WHEN WE DIE - Exploring the Great Beyond
by Geoffrey Farthing
Chapter I - Introductory
A Description of the After-Death States and Processes
"To die, to sleep,
No more; and, by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep! perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: ...
... who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?"
Shakespeare, Hamlet, 3.01 59
The above is an extract from Hamlet's soliloquy on death in the third Act of the play (Scene i). It summarizes the thoughts of many of us about death, even though we are not, as Hamlet was, contemplating suicide. As we look further into the subject, we shall see how acute was Shakespeare's insight in talking of post-mortem dreams. He also reminds us that no one ever returns from the other shore when once he has died. Whether or not that is as true as we have come to accept, we shall also see. We must all at some time or another not only experience the death of others but die ourselves. Whatever we believe, we must at least wonder what is going to happen thereafter.
Much has been said on the subject, but what in fact does happen is not generally known and most of us have only vague ideas about what does or could survive death. We are even more vague about any conditions there may be for the soul or whatever it is that survives death. There are two ancient books, the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Egyptian Book of the Dead,
which go a long way towards answering these questions. These accounts, however, are not in plain language and require considerable knowledge of their symbolism before they can have a meaning for us. Later the Greek philosophers made pronouncements on the subject in plainer terms, but these also are somewhat incomplete, leaving much to be deduced.
In recent times we have had accounts of the after-death states given by spiritualists. These are certainly in plain language and cover a wide field of experience, but unfortunately are often inconsistent with each other. Nevertheless they do provide what for many people is powerful evidence of something personal surviving death.
Innumerable books have been written about purported near-death experiences, and there must be many thousands of people who have seemingly received messages from their loved ones and others during spiritualistic seances. There can be no denying that such messages have been a great comfort to most of those who have received them. This was particularly true during the two world wars when many of the messages came from members of the armed forces who had been recently killed in action. At these and other times of disaster there seems to be an increase in the number of such communications.
Our religions have their beliefs about what happens after death, but especially in the West such teachings are often in simplistic terms of heaven and hell and of entering into the company of saints or the presence of God. At the same time we are often told of a day of judgment when all secrets will be revealed.
This book does not set out to address religious or spiritualistic views as such, but it deals with the after-death processes and circumstances in what must be, to most of us, a completely new way, against a background of postulates and in a language, with its own technical terms, to which we must accustom ourselves if we would really see something of the grand picture which unfolds.
The scheme of things to be described is in line with a stream of thought (some would claim - knowledge) which, tradition has it, has existed from time immemorial. It is touched on in much ancient literature, but with the passage of time, the central core of this ancient knowledge has become overlaid by myth and allegory and, in some religious systems, particularly those of modern times, has been nearly effaced altogether.
Some of the main features of the ancient doctrines, along with some ideas we may already have, are restated in this book. However, the various
aspects of the teaching cannot be dealt with in isolation because they are all inter-related. They can also be seen as included, as integral parts, in a great body of knowledge with which they are completely consistent. This vast comprehensive knowledge is quite outside the scope of this book (the interested reader is referred to the writings of H.P. Blavatsky for it) but it is assumed that the reader will be prepared to accept some ideas which, to start with, will have to be taken completely on trust. He is asked to accept them as hypotheses. No beliefs are called for. What is set forth must stand or fall on its own merits. If an effort is made to relate what is said to our everyday experience and to what science in its various disciplines has discovered of the nature of the world we live in and of its laws, it will be seen to be reasonably justified. Many of the postulates used, however, go beyond what modern science has so far regarded as its field of investigation. This is because the subject matter largely relates to inner or subjective realms of being.
The ideas will be stated as facts, and it is hoped that, as the story unfolds, they will be seen to be at least feasible, even if not acceptable.
The story is told in several phases, mainly in the order in which the after-death processes occur. There is, however, a close relationship between the stages, and additional information about each of them has to be supplied occasionally to help us to understand what is happening. Some preliminary basic information - some of it maybe difficult to comprehend because it is different from commonly held concepts - is set out in this chapter. In Chapter Two, this general information is expanded and the whole subject put into a setting bigger than that of our personal lives and deaths. In Chapter Three, a description is given of the constitution of man from an esoteric viewpoint. It is complex, but a knowledge of the various elements of this constitution and the parts they play in our overall make-up is necessary to follow what happens to them after death. The other chapters tell what happens at the instant of death and just after, and what occurs afterwards in the inner worlds until the various processes have been completed. The final phase is described and discussed in considerable depth. It is in this state, corresponding somewhat to the heaven of Christian (and other) belief, that we spend the greater part of our time after death. It corresponds to a night's sleep after a day of activity. It is here that Shakespeare's "perchance to dream" has relevance.
One of the fundamental ideas concerning the after-life is that it does not last for ever. The teaching is that nothing whatever in the whole Cosmos, from worlds to men to the tiniest conceivable things, nor any event, time period or process, lasts for ever. Everything comes and goes: no state of being here or hereafter is everlasting. A realization of this fact has far-reaching consequences. If we accept that there are such things as after-death states, it means that they also do not last for ever. This being the case, we are faced with two alternatives: either nothing survives death, so there is no question of the term of survival, or there is an end to the term of the after-death states. This means a resuscitation, a coming again, a rebirth, a return to life, such as we see in Nature in the physical world in the springtime. The teaching says that this latter is indeed the case, but the process is not simple. There are many factors for consideration: what returns? what lives again? how does it return? And there are further associated questions: whence the great differences between people on rebirth and the various fates in store for them? Some answers to these questions are in the chapters which follow.
Then there is another interesting question: if "from whose bourn no traveller returns" is true, how does anyone know what occurs after death? For the purposes of this account, the powers of the fully developed Adept are the answer. As one of them said, they are made to learn it "through personal experience".
A chapter is devoted to exceptions to the normal process. These mostly concern those who for any reason die prematurely. Each case meets a different fate.
Then, because there is so much evidence of survival from spiritualistic sources, the nature of this evidence is examined and explanations of the more common phenomena are given.
Lastly, we have a mass of information further to enrich our understanding of all phases. We are even given glimpses of what the whole cosmic process, which obviously involves both life and death, is about. Each of us is involved and each plays a significant, an essential part. A vista of long-term progress is opened up, culminating in realms of glorious Being which eclipse all our familiar descriptions of Heaven or Paradise and make them appear trivial by comparison. We are told that the study of Death is the proper study of LIFE, everlasting and unlimited ... and it is certainly not morbid.
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