[Article published in The Theosophist for October 1881. The page has marginal comments in K. H.'s writing which are printed here in brackets in the text of the article. Passages in bold type italics have been underlined by K. H. — Ed.]
Death is the necessary dissolution of imperfect combinations [of the 1. 2. 3d. 4. 5th]. It is the re-absorption of the rough outline of individual [the personality or the personal Ego] life into the great work of universal life; only the perfect [the 6th and 7th principles] is immortal.
It is a bath in oblivion [until the hour of remembrance]. It is the fountain of youth where on one side plunges old age, and whence on the other issues infancy.(1)
(1) Rebirth of the Ego after death. The Eastern, and especially Buddhistic doctrine of the evolution of the new, out of the old Ego. — Ed. Theos.
Death is the transfiguration of the living; corpses are but the dead leaves of the Tree of Life which will still have all its leaves in the spring [in the language of the Kabalist "Spring" means the beginning of that state when the Ego reaches its omniscience]. The resurrection [the Chaldean "resurrection in life eternal" borrowed by the Xtians means resurrection in Nirvana] of men resembles eternally these leaves.
Perishable forms are conditioned by immortal types.
All who have lived upon earth, live there still in new exemplars of their types, but the souls which have surpassed their type receive elsewhere a new form based upon a more perfect type, as they mount ever on the ladder of worlds;(2) the bad exemplars are broken, and their matter returned into the general mass.(3)
(2) From one lokka to the other; from a positive world of causes and activity, to a negative world of effects and passivity. — Ed. Theos.
(3) Into Cosmic matter, when they necessarily lose their self-consciousness or individuality, [their Monad 6th and 7th principles] or are annihilated, as the Eastern Kabalists say. — Ed. Theos.
Our souls are as it were a music, of which our bodies are the instruments. The music exists without the instruments, but it cannot make itself heard without a material intermediary [hence spirit cannot communicate]; the immaterial can neither be conceived nor grasped.
Man in his present existence only retains certain predispositions from his past existences. [Karma.]
Evocations of the dead are but condensations of memory, the imaginary coloration of the shades. To evoke those who are no longer there, is but to cause their types to re-issue from the imagination of nature.(4)
(4) To ardently desire to see a dead person is to evoke the image of that person, to call it forth from the astral light or ether wherein rest photographed the images of the Past. That is what is being partially done in the seance-rooms. The Spiritualists are unconscious Necromancers. — Ed. Theos.
To be in direct communication with the imagination of nature, one must be either asleep, intoxicated, in an ecstasy, cataleptic, or mad. [And to be in direct communication with the intelligence of Nature one must become an Adept.]
The eternal memory preserves only the imperishable; all that passes in Time belongs of right to oblivion.
The preservation of corpses is a violation of the laws of nature; it is an outrage on the modesty of death, which hides the works of destruction, as we should hide those of reproduction. Preserving corpses is to create phantoms in the imagination of the earth (5) [we never bury our dead. They are burnt or left above the earth.]; the spectres of the nightmare, of hallucination, and fear, are but the wandering photographs of preserved corpses [their reflections in the astral light]. It is these preserved or imperfectly destroyed corpses, which spread, amid the living, plague, colera, contagious diseases, sadness, scepticism and disgust of life.(6) Death is exhaled by death. The cemeteries poison the atmosphere of towns, and the miasma of corpses blight the children even in the bosoms of their mothers.
(5) To intensify these images in the astral or sidereal light. — Ed. Theos.
(6) People begin intuitionally to realise the great truth, and societies for burning bodies and crematories are now started in many places in Europe. — Ed. Theos.
Near Jerusalem in the Valley of Gehenna a perpetual fire was maintained for the combustion of filth and the carcasses of animals, and it is to this eternal fire that Jesus alluded when he says that the wicked shall be cast into Gehenna; signifying that dead souls will be treated as corpses.
The Talmud says that the souls of those who have not believed in immortality will not become immortal. It is faith only which gives personal immortality (7) [in the Deva-Chan the Ego sees and feels but that which he longed for. He who cares not for a continuation of sentient personal life after physical death will not have it. He will be reborn remaining unconscious as in the transition]; science and reason can only affirm the general immortality.
