Golden Precepts of Esotericism by G. de Purucker

Copyright © 1979 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.


Chapter 2

Old Age, Disease, and Death

How beautiful is the world that surrounds us! The sunrise over the eastern moun­taintops is one of the most exquisitely beautiful things I know.

It is so beautiful because it calls forth within us a harmony of understanding akin to the natural beauty which we see painted on the eastern sky. All beauty is in the consciousness of the perceiver therefore, where, in a very true sense, all things that we cognize are.

You cannot see beauty outside unless you have beauty within you. You cannot under-stand beauty unless you yourself are beautiful inside. You cannot understand harmony unless you yourself in your inner parts are harmony. All things of value are within yourself, and the outside world merely offers you the stimulus, the stimulation, of and to the exercise of the understanding faculty within you.

There is beauty in understanding, and understanding springs only from an understanding heart, paradoxical as that may sound at first hearing. It is the understanding heart that has vision.

The seer trains himself to open the seeing eye, and nature speaks to him in tones which grow with each year more entrancing, more wonderful, because he is growing greater inside. His understanding is broadening and deepening. The whispering of the trees, the susurrus of the leaves and their rustling, the slow boom of the waves on the shingle of the shore, the chirp of the cricket, the cooing of the dove, the sound of a human voice — strident though oft it is — contain marvels for him. He recognizes his kinship with all that is, he realizes that he is but one element in a most marvelous mosaic of life in which he is inseparably bound, and that even as the vision grows it becomes ever more beautiful and sublime; and he knows that the vision sublime is there, and strives to see it ever more clearly.

Every tree, every flower, every atom of the mineral crunched under your feet as you tread the surface of the earth, everything that is, had you the seeing eye, you could learn from. Have you never looked into the bosom of a flower? Have you never studied the beauty, symmetry, glory, around you? Have you never looked at the rising or the setting sun and marveled at the paintings on the eastern or western horizon? Have you never looked deep into the eye of a fellow human being, looked with a seeing eye on your own kind? Have you never found marvels there? What a wonderful world we are surrounded by! Yet with all the beauty surrounding us, the heart aches and the mind is overwhelmed with the thought of the woes of mankind caused by the three dire problems — old age, disease, and death.

Learn to control the mind. Man is a child of the gods, and his mind should be godlike, his thoughts aspiring, his heart constantly opening in love ever more; and therefore his attitude should be godlike also.

Go into the silent places of your heart; enter into the chambers so quiet and still of your inner being. Soon you will learn to knock at the doors of your own heart. Practice makes perfect. Intuition will then come to you. You will have knowledge immediately; you will know truth instantly. That is the Way; that is the teaching.

In these silent places you receive illumination, you receive visions of truth, because your spirit — the core of you, the heart of you — has gone into the very core of being, where it is native, from which it is separated never, from which it originally sprang, and with which you are in direct and unceasing communication.

Realize this wonderful truth; take it to heart. For there are fountains inexhaustible of wisdom, of knowledge, and of love — yes, and power — power over self first of all, which means power over nature, in which we live and move and have our being. For the core of your being is the inner god in you, the divine spirit, the Christos-spirit, the Buddhic splendor.

It is into these quiet places of the soul, into these deep silences of the heart — that is to say, the inmost of the inmost of the human being — that enter the Great Ones when they want to acquire more light and greater knowledge; for by so doing they enter into the very structure and fabric of the universe, and therefore know truth at first hand, because they become in their own minds and intelligences — in the interpreting organ we call the mentality — one with that universe, vibrating synchronously, sympathet­ically, with the vibrations on all planes of the Eternal Mother. There they become at one with All, and therefore know truth intuitively.

Old age need have no fears for you. One who has lived aright, one who has lived cleanly, and thought highly, as age comes on him and the body weakens and the physical veils thin, sees, and seeing knows. His vision passes behind the veils of matter, for he is slowly be­coming acquainted with the mysteries beyond the veil which men call death.

For a certain period of time, dependent upon the interval preceding death, the soul is withdrawing from the aged body. This accounts for the so-called advance in the symptoms and physical phenomena of age, of old age. But such withdrawal of the soul, in the normal course, is peaceful and quiet, and is nature’s way of making death come as a quiet blessing of peace and harmony.

