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What Happens To Us After Death?

Martin Euser

Section 1.


The subject of this article is the discussion of death and the processes of dying.
Invaluable information will be given about life and death, from Theosophical sources, and a way will be shown how to verify the given information. This verification is possible because sleep and death are virtually identical processes, a subject about which you can read more in section 7.

The connecting thread throughout this article will be the concept of man as a stream of life-consciousness, using various vehicles ('souls') for manifestation of this stream. For an extensive discussion about this concept I kindly refer the reader to my article 'The psychological key to man', also available at this server site.

Section 2.

Traditional views of death don't encourage us to think about it

In Western culture death is largely a taboo subject. Most of us don't like to think about the fact that one day we will die. Many people hold to the point of view that we live only once, and that after death there is either an eternal 'heaven' or 'hell' or there is 'nothing' at all.

Both these points of view are something of 'an easy solution'. If we have some fixed prospect then there is no need anymore to think about it..

Philosophically spoken, the concept of 'heaven' and 'hell' as static states is a bit childish. Nature herself shows that everything is in a constant change of flux, motion, change. Change is the essence of life.

Plato provides some interesting food for thought in his 'Phaedo'. Socrates argues in that dialogue that everywhere in nature we can observe the play of opposites: day and night, sleeping and waking, life and death, etc. Regarding the pairs of opposites he notes that everything has the possibility to pass into its opposite state. Every pair of opposites has transitionary forms, e.g. good and bad have as transitions: getting better and getting worse. Night comes forth out of day via twilight, and day comes forth out of night via dawn.
Sleep comes forth out of being awake and being awake out of sleep. With each of these pairs of opposites one can find transitionary states or forms. Moreover, one can understand that these opposites and transitional forms are always a state of something and that the appearance of this something is only a transition from one state to another.
If this applies to all pairs of opposites then the question arises whether life and death are also such a pair of opposites. If so, then it would be logical that there are transitionary states for life and death too. Death is certainly opposite to manifest life, so let's start searching for transitionary states. One gets into life by birth. One gets into the state of death by dying. One can only die because one lives now. Analogous, one can only get into life because one has been dead before.

Conclusion: life and death come forth out of each other and pass into each other via transitional states. A very plausible reasoning indeed! One has only to observe the processes of nature to see endless cycles going on and on.
The key question is what is it exactly that is going through these changing states? Answer: it is CONSCIOUSNESS. Man is consciousness, and specifically gifted with the power of reflection, thinking. The personality (persona = mask) is a temporary vehicle builded by the real human monad in order to express itself on the outer planes of life. The higher aspects of thinking can be brought into expression on this outer planes too, thereby providing the means of verifying the truth of reincarnation (see section 7).

Section 3.

Why knowledge of the processes of death is useful

The conclusion of the foregoing section is that any real knowledge of the processes of death, in fact of LIFE ITSELF, is lacking in this world.
Yet, we can find certain clues in some religions as to what happens when we die (see section 6). Since the old Wisdom-Religion was reframed in Theosophy by H.P. Blavatsky, we are given a lot of valuable knowledge about death and the processes involved. Now, having said that this information is available to this world, this doesn't imply blind belief! Rather, Theosophy encourages everybody to investigate the processes of nature and the structure of the universe him/herself. How this can be done is briefly outlined in section 7.

Besides satisfying our curiosity, knowledge of the processes of death is really knowledge about the processes of life itself and about the structure of the universe. Why is this so? Because life and death are, contrary to how we ordinarily see them, two phases of an ever recurring type of cycle in nature: the cycle of manifestation of consciousness on the outer planes of life, preceded and followed by the withdrawal of consciousness from the outer into the inner planes of life.

This cycle can be described in a general form as:

birth, outer life, death, inner life, reincarnation.

