IS THERE ANY CERTAIN KNOWLEDGE ?
This subject of life after death is one of great interest to all of us, not only because we ourselves must certainly one day die, but far more because there can scarcely be any one among us, except perhaps the very young, who has not lost (as we call it) by death someone who is near and dear to us. So if there be any information available with regard to the life after death, we are naturally very anxious to have it. But the first thought which arises in the mind of the man who sees such a title as this is usually 'Can anything be certainly known as to life after death?' We have all had various theories put before us on the subject by the various religious bodies, and yet even the most devoted followers of these sects seem hardly to believe their
teachings about this matter, for they still speak of death as 'the king of terrors', and seem to regard the whole question as surrounded by mystery and horror. They may use the term 'falling asleep in Jesus', but they still employ the black dresses and plumes, the horrible crape and the odious black-edged notepaper, they still surround death with all the trappings of woe, and with everything calculated to make it seem and dark and terrible. We have an evil heredity behind us in this matter; we have inherited these funeral horrors from forefathers, and so we are used to them, and do not see the absurdity and monstrosity of it all. The ancients were in this respect wiser than we, for they did not associate all these nightmares of gloom with the death of body — partly perhaps because they had a much more rational method of disposing of the body — a method which was not only infinitely better for the dead man and more healthy for the living, but was also free from the gruesome suggestions connected with slow decay. They knew much more about death in those days, and because they knew more they mourned less.
The first thing that we must realize about death is that it is a perfectly natural incident in the course of our life. That ought to be obvious to us immediately, because if we believe at all in a God who is a loving Father we should know that a fate which, like death, comes to all alike, cannot be evil, and that whether we are in this world or the next we must be equally safe in His hands. This consideration alone should have shown us that death is not something to be dreaded, but simply a necessary step in our evolution. It ought not to be necessary for Theosophy to come among Christian nations and teach death is a friend and not an enemy. It would not be necessary if Christianity had not so largely forgotten its own best traditions. It has come to regard the grave as 'the bourn from which no traveller returns', and the passage of it as a leap in the dark, into some awful unknown void. On this point, as on many others, Theosophy has a gospel for the western world; it has to announce that there is no gloomy impenetrable abyss beyond the grave, but instead a world of light and life, which may be known to us as fully and accurately as the streets of our own city. We have created the gloom and the horror for ourselves, like children who frighten themselves with ghastly stories, and we have only to study the facts of the case, and all these artificial clouds will roll away at once. Death is no darksome king of terrors, no skeleton with a scythe to cut short the thread of rife, but rather an angel bearing a golden key, with which he unlocks for us the door into a fuller and higher life than this.