Death is birth, birth; and instead of the wrench that there actually is in the case of youth when death comes, death to our old ones comes in peace and quiet, stealing like an angel of mercy into their being, releasing the bonds binding the soul to its vehicle of flesh; and the passage is as quiet and gentle as the coming of the twilight preceding night, and it is a blessed sleep.

Any human being can avoid a painful old age, or at least very largely modify its troubles; and this can be attained by living humanly, by living in your higher self, instead of ideal­izing the wants and desires of your body. Then old age comes stealing upon you, bringing blessings with it, and increase in all the higher faculties and powers; so that the approach of old age is vibrant with the harmonies of another world, and beautiful with its visions of truth and glory.

Old age is a blessing, if the previous life has been lived aright. It brings with it things otherwise unattainable, such as an expansion of consciousness which youth knows nothing of. It brings with it increased intellectual power which, because of its very reach, the undeveloped person, the youth, the man of middle age, does not understand, and therefore ascribes to the vague generalizations of grandfather. Grandfather in such circumstances is nearer the truth and sees more than does the still unseeing eye of the youth. A fine old age brings an expansion of soul, not only of the intellect, but of the spiritual consciousness and its vision.

But sometimes, when the life has been lived in gross physical desires; when, so to say, the bonds uniting the soul to the body have been riveted into the vehicle of flesh by self-indulgence in the gross appetites, then even in age death is painful; for the natural withdrawal of the soul has not taken place, or at least not to such a large degree, nor is the physical age attained so great before death finally comes.

Old age is nothing to fear. It is a blessing. It is a splendor seen as through a veil, of the life beyond, the higher life, the life in which the higher incarnating ego lives, literally. Shadows — coming events casting their shadows before, the shadows of the splendor to be — such is a fine old age.

Diseases, the second of the woes that afflict mankind, are purifying processes, processes of purification, and to men of our present imperfect stage of evolution, in many, many, instances are a heaven-sent blessing. They cure egoism. They teach patience. They bring about in their train a dwelling of the mind on the beauty of life, on the need for living rightly. They make one kindly and sympathetic.

Consider the average man in his present imperfect stage of evolution: passionate, with ungoverned emotions, with fierce desires for sensation, for ever more sensation, and still more sensation. Consider a moment if men of today, such as they are, had bodies which could not be diseased, but could be weakened and killed by excesses. Do you not see that things as they are have a very kindly side to them? Diseases actually are our warnings to reform and to live in accordance with nature’s laws.

Remember that it is not an outside and tyrannical nature which brings disease upon us. Diseases, with their concomitant suffering and pain, are our best monitory friends. They soften our hearts, they broaden our minds, they give us an opportunity for the exercise of our wills and a field for the play of our moral instincts. They also instill pity and compassion for others in our breasts.

It is true that each one of us is responsible for his diseases and his misfortunes; all the misfortunes of life we ourselves have made for ourselves. We have deserved them, because we are the parents of them. They come upon us, we ourselves receive them, and are merely receiving the reaction, the effects, of the seeds of thought and act that we have sown in the past — a wonderful doctrine, karma!

Yet “good” and “bad” are relative. We call things good when they happen to please us, and when we do not like them, we say that they are bad. And yet the very thing or things which at the time you did not like in some cases have turned out splendidly for you, brought you good luck, brought you happiness, at the very least put strength of fiber into your character, which is worth more than all worldly treasures. They gave you insight, unlocked the powers of your heart, enabled you to think; in short, made a man of you.

Nothing happens to us which we ourselves did not engender in the beginning. We sowed the seeds. Now the seeds have grown up in us, and we say: I cannot understand how such a thing could have happened to me. But it has happened, and if you take it rightly and face it rightly, and react properly, and look upon it as just the thing that you would have chosen, you become a collaborator with destiny, and become happy, and grow. Strength becomes yours. Wisdom grows in your heart.

