A Shortened version of
To Those Who Mourn by C. W. Leadbeater
Anand Gholap Theosophical Institute 2009
to full pdf version)
Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be
Never was time it was not; End and Beginning are dreams!
Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit
Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house
of it seems!
--Sir Edwin Arnold
1. Friend: You have lost by death one whom
you loved dearly, one who perhaps was all the world to you;
and so to you that world seems empty, and life no longer
worth the living. …Your grief is aggravated by your
uncertainty as to the present condition of your beloved;
you feel that he has gone, you know not where.
2. Your feeling is most natural; I, who write, understand
3. You say: "How can there be relief or hope for me?"
4. There is the hope of relief for you because your sorrow
is founded in misapprehension; you are grieving for something
which has not really happened. When you understand the facts
you will cease to grieve.
5. You answer: "My loss is a fact. How can you help
me, unless indeed you give me back my dead?"
6 Bear with me for a while, and try to grasp three main
propositions, which I am about to put before you.
7. Your loss is only an apparent fact, apparent from your
point of view.
8. You need be under no uneasiness or uncertainty with regard
to the condition of your loved one, for the life after death
is no longer a mystery. The world beyond the grave exists
under the same natural laws as this which we know, and has
been explored and examined with scientific accuracy.
9. You must not mourn, for your mourning does harm to your
10. The accepted view of your time is not based upon any
definite knowledge; it is mere hearsay.
11. What you call death is the laying aside of a worn-out
garment, and it is no more the end of the man than it is
the end of you when you remove your overcoat.
12. Try to grasp the fact that you are an immortal being,
immortal because you are divine in essence, because you
are a spark from God's own Fire; that you lived for ages
before you put on this vesture that you call a body, and
that you will live for ages after it has crumbled into dust.
13. What you have been thinking of as your life is in truth
only one day of your life as a soul, and the same is true
of your beloved.
14. Yet you must not therefore think of him as a mere bodiless
breath. As St Paul said long ago: "There is a natural
body, and there is a spiritual body."
15. It is not only at what you call death that you doff
that overcoat of dense matter; every night when you go to
sleep you slip it off for awhile, and roam about the world
in your spiritual body, invisible as far as this dense world
is concerned, but clearly visible to those friends who happen
to be using their spiritual bodies at the same time. For
each body sees only that which is on its own level; your
physical body sees only other physical bodies.
16. Many theories have been current as to the life after
death, most of them based upon misunderstandings of ancient
scriptures. At one time the horrible dogma of what was called
everlasting punishment was almost universally accepted in
Europe, though none but the hopelessly ignorant believe
it now. It was based upon a mistranslation of certain words
attributed to Christ, and it was maintained by the mediaeval
monks as a convenient bogey with which to frighten the ignorant
masses into well-doing. Those who teach do not even pretend
to have any personal experience of after-death conditions.
They tell us not what they themselves know, but only what
they have heard from others. How can that satisfy us?
17. The truth is that the day of blind belief is past; the
era of scientific knowledge is with us, and we can no longer
accept ideas unsustained by reason and common sense. There
is no reason why scientific methods should not be applied
to the elucidation of problems which in earlier days were
left entirely to religion; indeed, such methods have been
applied by The Theosophical Society and the Society of Psychical
Research; and it is the result of these investigations,
made in a scientific spirit, that I wish to place before
18. We are spirits, but we live in a material world, a world,
however, which is only partially known to us. All the information
that we have about it comes to us through our senses; but
these senses are seriously imperfect. Solid objects we can
see; we can usually see liquids, unless they are perfectly
clear; but gases are in most cases invisible to us. Research
shows that there are other kinds of matter far finer than
the rarest of gases; but to these our physical senses do
not respond, and so we can gain no information with regard
to them by physical means.
19. Nevertheless, we can come into touch with them; we can
investigate them, but we can do it only by means of that
"Spiritual body'' to which reference has been made,
for that has its senses just as this one has. Most men have
not yet learned how to use them, but this is a power which
can be acquired by man.
20. The first thing that we learn is that death is not the
end of life, as we have ignorantly assumed, but is only
a step from one stage of life to another. I have already
said that it is the laying aside of an overcoat, but that
after it the man still finds himself clad in his ordinary
housecoat, the spiritual body. But though, because it is
so much finer, St Paul gave it the name of "spiritual,"
it is still a body, and therefore, material, even though
the matter of which it is composed be very much finer than
ordinarily known to us.
