Note: the Theosophical teachings on the states after death are portions of the full teaching on Reincarnation. The teachings covered here mainly involve two conditions which arise after physical death, represented by the terms Kama-Loka and Devachan. These teachings depend on some familiarity with the Sevenfold Constitution of Man.


On “After Death States” from the Ocean of Theosophy by W. Q. Judge

KAMA LOKA.

Let us now consider the states of man after the death of the body and before birth . . . This brings up at once the questions: Is there any heaven or hell, and what are they? Are they states or places? Is there a spot in space where they may be found and to which we go or from where we come? We must also go back to the subject of the fourth principle of the constitution of man, that called Kama in Sanskrit and desire or passion in English. Bearing in mind what was said about that principle, and also the teaching in respect to the astral body and the Astral Light, it will be easier to understand what is taught about the two states ante and post mortem. In chronological order we go into kama loka—or the plane of desire—first on the demise of the body, and then the higher principles, the real man, fall into the state of Devachan. After dealing with kama loka it will be more easy to study the question of Devachan.

The breath leaves the body and we say the man is dead, but that is only the beginning of death; it proceeds on other planes. When the frame is cold and eyes closed, all the forces of the body and mind rush through the brain, and by a series of pictures the whole life just ended is imprinted indelibly on the inner man not only in a general outline but down to the smallest detail of even the most minute and fleeting impression. At this moment, though every indication leads the physician to pronounce for death and though to all intents and purposes the person is dead to this life, the real man is busy in the brain, and not until his work there is ended is the person gone. When this solemn work is over the astral body detaches itself from the physical, and, life energy having departed, the remaining five principles are in the plane of kama loka.

The natural separation of the principles brought about by death divides the total man into three parts:

First, the visible body with all its elements left to further disintegration on the earth plane, where all that it is composed of is in time resolved into the different physical departments of nature;

Second, the kama rupa made up of the astral body and the passions and desires, which also begins at once to go to pieces on the astral plane;

Third, the real man, the upper triad of Atma-Buddhi-Manas, deathless but now out of earth conditions, devoid of body, begins in devachan to function solely as mind clothed in a very ethereal vesture which it will shake off when the time comes for it to return to earth.

Kama loka—or the place of desire—is the astral region penetrating and surrounding the earth. As a place it is on and in and about the earth. Its extent is to a measurable distance from the earth, but the ordinary laws obtaining here do not obtain there, and entities therein are not under the same conditions as to space and time as we are. As a state it is metaphysical, though that metaphysic relates to the astral plane. It is called the plane of desire because it relates to the fourth principle, and in it the ruling force is desire devoid of and divorced from intelligence. It is an astral sphere intermediate between earthly and heavenly life. Beyond any doubt it is the origin of the Christian theory of purgatory, where the soul undergoes penance for evil done and from which it can be released by prayer and other ceremonies or offerings. The fact underlying this superstition is that the soul may be detained in kama loka by the enormous force of some unsatisfied desire, and cannot get rid of the astral and kamic clothing until that desire is satisfied by some one on earth or by the soul itself. But if the person was pure minded and of high aspirations, the separation of the principles on that plane is soon completed, permitting the higher triad to go into Devachan.

Being the purely astral sphere, it partakes of the nature of the astral matter which is essentially earthly and devilish, and in it all the forces work undirected by soul or conscience. It is the slag-pit, as it were, of the great furnace of life, where nature provides for the sloughing off of elements which have no place in Devachan, and for that reason it must have many degrees, every one of which was noted by the ancients. These degrees are known in Sanskrit as lokas or places in a metaphysical sense. Human life is very varied as to character and other potentialities, and for each of these the appropriate place after death is provided, thus making kama loka an infinitely varied sphere. In life some of the differences among men are modified and some inhibited by a similarity of body and heredity, but in kama loka all the hidden desires and passions are let loose in consequence of the absence of body, and for that reason the state is vastly more diversified than the life plane. Not only is it necessary to provide for the natural varieties and differences, but also for those caused by the manner of death, about which something shall be said. And all these various divisions are but the natural result of the life thoughts and last thoughts of the persons who die on earth. It is beyond the scope of this work to go into a description of all these degrees, inasmuch as volumes would be needed to describe them, and then but few would understand.

