The essence of life and death

Author: András László

Becoming is eventually followed by decease and passing. Only that which is incorruptible and immortal has neither a time-bound nor a principle beginning since what has no beginning will not have an end either. We have to examine some terms in order to clarity forms of eternity and temporality.

The word for absolute, timeless eternity is ‘aeternum’ or ‘aeternitās’. The word for the special and relative eternity that refers to becoming and passing together with time is ‘sempiternitās’, or occasionally the term ‘aevum’ is used. The quasi “eternity” that refers to a prolonged extension in time is called ‘perpetualitās’. The expression ‘aevum’ could also mean all of these together. “Aeternum’ is timeless, supra-temporal, absolute eternity; ‘sempiternitās’ is a relative eternity, an appearance and disappearance together with time; ‘perpetualitās’ is full extension across time. Finally, ‘perennitās’ expresses the appearance, the imprint of ‘aeternum’ in time. Religiō perennis, sophia perennis (eternal relegion, eternal wisdom) or philosophia perennis (eternal philosophy) for example are not eternal in the sense of being fully timeless, or that they appeared and disappeared together with time or even that their content has no end. ‘Perennity’ means that it appears in time but it represents timeless eternity within temporality. The human form of existence is directly connected with ‘imperpetualitās’, the opposite of ‘perpetualitās’, i.e. to appear in time belongs to the natural form of human existence and this results in passing also in time. But man is not simply human. Man is a person and Subject. In addition to his mortal part there is also a spiritual being present in man that connects to ‘sempiternitās’, i.e. to becoming ‘cum tempore’ (with time) and passing ‘cum tempore’.

In the same time, in his own subjectivity, in his own Auton-being, he’s fully immortal, completely eternal. Man is the representative of “aeternum’ under all circumstances. In such sense, his manifestation is in the sign of perennitās – this is man’s Subjectivity. The actual condition of man is always determined by what he identifies with. By his identification man may relate himself to his own mortal or immortal spheres of existence; for example to spheres that are fully subordinated to becoming and passing in time. Such is the essence of man’s body: not only his physicality in the strict sense but all those more subtle physical levels as well that man experiences as his own and that also mean the conditions of his current (strictly physical) mode of existence. If man identifies with his mortal part, he has to share in the fate of the body. If he identifies with the higher spheres of existence he carries within himself, his fate will take on the special conditioned state of these (between mortality and immortality) and following the death of the body, he’ll pass on to another world according to these; and if he fully identifies with himself, he is immortal in the sense of absolute, supra-temporal eternity.

The Hindu and Buddhist traditions consider two basic ‘post mortem’ possibilities in regards to man. One of these is pitŗ-yāna. The first part of pitŗ-yāna literally means father, in a broader sense it means ancestor, thus the whole term means the path of ancestors. The other possibility is dēva-yāna. Dēva means god, dēva-yāna means the path of gods, the divine path. Pitŗ-yāna contains two sub-possibilities. One is that consciousness ceases in death (or shortly after death). This is the most common possibility today and it presents a grave situation since, from the point of view of experience, this means the end of experience itself, i.e. annihilation, similarly to how an animal dies. An earlier -and today much more rare- version of pitŗ-yāna is what pitŗ-yāna literally means; the larval remains of human consciousness looming after death which goes through various types of experiences (this is the domain of Hādēs) and after a while this looming presence gradually withers. The individual consciousness at this stage experiences itself embodied in the root of a world (of beyond, the world of origin), the “breast of Abraham” in which, thus returning to its ancestors, it gradually withers. From this stage, the tendencies that an individual carried over to this other world and state regenerate themselves and lead to various human incarnations, embodiments. Not only does it return to its ancestors, it becomes an ancestor. But it doesn’t become an ancestor in the sense that the individual itself reincarnates but in the sense that it gives birth to processes that generate new entities through the ancient stock: this is pitŗ-yāna.

