By Harvey Green
This is Part 1 of a 3-part series of articles by longtime Edgar Cayce researcher and an A.R.E. Board member, Harvey A. Green, who looks at the broad spectrum of the soul’s existence using the Cayce readings, as well as references from Rudolf Steiner, Emanuel Swedenborg, and others to describe the realms after death and the transcendency of the soul and spirit. As the author presents this awesome sweep of the soul’s experience after death, he covers the movement of the soul through death and into the higher levels of the afterlife. Harvey Green has been involved with the Cayce material since the early 1970s. Harvey Green has written several books including: (1) Life and Death: The Pilgrimage of the Soul, (2) Voyage through Eternity, and (3) Letters to His Beloved. The following is an excerpt of his book, Life and Death: The Pilgrimage of the Soul which is his analysis of what happens after death using the important metaphysical knowledge of others.
Table of Contents
- The material land
- Immediately after death
- The earthbound realm
- Outer darkness
- The borderland
It cannot be stated too often that the spiritual perspective is inward and not outward. Once we leave the physical realm we will view reality inwardly and not outwardly. All that we have placed inside ourselves will act as a lens, a filter. All that we see will be seen through and be distorted by these things we have stored within ourselves. This is why it is important to remove as much clutter as possible so as not to obscure our reality. The dimensions which immediately surround the earth have been called the mental realms by both Edgar Cayce and Rudolf Steiner. It is here we face, we inhabit, we experience what we have built into our minds as a result of our activities. It is in the mental realms where our minds embody our souls. In this reality we do not leave behind the attitudes we held in the earth but we inhabit them. This was illustrated many times in the Cayce discourses when he said that we not only take our attitudes with us into death, but we inhabit them. They will, however, become much, much larger in death, much harder to bear, with no way to set them aside easily.
In essence, after death, Steiner said we expand into the planetary spheres. The moral disposition we carry over with us allows or prevents us from moving on in a conscious manner. After this experience, we fall asleep and the cosmic forces act directly upon us preparing us for the next earthly experience. Our cosmic sleep regenerates us. There comes a time when the desire to reincarnate starts to work on us. When that happens, we begin the process of going back through the planetary spheres picking up what we will need from each in order to fulfill our purpose in the next earth life. The “soul kernel” is carried in to the embryo, forgets the whole trip and is born again on earth.
In the end, our transition after death is like stepping into our own thoughts where we have existed all along. This is an inward step, so small, so natural; yet from a material perspective it is so abrupt, and so extreme. At the moment of change some of us are completely aware of what is happening, some of us only partly aware, and yet others totally unaware. Ultimately we meet and greet our own death with the same awareness and attention to detail we gave to our experiences in life.
Since taking leave of the earth realm, we have been traveling throughout many realms of reality. In each dimension we experienced that which was helpful, in some we reviewed and evaluated our experiences, but in all we were resuscitated. The realms in which we made our temporary homes and the order in which we experienced them were exactly what we needed to complete our earthly experience, to be refreshed, renewed, and prepared for our next material adventure. Each of the realms we visited were focal points from which certain basic qualities of our being emanate. We not only worked in the unique surroundings, but we mixed with the essence of each quality of which each realm was comprised. These qualities are not external things to which we responded, but they are what we are.
The following discussion is not meant to promote an attachment to the wonder or splendor of any particular dimension of reality. All that will be given is for the better understanding of who we really are. We are the sum total of all of our experiences from the very foundations of our beginning up until this moment.
Each experience is but another thread woven into that fabric of which we are composed. No realm is any more important than another, nor is our habitation or incarnation into any realm more important than any other. Our experiences in reality are continuous and although certain happenings may seem more momentous than others, it is the accumulation of what we do with creation which is our quest. For it is only in that accumulation of experiencing the various expressions of our God that we truly fulfill our destiny. It is important to note that we carry all of our experiences into each dimension because we are the focal point of their accumulation. Further, although each dimension operates under different sets of basic laws, they are but variations of laws we already know. There is one Creator, one set of principles of life we call laws, and one direction in which to grow. The infinite variety in creation is largely due to the limitless ways in which the same things may be manifest. If we would just watch the patterns of what we know unfold before us, we would see ever so clearly the most important aspects of what seems both behind and ahead of us.