To deal with kama loka compels us to deal also with the fourth principle in the classification of man’s constitution, and arouses a conflict with modern ideas and education on the subject of the desires and passions. It is generally supposed that the desires and passions are inherent tendencies in the individual, and they have an altogether unreal and misty appearance for the ordinary student. But in this system of philosophy they are not merely inherent in the individual nor are they due to the body per se. While the man is living in the world the desires and passions—the principle kama—have no separate life apart from the astral and inner man, being, so to say, diffused throughout his being. But as they coalesce with the astral body after death and thus form an entity with its own term of life, though without soul, very important questions arise. During mortal life the desires and passions are guided by the mind and soul; after death they work without guidance from the former master; while we live we are responsible for them and their effects, and when we have left this life we are still responsible, although they go on working and making effects on others while they last as the sort of entity I have described, and without our direct guidance. In this is seen the continuance of responsibility. They are a portion of the skandhas—well known in eastern philosophy—which are the aggregates that make up the man. The body includes one set of the skandhas, the astral man another, the kama principle is another set, and still others pertain to other parts. In kama are the really active and important ones which control rebirths and lead to all the varieties of life and circumstance upon each rebirth. They are being made from day to day under the law that every thought combines instantly with one of the elemental forces of nature, becoming to that extent an entity which will endure in accordance with the strength of the thought as it leaves the brain, and all of these are inseparably connected with the being who evolved them. There is no way of escaping; all we can do is to have thoughts of good quality, for the highest of the Masters themselves are not exempt from this law, but they “people their current in space” with entities powerful for good alone.

Now in kama loka this mass of desire and thought exists very definitely until the conclusion of its disintegration, and then the remainder consists of the essence of these skandhas, connected, of course, with the being that evolved and had them. They can no more be done away with than we can blot out the universe. Hence they are said to remain until the being comes out of devachan, and then at once by the law of attraction they are drawn to the being, who from them as germ or basis builds up a new set of skandhas for the new life. Kama loka therefore is distinguished from the earth plane by reason of the existence therein, uncontrolled and unguided, of the mass of passions and desires; but at the same time earth-life is also a kama loka, since it is largely governed by the principle kama, and will be so until at a far distant time in the course of evolution the races of men shall have developed the fifth and sixth principle, thus throwing kama into its own sphere and freeing earth-life from its influence.

The astral man in kama loka is a mere shell devoid of soul and mind, without conscience and also unable to act unless vivified by forces outside of itself. It has that which seems like an animal or automatic consciousness due wholly to the very recent association with the human Ego. For under the principle laid down in another chapter, every atom going to make up the man has a memory of its own which is capable of lasting a length of time in proportion to the force given it. In the case of a very material and gross or selfish person the force lasts longer than in any other, and hence in that case the automatic consciousness will be more definite and bewildering to one who without knowledge dabbles with necromancy. Its purely astral portion contains and carries the record of all that ever passed before the person when living, for one of the qualities of the astral substance is to absorb all scenes and pictures and the impressions of all thoughts, to keep them, and to throw them forth by reflection when the conditions permit. This astral shell, cast off by every man at death, would be a menace to all men were it not in every case, except one which shall be mentioned, devoid of all the higher principles which are the directors. But those guiding constituents being disjoined from the shell, it wavers and floats about from place to place without any will of its own, but governed wholly by attractions in the astral and magnetic fields.

It is possible for the real man—called the spirit by some—to communicate with us immediately after death for a few brief moments, but, those passed, the soul has no more to do with earth until reincarnated. What can and do influence the sensitive and the medium from out of this sphere are the shells I have described. Soulless and conscienceless, these in no sense are the spirits of our deceased ones. They are the clothing thrown off by the inner man, the brutal earthly portion discarded in the flight to devachan, and so have always been considered by the ancients as devils—our personal devils—because essentially astral, earthly, and passional. It would be strange indeed if this shell, after being for so long the vehicle of the real man on earth, did not retain an automatic memory and consciousness. We see the decapitated body of the frog or the cock moving and acting for a time with a seeming intelligence, and why is it not possible for the finer and more subtle astral form to act and move with a far greater amount of seeming mental direction?

. . .

