THEOSOPHY, Vol. 20, No. 11, September, 1932
(Pages 509-513; Size: 15K)
DEATH AND IMMORTALITY
THOSE beings whom history and tradition place as teachers of mankind showed by their lives and precepts that they knew something about Death. Among all those recognized as superior if not great souls there is no record of one fearing Death; on the contrary, they looked upon it as an old friend. One is almost forced to the conclusion that death to them occupied the same relative status as an exit for an actor. On the stage acting his part, he knows definitely that he existed in quite other circumstances before he took his cue and entered the play. When his duty is finished he steps out of one scene into another. Why should he be concerned?
Let us imagine for the moment that we are immortal, conscious Perceivers; that we enter into instruments, bodies, of various kinds in various conditions; that we use these instruments to experience states of life for which they are suited; that when the experience is completed we discard them as organized forms, retaining, however, the knowledge necessary to reconstruct them when necessity arises. Suppose further, that like the actor we knew we were only the temporary occupants of whatever house of life we were using. Would we not look upon Life and Death from an entirely different basis? What else except this knowledge would lead a Buddha to forego the rights and pleasures of a wealthy kingdom to become a simple teacher of mankind? What else would lead that being we call Jesus to patiently thread his way through a difficult and humble life in a conquered race and emerge as a figure to whom divine attributes are granted?
What has enabled priestcraft so easily to engrain in us the belief that at best we are but poor miserable creatures, irresponsible, and dependent on the favor of our creator not alone for circumstances here, but also for all possible experiences after death? Can it be anything else than the domination of our emotions over our reason? For when there arises a Confucius, a Buddha, a Jesus, a Plato, an Apollonius of Tyana, or an H. P. Blavatsky to give, by their life, knowledge, and power over the forces of nature, living proof that man is a God, we refuse even to exercise the thought and common sense of every day life, and gladly accept the freedom from responsibility offered by religion, namely, that the Great Soul is a special creation, endowed with the attributes of Divinity.
To account for other Great Souls showing the same power and knowledge, the explanation is gravely put forward that they were possessed of the Devil. How else could be reconciled the contradictions in a world supposed to be created by an all-wise, all powerful, and withal, a "loving" God? What easier then, than the next step? To set the righteous wrath of the believer in one divine being against his deluded brothers so perverted as to believe in another? More blood has been let and suffering endured by men who thought they were helping "God" in his battle against the "Devil," than from all other causes of human misery combined.
Is there to be found in that which we call Religion a knowledge of Life, Death and Immortality? We have but to look to see that at best both its professors and devotees have developed in themselves a supreme, but blind, faith -- faith and hope prostituted to serve the desire for personal salvation. Now, whatever the facts in regard to life, they exist regardless of our beliefs, and must be discoverable by the same methods under which our present working knowledge of life was obtained, however circumscribed that knowledge may be. All the faith and prayers in the world could not alter one of the definitely proven laws of Physics, Chemistry or Electricity.
When for the first time the mind is freed from the mists of emotion, and the realization comes that all we use -- even the things so far not understood -- yield themselves to natural explanations upon discovery of their inherent qualities, is it any wonder that Science should be hailed as our deliverer from ignorance? But here, too, very soon we come face to face with what seems an impassable wall. Science endeavors to eschew all belief, to test and prove every step of the way, and there is nothing which lends itself to the present scientific mode of research except the forms of matter. Regardless of the extent of our knowledge of the forms and properties of matter, no explanation is forthcoming in that direction as to their essential nature, their relation to man, what man is, and why he exists. It is apparent after even a little reflection that Life does not consist of form alone. There are other factors. We soon see that forms, any kind of forms, actually have no existence of themselves, but depend entirely upon the mysterious indwelling power which animates them: Power, a force, a potency -- call it what you will -- which incessantly, so far as we can see, creates, preserves, and destroys all forms. There should be no question as to the value of true scientific investigation of facts over and against the purely religious attitude of blind belief. The failure of Science to give any but a physical explanation of birth and death must be charged to its neglect to investigate with equal impartiality and intelligence the additional factors which go to make up this kaleidoscopic condition we call Life. Where can one find synthesis in Science or Religion -- a set of theorems provable mathematically, because taking into account the factors of existence in their entirety? Let us go to those spiritual teachers who have stood the test of time and who showed they knew something in regard to themselves and nature, and see what these practical Theosophists had to say of Death and Immortality.
Everything, so these sages taught, regardless of differences in form, has at root one common quality. That quality is consciousness, or the power to perceive. Periodically this universal consciousness manifests from That into which no man or mind however high can enquire -- "That" which is the Om of the ancient Sanscrit scriptures, the "God around whose pavilion there is darkness" of the Bible, the true Deity underlying every degraded symbol of godhood in the mind of man or the dogmas of religion. Under rigid, unerring law, inherent in its nature, this consciousness evolves the powers with which to construct the states, planes, and forms which It perceives. We are that perceiving consciousness, as is also every atom of the universe we see about us. All nature, therefore, and man, is said to be septenary: The Perceiver, using imagination, mind, feeling, life-force, a design body and a physical body, to acquire first, a sense of individuality (this attribute distinguishing the human kingdom), and then, by self-induced and self-devised efforts, to come to the conscious realization that the All, the Perceiver, and that which is perceived are identical. This achievement, with its resultant knowledge of Self, of power over nature, is exhibited in the perfected men of all time, the gods and divine instructors spoken of in the history and tradition of every race of mankind.
