Sir George Trevelyan: thoughts and writings
Release into Light
About death and continuity of consciousness
An address on the subject of 'Death' and the continuity of consciousness, given to the Churches' Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Studies, November 1965 by Sir George Trevelyan.
We have recently at Attingham Park, our adult college in Shropshire, run a week-end course called "Positive Attitudes to the Third Phase of Life - commonly called Retirement." A new phenomenon has arisen in our society. We are being offered a third phase in life. Till now there have been two stages, nurture followed by work until we are worn out. Now for the first time in history everyone is offered a gift of perhaps a dozen free years to harvest the experiences of life. Many go on to the last years with anxiety, perturbed at the sudden break from the old discipline and routine perhaps of office life. Many feel that their faculties are waning and that there is little point in starting fresh creative activities at this stage. Yet these last years should be seen as a God - given opportunity for freedom and creativity. Let me quote from Yeats' poem 'Sailing to Byzantium': -
This verse gives the true key to adult education in later years. 'Byzantium' to Yeats had of course a double meaning. It could be read as the city of miraculous works of art and beauty, but it also stood as a symbol for the attaining of a higher degree of consciousness.
"Old men ought to be explorers" wrote T S Eliot,
The timid attitude towards retirement arises from the too common belief that death means the end. We identify ourselves with our bodies and feel that as these fail a limitation and restriction is setting in. The truth is that consciousness can be increasingly released and extended as the physical faculties fade - "In my end is my beginning" to quote Eliot again. As we "shuffle off this mortal coil" and discard the body like a worn out overcoat, we move out into a wider consciousness, maintaining our identity. As that stupendous truth penetrates human consciousness, as the bogey of death is 'debunked' and overthrown, a whole new attitude towards the third phase of life will come about. We shall then realise the task we have been given. It is a splendid challenge.
It is strange that in human history medical knowledge has freed men from early death and given him this extra time of greater leisure and free creativity, precisely at the time when there is emerging into our consciousness the truth that so called 'death' is a step into extended awareness. So many people in our age have not bothered at all about what they carry with them into this further life. It is as if we are moving into a new university, with the possibility of immense width of understanding and research in a new and light-filled land, but we realise with consternation that we have done nothing whatever to prepare ourselves to qualify for this change The soul carries with it on the new plane that which it has been able to spiritualise in its thinking All that is concerned solely with the material plane, above all what has to do with merely getting money and things for ourselves, is left behind. That which we have given in creative thought or feeling or will towards beauty, goodness and the spirit, and spiritual understanding will be brought forward on to the further plane.
Thus we should consciously use these free years to prepare ourselves for the next exciting stage. Retirement is the lifting out of the scramble for getting one's living. We may find ourselves in straightened circumstances but we are free to choose our own activities. We may hope to see the emergence in our society of a true culture of the senior citizens, those who have 'retired'.
Now let us picture the realms the soul will enter when it is released from the body. It will enter a society in which the scramble to 'get on' is wholly removed. There will no longer be need to get money in order to eat. It will be left to its own enthusiasm and creativity in thinking to explore the light-filled world and carry its consciousness on to ever further planes. In other words the vision of a new culture for the retired, the third phase of life as it could be on this earth plane is but a faint image of the society we shall enter and live with on the higher plane. Once we have opened up to the fact that there is no such thing as 'death' in the sense of extinction, a new excitement will awaken, a new ardour and earnestness about what we do with our last years in conscious preparation for the great release into light. Truly we shall enter another civilisation, but one based on the affinities of love, enthusiasm and creativity. This civilisation is not far distant, but is interpenetrating our material plane and in it we shall find those we have known on earth. We ourselves are even now part of this great society, though we are temporarily 'seconded' to the darker earth plane with all its illusion of separation.
A new phase of understanding of these worlds beyond 'death' is coming in our time, and the rush of new writing, recording of experiences and of communion with those who are on the higher plane suggests a great thinning of the veils between the different levels of consciousness.
It is a very strange thing that there is no word in our English language to express this most majestic of all conceptions, the release of the soul into light. There is only the word 'DEATH'
with all its suggestions of rotting cadavres and corpses and skeletons. It has been endowed with a note of morbidity and even horror, and is often taboo as a subject for discussion. It almost seems as if there is a conspiracy to hush up the fact of death. We need to create a word to express this concept of 'release into light'. Teilhard de Chardin has shown us how we can coin new words to express our new vision of the organic oneness of the planet and of life. Why should not the spiritual movement in this country find and adopt a scholarly word which would bring this light-filled concept into our modern and living language? Any suggestions?
