Human beings are thinkers. We feel, aspire to our goals and have intuition. We are able to express noble ideals through self-sacrifice. On the other hand, we can hate with a strong and malicious force. We have intellectual powers that we cannot fully manifest in one life here on earth. Throughout our earth lives we are changing every minute. From birth to death, through many and various external influences, we are changing constantly.

Firstly we grow into young and vital people. Later on in life, we become older and become infirm. Despite these external influences that change us during our lives, there is something that withstands all changes. There is only one ‘Self’ that goes through a variety of experiences.

The Soul: Thinking about it, the question then arises; what is this one Self in us that withstands external influences? In Indian philosophy, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, we find the proposition; Nature exists for the sake of the Soul. The real experiencer is the Soul and not the Mind. To explain this we have to look at religion. Man is described as being composed of body, soul, and spirit. In old age the body is no longer a worthy vehicle to live in. The one Self in us that has a variety of experiences, ie. The Soul, leaves the body. We call this process of departure from the physical body, Death, meaning an ‘end’. Although it is not really an end, as the Soul lives on.

Now the Soul is the experiencer and not the mind. The Mind is forgetful, it cannot remember. For example; can you remember what you did when you were 13 years old on the first Saturday of April? No way. The mind has difficulty remembering this enormous store of information that is continually being filled with new experiences. Based on this, the something that survives changes is the Soul. It survives death. It is above the thinking mind and the bodily needs. As Patanjali  proposes, Nature exists for the sake of the soul. The continual changes in Nature that bring new experiences are there for the Soul to go through.

What is the Spirit? The Spirit is the source of the Soul. It is hard to express the term Spirit in words. How do we explain something that has never had a beginning and will never have an end? The best description would be the word, ‘Space’. Space has always been and will always continue to be. It is infinite. It has no parts, colour, taste, smell, tangibility, or duration. Everything in the universe comes into manifestation in Space. From galaxies, stars, planets, and their inhabitants, come into being, appearing to be different. They live their apparently different existences. After enormous periods of time they die for a while, only to reappear in Space again. Space is the playground of the Soul and the Spirit is like Space. It has no beginning and will have no end.

The basis of Space is Love and Compassion. Love is the cement of Space. It keeps all things together in harmony. There is nothing outside of it, it has no borders and is unending. Compassion is the property of Space that gives everything the chance to manifest, time and again, throughout eternity. Like the Sun shining for all beings impartially. The only punishment or suffering that man will experience is within himself. Suffering after death, or rather during life, belongs to man’s own behaviour, by his own thoughts and deeds. Nowhere else is there punishment or reward. 

To explain this a little more clearly:

  1. The physical body is the personality. It lasts only one life time.
  2. The soul is the individuality. It last the duration of the Cosmos.
  3. The Spirit is changeless. Unconditioned and having no attributes.

Our minds have an intelligent and moral quality. It is the dominant principle in our present stage of development. We are more than animals, but less than Gods. Our minds are dual. The higher mind works with our spiritual nature. The lower mind is used by our selfish material nature. Thus we can create the greatest good or carry out the worst evil on earth.

The individual human being is an inseparable part of the Whole Universe, the continuing cosmic chain of sequences whether it is divine, spiritual, intellectual, psychical, astral or physical. Humans are not an exception to Nature’s ways of working. We are not different from the Universe. Death and birth are deep-rooted habits of Nature and apply to the human reincarnating soul as well. Why should we be an exception to Nature’s workings?

All things in the universe follow One Law. The small cycles repeat on a small scale what the larger cycles pass through on a larger scale. All things contribute to the vast systems of cycles. Wheels within wheels, throughout universal nature, as the prophet Enoch symbolized.

The question that is repeatedly asked is: Why don’t we remember our past lives? The brain is the instrument of memory. It is the vehicle of mental activity. We cannot even remember what happened yesterday due to the continual change of experiences that we go through. The disintegration of the brain at death closes the memory functions. In this way Nature is compassionate to all its creatures. Few of us will be able to look at our past lives and maintain our sanity. In each new life we are given a new brain. It does not have the experiences of the past incarnation.

