The Second Death

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Last revised: 7 September 2008

Contents

After the Second Death, We Enter the First Heaven

The Second Death is a Stupendous Experience
After the Second Death the Individual Accesses all His or Her Earthly Memories

After the Second Death, We Enter the First Heaven

The Second Death is a Stupendous Experience

The second death is the event through which access is gained to the Second Heaven (1) and to the enhanced consciousness which this brings about. (Paul Beard, LO, 130.)

(1) For some spirits, perhaps those who have undergone the Judgement in the Astral Plane, the Second Death occurs after the Summerlands and prior to entering the First Heaven. See, for instance, A. Farnese’s description here.

Arthur Conan Doyle describes [the Second Death] as a decisive event at the point of / change between the Summerland and the Mental World: (1) his Summerland and First heaven overlap. Myers calls the second death ‘the breaking of the image,’ marking transition between what he names the fourth and fifth stages. It is not always easy to distinguish the levels of consciousness represented by Myers’ spheres. Madame Blavatsky speaks of the casting away of the ‘shell’ at the level of the Lower Manas (personal mind) and the emergence of the ‘butterfly’ at the level of the Higher Manas (spiritual mind), almost as if it were an automatic event. Frances Banks, on the other hand, ‘rejoins her soul’ without telling us of any decisive experience of a second death, but more as a gradual acclimatization and stepping up of her consciousness. Pauchard, very soon after his death, meets with scoriae but does not describe a second death as such, though towards the end of his book he prepares to expand to a consciousness where, he is told, he will see into his former lives. The three descriptions quoted in Chapter 9 [of Living On] of transition through the second death are each set within a somewhat differing scheme, yet each is unmistakably describing the same event. (Paul Beard, LO, 180-1.)

(1) Thus Doyle too underwent the Second Death on the transition from the Summerlands to the First Heaven.

The man who has reached the First heaven feels himself to be still essentially the same man who was on earth and who has made his way through the judgement process. He has come through this with a sense of the continuity of his own personality. Now he has to get ready to shed altogether a large part of this familiar self. It is the price he needs to pay in order to understand deeper parts of himself beyond his present knowledge. He is like a man who has hitherto lived all his life in a familiar room, but who must now abandon that room and go outdoors where he will meet a larger landscape of himself. …

What is meant by the ‘personal self’? It is the sum of all the pilgrim’s memories of the experiences, thoughts, and feelings which made up his sense of himself as a particular identity during his [past life on earth, which continues to live on as the same familiar person after death.

Once the traveler ceases to identify himself with this aspect of himself, hitherto regarded as so valuable, and gradually sees it as really worth very little, he frees himself. Then he no longer fears to give up this self-imposed solitary confinement.

Strange that a human being often prefers to remain for long merely a part of himself, without knowing the rest, without knowing the freedom of yielding himself up to the God force, to which he really belongs., This is the nature of the experiences towards which his soul has now to proceed. (Paul Beard, LO, 122-3.)

In order to make himself ready for this important step forward a price … has to be paid, a yielding up of much which until now has been looked upon as part of the very self. The traveler withdraws deeply within himself in order to play his part in bringing about the new death awaiting him, the death of the personality. He casts himself upon the waters of abnegation.

The image which the traveler is casting off is his persona or ‘mask’ which is what the word ‘personality’ means. Now he has to find his individuality - that which is undivided from the spiritual realities which lie around him in a still somewhat hidden form.

Hitherto action and enjoyment apparently unselfish have still been carried out for his own sake, or perhaps in order to obtain merit. The right hand, so to speak, is not always aware of what the left hand is really doing. To look for ‘medals in heaven’ is an illusion, for it implies the separative personality welcoming a reward for itself. All the good actions, kindly feelings and high-minded intentions he now enjoys can still retain something, if not necessarily a great deal, of a meretricious kind; they can be a jewel set in pinchbeck. This meretricious element has to be eliminated. Even in otherwise satisfactory episodes of life lingering elements remain which need to be purged.

