WHAT SURVIVES AFTER DEATH?
Jun 15, 2006 07:47 AM
by W.Dallas TenBroeck
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Of recent postings some related to the following subjects. Here are some
rather good statements that seemed useful to consider and apply:
THE CAUSE OF SORROW
We are never free from pain, sorrow, and suffering in the world. Pleasures
come and go very lightly, but always the sorrow and suffering of life itself
abides with us.
If we could see and understand the cause of the sorrow existing in the world
in every direction?not only the sorrows of the ordinary life but those
brought about by collective action, as wars are?we should cease to make that
We have assumed that all these sorrows are due to external causes?to some
higher being or beings, or to some outside laws of the universe; never to
ourselves. And because we have never brought it home to ourselves that we
are in any way connected with the causes of sorrow which come our way, we go
on looking for something external to relieve us of those sorrows.
Not all the religions that ever have existed on the face of the earth, not
all that the sciences have so far achieved or may achieve will ever give us
that knowledge, because the cause of sorrow does not lie outside; it lies
within each one. Each one contains within himself the power to cause sorrow;
he also has the power to cause its cessation.
The wisdom of the ages explains the cause of sorrow. It teaches that each
being is spirit; that the power of spirit is illimitable, although we limit
it because we assume that it is limited; that the changeless spirit in the
heart of every being is behind every form, the cause and sustainer of all
forms; that spirit is the force be hind evolution, and also the force that
rules and relates all things of whatever grade; that every being is the
result of an unfoldment from within outwards?of a desire for greater and
SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS -- CHOICE
But we who have reached this stage of self-consciousness, unlike the lower
kingdoms, now have the power of choice and can draw upon that illimitable
source of our being and realize it while we live in a mortal and
Desire, in a limited way, with regard to the personality, is the cause of
all sin, sorrow, and suffering. Such desire is based on selfish thought; it
is not what others desire; it heeds not any other urge than its own.
The unfulfilled desires, it is, that hurt us; yet do the fulfilled desires
give us happiness?
Never, for so soon as they are achieved, there begins a further desire for
something more, something greater. With many conflicting desires, then, we
live upon each other, we prey upon each other, we devour each other, we
injure each other?in every way.
There is no necessity for all this. It never was the original plan?the
original nature of the development of man. There is never any need to
desire. All our woes are self-inflicted; the very inherent power of spirit
has plunged us into them and maintains us in them.
Yet misery, sorrow and suffering have a mission. It is usually only the
misery we bring upon ourselves that makes us stop doing wrong, to look
around and ask and see what is right.
It is by our mistakes we learn to see the difference between right and
wrong, and in seeing that difference is the whole story of progress. We have
to be able to tell the difference.
PERCEPTION OF THE ?OPPOSITES?
It is only through ?opposites? ?the perception of them and the employment of
them?that any being can grow at all. There has always to be duality in
nature. All human beings are One in spirit, dual in expression.
Always there is the actor and something to act upon. Always there are the
two?Purusha, the spirit, and Prakriti, matter?not two separate things, but
two aspects of one and the same thing. No perception is possible unless we
have that duality. We have to experience darkness first in order to see
light, and so with the opposites of pleasure and pain.
Without pain we could not understand pleasure; without pleasure we could not
understand pain. What lies behind all advance in intelligence, from the
lowest to the highest, is perception gained by that which acts, from that
which is acted upon.
LAW -- CYCLES -- PERIODICITY -- KARMA
Law rules everywhere in nature in accord with the basis of duality. We call
it the law of periodicity, but it is simply a statement of Karma, or action
and reaction. What we call the laws of the elements are in reality but
perceptions of the actions and reactions of various grades of intelligences.
?What we call our seasons, and all the cycles of time or of individuals, are
covered by that law?reaction from action previously sent forth. The people
who form a nation are people who were together in other times; their
collective actions have brought them the same collective reactions.
THOUGHT -- IMPRESSIONS RETURNING
Every thought we have has its return of impression; every feeling we have
has its return. All react upon us, coming back either impoverished or
enriched. Thus, with the power to produce any kind of effect resident in us,
we can understand the power of false, mistaken ideas. We can sustain these
ideas interminably by the law of return of impression, and continually
suffer reactions from them. The whole power of spirit used in a wrong
direction, in ignorance of our own nature and the nature of beings in
general, creates sorrow of every kind.
No one can stop us in our mistaken course so long as we foolishly entertain
Our evolution has been brought about by us under the laws of our own
operation?action and reaction within ourselves?and in no other way.
It is a mistake to think that good comes to us from outside quarters. It
never does. Whatever good or whatever evil comes is the reaping of what we
have sown, in every way and in every circumstance. There are no exceptions.
