We’re generally required by the natural law to live out the natural term of our existence and experience the situations we agreed to in our soul contracts. Under certain circumstances, when our karmic lessons have been exceeded, we may negotiate an early transition. But by and large we’re not encouraged to leave life by our own hands.
The natural law that assesses our responsibility is perfect in the sense that it is capable of taking all factors bearing on our situation, including intention, into consideration and render for us an equitable accounting. Because the law takes everything into account, the karmic resolution in each case may be different. The degree of burden resulting from suicide will vary from that of the blamelessness of Socrates and Seneca who embraced their fate to the entanglements of those who try to avoid theirs. It’s therefore not possible to make one statement about all cases of suicide.
If we take our own life, we invoke the workings of the law of karma in a number of ways.
As I understand it, the first consequence of suicide is that we find ourselves in a semi-conscious condition on the other side for a length of time. Some people feel that length of time represents the time between the unnatural and the natural death, but the question has by no means been settled among spiritual scientists.
This condition has been described as “a gray, hazy state.” (1) Another spirit communicator described it as “a fog of apathy.” (2) The ones so affected are usually unable to hear or see spirits who attend to them and generally watch over them, or, if they do hear or see them, they may be unable to respond.
A second consequence for some is that we must make an abrupt return trip to Earth to pick up where we left off. Mike Swain describes it this way. Notice that he says here that the suicide is placed in a state of rest. That may be the outcome for some. As indicated earlier, each situation may be different.
“When someone of the earth plane feels so restricted, so cramped, so frightened, that he sees no solution to it – when, in fact, he can no longer face up to the day-to-day burdens that confront everyone else in your world – he thinks that committing suicide will be an easy way out and will punish his ‘tormentors’ at the same time.
“When his soul comes here, it is immediately placed in a state of rest … until the jangling dislocations of the suicide have subsided. Then he is immediately sent back to earth to inhabit a new body. Once again he finds himself a mortal man; but he retains no recollection of his previous history.
“What is more, in this second life of his, he is going to be confronted by exactly the same problems. If he fails a second time, the same process will occur and continue to occur until he learns to face his problems rather than escape them. …
“So if you want a frustrating round-trip ticket up to our world and right back down to yours again, Dad, commit suicide! It will get you nowhere fast!” (3)
A third consequence is that, in the case of souls who remain on the astral planes, we may be required live for a period of time on a plane of lesser station than we would otherwise merit until we understand that suicide is generally not an acceptable act. The natural law brings to our remembrance our act and we are obliged to reflect on it. Release from the lower planes usually comes when we have assimilated our lessons from the experience.
A fourth consequence may be that, when we are reborn into a life in which the conditions of existence are agreeable, we may find ourselves cut off or cut down at a time when we might ordinarily relish living. Thus, a person might find themselves happily married, wealthy, challenged, etc., and yet die of a heart attack in the prime of life. I imagine that the keen disappointment we may feel might serve as an antidote, existing deep within the subconscious, when next we consider suicide.
These four consequences comprise what the unnamed teacher speaking through medium Betty Bethards called a “hell of their own making in order to become aware that this is not what they are striving for. It … teaches the soul that it does not have the right to take its own life, that it cannot kill.” (4) I know this sounds a bit harsh but suicide is generally frowned on.
One group of people who fall outside these parameters is those who take their own lives out of madness, or under stress of disease or injury or congenital defect. These circumstances are taken into account and result in less or no karmic debt following the departed one, as “Imperator” makes clear:
“The human instrument may be jarred and out of tune, and so may faultily transmit the will of the spirit within. There are many cases in which madness is the result of bodily disease. For such the spirit is not blameworthy. Accidental injury may derange, or congenital defect, or overstrain of trouble and distress.
“For such causes the spirit is blamed by none, least of all by the Holy and Just One, who deals not with body but with spirit, and who judges according to spiritual motive and intent.” (5)
To summarize, then, there are many reasons why one might take his or her own life. Some of them result in no karma; others result in varying degrees of it. The situation of each suicide is unique and different results may ensue.
Some will need to return to incarnated life quickly. Others may spend time on the lower planes. Others may resume life on the higher planes but find that in a future incarnation they are cut off in what might be considered the prime of life or in satisfactory conditions of life. Whatever circumstances best promise to convey the needed lesson will probably be what one encounters.
In general suicide is not a supportable action. However, the natural law is capable of sorting out the cases in which suicide is blameless from those in which responsibility results.