(7) Faith and will-power. Immortality is conditional, as we have ever stated. It is the reward of the pure and good. The wicked man, the material sensualist, only survives. He who appreciates but physical pleasures will not and cannot live in the hereafter as a self-conscious Entity. — Ed. Theos.
The mortal sin is the suicide of the soul. This suicide would occur if the man devoted himself to evil with the full strength of his mind, with a perfect knowledge of good and evil, and an entire liberty of action which seems impossible in practice, but which is possible in theory, because the essence of an independent personality is an unconditioned liberty. The divinity imposes nothing upon man, not even existence. Man has a right to withdraw himself even from the divine goodness, and the dogma of eternal Hell is only the assertion of eternal free-will.
God precipitates no one into Hell. It is men who can go there freely, definitely and by their own choice.
Those who are in Hell, that is to say, amid the gloom of evil (8) and the sufferings of the necessary punishment, without having absolutely so willed it, are called to emerge from it. This Hell is for them only a purgatory. The damned completely, absolutely and without respite, is Satan who is not a rational existence, but a necessary hypothesis.
(8) That is to say, they are reborn in a "lower world" which is neither "hell" nor any theological purgatory, but a world of nearly absolute matter and one preceding the last one in the "circle of necessity" from which "there is no redemption, for there reigns absolute spiritual darkness" ("Book of Khiu-te"). — Ed. Theos.
N. I.* Satan is the last word of the creation. He is the end infinitely emancipated. He willed to be like God of which he is the opposite. God is the hypothesis necessary to II.* reason, Satan the hypothesis necessary to unreason asserting itself as free-will. [That which I have marked with red pencil are all seeming contradictions but they are not.]
*See corresponding marks on pp. 374-5. — ED.
To be immortal [As a rule the Hermetists, when using the word "immortality," limit its duration from the beginning to the end of the minor cycle. The deficiencies of their respective languages cannot be visited upon them. One could not well say a semi-immortality. The ancients called it "panaeonic eternity" from the words, [[pan]] — all, or nature and [[aion]], a period of time which had no definite limit, except for the initiates. See dictionaries — an aeon is the period of time during which a person lives, the period during which the universe endures, and also — eternity. It was a "mystery word" and was purposely veiled] in good, one must identify oneself with God; to be immortal in evil, with Satan. These are the two poles of the world of souls; between these two poles vegetate and die without remembrance the useless portion of mankind.
[Editor's note. — This may seem incomprehensible to the average reader, for it is one of the most abstruse of the tenets of Occult [Western.] doctrine. Nature is dual; there is a physical and material side, as there is a spiritual and moral side to it; and, there is both good and evil in it, the latter the necessary shadow to its light. To force oneself upon the current of immortality, or rather to secure for oneself an endless series of rebirths as conscious individualities — says the "Book of Khiu-te" volume xxxi, [chapter III] one must become a co-worker with nature, either for good or for bad, in her work of creation and reproduction, or in that of destruction.[This sentence refers to the two kinds of the initiates — the adepts and the sorcerers.] It is but the useless drones, which she gets rid of, violently ejecting and making them perish by the millions [one of her usual exaggerations] as [self-conscious entities [two useless words]]. Thus, while the good and the pure strive to reach Nipang (Nirvana or that state of absolute existence and absolute consciousness — which, in the world of finite perceptions, is non-existence and non-consciousness) — the wicked will seek, on the contrary, a series of lives as conscious, definite existences or beings, perferring to be ever suffering under the law of retributive justice [Karma] rather than give up their lives as portions of the integral, universal whole. Being well aware that they can never hope to reach the final rest in pure spirit, or Nirvana, they cling to life in any form [thro' mediums who have existed everywhere in every age], rather than give up that "desire for life," or Tanha which causes a new aggregation of Skandas or individuality to be reborn.