Life Beyond Death

The purpose of death
The nature of life after death
How we can prepare for death
How we can assist the dying

The Stages of Life After Death

You say I am going away. But where can I go? I am always here.

Sri Ramana Maharshi, on his deathbed to grieving devotees.

Forward

On the level of the mind, we don't know what happens after death. The mystery seems to be part of the human condition. But on the level of intuition, we have access to knowledge that transcends the logic of the mind. The information on this website comes from such insight, as well as from the great spiritual traditions of Earth history. If it resonates with your own intuition, then please use it to prepare for the journey ahead. Or better yet, use it as a launching point for your own inquiry. Read the books recommended on this site, and let your own inner guidance lead you.

Christ said, "Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." I believe this is true in the most literal sense. If we are persistent, our deeply held questions will eventually lead us to the answers we seek.

Introduction

Each life is a unique and personal journey. And yet, we all pass through similar stages of life, such as childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. Likewise, death is a personal journey, which unfolds in stages. The following chapters contain a description of the four primary stages of life after death, thus providing a road map of the territory ahead. As with any map, a great deal of information has been condensed in order to provide an overview and to highlight the more important landmarks.

To describe the different stages of life after death, we must first talk about the nature of Consciousness, as well as the various bodies and planes of experience.

Consciousness

All experiences arise in Consciousness, which is both the foundation and substance of creation. Divested of all limitations fabricated by the mind, Consciousness is formless, eternal and unbounded. For these reasons, it is considered absolute and Divine in nature.

When we speak of Consciousness, we're not referring to something "out there", in space. It's the foundation of our own awareness, which shines behind the mind, making it possible to read and understand these words, right now. From this perspective, the discovery of Consciousness is the recognition of our own essential nature.

Because Consciousness is purely spiritual in nature, it's completely hidden from view. We cannot know it objectively, because it's the subjective reality behind all experience. As such, its character is mysterious and paradoxical. Some call it the impersonal and non-dual reality underlying manifest creation. Others refer to it in personal terms, as the Creator and Supreme Divine Being. Both views are correct, and at the same time, Consciousness transcends all conceptual limitations.

Bodies and Planes of Experience

Just as sunlight separates into different bands of color, Consciousness separates into different planes of experience. Each plane corresponds to a particular type of body, or platform of experience. (see Illustrations) Each plane and its corresponding body are actually two sides of the same coin. For example, the physical body and the physical plane are two aspects of the same experience and cannot be separated from one another.

After death, our conscious experience doesn't cease. It simply recedes from the physical plane to the subtle, or astral plane, and the corresponding astral body. (When people speak of spirits, or spirit communication, they're referring to the astral plane of experience.) The astral body is essentially a bundle of psychic impressions (conscious and subconscious), which accumulate during Earth life. From this perspective, the astral plane is like a reflection, or an echo of the recent Earth experience. Although the astral body survives death of the physical body, it is not eternal and has its own definite life span.

Beyond the astral plane is the spiritual plane, and the corresponding spiritual body, or soul. The spiritual body is the most fundamental unit of creation and as such, it is both immortal and eternal. It's a manifest form of Divine Consciousness, plus the spiritual essence which has accumulated over many cycles of Earth life. More will be said about spiritual essence in the pages that follow.

From the foregoing, the descending order of existence can be illustrated in this way: Divine Consciousness -> spiritual plane -> astral plane -> physical plane.

These different planes are not locations in time or space. They are states of consciousness, or levels of subjective experience within us. Whether we realize it or not, as human beings, we live and function on all three planes simultaneously.

Individual Awareness

Individual awareness, and the experience of individuality, is a phenomenon that arises in the mind, where the light of Divine Consciousness produces a reflection, or a sense of "me". (In Sanskrit, this is called Pragyaparadh, i.e., the mistake of the intellect.) Like a dream, or a mirage in the desert, this reflection is a spontaneous appearance that has no independent existence. Although we experience ourselves as separate and independent individuals, this is only how it appears in the mind. In truth, there is only Divine Consciousness, reflecting in different minds, like the moon reflecting in different pots of water.