In the state of Kama Loka suicides and those who are suddenly shot out of life by accident or murder, legal or illegal, pass a term almost equal to the length life would have been but for the sudden termination. These are not really dead. To bring on a normal death, a factor not recognized by medical science must be present. That is, the principles of the being as described in other chapters have their own term of cohesion, at the natural end of which they separate from each other under their own laws. This involves the great subject of the cohesive forces of the human subject, requiring a book in itself. I must be content therefore with the assertion that this law of cohesion obtains among the human principles. Before that natural end the principles are unable to separate. Obviously the normal destruction of the cohesive force cannot be brought about by mechanical processes except in respect to the physical body. Hence a suicide, or person killed by accident or murdered by man or by order of human law, has not come to the natural termination of the cohesion among the other constituents, and is hurled into the kama loka state only partly dead. There the remaining principles have to wait until the actual natural life term is reached, whether it be one month or sixty years.

But the degrees of kama loka provide for the many varieties of the last-mentioned shells. Some pass the period in great suffering, others in a dreamy sort of sleep, each according to the moral responsibility. But executed criminals are in general thrown out of life full of hate and revenge, smarting under a penalty they do not admit the justice of. They are ever rehearsing in kama loka their crime, their trial, their execution, and their revenge. And whenever they can gain touch with a sensitive living person, medium or not, they attempt to inject thoughts of murder and other crime into the brain of such unfortunate. And that they succeed in such attempts the deeper students of Theosophy full well know.

We have now approached devachan. After a certain time in kama loka the being falls into a state of unconsciousness which precedes the change into the next state. It is like the birth into life, preluded by a term of darkness and heavy sleep. It then wakes to the joys of devachan.

DEVACHAN.

Having shown that just beyond the threshold of human life there is a place of separation wherein the better part of man is divided from his lower and brute elements, we come to consider what is the state after death of the real being, the immortal who travels from life to life. Struggling out of the body the entire man goes into kama loka, to purgatory, where he again struggles and loosens himself from the lower skandhas; this period of birth over, the higher principles, Atma-Buddhi-Manas, begin to think in a manner different from that which the body and brain permitted in life. This is the state of Devachan, a Sanskrit word meaning literally “the place of the gods,” where the soul enjoys felicity; but as the gods have no such bodies as ours, the Self in devachan is devoid of a mortal body. In the ancient books it is said that this state lasts “for years of infinite number,” or “for a period proportionate to the merit of the being”; and when the mental forces peculiar to the state are exhausted, “the being is drawn down again to be reborn in the world of mortals.” Devachan is therefore an interlude between births in the world. The law of karma which forces us all to enter the world, being ceaseless in its operation and also universal in scope, acts also on the being in devachan, for only by the force or operation of Karma are we taken out of devachan. It is something like the pressure of atmosphere which, being continuous and uniform, will push out or crush that which is subjected to it unless there be a compensating quantity of atmosphere to counteract the pressure. In the present case the karma of the being is the atmosphere always pressing the being on or out from state to state; the counteracting quantity of atmosphere is the force of the being’s own life-thoughts and aspirations which prevent his coming out of devachan until that force is exhausted, but which being spent has no more power to hold back the decree of our self-made mortal destiny.

The necessity for this state after death is one of the necessities of evolution growing out of the nature of mind and soul. The very nature of manas requires a devachanic state as soon as the body is lost, and it is simply the effect of loosening the bonds placed upon the mind by its physical and astral encasement. In life we can but to a fractional extent act out the thoughts we have each moment; and still less can we exhaust the psychic energies engendered by each day’s aspirations and dreams. The energy thus engendered is not lost or annihilated, but is stored in Manas, but the body, brain, and astral body permit no full development of the force. Hence, held latent until death, it bursts then from the weakened bonds and plunges Manas, the thinker, into the expansion, use, and development of the thought-force set up in life. The impossibility of escaping this necessary state lies in man’s ignorance of his own powers and faculties. From this ignorance delusion arises, and Manas not being wholly free is carried by its own force into the thinking of devachan. But while ignorance is the cause for going into this state the whole process is remedial, restful, and beneficial. For if the average man returned at once to another body in the same civilization he had just quitted, his soul would be completely tired out and deprived of the needed opportunity for the development of the higher part of his nature.

