WHEN WE DIE - Exploring the Great Beyond
by Geoffrey Farthing
A Description of the After-Death States and Processes
Writing three-quarters of a century ago in the aftermath of the first World War, psychologist William McDougall declared:
Unless Psychical Research - that is to say, inquiry according to the strictest principles of empirical science - can discover facts incompatible with materialism, materialism will continue to spread. No other power can stop it; revealed religion and metaphysical philosophy are equally helpless before the advancing tide. And if that tide continues to rise and to advance as it is doing now, all the signs point to the view that it will be a destroying tide, that it will sweep away all the hard-won gains of humanity, all the moral traditions built up by the efforts of countless generations for the increase of truth, justice, and humanity.
Those words have proved prophetic, revealing prescience remarkable for its time. Truly the scientific and technological paradise we were promised at the beginning of this century has not come about. I grant that in some respects the world is a better place than it was when I was a boy (e.g. in dentistry), but in many other respects it is far worse. Murder, rape, civil war, armed robbery, mob violence, drug abuse, industrial pollution - these are all crimes which would have evoked banner headlines in the papers when I was young, but are now so commonplace that they are given only meagre mention. Death has replaced sex as the great taboo subject in our culture. We pretend that it does not exist and do not care to contemplate it. But it does exist and we are all forced to contemplate it when we are brought face to face with the death of someone we love dearly.
Despite all this, there are still those who realize that a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. They feel deep down that the universe, incomprehensible though it is, is not "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Something is going on. They look for a meaning to, a purpose behind, existence. The great religions give us partial [and often different) answers to our questions. There are mystical and occult systems which claim to give answers to all life's problems - but the answers are often different and contradictory, and they cannot be checked. For my part, I have found much that is helpful in the writings of H.P. Blavatsky.
H.P.B.'s output is voluminous and dispersed; and the new reader would be well advised not to tackle it without some preliminary help by way of introduction. One of the main sources of her teaching is found in The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, written by two of the Masters who were her teachers. The letters cover a wide variety of subjects, not always in logical order; and it is here that Geoffrey Farthing has done valuable work in collecting extracts from these writings relating to a single subject and presenting them in coherent order. This makes the task of the student much easier. Nevertheless I guess that many who take up his book without previous knowledge of Theosophical literature will find it hard going. This is not because of the author's style of writing, which is clear enough. It is due partly to the difficulty of the concepts, which are still strange to Western minds, and partly to the terminology which makes use of Sanskrit words for which there is no equivalent in English.
It matters not who the Masters were, whether they ever existed and how they transmitted the letters. Scholars have argued these points for a century. The teaching in the letters stands or falls by its own merits or faults. Happily we do not have to assimilate it all in one gulp. We may assimilate it a small bit at a time - or not at all. To me the ideas expounded in this book do not represent articles of faith, "which except every one do keep whole and undefiled, he shall without doubt perish everlastingly." They are more in the nature of hypotheses for discussion and I have not hesitated to borrow from them in order to explain some of the observed facts that have come my way. The distinction between Personality and Individuality, the existence and properties of Kama-Manasic Shells, and the almost immediate personal reincarnation of children who have died prematurely in infancy, are three cases in point.
I commend this work to all those who, in these troublous times, are searching for a purpose behind existence. They may find some of the answers here.
- Vernon Harrison, Ph.D. link
Geoffrey Farthing wrote the following Foreword
With the spread of western economic development into the so-called undeveloped countries and its intensification in the developed countries, human values are being subjected to enormous pressures and changes. Happiness is being sought in a multiplicity of possessions, in the distractions of modern entertainment both within and without the home, in holidays abroad; in general, in external things. Interest in religious matters, in ethical and moral codes of behaviour, is being ousted in the quest for immediate pleasure and gratification of even the smallest desires.
This is the age of unquietness and even those pockets of tranquillity that existed by way of religious communities in out-of-the-way places are being invaded with the march of so-called progress on one hand and tourism on the other. We now seldom stop to think, to consider what our lives are all about and certainly very seldom do we stop to think what may happen when we die.
Most of us have some sort of religious background and from the very earliest years of our lives have been inculcated with ideas about the hereafter which vary according to the religious tradition into which we were born. These we have accepted without question and so our lives proceed and the subject of death is pushed into the background for most of us in the ordinary course of our lives. Periodically, however, we suffer a staggering shock; someone near to us has had a fatal accident, a relative has cancer, a friend has AIDS. On an otherwise calm horizon suddenly death appears, stark and very real. There is no escape. In the course of a lifetime most of us manage somehow to cope with such situations; we can survive the shock and maybe the ultimate loss involved. Sometimes it falls to our lot to care for the dying, as do those in hospices. They see some die peacefully, reassured, maybe by the resident priest, maybe by the sympathetic understanding of a friend or relative, but maybe in complete faith that they are, so to speak, in the arms of the almighty who, to them, knows what he is about. Everything will be all right. There are those, however, who resent death and struggle to the end. For them the very prospect is agonizing and not a little frightening.
Maybe as a result of experiences like this the inevitability of death is borne in on us. We can accept it fairly calmly when it is associated with other people but can we face the prospect so calmly when it is our death that we have to contemplate, especially against the background of those ideas we may have gathered on the subject.