WHEN WE DIE - Exploring the Great Beyond
by Geoffrey Farthing
Chapter X - More About the Ego, and Immortality
A Description of the After-Death States and Processes
In the Masters' account, they stressed that the after-death states are in the worlds of effects which are determined by our actions, thoughts and motives in this material world. It is here that the causes of those effects are generated. After death we cannot change the course of events, nor ourselves; we can only suffer from or enjoy those effects. We cannot, in either Kama Loca or Devachan, as some writers have said, go to school, receive instruction from the Masters and work out grand programmes of personal development. In those states we have no objective effectiveness because our existence there is purely subjective.
About what happens to the Ego, at its level of being, we are told little, except that it can learn and itself develop. We know that in Devachan it assimilates the spiritually worthy elements of our earthly experience, at the mental level, and thereby assumes for the time being some personal characteristics, which grant personal beingness to the Ego in Devachan. From the spiritual experiences of many personal lives, the Ego assimilates vast knowledge. Additionally, the Ego partakes of the nature of Monad of which there is only one. Similarly there is only one universal EGO, as there is only one LIFE: we all share it, which means that our individual Egos are essentially identical with it and with all others.
Regarding the post-mortem development of the Ego, we are told that:
... we can acquire more knowledge; that is, we can develop further any faculty which we loved and strove after during life, provided it is concerned with abstract and ideal things, such as music, painting, poetry, etc., since Devachan is merely an idealized and subjective continuation of earth-life.
[Key to Theosophy part IX, p156]
An enquirer asked, "But if in Devachan the Spirit is free from matter, why should it not possess all knowledge?" The answer was:
Because, as I told you, the Ego is, so to say, wedded to the memory of its last incarnation. Thus, if you think over what I have
said, and string all the facts together, you will realize that the Devachanic state is not one of omniscience, but a transcendental continuation of the personal life just terminated. It is the rest of the soul from the toils of life.
[Key to Theosophy part IX, p156]
As to where we are after death, we have been told of Kama Loka and Rupa Loka, but still it can be asked, where are they? Many times we are told that they are not localities as such: they are subjective states. On the other hand, Kama Loka is referred to as the earth's "atmosphere". This must be taken as figurative. It refers to the earth's psychic atmosphere, a subjective sphere of being associated particularly with our earth. Then we are told:
Devachan is a state, not a locality. Kama-Loka, Rupa-Loka and Arupa-Loka are the three spheres of ascending spirituality in which the several groups of subjective entities find their attractions. In the Kama-Loka (semi-physical sphere) dwell the shells, the victims and suicides; and this sphere is divided into innumerable regions and sub-regions corresponding to the mental states of the comers at their hour of death. This is the glorious "Summerland" of the Spiritualists, to whose horizons is limited the vision of their best seers - vision imperfect and deceptive because untrained and non-guided by Alaya-Vynyana [Vijnana - hidden knowledge]
[The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p195 (3rd edition), p198 (1st and 2nd editions)]
So far in what has been told us about death and the after-life, it has been instilled into us that nothing lasts for ever. Our life on earth is for a term, the after-death states each have their own period, however variable in individual cases these may be. By this doctrine even the grand cycle of our virtually innumerable lives on this planet must come to an end. What then?
Obviously that grand cycle is also part of an even greater one, but one of quite an inconceivable duration to our ways of thinking. Apart from that consideration there are two answers to our question: one is in terms of the developmental journey we are all involved in; the other is in terms of the life period of the world system of which our Egos form a part.
The whole universe and all that is in it is in a perpetual state of ever-becoming, a state of perpetual progressive change, of development. This is the process of evolution. The infinite potentialities of Spirit are for ever being unfolded, in appropriate periods of activity alternating with periods of rest. These correspond to our earth lives and their deaths, our objective existences and our periodical disappearances (from an earthly point of view) into the realms of subjectivity, Devachan.
One termination of this process as far as an individual man (Ego) is concerned occurs when he has completed his evolutionary journey as a man, i.e. when he is ready to move on to the next stage of becoming. Before he enters that stage, however, he enters a long rest, a period of pure subjective existence known as Nirvana, corresponding to the Devachan between earth lives. Similarly the whole of our system, with all that is in it, will enter a Nirvanic state (pralaya) at the end of its period of activity (manvantara). A man may even achieve a similar state during his earthly existence by making an enduring conscious contact with his spiritual Ego. This is known as Samadhi and is attained during prolonged deep meditation, coupled with a high degree of physical purity.
In the Nirvanic condition, when man identifies with the persisting SELF of the Cosmos, he is virtually in the state of immortality. Some extracts from the Masters' Letters expand on this theme.
We have heard the Ego, the upper triad, described as immortal - and certainly it is when compared with our ephemeral earth lives. But, as we have said, nothing in existence - and we must assume an existence as an entity even for our Ego, in some state - lasts literally for ever, even though its term of separate life may be millions of years. Life itself, as the everlasting Law which regulates the coming and going of
Universes, may be said to be endless, but only because to our limited comprehension it appears as a virtual abstraction. There is also another view: that is, that as humans evolve to become members of a super-human, i.e. Dhyan Chohanic, state, they become members of a hierarchy of such beings, and their consciousness then becomes that of the hierarchy. The restricted Personality has long since been transcended. There is also an expansion of consciousness as the hierarchical ladder is ascended until Cosmos itself is embraced. Even that, the Cosmos, as we have seen, is subject to cyclic existence in periodic manifest form.
