A. First of all, there is nothing to worry about. You will never die. The only part of you which will actually die when the change or transition commonly known as “death” takes place is the physical body . . . and this is nothing more than your outer shell anyway.
The famous poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye says in part: “Do not stand at my grave and weep; I am not there, I do not sleep . . . do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there, I did not die.”
The true “I” of your being will never die. Your astral body will eventually disintegrate when the very last particle of the dead physical body disintegrates. Also, the prana (vitality, life energy) which now animates your physical body and keeps you in physical incarnation will return after death to the universal prana.
But still you – the soul – will never die.
In the very last moments of life, when the body appears dead for all intents and purposes, everything you did, said, thought, and experienced in the life just ended will pass in perfect clarity before your inner vision. You will see the absolute justice and fairness of everything that happened to you in life and how everything proceeded exactly as it should have done, according to the unfailing law of cause and effect, action and reaction, known as Karma.
Then the cord or link connecting your physical body with its vitalising astral double will break and this is what brings about real physical death. This causes such shock to the soul that the next part of the process will then take place unconsciously to yourself.
Unconsciously you will enter into Kama Loka, which is the psychic atmosphere or “astral plane” surrounding and to some extent interpenetrating the physical plane.
How long you will remain there can be determined by various factors but primarily by the degree of sensuality and material attraction that characterised the life just lived. What takes place there is the separation between your lower, sensual, material nature and your higher and more spiritual nature.
The lower, sensual, more material side of your nature cannot enter into the heaven state and so it has to be cast off there in the intermediate state of Kama Loka. The more spiritually and less materially and sensually inclined and oriented, the swifter this will happen. It may only take a matter of minutes or, more usually, several hours, days, weeks, occasionally months – or, less frequently, even several years – depending on the preponderance of the lower nature over the higher.
But you will not be conscious while all this is going on. Only in very rare exceptions and unnatural deaths is there a return to consciousness in Kama Loka. When the break between the lower and the higher eventually occurs, this is known figuratively speaking as the “second death.”
This will inevitably cause further shock to the soul and so you will then enter into what is known as the “gestation state,” a period and state of profound rest and inner recuperation, deeper than the deepest sleep you can presently imagine. We cannot speculate as to how long this might last but in some cases it is far longer than we might think.
Meanwhile, the elements of your lower nature, now coalesced into a type of psychic shell, remain in Kama Loka. Your soul – which in Theosophy is often called the Ego, using that word in its true and literal sense – has moved on and joined itself with your higher and spiritual nature.
The shell in Kama Loka is known as the Kama Rupa, meaning “desire form.” It is soulless and any surviving intelligence it has is basic and automatic. It has no individual consciousness of its own. It is just the amalgamation of the dregs of the lower nature from the lifetime just ended.
It will remain in Kama Loka until all its remaining passion and force completely wears out and then it will disintegrate entirely and remain only in the form of skandhas – most easily thought of as “Karmic seeds” – which will later reunite for your next rebirth. This disintegration of what has been called the “astral shell” (but which should not be confused with the astral body) may take weeks, months, or years, again determined by the force and amount of sensuality.
We have to hope that none of your surviving friends or loved ones will try to make contact with you after the death of your physical body. It will be impossible for your soul to be reached or communicated with by those on earth. The laws of Nature ensure that you will not be subject or victim to the misguided efforts of those left behind to make contact with you or drag you back to the physical considerations of earth life.
Any type of spiritualism, mediumship, and channelling is always dangerous and detrimental, particularly to the people doing it.
Although they will most likely not realise it, it is only your Kama Rupa they will have any chance of reaching. They will mistake this soulless shell for the real you because of its ability to automatically repeat certain facts, details, characteristics, and information which you possessed during that lifetime. The life span of the Kama Rupa in Kama Loka will be prolonged as a result of such meddlesome interference, and undesirable situations and problems may potentially arise. Perhaps it would be wise, before you pass away, to ask your family members and loved ones – if there is a likelihood of their doing so – to not try to make contact with you once you are gone.
The real you will eventually emerge from the gestation state and enter into the heaven state which Theosophy calls by the Tibetan word “Devachan” rather than “Heaven.” Consciousness returns at the door of Devachan. It is not a location or a plane but a state. It is actually quite different from the popular religious conceptions of Heaven.
For a start, everyone has their own personal Devachanic state and each of us creates it for ourselves – though without realising it – out of our own consciousness and within our own consciousness. It is the exact representation and experience of what you had believed, hoped, and expected Heaven or the afterlife to be like while you were still alive on earth.
It is a perfect state of the utmost bliss, peace, and joy. There is not even the faintest shadow, hint, or trace of sorrow, disappointment, suffering, or pain there. Everyone and everything you had hoped to be there will be there because it is your own mental creation. Even your loved ones who you left behind on earth when you died and who are still physically alive will be there in your state of Devachan. They will not really be there but they will seem to be there, so vivid and realistic that you will never be inclined to question the matter or to doubt the reality of your experience for even one moment.
This is necessary in order for it to be a state of the highest possible bliss for you. Those of your loved ones who had passed on before you will also be there in your Devachanic state, regardless of how long ago and even regardless of whether they have already reincarnated again.
Again, they will not really be there but they will seem to be there, as perfectly vivid and realistic as when you were with them on the physical plane. Some of them will be having their own Devachan at the same time as you are having yours but the law of perfect justice and bliss requires that we each have our own personal or private Devachan, entirely of our own making. So there is no actual interaction or communication between departed souls but you will be represented there, as real as life, in your loved one’s Devachanic state just as they will be in yours. Such a height of healing justice and happiness-ensurance as this, is not found in any religion’s teaching about the afterlife.
In Devachan there is no memory or awareness of having died or even of there being such a thing as death. Bliss, peace, and joy prevails unfailingly throughout. Being a temporary, subjective, and self-created experience, it is really a type of dream but a dream as vivid, tangible, and well defined as life on earth.
The duration of your stay in the Devachanic state of consciousness will be in exact accordance with the amount and force of the good or positive Karma that you accrued during the preceding lifetime. This is what sustains and prolongs your Devachanic experience. This will naturally vary greatly from person to person. For you, Devachan may last 1,000 years or even longer. Alternatively it may perhaps last several hundred years or just several decades. Some people return to earth life after just a few years or sometimes even less, primarily if the attraction for physical and material existence is a strong force within their soul . . . or, in rarer cases, where there exists a strong and compassionate wish or vow to be reincarnated as soon as possible, to continue helping, teaching, or serving humanity.
Either way, your Devachanic state will eventually begin to fade out and draw to a close, coinciding with the process of the reincarnation of your soul, from conception, through pregnancy, and finally culminating in your rebirth on the physical plane.
You will then have dropped and discarded forever the personality and persona of the previous lifetime and will be embarking upon a new lifetime, incarnated in, through, and as a brand new persona, shaped and determined by your own past Karma. And so the journey of ongoing inner evolution and unfoldment continues. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “The end of birth is death; the end of death is birth.”
I hope you feel reassured now that death is not the end and birth is not the beginning.
This was a brief summary and overview of what H. P. Blavatsky and her Adept Teachers have to say about death and the afterlife. If you would like to explore the Theosophical teachings on death in more detail, you are invited to take a look at the article When We Die. The over 300 other articles on this website are sure to help answer any questions that may have arisen while reading this, so please visit the Articles page where they are listed in categories by general topic.