Let me illustrate with the case of an exceedingly good and noble man. Suddenly he is stricken, let us say, to make the case picturesque and pointed, with some loathsome and terrible disease. Nothing in his present life that he knows of has brought this about. He is suddenly and unaccountably stricken down, so that, for a while, he hates himself, and his soul turns in agony to the gods who hear not, and he says: “What have I done to bring this thing upon me?” Shall we say that he is a bad man? No, he is a good man; but this is a case where seeds from past lives had hitherto not yet eventuated, hitherto had not come to fruitage, but now do so. Now they come forth. In past lives perhaps they wanted to come forth and were dammed back in some way or other.

The lesson of this, therefore, is: when misfortune comes upon you, when sorrow racks your heart, and when it seems as if all the world had turned against you, face it all and have done with it; so that, in the future, when your character is stronger and more improved, you shall not have laid up for yourself some unworked-out seed of karmic destiny then to blossom and bring you greater unhappiness by far than it could now bring.

There have been great and noble men, disciples on the path, and advanced at that, to whom such occurrences have happened. Old karmic seeds of destiny, held over, dammed back, willed to disappear — now coming forth and apparently ruining a noble life.

So when sorrow comes, when grief appears in your life, when pain comes upon you, take them to your heart; for they are the awakeners. Pleasures often lull you to sleep; the so-called joys send you to sleep. It is sorrow, it is grief, it is change which you do not like — it is precisely these three things which are your awakeners. Seize the truth of this! It will give you strength; it will give you peace; it will enable you to meet the problems of life with an illuminated mind; it will bring you help and comfort.

Remember, it is only the finite which suffers; likewise it is the finite which loves. It is the finite which does these, because it learns. It is learning, growing; no matter how small it may be, no matter how great — insect and god, supergod and atom of earth — all are learning and growing, therefore passing through stages of happiness and bliss, and of suffering and pain.

Everything that is is an opportunity to the percipient eye and the understanding heart to learn, which means to grow; and when you realize that suffering and pain are two of the means by which we grow, then come peace to the heart and rest to the mind.

What is it that makes the majestic oak such as it is? Is it the gentle zephyr and the soft-pattering rain? The oak might be weak and yielding as a willow to the blast if that were the truth. No, the tempest and the storm have their way with the oak, and the oak reacts in robustness and strength; battling the storm and tempest it grows strong.

Human beings learn far more quickly than does the so-called insensate plant. There is nothing that learns so quickly and easily as does the human heart. Therefore shrink not from suffering and pain, for they are better teachers than are happiness and smug contentment. The latter is almost spiritually suicidal — to be so smugly content with your-self and what you are that you sleep. But nature will not have it thus always. Finally there comes the karmic impulse, the karmic stimulus, and then you suffer a little; but in doing so you awaken and begin to grow. Bless the karmic stimulus; be not afraid of it. Look to the essential divinity within. Remember that everything that happens is transient, and that you can learn from everything, and in learning you will grow — grow great, and from greatness pass to a larger sphere of greatness.

It is all a battle of self against self: not exactly a fighting each other, but nevertheless a constant enduring against odds, and this is, in a way, a spiritual exercise. It is exercise that makes us strong, that makes us lithe and vigorous, ready to face still greater trials and difficulties. One of the greatest friends that we have, perhaps the noblest cleanser of all, is sorrow, or is pain, for the heart and mind must be cleansed by pain even as gold is tried in the fire.

We humans ordinarily do not like this. In that respect we are just like little children; but nevertheless the fact is so, and we soon learn, when we become thoughtful, that the real man faces the trials and difficulties of life in a joyous mood, and conquers.

A beautiful, helpful rule is the following: whatever comes to you, meet it manfully. Look upon it as the very thing that you would have willed — and therefrom reap peace. It will pass, it will work itself out. It is a good practical rule of the moral law: repine not, keep your face to the mystic East of the future, fill your heart with courage, and remember that you are a descendant of and kin to the immortal gods who control and guide the universe.

There are times indeed in life when the higher self actually leads us into paths of trial so that we may grow by reacting successfully against the trials. But the higher self is always with us, constantly warning us in the shape of intimations and intuitions to be courageous, to face life boldly, to be truthful, to be clean, to be strong, to be sincere, to be upright, and many other such things; and these precisely are the very qualities in human nature which, when followed out continuously, protect us against disaster. The only real disaster that the spirit-soul of man knows is weakness, is failure, is discouragement. Physical disasters and other things of physical life are often blessings in disguise; the higher self teaches us how to meet these in the proper mood, and how best to come forth from them triumphant.