We look for ?justice.? We are getting it, according to our own thought and
action. For let us remember that the plane of action is thought itself, that
is to say?ideas.
ACTION -- MATERIALIZED THOUGHT
Action is merely the sequence of the concretion of thought. So there is
every necessity for us to clear out the rubbish which we hold as ideas. Our
?minds,? as a rule, are found to be made of a bundle of ideas that somebody
has handed on to us. We accept the ideas of the race, of the people about
us, of this ?ism? or that ?ology,? and call it our mind, when, in reality,
we have no mind of our own at all.
The mind is the power to receive and to reject. What we receive and what we
reject depends upon ourselves?on our ignorance or on our wisdom. There is
nothing outside we have to learn, but every thing inside. The task we have
at hand is to understand our own natures.
WORKING FOR THE COMMON GOOD
If any great number of beings in this world should reach the understanding
of their own natures, and so exercise their inherent spiritual powers for
the benefit of their fellow-men, in no long time we should find the misery
of the world most wonderfully abated. As was said of old, a little leaven
leaveneth the whole lump. And one of our Teachers said, ?Give me five
hundred good, earnest, sincere, devoted men and women and I will move the
Our success does not depend upon any form of physical evolution, nor upon
any form of scientific advancement. These are but means and not ends in
themselves, though did we but know our own real powers, they could be
carried to a pitch not yet dreamed of.
We must and eventually will carry the civilization of the world to a higher
stage than has ever before existed, but that will never be until men realize
their own natures and act from that basis.
We can go on indefinitely repeating the present thinking and acting, but so
long as we do, just so long will there be sin and sorrow and suffering.
Never will they cease, nor wars, diseases, pestilences, tornadoes, cyclones,
nor earthquakes?for all these come from man?s errors.
VICARIOUS ATONEMENT ?
We shall never find a vicarious atonement. We must take the results of what
we sow. Recognizing that we are responsible for our own conditions, we must
do our best to adjust them.
Readjustment can come only through assuming our own spiritual birth right,
instead of assuming that we are these unfortunate bodies that are born, live
for a while and die; through the fulfillment of our duties in every
direction as the opportunities are offered us.
For we cannot work out our salvation alone. We cannot live alone. We cannot
progress alone. We cannot raise ourselves beyond the rest, but must help all
the rest to whatever stage we occupy, going further and further ourselves
that we may be the better able to help and teach the others.
Jesus was what he was because he became so. Buddha was what he was because
he became so. There was a time when they were sinning and erring mortals
like ourselves. But they saw the true path and turned and followed it, as in
all time to come must every being.
Just so long as we think that we are physical beings and follow after this
or that desire, just so long do we put off the day of readjustment and
suffer from the causes we have set in motion.
RETRAINING OUR BRAIN
But when in place of false ideas we commence to base our thought and action
on correct ideas, the brain begins to be clarified and to be permeable to
the immense knowledge of the inner man?a knowledge which is not now recorded
because of the wrong way in which we have trained it.
The brain has to be made a good conductor for spiritual knowledge.
If true knowledge were ours, would we have desires? Would we seek after this
or that thing in physical life and expend our best energies upon them? No.
Further, we would know that no matter what there is in the universe
anywhere, nothing can stop the progress laid down for ourselves in a
spiritual direction. We would also know that nothing can harm us; nothing
can bewilder us.
We would trust the law of our own spiritual nature, seeking only to do what
good we can; seeking nothing for our selves, but to do service in every
possible way for every other being.
[ SPIRITUAL POWER
?? Man binds himself or frees himself by reason of his spiritual power?and
his connection with every department and division of great Nature. Krishna
concludes the chapter by saying:
?The man of meditation who knoweth all this, reaches beyond what
ever rewards are promised in the Vedas, or that result from sacrifices, or
austerities, or from gifts of charity, and goeth to the supreme, the highest
This highest place is sometimes called ?All-knowingness,? the perfection of
knowledge, the possession of which confers power of action upon any or all
departments of manifested Nature. To reach this ?highest place? the highest
motive must prevail in all thought and action, perhaps through many lives.
The idea of this highest motive may be best conveyed by considering the
following ancient pledge :?
?NEVER WILL I SEEK NOR RECEIVE PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL SALVATION.
NEVER WILL I ENTER INTO FINAL PEACE ALONE;
BUT FOREVER AND EVERYWHERE WILL I LIVE AND STRIVE
FOR THE REDEMPTION OF EVERY CREATURE THROUGHOUT
THE WORLD? G.
