WHEN WE DIE - Exploring the Great Beyond
by Geoffrey Farthing
Chapter IX - Spiritualism
A Description of the After-Death States and Processes
Much interest in what happens after death belongs to the curious who regard spiritualistic phenomena, in the form of messages from the other side, as significant evidence for survival. There is no doubt that the apparent contact with their departed loved ones has given solace to many bereaved persons. They are told, for example, that those on the other side are all right and are happy, usually in pleasant surroundings, and often in the company of friends and relatives who have died before them. Occasionally information of real use or benefit is given to one still alive on earth, and sometimes information which could only have been known to the deceased is given. All this seemingly provides a convincing justification for a belief in continued personal life after death. But how can it be reconciled with our present account?
There are many passages in which this question is dealt with. The Masters' correspondents were spiritualistically inclined and found many of their statements hard to accept. To start with they tried to reconcile them not only to their spiritualism but also to their orthodox Christian religious views. The Masters had to reiterate their points many times. They also gave out some fundamental data upon which their account of the after-death states depended. One of these was the sevenfold nature of man, which included his division into two principal aspects during life, viz. one the mortal psychic aspect, his character personality, and the other the spiritual, immortal individuality (Ego). The former during life comprises the four lower principles (the quaternary). The disintegration of the physical body and the dissipation of the life principles after death leave the two middle (or more accurately one and a half) principles of Kama-Manas, which later comprise the shell or elementary. The two spiritual principles, together with the higher half of Manas, form the upper triad (Monad + Manas), the divine thinker (man). The spiritualists and religionists did not make the distinction between the lower group and the higher. For them man was a body with a soul or spirit, no distinction being made between the two. In the Masters' system, however, the soul (Kama-Manas) is mortal, whereas the Egoic triad, the real spiritual man, is immortal. It is only the latter to which they apply the word spirit, as
an entity. It is about the possibility of communication of such spirits, in this sense, with those on earth, directly or through mediums, that the Master says:
They cannot even if they would span the abyss that separates their world from ours. They can be visited in Spirit, their Spirit cannot descend and reach us. They attract, they cannot be attracted, their Spiritual polarity being an insuperable difficulty in the way ... [The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p45 (3rd edition), p45 (1st and 2nd editions)]
The Master gave a long technical explanation of this; part of it is reproduced in Chapter Ten. However, it is possible for sensitives in a state of exalted consciousness to feel that their loved ones have come down to them. The Master says:
It is in this, during such a condition of complete Maya [such as that of a Devachanee] that the Souls or astral Egos of pure, loving sensitives, labouring under the same illusion, think their loved ones come down to them on earth, while it is their own Spirits that are raised towards those in the Deva-Chan. Many of the subjective spiritual communications - most of them when the sensitives are pure minded - are real; but it is most difficult for the uninitiated medium to fix in his mind the true and correct pictures of what he sees and hears. Some of the phenomena called psychography (though more rarely) are also real. The spirit of the sensitive getting odylised [see Glossary], so to say, by the aura of the Spirit in the Deva-Chan, becomes for a few minutes that departed personality, and writes in the hand writing of the latter, in his language and in his thoughts, as they were during his life time. The two spirits become blended in one; and the preponderance of one over the other during such phenomena determines the preponderance of personality in the characteristics in such writings, and "trance speaking." What you call "rapport" is in plain fact an identity of molecular vibration between the astral part of the incarnate medium and the astral part of the disincarnate personality. [The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p99 (3rd edition), p101 (1st and 2nd editions)]
The astral part of the "disincarnate personality" here refers to the remaining principles after the death of the body and the disintegration of the 2nd principle (Linga-Sarira) along with it. H.P.B. occasionally used the word 'astral' for the inner man generally, and "molecular vibration" here refers to the matter of the inner worlds, not the outer physical ones.
It was objected that some spiritualistic communication might in fact be with Spirits proper, to which the Master replied:
But why should they "communicate"? Do those you love communicate with you during their sleep objectively? Your Spirits, in hours of danger, or intense sympathy, vibrating on the same current of thought - which, in such cases, creates a kind of telegraphic spiritual wire between your two bodies - may meet and mutually impress your memories; but then you are living, not dead bodies. But how can an unconscious fifth principle impress or communicate with a living organism, unless it has already become a shell? If, for certain reasons, they remain in such a state of lethargy for several years, the spirits of the living may ascend to them .. and this may take place still easier than in Deva-Chan, where the Spirit is too much engrossed in his personal bliss to pay much attention to an intruding element. I say - they cannot. [The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p129 (3rd edition), p133 (1st and 2nd editions)]
The latter part of this paragraph might need some explanation. The 5th principle is unconscious during the gestation period, which is sometimes very long. Consciousness in the Ego or the shell can only occur after that process is over. If the process is prolonged, the gestating entity would remain in a state of lethargy, like a chrysalis.
The Masters' correspondents were spiritualists; they had not yet fully appreciated the difference between personality and individuality and they tried to have the Masters admit that some of their phenomena were due to the presence of real spirits, but he insisted:
In no case then, with the exception of suicides and shells, is there any possibility for any other to be attracted to a seance room. And it is clear that "this teaching is not in opposition to our former doctrine" and that while "shells" will be many, - Spirits very few. [The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p128 (3rd edition), p132 (1st and 2nd editions)]
Even so, the Master's correspondent could not readily accept that there could not be any communication with spirits proper. He asked:
Is there any intermediate condition between the spiritual beatitude of Deva-Chan, and the forlorn shadow life of the only half-conscious elementary reliquiae of human beings who have lost their sixth principle? Because if so, that might give a locus standi in imagination to the Ernests and Joeys [names in vogue for controls] of the spiritual mediums - the better sort of controlling "spirits". If so
surely that must be a very populous world, from which any amount of "spiritual" communications might come?
The answer was:
Alas, no, my friend; not that I know of. From "Sukhavati" down to the "Territory of Doubt" there is a variety of Spiritual States; but I am not aware of any such "intermediate condition". I have told you of the Sakwalas (though I cannot be enumerating them since it would be useless); and even of Avitchi - the "Hell" from which there is no return, and I have no more to tell about. "The forlorn shadow" has to do the best it can ... [The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p105 (3rd edition), p108 (1st and 2nd editions)]
In general, then, the fact is that:
As soon as it has stepped outside the Kama-Loka, and crossed the "Golden Bridge" leading to the "Seven Golden Mountains" [regions of Devachan] the Ego can confabulate no more with easy going mediums. No "Ernest" or "Joey" has ever returned from the Rupa-Loka - let alone the Arupa-Loka - to hold sweet intercourse with mortals. [The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p106 (3rd edition), p108 (1st and 2nd editions)]
There is, however, the possibility of communication between real spirits, those of the living and those in Devachan, at least in terms of the principle involved. H.P.B. wrote in a long letter of sympathy to a Professor W. Corson on the death of his daughter:
How willingly would I devote all my life, nay sacrifice it even, if I could only impart to some bereaved fathers and mothers, sons and often daughters, the grandest truth that ever was, a truth so easily learned and practised for whomever is endowed with a powerful will and faith. [Some Unpublished Letters of H.P.Blavatsky (No.4),p137]
It is obvious from this that H.P.B. herself was able so to communicate. The experience was real to her.
Apart from the question of spirit communication, there are occasions when the form of the departed can seemingly appear to the living. One such occasion occurs when, soon after a person has died, his Mayavi-Rupa may be projected and seen by a loved one or even a friend, as was described in Chapter Four. The Mayavi-Rupa of an ordinary man (i.e. non-Initiate), however, cannot speak, so there is no communication by that means.
