How to Get Through It
Lentil burgers, a thousand press ups before breakfast and
the daily 25 mile run may put it off for a while but death
seems to get most of us in the end. We are pleased to
present for your consideration, a definitive work on the
subject by a Student of Katherine Tingley entitled
“Man After Death”
1847 – 1929
Founder & President of the
Point Loma Theosophical Society 1896 -1929
She and her students produced a series of informative
Theosophical works in the early years of the 20th century
Man After Death
A Student of
The Process of Release
Having gained a broad idea of what man really is we are better prepared to understand the process of release from the prison of the body; for death is a deliverer in the present conditions of earth-life, with its rampant selfishness and animality.
Death is the friend to the higher spiritual nature. Life as led today is fraught with far greater suffering than death; to millions it is life that is the King of Terrors, judging by the terrible increase in the number of suicides. But the person who really feels the continuity of life, its indestructibility, and who has felt the heart-touch even for a moment, has no more fear of death than of any other natural process in the experience of the soul. He knows that death is not an unprecedented catastrophe or unlooked-for event, but a change natural to the state of evolution we are in at present.
Doubtless it is a great and transforming change, and many strange portals and tortuous passages have to be traversed, but the real, immortal man knows the password 'purification' -- which will unlock the mystic doors.
After the last breath has been expired and all seems over, some time usually elapses before the inner man has absolutely finished with his earthly tenement.
Concentrated for a while in the deepest centers of the brain and totally unconscious of the body he is now leaving, man reads the record of his past life, drawn from the imperishable register of the astral light, which nothing can modify; every event is presented in the startling vividness of life itself, long forgotten incidents are resurrected, and during the few moments before the loosing of the silver thread, the past stands out in minutest detail and also as a whole, so that the complete chain of cause and effect is seen.
This is the first Judgment Day, and there is no escape from this living picture-gallery; for the man, now the spectator of his deeds as if they were those of another, is compelled to be honest and to recognize where he failed and where he succeeded, where the lower nature conquered or where the higher gained the day. No excuses can be made at this awful moment. In many cases of apparent drowning the sufferers have been able to recollect passing through a similar profoundly impressive experience, though no doubt it is far less vivid than the vision at the time of real death.
That this solemn retrospect may bring forth its deepest results, that the facing of the calm dispassionate judgment of the higher ego may not lose its full efficacy, a peaceful atmosphere in the chamber of death is most important.
Though the senses have ceased to convey their messages to the brain, and the inner man can give no sign of his presence, any extreme agitation in his surroundings, such as excess of grief in the survivors, is felt through other channels and produces a retarding effect upon the rightful progress toward more and more inward states. Abandonment to the extremity of woe by those to whom the departing soul is closely attached is a positive injury to it, and should never be allowed. It is really a form of self-indulgence, and is not characteristic of true unselfish love, nor suitable for a moment fraught with such momentous consequences.
It is necessary to speak very plainly on this point, for it is one of primary importance to all who love their fellow-men. Many persons seem to take a morbid kind of enjoyment in the over-indulgence in grief, a pride in being able to display supreme emotion. All the great religious teachers and philosophers of the world have censured extreme abandonment to sorrow. They knew it injures both the living and the dying. The solemn trial the loved one is passing through while re-living the past at the time of death and for a while after, should not be interrupted, nor should the soul be embarrassed by the despairing grief of the bereaved ones who often seem at those times to have lost utterly all hope or trust in the higher Law.
This is a very delicate and sacred subject and in trying to help those who are in severe pain a sympathetic though firm touch is needed. Here is a time when Theosophy comes like a breath of fresh air, with its gentle message of healing to the stricken mourners. To all who have realized, even a little, the principle of universal brotherhood in their lives, the way quickly opens out of the close atmosphere of self-centered grief into the healthy air of generous service.
Tears? yes, but let them be transmuted from tears of despair to tears of tender sympathy. Excess of grief on the part of the bereaved is an unbrotherly yielding to personal emotion, a subtle form of self-gratification. Besides the obvious weakening and disheartening after-effect on the survivors, it seriously retards the pilgrim soul on his dark journey. But trust in the higher Law, tender reminiscence combined with a loving desire for the purification and progress of the lost one, and a firm putting down of uncontrolled and sentimental lamentation, help to build a bridge of light for the friend who is crossing the mysterious river. Dignified self-control on the part of the survivors generates the atmosphere of peace, and surely it is a great comfort to feel that high spiritual and sympathetic feeling can really give help in the time of trial, though no external sign may be shown in return.
