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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Suicide

The act of taking one’s own life. Religions generally condemn suicide, although attempts have been made to justify it under certain circumstances. JUDAISM does not permit a full Jewish burial for a person who commits suicide. This tradition has also been adopted among Christians. In BUDDHISM, self-destruction is similarly frowned upon, although some believe that it is implied in the Nikayas that among Arhats, they may have the power to choose whether to retain their bodies or not. ISLAM similarly disapproves of suicide. Although the Qur’ān does not refer to it, several Hadiths or traditions explicitly condemns suicide. Hinduism also condemns it with the possible exception of the practice of prayopavea, or fasting to death, which is allowed only under certain conditions.

The theosophical view of suicide is best expressed by Helena P. BLAVATSKY, who in her article “Is Suicide a Crime?” unequivocally condemned suicide in all its forms. “No more than murder, is it ever justifiable, however desirable it may sometimes appear. The Occultist, who looks at the origin and the ultimate end of things, teaches that the individual, who affirms that any man, under whatsoever circumstances, is called upon to put and end to his life, is guilty of as great an offence and of as pernicious a piece of sophistry, as the nation that assumes a right to kill in war thousands of innocent people under the pretext of avenging the wrong done to one.” (CW 4:258-9)

She distinguishes between acts of suicide and self-sacrifice. “One takes away his life, the other offers it in sacrifice to philanthropy and to his duty,” and hence is not suicide. Such a self-sacrificing person is in fact a hero and a martyr (ibid).

Theosophical philosophy states that people who commit suicide cut short what would have been their natural span of life. They therefore do not “die” yet and continue to be conscious and suffer as an “earthbound” soul. They may be drawn to spiritualistic seances during that stage. The Mahatma Letters state however that “it is a sin and cruelty to revive their memory and intensify their suffering by giving them a chance of living an artificial life; a chance to overload their Karma, by tempting them into opened doors, viz., mediums and sensitives, for they will have to pay roundly for every such pleasure” (ML, p. 197).

V.H.C./P.S.H.

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