DEATH AND DYING
The subject of this article is the discussion of death and the processes of dying.
Invaluable information will be given about life and death, from Theosophical sources, and a way will be shown how to verify the given information. This verification is possible because sleep and death are virtually identical processes, a subject about which you can read more in section 7.
The connecting thread throughout this article will be the concept of man as a stream of life-consciousness, using various vehicles ('souls') for manifestation of this stream. For an extensive discussion about this concept I kindly refer the reader to my article 'The psychological key to man', also available at this server site.
Traditional views of death don't encourage us to think about it
In Western culture death is largely a taboo subject. Most of us don't like to think about the fact that one day we will die. Many people hold to the point of view that we live only once, and that after death there is either an eternal 'heaven' or 'hell' or there is 'nothing' at all.
Both these points of view are something of 'an easy solution'. If we have some fixed prospect then there is no need anymore to think about it..
Philosophically spoken, the concept of 'heaven' and 'hell' as static states is a bit childish. Nature herself shows that everything is in a constant change of flux, motion, change. Change is the essence of life. Also, remember the biblical quote: "There are many mansions in my Father's house". Indeed, many spheres and states of consciousness are there in this universe of ours.
Plato provides some interesting food for thought in his 'Phaedo'. Socrates argues in that dialogue that everywhere in nature we can observe the play of opposites: day and night, sleeping and waking, life and death, etc. Regarding the pairs of opposites he notes that everything has the possibility to pass into its opposite state. Every pair of opposites has transitionary forms, e.g. good and bad have as transitions: getting better and getting worse. Night comes forth out of day via twilight, and day comes forth out of night via dawn.
Sleep comes forth out of being awake and being awake out of sleep. With each of these pairs of opposites one can find transitionary states or forms. Moreover, one can understand that these opposites and transitional forms are always a state of something and that the appearance of this something is only a transition from one state to another.
If this applies to all pairs of opposites then the question arises whether life and death are also such a pair of opposites. If so, then it would be logical that there are transitionary states for life and death too. Death is certainly opposite to manifest life, so let's start searching for transitionary states. One gets into life by birth. One gets into the state of death by dying. One can only die because one lives now. Analogous, one can only get into life because one has been dead before.
Conclusion: life and death come forth out of each other and pass into each other via transitional states. A very plausible reasoning indeed! One has only to observe the processes of nature to see endless cycles going on and on.
The key question is what is it exactly that is going through these changing states? Answer: it is CONSCIOUSNESS. Man is consciousness, and specifically gifted with the power of reflection, thinking. The personality (persona = mask) is a temporary vehicle (bundle of energies) builded by the real human monad in order to express itself on the outer planes of life. The higher aspects of thinking can be brought into expression on this outer planes too, thereby providing the means of verifying the truth of reincarnation (see section 7).
Why knowledge of the processes of death is useful
The conclusion of the foregoing section is that any real knowledge of the processes of death, in fact of LIFE ITSELF, is lacking in this world.
Yet, we can find certain clues in some religions as to what happens when we die (see section 6). Since the old Wisdom-Religion was reframed in Theosophy by H.P. Blavatsky, we are given a lot of valuable knowledge about death and the processes involved. Now, having said that this information is available to this world, this doesn't imply blind belief! Rather, Theosophy encourages everybody to investigate the processes of nature and the structure of the universe him/herself. How this can be done is briefly outlined in section 7.
Besides satisfying our curiosity, knowledge of the processes of death is really knowledge about the processes of life itself and about the structure of the universe. Why is this so? Because life and death are, contrary to how we ordinarily see them, two phases of an ever recurring type of cycle in nature: the cycle of manifestation of consciousness on the outer planes of life, preceded and followed by the withdrawal of consciousness from the outer into the inner planes of life.
This cycle can be described in a general form as:
birth, outer life, death, inner life, reincarnation.
Now, if we proceed from the viewpoint of reincarnation, then naturally the question rises what/how/who will we be in our next life. In what circumstances will we be born? These may seem interesting questions - indeed they are to a certain extent - but the most important question is: what will be our character in our next life? Why is this such an important issue? Because our character is a decisive factor, not only regarding which family we will feel attracted to, but also how our entire look upon life will be and how we will live our lives. I tried to explain questions of character and how to refine it by developing one's higher faculties in my previous article.
