You might say there are few things in life more certain than death.  Yet this fact of life is so often disregarded in our conscious thinking and planning in our lives.  Everyone has lost someone close them, be it a father,mother, spouse or friend at some point of their lives.  How does the Theosophical philosophy help us to deal with the inevitability of death and the process of dying?

Here is a short passage from Robert Crosbie to think about:

Day after day we are constantly confronted by the fact that we are all subject to death. No matter how we may live, whether our lives bring to us failure or the greatest possible success in the eyes of the world, death is there at the end. So sure as there is birth for us, so there is death. Each one knows that sooner or later death must be his portion; but what does he know of after-death?

‘What, if anything, survives? Religions such as we have professed do not give us any information whatever on this most serious question; materialistic science presents us no solution; from neither religion nor science have we gained anything to rest upon when the great conqueror of all human bodies appears before us. Is there any hope in life that what we are doing may be of any value after death? Whether we can answer that question, or not, before death confronts us—the confronting of death will be there. The time will come.

If any solution to the problems presented by death exists, it must be perceptible during life to have any value for us as living human beings. It must be a reasonable solution, sufficiently evident to us as we now live, to convince us of the correctness of the solution. There must be clear evidence as to an understanding of the facts of life, before we may accept any explanation as to what must be after death. When we know the meaning of birth; when we know what we are working here in bodies for; when we know what all manifested life exists for—then, we may have an answer as to why we pass so few years in any one physical existence; we may know where are our friends, our parents, our grandparents, who lived as we are living but now are gone; we may know if life has ceased for them; and, then, if life can ever cease for us.

This comes from the article " What Survives After Death?" from the small book called Universal Theosophy.

Please share your thoughts and experiences.


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Replies to This Discussion

I think this is the key: "When we know the meaning of birth; when we know what we are working here in bodies for; when we know what all manifested life exists for—then, we may have an answer as to why we pass so few years in any one physical existence." It's almost like it's reverse-engineered in that we have to understand birth or rather life (theosophically before and after death of physical body) to get a grip on death. I was watching the movie "Finding Joe" and heard a cool quote from Chungliang Al Huang appropriate here which says it as simple as Crosbie tends to write: "If you want new insight into life as you grow as a human being you will learn to keep dying."

What does it mean to "learn to keep dying" ?

Who amongst us is prepared to say that they are ready to part with everything they "have" (name, body, home, friends, children, possessions, accomplishments, awards etc.?  Yet this is precisely what happens every night when we go to sleep?  How does one advance from involuntarily letting go for sleep and conscious letting go for death?

Dear Gerry ,

         It is so strange that people see death as something so far apart and at the opposite of life or birth -  both of which are phenomena , in the East the space between birth and death is much much closer for people than it is in the West. Death is a very noble and spiritual experience , it is in no way a "passing away" , merely a continuation - for any change that happens can only happen in the back drop of an unchanging substratum otherwise no person would be able to even apprehend phenomena , everything would become mental images and hence fleeting . Death is wonderful in the sense that it holds great promise of a revival , a rejuvenation of the individual in his path of evolution . Every moment of what is called life and living by ordinary people are subject to the final act of dying , every act and every thought ever thought of during their lives as also their vanities , gender does not follow a person on his own death , none of the attributes of "I am beautiful",I am rich, This is mine , he is another  , I am a spiritualist , or academician or scholar or scientist or even a philosopher follows him or her . What follows is just the "remembrance" of having had a body and that too would just vary depending on the nature of the person and how he has inhered in the body during his life on the physical plane . It is just an act in consciousness of finitude that is all . Death is a really invigorating thing and most pleasant if one looks upon it in a healthy manner (which is as it should be , all humans being heir to right thinking) . It is the one greatest act in which the actor or protagonist has to necessarily and essentialy take part in , without any volition from his part just as birth is .You come with nothing you go with nothing , everything that a man has worked for all his life willed, thought, and planned and plotted and experienced and suffered or enjoyed is left happily in the end - he does not care about labor or effort or anything or even his heirs he just goes happily , it is the people who stand and witness a person dying say that "Oh he is suffering" or Oh he has died gracefully and without pain , the person feels neither , the contortions of the body persist till the end and may seem evocative including grimaces and sounds and clenched teeth , but in actuality what has happened the man is beyond caring already - his consciosness rises , and from the waist up it penetrates upward , whilst his organs of knowledge (smell,taste, sight, touch(feeling),and sound) involute into his heart where it meets the rising consciousness and mixes and the man dies when his heart stops beating. Everyone dies when their heart stops beating it is an eternal rule , medical causes may be many but yet everyone dies when the beating heart has been stilled. Whilst this movement to the "creation" of the mind by consciousness and the senses are occuring the man is conscious yet unaware of pain as he has already withdrawn his senses and they are not available for him to suffer or enjoy anymore , it is also depending on the practice or knowledge of the person his "mind ' crystalizes at various levels , if he has led a life of materialism with not an iota of thought of his future , his consciosuness will mix with the senses at a much lower stage like say the abdomen , or navel or slightly inand around various parts of the body , the result being that his mind will not be able to access that particular part in full and so leaves his body with an inadequate mind , since the 5 senses in their enteirety and in full blossom will not be available as a consequence of which his intellect will suffer and be only in a nascent state . These are the Nadis where the prans moves and are known as the dwelling place of the "Dazzling ones" . It is possible for a man to die with his consciousness in the legs as a consequence of which he will end up in a newer and subtler form with a grosser mind and intellect . It would be like saying that the person has become the stones in the cliff in a dream !!. The Nadis hold our previous lives and the ones below the waist are the ignoble births , not necessarily human . Above the waist it is human but the quality varies and the time spent varies. Normally people who are partly clairvoyant are intimated of only their human births , since having become human the mineral ,plant and animal births are not actually required it is as a matter of  fact taken that one has evolved to the human being through these areas of consciousness. But if a person really perseveres in his attempts with full knowledge he can travel through the various nadis , the devas accompany him and show the ropes (so to say ) it is done in dream and is the higher initiation by the devas . A person can then travel through the various nadis and see things and places at different levels of consciousness . The yogi what he does at the time of dying (which is known as Maha Samadhi) Raises the mind from the heart lotus to the Sahasrara (previous practice having been done ) consumnately by thought alone .  This is why the meditations on the chakras are recommended , its ultimate aim is to "see" all of ones karmas and do "Karma paripakam" (or reordering of Karmas by will ) in this life and at the end of the last karma by which the body will fall off in this life is ordained - they can hold out for a maximum of maybe 6 months or 1 year but this is allowed only under very rare cases and not done by anyone - unless they have an intimation of a "person" who is related in previous life is yet to meet them . Otherwise the rule is "without prolonging or cutting short ones life in any way " one must live . Some wait for the passing of the southern movement of the sun and leave when the Northern movement starts - this is very normal , but these are done by the practitioners who go by "Krama Mukthi" (or gradual Liberation ) - Men of wisdom normally go by "Sadyo Mukthi" which is an instant passsing through the five sheaths .

