Published by Blavatsky Study Center
At the Solemn Moment of Death: Dying & Soon After
A Collation from the Writings of H.P. Blavatsky & the Mahatmas (1)
At the solemn moment of death every man, even when death is sudden, sees the whole of his past life marshalled before him, in its minutest details. For one short instant the personal becomes one with the individual and all-knowing Ego. But this instant is enough to show him the whole chain of causes which have been at work during his life. He sees and now understands himself as he is, unadorned by flattery or self-deception. He reads his life, remaining as a spectator looking down into the arena he is quitting; he feels and knows the justice of all the suffering that has overtaken him. [Key to Theosophy, p. 162 (1889 ed.)]
That flash of memory which is traditionally supposed to show a drowning man every long-forgotten scene of his mortal life - as the landscape is revealed to the traveller by intermittent flashes of lightning - is simply the sudden glimpse which the struggling soul gets into the silent galleries where his history is depicted in imperishable colours. [Isis Unveiled, Vol. I, p. 179 (1877 ed.)]
It is a widely spread belief among all the Hindus that a person's future pre-natal state and birth are moulded by the last desire he may have at the time of death. But this last desire, they say, necessarily hinges on to the shape which the person may have given to his desires, passions etc., during his past life. It is for this very reason, viz. - that our last desire may not be unfavourable to our future progress - that we have to watch our actions and control our passions and desires throughout our whole earthly career. [The Mahatma Letters, p. 167 (3rd. ed.)]
...The experience of dying men - by drowning and other accidents - brought back to life, has corroborated our doctrine in almost every case. The thoughts on which the mind may be engaged at the last moment necessarily hinge on to the predominant character of its past life. Such thoughts are involuntary and we have no more control over them than we would over the eye's retina to prevent it perceiving that colour which affects it most. At the last moment, the whole life is reflected in our memory and emerges from all the forgotten nooks and corners picture after picture, one event after the other. The dying brain dislodges memory with a strong supreme impulse, and memory restores faithfully every impression entrusted to it during the period of the brain's activity. That impression and thought which was the strongest naturally becomes the most vivid and survives so to say all the rest which now vanish and disappear for ever, to reappear but in Devachan....
No man dies insane or unconscious - as some physiologists assert. Even a madman, or one in a fit of delirium tremens will have his instant of perfect lucidity at the moment of death, though unable to say so to those present. The man may often appear dead. Yet from the last pulsation, from and between the last throbbing of his heart and the moment when the last spark of animal heat leaves the body - the brain thinks and the Ego lives over in those few brief seconds his whole life over again. Speak in whispers, ye, who assist at a death-bed and find yourselves in the solemn presence of Death. Especially have you to keep quiet just after Death has laid her clammy hand upon the body. Speak in whispers, I say, lest you disturb the quiet ripple of thought, and hinder the busy work of the Past casting its reflection upon the Veil of the Future. [The Mahatma Letters, p. 167 (3rd. ed.)]
...we create ourselves our devachan as our avitchi while yet on earth, and mostly during the latter days and even moments of our intellectual, sentient lives. That feeling which is the strongest in us at that supreme hour when, as in a dream, the events of a long life, to the minutest details, are marshalled in the greatest order in a few seconds in our vision . . . - that feeling will become the fashioner of our bliss or woe, the life-principle of our future existence. The real full remembrance of our lives will come but at the end of the minor cycle - not before. [The Mahatma Letters, p. 124 (3rd. ed.)]
Thus, when man dies, his "Soul" (5th prin[ciple]) becomes unconscious and loses all remembrance of things internal as well as external. Whether his stay in Kama Loka has to last but a few moments, hours, days, weeks, months or years; whether he died a natural or a violent death; whether it occurred in his young or old age, and whether the Ego was good, bad, or indifferent, - his consciousness leaves him as suddenly as the flame leaves the wick, when blown out. When life has retired from the last particle in the brain matter, his perceptive faculties become extinct forever, his spiritual powers of cogitation and volition - (all those faculties in short, which are neither inherent in, nor acquirable by organic matter) - for the time being. [The Mahatma Letters, p. 125 (3rd. ed.)]