- The material land
When in the earth, we live simultaneously in all regions of the soul and spirit lands. We are not aware of our presence in other realms at the same time as we are embodied in the earth, but our lack of cognizance does not in any way inhibit our multi-presence. It is from the earth that our desires, our ambitions, and what we do about them sends waves of life resonating through all regions of the soul and spirit lands. As there is no time and space outside of the material universe, we have ample opportunity to experience these waves of our own soulness when we arrive in the regions where they are manifest. From the soul and spirit regions we draw life as well as send it; here we experience ourselves as well as all of life.
Life in the earth is not only experiencing ourselves, within the confines of universal laws, but it is done in a much more focused fashion. As we live in the earth realm we are at the same time building conditions in succeeding realms. The building process in materiality is therefore multidimensional. The Edgar Cayce source expressed it best in discourse 5749-3 when the entranced psychic stated, “.. with error entered that as called death, which is only a transition or through God’s other door into that realm where the entity has built, in its manifestations as related to the knowledge and activity respecting the law of the universal influence.”
As all of life is a gradual metamorphosis, so is that period of transition we call dying. From a physical perspective we might say one was alive one moment and gone the next. We may comment that death came without warning. Because we see only those external happenings which are perceptible to the physical senses, we often assume there was no activity outside of this perspective. As we grow in stages from infancy to maturity, we likewise grow from life in material realms to life in spiritual dimensions. The pattern here is ever the same: We do not instantly arrive at, occupy, or depart from any condition in reality.
Dying is a process which begins before the soul takes leave of the body and in fact begins before any illness, accident, or happening which may cause physical death. In that rest we call sleep, the soul departs and prepares for the transition it is moving toward. How far in advance of our departure do we begin our preparations? In a sense, one is preparing for death through all of life. Again, let us refer to the Cayce work and psychic discourse 5488-1 which states, “.. in the midst of life one is in the midst of death, for death is but the beginning of life, as life is but the beginning of an opportunity to manifest that as is innately built within the soul of an individual itself.
- Immediately after death
There is a definite happening at that point we call death, the least of which is the falling away of the physical body. Our awareness, emotions, memories, likes, dislikes, desires, and fears all live on within us. We have tried to make a case thus far to illustrate that our consciousness more than our physical senses is what we are. We have used materiality but we are not material.
Our material experiences are to our soul what food is to our bodies. The memories, the relationships, the tastes of life are all carried over unadulterated in the first stage of death but as the digestive process continues they lose their prominence and our attention turns to other things.
In the first stage following physical death we find ourselves in the realm which is made of and held together by the mental activity of life in materiality. Here, in what we will call the nearest reaches of what Cayce termed the borderland, life is bigger than life. It is a narrow reality bordered on one side by a gradual density and on the other by a likewise gradual quickening or elevation. It is the state occupied by Dr. George Ritchie, which he describes in his book, My Life After Dying. Further, it is the divide between life in the earth and life in the mental realms. This divide is in fact that part of the mental realm completely overlapped by the material realm. One can move into closer proximity to the earth and become so fixed by desire, as Ritchie observed, that one is unable to extricate oneself. One may move toward a quickening into finer realms or one may slide into one of the densest realms we call “outer darkness.”
- The earthbound realm
Many people who die surely do not do so willingly. For some, their deaths, like their lives, are rebellious and their minds are fixed on materiality. Before gaining a cognizance of what and where they are, they try to fly on the wings of their misguided values back into the density of materiality. One thing, however, is amiss; they are not material. As they go about trying to function, the newly discarnate entities do not understand why they cannot communicate with others; as a result, they are gripped by fear. The Cayce discourses contain much material on this state of confusion. Some think they have lost their minds, others think those around them have gone mad, and others adapt in the world of semi-reality. They do encounter objects that are manifestations of thought but they have no way of separating those objects from denser ones with which they cannot interact. This extreme edge of the mental realm is so close to materiality that it intertwines with it at every turn. The fact is that interaction with mental counterparts of material activity that exist in this stage of consciousness is so like materiality, so closely conjoined to the physical, that the lost soul cannot tell where one stops and the other begins. This confusion, or blurring of divisions, lends credence to the perception that the troubled soul is in the same physical state it held while embodied in the earth.
