Chapter 8: Peregrinations of the Monad
Chapter 9: Value of These Teachings
Chapter 10: Death and Rebirth
Chapter 11: Some Questions Answered
Return to Section 1
The teachings of the esoteric wisdom about to be briefly sketched are a beautiful answer to what has been an intuitive dream of poets and thinkers of every age. How often, when looking up into the deep infinitudes of the midnight sky, has the spirit of man not longed to pierce the secrets of those shining worlds that circle in their far-distant majesty above us! And many have had the true vision that it actually is the destiny of the human spirit to visit after death other worlds and planets which beckon in serene beauty from the pathways of space. The poet-astronomer Camille Flammarion, at one time a student of theosophy, was one among the modern thinkers to express this belief, which is so logical and romantic an answer to the heart-questings of humanity.
The journeys of the human spiritual self to the worlds of outer and inner space are called in theosophy the peregrinations of the monad. In the foregoing pages we have set the stage for the great adventure which follows death upon this earthly sphere. We have seen how the four lower principles or elements of the individual dissolve away at the first and second deaths; how the higher nature of the personality is absorbed by manas, the self-conscious, reincarnating ego; and then how manas itself is withdrawn into the bosom of the monad, its "Father in Heaven," for a long period of blissful rest.
The monad (atman with its spiritual vehicle or garment, buddhi) is now free to pursue its peregrinations or pilgrimage through the inner worlds. For we must not imagine that the monad, which is a divine being of cosmic consciousness and potencies, rests during the periods between our earth-lives and while it is holding the sleeping ego within it. The monad has no need of what we call rest. It is ever active, ever occupied during the periods of solar manifestation in its work as evolutionary emanator and inspirer of those hosts of less evolved entities with which its vast range of karmic affinities brings it into contact. And this aid and inspiration it accomplishes by clothing itself with, building for itself, vehicles made up of these lower entities on all the planes, inner and outer and "higher" and "lower," which it must pass through in its peregrinations. Among these lower entities which act directly and indirectly as vehicles for the urges and activities of the monad are the six other and less evolved principles of the human being, as well as all the forms throughout the lower kingdoms which the monad has animated, as explained in the last chapter.
It may make the following teachings clearer if we briefly repeat that everything in the universe is sevenfold in its manifested evolutionary nature or constitution; that is, in the universe of form, life manifests through seven different degrees of consciousness and substance, of which our seven principles are illustrations. The other six principles or elements through which the cosmic and also the individual monad manifest are invisible because their substance is too ethereal for perception by our physical senses, which are not attuned to the finer rates of vibration of those ethereal matters. And this earth of ours is therefore but one of a system of seven globes or planets of which ours is the outermost and most material and the only one apparent to our physical senses. These six sister globes of our earth are on inner and higher levels of being.
We must pause here just a moment to remind the reader not to regard these sister-globes of ours as being the other six principles of the earth, for they are not. Each one is itself, like the earth, a complete septenary entity. But together with the earth they form a series of seven evolutionary stages or planes of development through which we all must eventually pass to round out our own complete septenary evolution and become thus complete aspects of the whole. (For a fuller description of these seven globes of our planetary chain, see The Secret Doctrine, 1:170 et seq; for a study of the seven principles of the earth, Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy by G. de Purucker.)
To these invisible globes of our earth-chain the monad or spiritual self, now that physical death and the second death are completed, wings its way. There on each globe, pursuing the same process as already described, it evolves forth bodies or vehicles or forms appropriate to evolution on those higher planes of consciousness. These peregrinations through the invisible globes of our planetary chain are a phase of the "inner rounds." Then, the cycle of the monadic peregrinations on these higher globes of our planetary chain being at last completed, the monad enters on its cycle of journeyings through the "outer rounds" — that is, it makes the circuit of what the ancients called the seven sacred planets of our solar system.
But what and which are these sacred planets, and why are they called sacred? Obviously, being rooted as it is in an organized universe governed in its every part and aspect by changeless law, the monad does not wander aimlessly about on its peregrinations through the spheres. It follows instead those definite paths which are called in the esoteric philosophy the circulations of the cosmos. The peregrinations of the monad are also strictly defined by its own innate karmic affinities or attractions, and these affinities limit its cosmic journeyings to the seven sacred planets.
These planets are Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury, the Sun, and the Moon — the latter bodies being used as symbols or substitutes for two planets, very little information about which has been given in the literature of the ancient wisdom.
