In this chapter we will consider the four perspectives in greater detail. We will look into the dying process and the nature of life in the higher planes, as seen through the eyes of Western and Eastern occultism. Analysis of the religious concepts anent death, dying and the after-death state will offer us a clearer picture of what is commonly believed by the average person. We will deal with religious concepts not from the perspective of any particular religion, but from an overall, general view. The findings of modern researchers of the paranormal will greatly enhance our comprehension of nature’s laws, while Tibetan teachings concerning death will offer us a better insight into the purposes of life and the liberating nature of the death process. We will discuss these various perspectives with a metaphysical understanding.
The metaphysician is a seeker of empirical and pragmatic truths–truths and laws that are applicable and relevant to one’s life. The metaphysician, as a healer of man’s souls, is a searcher for not merely theoretical, but practical, factual, and experiential knowledge. Such knowledge, as an accumulation of relevant data, offers the material required to gain wisdom, insight and understanding of God’s plan, and the privilege of participating in the creative work of the universe. Knowledge of the death process and the purposes of life offers us a certain power to pre-determine our fate in the higher worlds and in subsequent incarnations with the exercise of our God-given gift of free-choice and the divine-will of our Higher Self.
Followers of religions have viewed death, or the passing over to a new dimension, in contradictory terms. On one hand, there is a lively anticipation and hope for a glorious future-state in a heavenly paradise, and on the other, a pronounced fear of eternal damnation and torture in an everlasting burning hell. The concepts of heaven and hell are common to most religions, and from the occult point of view, there is a basis for these ideas; however, heaven and hell as understood by the masses and unenlightened clergymen are a distortion of the reality underlying those states.
Hell, according to religious ideas, is a place in the afterlife for the punishment of wicked, immoral and sinful men and women. It is described to be a place of eternal torture, a place filled with fire and brimstone, a place of horror and terror, a locality where one suffers pain and misery indefinitely. Judaism refers to this hell as Sheol and Gehenna, while the ancient Greeks called it Hades and Tartarus. In Buddhism, the hell-state is known as Avitchi. Hell has been described in literature as the Inferno, the Abyss, the Pit, the Darkness, Limbo etc. In Paradise Lost, Milton called the capital of Hell, Pandemonium, which figuratively, refers to a state of chaos, lawlessness and anarchy. In the Gospel stories the Piscean Master referred to a pit outside the walls of Jerusalem–a pit utilized as a garbage incinerator. This burning pit was used as an illustration, in a metaphorical and symbolical manner, of the nature of Gehenna. Not understanding the symbolism, followers of Christ have accepted the Master’s explanation in a literal sense. It should also be noted that ancient mystics considered this earth plane to be one of the hell regions.
In the scriptures we are told that God is a consuming fire. This fire is synonymous with the fires and flames of hell; to the soul, higher vibrations are always fiery in nature. What do the flames of God consume? They consume temporarily the manifestation of the false ego with its expressions of pride, hatred and cruelty. They cleanse the subtle bodies of psychic dross. In the alchemical tradition, fire has been a symbol of the processes of transmutation and purification. In the same esoteric sense, the fiery stimulus of hell causes a purification and transmutation of the soul which results in soul-awakening. Once the soul realizes its mortal errors and repents, it rises from the fires of hell and enters into the planes of “purgatory” for the next phase of the purification process. From another perspective, the flames of hell may symbolize a soul’s lust for the physical world–its ungratified consuming desire, and rage or resentment towards all that opposes its egoistic will. Freedom from such a hell is a simple matter of extinguishing lowly desires and the acquisition of humility. Sufferings one experience in hell, aside from the above conditions could also be the result of remorseful feelings for one’s past negative deeds, one’s “sins” of omission and commission; or the result of one’s anger and displeasure for not possessing the ability to resume the life-style one had previously known. This often cause what is called an “earth-bound spirit.”
