from the genetic factors contributed by the new parents, one or both of whom in their turn will usually have some previous karmic connections with the person to be.
The total period between lives is normally long, up to some centuries. Lengths assigned to this period may range from immediate reincarnation to thousands of years, varying in individual cases according to a number of factors. As an indicator, however, 1,000 to 1,500 years seems to be the average for a person dying a normal death after a reasonably full life.
So much for the after-death processes as they affect the principles of man. What is happening during this time in the consciousness of the deceased? We are told that before the severance of the silver cord there is a full review of the life just lived. This is a solemn and important undertaking, lasting for an hour or two after death has apparently taken place, which should not be interrupted by noise and the business of laying out the body and so on. The deceased is noticing and assessing the highlights of his past life. These strike chords of memory and thought and are seen in this review in a very objective manner, in their proper relative importance. It is said that the main cast of thought so engendered in these moments largely determines the nature of the future life.
When this review is finished, in the normal case, the subject falls into unconsciousness. The Ego, the fount of individual consciousness, is normally fully conscious all the time on its own plane. In the dying process, however, it seems to have a strong connection with the ex-personality, in which personal consciousness was centred in the brain. This is now no longer functioning, but the Ego is not yet released from its trammels.
In the exceptional cases previously referred to, mostly of premature death by accident, suicide, and so on, we are told that personal consciousness can be retained to such an extent that sometimes the person does not know he is dead. In other cases he may enter a dreamlike or even deep sleep state. In instances of accident
or suicide the person who is complete except for a physical body can communicate, through a medium, with people on earth.
In the case of the premature death of a person of strong physical appetites or other worldly connections, there can be distress because the personal man is still conscious but is no longer able to satisfy his desires. He is in rather the same position as an avid smoker who has run out of cigarettes or tobacco when the shops are closed, and this can be torture! Apart from this kind of suffering there is no punishment, as such, after death. The karmic consequences of our wrong doing are visited on us in this world where our misdeeds are committed, not in the inner worlds. These inner worlds are worlds of effects only. We cannot create new debts and obligations, nor sin against our fellows there: nor in the ordinary way can we perform any positive good in spite of some strongly held beliefs to the contrary.
Reverting to the normal situation, the onset of unconsciousness starts the process of transferring to the Ego the refined spiritual results, if any, of our past life. We are told that very seldom does it happen that a man has no spiritual credit balance to insure, and condition, a stay in the blissful state of Devachan. That state, then, is enjoyed by most of us. A complete materialist who strongly and continuously denies any life after death can, however, inhibit any conscious enjoyment of Devachan. It is interesting to note that there is a close correspondence between this Devachanic 'dream' state and our nightly one of dreaming in the ordinary way. It has now been discovered that if our dreaming, as indicated to an observer by rapid eye movement, is interrupted as soon as we enter it, and this is kept up so as to prevent our having normal dreaming periods for a few nights, we become nervous and irritable. In other words, dreaming is a necessary recuperative activity essential to our proper rest whether at night or during the after death state. The Devachanic experience, whether we are aware of it or not, is an essential element in the long sleep of death. Before we eventually enter Devachan which we do slowly as consciousness returns, we again review our previous life's experiences. When this review is complete we experience the second death, previously referred to. We are parting with our ex-personality forever. The Ego is now separated from its old psyche, the fourth and lower parts of the fifth principles.
At the departure of the Ego, these discarded psychic principles become an empty shell, a husk, the reliquiae, as said of our mortal soul, known as an elementary. This shell, or elementary, does retain for a period a dim consciousness of its own, and it can prolong it’s existence if it can draw life energy from a medium, or through the medium from a group of sitters. For this to happen the medium may not be known as such and may evince no abnormal tendencies. He or she may be just a mediumistic type of person from whom the elementary can get vitality. In extreme cases a strong elementary can vampirize the living, not of their physical blood but of their vital life energy, sometimes leaving them as deficient as if they had severe anaemia. Such instances have been known, but fortunately for all of us, they are - now at any rate - very rare.
To return to our "heaven" state, it has been mentioned that there all our finer hopes and aspirations are fulfilled. We also apparently find ourselves in just the surroundings and with those friends, relatives, and loved ones with whom we would most wish to be.