21. The first point to realize is that those whom we call
the dead have not left us. When you take off your overcoat
in the hall, you do not suddenly vanish to some distant
mountain-top; you are standing just where you were before,
though you may present a different outward appearance. Precisely
in the same way, when a man puts off his physical body he
remains exactly where he was before. It is true that you
no longer see him, but the reason for this is not that he
has gone away, but that the body which he is now wearing
is not visible to your physical eyes.
22. You may be aware that our eyes respond only to a very
small proportion of the vibrations which exist in nature,
and consequently the only substances which we can see are
those which happen to reflect these particular undulations.
The sight of your "spiritual body" is equally
a matter of response to undulations, but they are of quite
a different order, coming from a much finer type of matter.
All this, if it interests you, you may find worked out in
detail in Theosophical literature.
23. The man of whom you think as departed is in reality
with you still. When you stand side by side, you in the
physical body and he in the "spiritual" vehicle,
you are unconscious of his presence because you cannot see
him; but when you leave your physical body in sleep you
stand side by side with him in full and perfect consciousness,
and your union with him is in every way as full as it used
to be. So during sleep you are happy with him whom you love;
it is only during waking hours that you feel the separation.
24. Unfortunately many of us find it impossible to bring
through into waking life the memory of what the soul does
when it is away from the body in sleep. If this memory were
perfect, for us there would indeed be no death. But while
as yet only a few possess full sight and full memory, there
are many who have been able to feel the presence of their
loved ones, even though they cannot see; and there are others
who though they have no definite memory, wake from slumber
with a sense of peace and blessedness which is the result
of what has happened in that higher world.
25. If you have some piece of news that you wish to give
to a departed friend, you have only to formulate it clearly
in your mind before falling asleep, with the resolution
that you will tell him of it, and you are quite certain
to do so as soon as you meet him . Sometimes you may wish
to consult him on some point, and here the break between
the two forms of consciousness usually prevents you from
bringing back a clear answer. Yet even if you cannot bring
back a definite recollection, you will often wake with a
strong impression as to his wish or his decision; and you
may usually take it that such an impression is correct.
At the same time, you should consult him as little as possible,
for, as we shall see later, it is distinctly undesirable
that the dead should be troubled in their higher world with
affairs that belong to the department of life from which
they have been freed.
26. This brings us to the consideration of the life which
the dead are leading. In it there are many and great variations,
but at least it is almost always happier than the earth
life. There is indeed no hell in the old wicked sense of
the word; and there is no hell anywhere in any sense except
such as a man makes for himself. Try to understand clearly
that death makes no change in the man; he does not suddenly
become a great saint or angel, nor is he suddenly endowed
with all the wisdom of the ages. He is just the same man
after his death as he was the day before it, with the same
emotions, the same dispositions, the same intellectual development.
The only difference is that he has lost the physical body.
27. Try to think exactly what that means. It means absolute
freedom from the possibility of pain or fatigue; freedom
also from all irksome duties; entire liberty (probably for
the first time in his life) to do exactly what he likes.