Applied to all we see about us, this teaching explains the myriad varieties of form, explains their intelligent action, and their constant death and rebirth. These forms, visible and invisible, are simply the vehicles of non-individualized consciousness gaining experience. But what of ourselves? We too, have a physical form, a form gathered from all the kingdoms of nature. This form is not alone subject to disintegration and death as a unit, but momentarily in all its parts is constantly being rebuilt by the death and rebirth of its constituents. The body dies, but man, the self-conscious Perceiver is not aware of it. Without break he is perceiving through his finer physical pattern-body, sometimes called the astral body(1). This is the field of sense-perceptions, the cause in physical waking life of our control and use of the trained army of "lives" called our physical body. Into this first state-after-death we have all penetrated many times and brought back the memory, for our dreams in most part are but the remembered snatches of our nightly passage through this plane of existence.
All forms are subject to death, and this collection of sense-perceptions called the astral body finally disintegrates much as the abandoned physical envelope; but still the perceiver, man, is unaware of anything but a different set of perceptions. The noble thoughts of his lifetime, unclouded by feelings and unhampered by limitations of circumstance or physical body, now unroll before his gaze, and he experiences that state which present day theology has distorted into a physical "heaven." At last he is truly in bliss, because for the time being he possesses no instrument which reacts to the sensations of like and dislike. But even this "body" in this state, long as it may last, finally meets the inevitable fate of all form -- death. Where are the words even to approximate the condition of the Perceiver freed of all limitations imposed by the instruments of his lower nature, existing in a body and a state which has sometimes been designated as that of pure Spirit?
Scarcely a man or woman of mature years, but can recollect a fleeting moment or so when for the time they were entirely unconscious of their body; when their feelings were completely stilled; when their mind for the brief moment rested motionless, and yet they were conscious -- conscious with a sense of power, serenity and rightness, which left them feeling calm and refreshed. If we were to expand the possibilities of this moment to the limit of our imagination, we could probably gain some faint conception of the state of immortal man on his own plane. But let us not forget, it is One Life. Wherever man -- the Perceiver -- is, on whatever plane he looks, he is part and parcel of the one universal Consciousness. This fact, which makes him immortal whether he is aware of it or not, ties him to those circumstances and conditions of life which he himself has created. Inevitably, then, must arise that particular combination of events in accordance with the law inherent in all life, tending to restore equilibrium, which will draw the Perceiver back again into the appropriate instruments enabling him to experience the effects of the causes he has set in motion. We here rejoice at a birth. A new body has been gathered together and brought within the range of our physical perceptions. But, to the Immortal Ego entering that form, it is but another change -- death on one plane, followed by birth on another.
Let us not think that this "embodied existence" is an inferior or undesirable state. True, the instruments through which we perceive are more universal, allow wider horizons and impose less friction the deeper we penetrate into our own nature. Nevertheless, it is here in waking physical existence that conscious immortality must be achieved. Consider that here all our vehicles are available. An old comparison pictures the perceiving consciousness as the charioteer endeavoring to control his six unruly horses. The loss of one horse eases the problem of control, but likewise lessens by just that much the potential power of the perfect team. We owe a duty to the lives composing our physical body, a duty in proportion to the duty we owe the intangible but real "lives" composing our finer sheaths. What is this duty? Let us but once come to a realization that all is Life, indissolubly One, differing only in degree -- and the attitude of unselfishness gradually becomes as natural as our present acquired sense of separateness. An impartial comparison of the teachings of every god-like being down the ages will convince any enquirer that every single one of them pointed to this unity of Life. Brotherhood to them was a reality, not a theory. By example and precept they have ever tried to awaken mankind to the fact that this road, and none other, leads to that knowledge prized by the wise of all time -- conscious Immortality -- to the certainty that Death is but another name for change.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
The one Spirit is in all, is the property of each, therefore It is always there, always with us, and, by reflecting on that, little room is left for sorrow or delusion. If we believe that the soul of all is measured by the whole of Time and not by a part, then we care not for these moments which relate alone to our body. If we live in our hearts we soon prove that time and space exist not.--W.Q.J.
Reincarnation--the Hidden Doctrine
ONE (1) FOOTNOTE LISTED BELOW:
COMPILER'S NOTE: I added this footnote; it was not in the article. If it doesn't paint an accurate enough picture, or is incorrect, I hope the Editors of THEOSOPHY magazine will spot it and point it out to me, so that I can make the necessary corrections.
(1) "Astral" means the Electro-Magnetic spectrum at every level. The "Astral Body" is the electromagnetic design body that the physical molecules adhere to in the building up of every form, in every kingdom, on the physical plane. The theosophical "Astral Light" is the "Ether" of modern science. It is the source of the idea known as the "Recording Angel" -- because every thought, word, and deed is recorded, stored, and magnetically reflected back to its source at a dynamically proper time: in other words, when conditions naturally warrant or permit it. We call this Karma, or Lawful action and reaction. All of us are also magnets for imprints in the "Astral Light" which were put there by others and which are similar to us in character. So we constantly affect and infect each other in this way -- for good or for bad.
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