Death and Dying – part 2

The strong sense of being a separated individual is very much linked to our possession of a physical body and when we die, we are liberated from that illusion that we are a separated being and we experience in a more direct way how interconnected we are to everything that we love and to all human beings.

Robert: Welcome to Inner Sight. Today we’re doing a show, the theme of which is death and dying. I’d like to start off the show by a quote from that famous speaker and writer in American literature, Ralph Waldo Emerson, “It is the secret of the world that all things subsist and do not die, but only retire a little from sight and afterwards return again. Nothing is dead.” I like another thought too about death and it is as follows, “One of the most profound mysteries of life is that it ends in death. Helping us to understand this unavoidable fact is one of the major functions of religion. Spirituality understands that death is of the body only, not of the soul or spirit, which is undying.” With Sarah and Dale, we’re going to pursue this topic which has many different layers to it and our purpose, above all else is to see if we can help to dispel some of the fear that exists about death. What happens to the being, the person, immediately after death?

Sarah: Well, as I understand from what I have read, it depends on the state of consciousness of the person before they die. In other words, we cross over into life after death basically the same person we were when we were living in a physical body. We don’t suddenly become transformed into some infinitely wiser being than we were on earth, so that gives us a hint that it’s a good idea to try to prepare for our death to become as wise and as thoughtful as we can be. But it also says that the life goes on essentially in the same state of consciousness that we lived on Earth. So, for the people who are totally focused on the material plane and believe that the life of material things is the be all and end all of life, I suppose when they die, they are confused and a bit lost without a physical body. Those who have a more spiritual consciousness find that life goes on without the body, and in fact, in a freer, more liberated sense and with a clear perception of relationships. The strong sense of being a separated individual is very much linked to our possession of a physical body and when we die, we are liberated from that illusion that we are a separated being and we experience in a more direct way how interconnected we are to everything that we love and to all human beings.

Robert: I guess that transition is certainly a time of self discovery, where indeed we find out that we are not our body, because so many people, as you said do associate their self definition with the body. When one finds out that the consciousness is what we really are, that must be quite a profound revelation of truth. Dale, would you agree?

Dale: Yes, I would agree with that. As Sarah said, it does depend a lot on the stage of consciousness that one is at in a particular lifetime, whether one is very physically or materially oriented to the material plane and sees life in terms of physical possessions and that sort of thing. And if the emotional life is very strong, then this is what one is going to encounter on the other side, this desire nature will still be very strong and it very likely will keep pulling the being back to the physical plane, back to physical existence.

Sarah: You know something that I think that’s very interesting about death according to spiritual teachings is that expression, “my life passed before my eyes.” When people who have come very close to death say that they see their whole life passing before their eyes well, in fact, that apparently does happen at our death. And according to the state of our consciousness, we examine and evaluate and review our life. By we, I mean the soul, the real inner being dwelling within the body, conducts this review and apparently isolates the three most important, most significant episodes or events of that particular life. Three major life pivotal events, or relationships, and all else is released and forgotten, but those major three experiences condition the soul in the next realm and help the soul make plans for future incarnations. I find that thought fascinating.

Robert: It really is fascinating. Is there a relationship between death and sleep?
Dale: Yes, there is, because sleep is like a daily death in a way. The thread of life that originates from God, by way of the soul, is anchored in our body in the region of the heart. There is another thread that is anchored in the region of the pineal gland, the thread of consciousness. At night, when we go to sleep, this consciousness passes out of the body into the inner planes, but the life aspect stays and keeps the body functioning. So, sleep is like death in a way, but at the time of death, both of these threads are severed. There is no coming back.

Sarah: Thinking of the time when my father died of cancer, it was a slow and painful process. He was in Hospice care and I remember the Hospice nurse saying, when I asked her why it was so hard and why it took him so long, she said, “we struggle to be born and we struggle to die.” This thread that Dale is talking about, in a sense binds the soul, the inner being, to the physical body and it’s not easily severed. We think of life as so fragile, and it is, but on the other hand, there is a strong grip of the soul on its body. Perhaps that is the reason that the process of death takes a great deal of preparation and effort for the soul. I don’t know. It’s just a thought, and certainly we know that birth is not so easy either, for the baby or for the mother.

