In death we tread familiar soil, possibly soil even more familiar than that of physical imbodiment! Why then do we fear death? Because most people's fear is based not on what they know, for general knowledge on the subject is negligible, but on the terror-breeding bogeys men's minds have entertained for several centuries, ever since ignorance about the states of consciousness we call death usurped the place in men's hearts once held by the teachings of the Mystery-Schools and their graduate-Initiates.
It is the false ideas we have about it that foster our fear of death, and singularly enough, this psychological bias is limited almost entirely to the most "civilized" people. The more primitive races look upon death as a highly honored guest, with awe, it is true, but without fear.
Lately, however, the age-old tides of thought have returned to the West in the teachings of Theosophy, and here and there in literature, art, and drama, these truths of antiquity are echoed, as in Two Epitaphs by Margaret Sackville:
So like to Heaven, my Earth — I seem to tread
Familiar soil, being what men call dead.
And, since I lived adoring, death to me
Is but a mood of finer ecstasy.
The first step done
My swift feet run
Firmer and fleeter;
And, like a verse,
Old songs I now rehearse
To a new metre.
Briefly and poetically these lines express the Theosophical teaching that man's dominant state of mind during his physical life sets his condition in the spheres of death. In other words, the physically released man is the same bundle of consciousness in death that he was in life. Therefore his experiences are a continued reverberation of himself, intensified and accelerated because untrammeled. For the average person, the change is one of degree and tempo only. The "new metre" even, is regulated by our own dominant attitude at the time we leave the purely material realm. Are not all the events of life similarly affected by our approach to them?
The skeptic who refuses to countenance aught but the material, by that very contention immerses his higher than material consciousness in oblivion. No spiritual or ethereal contacts can broach his aloofness in life or in death until he changes his outlook. For him there can be no compensatory adjustment between the ideal and the real.
The querulous and fearful deny themselves the soul stimulation of a vital participation in the wondrous drama of Life both here and hereafter, while their lack of confidence limits future creative potentiality. Life urges us towards growth, encourages us to dare to be. It is the fruition of ripening that gives the bloom to the peach: the conscious fulfilment of consummated life that brings joy to the soul. He who shirks, dallies by the way, but cannot evade the issue, or as the proverb has it, "He who fears death lives not."
The evil individual continues in his wickedness in death and suffers; the righteous remains at peace with his world and rejoices; and the indifferent skims the surface of life and reaps no satisfaction anywhere. As in life so is it in death, only more so.
A few there are, whose unsophisticated, intuitive minds have been touched by the presaging radiance of death, as was the young airman who wrote, before going out on his last patrol: ". . . . I have no fear of death, only a queer elation. . . . I would have it no other way. . . ."
These may have no technical knowledge about the states of death, but for them the perfect sleep of death will be long and true — "a finer ecstasy" in fact. They will reach towards an ever deepening freedom of kinship with their own and all that is. Theirs will be a creative part in shaping this world far nearer to their spirits" purposes, a giving of themselves to causes as grand as they are universal. These it is who will some day return to make this world what it might be today were men's hearts and minds attuned to the laws of the Universe.
This Earth which is "so like to Heaven" is also like to Hell! Yet to it as one of the classrooms in the University of the human soul we owe fealty, the while intellectually and spiritually our allegiance soars to far nobler, because more harmoniously evolved, realms. In them we live adoring always whether we realize it or not, for they too are familiar soil, being the home of our spiritual natures as Earth is our physical mother.
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE