REVIEW OF LITERATURE
When a Sadguru, or spiritual master first receives a novice or a candidate seeking Truth, one of the first steps that the master would assure himself is the sincerity and the purity of motive of the candidate requesting initiation into the mysteries. In order to augment or instill this sincerity and pure motive when absent, the master would speak to the candidate regarding death. The master would advise the candidate to contemplate upon the meaning of death and the opportunity that life provides. The master would refer to the fact that death often comes, stealth-like, at an unannounced moment; that to be engrossed with trivialities is to waste one’s life; that there are no guarantees in life except for death. The chela is made to ask, “what is the purpose of life if death cuts us down at our prime, leaving us with ambitions, aspirations and unfulfilled dreams? What is the purpose of life–and death, if we are not able to take along with us through the portals of death our prized possessions, our titles, our fame, our temporal power?”
The spiritual master would be quick to point out that the true purpose of life has very little to do with the earthly, evanescent riches or power that we acquire, it has more to do with the immaterial wealth that we take along with us–our knowledge; our memories; our improved karma, habits and character; and our spiritual and psychic development. Earthly acquisitions fail to offer any help to the one undergoing transition. We each face death alone; and in death, stripped of all mundane superficialities, we come to realize our own true worth. And so, the chela, with perhaps impure motives at the outset, comes to understand after some spiritual guidance, and a prolonged contemplation and analysis of death–as related to life–that the aim, purpose, importance and goal of personal existence in this physical sphere with its many opportunities are for gaining freedom, perfection, salvation, enlightenment, and the ascension.
We should all be aware that death may come to us at any moment, this will motivate us to direct our minds into proper perspectives, and to get our priorities straight. To eat, drink, and be merry as advertisements tell us, as the philosophies of the fallen angels would have us learn, is to be sidetracked from occupying ourselves with our “Father’s business.”
Like the disciple referred to above, in this paper it is our intention to delve into the nature of death and its process so that we will come to know a greater life, and appreciate its intrinsic value. We will also consider the nature of certain aspects of life after transition, for this expands our spiritual horizon, and it offers us a glimpse into man’s glorious future. Our main themes in this paper will be related to the following:
1) The survival of personal consciousness.
2) The process of transition.
3) The nature of life after so-called death.
The Survival of Personal Consciousness
The average person often wonders if consciousness survives death. We have commented and alluded previously on the indestructible nature of energy. There can, therefore, be no dissolution of the essence of Soul, or rather Spirit–not even through the process of transition. The forms, the structured energy-fields that the Spirit and Soul indwell and embody may change, but the essence, the spiritual aspect of the microcosm, the Monad, the SELF, is immortal. Religion, mysticism, and psychicism, refers to this verity. If a person is to know this particular truth of the survival of consciousness, he or she must learn to expand the consciousness and to spiritualize his or her mind in order to be aware and function consciously in the higher planes. Failure to realize spiritual verities label us as “dead”–a term referred to by the Piscean Master in the gospel narratives to people who are closed to the higher worlds and spiritual truths. People suffering from spiritual myopia live in physical tombs and not temples; such persons do not care much about the higher worlds and their relation to them; these individuals limit their awareness and deaden their consciousness in a three-dimensional slumber. Individuals with limited minds do not see the whole picture of life’s purpose.
The writer of this paper firmly believes, or is convinced in the ability of consciousness to exist apart from the physical body. We had, personally, experienced many spontaneous astral projections, and many lucid dreams. Although experiences of astral projections may not objectively prove the survival of consciousness after death, it does give us some inkling of what it may be like to exist independently of the physical form; it also provides us with some reason for accepting the possibility and the high probability of the survival of consciousness. The reality and proof of the survival of personal consciousness itself may be acquired through one’s personal interaction and relationship with the so-called dead. This normally occurs unconsciously in one’s sleep and dreams, however, it may occur with full astral awareness or in the awaking consciousness. Lucid dreams are typical of the former type, whereas visitations or psychic materializations are of the latter. If we are able to contact the so-called dead who once were people living in the physical world and resume relationships with them, is this not proof that personal consciousness survives transition? Although this rhetorical-question is simplistic in form and incapable of offering positive proof regarding the survival of consciousness, being subjective in nature, and which does not carry any weight under scientific scrutiny, it does imply that some materialistically-oriented individuals are unwilling to attend to the reality experienced by others because of prejudice, pride, fear and cultural conditioning. How does the average man view death, what does he actually believe about it? Society has various beliefs concerning death, and what it entails, below are just some of these beliefs:
1) The cessation of consciousness and the annihilation of Self.
