The Hill of Discernment

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The Hill of Discernment

By Alfred Trevor Barker

More about What Survives Death

QUESTION: What of the Lower Quaternary survives death?

ANSWER: The Lower Quaternary in Theosophical parlance includes:

(1) The Body.
(2) The Linga-Sarira, the framework upon which the body is built.
(3) Prana, or life.
(4) Kama-Manas, the lower thoughts, emotions, desires, passions, etc.

These together make up that which we call the personality, and it must be said at once that these do not survive death as a conscious entity under normal circumstances for the ordinary person. If these attributes which make up the personality during life were to survive death it would mean that they would still persist in combination minus the physical body, whereas the exact reverse is the case, since this combination begins immediately after death to fall apart and disintegrate. We repeat, therefore, that as a conscious entity the Lower Quaternary does not survive death. Nevertheless the substance of which the different vehicles of consciousness are built is composed of life-atoms, and therefore has all of it a life of its own. This matter has been impressed with the emotional and thought tendencies during life, and in a very real sense this matter which we have used and expressed our consciousness through belongs to us. We are responsible for its future destiny in very much the same way as parents are responsible for their children. It should not be forgotten, however, that while the responsibility of parents in the way of supervision is very important, nevertheless, the child has an inherent destiny and individuality of its own. Exactly the same is true of the material substance of which the principles of the Lower Quaternary is composed. The substance is not dead: the life-atoms are monadic centers of life and consciousness; and whilst the combination in which they are held together during life as a personal entity is dissolved at death, nevertheless they will be required to enter into a new combination later on, when that part of our being which really does survive once again reimbodies itself.

QUESTION: Does the Upper Triad, as we understand it, survive death?

ANSWER: If we understand it correctly it does survive death. In fact this is the part that does survive. The higher part of Manas, bearing with it the efflorescence of the past personal existence: the fine aroma of the personality that was; all in fact that is worthy of immortality does survive on its own plane, but is neither capable of conscious communication with the living, nor is it subject to the interference of irresponsible mediums. The higher part of our being, represented by the Higher Triad, contains all that is real and eternal in man. It is the very essence, the essential part of him.

QUESTION: Do any of the physical senses survive? Has the discarnate spirit any of the six physical senses, in some form or other? Must we assume that the spirit is blind, deaf, and dumb, without the sense of smell or taste?

ANSWER: (a) The body has no senses, as these are actually centered in the Astral Body or Linga-sarira. These senses persist, therefore, in the Linga-sarira, and provide the explanation of the phenomena exhibited in spiritualism, in connexion with the kama-rupic shell which persists after death for a longer or shorter period, according to the degree of materiality or spirituality of the individual concerned. This kama-rupic shell, when attracted to the medium in a spiritualistic seance, can be stimulated so as to repeat mechanically the sensations, the lower thoughts and memories, with which it was familiar in life.

(b) The discarnate spirit, i. e., the Higher Triad, cannot be said to have six physical senses. On the other hand on its own plane it is fully conscious, is absorbed in a state of spiritual and ecstatic re-living of all the finer and higher thoughts and emotional experiences that were comprised in the dreams, aspirations, and unselfish or spiritual actions of the last incarnation.

(c) The spiritual entity, the Higher Triad, is anything but blind, deaf and dumb from the point of view of its own reflected consciousness; but nevertheless it should be emphasized that the entity is in a subjective state, and therefore incapable of responding to external stimuli.

QUESTION: To what extent do appetite, desires, ambition, hate, envy, jealousy, love, compassion, and similar attributes — of which a man in his physical body is conscious — survive death?

ANSWER: Appetite, desire, emotion, envy, jealousy, being essentially mortal attributes of the lower personality, do not survive as part of the higher conscious individuality. They persist for a while, associated with the kama-rupic shell, but this after death is in a state of disintegration; and finally the combination is dissolved, but the energies which are represented by these lower emotional characteristics constitute what in Buddhistic philosophy is called the skandhas, and these skandhas, impregnated in the life-atoms, await the reincarnating ego at the threshold of Devachan in its return to life. The Lower Quaternary thus absorbs the skandhas into the new combination.