Concerning immortality as we think of it, the Master had this to say:
Complete or true immortality, - which means an unlimited sentient existence, can have no breaks and stoppages, no arrest of Self-consciousness.
[The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p125 (3rd edition), p128 (1st and 2nd editions)]
To this he added:
We call "immortal" but the one Life in its universal collectivity and entire or Absolute Abstraction; that which has neither beginning nor end, nor any break in its continuity. Does the term apply to anything else? Certainly it does not. Therefore the earliest Chaldeans had several prefixes to the word "immortality", one of which is the
Greek, rarely-used term - panaeonic immortality, i.e. beginning with the manvantara and ending with the pralaya of our Solar Universe. It lasts the aeon, or "period" of our pan or "all nature". Immortal then is he, in the panaeonic immortality whose distinct consciousness and perception of Self under whatever form undergoes no disjunction at any time not for one second, during the period of his Egoship. Those periods are several in number, each having its distinct name in the secret doctrines of the Chaldeans, Greeks, Egyptians and Aryans .. Suffice for you, for the present, to know that a man, an Ego like yours or mine, may be immortal from one to the other Round. Let us say I begin my immortality at the present fourth Round, i.e. having become a full adept (which unhappily I am not) I arrest the hand of Death at will, and when finally obliged to submit to it, my knowledge of the secrets of nature puts me in a position to retain my consciousness and distinct perception of Self as an object to my own reflective consciousness and cognition; and thus avoiding all such dismemberments of principles, that as a rule take place after the physical death of average humanity, I remain as [Name] in my Ego throughout the whole series of births and lives across the seven worlds and Arupa-lokas until finally I land again on this earth among the fifth race men of the full fifth Round beings. I would have been, in such a case - "immortal" for an inconceivable (to you) long period, embracing many milliards of years. And yet am "I" truly immortal for all that? Unless I make the same efforts as I do now, to secure for myself another such furlough from Nature's Law, [Name] will vanish and may become a Mr Smith or an innocent Babu, when his leave expires. There are men who become such mighty beings, there are men among us who may become immortal during the remainder of the Rounds, and then take their appointed place among the highest Chohans, the Planetary conscious "Ego Spirits".
[The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p126 (3rd edition), p129 (1st and 2nd editions)]
There are many aspects of the subject of the after-death states about which information was given which enriches the overall picture. For example, we have now started to look at the vast vistas of the Cosmic scene, certainly in terms of enormously extended time periods and beings at very exalted levels, not included in our ordinary conceptions. It would be interesting to know, against this background, whether a remembrance of all our past lives returns to us; here is a passage which tells us:
Yes; the "full" remembrance of our lives (collective lives) will return back at the end of all the seven Rounds, at the threshold of the long, long Nirvana that awaits us after we leave Globe Z [the highest in the evolutionary scale of the earth's six companion, subjective globes, constituting our Chain - see Appendix]. At the end of isolated Rounds, we remember but the sum total of our last impressions, those we had selected, or that have rather forced themselves upon us and followed us in Deva-Chan. Those are all "probationary" lives with large indulgences and new trials afforded us with every new life. But at the close of the minor cycle, after the completion of all the seven Rounds, there awaits us no other mercy but the cup of good deeds, of merit, outweighing that of evil deeds and demerit in the scales of Retributive Justice. Bad, irretrievably bad must be that Ego that yields no mite from its fifth Principle, and has to be annihilated, to disappear in the Eight Sphere [Avitchi]. A mite, as I say, collected from the Personal Ego suffices to save him from the dreary fate. Not so after the completion of the great cycle; either a long Nirvana of Bliss (unconscious though it be in, and according to, your crude conceptions); after which - life as a Dhyan Chohan for a whole Manvantara, or else "Avitchi Nirvana" and a Manvantara of misery and Horror as a -----, you must not hear the word nor I - pronounce or write it. But "those" have nought to do with the mortals who pass through the seven spheres. The collective Karma of a future Planetary is as lovely as the collective Karma of a ----- is terrible. Enough. I have said too much already.
[The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p167 (3rd edition), p171 (1st and 2nd editions)]
As to what a "Planetary" is, the Masters gave us descriptions. These and the meaning of Rounds are explained in the Appendix.
In this chapter we have learned more about the alternate cause and effect phases of existence which not only affect us in our days and nights of ordinary activity and rest but which relate to worlds, which also have their inner principles, their corresponding periods of activity and rest, and in the longer terms their life spans and their deaths, with a retirement - like us - into subjectivity, not total annihilation.
The Ego in man enjoys an almost indefinite existence as a spiritual entity, but it is not quite everlasting. Even its vast life span has an end.
Globes and even universes in their turn have a spiritual triad, a correspondence to a man's Ego: the sum total so to speak of all the Egos it has
brought forth and nurtured. There is only One Life in Cosmos and everything in it partakes of it, including Egos for their term.
Cause and Effect are an endless continuum, an aspect of the ever-persisting Law. Everything, both large and small, has its being as a result of it. All of us humans, sub-humans and post-humans, even the loftiest, are its subjects BUT there is THAT which knows no end, from which all came and to which all will return. Therein, as the Master has told us, is the only true immortality - it is quite beyond our imagining or comprehension.
When We Die ... Exploring the Great Beyond > Next Page Chapter 11 The Keys of Life