Now, if we proceed from the viewpoint of reincarnation, then naturally the question rises what/how/who will we be in our next life. In what circumstances will we be born? These may seem interesting questions - indeed they are to a certain extent - but the most important question is: what will be our character in our next life? Why is this such an important issue? Because our character is a decisive factor, not only regarding which family we will feel attracted to, but also how our entire look upon life will be and how we will live our lives. I tried to explain questions of character and how to refine it by developing one's higher faculties in my previous article.
The point is, that we ourself decide NOW what our character will be in our next life! By necessity, our character in its main aspects cannot differ very much from our character we have build during this lifetime. So we have to work now at ourselves, get some feeling for what we really are, deep inside and bring some spiritual light in our character and express it in our life. No one else will do that for us. You can't buy a wholesome character. The only way to develop it is through selfless service and trying to understand the deep meaning of life and death. One of the 'tricks' is starting to live in the NOW, to just be yourself, dynamically doing what we feel and understand is necessary to do and go on. Don't expect too much fruits of your labor. Your mind will get trapped in expectations (a form of attachment!). If you get a feeling for this, your life will gradually change into a more holistic one. You will feel more connected to the whole, the supreme spirit, including mankind. Your appreciation of nature and her wondrous works might raise considerably.

So, knowledge of the processes of death is really knowledge about the processes of Life and is important for our everyday life.
As your understanding of the inner states of life and consciousness, and how these connect to daily life, expands, verification of the information that is provided here, and in my other articles, becomes possible. See also section 7.

Section 4.

Man: a stream of consciousness; the composite constitution of man.

For reference purposes I repeat the egg-scheme from my second article about Theosophy, (available on this WWW-site), titled: 'the psychological key to man'.
Some short comments will be added here.

World of Archetypes ----------|-----------------------------------------

(Several planes/spheres)       |  <--------/ /       /   /   Supreme Spirit
                     ----------|----------/  | -----|   |   -------------
                               |         /   |      |   |
Vehicular aspect               |        /    |      |   |  Consciousness
of Life                        |       /     |      |   |  aspect of Life
                             ( | )    /      |      |   |
                          (    |    )/       |      |   |
                       (      *|*   / )      |      |   |
                     (     *   |   *     )   |      |   |
                    (     *    |    *     )  |      |   |
Divine             (-----------------------) |      |   |   Divine Ego
Soul              (       *    |    *       /       |   |
                 (         *   |  *        / )      |   |
                (             *|*         /   )     |   |
               (               |         /     )    |   |
               (              %|%       /       )   |   |
              (             %  |  % <--/        )   |   |
Spiritual     (----------------------------------)  /   |    Spiritual Ego
Soul          (             %  |  %              ) /    |
              (               %|%                /      |
              (                |                /)      |
              (               +|+ <-----------/  )      /    Higher
Higher         (------------ +-|-+ -------------)      /     Human ego
Human Soul     (              +|+               )     /     (individual ego)
                (              |   __________________/       "I am"
                 (            -|- /           )
Human Soul        (--------- - | - ----------)    Lower Human (personal) ego
                   (          -|-           )       = Reincarnating ego
                    (          |           )        "I am I" (personality)
Animal Soul          (--------#|#---------)
                      (       #|#        )                    Animal ego
                       (       |        )
                        (      |       )
Physical Soul            (-----X------)                        Body
Model-body,               (    |     )
body                        (  |  )


A short clarification:

The circles within the egg-scheme symbolize so-called 'monads': sparks of the universal life-force. These are pure spirit. The stream of consciousness, that flows from the Supreme Spirit at the top of our hierarchy (= most spiritual level in our hierarchy) down to the 'grosser' states of consciousness-matter manifests itself through pairs of souls/ego's. A soul is a 'carrier' of consciousness. An ego is a center of consciousness, a facet of the stream of consciousness, using an appropriate soul. The soul/ego pairs arise out of the interfacing of spirit and matter.

Our personal consciousness is centered in the personal ego. The reincarnating, personal, ego emanated by the personal monad, contains a ray of consciousness emanated from the higher human monad. This is one of the mysteries of the human being: his thinking faculty is dual in character. Man can concentrate his thinking on almost exclusive personal affairs, but on the other hand (s)he can direct his/her attention on high ideals, giving expression to spiritual energies.

The higher human monad has evolved the thinking faculty to an almost perfect degree and the faculty of understanding, the enlightenment principle, to a reasonable degree.

Death occurs as the link between the personal soul/ego and the parent soul/ego, the higher human ego/soul, is broken. The reason for this break is simple: the old 'vehicles' are not longer useful, nay, become an impediment for the parent ego to manifest its qualities. Time to change clothes!
Somewhat rephrased: the 'voltage' has become too high for the lower vehicles to bear. Rememember, the stream of consciousness is a mighty vital, psycho-magnetic stream, the 'voltage' of which must be stepped down all along from the divine planes or states to the grosser states.