Having seen the circumstances under which communion between Devachanees and those on earth can be possible, we are told in much more detail what is behind the majority of spiritualistic type phenomena, in particular the nature of the entities that come through to give messages, describe after-death states, and so on. There is a mass of literature on this type of spirit-communication, some of it containing reports of visits over years, accounts of remarkable happenings, some at a distance, precognition, and impressive high-toned messages, all in contrast to the more usual intimately personal, sometimes very trivial, material.
As we have seen, in the normal case, the deceased becomes immediately unconscious and remains so while the processes of the initial after-death states are going on. Consciousness returns slowly at the entrance to Devachan. This can only happen when the Ego (the upper triad plus the truly spiritual elements of the past life experience) has separated out completely from what was purely personal. With the departure of the Ego, the remains of the 'soul', the kama-manasic, psychic residue become an empty shell with only a dim consciousness of its own. The shell, however, retains much of the personal memory, habits of thought, idiosyncrasies and so on, which were typical of the late personality. The shell, having lost contact with its spiritually responsible elder, becomes amoral, but its previous conditioning in behaviour, constraints and restraints, will still affect it. If its morality was low, or its predispositions and appetites depraved, the shell, sometimes (in these circumstances particularly) referred to as an elementary, can have, during such time as it may persist, a very evil influence on the living who may be sensitive to it. Such elementaries (one and a half principled) can communicate with the living through mediums but not otherwise; they can, as just said, however, influence the behaviour of those on earth who may be sensitive to them.
The quality of any communication will depend to a large extent on the nature of the last personality, of which the shell is a temporary and more or less pale image or reflection. The shell cannot, of itself, originate any action; it is an effect; it can generate no new causes. Shells are not capable of any development; they cannot learn anything new, but they can retain some powerful psychic links with those with whom they had strong bonds in life. Sometimes their influence is beneficent. There are some remarkable stories where such shells, under the right circumstances, have been able to protect loved ones still on earth, and where they have given positive aid and valuable information. The circumstances required are the presence of a medium, but the beneficiary might be the medium him- or herself.
Then there are the exceptions already described. They are the premature deaths, the suicides and victims of accidents, and between these classes of deceased there are important differences. In brief, the victims of accidents died from no deliberate act or intention on their part, whereas the suicides died deliberately; they were responsible for their own deaths; and, as we were told, "motive is everything" where Karma is concerned. The lot of the suicide is likely to be an unhappy one whereas, although the accident victim is at risk, fate tends to be more kind to him. In some cases they are even looked after by those great Beings, the Dhyan Chohans.
In these exceptional cases of premature deaths the lower psychic (mento-emotional) principles are not severed from the upper (Egoic) triad until such time as death would normally have occurred. To this extent they are still alive, complete beings except for their physical bodies and life principles. In this capacity both types, as said, can communicate through mediums. However, whereas the suicides mostly retain some consciousness in Kama Loca, except in the period immediately after death when consciousness in all cases is snuffed out, the accident victims enter a degree of merciful oblivion, sometimes dreaming, sometimes not. Children dying young are cases of premature deaths and can be included in the accident category. They are usually reborn quickly as their Egoic triad has not been severed from the middle principles or they have very little experience to assimilate. In the former cases it is the same personality that reincarnates.
As to the nature of the entities in Kama Loca, the Master had this to say:
Of course there is a "better sort" of reliquiae; and the "shells" or the "earth walkers" as they are here called, are not necessarily all bad. But even those that are good, are made bad for the time being by mediums. The "shells" may well not care, since they have nothing to lose, anyhow.[The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p106 (3rd edition), p109 (1st and 2nd editions)]
The reference to shells being made bad - and thereby their skandhas being affected - means that by the mere opportunity (provided by the medium) to return to earth, i.e. communicate, get impressions, etc., they can be changed, in this case not improved.