However the soul does have a memory. This mentor is the still, small voice of the past ages-the voice of conscience. Karma, or habit, is the cause of rebirth. Every event in nature is the effect of an endless succession of events and the cause of other endless succession of events.

Humans are transient: If we propose this, the universe is an orderly place. Creation is a series of reasonable circumstances. Nature is a process of reasonable orders of life. The universe is made up of normal and reasonable accumulations of worlds and patterns, laws and principles. The stars and planets keep their harmonious orbits throughout manifestation. So whatever is going on in that part of the universe that we cannot see, for example, death, we can then assume that death too is essentially reasonable. There is no reason to assume that it is an evil place, full of destruction or terrifying conditions.

Life and death are inseparable. Each depends on the other. One is the inbreathing and the other the out-breathing. At birth we are breathed out into time and at death we are breathed into eternity. In reality, at birth we come into the world and take up coats of skin. We pick up a cross and start to walk up a rocky hill. We climb onward until at last we are weary and weak. We sink down beneath the weight of our heavy load. We come in through the one door marked entrance and leave through a door marked exit.

While alive we become so involved with our problems, that we forget the fact that we are here to study problems. We cannot successfully study when we personally draw conclusions that we think are correct. The wise man says; “Everything objective has vanished, but I AM: therefore all that is important remains.” Each incarnation involves gestation, birth, infancy, maturity, death, and finally decay. The body changes, yet its identity is preserved. States of consciousness are temporary.

What takes on form? Form is equivalent to a vehicle or body – an embodiment. In general, it refers to a level of manifestation as compared to a formless state. For example, mind and thoughts are divided into that which have form and that which have not. Our minds are divided into good and evil. Good belongs to the eternal man. Evil belongs to the physical vehicle of passion, greed, weakness and vices. These die with the death of the body. The divine soul goes to its father.

Our divine self is not to be found on the shelves of libraries, or schools or by paying a fortune for it or, as some of us do, by spending half our lives trying to appease the wrath of God. We live in ignorance of the infinite laws. To find the maker of form, we have to challenge ourselves and look within. Start by quietly observing yourself.

Do you entertain dangerous foes, of selfish desires and weaknesses? Nature’s law is that an entity cannot continue to stay the same forever. By being selfish we try to remain as we are. This dims our vision of the larger and better life. We become less useful to mankind. Growth is possible only because the old fades away and the new blossoms forth. Everything changes from cradle to grave.

The important thing to realize is that we are not living on a planet in the solar system. We live in a condition of our own consciousness. We make for ourselves friends and enemies who surround us. We are creators of our own destiny. It is here where we learn, labour and grow. Here is where we earn and here is where we are paid.  

Character the sum total of the soul: Character is more than the thoughts and emotions that we ever had. It is not just the type of individuality that we manifest as compared to others. Character is our essential being. It is the flow of our spiritual life. A stream of flowing consciousness from which come the original motives and moral impulses that make us react to our surroundings.

Psychologically, it is found in the experiences that the soul has had as a result of the karmic consequences of past lives.

Everything from a leaf, to a plant, an animal, an atom or even a molecule has its own character. In man, character is made up of our capacities, talents, geniuses, aptitudes, tendencies, likes, dislikes, loves, hatreds, instincts, attractions and aversions. The working chain of causes, which is karma, brings about the building of character. This applies to all other entities in the universe.

The memory of the soul which we spoke of earlier, forms our character. The biases, tendencies and attributes of our character don’t just happen. We live in a world of order. Everything is the consequence of a previous originating cause.

It is the working of this chain of causes that brings about the building of character. This is the evolving of the soul, looking for new outlets and experiences in the fields of life. Character is a growing thing, which manifests itself through our talents and capacities. It is the clothing so to speak, that the Self weaves around itself.

Therefore, gender is the consequence of tendencies. The cause is the strong attraction to the opposite sex. Nevertheless, gender is a transitory phase that humans have to go through in their long evolution of the soul through the fields of life.