On a more mundane level of observation - just look at the self sacrifice of a householder who dies , he leaves his lifes work to the world , does not care who inherits it , and sacrifices everything to his heirs or government or pet or wife etc leaves as lightly as he came , this is the "idea" and "ideal" of sacrifice an ascetic has in his mind , the absolute selflessness which guides him in his life and works whilst embodied on the physical plane.  Death is a very spiritual and edifying event - which is probably why the Buddha so famously said on entering a town "Take me to a house where nobody has died " when he was invited by one citizen to stay at his house . He was implying his choiclessness in the matter and would not favour one person over the other , as everyone was equal . These are just my thoughts and what I know , they may not find favour with everyone but I can only hope that in some small way they help another person , wherein the calumny earned from millions would be more than outweighed by the spark however small it may be , ignited in a single persons understanding of the Source and aim of the learning and practice and internalizing of the Theosophical teachings of Mahatmas whoever they may be .

How might one test oneself in regards to one's actual, as opposed to theoretical, position on death?

One thought: I think the way we deal with the death of those closest to us can shed much light on our actual position on death. It may be the closest thing we have in our daily lives to experiencing the real thing.

I have a dear friend going in for brain surgery today that is almost entirely hopeless, a total hail mary surgery to rescue him from brain cancer.  And although I take great comfort in the cycle of reincarnation, and despite the awareneness that my dear friend will be relieved of suffering at some point from this dreaded disease it is still very hard not to feel blue.  So you could not be more right Jon, these situations reveal how embedded in personal consciousness we really are.

I suppose one's position on death is partly dependent upon whether one is considering one's own death or someone else's. 

We're witness to friends and relatives deaths, and that is something that we've gone through with various levels of involvement and attachment.  The more attached, the more painful. 

However, I think we have real difficulty in undersanding our own death.  As you say, we can come closer to understanding our own death by looking at our 'small deaths', such as our sleep which is our death for a day.  We know what that's like and can relate that to the larger death for this life that we'll have.  That gets us closer.   



I wonder also if our acts of sacrifice, specifically sacrificing a personal desire in favor of a more universal aspiration, is something that brings us closer to understanding, or at least preparing for, death.

The Maha-Chohan talks of people dying with the utmost indifference (in his letter on the TS), and this makes me think that our practice of indifference towards personal desires in life is what ultimately prepares us for death. If we aren't indifferent to whether or not we "get what we want" daily, how could we possibly be indifferent through the process of death? If we cling to life and the desires and thirst for this (physical, egoic) life daily, I'd imagine that thirst will present itself one hundred fold at death.

So perhaps this is an example of practicing 'small deaths' daily (as St. Paul said).

I wonder if we would reduce our fear of death if we were to see it as part of the larger cycle of turning inward, spiritward if you will.   When we go into meditation, or deep contemplation, or serious study where our minds are really focused we are putting the ephemeral aspects of our nature aside ( putting them to sleep or a temporary dying of sorts) while we seek to engage a higher aspect of our nature.  We come back into the world, of sorts, refreshed and with inspiration and energy to take on the common task.   These mini deaths are anything but negative, they are renewing, as is the larger death cycle of the personality.

How does the subject of Death and Dying relate to the current theme for the week in Universal Theosophy and on the Nexus "Spectator and Participant"?   One can intuit an important connection between these two ideas.

IMPO, the "spectator and participant" are both equal and subject to the laws of Karma just as death and dying are constituted by a spectator to death and a participant in death. There is no escaping death and dying much like being a "spectator and participant" is inevitable in the course throughout ones lifetime. This is a shared universal experience and an unavoidable circumstance that binds Earth life under the "law of oneness" of intelligent / advanced universal consciousness. 

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on July 12, 2013 at 8:13am

In the response above, have failed to note that both death / dying and spectator / participant are characteristics of Nature. They are a perpetual cycle in the liveliness of Nature.

Is death & dying a life that is alive within the constitution of nature?

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on July 15, 2013 at 5:22pm

If we view death as simply a form of change then it is certainly within the constitution of nature, as nature is in a constant state of change.  Hence, non attachment and learning to accept change is an important key to happiness.

Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on July 16, 2013 at 8:37pm

Happiness is a choice =)

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on July 17, 2013 at 5:59pm

Indeed it is, happiness is very much a choice.  The Stoics and Victor Frankl would say that it is not the situation one is in or confronted by that is bad or negative, but how one perceives it, what one's attitude is to it.  Hence, learning non-attachment would help in this area.  But again, learning non-attachment and making the choice to be happy even in highly negative situations is easier said than done for most of us.  It would take a life time to learn, or perhaps, life times. 