Dēva-yāna also presents additional possibilities. One of these is that consciousness ends in the transitory state, but much later – still, this means a fall back to pitŗ-yāna. The other possibility is that a journey in the other world begins: the kernel of the psychic-spiritual remains goes through various states of existence. It may happen that upon entering one of these worlds (lōka in Sanskrit, related to the Latin locus) it gets attached to it, fixing itself to a state of existence that corresponds to the eternity of ‘sempiternitās’ where its own existence doesn’t have a temporal beginning; in other words it doesn’t begin when it enters but when the lōka begins simultaneously with the beginning of time and it lasts until time ends, together with the lōka. This however is not measurable by units of time, like 10 years, 2 trillion years or a thousandth of a second, since in this sense it doesn’t have content, considering that such things can’t be measured in an order that doesn’t fall into the realms of ‘perpetuity’ or ‘imperpetuity’. This state is the relative eternity of ‘cum tempore’ existence. So the psychic – spiritual kernel may attach itself to such states (worlds) or it may also happen that it reaches the human state of existence and attaches itself to it in a ‘cum tempore’ sense, since the scope of the human state of existence is much broader and more encompassing than is generally known or assumed. It may also happen that it approaches an incarnation and an extract of its being that corresponds to a demon (grandharvas, kentauros) enters the incarnation. The Subject-carrying consciousness that made it this far will dissolve once the incarnation has taken place. The subjective ray (the ray that emanates from the Subject) that has reached this point will retract and a different subjective ray will create a new human being.

Metaphysical Awakening in death also belongs to the realm of dēva-yāna (to its periphery). There is Awakening connected to the body, i.e. it may take place in life. This possibility is called jīvan-mukti or jīvan-māksā, meaning liberation in life. There is also the possibility of jīva-vidēhamukti (mōksa) – which means Awakening in the moment of death, on the border between the living and incorporeal states. There is a possibility for ‘post-mortem’ awakening (after death), this is called vidēha-mukti mōksa. All these are already at the limits of dēva-yāna, since they are states that transcend it. Human births are mostly fueled by pitŗ-yāna and secondarily, in exceptional cases, by dēva-yāna.

These are man’s possibilities in terms of death, full Metaphysical Awakening in life, in the moment of death or following death being the most exceptional one. Dēva-yāna requires initiation; even the conscious attachment to a state in the realm of hell presumes a certain degree of initiation. An uninitiated man is destined to pitr-yāna; those with the highest qualities among these will face the withering of consciousness in pitr-yāna, while the consciousness of those with lower qualities will flame-out in death or directly after death. The state of clinical death is not death and this doesn’t mean that -to use medical terms- death means biological death, but that death is “that” death and not the one from which somebody may “wake up”. If somebody “wakes up” (meaning that he is brought back from death), that person did not die. Despite of this, the states described in the books and research of R. A. Moody and others are interesting to us and show that even average people (whose connection with the body has been loosened) are capable of achieving much more significant conscious experiences than may generally be assumed. If the right conditions are available, the loosened connection with the body may enable special conscious experiences. The research, as well as the opinions concerning all this are all valid as long as they don’t draw too far reaching consequences from these. The fact that in the state of clinical death man goes through such experiences doesn’t mean more than just that: man may have quite extraordinary experiences near death.

In these states death doesn’t actually happen; it doesn’t happen either in experiences since the survivor generally reaches some kind of light or a sort of being, perhaps a gate and whoever returns, never goes through it. Exposed to a certain influence, he/she decides not to go through it or doesn’t want to go through it. The state that follows death would be the one after the experience of passing through, but the scope of research doesn’t and can’t include this. In terms of death, if man doesn’t go through a fundamental transformation previously, he can’t experience death consciously, or he can, but just to a minimal degree.

There are various assumptions regarding death. In his book “Mysterium Mortis”, the catholic theologian of Hungarian origin, Ladislaus Boros, explains that in the moment of death everybody receives an illumination on the base of which they can decide on their ‘post-mortem’ existence. Naturally, he raises the issue in a catholic theological form which here means that man either chooses the road to salvation or to perdition. The final decision (optiō finālis) takes place in the illumination, not excluding the possibility that everybody opts for salvation. Concerning whether or not illumination and optiō finālis actually takes place, tradition doesn’t provide an answer. But it does say that in the circum-mortālis moments of consciousness, for an extremely short period – so short that it doesn’t produce any external manifestation – it is possible that a light flares up which may be followed some voluntary, willful act. Tradition doesn’t teach that this flaring up necessarily always happens and accordingly, since this is beyond control, no definite position may be taken concerning this illumination and the optiō finālis. For those who represent the traditional world view it is not salvation and perdition that depict the strongest polar tension in relation to death, but annihilation on the one hand and absolution in Awakening on the other. The smallest tension is between the ceasing and subsistence of consciousness. Salūs (salūtio, salvātiō) means salvation and healing, just like Heil in German means both; this is how salūs should be understood. Salūs or salve used to be a form of greeting. Full “healing” is salvation which is more than the mere realization of a celestial state. Salūs is the prerequisite of Awakenining, i.e. of ultimate realization. It is not the guarantee of it and it is certainly not identical with it; it’s only precondition of it.

