The Brotherhood of Life and Death ΔΔ
Axel von Fielitz-Coniar
THERE is an ancient Greek saying that there is neither life nor death but simply becoming visible and invisible. For many people only the visible side of life is real and what they call “my life” is the span between birth and death. We are so concentrated on the waking state of our consciousness that we often forget that there are other and even more important states of consciousness. In moments of inspiration, admiration and high devotion we contact such higher states and feel the wholeness of life. Things of the outer world are then seen in their right perspective and the reality of the inner worlds becomes more and more vivid.
What we call life and death are closely interwoven, as spirit and matter are interwoven, and form a whole.
Fear is a characteristic of our time, not only fear of death but fear of life too. People are afraid of losing their beloved ones, their job, their money, their health. They are afraid of war with all its atrocities and devastations. There is a general feeling of uncertainty nowadays in every respect. There are only two facts which are certain for everyone: the beginning of life on earth, called birth, and the end of it, called death. If one considers these two as isolated facts one will not grasp their deep meaning. Only in trying to understand life in its wholeness, in its visible as well as in its invisible part, shall we become aware of its grandeur and beauty. Then everything is seen in its right place and life and death are not any more felt as contrasts but as means for a high purpose.
Christian painters have painted death as a skeleton with a scythe, a very ugly and frightening symbol of a fact in nature. How much more beautiful and nearer to truth is the symbol of Greek antiquity: a beautiful youth holding a burning torch downwards to extinguish the flame. Both symbols show an end but each end is a beginning of something new. What we call life and death are closely interwoven, as spirit and matter are interwoven, and form a whole. There is a constant dying and being born everywhere, even in the human body where old cells are expelled and replaced by new ones all the time. As Jeans has said: “Matter is not a state, matter is a process.” We are living in a world of becoming and not of being; fortunately so, because there would be no possibility of any progress if life were static and not dynamic, constantly changing.
...that there is no death, no end but only a change, a new opportunity for wider and higher experiences.
Birth and death are like two gateways, the one at the entrance to the earth, the other at the entrance of higher worlds , both opening the road to wide fields of experience for the human soul. Goethe is said to have said shortly before he passed over:”Now comes the transformation to higher transformations (Jetzt kommt die Wandlung zu hoheren Wandlungen).” He knew that there is no death, no end but only a change, a new opportunity for wider and higher experiences.
The more of our beloved ones have passed over before us the more we come into contact with the invisible worlds because they remain in vivid contact with us, nay even more than they were on earth. A French author whose name I do not know has put this truth very beautifully in the following words:
Men believe that death is a going away whereas it is really a secret presence. They believe that it creates infinite distances whereas it abolishes all distance by giving back to the spirit what had been imprisoned in the flesh. To live is often to leave one another; to die is to come together again. For those who have gone to the depths of love, death is a consecration and not a fall. Love can be the more intimate, more purified and full of deepest reverence. The heart plunges deeply into the mystery to seek those who have fled.
Real love is independent of any outer circumstances. Oceans and continents may separate people who love each other. It will not affect their love in the least. They will remain united invisibly. Through experiences like these they learn to appreciate the value and importance of the invisible which surrounds us constantly and penetrates our everyday life. The more we are able to consider the visible and the invisible as only two aspects of the one life the better we shall understand the meaning of life and death, the coming into the visible out of the invisible and the returning into the invisible from the visible.
We are told that an angel is present at the birth of every human being, protecting and helping the mother and the newborn, and that an angel stands at each deathbed helping the dying person to leave the physical body. When one has stood at the deathbed of one’s mother, one’s only child and one’s wife then one knows something about the majesty, the beauty and the compassion of the Angel of Death. One can never again be afraid of dying oneself, because one has felt the blessing of this magnificent angel who is radiant love and understanding. The Angel of Birth and the Angel of Death are like twin-brothers, co-operating to help and sustain man in the most decisive moments of his earthly life. During his pilgrimage on earth he is protected by his guardian angel so that he is never without contact with the angelic kingdom. If only mankind would recognize and realize more fully this co-operation of the angels with men it would be more ready to co-operate with them and there would soon be less misery and suffering in the world because the angels never judge, never condemn but are always ready to help and to bless even those who have gone farthest astray. They know about the wholeness and holiness of birth and death as the two aspects of the one life.
In The Gospel of Hermes it is said:
It is when man treats all things with seemly reverence, remembering that all are parts of God’s All-Holy Body, that he becomes a creature delicately balanced between the “within” and the “without,” able to build a bridge between the Most Highest and the lowest of the low, and so to fulfil God’s Will for him (p.142, Notes).
To judge or to condemn means not to have understood.
Man being in the intermediary state between animal and god he is able to understand both, having still the qualities of the animal and already the potentiality of a god in himself. To judge or to condemn means not to have understood. Even if one cannot always approve this does not give the right to condemn. Lack of understanding is one of the reasons why men are constantly fighting each other. One of the most beautiful experiences during Christmas time is the endeavor to give each other as much joy and pleasure as possible, even if it is only in the form of a prosaic present. If this attitude of mutual helpfulness could prevail the whole year life would be so much easier and more pleasant for everybody!
If we understood perfectly the meaning of death we would not mourn...
