Humanity throughout the ages have seen death as something loathsome and gruesome; something dreadful, something preferable to avoid at all cost–that is, if a choice were given–but without any other option, are forced to succumb for lack of any power over its occurrence. Anticipating the termination of life at an unexpected moment and the possible prospect of annihilation of self-identity, humanity views death as a state or condition to be feared. This fear is sustained when all around, most of the dying are seen to seemingly suffer in anguish and in agony in the death process. The fear of death is actually man’s fear of the unknown, and it indicates man’s bondage to his ignorance which ultimately grows into superstitious expressions. Because of the underlying fear, man attempts laboriously to postpone death through medicine and other means; medical science has, however, not yet found a way to prolong life indefinitely–or to ease one’s fears, to offer solace, or to answer profound questions regarding this ancient mystery. Knowing the true nature of death releases man from his bondage to his fears and to the clinging of his varied superstitions pertaining to it. Such knowledge based upon personal experience may be acquired–beliefs to the contrary places an illusory boundary upon the unfolding soul. Alice Bailey, writing for the Tibetan in “A Treatise on White Magic,” refers to man’s fears regarding death:
“The mind of man is so little developed that fear of the unknown, terrors of the unfamiliar, and attachment to form have brought a situation where one of the most beneficent occurrences in the life cycle of an incarnating Son of God is looked upon as something to be avoided and postponed for as long a time as possible.” (1972:494)
We can see from her statement that one of the factors that causes man to struggle against death, is the attachment to form. The identification of the Self with the physical form misleads one into thinking that the dissolution of the physical body results in the annihilation of the Self. Sri Sankaracharya, the eminent exponent of Advaita Vedanta, taught that the deluded mind with its beliefs in the reality of form causes bondage to Maya, or Cosmic Illusion. Philosophically speaking, this is the state of duality, and unless man perceives the One Reality underlying the dualistic worlds, and as his true nature, he lives in fear and in a state of slavery. What is Real cannot be destroyed, what is unreal does not exist apart from our false perception and understanding. This is avidya, or ignorance. To apprehend the true state of things is to be truly liberated from death. One’s consciousness is expanded and raised to a divine estate when Reality is known and death seen for what it really is. What Bailey does not mention is that the soul-process of “death” may be experienced in the meditative state. Mystics call this “dying while living,” and advanced mystics have reached a state where they may predetermine and trigger the time and process of their physical and mystical deaths–these are executed with divine permission. Mystical deaths offers one the opportunity to acquire the beautific vision called Marifatullah by Islamic gnostics. We will not dwell on this mystical aspect in this paper but focus more on the physical side of death and dying.
Before continuing further, let us first provide a definition of the branch of study dealing with death. The study is properly termed, “Thanatology” (from Greek thanatos, “death”). The Encyclopedia Britannica explains it thus:
“. . . the description or study of death and dying and the psychological mechanisms of dealing with them. Thanatology is concerned with the notion of death as popularly perceived and especially with the reactions of the dying, from whom it is felt much can be learned about dealing with death’s approach . . . Generally, psychologists have agreed that there are two overall concepts concerning death that help in understanding the simultaneous processes of living and dying. The “my death versus your death” concept emphasizes the irrational belief that while “your death” is a certainty, an exemption may be made in “my case.” The second concept, “partial deaths versus total extinction” stresses the belief that by experiencing the bereavement following the deaths of friends and relatives, a person is brought as close as possible to realizing “partial death.” These experiences colour the individual’s attitude toward greater personal losses, culminating with the ultimate loss, life itself.
“Thanatology also examines attitudes toward death, the meaning and behaviours of bereavement and grief, and the moral and ethical questions of euthanasia, organ transplants, and life support.”
Thanatology deals with death from various perspectives, from the cultural and anthropological standpoint, the clinical, biological, religious, metaphysical, etc. Death itself is defined in dictionaries as “an extinction of life,” the “ceasing to be.”
Ordinarily, the average person would avoid talking or thinking about death. When chosen as a topic for discussion, for instance, the subject is frequently and promptly relegated to the background of life’s many “evil” necessities and often spoken in hushed tones. Death has always been a taboo subject in unenlightened social circles. Man’s present negative attitude and understanding of the nature of death may cause self-inflicted suffering, torment, and pain. Man’s lack of understanding of the truth of death is mainly the result of a deficiency in the knowledge of spiritual verities, and in an absence of spiritual awareness. Religious doctrines and materialistically-oriented educational systems have inadvertently encouraged man’s negative attitude towards death. They paint horrible conditions of the after-death state, ranging from eternal punishment and torture in fashions exceeding the cruelties and atrocities of the Inquisition, to the materialistic view of nihilism and annihilation. Religion and the academic institutions offer no real comfort or solace to those whose loved ones have faced the great change. The only recourse for individuals seeking a greater understanding of death is by acquiring metaphysical knowledge concerning its nature and by developing a greater awareness of multi-dimensional life; for life simply is, it cannot cease to be. Life is Real and eternal for it is not compounded. Forms are compounded, therefore, they are evanescent. Clinging and being attached to what is temporal, and from the point of view of the Absolute as “illusory,” makes one often feel threatened to life’s varied circumstances.