The point is, that we ourself decide NOW what our character will be in our next life! By necessity, our character in its main aspects cannot differ very much from our character we have build during this lifetime. So we have to work now at ourselves, get some feeling for what we really are, deep inside and bring some spiritual light in our character and express it in our life. No one else will do that for us. You can't buy a wholesome character. The only way to develop it is through selfless service and trying to understand the deep meaning of life and death. One of the 'tricks' is starting to live in the NOW, to just be yourself, dynamically doing what we feel and understand is necessary to do and go on. Don't expect too much fruits of your labor. Your mind will get trapped in expectations (a form of attachment!). If you get a feeling for this, your life will gradually change into a more holistic one. You will feel more connected to the whole, the supreme spirit, including mankind. Your appreciation of nature and her wondrous works might raise considerably.
So, knowledge of the processes of death is really knowledge about the processes of Life and is important for our everyday life.
As your understanding of the inner states of life and consciousness, and how these connect to daily life, expands, verification of the information that is provided here, and in my other articles, becomes possible. See also section 7.
Man: a stream of consciousness; the composite constitution of man.
For reference purposes I repeat the egg-scheme from my second article about Theosophy, (available on this WWW-site), titled: 'the psychological key to man'.
Some short comments will be added here.
World of Archetypes ----------|-----------------------------------------
(Several planes/spheres) | <--------/ / / / Supreme Spirit (Logos)
----------|----------/ | -----| | -------------
| / | | |
Vehicular aspect | / | | | Consciousness
of Life | / | | | aspect of Life
( | ) / | | |
( | )/ | | |
( *|* / ) | | |
( * | * ) | | |
( * | * ) | | |
Divine (-----------------------) | | | Divine Ego
Soul ( * | * / | |
( * | * / ) | |
( *|* / ) | |
( | / ) | |
( %|% / ) | |
( % | % <--/ ) | |
Spiritual (----------------------------------) / | Spiritual Ego
Soul ( % | % ) / |
( %|% / |
( | /) |
( +|+ <-----------/ ) / Higher
Higher (------------ +-|-+ -------------) / Human ego
Human Soul ( +|+ ) / (individual ego)
( | __________________/ "I am"
( -|- / )
Human Soul (--------- - | - ----------) Lower Human (personal) ego
( -|- ) (Reincarnating ego)
( | ) "I am I" (personality)
Animal Soul (--------#|#---------)
( #|# ) Animal ego
( | )
( | )
Physical Soul (-----X------) Body
Model-body, ( | )
body ( | )
A short clarification:
The circles within the egg-scheme symbolize so-called 'monads': sparks of the universal life-force. These are pure spirit. The stream of consciousness, that flows from the Supreme Spirit at the top of our hierarchy (= most spiritual level in our hierarchy) down to the 'grosser' states of consciousness-matter manifests itself through pairs of souls/ego's. A soul is a 'carrier' of consciousness. An ego is a center of consciousness, a facet of the stream of consciousness, using an appropriate soul (form consisting of minor beings, called lifeatoms - the building blocks of nature). The soul/ego pairs arise out of the interfacing of spirit and matter.
Our personal consciousness is centered in the personal ego. The reincarnating, personal, ego emanated by the personal monad, contains a ray of consciousness emanated from the higher human monad. This is one of the mysteries of the human being: his thinking faculty is dual in character. Man can concentrate his thinking on almost exclusive personal affairs, but on the other hand (s)he can direct his/her attention on high ideals, giving expression to spiritual energies.
The higher human monad has evolved the thinking faculty to an almost perfect degree and the faculty of understanding, the enlightenment principle, to a reasonable degree.
Death occurs as the link between the personal soul/ego and the parent soul/ego, the higher human ego/soul, is broken. The reason for this break is simple: the old 'vehicles' are not longer useful, nay, become an impediment for the parent ego to manifest its qualities. Time to change clothes!
Somewhat rephrased: the 'voltage' has become too high for the lower vehicles to bear. Rememember, the stream of consciousness is a mighty vital, psycho-magnetic stream, the 'voltage' of which must be stepped down all along from the divine planes or states to the grosser states.
