Perennialist Teachings Concerning Death and Rebirth
Perennialist Teachings Concerning Death and Rebirth
Perennialist Teachings Concerning Death and Rebirth

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  Philosophy Overcomes Propaganda The Higher Mysteries   Communing With Kindred Souls
  Soul Apart From Body Esoteric Christianity   Plato: Learning to Leave the Body

Origen, an Esoteric Christian teacher who taught his students how to 'die
  In this essay we will explore the esoteric Perennialist teachings concerning spiritual death and rebirth. As is the case with all esoteric teachings, only tested initiates have a genuine interest in advanced teachings and can therefore appreciate their value. To the merely curious or the scholastic, advanced teachings seem commonplace and lackluster.

  One of the most important capabilities we must attain is to take the words of Perennialist teachers seriously and literally, not dismiss them as mere metaphors or pleasantries of moral uplift. All teachings by Perennialist teachers such as Hermes, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Jesus, Origen, Iamblicus--and all others--are to be taken literally: We must die to this terrestrial life and be reborn in the Higher Eternal Life.

Plato's Conception of Philosophy as the Practice of Death and Rebirth

  In his Phaedo, Socrates (Plato) reveals the secret nature of philosophia as spiritual death and rebirth.

"Philosophy is actually the release of the soul from the body--which in the philosophers' special language is called death. Achieving release from the body, the soul communes with Beauty, Goodness, and Justice in the higher realm of Divine Ideas."

"I hold that the true votary of philosophy is likely to be misunderstood by other men; they do not perceive that his whole practice is of death and dying.  . . .   "When the soul exists in herself, and is released from the body and the body is released from the soul--death, surely, is nothing else than this.  . . .  In matters of this sort philosophers, above all other men, may be observed in every sort of way to dissever the soul from its communion with the body.  . . .

"When does the soul attain truth?  . . .  Must not true existence be revealed to her in contemplation, if at all?  . . . And contemplation is best when the mind is gathered into herself and none of these things trouble her--neither sounds nor sights nor pain nor any pleasure--when she takes leave of the body, and has as little as possible to do with it, when she has no bodily sense or desire, but is aspiring after true being.  . . .

"If we would have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit of the body--the soul in herself must behold things in themselves; and then we shall attain the wisdom which we desire, and of which we say that we are lovers.  . . .

"True philosophers. . . are always occupied in the practice of dying.  . . ."

  If we take that last statement seriously, we're sure to experience psychic upheaval. Philosophia is the practice of dying!

  One of the things which makes it difficult to understand this teaching is that it occurs in the context of Socrates' own experience of final physical death. the death of SocratesSo it's easy to think that when Socrates speaks of death, he means only the cessation of bodily functions.

  But as with all esoteric Perennialist teachings, when interpreted in an unexamined manner, using commonplace meanings, it doesn't make sense. It would be absurd for Socrates to say that seekers of wisdom are always occupied in the practice of dying if what he means by dying is physical death.

  What Plato is referring to is the teaching about "dying before you die," which is one of the central concepts of the Perennial Tradition. Philosophia, the love of and the search for wisdom, is the actual practice of learning to leave the physical body and live in the soul, the spiritual body.

This dying  Plato refers to is not a simple concept to understand or a capability easily attained, since it contains several levels of meaning and practice. As a preparatory discipline, authentic dying consists in giving up those things which enchain the soul to the body, divide its interests, and deflect it on the road to Reality--whether these are possessions, habits, friends, interests, hatreds, or desires. Perennialists through the centuries have described how they found it necessary to die to self-love and to all the foolish interests and concerns in which their surface consciousness was steeped. They called this purgation or mortification and it is the first phase of the transmutation 1 and metamorphosis 2 process, at times delineated in the Perennial Tradition as palingenesis. 3

  But when we come to the deeper meanings and practices embodied in Plato's teaching concerning death and rebirth, it becomes clear that we are dealing with a highly complex--and potentially dangerous--teaching.

"Plato said: 'When freed from my body I beheld luminous spheres.' . . .   Of himself, Plato said that in certain of his spiritual conditions he would shed his body and become free from matter. Then he would see light and splendors within his essence. He would ascend to that all-encompassing divine cause, and would seem to be located and suspended in it, beholding a mighty light in that lofty and divine place."

