Death and Dying – part 1

The important thing to bear in mind is that death is like an escape for the soul out of the prison and it’s an entrance into a fuller measure of activity for the soul, into a fuller life, as it’s been described.

Robert: Hello, and welcome to Inner Sight. Our topic today is death and dying. One of the reasons we’ve chosen to follow this theme today is because it’s probably one of mankind’s major fears. I think that if we can do something to alleviate that fear, it would free us to lead a more comfortable life. This fear often becomes very subconscious and sometimes influences us without us even knowing it. Psychologists tell us that many of the negative things that we do, such as excessive drinking or smoking, are often connected with our deep-seated fears about death. Sarah and Dale, how would you define death? 

Sarah: Essentially, I think you could say that death is an event in consciousness, but it’s so understandably associated with the body that we tend to think of it as something that happens to the whole person, but in fact it’s the release of the consciousness from the physical body. As I was thinking about this topic getting ready for our program today, I did some reading in a book on death that gave interesting insights on the meaning of death from different world religions. Some of them are really quite inspiring. For example, Judaism says about death, “this world is like a vestibule before the world to come. Prepare yourself in the vestibule that you may enter the hall.” Obviously, the hall being the life after death, the realm of nearness to God. Christianity says, as many of us are so familiar with, “don’t store up your treasures on earth, for moths and rust consume it. Store your treasure in heaven for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Meaning, don’t put all your emphasis, all your meaning and all that you value on the earthly realm, the physical plane. Remember that there is a life beyond the material realm that death leads into. Tibetan Buddhism has a lovely definition of death. It says that “death is entering into the clear cold light,” which I think evokes a wonderful image of reality with a capital R. 

Robert: If we’re going on to another reality, that’s more profound than this is, with much more to experience, I almost think about this lifetime as being part of the birth process that we’re still going through. 

Sarah: In many ways what we regard as birth is death to the soul, because it’s the imprisoning of the soul in a physical body and a very infantile, helpless little body. When you think about it, for many years the soul is captive in a form that’s not really mature or adequate to its plan until some two decades later. Death is the birth of the soul into the freedom of life beyond and without the restrictions of a physical encasement. 

Dale: Yes, I think that’s the important thing to bear in mind here, that death is like an escape for the soul out of the prison and it’s an entrance into a fuller measure of activity for the soul, into a fuller life, as it’s been described. We tend to look at it from our angle; that it’s the end of everything, but it’s not really. Even the appearance of the death of the physical body is an illusion because the body does disintegrate eventually and it disappears, but the substance of that body continues on in its own state, and the being that inhabited that body is still very much alive and very active and going about its business, planning for the next stage, whatever that may be. 

Sarah: But coming back to the question you raised of what death is; I suppose we have to remember that it’s not the same for every being. It depends, as I said, on consciousness. According to spiritual teachings, such as those of the Ageless Wisdom or the books of Alice Bailey, and many other great writings, the state of one’s consciousness and the depth of one’s consciousness will affect how one goes through the death process. So, for someone who’s a simple person, a good person, perhaps not deeply educated, and one who hasn’t thought a great deal about spiritual matters, death is apparently very much like going to sleep and forgetting. The mind lets go of all of its earthly experience because there wasn’t a great deal of spiritual knowledge to prepare it for the exit from the physical body. It’s said that for the average human being, death is a continuation of the life as it was lived on earth and the interests and the preoccupations of the person are carried over onto the other side. But, for the more spiritually awakened people, death enables relationships to deepen and the capacity to serve expands because the person is then free of the restrictions of the brain, and I can certainly look forward to that! My brain is a great restriction for me, I’m sure. It’s the physical aspect of our mind, the brain, that’s a restricting force for even the most spiritually developing person. Death frees one from that restriction and gives more latitude for service and for the sensing of relationships. 

Robert: One might ask, why does Divine Providence create a situation where we go through this physical reality at all? Why not just make the transition to the spiritual world to begin with? Isn’t this an unnecessary step, experiencing the limitation of physicality? 

