12 May 2007

Demystifying Death: Highlights of a Talk by Filis Frederick

The video summarized here is now online at YouTube.


Adele Wolkin visited Myrtle Beach from L.A., as she does every April near her birthday, and on April 10, 2007, she shared with some friends a dvd of a talk given by Filis Frederick at the 1985 L.A. Sahavas.

Adele and Filis were close friends, and Baba recognized their soul connection by calling them collectively “Filadele.” Filis died in 1987. I shouldn’t use that word, though, because in the talk Filis said quite firmly that “no human being has ever died.” Filis thinks of death as a transformational event, “passing through the golden door.” Life is one unbroken continuity, and the “real death,” according to Baba, is the cessation of desires (Discourses, 1987 ed., “Selfishness, p. 13).

About Filis, Adele commented that in the ‘60s and ‘70s she had played the role of “mother of the hippies,” counseling a generation of Baba-lovers, and that she had had psychic gifts, which, however, was something that Baba never encouraged, and Filis herself pointed out several times in her talk that it was not something to be pursued.

In taking notes I tried to get Filis’s exact words down, but as this was not fully possible, this article will be a summary of her comments, and sometimes I have changed the sequence of her remarks to order them more logically. I want to emphasize that it was not always possible to tell from Filis’s remarks which things are directly from what Baba has taught about death and which were gathered by Filis from other sources, such as near-death research, other metaphysical literature, and her own experiences or intuitions. So I am not sure we can take this talk as a definitive version of Baba’s teaching in every detail, though it certainly is helpful in terms of general principles. Occasionally I have added comments from my own research. (For a collection of quotes from Baba about death, see members.aol.com/markar1/LifeEternal/dead.html.)

Lakhs of Lives

As she looked around at her audience, Filis began with a comment about how Baba draws us together through links—links of love. I am sure many watching the dvd together felt it too.

Filis then wondered aloud what need there was for her to tell us anything about death (the topic had been suggested by the Sahavas committee), since we have all experienced life after death many times—“eight million four hundred thousand, to be exact.” (This figure, referred to in India as “84 lakhs,” is the number of lives and deaths Baba said were necessary before God-realization. It is a traditional number in Indian philosophy for the amount of births necessary to attain human form. But Baba in God Speaks refers to 84 lakhs of human reincarnations, as well as “50 crores of sleeps of death,” or pre-human forms. A crore is 10 million. You do the math!)

Filis had studied all the major religions before meeting Baba and was especially drawn to Buddhism, which she said has the most realistic approach to death. Especially in Tibetan Buddhism, the practitioner is encouraged to act intentionally in the after-death state, in order to move through the experience skillfully and choose the next incarnation wisely.

Our life in the gross world is in a sense just half of our lives, since the time we spend “on the Other Side” is also important, Filis believes. The phrase “Other Side” is not quite accurate, since the worlds are interpenetrating. Most of us can’t see the Other Side, but it’s right here. There are people without gross bodies who attend Baba meetings! They can see us, but we can’t see them. (Apparently Filis was able to see them. And at the 1969 Darshan, I recall Filis telling us she saw Baba in his “light body” moving among us as we sat in Guruprasad Hall.)

What Happens After Dropping the Body

Filis spoke of what happens to the “average person” after they drop the body. She quoted from the Bible: “The silver cord is loosed and the golden bowl is broken” (Eccles. 12:6). The silver cord is the connecting thread between the gross and subtle, and when that cord is severed is the moment of death, Filis said.

Unless the patient is heavily medicated, they will lose consciousness for a short time, then regain it and see and hear as before; the senses of taste and smell are gone. If you’re in bed, for example, you will see where your dead physical form is lying, and if you don’t know much about what to expect, you will likely stay with that view, not knowing where to go or what to do. You may see grieving relatives and emergency staff at your bedside, and you will remain as if transfixed by this sight until someone from the Other Side helps you move away from that perceptual fixation.

Functioning with limited senses and looking down at yourself (not the dead body in the bed, but your own form), you may feel as if you still have a physical body, but actually it is merely an image projected by the subtle body. This partly explains why many people do not realize that they have died, which can become a problem. Again, if a friend or helper tells you, “Come with me,” or urges you to move on, that will help you.