Now the Ego being minus mortal body and kama, clothes itself in devachan with a vesture which cannot be called body but may be styled means or vehicle, and in that it functions in the devachanic state entirely on the plane of mind and soul. Everything is as real then to the being as this world seems to be to us. It simply now has gotten the opportunity to make its own world for itself unhampered by the clogs of physical life. Its state may be compared to that of the poet or artist who, rapt in ecstasy of composition or arrangement of color, cares not for and knows not of either time or objects of the world.

We are making causes every moment, and but two fields exist for the manifestation in effect of those causes. These are, the objective as this world is called, and the subjective which is both here and after we have left this life. The objective field relates to earth life and the grosser part of man, to his bodily acts and his brain thoughts, as also sometimes to his astral body. The subjective has to do with his higher and spiritual parts. In the objective field the psychic impulses cannot work out, nor can the high leanings and aspirations of his soul; hence these must be the basis, cause, substratum, and support for the state of devachan. . . .

. . .

The last series of powerful and deeply imprinted thoughts are those which give color and trend to the whole life in devachan. The last moment will color each subsequent moment. On those the soul and mind fix themselves and weave of them a whole set of events and experiences, expanding them to their highest limit, carrying out all that was not possible in life. Thus expanding and weaving these thoughts the entity has its youth and growth and growing old, that is, the uprush of the force, its expansion, and its dying down to final exhaustion. If the person has led a colorless life the devachan will be colorless; if a rich life, then it will be rich in variety and effect. Existence there is not a dream save in a conventional sense, for it is a stage of the life of man, and when we are there this present life is a dream. It is not in any sense monotonous. We are too prone to measure all possible states of life and places for experience by our present earthly one and to imagine it to be reality. But the life of the soul is endless and not to be stopped for one instant. Leaving our physical body is but a transition to another place or plane for living in. But as the ethereal garments of devachan are more lasting than those we wear here, the spiritual, moral, and psychic causes use more time in expanding and exhausting in that state than they do on earth. If the molecules that form the physical body were not subject to the general chemical laws that govern physical earth, then we should live as long in these bodies as we do in the devachanic state. But such a life of endless strain and suffering would be enough to blast the soul compelled to undergo it. Pleasure would then be pain, and surfeit would end but in an immortal insanity. Nature, always kind, leads us soon again into heaven for a rest, for the flowering of the best and highest in our natures.

Devachan is then neither meaningless nor useless. “In it we are rested; that part of us which could not bloom under the chilling skies of earth-life bursts forth into flower and goes back with us to another life stronger and more a part of our nature than before; . . . Why shall we repine that nature kindly aids us in the interminable struggle; why thus keep the mind revolving about this petty personality and its good and evil fortunes?” (Letter from Mahatma K. H. See Path, p. 192, Vol. 5.)

But it is sometimes asked, what of those we have left behind: do we see them there? We do not see them there in fact, but we make to ourselves their images as full, complete, and objective as in life, and devoid of all that we then thought was a blemish. We live with them and see them grow great and good instead of mean or bad. The mother who has left a drunken son behind finds him before her in devachan a sober, good man, and likewise through all possible cases, parent, child, husband, and wife have their loved ones there perfect and full of knowledge. This is for the benefit of the soul. You may call it a delusion if you will, but the illusion is necessary to happiness just as it often is in life. And as it is the mind that makes the illusion, it is no cheat. Certainly the idea of a heaven built over the verge of hell where you must know, if any brains or memory are left to you under the modern orthodox scheme, that your erring friends and relatives are suffering eternal torture, will bear no comparison with the doctrine of devachan. . . .

. . .

The whole period allotted by the soul’s forces being ended in devachan, the magnetic threads which bind it to earth begin to assert their power. The Self wakes from the dream, it is borne swiftly off to a new body, and then, just before birth, it sees for a moment all the causes that led it to devachan and back to the life it is about to begin, and knowing it to be all just, to be the result of its own past life, it repines not but takes up the cross again—and another soul has come back to earth.


On “After Death States” from the Key to Theosophy by H. P. Blavatsky

Enquirer: You spoke of Kama-loka, what is it?