In the great historical Christian denominations salvation is the highest achievement (rank) which may have various sub-ranks. Realized salvation is salvation with the resurrection of the body but this is still not identical with absolution. The opposite of salvation is really perdition within the dēva-yāna order of ‘post-mortem’ experiences. Within the possibilities of dēva-yāna, the difference and the tension between salvation and perdition (like the most extreme state of hell) is truly extreme. But in comparison to the metaphysical tension in which there is complete annihilation (in Sanskrit: nirguņa-mūla-prakŗti-laya, the complete dissolve in the non-qualitative root-nature) on the one hand and Metaphysical Awakening on the other, it is still quite insignificant. Full annihilation, the dissolution in full potentiality may only take place due to extreme and exceptional mistakes during realization.

The general and common possibility -without any positives- of man is that in the moment of actual death (or after that) his individual consciousness ends and this doesn’t mean that his impersonal, sub-personal or supra-personal consciousness should remain. Supra-personal consciousness could only remain if the person’s consciousness does not end in death. There is no such thing that there is subjectivity here, there and everywhere with the same intensity identification; although to some degree even this is true, but there is a always a special identification. This is decisive in regards to post-mortal possibilities. Wherever I am mainly and primarily in identification (to put it in first person singular) becomes (practically) exclusive in the critical moment. What happens with man’s ‘post-mortem’ possibilities is determined by his whole life on the one hand, and the period preceding death, on the other. There is no precise measure in this regard: this may be a year, a month, etc. – the quality of this period and finally the moments near death is most decisive, but not from a moral stand point, so it doesn’t matter if the person was “good” in his life or not; what matters is what level of intensity his consciousness is able to sustain. Existence after death is not of moral character, it has no ethical connotations; it only depends on the presence of forces of consciousness. This is much more of a reality of intensity than a reality of morality. From a higher point of view man doesn’t achieve a given state as a reward or as a punishment; from a lower, religious point of view it is valid, that one’s fate after death is a reward or a punishment, but if one pursues goals related to metaphysical realization, this position is not sustainable because in his case only the forces of consciousness will play a role and thus a man’s position after death is not what he deserves but what corresponds to his state; justice of injustice is not even an issue from this point of view. From a lower point of view this issue is decidedly valid, but from a higher point of view it’s not even an issue.

Correspondences decide; everybody connects to a state that perfectly corresponds to his self-identification. Generally, there are no possibilities of transmutation after death, but in exceptional cases there may be. The highest form of yōga, rāja-tantra-yōga knows a certain type of ascesis that may be continued even after death. This is fully outside of the scope of most yōga methods and generally outside of the scope of human possibilities. This means that identifications and de-identifications, transmutations may be performed after death in exceptional cases – provided of course that identification during life highly transcended the domain of the body.

These possibilities may only be raised in case of high levels of identification with the spirit. The human mode of existence is determined by death several ways: death has not only an extinguishing quality but also one of possibilities. Death has a positive aspect but in order for this to open up, quite exceptional conditions are necessary. Regarding realization we must mention a special form of tantric practices that were known in Inner and Easter Asia. In a certain sense the method itself is related to the tantric versions of Buddhism, as well as with the tantric versions of Taoism: riding the tiger. The tiger corresponds to a special power in the Inner and Far Eastern symbology. This power, a magical power called śakti, is active in existence as creator, sustainer and destroyer. Not all of its forms and manifestations are symbolized by the tiger; mostly its uncontrolled, unbridled manifestations are symbolized by a female tiger. The symbolic, educational situation is the following: the man on the path hasn’t acquired yet the powers that are necessary to conquer the tiger. Due to his low or high level of realization, he’s also not in a position to escape from the tiger or to avoid facing it. He’s facing the tiger because he can’t defeat it and can’t escape from it; so he sits on its back and spurs the racing tiger for an even wilder run and starts to control it until it becomes his carrier and domestic animal. The story has various variations: the tiger eventually collapses and the man kills it or it remains his carrier animal. The point is that man creates for himself a method of realization by applying powers that otherwise work against his realization. As the world “progresses” everything becomes tiger – not a recognized, but a recognizable one. Fighting, sex and many other areas that generally don’t belong to the lines of realization may be turned into such areas in exceptional cases but in such cases the tiger nature is normally known. But for example thinking didn’t used to have a tiger nature: it didn’t used to be moved by an unbridled, confused force. But in the current era -especially in most recent times- the tiger nature is more and more dominant in thinking, in addition to everything else. In the same time this tiger nature may only be recognized with an intuition that is evoked in an exceptionally heightened state since if it is revealed to somebody theoretically and one understands it, this still doesn’t mean that one will be capable of recognizing the tiger. While everything is taking on a tiger nature, the recognition of this is becoming less and less typical. It is quite possible that the time will come when man may face only one single tiger and this one will be the greatest, the tiger of death. Death is the Greatest Tiger man may face in his life and at the end of it. It is possible that once death will be the only possibility that may be ridden. This will be an extreme situation since there is no chance for correction: one either succeeds or not. When it comes to other methods there is always a chance to attempt something else: one goes through trials but here the trial is ultimate and it presents a situation that can’t be corrected.