2) The termination of human relationships, and the loss of loved ones.
3) The termination of physical activities, of goals, ambitions and aspirations.
4) The passage into an unknown world or state of consciousness.
5) The facing of the Judgment and the accountability of one’s sins–the fear of eternal punishment in an everlasting hell, or in contrast, pleasure, rest and idleness in Paradise.
6) Physical, emotional, and mental agony in the death process.
As we will see in later chapters, all of these beliefs are unfounded. The nature of life after transition is only unknown to those who do not seek to know. There is also no true severance of human relationships; and an eternal hell is non-existent, although a certain degree of pain and scorching may be experienced when impure substances present in the astral and mental bodies are removed by a purifying fire. Death is not the end of anything; it is a continuation of what has gone on before. Rumi, the Sufi poet, speaks of this truth in the following oft-quoted verse:
“I died a mineral and became a plant;
“I died a plant and rose an animal.
“I died an animal and I was a man.
“Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
“Yet once more I shall die as man, so to soar
“With blessed angels; even from angelhood
“I must pass on . . .
“When I have sacrificed my angel soul,
“I shall become that which no mind conceived.”
The Process of Transition
Transition is not simply the cessation of the intake of the breath or the circulation of the life-force. It is a process that involves the evacuation of the occult components within man’s physical anatomy. These occult components for simplicity sake, may be called the soul, however, for the metaphysical student, a deeper understanding of the constitution of the soul must be acquired. The relationship and interaction between the immaterial aspect of man and the physical body must be known. How the spiritual components dissociate themselves from the physical body through the process of transition should be understood. It is the very presence of man’s invisible forms and forces within the physical being that maintains the integrity and coherence of the particles forming the physical body. The absence of the magnetism, the electrical-force, and the energy-fields of the subtle bodies causes the dissolution of the physical form.
Psychologically, during the separation of the material and immaterial bodies, certain visions arise in the psyche. The nature of these visions are dependent upon the degree of man’s inner purity. According to Tibetan Buddhists, how man responds or reacts to these visions determines the place of his abode in the higher realms. Man’s moral character is the deciding factor of his place in the universal scheme. The fear of death and dying hampers the smooth transition into the higher worlds. Attachment to the world and earthly possessions causes an unnecessary prolonged struggle in the death process, and this delays soul release. Suffering and pain are expressions of this struggle. Man should learn to be detached from all mundane affairs and relationships during transition and think about spiritual matters–not because of the unimportance of the former, but because occupying the mind at the time of transition with spiritual aspirations and hope assists the soul-consciousness to release itself from some of the harsh phenomena experienced in the bardo. Passing over into a new realm is like being born into the physical world. The process is somewhat similar, and this is in accord with the law of correspondence and the Hermetic axiom, “as above, so below.” When one is born into this physical world one goes through the birth canal; during transition one experiences a “tunnel-like” effect, a wormhole. During birth we are greeted by smiling relatives, likewise, the birth into a higher world surrounds us with people whom we love and who loves us.
Passing over is no panacea for the suffering soul who resorts to suicide to end its earth life. Suicide does not solve our emotional and mental problems, for wherever we may be, we take along with us our inner world, our thoughts and feelings. Our outer world reflects our inner mental and emotional state. Problems unfaced, will have to be confronted once again in another incarnation, this is to teach the soul certain lessons that it requires for its evolution, its spiritual growth. One’s attitudes, reactions and responses to problems are the main thing and not the problems themselves.