It is the inner joy which carries us on to victory, the sense of feeling that we cannot achieve before we will to do it; and this could not be unless the very heart of the universe were harmony and love, for the heart of things is celestial peace and love and beauty.

Therefore, when pain and suffering come upon you, remember these truths. Stand up! Face the storm; and before you know it you will see the blue sky ahead, and success and prosperity, because you have passed through the test, and it has made you the stronger.

Every sage and seer has taught the same thing: cleanse the temple of the holy spirit, drive out the demons of the lower nature. What are these demons? One’s own thoughts.

Inharmonious thoughts not only poison the air, but they also poison your very bloodstream, poison your body; and disease is the resultant. What are inharmonious thoughts? They are selfish thoughts, mean thoughts, thoughts out of tune; and they arise in a heart which lacks love. Perfect love in the human heart tends to build up a strong body, physiologically clean, because the inside of you is psychologically and morally clean, harmonious in its workings, for in this case, the mind, the soul, the spirit — the true man — are harmonious in their workings.

You are making yourself now very largely what you will be ten years from now. You may have conquered a disease that you are now suffering from. You may have a disease then that now you have not. The greatest preventive of disease is a selfless soul working through a selfless mind — a self-forgetful heart. Nothing brings disease upon a human being so quickly as selfishness with its concomitant temptations, and the succumbing to those temptations.

When the thoughts chase through the mind as unruly steeds, do not struggle and waste your force. Picture to yourself the things opposite to those you hate. Picture the things that you really inwardly love, really love in your heart, and which you know are helpful. The secret is inner visualization: therefore visualize.

If you find yourself gloomy, if you are ashamed of thoughts that are in your mind, do not struggle with them, do not fight them, forget them. They are only ghosts rising out of your own past. But turn your head to the East and watch the rising sun. Paint the visions in glory. Watch the mountaintops of your nature where rosy-fingered Aurora of the inner dawn weaves the web of her splendorous magic before your eyes.

There you have the secret of conquest. This is the best way, the easiest way, and you can follow it because you are the creator of your own destiny through your imagination and will power. By doing this the creative faculty within you comes into operation. This is so simple a rule and yet it is the message of the sages of the ages.

Forget the evil thoughts and do not give them an artificial life by visualizing them and then fighting them. Do not waste your energies in fighting bogies, the phantoms and ghosts of your imagination. These are only the phantasms of your own imagination, and have no reality outside of yourself. Yet these phantoms and ghosts can at times overcome you and become a temporary reality because you have given them the framework and power of thought. You incarnate these things in thoughts, and thoughts will govern your body.

Visualize the other thing. Make pictures of beauty and strength in your mind. If you are obsessed by these uglinesses, picture to yourself scenes of beauty. It is far more fascinating. It is a delightful pastime, and it always works. See things of a high and noble character and visualize them forcefully. Visualize to yourself a success in fine things. Visualize things of beauty, of inward splendor.

The mind can be raised with high and noble thoughts. Even the worker, while his hands are busy, can trace his ancestry in thought to the gods in space, and feel the inspiration of a divine ancestry flowing through the veins of his soul, so to speak. He can thereby be truly a man.

Silence your thoughts: this does not mean to stop thinking, but to control your thoughts, be the master of them. Do not be the slave of the vagrant mental tramps that run through your mind. Give birth to thoughts and rule these your children, and when they become naughty put the dampers on. Silence them.

Be a thinker, not so much of thoughts, as of thought. In other words, leave the restless activity of your brain-mind, and go into the inner chambers of your heart, into the recesses of your consciousness, the holy place within, and see the light. Receive the light. Silence your thoughts, and enter into consciousness.

Examine your own mental processes, and see how much time you waste in merely thinking thoughts, useless thoughts most of them, and neglect to drink of those sublime fountains of knowledge and wisdom and consciousness that you have within you, the sources of inspiration and genius — to drink of the genial springs, of those Pierian founts, whence flows all that makes life worth while.

