There are two classes of people in the world. In one class the vital and dense bodies are so firmly cemented that the ethers cannot be extracted under any circumstances but remain with the dense body at all times and under all conditions from birth to death. Those people are insensible to any supersensuous sights or sounds. They are therefore usually exceedingly skeptical, and believe nothing exists but what they can see.
There is another class of people in whom the connection between the dense and the vital bodies is more or less loose, so that the ether of their vital bodies vibrates at a higher rate than in the first class mentioned. These people are therefore more or less sensitive to the spiritual world.
This class of sensitives may again be divided. Some are weak characters, dominated by the will of others in a negative manner, as mediums, who are the prey of disembodied Spirits desirous of obtaining a physical body when they have lost their own by death.
The other class of sensitives are strong positive characters who act only from within, according to their own will. They may develop into trained clairvoyants, and be their own masters instead of slaves of a disembodied Spirit. In some sensitives of both classes it is possible to extract part of the ether which forms the vital body. When a disembodied Spirit obtains a subject of that nature, it develops the sensitive as a materializing medium. The man who is capable of extracting his own vital body by an act of will, becomes a citizen of two worlds, independent and free. These are usually known as Invisible Helpers. There are certain other abnormal conditions where the vital body and the dense body are separated totally or in part, as for instance, if we place our limb in an uncomfortable position so that circulation of the blood ceases. Then we may see the etheric limb hanging down below the visible limb as a stocking. When we restore circulatiion and the etheric limb seeks to enter into place, an intense prickly sensation is felt, due to the fact that the little streams of force, which radiate all through the ether, seek to permeate the molecules of the limb and stir them into renewed vibration. When a person is drowning, the vital body also separates from the dense vehicle and the intense prickly pain incident to resuscitation is also due to the cause mentioned.
While we are awake and going about our work in the Physical World, the desire body and mind both permeate the dense and the vital bodies, and there is a constant war between the desire nature and the vital body. The vital body is continually engaged in building up the human organism, while the impulses of the desire body tend to tire and to break down tissue. Gradually, in the course of the day, the vital body loses ground before the onslaughts of the desire body, poisons of decay slowly accumulate, and the flow of vital fluid becomes more and more sluggish until at length it is incapable of moving the muscles. The body then feels heavy and drowsy. At last the vital body collapses, as it were; the little streams of force which permeate each atom seem to shrivel up, and the Ego is forced to abandon its body to the restorative powers of sleep.
When a building becomes dilapidated and is to be restored and put in thorough repair, the tenants must move out to let the workmen have a free field. So also when the building of a Spirit has become unfit for further use, it must withdraw therefrom. As the desire body caused the damage, it is a logical conclusion that it also must be removed. Every night when our body has become tired, the higher vehicles are withdrawn, only the dense and vital bodies being left upon the bed.
Then the process of restoration commences and lasts for a longer or shorter time according to circumstances. At times, however, the grip of the desire body upon our denser vehicles is so strong that it refuses to let go. When it has become so interested in the proceedings of the day, it continues to ruminate over them after the collapse of the physical body, and is perhaps only half extracted from that vehicle. Then it may transmit sights and sounds of the Desire World to the brain. But, as the connections are necessarily askew under such conditions, the most confused dreams result. Furthermore, as the desire body compels motion, the dense body is very apt to toss about when the desire body is not fully extracted; hence the restless sleep which usually accompanies dreams of a confused nature.
There are times, of course, when dreams are prophetic and come true, but such dreams result only after complete extraction of the desire body. Under circumstances where the Spirit has seen some danger, perhaps, which may befall, it then impresses the fact upon the brain at the moment of awakening.
It also happens that the Spirit goes upon a soul flight and omits to perform its part of the work of restoration; then the body will not be fit to re-enter in the morning, so it sleeps on. The Spirit may thus roam afield for a number of days, or even weeks, before it again enters its physical body and assumes the normal routine of alternating waking and sleeping. This condition is called "trance," and the Spirit may remember upon its return what it has seen and heard in the super-physical realm, or it may have forgotten, according to the stage of its development and the depth of the trance condition. When the trance is very light, the Spirit is usually present in the room where its body lies all the time, and upon its return to the body it will be able to recount to relatives all they said and did while its body lay unconscious. Where the trance is deeper, the returning Spirit will usually be unconscious of what happened around its body, but may recount experiences from the invisible world.
A few years ago a little girl by the name of Florence Bennett in Kankakee, Illinois, fell into such a trance. She returned to the body every few days, but stayed within only a few hours each time, the whole trance lasting three weeks, more or less. During the returns to her body she told relatives that in her absence she seemed to be in a place inhabited by all the people who had died. But she stated that none of them spoke about dying and no one among them seemed to realize that they were dead. Among those she had seen was a locomotive engineer who had been accidently killed. His body was mangled in the accident which caused death. The little girl perceived him there walking about minus arms, and with lesions upon his head, all of which is in line with facts usually seen by mystic investigators. Persons who have been hurt in accidents go about thus, until they learn that a mere wish to have their body made whole will supply a new arm or limb; for desire-stuff is most quickly and readily molded by thought.