One point is exceedingly important to keep in mind when we study scheme's as the above: we should not separate all the planes, states of consciousness, ego's, etc. in any absolute sense. In reality, all these seven states interpenetrate each other, giving rise for example, to the sevenfold division of thinking I discussed at length in my previous article. In other words: the small mirrors the large in some respect. The small contains elements of the whole! So above, so below. The old Hermetic axiom (a master key to understanding !).
Because one IS the seven principles of manifestation (see tables in my previous article), one does not have to look somewhere else for 'enlightenment', etc. One is also what/how one thinks (compare the writings of Marcus Aurelius). Realize your potential and just BE yourself, not forcing yourself into a cramped mental state. Use the faculty, power, of Imagination to form images of Siblinghood, Brotherhood, Sisterhood, cooperation, etc, and these images will concretize into a living reality, touching the minds of those who are spiritual seekers. A persistent effort and discipline is required of course. Remember also: thoughts are living beings!
As to the name 'egg-scheme' I could add that it is derived from the concept (and reality) of the Auric Egg, which was a secret teaching among the Brahmans in India. The Auric Egg is the basis for the commonly known human aura, which last one is only it's grossest form! More info about this mysterious subject can be found in the esoteric instructions of Godfried the Purucker (see lit. #3b).
Death is a gradual process
What happens near the end of our life?
To answer this question we should first of all recognize the fact that we feel a certain attraction to outer life. We want to play our role on the stage of this world. The stream of consciousness manifests itself because there is a certain characteristic within this stream that is attracted to the outer planes of life. If we be honest with ourselves then we can easily be aware of this fact.
In the course of life this attraction gets a bit less strong. We have witnessed many events and see a repetition of the same old patterns over and over again, wherever we look. The attraction to the inner planes or states in the stream of consciousness gets stronger for us. Bit by bit we loose the interest in outer life. We start having periods of absentmindedness. The stream of consciousness flashes up and down, so to speak, between the outer and inner planes or states of consciousness. The 'turning point' has been reached for our personal soul.
This period of the lessening of our attraction to outer life usually takes a couple of months, varying with each individual of course. One more word about the stream of consciousness. This stream is a strong psycho-magnetic vital current that is being transformed by each of the vehicles (souls) it uses to manifest itself. Each vehicle or sheath is similar to a resistance or fuse in an electrical circuit. When the body, the outer vehicle, wears, it will breakdown in the end. The fuse melts.. The stream is interrupted. Compare an ordinary lightbulb. A similar process is going on there (a crude analogy).
This break occurs between the personal human soul and the higher human soul (see egg-scheme). Now that the lower or more outward vehicles are not longer fed by the energy of the stream of lifeconsciousness, these vehicles start disintegrating. The 'overlord' (the higher human soul) doesn't hold the composing cells any longer together..
This leads us to the consideration of afterdeath states.
After-death states according to Theosophy
The following info about the processes of death will be a bit sketchy. A mere outline will be given here. One thing that I don't discuss here is the presence of spiritual guides for the just deceased. Let's just say that I know there are such guides on the subtle planes to help the confused dead, whether it is in times of disaster or not. Of course there are invisible helpers, also helping people where possible while they are still alive on this planet.
I refer the interested reader to the esoteric instructions of dr. Godfried the Purucker (lit. #3a) where (s)he can find more details such as about suicides, fatal accidents, etc.
The last couple of hours before brain-death are spend on the so-called 'panoramic vision', a process that involves the review of the life about to be ended. This review is like an extremely accelerated movie of all the events of life, seen in the light of the CAUSES behind these events.
The personal human ego sees the justice of all that has happened, just because its consciousness is in an extremely altered state and is thus able to understand its past life in the light of karma or the correlation of cause and effect. (But see also my remark about collective karma later on in this section) You could call this panoramic vision a teaching or instruction for the personal human ego.
After physical death of a person there's the following situation:
- There is the physical body which is decomposing. The model body, sometimes called: 'etheric' body, is decomposing as well.
- The personal soul and animal soul are separated from the physical and model body. They are clothed in a kind of astral body. Together this complex is called: 'kama rupa' (kama=desire, rupa=body or form; hence: body of desire) More discussion about this complex will follow shortly.