One point is exceedingly important to keep in mind when we study scheme's as the above: we should not separate all the planes, states of consciousness, ego's, etc. in any absolute sense. In reality, all these seven states interpenetrate each other, giving rise for example, to the sevenfold division of thinking I discussed at length in my previous article. In other words: the small mirrors the large in some respect. The small contains elements of the whole! So above, so below. The old Hermetic axiom (a master key to understanding !).
Because one IS the seven principles of manifestation (see tables in my previous article), one does not have to look somewhere else for 'enlightenment', etc. One is also what/how one thinks (compare the writings of Marcus Aurelius). Realize your potential and just BE yourself, not forcing yourself into a cramped mental state. Use the faculty, power, of Imagination to form images of Siblinghood, Brotherhood, Sisterhood, cooperation, etc, and these images will concretize into a living reality, touching the minds of those who are spiritual seekers. A persistent effort and discipline is required of course. Remember also: thoughts are living beings!

As to the name 'egg-scheme' I could add that it is derived from the concept (and reality) of the Auric Egg, which was a secret teaching among the Brahmans. The Auric Egg is the basis for the commonly known human aura, which last one is only it's grossest form! More info about this mysterious subject can be found in the esoteric instructions of Godfried the Purucker (see lit. #3b).

Section 5.

Death is a gradual process

What happens near the end of our life?

To answer this question we should first of all recognize the fact that we feel a certain attraction to outer life. We want to play our role on the stage of this world. The stream of consciousness manifests itself because there is a certain characteristic within this stream that is attracted to the outer planes of life. If we be honest with ourselves then we can easily be aware of this fact.
In the course of life this attraction gets a bit less strong. We have witnessed many events and see a repetition of the same old patterns over and over again, wherever we look. The attraction to the inner planes or states in the stream of consciousness gets stronger for us. Bit by bit we loose the interest in outer life. We start having periods of absentmindedness. The stream of consciousness flashes up and down, so to speak, between the outer and inner planes or states of consciousness. The 'turning point' has been reached for our personal soul.
This period of the lessening of our attraction to outer life usually takes a couple of years, varying with each individual of course. One more word about the stream of consciousness. This stream is a strong psycho-magnetic vital current that is being transformed by each of the vehicles (souls) it uses to manifest itself. Each vehicle or sheath is similar to a resistance or fuse in an electrical circuit. When the body, the outer vehicle, wears, it will breakdown in the end. The fuse melts.. The stream is interrupted. Compare an ordinary lightbulb. A similar process is going on there (a crude analogy).
This break occurs between the personal human soul and the higher human soul (see egg-scheme). Now that the lower or more outward vehicles are not longer fed by the energy of the stream of lifeconsciousness, these vehicles start disintegrating. The 'overlord' (the higher human soul) doesn't hold the composing cells any longer together..
This leads us to the consideration of afterdeath states.

Section 6.

After-death states according to Theosophy

The following info about the processes of death will be a bit sketchy. A mere outline will be given here. I refer the interested reader to the esoteric instructions of dr. Godfried the Purucker (lit. #3a) where (s)he can find more details such as about suicides, fatal accidents, etc.

The last couple of hours before brain-death are spend on the so-called 'panoramic vision', a process that involves the review of the life about to be ended. This review is like an extremely accelerated movie of all the events of life, seen in the light of the CAUSES behind these events. Now, from this statement alone, the reader could infer that the higher human souls/ego's are involved in bringing about this review, and he is right! Normally, we are not very perceptive to the causes behind events, and it is really the higher human ego which brings this vision about.
The personal human ego sees the justice of all that has happened, just because its consciousness is in an extremely altered state, brought about by the higher parts of the human constitution and is thus able to understand its past life in the light of karma or the correlation of cause and effect. (But see also my remark about collective karma later on in this section) You could call this panoramic vision a teaching or instruction for the personal human ego.