Dale: At the time of death, in the slow process which you mentioned, there is also a battle for the physical substance of the body, the very atoms of the body. Each atom is a tiny life, we are told, and all together this body forms a considerable force which, at the time of death, may set up a counter action against the action of the soul, which is trying to withdraw and be released from this body. The body puts up a fight, and so at a certain stage, and this has been witnessed I think by people in the medical field, there is quite a struggle going on during this dying process.

Robert: We view the human experience as an intertwining of the soul and the personality. How does the soul view death and how is it different from how the personality views death?

Sarah: The soul views death as release, as liberation. If you think about it, the body, the physical form, is an encasement and a limitation to the soul. The soul is consciousness. It is free and liberated on its own plane, but when it resides in a physical body, it’s constricted according to reasons that are known to the soul which enable it to fulfill its plan on earth, but the death of the physical body releases the soul. That’s why spiritual teachings often speak of death as a joyous experience, and in fact for the soul it is. The personality views death as the end of its existence, and in a sense it is. It’s the end of the separated, isolated individual consciousness. Consciousness continues, but not the sense of being a separated; isolated; unique individual; separate from all other human beings. That ends and the personality has a lot staked on the continuation of its separated existence. So, there is a bit of a struggle between the soul’s plan and the personality’s desire to remain independent and isolated.

Robert: From what you are saying, the personality’s viewpoint might be analogous to that of an actor playing a role that he loves and when he leaves the role, there might be a certain remorse, especially if the actor strongly identifies with the role and hates to let go.

Dale: This brings up an interesting experiment, if anybody wants to try it, using the “as if” technique. Sit quietly for a while and try to imagine that you are the soul inhabiting this body, and at the moment of death you are trying to withdraw. Put yourself in the position of the soul, which is actually yourself, and try to see death from that perspective. Maybe in time you can understand the whole process a little better because it’s seeing it from both angles.

Sarah: I hope that listeners don’t find this whole discussion a bit morbid. It isn’t meant to be. It’s simply a recognition of the fact that every living thing on earth will die. It’s the one experience that all living things; human; vegetable; animal; even mineral; share in common. The death of the body, of the form.

Robert: What about reincarnation? Do we start a new life immediately or is there a waiting period?

Sarah: Well, there are different spiritual theories on that. It’s one of those questions that not every spiritual teaching views in the same way. The writings of Alice Bailey say that it depends upon the maturity of the soul. Souls are not all equal in consciousness and if I recall, the more advanced souls spend a longer time out of the body making plans for the return of the soul to physical incarnation. People who are less evolved tend to return more quickly and repeatedly for the gaining of the experience the soul needs. There are other spiritual teachings that say the exact opposite. I don’t know. Dale, do you have any opinions on this subject?

Dale: That’s what I understand, and I think we’ve mentioned before that it depends on the state of consciousness. Someone who is not as evolved as the average person, then they may be pulled back into the life more quickly because the pull of the material world is very strong and that counteracts the grip of the soul. But the whole objective really on earth is to eventually reach a state where we don’t have to reincarnate ever again unless for the purposes of service in God’s service. So, the more advanced one is in terms of consciousness, the less one has to return to the physical world because that being has worked through the stages and they’ve worked off their karma and worked through the perfection stage and their consciousness is much more evolved; much more inclusive and they’ve done their service. They’ve paid their dues, so to speak, and they’ve reached a stage where literally one is free.

Robert: Well, if we accept the idea that soul goes through a multiple number of lifetimes of human experiences, then does the soul have a plan and purpose for each of those multiple lives?

Sarah: It does, and in fact it apparently plans for several lifetimes at a time and has a particular agenda that it tries to work out. Not on its own, but always through the group relationships that the soul forms on Earth, its plans are furthered, and after death it reassesses. As I said, it identifies the three most significant episodes in that particular lifetime and makes its plans based on the success or the lack of success that it achieved and prepares for its return.
Robert: When Christ said to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s, was he in any way referring to the death process?

