Immortality is a word which stands for the stability or permanence of that unique and precious quality we discern in the soul, which, if lost, leaves nothing worth preservation in the world. — W. Macneil Dixon
"What a piece of work is man!" We are all souls on the way to recognizing and becoming the divine Self within: the magnitude of our whole nature is beyond our present comprehension, for we are to a large degree a mystery to ourselves and to one another. Human life is surrounded by mystery from the moment of conception to the wonder of death. Although seasoned travelers, having experienced countless births and deaths and rebirths on this planet, we have merely begun to scratch the surface of our complex being. We belong to the sun, moon, and stars, to the vast universe, and can embrace the immensity of it and universes beyond in our consciousness. Earth is our home base, so to speak, our center of learning and opportunity for the soul's expansion and awakenment, yet we should not forget that we are at home in many mansions. When we fall asleep we enter into a different awareness than our ordinary waking state, yet retain our identity, as we do after death, when the soul travels through many dimensions of experience.
With each incarnation we bear the fruits of past causes, while sowing new seeds which will find karmic harvest in this or some future life. Because as self-conscious beings we fashion our own destiny we must assume full responsibility for the quality of our thoughts and actions. We are a blend of physical, emotional, mental, psychological, and spiritual-intuitional energies, to name but a few, and the combination of negative and positive aspects of these varies with each individual. This duality is a spur to inner growth, and through conflicts and suffering we learn discernment, gain equilibrium, patience, and fortitude, awaken compassion for others, and all the necessary qualities for our further evolution. As the seed holds the promise of the plant to be, so we have latent potentials within that hold the promise of the illumined human being we will one day become.
The words of Jesus provide a key to our spiritual destiny: "I (the Christ spirit or divinity) am the way, the truth, and the life." Each one of us is the pathway to our divine source. There is a paradox here, because divinity permeates all but must be pursued individually; only through each one's effort and readiness will the "way" become evident.
Central to us is our divine Self, our "Father within," or Guardian Angel, that is with us in death as in life. It is a guiding light, a source of strength and wisdom, the Warrior that is continually prodding us to make the bigger, less personal choices. How do we become aware of it? For each one the answer may be different. Sometimes it is a feeling of peace and reassurance that steals in on one in the silence, and with it comes faith in the presence of a protective force beyond our ordinary understanding.
Knowledge of the enduring spirit and the continuity of existence brings a broader vision and sense of purpose into our lives. It reduces fear of death by letting us see the experience as following the universal pattern, a rest time of assimilation and inner fulfillment rather than a finality; it strengthens confidence in our true Self and in the realness of others rather than focusing on the personality; and replaces despair and futility with optimism and hope. Sincere commitment to spiritual principles makes the difference between merely existing or automatically reacting to circumstances, and living with selfless motivation and inner awareness. Such is the justice of karma that we receive from every experience the quality of what we bring to it.
It is difficult to understand how one can believe that we come to an abrupt end after one life, when everything around us, in all of nature's kingdoms, reveals the beauty of the divine urgency of life to express itself. Of what value are our struggles and triumphs, sufferings and joys, complex natures, when we are still such unfinished expressions of our true humanhood? It would be a mockery if all our efforts, all our deepest aspirations, close associations with those we love, and accomplishments, were for naught or were to come to no resolution at some future time.
Through the centuries intuitive writers have left a legacy of reflections reminding us of our spiritual heritage. The poet Wordsworth was convinced from childhood of preexistence and of the immortality of the soul, and felt impelled to preface his "Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" with these observations:
Nothing was more difficult for me in childhood than to admit the notion of death as a state applicable to my own being. . . .
. . . But it was not so much from feelings of animal vivacity that my difficulty came as from a sense of the indomitableness of the Spirit within me. . . . I was often unable to think of external things as having external existence, and I communed with all that I saw as something not apart from, but inherent in, my own immaterial nature. . . .
All too soon, a child's hopes and dreams, spontaneous joy and imagination, "fade into the light of common day," buried within the confining walls of doubt and fixed mental patterns that often come with maturing years. Sometimes, however, as in the case of Wordsworth, great artists and thinkers through the ages, and others who retain glimmerings of their youthful reveries, those shadowy recollections are "a master light of all our seeing, . . . which nothing can utterly abolish or destroy." There is no question but that the childhood state, close to the heart of life, is an important phase of human experience and, when rightly nurtured, leads to richer insights and greater freedom of thought in the adult years. It also reveals more transparently our spiritual orientation as human beings, as well as giving obvious indication of the contradictory elements in us that seek to gain the upper hand. At the other end of the scale the elderly who have given of themselves to worthwhile endeavors, reflect their inner light as the body grows frail and the mind is enjoying the distilled essence of experience while gradually withdrawing from inconsequential things. Birth and death, coming at the beginning and ending of a life's sojourn, are transitions between worlds which evoke feelings of the sacredness of the soul and intimations of invisible influences that shape our lives.
The path of self-discovery is at best a rough road, different for each of us. Yet as we become more aware of our multi-leveled nature and its conflicting elements, we begin to discriminate between negative desires and thoughts on a purely emotional level and the more unselfish ones, between the personality and the individuality, between the physical senses and the more penetrating perceptions of the higher mind and intuition, and the wisdom of the heart.
Victor Hugo's lovely verse appeals to the eternal hope in each of us:
Be as the bird that in its flight
Lighteth on bough too slight,
Feels it give way beneath it,
Yet sings, knowing it hath wings.
In liberating our mind and emotions, the soul, like a bird released from its cage, is free to wing its way into the regions of the real Self, and beyond.
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1990. Copyright © 1990 by Theosophical University Press)