The Judgment – As Seen by Incarnate Observers
Last revised: 7 September 2008
Everybody Experiences the Judgment
Encountering the Judgment
In time a self-judgement arises of all the events of the past life and the result is sometimes painful. (Paul Beard, LO, 13.)
Once he has put the Summerland behind him, the traveler, as we have seen, has thereby made himself more ready to meet experience at a deeper level. (1) What he next finds is likely to bring him certain surprises. (Paul Beard, LO, 95.)
- (1) The editor has expressed disagreement with Paul Beard here that the Judgment is solely to be undergone on the Mental Plane. Other accounts of people undergoing the Judgment on the Astral Plane are covered in that chapter. It would be monotonous in this chapter were I to refer to this disagreement every time Beard mentions its happening on the Mental Plane so I mention it only once here.
The traveler is now able to face the process of finding how he has become what he is as a result of how he dealt with the experiences he underwent on earth, which have gradually made up his present feeling-thinking being. (Paul Beard, LO, 96.)
In due course, everybody meets the experience known as the judgement. Many communications, and not only Christian-oriented ones, describe this judgement; it is a highly important event for the individual, which will occupy him over what is the equivalent of a considerable period of time and will have decisive effects upon him. As we have seen, it does not necessarily take place immediately or closely after death. The full sum of his life is not thrust at once upon a man willy-nilly; it will come about when he is ready for it.
In a sense, the illusions of the Summerlands ... and the harsh experiences of the Winterland are all part of a judgement, for they are ways of a man coming to know himself. But they also have within them a deep refusal to face the self: the person is not yet ready. The judgement now to be spoken of, once embarked on, cannot be gainsaid and will proceed to its conclusion. It is entirely objective and calls on the one judged for an equally objective acceptance of what it discloses.
After-death judgement is normally thought of as a retrospective thing and of course it points to consequences of actions carried out on earth. The past is irrevocable, certainly; however, its consequences are not final. They can be overcome. Therefore it would be equally true to regard the judgement as a stock-taking, as a result of which a man discovers limitations created by past acts or omissions which have put part of him into a self-prison. (1)
It must not be supposed, of course, that all the factors in his judgement are negative ones. A man finds there his positive qualities too and, just as the negative factors make for limitation, the positive ones make for him a free pathway into his future; they are expansive and liberating.
Thus there is this important difference from the once-for-all judgment pictured in so many world religions. Though it is none the less decisive, its meaning is very different. Its purpose is not punishment, but education. It is non-vengeful and beneficent in its effects.
In this judgement a man is introduced to a precise record of every outer and inner event of his life on earth. It is frequently said that this process is carried out by oneself and in essence this is true. But since the traveler is likely to have misjudged himself, perhaps very seriously, whilst on earth, how does he acquire the insight to make the judgement correctly? To see himself as he really is and was itself requires enhanced powers of judgement and of self-analysis.
Two new factors therefore emerge. The first is that some change must come about in him, to produce or make possible this required deeper insight. This will be partly stimulated by the unexpected information which will reach him in the judgement, through the intimate picture of his past life which is presented.
The second factor is that he will be helped further by discussing his situation with a teacher allotted to him. This instruction is of a rather painful kind. Judgement is a complex process and certainly not carried out in a uniform way. For temperaments vary and some are unable to take as much truth or take it as quickly as others can; like some horses they first refuse their fences as too steep to surmount. They are free to refuse them and to continue to canter round an earlier part of the course, but in the end they must face them. Their concepts of what is good and evil will need to change and to grow too and to grow needs time, or the equivalent of time in the afterworld. (Paul Beard, LO, 97-8.)
- (1) These llimitations may be what Hindus call "vasanas" and Buddhists "obscurations." Search on "vasanas" here.
Communicators clearly find difficulty in conveying this experience of judgement in all its depth so they frequently make use of simplified pictures and symbols to help us to understand. Hence it is often said that a panorama is shown of all that took place in earth life or that it is represented as if it were on a television screen. The point is that in some manner the traveler is shown every single event in his life as it really was and not as he thought it had been. The record is made straight wherever he misunderstood it. But there is more; besides his own deeds and the thoughts and feelings connected with them, he is also now obliged actually to experience within himself the thoughts and feelings, the pains and pleasures which his actions caused in the lives of other people; exactly what he caused them to feel he, in turn, feels in himself now. This is a surprising and very disconcerting event.
The judgement gradually shows that his present moral stature narrows his horizon somewhere. This principle already exists on earth when we find ourselves facing moral decisions which earlier weaknesses of character have made too difficult for which we have now become unwilling to pay the required price. So we settle for something easier and thereby further blunt the perception which could make more difficult choices possible in the future. In making the easier choice we have made ourselves smaller. The effects of this become more evident after death.