Sarah: Oh, I think so.

Dale: Yes, I think so. I think that’s probably the spiritual interpretation of that saying by Christ because Caesar, of course, is symbolic of the physical nature and the material world, and you render unto God everything of the spiritual nature, of the soul. All the experience that we gain in the world is returned. It’s retained in the great memory banks of the soul, and that is returned and becomes part of the Great Divine Consciousness of God.

Sarah: To me, it also pertains to the experience that we see in the natural world with death and decay. It refers to the restorative process which we can see in, for example, the death of a tree. I can remember visiting Armstrong Woods Park in Northern California, where there are these giant Redwood trees, and seeing one especially huge, magnificent tree on the ground, dead. And yet the life that was springing out of that tree was incredible! Bugs and new tree chutes were growing out of it, and it was a hotbed of activity even in its death and decay. That’s what I think of when I hear the expression render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. Decay and disease are part of the process of death and release and renewed life. It’s natural and right, not a misfortune.

Robert: What is karma and how does it affect a particular life?

Dale: Well, karma has been defined as the Law of Cause and Effect. For every action that we take in the world, often there is a reaction somewhere. Now if we incur bad karma, if we break the law; injure someone; cause the death of another person, we would be building up a considerable karmic debt that has to be paid off. I don’t look at karma so much as being punishment because I think it has more to do with balance. The soul tries to maintain a central path and certain actions taken by the personality life may throw that life path off balance. So, I think certain actions have to be paid back, in a sense, not in the sense of being punished, but it has to be brought back into balance, perhaps in another lifetime with that same person that we injured or whatever the karma is. It could be good karma too.

Sarah: Disease is an aspect of that, because it means literally dis-ease; lack of balance; lack of equilibrium; but it doesn’t mean that one has erred or sinned. We are all prone to disease because we’re human and we are all prone to error. It’s simply the method by which, as Dale says, the soul restores equilibrium.

Robert: Sarah, in an earlier show, you explained how possibly the karma of someone who had committed suicide would be that in the next incarnation their experiences would teach them to value their own life. It wouldn’t be a punishment, but rather a learning experience to value not only the life of everyone else, but to value one’s own life as well. We have to face and go through certain experiences, and although they may be tough, suicide isn’t the answer because valuing life is of the highest priority.

Sarah: It’s what’s given to us by God. Our life is entrusted to us by God, and we must regard it as the precious gift it is.

Robert: Does reincarnation help to explain the existence of genius? We hear of so many geniuses that have existed throughout humanities history, for instance Mozart, who could sit down at the age of three or four and compose a concerto that would be enough to dazzle a musician with the highest expertise.

Sarah: I suppose it does. I think this would probably be another program all on its own. It takes us a bit off the subject of death, except that it’s related in the sense that death is a repeated process and through reincarnation over and over again, the soul gains its gifts, its talents. The genius is someone who’s particularly developed along one particular line. I don’t think it necessarily means that he’s a perfected spiritual being, but that talent along one particular line is extraordinarily accelerated.

Dale: Because often our so-called geniuses are deficient in many other aspects of life. Einstein was a genius at nuclear physics perhaps, but he was pretty absent minded in other respects.

Sarah: One thought before we close our program, which is especially precious to me, from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita. I think if people hear this, they will find it deeply reassuring. It’s Krishna who said that “Know thou, there was never a time when I, nor thou, nor any of these princes of earth, was not, nor shall there ever come a time hereafter, when any of us shall cease to be.” I think that is deeply reassuring and its a thought we should close on perhaps, in this discussion of death.

Sarah closes with the Great Invocation.

(This is an edited transcript of a recorded radio program called “Inner Sight”. This conversation was recorded between the host, Robert Anderson, and the then President and Vice-President of Lucis Trust, Sarah and Dale McKechnie.)

(Transcribed and edited by Carla McLeod)




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