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Between Death and Birth

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After human death the human ego (i.e. ‘we’) has to face a realm or situation called kāmaloka, a subtle realm where we reside in subtle bodies, and experience the animal and personal desires we have given rise to during life, dependent on their intensity. Of course this situation can be terrible and intense for self-conscious evil humans, especially for black magicians, voodoos, etc.: for every thought and act there is a retribution: as many hells as there are minds. This however is temporary although perhaps long-lasting, and ultimately these energies lose their power and if we conquer, we will die a second death, after which we enter and awaken in a new period, indicated with the Tibetan term devachan[1].

At that moment of the second death at the end of kāmaloka, before entering devachan we again experience a retrospect of our past life on Earth, like when we died our first death, but which more indications of our future life which is going to be the logical karmic consequence of the past. The reincarnating ego, by its own, unobstructed nature is omniscient according to Theosophy. Therefore it can see past and future as well as mistakes made, and the resulting karma. Before we can enter into devachan after death, we will have to win the battle of spiritual recognition, also called ‘gestation period’ in which we can only fail if we have practiced nothing spiritual whatsoever in our past life – and this is extremely rare. What we have learned in innumerable past lives has become part of our inner experience, and we should be able to recognize this. If not, the merits of our present life are so low that it has been in vain – we have nothing of value to add to the reincarnation ego. This ego proceeds after its kāmaloka towards a next incarnation without any remembrance of the most recent one. The lower mental consciousness will bide its time in the realms of lower desires, and than cease to exist. But normally we ‘enter’ into the state of bliss which in Theosophical literature is called devachan, and which is seen as a transitory place for righteous souls who have performed good deeds in their lives but are not yet perfect in ethics and wisdom. In Theosophy it is described as the state of consciousness (rather than a place) where our consciousness (which includes an awareness of being oneself and our body) will receive all rewards of its good efforts and also will receive a balancing reward for any experienced injustices during physical life. The latter can only be understood when we accept the innate wisdom and omniscience of the reincarnation ego during its period of being free from the trammels of matter. Whatever high purpose the mind aspired to accomplish will now come true for one’s consciousness. The fulfillment of purpose can however not be greater than our mental person can make it, but a higher light shines on it and thus the devachani is higher and wiser than he or she was ever during life. The seeds of mental aspiration turn into realities. What has been aspired will be accomplished fully, but no more. So in that sense this ‘heaven’ is a self-made illusion.[2] There are many layers in devachan. All normally good people will experience devachan. Devachan also stretches up to the highest ‘regions’ of consciousness where the wisest and noblest, but not yet fully accomplished people ‘reside’ for a very long time. The highest regions of devachan practically touch nirvāṇa, but even then the devachani has to return to physical human existence at last to reach liberation from all illusions and be free. When he reaches nirvāṇa in that life, either during his natural dying process or due to compassionate occult help while in physical existence, he can choose nirvāṇa (which is, however spiritual it is, still selfish), or to remain as a nirmāṇakāya in the invisible spheres close to earth (or one of the other gatis, I presume, as Mahayana Buddhism teaches.) and help humanity at crucial or critical moments. Such a high divinity will usually not be able or allowed (by karma) to give personal help to petty individuals however much they pray in their churches or temples.

In devachan or the heavens all one’s wishes are fulfilled. But if that wish is, truly compassionately, (not just out of mental compassion – which rather lengthens devachan) to help those who are suffering, ignorant and deluded by false teachings in physical existence, the period of heavenly existence may be shortened. It is the experience of the ego which will reincarnate again when devachan is over. It is the ego resting and experiencing its heavenly castles of the mind enlightened by buddhi and a sixth sense beyond the five we know on Earth, carried in the bosom of the jīva. (But it has no conscious part in the peregrinations of the jīva [itself] during death which can only be experienced by that truly pure jīva itself.

Only humans can experience devachan, because its experiences are created by the higher mind. It continues, usually very much longer than kāmaloka, but not always. It depends on the individual: it is one’s own character quality and energy put in it which one receives. If one fails to win the battle during, and at the end of, kāmaloka, one will be immediately reborn as a human on earth, which may according to our karma be ‘hellish’ or heavenly’ or both and anything in between, and where we can be helpful, positive, wise and compassionate, and study and think with focused concentration. We have the opportunity to make quick progress and we can consciously choose between doing good or evil.

At the end of devachan, i.e. when the ego is dying from devachan, before connecting to a just inseminated egg cell to begin the processes of incarnation which take some 21 years to be completed, one again experiences a review of the past life, but focused on the karmic future and the chosen duties and challenges. Then memory is lost, because the physical vehicles are too coarse to represent it. Through birth the soul and its karmic covering enters into one of the gatis (possible realms of experience for humans).

All described situations are really existing experiences of consciousness and of its suffering or joy.

The whole cycle of existence, our semi-eternal treadmill, derives from one original desire creating one original karma: our inmost soul chose to put us on the path to self-conscious omniscience in stead of its unselfconscious omniscience. The ‘universal ecosystem’ is thus a gigantic brotherhood of pilgrims on its way to the same holy of holies: itself.

The cause of evil or ignorant tendencies of living beings keeping them within the cycles of illusion and suffering is ignorance. The great impulses to evil come from fear for death, greed, i.e. fear to lose the cherished illusions, ignorance about the existence of the spiritual world, ignorance about the true nature of the soul and its intrinsic immortality, our shortsightedness of emphasizing one’s own well-being above that of the vast universe of life. Out of this ignorance we make wars, cheat others, defend our illusionary interests, create borders between countries and put bombs to eradicate evil outside oneself in stead of inside and destroy our natural environment, and out of ignorance we define a duality between good and evil people instead of recognizing a universal brotherhood of pilgrims towards the same spiritual goal: to become pure, to become oneself. Every being is in existence to support other beings in their effort.

  1. Tibetan: bde-ba-chan, i.e. sphere or realm or state of unalloyed happiness [<<]
  2. Immense growths, for example, of knowledge itself are possible in devachan, for the spiritual entity which has begun the ‘pursuit’ of such knowledge or artistry and so on during life. Nothing can happen to a spirit in devachan of which the keynote has not been struck during life; the conditions of a subjective existence are such that the importation of quite external impulses and alien thoughts is impossible. But the seed of thought once sown, the current of thoughts once set going (the metaphor may freely be varied to suit any taste), and then its developments in Devachan may be infinite, for the sixth sense there and the sixth principle are our instructors; and in such ‘society’ there can be no isolation, as physical humanity understands the term. The spiritual ego in fact, under the tuition of his own sixth principle, need be in no fear of being dull, … H.P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings Vol IV p 443-445 – C.W. IV, p. 443-445 [<<]