What is life? Life is everywhere. Life is the conscious spiritual force, manifesting as the various forms of energy, whether macrocosmic or microscopic. Energy and matter are the essential aspects of life. As a process, it is the basis of all that is. It is beginning-less and endless. Electricity is the essence of life. Consciousness or perpetual motion is the origin which, through its own power, is continually producing energy out of itself-continuously, forever. Birth and death are opposites. Life is a never ending ongoing process, which has the different phases of birth and death. The study of death is the study of man’s consciousness. We are more consciously alive without our physical bodies.

Destiny of every ego: From life to life and from strength to strength. From beauty and perfection on one plane, to greater beauty and perfection on another. With the acquirement of fresh knowledge and power in every cycle of seasons, the ego becomes its own saviour in each world and incarnation. Love is eternal. It lives in the trees and everywhere. The divine soul lives on and on. So does true love. When the body is tired, we lay it aside neatly. Spiritual life ceases in the body Death follows. Only the mortal body dies. The eternal force, the soul, lives on and goes to different schools of experience. That all things die is not the end; otherwise Nature itself would end. There would be nothing. We have no evidence that this is nature’s plan.

A small point to add is that of suicides. We cannot make an end to our lives without interfering with the harmonious working of the other parts. We may destroy the body, but we cannot destroy the mind. Nature’s laws are very strict. There is neither favour, nor partiality. There is neither anger, nor injustice, however difficult this may be to trace. Nature’s laws work with unfailing accuracy and the strictest justice. They bring about the best consequences for man himself. Nature allots the just consequences to the individual that commits self-murder, whether good or bad.

The end of all processes is relative Perfection. The end of all growth is Enlightenment. The end of all moral and ethical attainment is serenity of spirit and the gentle life wherever that might be. Rebirth is the doctrine of “another chance” for all. Man gets precisely what he himself desires. It is the direction in which man’s thoughts and desires are set that determine his destiny, the path that he will follow. Man’s free will comes from the spiritual essence of the Universe itself. Free will is only limited to the evolutionary status that man himself has attained. 

Nearly every group of civilized human beings has accepted the immortality of the human soul. Something survives death. When man leaves the physical vehicle, he transfers his consciousness to his finer vehicles, which he continues to use in the invisible worlds.

Theosophy takes out the limitations of life. Man has new hope. He should seek for the great spiritual truths. Man is essentially immortal. Within him is a great inspirational force which comes from the supreme, central source of life. The breathing source of life.

Each of us has a golden thread of continuous life. This is periodically broken by active and passive cycles of sensuous existence on earth, and super-sensuous existence in death. This golden thread is from the beginning of our appearance on earth. In Sanskrit it is called the Sutratman. It is the luminous thread of our immortal monad. Our earthly lives and transitory egos are strung as many beads on this golden thread.

I will close with a citation from the Parinirvana Sutra: When outward appearances are gone:

It is only when all outward appearances are gone that there is left that one principle of life which exists independently of all external phenomena. It is the fire that burns in the eternal light, when the fuel is expended and the flame is extinguished; for that fire is neither in the flame nor in the fuel, nor yet inside either or the two, but above, beneath and everywhere.”

Parinirvana Sutra, in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett. P. 455.

Source references:

  • Encyclopedia of Indian philosophies, Volume II               Karl H. Potter
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  • Death the twin sister of life                                                K. Tingley
  • ENCYCLOPEDIC THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY                     G. de Purucker
  • The Esoteric tradition                                                                        “
  • Yoga Sutras of Patanjali                                                     W. Q. Judge
  • Death to rebirth                                                                   M.P. Hall.
  • Occult Glossary                                                                    G. de Purucker
  • Oxford dictionary
  • Raja Yoga                                                                              R. Iyer
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  • The Secret Doctrine                                                             H. P. Blavatsky
  •  
  • Theosophical Encyclopaedia                                                P. S. Harris.
  • To light a thousand lamps                                                   G. F. Knoche
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  • Wind of the spirit                                                                 G. de Purucker
  • Cycles of Earth history                                                         A. Stover.