Life after Death
The true facts about the afterlife explained from the standpoint of Occult Science
Whilst our main purpose in this article is to dispel the misinformation that reigns in the minds of many occult students and mystics, we hope that the general reader who knows nothing of occultism may also find it of interest.
Countless books have been written about Life after Death from every conceivable philosophical and religious perspective by many eminent investigators. Many more books contain honest descriptions of the afterlife written by scientists and laymen alike. But none of them give us a coherent and consistent picture of the conditions in the non-physical dimensions which occultists call the astral world. We ourselves have touched upon the subject in our brief discourse 'where do the dead go' which you can find in our Occult FAQ. In a wider sense, almost all our articles discuss life after death, if by this we mean the real, spiritual life of the true Ego, or Higher Self, as opposed to the fleeting life of the human personality, or lower self and body, which most people regard as the only 'life' there is.
In this article we aim to investigate this subject in much greater depth. We will proceed in our customary manner, giving you facts, not fantasies, which rest on the unshakeable foundations of the ancient Wisdom. We could give you many examples from our own personal experience of what happens after death, and the various conditions the departed may encounter, but we will refrain from doing so, except to illustrate a point here and there as we develop our theme. Instead, we will draw on the teachings of occult scientists and philosophers, as well as the latest scientific research into 'near-death' experiences (NDEs), which you can verify for yourself, so allowing you to come to your own conclusions, for that is always best.
The unknown shore
A recent survey conducted in the United Kingdom found that 53% of people believe in life after death and 70% believe in a human soul. This is encouraging news in these secular times when the theories of scientific materialism dominate the thinking of most people. Most human beings are afraid of death. Why is this? The most obvious answer is that we know, or think we know, something about this world, whereas the afterlife is the unknown shore—"the undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns," as we may read in Shakespeare's Hamlet, peopled with a host of real or imagined terrors that, "puzzles the will, and makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of," as the play also tells us.
Aside from bodily pain and distress which may accompany death, there is another reason for this universal fear which is common to all. And that is the fierce tenacity with which the lower self clings to the body, for it knows that the earthly personality must fade away with death. This is not to say that the virtues we may possess in the way of refined thoughts, kindness to others in thought and deed, and the sincere desire for self-improvement, will perish, for these are added to the attributes of the Higher Self and can never die. What do die are those elements of our personality which were solely concerned with our own self-interest, physical desires and passions. What we may call the spiritual efflorescence of 'John Smith' or 'Jane Doe', survives death, the dross is slowly dispersed.
It is for this reason that the great 19th Century occultist, H. P. Blavatsky, was criticised for denying reincarnation in her first book on the occult sciences—Isis Unveiled—published in 1877. On page 351 she stated:
"Reincarnation, i.e., the appearance of the same individual . . . twice on the same planet, is not a rule in nature; it is an exception . . . and happens only when the latter, seeking to restore its disturbed equilibrium, violently throws back into earth-life the astral monad which had been tossed out of the circle of necessity by crime or accident. Thus, in cases of abortion, of infants dying before a certain age, and of congenital and incurable idiocy, nature's original design to produce a perfect human being, has been interrupted. Therefore, while the gross matter of each of these several entities is suffered to disperse itself at death, through the vast realm of being, the immortal spirit and astral monad of the individual—the latter having been set apart to animate a frame and the former to shed its divine light on the corporeal organisation—must try a second time to carry out the purpose of the creative intelligence."
If we substitute the words 'lower self' for 'astral monad' and 'Higher Self' for 'immortal spirit', the meaning H. P. Blavatsky intended to convey will become clear. The whole misunderstanding arose because that great and good woman was not permitted to give out the complete scheme of reincarnation to the western world, which was, at that time, almost completely ignorant of the occult sciences. In later articles, Blavatsky explained the difference between what we call the lower and Higher selves which she often (but not always) referred to as the 'personality' and the 'Ego', and so alleviated, to some extent, the confusion caused by her apparent denial of the law of reincarnation. We cannot do better than quote directly from one of these later articles, in which she says:
"The law of rebirth is the reincarnation of the same spiritual individuality in a long, almost interminable, series of personalities. The latter are like the various costumes and characters played by the same actor, with each of which that actor identifies himself and is identified by the public, for the space of a few hours. The inner or real man, who personates those characters, knows the whole time that he is Hamlet for the brief space of a few acts, which represent, however, on the plane of human illusion the whole life of Hamlet. And he knows that he was, the night before, King Lear, the transformation in his turn of the Othello of a still earlier preceding night; but the outer, visible character is supposed to be ignorant of the fact. In actual life that ignorance is unfortunately, only too real. Nevertheless, the permanent individuality is fully aware of the fact, though, through the atrophy of the 'spiritual' eye in the physical body, that knowledge is unable to impress itself on the consciousness of the false personality."
