The Other Side of Death

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The Other Side of Death is a book by Charles Webster Leadbeater, first published in 1903.

A man who realizes that he has died many times before regards the operation more philosophically than one who believes it to be an absolutely new experience fraught with all kinds of vague and awful possibilities.

Quotes[edit]

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  • Death is a subject which cannot but be of the deepest interest to every one, since the one thing which is absolutely certain in the future biography of all men alike is that one day they must die, still more since there is hardly anyone, except the very young, from whose kin death has not already removed some dearly loved one. Yet though this is thus a question of such universal interest, there is perhaps none about which the misconceptions current in the popular mind are so many and so serious. It is impossible for us to calculate the vast amount of utterly unnecessary sorrow and terror and misery which mankind in the aggregate has suffered simply from its ignorance and superstition with regard to this one most important matter. There is amongst us a mass of ·false and foolish belief along this line which has worked untold evil in the past and is causing indescribable suffering in the present, and its eradication would be one of the greatest benefits that could be conferred upon the human race.
    • Ch. I
  • This benefit the Theosophical teaching at once confers on those who, from their study of philosophy in past lives, now find themselves able to accept it. It robs death forthwith of all its terror and much of its sorrow, and enables us to see it in its true proportions and to understand its place in the scheme of our evolution.
    • Ch. I
  • Things of real worth, such as the mental life of the ant or the crab, fill psychological and scientific literature; but such a thing as death, which involves the whole human race more intimately than anything else possibly can - since all must die - is regarded as hardly worthy of serious discussion!
    • Ch. I
  • The first and most fatal of all misconceptions about death is the idea that it is the end of all things; that there is nothing in man which survives it. Many people seem to be under the impression that this gross form of materialism has almost died out from among us; that it was a mental disease of the earlier part of the last century, and that the race has now outgrown it. It is much to be wished that this view represented the facts of the case, but I fear a careful student of contemporary thought can hardly endorse it. It is happily true that this noxious weed of materialism no longer - rears its, head in high places with the confidence of yore, for the men whose opinion is worthy of attention have by this time learnt better than that. But there is still an immense mass of blank ignorance in the world, and, worse still, there is much of that most objectionable of all\ forms of ignorance which, having picked up a few scientific catch-words, inflates itself with aggressive self-conceit and believes itself in possession of the wisdom of the ages. Among the unfortunate beings who are suffering under that variety of mental thraldom there is even yet much of the crudest materialism.
    • Ch. I
  • The Theosophical Explanation. We endorse the theory that the soul leaves the body; but we are perhaps a little more definite in our explanation of what we mean by the soul than are many religious people. Our statement is not that man possesses a soul, but that man is a soul, and that the body is merely a vestment which he casts off when it is worn out. For many of us this statement, which may seem startling to some, is not a matter of belief but of direct knowledge. To explain how such knowledge is attained will mean a certain amount of apparent' digression from, our subject; but in the course of that digression we may perhaps arrive at a clearer conception of what is meant by the word "soul" .. Man is a far more complex being than to physical sight he appears to be; and the only way in which we can thoroughly understand him is by raising our consciousness to altogether higher planes, where we can see much more...[than] one who has not previously studied the subject.
    • Ch. I
  • What is behind its doctrine of eternal damnation? First, both these words are wrongly translated; the phrases actually reported in the New Testament as used by the Christ will not bear the interpretation which most people now put upon them. Secondly, when the real meaning of the mistranslated expression is understood, we see that it embodies an important truth. It is this: there comes a period in human development, though not for millions of years yet, when the man who has set himself steadily against progress does drop out not, indeed, into an everlasting hell (for that is nothing ·but the ghastly invention of the disordered brain of some diabolical monster of human cruelty), but into a condition of comparatively suspended animation, in which he awaits the advent of another scheme or evolution, which offers him, in its earlier stages, an opportunity of advancement more within the limits of his feeble capacities. He is simply in the position of a child who has been unable to keep pace with his classmates; he cannot work with them through the later and higher portion of the course of study appointed for the year, so he must wait until, at the beginning of the next school year, another set of boys are commencing the studies which he failed to grasp. By joining them and thus going over the same ground once more, he is enabled to succeed where previously he succumbed before the difficulties of the path. So that instead of the hideous lie of eternal damnation we have the merciful truth of Aeonian suspension.
    • Ch. I
  • On the other hand, the highly developed soul, who during earth life has gained complete control over his lower nature, and entirely dominated passion and desire, does in consequence sweep through the astral life with such rapidity that when he regains his consciousness he finds opening out before it the indescribable glory and bliss of the heaven world. But the ordinary man has by no means succeeded in entirely dominating all earthly desires and passions before his death. Thus he finds himself upon the astral plane with a fairly vigorous desire body, which he has made for himself during physical life, in which he now has to live until the process of its disintegration is in turn completed. It disintegrates only as · the desire which is its life dies out of it, and this often involves Suffering which is not inaptly symbolized by the fires of purgatory.