Shihab al-Din al-Suhrawardi, The Wisdom of Illuminism

Spiritual Death and Rebirth Within Esoteric Christianity

  That Jesus worked within the Perennialist tradition can be deduced from the canonical New Testament itself.
  "There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
  Those who followed the genuine teaching of Jesus--as distinct from those who created a new, state-supported ecclesiastical tyranny--understood Jesus as one of a long line of savants who initiated chosen disciples into the mystery of a mystical death and rebirth of the soul into a Higher Consciousness along the same lines as had Plato. The Perennialist teachers in the period following Jesus understood his true teaching and did not see him as a deity, but as a supremely advanced illuminate.

  The underlying essence of Jesus' teaching was precisely what Hermes and Plato had taught. Many of the genuine followers of Jesus' teachings, such as Clement of Alexandria and Origen, were profoundly influenced by Plato's mystical concepts. It would be correct to say that they were as much Platonists as Christians.

"Leave the senses of the body idle, and the birth of divinity will begin."

Corpus Hermeticum XIII

Spiritual rebirth baptism

Spiritual Rebirth an exact science

Alchemy of Spiritual Death and Rebirth




Communing With Higher Beings

Envisioning Communion With Higher Beings

      "The Truth is yourself, but not your mere bodily self,
      Your real self is higher than 'you' and 'me.'
      This visible 'you' which you fancy to be yourself
      Is limited in place, the real 'you' is not limited.
      Why, O pearl, linger you trembling in your shell?
      Esteem not yourself mere sugar-cane, but real sugar.
      This outward 'you' is foreign to your real 'you;'
      Cling to your real self, quit this dual self."
Rumi, The Mathnavi

  Human spiritual death and rebirth must be genuinely and eagerly desired by the person seeking transformation. If the individual doesn't quest for this experience of dying and transmutation, he will never even hear of it, work to understand it intellectually, or pursue it experientially. The desiring and the questing of a human for transformation are analogous to the caterpillar's natural evolution to the point of metamorphosis, except that the caterpillar's evolutionary preparedness does not involve its will but is an automatically occurring, instinctual effect.

     A person's working to arrive at the stage of desiring spiritual death and rebirth is an absolutely essential prerequisite for transformation. Unless the individual pushes himself to that stage of aspiration and pursuance he is not developed--in his essence--to the point of being able to meet a teacher or come into contact with a genuine teaching. Until that time, he is like an unevolved caterpillar and his transformation cannot be "forced" by anyone. Counterfeit, unscrupulous, ignorant gurus may try to "blow their breath" on him to hurry up his development, but it will have the same effect that Zorba experienced: a "dead" organism.

     The desire for death and transmutation must be genuine, not "forced" by the individual in the sense of pretending that he is eager for the experience of metamorphosis when in fact he is only idly curious. True aspiration and pursuance are essential prerequisites. The psychic experience of transmutation is perilous, potentially injurious to the unevolved pretender.

     Physical death is merely one of those natural experiences of moving beyond an old state of existence to a new form of being. On the spiritual path, the quest for death and rebirth is continuous, with old "forms" being left behind as new understandings, new realizations are sought and attained ceaselessly.

  As we've seen, almost all persons possess an inbred proclivity toward interpreting everything they see as "spiritual" in a metaphorical or non-litteral manner. In this essay, we're exploring how to attain the actual capability of "dying" to our ordinary, mortal life and the literal achievement of an experiential spiritual rebirh in the Higher, Eternal supersensible realm.

  We will utilize Betty White's description of her gradual realization of death to mortal life and her actual, literal entry into a Higher Life to assist us in our personal effort to awaken the senses of our spiritual body within the experience-realm of the Higher World.

"Each of us occupies not only the physical body we see, but a second or spiritual body. This latter will continue to contain us after physical death. Though imperceptible to our ordinary senses, the spiritual body is no vague wraith of insubstantial shadow. It is perfectly real, made of definite substance, and will function in a world that corresponds to it. That world also is of definite substance."

