Can the Dead Communicate?
From a Talk by Robert Crosbie
Theosophy, March, 1921
Since the forties of last century Spiritualists have affirmed the answer to this question, claiming sufficient evidence for the survival of intelligence after the state known as death. But Spiritual ism is not a new thing. Five hundred years or more ago, and, way back through every age of man, people have practised what is called Bhut worship—that is, worship of the “spirits” of the dead. Present day Spiritualism is but a repetition of a former error, even though its resurrection has been among those whom we would call of higher intelligence, “deep thinkers,” and men of science. The “communications” of today, just like those others all down the ages, bear nothing whatever in them of a truly spiritual nature; they are physical to the last degree, as the communications to Sir Oliver Lodge from his son, Raymond (through a medium, remember), bear witness. According to the latter’s statement, his life after death is very much like the one he has left behind: people there still drink, smoke cigars and, in fact (?) have cigars made for them in spirit-factories out of cigar stuff belonging to that state of matter. If this is a “spiritual” communication, anybody is welcome to take it as such, but it only goes to show that when we are out of physical life we are not necessarily in a spiritual state—as is the common supposition.
The question is, what do we learn from such “communications”? Is there anything or has there ever come anything from the plane of spiritualistic communication which has been of any benefit to mankind? Has anything from that source shown us the great purpose for which we are here? Does it tell us the meaning of life; why there appears to be so much injustice in the world? Does it tell us of wars that are to be, and how to prevent various great catastrophies from falling upon us? Does it inform us as to the connection or common cause of all the different beings in the world? Does it show us the nature of the becoming of beings who are greater than we are, as well as of beings lower than we are? Does it show why and how this solar system came into existence, and the laws which rule it? No. These are all matters on which we need knowledge; yet from so-called “spirits” we get all sorts of differing communications as a basis for reasoning about them. Those very differences should show us there is no source of knowledge in that quarter. ‘What we need is not what any “spirit” or anybody else says about anything, but rather, a reasonable, logical, just statement of laws which each and every person can test out for himself.
Let us consider the presentment of Theosophy as to how man has become what he now is—the real story of evolution, as gained by observation and experience in the vast ages that have passed. The basis underlying that evolution is the same in every human being, in every human heart, in every animal life, in every speck of matter—the same Spirit in all, the same One Life, the One Intelligence. All are rays from that One Life, that One Intelligence, and each expresses the possibilities existing in the Infinite Source. Differences in beings, in mankind, in various races, all mean degrees of intelligence; for each has the same power as the highest being and the same power as all beings; the use or employment of the power brings about an instrument to represent it more or less fully. Evolution is Spirit expressing itself, whether in this solar system, or in those which preceded it. Intelligence was behind the beginning of this planet in its nebulous condition, or fire mist; intelligence was behind the cooling and hardening processes through many, many ages. In all those states and in all those substances connected with this planet we also have existed as spiritual beings, nor are they absent from us now. At the end of every life, we go back through all those stages again to the highest one, and then descend again to the earthly stage, to reap the effects of causes set in motion by us before in other bodies. For there is no transforming power in death; as a tree falls, so must it lie. It is during the life-time that we must recognize and awaken our true natures. Death opens no door to knowledge.
We have proof of these states of consciousness right within our nightly experience. When we sleep—though we never sleep; only the body sleeps—the consciousness of this physical plane is gone from us. We have no idea of what is going on among our friends or relatives; we have not one slightest sensation of what is occurring anywhere on the earth while we are not using the body. Here is “death”—a smaller, temporary death—for the body. Then we pass into another state altogether, which we know as the dreaming state. The human soul goes on in dream, knowing oneself as the one there, seeing, smelling, hearing, talking, moving and doing all the other things which he does while in the body, awake. They used to say that if you took hold of a sleeper’s great toe he would talk to you. You would get a communication from a “spirit,” but what kind of a communication would it be! The man would tell you just what his own mind had worked with; he would not know in the dreaming state any more than his own personal thoughts, his own personal ideas and activities.
