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Chapter 7: Consciousness after Death

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7 Consciousness after Death

When we die, or any other living being dies, we leave our physical body including its complex brain structure. In some cases this process is initiated by what is called a near-death experience (NDE), and one always undergoes a complete conscious review of one’s past life. The NDE may be experienced within a short time, in some cases no more than a minute. It happens under special circumstances, such as accidents and during critical situations during surgery. The person involved – i.e. his or her liṅga śarīra or astral double – is, due to sudden shock, or under aesthesia and near-death during medical treatment, partly forced out of his or her body, what in normal circumstances would happen gradually during the processes of dying. During natural death the process is not forced, but smooth and rather a quiet step by step withdrawal of the prāṇas from all extremities and organs of the body. Dying usually lasts no longer than a few hours at most to complete, and normally maximum up to several days. NDEs have been reported thousands of times, mostly by patients just after surgery, also under circumstances of scientific control. A NDE is probably not the normal experience of a dying person. It is half an out-of-the-body experience due to special ‘violent’ conditions.

The complete review however is part of a spiritual process of nature, and always takes place, because it a necessary chain within the cycle of birth and death. In modern Theosophical literature[1], it is stated that even if, due to accident for example – the brain is completely damaged, the process of revision will still take place, because every brain structure is also reflected in the astral model of the physical brain that has been formed during physical life. In that case, the physical brain will be non-functional during the processes. But normally, the astral model of the physical body – known as liga śarīra – separates quietly with its own vitalities from the physical body to which it was still connected as with a cord and will, after the separation is complete and the cord is broken also die in a short while. It may sometimes be seen as a apparition hovering around the dead body or a grave. But it does not last long.

What remains of the human (or other) being is their kāma, or totality of personal desires and attachments, which takes on an ‘astral’ vehicle called kāma-rūpa or desire-form made of ‘astral’ matter. It is called astral because it is radiant like stars for the eye of a clairvoyant, but called by scores of different names in eastern and other literature. This astral body is not the above mentioned liṅga śarīra, which is rather the ethereal counterpart of the physical body and survives the last only for a short time. The astral matter is atomic beyond the level of physical atoms, and has its own laws and properties. It is taken on very quickly by the dead person, without slow chemical processes as in physical matter and without the help of a physical or other physiognomic apparatus or a mother’s womb and without a physical gestation phase. The psychological and derived form information that is contained in ‘the body of kāma’ or kāmarūpa comes with the ego of the dead man and contains the impressions from the last life. In this state one experiences attractions, passions, repulsions etc. that were cherished in the last earthly life. Here again, we see that consciousness needs no physical brain: the last has long been burnt or eaten by the worms! Physical pain has long disappeared with the death of the body, when consciousness separated itself from that body.

After the exhaustion of the kāmarūpic phase after shorter or longer times (it may be days or years, exceptionally longer), the consciousness, in the case of humans only (not animals, nor ‘gods’) enters a state which is also without any emotional or mental pain and suffering, because the kāmarūpa, the desire from, also dies. We, i.e. our higher aspirations and mentalities – our reincarnating center of consciousness – then enters a state in which only our reincarnating part, i.e. our higher mind, can function. It is now completely purged from any lower thought, desire or tendency. This state has been called by many different names in various cultures, but can generally be referred to as ‘heaven’ – a temporary heaven which lasts until the next rebirth, which comes usually after very many years, often centuries or millennia. Here the higher mind is completely active without any trace of a physical or kāmarūpic astral brain. It is the heaven of beautiful arts, lofty intelligence and high ethics. It remains as long as the higher mind can keep up this illusion, both qualitatively and quantitatively.[2] This state of consciousness is said to be (far) more intense that earthly consciousness.

Before being ‘born’ in ‘heaven’ an inner struggle or judgment takes place. Depending on one’s evolutionary stage and measure of (dis)entanglement from earthly fetters one is judged against one’s own highest self. This is described in (culture bound) detail in the Tibetan book of the Dead (so-called, erroneously[3]) as the confrontation with beneficent as well as wrathful deities which represent our highest and higher inner being, while a judgment of our ego against our soul or inner god also forms the most important passage in the Egyptian Book of the Dead (so-called, erroneously[4]) in which we see the soul in the form of the heart of the deceased person weighed against the bird’s feather of purity and truth. The procedure takes place in presence of our innermost Self, or God. All these processes take place consciously after we have left our physical bodies behind.

When the time has come to prepare for rebirth – i.e. ‘descend from heaven’, in most cases – we (i.e. our reincarnating ego) by automatic memory, attract the appropriate astral matter and old personality traits around us (known as skandhas – groups of properties) – our psychological and mental worldly karma – and then through the processes well known to physical science, we assemble physical matter during the period of gestation in the womb, making use of the code of building instructions (DNA) inherited from the parents which provide the channel for our reincarnation. All processes are expressions of conscious activity – though in some phases we may temporarily lose our own (personal egoic) consciousness on a particular plane, like in fainting or falling asleep on earth.

All these things seem to indicate that consciousness and life have nothing directly to do with physical brain structures or organic chemistry – on the contrary, consciousness works in on different types of subtle and physical matter according to the latter’s inherent properties, and thus induces or produces vehicles for its manifestation or this or another plane of experience.

If we are not prepared to look at the above seriously, we have to disregard all reports of parapsychology as well as all holy scriptures which have guided humanity throughout the ages. We have to define all great occult teachers as ‘liars’ and ‘fantastic speculators’, as well as the thousands of modern and scientifically sound parapsychological reports.

Parapsychology so far studied particular aspects of the lower phenomena of after-death life, such as ghosts or spooks, apparitions, ‘manifestations’ and near-death experiences, and indirectly also personal reincarnation; in spiritual scriptures we can find information about the deeper facets of immortal life and consciousness as far as the mundane mind can grasp at least something of it. Whatever viewpoint one chooses as one’s basic belief system, the fact that we have a consciousness to experience beauty and truth and can distinguish right from wrong can not be denied. Even after death, beauty and wisdom will be there.

  1. Notably by the occult philosopher G. de Purucker in California in the twenties and thirties of the last century. [<<]
  2. The higher mind, during physical incarnation as well as in ‘heaven’ unawares experiences a self-created illusion – just as even great scientists and religious people on Earth can be caught in the illusion of their own viewpoint. I imagine that Einstein and Bohr even in heaven will never agree, because both are caught in their own atmosphere. [<<]
  3. bar do thos grol (Bardo Thodol): Liberation through Wisdom (thos grol = bodhi) in the intermediate state [here the intermediate state between death and rebirth.] [<<]
  4. rw nw prt m hrw (pert hem ru) – actually ‘Book of Coming Forth by Day’ or ‘Book of emerging forth into the Light.’ [<<]
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