The Art of Dying
Thoughts on the subject of death and dying
Guest article by Greg Wade
Introduction by Occult Mysteries
Those readers who enjoyed the author's previous contribution to our website—Down the rabbit hole—will welcome this new article, in which Greg Wade explores the subject of the death and what some of the great teachers of the past had to say about dying. This, together with the insights ordinary men and women have gained through near-death experiences (NDEs) may provide some reassurance and comfort to those readers and their loved ones when faced with the inevitable moment of passing.
For many people death is a thing to be dreaded which leaves very little time for contemplation, whether our own or the passing of others. This is not to be wondered at as death is widely seen as the great enemy which coldly dispatches our loved ones and creates that empty longing which only the passing of time can lessen. Yet death comes to us all as the natural and inevitable part of the unending process of Change and Becoming.
Those of us whose feet tread the Path to the Light are well aware of the great journey the soul must take from The Source of all that exists. We have all descended down into matter and must rise back up again into the highest spheres of spiritual bliss laden with that experience and wisdom which only earthly life can bring. During that long journey, we develop the ability to absorb and embody the pure Light and Love which is the ultimate essence of these divine states of being and which is incomprehensible to me now, but at least one can dare to imagine what such a state of being must be like. It is this glorious journey which is so beautifully epitomised in a hidden manner in the profound biblical story of the prodigal son. But it must be remembered that this is just one stage in a never-ending process of evolution as there will always be new spheres to experience and become self-conscious masters of.
But what does the average person in this materialistic modern age know or care of these great truths? It is only when faced with the prospect of death that an individual or their family may wonder who or what is lying in wait for them as they pass through into the great beyond—if anything at all. What can those of us who are drawn to the teachings of the Ageless Wisdom do to ease the grief and loss of our loved ones when the time comes for their passing? If we try to console a family member by telling them about reincarnation and that the soul continues to live after death they would be well within their rights to dismiss our belief as wishful thinking which has no basis in reality from their current perspective.
Yet, an occultist's belief in reincarnation and the continuance of consciousness is not mere wishful thinking. Nor it is it the blind faith of so many religious people. Ours is a faith born out of years of consistent study, meditation and contemplation of the ancient and true teachings of Occult Science. So from this point of view we are well placed to sooth the grief of others in the difficult days, weeks and months after the passing of a loved one. That is not to say that it will not be difficult for us too, especially if it is the untimely death of a young child. But in this there lies one of life's greatest lessons, namely the willingness to let our loved one go in the sure and certain knowledge that he or she will be well cared for, and probably much happier than they ever were on earth. In this and other ways we can more readily prepare ourselves and hopefully avoid the excessive grieving which causes so much emotional turmoil for so many.
I thought it might be useful to touch on some of the most common regrets of people who are near to death so we may get some perspective on what realisations they reached, even if these insights only came at the end of their lives when they have had a chance to reflect on past actions—good or bad.
- Taking life too seriously and allowing worries to diminish our happiness.
- Working too much thereby missing their children's youth and their partner's companionship.
- Not having the courage to live a life true to oneself but rather doing what is expected.
Of course, we don't have to be students of the Eternal Verities to make an effort to incorporate these lessons into our lives. But let's have a look at what further valuable lessons we can learn from what some authors have called The Art of Dying. In one way death can be viewed as a powerful teacher that forces us through pain and suffering to recognise and discover who we really are by showing us what really matters. This in turn can lead us to a higher love that embraces both joy and sorrow. It can show us beyond doubt that it is often during the times of our deepest confusion and suffering that we have the greatest opportunities to learn and grow.
Death is an integral part of existence and should be embraced not feared, for everything that comes into physical manifestation has its allotted time—long or short—during which it will grow to full maturity before death calls a halt and it enters another state of existence. I feel that even in this early stage of my studies, Occult Science can offer a positive approach to life and death in which dying, ageing, suffering and grief are revealed as parts of the process of spiritual awakening and evolution. Viewed in this light, death can give us a greater perspective of what really matters on our journey and it can teach us that we should enjoy to the fullest extent the simple love we share with others and appreciate the wonderful gift of Life with all its joys and sorrows. The Indian Sage Rabindranath Tagore sums up this process: "Death is not the extinguishing of the light, but the blowing out of the candle because the dawn has come."