So this loosening process comes about, a gradual letting go, a slipping off of what has hitherto seemed oneself. (Paul Beard, LO, 125-6.)

It is easy to look on the second death and fear it as a sacrifice and so of course it is. In facing up to the sacrifice before it is made, it is natural to cling with longing to the thing which has to be given up; indeed, that is why it has not been given up before. Yet it now proves to have been the very thing which held the person back. Sacrifice, after all, means to make holy and holy means ‘whole.’ After the step has been made, one’s nature becomes more permeable; it perceives and responds to a holiness now seen more clearly in all of the life around one and gradually becomes akin to it. Other beings, too, are able gradually to reveal to the new pupil more of their own nature, simply because he has now given himself the capacity to see and receive more. (Paul Beard, LO, 126.)

It is a stupendous experience to cast off that personal self, for seen from the threshold it is largely a step in the dark. In the very casting off comes the transforming process, the metanoia, from which a new man is created. In Christian terms, it is the process of losing oneself in order to find oneself. So in the second death one withdraws the life from one’s former local and now unwanted concept of oneself. What previously seemed to essential is seen to be no more than the chrysalis from which the butterfly will emerge. (Paul Beard, LO, 126-7.)

It does not follow that everyone takes exactly the same route to the second death. As with other post-mortem events, people come upon [the] experience in their own way and only when they are ready. It is surely characteristic that Conan Doyle, with his large-hearted forceful extroverted temperament, should embrace this experience with such courageous abandon. Other temperaments will not encompass it through one decisive and spectacular leap, but much more gradually. To them it may come as a smooth and steady loosening and lightening of their being.

Their change of consciousness will steal upon them, as the dawn steals upon a new landscape. Many will be aware of considerable help from other beings who already live securely at these levels, a grace from above, the outgoing expressing of themselves at a higher level in the hierarchy of consciousness. (Paul Beard, LO, 127-8.)

Following the second death, the pilgrim [feels] a deeper capacity, alike for joy and for pain, as he faces and absorbs a deeper knowledge than hitherto of what his spiritual identity contains. (Paul Beard, LO, 129.)

I have explained how after death the Ego steadily withdraws into himself. The whole astral life is in fact a constant process of withdrawal, and when in course of time the soul reaches the limit of that plane, he dies to it in just the same way as he did to the physical plane. (1) That is to say, he casts off the body of that plane, and leaves it behind him while he passes on to higher and still fuller life.

No pain or suffering of any kind precedes this second death, but just as with the first, there is usually a period of unconsciousness, from which the man awakes gradually. (Charles Leadbeater, LAD, 25-6.)

(1) Here Leadbeater too seems to suggest that the Second Death occurred on the edge between the Astral Plane and the Mental Plane.

He had made himself an astral body by his desires and passions during earth-life, and he had to live in it during his astral existence, and that time was happy or miserable for him according to its character. Now this time of purgatory is over, for that lower part of his nature has burnt itself away: now there remain only the higher and more refined thoughts, the noble and unselfish aspirations that he poured out during earth-life. These cluster round him, and make a sort of shell about him, through the medium of which he is able to respond to certain types of vibration in this refined matter. These thoughts which surround him are the powers by which he draws upon the wealth of the heaven-world, and he finds it to be a storehouse of infinite extent upon which he is able to draw just according to the power of those thoughts and aspirations which he generated in the physical and astral life. All the highest of his affection and his devotion is now producing its results, for there is nothing else left; all that was selfish or grasping has been left behind in the plane of desire. (Charles Leadbeater, LAD, 28-9.)

Finally, the Immortal Triad (1) sets itself free from the desire body, (2) and passes out of Kamaloka; (3) the Higher Manas draws back its Ray, coloured with the life-scenes it has passed through, and carrying with it the experiences gained through the personality it has informed. The labourer is called in from the field, and he returns home bearing his sheaves with him, rich or poor, according to the fruitage of the life. (Annie Besant, DA, n.p.)