Betty White,
Across the Unknown
Physical body Spiritual body

      We develop a definite life within the Supersensible Realm by recognizing that we're entering a new life like any infant having just experienced birth. We must struggle for conscious awareness and understanding, working to conquer the wilderness of lack of comprehension and guarding against self-delusion. Functioning as a half-conscious newborn thing, we begin to gain a sense of spiritual reality; we begin to develop the new senses of our spiritual body. Like an earthly baby, we work at activating our new potentialities. As we gain awareness of the spiritual domain, it's at first so subtle and so unaccustomed that it seems to be a groping for the intangible and the unattainable. The first actual experience of the spiritual domain grows in us from a very subtle beginning, then it slowly begins to reach our waking consciousness. As we gain a stabilized wider consciousness we gradually activate the organs of our spiritual body which reveal a transcendent world.

"I just work hard, and then I find I am raised up somehow to a superstate, and am in touch with something I did not have before; and I see it vaguely and look back and tell you about it. But I do it, whatever I'm at. That's why I work so hard and keep quiet so long. I'm gaining a sense of reality, experiencing, doing; instead of just reflecting. That means I've got actually to work in this living beyondness and absorb into the unconscious, as you call it, until I have something to produce in the conscious.

"The bigness of its possibilities are untranslatable. It is as impossible to put them into words as it is to put the ocean in a bucket. Nevertheless, I must bring back some of it in some fashion. If I went on a visit and had a great experience, I'd try to tell you about it. . . ."
"INVISIBLE: This control, this acquisition of raised vibrations - whatever you choose to call it - is absolutely within the desire of the individual. If you really want it, nothing from the outside can more than momentarily distract. It is a thing that one builds or does not build, according to his caliber."

"This exit into greater life is the crowning glory of our existence here. It means transfiguration into an electrified and eternal being. I've got to tell you of it by degrees, because the exit is through the doors of self.

"Now stepping outside oneself actually means the practice of making one's own in imagination the conditions of the hour of death. . . .

"Suppose the day came for the Great Adventure of departing hence. Even a picnic or a vacation or a business trip demands some preparation. One is apt to take this tremendous step quite suddenly. What is it going to be like? Why turn our imaginations away from it so piously - or is it cowardly? Why not entertain ourselves with the buoyancy of anticipation? It is quite as speculative an amusement as contemplating a trip to Thibet, or reading what astronomers say about Mars, or any other pet flight of fancy. This has the advantage that we are actually dated up for it.

"Children play beautiful games of expanding consciousness, supposing giants and mighty superlatives. I'm getting just such a cheerful imaginative picture of when we depart hence. It is as though everything had been taken from me but the residue of me, such as would remain if I were to die now. It's all I've got to orient me in this new world in which I am just an embryonic being. Every circumstance of life is gone. I am as unconscious of my body as ever I could possibly be. The merest shadow of its existence is on me.

Betty White, Across the Unknown

  The aspirant's consciousness, withdrawn from externals, the Perennialist teacher now has him focus upon his mind's internal content. The state of consciousness into which the Perennialist teacher induces the aspirant lays open the most secret recesses of the human psyche. We are ordinarily shielded from these powerful inner forces by the grossness of our sense-bound mind. The murk and fantasies of the initiate's psychical regions intervene between his mind and the Higher Consciousness to which he aspires.

"The eternal self must be developed as a fit controlling power. In trying to act directly on the highest--call it organ--possessed by man, his eternal spirit, we are constantly interfered with by the more developed, the more easily developed side of him which clamors, insists on translating every instinct into its own language and limiting it to its own experience and comprehension; insists we shall go no farther than the facile ready-made symbols its world education sanctions. We have to ignore it as much as possible, keeping it quiet by systematically baffling its efforts at restriction. Meanwhile, under this anaesthetic we work directly, stimulating the enduring part, trying to develop it. It should be the dominating part of man. . . .

"The way of our senses is first of all to see clearly what we are going to strive for. But the way of the perception of the spirit, the way they [invisible intelligences] go at things, is first of all always a struggle toward a clear perception of what has been but dimly sensed. What they struggle for is only seen clearly after it is attained. Each attainment then provides the strength for further effort toward something again dimly sensed. "Never mind your clarity of perception of it . . . that necessarily comes after you have maintained conditions for a long enough time to establish them."