In order to be relieved from suffering in the form of bereavement and anguish, humanity as a whole would have to be re-educated as to the true nature of death, its value, its process, and regarding the state of life after the great transition. One’s frame of reference for personal existence has to be expanded to include multi-dimensional worlds, to one’s immortal aspect, and not circumscribed to physical matter. Concomitant to this cleansing process of the mind of its false beliefs and notions concerning death–both the result of social conditioning and brainwashing–there should also be a search, an investigation into the true purpose of life. For to pass through transition not knowing the purpose of one’s personal existence is to have lived in vain. It is said that to die well we must first learn to live well, and this is true, for our negative karma and our wrong attitudes and apprehension of death causally leads us to pain and suffering in the bardo, the death process–of which we will deal in later chapters. For this reason it is incumbent upon us all to embark upon the study of thanatology–the science of death, as understood by metaphysics, to live a worthwhile life, to relieve the sense of suffering, and to efface our misgivings regarding death and the after-death state. Death is simply a transformation, a process analogous to a caterpillar-turned-butterfly through metamorphosis.
Our “fate” and experiences in the afterlife and in the death process are both determined largely by our karma, beliefs, knowledge (or lack of it), purity, righteousness, and understanding of the mission and purpose of our sojourn in the physical plane. Life in this physical dimension should be seen as an opportunity to mature and to liberate oneself from all mortal restrictions even though functioning through an organic vessel. Some people experiencing the vicissitudes and hardships of life often complain that it was not their wish to be born, implying that it was not their wish to live or to be here in this physical world, and yet, in this they contradict themselves by expressing a fear of death, saying that they do not wish to die–implying that they wish to live. Such inconsistencies reflect the state of non-awareness of spiritual realities and verities. Death should be perceived as an initiation into the higher mysteries of Nature. It is thus one of the most important events in one’s spiritual journey. Mastery of one’s life, of one’s lower self, and service to the Higher Intelligences, is the wise preparation for this great initiatory experience.
In ancient cultures, the existence of the afterlife was taken for granted. In former eras there have been concepts or beliefs in the afterlife such as the “Happy Hunting Grounds” “Olympus” and the “Elysian Fields.” The spiritual instincts of early and modern man have always rebelled against the idea of death, and rightly so, for death in reality is non-existent, but the average person is normally unaware and ignorant of this truth, or he chooses to ignore it for some unknown reason. Death should not be looked upon as an ultimate chapter or conclusion of one’s life, for death is simply a change, a passing, a transition to a different plane of consciousness, a different dimensional activity. Orthodox, or conservative scientists in conformity with Einstein’s equation, “E=mc2,” tell us that nothing in the universe can be destroyed, that there can only be a transformation, a change or conversion of the patterns of energy-fields; this is the economy of life which is acknowledged as a law of the Cosmos; and yet, although furnished with this scientific theorem and understanding, these same scientists are skeptical concerning the survival of the personal consciousness or “awareness-principle,” as Tibetan Buddhists designate it. Mainstream science, although faced with many positive data concerning the survival of the consciousness acquired by researchers in the paranormal and related fields, still express incredulity as to its reality. Why is it that the life-force, soul, and consciousness are not seen by these scientists as energy-fields, just as all objects down to their minuscule component, the electrons, protons and neutrons are known to be such? More succinctly, why do scientists not recognize the soul? Is it, perhaps, because of the unconscious opposition and antagonism towards Religion that has long persecuted Science in the centuries past? From the occult point of view, group minds form living entities or currents of energy with certain qualities in accord with the thoughts and feelings generated by the originators or individuals of the same group-mind. This is called an egregore. Such egregores may have an indefinite life span, living for centuries, and influencing all that comes within its mental and emotional force fields. It is through these egregores that an individual, a scientist, for instance, living in the distant past may influence a scientist living in the present. Prejudicial feelings toward Religion and its tenets, such as its declaration of the living soul that survives the dissolution of the physical body, may therefore, be carried from the past to the present. As can be understood from the above, the antagonism of scientists may not be truly directed to the concept of the afterlife, or soul-survival, but towards religion as a whole, and this discord is an unconscious feeling–the result of centuries of maltreatment in the hands of Religion–executed in the name of the Almighty.