(1) Unnamed spirit teacher through Betty Bethards, medium, There is No Death. Novato, CA: Inner Light Foundation, 1976; c1975 43.
(2) “Ross” in Alice Gilbert, medium, Into the Everywhere. Tunbridge Wells: World Spiritual Council, 1968, 25.
(3) Mike Swain to his father, Jasper Swain, From My World to Yours: A Young Man’s Account of the Afterlife. New York: Walker, 1977. , 53.
(4) Unnamed spirit teacher through Betty Bethards, ibid., 10.
(5) Spirit leader “Imperator” (Prophet Malachi) speaking through Stainton Moses. Spirit Teachings. London: Spiritualist Press, n.d. (Prior to 1883), 186.
Appendix 1. T.E. Lawrence and his friend “D”
T.E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”) tended to one of his friends who committed suicide. His description is long but touches on many aspects of the suicide’s situation, including the lack of certainty as to how long each must remain unconscious, the variability of circumstances, etc. He told medium Jane Sherwood:
“What happens to the unfortunate soul who puts an end to his own existence? In many – in most of such – cases the pressure of work and worry, combined with private misfortune have unsettled the reason – or this is the would-be charitable verdict of the Coroner’s Court.
“There are few men who have not in their make-up that weak point at which control breaks down. In most cases courage has been sapped by self-pity and so the breach is carried by a flood of despair. No man can judge, because each of us has his breaking point whether life tests us to the limit or not.
“The friend of whom I speak was found almost immediately and I was able to go to him. He was in a kind of stupor and I was told that he might remain in this state for a long time and that nothing could be done about it. We watched over him and were loath to leave him in the misty half-region where he was found. It was a tract I myself had known in time past.
“Until he regained consciousness there he had to remain; had we forcibly removed him his poor body would not have been able to stand the conditions of our plane and so we had to leave him there. Now and again I went back to find him still in the same quiet coma, and seeing the state of his astral form I almost dreaded his awakening.
“Suicides often show this long-lasting coma. It is really a merciful pause during which some of the damage to their emotional bodies is quietly made good. Much always remains for them to do when they come to themselves and in D’s case, Mitchell [Lawrence's teacher] asked me to make periodic visits to him so that he might find a familiar face when he awoke.
“I made one such visit and found that he had gone. Knowing the agony of loneliness and ‘lostness’ one can suffer in this region of looming shadows I went immediately in search of him. I had only to let my feet take me swiftly in the direction of my strong desire to find him and soon I made out his tall figure swaying through the mist. I hailed him and he let me come up but it was hard to make him see or hear me. In fact, his body was so ill-developed that his new senses were as yet of little use to him.
“By some means I got him to come with me and led him into a slightly better region and here he sank down and rested again. He was reassured by his feeling of a friendly presence and he has since told me that he recognized it as mine. So he sunk again into sleep. I watched for some time and then realized that he was deep under and might not rouse again for a long time, so reluctantly I left him there.
“It would be tedious to describe the slow and uphill progress he made. I was with him as often as possible and as his senses developed and his body strengthened I got him by degrees into better conditions. There was much trouble to clear; remorse for his weakness, and sorrow and fear all had to be cured. He is still unable to join Mitchell in his ‘home,’ but a delicate beauty and grace is beginning to emerge and I am hopeful of more rapid progress soon.
“I am told that there is a belief that suicides remain in a coma until the time when they would normally have died. This is one of the propositions which are impossible of proof, since no one can say when their hour would have struck had they not anticipated it. It is a fact that this state of coma lasts for varying periods, but there is also a long period of unconsciousness in many who have come by violent deaths.
“A suicide differs from such a one because his emotional state is usually far worse and takes much longer to clear, but a long period of coma may supervene on death in either case. Time is relative and the duration of unconsciousness to the sufferer is immaterial. Eventually he must awaken and take on the task of fitting himself to enter his own appropriate sphere of being. This is where he can be and is helped. There is often a long convalescence before he can get free of the sin and suffering of his violent end.
“It is fitting that those who help him pay their debt of sympathetic suffering, but we know the end, and it is glorious. There can be no such thing as final failure and this is where we have the advantage of earth. Even a relapse can be only temporary and there is never any occasion for despair. So I look forward with joy to the day when D will be among is as a happy and fulfilled being with his mistakes and sorrows all behind him.” (T.E. Lawrence through Jane Sherwood, medium, Post-Mortem Journal. Communications from T.E. Lawrence. London: Spearman, 1964., 110-13.)