The touching Bible story of David's conduct when his son was threatened with death is a beautiful illustration. After doing everything in his power to ward off the danger while the child still lived -- fasting and weeping -- as soon as there was no further hope he calmly returned to his duty, chastened and purified, saying, "Now that he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." (2 Sam., 12)
Once we realize the inner spiritual unity of the whole of humanity, embodied or disembodied, i.e., the deeper meaning of universal brotherhood, there is no room for hopeless grief which arises from the implicit denial of the great truth that the kingdom of God is within us and that we are the temples of God.
While the retrospect of the past is taking place and the brain-mind is yielding up the minutest recollections forgotten since the moment which saw them born, the bodily form is breaking up under the pressure of a change in polarity. H. P. Blavatsky puts it thus:
When a body dies it passes into the same polarity as its male [positive] energy, and repels therefore the active agent, which, losing hold of the whole, fastens on the parts or molecules, this action being called chemical.
-- The Secret Doctrine 1:526
The active energy is prana, the vital solar force which animates all things, permeating everything, like water in a sponge. In life the body is polarized oppositely to this, and so, by the well-known law of nature, a healthy interplay exists between the two. It is a case of manifestation through the action of the pairs of opposites. In electric action for instance, every output of positive electricity has to be balanced by a corresponding display of negative energy.
During the day the solar pranic energy has been accumulating and by the hour of bedtime this positive flood begins to overpower the resisting negative forces of the body, which is then actually too full of vitality.
It can no longer stand the strain and sleep is necessary to restore the balance. In death the body is completely overpowered by prana, we die from an excess of life, for the tremendous force rushing through the cells tears them apart, and destroys them in consequence of there being no opposing force strong enough to resist the pressure. William Q. Judge says:
When we awake we are in equilibrium as to our organs and life; when we fall asleep we are yet more full of energy than in the morning; it has exhausted us; it finally kills the body. Such a contest could not be waged for ever, since the whole solar system's weight of life is pitted against the power to resist focused in one small human frame.
A time comes in the life of every person when the mysterious disintegrating tendency increases rapidly and the body succumbs to what often seems an insufficient physical cause. The existence of this cyclic period of breaking-up is derived from the past and is largely hereditary.
Man is a creature of habit and there is a strong hereditary tendency for successive generations to do the same things at the same periods of life. The development of the unborn child, the various physiological changes in the body, the arrival of the teeth, beard, etc., follow recognized cycles. Further still, evil tendencies, such as a craving for drink, have been observed to break out at exactly the same age in father and son, extending sometimes over several generations. Likewise a period when the body gives up the fight against the natural pressure of the solar system comes to everyone, the length of normal life seldom exceeding seventy years.
Can this change be overcome and healthy life be lengthened indefinitely? If we lived wisely and were pure in act and thought we should not be the sport of this habit, which is of our own creation. Once this critical time is tided over there is no reason why life should not be prolonged. If we were truly selfless we should be able to lay down or take up the body at will, and not as now have it wrenched from us. But as the human race will obviously continue to perpetuate present conditions for a long time to come, we may dismiss further consideration on this point, as it would carry us beyond the scope of this essay. Very few persons would care to live on after the death of all their friends in new circumstances for which they had not been prepared in early life. The lesson contained in the legend of the Wandering Jew, an ordinary man who can never find rest but has to carry about the horrible memories of his past, is not encouraging to those who may fancy an immensely long life in their present consciousness would be a desirable thing. We are irresistibly reminded of the Greek story of the love of Eos (the dawn) for Tithonus, son of Priam. The goddess succeeded in gaining immortality for her human spouse, but forgot to ask for eternal youth, and so the poor man became decrepit and miserable in course of time.