There is a test by which one can make certain whether something that springs into the mind comes from the higher self, or whether it is merely from some desire or colored by some desire. Here is your test, and an easy one. The higher self is impersonal; it is self-forgetful; it is kind; it is loving; it is pitiful; it is compassionate; it has sublime inspirations. The lower nature is selfish, ingathering, acquisitive for self, hateful often, unforgiving, violent.

The higher self is a spiritual entity and, so to say, soars above the mud of the lower self much as the sun shines upon the earth. The higher self has tremendous influence on the lower self; but the lower self has no influence whatever, not even indirect, on the higher self. The lower self has tremendous influence on the human self, however, the intermediate nature.

If what comes wandering into your mind, or is brought thither by your own will power and aspiration, is such as urges you to do good to your fellow men, gives you inner peace and comfort, makes you kindlier and more thoughtful of others, it is from the higher part. This higher impulse may be a desire, but it is not a desire for the personality; it is a desire of the spirit, a desire to grow greater, to be more, to help others, to love, to forget injury, to forgive.

A kindly thought sent out towards some other human being is a protection to that other, and it is a beautiful thing to do. It is a human thing, a truly human thing, and one that every normal human being loves to do. There are few things so satisfying to both heart and mind as the feeling that, today at least, we have not been unkind in our feelings or thoughts towards others, but have been helpful, kindly, considerate, impersonal.

The sowing of the seeds of thought is not an act devoid of responsibility. Anyone who sows seeds of thought in the minds of his fellow men is held by natural law to a strict accountability. Nature is not anarchic; it is governed by cause and effect throughout — by karma.

While this places a serious responsibility upon anyone who teaches others, and who thus puts seeds of thought and feeling into their minds, nevertheless, on the other hand, what is the guerdon of a noble work well done? The reward, the recompense, is magnificent.

Guard well your thoughts, and even as carefully guard what you say. Speak little, but when you do speak, speak with deliberate recollection of your responsibility.

What is a thought? A thought is a thing: it is a living entity. All the vast and diversified phenomena of nature, so far as differentiations are concerned, are founded upon the one fact that at the heart of each such entity there exists a thought divine, a seed of the divine, which is destined to grow through the aeons until the inherent life, individuality, power, and faculty, in such a seed shall find itself flowing forth into more or less perfect manifestation. It is thus that such a god-seed or monad becomes in its turn a divine entity, a self-conscious god, a child of the cosmic divine, its parent.

Thoughts are things, because thoughts are substantial. Thoughts are substantial entities — not composed of the substance of our physical world, but of ethereal substance, etheric substance.

Man is a focus of creative powers; he is a focus of energies constantly throwing forth from himself innumerable streams, rivers, of little lives. Through his physical emanations, these atomic lives, these life-atoms, leave him. Through his mind they leave him likewise, and in his mind they are thoughts, which are thus cast into the thought-atmosphere of the world. Furthermore, each thought is an entity, because obviously it could not exist for a fraction of a second if it did not have an individuality of some kind inhering in it and composing its essence which holds it as an entity in individualized form.

These streams of emanations from the creative center which man is — from this focus of life which man is — pass into the invisible realms as thoughts; and into the physical, visible realms also as his physical emanations. But the invisible ones — the thoughts good, bad, indifferent, highly col­ored, almost colorless, highly emotional, cold, hot, clean, sweet, infamous, all kinds of energies — leave the focus of life which man is; and it is these life-atoms, leaving man, which begin to evolve thenceforth on their own account, and in time become the intermediate nature of animals as they so evolve.

Man’s emanations thus build up the animal world; the animals feed on these life-atoms of many kinds, physical, vital, astral, mental, and whatnot. As man thus emanates streams of life-atoms, so does the sun pour forth its vital essence in space, giving life and energy and ethereal substance to all that its invigorating rays touch, as well as its own atoms, its electrons, and whatnot, belonging to the physical sphere.

Thus does man continually pour forth his vitality. These life-streams issuing from him give life and evolutionary impulse and characteristics to the entities of the kingdoms below the human, because these subhuman kingdoms are the evolved productions of the thoughts and vital emanations of the human race.

