The Path – August 1895

ETERNAL LIFE AND ETERNAL PUNISHMENT — W. E. Copeland

Perhaps no other words are more frequently on the lips of Christians than the words which head this article. And yet without the aid of Theosophy they cannot be correctly interpreted. The word translated "eternal" or "everlasting" is a Greek word, aionios, and should be translated "age-lasting." Without a study of Oriental literature or of Theosophy, it is impossible to know what this word means. The Orientals — and we must always remember that Jesus was an Oriental and was speaking to Orientals — firmly believed in the doctrine of cycles, of births, deaths and re-births as applying not only to men but to Universes or Kosmoi as well. The Hindus called an aeon or age a "Manvantara" or "Manifestation." They tell us of the day of Brahm, when there is a Manvantara, when Brahm objectivizes himself, and a night of Brahm, when the Manvantara ends, all manifestation ceases, and the objective becomes subjective, disappearing into the Absolute; to be followed as it had been preceded, by other days and nights of Brahm. These appearances, lasting millions of years but having a beginning and an end, are the (aeons spoken of in the New Testament, and will not bear the translation either of "eternal" or of "everlasting." When we remember that in the time of Jesus the doctrine of reincarnation was very generally accepted and evidently was believed by Jesus himself, we can the more readily perceive the meaning of everlasting punishment. It is age-lasting, and ends with the Manvantara, because with the close of the objective period there will be no more bodies into which to be reborn, and no longer an earth on which to live the physical life.

Age-lasting life and age-lasting punishment shall end, so far as Jesus has anything to say about time; but life has in it a quality wanting in punishment or in death. The punishment ends with the age, but the life must continue through the sleep of Brahm, as the life of a seed or of a plant continues through the winter with no conscious manifestation; but as with the summer manifestation begins, so when a new aeon or Manvantara begins, then the life starts a new series of manifestations on a higher plane of consciousness.

But that entity which has not come into the full light, has not risen to the plane of divine consciousness, or in Scripture language "does not know God," which leads the selfish life of separateness thinking only of the objective life, — such a one under the law of Karma reaps what it sows, and must be reincarnated again and again through the aeon, receiving suffering disappointments, what seem to us punishments; and these experiences will last during the aeon. The earth-bound soul afflicted by the ever-changing earth-life, suffers during the aeon; but with the disappearance of that which caused the sorrow it ceases to suffer and, with a new cycle of manifestation, starts again to reach the plane of divine consciousness which all human beings will sometime reach.

Just as there is mineral, vegetable, animal, and human consciousness, so there is spiritual, angelic, and divine consciousness; as there are planes of consciousness below the human, so are there planes above. When we have risen to those above we are independent of time and space: then have we come to know that love of God which is in Christ, from which Paul says "that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature can separate us."


The Path

THEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE