Death is the Soul's Renewal Never an End - the fifth station
Whose tree is acacia
with its red wood for coffins?
It’s the Crone Queen at Hebron,
waiting in her night cave.
She sings out a Mystery
at the time of your dying.
When you stand at the threshold,
she will call you within.
Bravely enter the darkness.
She will wrap her arms around you
and mother-like, whisper,
death is never an end –
Does not the caterpillar enter the darkness to emerge a gloriously robed butterfly?
Do not the bare winter branches bring forth leaves, buds,
and flowers each in their time?
Your death is but transition,
Fear not, and go, then
when the dark Crone Queen calls.
This poem is distilled from a chapter in my book Marriages of the Magdalene when young Mary is taken on a journey across Palestine to the five ancient female sanctuaries. She is taught about the goddess in her dark Crone Queen aspect, how she reigns over the process of metamorphosis, and over death as essential in the great cycles of existence. This crone never leaves her cave. Yet there is a Seed-daughter, who can come and go freely. As she spreads her seeds, it is she who sings the secrets of the cave, of death as a necessary partner to birth, how only through dying can regeneration and fruitfulness occur in nature. And as conscious human beings we can know that this reality also applies to us. it's the story of death and the soul's renewal.
I want to stay with legend for a moment. The archetypal story of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible evokes the very first garden at the dawn of creation, the etheric garden of Eden inhabited by primeval humanity, innocent and immersed in spirit. This garden is where ‘the Fall’ took place. The events are described as a temptation to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Underlying this is a portrayal of human souls when they clothed themselves in a physical body and ‘fell’ to the material earth, certainly a place where we can know both good and evil, and where we encounter death.
Being in physical body in a physical world has been vital for the evolution of human consciousness. The danger has always been that we would forget our spiritual essence. Religions and myths became a means of reminding us of our intimate link with the spiritual world. But over countless millennia we have lost touch with who we are as body, soul and spirit, even in many religious doctrines.
So we fight against our dying. Death feels like the enemy. Despite the physical body gradually making ready for its redundancy even before any obvious signs of deterioration, ego wants us to live on and on in the familiar world we know and love. One church teaching ‘comforts’ us by saying that the same physical body will be raised from the dead ‘at the last trumpet’ (undecayed?).
Terminally ill children often approach their death with equanimity – they are still in touch with spiritual realms. The older we are the greater is the tendency to cling to the physical world where the law of survival reigns. Serious illness then is a means of preparing our reluctant externally focused selves to leave the body. Even if we recover, attitudes have often changed and we become more open to the numinous. Meanwhile there are individuals who just slip away, especially in cultures where dying has been viewed as a natural part of living.
Awareness of the timing of one’s death’s is very rare. Yet my teacher Mario Schoenmaker through his many spiritual readings came to recognise that in most cases the soul has decided to die, even in accidental death. That is, the time of death is pre-ordained by the soul and preparations have been in place, although this isn’t conscious. It’s different with deaths inflicted in vicious crimes or terrorism because dark anti-life forces are involved. When such souls are shocked out of their shattered bodies, we intuitively understand that they have a great need for our compassion.
The astral is the seat of consciousness and of the mind through which we think and feel assisted by the senses. Through this mind we have travelled far to discover the wonders of material reality. But it fights against the metaphysical which cannot be sensed, measured and calculated in earthly terms.
Our soul also abides in the astral. It thinks and feels but it is different. Soul longs to unite with our eternal spiritual part which is like a spark deep within us. Soul is the aspect of our being that grows and changes. The inner work we do in life brings us closer to our spirit, known as I Am or our real self. Our spirit is always with us. It guides the soul before birth and after death and through both those life-changing processes in countless incarnations.
The soul needs to return with our spirit again and again for its renewal in the all-pervading realm of spirit. That’s where death comes in, when we slough off the body, the temporary sense-based self we no longer need.
The journey after we leave the physical body behind is an enormous topic, described in many spiritual pathways such as Tibetan Buddhism, Anthroposophy and Theosophy. I was present when Mario ran seminars in which he enriched the profound subject with his lifetime of experiencing souls.
This is an introduction. After a few days the etheric, no longer bound to the body, is able to free itself. It streams out from the heart in a kind of cloud and unites with the wider etheric realm. It also releases the memories it has held. In near death experiences some of this memory tableau flashes by us. The soul that has passed through the portal of death experiences the full memory panorama and this is an opportunity to review its life, good and bad and extract what will be useful in the next incarnation. This is like a symbolic picture, sometimes called the seed atom.
The soul/spirit expands into the cosmos, where the astral, seat of all our attractions and repulsions is judged – in a realm known in different spiritual teachings as kamaloca, purgatory or the bardo. No outside power does the judging. What you have done to others now comes back and is done to you, both good and ill, while purification takes place in preparation for the onward journey. The period in kamaloca is said to encompass around a third of the years you have lived on earth.
The cloud-like astral body undertakes a journey through the planetary spheres, which is like diving ever deeper through the different layers, although of course, none of this is linear or spatial. Each of these spheres or spiritual atmospheres involves specific learning. Eventually the soul can break through into the archetypal realm of pure spirit, the glorious home of the music of the spheres and of the divine Word. Not every soul achieves this. Sometimes a soul is not yet spiritually ready, or it might be over eager to return to earth.
None of this journey from death to rebirth is taken alone. The Great Mother has indeed wrapped her arms around you. And as always, the Christ love upholds your soul, and the heavenly beings embrace your spirit whose nature is of their own essence.
For those left behind it is important to know that prayer and staying connected can help the souls of the deceased. From the spiritual world a soul cannot perceive the physical, but it takes in intentions and motivations, the causes rather than outcomes. Be positive and generous, especially when you have known them well in life along with their foibles. Even more, if you feel bereft by a dear one’s departure know that love still binds you. When your love is offered in freedom with an open heart, both of you will be uplifted by that love. And you will find the qualities of love alive within you in the next incarnation, whether or not you meet again. For the dead are with us. I have experienced this. I’m sure many of you have too. They can use our light and the more we are light the better for the departed soul. If you are filled with light, hope and love this will wonderfully assist them on their journey.
 For further detailed reading you can purchase a booklet of Mario Schoenmaker’s exciting seminar ‘Birth, Death and Beyond’ from the Rosa Veritas online bookshop.