* Nature is as good a mother to the cruel bird of prey as she is to the harmless dove. Mother Nature will punish her child, but since he has become her co-worker for destruction she cannot eject him. [Not during the aeon, if they but know how to force her. But it is a life of torture and eternal hatred. If you believe in us how can you disbelieve in them?] There are thoroughly wicked and depraved men, yet as highly intellectual and acutely spiritual for evil, as those who are spiritual for good. [The Brothers of the shadow.] The Egos of these may escape the law of final destruction or annihilation for ages to come. [The majority have to go out of this planet into the eighth as she calls it. But the highest will live till the very threshold of the final Nirvana.] That is what Eliphas Levi means by becoming "immortal in evil," through identification with Satan. "I would thou wert cold or hot," says the vision of the Revelation to St. John (III. 15-16). "So then because thou art, lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." The Revelation is an absolutely Kabalistic book. Heat and cold are the two "poles," i.e. good and evil, spirit and matter. Nature spues the "lukewarm" or "the useless portion of mankind" out of her mouth i.e. annihilates them. This conception that a considerable portion of mankind may after all not have immortal souls, will not be new even to European readers. Coleridge himself likened the case to that of an oak tree bearing, indeed, millions of acorns, but acorns of which under nominal [normal] conditions not one in a thousand ever developed into a tree, and suggested that as the majority of the acorns failed to develop into a new living tree, so possibly the majority of men fail to develop into a new living entity after this earthly death.]
*Read note on pages attached.
Satan is merely a type, not a real personage.
II. It is the type opposed to the Divine type, the necessary foil to this in our imagination. It is the factitious shadow which renders visible to us the infinite light of the Divine.
If Satan was a real personage then would there be two Gods, and the creed of the Manicheans would be a truth.
Satan is the imaginary conception of the absolute in evil; a conception necessary to the complete affirmation of the liberty of the human will, which, by the help of this imaginary absolute seems able to equilibrate the entire power even of God. It is the boldest, and perhaps, the sublimest of the dreams of human pride.
"You shall be as Gods knowing good and evil," saith the allegorical serpent in the Bible. Truly to make evil a science is to create a God of evil, and if any spirit can eternally resist God, there is no longer one God but two Gods.
To resist the Infinite, infinite force is necessary, and two infinite forces opposed to each other must neutralise each other.(9) If resistance on the part of Satan is possible the power of God no longer exists, God and the Devil destroy each other, and man remains alone; he remains alone with the phantom of his Gods, the hybrid sphynx, the winged bull, which poises in its human hand a sword of which the wavering lightenings drive the human imagination from one error to the other, and from the despotism of the light, to the despotism of the darkness.
(9) And evil being infinite and eternal, for it is coeval with matter, the logical deduction would be that there is neither God nor Devil — as personal Entities, only One Uncreated, Infinite, Immutable and Absolute Principle or Law: Evil or Devil — the deeper it falls into matter, Good or God as soon as it is purified from the latter and re-becomes again pure unalloyed Spirit or the Absolute in its everlasting, immutable Subjectivity. [True.] — Ed. Theos.
The history of mundane misery is but the romance of the war of the Gods, a war still unfinished, while the Christian world still adores a God in the Devil, and a Devil in God.
The antagonism of powers is anarchy in Dogma. N. I. Thus to the church which affirms that the Devil exists the world replies with a terrifying logic: then God does not exist; and it is vain to seek escape from this argument to invent the supremacy of a God who would permit a Devil to bring about the damnation of men; such a permission would be a monstrosity, and would amount to complicity, and the god that could be an accomplice of the devil, cannot be God.
The Devil of Dogmas is a personification of Atheism. The Devil of Philosophy is the exaggerated ideal of human free-will. The real or physical Devil is the magnetism of evil.
Raising the Devil is but realising for an instant this imaginary personality. This involves the exaggeration in oneself beyond bounds of the perversity of madness by the most criminal and senseless acts.
The result of this operation is the death of the soul through madness, and often the death of the body even, lightning-struck, as it were, by a cerebral congestion.
The Devil ever importunes, but nothing ever gives in return. St. John calls it "the Beast" (la Bete) because its essence is human folly (la Betise humaine).