Investigators and exponents of mainstream science, however, have not proved in their laboratories the cessation of life, and the non-survival of consciousness after death. On the contrary, they are very close to discovering and proving its reality and validity. It would seem that the Veil of Isis is thinning; nevertheless, the question of the survival of consciousness, we feel, can only be satisfactorily and adequately answered to us by personal experience–through phenomena such as NDEs (Near Death Experience) and the projection of one’s consciousness and subtle bodies. Without personal experience there would be an element of doubt, the truth would elude our comprehension, and the false delude our understanding. Knowledge pertaining to the the truth of death eliminates fear, pain and sorrow. When one understands the nature and mechanism of life and death, one begins to lead a philosophical and mystical life, open to spiritual verities and impressions. One commences to live in harmony with the forces and laws of Nature, in accord with the purposes of the Divine Plan. Scientists would have to become philosophers and mystics in order to break through any bias constraining their minds from the truth of life after death.
It is a fallacy to think that the nature of death and the afterlife state cannot be known while one is embodied and functioning in the three-dimensional sphere. Religious fundamentalism, in general, would have us believe this. Man dies temporarily every night during the sleep-state, and he calls his activities during such a state as “dreams.” Man practices death every time he enters the delta-theta state. Poor recollection of one’s nocturnal activities results in an inadequate comprehension of the nature and relationship between sleep and death. Spiritual development improves the recollection of astral activities and the awareness of the “no-dream” state. Refinement of the soul disperses the etheric web at the crown chakra and forms a link between the brain and higher mind allowing for free movement of the personal-consciousness to higher dimensions without a break in awareness. Fundamentally, the only difference between death and the sleep-state is that death is the permanent evacuation of the awareness-principle from the physical body, whereas in sleep it is merely a temporary condition. In death the sutratma, or silver cord, snaps, and the personal-consciousness leaves the physical body to disintegrate and return to the ground from whence it came. In the sleep state, this cord which connects the physical body to the subtle bodies is maintained. Essentially, death is an illusion. Death is actually an interval between two states or planes of consciousness. It eventuates in the return of every component of the microcosm to its proper place. This truth is embodied in the poetic verse of Ovid:
“Four things of man there are: spirit, soul, ghost, flesh;
“These four, four places keep and do possess,
“The earth covers flesh, the ghost hovers o’er the grave,
“Orcus has the soul, stars do the spirit crave.”
Man has the divine ability to be aware of his being as existing independently of the physical vehicle. This is accomplished in what has come to be called lucid dreaming and astral projection, or “OBE” (out-of-the-body experience) as a modern designation for the phenomenon. Like St. Paul, it is possible for all of us to say that we “knew a man who went to the third heaven,” and hear of things not suitable for the non-initiate. Death is a change of focus of our consciousness, from one plane to another. This is also accomplished through the above means. Astral projection is an ability that all metaphysicians should seek to acquire–for it is educational and it opens-up avenues of services that one may render. Most, if not all mystical traditions teach of this occult ability. The practitioner of Taoist Yoga, for instance, learns in the course of his studies how to separate the soul and spirit from the physical body. Advance mystics and occultists are all able to function in full awareness in the physical, astral and mental worlds. Such individuals are not concerned with the arguments of materialists–arguments stating the non-survival of self, for every mystic knows the truth of the matter through personal experience.
Dying, to the initiate, is a science and an art. The technique of death is known to the inter-dimensional consciousness-traveller. The psychonaut is familiar with the many phases of the bardo that leads to one of the “six realms,” or to liberation from the cycle of reincarnation. It is the reality of reincarnation that proves to us that we are no stranger to death. We incarnate and pass through the change of death repeatedly until we emancipate ourselves from the wheel of birth and rebirth. We have all met the angel of death countless times and shall meet that specter once again in the future. All religions refer to this life-death cycle, though some metaphorically.
Every metaphysician should be familiar with the subject of death, as understood in the esoteric sense, and as to its occult process. In the course of one’s metaphysical ministry, one would often meet individuals suffering from anguish and bereavement. The metaphysician should be able to offer the kind of solace that goes beyond the service of the burial ceremony and the pronouncement of the words, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust . . .” To the dying, and those newly passed-on, the advanced metaphysician should act as a guide to the inner levels of being. He should play the role of Anubis, guiding the departed soul to its proper place. This should be an integral part to any last rites or sacraments given. There is much superstition, fear and ignorance regarding the nature of death among the masses. It, therefore, behooves the metaphysical counselor to play his or her part in enlightening society; and this ministration would benefit humanity as a whole. We feel that this paper should be written to remind metaphysicians of the importance of conveying the truths to the masses regarding the continuity of life, personal identity, and consciousness. One’s professional image is enhanced when well-equipped with the requisite knowledge. Even though much has been written on the subject of death, with much invaluable information given, we take this opportunity to add some of our own insights and experiences to enrich the existing literature and the storehouse of humanity’s learning.
Copyright © 2006 Luxamore