THEOSOPHY, Vol. 51, No. 2, December, 1962
(Pages 31-34; Size: 11K)
THE MYSTERY OF DEATH(1)
WHATEVER else may be involved in the mystery of death, it is a horizon toward which all march and beyond which all must go. So, there are at least two sides to this question of death: the side which concerns those still living in bodies and the side which concerns those who have passed beyond the horizon.
Now, what do we know about death? All we know is that that which was visible, present, and cognizable, to some degree at least, is no longer present, no longer cognizable, no longer visible. That is all we know. All the rest is guesswork, whether we call it revelation, hope, doubt, or materialism. If, then, we are to get any approach at all to the real mystery of death, we shall have to adopt an utterly different modulus from that which obtains in any religion, in any philosophy, in any science. No matter what claims are made for these various approaches, they have not added to our knowledge; they have only added to the already too-vast and unsoundable ocean of mere credulity or incredulity regarding the subject of death.
The next thing we know in regard to death is that it comes to everyone. No one escapes it; there is no protection against it. Not only does death come to all alike, but death is the most natural -- one might very well say the only natural -- thing in the unnatural existence in which we live. (Long ago, the Buddhists recognized that death is even more natural than birth, and reserved black to signify mourning at birth and white with garlands of flowers to symbolize the release of those they loved.) Surely, then, if death is a natural thing, it must be susceptible to reasonable interpretation and understanding. Yet, to the majority of religionists, scientists, and philosophers, death is eternally a mystery. It is a mystery, however, which should be pondered on -- not in the attitude of a religionist, nor of a philosopher, nor of a scientist, but in the attitude of a student. For, let a person once get it clearly before his mental vision that Theosophy is the mathematics of the Soul, and he can study Theosophy as he once studied arithmetic -- by study, by application.
In this attitude, then, let us consider death. If all that we know of death is that he who was visibly present in the body is now no longer visible and that we now have no means of communication with him, does this mean that death is extinction? To believe that a man is extinct because he is out of sight is to say two things; that his existence depends on our seeing him; and that his existence depends on bodily form, its continuity and coherence. Neither one of these premises will stand one moment's direct perception. On that basis, every single thing that passes beyond our angle of vision or that we cease to look at, is dead. Dissolve a lump of sugar in a cup of coffee, and inside of a few seconds the sugar has disappeared -- to all appearances the sugar is "dead." But taste the coffee before putting in the sugar and then taste it afterwards, and its presence is evident to the sense of taste. Then evaporate the coffee, and the sugar reappears in its integrity -- again evident to the sense of sight. This brings us to perceive that the only reality of anything to us is in our consciousness of it, and in nothing else. So that actually the real anguish we feel when a loved one is taken from us by death is caused by the fact that we associate invisibility with annihilation. Yet, in reality, his existence for us is only transformed from regions physical and corporeal to regions metaphysical and formless; for he lives on in our memory, he lives on in our love and our anguish, but he still lives. After a while, however, even the memory fades, and the man has "died" again -- a far more durable death. He has gone first out of our sight; next, out of our mind. If these were the only two "lives" he had lived, if these were the only two contacts he had with us, if these were the only two lives we had lived with him, then life would not have been worth while. But there is another life -- in the heart. Always he will be in our heart.
These words "senses," "mind," "heart," as all other terms we use, have different meanings in Theosophy from those we ordinarily attach to them. In the teachings of Theosophy, every being soever is capable of three distinct sorts of existence. That is, there are three distinct worlds. A man may pass from any one of them to another and return again -- three distinct existences for any being! Generally considered, "a being" means something that we can see, that is -- a form; something that we can communicate with, that is, one who has a form similar to our own and whose level of intelligence, for the time being at least, is the same as our own. "Being," in Theosophy, however, means something altogether different.
In order to arrive at the Theosophical meaning of being, let us assume for a moment that there is but one Matter, in spite of all its individual forms and its countless states and conditions. Assume that Matter is eternal, universal, permanent and immutable -- it only appears to change from gas to liquid, liquid to solid, and back again; it only appears to present any number of entitative abstractions called "forms." They are all made up of matter, come out of matter, exist in matter, and, when dissolved, all return to matter. All the time nothing but Matter!
Proceed, then, a step further: Can we imagine a time, spot, sphere, or focus, physical or metaphysical, where force is not present and in manifestation? No matter what forms or states or conditions of energy there may be, can we imagine energy other than infinite, unconditioned, eternal, changeless, and that the same state of relativities arises in and resolves itself again in the field of force or energy as we know it does in the field of matter?
Go, now, still further, and consider Law: Can we imagine a time, spot, sphere, or focus, physical or metaphysical, where Law does not reign? where a metaphysical apple falls up instead of down? or where you plant an apple and reap a thorn tree? Impossible! Easy enough to see in regard to what we call Law that it is the same as regards what we call Force or Energy, or what we call Matter: all are eternal, immutable, omnipresent, ever-active.
There is, moreover, something behind all of these -- behind Matter, behind Force, behind Law -- and that is Intelligence. Not only Intelligence, but operative Intelligence! We can manipulate matter, we can manipulate energy, we can manipulate law. By so doing, we learn that all forms of matter are just passing images in Matter; that all states and forms of force are but passing manifestations of Energy; that all phenomenal exhibitions of the activity and operation of law are but particularities of Law. Thus we can understand that all moving, encased intelligences are but foci of the One Intelligence.
What is Intelligence? A highly refined manifestation of Life. What is Law? The mass action of that Intelligence. What is Force? The energic emission of that Intelligence. What is Matter? The effect of that emission. So, we can resolve all matter into force; all force into will; all will into intelligence; all intelligence into Life. Life, then, is the eternal FACT, not death. Death is but an incidence in continuing life.
It is very easy to show that under no possible or imaginable circumstances could death have any effect on those who die which is comparable to the effect on those who are left behind. For, if the man who dies is "done for," death does not affect him at all; whereas if the man who dies is not dead, his "death" has quite a different effect on him from its effect on those who think he is done for. The teachings of Theosophy describe these "effect states," states which are analogous to states of consciousness which we experience while living in a body, and which are, therefore, at least susceptible to rational consideration and logical understanding.
Theosophy teaches that there is but One Life; that everything that is, was, and shall be, is eternally and fundamentally nothing more and nothing less than an indivisible fractionation -- a ray from and one with the One Life. Krishna, the Shepherd of India, beautifully expresses this fundamental Oneness in the second chapter of The Bhagavad-Gita:Thou grievest for those that may not be lamented, whilst thy sentiments are those of the expounders of the letter of the law. Those who are wise in spiritual things grieve neither for the dead nor for the living. I myself never was not, nor thou, nor all the princes of the earth; nor shall we ever hereafter cease to be. As the lord of this mortal frame experienceth therein infancy, youth, and old age, so in future incarnations will it meet the same. One who is confirmed in this belief is not disturbed by anything that may come to pass. ... Seek this wisdom by doing service, by strong search, by questions, and by humility; the wise who see the truth will communicate it unto thee, and knowing which thou shalt never again fall into error. By this knowledge thou shalt see all things and creatures whatsoever in thyself and then in me.This is spiritual knowledge, and comprehends both the living and the dead.
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ONE (1) FOOTNOTE LISTED BELOW:
(1) NOTE.--This article is based upon and largely excerpted verbatim from a talk given at a Theosophical meeting -- long ago in point of time, yet eternally contemporary.
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