The two highest monads that were connected to the personal egoic center of consciousness (through their radiance or rays) follow their own pathways along what is called the circulations of the cosmos: the divine monad withdraws, flashes back to its parent-star from which it is a ray, the spiritual monad starts its travel through the solar system (it is a ray from the sun). The higher human monad is withdrawn in the 'bosom'of the spiritual monad.
Many mysteries are connected with these circulations and it is safe to say that we know very little about it, except what has been stated about it in the writings of Gottfried de Purucker.
The life energies, the vital streams, disperse into space; they go back to the realms where they belong.
Let's pay some more attention to the kama-rupa complex. It is held together by the force of desires that we collected during our earthly life. The lower human ego/monad is still connected to this complex, working to free itself from the influence of the magnetic earthly desires/energies. The kama-rupa exists also during earth-life, but then it is more fluid, constantly changing since our desires, passions and aspirations, change and evolve during our life-time and consequently the kama-rupa does so too since it consists just of these desires in one's psyche (on the astral plane). The kama-rupa, during life, is the personality pattern, the persona or mask, the lower qualities or merely personal qualities of the human Ego.
Now, where is this kama-rupa to be found? Obviously not in the material world. Theosophy teaches that it remains in a quasi-material world, called: kama-loka (loka=place or state, hence: place of desire). This is a familiar notion in many religions. The Roman Catholics call this place the purgatory, the Greeks called it Hades, the ancient Egyptians called it Amenti (see Egyptian Book of the Dead), the Tibetans call this the Bardo (actually a subdivision of the Bardo; see Tibetan book of the Dead and lit. #3a).
[Regarding the Egyptian book of the Dead we could add that it describes esoterically the processes of Initiation, a thing which is related to the processes of death. Death, sleep and initiation are similar processes, varying in degree only.]
We ourselves determine the duration of the kama-rupa state (in which the personal ego is in an unconscious state, thanks heaven!) by the way we live our lives now! If we lead a spiritual life, serving our community, our personal ego-soul will have a short stay in kama-loka varying, say, from a couple of days to a couple of weeks.
If we live otherwise, paying a lot of attention to our personal status, filled with selfish ambitions, paying little attention to the needs of others, then we will have a much longer stay in the kama-loka varying, say, from a couple of years to a much longer period. In some cases (of really vile people) there's a possibility of loss of soul - a mysterious teaching, but important to know - a thing that is clarified by H.P. Blavatsky (see: Blavatsky Collected Writings, Vol. XII, Theos. Publishing House, Wheaton, Il.)
Well, you could say, what does it matter if my soul stays long in the kama-loka or not? One answer to this lies in the dangers for the kama-rupa to be attracted to seances. Theosophy teaches that necromantic practices are unhealthy and dangerous, both to the medium and participants as for the deceased. For the latter especially if the deceased's soul is still in the kama-loka as in cases of accidental death. It may very well be impressed with the unclean vibrations of the medium and of other forces, attracted to the seance.
H.P. Blavatsky and others have repeatedly warned against these practices (see lit. #3a, #7 and #8).
Leave the dead undisturbed! If you have deep love for a deceased what better respect could you pay to him/her than to live according to the highest ideals of that person? By identifying with these ideals and the highest qualities/characteristics of the deceased you will actually incorporate these qualities in your own character!
Speaking about the dying person, esoteric teachings state that one should not disturb this person by being overly emotional. I realise that this may sound harsh towards the relatives, etc. but in truth it is a sound advice. The dying has other concerns; (s)he prepares for the panoramic vision and needs quietness, peace, around him/her.
Coming back to the issue of the kama-rupa: when the human monad of the deceased one has released itself from the lower desires then the SECOND DEATH occurs.
This implies the absorption of the higher aspirations (higher desires), all the noble qualities developed during earth-life, into the higher human ego-soul-monad. This marks the end of the kama-loka state of the personal ego. Better phrased: these spiritual and intellectual qualities, higher aspirations, are precisely what remains of the personal ego and this is the best part, the truly human being, sometimes called the 'spiritual aroma' and that part enters into a new state of consciousness:the devachan (deva=god, chan=world or place; hence: 'world of the gods' or 'heaven-world'), not so much a 'world'but a STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS.