In the physical life man is constantly under constraint;
unless he is one of a small minority who have independent
means he is ever under the necessity of working in order
to obtain money, money which he must have in order to buy
food and clothing and shelter for himself and for those
who are dependent upon him. In a few rare instances, such
as those of the artist and the musician, the man's work
is a joy to him, but in most cases it is a form of labour
to which he would certainly not devote himself unless he
28. In this spiritual world no money is necessary, food
and shelter are no longer needed, for its glory and its
beauty are free to all its inhabitants without money and
without price. In its rarefied matter, in the spiritual
body, he can move hither and thither as he will. If he loves
art he may spend the whole of his time in the contemplation
of the masterpieces of all the greatest of men; if he be
a musician, he may pass from one to the other of the world's
chiefest orchestras, or may spend his time in listening
to the most celebrated performers. Whatever has been his
delight on earth, his hobby, as we should say, he has now
the fullest liberty to devote himself to it entirely and
to follow it out to the utmost, provided only that its enjoyment
is that of the intellect or of the highest emotions, that
its gratification does not necessitate the possession of
a physical body. Thus it will be seen at once that all rational
and decent men are infinitely happier after death than before
it, for they have ample time not only for pleasure but for
really satisfactory progress along the lines which interest
29. Are there then none in that world who are unhappy? Yes,
for that life is necessarily a sequel to this, and the man
is in every respect the same man as he was before he left
his body. If his enjoyments in this world were low and coarse,
he will find himself unable to gratify his desires. A drunkard
will suffer from unquenchable thirst, having no longer a
body through which it can be assuaged; the glutton will
miss the pleasures of the table; the miser will no longer
find gold for his gathering. The man who has yielded himself
during earth-life to unworthy passions will find them gnawing
at his vitals. The sensualist still palpitates with cravings
that can never now be satisfied; the jealous man is still
torn by his jealousy, all the more than he can no longer
interfere with the action of its object. Such people as
these unquestionably do suffer, but only such as these,
only those whose proclivities and passions have been coarse
and physical in their nature. And even they have their fate
absolutely in their own hands. They have but to conquer
these inclinations, and they are at once free from the sufferings
which such longings entail. Remember always that there is
no such thing as punishment; there is only the natural result
of a definite cause; so that you have only to remove the
cause and the effect ceases, not always immediately, but
as soon as the energy of the cause is exhausted.
30. There are many people who have avoided these more glaring
vices, yet have lived what may be called worldly lives,
caring principally for society and its conventions, and
thinking only of enjoying themselves. Such people as these
have no active suffering in the spiritual world, but they
often find it dull, they find time hanging heavy on their
hands. They can foregather with others of their type, but
they usually find them somewhat monotonous, now that there
is no longer any competition in dress or in general ostentation,
while the better and cleverer people whom they desire to
reach are customarily otherwise engaged and therefore somewhat
inaccessible to them.
But any man who has rational intellectual or artistic interests
will find himself quite infinitely happier outside his physical
body than in it, and it must be remembered that it is always
possible for a man to develop in that world a rational interest
if he is wise enough to do so.
31. The artistic and intellectual are supremely happy in
that new life; yet even happier still, I think, are those
whose keenest interest has been in their fellow men, those
whose greatest delight has been to help, to succor, to teach.
For though in that world there is no longer any hunger or
thirst or cold, there are still those who are in sorrow
who can be comforted; those who are in ignorance who can
be taught. Just because in western countries there is so
little knowledge of the world beyond the grave, we find
in that world many who need instruction as to the possibilities
of this new life; and so one who knows may go about spreading
hope and glad tidings there just as much as here. But remember
always that "there" and "here" are only
terms in deference to our blindness; for that world is here,
close around us all the time, and not for a moment to be
thought of as a distant or difficult of approach.
32. Do the dead then see us? may be asked; do they hear
what we say? Undoubtedly they see us in the sense that they
are always conscious of our presence, that they know whether
we are happy or miserable; but they do not hear the words
we say, nor are they conscious in detail of our physical
actions. A moment's thought will show us what are the limits
of their power to see. They are inhabiting, what we have
called the "spiritual body," a body which exists
in ourselves, and is, as far as appearance goes, an exact
duplicate of the physical body; but while we are awake our
consciousness is focused exclusively in the latter. We have
already said that just as only physical matter appeals to
the physical body, so only the matter of the spiritual world
is discernible by that higher body. Therefore, what the
dead man can see of us is only our spiritual body, which,
however, he has no difficulty in recognizing. When we are
what we call asleep, our consciousness is using that vehicle,
and so to the dead man we are awake; but when we transfer
our consciousness to the physical body, it seems to the
dead man that we fall asleep, because though he still sees
us, we are no longer paying any attention to him or able
to communicate with him. When a living friend falls asleep
we are quite aware of his presence, but for the moment we
cannot communicate with him. Precisely similar is the condition
of the living man (while he is awake) in the eyes of the
dead. Because we cannot usually remember in our waking consciousness
what we have seen during sleep, we are under the delusion
that we have lost our dead; but they are never under the
delusion that they have lost us, because they can see us
all the time. To them the only difference is that we are
with them during the night and away from them during the
day; whereas when they were on earth with us, exactly the
reverse was the case.