The panorama is usually spoken of as a single and inevitable event, but this is almost certainly an oversimplification. There are descriptions of another panorama which appears almost immediately after death, or during clinical death, (1) from which the person later recovers.... It takes place at great speed, is in forward time sequence, and is viewed with emotional detachment. This however appears to be a different and lesser event. Some pass into death in a deep slumber or after a coma, and in returning to consciousness after death there is often a further period akin to drowsiness and sleep and it is hard to be sure if all experience this vision. Rudolf Steiner says that all men do so.
The peculiarity of this tableau is that as long as it remains in the form in which it appears immediately after death, all the subjective experiences of the man during his life are expunged. .... The joys and sorrows connected with the pictures of the past life are not present. The human being confronts this memory-tableau as objectively as he confronts a painting; ... in an astonishingly brief span of time man sees all the detailed events of his life.
This is an obscure area of description. It is clear, however, that full judgement involves a total participation in its consequences. There is nothing detached about it. (Paul Beard, LO, 99-100.)
Since all one's available equipment is needed to face the judgement, it makes sense when it is described as taking place only after the traveler has become adjusted to his new life. This time the sequence takes place in backward time order. Rudolf Steiner endorses this. In this way, after re-experiencing his past, the traveler can then be shown the earlier seeds he had planted which brought about these events; their causal sequence is made clear.
Most people need to have the sequence, or part of it, repeated several times before they can absorb it all. It can be a very severe experience. (Paul Beard, LO, 100.)
[Albert] Pauchard's account (1) is a most telling one. In his case purgation was readily faced very soon after death. He speaks of scoriae, an interesting word with two separate meanings. To excorciate is to remove the outer covering and this is precisely what this panorama does; it removes all the comfortable padding which people use to justify their actions and hide their real motives. The other meaning is to flay and flaying is a painful process. Pauchard was a very honourable and conscientious man, yet he now found aspects within himself which he had failed to recognize of earth. (1) (Paul Beard, LO, 101.)
- (1) For Pauchard's account, see here
During Pauchard's strenuous purgation, he describes an experience which is not described in most purgation stories but which may have been the best way for him to recognize the truth. Less desirable qualities of his own are shown to him, as if independent objective forms. They are a kind of thought form. These meet him; and because when he was on earth he submitted to these qualities they thereby gain a certain power over him, from which he now has to learn to free himself. (Paul Beard, LO, 101.)
Judgement, it must again be emphasized, has to wait until a man is sufficiently able to face up to it. Those in the Winterland, because they bitterly resent their condition as unjust, would be quite unready to accept all that their panorama, in its total justice, will show them. In their obstinacy they would remain inwardly blind and unresponsive to it.
Purgation is thus no simple matter of credits versus debits; it is a matter of one's qualities, parts of one's very self, which have encrusted the rest of the nature, or have grown up like a wall around it, or have spread within like a cancer; or good qualities which one has mutilated. These are the wounds which the soul must now find out how to heal, qualities which have to be regrown into a different, more positive shape. The cleansing process necessary after the judgement is not achieved automatically through perception of the faults; it requires subsequent hard work upon them. Self-correction can be very painful. (Paul Beard, LO, 102.)
By the time the judgement is reached, passions and defects ... reveal themselves in the etheric body for others to see. So a man now experiences in a more intense form the character he brought over from earth, under conditions in which its real nature becomes readily evident. The aftermath of the judgement, the time of purgation or Purgatory, to use the Roman Catholic term, is not entirely painful, for the judgement will also show his good side. That which is realistic and serious in him will already be willing to face up to speed up the process of his disentanglement from error and misconception. He will be able to use his good qualities to help him overcome the rest. But he can never excuse the evil by putting the good in the scales to balance it.
The evil remains what it is, until he weeds it out. He finds himself saddled with himself, with the good and the bad alike. Discarnate life during purgation is still variegated and mixed, much as it is on earth. Within the folds, as it were, of his struggle, from time to time he will glimpse what the best part of him can perceive from a step higher up his own Jacob's ladder, though he will not yet be able to retain the vision permanently.
He will be obliged to relapse into the remainder of his nature. The traveler has these periods of purging and of respite, in accordance with his own pattern of temperament, turning his attention from one department of his being to another, working now on one factor in himself and now on another. (Paul Beard, LO, 103-4.)
The traveler will not be able to move on completely to new 'environments' or areas of consciousness until he has fully worked out what has been hampering him on other levels; he can only temporarily expand his being towards what will be more completely his later on. For quite a while he will continue to carry around a number of sides of himself as he does on earth. (Paul Beard, LO, 104.)
The judgement then is best considered as a composite happening, in the course of which various aspects of reality become expressed. Under one aspect it can be regarded as a sequence of events, the first part of which is enacted on earth; the full consequences continue, but only because fully seen later at the deeper levels of consciousness to which the 'panorama' introduces a man.
