The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
July 2005 -- Vol. 8 Issue 5
Consciousness, as a molecule of water, experiences its being across a relatively wide range of form possibilities: in ethereal form as part of various clouds, as coastal fog, as valley mist, as a plume of steam from an industrial plant; in liquid form as part of a drop in an ocean, lake, stream, spring, or dew; in solid form as part of a snowflake, hailstone, frost particle, or solid sheet of ice covering a lake. Much as the human monad, it is transformed from ethereal, invisible existence to solid, rather fixed existence and back again to its original state of being, a useful example of the endless evolution and involution of any consciousness-center being. -- Hugh H. Harrison
Question: Do animals at death pass into the same after-death states as humans do before rebirth? When dogs sleep they appear to dream. Do they do so? -- R. B.
We can find an answer to the second question in The Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge, where the subject discussed was the difference between the dreams of men and those of animals. H. P. Blavatsky said:
"The dream state is common not only to all men, but also to all animals, of course, from the highest mammalia to the smallest birds, and even insects. Every being endowed with a physical brain, or organs approximating thereto, must dream. Every animal, large or small, has, more or less, physical senses; and though these senses are dulled during sleep, memory will still, so to say, act mechanically, reproducing past sensations. . . . Like the last embers of a dying fire, with its spasmodic flare and occasional flames, so acts the brain in falling asleep. . . . The instinctual mind finds expression through the cerebellum, and is also that of the animals. With man during sleep the functions of the cerebrum cease, and the cerebellum carries him on to the Astral plane."
It often happens that human beings are conscious enough in sleep to know that they are dreaming, which shows that we can separate ourselves on the mind plane into two or more entities. When awake, we can reason about ourselves as composite beings; we can, so to say, stand aside and see ourselves go by. An intelligent animal can think, but the light of reason has not been developed in it, though it has a more unerring instinct to guide it than man has. The pet dog, asleep, and evidently dreaming, is physically unconscious; he has not yet evolved a conscious higher mind or spiritual sense to function in a blissful dream state or devachan, either asleep or after death. Therefore, in his dreams he is conscious somewhere on an intermediate level of being in the astral realm, and the postmortem condition called kama-loka is just such a subjective state. Unlike man, he would not ever dream that he was dreaming; nor would he have the human lower mind's imagination which animates present desires with pictures of past and future indulgences. His horizon is limited to the present; he awakes quickly, easily, and fully, ready for physical action. Likewise, his sleep after death must be correspondingly brief, light, and uneventful, before he is instinctively drawn back to another round of incarnation. Earth-life being his present evolutionary field of progress, the animal "soul" is still on the descending arc of materializing spirit, as humankind was before the latent fires of mind were lighted long ago. -- L. R. [From The Theosophical Forum, August 1938]
Our discussion of the Tao Teh Ching by Lao-tzu will pick up at verse 63. Feel free to drop in at any meeting!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge
Following meetings (at Newport Way Library):
Thursdays, August 4, September 1, October 6, 2005
"Death: A Change of Consciousness" is our topic this month. We will be discussing such questions as: What is death -- and what is life, being, and consciousness? Is death an annihilation of life, or the dissolution of bodies? Can our consciousness exist independent of our physical body? Does it continue after death? What and where is the essence of our being or existence? What can we learn from widespread beliefs in reincarnation, heaven and hell, ancestor worship, ghosts, bardo states, etc., and from evidence of near-death experiences, past-life memories, and psychism? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge
August 18: The Mysteries of Time
September: Overcoming Fear
October: Mind --Trickster, Transformer
November: The Seven Jewels of Wisdom
December: The Inner Nativity
The topics for the monthly discussions are chosen by members of the Northwest Branch. If there is a subject that particularly interests you, or if you have ideas or suggestions about the meetings, please do not hesitate to email or mail them to the Branch or to mention them after the meetings.