The concept of purgatory was first formulated by Pope Gregory I, who lived in the sixth century AD. Although turned into a dogma in some Christian sects, this particular doctrine is based on reality, as it is validated by the experiences of psychics and mystics. Purgatory is an intermediate plane between heaven and hell; however, in actuality, all planes are purgatorial in nature. Purgatory, in a specific sense, is a plane of consciousness, a dimension where souls sojourn temporarily to cast off material and carnal habits, attitudes and feelings. It is a realm of purification of one’s thoughts, emotions and desires. Purgatory is where one also commences the assimilation of experiences of one’s incarnated life. Once this purification has taken place, the soul goes to one of the heavenly regions appropriate for its expression. This occurs automatically without any authoritarian decree or overseeing.
To believe that a loving, kind and merciful God would banish and exile wayward souls to eternal condemnation and punishment is a sacrilegious attitude and feeling, and an injustice towards our Creator. The loving Omniversal Mind of the Cosmos would never have conceived of such an idea. God does not punish. The many hell regions were not created by God but by man’s guilty conscience, by man’s evil tendencies and propensities, by man’s willful disobedience and violation of the Cosmic Law of Harmony. This is not to say that hell and its tortures do not exist. They do exist, but as an illusion of maya. They are tangible but are phantasmagorias. Hell is an inner state of darkness within the consciousness projected and objectified onto astral substances. Hell is a state of mind and consciousness externalized and reflected in one’s astral, or even physical environment. Sojourners of hell unconsciously build, share, and experience a collective thoughtform.
Religion in the collective sense, paints hell in frightful forms and images. In actuality though, most of the devils and demons torturing souls in hell are mere phantasms arising from the psyche. The wrathful deities, creatures and demons found in hell, such as Satan, Beelzebub, Ashtaroth, Mara, the Raksasas, the Furies, the Harpies, the Erinyes, Chimaeras, Cerburus and Hydras, are all negative thoughts and feelings within one’s soul externalized in an illusory, hallucinatory sense to torment oneself for one’s past misqualification of soul-energies. Aside from hell, these gruesome and grotesque images are also seen and experienced at a certain phase of the bardo. These terrifying demons are mere symbols of negative human behaviour. The guilty conscience of men and women evilly-inclined erupts from the unconscious to manifest as horrible illusions. Simply put, a bad conscience and temperament creates the experience of hell. Cornelius Agrippa, the eminent occultist of the 16th century, referring to the illusory nature of hell as experienced by hell-sojourners says that souls,
“. . . are most cruelly tortured in the irascible faculty with the hatred of an imaginary evil, into the perturbations whereof, as also false suspicions, and most horrible phantasms they then fall, and they are represented to them sad representations; sometimes of the heaven falling upon their head, sometimes of being swallowed up into the earth . . . and sometimes of being taken, and tormented by devils.” (1995:596)
In the Gathas, one of the holy scriptures of Zoroastrianism, hell is described as the place of the worst thought, and as the House of Lies. The people of Ahura Mazda believed and still believe that in hell one is tormented by the daena, or conscience; however, they do not propose this to be construed and considered as a permanent state–a concept expounded by theologians of many other living faiths. Eternal punishment is illogical, senseless, and without purpose, and goes against all spiritual principles and values. It would be more realistic to view a merciful God ending soul-identity and consciousness rather than to picture the Almighty banishing and gloating at the sufferings and miseries of wayward souls. Hence, the purpose of hell is not that of punishment but to awaken the soul of its spiritual poverty, of its need to turn towards the Divine Light. Here we emphasize the concept of hell from the perspective of Zorastrianism for it has greatly influenced the Semitic religions which somehow distorted the transmission of esoteric knowledge.