(1) Higher Mind, Intellect and Self or Higher Manas, Buddhi, and Atman.
(2) Astral body.
(3) The Astral Plane

The ordinary man reaches this state of bliss only after death, and not immediately after it except in very rare cases. I have explained how after death the Ego steadily withdraws into himself [SB: that self is ultimately the Self or Atman - more below]. The whole astral life is in fact a constant process of withdrawal, and when in course of time the soul reaches the limit of that plane, he dies to it in just the same way as he did to the physical plane. That is to say, he casts off the body of that plane [SB: that may be the astral body], and leaves it behind him while he passes on to higher and still fuller life.

No pain or suffering of any kind precedes this second death, but just as with the first, there is usually a period of unconsciousness, from which the man awakes gradually. …

He had made himself an astral body by his desires and passions during earth-life, and he had to live in it during his astral existence, and that time was happy or miserable for him according to its character. Now this time of purgatory is over, for that lower part of his nature has burnt itself away: now there remain only the higher and more refined thoughts, the noble and unselfish aspirations that he poured out during earth-life. These cluster round him, and make a sort of shell about him, through the medium of which he is able to respond to certain types of vibration in this refined matter. These thoughts which surround him are the powers by which he draws upon the wealth of the heaven-world, and he finds it to be a storehouse of infinite extent upon which he is able to draw just according to the power of those thoughts and aspirations which he generated in the physical and astral life. All the highest of his affection and his devotion is now producing its results, for there is nothing else left; all that was selfish or grasping has been left behind in the plane of desire. (Charles Leadbeater, LAD, 23-9.)

The change is made from the first heaven, which is in the Desire World, to the second heaven. (1) …. Then the man leaves his desire body. He is perfectly conscious. He passes into a great stillness. For the time being everything seems to fade away. He cannot think. No faculty is alive, yet he knows that he is. He has a feeling of standing in ‘The Great Forever’; with a wonderful peace … In occult science this is called ‘The Great Silence.’ Then comes the awakening. The spirit is now in its home-world – heaven. (Max Heindel, The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception, 122.)

(1) Now here is Heindel saying that the Second Death occurs during the transition from the First to the Second Heaven. Opinions differ and it may be that the Second Death can happen either in leaving the Astral Plane or in leaving the First Heaven.

After the Second Death the Individual Accesses all His or Her Earthly Memories

So far the pilgrim has learned to readjust himself to the experience of living on after death, to face the judgment, and to abandon the personality in which he lived so closely on earth. He is now ready to transfer his consciousness to his hitherto largely unknown individuality.

He has become well aware that the journey he has been taking has really proved to be the work of transmutation of his former self. Gradually he has come to see the full effects of his last earth life, and has cast from his mind and feelings the dross in which he was then immersed. The fruit of that life lies in the essence he has distilled out of his good deeds and also from such part of the dross as he slowly and faithfully transformed become part of his permanent self.

As he becomes attuned to his life in the Second Heaven, what does he discover within his individuality? In the composite picture of life after death, a further and highly important factor now begins to emerge. It gradually comes to be seen that the picture has compelling logic pointing to reincarnation. In fact accounts of life after death, when put together, do not really make sense without it. For now the traveler discovers that his recent earth life represents no more than the latest chapter in a / book and that it is time for him to come to know the earlier chapters. Just as the essence of his recent life (as distinct from its details) has become imprinted upon his permanent memory or causal self as it is more properly called, so in a similar way there is already imprinted upon his individuality the essence of many previous lives, which have all contributed to make him what he so far is.

Perceptions and experiences await him, both joyous and the reverse, which will conclusively demonstrate that the pattern of reincarnation has already been woven deep into his life and will continue to be so woven. He moves into levels where a wider vision is permitted and he is faced with a gradual return to memory of all these earth lives, of their results upon one another and upon his most recent life, and of the identity which he has borne through them all, the full history which preoccupation with his limited recent personal self largely hid from him. Frances Banks calls this process ‘rejoining her soul.’ He now comes face to face with the spiritual meaning of these events of his long past and with the task of gradually transforming the still remaining imperfections which he comes to see have over many lives continually distorted and dimmed his true spiritual shape. (Paul Beard, LO, 131-2.)

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