An old and very dear friend of mine passed away today. I had the privilege of holding his hand while he was crossing over. I watched his body take its last breath while I was simultaneously keeping an eye on an artery in his neck that was pulsating all the time up till then. While I was watching this artery slowly stopping its dance of life, I was thinking what a wonderful machine we have in the human body that is equipped with a pump that never misses a heartbeat for the entire life of a human being. In my friend's case it was for 74 years and 23 days. Absolutely wonderful! Nothing can beat nature; everything comes and goes and everything is on time. The circle of life is completed for my friend and it gives me great pleasure that another son of man has done his time here and gone home after a battle well fought. Another prodigal son has found the way back to the house of his father [spirit].
The death of my friend prompted me to share some of the knowledge about death, that I have come across in my studies, with more people. I think not enough people are aware of the following facts yet. [I shared this knowledge with my friend not long before his passing, so he was well prepared.]
Let us first of all define this mysterious process to which all forms are subject and which is frequently only the dreaded end—dreaded because it is not understood. The mind of man is so little developed that fear of the unknown, terror of the unfamiliar, and attachment to form have brought about a situation where one of the most beneficent occurrences in the life cycle of an incarnating Son of God is looked upon as something to be avoided and postponed for as long a time as possible.
Death, if we could but realise it, is one of our most practised activities. We have died many times and shall die again and again. Death is essentially a matter of consciousness. We are conscious one moment on the physical plane, and a moment later we have withdrawn onto another plane and are actively conscious there. Just as long as our consciousness is identified with the form aspect, death will hold for us its ancient terror. Just as soon as we know ourselves to be souls, and find that we are capable of focussing our consciousness or sense of awareness in any form or on any plane at will, or in any direction within the form of God, we shall no longer know death.
Death for the average man is the cataclysmic end, involving the termination of all human relations, the cessation of all physical activity, the severing of all signs of love and of affection, and the passage (unwilling and protesting) into the unknown and the dreaded. It is analogous to leaving a lighted and a warmed room, friendly and familiar, where our loved ones are assembled, and going out into the cold and dark night, alone and terror stricken, hoping for the best and sure of nothing.
But people are apt to forget that every night, in the hours of sleep, we die to the physical plane and are alive and functioning elsewhere. They forget that they have already achieved facility in leaving the physical body; because they cannot as yet bring back into the physical brain consciousness the recollection of that passing out, and of the subsequent interval of active living, they fail to relate death and sleep. Death, after all, is only a longer interval in the life of physical plane functioning; one has only "gone abroad" for a longer period. But the process of daily sleep and the process of occasional dying are identical, with the one difference that in sleep the magnetic thread or current of energy along which the life force streams is preserved intact, and constitutes the path of return to the body. In death, this life thread is broken or snapped. When this has happened, the conscious entity cannot return to the dense physical body and that body lacking the principle of coherence, then disintegrates.
It should be remembered that the purpose and will of the soul, the spiritual determination to be and to do, utilises the thread soul, the sutratma, the life current, as its means of expression in form. This life current differentiates into two currents or two threads when it reaches the body, and is "anchored", if I might so express it, in two locations in that body. This is symbolic of the differentiations of Atma, or Spirit, into its two reflections, soul and body. The soul, or consciousness aspect, that which makes a human being a rational, thinking entity, is "anchored" by one aspect of this thread soul to a "seat" in the brain, found in the region of the pineal gland. The other aspect of the life which animates every atom of the body and which constitutes the principle of coherence or of integration, finds its way to the heart and is focussed or "anchored" there. From these two points, the spiritual man seeks to control the mechanism. Thus functioning on the physical plane becomes possible, and objective existence becomes a temporary mode of expression. The soul, seated in the brain, makes man an intelligent rational entity, self-conscious and self-directing; he is aware in varying degree of the world in which he lives, according to the point in evolution and the consequent development of the mechanism. That mechanism is triple in expression. There are first of all the nadis and the seven centres of force; then the nervous system in its three divisions: cerebro-spinal, sympathetic, and peripheral; and then there is the endocrine system, which might be regarded as the densest aspect or externalisation of the other two.
