Preparing Your Self For Life After Death
"O my friends, Socrates said, if the soul is really immortal, what care should be taken of her, not only in regard to the portion of time which is called mortal life, but of eternity! And the danger of neglecting the soul from this point of view does indeed appear to be awful. If death were the end of being, the wicked would have a good bargain in dying, for they would be happily quit not only of their body but of their evil together with their souls. But since the soul unquestionably is immortal, there is no release or salvation from evil except the attainment of the highest virtue and wisdom. For when the soul progresses to the afterlife, it takes nothing with her but her strength of character, fortitude, and her own development of reason and morality; which are indeed said greatly to benefit or greatly to injure the departed, at the very beginning of its pilgrimage in the other world.
Plato, Phaedo, 107c-108c, author's translation
Physical death is merely one of those natural experiences of moving beyond an old state of physical existence back to an awareness of a former state of eternal being. On the spiritual path, the quest for death and rebirth is continuous, with old "forms" being left behind as new understandings, new capabilities, new "aspects" are sought and attained ceaselessly. This essay examines all the dimensions of preparing our Soul for life after death.
If we want to be capable of landing on our feet when we're suddenly transplanted into a totally new and unfamiliar environment--the afterlife--we must begin during physical life to prepare for the varied requirements this transition will entail.
"When we have come so far on our soul's pilgrimage that we carry within ourselves as a memory all that we call 'ourself,' namely, our own being in physical life, and experience ourselves instead in another, newly-won superior Self, then we become capable of seeing our life stretching beyond the limits of earthly life. Before our spiritual sight appears the fact that we have shared in another life, in the spiritual world, prior to our present existence in the world of the senses; and in that spiritual life are to be found the real causes of the shaping of our physical existence." Rudolf Steiner, A Road to Self-Knowledge, 1912|
As we move from terrestrial existence to spiritual being, we possess only those characteristics, qualities, and powers that we have developed in our Higher Self--that essence composed of intangible, non-terrestrial, enduring elements--that will, as Plato says, either assist or impede us in this new state of being. As we move into the afterlife, we find some familiar territory:
- We experience consciousness: awareness of our familiar being with the power to think, feel, remember, and act. 2
- We face situations, with their requirements, just as we faced situations and their requirements in terrestrial life. And just as in physical existence, if we've developed specific capabilities we can master these situations in the afterlife.
"The eye of the mind, if pure and
strengthened by habit, makes for itself a line across, and steps
upward into, the next plane of human evolutionary progress;
and it is for this return to become co-ordinated to the Divine
Original Image and Archetype that we are sent here, as Boehme
and the rest teach. Souls are not and cannot be co-ordinated
to the Divine Image or Archetype here perfectly, but if well
begun here the line of progress will, I infer and believe, lead on
towards the achievement of its destination hereafter."|
From the Introduction by Walter Leslie Wilmhurst
of Mary A. Atwood's, Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy, 1850
What capabilities must we have developed in our Higher Self to master these new situations in this new state of being?
- The situation: all the elements (persons, events, objects, difficulties) we're facing
- The requirements of the situation: what we need to master the situation
- Ourselves: our strengths and weaknesses
- How we can overcome our weaknesses and enhance our strengths
- Wise aims: what we want to and should accomplish by mastering our situation
- Calm acceptance of the replacement of one's old environment with a new one
- Stability of self-confidence
- Critical thinking: forming one's personal beliefs by basing them on experience
- Critical consciousness: acting in accordance with knowledge of self and the world
- Altruism and fellow-feeling: going beyond merely personal development to a genuine concern for other beings
- Eager desire to understand new situations and gain comprehension of what they are and what they require of us
- Not expecting someone to give us the answers or the solutions; eagerness to develop these for ourselves
- Mastery of our capabilities and qualities to meet the demands of any situation
These characteristics and proficiencies are ones which we will need in every evolutionary stage as we move forward to new levels of being after death. We either develop these capabilities and qualities or we fail to realize the full potential of each stage of being as it presents itself. Sooner or later, we must develop these competencies if we are to continue our necessary evolution.
"For the soul personality, as it develops, must get sufficient power over its own nature-formation and a sufficient self-expressive mental and vital individuality to persist without the support of the material body, as well as to overcome any excessive detaining attachment to the physical plane and the physical life: it would be sufficiently evolved to subsist in the subtle body [Higher Self] which we know to be the characteristic case or sheath and the proper subtle-physical support of the inner being. It is the soul-person, the psychic being, that survives and carries mind and life with it on its journey, and it is in the subtle body that it passes out of its material lodging; both then must be sufficiently developed for the transit. But a transference to planes of mind existence or life existence implies also a mind and life sufficiently formed and developed to pass without disintegration and exist for a time on these higher levels."|
Aurobindo, The Life Divine
No Deity or Savior can make you ready for the afterlife or give you "salvation" 3 from any difficulty in the afterlife--no matter what falsehoods the world's orthodox religions encourage you to believe. We enter the afterlife with precisely the intangible, spiritual, intellectual capabilities and qualities we've personally developed in this life. All terrestrial, physical elements are gone: wealth, power, influence, physical beauty, etc. If we achieved higher intellectual, moral, and spiritual qualities during earth life, we experience the realm of eternal being as a joyful abode where we retain these qualities and continue to evolve.
Most humans fail to prepare for life after death. Persons who repeatedly and intentionally commit evil acts, as Plato indicates, try to make themselves believe and wish that death would be the end of being, so they would be "quit not only of their body, but of their own evil together with their souls." Unfortunately for them, physical death is not the end of being.
