“The kabalists say that death occurs at the instant when both the astral body, or life-principle, and the spirit part forever with the corporeal body. The scientific physician who denies both astral body and spirit, and admits the existence of nothing more than the life-principle, judges death to occur when life is apparently extinct.
When the beating of the heart and the action of the lungs cease, and rigor mortis is manifested, and especially when decomposition begins, they pronounce the patient dead. But the annals of medicine teem with examples of “suspended animation” as the result of asphyxia by drowning, the inhalation of gases and other causes; life being restored in the case of drowning persons even after they had been apparently dead for twelve hours.
In cases of somnambulic trance, none of the ordinary signs of death are lacking; breathing and the pulse are extinct; animal-heat has disappeared; the muscles are rigid, the eye glazed, and the body is colorless. In the celebrated case of Colonel Townshend, he threw himself into this state in the presence of three medical men; who, after a time, were persuaded that he was really dead, and were about leaving the room, when he slowly revived. He describes his peculiar gift by saying that he “could die or expire when he pleased, and yet, by an effort, or somehow he could come to life again.”
There occurred in Moscow, a few years since, a remarkable instance of apparent death. The wife of a wealthy merchant lay in a cataleptic state seventeen days, during which the authorities made several attempts to bury her; but, as decomposition had not set in, the family averted the ceremony, and at the end of that time she was restored to life.
The above instances show that the most learned men in the medical profession are unable to be certain when a person is dead. What they call “suspended animation”, is that state from which the patient spontaneously recovers, through an effort of his own spirit, which may be provoked by any one of many causes. In these cases, the astral body has not parted from the physical body, its external functions are simply suspended; the subject is in a state of torpor, and the restoration is nothing but a recovery from it.
But, in the case of what physiologists would call “real death”, but which is not actually so, the astral body has withdrawn; perhaps local decomposition has set in. How shall the man be brought to life again?
The answer is, the interior body must be forced back into the exterior one, and vitality reawakened in the latter. The clock has run down, it must be wound. If death is absolute, if the organs have not only ceased to act, but have lost the susceptibility of renewed action, then the whole universe would have to be thrown into chaos to resuscitate the corpse — a miracle would be demanded.
But, as we said before, the man is not dead when he is cold, stiff, pulseless, breathless, and even showing signs of decomposition; he is not dead when buried, nor afterward, until a certain point is reached. That point is when the vital organs have become so decomposed, that if reanimated, they could not perform their customary functions; when the mainspring and cogs of the machine, so to speak, are so eaten away by rust, that they would snap upon the turning of the key.
Until that point is reached, the astral body may be caused, without miracle, to reenter its former tabernacle, either by an effort of its own will, or under the resistless impulse of the will of one who knows the potencies of nature and how to direct them. The spark is not extinguished, but only latent — latent as the fire in the flint, or the heat in the cold iron.”
H. P. Blavatsky