The soul, seated in the heart, is the life principle, the principle of self-determination, the central nucleus of positive energy by means of which all the atoms of the body are held in their right place and subordinated to the "will-to-be" of the soul. This principle of life utilises the blood stream as its mode of expression and as its controlling agency, and through the close relation of the endocrine system to the blood stream, we have the two aspects of soul activity brought together in order to make man a living, conscious, functioning entity, governed by the soul, and expressing the purpose of the soul in all the activities of daily living.
Death, therefore, is literally the withdrawal from the heart and from the head of these two streams of energy, producing consequently, complete loss of consciousness and disintegration of the body. Death differs from sleep in that both streams of energy are withdrawn. In sleep only the thread of energy, which is anchored in the brain is withdrawn, and when this happens the man becomes unconscious. By this we mean that his consciousness or sense of awareness is focussed elsewhere. His attention is no longer directed towards things tangible and physical but is turned upon another world of being and becomes centred in another apparatus or mechanism. In death, both the threads are withdrawn or unified in the life thread. Vitality ceases to penetrate through the medium of the blood stream and the heart fails to function just as the brain fails to record, and thus silence settles down. The house is empty. Activity ceases except that amazing and immediate activity which is the prerogative of matter itself and which expresses itself in the process of decomposition. From certain aspects, therefore, that process indicates man's unity with everything that is material; it demonstrates that he is part of nature itself and by nature we mean the body of the one life in whom "we live and move and have our being". In those three words—living, moving and being—we have the entire story. Being is awareness, self consciousness and self-expression and of this man's head and brain are the exoteric symbols. Living is energy, desire in form, coherence and adhesion to an idea and of this the heart and the blood are the exoteric symbols. Moving indicates the integration and response of the existing, aware, living entity into the universal activity, and of this the stomach, pancreas and liver are the symbols.
It is interesting, though incidental to our subject, to bear in mind that in cases of imbecility and idiocy and in that stage of old age which we call senile decay, the thread which is anchored in the brain is withdrawn, whilst that which conveys the life impulse or urge remains still anchored in the heart. There is life but no intelligent awareness; there is movement but no intelligent direction; in the case of senile decay, when there has been a high grade apparatus utilized in life, there may be the appearance of intelligent functioning but that is an illusion due to old habit and to old established rhythm but not to coordinated coherent purpose.
It must be noted also that death is, therefore, undertaken at the direction of the ego, no matter how unaware a human being may be of that direction. The process works automatically with the majority, for when the soul withdraws its attention the inevitable reaction on the physical plane is death, either by the abstraction of the dual threads of life and reason energy, or by the abstraction of the thread of energy which is qualified by mentality, leaving the life stream still functioning through the heart but no intelligent awareness. The soul is engaged elsewhere and occupied on its own plane with its own affairs.
In the case of highly developed human beings we often find a sense of pre-vision as to the death period; this is incident upon egoic contact and awareness of the wishes of the ego. It involves sometimes a knowledge of the very day of death, coupled to a preservation of self-determination up to the final moment of withdrawal. In the case of initiates there is much more than this. There is an intelligent understanding of the laws of abstraction and this enables the one who is making the transition to withdraw consciously and in full waking awareness out of the physical body and so to function on the astral plane. This involves the preservation of continuity of consciousness so that no hiatus occurs between the sense of awareness on the physical plane and that of the after death state. The man knows himself to be as he was before, though without an apparatus whereby he can contact the physical plane. He remains aware of the states of feeling and of the thoughts of those he loves, though he cannot perceive or contact the dense physical vehicle. He can communicate with them on the astral plane or telepathically through the mind if they and he are en rapport, but communication that involves the use of the five physical senses of perception lies necessarily out of his reach. It is useful to remember, however, that astrally and mentally the interplay can be closer and more sensitive than ever before for he is freed of the handicap of the physical body. Two things, however, militate against this interplay: one is the grief and violent emotional upset of those left behind and, in the case of the average human being, the other is the man's own ignorance and bewilderment as he stands faced by what are to him new conditions, though they are really old conditions, if he could but realize it. Once men have lost the fear of death and have established an understanding of the after-death world which is not based on hallucination and hysteria or on the conclusions (oft unintelligent) of the average medium, who speaks under the control of his own thought-form (built by himself and the circle of sitters), we shall have the process of death properly controlled. The condition of those left behind will be carefully handled so that there is no loss of relationship and no false expenditure of energy.