Man’s thoughts of hate and antagonism, his often beastly passions, and the various energies of an ignoble type which flow forth from him, are the roots of the things and entities in the subhuman kingdoms which man considers to be inimical and antagonistic to his own kingdom. On the other hand, human vital and mental emanations of a different type of aspirational, harmonious, kindly, amiable, symmetrical character act in a similar way in providing the intermediate or psychical principles of the nonvenomous, harmless, and shapely beasts, as well as the large range of plants and flowers of beauty and usefulness in the vegetable kingdom.

Since nature is one vast organism, every thing is connected with everything else. Therefore you cannot breathe, you cannot think, without setting in motion energies, forces, which ultimately will reach to the very uttermost limits of our home universe, and pass beyond those limits to the frontiers of other universes.

Therefore, even a thought about a star touches that star in due course of time, with infinitesimal effect, to be sure; but nevertheless this fact instances a wonderful truth. Furthermore it is a truth which makes one reflect.

Yes, the stars are perturbed even by your thought. And as regards those whose inner vision is more opened and who realize that the glorious luminaries scattered over the blue vault of night are but the physical garments of an inner and brilliant flame of consciousness, manifesting as the splendor of these cosmic suns — even as your consciousness manifests through you as a human being — as regards those who are thus beginning to be seers, their thought reaches the suns and the stars. Every one is a child of a sun, therefore an atom of spiritual energy; and what father does not know his child, and respond to its feeble cry?

What of death, the third of the woes that beset mankind? Death is the opener, the one giving vision; death is the greatest and loveliest change that the heart of nature has in store for us.

There is no death, if by that term we mean a perfect and complete, an utter and absolute, cessation of all that is. Death is change, even as birth through reincarnation, which is death to the soul, is change; there is no difference between death, so called, and life, so called, for they are one. The change is into another phase of life. Death is a phase of life even as life is a phase of death. It is not something to be feared.

Man’s physical body must sleep for a certain period in order to recuperate its forces, its powers; so must the psychical constitution of man have its rest time — in devachan.

Death is as natural, death is as simple, death itself is as painless, death itself is as beautiful, as the growth of a lovely flower. It is the portal through which the pilgrim enters the stage higher.

Exactly the same succession of events takes place in death that ensues when we lay ourselves in bed at night and drop off into that wonderland of consciousness we call sleep; and when we awaken rested, composed, refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready for the fray and problems of the daily life again, we find that we are the identic persons that we were before the sleep began. In sleep we have a break of consciousness; in death also there is a break of consciousness. In sleep we have dreams, or a greater or less unconsciousness; and in death we have dreams, blissful, wondrous, spiritual — or blank unconsciousness. As we awaken from sleep, so do we return to earth again in the next incarnation in order to take up the tasks of our karmic life in a new human body.

Here then is one difference between sleep and death, but a difference of circumstance and by no means of kind: after sleep we return to the same body; after death we take upon ourselves a new body. We incarnate, we reincarnate, every day when we wake from sleep; because what has passed, what has happened to us, what has ensued, while the physical body is asleep, is identic, but of very short term, with what takes place, with what ensues, when and after we die.

Death is an absolute sleep, a perfect sleep, a perfect rest; sleep is an incomplete death, an imperfect death, and often troubled with fevered and uneasy dreams on account of the imperfection of the conscious entity, call it soul, if you like, which the human ego is. Death and sleep are brothers. What happens in sleep takes place in death — but perfectly so. What happens in death and after death, takes place when we sleep — but imperfectly so. We incarnate anew every time when we awake, because awaking means that the entity which temporarily has left the body during sleep — the brain-mind, the astral-physical consciousness — returns into that body, incarnates itself anew, and thus the body awakens with the psychical fire again invigorating the blood and the tissues and the nerves.

In going to your bed and in lying down and in losing consciousness, have you ever feared? No. It is so natural; it is so happy an occurrence; it is so restful. Nature rests and the tired brain reposes; and the inner constitution, the soul, if you like so to call it, is temporarily withdrawn during the sleeping period into the higher consciousness of the human being — the ray, so to speak, is absorbed back into the inner spiritual sun.