It is an excalted dreamy state of spiritual fulfilment of all the ideals the personal ego cherished during lifetime and can also be seen as a kind of reward for undeserved miseries on earth. These miseries are a consequence of collective deeds and thoughts of the human race, so from the point of view of the personality these miseries are not deserved. Yet, being part of humanity, it cannot escape all the stupidities and violence in this world. Of course this includes its own follies as well.
It is not only that. It is also a state of weaving the spiritual elements in the character of the reincarnating ego - a ray of the parent monad: the higher human monad. The personal egoity (a bundle of energies, consciousness) is now dreaming-sleeping 'in the bosom of the higher human monad into which it is drawn up' - a sleep which can endure for many centuries. The higher human monad has its own activities, of course, in its own respective spheres of manifestation. Esoteric teachings state that this monad travels or moves in/trough the 'higher' planes or worlds connected to the earth-system and after that travels through the solar system in the bosom of the spiritual monad, visiting the seven sacred planets.
The kama rupa is now an 'astral corpse'.
In it's next eartly life the personal ego will commence with an improved character. So you see why it is important to know these things. You sow the seeds NOW for your next life. We determine the character of our next life partly by what we do now, by how we live now. How just this all is! How can we be different from what we make of our selves? We can't. Of course, collective karma plays an important role during our life and will do so during our next life. This can be no excuse however for not exercising one's own powers of the mind. Nor should this lead to indifference to the lot of others.
All the ancient peoples of the world believed in the reality of reincarnation and a majority in this world still does. Buddhists, Hindus, Druids, Celts, Britons, Gallics, Platonists, Pythagoreans, many gnostic Christians, are only some of the people that hold to this doctrine. Add the Inca and Maya civilizations, the old Egyptians, the Roman poets Vergil, Lucretius, Horatio, the Stoics, and the list is still not completed! Also the Jewish Sohar, the famous Kabbalistic book, contains references to reincarnation.
The Christian Bible contains some implicit references to this doctrine (see gospel of John(9)). The famous church father Origines was very familiar with this doctrine. Eusebius was one of the church fathers who helped to eliminate the doctrine of reincarnation from the Christian faith (which was more a sort of collection of sects). Needless to say that Nature doesn't go along with this decision..
Reincarnation is the 'lost thread' in our society. Understanding this key to life, together with that of Karma, would change fundamentally the way we live. It would bring some order in this chaotic world.
One question about reincarnation, namely: 'why don't we remember our past lives?' can be shortly answered here. The point is that we get a new brain in our new life. This new brain doesn't hold the memories of the past lives. Well, you could ask, where are these memories kept? Answer: in a certain part of the human constitution called the 'auric egg', and also in the astral light of our earth.
The astral light is the all pervading 'fluid' which was known among many mystics (Boehme, Swedenborg, etc.) and even to some of the scientists in former centuries, and, of course to sensitive people in our era. It is the 'magical agens', correlating all the forces of nature, carrier of our thought currents, elementals of nature and much more. The human will can exert a powerful influence on and through this light (see lit. #8, chapter V). The auric egg is composed of Akasha-Cosmic Aether- 'invisible' Light - a relatively conscious substance!
The more spiritual parts of the auric egg are composed of celestial light which is the building substance of our spirit; the less spiritual parts are composed of astral light, formative substance of our psyche. The auric egg is fundamental life. It also contains the karmic records of all our thoughts and deeds.. This will undoubtedly lead to many more questions and the best I can do is to refer the reader to the books of Blavatsky, Judge and De Purucker (lit. #3a,3b,7,8,9).
Another question about memories from previous lives is whether reincarnation therapy or hypnosis can help us to get these memories back. Esoteric teaching is quite clear to this: no, they won't. As to the 'memories' people experience during reincarnation therapy, these are most probably impressions from the astral light, or, to some extent, impressions from the therapist him/herself unconsciously projected into the aura of the client and unconsciously perceived by the client whilst in a state of regression.