Now why are these particular seven planets called sacred and what is their karmic relation with mankind? The explanation is given in Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy by Dr. de Purucker as follows:
these seven planets are sacred for us, inhabitants of this globe, because they are the transmitters to us from the sun of the seven primal forces of the kosmos. Our seven principles and our seven elements spring originally from this sevenfold life-flow.
Moreover, these seven sacred planets, or rather their rectors — indwelling spiritual beings of which these planets are the physical vehicles — each one oversees the building or formation of one of the seven globes of the earth's planetary chain plus the swabhava or innate karmic characteristics of that globe itself. For further information on this and other aspects of this teaching the reader is referred to G. de Purucker's The Esoteric Tradition, "Circulations of the Cosmos." In The Secret Doctrine, H. P. Blavatsky refers to these tenets, one such passage being here quoted:
The planetary origin of the Monad (Soul) and of its faculties was taught by the Gnostics. On its way to the Earth, as on its way back [to its native divine home] from the Earth, each soul born in, and from, the "Boundless Light," had to pass through the seven planetary regions both ways. — 1:577
Thus it is through these seven sacred planets and their respective planetary chains that the monad continues its afterdeath peregrinations once its imbodiments on the invisible globes of our earth's planetary chain are completed. A description here follows, in passages taken from The Esoteric Tradition, which will answer many questions and describe much that has been merely outlined so far:
during its [the Monad's] activity after the postmortem existence for the man is commenced, it passes from sphere to sphere, going the rounds anew on its ceaseless peregrinations during the Manvantara. It passes through the spheres not merely because it is native to all of them and is therefore drawn to them by its own magnetic attractions and impulses, but likewise because it itself wills to do so; for free will is a godlike thing and is an inherent and inseparable attribute of itself. — p. 462, 3rd ed.
The reader's attention is called to the words "going the rounds anew," which refers of course to the fact that these inner and outer rounds are followed by the monad after each of the incarnations on earth of the human being. And also note the free will exercised by the monad as showing that it, a divine being, takes upon itself voluntarily the immense task of imbodying itself in all classes of the lower lives of its own cosmos in order to lift them up, to urge and inspire their self-evolution into godhood like its own. To continue:
Now, during the peregrinations of the Monad through the 'Seven Sacred Planets' of the ancients, the said Monad must of necessity follow those pathways or channels or lines of least resistance which the Esoteric Philosophy has called the 'Circulations of the Cosmos,' or by some similar phrase. These Circulations of the Cosmos are very real and actual lines of communication between point and point, or locality and locality, or celestial body and celestial body, as all these exist in the structural framework, both visible and invisible, of the universe. These Circulations are not merely poetic metaphors, or figures of speech; they are as real in the inner economic working of the visible and invisible Worlds of the Universe, as are the nerves and the arterial and venous blood-vessels in the human physical body, and just as these latter provide the channels or canals or pathways of the transmission of intellectual and psychical and nervous impulses and directions, as well as of the vital fluid called the blood, so in identical analogous fashion, the Circulations of the Cosmos provide the channels or canals or pathways followed by the ascending and descending Rivers of Lives, which Rivers are composite of the never-ending stream of migrating and peregrinating entities of all classes back and forth, hither and yon, 'up' and 'down' throughout the Universal Structure. — p. 464, 3rd ed.
The Monad on reaching the next planet in order after it has left this sevenfold Earth-chain, thereupon produces or forms a Ray or Radiance from itself during its passage in and through such planetary chain, a psycho-mental apparatus or 'soul' of temporary existence, which takes in consequence temporary imbodiment in a correspondingly fit vehicle or body there, the such body being of a spiritual, an ethereal, an astral, or a physical type. — p. 469, 3rd ed.
Thus the Monad, our Spiritual Self, our Essential Self, . . . gathers at each one of the seven sacred planets a new harvest of soul-experiences only to be gained in each such planet, each such 'harvest' being the aggregated experiences in imbodiment acquired by the Spiritual Monad which belong in essential characteristics of substance and energy to each such respective planet. — p. 471, 3rd ed.
Is not this a magnificent picture — sweeping us from our moorings in the stagnant backwaters of lingering medieval theology or of modern materialism, out upon the ocean of spiritual adventure! It well illustrates the meaning of a phrase often used in theosophy, the expansion of consciousness. No: we are neither worms of the dust nor merely developed simians. We are destined neither to a static heaven or hell nor to merciless extinction. Instead, there are for us illimitable fields of cosmic activity and adventure sublime beyond our present imagining.