The main reason so few remember their previous lives is not only the 'atrophy' of the 'spiritual eye', often called the 'third eye' in occult parlance, but ignorance of the true laws of reincarnation and the occult constitution of man, such as we discuss in our occult studies course. Unless a 'bridge' is built between the consciousness of the Higher and lower selves, whether through mystical exercises such as meditation or through occult studies, or in any other way, the earthly personality cannot share the knowledge and memories of the spiritual individuality we call the Higher Self.
Science and the afterlife
Earlier, we mentioned a survey which showed that a surprisingly large percentage of people believe in life after death. Until very recently, science vehemently denied the possibility of any continuity of consciousness after the death of the physical body and material brain. Many scientists still cling to this mistaken view, claiming that NDEs are simply hallucinations brought on by the loss of oxygen to the brain (anoxia) after the heart has stopped beating. But in 2001, a 13-year study of NDEs observed in 10 different Dutch hospitals was published in the respected British medical journal, The Lancet, which cast serious doubt on this theory.
The chief investigator, cardiologist Pim van Lommel, stated that: "Our results show that medical factors cannot account for the occurrence of NDE. All patients had a cardiac arrest, and were clinically dead with unconsciousness resulting from insufficient blood supply to the brain. In those circumstances, the EEG becomes flat, and if CPR is not started within 5-10 minutes, irreparable damage is done to the brain and the patient will die. According to the theory that NDE is caused by anoxia, all patients in our study should have had an NDE, but only 18% reported having one. There is also a theory that NDE is caused psychologically, by the fear of death. But only a very small percentage of our patients said they had been afraid seconds before their cardiac arrest—it happened too suddenly for them to realise what was occurring. More patients than the frightened ones reported NDEs."
These words, coming from an honest physician, make the position of mainstream science in regard to the persistence of consciousness after death, increasingly untenable. Researchers in the United States claim to have counted 13 million NDEs in that country alone. A number of recent scientific studies carried out by independent researchers have demonstrated that 10-20% of people who go through cardiac arrest and clinical death report lucid, well structured thought processes, reasoning, memories, and sometimes detailed recall of events during their encounter with death. "The remarkable point about these experiences," says one research scientist, "is that while studies of the brain during cardiac arrest have consistently shown that there is no measurable brain activity, these subjects have reported detailed perceptions that indicate the contrary—namely, a high level of consciousness in the absence of detectable brain activity."
In 2014, researchers at Southampton University conducted the largest ever scientific study into NDEs and OBEs, and concluded that consciousness does persist after clinical death. Gratifying as this admission is, science still has a very long way to go before it can begin to discover the real nature of consciousness. Nevertheless, this study and others like it are confirming many of the occult facts we have presented to you in our various articles, most notably in our occult studies course. Amongst the more interesting discoveries made by the Southampton researchers were that nearly 40% of patients retained awareness of their physical surroundings during the time when they were clinically dead and before their hearts were restarted. Several were able to accurately describe the actions of nursing staff and their conversations during the time they were 'dead', whilst others reported seeing a bright light accompanied by a deep sense of peace, so typical of many NDEs.
Despite such compelling and overwhelming evidence many scientists remain bound in the straitjacket of purblind materialism. Commenting on the above study, one reviewer said: "We know the brain can't function when the heart has stopped beating." Why, in the name of not-so-common sense, science refuses to draw the obvious conclusion that if consciousness persists after the brain has ceased functioning, consciousness must reside outside the brain, is an enigma we leave you to solve! If only the scientists would look beyond their instruments, or even their superior noses, they would find the answers they seek staring them in the face. As it is, they continue to complain: "we just don't know what is going on. We are still very much in the dark about what happens when you die and hopefully this study will help shine a scientific lens onto that." Sadly, it won't, for no amount of lenses, test-tubes, probes, scalpels and other material instruments will ever discover, much less dissect, the non-physical dimensions which science continues to deny. And it is there, within the realm of Spirit, that the origin, nature and function of consciousness is to be sought.