The Spirit of man will not be cheated of its forces. Lessons to be learnt by the soul will repeat themselves until their essence has been assimilated, understood and wisdom gained. Suicide, therefore, should not be resorted to as an escape, for it causes spiritual stagnation. Suicides are treated as mental cases in the subtle worlds. According to psychic Donald Barrie, insane persons were suicides in past lives. Suicidal persons in the death process, like those who lived depraved, iniquitous and wicked lives, often encounter some of the most alarming visions in the bardo which includes the Judgment scene, where the conscience sits as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner.
Death is a personal experience. Through it we come to know our true evolutionary status as a soul, and all of our glamours and delusions concerning personal glory would fail to aid us at the time of our transition. Our poverty or wealth of our spirit is seen and known to us and others on the Other Side.
The Nature of Life After So-Called Death
Humanity’s concept of heaven is wrought with distortions of the true nature of the subtle worlds. There are many ideas concerning heaven that are disproved through the personal experiences of advanced psychics and mystics. It is, therefore, appropriate that people be informed and prepared for life in the other worlds, that they may know what to expect, that they may know how to function harmoniously therein, and the sort of activities that they may engage in. The higher worlds are worlds of activity. There is no rest there, unless we desire rest. Real rest is dependent upon the giving of another vehicle of the microcosm an opportunity for expressing itself. Overthere, we shall have the opportunity to be occupied with soul-improving activities. Laziness and idleness Overthere are treated as illnesses. Individuals expressing those states are directed to special classes to learn the purposes of life, that they be motivated to engage in some worthy endeavour.
There is not just one heaven or dimension in the higher worlds, there are many, and these are the “mansions” of Jesus’ statement “in my Father’s house there are many mansions.” (John 14:2). St. Paul in his epistles mentions a third heaven; the Islamic tradition presents the Prophet Muhammad as visiting the seventh on a mythical creature–no doubt a symbolic description of the subtle body. Several “alams” or worlds are discussed in Islamic literature. Theosophy speaks of seven planes with seven sub-planes each, all of which constituting a cosmic plane. Hinduism also refers to the “lokas,” to the many heavens as described in their scriptures. Swedenborg substantiates this truth in his spiritual works.
People will be disappointed if they think that the afterdeath state will provide them what they lack here and now. This is not to say that their dreams will not occur to some degree, or that their happiness may not be derived from some longed-for pleasures that Almighty God might manifest for them; what we are putting forth here is that the contents and quality of one’s heart and mind determines strongly one’s experiences in the heavenly world that one will live in. Purity in body, mind and soul begets a joyful experience in the higher heavens. Conversely, immorality and wickedness result in a life of misery in the lower astral realms. We carry our inner life to wherever we may find ourselves. There is no spiritual being to reward or punish us, we do this to ourselves by violating or living harmoniously with cosmic laws. To know where one would go, or to which heaven or plane one would reside, it is only necessary to look into one’s mind and emotions, into one’s character and personality, and there look for signs.
In the chapters ahead we will be discussing in more detail of the nature of life in the higher worlds. We feel that this subject is of some importance to metaphysicians, as they are often asked by individuals seeking information on the spiritual dimensions.
The Four Perspectives
Although there are various perspectives that death and the process of transition may be discussed such as the clinical, the cultural, etc. We will be dealing with the aforementioned themes from the following perspectives:
2) Occult teachings in general
3) Lamaism, or Tibetan Buddhism
4) Parapsychology and modern research
Religion, generally speaking, offers us some information concerning the after death state with, regrettably, very little of the death process. However, it is important when dealing with religious concepts regarding death and the afterlife to be discerning and discriminative–to sift through fanciful ideas–of the many erroneous theological dogmas and concepts that had crept into the original teachings. Many statements in scriptures are not meant to be taken in a literal manner. Embodied within them are spiritual ideas that have to be intuited with the higher mind. Followers or devotees of religions often fail to understand this principle. They believe in the letter of the law without considering the underlying spiritual principle. The immortality of the soul has long been an essential tenet in almost all religious belief-structures. The ancient Egyptians, for instance, believed in it; they accepted that the heart-soul, the ka, the ba, and other components of the microcosm outlived the physical form for a longer duration, if not indefinitely. Thus mummification was instituted to preserve the body for the return of the incorporeal aspects of man.