It is true that the purer side of our present consciousness will be dreaming blissfully in devachan while the god within, the spiritual self or monad — carrying us "in its bosom" — is pursuing its divine adventure through the pathways of the solar system. It is rather as a goal of inspired effort that this picture of our grand destiny is painted for us by the adepts and sages of the archaic wisdom. They have drawn aside the dark curtain of our ignorance to reveal the unfathomable vistas of life that fill the inner reaches of space. They assure us of our happy place, our fruitful and unending share in the immensely varied and fascinating drama of the universe.
We now see something of the meaning of the evolutionary process touched upon in the last chapter. In this process, the reimbodying ego at the close of its great cycle of evolution becomes at last itself a monad. It will have evolved from the core of its own being the monadship now latent, or only just beginning to unfold there. Then in a future manvantara it too as a monad will follow, between its imbodiments, the circulations of the cosmos; while what is now our animal nature shall have evolved and advanced to humanhood.
One of the best things about theosophy is that its idealism is constructive and practical. It might seem at first thought that it is difficult to relate this sublime scheme to our hurried, overcommercialized present. Yet there is not one of the teachings of theosophy, not even the most seemingly abstruse, which has not an intimate, almost a utilitarian value to the daily thought and conduct of men and women like ourselves. For merely one example, could there be anything more practical in its effects than the certainty that we survive after death? Its ethical influence would obviously be tremendous, especially when taken in connection with reincarnation and karma.
Why, in the main, do we dread death for ourselves? Is it not that we fear to "let go," to give up our familiar daily consciousness? We do not dread sleep, for we remember yesterday and we know that after an interval of loss of consciousness tomorrow will certainly restore it again. But in regard to death we are like little children who struggle every night to hold themselves awake dreading the moment when they must sink into the unconsciousness of sleep. It is only when we are older and more experienced that we learn what a friend and consoler is life's daily interval of blessed Lethe.
The same difference in development between child and adult in regard to sleep marks the difference in growth between incompletely developed men like ourselves and the spiritual adept or mahatma in regard to death. For to overcome death, that is to carry the consciousness without break from life to life, is one of the great results of true occult training. And by true occult training is meant the scientific application of theosophical teachings to self-development, under the guidance of a spiritual teacher.
We die, in the sense of losing grasp upon ourselves, because we live now almost wholly in that part of our natures which is bound to die, the personal and physical consciousness. Even the highest god of the inner spiritual worlds must, could he take upon himself human flesh, sooner or later witness its dissolution. The physical nature of Jesus, who was a high avatara — or the manifestation of a god — had to pass through the gates of physical dissolution. "But," you say, "he rose again from the dead." Indeed yes — as every one of us must learn to "rise" — "greater things than these shall ye do," he promised us.
The "resurrection" is an initiation-teaching from the ancient Mystery schools. These schools existed in antiquity as a vital part of all those old civilizations. Their purpose was to teach mankind the origin, constitution, laws, and destiny of the universe and of our relations and experiences within it. In the days of Jesus these Mystery schools had deteriorated, as all things must with time. The truths, however, which that mystery-knowledge had been teaching for ages, were so interwoven into the mental and moral fabric of the Mediterranean civilizations that the Christian Church was obliged to adopt a great deal of the mystery-language and ceremony to attract the people and make its new dogmas intelligible. But in partially adopting these, it misunderstood them and debased them to material levels; and the glorious "resurrection" of the spiritual man triumphant over his own selfish and animal nature was debased into the present illogical doctrine. The true resurrection has a deep place in the teachings of occultism, or applied theosophy:
Its meaning is this, that within each one of you is a divine being, a living god, prevented from manifesting its transcendent powers only by the cramping bonds of our personal selfhood — our prejudices, our whims, our small petty hates and loves; and that when a man can conquer these lower things — conquer them in the sense of making them servants of the god within, fit instruments and tools for self-expression — then you will see man walking the earth as a human god, because manifesting the transcendent powers of the god within him, of the immanent Christ, of the inner Buddha, as the Buddhists put it. — G. de Purucker, Questions We All Ask, Series I, No. 44
True resurrection means initiation — that final glorious consummation of the long course of self-directed evolution under the guidance of a spiritual teacher which theosophy offers to all who will live the life and imbody its teachings. The subject of initiation is copiously dealt with in theosophical literature, so we shall quote but one passage in regard to it:
there is a pathway steep and thorny though it be for the average man, yet it leads to the very Heart of the Universe. The man traveling this path passes through the portals of growth quickly, relatively speaking; and I can show you how to put your feet upon this pathway, so that instead of spending ages and ages and ages and ages in slowly evolving, in slowly expanding, in slowly bringing forth the powers and faculties within you, you can grip yourself, guide your own evolution, and thus much more quickly grow.