Dale: Well, there is a plan involved here, there is a purpose that is being worked out very slowly through every human being. Many people maybe go through life and they think they have no purpose at all, but in fact, spiritually, there is a very big purpose at work, because there is this thing called perfection and reaching towards a more perfect, more refined nature; more refined in our tastes; more refined in our appearance; and so forth. Whether we realize it or not, that striving for refinement does have an effect upon the physical properties, the physical atoms of our bodies; there is a refining process. Christ, of course, came as the Great Redeemer and came into the world as a Redeemer, and that’s essentially what he was emphasizing. 

Sarah: Some think that death and life are related to the gaining of experience for the soul, but in fact, it’s said that the soul doesn’t need the experience of earthly life so much as it needs to serve. In other words, it has a plan that contributes to God’s plan. It has a part to play and as I understand it, that part can only be worked out on Earth in relationship to other human beings and to the other kingdoms that live on our planet. So, the reason for inhabiting a form is to enable the soul to serve God’s plan, whatever that might be. That opens up a tremendous mystery for us! If we regard our life as the choice of our soul to come and serve, we might find it kind of illuminating to speculate on that. 

Robert: What I gathered from what Dale was saying, in regard to the refinement of the self and attempting to attain perfection, that perhaps in seeking those two particular goals, maybe there’s only certain lessons that can be learned in the physical body, which cannot be learned in the spiritual state. Was that what you were referring to? 

Dale: Yes, something like that. I think because there is a larger plan at work here, that we have to bear in mind that the soul isn’t just in the world for its own sake, because it too is following a larger plan, the Plan of God essentially. A great plan is being worked out and we don’t always see it; can’t always see it, because we’re so much a part of it and we’re so involved in it. If we could stand back and see the whole at work, then we would see something of great beauty unfolding very slowly here on earth. 

Sarah: One of the statements from the writings of Alice Bailey that always hits me with surprise is that, for the spiritual seeker, death is an entrance into a sphere of service and expression which is very familiar and to which the person is well accustomed and which he recognizes at once as not new, but a repeated experience. So that’s another interesting insight, it’s beautiful and it’s familiar. 

Dale: We’ve all died many times before and we’re just repeating the same process all over again. 

Robert: I have another question for you, about the process of death. Sometimes the process is slow and painful. Other times, as with accidental death; murder; suicide; or in war, it’s a rapid withdrawal. How does this affect the soul? 

Dale:  The soul has a certain plan in each life and if the life has led to the full extent, then maybe it has planned a slow withdrawal. That is sometimes the case through certain diseases, like cancer maybe, which can cause the process of withdrawal to be very long and painful. Believe it or not and I hate to say it, there is a certain lesson to be learned through pain and there is a reason for it. It’s very deep and esoteric and I don’t understand it, but I think there are certain lessons that the soul is trying to work out. Other times, in the case of an accidental death, the soul is not really affected by that. The person is suddenly and very quickly out of his or her body and the soul just goes on. 

Sarah: Quite often, pain sweetens the nature, doesn’t it? These issues that you’re bringing up are really social questions now that affect all of us because medical science has gotten to the point where life can be prolonged so much longer than even three decades ago, that it’s a real problem whether one is going to be left encased in a body long past its usefulness to the soul. These questions of a living will and do not resuscitate orders that people want to leave with the hospital and with people that care for them, all of this needs a great deal of thought and focus. It must be very challenging for the medical personnel as well as for the families to know when it’s appropriate for a dying person to make his exit and when there might be still the opportunity to enjoy more life. 

Robert: And there are so many people who have conscious thoughts about suicide and of course suicide is a very final way out and it’s certainly not something that anybody would recommend. We also have euthanasia, a kind of mercy killing. What comment would you make about suicide? 

Dale: The thing about suicide is that it interrupts the plan of the soul and we don’t always know what that plan is, but the soul does have a plan. Suicide really interrupts that plan and I think that’s the big thing to consider here. Usually when one is in a suicidal state, he is pretty depressed and at a low point in his life, and there’s no more hope. 