    • Ch. I
  • Happily, however, it is purgatory, and not hell, not the senseless, useless eternity of torment for the mere gratification of the cruel malignity of an irresponsible despot in which orthodox theology asks us to believe, but simply the necessary, the only effective and therefore the most merciful process for the elimination of the evil desire. Terrible though the suffering may be, the desire gradually wears itself out, and only then can the man pass on into the higher life
    • Ch. I
  • There is a real truth behind the doctrine of purgatory, and that when the abuse of pretended indulgence was swept away during that extraordinary outbreak of morbific matter from the ecclesiastical system which it is the fashion to call " the reformation," a great deal that was beautiful, true and useful was cast aside as well.
    • Ch. I
  • One of our most serious losses at that time was the custom of prayer for the dead, and the nations who blindly threw away that means of helping their fellows have ever since paid the penalty of their folly in the persons of their departed members, who have had to fight their way unaided through the astral world...
    • Ch. I
  • What is a prayer for the dead but an expression of an earnest wish and loving thought for those who have passed on before us? We who study Theosophy know well that in physical life such wishes and such thoughts are real and objective things, storage batteries of spiritual force which will discharge themselves only when they reach the persons towards whom they are directed... The prayer or the strong loving wish for a particular dead person always reaches him and helps him, nor can it ever fail to do so while the great law of cause and effect remains part of the constitution of the universe. Even the earnest general prayer or wish for the good of the dead as a whole, though it is likely to be a vague and therefore a less efficient force, has yet in the aggregate produced an effect whose importance it would be difficult to exaggerate.
    • Ch. I
  • Europe little knows what it owes to those great religious orders who devote themselves night and day to ceaseless prayer for the faithful departed.
    • Ch. I
  • If it should be asked what it is that· we ought to wish for our dear ones who have passed away, we who in many cases know so little of their condition that we might well fea to set in motion a force which might be ill-directed, for want of more exact knowledge of their need, we cannot do better than turn to the formulae of the Catholic Church once more, and use that beautiful antiphon which appears so often in the services for the dead: "Eternal rest grant unto him, 0 Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him."
    • Ch. I
  • It is not infrequently our custom to seek to cover our own blank ignorance of certain subjects with the confident assertion that nothing ever has been or can be really known... our treatment of this question of the life after death is one of the worst examples of this habit. If popular theology had not most unhappily altogether lost sight of the cardinal doctrine of reincarnation, its views on this subject of death would naturally be entirely different. A man who realizes that he has died many times before regards the operation more philosophically than one who believes it to be an absolutely new experience fraught with all kinds of vague and awful possibilities. (p. 42)
    • Ch. II
  • We come now to a class of misconceptions about death which may reasonably be attributed specially to religion. They are due not in the least to Christianity proper, but to our absurd modern materialization of it. I have already referred to the crude doctrine of the instantaneous passage of the deceased into an eternal heaven or hell which is held by some of the obscurer sects as idea which has done a great deal of harm in various ways, and from its obvious absurdity has caused a considerable amount of practical unbelief. It was so clearly impossible that such an arrangement could be fair...
    • Ch. III
  • Our religion has unwittingly done us another evil turn in attaching such exaggerated importance to the necessity of a·' special preparation for death. The Church, as ever, is wiser and more tolerant than the sects; she strongly recommends the administration of various Sacraments when they can be had, but forbears to pass adverse judgment upon a man simply because he happens to die out of her reach. Many of the sects, however, make the man's eternal welfare depend absolutely upon the state of his mind at the moment of death; if he is "saved" or "in a state of grace" at that particular instant he may be regarded as booked through for the Elysian Fields. If otherwise, the less said about his subsequent condition the better. This extraordinary theory of salvation by hysteria. Salvation by feeling oneself" saved " is perhaps one of the most astonishing aberrations of the human intellect, if indeed we can suppose intellect of any kind to be engaged in such a superstition at all.
    • Ch. III
  • Whenever hindrance arises it is. invariably the result of man's interference with or misconception of the divine scheme; and when we once get behind the temporary confusion of these lower planes we realize the truth of the old saying, that all things work together for good for them that love Him.
    • Ch. III
  • In discussing the various popular and religious misconceptions with regard to death, I have naturally to a considerable extent indicated the attitude held\ towards it by students of Theosophy. From our point of view we cannot but look upon it as a matter of much less importance to the soul of man than it is commonly supposed to be. To the average man of Western birth physical life seems to present itself as a straight line beginning abruptly at birth, and cut off again with equal abruptness at death. To us, however, even if for the moment we consider one incarnation only, the physical existence appears rather as a small segment of a large circle, birth and death being nothing more than the points at which the circumference of that circle crosses a certain straight line which marks the boundary between the physical and astral planes.
    • Ch. IV
  • What, it may be asked, is the average interval between earth lives? The types and classes of men differ so widely that the only useful answer would be to suggest an average for each class, which would ·occupy much space, and take us too far ·away from our main subject. I must refer the enquirer to my book The Inner Life, where he will find an article upon " The Intervals between Lives " .