This is 'self-directed evolution,' . . . This is initiation. — Op. cit., Series II, No. 4
There is actually of course a kind of resurrection of the body in the meaning herewith described:
when you realize that the very atoms of your body do not come to you by chance, that they are the same atoms which you used in your last incarnation on earth, then you quickly see that there is a resurrection of the physical man in that sense of the word: i. e., that when you return to earth in the next reincarnation, the atoms in which you live in this present body, will automatically fly to that new body, will be psycho-magnetically drawn to you, for they are your physical, astral, and ethereal children. — Op. cit., Series I, No. 44
Both these teachings however, belonged to the Mystery schools and were, as seen, badly distorted by early Christian pietists who adapted them to the uses of the new religion, Christianity.
Theosophy but re-states the ancient mystery-teachings, which Krishna, Lao-Tse, Gautama, and Jesus all taught in their varied ways — varied because each was given to a different age and people. Theosophy now voices again the immemorial, mystic call from the heart of the universe to the heart of man, bidding him to arise and go to the Father, within whose temple of the spirit he may find that strength and wisdom that will lift him above the illusions of the selfish personality and give him victory over death. For said the great avatara: "In my Father's house are many mansions," and "I go to prepare a place for you."
These great ideas and promises relate themselves to our daily experience because they express the goal of all humanity. We suffer and toil and die because we do not understand ourselves or the elements of which we are made. We do not know why we are here. We understand so little about life that our own selfish interests seem the most important part of it. We have wrong ideas about almost everything. Those things which are the call of the spiritual nature within, such as pain, self-sacrifice, sorrow, and discipline, we avoid when we can, too often accepting in their stead the narcotics of self-indulgence or indifference. And this leads only to more pain, more sorrow and disease, and to all the deeper aspects of personal mortality.
We recall again Katherine Tingley's declaration that the object of life is the "raising of the mortal into immortality." But immortality is not bestowed upon us any more than character or environment. It must be earned and built up by effort before it can be ours. The human self must achieve immortality and its own right to the divine adventure by transforming its lower composite nature into the unity and homogeneity of spirit. Things made up of varied elements, whether material or psychological, must fall apart when the energy that brought them together is exhausted. But the god within is a pure ray of universal oneness and cannot decay or cease to be. When we can transmute through selfless and universal thought and action our own human nature into the homogeneity of the divine then we will know ourself immortal because we will have become so through self-directed efforts. We will be Masters of Life.
The great promise of theosophy for the individual may fitly bring this chapter to a close:
the old initiations have not died off from the face of the earth. They take place even today, and in the archaic way, under the supervision and the guidance of men, great Sages and Seers, . . .
The personal man, my Brothers, must be 'crucified,' i. e., 'slain' — metaphorically speaking — in order that the Christ within you may resurrect or arise. . . .
The Pathway of Beauty, the Pathway of Peace and Strength, the Pathway of the Great Quiet, is within you — not within the material body, but within the inmost focus of your consciousness. This is the Pathway that the great Sages and Seers of all the ages have taught. Follow that Pathway; it will lead you to the heart of the Sun, the Master and Guide of our Solar System; and later if you follow it, it will conduct you to a destiny still more sublime. Yet that sublime destiny is only the beginning, only the beginning of something grander; for evolution, growth, expansion of consciousness, go on forever. — Op. cit., Series II, No. 32
It is hardly possible to think of survival after death without also thinking of preexistence and rebirth, for anything supposed to be without an end must also be regarded as having no beginning. In a logical system of thought we have to account for and describe not only what happens after death but also what happens before birth.
And just here it will be interesting to note the immediate causes of the reincarnation of the human ego. Reimbodiment is of course a "law," that is, a universal habit of nature. Everything in the universe reimbodies — an electron, an atom, a mineral, a plant — that is, the monads evolving through these forms must reimbody; likewise for an animal, a man, a planet, a sun, a solar system, a universe — nothing can escape its essential destiny of the evolution or unfolding of its inner nature and powers through reimbodiment and progressively advancing organization and environments. And the human ego naturally shares in this universal habit of self-evolution.
But it is the immediate reasons which bring about reincarnation on earth, with the methods and procedures which are followed in the process, that concern us particularly now. We left the monad, the spiritual self, peregrinating through the seven sacred planets carrying the reincarnating ego "asleep in its bosom." But as always in nature, that which rests or is asleep must awaken and enter afresh upon self-conscious activity for the purpose of carrying forward its own evolution.
So at last the reincarnating ego begins slowly to reach the end of its period of devachanic spiritual assimilation. Memories of its former earth-lives, vague but compelling, stir it from its blissful sleep. And so harmonious and flexible and self-adjusting are all the processes of nature that the monad has completed its peregrinations through the inner and outer rounds by the time the reincarnating ego is reaching the end of its dream-rest in the monadic essence.
Consequently, as is obvious enough, an Ego having a short Devachan, or an Ego, contrariwise, having a long Devachan, has no difficulty in either case, because the Spiritual Monad is more or less strongly influenced by the spiritual condition or quality of the Reimbodying Ego which it holds in its bosom, and thus it is that the pilgrimage of the Spiritual Monad is to a certain and often large extent controlled as regards the time passed in the interplanetary pilgrimage. — The Esoteric Tradition, 3rd ed. p. 480
The reincarnating ego is therefore gradually carried "downward" or "outward" through the invisible interplanetary spheres until it begins again to approach the threshold of earth-life. Here it sends out from itself a manasic radiance or ray, and the presence of this ray acts dynamically upon all those centers of energy which were cast off when it last passed through the portal of death here on earth. The life-atoms composing these energy-centers or principles or elements begin to crystallize around the manasic ray as a nucleus. These principles or elements are four in number, as already enumerated, and constitute the lower quaternary or lower self which the ego used as its vehicle on earth in the last life. They are: kama, passional desire; prana, the life-principle or vitality; the astral or model body, the linga-sarira; and the physical sheath or sthula-sarira. And when once these begin to reform around the manasic ray, the personality, kama-manas, comes again into earth existence.
The final process is thus described for us:
The Ray or Radiation from the Reimbodying Ego finally reaches the critical point or stage in its 'descent' where it is drawn to or attracted by the specific and definite human germ-cell whose growth, if not interrupted, will eventuate in a physical body. The psycho-magnetic attractions and inner impulses of the Reimbodying Ego . . . have karmically led it to that one cell which is most appropriate out of the number of other possible cells, the father and the mother in due course joining to give what we may perhaps figuratively call the magic link of united 'life,' . . .
From this instant the living protoplasm begins to grow from within outwards, and little by little to manifest forth what is stored within itself. — Op. cit., pp. 481-2
The ego is usually drawn to that family and that type of social environment in which it laid down its burdens, problems, and relationships at the last death of its physical body.
The study of death and afterdeath states of consciousness and experience is of the deepest importance to every one and for the following reasons, among others:
(1) Because it will teach us how to bridge the gap, which is apparent only, between ourselves and those we love closely who have passed onward into the invisible worlds; and this removes the sting of death.
(2) Because it dissolves away the fear of death from our hearts and inspires us with a great hope and purpose in so shaping today that death's tomorrow may be a glorious one.
(3) Because we cannot understand death without learning the secrets of our own natures, a study and a mastery of which will reconstruct all living for us both here and hereafter.
There is about theosophy a completeness, a rounding out of many processes of nature, which science at present beholds only as half-truths. Such are gravitation and evolution, as H. P. Blavatsky explains in The Secret Doctrine. Science regards human life, for example, as a straight line, a fragment, whereas it is an infinitesimal section of a mighty circle turning upward upon itself through alternating degrees of light and shade — a tremendous spiral ascent. Upward, ever slowly upward it trends, carrying the individual from the murky shadows of one life here into the gleaming curve of the between-lives period; then, into another shadowy patch of earth-existence and so on, still gradually climbing until the goal is reached.
As for the goal or "ending" of this evolutionary process of which life on this earth is one segment with "death" and beyond as another — this goal too is but a partial ending. It is a mere stopping place, a period for rest and spiritual assimilation of a higher sort, as is clearly indicated in the following passages:
It was precisely the ancient religions and philosophies which in their inner meaning taught that the Universe is based on law and order, builded around imperishable centers which vary never, and which, each one, pursues an evolutionary course towards the Divine Polar-Star of the Universe; and which further taught that the imperfect things that we see in Nature around us, like us human beings ourselves, are imperfect because they are as yet not fully evolved.