When a person dies and casts off this frail and ever-changing garment which he calls his body and with which he so foolishly identifies himself, there comes to him instant unconsciousness. No one actually dies conscious. Here again nature is infinitely merciful, even to her weakest and most erring children. When a person dies, there is a lapse of consciousness quick as a snap of the fingers and then the person is gone. The brain still lives for a short while, in the sense that there passes through it in review all that has taken place during the life just past; but soon this panorama of revision fades out; and there is left but the physical corpse, the "empty" body. The spirit has flown to its own, the soul is unconscious, the body then is dead.
A person during incarnation on earth may know exactly what happens to himself after death. Using the terms of Hindu philosophy, there are four general states or conditions in which the human consciousness can be: jagrat, the waking consciousness, in which we are now; swapna, the dreaming sleep, the sleep with dreams. When we sleep and are utterly unconscious, the most blessed kind of sleep, this condition or state of our consciousness is sushupti. It is a consciousness so intense, so keen, so spiritual, with reaches so vast, that the poor limited brain cannot hold it or record it. The power of this consciousness is too great; and it affects us as unconsciousness -- and this condition is sushupti. The fourth and highest state of consciousness which the human being can attain is what is called turiya-samadhi, and this is to us humans what is virtually the consciousness of the Divine within us. If what we call the sushupti was so intense and powerful that the feeble brain cannot either recall or record it, a thousand times more so the divine consciousness of the turiya-samadhi condition.
Now, then, mark carefully: when a person dies, he passes from the jagrat or waking-state into the swapna or sleeping-state so far as his astral body is concerned. His human soul is unconscious in sushupti; but the spirit within him, which has gone to its parent-source until recalled earthwards again for the next earth-life, is in the turiya-samadhi state.
As the corpse decays, the astral body in the astral world decays pari passu, molecule for molecule, atom for atom. Thus the astral body is an astral corpse, just as the physical body is; and the "'soul" or ego has shaken off both physical corpse and astral body more or less at the moment of death. Thus the ego is now at this point in the astral world, or kama-loka, and in what is called the kama-rupa, which is the pale and shadowy and more or less perfect image of the person as he was in earth-life. This kama-rupa holds together in the kama-loka for a term which varies greatly, but strictly according to the character of the person during incarnation; if he was gross the kama-rupa is correspondingly gross and holds together for twenty, forty, fifty, possibly a hundred or even more years; but if he while on earth was of a distinctly spiritual type, the coherence of the atoms of the kama-rupa is correspondingly weak, and the cohesion of its astral atoms slowly vanishes, the kama-rupa proportionately dissolving or disappearing.
During this process, the ego or soul has been slowly freeing itself from the attractions which connect it with the kama-rupa; there finally comes a moment when the soul or ego is free, and slowly begins to recover the spiritual consciousness of which it had intimations and imperfect realizations while in the physical body on earth. It then enters what is called the devachan, and in the bosom of the spiritual monad the human ego "sleeps" in inexpressible bliss, dreaming spiritual dreams of beauty, for the devachan is a state of ineffable happiness for the mind of the ego.
The devachanic state is not a place but a state or condition of mind, of consciousness, and a mixture of sushupti and turiya, a purely spiritual condition. The ego remains in such state for hundreds and possibly for thousands of years, the time in all cases depending upon the character of the life last lived on earth. Thus the devachanic blissful dreaming goes on for centuries, growing in intensity and keenness of realization until it reaches its maximum or culmination, and then slowly diminishing as the stored-up spiritual and intellectual yearnings fade out of the consciousness. Then the time approaches when the ego in the devachan feels the slackening of the spiritual yearning; as it were it begins slowly to sink into or pass over into a changing of thought, of consciousness, of mental feeling, becoming constantly less ethereal and less spiritual; and coincidentally and pari passu therewith the human soul or ego experiences a change in the quality of the dreaming consciousness, a change in the sense of sinking or descending from the purely spiritual to the less spiritual.
Thus it is that the ego "dies" from the devachan; and "descending" into the qualities and attributes of the lower realms, its projected ray finally re-enters a human womb, and in due course of time a little child is born again on earth. What a marvelous and mystical story this is!