Regarding hypnosis, it is stated in esoteric literature (lit. #7) that it can be dangerous to a person. Hypnosis brings about a temporary separation of the higher principles in our constitution (notably the higher aspects of the thinking faculty) and the lower principles. This is an unhealthy situation. Many people have suffered from participating as a volunteer in hypnotic shows. Needless to say, a very pure motive and wisdom are necessary attributes for the would-be therapist to exercise his/her mesmeric powers on others, in order that no impure thoughts enter the aura of the client!
Why don't we study the structure of the universe and especially man first, before we engage in such activities? The same advice applies to euthanasia. Are we wiser than nature? No! Using pain-killers is o.k., often already shortening the period of dying. But to actively end one's life by lethal injection is quite another thing.
The last ten years or so there has been a rising interest in so-called 'near-death-experiences'. Since I'm dealing with the topic of death and dying it seems pertinent to say a little bit on NDE.
Some people who had a NDE think they have seen deceased relatives. >From what I know from the esoteric philosophy I gather that these people have been experiencing their own images, pictures, of these deceased ones. Unaccustomed to the psychic (astral) world and its inhabitants it is easy to mistake thought-forms for live human beings. The deceased ones, however, do not remain in the kama-lokic sphere, which is after all but the dregs of the earth-sphere. They have long passed into devachan, normally speaking (i.e within a couple of months after physical death), which is more spiritual in nature. Their kama-rupa or astral remains may last for some time, maybe this is seen during NDE sometimes.
To end this section, we can ask ourselves what happens with the kama-rupa, the astral corpse, after the second death has taken place. Little is left of this corpse after second death. The lower desires are slowly dissipated, somewhat analogous to the afterglow of an electric stove when the electricity is switched off.
It disintegrates and the elements composing it return to their own realms; these elements just cycle back to the realms where they belong (earth to earth, water to water, air to air, fire to fire). These elements are not so much the earth, water, etc. we are accustomed to, but rather the root-substances which are used by nature to build the complex matter we call earth, water, air, etc. But that's an entirely other story.
The lower desires are destroyed in their form-aspect. There remain, however, impressions, karmic consequences ,'germs', in or on the astral light. Some of those germs are activated when the reincarnating ego manifests itself again in this world. Parallel with this the energies (working through these lower desires and astral forms) re-enter the auric egg of the personal ego which has entered devachan. See lit. #9 on the subject of skandhas and lit #3a, chapter on kama-loka and the second death.
How can we verify the given information ourselves?
A pertinent question to ask is: 'How do you know all this?' or 'How do you know this information is correct?' Is it only from books or teachers?
Well, sure we have information from the great Teachers of mankind, but this is not enough. Everybody can experience the value and truth of these teachings for themselves! Remember, we ARE the stream of consciousness. We can shift our center of consciousness from personal to more spiritual. We can use our faculty of thinking in such a way as to become more transparent for the inner light that is called understanding (the Enlightenment-principle or buddhi).
Dr. Gottfried de Purucker gives the clue to this in the section on meditation in volume 2 of the twelf-part series ~esoteric teachings~. He says: "Meditation is the holding of a thought steady in the mind, and allowing the consciousness to work interiorly upon this thought, and the doing of it easily and with delight.
The way to meditate properly is to have a noble thought, a beautiful thought, a helpful thought, one taken from our own Order [note: the hierarchy of compassion - the Light side or spiritual side of our solar system, and beyond - Martin Euser] and to hold it in the mind and make a delight out of it. Love this thought. Keep it in your mind. Let it dwell there. Let the spirit brood over it as a mother-hen will brood over her eggs and chicks.
There is no need to put the physical or psychical will on to it. If you do you won't succeed, because such exercise of the will means effort, it shows strain; and that is no way to meditate. Love a beautiful thought and keep thinking of it, keep it in the mind; this is meditation, and if you practise this simple rule of Jnana-Yoga, agter a while it will become natural to you. It will become part of your daily consciousness.
At times you will hardly realize that you are thinking it. It will be there all the time at the back of your mind. That is meditation. And concentration is simply at certain times, when you have the leisure for it, taking this thought as it were into your consciousness more clearly, and centering all your attention upon it, not with the will, but with ease."