After physical death of a person there's the following situation:

  1. There is the physical body which is decomposing. The model body, sometimes called: 'etheric' body, is decomposing as well.
  2. The personal soul and animal soul are separated from the physical and model body. They are clothed in a kind of astral body. Together this complex is called: 'kama rupa' (kama=desire, rupa=body or form; hence: body of desire) More discussion about this complex will follow shortly.


The three higher souls/ego's remain in their own spiritual spheres, yet connected to the kama rupa complex, in fact not much different from the situation before physical death.

The life energies, the vital streams, disperse into space; they go back to the realms where they belong.

Let's pay some more attention to the kama-rupa complex. It is held together by the force of desires that we collected during our earthly life. The higher principles/souls/ego's are still bound to this complex, working to free themselves from the influence of the magnetic earthly desires/energies.

Now, where is this kama-rupa to be found? Obviously not in the material world. Theosophy teaches that it remains in a quasi-material world, called: kama-loka (loka=place or state, hence: place of desire). This is a familiar notion in many religions. The Roman Catholics call this place the purgatory, the Greeks called it Hades, the ancient Egyptians called it Amenti (see Egyptian book of the Dead), the Tibetans call this the Bardo (actually a subdivision of the Bardo; see Tibetan book of the Dead and lit. #3a).

[Regarding the Egyptian book of the Dead we could add that it describes esoterically the processes of Initiation, a thing which is related to the processes of death. Death, sleep and initiation are similar processes, varying in degree only.]

We ourselves determine the duration of the kama-rupa state by the way we live our lives now! If we lead a spiritual life, serving our community, our personal ego-soul will have a short stay in kama-loka varying, say, from a couple of days to a couple of weeks.
If we live otherwise, paying a lot of attention to our personal status, filled with selfish ambitions, paying little attention to the needs of others, then we will have a much longer stay in the kama-loka varying, say, from a couple of years to a much longer period. In some cases (of really vile people) there's a possibility of loss of soul - a mysterious teaching, but important to know - a thing that is clarified by H.P. Blavatsky (see: Blavatsky Collected Writings, Vol. XII, Theos. Publishing House, Wheaton, Il.)

Well, you could say, what does it matter if my soul stays long in the kama-loka or not? One answer to this lies in the dangers for the kama-rupa to be attracted to seances. Theosophy teaches that necromantic practices are unhealthy and dangerous, both to the medium and participants as for the deceased. For the latter especially if the deceased's soul is still in the kama-loka as in cases of accidental death. It may very well be impressed with the unclean vibrations of the medium and of other forces, attracted to the seance.
H.P. Blavatsky and others have repeatedly warned against these practices (see lit. #3a, #7 and #8).

Leave the dead undisturbed! If you have deep love for a deceased what better respect could you pay to him/her than to live according to the highest ideals of that person? By identifying with these ideals and the highest qualities/characteristics of the deceased you will actually incorporate these qualities in your own character!

Speaking about the dying person, esoteric teachings state that one should not disturb this person by being overly emotional. I realise that this may sound harsh towards the relatives, etc. but in truth it is a sound advice. The dying has other concerns; (s)he prepares for the panoramic vision and needs quietness, peace, around him/her.

Coming back to the issue of the kama-rupa: when the higher souls/ego's of man have released themselves from the lower desires then the SECOND DEATH occurs - a new phase for the personal ego-soul as well.
This implies the absorption of the higher aspirations (higher desires) into the higher human ego-soul. This marks the end of the kama-loka state of the personal ego. It enters into a new state of consciousness:the devachan (deva=god, chan=world or place; hence: 'world of the gods' or 'heaven-world'), not so much a 'world'but a STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS.
It is an excalted dreamy state of spiritual fulfilment of all the ideals the personal ego cherished during lifetime and can also be seen as a kind of reward for undeserved miseries on earth. These miseries are a consequence of collective deeds and thoughts of the human race, so from the point of view of the personality these miseries are not deserved. Yet, being part of humanity, it cannot escape all the stupidities and violence in this world. Of course this includes its own follies as well.

It is not only that. It is also a state of weaving the spiritual elements in the character of the reincarnating ego - a ray of the parent monad: the higher human monad. The three higher ego's are now completely separated from the kama rupa and the personal egoity is dreaming-sleeping 'in the bosom of the higher human monad' - a sleep which can endure for many centuries. The kama rupa is now an 'astral corpse'.

