Selections from the Agni Yoga Series

Presented before the Agni Yoga Society, January 30, 2007

     Let us speak of death.
     Death is no more than the shearing of the hair, for in the same way is matter cast off. The question of Guides is answered by the familiar law of attraction and repulsion. The principle of requitement and assistance is a powerful one in the spiritual world. Therefore, every appeal of an embodied spirit evokes a response. It depends upon who asks. One can attract and keep near oneself lofty forces. Also, the lowest spirits may be fastened about oneself. One receives what one wishes. When men understand the usefulness of pure giving, they will receive riches. Illumination, II:II:4.

     In all religions the one departing from Earth has been accorded an accompanying Intercessor in the aspect of a saint, angel, or departed relative. Thus was affirmed the existence of a world beyond the grave and the need of a Guide. One should become accustomed to this thought of the need of a Guide. Thus in all religions the Guide and the Teacher were affirmed. Hence when We speak of the Teacher, We remind of that which is inevitable. The Teaching can live, or turn into the embrace of death. But it is easy to enhance life by turning to Light. Hierarchy, 62.

     Urusvati knows that those who do not ponder upon the goal of existence during their earthly lives prepare a dark future for themselves after death. Urusvati saw a woman who, though good and kind from an earthly point of view, never thought about the meaning of life. When she crossed into the Subtle World she was utterly helpless, and did not even know how to accept the help of her Guide. Urusvati performed a good deed by visiting this disembodied soul and showing her that help and guidance were very near. Most people cannot understand that even having such a fine quality as kindness while in an earthly state is not sufficient, for it is also necessary to think about the future path while still on Earth. Even if such thinking is elementary, it nevertheless will develop the imagination. Without some idea about the next world the disembodied soul is confused by its new and incompre-hensible surroundings. If, while still on Earth, man cultivates thoughts about the joyous experiences that await him in the next world, he develops his imagination and prepares himself for entry into the corresponding spheres. <...>
     The Thinker taught the development of the imagination, without which the third eye could not be opened. Supermundane II, 380.

     We have already spoken about the so-called living dead, whose subtle bodies have died, although the physical ones are still living. In such cases the psychic energy is in an abnormal state. It has mostly left the physical body after the death of the subtle body, but as long as the heart continues to work, the energy remains bound to the decomposed subtle sheath. It must be understood that such organisms cannot progress, and are rapidly sliding downhill. These organisms are empty shells. However, this condition is quite different from that of obsession, which also can occur when the subtle body is weak but can still be nourished and healed by lofty deeds. The Thinker insisted that man should rekindle his heart with music, since music was linked to the realm of all the Muses. Supermundane III, 557.

     I shall try to answer your question regarding the spirit and the soul. In occult literature, due to incomplete explanations, this question remains complex and vague. The Eastern Teachings differ as to the number of principles and their subdivisions and combinations that have to do with the definition of the spirit and the soul. But in truth, it is difficult to separate the soul from the spirit, as all these divisions are actually varying aspects of one fundamental energy, which manifests itself on different planes and through various nerve centers or vehicles. In all the Teachings one finds the subdivision of the human being into three fundamental principles: spiritual, psychic, and physical – or spirit, soul, and body. In the Eastern Teachings there is extension of these three basic principles, for special purposes, and we find the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh principles. This development was approved by the Mahatmas in The Secret Doctrine. Thus, the highest or fundamental principle, which contains potentially the synthesis of all the others, is the fiery energy of life or spirit, which is spread throughout the entire Cosmos. For its focus it requires the sixth principle, or Buddhi (often called “the spirit soul” as distinct from the human-animal soul). Thus the monad is formed, which is the primary, unconscious, incarnated Ego. Then follows the fifth principle – the Manas, self-consciousness, “the thinker” (higher intelligence). These three principles form the higher triad, or the conscious, immortal Ego. In Devachan, this Ego survives after the dissolution of the other principles which form man’s earthly personality, or, as the Easterners would put it, man’s lower ego, or self. In the Teaching, this Higher Ego, or the triad, is often treated as the seed of the spirit, which is unable directly or independently to manifest itself on earth. In order to manifest, this triad needs a fourth principle, called Kama, through which desire is expressed in two aspects: Kama-Manas, or the lower intellect (literally, the intellect of desires), and Kama-Rupa, or subjective form (the form of mental and physical desires and thoughts). This is the thinker in action. Kama, in connection with Manas (the higher) and Buddhi, forms the higher Subtle Body (the astral body, in order that it be not confused with its etheric double, is often called “the lower astral”) or the spiritual soul of the spiritually developed man. Kama-Manas is a sort of bridge which connects the higher Manas with Kama-Rupa, thus connecting Manas and Form to make the Kama-Manas body, or human soul. When this bridge between Manas and its lower aspect, Kama-Manas, has been established, i.e., when man begins to receive the impressions from the higher Buddhi-Manas, we can say that man is spiritually developed and approaches immortality. Thus, for the achievement of true immortality, in other words, of the maintaining of consciousness on all four planes of existence, and for becoming an Arhat, it is essential to connect, precisely in the physical body, the fourth, fifth, and seventh principles and fuse them in the sixth – Buddhi. All the qualities of the basic energy, being separately transmuted by its fire, must be harmonized and expressed in the highest quality of psychic energy. Letters Of Helena Roerich I, 11 June 1935. Letters Of Helena Roerich I, 11 June 1935.

