Well if we are reincarnated, which I believe we are, then how can there be a life in between reincarnations, and what would be the point of it since reincarnations are affected by karma as well. If we are punished in our subsequent lives, then where did the notion of Hell even come from and is something like it true?
I just never really thought of it until now. Recently, I had just assumed that reincarnation happens with periods of unconsciousness in between, and those that have ascended outside the wheel just go to better places.
Ok, this is long, sorry ...
I think that part of the unfortunate consequence of the emphasis on a heaven-hell duality
... is that it leaves us with a false understanding of the very gradual and gentle
transition that occurs at death.
What we learn from those who have memories
of having died, is that there is NOT a sharp division between heaven and hell
, as the speculating theologians have suggested. Memories come in all shapes, sizes and flavors. They range from people who have had Near-Death Experiences (NDEs), Out-of-Body Experiences (OBEs), direct clairvoyant perception
of people dead & dying ... to varying forms of direct awareness
of previous deaths, at the end of previous lives.
There are also individuals who can consciously leave the body at will
("astral projection" or "mental/spiritual projection"
) ... as well as the testimony of people under hypnosis - not only as to previous lives, but also as the various stages of death. Add to this the testimony and experience of many types & grades of mediums
, including those who are very practiced and are, quite frankly, in touch with dead people all the time
... and you have a HUGE variety of eyewitness testimony as to what happens after death.
Now the skeptic will readily discount all of this, and the die-hard, dyed-in-the-wool
Bible thumper will tell you what s/he believes
... yet neither of these is actually a refutation
of the firsthand experience(s)
of the people I've mentioned. Eastern religions have had a more accurate picture of the stages of the afterlife for millennia
. Both the Tibetan "Book of the Dead
" and the Egyptian "Book of the Dead,"
give us details that are worth considering.
But I believe the various Theosophical accounts, the contributions of the Spiritualists, and the esoteric teachings given out in the 20th Century ... clear the matter up nicely for those who have serious questions
, and are ready for serious, accurate answers
. If you want to approach the subject from the perspective of a Virginia businessman who was NOT particularly religious - or a student of the Wisdom Teachings - try Journeys Out of the Body
, by Robert Monroe. And you'll find, if you read the book, that his account will fit quite nicely with the more accurate instruction regarding the astral plane
... by Theosophists and esotericists.
I recommend the book by the same title by C.W. Leadbeater, for a detailed
account of what we can expect after death, as well as a good inventory of the scenery, inhabitants and phenomena associated with the astral plane in general. There are better books; I just happen to like the way Leadbeater goes about describing things. He is very thorough, and easy to understand. There is SOME Sanskrit terminology, but not a glut of it, and it's easy to look up these days using the web.
As for why
we would need to continue in our conscious progress
after death, look at it like this: We have accumulated MUCH learning, knowledge & experience during our threescore and ten
, or these days, FIVEscore years
here on Earth. This information and potential wisdom
is not meant to go to waste. And it doesn't
. But the idea that we are immediately and summarily judged, then directed either to a heaven or hell accordingly, is absurd. And this is why:
No finite cause produces an infinite result
. This is a good bit of logic, and while the Bible thumper loves to say things like, "God is beyond logic,"
s/he forgets that God does not DEFY logic. God simply transcends
it. The irony is (or, is
it irony? isn't it - ah, logical!
) ... God turns out to be FAR more logical than we'd every dreamed!!!
Questions that we have trouble answering, as we try and figure out how the Universe ticks, turn out to have very
basic, even simple, answers. It's just the mechanism
, that we find is far more intricate, and amazing in its Beauty, than any of us have ever imagined!
The movie What Dreams May Come
(with Robin Williams) is a great way to explore what will happen after death. The movie is unusual in that it explores the afterlife of suicides, yet this too, is an important question for us to ask. Good ol' Ghost
, with Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg, is an excellent
pointer toward another aspect of the afterlife - this time involving the "earthbound
" soul. I love how the movie integrates elements of Spiritualism, with the popular lore and humour surrounding mediums ... plus manages to communicate moral messages, and really sticks to what we know
occurs after death, from scientific investigation.
Speaking of science, try looking up the recent (and current) research of Gary Schwartz (Arizona State Univ, maybe???). He's written several books already, but most fascinating is that he's really helping to advanced our understanding of life after death from a scientific
point of view. And none of this pseudo-science
nonsense that the skeptics love to throw around, in an attempt to discount something they don't understand.