Now, how do you accomplish the act of moving on, away from the scene of death? You can no longer move by physical locomotion. Now you move by imagining being somewhere else. You think of it, and instantly you are there. This accounts for the fact that many people naturally think of their home or loved ones, and the ethereal body is suddenly there and may even be perceived by the living at that location. If you think of Meher Baba’s Tomb-Shrine at that moment, you are thus likely to go there. If you don’t know to do this, you may simply linger in the place where you died, whether the hospital or an accident or suicide scene, or wherever, and you may be bewildered and crying out for help. This is why it’s important that we pray for someone who has died, especially if by suicide. Our prayers will help bring helpers quickly from the Other Side to assist the person, who is unable to proceed because they don’t know the secret of locomotion in the disincarnate state.

Where do you go, once you have begun to move on? In the Bible, Jesus speaks of the “many mansions” that God has prepared: There are many possible destinations. If you have a strong connection to others, whether a connection of love and friendship or hate and resentment, you will be drawn to those people, and if they have been on the Other Side for a while, they will have created a subtle environment around them, out of their own thoughts. Unless you are on the subtle planes, you will be using your subtle body indirectly to build environments in the semi-subtle (or astral) world. For example, using semi-subtle energy, you may think of a structure and it will automatically be created as a thought-form. Some may create very beautiful environments, while others create dismal settings, according to their habitual mind states. If a slum hotel where alcoholics congregate is all that someone knows, for example, that will be what he creates, and if you are drawn to him, that’s what you will perceive as well. That’s why the creative ability to project is very important, so that you create your own environment—otherwise you may end up in someone else’s seedy “dollar-a-night room.”

These are very exact worlds determined by the vibrational plane you operated on while alive in the gross; you cannot go anywhere else, as that’s all you know. In telling this, Filis implied that the mental habits we cultivate in life are very significant, and if we make an effort to practice positive thoughts, this may make all the difference in the after-death experience.

Many may be disappointed, Filis said. For instance, a minister who expected to be escorted to the Pearly Gates or the courtyard of the Lord may see nothing more than his usual church parish, since he goes wherever his vibration allows him to go (as well as the vibration of the people who care about him). Filis also gave the example of fundamentalist believers who fully expect to lie in their graves until the sounding of the “last trumpet” of the final resurrection of souls, as foretold in the Bible, and so they will experience exactly that, not realizing that they can and should move on to the next phase of their journey.

Filis once listened to a tape of a séance, and when one spirit was asked what it was like on the Other Side, the reply was: “Nothing matters but love.” If you’re a negative person by temperament, you’ll be drawn to negative, depressed people. Drug and alcohol abuse can especially affect this experience, attuning you to perceive the astral hell state. So in that sense, the orthodox teachings are right: we go where we deserve by virtue of our own mind-set, and people are sorted out after death into different groups according to their feeling and vibrational nature.

When spirits send messages from the Other Side via mediums and channelers, they often give conflicting information, and that’s because they don’t really know the truth; they only know what they have been conditioned to believe. Filis urged us not to “be a dummy”—we should learn and impress the truth into our subconscious by studying Baba’s words, especially in God Speaks. If God Speaks is too demanding, one can at least study the shorter description of “The Divine Theme” that Baba provided. Filis said that once Baba asked them to meditate on it for 40 days. They first read it aloud, then thought about it mentally. If we impress this understanding of the Divine Theme into our subconscious, then this is what we will carry with us, in seed form, when we pass over.

[See “The Divine Truths (for meditation through reading): The Journey of the Soul to the Oversoul,” in Discourses (1987), pp. 222-227 (in the 1967 ed., vol. 2, p. 138ff); see also “The Divine Theme,” in the supplement to God Speaks (2nd ed.), pp. 234-239; in the Indian edition, pp. 220-224. There is also a film on the subject by Tim Thelen, available on dvd, called The Theme of Creation: An Exploration of Meher Baba's “God Speaks.”]

Rest, Recovery, Recall, and Regrouping

After the shock of dropping the body, there is a need for a place for rest and recovery. Filis spoke of the “law of recall,” meaning that one must undergo a life review rather like an instant replay. In this rest period you look at the lifetime you just lived and you may have guidance to see why you did the things you did. You will see both the low and the high points of your life, and there may be much remorse for things you did to hurt others, while there will also be joy in the love that you shared. This is what Baba means when he speaks in the Discourses of the temporary hell and heaven states. She added that all these impressions, or sanskaras, that you are experiencing are in the ego-mind, not the subtle body.

Intuition and conscience are built up over many lives. We learn the hard way, by hurting someone and then experiencing the result of it ourselves—knowing what that pain felt like for the other. Whatever suffering you have caused, you will have to go through also. Then when you return, you will be more merciful. “It’s a long journey. We are very obtuse.”