Hatred has a certain quality of survival for — strange paradox — it has a certain spiritual quality about it, but it is a spirituality of evil: it is the basis for the only kind of immortality that the Adept in sorcery is able to experience. To the extent that the ordinary individual permits himself to express this highly disintegrating and destructive energy, he is generating for himself a period in the state which is known as Avichi — a state in every respect the opposite pole of Devachan. The latter is a spiritual and blissful experience, but the former is a spiritual experience of the most intense isolated anguish and suffering.

Love, compassion, the aspiration for Truth, Wisdom, and the Higher Knowledge: these are inherent in the Higher Triad, and therefore without question survive, being part of the immortal and eternal man.

QUESTION: Does memory, as physical man functions in this respect, survive: in other words, does the discarnate spirit have recollection of physical world conditions?

ANSWER: The discarnate spiritual entity has recollection only of the environment associated with the spiritual experiences in the contemplation of which he is absorbed. For example, the spiritual entity will remember the parents he loved; and therefore, since parents must have material surroundings, he will recollect the environment, the home, and all the places, buildings, scenery, and landscapes with which he associates all his higher spiritual experiences; but the parent, the brother or sister, the school-master, or the school-mates, and the incidents connected with those persons which were productive of suffering or sin, will be excluded from the Devachanic memories. The entity in Devachan is in a subjective state, and is therefore unable to perceive material conditions upon the earth which he has left. He is not in the least concerned consciously with what may be happening to the individuals he left behind.

QUESTION: Do ambitions and plans made by the physical man looking to the next incarnation, consciously survive? In other words, can a man in this incarnation consciously plan for the next incarnation, using his daily thought and mental processes as the seed for the next incarnation's harvest and consciously carry these thoughts and plans beyond the grave? In other words, can a man here and now, agree on a definite, consistent plan of life, to be carried through various lives and incarnations?

ANSWER: This is an important and very interesting subject. The individual who recognises the fact that he will have other incarnations, can most certainly plan consciously for those future lives. In so doing, however, he will have to come to the conclusion that what he plans to achieve in future incarnations should be the worth-while things, not those which would turn to ashes in the mouth and be productive of suffering and disillusionment. Whatever the heart of man is set upon that he will achieve and become, either in this life or in some future incarnation. Desire creates opportunity, and "what ye ask that will ye receive; therefore take care what ye will ask." Man is the creator of his own destiny, and decrees absolutely his future reward or punishment. If he seeks material ambitions, power merely for his own gratification, knowledge for his own benefit, forgetting the good of others: even these things can he lay the basis for by developing the faculties which these things demand.

The teaching of Theosophia, the Eternal Wisdom, is to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and its righteousness, and then all these other things will be added unto him. Since man can create his own future destiny, he will be lacking in wisdom if he does not make his spiritual objective the highest of which he can conceive — to reach to union with his own indwelling Divinity and to dedicate all plans, aspirations, and ambitions whatsoever to the service of the Beloved. This should form the basis of our plans, if any, for future incarnations.

Working towards such a sublime objective, the Pilgrim Soul can agree upon a definite, consistent plan of action to be carried through various lives and incarnations. No man achieves Mahatmaship in that incarnation in which he first sets his foot upon the Path. Several incarnations must be devoted to that task; but once the goal is clearly seen and the vows are taken, all thought, ambition, aspiration, and planning are devoted to the one end. This is shown so beautifully in the Second Discourse of the Bhagavad-Gita:

In this system of Yoga no effort is wasted, nor are there any evil consequences, and even a little of this practice delivereth a man from great risk. In this path there is only one single object, and this of a steady, constant nature; but widely-branched is the faith and infinite are the objects of those who follow not this system.



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