Betty White, The Road I Know

The Leap Into Higher Consciousness

     As illustrated in the image above, we must leave our bodies and "levitate" into higher consciousness.

"You cannot connect up in an unbroken series of steps with what you know. This reality is not on the outskirts; a gap must be bridged. . . . Hurl yourself into space, as it were."

  This is a partial description of how Betty achieved--and how we might achieve--a higher trance state and gain entrance into higher consciousness. The actual initiation into the higher trance state must occur exclusively within the interaction between a Perennialist savant (living or discarnate) and a thoroughly prepared and tested aspirant.

  If we develop a means of moving to that higher realm, we then work at familiarizing ourselves with this new domain of spiritual substance, a new world of connective consciousness and unity.

  Finally, the entire process is completed by bringing our understanding of the spiritual realm back to the physical world and manifesting this knowledge in practical acts of inspiration and service.

"Anything acquired from the spiritual, anything whatever, must ultimately be brought to the physical and amalgamated with it, before the process is complete. . . .

"Desire to receive is but half the span of the bridge. . . Without the completion of this work you will have but struggled in vain; because the reason for its being is that, when finished, something may pass over it from the free field of spiritual perception to the congested consciousness of the world."

Betty White, Across the Unknown

"One can develop to the point that one can leave one's physical form whenever one wants and go to the world of Divine Majesty, where one's ascent reaches the highest horizons. . . . Then, whenever one looks at one's essence one delights because one sees the light of God radiating upon oneself."

Shihab al-Din al-Suhrawardi, The Mystical and Visionary Treatises

Spiritual Death and Rebirth Exercise

    I am not compelled to experience my existence in the ordinary manner; I can experience my being in an extra-ordinary way through locating my consciousness in and identifying with my soul: deliberately feeling, sensing, and thinking in a new manner.

    I am making a deliberate effort to feel, sense, and think in this new manner.

    I am my soul.

    Through these theurgic affirmations, my soul is attaining the ability to realize a completely new kind of experience.

    I realize that I am not confronting the sense world in the ordinary manner.

    I am not within the ordinary sense world but actually living in a new inner world of soul experience.

    Previously, I had habitually experienced my consciousness through my senses and my thoughts.

    I had been incapable of conceiving of a supersensible life lived through consciousness of my soul.

    As a child must learn to experience the ordinary sense world, I am teaching myself to conceive of and experience a new supersensible life of the soul.

    I am deliberately feeling, sensing, and thinking in a new manner.

    I am my soul.

"This overcoming of all the usual barriers between the individual and the Absolute is the great mystic achievement. In mystic states we both become one with the Absolute and we become aware of our oneness. This is the everlasting and triumphant mystical tradition, hardly altered by differences of clime or creed. In Hinduism, in Neoplatonism, in Sufism, in Christian Mysticism, in Whitmanism, we find the same recurring note, so that there is about the mystical utterances an eternal unanimity which ought to make a critic stop and think, and which brings it about that the mystical classics have, as has been said, neither birthday nor native land. Perpetually telling of the unity of man with God, their speech antedates languages, and they do not grow old."

William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience


1 Transmutation: a change or alteration in form, appearance, or nature to a higher form

2 Metamorphisis: a change of physical form, structure, or substance by spiritual means; a marked and more or less abrupt change in the form or structure of an animal occurring subsequent to birth

3 The Greek word Palingenesis is a compound which means "coming again into being," or "becoming again." The meaning attached to this word is quite specific, although having a wide and general application. The idea included in it may be illustrated, as is found in the philosophical literature of the ancients who lived around the Mediterranean Sea, by the example of the oak which produces its seed, the acorn, the acorn in its turn producing a new oak containing the same life that was passed on to it from the mother oak--or the father oak. This transmission of an identic life in cyclical recurring phases is the specific meaning of the word palingenesis. Thus the thought is different from the respective ideas contained in the other words connected with the doctrine of reimbodiment. Perhaps another way of stating the specific meaning would be by saying that palingenesis signifies the continuous transmission of an identic life producing at each transformation a new manifestation, these several embodiments being in each case a palingenesis or "new becoming" of the same life-stream. Its specific meaning is quite different from that embodied in the word transmigration.