Sarah: There are those cases though when a person is truly dying of an illness where there’s a great deal of pain; like the actor Richard Farnsworth who committed suicide only a few weeks ago. He was suffering from terminal cancer and your heart goes out to him and everyone who knew and loved him, that he was brought to the point where he felt he could not bear life anymore. I don’t think that should happen. If the medical people were able to relieve his pain, as we’re told they can, he perhaps wouldn’t have reached that point of wanting to commit suicide. Sometimes, in some societies, doctors are reluctant to really use the full range of medication that’s available to them to ease pain. That’s another question that we’re working through. 

Robert: I think of suicide as a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but I don’t like to be judgmental. So many people are judgmental of those people who are contemplating suicide or who have done it. Perhaps they don’t see it as a temporary problem in the moment, but rather a permanent problem. 

Sarah: That question also leads into the subject of hospice care, which tries to manage pain and prevent people from having to make the choice of suicide. That was something contributed from a woman in England, Cecily Saunders I think her name was. My father died in hospice care. I have a friend right now who’s dying in hospice care. It’s a wonderful alternative to getting to the brink of being unable to bear your pain. They help a person prepare to die and treat the pain; make the person comfortable; prepare the family. It’s an alternative. 

Robert: Who is it that makes the transition when we die? Does the person go to heaven and if so, where is heaven? 

Dale: What they say about heaven and hell is, they’re right here among us. The person that makes the transition is of course the soul, the consciousness aspect of ourselves and that’s what leaves and makes the transition into another state of consciousness. That’s essentially what death is and that’s essentially where heaven is as far as I’m concerned. It’s moving into another dimension but it’s not up in the sky somewhere, it’s right here among us. I’m told that the people who have passed over can look back and actually see us here in the physical world, except that they cannot contact us because all contact through the life principle and the consciousness principle has been cut off. I also think that what they meet there in terms of heaven largely depends upon what their physical plane life has been like, so it may be just a continuation of what they were. 

Robert: One of the reasons we’re doing this show too is because we’re fortunate enough in this generation to have read and heard about so many cases of people reporting that they have died,  whether it was on an operating table or whatever the case might be, and that they have returned and had a profound sense of an afterlife, and many of them also report that they hated to come back.  In the Bible and in various religions, angels have been spoken about. Do we have a guardian angel to help in the transition and will we see our loved ones on the other side when we make that transition? 

Sarah: Well, there’s been, as you know, a great deal of interest in angels in recent years. It was a phenomenon really, that permeated people’s thinking only a few years ago. I suppose there’s some recognition perhaps, growing in human consciousness, of the role of the angels. The Ageless Wisdom says that each person has a guardian angel who stays with the physical form throughout the life of that body and that when we die, the guardian angel sees us cross the borderline into the abstract realm. It’s also expected that we see many of those that we loved although here I’m only speaking about what I have read in books. I have no idea what awaits us, even though I’ve probably died many times, I don’t bring the memory over with me. Few of us do, except for a few very young children who seem to bring a memory of their earlier existence before they were born with them, but it fades away. 

Robert: Why do we fear death so? 

Sarah: I think because we don’t remember where we came from. There’s a forgetting that comes with birth in the body and it’s necessary, but it also creates this sense that there’s a rupture. There’s also the fact that people today don’t see death around them as we used to. My mother often spoke about witnessing her grandmother’s death in the sleigh coming home from Christmas Eve services one year, when she was a girl, and it made a big impact on her. It used to be very common that a loved one would be laid out in the parlour for viewing in the wake. Now people die in hospitals far removed from the public eye so I think that contributes to the fear. 

Dale: Yes, and I think there is an ancient memory that is perhaps lying deep in our subconscious, which comes up at moments of crisis and when we may be facing death. This is just part of the substance of which we are made and there is a tendency for all of us to cling to the form life. That’s what we are so identified with and when we see this form being threatened with termination, an end of everything, there is a fear of not knowing what’s coming up next. Maybe a lot of our religious training has prepared us for heaven and hell and there’s a fear of not going to heaven. 

(Transcribed and edited by Carla McLeod)




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