After a longer or shorter time there comes in each life a point when the experiences which a Spirit can gain from its present environment have been exhausted, and life terminates in death. Death may be sudden and seemingly unexpected, as for instance by earthquake, upon the battlefield, or by accident, as we call it, though in reality death is never accidental or unforeseen by Higher Powers. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without divine Will. There are along life's path partings of the way, as it were; on one side the main line of life continues onward, the other path leads into what we might call a blind alley. If the man takes the latter path, it soon ends in death. We are here in life for the sake of gaining experience and each life has a certain harvest to reap. If we order our life in such a manner that we gain the knowledge it is intended we should acquire, we continue in life, and opportunities of different kinds constantly come our way. But if we neglect them, and the life goes into paths which are not congruous to our individual development, it would be a waste of time to let us stay in such an environment. Therefore the great and wise Beings who are behind the scene of evolution, terminate our life, that we may have a fresh start in a different sphere of influence. The Law of Conservation of Energy is not confined to the Physical World, but operates in the spiritual realms also. There is nothing in life that has not its purpose. We do wrong to rail against circumstances, no matter how disagreeable. We should rather endeavor to learn the lessons which are contained therein, that we may live a long and useful life. Some one may object and say: "You are inconsistent in your teachings. You say there is really no death; that we go into a brighter existence, and that we have to learn other lessons there in a different sphere of usefulness! Why then aim to live a long life?" It is very true that we make these claims, and they are perfectly consistent with the other assertions just mentioned. However, there are lessons to be learned here which cannot be learned in the other worlds, and we have to bring up this physical body through the useless years of childhood, through hot and impulsive youth, to the ripeness of manhood or womanhood, before it becomes of true spiritual use. The longer we live after maturity has been attained, when we have commenced to look upon the serious side of life and started truly to learn lessons which make for soul-growth, the more experience we shall gather and the richer our harvest will be. Then, in a later existence, we shall be much more advanced and capable of taking up tasks that would be impossible with less length of life and breadth of activity. Besides, to die is hard for the man in the prime of life with a wife and growing family whom he loves, with ambitions of greatness unfulfilled, with hosts of friends about him, and with interests all centered upon the material plane of existence. It is sad for the woman whose heart is bound up in home and the little ones she has reared to leave them, perhaps without anyone to care for them; to know that they have to fight their way alone through the early years when tender care is needed and perhaps to see those little ones abused, and she unable to lift a hand, though her heart may bleed as freely as it would in Earth life. All these things are sad, and they bind the Spirit to Earth for a much longer time than ordinarily; they hinder it from reaping the experiences it should reap upon the other side of death, and they make it desirable, along with other reasons already mentioned, to live a long life before passing onwards.
The difference between those who pass out at a ripe old age and one who leaves this Earth in the prime of life may be illustrated by the manner in which the seed clings to a fruit in an unripe state. A great deal of force is necessary to tear the stone from a green peach; it has such a tenacious hold upon the fruit that shreds of pulp adhere to it when forcibly removed. So also the Spirit clings to the flesh in middle life and a certain part of its material interest remains and binds it to Earth after death. On the other hand, when a life has been lived to the full, when the spirit has had time to realize its ambitions or to find out their futility, when the duties of life has been misspent and the pangs of conscience have worked upon the man, and shown him his mistakes; when, in fact, the Spirit has learned the lessons of life, as it must have to come to old age, then it may be likened to the seed of the ripe fruit which falls out clean, without a vestige of flesh clinging thereto, at the moment the encasing pulp is opened. Therefore we say, as before, that thought there is a brighter existence in store for those who have lived well, it is nevertheless best to live a long life and to live it to the fullest extent possible.
We also maintain that no matter what may be the circumstances of a man's death, it is not accidental; it has either been brought about by his own neglect to embrace opportunities of growth or else life has been lived to the ultimate possible. There is one exception to that rule, and that is due to man's exercise of his divine prerogative of interference. If we lived according to schedule, if we all assimilated the experiences designed for our growth by the Creative Powers, we should live to the ultimate length, but we ourselves usually shorten our lives by not taking advantage of opportunities. It also happens that other men may shorten our lives and cut them off as suddenly as the so-called accident whereby the divine rulers terminate our life here. In other words, murder, or fatal accidents brought about by human carelessness are in reality the only termination to life not planned by invisible leaders of humanity. No one is ever compelled to do murder or other evil, or there could not come to them a just retribution for their acts. The Christ said that evil must come but woe unto him by whom it cometh, and to harmonize that with the law of divine justice, "as a man soweth, so shall he also reap," there must at least be absolute free will in respect to evil acts.
There are also cases where a person lives such a full and good life of such vast benefit to humanity and to himself that his days are lengthened beyond the ultimate, as they are shortened by neglect, but such cases are of course too few to allow of their being dwelt upon at length.