There is a big difference now between the scientific method of bringing people into incarnation and the perfectly blind and oft frightened and surely ignorant way in which we usher them out of incarnation. I seek today to open the door in the occident to a newer and more scientific method of handling the process of dying, and let me make myself perfectly clear. What I have to say in no way abrogates modern medical science with its palliatives and skill. All I plead for is a sane approach to death; all I seek to make is a suggestion that when pain has worn itself out and weakness has supervened, the dying person be permitted to prepare himself, even if apparently unconscious, for the great transition. Forget not that it takes strength and a strong hold on the nervous apparatus to produce pain. Is it impossible to conceive of a time when the act of dying will be a triumphant finale of life? Is it impossible to vision the time when the hours spent on the death bed may be but a glorious prelude to a conscious exit? When the fact that the man is to discard the handicap of the physical sheath may be for him and those around him the long waited for and joyous consummation? Can you not visualize the time when instead of tears and fear and the refusal to recognize the inevitable, the dying person and his friends would mutually agree on the hour and that nothing but happiness would characterize the passing? That in the minds of those left behind the thought of sorrow will not enter and death beds will be regarded as happier occasions than births and marriages? I tell you, that before so very long this will be deeply so for the intelligent of the race, and little by little for all.
You say there are as yet only beliefs as to immortality and no sure evidences. In the accumulation of testimony, in the inner assurances of the human heart, in the fact of belief in eternal persistence as an idea in the minds of men lies sure indication. But indication will give place to conviction and knowledge before another hundred years has elapsed, for an event will take place and a revelation be given to the race which will turn hope into certainty and belief into knowledge. In the meantime, let a new attitude to death be cultivated and a new science of death be inaugurated. Let it cease to be the one thing we cannot control and which inevitably defeats us and let us begin to control our passing over to the other side, and to understand somewhat the technique of transition.
Before I take up this subject in greater detail I would like to make reference to the "web in the brain", which is intact for the majority but is non-existent for the illumined seer.
In the human body, as you know, we have an underlying, interpenetrating vital body which is the counterpart of the physical, which is larger than the physical and which we call the etheric body or double. It is an energy body and is composed of force centres and nadis or force threads. These underlie or are the counterparts of the nervous apparatus—the nerves and the nerve ganglia. In two places in the human vital body there are orifices of exit for the life force. One opening is in the solar plexus and the other is in the brain at the top of the head. Protecting both is a closely woven web of etheric matter, composed of interlacing strands of life energy.
During the process of death, the pressure of the life energy beating against the web produces eventually a puncturing or opening. Out of this the life force pours as the potency of the abstracting influence of the soul increases. In the case of animals, of infants and of men and women who are polarized entirely in the physical and astral bodies, the door of exit is the solar plexus and it is that web which is punctured, thus permitting the passing out. In the case of mental types, of the more highly evolved human units, it is the web at the top of the head in the region of the fontanelle which is ruptured, thus again permitting the exit of the thinking rational being.
In psychics and in the case of mediums and lower seers (clairvoyant and clairaudient people) the solar plexus web is permanently ruptured early in life and easily therefore they pass in or out of the body, going into trance, as it is called, and functioning on the astral plane. But for these types there is no continuity of consciousness and there seems no relation between their physical plane existence and the happenings which they relate whilst in trance and of which they usually remain totally unaware in the waking consciousness. The whole performance is below the diaphragm and is related primarily to animal sentient life. In the case of conscious clairvoyance and in the work of the higher psychics and seers there is no trance, obsession or mediumship. It is the web in the brain which is punctured and the opening in that region permits the inflow of light, information and inspiration; it confers also the power to pass into the state of Samadhi which is the spiritual correspondence to the trance condition of the animal nature.
In the process of death these are, therefore, the two main exits: the solar plexus for the astrally polarized, physically biased human being and therefore of the vast majority, and the head centre for the mentally polarized and spiritually oriented human being. This is the first and most important fact to remember and it will easily be seen how the trend of a life tendency and the focus of the life attention determine the mode of exit at death. It can be seen also that an effort to control the astral life and the emotional nature and to orient one's self to the mental world and to spiritual things has a momentous effect upon the phenomenal aspects of the death process.
