Altogether too much emphasis has been placed upon the various bodies or sheaths in man's constitution. These after all are merely temporary vehicles thrown around himself by the inner man who is a monad, a flaming ray from the solar divinity, a ray which descends through all the spheres of cosmic life-consciousness until it reaches this physical plane where it manifests through the substances, mainly of the heart and brain, of imbodied man. Conversely, death and its phases consist in a laying aside of sheath after sheath of consciousness in which the ray had enmeshed itself.
If a man wishes to know his post-mortem destiny, it is necessary to follow the peregrinations of the monadic consciousness per se, for death is primarily a change of consciousness, an enlargement of its sphere of action. He must begin by studying his true self which is his inner individual essence, following in thought this ray continually upwards and inwards along the different foci or consciousness-centers of his constitution.
Cyclical action in nature is but one of the modes by which cosmic karma expresses itself. To give just one illustration: the process of death in man is identic with that of the life-atoms of his physico-astral constitution. When a life-atom 'dies,' which means that its extremely brief imbodied life term is ended, it passes by efflux out of the physical into the astral body, and there with equal rapidity undergoes certain transformations before the jiva or monad of that life-atom ascends through the superior element-principles of man's constitution. Then, after a period of recuperative rest, such a life-atom descends again through the element-principles of man's inner constitution, down into his linga-sarira and thence into the physical vehicle where anew, for its short life term, it helps to build the human body.
Following the same general character of peregrinating efflux, assimilation and rest in the devachan, and the succeeding influx into the astral light and the earth sphere, the human monads pursue their own courses. What the life-atom is to man's physical body, from one viewpoint and on strictly analogical lines, the human spiritual life-atom or human monad is to the earth globe. This likewise applies to all other entities. Herein lies the secret of the true nature of death, which is thus seen to be only another phase of the marvelously intricate webwork of the functions of universal Life.
The life of man on earth is but a stage in the journeying of an ever-unfolding conscious ego, the reimbodying ego, through the physical sphere, and death but the continuance of this journey out of this sphere of earth-being into another one. Physical death is in a very large part brought about by the fact that the unfolding field of human consciousness spreads beyond the capacity of the body to contain it, which, feeling the strains thus put upon it, gradually glides into senescence, finally to be cast aside as a worn-out garment. A short time before the end occurs, the inner principles of the lower quaternary begin to separate on their own planes, and the body makes automatic response to this incipient separation, thus bringing about the physical decline of old age. This point is of great importance, for it shows that physical death does not cause the dissolution of the bonds of the lower element-principles; on the contrary, the body dies because these lower invisible forces, substances, and energies -- collectively speaking, the inner and causal life of the quaternary man -- have already begun to separate, and the physical body, as time passes, naturally and inevitably follows suit.
The immortal part of man is obviously incomparably more compelling in power and pervading influence in causal realms than is the merely human ego; and hence there is a constant pull upwards to the superior spheres wherein the higher triad of man is native. This mighty spiritual-intellectual attraction acting on the higher part of the intermediate nature of the human constitution, combined with the wear and tear on the physico-astral compound during earth life, are the two main contributing causes of physical death. Death, therefore, is caused primarily from within, and only secondarily from without, and involves an attraction of the reimbodying ego upwards to spiritual-divine spheres, and the progressive decay of the astral-vital-physical vehicle.
It should be clear that it is not a lack of vitality which brings about physical death, or indeed its twin brother sleep, but rather a superabundance of pranic activity. As W. Q. Judge stated, it is this excess of pranic force which through the years so weakens the organs by the stress and strain put upon them by the vital flow of which they are the carriers, that their cohesion and molecular and even atomic power to perform their respective 'duties' or functions are finally destroyed.
It has been frequently said that every individual has a certain limited store of vitality, and that when this has been exhausted, the man must die. What is meant is that the vital-astral-physical organism as a composite entity not only has a certain power of resistance to the streams of pranic life pouring through it, but likewise has its own cohesive power arising in the pranas of the individual molecules and atoms which in their aggregate make the body. In other words, when the pranic energies of the entire constitution wear the body out so that it can no longer function smoothly, it begins to weaken, perhaps becomes diseased. It might be added that this applies likewise to every organ of the body; so that if an excessive strain is put upon any one, it is this organ which weakens first, and in extreme cases may throw the remaining organs into such disarray that disease or even death may ensue.
Closely connected with this subject is the matter of the 'lives' or life-atoms of which every part of our constitution is built. At one time they may be builders or preservers and, at another time, because of undue stress or of some other disintegrative influence, these same life-atoms may become destroyers. But extremes are always dangerous: if, for instance, a group of life-atoms is forcibly compelled to change their atomic and therefore natural and healthy mode of procedure, they then and there -- either immediately or progressively -- become destroyers instead of builders or preservers. Indeed, the matter of death being caused by an excess of vitality, and likewise a man's falling to sleep, rests upon the fact that the life-atoms of the body have reached a point where their resistance vanishes, or decreases as in sleep. Hence it is that the life-atoms function at one moment as builders or preservers, and at another as destroyers -- even regenerators in a sense.
Death, in the vast majority of cases, is preceded by a certain time spent in the withdrawal of the monadic individuality or rather of the reimbodying ego, which takes place coincidentally with the separation of the seven-principled being that man is. (The separative action precedes physical death by a varying number of months or even years, depending upon the individual, and is thus a preparation for its forthcoming existence in what is for it the next succeeding sphere of effects -- the devachan.) The reimbodying ego obeys so strongly the attraction inwards to the unspeakable bliss of the inner worlds that the golden cord of life connecting it with the lower triad is snapped. This is followed by immediate unconsciousness; for nature is very merciful in these things, being guided by quasi-infinite wisdom.
Old age is therefore merely the physical resultant of the preparatory withdrawal of the reimbodying ego from self-conscious participation in the affairs of earth life. With a great deal of truth it may be compared to the period -- extending for months or even years -- preceding the birth of a child, during which time the returning ego has been undergoing quasi-conscious preparation for its 'death' in the devachan and its descent through the intermediate lower realms into the state appropriate for its imbodiment on this plane. The characteristic conditions of what is known as second childhood represent one of the several natural ways of passing out of this earth life. There is nothing harmful about it; the life is simply ebbing away, while a 'birth' is in preparation in the invisible realms.
The cause of senescence or senility in our present fifth root-race is that the buddhi and the atman are but foreshadowed in their powers as the individual passes beyond middle age, and thus old age is not yet enlightened and strengthened by these higher principles. Similarly, in the fourth root-race, when kama and kama-manas were unfolding, the manasaputric or higher manasic element was only feebly manifesting as a distant radiance. Therefore the average Atlantean, although living on the whole much longer physically than we now do, had an intense and exceedingly vigorous and passional physical life up to middle age, and after a certain period there followed a quick drop in power succeeded by a long and lingering old age.
Towards the end of the seventh root-race of this round we shall have learned to live, at least partially so, in every one of our seven element-principles or monads, so that then, as death approaches, there will be continuous increase not only in spiritual and intellectual faculty, but likewise in psychical attributes. In other words, there will be no 'old' people, because the individual humans will grow steadily grander, stronger and more efficient in every part of their being -- until an extremely short period preceding 'death,' which then will be an instantaneous sinking into unconsciousness, a sudden sleep-trance, followed by the dropping of the physical integument.