Dr. de Purucker continues to say that this type of meditation is the fundamental secret of yoga - union of the mind or thinking organ with the ineffable peace, wisdom and love of the god or divinity within. It is a very valuable advice! One-pointedness of mind is necessary in this practice. This means "the holding of the mind with fixity on and to a point of noble thought, and a brooding upon it, pondering it, meditating upon it".
The suggested meditation of pondering about brotherhood in theosophy basics, part 2 is an example of this type of meditation. Remember that the mind "becomes or takes the form, or flows into the form, of the object contemplated or perceived, whether good, bad, or indifferent; and thus the mind molds itself into the objects of thought; so that if the object or mental picture is spiritual or divine, the mind becomes similar to it because it flows into the divine and loses itself therein, or molds itself according to it; and similarly, when the mind is fastened in the lower things, it becomes assimilated to the lower things or flows into their form and appearance. This great occult secret has thus a good and high, as well as a low and bad, aspect"
The next chapter of this booklet deals with spiritual and psychic powers and with spiritual illumination versus psychic illusions. I sometimes wonder whether spiritual seekers realize fully that there is an abundance of psychical teachings being offered in this world, which are often misleading the aspirant for spiritual knowledge, focussing on non-essential things.
While everybody is entitled to his or her path to illumination it certainly is advisable to learn to discriminate between psycho-physical exercises and those of the spirit. The first type may help to gain powers over others (powers to psychologize others), learn how to make money quickly, etc. which are in the final analysis powers that perish when one dies and powers tainted with selfishness [ and will thus backfire ultimately on the dabbler with psychic powers]. Thus, it has nothing to do with the spiritual path!
The second type, spiritual exercises will have permanent effects for good. Just a word of warning!
This does not mean that psychical faculties or powers are evil per se or useless. This is not the case. They can be (and will be) dangerous "without the spiritual light and power of the intellect and spiritual will to guide and to control the psychical nature in which these psychical faculties and powers inhere." (p. 71 of esoteric teachings, vol.2).
To summarize: theosophy encourages practice of Jnana, Raja, and, Karma Yoga, (devotion to the cause of mankind being an essential ingredient too- this can be described as a form of Bhakti yoga), but not Hatha Yoga, ceremonial religion (too much concentration on form) and ceremonial magic(k) (when done for selfish purposes), etc. The problem with Hatha Yoga exercises (including pranayama) is that these can disturb the delicate equilibrium of the pranas (subtle energies circulating through the body).
As an afterthought, I would like to add that ceremonies themselves are not so much wrong or so, but may focus people's attention too much on the 'outer' aspects of religion. Of course, ceremonies may serve as some kind of 'rituals' that give people a feeling of belonging to a group. However it may be, many theosophists prefer to do without ceremony, except for the celebration of the equinoxes, solstices, and commemoration of HPB's death.
As regards ceremonial magic(k), I would like to add that certain practices like burning incense to cleanse the atmosphere can be actually helpful in meditative practice.
Invocating elementals or whispering the names of Gods/Goddesses (in the form of mantras) without exactly knowing what you are doing doesn't seem very wise to me, but let everybody follow his/her own path and discover these things, benefit or harm, for him/herself. The same applies to so-called 'astral-projection' techniques. In Theosophy manasic projection (creating a temporary thought-body) is encouraged, but that is entirely a different matter. It requires a steady will and concentrated mind, plus the ability to use one's faculty of Imagination. We're talking about the ability to project a part of one's mind into a sphere we need to enter in order to perform certain work. Often this is done unconscious, while asleep for example. It requires an adept to do this consciously.
To conclude: in the first and last analysis it is the motive of the seeker that will define the nature of the path that s/he is treading!
We also have to practice brotherhood/sisterhood, try to realize at least a bit of our highest ideals. That will change the characteristics of our consciousness. Brotherhood/Sisterhood/Siblinghood is not so much about being nice to each other. Rather it has to do with respect for the uniqueness of other beings and trying to learn something from each other!
We can learn something from the other when we try to identify ourselves with the essence of the other, using our empathic faculty (an aspect of the faculty of understanding!) So, our relationships with others are deeply involved here. While spiritual growth processes can be painful sometimes, one reason being the immense resistance we encounter in ourselves (and others), it is beautiful too! We will experience more depth, warmth, humanness, less automaticity, etc. in our relations with others. Of course, sometimes we will have inner struggles, and, who knows, outer struggles too. All worthwile things must be conquered!
