The Key to Theosophy
The Key to Theosophy
On Postmortem and
Q. But if human self-consciousness survives death as a rule, why should there be exceptions?
A. In the fundamental principles of the spiritual world no exception is possible. But there are rules for those who see, and rules for those who prefer to remain blind.
Q. Quite so, I understand. This is but an aberration of the blind man, who denies the existence of the sun because he does not see it. But after death his spiritual eyes will certainly compel him to see. Is this what you mean?
A. He will not be compelled, nor will he see anything. Having persistently denied during life the continuance of existence after death, he will be unable to see it, because his spiritual capacity having been stunted in life, it cannot develop after death, and he will remain blind. By insisting that he must see it, you evidently mean one thing and I another. You speak of the spirit from the spirit, or the flame from the flame-of Atma, in short-and you confuse it with the human soul-Manas … You do not understand me; let me try to make it clear.
The whole gist of your question is to know whether, in the case of a downright materialist, the complete loss of self-consciousness and self-perception after death is possible? Isn't it so? I answer, it is possible. Because, believing firmly in our Esoteric Doctrine, which refers to the postmortem period, or the interval between two lives or births, as merely a transitory state, I say, whether that interval between two acts of the illusionary drama of life lasts one year or a million, that postmortem state may, without any breach of the fundamental law, prove to be just the same state as that of a man who is in a dead faint.
Q. But since you have just said that the fundamental laws of the after-death state admit of no exceptions, how can this be?
A. Nor do I say that it does admit of an exception. But the spiritual law of continuity applies only to things which are truly real. To one who has read and understood Mundakya Upanishad and Vedantasara all this becomes very clear. I will say more: it is sufficient to understand what we mean by Buddhi and the duality of Manas to gain a clear perception why the materialist may fail to have a self-conscious survival after death. Since Manas, in its lower aspect, is the seat of the terrestrial mind, it can, therefore, give only that perception of the Universe which is based on the evidence of that mind; it cannot give spiritual vision. It is said in the Eastern school, that between Buddhi and Manas (the Ego), or Isvara and Prajña *1) there is in reality no more difference thanbetween a forest and its trees, a lake and its waters,as the Mundakya teaches. One or hundreds of trees dead from loss of vitality, or uprooted, are yet incapable of preventing the forest from being still a forest.
1] But, as I understand it, Buddhi represents in this simile the forest, and Manas-Taijasi *2] the trees. And if Buddhi is immortal, how can that which is similar to it, i.e.,Manas-Taijasi , entirely lose its consciousness till the day of its new incarnation? I cannot understand it.
*1] Isvara is the collective consciousness of the manifested godhead, Brahma, i.e. the collective consciousness of the host of Dhyan Chohans (see Secret Doctrine); Prajña is their individual wisdom.
*2] Taijasi means the 'radiant', as a consequence of its union with Buddhi, i.e. Manas, the human soul, enlightened by the rays of the divine soul. Hence Manas-Taijasi can be described as radiant intellect, the human reason enlightened by the light of the spirit; and Buddhi-Manas is the revelation of the divine plus the human intellect and self-consciousness.
(These two footnotes reversely translated from Dutch.[ editor])
Q. But, as I understand it, Buddhi represents in this simile the forest and Manas-taijasi the trees. And if Buddha is immortal how can that which is similar to it i.e. Mana-taijasi entirely lose it consciousness till the day of its new incarnation ? I cannot understand it.
A. You cannot, because you will mix up an abstract representation of the whole with its casual changes of form. Remember that if it can be said of Buddhi-Manas that it is unconditionally immortal, the same cannot be said of the lower Manas, still less of Taijasi , which is merely an attribute. Neither of these, neither Manas nor Taijasi , can exist apart from Buddhi, the divine soul, because the first (Manas) is, in its lower aspect, a quality of the terrestrial personality, and the second (Taijasi ) is identical with the first, because it is the same Manas only with the light of Buddhi reflected on it. In its turn, Buddhi would remain only an impersonal spirit without this element which it borrows from the human soul, which conditions and makes of it, in this illusive Universe, as it were something separate from the universal soul for the whole period of the cycle of incarnation. Say rather that Buddhi-Manascan neither die nor lose its compound self-consciousness in Eternity, nor the recollection of its previous incarnations in which the two-i.e., the spiritual and the human soul-had been closely linked together. But it is not so in the case of a materialist, whose human soul not only receives nothing from the divine soul, but even refuses to recognize its existence. You can hardly apply this axiom to the attributes and qualities of the human soul, for it would be like saying that because your divine soul is immortal, therefore the bloom on your cheek must also be immortal; whereas this bloom, like Taijasi , is simply a transitory phenomenon.