    • Ch. IV
  • In the Western world our life has become so unnatural that 'even in old age many men eagerly carry on the turmoil and the competition of worldly business, and so their physical life is ill-proportioned and its machinery all out of gear. The work of purification and detachment which should have begun in middle life is left until death overtakes them, and has therefore to be done upon the astral plane instead of the physical. Thus unnecessary delay is caused, and through his ignorance of the true meaning of life the man's progress is slower than it should be
    • Ch. IV
  • Great as is the harm that often results from ignorance of these facts during life, it is perhaps even more serious after death. Hence the enormous advantage gained by one who has even only an intellectual appreciation of occult teaching on this subject.
    • Ch. IV
  • We are often asked how suicide affects a man's position in the other world. First of all, it must be clearly understood that suicide is a wrong thing, and :no man should end his life before its natural time, unless it be in an act of heroism for the benefit of others. p. 168
    • Ch. VIII
  • Men have committed suicide out of sheer cowardice, afraid to face the results of their own actions; in such cases there is unquestionably moral wrong. Such a man throws himself, in the fullest consciousness, into the lowest and most unpleasant part of the astral world, where a good deal of suffering may be his lot. He often realizes immediately that he has made a mistake, that he has done wrong; but he has to bear the consequences of his rash act. p. 169
    • Ch. VIII
  • So varied are the activities of the Fourth Heaven, the highest of the nipa levels, that it is difficult to group them under a single characteristic. Perhaps they might best be arranged into four main divisions: unselfish pursuit of spiritual knowledge, high philosophic or scientific thought, literary or artistic ability exercised for unselfish purposes, and service for the sake of service. Here we find all our greatest musicians; on this sub-plane Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Wagner and others are still flooding the heaven world with harmony far more glorious even than the· grandest which they were able to produce when on earth. It seems as if a great stream of divine music poured into them from higher regions, and was, as it were, specialized by them and made their own, to be then sent forth through all the plane in a great tide of" melody which adds to the bliss of all around.
    • Ch. XIII
  • Those who are functioning in full consciousness on the mental plane can clearly hear and thoroughly appreciate this magnificent outpouring, but even the disembodied entities of this level, each of whom is wrapped up in his own thought cloud, are also deeply affected by the elevating and ennobling influence of its resonant melody. The painter and the sculptor also, if they have followed their respective arts a always with a grand, unselfish aim, are here constantly making and sending forth a ll kinds of lovely forms for the delight and encouragement of their fellowmen, the forms being simply artificial elementals created by their thought.
    • Ch. XIII
  • If you have been able to assimilate what I have already said, you will now understand that, however natural it may be for us to feel sorrow at the death of - our relatives, that sorrow is an error and an evil, and we ought to overcome it. There is no need to sorrow for them, for they have passed into a far wider and happier life. If we sorrow for our own fancied separation from them, we are, in the first place, weeping over an illusion, for in truth they are not separated from us; and, secondly, we are acting selfishly, because we are thinking more of our own apparent loss than of their great and real gain. We must strive to be utterly unselfish, as indeed all love should be. We must think of them and not of ourselves - not of what we wish or we feel, but solely of what is best for them and most helpful to their progress.
    • Ch XXXIV
  • Try to comprehend the unity of all; there is one God, and all are one in Him. If we can but bring home to ourselves the unity of that Eternal Love, there will be no more sorrow for us; for we shall realize, not for ourselves alone, but also for those whom we love, that whether we live or die, we are the Lord's, and that in Him we live and move and have our being, whether it be in this world or in the world to come. The attitude of mourning Is a faithless attitude an ignorant attitude. The more we know, the more fully we shall trust, for we shall feel with utter certainty that we and our dead alike are in the hands of perfect Power and perfect Wisdom, directed by perfect Love.
    • Ch XXXIV
  • All taint of grief and mourning we firmly lay aside, Our seeming loss forgetting, since they are glorified. We know they stand before us and love us as of old; God grant we may not fail them, nor let our love grow cold. With heart and soul we trust Thee! Thy love no tongue can tell; Thou art the All-Commander, Who doest all things well...
    • Ch XXXIV
  • One of the most curious cases of a man being saved from suicide... Mr. K-, she said , while sitting in his study one afternoon, fell, or fancied he fell, asleep. He thought that when in this condition he was abruptly awakened, and that while he was sitting wondering what it was that had awakened him, the door of his room very slowly opened and his friend B-, who lived in quite another part of the town, entered on tiptoe. He was about to speak to B-to ask him what he wanted, when B-put a finger to his lips as if to enjoin silence, and then, drawing a razor from his pocket, bared the blade of it, and raised it to his throat in the most horribly suggestive manner. Realizing that B-was about to· destroy himself, Mr. K... rushed to B-'s side. A furious struggle then ensued... The following day he met B-out of doors and was at once struck by his appearance. He looked pale and ill... "I say, old fellow," B-exclaimed, by way of greeting, "I've just had such an extraordinary experience. Things haven't gone very well with me lately, and yesterday afternoon I determined. to put an end to myself by cutting my throat. I was in my bedroom and I had my razor in my right hand, all ready to do the' deed, when, to my utter amazement... you suddenly came in at the door and tried to snatch it... p. 314
    • Ch. XV

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