Eternal youth in the legend, of course, typifies the child-state we have lost, for without that, eternal life would be a terrible infliction. Jesus put the matter very plainly when he told the people that they could not enter the kingdom of heaven until they had become as little children. Fortunately the merciful law of reincarnation gives the mind a complete break, as the memory of former lives is not contained in the new brain, and the man of desire does not know how to evoke it. Those few exceptional persons who have attained the power of safely passing through the dangerous cyclic period are, by the very nature of the case, qualified to endure the new conditions which greatly prolonged life must bring.
The disintegrating impulse would be easily resisted and the average length of healthy, useful activity increased if it were not that the selfish passional nature has been allowed to grow inordinately strong. The passions, coalescing into one dominant force in later life, form an enemy which takes advantage of the hereditary tendency to dissolve, and at last, as if with glee, gives the fatal blow. The final disintegration of the physical body is only the accentuation of the process of breaking up which is continually in action throughout life.
Consider for a moment what is this body which seems so firm and stable. Is it the material molecules? Hardly, for they are in a constant state of flux, passing into the frame and out of it ceaselessly. Not for one minute is the body in the same condition; as each particle yields up its quota of energy it is hurried away to be revivified by the sunshine; man's body is the least permanent of all his principles; in fact, so evanescent is it that some schools of Eastern philosophers have declined to call it one of the principles at all. It is like a river. How can we define a river accurately? Is it the bed, or the water? Both are forever changing; the sparkling drops never stay one moment, but glide along to their ocean home, not, however, to remain there long, but to rise again in vapor and unite into some other stream. The river-bed itself changes in shape, in position, and in depth. In fact the river in itself is really the persisting 'ideal form' behind the everchanging particles.
When the ancients named their rivers 'Father' Tiber, or the 'Son' of Brahma (Brahmaputra) they were allegorizing this point in poetical language. The matter of our bodies is as unstable as the water in the rivers, and as a further resemblance, on leaving the body to pass into the outer air it is not quite the same, for it has been impressed with some of the reflected consciousness of the man, it has been raised or lowered as the case may be. The water of the river is colored by the geological strata it has passed through, the vegetation that it has supported, or the refuse that has been shot into it. The molecules leaving an alcoholic victim are in a very much lower condition than those from a pure, self-controlled person. The impress the molecules receive does not pass off quickly, and in fact, as like attracts like, the grosser ones are continually finding their way into the bodies of the more coarsely minded people and helping to keep them back; the more refined and spiritually impressed particles cannot be retained except by those persons with whom they are harmonious.
From the standpoint of universal brotherhood this fact impresses upon us the importance of pure thought and clean living; it shows that the unity of the race on every plane has a scientific basis. None of us can escape the influence of the rest, and no one is without the power of helping or degrading his fellows, consciously or otherwise, not only by his actions and his thoughts, but by the very complexion he gives to the atoms of his body.
The Dissolution of the Astral Form
As the mortal frame begins to decompose in the grave, or better still, in the flame of the crematorium, the astral body is released. The astral body is practically a second human form, mortal and perishable, a semi-material mold holding the particles of the physical body in their places; it is the ethereal matrix of the molecules, the double or the eidolon of the Greeks. It changes
little during life, after the body reaches maturity, differing in that respect greatly from the physical body, but after death it immediately begins to dissolve into its own grade of matter. It is not spiritual at all, and it has no proper consciousness of its own; it has little to do with the progress of the soul, unless it is artificially stimulated or vivified, when it normally becomes a hindrance. As a rule, it fades out like a smoke-ring from a pipe, which has a definite form for a while. Alfred Russel Wallace, the eminent biologist, was surprised to find the great tensile strength of this principle during some experiments he once made with a medium.
The astral double has occasionally been seen by sensitive persons near graves, for it cannot get far away from the body, and many ghost-stories have probably originated from this. After the complete destruction of the physical body the astral form entirely disappears, and cremation has great power in breaking it up rapidly.
Now we are coming to one of those teachings which, though eminently reasonable in themselves, and perfectly in harmony with our highest intuitions and strongest common sense, require a complete change from the ordinary theological method of considering the things of the inner world, or from the materialistic notions we have in so many cases consciously or unconsciously imbibed from the atmosphere of doubt and sarcasm and controversy regarding the existence of the soul which is so prevalent today.
For more info on Theosophy
Try these if you are looking for a
local Theosophy Group or Centre