The Cyclic Process of Spiritual Embodiment - 2
When death ends the particular combination of factors we call a person, each factor follows its own course according to its own nature. The several components of the state of personhood separate, yet they normally remain within the planetary field of existence, which has several interpenetrating spheres.
The atomic and molecular matter of the physical body
— whose cells constantly changed through the years and in old age had been progressively dying or replaced by toxic substances — returns to the soil, water, and air of the earth from which they emerged and were organized by "life." Sooner or later these material components are reabsorbed into other living organisms, and they may once more enter the bodies of other human beings as food. They are not lost; nothing is lost. Recurring cycles affect all forms of existence; all elements combine, de-combine, and recombine. Moreover, although the body disintegrates, the reproductive cells it released during its life span pass from generation to generation, pursuing their own impersonal rhythm. These germ cells are, of course, altered by genetic interactions, yet their characteristics reappear in new forms over the course of development of a particular racial strain or within a combination of ancestral lines active within a particular geographic locality.
The etheric field
usually (but not always) vanishes very soon after death, because physical death implies that the life force, prana
, has left the body; its multifarious currents have stopped operating. Prana returns to the life field of the planet (the biosphere) from which it had been derived yet never fully separated. Indeed, prana operating within a body is only "loaned" to a particular human being, presumably at the time of conception. The loan is made, one might say, under a "contract" formulated by karma, which limits and defines the use of the life force for a broadly specified period. Once the period ends, the contract ceases to operate and the previously form-bound prana escapes back to the biosphere. During the life of the human being, however, this form-bound prana becomes closely associated with the energy of desire, kama
, and if the desire for life in the human being vanishes almost entirely, the life force may become paralyzed ahead of time and unable to hold together the complex mechanisms of the biological functions. The biosphere basically operates under the law "Eat or be eaten," and the catabolic and anabolic aspects of the life force perpetually struggle for control of any biological organism.
What happens to the personality
after death has long been and still is the subject of often passionate controversies. On the basis of the picture I have outlined, the following is a logical conclusion, but the actual outcome depends on many variables. One variable is the level of consciousness and activity the person had reached. At all times and in all geographic regions there are human beings whose individual state of evolution is far above or below average. The level of mankind's evolution at the time, and of society's and its culture's, also are important factors usually completely unrecognized in arguments about the after-death state. Thus statements that would apply to all individual situations (for example, the length of time between two "incarnations") can have only general validity. This validity also depends upon the expectable reactions of persons to whom such statements are made. Knowledge has validity only in terms of the knower or (in some cases) of a new generation to which it will be imparted.
Thus if a person is convinced that his or her "soul" exists primarily or essentially in terms of the desire for and the fulfillment, failure, or frustration of interpersonal relationships — and therefore is identified with the kama
principle — this person is right when saying that the personal soul
not only persists after death, but returns later on as a new person. This is the "personal" way of interpreting
the situation that develops after death.
The interpretation based on the Movement of Wholeness defines death as the beginning of the symbolic Night of a very small sub-subcycle constituting a particular human life. Death is the "Gate of Silence" through which a human center of consciousness passes at the close of the existential Day hemicycle. At this time the principle of Unity begins to dominate the Movement of Wholeness as experienced by this particular person
, "being" assumes increasingly subjective states, and the principle of Multiplicity and objectivity becomes internalized. This internalization produces memory images
in the consciousness. These images constitute a subjectivized mode of relationship
; they resemble the dreams that occur during the sleep of the physical body — and there are many kinds of dreams, including powerful nightmares.
Thus in the case of a person closely identified with the kama
principle, the desire-body (in which kama
Operates within the structures defined by the concretizing or lower mind) survives for a period after death. The length of survival depends on several factors. Among them are the intensity and character of the desires and the organizing power of the concretizing mind. Also significant is the degree to which the karma of the past has been neutralized by the performance, unconscious if not conscious, of the dharma which the higher mind and the spiritual will attempted to impress upon the personality's lower mental consciousness. Other determining factors are the extent to which this spiritual will and higher mind had been active, the degree of differentiation and concentration of the spiritual Quality, and the state of development of the ideity field as a place of meeting for the potential union of the spiritual entity and the personality. Because Western civilization today primarily and often exclusively accentuates the personal, ego-centered factors in a human being and in personal relationships to people, money, profession, and possessions (including pets!), the persistence of all these personal factors in terms of subjective memory experiences
must be the norm in the period following death. But what are these "subjective memory experiences"?
Because a human center of consciousness having passed through the Gate of Silence (the "portal of death") of its own particular sub-subcycle operates in a realm in which subjectivity is the increasingly dominant factor, all experiences also must become mainly subjective. Experiences can no longer be physical because the body has vanished as a support for consciousness, feelings, and desires. Therefore they must be "psychic" if
the personality is the experiencer. (We will see presently what may happen in the spiritual entity after the death of the physical body of the experiencer). But because psychism is originally and essentially collective, the character of after-death psychic experiences must be predominantly collective — unless
the dead person had become strongly individualized during his or her life.
Accounts of seemingly authentic contacts with a dead person or of experiences following a temporary death and quick revival report that the person meets deceased parents, friends, and loved ones after emerging from a dark tunnel into a world of happiness and light. Such descriptions may be significant interpretations
of occurrences in the predominantly subjective after-death state; the dreams remembered on awakening are also interpretations by the objectivizing lower mind of what occurred in the subjective state of sleep. What is remembered evidently has been personalized (in a sense "mythologized") by the brain-mind in terms of images and words belonging to the everyday experience of the just-awakened sleeper. The person supposed dead and then revived is in a state which is not essentially different from the one experienced by a suddenly awakened dreamer.
Similarly, when a trance-medium speaks or acts as a deceased personality, the words and images used by this personality most likely are taken from the brain-mind and psychic consciousness of the medium. This does not mean that the communication is without a "genuine" basis; it means merely that it is an interpretation, at best a fairly accurate "translation," a subjective reality that has been objectivized by the medium's concretizing mind.(1
In The Tibetan Book of the Dead
, the striking imagery used to describe subjective processes — the various gods and demons, the Judgment, and so on — is symbolic. This does not mean that it is not real or that it is "pure imagination." It is an interpretation befitting the mentality of the people to whom it was addressed, audit still remains a valuable, beautiful, and meaningful interpretation. Nevertheless, Western consciousness differs from traditional Tibetan consciousness, even if the level at which many Europeans and Americans think and feel today is not too different from that of the Tibetan culture when it was being formed. This may be because a new culture is now beginning to concretize, and it calls for such a devotional, form-worshipping consciousness. Still, this, new culture must create its own symbols and formulations. The Movement of Wholeness might provide such symbols to the consciousness of individuals who are ready to face the future as builders of a "new order" (Novum ordo seculorum
) instead of as perpetuators of dying cultures, great as these cultures were. Yet there are always many and varied dharmas!
As I see it, most psychic phenomena — with exceptions belonging to a higher level of activity and consciousness — are manifestations of the subconscious power of community, that is, of a power arising from the transmutation of the compulsiveness of life into a communal-social force which also acts subconsciously, unbeknown to most members of the community. A "psychic" is a person in whom the collective
psychism of the culture operates in at least partial independence from his or her personality and individual
consciousness. The psychic is able to give voice or form to subconscious forces and desires in another human being and to some extent to reveal the past — as the past is still inherent in the present
. To the extent the future is conditioned by forces and desires already operating unconsciously within a person (in the biological organism, etheric body, and/or body of desires), the psychic may be able to Visualize or "sense" something of the person's future — or the future of the whole social collectivity in which the psychic has his or her biopsychic and cultural roots. Return
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