Hell should not be seen as an eternal state. It exists for the soul only for as long as the soul refuses to acknowledge and face the Light of God, of Truth, and give up its resentments, hatreds, and other negative feelings. Not all souls sojourn in hell or purgatory. Lofty, pure souls bypass the lower worlds to head straight for their place in the heavenly regions. Every soul goes to the plane most appropriate for its nature. This process or procedure is not directed arbitrarily by any being, there is no one to coerce and force us to be in any realm. This is all executed according to the Law of Correspondence. Man’s spiritual attainment or lack of it determines where he would go. It is a matter of frequencies. One’s personal frequency attunes one into the appropriate dimension vibrating at the corresponding wavelength. Imagine if you will, a wicked sinner obtaining forgiveness at the last hour and goes to the heavenly worlds. The very presence of the sinner would transform heaven into hell, for his innate wickedness, his negative character, would pollute the surrounding environment. Death does not transmute our character. We carry our same personality, character, minds and emotions wherever we go. If we are in constant discord with our environment, with our many relationships here on this earth plane, we would express no differently in the subtle worlds. The presence of negativity causes the soul, the astro-mental bodies, to assume a certain density in its energy-structures and fields, a certain atomic weight which binds it to the lower regions of hell or purgatory. Heaven is thus protected from trouble-makers. Whether in hell or purgatory, the soul suffers all of its misqualified and misspent energies alone. The length of time that one sojourns in hell or purgatory is dependent upon one’s self, upon one’s own inner desire to improve one’s character, upon one’s desire to be free, the desire to forgive self and others–to request forgiveness from those wronged, and the desire to serve others.
Concerning heaven, Christians have long visualized it to be a magnificent city with streets paved in gold and ornamented with precious stones. The book of Revelations has done much to mould Christian beliefs regarding this matter. What is not known to the average Christian is that the apocalypse in Revelations is symbolical and that it is a work written by great initiates for lesser initiates studying the mysteries of God, and that to interpret it literally is to deceive and mislead oneself. It takes a great deal of familiarity with the occult, the Qaballah, and the initiatory teachings of the ancients to properly interpret the real significance of its spiritual contents.
Heaven, generally, is believed to be a place of rewards, of eternal rest. Ancient Greeks called heaven the Elysian Fields or Olympus. Followers of Zoroaster describe it as the House of Suns, and the abode of the best thought–a place where the sun never ceases to shine–no doubt alluding to the luminous nature of the plane. To Hindus, heaven is Surga, and it lies in the higher lokas. Theosophists call heaven “Devachan.” Ancient Egyptians referred to it as Sekhet-hetepet. To Scandinavians it is Asgard; and spiritualists call it Summerland. Heaven as an abode of peace, happiness, and abundance is a fundamental religious belief in every culture, ancient and modern. As hell is believed to be a place of punishment, so heaven is believed to be a realm of rewards due to the virtuous, the “poor in spirit” and to those who serve God faithfully.
Like hell, followers of religion have likewise misunderstood and misconceived the nature of heaven. In their theology, most religions lay too much stress on externals without considering the mystical nature of their teachings; this applies most specifically to such concepts as heaven and hell. The Bahá’i faith, as an exception, believes heaven and hell to be spiritual conditions, and not mere places. In their theological teachings, heaven is defined as the proximity of the consciousness to the throne of God, and hell as a remoteness from the heavenly Godhead. This is in accord with the words of the Nazarene that the kingdom of God is within. Eventhough the concept of paradise among Christians has a different meaning from the kingdom of God as enunciated by the Master–the former believing it to be a place–it could indeed be considered as such, as a place or places reflecting the inner state of the soul, just like hell–eventhough we apparently contradict our previous statement concerning Christian emphasis upon externals. As mentioned before, heaven and hell as places have been substantiated by the discoveries and experiences of mystics and psychics. However, we have to realize that the external protean reality is but a reflection of the inner state or condition of the mind. We have considered this before, but it is necessary to reiterate because of its importance.