Just exactly the same thing takes place at death, but in death the worn-out garment is cast aside; the repose also is long, utterly beautiful, utterly blissful, filled with glorious and magnificent dreams, and with hopes unrealized which now are realized in the consciousness of the spiritual being. This dreaming condition is a panorama of the fulfillment of all our noblest hopes and of all our dreams of unrealized spiritual yearnings. It is a fulfillment of them all in glory and bliss and perfect completion and plenitude.

Death is an absolute sleep, a perfect sleep. Sleep is an imperfect, an incomplete, death. Hence, what happens when you sleep in that short period of time, is repeated perfectly and completely and on a grand scale when you die. As you awaken in the morning in the same physical body, because sleep is not complete enough to break the silver chain of vitality uniting the inner, absent entity with the sleeping body, just so do you return to earth after your devachanic experience, or experience in the heaven-world, the world of rest, of absolute peace, of absolute, blissful repose.

During sleep, the silver chain of vitality still links the peregrinating entity to the body that it has left, so that it returns to that body along this psychomagnetic chain of communication; but when death comes, that silver cord of vitality is snapped, quick as a flash of lightning (nature is very merciful in this case), and the peregrinating entity returns to its cast-off body no more. This complete departure of the inner consciousness means the snapping of that silver cord of vitality; and the body then is cast aside as a garment that is worn out and useless. Other- wise, the experience of the peregrinating consciousness, the peregrinating entity or soul, is exactly the same as what happened to it during sleep, but it is now on a cosmic scale. The consciousness passes, and before it returns to earth again as a reincarnating ego it goes from sphere to sphere, from realm to realm, from mansion to mansion, following the wording of the Christian scriptures, which are in the Father’s house.

Nevertheless, in a sense it is also resting, in utter bliss, in utter peace; and during this resting time it digests and assimilates the experiences of the last life and builds these experiences into its being as character, just as during sleep the resting body digests and assimilates the food it has taken in during the daytime, and throws off the wastes, and builds up the tissues anew; and when the reawakening comes it is refreshed. So is the reincarnating ego refreshed when it returns to earth.

Similarly with sleep: sleep is caused by the withdrawal from the physical body of the entity which filled it with its flame and gave it active life. That is sleep. And when that withdrawal of the inner entity is complete, the sleep as sleep is relatively perfect and there is relatively perfect unconsciousness — the sweetest sleep of all. For then the body is undisturbed, rests peacefully and quietly, rebuilds in its system what was torn down during the hours of active work or play.

If the withdrawal of the inner entity is incomplete or partial, then dreams occur, for the inner entity feels the attraction of the physical part of itself; the psychical man still feels that physical man working on it psychomagnetically, as it were; and the unconsciousness of sleep is disturbed by the vibrations of the physical man, of the animate body. This produces evil dreams, bad dreams, fevered dreams, strange dreams, unhappy dreams. If the withdrawal is somewhat more complete than in this last case, but not yet wholly complete, then there are happy dreams, dreams of peace.

When the sleep is what is called utterly unconscious sleep, it is so because the inner entity is the least affected by the psychomagnetic vibrations of the body and of the brain in particular. It itself, this consciousness or mind, is in a doze, resting, but with a certain amount of its consciousness remaining, which the brain, however, cannot register as a dream, because the separation between the body and the consciousness which has left it is too complete. But while this consciousness is thus half-awake, so to speak, half-resting, it is in that particular world, invisible to human eyes, to which its feelings and thoughts in the previous moments and hours have directed it. It is there as a visitant, perfectly well protected, perfectly guarded, and nothing will or can in all probability harm it — unless, indeed, the man’s essential nature is so corrupted that the shield of spirituality ordinarily flowing around this inner entity is worn so thin that antagonistic influences may penetrate to it.

Rebirth, the awakening from the rest between earth lives, is the result of destiny, the destiny that you have made for yourself in past lives. You have builded yourself to come back here to earth; and that is why you are here now, because in other lives you builded yourself to reincarnate. You are your own parents; you are your own children; because you are yourself. You are simply the result, as a character, as a human being, of what you builded yourself to be in the past; and your future destiny — effect of necessity following cause — will be the result, the karma, of what you are now building yourself to be.