Sleep: the little death
Many people torture themselves with the question of whether or not there is an afterlife, basing their scepticism on the fact that they lose all consciousness of themselves during sleep, or when they faint, due to stress, illness or some other cause. But if they would only realise that this is due entirely to the temporary separation of the Higher and lower self, they would quickly overcome their doubts and their fears would vanish. It is for this reason that sleep has often been called the 'little death' by many writers and poets. The two states have much more in common than most people realise. H. P. Blavatsky tells us that:
"What we often regard as dreams, generally accepted as idle fancies, are, in truth, stray pages torn out from the life and experiences of the inner man, and the dim recollection of which at the moment of awakening becomes more or less distorted by our physical memory. The latter catches mechanically a few impressions of the thoughts, facts witnessed, and deeds performed by the inner man during its hours of complete freedom. For our Ego lives its own separate life within its prison of clay whenever it becomes free from the trammels of matter, i.e., during the sleep of the physical man."
The reason many people say they do not dream, or can never remember their dreams is the same reason few remember their previous incarnations, as we discussed earlier. But it is perfectly possible to train ourselves to remember our dreams, just as it is possible to train ourselves to remember our previous lives. But just as there are some dreams we are very glad to awaken from, it is a kindness that few can recall their previous lives. For as we discuss in our occult studies course article on reincarnation, there may be many things which happened to us in the past which it may not be good for us to recall in our present life. You can read more about dreams and sleep in our Astral Conversations article on dreams.
Heaven and Hell
We talked about the fear of death earlier. This raises the question of sin and punishment which many religious people associate with life after death. Let us say at once that we do not believe in the bogey of sin as it is commonly understood. The only 'sin' occult science acknowledges is that of ignorance, everything else falls into the category of right and wrong thinking and conduct, which is rewarded or punished on earth, not in the afterlife, which is a time of rest between incarnations for most and an actual awakening to a higher form of consciousness for others. Moreover, any 'punishment' is simply the working out of the destiny we have forged for ourselves through our own actions in former lives. We might just as well call the pain we feel when we deliberately put our hand into the fire 'punishment', but no one administers it, it is simply the result of the working out of natural laws. You can read more about these laws in our occult studies course article on Karma.
We are often asked if heaven and hell exist. The short answer is yes. For some people this world is all the heaven they desire, whilst for others it is a living hell, not one whit less terrifying, horrific and evil than the dreadful conditions painted by many religions and in the pictures of artists like Heironymous Bosch. The truth of the matter is that the physical world we dwell in is simply one of many worlds or realms. Some are much denser and even more material than the one we know. Others are more refined and spiritual. Each of these realms or planes is just as real to those who dwell in them as our world is to us. Conditions in these non-physical—but still material realms—are either better or worse than those we are familiar with on earth. After death we proceed to that realm, or part of a realm with which we are most in tune. Some of these realms are hellish indeed as you can read in Symphonie Fantastique; others are veritable paradises, much like the descriptions we can find in the sacred literature of the various religions, but without the priestly embellishments of angels strumming out-of-tune harps on soggy clouds, or dusky maidens ministering to the appetites of the faithful!
Wherever we find ourselves after death, we shall feel completely at HOME, for it is our home in a truer sense than we can ever realise on earth. The fact that some find themselves in decidedly unpleasant conditions, such as we can read about in the NDE described in the sidebar to this article, is because they have certain important lessons to learn from such experiences. Lessons they failed to learn on earth, and when they have learned them, they will be released and proceed to that realm for which their thoughts and deeds have fitted them. The miser will be a miser still, as we may read in the first Vision of The Golden Star, by J Michaud PhD. It is only the irredeemably evil who are condemned to the very lowest realms of all, which are hellish indeed.
In The Quest of Ruru the candidate to Initiation asks his Teacher: "I have heard so many teachings about the Three Worlds and those beyond, and also about the lower regions where the evil spirits dwell, and I have been told that Earth itself is the lowest Hell of all and that there is no lower: please, Master, what is the Truth of the matter?" To which the Master gives the following answer:
"...you have been misled. The lowest rung of the Seven Spiritual Spheres is the Earth, which to some is Hell, true enough, peopled with a host of evil beings who want to destroy them; but this is not the full truth. There are six Spheres of Darkness and Sin below the Earth, as well as Six Spheres of Light and Goodness above it. The Earth, therefore, occupies a central position, partaking of the spheres above and below to a certain extent.