In it's next eartly life the personal ego will commence with an improved character. So you see why it is important to know these things. You sow the seeds NOW for your next life. We determine the character of our next life partly by what we do now, by how we live now. How just this all is! How can we be different from what we make of our selves? We can't. Of course, collective karma plays an important role during our life and will do so during our next life. This can be no excuse however for not exercising one's own powers of the mind. Nor should this lead to indifference to the lot of others.

All the ancient peoples of the world believed in the reality of reincarnation and a majority in this world still does. Buddhists, Hindus, Druids, Celts, Britons, Gallics, Platonists, Pythagoreans, many gnostic Christians, are only some of the people that hold to this doctrine. Add the Inca and Maya civilizations, the old Egyptians, the Roman poets Vergil, Lucretius, Horatio, the Stoics, and the list is still not completed! Also the Jewish Sohar, the famous Kabbalistic book, contains references to reincarnation.

The Christian Bible contains some implicit references to this doctrine (see gospel of John(9)). The famous church father Origines was very familiar with this doctrine. Eusebius was one of the church fathers who helped to eliminate the doctrine of reincarnation from the Christian faith (which was more a sort of collection of sects). Needless to say that Nature doesn't go along with this decision..
Reincarnation is the 'lost thread' in our society. Understanding this key to life, together with that of Karma, would change fundamentally the way we live. It would bring some order in this chaotic world.

One question about reincarnation, namely: 'why don't we remember our past lives?' can be shortly answered here. The point is that we get a new brain in our new life. This new brain doesn't hold the memories of the past lives. Well, you could ask, where are these memories kept? Answer: in a certain part of the human constitution called the 'auric egg', and also in the astral light of our earth.
The astral light is the all pervading 'fluid' which was known among many mystics (Boehme, Swedenborg, etc.) and even to some of the scientists in former centuries, and, of course to sensitive people in our era. It is the 'magical agens', correlating all the forces of nature, carrier of our thought currents, elementals of nature and much more. The human will can exert a powerful influence on and through this light (see lit. #8, chapter V). The auric egg is composed of Akasha-Cosmic Aether- 'invisible' Light - a relatively conscious substance!
The more spiritual parts of the auric egg are composed of celestial light which is the building substance of our spirit; the less spiritual parts are composed of astral light, formative substance of our psyche. The auric egg is fundamental life. It also contains the karmic records of all our thoughts and deeds.. This will undoubtedly lead to many more questions and the best I can do is to refer the reader to the books of Blavatsky, Judge and De Purucker (lit. #3a,3b,7,8,9).

Another question about memories from previous lives is whether reincarnation therapy or hypnosis can help us to get these memories back. Esoteric teaching is quite clear to this: no, they won't. As to the 'memories' people experience during reincarnation therapy, these are most probably impressions from the astral light, or, to some extent, impressions from the therapist him/herself unconsciously projected into the aura of the client and unconsciously perceived by the client whilst in a state of regression.

Regarding hypnosis, it is stated in esoteric literature (lit. #7) that it can be dangerous to a person. Hypnosis brings about a temporary separation of the higher principles in our constitution (notably the higher aspects of the thinking faculty) and the lower principles. This is an unhealthy situation. Many people have suffered from participating as a volunteer in hypnotic shows. Needless to say, a very pure motive and wisdom are necessary attributes for the would-be therapist to exercise his/her mesmeric powers on others, in order that no impure thoughts enter the aura of the client!
Why don't we study the structure of the universe and especially man first, before we engage in such activities? The same advice applies to euthanasia. Are we wiser than nature? No! Using pain-killers is o.k., often already shortening the period of dying. But to actively end one's life by lethal injection is quite another thing.

To end this section, we can ask ourselves what happens with the kama-rupa, the astral corpse, after the second death has taken place. Little is left of this corpse after second death. The lower desires are slowly dissipated, somewhat analogous to the afterglow of an electric stove when the electricity is switched off.
It disintegrates and the elements composing it return to their own realms; these elements just cycle back to the realms where they belong.

The lower desires are destroyed in their form-aspect. There remain, however, impressions, karmic consequences ,'germs', in or on the astral light. Those germs are activated when the reincarnating ego manifests itself again in this world. See lit. #9 on the subject of skandhas.

Section 7.

