Consciousness after death
Does anything remain of us after death, and if so, what?
PART FOUR of Astral Conversations—an unusual series of investigations into the occult with a humorous twist.
Once again, the mysterious currents of the astral telegraph have brought us another conversation between Bombast and Flitterflop, whom we find arguing about consciousness after death.
The uncharacteristically elevated tone of this discussion suggests that our two mystery-mongers have made some progress since we last encountered them, or perhaps this is due to the presence among them of an enigmatic and altogether more inspiring personage whom we shall refer to simply as 'M'?
FLITTERFLOP: "What are you saying, and am I supposed to believe this nonsense? That nothing remains of us after death? That my personality, which you dismiss as my 'temporary self-consciousness,' simply evaporates like steam from a boiling kettle?"
BOMBAST: "That's exactly what I'm saying! Do you really imagine that the earthly personality of every nincompoop is going to be miraculously transported into some New Age Nirvana after his death?"
M: "In Flitterflop's case it can, because he sincerely and firmly believes it."
BOMBAST: "How is that possible? Doesn't occult science teach that immortality of the Self is conditional? How can there be any exceptions to this established law?"
M: "There are no exceptions to the fundamental spiritual laws, but there are rules for those who see, and rules for those who do not."
FLITTERFLOP: "That's what I've been trying to explain to Bombast for the past ten minutes. The complete and final disappearance of our self-consciousness is an utter impossibility. It's like saying that because a blind man can't see the sun and denies that it exists during life he still won't see it after death. But he will see it with his spiritual eyes after he dies, won't he?"
M: "Physical blindness ends with the dissolution of the body. Spiritual blindness does not. The spiritually blind will see nothing at all. Having closed his eyes to spiritual truths during his lifetime he will not see them beyond the grave."
BOMBAST (triumphantly): "You see? Didn't I tell you the same thing?"
(Flitterflop was dreadfully perturbed and stared about him in expectation of a more explicit answer, which M now provided.)
M: "You are both confusing the immortal soul with the soul of the mortal. Spirit is deathless, for it is without beginning or end. But we are now discussing the self-conscious human personality. Flitterflop confuses it with the Higher Self, while Bombast denies that the human personality continues after death, and both of you misunderstand the true nature of consciousness."
FLITTERFLOP and BOMBAST: "Eh?"
M: "I shall try to express myself more clearly. The whole gist of your argument is to learn whether it is possible to lose all awareness of our human personality after death. Is that so?"
FLITTERFLOP: "Yes, because Bombast completely denies that anything remains of us after death."
BOMBAST: "That's not what I said!"
FLITTERFLOP: "Yes, you did!"
M (shaking his head): "It seems to me that Bombast regards the continuance of the human personality in the post-mortem state, or the interval between two lives, as a conditional state that applies to some, but not all. Is that so?"
M: "Then I put to you both that whether this intermission between two incarnations lasts one year or a million, that post-mortem state may, without any breach of the spiritual law that governs these matters, prove to be exactly like the state in which we find ourselves in a dead faint. Bombast, therefore, is right as he sees it."
FLITTERFLOP: "But why?...How is that possible, since the laws of immortality as you tell us, admit of no exceptions?"
M: "Certainly they do not—for all that really exists."
FLITTERFLOP: "But doesn't occult science teach that there is no more difference between the mortal soul and the immortal soul than between a forest and its trees?"
M: "It does, because one or even a hundred trees withered because of lack of life-giving sap, or uprooted, cannot prevent the forest from still being a forest."
FLITTERFLOP: "Yes...but if the forest in your simile represents the Higher Self, and the individual trees in it, the human personalities it incarnates into, if the former is immortal, how can the latter, being parts of it, entirely lose their consciousness? That's what puzzles me..."