When [the physical] man dies his second and third principles die with him; the lower triad disappears, and the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh principles form the surviving Quaternary [Kama-Manas-Buddhi-Atma]. [The Mahatma Letters, p. 101 (3rd. ed.)]
Every just disembodied four-fold entity - whether it died a natural or a violent death, from suicide or accident, mentally sane or insane, young or old, good, bad, or indifferent - loses at the instant of death all recollection, it is mentally annihilated; it sleeps its akasic sleep in the Kama-loka. This state lasts from a few hours (rarely less), days, weeks, months - sometimes to several years. All this according to the entity, to its mental status at the moment of death, to the character of its death, etc. [The Mahatma Letters, p. 184 (3rd. ed.)]
His Mayavi-rupa may be often thrown into objectivity, as in the cases of apparitions after death; but, unless it is projected with the knowledge of [the projector] (whether latent or potential), or, owing to the intensity of the desire to see or appear to someone, shooting through the dying brain, the apparition will be simply - automatical; it will not be due to any sympathetic attraction, or to any act of volition, and no more than the reflection of a person passing unconsciously near a mirror, is due to the desire of the latter. [The Mahatma Letters, p. 125 (3rd. ed.)]
In Kama Loka those who retain their remembrance, will not enjoy it at the supreme hour of recollection. Those who know they are dead in their physical bodies can only be either adepts - or sorcerers; and these two are the exceptions to the general rule. Both having been "co-workers with nature", the former for good, the latter - for bad, in her work of creation and in that of destruction, they are the only ones who may be called immortal - in the Kabalistic and the esoteric sense of course. [The Mahatma Letters, p. 124 (3rd. ed.)]
Our correspondent seems to have been misled as to the state of consciousness which entities experience in Kama-loka. He seems to have formed his conceptions on the visions of living psychics and the revelations of living mediums. But all conclusions drawn from such data are vitiated by the fact, that a living organism intervenes between the observer and the Kama-loka state per se. There can be no conscious meeting in Kama-loka, hence no grief. There is no astral disintegration pari passu with the separation of the shell from the spirit.
According to the Eastern teaching the state of the deceased in Kama-loka is not what we, living men, would recognize as "conscious". It is rather that of a person stunned and dazed by a violent blow, who has momentarily "lost his senses". Hence in Kama-loka there is as a rule (apart from vicarious life and consciousness awakened through contact with mediums) no recognition of friends or relatives.
We meet those we loved only in Devachan, that subjective world of perfect bliss, the state which succeeds the Kama-loka, after the separation of the principles. In Devachan all our personal, unfulfilled spiritual desires and aspirations will be realized; for we shall not be living in the hard world of matter but in those subjective realms wherein a desire finds its instant realization; because man himself is there a god and a creator.
In dealing with the dicta of psychics and mediums, it must always be remembered that they translate, automatically and unconsciously, their experiences on any plane of consciousness, into the language and experience of our normal physical plane. And this confusion can only be avoided by the special study-training of occultism, which teaches how to trace and guide the passage of impressions from one plane to another and fix them on the memory.
Kama-loka may be compared to the dressing-room of an actor, in which he divests himself of the costume of the last part he played before rebecoming himself properly - the immortal Ego of the Pilgrim cycling in his Round of Incarnations. The Eternal Ego being stripped in Kama-loka of its lower terrestrial principles, with their passions and desires, it enters into the state of Devachan. And therefore it is said that only the purely spiritual, the non-material emotions, affections and aspirations accompany the Ego into that state of Bliss. But the process of stripping off the lower, the fourth and part of the fifth, principles is an unconscious one in all normal human beings. It is only in very exceptional cases that there is a slight return to consciousness in Kama-loka: and this is the case of very materialistic unspiritual personalities, who, devoid of the conditions requisite, cannot enter the state of absolute Rest and Bliss. [Collected Writings, Vol. IX, p. 163]
For more on this subject, see:
As a Butterfly in Its Chrysalis
Life After Death in Kamaloka (the Astral World): H.P. Blavatsky versus C.W. Leadbeater
On the Kama-loka and Devachan by H.P. Blavatsky
When We Die by Geoffrey A. Farthing
Atman, or Atma (Sans.) The Universal Spirit, the divine monad, "the seventh Principle," so called, in the exoteric "septenary" classification of man. The Supreme Soul. Key to Theosophy (Glossary in 1890 ed.)
