THEOSOPHY, Vol. 85, No. 4, February, 1997
(Pages 116-119; Size: 8K)


[Article number (10) in this Department]


SINCE TIME BEGAN with self-consciousness on this plane of existence, men have pondered the question, "What is in the Great Beyond?" Is there life after the death of the physical body? Is continuity a reality and if so how can we understand it? This perseverance in questing, wondering, longing and hoping, strongly suggests that there exists in mortal man an immortal counterpart -- not understood by the mortal frame which, all know, is subject to dissolution. If, during waking life, one has not made a connection in his consciousness, however tenuous, with his immortal counterpart, he is left to believe in one scenario or another, created by man as a substitute for certainty; depart this life still wondering, or simply become subject to inexorable physical laws. Death of the body confers no wisdom that has not been obtained through man's own efforts during waking life. The only importance one may attach to the many beliefs regarding an afterlife is that they demonstrate that belief in some form of continuity is innate in man's nature. Continuity, as a fact in Nature, has been affirmed by all Spiritual teachers of mankind -- evidence and confirmation of this being exhibited on every hand by Nature itself. In the Secret Doctrine (I, 238), H.P.B. says: "The reincarnationists and believers in Karma alone dimly perceive that the whole secret of Life is in the unbroken series of its manifestations: whether in, or apart from, the physical body." If continuity were not true, the search would have been given up long ago.

It is true that the Great Question may not be seriously considered until near the end of physical life when faced with the inevitability of mortality. One who was diagnosed as having a terminal illness spoke to a friend about his impending death. With a poignancy and pathos that deeply touched the heart he searched for a foothold in the Real:

What do you suppose happens after you die?

What do you think happens?

The energy's got to go somewhere...

I like to think there's a place out there where maybe we begin again. The universe is so perfect and so beautiful. We can't just disappear.

Five thousand years ago a fellow Soul named Arjuna asked the same question of his Spiritual teacher:
What end, O Krishna, doth that man attain who, although having faith, hath not attained to perfection in his devotion because his unsubdued mind wandered from the discipline? Doth he, ... like a broken cloud without any support, become destroyed, O strong-armed one, being deluded in the path of the Supreme Spirit? (Bhagavad-Gita, p. 50.)
How many times down the ages this question has been asked cannot be rendered, realized, or meaning obtained, in terms of numbers -- rather a recognition dawns that the question is a cry of the Soul affirming its eternal Being -- that it is a factor, not a cipher, in the scheme of things. The view of those who declare that life ends with the body is an aberration. As the poet Longfellow declared: "dust thou art, to dust returneth, was not spoken of the Soul." Since certainty on this plane of existence eludes us, the thoughtful man may at last turn inward -- realizing that the question of immortality and of the Soul's continuing existence cannot be put into words -- yet may be realized in another part of his being, and if persisted in, ultimately becomes a Reality more real than anything experienced in material life.

Theosophy includes definite teachings on the after-death states, emphasizing that each man creates his own thought and deed while in the waking state -- just as he creates the content of his sleeping state through daytime thinking. That every man must ask and answer the Great Question for himself is Nature's requirement for obtaining the prize of Knowing for Oneself. No other knowledge can measure up to Self-Knowledge -- a wordless Knowing that we are and always will be.

Centuries ago, Socrates, in speaking with friends as he awaited his execution by poison, elicited, through compelling arguments, the concurrence of those who waited with him, the fact of the Soul's continuity. In Socrates' position he had fully faced the question of "what is in the Great Beyond." As recorded in the Phaedo he said:

A man of sense ought not to say, nor will I be very confident, that the description which I have given of the soul and her mansions is exactly true. But I do say that, inasmuch as the soul is shown to be immortal, he may venture to think, not improperly or unworthily, that something of the kind is true. The venture is a glorious one, and he ought to comfort himself with words like these, which is the reason why I lengthen out the tale. Wherefore, I say, let a man be of good cheer about the soul, who having cast away the pleasures and ornaments of the body as alien to him and working harm rather than good, has sought after the pleasures of knowledge; and has arrayed the soul, not in some foreign attire, but in her own proper jewels, temperance, and justice, and courage, and nobility, and truth -- in these adorned she is ready to go on her journey.
From what Socrates had to say, it appears that knowledge of the Soul's immortality depends not only on thoughts and deeds, but on what one willingly lets go. No one can with exactitude describe the path of the Soul through its cyclic rounds, except to say that under the law of Karma one creates and obtains that on which the heart is set. The "mansions" of the Soul, which come and go, are temporal. They are the periodical embodiments in which the Soul does its work.

Charles Johnston, a professor at Columbia University in the last century, a Sanskrit scholar and translator of the Upanishads, wrote to his friend G. W. Russell in 1895:

There is no answer in words to the question: What is in the great Beyond? nor can there be; yet I think we know already that in the nameless mystery of the real, it will be altogether well with us -- now and after.
The philosophy of Theosophy, therefore, may be considered the religion of immortality for through it we may come to know the Eternal SELF.

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