It is natural to ask why these souls who make their home at the edge of the borderland do not realize they have died and passed on to another reality. How often do dreamers realize they are dreaming even though their activities are not what one would consider consistent with waking reality?
Some souls adjust to this confusion and as a consequence, are tied to the earth for years. They derive their satisfaction by mingling with those forces, those energies which are given off from life in material realms. They live vicariously, as Dr. Ritchie noted, in the emotions and mental activities of those who are in the earth realm.
Those souls who have trapped themselves in this region endlessly try to influence matters in the earth realm. Some are from time to time successful as they mix with thought patterns emanating from the earth realm and some are not. Some souls have even become self-destructive enough as to occupy or possess the body of a material human being who has, by its own uncoordinated activities, separated its mental from its physical forces.
God and all of creation personify patience and await those souls turning back to the road they began to travel after awakening in the borderland. To assist their return, there are countless ministers of mercy all about them in their existence in the borderland. These who would help them need only for them to will that help, for us to let go of their fixation on materiality; then they will set their shaky feet on the path they must follow.
- Outer darkness
Let us now take a detour into a yet denser reality so we can better understand another of our options upon awakening in the borderland. There are some of us who have lived our lives in such a way that we have turned completely within ourselves. We have blocked out all love, all warmth, and all spirit from our daily doings; we have created a void within and around ourselves. We chose to deny our responsibilities to others and to ourselves; we choose ourselves at all cost. Upon passing on, before we become conscious that we have entered the borderland, we swiftly move on to that realm to which our life choices in the earth resonate. This region is void of love, life, and light, void of all of those things we cast out from our lives in the earth. The region in which we find ourselves is approximately our wish come true. We are truly alone, with ourselves, within ourselves; it is pain beyond pain for us. Edgar Cayce described this region of void as “outer darkness.” The name of this dimension describes it very accurately, as we find no love, hope, friendship, kindness, benevolence, or any of what we have come to know as human qualities. Instead there is nothing but ourselves, and it is unbearable. In the absence of that which we term “fruits of the spirit” truth, love, patience, gentleness, kindness, long-suffering, and brotherly love we fill the void with an irrational and unbelievable amount of pain and fear. It is so dark in the realm of outer darkness that the dark hurts and panic grips us without our knowing why. Like our material universe, outer darkness seems endless and without any meaningful boundaries. There is nowhere we can go to escape the agony and horror which fills almost every part of our being, and the desire to flee consumes us. The farther and faster we travel through this realm the greater the feeling that it is endless. Even outer darkness has degrees, and it is darker and denser at the center than at its outer fringes. Helen Greaves describes these degrees as hells. Likewise, this is the hell described by Emanuel Swedenborg in his classic book Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell From Things Heard and Seen. The closer we are to the outer edges, the more interaction there is with others in the realm, while the closer to the center we find ourselves, the darker and more painful we find the solitude. One who finds himself in outer darkness cannot move toward the center by force of his own motion. The center represents levels of reality and are not linear. One cannot travel across this dimension; one must grow through the levels of this realm.
Outer darkness is not one of those realms which must be overcome in stages, although we can choose that method of growth. One may find himself on a particular level after death that most closely corresponds to his activity and the degree of absence of those fruits of the spirit in his life, and there is no need to experience other levels here. No level of outer darkness is without pain and fear, but, as we have noted, the very center is the most agonizing. In the reality we call outer darkness, we have very little memory of our earthly lives. We remember little, if anything, of our earthly relationships, and we are so absorbed in pain and fear that our suffering exacts every last ounce of our attention.
This lower region of outer darkness is not a punishment. It is a region which operates lawfully for the benefit of those agonized souls. This region is not a realm which was created for any soul to experience, but one which came about as a consequence of the negative activity of souls in creation. So great has been the desire for self, so monumental across time and space has been the selfishness of some of God’s creatures, that this realm is the creation or manifestation of their own collective activities. Outer darkness and the reality with which it is associated were created and are held in place by collective self-interest.