Under another aspect it is a living demonstration of moral forces in the universe playing upon and influencing a human being in order that he can learn to co-operate harmoniously with these; under another aspect still, it is the Divine Will expressing itself with infinite justice, patience and love towards one of the beings this Will has created, to help him to overcome all that is fallible in him.
From a different viewpoint still, it is the impersonal rendering of a balance sheet to date. From another, the removal of a man's consciousness from kindergarten to grammar school or university.
Still another aspect is to look upon the judgement as a creation of the man himself. He has made his bed and now must lie upon it. The self now confronting him, as a result of all his life on earth, is essentially his own creation, one part of which comes home to him as a terrible stranger which it is now necessary for him to acknowledge and live with.
The judgement, and its pain, lies in reading the balance sheet and in acknowledging its truth.
All accounts agree that no exterior judge is met (W.T. Stead's 'interviewer' is really his teacher, and not a judge). In confronting and accepting the panorama the man is his own judge. .. /
The profoundly mysterious event cannot be evaded - our private, personal past, including its mental and emotional events, however much we would prefer to forget some of them, lives on, in our personal present after death, and also in an objective present as some sort of record of events, as well as in its actual effects on other beings. This is a formidable reckoning. (Paul Beard, LO, 105-6.)
Judgement, however, is not an absolute event but an episode from which a future will grow with new developments. It is a jumping-off ground. How could it be final, in the sense of applying absolute moral standards a might be totally outside the previous or present comprehension of the person in whom the judgement takes place? It must be an interim thing relative to his sensibility. For serious and high-minded people who have taken a strenuous view of the moral nature of living, the judgment is likely to be more severe, not in the events depicted but in the impact on themselves, than it is in lesser persons. They will care more. Those of more ordinary capacity, who padded themselves somewhat from living in too testing a way, will at first not have so much capacity to care. A criminal would simply fail altogether to comprehend the standards by which a saint has lived his life. What the criminal would regard as the good life would fill the saint with abhorrence. (Paul Beard, LO, 106.)
The Recording Angel
The "Recording Angel" is not an individual but a mighty Registry. Every prayer, and every cry for help, even from the deepest hells, is registered, filtered and passed onward to its ultimate destination: and the same applies to ordinary and causal events in earth life. (Lord Dowding, MM, 77.)
The most difficult problem for us in trying to understand the panorama process is how a completely objective presentation can come about of every event - physical, emotional, mental, spiritual - in one man's life. Who or what manipulates the panorama: a being? Or a mere recording apparatus? Or is it imprinted upon the innermost memory of the man himself, and somehow now reflected back to him, converted into the panorama or television scenes spoken of?
Some of the persons with whom he had had contact will still be on earth. How then is it possible for their side of interlocked experience to be accessible to him during the judgement? Again, we encounter a process almost impossible for us to understand.
Some accounts state that the memory or record of all events is implanted in some way upon the 'akasha,' described as a subtle substance surrounding the earth - a gigantic reproduction or reflection of the lives of all its inhabitants. If all inner and outer events are thus imprinted upon an 'akashic' or 'etheric' surround (of which scientific discarnates have so far not succeeded in giving us any real description although some occultists claim to be able to perceive part of it) it would account for how it is possible, during the judgement, for a man to understand the thoughts and feelings of others, which he played a part in bringing about. At every turn we are confronted by our limitations in attempting to understand what is really meant by the panorama; discarnates nevertheless impress on us in their accounts that it has been their true experience. (Paul Beard, LO, 105-6.)
At that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: (1) ... and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. (Daniel 12:1.)
- (1) Cf: "Michael presides over the government of the Jewish people." (Pseudo-Dionysius in CWPD, 172.)
We hold a book in which all things are written. (Koran, 118.)
We record the deeds of men and the marks they leave behind: We note all things in a glorious book. (Koran, 170.)
Do they think We cannot hear their secret talk and private converse? Yes! Our angels, who are at their side, record it all. (Koran, 149.)
All their deeds are in Our books; every action, small or great, is noted down. The righteous shall dwell in gardens where rivers flow, honourably seated in the presence of a Mighty King. (Koran, 112.)
This book of Ours speaks with truth against you. We have recorded all your actions. (Koran, 129.)
For every soul there is a guardian watching over it. (Koran, 38.)
It is alike whether you whisper or speak aloud, whether you hide behind the cloak of night or walk about in broad day. Each has his guardian angels before him and behind him, who watch him by Allah's command. (Koran, 140.)
Yes, you deny the Last Judgement. Yet there are guardians watching over you, noble recorders who know all your actions.
The righteous shall surely dwell in bliss. But the wicked shall burn in Hell-fire upon the Judgement-day: they shall not escape. (Koran, 16.)
We will record [the unbeliever's] words and make his punishment long and terrible. All he speaks of he shall leave behind and come before us all alone. (Koran, 37.)