The purpose of death
The nature of life after death
How we can prepare for death
How we can assist the dying
A good man has nothing to fear, either in life or in death. And his fate is not a matter of indifference to the Gods. Socrates, to the Jury in Plato's Apology
This second stage begins when we become aware of a new world around us. This is the astral plane; a mirror image of the human psyche, filled with all the impressions of the collective human experience. Here we meet our spiritual guide who helps to orient us in our new surroundings and lead us through the various stages of life after death. Our guide may appear as a divine being, a trusted friend or a familiar, loving presence. Sometimes referred to as the gatekeeper or guardian angel, our spiritual guide has been supporting us behind the scenes through many cycles of birth and death.
One of the unique features of Earth life is that our inner desires and motives are private and hidden from view. Also, on the Earth plane, people of all different character types commingle together. But after death, the situation is quite different. There we find that our inner desires and motives are reflected outwardly in our faces. And because everyone seeks to associate with others of a similar character, the astral plane is segregated into spheres of association according to different vibrational qualities.
When we first become aware of our astral body, this aspect of transparency can be quite unsettling. The negative impressions we accumulated during Earth life, such as anger, lust, fear and greed, are reflected outwardly for all to see. Any refusal to accept our shadow material causes a split in the psyche. Before we can progress, we must heal this split. And we can only do this by accepting and taking responsibility for all the impressions we've accumulated, without filters, excuses or rationalizations.
This process may be painful and there usually arise certain archetypal experiences, which are woven into the human psyche. Although these experiences can vary from person to person, they usually involve the acceptance, repentance and forgiveness of past actions. In some traditions, this stage is called purgatory or hell. But these words imply judgment and punishment, which is misleading and not what this process is about. Rather, it's the cosmic law of evolution as it plays out on the subtle planes. Awareness cannot ascend to the higher planes until the lower vibrational impressions have been resolved and transformed. This process may be easy or difficult depending on how willing we are to heal, forgive and let go.
For most people on a spiritual path, a great deal of purification naturally takes place during Earth life, by accepting responsibility for our actions and exchanging forgiveness with others. (See chapter: Preparing for Death) Consequently, for many, this stage of purification is brief and relatively easy.
With the exception of those few who are liberated during life, or just after death, everyone must pass through this stage of purification, which is actually one of the great blessings of life after death. Ultimately, only our fear and ignorance die. And during this process, we discover that only our fear and ignorance make us feel separated from the Divine.