Applying this analogy to the time of death, we can see that in reality the time of death never comes. We finally give up this body and it goes back to the earth from which it was taken; but WE are not dead. We are still alive. We are still conscious on other planes and in other degrees, though we are not using the body nor the brain. But what kind of a consciousness, what kind of an intelligence, are we using? Just the same kind that we had when we were in the body. Our thoughts and feelings and desires go on acting for a time just as they did when we were using the body, because of the energy we had put into them. As there is no renewal of it, that energy wears itself out, and the man—as a real spiritual being—enters into quite another state, where no one on earth can disturb the action of his intelligence and the enjoyment of his bliss. How could that be a state of bliss if for one single instant it could be disturbed by the sorrows left behind on earth? Could there be a worse hell to some people than seeing from their “heaven” the appeasing of a husband’s sorrow and the place of mother taken by another? We should understand that when a human being passes out of life, he passes through something like the dream state—a mixed state—and then reaches the best state he is capable of expressing. A spiritual human being, it would be folly to imagine otherwise, could not be disturbed by earthly doings, for his mission on earth was fulfilled when he left it. But he would come back again in another body to take up another day’s work. Then, can we not see that all this idea of communication with so-called “spirits” who have left the body is nonsense?
Let us not imagine that there are no other beings besides men outside the body. Let us not imagine that dead men, or living dead men, are the only ones existent on the other side of this physical world. There are myriads of kinds of beings who do not live in bodies like ours but inhabit planes into which men pass from this earth. Contiguous to our plane all sorts of beings—sub-men, as well as human elementals, dwell. Can we imagine these are desirable communicants? And how can we be sure that any external communication is not connected with some devilish spirit who likes to pose, to take the cast-off clothing of man because of its at traction to his nature and desires, and exploit it to us? A great deal of knowledge is required to understand the real nature of man, nor is it arrived at by any kind of “communication” what ever, but by entering into our own natures. The Father in secret is within, not without, and everything we know or ever will know has to be known in ourselves and by ourselves. Never from other people, never from any other kind of spirit, will it be known. The Spirit of God within everyone—the Knower in everyone—is the last resort, the highest tribunal, the last eminence that we shall reach.
We are now traveling together through earth matter; when we leave the earth, we leave it, alone. So, when we travel through astral matter, we are not confabulating with the denizens of the astral plane but are moving along our own lines. The states after death are merely the effects of the life last lived. We step through from the place of our endeavor to reap what we have sown—first casting off the evil, and then experiencing the highest and best of all our aspirations. In all of these states each being realizes himself to be the same person; never for an instant does it enter one’s perception, or consciousness, that he is any other than the one who was on earth; nor does he know that any such thing as death has occurred at all, in his highest state he has with him all those whom he loved, and in just that condition which he would desire to have for them. He has his bliss, because the balance between cause and effect, even for his sufferings on earth, is struck straight and true for the spirit. All those states are within us, not outside; in those states, we meet first, last, and all the time Ourselves—first as we think we arc, and finally as we really are.
There is no possibility of any communication from a “dead” person to a living one, except perhaps in the very short period before the real individual has shaken off the ideas held during life. Sometimes then a very, very strong desire to impart something will effect some sort of communication, but after the great change known as “the second death” all connection with earth is broken off. A pure-minded living person by his aspiration and love may himself ascend to a heavenly place, and there seem to speak and feel and be with those he loved, but that speaking and feeling do not disturb the one there. The very essence of the spiritual state would exclude all disturbance, though we can obtain the kinds of feeling which exist in that condition. All that a medium obtains are simply reflections and repetitions of what has occurred, recorded in the nature of the sitter. A medium will describe the after death state of a person very much alive, which should show how subject to mistakes and errors a medium is. In the passive mediumistic state there is no control over anything; there is merely a channel provided through which certain things can come, or “leak.”
The majority of the “spiritual” communicants of the mediums are suicides and the victims of “accidental” death. For not always is there death when the body dies. Unless the death coincides with the end of the life-term, which is fixed at birth, a man is still tied to earth until the end of his term.
But there are cases of communications with beings in the world—almost within the realm of this world—beings not in physical bodies, who live and move on another plane of substance, far away from connection with some easy going medium. These beings are known as Nirmanakayas. They are men who have become perfected—who could if they chose reach up to and hold the very highest state of bliss, but who refuse that bliss because it would mean forever to forsake all chance of helping their fellow-men. They can, when the nature of the person is true and aspiring strongly, communicate, if it is necessary to help him. But there is no mistake about these communications. They are personal, meant for that one as direct help. It is the within which induces any outside help that we receive. It is a recognition of the spiritual nature of ourselves and all beings which makes the true condition. It is from the spiritual that all true strength comes. And it is for the perfection of humanity that all the Divine Incarnations have labored.