‘Par excellence” man is a mortal being which means that his mortality is cast in time. Man is able to reflect on death. Animals, although they sense approaching death, sooner and sharper than man can, are not in such a conscious-reflexive relationship with it as man is. In case of animals, everything is happening on the level of feelings while in case of man conscious reflections mean an additional level even though in most cases this is not utilized and man becomes conscious of his own death only in exceptional moments. Thus man is in a tragic situation since he considers himself fully mortal while he lives life as though he was fully “immortal”, not reflecting on his own death.

If somebody becomes ill and the illness is severe and it runs its course quick, he becomes acutely aware that he will have to die. This may weight on him so much, as a thought, that he may commit suicide, etc. Yet, he doesn’t really grasp an even more certain basic situation, i.e. that he has to die at all. The difference between these is not as extreme as it is usually perceived emotionally. The basic problem is that one has to die at all and this prognosis has far more validity than any death-prognosis in regards to illnesses. Although man doesn’t experience himself as immortal but as mortal, his behavior toward himself -due to a lack of reflection despite the possibility of reflection- is such as he’d never have to die. One of the fundamental tenets of all superior spiritual schools is that “you should view each day of your life like it was the last one”; without any pessimistic undertone.

In regards somebody who has no intentions to transmute himself towards superiority all this is almost fully meaningless; such a person -to put it somewhat bluntly- can be “written off”. From a spiritual point of view we are only interested in people who want to transform themselves into higher states. From many other points of view anybody may be interesting but not from this one. The historical Buddha said: ” I am addressing those whose eyes are covered only by a little dust”; thus not those “whose eyes are not covered by dust” or those “whose eyes are completely covered by dust”. No other spiritual teacher or guide (incomparably smaller than Buddha) could say anything else. Those “whose eyes are covered only by little dust”, are people who dimly intuit their own origin, essence, path and goal; but this intuition may be called dim only in metaphysical perspectives, otherwise it means a remarkably sharp consciousness. All theoretical and practical teachings are directed at such people. Only about such people can be said for example, that in relation to themselves they are responsible or irresponsible. It would be superfluous to say the same about those in full delirium since in their case delirium and deviation have a substantial, all-encompassing and fulfilling significance. Responsibility is a no factor in their case so we can also not talk about them being irresponsible. All dark and light prognosis, all (almost) threatening warning and all encouraging remarks are meant only to people who want to transform their state and condition into a higher one.

Hindu and Buddhist tantrism (mostly these) acknowledges a human type they call paśu. Paśu means “sacrificial animal” which may only be a domestic animal, mostly ox or goat. The human type that corresponds to sacrificial animals is also called paśu: the type that -when sacrificed- only becomes part of human regeneration and nothing more. The current paśu is not even a real paśu since in the real paśu at least the awareness of the sacrificial animal or the human consciousness that’s analogue to this, is in some sense awakened. Paśu is man whose consciousness flames out in death, or thereafter. A paśu also has dignity and significance, but not in terms of realization, because in this sense, he depicts man incapable of realization. A paśu is anārya in the deepest sense. The āryas normally denote the top three castes while anāryas the ones below these. Paśu is who doesn’t transmute himself and who -if born into a higher caste- doesn’t realize his prenatal possibilities and doesn’t go through caste-initiation and also doesn’t set out on the path of true yōga. Even if they are born in a lower caste, they don’t set out on a true yōga path.