Then follows the passage, previously quoted in Chapter Eight, which introduced the cases of suicides and accidents with the significant sentence:
Both kinds can communicate, and both have to pay dearly for such visits .. But it is a sin and cruelty to revive their memory and intensify their suffering by giving them a chance of living an artificial life; a chance to overload their Karma, by tempting them into open
doors, viz. mediums and sensitives, for they will have to pay roundly for every such pleasure ... [The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p106 (3rd edition), p109 (1st and 2nd editions)]
This topic is returned to many times both in the Letters and in H.P.B.'s Writings as a warning against necromancy, the raising of images of the dead, a practice of black magic. There is further explanation of this in a long description of the fate of suicides and accidents in the Kama Loca, the part played by Karma and the dire effect mediums can have on it, by affecting the skandhas of the deceased:
The [general] rule is that a person who dies a natural death will remain from "a few hours to several short years" within the earth's attraction, i.e. in the Kama-Loka. But exceptions are, in the case of suicides and those who die a violent death in general. Hence, one of such Egos, for instance, who was destined to live, say, 80 or 90 years, but who either killed himself or was killed by some accident, let us suppose at the age of 20 - would have to pass in the Kama-Loka not "a few years" but in his case 60 or 70 years, as an Elementary, or rather an "earth walker" [as said above, the term elementary is usually reserved for one whose 6th and 7th principles have gone into Devachan]; since he is not, unfortunately for him, even a "shell". Happy, thrice happy, in comparison, are those disembodied entities who sleep their long slumber and live in dream in the bosom of Space! And woe to those whose Trishna [thirst for life] will attract them to mediums, and woe to the latter, who tempt them with such an easy Upadhana [way to cling to life]. For in grasping them, and satisfying their thirst for life, the medium helps to develop in them - is in fact the cause of - a new set of Skandhas, a new body, with far worse tendencies and passions than was the one they lost. All the future of this new body will be determined thus, not only by the Karma of demerit of the previous set or group but also by that of the new set of the future being. Were the mediums and Spiritualists but to know, as I said, that with every new "angel guide" they welcome with rapture, they entice the latter into an Upadhana which will be productive of a series of untold evils for the new Ego that will be born under its nefarious shadow, and that with every seance - especially for materialization - they multiply the causes for misery, causes that will make the unfortunate Ego fail in his spiritual birth, or be reborn into a worse existence than
ever - they would, perhaps, be less lavish in their hospitality.
[The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p109 (3rd edition), p112 (1st and 2nd editions)]
The Masters were at pains to repeat their warning:
But if the victim of accident or violence be neither very good, nor very bad - an average person - then this may happen to him. A medium who attracts him will create for him the most undesirable of things, a new combination of Skandhas and a new and evil Karma ... [The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p107 (3rd edition), p110 (1st and 2nd editions)]
However, the Masters did point out that many suicides never allow themselves to be drawn into the vortex of mediumship (see The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p133 (3rd edition), p136 (1st and 2nd editions)). They emphasized the difference between two kinds of spiritualism; the one of mediumship and the other to do with the recognition of the difference between personality and individuality and the cultivation of our spiritual natures:
.. it is not against true Spiritualism that we set ourselves, but only against indiscriminate mediumship and physical manifestations, materializations and trance-possessions especially. Could the Spiritualists be only made to understand the difference between individuality and personality, between individual and personal immortality and some other truths, they would be more easily persuaded that Occultists may be fully convinced of the Monad's immortality, and yet deny that of the soul - the vehicle of the personal Ego; that they firmly believe in, and themselves practise spiritual communications and intercourse with the disembodied Egos of the Rupa-Loka, and yet laugh at the insane idea of "shaking hands" with a "Spirit"!