Be happy Sophia, life is so much easier that way =)

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 30, 2013 at 10:18am

Nature, could be thought of, as a group of interwoven cycles.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 12, 2013 at 5:51pm

Plato, one of humanities great teachers, talks about the art of dying being the skill, so to speak of the philosopher. Seeing death as part of a cycle of life rather than as an end is no doubt important to the theosophical student.  But how does one withdraw from that which is impermanent in our nature?

Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on July 12, 2013 at 6:57pm

Life is full of attachment, the One living, especially of the lower Manas may cling to whatever brings them pleasure for life's painful excretions. Death is life's true pleasure, for which it embodies an adaption entering towards another door leading to life beyond the living.  Perhaps it is life that should be feared more than death and dying. Much like birth into life, death is a mysterious embarkment and deserves the respect that life has because at the end of life's extensive hour they are equally ONE of the same energy signature. 

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on July 17, 2013 at 6:07pm

I am not understanding your question.  How would one not be able to withdraw from that which is not permanent?  Things and people go away or die, those of us left behind must move on or face a life time of misery and depression (and some people do indeed, do this, sad to say).  The old saying, "Life goes on" fits well here.  But, if we are truly students and believers of Theosophy we would understand that nothing ever really ends and disappears forever, rather things simply change and that we will someday meet those we have loved in future lives and places.  This is my hope and belief, anyway, and I can say that deep down inside I somehow know this to be true.  I think I was on the right track here, though not sure.  What do you think, Gerry?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 18, 2013 at 10:48am

Well I did mean something else.  Thanks for asking.  Theosophical philosophy teaches us that the world "outside", the world we perceive through our senses is ever changing and therefore impermanent.  This is the reality most human beings inhabit.  Yet within our consciousness there are planes, if you will, that are ever more permanent and therefore real.  The trick, as I understand it, is to establish a foot hold of reality on these inner levels which would allow us to see the "outer world" in a new light.  This I presume would put the subject of death and dying into a new focus.  My question had to do with how to start doing this.  Which is just another way of asking, "What is the Path?"

Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on July 19, 2013 at 10:44pm

Do most believe the conscious is a body of many evolutionary bodies both sub-conscious matter and conscious matter inside a body of material-matter (brain) in a physical vehicle, which all have separate faculties, however, sharing the same interconnectedness functions that work from the same vehicle but from different sources and at different frequency rates,  like a satellite tapping into multiple channels? 

These frequencies / channels would be like the altered states of the unconscious/consciousness of the individual which would be depending on their age, time, experience, emotions, and the changes that comes along from this ever progressing fluctuating, alternating, or cross transference states from the sensory bodies, intuition faculties, and the central nervous system which can possibly trine as one body to a potential state of psychoanalytical awareness squaring the foundation of physical matter, subconscious matter, conscious matter, and terrestrial{dark}matter if permitted to say, as an omniscience phenomena if the trine and square are amalgamate with each other, ergo  the convergence may be used as a scope henceforth, from a collective conscious level of analysis towards a sociological path that is {if there is a such} for the future time to come, the same to be said for an individual scope view. 

If we are bodies of life living on a macrocosmic level in a body of many bodies, wouldn't convergence of the dead apply the same way in a microcosmic death after life?


Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on July 20, 2013 at 5:49am

Perhaps this path is one that is working from within the self outwards much like bodies within other bodies, so maybe the plan is not very different which may have paths within the paths.

Is the "skill of dying" part of an art that battles the lower ego on a daily basis killing piece by piece to gain closer towards pure consciousness in the highest degree "above seven heavens" into soul-light-life (Ahtma)?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 20, 2013 at 12:55pm

How would you define "path"?  What does that mean to you?  Until we get your definition of this it will be hard to understand your Path within paths idea.

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Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on July 20, 2013 at 2:02pm

This idea is not one that myself had thought up on my own, but is inspired by an article that I cannot think of from the top of my head. Anyhow as for the definition of path in my own words is much like a quest that one travels along which is influenced through a source that cannot be defined because this influence has no concrete foundation or authentication of its existence. Collectively everyone has a path / quest that they are on and some may be on the same conquest while others on another. Usually one path leads to another path and always for a reason, however this reason is not always apparent until set forth and treaded upon. 

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on July 20, 2013 at 6:56am

Death is simply change, moving from one form or reality to another, one way of perceiving to another.  I think we tend to view death as a final, complete end, which it is not.  I would suppose that being reborn in a physical body may be perceived as death from a spiritual standpoint, just as we perceive the "final curtain" as death and ultimate loss.  We should simply think of death as change, not a final, absolute end.  I am not sure, though, about the convergence of the dead, etc... 

Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on July 20, 2013 at 7:14am

In no doubt it is a perpetual cycle of change, seemingly like business of recycling soul vehicles for some higher purpose in the cosmic path plan, per se...but for?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 20, 2013 at 12:50pm

Sophia, I am afraid I do not understand your question, would you mind restating it please?

Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on July 20, 2013 at 2:08pm

Gerry, I was actually thought-typing aloud through my fingers contemplating on the idea that our borrowed vehicles are perpetually recycled from this inescapable realm of relative cyclic changes that both life and death pour forth to all.  

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 20, 2013 at 12:53pm

Jeffrey, just to play the devil's advocate, would it not be equally true that change could be LIfe or growth as well as death and the end of a cycle (baby changing int a toddler) ?  If this statement is true, then how could death be equated with change, when it is just as likely to be life-giving?

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on July 22, 2013 at 5:00pm

I think D.T. Suzuki (I could be wrong, I can't remember) said something to the effect that the child we were when we were 6 years old is now long dead.  He or she no longer lives and is only a memory or a child in a picture.  Yet, you and I still live and those two 6 year olds are part of who we are and always will be.  Our past lives would also fit in here, they being part of who we are and, in the future, when the present Jeffrey and Gerry are not who they are now we will be part of the future Jeffrey and Gerry (or whatever we might call ourselves).