Myths are allegories or parables containing spiritual wisdom. They often deal with the fall of the soul into matter, its resurrection, the manner of its redemption, and the nature of the higher planes. In the ancient Mystery Schools of Greece, such as the Eluesinian, Cosmic laws and principles were personified and enacted in dramas. The mystae, or the candidate to the mysteries who witnessed these dramas was urged by the accompanying guide to discern the Cosmic laws and truths embodied within them. Often in such initiatory schools, candidates were put into trance-like conditions where they acquired personal experiences of the externalization of their awareness-principle. Thus, those candidates to the Mysteries came to know the reality of their soul and its independence of the physical body through empirical knowledge.
Our treatment of mythology in this paper will be supportive in nature, emphasizing or stressing certain main points of our themes where needed. Regrettably, it is beyond the scope of this work to treat the subject exhaustively and completely in a satisfactory manner.
Occultism as a whole, offers us a great wealth of knowledge concerning the death process and the nature of the post-mortem states. There have been many eminent clairvoyants in the past such as Swedenborg and Andrew Jackson Davis who wrote about their experiences concerning transition and the astral planes as seen through their inner senses–not to mention their communications and interactions with the inhabitants therein. In the opening pages of his work, Heaven and Hell, Swedenborg declares:
“. . . it has been granted to me to associate with angels and to talk with them as man, also to see the things in the heaven as well as in the hells . . . ” (1958:3)
We are, however, indebted to Earlyne Chaney and her Mystery school, Astara, for most of our occult information concerning the mysteries of death. Information derived from her writings would greatly enhance the structure and support of our main themes.
Of all religions, Tibetan Buddhism seems to be the richest source of information concerning the death process. It possesses a unique conception regarding transition. It is for this reason that we will consider it separately, apart from the general view of religion, giving it a category of its own. From the religious viewpoint, we have, therefore, chosen to treat the subject of the process of death in a detailed manner from the Lamaistic perspective. The esoteric science of death, it should be known, is one of the secret traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Our main source of information on Tibetan thanatology and eschatology, is derived from the “Bardo Thodol,” or “The Tibetan Book of the Dead”–as translated and edited by Evans-Wentz and his Tibetan colleague. We will also be appropriating the teachings and commentaries of various Lamas to supplement and give form to our main themes. Tibetans consider dying to be an art, just as the spiritual teachers of the Middle Ages did, calling it “ars moriendi.” To the Tibetan Buddhists, the training of dying commences in the meditative life. This is the preparation of the awareness-principle for the bardos that it will undergo or the possible attainment of the “Clear Light” resulting in enlightenment. Aside from considering the role that the bardos play in the death process, we will, therefore, also comment in passing of this mystical art, of the preparation required for liberation in the bardo.
Although there have been many modern, scientific researchers delving into the mysteries of death such as Raymond Moody and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, our principal sources of information will be derived from the works of Michael Newton, Ian Currie, and Filipo Liverziani as representative of the modern scientific approach. Investigations into psychic phenomena began way back in the last century when mediumistic activities began to flourish. Although many mediums and their displays of phenomena were found to be deceptions, a small percentage of occurrences were enough to convince psychic investigators of the survival of the personal-consciousness and in the reality of man’s inherent psychic powers. Notwithstanding the findings of past investigators, however, we will, concentrate more fully on the research discoveries of the writers mentioned above, as they offer the appropriate support for our main themes.
Copyright © 2006 Luxamore