Sometimes, if someone is advanced, they may review past lives, not just the most recent incarnation, but this would be rare. It’s not necessary to know our past lives. When you make jam, you cook a lot of fruit down to get the essence—that’s what we get to work with, the essence of our past lives, and there’s no need to go over the details. In some cases, though, Filis felt that past-life regression could be therapeutic if done very carefully by an expert. If the therapist is not expert, the process may stir up problems that they cannot handle. In general, fooling around with the occult is highly inadvisable. Baba has specifically said not to use divination methods, pendulums, Tarot cards, and the like. Filis emphasized the difficulties of being psychic—the fact that you may foresee something dire but be unable to change it. Our focus should be right here and now, on Meher Baba.

After a while the sanskaras start to re-form into new groupings, determined by the law of opposites. To give an extreme example (which would not be typical of most people but which makes it easier to make a point), someone who had been very poor may begin to amass impressions leading to a subsequent life of wealth, or a person who experienced much illness may begin re-forming sanskaras so as to enter a life of health—or vice versa. This rearranging enables us to identify with the opposite of what we have already experienced. Thus we will also change from male to female incarnations at some stages. Filis commented that sometimes the gender transition does not completely go through, resulting in an identification with the opposite sex of one’s own body.

The sanskaras regroup because within each life we can only work out a certain number of the sanskaras available for expression. Say you have a latent talent for dance or voice; it will have to wait for the appropriate lifetime to emerge and be expressed. The seeds of those impressions start vibrating and wanting to express themselves. In the semi-subtle world, although you can experience what you want to experience by merely thinking of it, this experience is nonetheless nebulous; it doesn’t have the “push” of gross life. Therefore the sanskaras are seeking expression in an actual gross lifetime.

Complications of Addiction and Suicide

Addictions planted in the seed-mind can be critical in their effect on the transition of death, Filis said—even cigarette addiction. If you pass over with cravings for drugs, you may be still addicted on the Other Side. For this reason, she expressed concern about the use of pain medications and sedatives for patients in the hospital. She said that in Bhau Kalchuri’s book The Nothing and the Everything, Baba describes how a suicide or addicted person will hang around the lower areas of the astral plane, which is linked to the gross plane. The addicted deceased will be drawn to living people who are similarly addicted and will attempt to satisfy their cravings through that living person’s indulgences.

Baba goes into detail about why it is such a mistake to commit suicide. In effect, you’ve chopped off your karma prematurely. Normally, you drop your body naturally at the point when the particular bundle of sanskaras you’ve chosen to work through in this lifetime have been exhausted. When your sanskaras for that lifetime are finished, your body will simply drop, even if there’s no apparent medical reason for it.

One time at work, when Filis was employed as a toy designer for Mattel, she ran into her boss, a healthy man in his forties, and to her shock she could see no aura around him at all; since the aura reveals the colors of the sanskaras, this was equivalent to seeing a corpse, whose sanskaras were all used up. This made her feel sick and restless, for there was nothing she could do about it. The man went to watch an experimental demonstration of a gasless engine; there was an accidental explosion, and a piece of metal struck his heart and killed him. Another time, Filis looked at her brother at Thanksgiving time. She was talking to him, but “there was nothing there”; there was no life in his eyes. His sanskaras were gone and she knew he would die soon, which he did.

In suicide, you drop your body, but the sanskaras have not yet exhausted themselves, and therefore you cannot move on to the semi-subtle sphere where you can create environments and occupations; you can go neither forward nor back. If you were supposed to have lived 30 more years, you still have to live out those remaining impressions somehow. You may attempt to do it through some living person who is doing the things that you were supposed to be doing. The clear implication is that this is not good for either the deceased person or the one they are trying to vicariously live through.

Because the gross body provides insulation against extremes of emotional stress, Filis said, now you are vulnerable to increased stress. You can’t even escape in sleep but are always awake. To avoid this predicament, don’t commit suicide! Filis said she’d been suicidal herself in the past. If you are suicidal, call for Baba’s help, or ask for someone else’s help. And if someone threatens suicide, do something about it. Don’t believe the myth that a person who threatens suicide won’t actually carry it out; they do.

When someone does kill themselves, Baba’s grace can still help them. If you love Baba, he will come and shorten this difficult period.

“Coming to Baba” after Death

Will we see Baba after we die? Will he be waiting for us on the Other Side? Baba-lovers who have clinically died have described the classic near-death experience of moving through the dark tunnel, which Filis said was related to the stretching of the silver cord between the subtle and gross realms. Near-death experiencers have seen Baba at the end of the tunnel, gesturing to them to go back, as it was not their time and they still had to finish out their karma.