M: "Because you will insist on confusing an abstract representation of the whole with the concrete modifications of its parts. In short, you are confusing the forest with the trees. If it can be said that the Higher Self is unconditionally immortal, the same cannot be said of that part of it which incarnates into a physical body. The personality cannot exist apart from the incarnating Higher Self, being only an attribute of it, like a drop of water temporarily detached from the ocean. Consequently, the continuation of consciousness for the terrestrial personality after death depends entirely on the conditions and beliefs it created for itself during the life of its body. In other words, we reap in our after-life only the fruit of the thoughts and deeds we sowed in life."
FLITTERFLOP: "But if my mind can, after the dissolution of my body, find itself in a state of complete unconsciousness, how am I punished for any sins I committed during my lifetime?"
M: "Occult philosophy teaches that punishment overtakes the mind only in a future life. After death it receives only the reward for the unmerited sufferings it endured during earthly life. What I think you are referring to is the absence of any reward and the utter loss of the consciousness of one's bliss and rest after death. There is no grief or misfortune in this life which is not the fruit and direct result of some transgression of our former existence."
BOMBAST (slyly): "What if an old soul had committed a few—very trifling—transgressions in his past life but was now living an unblemished life, would he be deprived of bliss after death?"
M: "The Higher Self is entitled to the fullest consolation, rest and peace in its post-mortem existence. To our higher selves, death always comes as a deliverer and friend; like the placid sleep of an infant, or a sleep of blissful fancies and dreams."
FLITTERFLOP: "Hah! You see? I am right! Consciousness does survive after death."
'M': "Not necessarily. You persist in confusing the consciousness of the earthly personality with the Higher Self. The former is 'Flitterflop', one of a countless number of other roles played by the indwelling actor. It is the actor behind the mask of personality who is your Higher Self. So you see, they are not the same, though seemingly united during each incarnation."
BOMBAST: "Flitterflop also confuses sleep with death."
FLITTERFLOP (sarcastically): "As you're such an old soul, perhaps you'd explain the difference?"
BOMBAST (smugly): "With pleasure. After sleep, another day commences for us but we, both soul and body, are still the same as we were the day before, whereas at every new incarnation, a complete change takes place not only of our bodies but of our entire personality too. If your comparison was valid, how is it that people, when they awaken from sleep, remember not only what they did yesterday but also what they did many days, months, and even years before, whereas in their present life they don't remember anything of their past lives? A person who has awakened can, I grant you, forget what he saw in his dreams, but he knows just the same that he has slept and that he existed during sleep. But YOU do not know even that much about your past lives."
M: "Perhaps there may be those who do know..."
FLITTERFLOP: "It seems to me that the only difference between sleep and death is one of degree and not kind."
M (smiling): "Well put. Sleep is a general and immutable law for man, as well as for every living terrestrial creature, but there are many different degrees of sleep and a great variety of dreams and visions. Moreover, there is a very great difference between sleep and death. During sleep there is a connection, however weak it may be, between the lower and Higher Self and the latter is more or less reflected into the former, however much its rays may be distorted. This is the reason we remember, as Bombast said, that we have slept, even if we cannot recall what we did or saw during our sleeping hours. But once the physical body dies, the lower self is left to its own devices."
BOMBAST: "So I'm right, as usual!"
M: "Not at all, though it is quite true that without preliminary inner perception of, and faith in, the immortality of the Soul, the Higher Self will not retain any part of the consciousness of your present personality."
FLITTERFLOP: "Well, that's a blessing at least!"
M: (ignoring the interruption): "Occult science teaches that after the dissolution of the body, the discarnate mind experiences one of three states: a period of fully awakened consciousness, chaotic dreams, or completely dreamless sleep. If physiologists find the cause of dreams and visions in an unconscious preparation for them during our waking hours, why cannot the same be true for post-mortem dreams? I simply repeat what occult science has always known and taught: sleep is the little death. After death, before the spiritual eyes of the Higher Self begins a performance according to a programme learnt and very often unconsciously composed by ourselves: the practical carrying out of either our correct beliefs or the illusions that we ourselves have created. These are the post-mortem fruits of the tree of life. Although belief or unbelief in consciousness after death is unable to influence the unconditioned reality of the fact itself, what we believed or did not believe during life cannot fail to colour that fact with our preconceptions after death. I trust you both understand me now?"