How can we verify the given information ourselves?

A pertinent question to ask is: 'How do you know all this?' or 'How do you know this information is correct?' Is it only from books or teachers?
Well, sure we have information from the great Teachers of mankind, but this is not enough. Everybody can experience the value and truth of these teachings for themselves! Remember, we ARE the stream of consciousness. We can shift our center of consciousness from personal to more spiritual. We can use our faculty of thinking in such a way as to become more transparent for the inner light that is called understanding (the Enlightenment-principle).

We have to practice brotherhood/sisterhood, try to realize at least a bit of our highest ideals. That will change the characteristics of our consciousness. Brotherhood/Sisterhood/Siblinghood is not so much about being nice to each other. Rather it has to do with respect for the uniqueness of other beings and trying to learn something from each other!
We can learn something from the other when we try to identify ourselves with the essence of the other, using our empathic faculty (an aspect of the faculty of understanding!) So, our relationships with others are deeply involved here. While spiritual growth processes can be painful sometimes, one reason being the immense resistance we encounter in ourselves (and others), it is beautiful too! We will experience more depth, warmth, humanness, less automaticity, etc. in our relations with others. Of course, sometimes we will have inner struggles, and, who knows, outer struggles too. All worthwile things must be conquered!

When we start expressing our higher aspects of thinking, such as understanding, inspiration, etc. this is accompanied (expressed in 'instrumental terms') by our inner nature building a 'bridge', a conscious connection between the personal soul and the higher human soul. This bridge is called the 'antaskarana' in the 'Voice of the Silence' - a beautiful book from H.P.Blavatsky for true students on the Path.
This means that we open our minds for an enhanced influx of spiritual energy from within. This has an effect on our consciousness also during sleep. Our body sleeps, while we keep the continuity of our (thinking) consciousness instead of plunging in an oblivious state of unconsciousness. The mind goes through certain states of consciousness similar to what happens during and after death. This means that the mind experiences a kama-loka state, then a state of some bliss, probably cycling from state to state a couple of times.

[a phenomena we may well be acquainted with: sometimes we wake up feeling deeply refreshed and content with life, maybe even feeling some happiness or bliss- whatever our brain-consciousness can retain from this state of consciousness we experienced during deep sleep. Similar, we sometimes wake up in a bad mood. We probably didn't get a lot of this deep sleep!]

Sleep research confirms this changing of states we experience during sleep. REM-sleep and deep sleep. I gather from this fact and from the esoteric teaching that sleep and death are similar processes (the Greeks said: sleep and death are twin brothers) that in the processes of death and after-death states a similar recurrent change of states of consciousness ('unconsciousness' may be a better term!) will happen.
Little information about exact details concerning these processes is given in esoteric literature (mostly in lit. #3a), as far as I know, so these we have to find out for ourselves using analogy and direct experience of the processes of sleep.

A critical investigation and verification is always necessary regarding esoteric teachings. I myself would never just accept teachings from others without applying my best powers of philosophical scrutiny and without testing these teachings in my own life, which testing involves the becoming familiar with own's composite constitution and it's relation with nature, the world.

BTW, no drugs will ever provide higher states of consciousness as use of drugs will only break open the door to certain parts of the astral realms. Lower elementals may very well enter into your aura and influence your psyche in an unhealthy way.

Even meditation will usually not enhance our awareness so much at all. Why is this so? Because we meditate with our thinking faculty and simply repeating a mantra, etc. implies a revolving of our mind around certain patterns of vibration within our mind which might calm down the mind a bit, but doesn't do anything to change the structure of our character! Instead, let life itself be a meditation! Learn to act out of a basic attitude of compassion and voila that's the secret.
A bit of study of esoteric wisdom won't hurt one either!

The old Wisdom-Religion provides pointers on the spiritual path. It is for the self-chosen, self-elected, to start their journey along the path, a path that is defined, characterized, by the motive of the seeker.





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Copyright Notice:

The above material is copyrighted (march, 1995) by Martin Euser. You may, however, copy this article to your local site, distribute it, and use it for non-commercial ends, education, discussion, etc., but only the article in its entirety, without removal of bibliography or references, etc. The same applies to my previous articles. Feel free to distribute them!


            (see mysteries section)

Martin Euser