We grasp now that the universe is of the nature of thought, that the so-called higher planes are not vastly distant but are ever present within our sense world, on a higher frequency which our physical senses cannot detect. We need to be able to tune in to a much higher wavelength if we are to have communion with those who have left the body. We discover that the human organism is truly the most marvellous radio set or computer. Where there is real love and affinity between souls there can never be any separation. There is telepathic connection between the planes but while we are limited within a body, this 'muddy vesture of decay' we have difficulty in learning how to tune in. The important point to grasp is that discarnate entities or beings can speak to us within our own thinking. Too many people still hope to see their 'lost' friends in some outward vision. The one who has left the body has psychic powers beyond ours and can pick up all our loving thoughts. We can ask them questions and the answers will usually be given at the moment of waking, as if it were in our own thinking. This is why communion is so often missed. People fail to see that the message must appear to have been thought by themselves. When we are asleep and the soul and 'ego' are freed from the body, we are then together with those with whom we have affinity on higher planes, but are naturally not conscious of it in our ordinary experience, so when we wake we know nothing of it. We must watch our dreams, however, for in these important days of the thinning of the veil the 'clear dream' may be a way in which our friends or spirit guides may wish to communicate with us.
This true communion within thinking is wonderfully subtle and obviously by its nature does not in any way conflict with our free will. It would be so easy to follow and obey the Archangel Michael if he appeared before us with his flaming sword! But the nature of the grand experiment of God, is that man has to experience being cut off from the divine to which he belongs. In our materialistic age he has come to the point of allowing the faculty for seeing into the higher realms to atrophy. Therefore he proudly declares they do not exist and concerns himself solely with his outward-looking concerns in the material world.
Once having experienced separation the moment can come when he is called on, like the prodigal son to 'come to himself' and turn again and say "I will go back to my Father". The impulse comes from within the heart of man himself to overcome the aloneness and set himself once more on the path of return. But this impulse has to come in freedom from within each of us. There can be no constraint from higher worlds.
A new and wonderful picture emerges from modern spiritual science of world within world, interpenetrating fields of light vibration of which our physical world is but the lowest frequency. To enter these worlds we have to learn to look within, recovering that faculty which is so much dulled in our intellectual training today. William Blake as artist and seer writes:-
Looking inwards is not mere introspection at our personal psychological state. We discover that in Blake's sense to look within is to look through and that Imaginative Thinking is able to enter the realms of Divine Imagining. In Imagination we have a key to those worlds which we enter when released from the body at death. Our generation is called on to begin to explore space in this new sense, not resting content solely with outward looking and action, but re-awakening and developing the organs of perception which enable each of us to look deep within and through.
The picture emerging from the vision of spiritual science is of interpenetrating planes of vibration and light. These are the 'eternal worlds' in the sense that they are lifted beyond time as we experience it on the material plane. However the 'higher' worlds are not to be thought of as vastly distant. That mistake comes from thinking spatially. They are ever present, wholly interpenetrating the sense world but on a higher frequency which our ordinary senses cannot detect. Our inner thought, however, if lifted towards intuition., can learn to explore them.
The inner core of man's being is seen as belonging to these timeless realms, descending to go through an allegorical journey through dark forests and stormy ocean, undergoing soul trials and ordeals until he can unite with his higher self, the symbolical princess of all fairy tale, returning again to the world from which he descended. It is strange that confirmation of spiritual science is found in all mythology, all legends and fairy stories, and much great drama and poetry. The symbols when interpreted in this way are found to enshrine this great truth so important for the modern mind.
We live in an age when doctrines like Marxism contend that the whole of the fabric of religion and art is but a superstructure built upon the one reality - Matter. Never was there an age when it was more important to revive and re-interpret the old legends, because they speak direct to the heart and the imagination within the soul, of the eternal truths which the logical intellect can so easily miss. Look beneath the outward form of Shakespeare's plays and the Odyssey and you find the same great truth which can convince the soul that it is in fact going through an entirely meaningful journey on the earth plane.
