Sleep and Death
From time immemorial whole generations of initiates scrutinized the mysteries of life and death and then tried to initiate other people into them. Expressions like “there is no such thing as death”, “death is life and life is death” would echo during the Eleusinian Mysteries while, throughout the world, one of the main purposes of initiation has always been to help humans become acquainted with the landmark called “death”. Death is the great benefactor of evolution since it revives all forms and situations in life; likewise with sleep. The latter is the loss of physical wakefulness for a while, for several hours, a span of time badly needed for both the physical and psychic health of man.
Man is an emanation from LIFE’s highest state -that of Unity – reaching the lowest, physical sphere after having gone through levels of an ever increasing discernment.
Ancient Wisdom holds that the purpose of evolution is to gradually unfold the dynamic of Spiritual Consciousness through a cycle that runs from spirit to matter in all of its condensed and conditioned reactions so it may finally round up to the spiritual state – also carrying along the experience gained by the Monad during the cycle.
Consciousness is the spirit and guiding intelligence which, to appear in manifestation, needs a material body regardless of grade of complexity. The confinement of individual consciousness as a result of its embodiment in matter and presence in varied forms provides the consciousness of the forms and the corresponding material plane to which they belong. Spiritual consciousness – being the tool for perceiving the Immutable – is fully awake even when seeemingly in lethargy. It always lies in the “light” of reality and is what provides discernment between subjective reality and its reflection on to the phenomenal world.
Yet, that state becomes obscured by the bodies that intervene between man’s spiritual and physical consciousness. As the result of the embodiment of individual consciousness or soul in a physical and astral body, man is almost cut off from his spiritual consciousness; he possesses no wisdom, universal love, selflessness, no inclination for sacrifice; but, most of all, he lacks a steady remembrance of all the stages of consciousness between his physical and spiritual Ego.
Human life unfolds from birth to death and daily life unfolds between waking-up and sleep. Death is the periodic return of human consciousness from earth to its karmic starting-point – the Causal. Afterdeath life continues to be a sort of dreaming sleep. As soon as the dynamic of dreams is exhausted it glides back into an earth- rebirth via a new body.
Dying is the event that deprives humans of their capacity to perceive the things of the physical plane through their five senses. In fact, the same thing happens with sleeping. During our daily sleep, we lose touch with the physical environment and find ourselves in some other world, that of dreaming, gliding away from it every morning upon physical waking- up to proceed with our earth-life.
With sleep the process of death and afterdeath life is reiterated on a daily basis. In either case, in death and sleep, human consciousness is temporarily detached from its physical cover and stays with its astral consciousness. Physical awakening is part of daily life while the astral one is part of daily night and the afterdeath period.
It is impossible for our consciousness to simultaneously record events through multiple and varied life dimensions. Although the focal points of our senses, desires and thoughtforms lie in our astral body and determine our physical consciousness, we have no direct perception of all those unseen workings. We do see and feel their effects but cannot perceive the workings themselves.
At the moment of dying, when man loses his physical consciousness and keeps his astral consciousness which is the body of desire and thoughtforms, he enters two afterdeath regions (trilokya), called Kamaloka and Rupa-dhatu in sanskrit; they belong to the astral plane which surrounds our globe and bodies. Its lower part rubbing shoulders with earth is denser while its higher part is more subtle and brighter. Those are the areas where personal Ego finds itself when sleeping and also in afterdeath life. During the latter, the process of sleeping and dreaming is repeated, the only difference being that their duration does not correspond to hours but to years. Let’s have a closer look at those regions:
The first region is kama dhatu with its seven subdivisions. It is the land of Silent Shadows. The Greeks called it the Hades and the Egyptians the Amenti. It is an astral plane -its matter being invisible to us; there, our disembodied personalities remain up until the complete fading out of the eidolons created through the impulse of our lower desires and passions.
That world is the dwelling-place of those who left physical life due to accidents, suicide and violent death as well as of those whose desires and deeds in physical life have kept them attached and attracted to earthly senses.