If the student is thinking clearly, it will be apparent to him that one exit concerns the spiritual and highly evolved man, whilst the other concerns the low grade human being who has scarcely advanced beyond the animal stage. What then of the average man? A third exit is now in temporary use; just below the apex of the heart another etheric web is found covering an orifice of exit. We have, therefore, the following situation:
1. The exit in the head, used by the intellectual type, by the disciples and initiates of the world.
2. The exit in the heart, used by the kindly, well-meaning man or woman who is a good citizen, an intelligent friend and a philanthropic worker.
3. The exit in the region of the solar plexus, used by the emotional, unintelligent, unthinking man and by those whose animal nature is strong.
This is the first point in the new information which will slowly become common knowledge in the West during the next century. Much of it is already known by thinkers in the East and is in the nature of a first step towards a rational understanding of the death process.
The second point to be grasped is that there can be a technique of dying and a training given during life which will lead up to the utilization of that technique.
As regards the training to which a man can submit himself I will give a few hints which will be found to convey a new meaning to much work now being done by all aspirants. The Elder Brothers of the race who have guided humanity through long centuries, are now busy preparing people for the next great step to be taken. This step will bring in a continuity of consciousness which will do away with all fear of death and link the physical and astral planes in such a close relation that they will in reality constitute one plane. Just as an at-one-ment has to be brought about between the various aspects of man, so a similar unification has to take place in connection with the various aspects of the planetary life. The planes have to be at-one-ed as well as soul and body. This has already been largely accomplished between the etheric plane and the dense physical plane. Now it is being rapidly carried forward between the physical and the astral.
In the work being done by seekers in all departments of human thought and life, this unification is proceeding and in the training now suggested to earnest and sincere aspirants, there are other objectives than just the one of producing soul and body at-one-ment. No emphasis, however, is laid upon them, owing to the ability of man unduly to emphasize the wrong objectives. It might well be asked if it is possible to give a simple set of rules that would be followed now by all who seek to establish such a rhythm that life itself is not only organized and constructive, but when the moment for vacating the outer sheath arrives, there will be no problem nor difficulty. I will, therefore, give you four simple rules that link up with much that all students are now doing:
1. Learn to keep focussed in the head through visualization and meditation and through the steady practice of concentration; develop the capacity to live increasingly as the king seated on the throne between the eyebrows. This is a rule that can be applied to the every day affairs of life.
2. Learn to render heart service and not an emotional insistence on activity directed towards handling the affairs of others. This involves, prior to all such activity, the answering of two questions:—Am I rendering this service to an individual as an individual, or am I rendering it as a member of a group to a group? Is my motive an egoic impulse, or am I prompted by emotion, ambition to shine and love of being loved or admired? These two activities will result in the focussing of the life energies above the diaphragm and so negate the attractive power of the solar plexus. Hence, that centre will become increasingly inactive and there will not be so much danger of puncturing the web in that locality.
3. Learn, as you go to sleep, to withdraw the consciousness to the head. This should be practiced as a definite exercise as one falls to sleep. One should not permit oneself to drift off to sleep, but should endeavour to preserve the consciousness intact until there is a conscious passing out onto the astral plane. Relaxation, close attention, and a steady drawing upwards to the centre in the head should be attempted, for until the aspirant has learned to be steadily aware of all processes in going to sleep and to preserve at the same time his positivity, there is danger in this work. The first steps must be taken with intelligence and followed for many years until facility in the work of abstraction is achieved.
4. Record and watch all phenomena connected with the withdrawing process, whether followed in the meditation work or in going to sleep. It will be found, for instance, that many people wake with an almost painful start just as they have dropped asleep. This is due to the slipping out of the consciousness through a web which is not adequately clear and through an orifice which is partially closed. Others may hear an intensely loud snap in the region of the head. This is caused by the vital airs in the head of which we are not usually aware and is produced by an inner aural sensitivity which causes awareness of sounds always present but not usually registered. Others will see light as they fall asleep, or clouds of colour, or banners and streamers of violet, all of which are etheric phenomena. These phenomena which are of no real moment, are all related to the vital body, to pranic emanations, and to the web of light.