Always the allegory reveals that the timeless being of man, the eternal entity, enters the temporal sphere of earth for this journey of initiation. This gives the clue of greatest importance - we were there as entities before our conception and birth. Much concern has been given to survival after death. The much more penetrating concept is that of pre-existence. Spiritual science, supported by mythology and the intuition of the poets, establishes this important truth. We do not need to try to convince the sceptical intellect by finding 'proofs of survival'. The intellect can always debunk and disprove anything! We need to think ourselves into the understanding that these are timeless realms of spirit, interpenetrating the slow vibrational plane of earth and that the entity of man is eternally at home in these higher planes, re-entering them in sleep, in deep meditation and after 'death'. This is the finding of all the 'seers', ancient or contemporary. They tell us what they experience of the higher worlds. They never ask us simply to believe or to accept on faith. We recognise that the higher worlds are realms of Thought and that our imaginative thinking can apprehend them. Do we not all know the experience of our thinking leaping to grasp an idea which is so beautiful that we know it must be true? Recognise that this faculty is the beginning of spiritual knowledge. We all have latent organs of perception and the first step in developing them is the use of this power of thinking. Hold the pictures in thought, and if they are true they will be supported as time goes on by inner conviction.
In our day conscious communion with the beings of the higher planes is becoming possible as never before, carrying with it a conviction of truth which no scepticism can shake. Individuals and groups are able directly to listen within their own thinking. But this is not only for our personal comfort - far from it. We are called on to co-operate with the higher worlds in the entry of spiritual forces on to the earth plane. We are to be the channels through which the angelic world can descend. We are needed by them.
The world is in a very critical state and the dangers are appalling. Communications bear out that there is immense concern on higher planes about what man is doing to the planet. In his reckless greed and ignorance he is exploiting the forces of life to his own advantage in ways that imperil the very survival of life upon the planet. It is even feared that he may do things which will tip the earth off its axis, with damaging effects throughout the whole solar system.
Now it would clearly defeat the whole Divine Plan of developing man as a free moral being if there were direct intervention to change our thinking. This change must come from within our own hearts and minds. There can, however, be intervention through calamity. Our failure to see that the earth is a great living being is so disturbing the great elemental forces throughout the whole body of the earth that it may pay us back in disturbances such as earthquakes and atmospheric change. Worst of all our nuclear bombs, breaking through the etheric envelope of the earth, allow the instreaming not only of harmful rays but also of dark beings. Many communications are now being given which suggest that catastrophes and cataclysm may manifest on the earth if we do not change our thinking. Time is short and the only way of saving this planet is for enough of mankind to become channels for the inflow of light and the flow of spirit.
Calamity will also be cleansing. This picture is one of supreme hope, since the entry of the spirit means the flow of the light of the Christ Impulse. Teilhard de Chardin speaks, with intense excitement, of the 'Christification' of the planet, a process and phenomenon both scientific and spiritual in which every particle of matter and every soul-atom is being filled with inner light. The forces of light will enter when men as groups and individuals take the initiative and invoke them offering themselves as channels. We who meet in this way are in the position of a fifth column holding a kind of bridgehead at a time when the warning of impending invasion has been sent out.
We are not to be discouraged by our littleness. Many vital positions in the war were held by tiny groups. It is a terrific picture to be taken absolutely seriously. All our little meditation groups are centres which should lift themselves in dedication towards the light so that spiritual power can pour through on to the earth plane. We are all part of a great network for the entry of the light.
All the great religions are expecting a new Advent, and many believe it may be in the next year or two, though in what form, whether within the soul or in outward manifestation, it is dangerous to speculate. A great change might shoot through human beings. No one has yet written a science-fiction novel about this possible event. Suppose that at midnight the Christ love and the mighty forces of light struck all human hearts. What would happen throughout our society? To those concerned with selfish or evil ends it would be like the angel of death. There would be uttermost confusion and those who were tuned in to the Light would be filled with the great joy in recognising the Second coming. It may well be that this great adventure is really upon us. Teilhard writes:- "How many of us are genuinely moved in the depth of our hearts by the wild hope that our earth will be recast... The flame of expectation must be revived at all costs. At all costs we must renew in ourselves the desire and the hope for the great Coming."
Truly we need to be prepared for the most surprising events, but facing them with a joyous courage, since we know that we have guidance and protection if we can turn to the light and lift our thinking towards the Christ power throughout our daily activities. Then we are ready for anything. We can be filled with the splendid hope of the emergence of a new world out of any turmoil which may arise in the submergence of darkness in the Coming Light. Then the bogey of 'death' will be wholly expelled from our minds and we shall know that the planes of consciousness interpenetrate so completely that it matters little whether we find ourselves on this or that side of the thinning veil. The river of death turns out to be the merest brook, and we may step over it into a country of wider light-filled consciousness.
Let us close with the great passage from Christopher Fry's 'A Sleep of Prisoners':