The second region is the heavenly region of rupa dhatu forms, known to Hindus as devachan and to Christians as paradise. Esoteric teaching holds that although Egos keep having their forms, as is the case while dreaming, and although the devachanic state is a mental plane, a state of personal perception, the Egos have no forms but the ones they have moulded themselves. This heavenly world, too, has seven subdivisions or states of perceptiveness which are not specific localities but only mental representations of the Egos.
There is also a third region called arupa dhatu; it is the region of the abstract and formless world. It is the highest area, the abode of those ready to pass on to nirvana.
Through afterdeath consciousness man is transferred to the first region of kamaloka or the Hades and stays there for a period that may extend from seconds to centuries depending on the dynamic of the images he had created himself during earth life. That same plane is where man finds himself while sleeping. That state corresponds to dreaming – sleeping.
During the dreaming – sleeping stage we lose touch with the physical objects we previously thought real and pass on to situations of joy and sorrow emerging on the new plane of perception. In such sleeping stage our consciousness identifies itself with the eidolons of desires and thoughts that had been formed during our wakeful daily life. It is called svapna, a dreaming-sleeping state and sleep of the soul. It relates to both, first and second regions.
Those two regions – kamaloka and rupa dhatu – make up the afterdeath locus of the human being; the area the human being moves about while sleeping.
There is also a third stage, that of the so-called profound sleeping. In sanskrit it is called sushupti , the sort of sleep of which we usually have no recollection upon waking up; it is the dreamless sleep; a sleep that gives us ample rest and leaves us with a very good disposition. To some it brings forth visions, answers to serious questions or even inspiration concerning profound contemplations of theirs. While it lasts, and usually during the early night hours, personal Ego comes close to the light of its soul.
The states of being fully awake, of dreaming-sleeping and of dreamless sleeping are different states of consciousness. During each one of them a differenet part of individual consciousness takes action or the individual becomes conscious of a different level of being.
In addition, there are basic differences between the two states of sleep and death; they are the following:
• during sleeping, principles are not separated from one another, while the opposite occurs in the case of death
• sleep helps work out the accumulated energy after a whole day’s activity, death helps work out the dynamic created through man’s whole lifetime desires
• sleep helps human beings assimilate the experiences of daily life, death helps with the assimilation of a lifetime’s experiences
“As a man exhausted by one state of the life fluid seeks another; as, for example, when exhausted by the hot air he refreshes himself with cool water; so sleep is the shady nook in the sunlit valley of life. Sleep is a sign that waking life has become too strong for the physical organism, and that the force of the life current must be broken by changing the waking for the sleeping state. Ask a good clairvoyant to describe the aura of a person just refreshed by sleep, and that of another just before going to sleep. The former will be seen bathed in rhythmical vibrations of life currents—golden, blue, and rosy; these are the electrical waves of Life. The latter is, as it were, in a mist of intense golden-orange hue, composed of atoms whirling with an almost incredible spasmodic rapidity, showing that the person begins to be too strongly saturated with Life; the life essence is too strong for his physical organs, and he must seek relief in the shadowy side of that essence, which side is the dream element, or physical sleep, one of the states of consciousness.“[Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge, p. 58]
The human being can only retain both particular and continued memory from all planes of consciousness if connections are formed from one stage to the next. To that end, man will have to be aware of the esoteric laws and apply them, but also to be self-aware, truly devoted to the service of the divine goal.
If he becomes fully perceptive in-between his states of consciousness, then there will be neither sleep nor death for him. There will only be a never-ending wakefulness stretching on all seven planes of consciousness and making of him a self-conscious spiritual being.
Concerning the connection of individual consciousness with all of its interim states from the physical up to the spiritual one, the Great Masters say this:
Immortal Ego, being the basis of our individual consciousness, exists in Eternity, where there is neither Past nor Future but only everlasting PRESENT. Immortal Ego is joined with our physical consciousness through the link of mind or our mental consciousness.
If time is the result of the panoramic movement of Consciousness in space, by halting the mind we become one with Everlasting Present. At that point we pass on to the stage called Turiya or Samadhi which corresponds to spiritual consciousness. Samadhi is the state of absolute limpidity as spiritual consciousness is the perceptive tool of the Immutable. Then there is no more sleep or death but only Eternal Life.