Theosophist: When the man dies, his lower three principles leave him for ever; i.e., body, life, and the vehicle of the latter, the astral body or the double of the living man. And then, his four principles—the central or middle principle, the animal soul or Kama-rupa, with what it has assimilated from the lower Manas, and the higher triad find themselves in Kama-loka. The latter is an astral locality, the limbus of scholastic theology, the Hades of the ancients, and, strictly speaking, a locality only in a relative sense. It has neither a definite area nor boundary, but exists within subjective space; i.e., is beyond our sensuous perceptions. Still it exists, and it is there that the astral eidolons of all the beings that have lived, animals included, await their second death. For the animals it comes with the disintegration and the entire fading out of their astral particles to the last. For the human eidolon it begins when the Atma-Buddhi-Manasic triad is said to “separate” itself from its lower principles, or the reflection of the ex-personality, by falling into the Devachanic state.

Enquirer: And what happens after this?

Theosophist: Then the Kama-rupic phantom, remaining bereft of its informing thinking principle, the higher Manas, and the lower aspect of the latter, the animal intelligence, no longer receiving light from the higher mind, and no longer having a physical brain to work through, collapses.

Enquirer: In what way?

Theosophist: Well, it falls into the state of the frog when certain portions of its brain are taken out by the vivisector. It can think no more, even on the lowest animal plane. Henceforth it is no longer even the lower Manas, since this “lower” is nothing without the “higher.”

Enquirer: And is it this nonentity which we find materializing in Seance rooms with Mediums?

Theosophist: It is this nonentity. A true nonentity, however, only as to reasoning or cogitating powers, still an Entity, however astral and fluidic, as shown in certain cases when, having been magnetically and unconsciously drawn toward a medium, it is revived for a time and lives in him by proxy, so to speak. This “spook,” or the Kama-rupa, may be compared with the jelly-fish, which has an ethereal gelatinous appearance so long as it is in its own element, or water (the medium’s specific AURA), but which, no sooner is it thrown out of it, than it dissolves in the hand or on the sand, especially in sunlight. In the medium’s Aura, it lives a kind of vicarious life and reasons and speaks either through the medium’s brain or those of other persons present. But this would lead us too far, and upon other people’s grounds, whereon I have no desire to trespass. Let us keep to the subject of reincarnation.

. . .

Enquirer: But what is Devachan?

Theosophist: The “land of gods” literally; a condition, a state of mental bliss. Philosophically a mental condition analogous to, but far more vivid and real than, the most vivid dream. It is the state after death of most mortals.

. . .

Devachan is the idealized continuation of the terrestrial life just left behind, a period of retributive adjustment, and a reward for unmerited wrongs and sufferings undergone in that special life. . . .

. . .

The reincarnating Ego, or individuality, retains during the Devachanic period merely the essence of the experience of its past earth-life or personality, the whole physical experience involving into a state of in potentia, or being, so to speak, translated into spiritual formulæ; . . .

. . .

Here is an instance. A mother dies, leaving behind her little helpless children—orphans whom she adores—perhaps a beloved husband also. We say that her “Spirit” or Ego—that individuality which is now all impregnated, for the entire Devachanic period, with the noblest feelings held by its late personality, i.e., love for her children, pity for those who suffer, and so on—we say that it is now entirely separated from the “vale of tears,” that its future bliss consists in that blessed ignorance of all the woes it left behind. . . . We say that the bliss of the Devachanee consists in its complete conviction that it has never left the earth, and that there is no such thing as death at all; that the post-mortem spiritual consciousness of the mother will represent to her that she lives surrounded by her children and all those whom she loved; that no gap, no link, will be missing to make her disembodied state the most perfect and absolute happiness. . . .

. . .

Enquirer: . . . How can you reconcile the theory of Soul’s omniscience with its blindness to that which is taking place on earth?

Theosophist: Because such is the law of love and mercy. During every Devachanic period the Ego, omniscient as it is per se, clothes itself, so to say, with the reflection of the “personality” that was. I have just told you that the ideal efflorescence of all the abstract, therefore undying and eternal qualities or attributes, such as love and mercy, the love of the good, the true and the beautiful, that ever spoke in the heart of the living “personality,” clung after death to the Ego, and therefore followed it to Devachan. For the time being, then, the Ego becomes the ideal reflection of the human being it was when last on earth, and that is not omniscient. Were it that, it would never be in the state we call Devachan at all.