We should really have a huge debate about Time and the meaning of Time as some philosophers posit (as do some physicists) that time is only an illusion and that past and future can be accessed in the present, in fact there may not really be a past or future, there is only really the NOW.

Permalink Reply by Jimmy on July 19, 2013 at 7:54pm
"But how does one withdraw from that which is impermanent in our nature?"

One way might be to stop identifying with those impermanent aspects like body, thoughts, emotions, beliefs, etc., and at the same time shifting identification toward the immutable Spirit.
Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on July 15, 2013 at 5:19pm

Is learning to accept death or lose or change of any kind just another way of learning non-attachment?  Saints, sages, philosophers and buddhas have taught non attachment for centuries.  We should look at all change negative or positive as opportunities and challenges through which we can learn and evolve.  Of course this is sometimes easier said than done.......

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 18, 2013 at 10:51am

Good question.   I might add that it might be useful to ask further, what is the nature of attachment?   How does it arise?  If we don't know how it works we won't be able to undo it.

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on July 18, 2013 at 5:09pm

Good questions.  I like to think that one of the most important things we are to learn in life is to love.  To love and care for others even when it hurts, to be compassionate and help others even when our own sense of security and safety is threatened.  If we love someone, especially if we love someone deeply, I would assume that we are attached to that person and it would presumably not make any sense to try to practice non-attachment in this context; nor would we want to.  Yet, we must learn to accept the lose of that person if such an event occurs, life gives us no choice.  Or, perhaps you are right...Gerry, you wrote the following in a reply above:

    "Theosophical philosophy teaches us that the world "outside", the world we perceive through our senses is ever changing and therefore impermanent.  This is the reality most human beings inhabit.  Yet within our consciousness there are planes, if you will, that are ever more permanent and therefore real.  The trick, as I understand it, is to establish a foot hold of reality on these inner levels which would allow us to see the "outer world" in a new light.  This I presume would put the subject of death and dying into a new focus.  My question had to do with how to start doing this.  Which is just another way of asking, "What is the Path?"

    What you are getting at is really the root of the matter.  What, indeed, is the path?  Perhaps there is no path or perhaps there is not one specific path but many from which we can learn and through which we can evolve.   Perhaps non-attachment is not the correct term to use.  Maybe we should use the term ACCEPTANCE.  If we could understand the present reality from the perspective of other planes maybe we can learn to accept those situations and events that come our way and maybe we can get through them with dignity, courage, and grow from them. 

    When you mentioned different planes within consciousness I am reminded of how very flexible and powerful our consciousness/minds are.  I work with people who are afflicted with Schizophrenia and their perception of reality can be very powerful and very bizarre, as you may imagine.  Think if we could tap into the part of consciousness from which these perceptions flow (without becoming psychotic, of course) and learn to transcend and create our world and make it better.  It would be cool, I think.....

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 18, 2013 at 8:32pm

So might it be true that to move from one plane to another we have to "die" to the old one to move forward into the "life" of a expanded one?

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on July 19, 2013 at 4:53pm

Indeed.  Growth and evolution seems to require change and some sort of "movement".  Learning requires moving from less difficult tasks to more difficult tasks and what is life but a classroom?  We learn 24/7, well some of us do, some merely do the same stupid things over and over again expecting a different result (definition of insanity).  So if we learn, we must therefore grow and evolve and eventually transcend the plane or realm or dimension in which we presently find ourselves.  This, I guess, would be equivalent to the Buddhist concept of breaking the cycle or rebirth and no longer reincarnating here.  Currently I kind of like it here, coming back may not be so bad :)

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 19, 2013 at 5:15pm

Could you say death and dying means something completely different when looked at from a different standpoint.  Death for the body would mean one thing, death for the mind another, death for the heart a third perhaps.  Dying for the soul might be moving away from learning and loving for example. Living would be the opposite.  That sort of thing. 

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on July 22, 2013 at 4:54pm

Yes!!  Birth into this life probably means death to us in the life we had just been in!!  Again, death is simply change, I think, dramatic and final from our limited perspective, but change. 

But, I ask, why??  Why do you have to live lives in these conditions (or any conditions) and why do we exist at all?? 

Permalink Reply by Vicki Stebbings on July 20, 2013 at 7:40am
"Dying for the soul" by "moving away from learning and loving" is an interesting thought. I have seen that happen. Though, when I observed that, I realized it was the journey of that soul (I think). My human attachment to that person caused great pain. Letting go is/was difficult. Certain photographs or conversations bring up a small uncomfortable feeling that I recognize and can let go of because it is not beneficial and enough "time" has passed.

Time is very interesting; I often wonder why I need time. Time to process death. Time to get over pain and the feeling of loss. I don't know if I really need time (though I use it) I just need to choose at every given moment and remember that I do have a choice.
Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 20, 2013 at 12:45pm

Vicki;  I think it is very important to accept the place that we are all in by and large.  We are not enlightened, we are not consciously immortal and we are not devoid  of attachments.  It is a goal to be all of the above but that is the work of life times.  When we lose someone close to us the sense of loss is overwhelming and no amount of words or philosophy can shake the feeling.  Denying that experience is very foolish but what I do think we can gain from it is an appreciation of the pathos of the human race, the larger suffering of the whole human family who, like us, must suffer from losses and change.  We gain compassion from thinking this way and then our loss becomes a net gain because our hearts are brought closer together.  I think keeping loved ones in our memory is a very good thing.  Trying to remember their good qualities, what lead us to love them.This is very good and healing.

  As you say, as time passes, nature heals.  It is highly possible that many of the relationships we currently have are old ones from prior lives and  one of the two parties had to endure the loss of the other near the end of that cycle.