Everyone will eventually discover the great truth that we are infinitely more than our mere perishable body which must inevitably turn back into the dust from which it came. The Egyptian sage Hermes Trismegistus teaches us: "Most people are ignorant of the Truth and therefore are afraid of death, believing it to be the greatest of all evils. But death is only the dissolution of a worn-out body."
Thus, death is not the end of life, but a return to a greater and fuller life. Even today in our increasingly scientific Western culture some polls seem to suggest the majority of people continue to believe in some form of life after death. Is this a reflection of some inherent intuition we all possess? I think it is, but we usually tend to ignore it because we are too busy dealing with the endless practicalities and responsibilities of modern life. Most of us give little thought to death until we are forced to confront it by the sickness or passing of a loved one. This universal fear of death is not to be wondered at, especially when we consider that modern western society presents us with two unwholesome and unsatisfying alternatives; blind religious faith on the one hand and clinical, scientific materialism on the other. Unfortunately, most people remain unaware that there is an alternative; the spiritually satisfying perspective of Occult Science which the authors of Occult Mysteries so expertly present to us in each one of their wonderful articles.
The philosopher Plato teaches us: "The best life is spent preparing for death." This reinforces the point I made earlier, that those of us who have consciously embarked on the Path to the Light should always endeavour to spend our time as wisely as possible. And what can be better preparation for our own inevitable passing than by learning what Hermes calls the 'things that truly are'? That is to say, the laws and principles of Occult Science and trying to apply them to the best of our abilities while also being there to support our family and friends through the unselfish display of love, compassion, and kindness, especially if they are suffering or grieving from the loss of a loved one.
Another important point I would like to emphasise is that we appear to be a physical body in the world, but really and truly we exist outside of this material plane in a state of pure eternal consciousness which is beyond both life and death. Many philosophers, poets and writers have compared earthly life to a dream, among them the Taoist sage Chuang Tzu, who said:
"This world is only a passing dream which the sleeper is convinced is real, until unexpectedly the dawn of death frees him from this fantasy. Some who wake from a good dream are upset, whilst others who wake from a bad dream are pleased. Death is the great awakening, but few amongst the living understand this. Most believe themselves to be already wide awake and think they actually are kings and servants!"
Further confirmation of the unreality of earthly life can be found in some of the accounts of people who have had Near-Death-Experiences (NDEs). A large number of these individuals have described the perception of their physical senses being elevated to a level far above what we normally experience in our waking existence here on earth. One such experience is recounted in Lessons from the Light by Kenneth Ring. (see Further reading list in the sidebar):
"I could see a small pinpoint of light that seemed to be growing larger. I sped along until it became a huge mass of beautiful and brilliant white light. It was not long before it engulfed me, and I felt as if I became one with the light. It seemed to have knowledge of everything there is to know, and it accepted me as part of it. I felt all-knowing for a few minutes. Suddenly, everything seemed to make perfect sense. The whole world seemed to be in total harmony. Everything is so crystal clear and simple in so many ways. I had never been able to see it from this point of view. Looking back at this point, I cannot explain the questions that were asked or the answers themselves.
"All I know was that they were on a much higher level of thought that cannot be approached when limited by the physical nature of the mind. Within the light, I could still feel the boundaries of my form, but at the same time, I felt as if I was one with it. I felt myself expand through the light over an area that seemed like miles, and then contract to my former size, which at this point was like a two or three-foot egg-shaped mass of energy. I felt better than I had ever felt in my life. It was as if I was bathing in total love and understanding, and basking in its radiance. It gave me a sense of travelling a long distance and finally making it home. I sensed that I had been here before, perhaps before being born into the physical world"
I would like to end this article with the benefits men and women from all walks of life commonly gain from having such a profound life-changing encounter with the after-life.
- There is nothing whatever to fear about death.
- Dying is peaceful and beautiful.
- Life does not begin with birth nor end with death.
- Life is precious—live it to the fullest.
- The body and its senses are tremendous gifts—appreciate them.
- What matters most in life is love.
- Living a life oriented towards materialistic acquisition is missing the point.
- Cooperation rather than competition makes for a better world.
- Being a big success in life is not all it is cracked up to be.
- Seeking knowledge is important—you take this with you.
Many of these statements may seem self-evident but I still feel there is value in reminding ourselves about the things that are truly important as we travel through the school of life gathering new experiences, learning from our mistakes, and above all trying to be of service to others wherever possible.
Article © Greg Wade. Commentary © Copyright occult-mysteries.org. All worldwide rights reserved. Published 28 July 2017. Updated 22 October 2023