Although heaven is as beautiful and glorious as described by religions, it is not a place of eternal rest. A heaven of ease and idleness is a static state. Inertia does not exist in the universe. All is in motion and in a continuous flux. The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, said that “everything is becoming.” All Sparks, or creatures of God are forever evolving. Everything is in a dynamic state moving towards a higher expression and manifestation. Heaven as experienced and understood by mystics, is a state of intense activity. Heaven is not a place where one sings hymns and play on the harp all day long (unless that is what gives us pleasure), it is a place of continued education for the evolving soul, where the mysteries of the universe, and Cosmic laws are studied. In the higher worlds one learns to exercise one’s creativity in myriads of ways. One also spends one’s time in heaven serving the whole of creation in various capacities, in accord with one’s innate abilities and talents. In the heavenly regions, there are no angels ornated with wings and halos, as represented by painters in their artwork. In heaven, angelic beings are adorned with their purity, love and other positive virtues. What are supposed to be wings are simply magnetic radiations streaming from their persons.
One of the salient features of religious beliefs is that during transition, before one passes over to heaven or hell, one has to undergo a judgment. The Ancient Egyptians, Tibetans, Christians, Muslims and many others all have and had their judgment scenes in their theological concepts. This is ingrained in the eschatology of religion and has, as a matter of fact, a basis of truth which we shall see later as we consider the bardos. It will suffice here to describe certain aspects of the Judgment scene.
The Judgment scene of almost every religion consists of a judge, a weigher of the scales, a scribe, and of course, the soul being judged. To Ancient Egyptians, Osiris was the judge of the soul, Anubis the weigher of the scales, while Thoth was the scribe. The human soul was often depicted as hawk-headed. In Zoroastrianism, Mithras or sometimes Zoroaster sits on the judgment seat, with Rashnu acting as weigher and Sraosha as recorder. Tibetans called their magistrate Dharmaraja and their scribe Shinje–the monkey-headed one. Christians believe that Jesus would be the one to judge the “quick and the dead,” with angelic personnel acting as his amanuensis.
In the Judgment scene, as conceived by the ancient Egyptians, the Ab, or heart of the soul is weighed against Maat, or Truth, symbolised by a feather. The deceased makes a long confession, affirming his or her goodly works. The negative works of the soul goes unstated and unproclaimed–the soul hoping that its past sinful deeds are overlooked and not revealed. But then comes the weighing of the scales, where the statements of the soul are gauged of its truth. When found not to measure up to its honesty, the soul is led to hell to be tormented by Typhon, who is one of the presiding demons; otherwise, it is shown the way to paradise. The Judgment scene of all religions follows more or less along similar lines.
According to some religious and cultural beliefs, prior to the Judgment or the entry into the underworld, the soul had to cross a river or rivers, before passing on to its destination. The soul is usually led across the river in a boat or by using certain bridges. Ancient people used these symbols to signify the processes of transition. Muslims call the bridge “Sirat,” while followers of Zoroaster call it “Chivat.” Ancient Greeks called the underworld rivers Styx, Acheron, Cocytus, and Phlegethon. These named rivers correspond to the four streams of the Garden of Eden: Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel, and Phrath. Occultly, they probably refer to the four etheric planes. Scandinavians also believe in a river that souls in the cthonian world had to cross. They call this “Wimur.” Ancient Babylonians believed that the soul had to cross the Huber river prior to reaching the “mountain of justice,” or the Judgment scene.
Psychologically, rivers, oceans, pools, and lakes all refer to the subconscious element within man. In the depth of the Freudian “id,” lurk various monsters–phobias, psychosis, neurosis, and repressions. In an occult sense, these monsters of the psyche are known collectively as the Dweller on the Threshold. Crossing rivers in the context of its symbolism, entails encountering these monsters, these repressed images in the death process; and indeed, according to Tibetan thanatology, this is exactly what occurs in the bardo. All religious doctrines teach of the danger that the soul may have to face in the intermediate state.
Copyright © 2006 Luxamore