Chapter 7 Pt 1. Behind the Veil of Death. Scientist’s View on Death and Immortality.

Behind the Veil of Death

Death is our present reality yet is immortality the secret aspiration in man and therefore our future potentiality. Whatever higher things we seek in life have already been granted by the highest Self in us. Mankind has aspired deeply among other things for permanence of life; for vanquishing suffering, evil and pain; for conquering old age, disease, infirmity and death. Each age of mankind has seen the revival of this aspiration of terrestrial perfection and permanence albeit in a language appropriate to the age concerned. Thus in the early intuitive dawns of mankind the aspiration of immortality takes the form of discovering the immortal spiritual principle within us, the immortal soul and our true Self beyond grief and death. In the historic and mental ages[1] of mankind, we see this impulse manifest in preserving the works of art and science, of moral and mental values, of the cultural ethos that would ensure some kind of racial immortality through the best achievements of the age. Down the line and in the heroic and vitalistic ages of mankind, we have the bard singing glories of the deeds of kings and knights. We also see huge structures built around the dead with all facilities for their enjoyment of an afterlife. Here, as in ancient Egypt, afterlife is considered as a means for men and women to enjoy the vital pleasures of this life albeit in an exaggerated form. The hells and heavens of the Puranic and other legends are largely a superimposition of this world view on an aspect of afterlife that has some semblance to our earthly joys and pains. Seen from an occult angle, these hells and heavens are largely creations in the vital worlds. In other words, they do not have a permanent reality and are constructs of the human mind. Closer to earth they portray something of its impulse to joy and suffering. Or truer still, our earthly joys and sorrows are a pale reflection of these attics of the vital worlds, which cast some light of happiness and shadows of suffering upon our human days. In our present day material age, this impulse to immortality has taken a material form, for example, the efforts towards an indefinite prolongation of life in the body through physical means for achieving a genetic continuation rather than a social and cultural one, and most of all in the attempts towards achieving physical immortality. Whether such a mere physical prolongation of life without a commensurate transformation of our inner psychological existence will be a boon or a bane is anybody’s guess. But the efforts are there and are likely to go on until one day we are able to combine all these separate efforts into a single whole and achieve a simultaneous permanence of a perfected spiritual, psychological and physical existence.

But for now we labour and struggle under the yoke of suffering and impermanence and realise that there is a need to understand the real reason if we wish to find the true solution.

 

The Scientist’s View on Death and Immortality

Science has for long now been divorced from philosophy. Therefore it does not even raise the question of why. It simply seeks to find the how. And that it does with utmost perfection. But since the how of things is only a process subservient to something else that is deeper, all means to correct the process alone are likely to fail. Nature will devise fresh means for the final exit. Even if we were to block all material avenues of death by controlling each and every process, yet Nature will create new doors just as new diseases have replaced the old ones. In fact, the scientists have been trying to retard aging and to achieve immortality by various means since the last four decades or so. In its understanding of death science has moved on from cryonics[2] through errors of metabolism onto genetic manipulation. These are reasonable approaches but they touch only the fringe of the problem. Nevertheless, they indicate one thing, that the mind of the race is moving towards the conquest of disease and death. The imperfect means it employs now do not matter since the urge is true. Science will truly understand the secret of life and master it when it has understood how life becomes matter, and not as it is now striving to know the means and conditions under which matter becomes living. One has to reverse the view and see from top below to truly understand. Sooner or later, the biological sciences are bound to stumble into the territory of the occult much as physics stepped into the inner terrain unwittingly and thereby came closer to the hidden dimensions of matter. So too there are hidden dimensions of life that we need to understand and enter into for discovering the secret of prolonging youth and preventing decay.

Scientifically, the physical causes of death are the following:

Natural Aging

Aging is supposed to be regulated by the genetic makeup. It is scientifically believed that each species has a more or less fixed average lifespan. Normally in other mammals, this span is limited to the reproductive cycle except in man. Man’s lifespan is delinked to the reproductive age. Nevertheless it has so far been believed that the physical being of man is so constituted that after a certain age, a progressive decline will inevitably follow. There is a gradual decline in the mental capacities like memory, a decline in stamina, a decline in the capacities of the heart and lungs and other vital organs, a decline in physical prowess. Of course, there may be a gain in wisdom and experience of life. The genetic errors and the molecular toxins continue to multiply till the body reaches a point of no return. Death comes then as a natural, inevitable consequence. Recent research however refutes this over-simplistic theory. Efforts are on to reduce the toxic and oxidative damage of the body, to manipulate the genetic material, to replace the old and decrepit organs with new and fresh ones. Not only this, it is now common knowledge that regular and methodical physical exercises can delay the aging process. Though the role of medicines like Vitamin E in retarding aging is very doubtful, still such efforts of science are indeed laudable and in the right direction, so far as physical aging is concerned. If science can discover the material basis of aging and the ways and means to retard it, that would truly be some achievement. However aging is only one of the physical factors responsible for death. There are other factors as well.