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on July 23, 2013 at 5:28pm

I think time, as we perceive it, and in the context of grief and sadness, allows us to slowly distance ourselves from the event and the person we may have been close to.   But I think that time only effects us in the physical realm.  Mystics and physicists have stated and theorized that time is only a consequence of living in a physical body.  In spiritual realms mystics have said there are no barriers to knowledge and time doesn't really mean anything as one can review the past and view possible futures (and possible pasts).  It is only that death seems so final to us that our grief is so strong and distressing to us.  Again, it is easy to say all this, not to live it, which Gerry explains quite well below.

Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on July 20, 2013 at 5:27am
From the unreal lead me to the real.
From darkness lead me to light.
From death lead me to immortality. -- Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 1.3.38
Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on July 23, 2013 at 5:35pm

Well said and timely, I love your choice of poetry, Sophie.  I like the Upanishads, too.  Isn't it interesting how we describe good things as Real, Light, Immortal.  Perhaps this poem is a description of the process of evolution in life, since if we evolve we would travel from the unreal to the real, from darkness to light, and from death to immortality.  At any rate you can't have light without darkness, and Ying wouldn't be happy without Yang :).

Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on July 21, 2013 at 2:30pm

Don't mean to get too personal here, but time has a weird way of unfolding itself amongst us and during this time there are many signs post and signals that may be seen or greatly over looked. At this moment this discussion came at the very right time since on July 20, 2013, grandpa has liberated from this cycle of his life and can't help to think, what part of him survives now.  Thank you, Gerry for the preparation even if it was unconsciously done, it seems like it came at the very right time! Could this be some kind of proof that everything does happen for a reason? At this time can't say if the grieving process is any different from previous experiences since participating in this discussion, perhaps time will tell when the whole process of laying him down to rest in peace has come to an end; death.  May he rest ever so peacefully in his new found birth! 

Again, Thank You, Gerry!

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 22, 2013 at 9:46am

No need to thank anyone here.  It is the ideas that we all find comforting and enriching and illuminating.

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on July 22, 2013 at 4:49pm

I think everything does happen for a reason and that no action or decision is left unused.   I like to think that all those who I love who have passed on simply moved on to another type of existence, another plane or dimension, if you will, and that I shall see them when it is my turn to move on.  I guess one could say it is kind of like moving from one city to another, maybe.  I read somewhere, perhaps D.T. Suzuki, that death happens to us in every moment.  The child that I was when I was six years old is long dead, he lives no more.  But, what used to be that child is still part of me, part of who I am, just as all of the past lives I have lived are also part of me and make up who I am.  It kind of makes sense from that perspective.   Death is simply change and, hopefully, growth.  My condolences, for your loss, Sophie, I hope you are well.

Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on July 22, 2013 at 5:57pm

Very kind of you to share, Jeffrey! I can resonate with what you have said, which is very well said. All is well and will be, thank you!!

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Erica on July 26, 2013 at 1:29am

Death and dying are processes intrinsically related to the self. How do we understand ourselves as human beings, how do we make sense of things in our everyday lives, how do we relate to everything around us. In this vein, to think about death and dying necessarily involves thoughts related to the nature of the self, what the self is.   

Overtime, many philosophers were (and still are) intrigued by those questions. David Hume for example, after reflecting about the self concluded the self is an illusion, a fiction, it does now exist. His point of view is very close to the one of Buddhism, which also deems the self an illusion. On the other hand, both Descartes and John Locke had a dualistic position about the self. John Locke, thought the human being has three substances. He used the term substance sometimes to refer to material substance, sometimes to refer to the spiritual one. He claimed that, the human being is composed by the material substance (physical body), the immaterial substance which he linked to memory and to consciousness, and by the spiritual substance which he referred to as soul or spirit. He also thought the self (personality) is independent of the physical body, but dependent on memory. We know if someone loses his/her memory, this someone will not be able to feel the love, attachment he/she used to have for their relatives. A mother with memory loss won’t be able to feel love for her offspring. In this vein, Locke links the continuity of the self overtime to memory.

Descartes also claimed the individual is composed by two substances, one material and the other one immaterial. The material is the personality and the immaterial one the mind. On the other hand, the philosopher Derek Parfit claimed that it is not important to know what is the nature of the self, because there are no right or wrong answers to that question. The individual is not ever the same overtime, it is always changing, and therefore there is nothing permanent. In this vein, there is no reason to fear death, because the self who will die in the future is not the same self fearing death right now.

Additionally, Plutarch recorded a famous thought experiment in philosophy known as the Ship of Theseus.  The ship which Theseus used to return from Crete to Athens was preserved by the Athenians for centuries. However, from time to time the old planks of the ship needed to be replaced with new and stronger ones. Overtime, all parts of the ship were replaced. ‘Plutarch thus questions whether the ship remains the same after all its pieces have been replaced.  The philosopher Thomas Hobbes introduced an additional enigma to it. Imagine that all the original planks of the ship were gathered up every time they were replaced. Now imagine that a new ship, looking exactly the same as the old one, was built with the original planks of Theseu’s ship. Which ship is the original one? The Ship of Theseus rebuilt overtime or the new one rebuilt with the old planks of Theseus’ ship? There are no right or wrong answer to those questions. But, such questions are put forward to make us to ponder about the nature of the self. Is there anything permanent in it? If so what is that? Can we know it? What makes the aged individual the same with the baby he/she once was? What is the role memory plays? Such thoughts are unavoidable for those who ponder about living and dying, because by understanding the nature of the self (if there is a self after all) we come closer to the understanding of living and dying.

