The Theosophical Forum – April 1943


This series of Theosophical radio broadcasts from Shanghai, China, was given over station XQHB during 1941 by Miss Inga Sjostedt and Miss Elsa-Brita Bergqvist. The first nine of these appeared in 1942 in the Forum, and we now continue the series. The present one by Inga Sjostedt deals with the very important subject of the after-death states.

Good evening, everybody:

We have spoken a good deal about the different phases of life, personal and impersonal, and in order to complete the teaching it is necessary to describe also that state of life which we call Death.

Materialists of all denominations say boldly that there is no such thing as life after death. They say that such a belief is unscientific, because science has not yet produced for public inspection the atoms and molecules of an immortal soul. They say also, more or less, that we human beings are physical machines, held together by the principle of life, presumably, and that when we die this machine breaks up and disintegrates into its component physical elements. Now, during life this physical machine transmits thoughts and emotions, acts, and impulses, ideas that sometimes shake the world: and we must ask ourselves, Where do all these invisible energies, mental, psychical and spiritual, go when we die? It is not enough to say that they die with the body. Nothing in the universe can ever be lost; all things go somewhere. The body, for instance, disintegrates after death, but it does not vanish. It only changes. Therefore our thoughts, feelings, passions, dreams, ideals, intellectual inspiration, must also go somewhere. They cannot vanish into nothing, and logic itself thus points to a survival of the invisible man after death.

Then we have the belief which is based on blind, unreasoning faith, which is that the soul goes into a state of eternal, changeless bliss, or eternal, changeless misery after death. If we look at any living entity, however small or immense, we see at once that the outstanding thing about Life is the principle of movement or motion — and therefore change.

How, then, when all the world is continually changing every second of time, can we suppose that an entity after death can remain in a perpetual state that never changes throughout eternity? A heaven of this kind would be both depressing and monotonous. However good and virtuous a man may be, he nevertheless knows that he is a long way from perfection, and if we died today and were transferred to a region of perpetual bliss, our natural instinct would be to perfect ourselves, to learn more of the conditions there, and to evolve our capacities, to grow spiritually. Therefore, the teaching about a final heaven or hell is not logical or satisfying to thoughtful minds.

And now let us contrast the two beliefs I have briefly outlined with the teaching of the Esoteric Wisdom. First of all, we should not really speak of life and death as two opposites. It would be more correct to say that birth and death are the two phases of life, two natural events which take place in life. We should no more shrink with horror when we speak of death than we do when we speak of a birth. Death, according to the occultists, is the birth of the soul into spiritual regions, and is therefore a beautiful and inspiring adventure for the ego which has lived a decent and unselfish life on earth.

According to the Archaic Wisdom death is to the physical life what sleep is to the waking state. Death is a perfect sleep: sleep an imperfect death. Our dreams, when we are asleep, are colored by the thoughts, emotions, memories and actions of our waking life; and our death-state is identically colored by our state of consciousness as it had been during life. Nothing comes from without ourselves — only from within, from the depths of our individual consciousness. If our waking life is full of anxieties, unsolved problems, acts and thoughts that are unworthy of our better selves, our dreams are troubled, unhappy, and sometimes frightful. If our waking existence is peaceful and harmonious, unselfish and courageous, our dreams are beautiful and peaceful. The science of psychoanalysis, although it deals only with the lower mind, knows very well that a man's dreams reveal his inner life. On a bigger scale, it is the same with life and death. As we live, so must our state after death be. The evil man suffers when he dies, because of all his unsatisfied passions, his selfishness, and meanness; the average man suffers a little at first, until he has exhausted the evil in his nature, and then experiences just such happy dreams as his earth-life has merited. The noble, unselfish and truly great man leads an after-death existence which is as sublime and beautiful as his own consciousness can comprehend. The average man could not enjoy a truly noble heaven-state as it would be completely beyond him; nor could the evil man. It would be like taking an uneducated man to a library of poetical and philosophical books, or to a concert of classical music, or to a picture gallery of famous paintings. He would not appreciate these things, because such appreciation would not be in him.

According to the Theosophical teachings the after-death experiences of a man are really different states of consciousness, dreams, if you like, and not realities; but just as the dreams we dream at night seem utterly real to us, so do these dreams after death seem completely real to the dreamer. We build up a "heaven-state" in which we see and are together with the people we loved most on earth, and realize our frustrated aspirations and ideals, but they are only real to our own imagination, for the people we imagine we are with, may not be dead at the time when we are, and therefore cannot be with us.

When a man dies he first of all discards the lowest of his vehicles, the physical body. He is then a complete man, with all his good and bad impulses, habits and characteristics, minus the physical envelope. He then proceeds to exhaust the lower emotional and mental energy which he has acquired during life. It is a process of discarding, of purification, and it is this ancient mystical teaching which has given rise to the Roman Catholic teaching of Purgatory — an intermediate state between heaven and hell. This state is not a pleasant one, as it means the free expression of all one's lower instincts, selfish impulses and weaknesses of character. When the energy of this lower personality is exhausted then there occurs the so-called "second death," when the ego frees itself from its lower personality, discards it like an old unwanted garment, and then, purified and spiritual, enters the state of felicity, or heaven as a Christian would say. This state is the dream-world of the happy ego, where all the highest and noblest impulses and aspirations, the unselfish love, compassion and impersonal ideals of the former man, find expression. All that the ego wanted in life and could not attain, is realized at last — but, as said before, this "heaven" is spun out of the ego's own consciousness and is merely a state, not a locality in space.

Some modern spiritualists believe that a departed ego can watch over those it left behind on earth, but Theosophy says that this is contradictory to proved fact, as the seers and adepts of all ages have testified after personal experience. Just as, when we dream, we are not conscious of our waking life, in the same way we cannot be conscious of earth-life when we are dead. Among other things, it would be a veritable hell for a watching spirit to see those it loved on earth going through experiences of suffering and misery, and making human mistakes with unfortunate consequences.

That which the spiritualists suppose to be the soul of their "dear departed" is only the discarded lower mental and emotional shell of the ego after the Second Death. It is an automaton, a psychic gramophone record of thoughts and feelings and memories of the dead man. The real ego is enjoying its spiritual rest and is totally unconscious of the earth. Or it sometimes happens that the spirit of an evil and earth-bound man, which cannot rise above the pull of the earth, drifts into a seance-room and finds vicarious life through the medium and the sitters. No pure human spirit will descend from its heaven-world. It very rarely happens that a pure and spiritual medium rises to the sphere of the departed soul.

Unfortunately it sometimes happens that a man is so evil and materialistic that he has not accumulated a store of spiritual experiences when he dies. Such a man spends his after-death state in the region nearest to the earth, that which corresponds to the purgatory of Christianity, and after an unhappy and intensely restless existence there, he is reborn much more quickly than a spiritually developed ego. He has only himself to blame. Heaven and hell are within us, and it is only natural attraction which draws us to the one or the other state.

The average ego, after its state of felicity in its imaginary heaven, which lasts sometimes for thousands of years; after exhausting its store of ideal and beautiful spiritual energy, is automatically attracted to the earth again. It passes through all the different planes of being, gradually reassembling its different characteristics, mental, psychical and even physical, and, strengthened and refreshed, it is reborn on earth, where it continues to weave its web of destiny in the circumstances best suited to its tendencies and urges. An old soul has come back to earth in a new body.

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