Here are the secret causes of rebirth: men hunger for light and know not where to look for it. The instincts of men tell them the truth, but they know not how to interpret them. Their minds, their intellects, are distorted through the teachings brought to them by those who have sought for light in the material world alone. To seek for light — a noble occupation indeed! — but to search the material world alone for it proves the searchers to have lost the key to the grander Within of which the material universe is but the shell, the clothing, the garment, the body, the outer carapace.

This is one of the secret causes of rebirth, of the rebirth of the human soul; because man, being an essential part of the universe, one with its very heart, in his heart of hearts and indeed in all his being, must obey the cosmic law of reimbodiment: birth, then growth, then youth, then maturity, then expansion of faculty and power, then decay, then the coming of the great peace — sleep, rest; and then the coming forth anew into manifested existence. Even so do universes reimbody themselves. Even so does a celestial body reimbody itself — star, sun, planet. Each one is a body such as you are in the lowest part of yourself; each one is an inseparable portion of the boundless universe, as much as you are; each one springs forth from the womb of boundless space as its child, just as you do; and one universal cosmic law runs through and permeates all, so that what happens to one, great or small, advanced or unadvanced, evolved or unevolved, happens to everyone, to all.

You carve your own destiny; you make yourself what you are. What you are now is precisely what in past lives you have made yourself now to be; and what you will in the future be, you are now making yourself to become. You have will, and you exercise this will for your weal or for your woe, as you live your lives on earth and later in the invisible realms of the spaces of space. This is one more, and the second, of the secret causes of rebirth.

There is a third secret cause, and perhaps it is the most materially effectual; and this third cause resides in the bosom of each one of us. It is the thirst for material life, thirst for life on earth, hunger for the pastures and fields wherein once we wandered and which are familiar to us, which bring us back to earth again and again and again and again. It is this tṛishṇā, this tanhā, this “thirst” to return to familiar scenes that brings us back to earth — more effectual as an individual cause, perhaps, than all else.

The excarnate entity after death and before the return to rebirth on earth goes whither its sum total of yearnings, emotions, aspirations, direct it to go. It is the same even in human life on earth. A man will do his best to follow that career towards which he yearns or aspires; and when we cast this physical body off as a garment that has outworn its usefulness, we are attracted to those inner spheres and planes which during the life on earth last lived we had yearnings towards, aspirations towards. That is also precisely why we come back to this earth to bodies of flesh. It is the same rule but working in the opposite direction. We had material yearnings, material hungers and thirsts, latent as seeds in our character after death; and they finally bring us back to earth.

After death, the nobler, brighter, purer, sweeter seeds of character, the fruitage, the consequence, of our yearnings for beauty and for harmony and for peace, carry us into the realms where harmony and beauty and peace abide. And these realms are spheres just as earth is, but far more ethereal and far more beautiful, for the veils of matter are thinner, the sheaths of material substance there are not so thick as here. The eye of the spirit sees more clearly. Death releases us from one world, and we pass through the portals of change into another world, precisely as the inverse takes place when the incarnating soul leaves the realms of finer ether to come down to our own grosser and material earth life into the heavy body of physical matter.

The inner worlds to the entity passing through them, as it has passed through this world, are as real — more real in fact — than ours is, because it is nearer to them. They are more ethereal, and therefore are nearer to the ethereality of the eternal pilgrim passing through another stage on its ever- lasting journey towards perfection; and these changes take place one after another, before the next incarnation on the returning wheel of the cycle — the pilgrim passing from one sphere to another through the revolving centuries, ever going higher, to superior realms, until the topmost point of the cycle of that particular pilgrim’s journey is reached.

Therefore, fear not at all. All is well, for the heart of you is the universe, and the core of the core of you is the heart of the universe. As our glorious daystar sends forth in all directions its streams of rays, so does this heart of the universe, which is everywhere because nowhere in particular, constantly radiate forth streams of rays; and these rays are the entities which fill the universe full.


Chapter 3

Table of Contents

Theosophical Society Homepage