Death does not differ at all from life.
—Thales 640 B.C.
Ithink some have reached this realization, but there are numerous stages of mental development in regard to it. Let us go back to the time in our own lives when we believed that the experience of death brought a great change; that, when one who had been a peevish, irritable, hard-hearted person died, he was immediately transformed into a perfect being. All his sins had fallen from him, all his disagreeable manner; and his own family would not recognize him, could they have seen him in the flesh after this transformation. The funeral services told of virtues never dreamed of maybe by the deceased.
Another change of thought concerns the place to which we supposed we travelled after death, and a most unheard of condition in which we lived. We had no occupation but to sing psalms and carry palms. No object in this new life. Everything was finished: there was nothing to learn. The most stupid place it was that could be imagined. Our lessons learned when in the body were of no especial benefit to us, for our sins were all forgiven by Jesus Christ. We have all lived through this stage of belief. We will skip the intervening stages of growth, and see where we are today.
“Death does not differ at all from life.” This was written 640 B.C., before we had a Jesus Christ to wipe away our sins. Is it not a truth, “Death does not differ at all from life”? Then there is no “here” and “there,” no “now” and “then.” It is all here and now. We are in the universe. It is all one life.
For on this path each step that is taken is a step that is taken forever; each pain that is suffered on it is a pain which, if it is felt, is welcome because of the lesson that it gives. —Annie Besant
When we accept this statement as true, it seems that we are just beginning to live, just beginning to realize what is meant by life. Now we look at things from a universal standpoint instead of the limited point of view of “this life.” And “this life” was always such a limited, unsatisfactory one. Such a few years to live, and such hard lessons to learn, and all to no purpose.
But now “I stand amid the eternal ways.” I am cramped no longer: I am free. I have all eternity for my lessons; and, what is more, I am benefited and promoted by learning them. I have an object at last, an incentive to work. “Each step that is taken is taken forever.” To take a step does not mean every effort that we make in travelling this path, for an effort may not result in a step. But a “step taken” means everything that we overcome, that we master, that, we put under our feet, that once done is done for all time. We never have that lesson over again. Then can we not understand how “life” has a new meaning, and that difficulties which were unbearable because of our cramped idea of life now become a joy to us; and we are really glad to meet new experiences and adjust ourselves, learn our lessons perfectly and pass on to other lessons, knowing that “every step taken” pushes us into a larger realization of life? We have the power within ourselves: no one can hinder or limit us in our progress.
The one great fear is the fear of death, which we have felt meant separation. There is no separation.
Let us cultivate these two thoughts. There is but one life. There is no separation.
“Ho, ye who suffer! Know ye suffer from yourselves. None else compels: none other holds you that ye live and die.”