True yōga has nothing to do whatsoever with popular “yōga” -the term is terrible and stupid in this context- that is being pursued en masse today. Yōga is the ascesis of spiritual transmutation. For us, this term has weight. Nowadays, certain dark spiritual currents that are active either in the name of export-import Buddhism or “transcendental meditation” abuse the term “initiation”; “I went through an initiation” they say, although absolutely no fundamental change has taken place and the person remained exactly the same as he was before.

The initiate is different from an uninitiated person to the same degree as a human is different from an animal: in his own innate, internal world. These are not mere words; this means a serious and real discrimination of consciousness. An initiated person stands above an intelligent common man roughly to the same degree as an intelligent man is superior to a gorilla for example – in terms of his mental qualities. This is not a visible thing but not because it is kept secret and especially not because the person concerned is not aware of it, but because on the common level of human communications a manifestation that is as superior to the human mode of existence as the human mode of existence is to the animal one, doesn’t make sense. Being initiated doesn’t merely mean being smart (that too, of course), but that there is something supra-human in man which is related to his experience of origin and existence.

The overwhelming majority of people (9,999 out of 10,000) are paśu – unless of course a group is assembled that consists exclusively of people who are not paśu. The path of realization a man follows who realizes himself, is leading away from the paśu state. The superior counter-pole of paśu is paśu-pati which/who is the lord of paśus. The Indian tradition identifies paśu-pati with Śiva. There are people who -in different ways- stand between paśu and paśu-pati and walk paśu-pati’s path of realization. One type of these is called divya – divine; In Europe, in traditions with Greek fundamentals this was called theos which means God, those who belong to gods and man who represents a godhead. The other version is vīra which corresponds to hemitheos or hēros, or vēros in ancient Greek, thus the correspondence with vīra, vir. Vīra is somewhat lower (its meaning is true man and hero) than divya but possesses more intensive possibilities and powers, in other words greater virya and heroic powers. In case of divya, the level or grade and quality itself is called divya, while in case of vīra this is called vīra-virya: these depict two basic types that are progressing towards paśu-pati, getting farther away from paśu. Today almost all people appear in the world as anārya and paśu, save extremely exceptional cases – even by their essence they are paśu. There are some people who by their essence and possibilities are not paśu and some of these are capable of rising from the paśu-anārya state by transmuting themselves through metaphysical self-realization.

As a state, paśu-pati means the state of consciousness identical with the Subject; paśu, as a state, means man who identifies with a common state of consciousness. The Subject, the realizer is present, he is here, although his separation from the person is in cosmic magnitude. There can’t any other goal in a metaphysical perspective than this kind of realization and this possibility is available only to mortal man who contains the potientiality (possibility, virtuality) of immortality.

The representatives of modes of existence that are superior to that of humans (angels, semi-gods, gods, archangels)  dispose over much higher possibilities of realization than man, they are in a much higher state, but due to the blissful, bright, free nature of their state, their need of or drive for realization is much lower than man’s; thus, their possibilities are eventually not greater, because their drive is lower. We are talking about people with a drive to transmutation here (thus not about paśus) who already left the paśu state behind by transcending it. Even a small degree of transcendence in this respect means a very high spiritual achievement, since all one has to do is observe one’s own state of mind and psychic condition and the changes that directly manifest (or don’t manifest) themselves in it and thus one may find one’s own greatest enemy in these; especially the greatest enemy of one’s own nature of realization.

Man is unable to realize himself and to lead himself back to himself due mostly to his own psychic and mental conditions. It’s about a true internal battle and not about a simple attack (or counter-attack, or defense); it’s about a full series of complex, sophisticated, internal operations that must be applied against the dark, inferior powers that manifest themselves in the soul. In the type of death that leads to the end of consciousness, the inferior powers are victorious; in death these are unleashed and they extinguish consciousness. Consciousness that’s left without support can’t subsist in death – not only because loosing its support (that carried it) but but also because of the assault of powers that turn against consciousness.

Man who represents Auton must conquer the heteron he carries in himself which is essentially also Auton, but unrecognized Auton. The path toward this end is partially of Gnostic nature (based on knowledge, recognition and knowing) and is partially realizable by destroying heteron and heteron qualities and nature. The two are not in contradiction, since the recognition of heteron, just like the recognition of Auton, doesn’t contradict the elimination or even the destruction of heteron. Man must find strength and a proper vantage point from the existence of death, from its innate nature, from the tension between survival and non-survival and from the considerations related to this, specifically for the sake of realization. This is the essential function and task of spiritual man in general, but especially in our age.

This content was delivered as a lecture by Andras Laszlo in 1987. Own translation from Hungarian 

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