33. Now this which, following St. Paul, we have been calling
the "spiritual body" (it is more usually spoken
of as the astral body) is especially the vehicle of our
feelings and emotions; it is therefore these feelings and
emotions of ours which show themselves most clearly to the
eyes of the dead. If we are joyous, they instantly observe
it, but they do not necessarily know the reason of the joy;
if sadness comes over us, they at once realize it and share
it, even though they may not know why we are sad. All this,
of course, is during our waking hours; when we are asleep,
they converse with us as of yore on earth. Here in our physical
life we can dissemble our feelings; in that higher world
this is impossible, for they show themselves instantly in
visible change. Since so many of our thoughts are connected
with our feelings, most of these also are readily obvious
in that world; but anything in the nature of abstract thought
is still hidden.
34. You still say that all this has little in common with
the heaven and hell of which we are taught in our infancy;
yet it is the fact that this is the reality which lay behind
these myths. Truly there is no hell; yet it will be seen
that the drunkard or the sensualist may have prepared for
himself something which is no bad imitation thereof. Only
it is not everlasting.
35. There is a second and higher stage of the life after
death which does correspond very closely to a rational conception
of heaven. That higher level is attained when all lower
or selfish longings have absolutely disappeared; then the
man passes into a condition of religious ecstasy or of higher
intellectual activity, according to the line along which
his energy has flowed out during his earth-life. That is
for him a period of the most supreme bliss, a period of
far greater comprehension, or nearer approach to reality.
But this joy comes to all, not only to the specially pious.
36. It must by no means be regarded as a reward, but once
more only as the inevitable result of the character evolved
in earth life. If a man is full of high and unselfish affection
or devotion, if he is splendidly developed intellectually
or artistically, the inevitable result of such development
will be this enjoyment of which we are speaking.
37. The life of man is far longer and far greater than you
have supposed. The Spark which has come forth from God must
return to Him, and we are as yet far from that perfection
of Divinity. All life is evolving, for evolution is God's
law; and man grows slowly and steadily along with the rest.
What is commonly called man's life is in reality only one
day of his true and longer life. And this long life of his
lasts until he attains that goal of divinity which God means
him to attain.
38. All this may well be new to you, and because it is new
it may seem strange. Yet all that I have said is capable
of proof, and has been tested many times over; but if you
wish to read all this you must study the literature on the
subject, for in a short pamphlet with a special purpose,
such as this, I can merely state the facts, and not attempt
to adduce the proofs.
39. You may perhaps ask whether the dead are not disturbed
by anxiety for those whom they have left behind. Sometimes
that does happen, and such anxiety delays their progress;
so we should, as far as possible, avoid giving any occasion
for it. The dead man should be utterly free from all thought
of the life which he has left, so that he may devote himself
entirely to the new existence upon which he has entered.
Those therefore who have in the past depended upon his advice
should now endeavour to think for themselves, lest by still
mentally depending upon him they should strengthen his ties
with the world from which he has for the moment turned.
So it is always an especially good deed to take care of
children, whom a dead man leaves behind him, for in that
way one not only benefits the children, but also relieves
the departed parent from anxiety and helps him on his upward
40. If the dead man has during life been taught foolish
and blasphemous religious doctrines, he sometimes suffers
from anxiety with regard to his own future fate. Fortunately
there are in the spiritual world many who make it their
business to find men who are under such a delusion as this,
and to set them free from it by a rational explanation of
facts. Not only are there dead men who do this, but there
are also many living men who devote their time during the
sleep of the body each night to the service of the dead,
endeavouring to relieve people from nervousness or suffering
by explaining to them the truth in all its beauty. All suffering
comes from ignorance; dispel the ignorance and the suffering
41. One of the saddest cases of apparent loss is when a
child passes away from this physical world and its parents
are left to watch its empty place, to miss its loving prattle.
What then happens to children in this strange new spiritual
world? Of all those who enter it, they are perhaps the happiest
and the most entirely and immediately at home. Remember
that they do not lose the parents, the brothers, the sisters,
the playmates whom they love; it is simply that they have
them to play with during what we call the night instead
of the day; so that they have no feeling of loss or separation.