As noted previously, universal law is perfect and works for the benefit of all, all of the time. An excellent example of the law of grace is that no evil, no negativity, whether single or collective in nature, exists without a way of redemption being simultaneously imprinted by the Creative Forces throughout its fiber.
Nowhere is it more obvious than in the realm of outer darkness that no one needs to remain here beyond one’s own will to do so. We might conjecture that no one wishes to suffer such misery but that simply is not so. We constantly do things on the earth realm that cause us difficulty, unhappiness, pain, and illness. We do not wish to suffer the discomfort of our actions, but this does not keep us from those activities. In the earth realm, as in spiritual realms, until we turn our attention from ourselves, we cannot in any way change our estate.
The occupants of outer darkness are there for various lengths of earth time. It is peculiar to discuss length of residence by a measure which does not exist in that dimension. For most of us it is very difficult to relate to a timeless condition, so the use of finite terms helps us to better understand. Some residents feel they have been in outer darkness for weeks or months, others for eons. No doubt, all are correct in their assessment of length of time spent in this realm. In a reality of pain and torment, even a moment can seem like an eternity and there is no way to judge length of stay until after one has long departed. Doubtless, some souls have occupied outer darkness for what we would measure as hundreds, even thousands of years. But it is more likely that most stay for a considerably shorter period. It is not possible for souls to be forever confined to outer darkness since, in such a case, there would be no hope of redemption. Further, Swedenborg noted in his book, Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell from Things Heard and Seen, that it is God who keeps the balance in the realm of outer darkness so that all things would not be destroyed. Again, outer darkness is not a punishment, rather it is the ultimate manifestation of our own undoing, and he who is Mercy would never abandon us to such spiritual agony.
- The borderland
Let us return our attention to the realm that we call the “borderland”. The borderland is the outer edge of the mental realms overlapping materiality. All that we experience in materiality is manifest in its purity in the mental realms. When one is in any of the mental realms, reality seems so much purer, so much more real. One arriving here would become aware that there has definitely been a change, an awakening. What we would perceive as our senses in this realm would seem infinitely sharper, and we would be much more sensitive. All that is material is but an expression of what is manifest in the mental realms. So here we find ourselves with the authentic original and not the copy. As we look around and absorb our surroundings, we feel as though we have just emerged from a haze. We do not see anything we did not see on earth and everything is quite familiar. There are those around us that we know. Some may have been friends or relatives who passed on before us, and others may be souls that do not incarnate with us but with whom we shared a genuine connection. We do not notice all of the souls around us, only those for whom we have sympathy or have shared experiences.
We notice that sleeping and waking seem to be faculties still with us, as Ruth Mattson Taylor noted. We feel that we have just wakened, and we go through periods of what appear to us to be states of awake and asleep. Certainly, we do not need sleep outside of the earth realm. But we are accustomed to periods of rest and seize the opportunity when first entering the mental realms. Gradually this cycle of sleep and work leaves us. But we do find periods of refreshment akin to rest. We have a major adjustment to make and all of those we meet in the borderland are there to help us. In every realm in which we find ourselves between lives on earth, there are those who are resident in those dimensions, except for those in the borderland. This state of reality is unique in that it is a transient state for all who inhabit it. There are those souls and beings who choose to work for the betterment of souls in the borderland, but they are visitors there, not residents.
In the borderland is where we review in detail the life just lived in the earth realm. We see our lives with a clarity obscured from us when we were in the earth realm. We see the potential, the ultimate possibilities of all the choices we didn’t make. Although this is an emotional experience, Steiner notes that we are protected by those beings around us from immersion in our own emotions and from becoming lost. There is not one review, but several; each exacts yet another focus. Although we are free from the fetters of time and space, we still take this review process gradually so that we are not overcome and immobilized. Part and parcel to this review, a healing takes place. As the scars left on the mind become evident, a healing takes place so that the soul will be able to move on. Now we take note of great Beings of Light for the first time, and we are struck by how we recognize them. There is total familiarity and the realization of their always having been with us, whether before, during, or after our earth life.