The bottom line is, we KNOW there is a life after death, and it ISN'T heaven ... and it ISN'T hell. It's a little bit of both, perhaps, for everyone, yet ultimately, we are drawn onward - pulled, by the magnetic power of God's Loving Presence
- toward the "Heaven-world" of Devachan
. EVERY religion teaches this, using one word or another for a blissful state
... that is actually temporary, though it is TIMELESS, being beyond both time and space, or even thought as we know it. Several hundred years, literally, may pass as we "rest"
in Devachan - though our consciousness is infinitely
more active, alive, and awake than it ever has been on Earth.
to our Earthly experiences, it might be said
that the Heaven-world is LIKE
unconsciousness ... and for a very young, inexperienced soul, this will technically be true. There will nothing in the "Soul body" of such an individual that is capable of resonating with, or receiving, vibrations that refined. Therefore, s/he sleeps
. But even this, we should understand, is a BLISSFUL
sleep - because remember, there is NO material body, NO emotional (astral) body ... there is simply the mental body
- or the vehicle of Consciousness itself ("Soul body," or `the Soul'
And it is the SOUL which reincarnates, although the Soul should be understood as having a higher, Spiritual component, which is always
fully aware & in tune with God's Plan ... as well as a mortal, human
component, which descends into incarnation in order to learn, grow, and experience life in the three worlds
. We CANNOT move straight from the physical world to the Heaven-world
after death, because we are - normally - quite encrusted
with the heaviness (the dross, the grossness) of the three worlds
. The astral plane, called PURGATORY
by the Catholics, exists to help us - after each life - to CLEANSE
ourselves from the impurities of outer life.
None of us are exempt from this. NONE. The ONLY way we can skip
such a process, it to live purely, and to work consciously
to undergo this purification during each incarnation. And this is what the Baptism
, or 2nd Spiritual Initiation is all about. The SYMBOL of this great event is preserved in the Christian Sacrament ... although by NO means does the sprinkling on the head with a bit of holy water
suddenly accomplish what is required for the 2nd Initiation.
Just as the Birth
of Christ in the heart - the 1st Initiation - is the BEGINNING of the Spiritual Path, and not its end
(as "born-again" Christians apparently believe) ... neither is Baptism
the end of the road, either. It means we enter through a narrower gate
than we have yet passed through, and it will certainly
help us in the afterlife, as we move very swiftly
through the various levels of the astral plane. Normally, a person may spend years, even decades
, going through this stage.
Not only is a cyclical purification
occurring, but we are also making several important adjustments. We are GARNERING the experience from our life just lived, and learning to see
these experiences in a higher Light
. Also, we are slowly, gradually, gently adjusting to a body, a state of being, and an entire worldview or orientation to life ... in which the outer, physical world is not
at the forefront of our attention.
For awhile, we DO maintain a touch, a connection - occasionally perceiving, or re-experiencing the outer world. In the dreams
of our friends and loved ones, we communicate and mutually experience their presence directly
. But in time, this contact becomes less frequent (and they know & understand) ... because the matter, the substance
, of our astral bodies - just like our phsyical - is slowly shaking loose, falling back to the earth.
Only in cases where we have been VERY attached to the sins of the flesh
, as Christians call them, will this be particularly painful. This means drugs and drink, sex and violence, and especially
cases of human wickedness, malice, brutality and avoidable evil ... will result in a TRULY HELLISH time for people in the afterlife. The NATURAL process of purgation and cleansing is hindered and slowed ... and in extreme cases, people fight it - JUST as they do during incarnation. We are mistaken, if we believe that the same RULES and LAWS that apply in the physical world, suddenly disappear
in the astral world. The SAME GOD created both this world, AND Heaven. Thus, although some worlds are subtler
, and the higher worlds are closer to God's direct Presence, the law of Karma is NOT suspended.
Hell can be understood much, much better if
we know something of the various levels, or worlds (also called planes
) of being. Eastern teachings OFTEN refer to "the three worlds"
of human endeavor. Animals share two of these with us, vegetables & minerals share only one. Aristotle spoke of our existence in the three worlds as the rational soul, the animal soul, and the vegetative soul
. This is precisely
what the Eastern Wisdom has always indicated, and of course, the learned Greeks were quite aware of this. So these worlds, and Aristotelian souls
, are the thinking, the emotional (astral), and the vital ...
The Soul in its own world, however, stands transcendent
of the three worlds, yet Humanity is the middle
or bridging kingdom, between the animal, vegetable & mineral. We get our MATERIAL components (bodies) from the world, our Spiritual (or highest) component from God, and the Soul itself
is the `Christ principle' - the potential
consciousness of a Christ, or Buddha. It's up to US, with the Soul's help (and God's)
, to DEVELOP our spirituality ... and for this, NO ONE else can take charge
, or do our work for us
So death, it turns out, is not different than life ... in that WE are in charge of what happens, within the milieu of experience, responsibility and reaping
which God has provided. NO ONE is immune to the Law(s) or exempt, and while Faith
can help move us along, and get us unstuck
sometimes ... it will NEVER subsititute for the action
that is required to move us forward. I cannot BELIEVE my way from A to B. I must WALK. Of course, if I doubt my ability to do this
enough ... then I will never take the first step.
(sorry, train of thought ended here - but the next run for the astral plane will be along shortly. please present your ticket upon boarding.