The Theosophical Forum – September 1945

WHAT IS DEATH? — Mary Peyton

When global war, the most widely destructive in recorded history, has so tragically bereft countless millions in every corner of the earth, solace may be found in the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom. These teachings have their origin in the very beginning of time: hence they have ever been and always shall be. They never differ in any age or country, whether enunciated by Gautama Buddha of India, Jesus of Syria, Lao-Tse of China. These great spiritual teachers and lesser ones know the true meaning of life and death — one Truth through all eternity. The bereaved and stricken human heart may discover consolation and encouragement and understanding in these echoes of the Ancient Wisdom. — M. P.

We grow toward knowledge that in the great economy of Nature a soul born here comes as a guest out of far realms in eternity: a guest of whose past we know nothing but that it has lived through the ages: and abides here for a while, and goes.

Whither? When we brood on that which is immortal in ourselves the answer comes back to us out of the Living Silence, and we know that life is eternal and death but a stepping forth into larger fields of life.

When one we love is so released we are given opportunity to realize the majesty of the Higher Law, whose manifestation then is so close to us; and deep in our hearts we know that we are deathless. From this heart-knowledge we know that the released one goes not unprotected, not without companionship; for it is the Knower, it is the Great Warrior, it is the Eternal Self that is there with him: and the Soul arises in the power of its divinity and knows no fear nor pain.

As Nature works in her unseen processes, so does the Soul set free. It seeks its own: not at some point in space, but in a condition in which, freed from the body, it may gain strength and knowledge. The great onward march is before it; not what it knew here but greater. On its journey the Soul forges upward, advancing and expanding.

Only the mortal body dies. Man dies from one world and is born into another. It is not possible to separate death from birth; the two always occur together, like coming and going. A Celtic poet has written: "There is great serenity in the thought of death when it is known to be the Gate of Life."

The eternal, living, breathing, spiritual force out of the Supreme, out of the ages, lives on and on, carries the divine soul through different schools of experience to higher states of consciousness and service.

A human spirit is a deathless entity; it is part of the very fabric of the Life Universal in its inmost parts; and this spirit of man, this inner being, this spiritual soul, is pursuing an eternal pilgrimage in space, infinite in space and eternal in time. It passes from mansion to mansion of life, not only in this cross-section of the physical universe which our imperfect eyes can see, but most especially in the invisible realms, in the spiritual worlds. The spirit of man, an eternal pilgrim, learns eternally, going higher and higher and higher to something still more lofty and sublime.

Death is birth, birth. After death the nobler, brighter, purer seeds of character, the fruitage, the consequence, of our yearnings for beauty and for harmony and for peace, carry us into realms where harmony and beauty and peace abide. In death the worn-out garment of the body is cast aside, and the eternal pilgrim passes into a perfect sleep, a perfect rest. The repose is utterly beautiful, utterly blissful, filled with glorious and magnificent dreams, and with hopes which now are realized in the consciousness of the spiritual being. This dreaming condition is a panorama of the fulfilment of all our noblest hopes and of all our dreams of unrealized spiritual yearnings, a consummation of them in glory and bliss and perfect completion and plenitude.

Of a surety Nature is entirely beneficent and the Divine Law merciful. When overburdened with sorrow, we are often made aware of this everlasting truth. In an ancient scripture it is written: "In the day of my trouble I will call upon Thee: for Thou wilt answer me." There is that within us which hears the answer: we are bound eternally to those we truly love. The dead are with us in a very real sense; they know our thoughts and feelings, and respond. In the silent places of our hearts where the deepest and tenderest memories abide, a real communication takes place. All that really belongs to us is ours forever; somewhere, somehow, someday, we shall again be with the absent ones we love.

For love is the holiest thing known to human beings. Love holds all things in place and in eternal keeping; its very nature is celestial Peace, its very characteristic is cosmic Harmony, permeating all things, boundless, deathless, infinite, eternal.

— Arranged from Theosophical sources by Mary Peyton

Theosophical University Press Online Edition