Theosophical University Press Online Edition
In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, chapter x describes the place where, after death, disembodied souls remain in different degrees of perfection. Some are shown as taking wheat three cubits high, while others are only permitted to glean it — "he gleaned the fields of Aanroo." Thus some enjoy the perfection of spiritual bliss, while others attain only to minor degrees in that place or state where divine justice is meted out to the soul.
Devachan is the land of reward; the domain of spiritual effects. The word spiritual here refers to disembodiment; it must only be used as relative to our material existence. The Christian demonstrates this fact by the material entourage of his heaven. In the Secret Doctrine, H. P. Blavatsky says: "Death itself is unable to deliver man from it [Karma], since death is simply the door through which he passes to another life on earth, after a little rest on its threshold — Devachan." Devachan, then, is the threshold of life. In the Hindu system it is etymologically the place of the gods, Indra's heaven. Indra is the regent of heaven, who gives to those who can reach his realm long-enduring gifts of happiness and dominion. The Bhagavad-Gita says: "After enjoying felicity for innumerable years in the regions of Indra, he is born again upon this earth."
For the purpose of this article, we assume that the entire man, minus the body, goes into Devachan. This, however, is not so. The post-mortem division of our sevenfold constitution given by Theosophy is exact. It exhibits the basis of life, death and reincarnation. It shows the composite being, man, in analogy with that other composite being, nature. Both are a unity in diversity. Man, suspended in nature, like her, divides and reunites. This sevenfold division will be treated in a future article.
Devachan, being a state of prolonged subjective happiness after the death of the body, is plainly the heaven of the Christian, but with a difference. It is a heaven made scientifically possible. Heaven itself must accord with the divine laws projected into nature. As sleep is a release from the body, during which we have dreams, so death is a complete separation and release, after which in Devachan we dream until, on being again incarnated in a new body on earth, we come once more into what we call waking existence. Even the human soul would weary of the ceaseless round of rebirths, if some place or state were not provided in which rest could be obtained; in which germinating aspirations, restricted by earth-life, could have their full development. No energy can be annihilated, least of all a psychic energy; these must somewhere find an outlet. It is found in Devachan; this realization is the rest of the soul. Its deepest desires, its highest needs are there enjoyed. There every hope blooms out in full and glorious flower. To prolong this blissful state, Hindu books give many incantations and provide innumerable ceremonies and sacrifices, all of them having for end and aim a long stay in Devachan. The Christian does precisely the same. He longs for heaven, prays that he may go there, and offers up to his God such propitiatory rites and acts as seem best to him, the only difference being that he does not do it half so scientifically as the Hindu. The Hindu is also more vivid in his conception of this heaven than the Christian is. He postulates many places or conditions adapted to the energic and qualitative differences between souls. Kama-loka and other states are where concrete desires, restricted by life in the body, have full expression, while in Tribûvana the abstract and benevolent thinkers absorb the joys of lofty thought. The orthodox heaven has no such proviso. It also ignores the fact that a settled monotony of celestial existence would exhaust the soul — would be stagnation, not growth. Devachanic life is development of aspiration, passing through the various stages of gestation, birth, cumulative growth, downward momentum, and departure to another condition, all rooted in joy. There is nothing in the mere fact of death to mould a soul anew. It is a group of psychic energies, and heaven must have something in common with these, or why should it gravitate there? Souls differ as men do. In Devachan each one receives that degree of bliss which it can assimilate; its own development determines its reward. The Christian places all the snuffy old saints as high as other holy souls, sinking genius to the level of the mediocre mass, while the Hindu gives infinite variety of occupation and existence suited to grave and gay, the soul of genius or of poetry. No one sits in undesired seats, nor sings psalms he never liked, nor lives in a city which might pall upon him if he were forever compelled to walk its pearly streets. The laws of cause and effect forbid that Devachan should be monotonous. Results are proportionate to antecedent energies. The soul oscillates between Devachan and earth-life, finding in each conditions suited to its continuous development, until, through effort, it reaches a perfection in which it ceases to be the subject of the laws of action and reaction, becoming instead their conscious co-worker.
Devachan is a dream, but only in the sense in which objective life can be called such. Both last until Karma is satisfied in one direction, and begins to work in the other. The Devachanee has no idea of space or time except as he makes for himself. He creates his own world. He is with all he ever loved, not in bodily companionship, but in one to him real, close and blissful. When a man dies, the brain dies last. Life is still busy there after death has been announced. The soul marshals up all past events, grasps the sum total, the average tendency stands out, the ruling hope is seen. Their final aroma forms the keynote of Devachanic existence. The lukewarm man goes neither to heaven nor hell. Nature spews him out of her mouth. Positive conditions, objective or subjective, are only reached through positive impulsion. Devachanic distribution is governed by the ruling motive of the soul. The hater may, by reaction, become the lover, but the indifferent have no propulsion, no growth.