FLITTERFLOP: "I begin to. Materialists, disbelieving in everything that is not verifiable by their senses and so-called scientific reasoning, and rejecting every spiritual manifestation, regard earthly life as the only conscious existence. According to this belief, or rather unbelief, they will lose their personal 'Ego' after death and fall into dreamless sleep until their next incarnation. Is that right?"
M: "Almost. I would add that occult science recognises two kinds of conscious existence: terrestrial and spiritual. It regards the latter only as an irrefutable reality; whereas terrestrial life, as a result of its changefulness and transitory nature, is considered to be merely an illusion of the deceptive senses. Life in the higher spiritual realms must be admitted as reality by the fact alone that our changeless, infinite, and immortal 'Ego'—the Higher Self—dwells in these spheres; whereas with every new incarnation, it dons a temporary and transitory personality completely distinct from the preceding one, in which everything except its spiritual prototype is doomed to utter destruction, leaving no trace behind."
FLITTERFLOP (aghast): "Does that mean that my personality, my conscious terrestrial 'Ego,' will perish, not only temporarily as in the case of materialists, but permanently?
M: "According to occult scientific laws, it must so perish."
BOMBAST: "Well, that's a blessing at least!"
FLITTERFLOP: "So nothing will be left of Bombast either?"
BOMBAST (laughing): "Touché!"
M: "Nothing at all, except those thoughts and aspirations which, having united themselves with his Higher Self during life, have become purely spiritual, forming with it henceforth and forever an indestructible whole. But in the case of a thorough-going materialist it may happen that, since absolutely nothing from his terrestrial personality had gravitated toward his Higher Self, either consciously or unconsciously, the latter would have no occasion to carry away a single particle of this terrestrial personality into eternity. The spiritual 'I' is immortal; but will carry away from your present personalities only that which merits immortality, namely, the aroma alone of the flower that has been mown by death."
BOMBAST: "But that doesn't explain why you term the life after death immortal, infinite and real, and the terrestrial life an illusion, when, according to your teaching, post-mortem life also has its boundaries, and though it lasts much longer than terrestrial life, must also come to an end."
M: "And so it does. The Higher Self moves in eternity like a pendulum between the hours of birth and death. But these hours, marking the periods of incarnate and discarnate life which make up the whole pilgrimage of the Higher Self during its many incarnations, have their beginning and end, whereas the spiritual pilgrim himself is eternal. Hence, it is the hours of his post-mortem life when, disembodied, he stands face to face with Truth, and not the mirages of his transitory earthly existences, that is the only reality."
BOMBAST: "So you're saying that as the Poet tells us, the Higher Self is the actor, and the parts it plays, our earthly personalities?"
M: "Precisely. After the performance is over the actor returns home, wherever home may be, and continues his real life, whatever it may be, until he is ready to take on a new role upon the stage of earthly life. Like the actor, the Higher Self is obliged to play many parts during the cycle of its incarnations, many of which may be deeply unpleasant and painful to it. One day he is Prospero, the next Caliban. As the bee gathers honey from every flower, leaving the rest as food for earthly worms, so does the Higher Self gather only the nectar of the spiritual qualities and self-consciousness of every terrestrial personality into which it is compelled to incarnate, finally blending all these qualities into one whole, and emerging then as a perfect being, a veritable god. So much the worse for those terrestrial personalities from which it could collect nothing. Consequently, such personalities do not and cannot consciously outlive their terrestrial existence."
BOMBAST: "But if immortality is still conditional for the terrestrial personality, then immortality itself cannot be unconditional?"
M: "Not in the least. Immortality and eternity are absolute. The essence of you, or Flitterflop, or a worm is without beginning or end, but the exterior vessel it informs is simply the illusion of our senses and personal conceptions. Therefore, occult science calls the life beyond the grave a reality, and the terrestrial life, including the terrestrial personality, an illusion."