"The Earth is at the same time the highest of the seven lower spheres and the lowest of the seven higher. But you should understand that the term 'lowest spheres' does not mean that these are inside the Earth; nor are the Higher Spheres necessarily above it. The term 'Sphere' really means 'condition,' or 'rate of vibration.' It is possible for some of the spheres to mingle or mix with that of the Earth, or with each other, the Earth thus forming part of them as far as their different octaves of vibration are concerned, for these may overlap, as it were. This is one of the reasons that one may 'sense' good or evil beings, conditions, or vibrations if one is more 'sensitive' than the average person." Ruru's Master goes on to add that "but the real secret of this I may only whisper to you and not speak aloud."
The complete truth about the realms may only be divulged to the trusted pupil of a genuine Master of the Mysteries. What is permitted to reveal in writing can be found in the aforementioned book, as well as the other books by the same author, most notably in The Book of Sa-Heti, which we have published here under the title of The True Gospel of Chrishna-Jeseus. In chapter 4, Chrishna-Jeseus describes some of the conditions to be found in the lower realms, below the earth, which are veritable hells indeed for the poor unfortunates whose thoughts and deeds have led them there. These conditions are very similar to the description given in the Vision of Drithelm which you can read in the peroration to this article in the sidebar at right.
Moreover, the 'gang of evil spirits' dragging the Souls of Men into the darkness mentioned in this vision find their exact counterpart in the modern NDE of Howard Storm which we mention in our occult studies course article on the astral world. Drithelm's brief glimpse of Paradise is almost identical to the vision the disciples of Jesus beheld which you can read in the sidebar of our Religious quotes and occult maxims page. In fact, all the things that Drithelm saw and experienced in his vision find their confirmation in the sacred literature of all times, as well as in many modern NDEs.
Whereas these accounts can tell us a very great deal about the true conditions to be found in some parts of the lower and higher realms, very few books describe the arrangement of these non-physical dimensions. One of these is the The Book of Sa-Heti mentioned above. In chapter 22 we may read that:
"And though a man or woman be born on earth, such is still a son or daughter of a Heaven, high or low, four Heavens either way, and of those who tabernacle within those Heavens. For the three Outer Heavens, above or below, do not send forth any beings or things to earth, except on one condition, of which no words may be spoken here."
In chapter 30 we find a complete description of the virtues and vices which qualify a man or woman for entrance to the realms above and the realms below. This chapter is well worth studying for the clear light it sheds on the many misconceptions surrounding the subject of heaven and hell.
The discerning reader will note that this chapter mentions TWELVE gates, not 7, or 6, as we might expect of a discourse upon the higher and lower realms. This is because Chrishna-Jeseus is alluding in a concealed manner to the Zodiac and the respective qualities associated with each of the 12 signs. The expert astrologers among our readers will recognise this and benefit accordingly. Those who are not astrologers may still enlarge their understanding of what awaits men and women after death; each according to their lights and shadows, and take comfort from the fact that it requires very little in the way of true faith, kindly thoughts and good deeds to qualify for an afterlife infinitely more satisfying to the spiritually-minded than anything to be found on earth.
We may say that we ourselves have often seen the conditions in which ordinary decent men and women dwell after death, and they are wonderful beyond all description. Here are gardens of unrivalled loveliness with nary a wasp or 'nasty' bug to spoil the enjoyment of Nature's bounty. There is no poverty or disease to 'fight', no hunger or greed, no envy or strife, for such things belong to the lower realms. There are no unwelcome visitors in the shape of debt-collectors, door-to-door salesmen or political agents to disturb the tranquillity of the dwellers there. In short, the conditions in even the lowest 'heaven' are like the very best garden-suburb on earth, but without the busybodies and disasters that afflict even the nicest neighbourhoods here.
What then must be the conditions in the highest heavens? No words can adequately describe them and we will not try. What can be said in words has never been said better than the magnificent descriptions you can find in Vision 6 of The Golden Star by J Michaud PhD. Read that book in any event if you have never done so before and try to get at its full meaning. If you do, and combine what you read there together with the facts we have put before you in this article and in our occult studies course, you will obtain a more complete and accurate picture of life after death than either orthodox religion or science can ever give you. We do not say this in any slighting way, for religion and science have done much to broaden Man's understanding, but neither knows the full facts about anything, material or spiritual, which only occult science can provide.
Note: If this article has encouraged you to take up the study of the hidden side of life, or deepen your existing studies, you may find much to interest you in our many articles, a full list of which can be found on our homepage.
© Copyright occult-mysteries.org. Article added 23 March 2015. Updated 26 April 2020.