     Now, about purgatory, or the middle spheres of the Subtle World. The lower strata are quite close to the description of hell. In fact, it depends upon man himself how best to make use, for himself and others, of his stay in the middle spheres. The higher spheres become accessible to us in accordance with the measure of our purification, and before our immersion in the state of Devachan we cast off the already outworn astral envelope; the purer it is, the more quickly it decomposes. The astral envelope of the higher spirits, after being utilized, is given over to the Spatial Fire with the help of the Teacher. However, not all spirits immerse themselves in Devachan; there are strong spirits who do not need this stopover and who hasten to continue their earthly path. If, in the Subtle World, man would strive to realize his errors, the entire evolution would be considerably hastened. But the difficulty lies in that average people B not good and not bad, but without strivings and clearly expressed abilities B when entering the indifferent and grey sphere of the Subtle World that is compatible with them, usually drag out in it the very same burdensome and depressed existence. Their small consciousness and undeveloped thinking do not permit them to rise in spirit and ascend into the higher spheres where creativity of thought reigns. Tepidity, indifference, and laziness are our most frightful executioners. They are the devourers of psychic energy, which alone makes us conscious possessors of the Chalice of Amrita B Immortality. Letters Of Helena Roerich II, 13 August 1938.

     One should examine all ideas about death. Setting aside those who think of suicide, if a life is dedicated to labor, is there any advantage to having a lengthy life in one body? No, it is more useful to divide the time into several experiences. Economy of energy is a fundamental principle of the universe. To enter a new house filled with fresh air is to open the opportunity for new accumulations of experience. One duty of a yogi is to dispel excessive awe of death. One can retreat to such a state of limitation that just moving to a neighboring town becomes a major event. Worse, one could fear to move from one room to another, and even a change of garment would present difficulties. People who fear change fear death most of all. They fear to think of it, and think of the present moment as an ultimate condition. Even the skin on our body is constantly renewed, yet we do not summon grave-diggers to bury the shed epidermis. Then why not draw a parallel from the microcosm to the Macrocosm, recalling all that is said in the Bhagavad-Gita about the indestructibility of the spirit? Agni Yoga, 240.

     A man cannot step forward with both legs at the same time. Such a change of leverage may serve to illustrate the necessity of change of energies. One must become quite accustomed to change of activities of centers. All the centers cannot resound together; in fact, their progress depends upon change of activity. But silence of a center does not signify its death. On the contrary, like a sleeping man it is being renewed in communion with the Higher World. Fiery World II, 328.

     One should be very solicitous about the last hours of sojourn on Earth. Often the final striving can predetermine the succeeding life, also the stratum in which the spirit will dwell. Indeed, it is inadmissible to recall the spirit into the earthly spheres when it already has broken away. Tissues which already have been freed from earthly attractions must be strained into a terrific effort in order again to be assimilated into the earthly atmosphere. People should learn to think during someone's departure, as well as during birth, and should be able to ease the processes. As delays are harmful during birth, they are likewise harmful during death. The subtle formation of the new body must be taken into consideration. Wounds caused the departing one must be cured in the Subtle World. A most cruel treatment of the departing ones is often manifested. It may be said that it is not death which torments, but living people. All who are approaching the Fiery Teaching must know about this. On the path to the Fiery World let us remember the law of affirming the last minutes of the crossing. Fiery World III, 97.