In the quote opening this discussion, Crosbie says that “If any solution to the problems presented by death exists, it must be perceptible during life to have any value for us as living human beings.” I do agree with his statement. We can make sense of things while living, throughout our experiences, observations, thoughts, relationships and so forth. Nevertheless, the sad true about the process of dying and death is that it is difficult for each one of us to accept that one day we will no longer be the persons we think we are right now. Eventually, we will lose those we love and we also will die. This thought is terrifying, and has leaded many individuals to embrace some religious beliefs and esoteric teachings, because such teachings provide a temporary hope for an imagined and eternal existence or salvation. But, there is no eternal existence or salvation for something that is impermanent such as the self. We long for permanence, and we cannot find it anywhere, and it is this longing for permanence contrasted with the fact of impermanence everywhere which leads to suffering, sorrow and fear of dying and letting go.

By considering for example the writings of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, she indicates there is nothing permanent in the self. In fact, she claims the only permanent thing is Atman, which can never be known, because that which is one with itself cannot know itself. We can know things only because there are other things we can contrast and compare with. In unity there is nothing to be known. We come to know ourselves, and make sense of a “self” only because there is differentiation, only because there are other selves and things around us. In this vein, our self is dependent of everything around us. Once that inter-relationship ceases to exist, the self as we know it also ceases to exist. In this vein, the universalistic approach to “self-knowledge” is that we need to know ourselves through the social, through everything around us, through our interactions, because the self as we know it exists only in relation and dependence of everything around us. On the other hand, the personalistic approach attempts to know that “self” by supporting ideas such as that we can close our eyes and find the universe within ourselves. Such an approach is in fact a “cult” of personality, a cult for the self.  A modern philosopher who attempted a universal approach was Josiah Royceand he said: “Our social experiences are our principal source of insight, and the salvation that this insight brings to our knowledge is salvation through the fostering of brotherhood.”

I belief that once the individual attempts to know and understandings himself/herself through the universal, the individual then comes closer to the nature of the self. Such an understanding necessarily involves the fact that the self is constantly dying, the self is never the same overtime, and there is nothing permanent in the self.  To know that theoretically is one thing, to realize that through our daily experiences, interactions and reflections is other. Additionally, once the self is not permanent, which self is there to be known? We cannot know what is impermanent, because what is impermanent is all the time changing. In this vein, and in reality there is not a self to be known, but a chain of relations and causations linked and connected to everything around us. The saying in the oracle of Delphi “Man Know Thyself” hides more riddles than one can imagine. It does not define the self, it does not say how the self exists and can be known. Overtime, many esotericists assumed that to know that self one has to know his/her personal self. The thing is the personal self is impermanent and how can we know something impermanent? There is no way to know something impermanent. That self exists in relation and dependence of everything around us. Thus, it is by knowing the universal that we come to know the ever changing and ephemeral nature of that self. In this vein, the only thing to be known is a chain of ever-changing and fleeting relations and causations. And such chain of relations and causations can be known through the universal approach and not though the particular (personalistic) one.

Anyway, I will conclude by saying that in the core of the problem of dying and death is the self. By understanding the nature of the self (if there is a self after all) we come closer to the understanding of dying and death.  In the writings of H.P.B. she mentions in several instances, the only permanent thing in the human being is Atman, which cannot ever be known. That which is one with itself cannot know itself. On the other hand, how can we know something impermanent such as the self? How can we know something so fluid which is ever changing? It is my opinion the only thing to be known is the chain of relations and causations and by this I mean not Karma as some Theosophists would assume. In order to know that chain of relation and causations it is necessary a shift from particulars to universals, a shift from thinking in terms of personality, or knowing a self that cannot ever be known because it is not permanent, to thinking in terms of social, in terms of the world. Then, death and dying acquire an entire new context. After all why fear to die if the self is not a permanent thing? After all if everything around us changes all the time. Easy to say I know, but difficult to escape from the fear of losing those we love.

Anyway, I could write more, and I also omitted many illustrations and examples that could have been added to this post, but time has no mercy!!!! Kronos is out there devouring his children, and I must run away... :)

Below a video narrating the thought experiment recorded by Plutarch the “Ship of Theseus”...  

Permalink Reply by barbaram on July 28, 2013 at 8:56am

Hi Erica:

Thank you for your post.  It is thought - provoking.   Nice video.



 "I will conclude by saying that in the core of the problem of dying and death is the self. By understanding the nature of the self (if there is a self after all) we come closer to the understanding of dying and death."

I agree with that.

" In the writings of H.P.B. she mentions in several instances, the only permanent thing in the human being is Atman, which cannot ever be known. That which is one with itself cannot know itself."

I wonder it is different on another plane of consciousness, meaning unity can be known.  It sounds impossible on our plane of duality.    Nevertheless, we can get a taste or sense of Atman through Buddhi in our present state.

"On the other hand, how can we know something impermanent such as the self? How can we know something so fluid which is ever changing? It is my opinion the only thing to be known is the chain of relations and causations and by this I mean not Karma as some Theosophists would assume."

So much depends what we mean by "self" -  I remember what I did yesterday, how I felt about a situation, how I thought about a person.  This is my own personal chain of actions and reactions.

"In order to know that chain of relation and causations it is necessary a shift from particulars to universals, a shift from thinking in terms of personality, or knowing a self that cannot ever be known because it is not permanent, to thinking in terms of social, in terms of the world."

If we can not know the self because it is changing constantly and we can only know oneself through the chain of causations,  but the same impermanence goes for the world in terms of social and the universals as well.  I do not follow why one needs to think in terms of the universals to know oneself.

"Then, death and dying acquire an entire new context. After all why fear to die if the self is not a permanent thing? After all if everything around us changes all the time. Easy to say I know, but difficult to escape from the fear of losing those we love."

I think death is one thing, imperceptible changes is quite another.




Permalink Reply by Erica on July 29, 2013 at 2:27am

Dear Barbaram,

Thanks for your comments. This is a very difficult week for me, a friend passed away in a very tragic way, and I need to finish an essay for my university. So, below I am just adding few comments to your questions. I hope in the future we can discuss more about it.  

You say:

"I remember what I did yesterday, how I felt about a situation, how I thought about a person.  This is my own personal chain of actions and reactions."

Based on your comment above you associate your personal chain of "actions and reactions" to your memory, because you say "I remember". But, what happens when we do not remember? We never remember everything. We are always forgetting. What that means? That indicates that "memory" cannot possibly be the way we know something, because memory fails us all the time. Additionally, memory is based and dependent on our senses and the senses cannot ever be trusted. On the other hand, memory is that thing which gives us a point of "self-reference" we remember our name, our family things we did, experiences we had. So, memory certainly is important. But, is it memory the “tool” to know something?  Can we “know ourselves” only by way of memory and things we remember? This would consist a problem because what happens about the things we cannot remember? We never remember everything. We are always forgetting. What that means?

"I do not follow why one needs to think in terms of the universals to know oneself"

This is a wonderful question, which necessarily would lead us into a discussion about the "self".  I would love to discuss about it, and when I have more time I will return to attempt to address this question and express my point of view.  But for now I will quote you again, you said: I remember what I did yesterday, how I felt about a situation, how I thought about a person This is my own personal chain of actions and reactions." Notice that in this comment of yours, your first point of self-reference was memory, and your second point of self-reference were things and other individuals around you. How they made you feel and your thoughts about others. This indicates that your sense of a personal self exists, because there are other people and things around you,and only by way of relations and causations with those things your sense of self, your point of self-reference, emerges. So, in this vein this “personal” chain is not at all personal, but it is universal and it is linked to everything and to everyone around you. It is my opinion that by shifting the way we think in terms of “personals” to thinking in terms of “universals” a different level of awareness emerges. Hopefully, another time I may address that. But I got your point about impermanence and what is the difference in terms of universals and personals once everything is impermanent. (Further discussion on hold for now) :) 

"I think death is one thing, imperceptible changes is quite another." 

I did not say death is the same with imperceptible changes. I said everything around us changes all the time. With this I make an association of changes with death and dying. Perhaps I should have used the word impermanence instead of changes. But again things that are impermanent are not static, fixed. They are impermanent because they change all the time, and for this reason I associated changes with death and dying. But, yeah I agree with you, I should perhaps have used the word impermanence instead of changes.

Thanks for your reply and I wish you a wonderful week


Permalink Reply by Casady on August 4, 2013 at 11:18am

Nice Plutarch video - here's one on Plato that might be of interest-

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on August 25, 2013 at 11:06pm

Can we add this video to our network?  Excellent.  Orson Wells and the Allegory of the Cave.

Permalink Reply by Erica on August 26, 2013 at 12:03am

Hi Gerry,

Perhaps you will like this version also.

Permalink Reply by Stephen Richard Womack on July 26, 2013 at 5:55am

As Theosophy purports to have the answer to any question (one way or another), which I, for one, agree with, the answer lies within it. We are part of a group within a group within a cycle within a cycle etc. The parts of us that survive after dissolution - the mortal three and the upper triad (not counting the 7th aspect - the physical body) enter kamaloka followed by entry into devachan. Reincarnation generally follows sometime thereafter. I've no wish to sound mechanical nor dogmatic but Theosophy gives a signal in my heart that it is correct. Therefore my thoughts are partly - why the question and the answers lie within that which has been 'handed down'. 

Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on July 29, 2013 at 10:13pm

What happens to an individual who falls deeply in Love with death?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 30, 2013 at 10:35am

Well I am not sure where you are coming from in this question but if you mean someone who has given up on life and is morbidly fascinated with death then I believe what happens to this type of person is they start to slide downhill.  I think Theosophy points to a healthy view of both life and death in a balanced way.

Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on July 30, 2013 at 4:23pm

To fall in love with death doesn't mean it has to be a negative. Not implying on the act of hating one self thus leading to self inflicted pain and suicide. Perhaps it can be looked at from a healthy positive view of attaining the "art of dying" by becoming familiar with detachment through practicing self discipline of various ways. Separation is a skill that should be cultivated without seeing it as a negative. Only if it was as easy as when the day separates from night dying on a daily basis, than just maybe the burden could become a bit less stressful and better understood. In the end isn't that what death is, detachment?  

Permalink Reply by Erica on July 30, 2013 at 11:21pm

What do you mean by to fall deeply in love with death? If you illustrate your question by giving some examples it would be easier to address it. What the persons does or thinks in relation to death as a result of this love? Or how the person came to "fall in love" with death? For instance, is the person a sadist who enjoys seeing other people to die? If this is not the case does the person wanna die? Does the person loves the idea of dying?  so what is that which makes that person to love the idea of dying or to love death? You see your question is so general that it is difficult for someone to  express their point of view about it.  

Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on August 2, 2013 at 1:40pm

Very well, Erica! The question above was meant for the reader to use their imagination to apply in any aspect of this subject they choose in a broad sense. Generally, it's not about the answer to the question that is important. Perhaps it is the thought that may arise from the question itself that serves the real purpose only if the reader chooses to ponder on it for "food for thought" rather than surfing the surface for generality. 

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on August 2, 2013 at 3:00pm

Hi Sophia. I believe Erica (and others) are simply looking for clarification. Myself, I haven't heard the term "fall in love with death", and, quite honestly, have no concept of what is intended by it (and this after pondering on it as well).

If a question remains without context or meaning to the contemplator, it remains of no value to them. Perhaps your clarification to Gerry above can be helpful, yet as you seem to define your meaning as "becoming familiar with detachment through practicing self discipline of various ways" I'm still left wondering why (and what is meant by) the term "falling in love with death". From my perspective, detachment is not akin to falling in love, and so your question remains a mystery to me.

Can you help clarify further? And, as Erica mentioned, some form of example would help us gain some context on the meaning of your question.

Thanks. :)

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on August 2, 2013 at 5:24pm

Perhaps our tendency to look at death in a negative light brings out confused feelings.  I don't think anyone can fall in love with death in the same way that one falls in love with sky diving, or art, or philosophy.  Death is simply a portal from this form of existence to the next, a mechanism of change, if you will, but one that brings negative connotations with it.   Some people might think of death or types of death as exhilarating, perhaps but it would be hard to fall in love with death as we die only once per life and have little memory of previous lives and deaths.  Those that have recalled past lives and deaths (though hypnosis) seem to have memories of fear or sadness concerning their deaths (though some find their deaths a relief depending on the type of lives they had been living).  Yet I don't think anyone describes loving death, any more than falling in love with walking through a doorway in one's house. 

But, and perhaps this was what Sophia was getting at, there are some who have a fascination or obsession with death for one reason or another.  Some people enjoy pain.  Perhaps this all has something to do with emptiness in peoples' lives and an inability to feel anything but pain and death.  When one doesn't love life anymore, perhaps they do love death, or things that lead to it.   There are those who live very risky lifestyles and it may be possible that they have a subconscious desire for death, perhaps? 

Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on August 2, 2013 at 6:24pm

That was a great interpretation, Jeffrey!  Personally I do not desire death to come for me, I do love life but at the same time like to think I have a good grip of understanding that death is equally the same as life. We come into this world not remembering birth and it very much seems we go out the very same way not remembering as well.  

You a raised some deeply thought provoking points and I thank you for taking the time to think over the question in matter.   

Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on August 2, 2013 at 6:09pm

Fair enough, Jon! I apologize to the confusion that I may have stirred up in many of you readers. Here I will try to clear up as much as possible to the aim that I am trying to get the mind to penetrate.  As you read along here please keep in mind that this example that I am attempting to explain is one that can be seen over a history of cycles in time, which some have yet come to light.  

Preceding our life in todays day of Age was an antiquity of nations of indigenous peoples. These ancient people who very few live today in remote places on the Globe were highly astronomically intellectually inclined opposed to people of our Globe in modern times today. Over the thousands and still counting years there has been this deathly transition from the "astronomical origin" of thought merged into a "biblical submission" if you will, from a strong bias to the barbarous tribes, hence into the commencement to a new race of thought.  The question written above 'What happens to the individual who falls deeply in love with death?' was not meant in any way of liking the feeling of pain or like watching anyone else suffer in pain, however, the word "love" here is the key and is meant poetically as understanding. 

Therefore, to fall in love with death is meant to understand the diversities of death that have and still are taking its course today. To love something profoundly is to understand that something whole heartedly and open minded to appreciate the delicacy of the matter. 

I hope this can be better understood and clears up any misunderstanding to the strange and foreign phrase that I have tried to use in a poetic sense, which many of the readers may have wrongly interpreted otherwise due to my lack of clarification. 

If I may rephrase the question, what may become of the individual who loves and understands the diversity in death without fear?

Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on August 2, 2013 at 8:08pm

Initiation is death, death of the lower part of the man; and in actual fact the body dies but is nevertheless held alive, not by the spirit-soul which has flown from it as a butterfly frees itself from its chrysalis, but kept alive by those who are watching and waiting and guarding. It is due to this holding of the bodily triad alive that the peregrinating spirit-soul is enabled finally to return as a bird to its nest, where it recognizes its former bodily home, and is "reborn," but in this case reborn into the same body. During the period of time when the peregrinating monad is absent, whether it be for three days or for fourteen, the excarnate monad has followed the pathways of death literally, but has done so quickly and within the fortnight. In actual fact the process is virtually identic with that followed in the case of excarnation and reincarnation, for it returns to the entranced body along the pathways of rebirth, of reimbodiment, and is, as it were, reborn into the old body instead of into a new one; and thus was it said of such a man in India that he is a dwija — as the Brahmans of Aryavarta put it — a "twice-born" initiate.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on August 2, 2013 at 11:29pm

Sophia thank you kindly in your efforts to clarify one of your previous posts.

Are you trying to say that it is important to understand ( love) both sides of the cycle of life and death?

Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on August 3, 2013 at 1:32am

IMPO, yes, I do believe that it is important for us to indulge more deeply into both sides of cycles without separating them into different categories. To love is to understand and to understand is to want and/or attempt to know what is not easily understood for a broader range of view. Most fear death because they have not taken the initiative to understand it and accept that it is not much different from birth and a large part of our lives.

We have no comprehension where we come from before birth as the same applies to death. There is no solid proof of evidence that can be shown if one so claims they know where they came from and where they will go, which maybe they may have stumbled upon through a personal experience through "turning inward" while seeking for universal "absolute truth".  

Furthermore, I also personally believe that those persons who may not have experienced the same as the one who claims to know, should not be called out as a fabricator and/or criticized solely because they have not had the same experiential dilemma. 

Maybe through attaining the art of falling in love with death could possibly be an essential tool building skill for learning the art to die on a daily basis through finding the means to understand all aspects that death entails on its various degrees of levels.

Maybe we will not remember going through the life lessons of learning the natural cycles of life and death, but perhaps Karma will keep track of what we cannot.  


Permalink Reply by Erica on August 2, 2013 at 10:59pm

Hi Sophia,

You should have stated, along with the question that it was "meant for the reader to use their imagination to apply in any aspect of this subject they choose in a broad sense." Do not expect one is supposed to guess that you posted your question for that purpose. Additionally, there is a lot of people out there in a very fragile condition, suicide is not a rare phenomenon on the contrary. As I am involved in work for suicide prevention, it was my duty (not for my sake) but for the sake of clarity to ask you to clarify your question.    

Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on August 3, 2013 at 12:52am

Thank you, Erica! I appreciate you looking out for the best of us health wise. I do agree  and I should have stated more clearly how I wanted the readers to approach the idea of the question. Noted for future reference!

Permalink Reply by Erica on August 3, 2013 at 12:53am

Thanks Sophia for understanding my point.