Notes, p. 153 ]
Then we should be in accord with the nature of the whole, and the natures
and forces of all beings would carry us along on the stream that brooks no
Would we be sorrowful? Never; because we would be fulfilling the real
purpose of spirit and soul in helping all other souls on the path, so far as
the opportunity lay before us. In this course there is no need to strain and
struggle; we have only to take those opportunities which our reactions bring
EVIL -- WHY ?
The evil that comes to us?well, it is something for us to adjust, to
balance. The good that comes to us?that too is the result of our own
actions. So we may take the good and enjoy it, and meet the evil without
fear or trembling or resistance of any kind in an attempt to avoid it.
The only sorrow of the great Teachers, or Masters of Wisdom, is to see men
perpetually engulfing themselves in sin and sorrow and suffering which They
One of Them was asked at one time: ?Why is it with your great knowledge and
power that you do not make men think as they should??
He said, ?The human soul is not so constituted. It has to see and act for
itself.? For the action is from within outward, and the power goes with the
action. No one can save us but ourselves.
WHAT SURVIVES AFTER DEATH?
Day after day we are constantly confronted by the fact that we are all
subject to death. No matter how we may live, whether our lives bring to us
failure or the greatest possible success in the eyes of the world, death is
there at the end. So sure as there is birth for us, so there is death. Each
one knows that sooner or later death must be his portion; but what does he
know of after-death?
WHAT, IF ANYTHING, SURVIVES DEATH ?
Religions, such as we have professed, do not give us any information
whatever on this most serious question; materialistic science presents us no
solution; from neither religion nor science have we gained anything to rest
upon when the great conqueror of all human bodies appears before us.
HOPE AND MEANING ?
Is there any hope in life that what we are doing may be of any value after
death? Whether we can answer that question, or not, before death confronts
us?the confronting of death will be there. The time will come.
If any solution to the problems presented by death exists, it must be
perceptible during life to have any value for us as living human beings. It
must be a reasonable solution, sufficiently evident to us as we now live, to
convince us of the correctness of the solution.
There must be clear evidence as to an understanding of the facts of life,
before we may accept any explanation as to what must be after death. When we
know the meaning of birth; when we know what we are working here in bodies
for; when we know what all manifested life exists for?then, we may have an
answer as to why we pass so few years in any one physical existence; we may
know where are our friends, our parents, our grandparents, who lived as we
are living but now are gone; we may know if life has ceased for them; and,
then, if life can ever cease for us.
LAW IS EVERYWHERE -- IS IT IN DEATH ?
There is one fact of human existence which should guide us in our
thinking?the fact of law, ruling in everything that we do. Is it not our
knowledge, our perception of law that enables us to control the elements in
nature? We control the various substances and elements by understanding the
law of their operation. We know that the law of action and re-action
prevails in nature; we recognize in nature the law of cause and effect.
But do we not know that law rules in our very selves? We know there is a law
under which the body grows from conception to birth, from birth to maturity,
followed by gradual declination. Just as there is for man a cycle of birth,
youth, manhood, decay and death, so there is a succession of events in
nature, which we perceive to be a universal law. Morning, noon, and night
are followed by morning again; spring, summer, autumn, and winter are
followed by spring again.
REBIRTH FOLLOWS DEATH ?
We ought then to be able to perceive that, as in nature our birth this time
is but in orderly succession after previous death, so must we come again and
again for a life-time on earth, as we come again and again to our day-times
after the night. We must have passed through a great sweep of existence to
have reached this present birth, but that must also have been the operation
THE CHOICE LIES BETWEEN LAW AND CHAOS.
There cannot be law here and chaos there. All is under law; or, all is
chaos. Our whole experience shows that law rules, and the conclusion becomes
necessary that law rules in every thing and in every circumstance. Law,
therefore, must rule on both sides of death.
But is this law enforced upon us by some powerful Being? If so, there is no
hope whatever for us. And who are WE operating under this all-inclusive law?
If we are mere bodies, we are small and restricted beings. If all the life
there is, is what we feel and experience in our bodies, life amounts to
Very little thought, however, will convince us that we are not our bodies.
We know that our bodies are under constant change from birth to the present
time; constant change will go on until the cessation of these bodies; but we
do not change.
The same ?I? was child, youth, young man, and older man. The identity has
not changed at all through all the changes of body it has experienced.
Nor are we our minds, as so many believe. Our minds are merely certain
bundles of ideas in regard to life, and we must be greater than those minds
because we can change them. Nor is there any imaginable limit to that
DOUBT AND KNOWLEDGE
No matter how much knowledge we may acquire, we can go on learning; no
matter what kind of a mind we may have, we possess the illimitable power to
go on increasing it. If one doubts the existence of anything greater than
mind, he has but to see that the very fact of doubting?the expression of
doubt?shows an act and purpose beyond the idea. We could utterly refuse to
think, and still exist.
