This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Differences in posthumous conditions

So long as it is in this condition [still individual, as has just been explained] the spirit [which, consequently, is still jivatma] of that person who has practiced meditation [during his life, without attaining effective possession of the higher states of his being] remains attached to the subtle form [which may also be regarded as the formal prototype of the individuality, subtle manifestation representing an intermediate stage between the unmanifested and the gross manifestation and playing the part of immediate principle in relation to the latter]; and it is associated, in this subtle form, with the vital faculties [in the state of reabsorption or principial contraction which has already been described].

Two things must be said about this passage. First, what is referred to is not some sort of ‘astral body’ or ‘psychic form’ that persists as if it were nothing more than the individual disembodied. During bodily life, the subtle form is bound up with the corporeal body, and this lends to a sort of ‘localization’ of the subtle form in time and place. But, keeping in mind that St. Thomas Aquinas, in speaking of the ‘separated soul,’ the soul being for the Scholastics the subtle form, said: ‘Now the soul has one mode of being when in the body, and another when apart from it.’[1]

And so the necessary connection with the body, which we described when discussing its role in the dream state, is no longer present. While the being described in the passage above is clothed in form, as is necessary for it to remain in the individual order, this form need not be considered subject to spatial and temporal considerations in the same way as before. It will be subject to conditions all its own. And this is why we emphasize again that the subtle form should not be ‘localized’ or imagined as a kind of ghost or double of the body.

The being may remain thus [in this same individual condition in which it is attached to the subtle form] until the outward dissolution [pralaya, the return into the undifferentiated state] of the manifested worlds [of the actual cycle, comprising both the gross and the subtle states, that is to say the whole domain of human individuality regarded in its integrality], a dissolution in which it is plunged [together with the totality of the beings in those worlds] into the bosom of the Supreme Brahma; but, even then, it may be united with Brahma only in the same way as in deep sleep [that is to say without full and effective realization of the ‘Supreme Identity’].

The situation mentioned above, where union is ‘only in the same way as in deep sleep,’ is called ‘reintegration in passive mode’ as opposed to ‘reintegration in active mode.’ ‘Passive reintegration’ belongs to a being who has not taken full possession of its higher states, either during life or in the posthumous condition. Just as the being in deep sleep always awakens and plunges back into the individual state, the being who undergoes reintegration in passive mode may return back into the individual condition after the conclusion of the present cycle, during the pralaya. This situation is similar to that of the being who likewise does not take possession of its higher states, but instead of being preserved in the prolongation of the human state, passes directly after death into another individual state.[2]

In addition to these cases, there is also the case of one who realizes the higher states, or even ‘Supreme Identity,’ not during life but in the posthumous prolongation of the individuality. In this example, virtual immortality is rendered effective although it may still be ‘deferred Deliverance’ in the sense that it will not become effective until the pralaya at the end of the cycle, at which point the being undergoes ‘reintegration in active mode’ from which there can be no return to the individual state.

In any of the cases above, the being in the posthumous state should be considered jivatma attached to the subtle form, and is therefore incorporated in Hiranyagarbha, or jiva-ghana for the duration of the cycle, as is proper:

This subtle form [in which the being, which thus remains in the human individual state, resides after death] is, [in comparison with the bodily or gross form] imperceptible to the senses both as to its dimensions and to its consistency; consequently, it does not affect the perception [or the external faculties] of those who are present when it separates from the body [after the ‘living soul’ has withdrawn into it]. Neither is it affected by combustion or any other treatment which the body may undergo after death [which is the result of this separation from the very fact of which no action of a sensible order can have any further repercussion on this subtle form, nor upon the individual consciousness which, remaining attached thereto, is no longer connected with the body]. It is only sensible through its animated heat [its specific quality insofar as it is assimilated to the igneous principle] so long as it inhabits the gross form, which becomes cold [and as a result inert as an organic whole] in death, as soon as it [the subtle form] has left it [although the other sensible qualities of the corporeal form still subsist without any apparent change], and which was warmed [and quickened] by it so long as it dwelt there [since it is precisely in the subtle form that the principle of individual life resides, so that it is only through the communication of its properties that the body can also be described as alive, by reason of the tie which exists between these two forms insofar as they are the expression of states of the same being, that is to say precisely up to the moment of death].

The next now proceeds to describe the case of the being who achieves Deliverance before death:

But he who has obtained [before death, always understood as separation from the body] true knowledge of Brahma [implying effective possession of all the states of the being through metaphysical realization, apart from which there can only be an imperfect and purely symbolical knowledge] does not pass [in successive mode] through all the same stages of withdrawal [or of reabsorption of the individuality from the state of gross manifestation to the state of subtle manifestation, with the different modalities which this implies, and then to the unmanifested state, where individual conditions are at length entirely suppressed]. He proceeds directly [into this latter state, and even beyond it, if it is only regarded as the principle of manifestation] into Union [already realized, at least virtually, during life in the body] with Supreme Brahma, with which he is identified [in an immediate manner], just as a river [here representing the current of existence through all states and all manifestations], at its mouth [which is the end or final term of that current] becomes identified [by intimate penetration] with the waves of the sea [samudra, the gather together of the waters, symbolizing the totalization of possibilities in the Supreme Principle]. His vital vaculties and the elements of which his body is composed [all considered in principle and in their suprasensible essence];[3] the sixteen component parts [shodasha-kalah] of the human form [that is to say the five tanmatras, manas, and the ten faculties of sensation and action], pass completely into the unmanifested state [avyakta, where, by transposition, they are all to be found in permanent mode, as changeless possibilities], this passage moreover implying no change for the being itself [of the kind implied in the intermediate stages, which necessarily include a variety of modifications, since they still belong to ‘becoming’]. Name and form [namarupa, namely the determination of the individual manifestation in its essence and its substance, as has been previously explained] also come to an end [as limiting conditions of the being] and, being ‘undivided,’ without the parts or members, therefore, which composed the earthly form [in the manifested state and insofar as that form was subject to quantity in its various modes], he is set free from the conditions of individual existence [as well as from all other conditions applying to a special and determined state of existence of any sort, even a supra-individual state, since the being is henceforth in the absolutely unconditioned principial state].[4]

It should be stressed that this is a ‘transformation’ of the being, and not a destruction. It is likened by commentators on the Brahma-Sutras to water sprinkled on a hot stone, which seems to have been destroyed when it disappears from sight, but is on the contrary amplified to an extreme degree. And just as the drop of water is also not ‘absorbed’ into the rock, which would be another kind of destruction, so also the being is not absorbed into Brahma. Deliverance seems like destruction from the point of view of manifestation, but from the point of view of the absolute, it is a ‘dilation’ which approaches the Infinite. Thus, we can say that Shiva, although commonly interpreted as ‘destroyer,’ is really ‘transformer.’

[1] Summa Theologica, I.q89.a1. To understand how directly these two terms correspond, we need only remark how the Scholastics called the soul ‘the form of the body,’ which is precisely the role of the subtle form in question.

[2] We reiterate here that this new individual state is never a return to the human state, as the false theories of reincarnation would have it. Why this is so we will explain elsewhere, but we feel the need to emphasize the point whenever possible due to the prevalence of this particular error.

[3] This may happen in such a way that the body ‘evaporates’ and gives the appearance that no death occurs, such as with Elijah, Moses, and Enoch.

[4] Prashna Upanishad, VI.5; Mundaka Upanishad, III.2.8; Brahma-Sutras, IV.2.8-16.

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