Most of us when the time comes will have a “natural” death from old age in our beds, or from illness complications the result of age, or keel over on the back patio from a heart attack or something such. For loved ones it is sore loss and great grief, but at least in Theosophical teachings, those dying are unaware of loss and are subject to the kind hand of Nature in relief of hardships and compensation after death for the heartbreaks and sufferings of the past life. It is all part of the cyclic processes of Nature – day and night, Spring and Winter, waking and sleeping, physical Life and Death, to be repeated again ultimately in a new incarnation among friends left behind. The following is a general outline of what happens at natural death according to Blavatsky Theosophy.
(1) At the death of the body, the brain or at least mental process continue for a short time in a review of scenes and details of the previous life. (This is often reported in people having a near-death experience.)
In the Theosophical system Human objective and subjective Nature is divided into seven aspects or principles, from the first principle, the physical body (sthula-sairira) to the seventh principle, an individual aspect of the Universal spirit of all – Atman. The physical body begins to immediately decay at death, and along with it the second and third principles also begin to disintegrate – the astral or pattern body (which is what is sometimes reported as a spook or ghost) and the 3rd principle or individual aspect of Nature’s Life-energy or Prana.
After sloughing off the most physical aspects of our nature, we have left our desire-nature (Kama), our mental-nature (Manas) and our spiritual or universal nature (Buddhi and Atman. Buddhi is an individual aspect of Universality, Atman, or the Absolute, Brahman, the Godhead, or whatever name is used.)
(2) After physical death the Theosophical teaching is that in our subjective nature (which is really another form of matter objective in its own sphere) – we enter the Kama-loka, or “desire-realm”, and a process starts of the separation of the higher and lower parts of our subjective nature from the last life-time. This might last from a few hours to a few years. The mind principle or Manas becomes duel in this process. The lower mind in its cruder aspects identifies with Kama or desire, forming the “shell” or Kama-manas bereft of any spiritual aspects and directed toward the earth-earthly of the past life. This gradually disintegrates unless unlucky enough to be attracted to a medium. All one’s spiritual aspects – unselfish love for family or others, unfulfilled higher aspirations, – say, maybe to study music and be a musician, or impulses of charity, or perhaps love of objective study of science, and maybe wisdom gleaned from the last life – these coalesce in what Theosophy calls the Monad, or the “Reincarnating Ego” – and it is this that goes on to the next stage of what the Tibetans call the “Bardo” or “between death and rebirth.”
(3) The next stage for the “reincarnating ego” or Human Soul between lives described by Theosophical teachings (and echoed in many of the world’s ancient religious and philosophic literature) is the Deva-chan, which in Sanscrit means loosely “land of the gods.” It is a dream-world* of sorts and a self-made paradise in which one is rapt in fulfillment of all one’s unfulfilled aspirations of the past life, filled with one’s friends perhaps and lost loved ones – whatever is in most need of by the Soul experiencing it. Perhaps also there is an incorporation of lessons from the past life. It may last a short time to thousands of year, depending on the degree of spiritual nature of the person’s last lifetime, yet there is no more experience of the passage of time than there is experienced in the dreams of a night’s sleep. When the person becomes fulfilled on this side of his nature in Deva-chan, attraction toward earth life begins again to arise, eventually resulting in rebirth, and the forming of a new personality. The new person is formed by the attraction of the “skandhas” or tendencies and character belonging to oneself from the previous life, and we continue a new cycle in our evolutionary journey.
* While Deva-chan is called a “dream” it is as real as it can be, as nightly dreams are experienced as real, and a needed purpose is being fulfilled. Eastern religions say that our world is Maya, or a mental illusion, and a relative world is the only possibility for Individual experience of any nature. In the “One,” or the Absolute, or Godhead there are no parts, so to speak, or individuals to have experience.
In Theosophical teachings we are held to be part of our “Higher Self” or a Manasaputra, or perhaps “Guardian Angel” in another tradition. During Deva-chan we are at one spiritually with this Higher Self or Manasaputra in whatever world it lives in, and rapt in our own Deva-chanic experiences.
One might ask when reading this “How can men know such things? – isn’t it just speculation and a bunch of air-castles!” By saying that men, or some men, _can’t_ know such things as what happens after death, one is also claiming omniscience in knowing human limits. “Upon the shoulders of a million men, Buddha entered the Gates of Gold” I believe is in a Mabel Collins book, which means Buddha built on the discoveries of a million searchers before himself.
A large portion of the world’s population believes in Evolution, for ages in the East based on Religious propositions and reincarnation, and more recently in the west based scientifically on the observed gradually developing complexity of life. We assume that man is the top of the pyramid of evolution of plant, animal, humans, but in this billions of years of Earth and the Universe there is no guarantee that there aren’t evolved forms of life higher than humans, that may keep hidden for their own reasons (and perhaps for us). Cultures are full of myths of gods, heroes, and god-kings, and if such superiorly evolved beings exist we might consider they have had a hand in the nursery education of humanity, and the origins of philosophy.
“After Death – What?,” Leoline Wright http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/gdpmanu/death/death-1.htm
“The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett,” edited by Trevor Barker