The carrying on of this practice and the following of these four rules over a period of years will do much to facilitate the technique of the death bed, for the man who has learned to handle his body as he falls asleep, has an advantage over the man who never pays any attention to the process.
In relation to the technique of dying it is only possible for me at this time to make one or two suggestions. I deal not here with the attitude of the attendant watchers, I deal only with those points which will make for an easier passing over of the transient soul.
First, let there be silence in the chamber. This is, of course, frequently the case. It must be remembered that the dying person may usually be unconscious. This unconsciousness is apparent but not real. In nine hundred cases out of a thousand the brain awareness is there, with a full consciousness of happenings, but there is a complete paralysis of the will to express and complete inability to generate the energy which will indicate aliveness. When silence and understanding rule the sick room, the departing soul can hold possession of its instrument with clarity until the last minute and can make due preparation.
Later, when more anent color is known, only orange lights will be permitted in the sick room of a dying person, and these will only be installed with due ceremony when there is assuredly no possibility of recovery. Orange aids the focussing in the head, just as red stimulates the solar plexus and green has a definite effect upon the heart and life streams.
Certain types of music will be used when more in connection with sound is understood, but there is no music as yet which will facilitate the work of the soul in abstracting itself from the body, though certain notes on the organ will be found effective. At the exact moment of death, if a person's own note is sounded, it will coordinate the two streams of energy and eventually rupture the life thread, but the knowledge of this is too dangerous to transmit yet and can only later be given. I would indicate the future and the lines along which future occult study will run.
It will be found also that pressure on certain nerve centres and on certain arteries will facilitate the work. (This science of dying is held in custody, as many students know, in Tibet.) Pressure on the jugular vein and on certain big nerves in the region of the head and on a particular spot in the medulla oblongata will be found helpful and effective. A definite science of death will inevitably later be elaborated, but only when the fact of the soul is recognized and its relation to the body has been scientifically demonstrated.
Mantric phrases will also be employed and definitely built into the consciousness of the dying person by those around him, or employed deliberately and mentally by himself. The Christ demonstrated their use when he cried aloud, "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit." And we have another instance in the words, "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace." The steady use of the Sacred Word chanted in an undertone or on a particular key (to which the dying man will be found to respond) may later constitute also a part of the ritual of transition accompanied by the anointing with oil, as preserved in the Catholic Church. Extreme unction has an occult, scientific basis. The top of the head of the dying man should also symbolically point towards the East and the feet and the hands should be crossed. Sandalwood only should be burned in the room and no incense of any other kind permitted, for sandalwood is the incense of the first or destroyer ray and the soul is in process of destroying its habitation.
This is all I can at this time communicate on the subject of death for the consideration of the general public. But I conjure all of you to push the study of death and its technique as far as possible and to carry forward occult investigation of this matter
From the works of AAB and DK.
A TREATISE ON WHITE MAGIC, p493 to p507.
What is there to fear about death?
That I can say to you with my last breath?
Like every life I had before this day
I shall leave this one today
For death, if we could but realise its qualities
Is one of our most practised activities
Death on one plain is birth on another plain
And this will happen again and again
Just as long as we are identified with the form aspect
Death will hold for us its ancient terror and respect
But as soon as we know ourselves to be souls in incarnation
We shall no longer know death or its fabrication
For it is not the cataclysmic end, involving the termination
Of all human relations, physical activity, love and sensation
And the passage into the unknown cold and dark night
Dreaded, alone and terror stricken without a light
Daily sleep and occasional dying are nearly identical
In sleep the magnetic thread is preserved and stays integral
Ensuring the path of return stays open
While in death, this life thread is broken
Thus the conscious entity that cannot return
Is home again, free and ready to learn
And experience the spiritual-life
While preparing for another earthly-life
Because death is undertaken at the direction of the higher-self
The process works automatically for the lower-self
For when the soul withdraws its attention
The physical body goes into disintegration
The man knows himself to be as he was before incarnation
And although there is no more sense communication
Astrally and mentally the interplay can be more sensitive
Because freed from the body there is no more negative
One day there will be understanding of the laws of abstraction
That will enable the one who is making the transition
To withdraw consciously and in full waking awareness
Out of the physical body into a higher consciousness
I wish you to remember these words at your release
"Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace."