Death And After

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Death And After

By Annie Besant


The following passage on the fate of suicides is taken from the Theosophist, September 1882. 

We do not pretend – we are not permitted – to deal exhaustively with the question at present, but we may refer to one of the most important classes of entities, who can participate in objective phenomena, other than Elementaries and Elementals. 

This class comprises the Spirits of conscious sane suicides. They are Spirits, and not Shells, because there is not in their cases, at any rate until later, a total and permanent divorce between the fourth and fifth principles on the one hand, and the sixth and seventh on the other. The two duads are divided, they exist apart, but a line of connection still unites them, they may yet reunite, and the sorely threatened personality avert its doom; the fifth principle still holds in its hands the clue by which, traversing the labyrinth of earthly sins and passions, it may regain the sacred penetralia. [Page 95] But for the time, though really a Spirit, and therefore so designated, it is practically not far removed from a Shell.

This class of Spirit can undoubtedly communicate with men, but, as a rule, its members have to pay dearly for exercising the privilege, while it is scarcely possible for them to do otherwise than lower and debase the moral nature of those with and through whom they have much communication. It is merely, broadly speaking, a question of degree; of much or little injury resulting from such communication; the cases in which real, permanent good can arise are too absolutely exceptional to require consideration.

Understand how the case stands. The unhappy being revolting against the trials of life-trials, the results of its own former actions; trials, heaven’s merciful medicine for the mentally and spiritually diseased – determines, instead of manfully taking arms against a sea of troubles, to let the curtain drop, and, as it fancies, end them. It destroys the body, but finds itself precisely as much alive mentally as before. It had an appointed life-term determined by an intricate web of prior causes, which its own willful sudden act cannot shorten. That term must run out its appointed sands. You may smash the lower half of the hand [Page 96] hour-glass, so that the impalpable sand shooting from the upper bell is dissipated by the passing aerial currents as it issues; but that stream will run on, unnoticed though it remain, until the whole store in that upper receptacle is exhausted.

So you may destroy the body, but not the appointed period of sentient existence, foredoomed (because simply the effect of a plexus of causes) to intervene before the dissolution of the personality; this must run on for its appointed period.

This is so in other cases, e.g., those of the victims of accident or violence; they, too, have to complete their life-term, and of these, too, we may speak on another occasion – but here it is sufficient to notice that, whether good or bad, their mental attitude at the time of death alters wholly their subsequent position. They, too, have to wait on within the “Region of Desires” until their wave of life runs on to and reaches its appointed shore, but they wait on, wrapped in dreams soothing and blissful, or the reverse, according to their mental and moral state at, and prior to the fatal hour, but nearly exempt from further material temptations, and, broadly speaking, incapable (except just at the moment of real death) of communicating scio motu with mankind, though not wholly beyond the possible reach of [Page 97] the higher forms of the “Accursed Science”, Necromancy. The question is a profoundly abstruse one; it would be impossible to explain, within the brief space still remaining to us, how the conditions immediately after death differ so entirely as they do in the case (1) of the man who deliberately lays down (not merely risks) his life from altruistic motives in the hope of saving those of others; and (2) of him who deliberately sacrifices his life from selfish motives, in the hope of escaping trials and troubles which loom before him. Nature or Providence, Fate, or God, being merely a self-adjusting machine, it would at first sight seem as if the result must be identical in both cases. But, machine though it be, we must remember that it is a machine sui generis — 

Out of himself he span 
The eternal web of right and wrong; 
And ever feels the subtlest thrill, 
The slenderest thread along. 

A machine compared with whose perfect sensitiveness and adjustment the highest human intellect is but a coarse clumsy replica, in petto.

And we must remember that thoughts and motives are material, and at times marvelously potent material, forces, an we may then begin to comprehend why the [Page 98] hero, sacrificing his life on pure altruistic grounds, sinks as his life-blood ebbs way into a sweet dream, wherein

All that he wishes and all that he loves 
Come smiling round his sunny way

only to wake into active or objective consciousness when reborn in the Region of Happiness, while the poor unhappy and misguided mortal who, seeking to elude fate, selfishly loosens the silver string and breaks the golden bowl, finds himself terribly alive and awake, instinct with all the evil cravings and desires that embittered his world-life, without a body in which to gratify these, and capable of only such partial alleviation as is possible by more or less vicarious gratification, and this only at the cost of the ultimate complete rupture with his sixth and seventh principles, and consequent ultimate annihilation after, alas! prolonged periods of suffering.

Let it not be supposed that there is no hope for this class – the sane deliberate suicide. If, bearing steadfastly his cross, he suffers patiently his punishment, striving against carnal appetites still alive in him, in all their intensity, though, of course, each in proportion to the degree to which it had been indulged in earth-life – if, we say, he bears this humbly, never allowing himself to be tempted here or there into unlawful [Page 99] gratifications of unholy desires – then when his fated death-hour strikes, his four higher principles reunite, and, in the final separation that then ensues, it may well be that all may be well with him, and that he passes on to the gestation period and its subsequent developments. [Page 100]





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