With faith in Baba, he will shorten the hell state and give us more of the bliss state. Filis also feels that we may reincarnate more quickly with faith in Baba; it was speculated that many of us here today had died in previous lives in World War II.

Baba has said that “those who die thinking of me come to me” and especially that repeating his name at the moment of death was important. In researching this notion, I see that Baba told Charles Purdom: “To come to me means Liberation, experiencing me as I am. No more bondage of births and deaths. But it does not mean the state of a Perfect Master, of Perfection. That is only to be attained in the gross body. So if you are not blessed with this state of Perfection, at least you can have Liberation. If you just take my name, just at the moment of dropping your body, you will come to me. Yes, anyone.”

When informed of his lovers’ deaths, Baba often sent telegrams to the effect that “So-and-so has come to me.” However, Filis mentioned that Mani explained that to “come to Baba” can mean different things depending on the circumstances. Sometimes it may just mean remaining in a long state of bliss before rebirth, or being reborn in a Baba family.

Baba reminded us that unless we start practicing now, we won’t remember to say his name at the time of death. Any Avatar’s name or God’s name would be also good, Filis said, but Meher Baba’s name is the most powerful.

It would seem crucial that taking his name occur precisely at the moment of death. What if one falls unconscious? Filis pointed out that people have been heard to repeat Baba’s name even when in a coma. Yet to “escape the rat maze” takes real skill. It is good if the people around you are repeating Baba’s name while you are dying. Filis’s mother did not believe in Baba (though she had met him), and when she was dying, Filis sat by and said his name under her breath.

Questions & Answers

On the question of what to do with the body of someone who has died, Filis said it was best to do nothing for three days, since Baba had said that it takes that time for the soul to detach from the gross form. Filis remarked that Baba had said burial was the best choice. I found this surprising, especially since most Baba-lovers seem to choose cremation. I see in Lord Meher that in the case of the mandali, they or their families were permitted to choose the manner of disposal, and in the absence of a preference Baba chose cremation for some of them (see vol. 13: 4629). Therefore I am not completely convinced by Filis’s statement. In Pascal Kaplan’s book Understanding Death, Murshida Duce is quoted as saying she is uncertain what Baba had said about it but thought he may have leaned toward burial. (It seems that Masters are typically buried rather than cremated in India. Islamic tradition calls for burial, as do Christianity and Judaism, owing to a belief in physical resurrection at the end of time.)

On the appearance of a discarnate person (in an apparition or to the person him/herself): Filis said that initially someone on the Other Side looks as they did at their age at the time of death, but eventually they go back to their “prime youth image.” She would see her mother and grandfather as young. Filis commented at one point that the question of time in the afterlife is iffy, because it’s not the same time scale as here. We can’t say how long it takes from death until the next life.

A child who dies sees him- or herself as having a small body, but children have helpers who assist them in growing and learning on the Other Side, where they undergo a period of learning with other children of the same age. In time they actually develop a more mature appearance (meaning that the soul begins to think of itself as bigger and older).

The question arose of whether a Baba-lover’s parents and children would be Baba-lovers in their next life even if they hadn’t been in the present. Filis thought that because they heard about Baba through us, eventually in the future they would come to Baba, having formed the link. That’s why it’s important for them to hear his name from us.

One questioner expressed anxiety that they should recognize Baba as soon as possible when they return in the next incarnation. Filis said the more you impress Baba into your subconscious, the better. Thinking about him, loving him, repeating his name will cause us to be born into a Baba family, or perhaps we will meet our fellow Baba-lovers as teachers or playmates. “If you love Baba now, it’s going to flower again.”

1 comment:

Ellen in USA said...

This is great, thanks Kendra.

I thought I had seen this in video form once on youtube, but can't find it now.

Just one thing: I've never felt thinking about your past lives or trying to find out more about them was the "occult". To me it is real (in a way- still maya, though), important, and I have gotten some useful information about my psyche and inclinations from both good psychics and my own intuition/deja vu experiences.

When I was 8 I visited the Roman Forum for example and knew in a flash I had been there before. It was the first time I think I thought about reincarnation though I knew nothing of the concept then....

Maybe psychics can't really access your information in the Akashic records (which Baba talked about once, briefly) and it's all a hoax though. lol

All quotes of Meher Baba © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust unless otherwise indicated. Writings by Kendra are © Kendra Crossen Burroughs unless otherwise noted.