During our day they are never left alone,
for, as here children gather together and play together,
play in Elysian fields full of rare delights. We know how
a child here enjoys "making believe," pretending
to be this character or that in history, playing the principal
part in all sorts of wonderful fairy stories or tales of
adventure. In the finer matter of that higher world, thoughts
take to themselves visible form, and so the child who imagines
himself a certain hero promptly takes on temporarily the
actual appearance of that hero. If he wishes for an enchanted
castle, his thought can build that enchanted castle. If
he desires an army to command, all at once that army is
there. And so among the dead the hosts of children are always
full of joy, indeed, often even riotously happy.
42. And those other children of different disposition, those
whose thoughts turn more naturally to religious matters,
they also never fail to find that for which they long. For
the angels and the saints of old exist, they are not mere
pious fancies; and those who need them, those who believe
in them are surely drawn to them, also find them kinder
and more glorious than ever fancy dreamed. There are those
who would find God Himself, God in material form; yet even
they are not disappointed, for from the gentlest and the
kindest teachers they learn that all forms are God's forms,
for He is everywhere, and those who would serve and help
even the lowest of His creatures are truly serving and helping
Him. Children love to be useful; they love to help and comfort;
a wide field for such helping and comfort lies before them
among the ignorant in the higher world, and as they move
through its glorious fields on their errands of mercy and
of love they learn the truth of the beautiful old teaching:
"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least
of these My brethren ye had done it unto Me."
43. And the tiny babies, those who are as yet too young
to play? Have no fear for them, for many a dead mother waits
eagerly to clasp them to her breast, to receive them and
to love them as though they were her own. Usually such little
ones rest in the spiritual world but a short time, and then
return to earth once more, often to the very same father
About these the mediaeval monk invented
an especially cruel horror, in the suggestion that the un-baptized
baby was lost to its friends forever. Baptism is a true
sacrament, and not without its uses; but let no one be so
unscientific as to imagine that the omission of an outward
form like this can affect the working of Gods's eternal
laws, or change Him from a God of love into a pitiless tyrant.
44. We have spoken so far only of the possibility of reaching
the dead by rising to their level during sleep, which is
the normal and natural way. There is also, of course, the
abnormal and unnatural method of spiritualism, whereby for
a moment the dead put on again the veil of flesh, and so
become once more visible to our physical eyes.
Students of occultism do not recommend this
method, partly because it often holds back the dead in his
evolution, and partly because there is so much uncertainty
about it and so great a possibility of deception and personation.
The subject is far too large to take up in a pamphlet such
as this, but I have dealt with it in a book called The Other
Side of Death.
There also will be found some account of instances in which
the dead spontaneously return to this lower world and manifest
themselves in various ways, generally because they want
us to do something for them. In all such cases it is best
to try and find out, as speedily as may be, what they require,
and fulfil their wishes, if possible, so that their minds
may be at rest.
45. If you have been able to assimilate what I have already
said, you will now understand that, however natural it may
be for us to feel sorrow at the death of our relatives,
that sorrow is an error and an evil, and we ought to overcome
it. There is no need to sorrow for them, for they have passed
into a far wider and happier life. If we sorrow for our
own fancied separation from them, we are in the first place
weeping over an illusion, for in truth they are not separated
from us; and secondly, we are acting selfishly, because
we are thinking more of our own apparent loss than of their
great and real gain.
46. If we mourn, if we yield to gloom and depression, we
throw out from ourselves a heavy cloud which darkens the
sky for them. Their very affection for us, their very sympathy
for us, lay them open to this direful influence.
47. If it is probable that they may be feeling some anxiety
about us, let us be persistently cheerful, that we may assure
them that they have no need to feel troubled on our account.
If, during physical life, they have been without detailed
and accurate information as to the life after death, let
us endeavour at once to assimilate such information ourselves,
and to pass it on in our nightly conversations with them.
48. Try to comprehend the unity of all. There is one God,
and all are one in Him. If we can bring home to ourselves
the unity of that eternal Love, there will be no more sorrow
for us; for we shall realize, not for ourselves alone but
for those whom we love, that whether we live or die, we
are the Lord's and that in Him we live and move and have
our being, whether it be in this world or in the world to
come. The attitude of mourning is a fruitless attitude,
an ignorant attitude. The more we know, the more fully we
shall trust, for we shall feel with utter certainty that
we and our dead are alike in the hands of perfect Power
and perfect Wisdom directed by perfect Love.