We must look deeper for ourselves than the mind and the body. Both are but
instruments which WE use. Then, what can we be?
THE SELF -- PERCEIVER -- SPIRIT
There is that in us which lives, which thinks, which is life itself, which
garners all experience, which itself changes not at all.
?It is smaller than the small,? as the ancients said; ??it is greater than
the great. It can not be weighed nor measured.?
We can not say where it is and where it is not; and yet it is the one thing
in us?our very selves?which enables us to have any experience, any idea or
combination of ideas.
Call it Spirit, if you will. Call it Life. Call it Consciousness; for we
well know that we can not have any experience unless we are conscious of it.
The ancients said:
?The Soul is the Perceiver, is Vision itself, pure and simple, and looks
directly on ideas.?
Spirit sees the idea; actions flow from the ideas adopted. Our differences
are in respect to mentality, in accordance with the kind and range of ideas;
but we have all sprung from the same Source; we all have a common basis, a
common essential nature, which is Spirit and Life itself.
SLEEP AND DREAMS
Our days and nights afford an illustration of the fact that we can let the
body go, that we can depart from the body, and still exist.
While we are awake in the day-time, we act outwardly through the organs of
the body which serve to transmit and receive impressions. At night, these
activities are stilled, and it is said that we sleep.
But how may we know we are conscious during those hours of the night?
Because when we awake, we can say, ?I dreamed,? and there is no question as
to our identity in the dream.
We were conscious, too, of having all the senses; we had, apparently, the
powers of motion. Notwithstanding the dormant condition of the body in that
state we call deep sleep, we were still acting, living, conscious beings. It
may not be difficult to conceive that, during the greater portion of the
night?s rest passed in what is known as ?dreamless slumber? of the body, we
are conscious; that our action is of a higher and finer kind than in
waking-life; that it is possible for us to keep a conscious hold on that
action? to bring back into this brain of ours, which we are using during the
day-time, the memory of every act on every inner plane of being.
The soul?the Real Man?with all his past experiences is fully awake when the
body is asleep. The night-time of the soul is the day-time of the body. It
is only in exceptional cases, however, that a human being knows that he is
conscious all the time; that Consciousness can never by any possibility
cease. Yet each one can see for himself that if Consciousness ever ceased,
there would be no possibility of its ever beginning again. We can see
continuing consciousness in the fact that we are able to take up, each day
in our life, the work of the day and days before.
OUR CONSCIOUSNESS IS CONTINUOUS
Theosophy is presented for the purpose of showing that this full
consciousness in the day-time, in operation through the body, is possible to
If we had that consciousness, what would death mean to us? It would mean no
more than sleep. Death would mean merely a letting go of the body which had
become useless to us. We should know that death could never touch us any
more than sleep reaches us; that as our consciousness is continuous, whether
the body is asleep or awake, so when the body dies, there is no cessation
What, then, survives after death?
The man himself, with all his tendencies, with all his experience. The
Thinker, the Soul, is what survives, is what can never be extinguished, can
never itself suffer, can never be involved, is always of its own nature, no
matter what conditions a man may become involved in for the time being.
Conditions, whether of joy or suffering, must have an ending; but the One
who enjoys, the One who suffers, the One who feels, changes not at all. That
which survives is our very selves?all that we call ourselves?the self who
wakes, who dreams, who enjoys, who goes into different states, through all
Let us say that this life is a dream in which we have our sufferings and our
joys. When we awake, we shall have other experiences, but it is that
something permanent in us which takes to itself of each and every
experience; coming into any field of operation, it gathers experience
according to the tendencies which itself has engendered on that plane of
Thus man has no other experience on earth save that which is his very own,
save that which he has made part of his action on this earth. The law of
action and reaction, of cause and effect, sowing and reaping is, then, his
What is it that survives?
WE survive, as conscious beings, with all the powers of perception, with all
that we have ever gained, and thus shall it ever be. There is no cessation
for us. Bodies wear out in one life, as we know, when they are no longer
capable and useful.
Would we in wisdom wish to continue in such bodies?
No: the soul demands a better instrument. We tear down the old house to
build a better one?or it may be a worse one, we might remember. If we are
selfish, if we work for this body alone, if we are against our fellow
beings, then, in a body we shall have the reaction from our selfish actions.
This is law, and not sentiment.
It is not the doings of our fellow men that we are suffering from, but the
evil we have sown, coming back and pressing with its full weight against us.
Not until man assumes his birthright and realizes that the whole course of
evolution is the working out of the laws of justice, will he take the first
step forward in true progress, which leads to conscious immortality.
[Culled from the FRIENDLY PHILOSOPHER ]
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