Where death is not sudden as in the case of accidents, but occurs at home after an illness, quietly and peacefully, dying persons usually experience a falling upon them as of a pall of great darkness before termination of life. Many pass out from the body under that condition and do not see the light again until they have entered the superphysical realms. There are many other cases, however, where the darkness lifts before the final release from the body. Then the dying person views both worlds at once, and is cognizant of the presence of both dead and living friends. Under such circumstances it very often happens that a mother sees some of her children who have gone before, and she will exclaim joyously: "Oh, there is Johnny standing at the foot of the bed: my, but hasn't he grown!" The living relatives may feel shocked and uneasy, thinking the mother is suffering from hallucinations, while in reality she is more clear-sighted than they. She perceives those who have passed beyond the veil, who have come to greet and assist her to find herself at home in the new world she is entering.
Each human being is an individual, separate and apart from all others, and as experiences in the life of each differ from those of all others in the interval from the cradle to the grave, so we may also reasonably infer that the experiences of each Spirit when it passes through the gates of birth and death. We print what purports to be a spirit message communicated by the late professor James of Harvard at the Boston Spirit Temple, and in which he describes sensations which he felt when passing through the gate of death. We do not vouch for its authenticity as we (the writer) have not investigated the matter personally.
Professor James had promised to communicate after death with his friends in this life, and the whole world of psychic research was and still is on watch for a word from him. Several mediums have claimed that Professor James has communicated through them, but the most remarkable are those given through the Boston Spirit temple as follows:
"And this is death, only to fall asleep, only to awaken in the morning and to know that all is well. I am not dead, only arisen.
"I only know that I experienced a great shock through my entire system, as if some mighty bond had been rent asunder. For a moment I was dazed and lost consciousness. When I awakened I found myself standing beside the old body which had served me faithfully and well. To say that I was surprised would only inadequately express the sensation that thrilled my very being, and I realized that some wonderful change had taken place. Suddenly I became conscious that my body was surrounded by many of my friends, and an uncontrollable desire took possession of me to speak and touch them that they might know that I still lived. Drawing a little nearer to that which was so like and yet unlike myself, I stretched forth my hand and touched them, but they heeded me not.
"Then it was that the full significance of the great change that had taken place flashed upon my newly awakened senses; then it was that I realized that an impenetrable barrier separated me from my loved ones on Earth, and that this great change which had taken place was indeed death. A sense of weariness and longing for rest took possession of me. I seemed to be transported through space, and I lost consciousness, to awaken in a land so different and yet so similar to the one which I had lately left. It was not possible for me to describe my sensations when I again regained consciousness and realized that, though dead, I was still alive.
"When I first became conscious of my new environment I was resting in a beautiful grove, and was realizing as never before what it was to be at peace with myself and all the world.
"I know that only with the greatest difficulty shal I be enabled to express to you my sensations when I fully realized that I had awakened to a new life. All was still, no sound broke the silence. Darkness had surrounded me. In fact, I seemed to be enveloped in a heavy mist, beyond which which my gaze could not penetrate. Soon in the distance I discerned a faint glimmer of light, which slowly approached me, and then, to my wonder and joy, I beheld the face of her who had been my guiding star in the early days of my earth life."
One of the saddest sights witnessed by the seer as a death-bed is the tortures to which we often subject our dying friends on account of ignorance of how to care for them in that condition. We have a science of birth; obstetricians who have been trained for years in their profession and have developed a wonderful skill assist the little stranger into this world. We have also trained nurses attendant upon mother and child, the ingenuity of brilliant minds is focused upon the problem of how to make maternity easier; neither pains nor money are spared in these beneficent efforts for one whom we have never seen. But when the friend of a lifetime, the man who has served his kind well and nobly in profession, state, or church, is to leave the scene of his labors for a new field of activity, when the woman, who has labored to no less good purpose in bringing up a family to take its part in the world's work, has to leave that home and family, when one whom we have loved all our lives is about to bid us the final farewell, we stand by, utterly at a loss how to help. Perhaps we even do the very things most detrimental to the comfort and welfare of the departing one.
Probably there is no form of torture more commonly inflicted upon the dying than that which is caused by administering stimulants. Such potions have the effect of drawing a departing Spirit into its body with the force of a catapult, to remain and to suffer for some time longer. Investigators of conditions beyond have heard many complaints of such treatment. When it is seen that death must inevitably ensue, let not selfish desire to keep a departing Spirit a little longer prompt us to inflict such tortures upon them. The death chamber should be a place of the utmost quiet, a place of peace and of prayer, for at that time, and for three and one-half days after the last breath, the Spirit is passing through a Gethsemane and needs all the assistance that can be given. The value of the life that has just been passed depends greatly upon conditions which then prevail about the body; yes, even the conditions of its future life are influenced by our attitude during that time, so that if ever we were our brother's keeper in life, we are a thousand times more so at death.
Post-mortem examinations, embalming, and cremation during the period mentioned, not only disturb the passing Spirit mentally, but are even productive of a certain amount of pain, there still being a slight connection with the discarded vehicle. If sanitary laws require us to prevent decomposition while thus keeping the body for cremation, it may be packed in ice till the three and one-half days have passed. After that time the Spirit will not suffer, no matter what happens to the body.
This article was adapted from "The Rosicrucian Mysteries," by Max Heindel, page 99-112.