"It makes me feel that I personally can never be annihilated. If my body were actually taken away from me entirely, and I left in space, I feel I should continue to hold myself together, a vigorously determined entity. I might be temporarily inactive, perhaps, but I'd be convinced of my ability to participate in an existence which would be within my reach for the effort of taking. Though I might be deprived of everything en route, I could not by any conceivable thing be overcome or annihilated. I know that the development of a spark, even a tiny spark, of individual power cannot die. It will seek and find its proper progression through its own vitality. The thing to do is to take a lively spark with you when you go."|
Betty White, Across the Unknown, 1939
God (as depicted by Plato and other Perennialists 4 ) is of the essence of
Goodness and therefore does not create a "hell" for the eternal punishment and suffering of the evil--as perverted orthodox religious belief would have it. Notwithstanding, Perennialists suggest that humans must face in the afterlife what they've made of themselves and go through a period of self-assessment, remorse, 5 and arduous correction. As Plato indicates, the only "salvation" (preservation or deliverance from destruction, difficulty, or evil) possible for those humans who have continually and deliberately committed evil acts is the self-development of "the highest virtue and wisdom."
"Men are not in hell because God is angry with them; they are in
wrath and darkness because they have done to the light, which
infinitely flows forth from God, as that man does to the light of
the sun, who puts out his own eyes."|
Preparng ourselves for the after-life should not be a merely egoistic pursuit. We must remember that our mission in mortal life
is to locate our consciousness and life-effort in the Unitive Life of Eternal Being.
"For the life eternal, that which we call the one life, lies outside and beyond all personal aspirations, and hopes, and fears. It lives and moves in all, and has lived and will live from eternity to eternity, ever the great enigma to all that is personal and temporary. The personal devotee who loses his life for his faith, does so in the hope of a personal reward, it is still the personal 'I' who will meet in heaven with all 'I' hold blessed; 'my' friends, 'my' loved ones, 'my' ideal of a personal God and a personal Savior.
This is not a renunciation, but an intensification of the personal, and therefore temporary and finite.
"Far deeper than that lies the path to life eternal. It lies within, not without; in the innermost of our own Being, in that Life which is itself the One Life, the One Being. The life Eternal which we must find will never be found in a heaven of personal bliss, where we seem to approach 'God' as we would approach the throne of an earthly king.
"To know 'God' is to know our own life and Being as part of his Life and Being, and to merge all personal interests in that larger life which is 'no respecter of persons.' Let those who can do so, put away from themselves all that conceit which places them in some specially favoured relation to a 'God' who takes a personal interest in every little triviality of their life. For if we are to understand the term 'God' in any sense which is adequate to the conception of the universe in its totality, as the sum of all Being, all consciousness, and all manifestation, and not merely as an expression of one or other of those anthropomorphic conceptions which have gathered round special names of the deity in various ages: then we must recognize that that One Life, expressing itself in countless forms of manifestation, . . . lives and moves, and has its being in and through all." 6
Persons who have developed themselves in the the manner depicted in this essay--preparing to master any situation that presents itself and locating our being in the Unitive Life--will look forward to an eternity of self-evolution and the unfolding of the Supreme Unity.
"I shall go on into a further degree of consciousness, but I must graduate to it. . . They tell me it will be something comparable, but not quite as I know it here [life after death]. I know there are future manifestations of consciousness, but I do not know their characteristics. I know I shall go on. I have had the experience of transition. . . When they say to me that I am going to experience further transitions, but that I am only going to experience something familiar to my being, I believe what I am told. There is an ultimate or supreme degree of consciousness." |
Betty White and Stewart Edward White, The Unobstructed Universe
1 We do not transform ourselves from a terrestrial to a spiritual being, we are transformed by a Higher Power, though we must work to develop the spiritual understanding that makes such transformation possible.
2 "The primary meaning of consciousness is the presence of the self to itself through operations that attain an object. The originating meaning of consciousness is the self-presence that grounds every other form of presence in human consciousness. The secondary meaning of consciousness is the mediation of self-presence through conscious acts." Emile J. Piscitelli, "Insight As a Theory of Knowledge: Basic Method And Metaphysics"
3 One of the most destructive delusions is orthodox Christianity's dogma of "salvation." According to this deceit, a person need only "believe" in a supernatural "savior" to have his "sins" forgiven by a vindictive deity. This scam encourages a person to presume that he need "do" nothing but believe to achieve "righteousness," that everything has already been done for him by a savior's murder on a cross: a barbarous human sacrifice placating an angry, revengeful god. Completely contrary to this deception, the individual must be an active agent at every step of the way to realization of unity with his Higher Self. The only things that can be done for the person are the provision of genuine teachings,
personal diagnoses, and ongoing transformative prescriptions by a Perennialist teacher. The seeker's striving is the primary impetus.
4 See the author's book, The Perennial Tradition
5 Before a person can even start on the ascent to unity with Higher Consciousness, he must have gained a feeling of divine dissatisfaction with himself and his world--a sense of his ignorance, self-satisfaction, lethargy, and need for betterment. Without some sense of need for improvement the individual has no incentive to search for information and procedures for self-correction and reformation. When a person experiences a sense of disappointment and disapprobation of himself, he begins to experience "death to self" which can place him on the path to rebirth into his Higher Self.
6 William Kingsland, Esoteric Basis of Christianity: or Theosophy and Christian Doctrine, 1891
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