Q. Do I understand you to say that we must not mix in our minds the noumenon with the phenomenon, the cause with its effect?
A. I do say so, and repeat that, limited to Manas or the human soul alone, the radiance of Taijas itself becomes a mere question of time; because both immortality and consciousness after death become, for the terrestrial personality of man, simply conditioned attributes, as they depend entirely on conditions and beliefs created by the human soul itself during the life of its body. Karma acts incessantly: we reap in our after-life only the fruit of that which we have ourselves sown in this.
Q. But if my Ego can, after the destruction of my body, become plunged in a state of entire unconsciousness, then where can be the punishment for the sins of my past life?
A. Our philosophy teaches that Karmic punishment reaches the Ego only in its next incarnation. After death it receives only the reward for the unmerited sufferings endured during its past incarnation.
(Some Theosophists have taken exception to this phrase, but the words are those of Master, and the meaning attached to the word unmerited is that given above. In the T.P.S. pamphlet No. 6, a phrase, criticized subsequently in Lucifer, was used which was intended to convey the same idea. In form, however, it was awkward and open to the criticism directed against it; but the essential idea was that men often suffer from the effects of the actions done by others, effects which thus do not strictly belong to their own Karma-and for these sufferings they of course deserve compensation.)
The whole punishment after death, even for the materialist, consists, therefore, in the absence of any reward, and the utter loss of the consciousness of one's bliss and rest. Karma is the child of the terrestrial Ego, the fruit of the actions of the tree which is the objective personality visible to all, as much as the fruit of all the thoughts and even motives of the spiritual "I"; but Karma is also the tender mother, who heals the wounds inflicted by her during the preceding life, before she will begin to torture this Ego by inflicting upon him new ones. If it may be said that there is not a mental or physical suffering in the life of a mortal which is not the direct fruit and consequence of some sin in a preceding existence; on the other hand, since he does not preserve the slightest recollection of it in his actual life, and feels himself not deserving of such punishment, and therefore thinks he suffers for no guilt of his own, this alone is sufficient to entitle the human soul to the fullest consolation, rest, and bliss in his postmortem existence. Death comes to our spiritual selves ever as a deliverer and friend. For the materialist who, notwithstanding his materialism, was not a bad man, the interval between the two lives will be like the unbroken and placid sleep of a child, either entirely dreamless, or filled with pictures of which he will have no definite perception; while for the average mortal it will be a dream as vivid as life, and full of realistic bliss and visions.
Q. Then the personal man must always go on suffering blindly the Karmic penalties which the Ego has incurred?
A. Not quite so. At the solemn moment of death every man, even when death is sudden, sees the whole of his past life marshaled before him, in its minutest details. For one short instant the personal becomes one with the individual and all-knowing Ego. But this instant is enough to show to him the whole chain of causes which have been at work during his life. He sees and now understands himself as he is, unadorned by flattery or self-deception. He reads his life, remaining as a spectator looking down into the arena he is quitting; he feels and knows the justice of all the suffering that has overtaken him.
Q. Does this happen to everyone?
A. Without any exception. Very good and holy men see, we are taught, not only the life they are leaving, but even several preceding lives in which were produced the causes that made them what they were in the life just closing. They recognize the law of Karma in all its majesty and justice.
Q. Is there anything corresponding to this before rebirth?
A. There is. As the man at the moment of death has a retrospective insight into the life he has led, so, at the moment he is reborn onto earth, the Ego,awaking from the state of Devachan, has a prospective vision of the life which awaits him, and realizes all the causes that have led to it. He realizes them and sees futurity, because it is between Devachan and rebirth that the Ego regains his full manasicconsciousness, and rebecomes for a short time the god he was, before, in compliance with Karmic law, he first descended into matter and incarnated in the first man of flesh. The "golden thread" sees all its "pearls" and misses not one of them.
Find answers to more questions
with these Theosophy links
Independent Theosophy Blog
One liners and quick explanations
About aspects of Theosophy
Classic Introductory Theosophy Text
A Text Book of Theosophy By C
Try these if you are looking for a
local Theosophy Group or Centre