[The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p110 (3rd edition), p113 (1st and 2nd editions)]
As to accidents and suicides being in danger from the attraction of the seance, there was a request for confirmation of what the Master had previously said. More information was given:
Accidents occur under the most various circumstances; and men are not only killed accidentally, or die as suicides but are also murdered - something we have not even touched upon. I can well understand your perplexity but can hardly help you. Bear always in mind that there are exceptions to every rule, and to these again and other side exceptions, and be always prepared to learn something new. I can easily understand we are accused of contradictions and
inconsistencies - aye, even to writing one thing to-day and denying it to-morrow. What you were taught is the RULE. Good and pure "accidents" sleep in the Akasa, ignorant of their change; very wicked and impure - suffer all the tortures of a horrible nightmare. The majority - neither very good nor very bad, the victims of accident or violence (including murder) - some sleep, others become Nature pisachas [see later], while a small minority may fall victims to mediums and derive a new set of skandhas from the medium who attracts them. Small as their number may be, their fate is to be the most deplored.
[The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p132 (3rd edition), p136 (1st and 2nd editions)]
Regarding further the consciousness of the shell and its capabilities, the long letter quoted from in Chapter Seven contained the following information about the nature of its "remembrance and self-consciousness":
Thus with a shell; once in the aura of a medium, all he perceives through the borrowed organs of the medium and of those in magnetic sympathy with the latter, he will perceive very clearly - but not further than what the shell can find in the perceptive faculties and memories of circle and medium - hence often the rational and at times highly intelligent answers; hence also a complete oblivion of things known to all but that medium and circle. The shell of a highly intelligent, learned, but utterly unspiritual man who dies a natural death, will last longer and the shadow of his own memory helping - that shadow which is the refuse of the sixth principle left in the fifth - he may deliver discourses through trance speakers and repeat parrot-like that which he knew of and thought much over it, during his life-time. But find me one single instance in the annals of Spiritualism where a returning shell of a Faraday or a Brewster (for even they were made to fall into the trap of mediumistic attraction) said one word more than it knew during its life-time. Where is that scientific shell, that ever gave evidence of that which is claimed on behalf of the "disembodied Spirit" - namely, that a free Soul, the Spirit disenthralled from its body's fetters perceives and sees that which is concealed from living mortal eyes? .. Defy the best, the most reliable of mediums - .. to give you through that high disembodied shell .. to tell you what you will have hidden in your box [if the medium did not know it]; or to repeat to you a line from a Sanskrit
manuscript unknown to [the] medium or anything of that kind.
[The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p170 (3rd edition), p173 (1st and 2nd editions)]
The Master goes on to say that even a good clairvoyant can do that and reiterates that spirits do not have personal remembrances of that kind. "As well call personal remembrances the sentences screeched out by a parrot." Then as another example:
Let the "Spirit" of Zöllner - now that he is in the "fourth dimension of space", and has put up an appearance already with several mediums - tell them the last word of his discovery, complete his astro-physical philosophy. No; Zöllner when lecturing through an intelligent medium, surrounded with persons who read his works, are interested in them - will repeat on various tones that which is known to others (not even that which he alone knew, most probably), the credulous, ignorant public confounding the post-hoc with the propter-hoc and firmly convinced of the Spirit's identity .. Yes; personal consciousness does leave everyone at death; and when even the centre of memory is re-established in the shell, it will remember and speak out its recollections but through the brain of some living human being.[The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett p170 (3rd edition), p174 (1st and 2nd editions)]
The content of this chapter is important as it gives an explanation of the more common spiritualistic phenomena. The explanation is consistent with the overall teachings concerning the after-death states, themselves quite unique. They are not to be found in any other literature. These teachings also provide rational explanations of most of the various kinds of psychic phenomena, e.g. thought transference, psychokinesis, psychometry, clairvoyance, hypnotism, etc., which, however, require additional information not relevant to the immediate subject of this book. All such explanations, nevertheless, are consistent with the massive, general teaching which extends into all branches of knowledge.
Table II summarizes the information given about the after-death stages and what is occurring in each of them. Table II
When We Die ... Exploring the Great Beyond > Next Page Chapter 10 More About the Ego, and Immortality