When we start expressing our higher aspects of thinking, such as understanding, inspiration, etc. this is accompanied (expressed in 'instrumental terms') by our inner nature building a 'bridge', a conscious connection between the personal soul and the higher human soul. This bridge is called the 'antaskarana' in the 'Voice of the Silence' - a beautiful book from H.P.Blavatsky for true students on the Path.
This means that we open our minds for an enhanced influx of spiritual energy from within. This has an effect on our consciousness also during sleep. Our body sleeps, while we keep the continuity of our (thinking) consciousness instead of plunging in an oblivious state of unconsciousness. The mind goes through certain states of consciousness similar to what happens during and after death. This means that the mind experiences a kama-loka state, then a state of some bliss, probably cycling from state to state a couple of times.
[a phenomena we may well be acquainted with: sometimes we wake up feeling deeply refreshed and content with life, maybe even feeling some happiness or bliss- whatever our brain-consciousness can retain from this state of consciousness we experienced during deep sleep. Similar, we sometimes wake up in a bad mood. We probably didn't get a lot of this deep sleep!]
Sleep research confirms this changing of states we experience during sleep. REM-sleep and deep sleep. I gather from this fact and from the esoteric teaching that sleep and death are similar processes (the Greeks said: sleep and death are twin brothers) that in the processes of death and after-death states a similar recurrent change of states of consciousness ('unconsciousness' may be a better term!) will happen.
Little information about exact details concerning these processes is given in esoteric literature (mostly in lit. #3a), as far as I know, so these we have to find out for ourselves using analogy and direct experience of the processes of sleep.
A critical investigation and verification is always necessary regarding esoteric teachings. I myself would never just accept teachings from others without applying my best powers of philosophical scrutiny and without testing these teachings in my own life, which testing involves the becoming familiar with own's composite constitution and it's relation with nature, the world.
BTW, no drugs will ever provide higher states of consciousness as use of drugs will only break open the door to certain parts of the astral realms. Lower elementals may very well enter into your aura and influence your psyche in an unhealthy way.
To conclude this article: the old Wisdom-Religion provides pointers on the spiritual path. It is for the self-chosen, self-elected, to start their journey along the path, a path that is defined, characterized, by the motive of the seeker.
Point Loma Publications
Post Office Box 6507
San Diego, CA 92166
1. After Death-What?
Leoline L. Wright
2. What Dath Really Is; Questions We All Ask
3a. Death and the Circulations of the Cosmos
Volume I and II
Vol.I: ISBN 0-913004-62-6
Vol.II: ISBN 0-913004-63-4
*Note that these booklets are almost completely incorporated (as are the other ten esoteric teachings booklets of DePurucker)in ~Fountain Source of Occultism~
This latter book is one of the most comprehensive books on occultism (the study of the so-called hidden forces in nature)that I know of.
3b. From the same author: Esoteric Teachings IX, Correlations of Cosmic and Human
3c. Esoteric Teachings II,
The Esoteric or Oriental School: Steps in the Initiatory Cycle
(this booklet contains much sound advice and instruction about the spiritual path as does the first volume : The Esoteric Path: Its Nature and Its Tests ISBN 0-913004-52-9)
4. Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy
5. The Astral Lght: Nature's Amazing Picture Gallery
6. Theosophy and Christianity
7. Echoes of the Orient, Vol. I
From Theosophical University Press (TUP).
Postoffice Bin C, Pasadena, Cal. 91109 - 7107 USA
tel. (818) 798-3378
8. Isis Unveiled, Vol. I, II
ISBN 0-911500-02-2 cloth
ISBN 0-911500-03-0 softcover
9. The Key to Theosophy
(An excellent intro to Theosophy)
ISBN 0-911500-06-5 cloth
ISBN 0-911500-07-3 softcover
10. The Ocean of Theosophy
ISBN 0-911500-25-1 cloth
ISBN 0-911500-26-x paper
A concise intro to Theosophy.
11. Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy
Point Loma edition
12. Dialogues of G. DeP
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Recommended reading: "What Happens After Death" by Migene Gonzalez-Wippler.
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