What is the exact state after death of a person who commits suicide to avoid present conditions? Does he remain in a temporary state before entering the rest due to one who has died a natural death?
G. de P. — Yes, a temporary state, and it depends upon the suicide's character as to just what kind of state this temporary state is. As ye sow, ye shall reap. All suicide is wrong, ethically and in every other way, for it is cowardice, it is shirking; and you know what happens to shirkers in life. As I have often said before, every human being is born with a certain magazine and reservoir of vitality; and the composite entity which is man holds together until that reservoir of vitality is exhausted. Then the composition breaks up. The spirit goes to Father-Sun; the reincarnating ego goes into its Devachan or heaven-world of unspeakable peace and bliss; and the lower parts break up and dissolve into their component atoms.
But in the case of a suicide, here is one, a human unfortunate, who, it may be harassed and wrung by sorrow and pain, in folly takes his life, thinking, blind man, that he can thwart Nature's purposes. He simply destroys the body, and all the man remains in the astral world in conditions which are at the very best the reverse of pleasant; and in the cases of evil suicides — men who suicide and who have also been extremely evil men — in their cases they are in a condition which is awful, for their whole consciousness is burning with all the unholy passions, hates, loves, fears, terrors, dreads, which caused them to commit suicide. They have no escape; in taking their own life they made the condition a thousandfold worse.
But there are suicides and suicides, and the individual case depends upon the individual suicide. That is all there is to it. The mental state in which the suicide was before he committed the act, continues in the astral world, but intensified tremendously. Of course the time will come when the reservoir of vitality will be exhausted; and then whatever of beauty and grandeur and spiritual light there was in the soul of the suicide, all this receives its recompense in the Devachan then. But suicide is cowardice, and this should not be forgotten.
What happens to those who are slain in battle?
G. de P. — I daresay that the questioner thinks there must be some identity in what happens to those who are slain in battle and suicides, merely because the death in each case is quick; but it is not so. It is the motive, in every instance of violent death, whether wilful suicide or murder, or death in battle or accident, which governs the post-mortem state. Those slain in battle sink into utter unconsciousness, for in them there is no stain of cowardice seeking to shirk the duty, as in the case of the suicide, and therefore no harrowing anxiety, no harrowing and corroding fears of life itself. Those slain in battle simply lapse into blissful unconsciousness and so remain until the reservoir of astral-physical vitality is exhausted. Then they enter the Devachan, the heaven-world. Nature is rigidly just in all her rules and actions, because she is rigidly compassionate. Compassion, remember, means law, harmony, regular procedures of cause and effect. The very heart of Nature's being is compassion. The man who dies in battle, and the man who gives his life to save the life of a brother, are very much the same. Unconsciousness, dreamless and inexpressibly sweet, that is what they receive until the reservoir of vitality is exhausted; then they enter the Devachan, or heaven-world, and therein remain in inexpressibly beautiful and blissful rest until the next reimbodiment on earth.
I have studied the technical Theosophical literature and understand that man is a composite being. Also, I have read about what happens to the sevenfold hierarchy "Man," when he dies, but has not Theosophy also an ethical side in regard to death, with love and compassion?
My question is: What consolation for the heart, what inspiring hope and courage, does Theosophy give to those who fear death, to the dying, to those who have lost their loved ones?
G. de P. — Theosophy teaches that death per se is not to be feared. It is a change to a better state, but only when death comes naturally. This questioner evidently has not read much of our Theosophical literature, wherein he would have been told that ethics are of the very essence of every doctrine that Theosophy has. Ethics are of the very structure of the Universe, for they mean harmony: that right is right, and that wrong is wrong, and that the correct thing is the correct thing, no matter when and where it is; also that the straight thing is the straight thing no matter where and when it is. The ethics of our teaching regarding death are what I have so often stated: That it is naught to fear; it is inexpressibly sweet, for it means ineffable rest, peace, bliss. When a man dies, he enters into the great Silence, just as happens when a man falls asleep and later awakens. These few words tell you the whole story, although none of the details of the story.
Do you remember what Robert Louis Stevenson wrote in his Requiem? He wrote this for his own grave, they say:
Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie;
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I lay me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
"Here he lies where he longed to be.
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill."
Ay, very beautiful, for in it the spirit of Robert Louis Stevenson spoke; but why did he say: "Dig the grave and let me lie." Don't you see here the old horrible thought that the man is his physical body? I would have written: "Dig the grave and let me go free." I, an incarnate energy of the Universe — can you keep me within a grave? I, a flaming intelligence, an imbodied spirit, can you enchain me within a coffin? Ay, the very bonds of the world are too small for me. My soul is native with the stars, and whether it be Canopus or Sirius, or Stella Polaris, there I dwell on familiar terms. There I belong. Free me! "Glad did I live, and gladly I die, and I lay me down with a will. This be the verse you grave for me. Hence he has gone, where he longed to be."
Take the case of one who dearly loved someone else on earth, and the one who loves, dies: Does the dead one who loved, continue to love?
G. de P. — A very natural question indeed. The very meaning, the very essence, of the heaven-world state, or Devachan, is bliss and love, because bliss and spiritual yearnings have as their main motive-power that abstract impersonal function or energy of the human spirit which we men call love. The Devachan signifies all that is beautiful and good and sweet and holy and true and clean and pure. Love is immortal; it continues always; and, mark you, the more one loves, of course impersonally, the nobler he becomes. I don't here mean the ordinary gross, passional love, for that can be even of the fires of hell. But I mean that inexpressibly sweet, divine flame which fills life with beauty, which instills thoughts of self-sacrifice for others. Love of that kind, impersonal love, is the very heart of the Universe. Therefore, I say, the one who loved and who died, loves still, for it is of the fabric of his soul.