Enquirer: What are your reasons for it?

Theosophist: If you want an answer on the strict lines of our philosophy, then I will say that it is because everything is illusion (Maya) outside of eternal truth, which has neither form, colour, nor limitation. He who has placed himself beyond the veil of maya—and such are the highest Adepts and Initiates—can have no Devachan. As to the ordinary mortal, his bliss in it is complete. It is an absolute oblivion of all that gave it pain or sorrow in the past incarnation, and even oblivion of the fact that such things as pain or sorrow exist at all. The Devachanee lives its intermediate cycle between two incarnations surrounded by everything it had aspired to in vain, and in the companionship of everyone it loved on earth. It has reached the fulfilment of all its soul-yearnings. And thus it lives throughout long centuries an existence of unalloyed happiness, which is the reward for its sufferings in earth-life. In short, it bathes in a sea of uninterrupted felicity spanned only by events of still greater felicity in degree.

Enquirer: But this is more than simple delusion, it is an existence of insane hallucinations!

Theosophist: From your standpoint it may be, not so from that of philosophy. Besides which, is not our whole terrestrial life filled with such delusions? Have you never met men and women living for years in a fool’s paradise? And because you should happen to learn that the husband of a wife, whom she adores and believes herself as beloved by him, is untrue to her, would you go and break her heart and beautiful dream by rudely awakening her to the reality? I think not. I say it again, such oblivion and hallucination—if you call it so—are only a merciful law of nature and strict justice. At any rate, it is a far more fascinating prospect than the orthodox golden harp with a pair of wings. . . . To believe that a pure spirit can feel happy while doomed to witness the sins, mistakes, treachery, and, above all, the sufferings of those from whom it is severed by death and whom it loves best, without being able to help them, would be a maddening thought.

Enquirer: There is something in your argument. I confess to having never seen it in this light.

Theosophist: Just so, and one must be selfish to the core and utterly devoid of the sense of retributive justice, to have ever imagined such a thing. We are with those whom we have lost in material form, and far, far nearer to them now, than when they were alive. And it is not only in the fancy of the Devachanee, as some may imagine, but in reality. For pure divine love is not merely the blossom of a human heart, but has its roots in eternity. Spiritual holy love is immortal, and Karma brings sooner or later all those who loved each other with such a spiritual affection to incarnate once more in the same family group. Again we say that love beyond the grave, illusion though you may call it, has a magic and divine potency which reacts on the living. A mother’s Ego filled with love for the imaginary children it sees near itself, living a life of happiness, as real to it as when on earth—that love will always be felt by the children in flesh. It will manifest in their dreams, and often in various events—in providential protections and escapes, for love is a strong shield, and is not limited by space or time. As with this Devachanic “mother,” so with the rest of human relationships and attachments, save the purely selfish or material. Analogy will suggest to you the rest.

Enquirer: In no case, then, do you admit the possibility of the communication of the living with the disembodied spirit?

Theosophist: Yes, there is a case, and even two exceptions to the rule. The first exception is during the few days that follow immediately the death of a person and before the Ego passes into the Devachanic state. Whether any living mortal, save a few exceptional cases—(when the intensity of the desire in the dying person to return for some purpose forced the higher consciousness to remain awake, and therefore it was really the individuality, the “Spirit” that communicated)—has derived much benefit from the return of the spirit into the objective plane is another question. The spirit is dazed after death and falls very soon into what we call “pre-devachanic unconsciousness.” The second exception is found in the Nirmanakayas.

. . .

Enquirer: . . . Do we possess more knowledge in Devachan than we do in Earth life?

Theosophist: In one sense, we can acquire more knowledge; that is, we can develop further any faculty which we loved and strove after during life, provided it is concerned with abstract and ideal things, such as music, painting, poetry, etc., since Devachan is merely an idealized and subjective continuation of earth-life.

Enquirer: But if in Devachan the Spirit is free from matter, why should it not possess all knowledge?

Theosophist: Because, as I told you, the Ego is, so to say, wedded to the memory of its last incarnation. Thus, if you think over what I have said, and string all the facts together, you will realize that the Devachanic state is not one of omniscience, but a transcendental continuation of the personal life just terminated. It is the rest of the soul from the toils of life.

. . .

Enquirer: But if my Ego can, after the destruction of my body, become plunged in a state of entire unconsciousness, then where can be the punishment for the sins of my past life?

Theosophist: Our philosophy teaches that Karmic punishment reaches the Ego only in its next incarnation. After death it receives only the reward for the unmerited sufferings endured during its past incarnation. The whole punishment after death, even for the materialist, consists, therefore, in the absence of any reward, and the utter loss of the consciousness of one’s bliss and rest. Karma is the child of the terrestrial Ego, the fruit of the actions of the tree which is the objective personality visible to all, as much as the fruit of all the thoughts and even motives of the spiritual “I”; but Karma is also the tender mother, who heals the wounds inflicted by her during the preceding life, before she will begin to torture this Ego by inflicting upon him new ones. If it may be said that there is not a mental or physical suffering in the life of a mortal which is not the direct fruit and consequence of some sin in a preceding existence; on the other hand, since he does not preserve the slightest recollection of it in his actual life, and feels himself not deserving of such punishment, and therefore thinks he suffers for no guilt of his own, this alone is sufficient to entitle the human soul to the fullest consolation, rest, and bliss in his post-mortem existence. Death comes to our spiritual selves ever as a deliverer and friend. For the materialist, who, notwithstanding his materialism, was not a bad man, the interval between the two lives will be like the unbroken and placid sleep of a child, either entirely dreamless, or filled with pictures of which he will have no definite perception; while for the average mortal it will be a dream as vivid as life, and full of realistic bliss and visions.

Enquirer: Then the personal man must always go on suffering blindly the Karmic penalties which the Ego has incurred?

Theosophist: Not quite so. At the solemn moment of death every man, even when death is sudden, sees the whole of his past life marshalled before him, in its minutest details. For one short instant the personal becomes one with the individual and all-knowing Ego. But this instant is enough to show to him the whole chain of causes which have been at work during his life. He sees and now understands himself as he is, unadorned by flattery or self-deception. He reads his life, remaining as a spectator looking down into the arena he is quitting; he feels and knows the justice of all the suffering that has overtaken him.

Enquirer: Does this happen to everyone?

Theosophist: Without any exception. Very good and holy men see, we are taught, not only the life they are leaving, but even several preceding lives in which were produced the causes that made them what they were in the life just closing. They recognise the law of Karma in all its majesty and justice.

Enquirer: Is there anything corresponding to this before re-birth?

Theosophist: There is. As the man at the moment of death has a retrospective insight into the life he has led, so, at the moment he is reborn on to earth, the Ego, awaking from the state of Devachan, has a prospective vision of the life which awaits him, and realizes all the causes that have led to it. He realizes them and sees futurity, because it is between Devachan and re-birth that the Ego regains his full manasic consciousness, and rebecomes for a short time the god he was, before, in compliance with Karmic law, he first descended into matter and incarnated in the first man of flesh. The “golden thread” sees all its “pearls” and misses not one of them.

. . .

Enquirer: . . . How long does the incarnating Ego remain in the Devachanic state?

Theosophist: This, we are taught, depends on the degree of spirituality and the merit or demerit of the last incarnation. The average time is from ten to fifteen centuries . . .

. . .

After allowing the Soul, escaped from the pangs of personal life, a sufficient, aye, a hundredfold compensation, Karma, with its army of Skandhas, waits at the threshold of Devachan, whence the Ego re-emerges to assume a new incarnation. It is at this moment that the future destiny of the now-rested Ego trembles in the scales of just Retribution, as it now falls once again under the sway of active Karmic law. It is in this rebirth which is ready for it, a rebirth selected and prepared by this mysterious, inexorable, but in the equity and wisdom of its decrees infallible LAW, that the sins of the previous life of the Ego are punished. Only it is into no imaginary Hell, with theatrical flames and ridiculous tailed and horned devils, that the Ego is cast, but verily on to this earth, the plane and region of his sins, where he will have to atone for every bad thought and deed. As he has sown, so will he reap. Reincarnation will gather around him all those other Egos who have suffered, whether directly or indirectly, at the hands, or even through the unconscious instrumentality, of the past personality. They will be thrown by Nemesis in the way of the new man, concealing the old, the eternal Ego, and . . . .


Selected Writings on Life After Death