The great German mystic, Jacob Bohme, has said:”Freed from all suffering is he to whom time is like eternity and eternity like time.” Our contact with the beloved ones who have passed over is beyond suffering because it is beyond time. We are more one with them than we were as long as they still lived on earth because the contact is a constant one, independent of day and night, waking and sleeping. They have other means to reach us than they had on earth even if we, still bound by the physical body, cannot feel their presence always. If we understood perfectly the meaning of death we would not mourn but be glad for those whom the Angel of Death has touched, because for them it means a liberation from heavy fetters. The expression “to pass over” is a very beautiful one. Death is the passing over from the visible shore of life to the invisible one. In the German language, death is called Heimgang, a “going home,” which it is in fact. The earth is not our home. It is a school where we have to learn certain lessons and which we enter by being born in a physical body. When we leave this body again, when we “die,” we go home again into the spheres from which we have come. Our earthly life is only a transitory state though it is an important one. Brother Life and Brother Death are our comrades and helpers. How safe would we be if we would understand their real nature and purpose! Death would become to us not an enemy to be feared but a loving friend to whom we are dear. We would take death quite naturally even if it does not come as a liberator after long physical illness and suffering but quite suddenly and unexpectedly or bereaving us of beloved children when they are still young. Birth and death are governed by the laws of Karma and Reincarnation and these laws are manifestations of Divine Love, the supreme law of all laws. We would be perfect and our lives would be perfect if we were able to follow this law implicitly.
Each experience teaches us something. The ugly experiences belong to transitoriness, the beautiful ones to the eternal, because spiritual beauty is eternal. The disagreeable happenings in our life fade away in our memory whereas the agreeable ones remain. They are even vivified and idealized by our imagination and remembrance, a fact which is a real blessing for us. C. Jinarajadasa has said:
If only I could make our members feel that every beautiful experience in life is just like a window into an experience continuous in eternity, not merely the fragment of it which comes to us, I should feel that I have achieved something that I came to do...The thing here below, like a flower, is exquisite, but it is exquisite because it is a mirror of something so intensely dazzling and fascinating that the whole heart is drawn upwards to that Life in eternity.
Life in its purity is beautiful everywhere. It is only man who by distorting it makes it ugly and often nearly unbearable for himself and for others. In the angelic kingdom there is neither ugliness nor suffering. Why? Because the angels are following the divine laws and are one with them. Therefore their world is a world of beauty, harmony and love and to be touched by an angel means to be blessed - even being touched by the Angel of Death!
Heaven and hell are our own creations and we shall only reap what we have sown.
In one of his letters Mozart has written that death is “the sum and the real ultimate purpose of life”. This sentence is very remarkable. Mozart died very young after a life full of vitality and most astounding artistic creativeness. His compositions have brought to man something of the beauty, harmony and serenity of higher worlds. At the same time his music sometimes expresses deep tragedy and sorrow. It is almost symbolical that his last composition was a requiem. He probably knew that he was going to pass over soon when he composed it. It is, so to say, his death-song but a song free of all disharmony and fear, a song freed of all earthly toil and opening the door to eternity. In calling death the real ultimate purpose of life Mozart must have seen in it not an irrevocable end but, as Goethe did, a transformation. He must have known or felt that his unique creativeness would find higher and more perfect possibilities to express itself after he had laid down his physical body. But every human being gets such opportunities according to his or her capacities and qualities. Why then be afraid of death if one sees in it its true nature and not in the distorted picture and description given by some religions? Heaven and hell are our own creations and we shall only reap what we have sown. A man who has never felt any love would feel most unhappy in a sphere where love reigns supreme. A man who on earth has never had any sense of beauty would feel a stranger in a world of spiritual beauty. A man who has been full of disharmony would be unable to respond to the harmony of the higher worlds. Each man gets what he deserves, not only during the span of time between birth and death but everywhere and always, and according to the divine law of love it will under all circumstances be for his best. Fear of any kind is only caused by ignorance. For him who tries to live according to the Law of Love there are no obstacles which do not become means for inner growth, steps on the way to perfection. He becomes more and more religious in the widest sense of the word, because his knowledge of the truth becomes greater and greater. As Bacon has said: “While a little knowledge inclineth men to atheism, a larger knowledge brings them back to religion.”
If the fear of death could be abolished one of the darkest clouds which hovers over humanity would be dissipated. The difficulty is that everybody has to do this for himself so that the process of dissipation is a very slow one but each individual who succeeds in overcoming this fear is contributing to the liberation of humanity from one of its nightmares, because his own fearlessness can be an encouraging example and become a stimulation for others to become fearless themselves. The time of illness and more or less serious pain which so often precedes the passing over can be a real ordeal but what is called death properly is in any case a getting free from physical limitations, a moment of highest solemnity and deep mystery. When we are mourning we think of our loss and not the gain of the beloved one who has entered a higher realm of being, so that every mourning is a manifestation of egoism. If we really understood the meaning of death we would be full of gratitude that the beloved one has been freed and would help him or her by radiant thoughts and feelings of joy to enter as smoothly as possible into the other world which is still invisible for most of us.
There is a beautiful sentence by Thomas Vaughan: “Ascend in piety and descend in charity, for this is the nature of light, and the way of the children of it.” The angels are children of light in perfection, men are on the way to become such. The deeper man understands life in all its many aspects the greater will become his admiration of the invisible and his mastery of the visible and the more will he realize that he himself belongs to both, that he is not only a citizen of the visible world but of the invisible too, that his true home is not on earth but in heaven, that death is not an end but a beginning. As Shelley has said so wonderfully:
He is not dead, he does not sleep, He has awakened from the dream of life.
The Theosophist, 1960
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