And hearken, they taught more. They taught that there never is an ultimate, a final stopping-place, beyond which the evolutionary stream of life cannot go. But they said, no matter how great and how highly evolved such and another stream of life may be with all its component entities, there is veil upon veil behind and beyond the frontiers of the Universe, stretching into other Universes. Endings of evolution, as I have said, exist not at all. — Questions We All Ask, Series I, No. 31
The spirit or monad is constantly growing; it is evolving, on its way to become the super-spiritual, finally to become the Divine, then the Super-divine. Is that the end of its evolutionary possibilities? No, it advances ever, constantly and endlessly evolving, growing. But words fail us here to describe this sublime conception. We cannot describe it in faltering human language. Our imagination falls palsied in any such attempt, and we can merely point to the evolutionary path vanishing in both directions into infinity and into eternity, as beginningless as it is unending. — Op. cit., Series I, No. 13
We have now taken a somewhat detailed view of what death really implies and of the place which it holds in human evolution. As to the process itself, it may be useful very briefly to review the stages through which the human consciousness passes when death brings release to the spiritual self. These are:
1. Death itself, or the sloughing off and disintegration of the physical body, caused by the severance of the link between the spiritual self and its lower principles. The astral model-body or linga-sarira also now disintegrates — a process which is greatly hastened by cremation of the physical body.
2. The review by the reincarnating ego of the events of the just ended life. This is a most important and solemn part of the act of dissolution, when the ego views every thought and act of its life, seeing clearly the justice and meaning of the life's events. At such a time, immediately following death, there should be perfect, reverent quiet around the departed so that no breath of disturbance from the outer plane may interrupt this necessary and sacred event.
3. The falling asleep of the human personality or consciousness while the next two processes take place.
4. The dissolution of the kama-rupa, unless it should be kept alive by mediumistic interference.
5. The second death, during which the spiritual essence of the personality is absorbed by the ego.
The two latter processes are unconscious ones for normal humanity.
6. The passing of the reincarnating ego into its devachanic rest in the bosom of the spiritual self or monad.
7. Peregrinations or cosmic journeyings of the monad or spiritual self upon its "divine adventure," carrying the reincarnating ego "in its bosom."
8. Re-awakening of the reincarnating ego to the pull of earth-life and its descent towards reincarnation in a new personality.
In connection with our study of this profound and wonderful subject many questions are likely to arise. It is often asked, for example, if, since theosophy teaches that there is a heaven-world, does it not also teach something about a hell? And how about purgatory, which many people believe in: what has theosophy to say about that?
If by "hell" is meant a place of eternal punishment, then theosophy emphatically denies both the ideas implied in this expression. In the ancient wisdom there is no place for the illogical and childish idea of punishment. We meet only the consequences of our own past thoughts and actions in this or former lives — that is, our karma. No one imposes or forces these resulting conditions upon us: they follow our own actions as naturally as heat follows combustion, or as the furrow follows the plow. Also, to repeat, no state or condition of existence can be everlasting.
Our theological ideas of heaven and hell are more of those man-made misconstructions already mentioned — those distorted remnants of the ancient mystery-teachings which still prevailed in the popular mind at the beginning of the Christian era. All these misconceptions were fastened upon human thought at a time when humanity was passing into an age of spiritual inertia, culminating in the so-called Dark Ages. And the theological doctrines of hell as found in all religions in some form have, to condense the words of Dr. de Purucker (see The Esoteric Tradition, 3rd ed., pp. 279-283), become almost without exception highly embroidered misconceptions of the original doctrine taught by the founders of such religions. All these misconceptions came to be accepted literally instead of symbolically and figuratively, and have brought about almost untold suffering and misery to human hearts. Thus the words "heaven" and "hell," in their true mystical sense as a part of the ancient mystery-teachings, are seen to refer — the heavens to
those spiritual realms of experience through which all Monads whatsoever shall and indeed must at some time in their age-long peregrinations pass, and in which they dwell for periods proportionate with the karmic merit attained or won; and the so-called 'hells' are those spheres or realms of purgation, to which all Monads whatsoever during certain periods of their age-long peregrinations must pass, therein washing the matter-laden, and therefore heavily-laden, souls; so that once cleansed they may rise again along the ascending arc of Cosmic Experience.