Buddhi (Sans.) Universal Soul or Mind. Mahabuddhi is a name of Mahat (q. v.); also the Spiritual Soul in man (the sixth principle exoterically), the vehicle of Atma, the seventh, according to the exoteric enumeration. Key to Theosophy (Glossary in 1890 ed.)
Devachan (Sans.) The "Dwelling of the Gods." A state intermediate between two earth-lives, and into which the Ego (Atma-Buddhi-Manas, or the Trinity made one) enters after its separation from Kama Rupa, and the disintegration of the lower principles, after the death of the body, on Earth. Key to Theosophy (Glossary in 1890 ed.)
Doppelgänger (Germ.). A synonym of the Double and of the Astral body in occult parlance. The Theosophical Glossary
Ego (Lat.) "I"; the consciousness in man of the "I am I," or the feeling of I-am-ship. Esoteric philosophy teaches the existence of two Egos in man, the mortal or personal, and the higher, the divine or impersonal, calling the former "personality," and the latter "individuality." Key to Theosophy (Glossary in 1890 ed.)
Kama (Sk.) Evil desire, lust, volition; the cleaving to existence. Kama is generally identified with Mara the tempter. The Theosophical Glossary
Kamaloka (Sans.) The semi-material plane, to us subjective and invisible, where the disembodied "personalities," the astral forms called Kama Rupa, remain until they fade out from it by the complete exhaustion of the effects of the mental impulses that created these eidolons of the lower animal passions and desires. (See Kama Rupa.) It is the Hades of the ancient Greeks and the Amenti of the Egyptians -- the land of Silent Shadows. Key to Theosophy (Glossary in 1890 ed.)
Kama Rupa (Sans.) Metaphysically and in our esoteric philosophy it is the subjective form created through the mental and physical desires and thoughts in connection with things of matter, by all sentient beings: a form which survives the death of its body. After that death, three of the seven "principles" -- or, let us say, planes of the senses and consciousness on which the human instincts and ideation act in turn -- viz., the body, its astral prototype and physical vitality, being of no further use, remain on earth; the three higher principles, grouped into one, merge into a state of Devachan, in which state the Higher Ego will remain until the hour for a new reincarnation arrives, and the eidolon of the ex-personality is left alone in its new abode. Here the pale copy of the man that was, vegetates for a period of time, the duration of which is variable according to the element of materiality which is left in it, and which is determined by the past life of the defunct. Bereft as it is of its higher mind, spirit and physical senses, if left alone to its own senseless devices, it will gradually fade out and disintegrate. But if forcibly drawn back into the terrestrial sphere, whether by the passionate desires and appeals of the surviving friends or by regular necromantic practices -- one of the most pernicious of which is mediumship -- the "spook" may prevail for a period greatly exceeding the span of the natural life of its body. Once the Kama Rupa has learnt the way back to living human bodies, it becomes a vampire feeding on the vitality of those who are so anxious for its company. In India these Eidolons are called Pisachas, -- and are much dreaded. Key to Theosophy (Glossary in 1890 ed.)
Manas (Sans.) Lit., the "Mind." The mental faculty which makes of a man an intelligent and moral being, and distinguishes him from the mere animal; a synonym of Mahat. Esoterically, however, it means, when unqualified, the Higher Ego or the sentient reincarnating Principle in man. When qualified it is called by Theosophists Buddhi-Manas, or the spiritual soul, in contradistinction to its human reflection -- Kama-Manas. Key to Theosophy (Glossary in 1890 ed.)Māyāvi Rūpa (Sk.). Illusive form; the double in esoteric philosophy; döppelganger or perisprit in German and French. The Theosophical Glossary
[Note: The above extracts have been transcribed from the original sources as noted. The text has also been slightly edited for readability; some material in the original text has been silently deleted. Explanatory words added by the editor are enclosed within brackets.]