BOMBAST: "Then why call sleep the reality and waking the illusion?"
M: "To facilitate the better understanding of a complex subject. From the point of view of our earthly conceptions it is a very correct one."
FLITTERFLOP (disingenuously): "If, as you say, life beyond the grave is founded on a just reward for all the unmerited sorrows we suffer on earth, and if the Higher Self makes use of the smallest spark of spirituality in each of its incarnations, then how is it possible for the spirituality in—let us say Bombast's personality—who is so very humble, courteous and wise—to perish like the 'refuse of a flower', or 'steam from a kettle?' to use his own words?"
M: "Who, but himself, shall consign him to such a fate? I know Bombast better than he knows himself and am convinced that his Higher Self will reap a plentiful harvest from him, though I should not like to say of what fruits that harvest might consist! In short, although his arrogance, rudeness and foolishness are far from being a mere pretence, even his personality cannot entirely completely perish."
BOMBAST (flippantly): "Well, that's a blessing at least!"
FLITTERFLOP (triumphantly): "Hah! So you finally admit that the complete and final disappearance of the personality is an utter impossibility?"
BOMBAST: "I admit no such thing! If you had been paying proper attention to everything M has told you, you would know that the personalities of all those New Age turnip-heads whose drivelling claptrap you suck up like a desiccated sponge are going to disappear into final oblivion like steam from a kettle!"
FLITTERFLOP (turning to M in confusion): "I don't understand."
BOMBAST: "That would explain why your entire consciousness is destined to disappear after death! M has repeatedly confirmed that I am right and you are wrong. Do try to keep up!"
FLITTERFLOP: "Did you confirm his views?"
M: "I did and confirm them anew. One can sleep and miss several stations during a train journey, and despite not having the slightest awareness of them, awaken at a subsequent station and reach one's destination in a conscious state. Do you find fault with the simile between sleep and death? Don't forget that at least three kinds of sleep are known to everyone: deep and dreamless sleep; chaotic sleep, with confused dreams; and finally, the sleep where our dreams are so real and lucid that they become, for the time, completely real to us. Why, then, can you not admit that the same takes place when the Higher Self is freed from the body? After death, the Higher Self, depending on its merits and mainly its faith, lives a life either completely conscious or semi-conscious, or it falls into that deep, dreamless sleep which is without awareness and is comparable to the state of non-existence. This is the conclusion of the performance I mentioned earlier, created and prepared beforehand by the actor himself. But actors vary. An evil man, or even just a downright egotist, who adds to his complete unbelief an indifference for the whole world, must certainly drop his personality forever at the threshold of death. There is nothing that binds it to the Higher Self, and with its last breath every connection between the two is broken. Others will sleep through and miss only one 'station.' But the time will and must come when they, too, will perceive themselves again in eternity and repent that they lost even one day from the life eternal."
FLITTERFLOP: "So we are both right and wrong at the same time?"
BOMBAST: "Wouldn't it be more correct to say that I am mostly right and you are mostly wrong?"
FLITTERFLOP: "No it would not. M has shown that the best part of us does remain after death, though in YOUR case I admit there may not be enough of it to survive!"
BOMBAST (thoughtfully): "Perhaps, perhaps not. What do you think M?"
(There was no reply. M had vanished. Only the faint aroma of hyacinths, indescribably delicious but elusive, revealed the enigmatic prolocutor's precipitate disappearance.)
Whilst it would appear that Bombast and Flitterflop have learnt something from this remarkable conversation, we fear they have some way to go before they can overcome the illusions, errors and obstacles which still beset them. No doubt we shall hear from them again, but until then, we wish them, and you dear reader, every success in your search for Truth.
You can find a complete list and brief descriptions of all the conversation between these two colourful occult students on the introductory page to these Astral conversations. Although these conversations can be read on their own, they are best read in chronological sequence as they form an ascending scale of revelation.
© Copyright occult-mysteries.org. Article added 26 February 2016. Updated 28 July 2018.