This is a subjective state of complete contentment with nothing whatever to mar it. We have no knowledge of anything or anyone we left behind, nor their circumstances. We have no means of communication with the physical world. Such means as we once had, have disintegrated in the processes of death. It is important to note, however, that there can be communication between Egos at their own level of being, and a person still living in the physical world whose Ego, during sleep, enjoyed such communication with another Ego with whom bonds of love had been established, would be aware of having communicated. Such a feeling might be brought through in a dream or as a mere feeling, vague or strong, during waking hours. It seems that it is possible to acquire and train this faculty of Egoic communication. (See Letter 4, Some Unpublished Letters of H. P. Blavatsky, pp. 136/137.)
Our purpose here is not fully to describe the after death processes and states but to set the stage with sufficient information to enable us to appreciate later explanations of various kinds of relevant psychic phenomena. In these explanations, much misunderstanding may be avoided if it is kept clearly in mind that Mme. Blavatsky uses the word "spirit" to apply only to the Ego, or the three-fold divine human Self.
All the instruments through which that Self operates (however dimly in most cases) she regards as living mechanisms variously motivated, imperfect, severely limited, and completely irresponsible in themselves. They are in fact mere temporary illusions with which the personal man, in his ordinary consciousness, wholly identifies himself during his lifetime.
Regarding further the mortal soul of man, his Kama-rupa, there is, as we have seen, a bridge or link, (technically known as Antahkarana), between this and the Ego, the Individuality. About this bridge we are told the following:
Many of us have been brought up with ideas of reward and punishment for our good and evil actions. These reflect into conventional religious teachings about heaven and hell after death. Heaven is for the good; hell for the bad. Sin, we are told, divorces us from God, our means of Salvation, who lives in heaven, where everlastingly we can enjoy his company and that of the blessed if we do not sin or, according to some, if we repent of our sins before we die. We have more to say on this subject later but the following may prepare us for quite a new way of thinking about these things.
An enquirer asks:
The answer was:
As mentioned in the Preface. there is. must be. much repetition in dealing with any subject from the point of view of Occultism. In this chapter we are primarily dealing with death and after. but many important side issues must be noticed before the story can have even a reasonable completeness. so that what is given can form the data for prolonged and deep thought; this is the only way to extract real meaning out of it. Incidentally. it could be said that anyone who knows enough and thinks enough must inevitably become a Theosophist or real Occultist.
Here are some illuminating supporting passages. They take the form of comments on points raised in a letter from H.R.H. (a Prince of Siam) to the Editor of Lucifer (H.P.B.). The quotations from his letter are in square brackets. They are all in the context of our theme and contain much teaching. some of it corroborating what has already been said.
As we have seen the skandhas are the karmic residue, in terms of 'predispositions and tendencies', of a lifetime's activity. They are what we have built into our personal character. They are transmitted from one personality to the next as something similar to our inherited physical characteristics but where the last personality is the sole parent. They represent a conditioning of the 'life atoms' comprising our inner vehicles. In the interlife period these atoms go dormant and remain so until they are quickened by the vivifying Egoic ray during the preparatory processes at the start of a new life. The life atoms reassemble the substances at appropriate levels for the reconstitution of the new psyche. A new mortal soul, made in the image of its maker, the old personality, is born so to speak into its own world and awaits a new mother to give it birth on earth in a new physical body.
On this subject there is the following passage in The Secret Doctrine. (II, p. 671): "The latter (Occultism) teaches that (a) the life atoms of our (Prana) life principle are never entirely lost when a man dies.
That the atoms best impregnated with the life-principle (an independent, eternal, conscious factor) are partially transmitted from father to son by heredity, and are partially drawn once more together and become the animating principle of the new body in every new incarnation of the Monads. Because (b), as the individual Soul is ever the same, so are the atoms of the lower principles (body, its astral, or life double, etc.), drawn as they are by affinity and Karmic law always to the same individuality in a series of various bodies, etc. , etc. "
Here we hope we have shown that death is not a simple, single isolated incident but a long drawn out, complex process, and that no thing or state in nature, inner or outer, is eternal or everlasting, not even death.
Exploring the Great Beyond > Next Page Chapter 9 The Astral Light