— The Esoteric Tradition, p. 283
Indeed this earth itself is regarded by those beings who have long ago transcended its matter-weighted vehicles and temptations as a hell of a particularly trying variety. Thus theosophy, while explaining the origin of these theological misconceptions, frees the human mind once and for all of their degrading and cruel influence.
There is of course in nature's vast realms a condition or state of being which is the opposite or nether pole to those stages of spiritual attainment and rest which extend all the way from devachan to the different degrees of nirvana at the close of the greater periods of evolution. This other state of being is called "avichi" and is also of many degrees according to the material propensities of the entities who are drawn into it by their own evil actions. Those who are given over to hatred, revenge, lusts, or vices of any kind, gravitate inevitably to some form of avichi, to which state the lower stages of the kama-loka belong. Here dwell the psychic remains of such men and women, for human life gives as incomplete a scope on the one hand for the deepest degrees of evil as for the attainment of the purest spiritual happiness on the other. Yet if people accumulate within themselves desires and energies of either the basest or finest, these must find their outlet and expression somewhere. The "hells" or lower reaches of the kama-loka are the direct karmic consequences of the indulgence by men and women in degrading human attributes. But even so the results are merciful, for these "hells" confront the entities attracted to them with the terrible consequences of unbridled self-indulgence in evil, and so impress them that the road to avichi may later be avoided. And happily they are but temporary and the number of such unfortunate men and women is relatively small.
Theological doctrines about purgatory are another example of the distortion by ignorant men of the mystery-teachings of the ancient wisdom to serve the ends of exoteric religion. How they arose can easily be seen from the foregoing, though the ancient wisdom tells us that in the actual state of kama-loka — excepting in the rare instances already cited of suicides and the very evil — while there is purgatory of a sort in the sense of the dissolving away of the material and selfish elements of the deceased, this purification is an unconscious process and involves little or no suffering whatever for normal human beings. All these bugbears of theology and superstition theosophy explains, and in explaining casts aside.
Another point that inquirers often bring up is in regard to the possibility of shortening the period between earth-lives. There is a perhaps surprisingly large class of men and women who cannot endure the idea of thousands of years of bliss while the human world is toiling painfully along without their efforts to help and alleviate. In this light the state of devachan seems essentially selfish. To such inquirers the following will be of interest:
Question: In The Mahatma Letters [to A. P. Sinnett] I read that Devachan is a state of intense selfishness. . . . I believe that real love will shorten the time we are in Devachan; and I hope I am right; . . .
Answer by Dr. de Purucker: Dear Brother: . . . I absolutely agree with you. Now, when we analyse the devachanic state closely, we must come to recognise that, however beautiful it may be, however much of a rest and recuperation it is — for it certainly is all that — it nevertheless is a selfish state. Say what we will, it is necessary at the present time, on account of its being rest and recuperation and peace and a rebuilding and an assimilation of the experiences of the life just closed; but granting all that, it is a selfish existence; because, for the hundreds of years that we are in the Devachan, we are sunken in roseate dreams, and the world may be going to hell, and we don't care. Now, that is not the spirit of the Buddhas of Compassion. Love, impersonal love, which loves all things both great and small, will free us even from the Devachan; and it is just this spirit of impersonal love, love for all things, a yearning to help all, and to aid — it is this spirit which is the very core of the Buddhas of Compassion and of our own Order. It is this spirit which will shorten our Devachan and advance us rapidly on the pathway of chelaship. It is the spirit which infills our Elder Brothers, the Masters of Wisdom and Compassion and Peace. They have no Devachan. They have advanced beyond it — at least the higher ones among them have. — The Theosophical Forum, February 1933, p. 178
An intense impersonal desire to live for humanity, if persisted in during life — particularly if it is not mere sentimentality but takes the shape of daily self-sacrifice in thought and conduct — is an energy of the most powerful kind. It is powerful above all other energies because it partakes of the moving harmony and love which flow forth from the heart of the universe to pervade and animate all that is. It will find its appropriate expression by drawing the excarnate entity back to that field where alone this spiritual desire-energy may work itself out — reincarnation upon earth in any environment where such humanitarian activity is possible.
The foregoing leads to a question often brought up as to the relative importance of the two states, earth-life and devachan. To suggest the answer in a homely form we might ask: Which is more important, eating or digestion? For earth-life gives the accumulation of experience and devachan brings about its assimilation. To average humanity both are necessary and each complements the other.