Disease

Death due to diseases fall under a vast and diverse range. Broadly however, these are genetic disorders, infections, injuries, inflammations, poisoning from within (metabolic) or without, and degeneration. There are other causes as well. Here again efforts are on to prevent and cure them. The illnesses once considered incurable are coming closer to cure. Efforts are on to reduce the side effects of the drugs to a bare minimum by specific molecules. Even genetic diseases are coming in the range of manipulation. The problem however is that by its very nature the human body (like other physical bodies) is built on the basis of ignorance (that is a divisive mental consciousness). Therefore it has a strong sense of self and not-self. The result is a constant conflict with life around it. A body built of such a fabric cannot be immune from diseases. It may master one disease but fall prey to another. It may wipe out one illness but new ones will crop up, new diseases, new strains of germs more immune, new chemical and other hazards. The causes of illness are far more subtle and deeper and unless these are tackled there is little hope of making human life disease free, though we may replace the existing diseases with new ones.

“That death is caused by disease is a superficial explanation. How does disease come about? The Mother observes that the fact that one is ill shows that something is ill in his being. Disease and death are results of some disharmony in the being. Either the body fails to keep pace with the progress of the soul or it is unable to adapt itself to the universal movement. In either case, there is an inner disharmony and outer illness, disintegration and death follow as a consequence.”[3]

Thus the real causes of illness are subtle and connected to the imbalance between the life-force within the body and around it. A perfect balance is not possible so long as the body remains what it is. It is only a new body, built on the basis of oneness and of a truer substance that can be perfectly immune to diseases.

Accidents and Poisoning

It is obvious that life being what it is, an adventure in a dangerous charming world, there is little we can do by way of physical science to stop causes of accidents and poisoning except to grow the consciousness of the body. That indeed is the aim of all physical culture, to develop consciousness, mastery and balance and control. This would make the body more alert and conscious of any impending disaster thereby facilitating timely preventive action. If a rational physical culture can be combined with yogic processes which bring even the autonomic nervous system under control, then the mastery over diseases of diverse origin (including poisoning and degeneration and accidents and aging) can be near complete. Near, but not fully and not yet as a natural law of the body, for which the very body must undergo a great change, the kind envisaged through the Yoga of Supramental transformation. To this we can turn later. The Mother notes an interesting instance:

“Once, in Paris, I was crossing the Boulevard Saint Michel… I had decided that within a certain number of months I would achieve union with the psychic Presence, the inner Divine, and I no longer had any other thought, any other concern. I lived near the Luxembourg Gardens and every evening I used to walk there — but always deeply absorbed within. There is a kind of intersection there, and it is not a place to cross when one is deeply absorbed within; it was not very sensible. And so I was like that, I was walking, when I suddenly received a shock, as if I had received a blow, as if something had hit me, and I jumped back instinctively. And as soon as I had jumped back, a tram went past — it was the tram that I had felt at a little more than arm’s length. It had touched the aura, the aura of protection — it was very strong at that time, I was deeply immersed in occultism and I knew how to keep it — the aura of protection had been hit and that had literally thrown me backwards, as if I had received a physical shock. And what insults from the driver! I jumped back just in time and the tram went by.”[4]

Some blind people have been known to develop these subtle senses to help them compensate for the loss of sight. A methodical development of the subtle senses through yoga and becoming more and more conscious in our physical parts may well be one answer to the problem of accidents in times to come.


[1] The four ages of mankind – the satya, treta, dwapara and kali also referred to as the age of gold, silver, bronze and iron are ages when the Divine Energy works correspondingly at the spiritual, mental, vital and physical stuff of our collective being.

[2] Cryogenics is the science of preserving the dead body by freezing it below sub-zero temperatures through liquid nitrogen. It is believed that bodies thus preserved under controlled conditions will one day come back to life after 50-100 years. The experiments done in Russia attracted quite a few millionaires paying a fortune for waking up one day again to life. This is based on the finding that some extinct animals frozen below ice have been found to be basically intact with no deterioration in their anatomical structures. Others believe that the ice crystals formed due to sub-zero temperatures is bound to damage the cells.

[3] M.P. Pandit: Commentaries

[4] The Mother: CWM, Vol. 10, pp. 132-133.

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