Yet, even so, as the astute reader will have deduced from answers to questions already given, the mahatma, the adept, the Master of Life, has "advanced beyond" devachan. He passes from life to life and body to body without break of consciousness. But we must not overlook the fact that in doing this he has also passed beyond the need, for himself, of any further experience of earth-life. He reincarnates as a man of flesh that he may devote himself to the spiritual welfare of all things. To overcome the power of death and its conditions, one must first overcome the thirst for life. For these two, life on earth and life in the inner worlds beyond death are at present the human method of evolution. And only by transcending the need of both can we become mahatmas — self-consciously immortal.
But death, even for the average person, will change its conditions eventually, for of course we are constantly evolving. Under the influence not only of our own inner urge, but with the help of an environment which we, in common with our family, nation, and race, is daily creating, we will develop, unwrap, unroll from the core of our own being new powers and capacities. And as we evolves these new faculties, so will we at the same time be bringing about the conditions whereby to express them. This is a part of the grand outlook which theosophy offers for the future of humanity.
As Dr. de Purucker tells us:
In the future, when the human race shall have advanced somewhat farther than now it is, old age will be universally considered to be the most beautiful period of earth-life because the fullest in intellectual and psychical and spiritual power, and it will remain so until within a few short hours before actual physical death occurs. [Italics ours.] — The Esoteric Tradition, 3rd ed., pp. 434-5
Another matter which should be touched upon before closing this study is the new light which theosophy throws upon our present unscientific conceptions of immortality. This point of view was recently expressed in the following way:
men do not know what real immortality means; they think it means unchanging continuance of the human soul as it now is — and what a hell that would be! Fancy being for ever, and for ever, and for ever what one is now!
The teaching of Occultism is just the contrary of this. Its teaching tells of an endless growth, endless improvement, endless development, endless evolution, therefore an endless changing of consciousness, going ever higher and higher out of the human sphere into the semi-divine, and out of the semidivine worlds into the divine, and thereafter into the super-divine, and so on ad infinitum. There is no such thing as immortality as commonly understood. The only immortal thing is the Universe itself; but even this is by no means immortal as it now is, because it itself is constantly changing, and its essence is its life, which is of the very essence of change which means growth, which means evolution. — G. de Purucker, Occultism and Psychic Phenomena
The point to be marked in the above passage lies in the words, "as it now is." Nothing continues to exist forever as it now is. It is this fact, so illogically and unscientifically ignored by theologians and so completely supported by nature, that lies at the root of modern scientific prejudice against the idea of immortality. The individual persists, but his very persistence is by means of change. We are our karma — we grow into what we make ourselves to become. And it is what we make of ourselves that persists, and in this progress or retrogression lies our future. Could there be imagined a greater or more compelling challenge to common sense as well as to the best and the strongest and the purest in human nature? Even the beautiful phrase "to raise the mortal into immortality" has only a relative validity. For the monad itself into which we ourselves aspire to transmute our consciousness, and which is immortal as compared with the human ego, that monad is growing and evolving on its own plane to greater and greater heights forever.
To return to the idea with which this brief inquiry was opened:
You will never fully understand death nor its mysteries as long as you concentrate your attention on the bodies in which this flame of consciousness enwraps itself. Follow the consciousness within you, become acquainted with yourself, know yourself better, follow this flame of consciousness inwards, ever more inwards, which also means upwards; and then you will no longer fear death, but will recognise it as the sweetest, holiest friend that man has; for it means laying aside imperfection for perfection, restricted consciousness for an enlarged sphere of consciousness. Follow that stream of consciousness continually; and finally you will reach inwards to the core of your being, the divinity at the heart of yourself. There is the secret for understanding the real mystery of death as it is taught in the ancient esoteric schools of all races of men. — G. de Purucker, Lucifer, April 1934, pp. 441-2
A fitting conclusion to this very brief exposition of the theosophical teachings about death and after may be found in these final words:
Remember that you are a child of infinitude, each one of you, inseparable from the boundless Universe in which we all live and move and have our being; remember that you are well taken care of by almighty Nature's laws, which brought you here, which will take you out from this life, and which will infallibly guide you on your way. Trust yourself then to death in happy confidence; die with a strong and happy will; die with gladness when your time comes; be not afraid. Mock at the phantom of 'death' — mock at the old hideous specter which the fearful imagination of ignorance wove in the hearts and minds of men. Mock at that specter, that evil thing of the imagination! Cast it out! Remember that you are well taken care of. — Questions We All Ask, Series II, No. 19
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