Copyright © 2011 by Theosophical University Press
Every nation on earth, from the most highly civilized to the most savage, both of the present and of the past, has had a collection of doctrines or beliefs regarding the postmortem destiny of the human "soul." These beliefs take two general forms: postmortem reward or recompense for a good and moral life, and, conversely, punishment or vengeance for an evil life. These two conditions of the "soul" after death have been almost universally supposed to be passed in some corresponding locality called "heaven" for the one class, and "hell" for the second class of disembodied humans. In the different religious and philosophical systems, the ideas vary largely both with regard to the types of retributive compensation or punishment and to the duration ascribed to these two kinds of postmortem existence, as well as to the localities of these so-called heavens and hells. Nevertheless, there are certain striking similarities among all these differing ideas.
The various ideas or teachings regarding the so-called heavens and hells have suffered the fate of degeneration, and have become almost without exception highly embroidered misinterpretations of the original doctrine which was delivered by the founder of each system in an attempt to explain to the multitudes the infallible results of evil living on the one hand, and of a good and moral life on the other hand. As time passed, all these later developments of the original teachings came to be accepted literally instead of symbolically; and in a few cases, such literal misinterpretations have brought untold suffering and misery to human hearts.
It was the original root-meanings behind the misinterpretations which stirred the world in the past. All we have to do, therefore, is to search for these original truths; for they not only guide men into paths of rectitude, but they do away with superstition, eradicate fear from the human heart, and in the place of these plant knowledge and hope.
It is probably only the different forms of Western religion which teach an eternal hell in which men who have lived their one life on earth evilly are destined to pass eternity in everlasting torment; although during the Dark Ages and a portion of the earliest "modern" period, before the idea became unpopular, Western Christianism likewise had rather vague notions that hell was but a generalizing term, and that there were different hells more or less appropriate for the different grades of human souls steeped with different tinctures of evil-doing. Even as late as the time of Dante, who wrote in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, such ideas were more or less commonly accepted, as is shown by him in his masterpiece, La Divina Commedia.
The following citations from what has been for a dozen centuries or more the orthodox conception of the nature of the torments of those whose evil ways during earth-life have brought them unto eternal damnation are typical:
The first is from a quite orthodox English Baptist clergyman, the famous Spurgeon:
When thou diest thy soul will be tormented alone — that will be hell for it — but at the day of judgment thy body will join thy soul and thou wilt have twin hells; thy soul sweating drops of blood, and thy body suffused with agony. In fire, exactly like that we have on earth, thy body will be, like asbestos, forever unconsumed; all thy veins a road for the hot feet of pain to travel on; every nerve a string on which the devil shall ever play his diabolical tune of hell’s Unutterable Lament. — Sermons of the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon, pp. 275-6 (condensed)
Another is from a Roman Catholic book for children, The Sight of Hell, written by Rev. John Furniss:
The Fourth Dungeon is the Boiling Kettle. . . . But listen! There is a sound just like that of a kettle boiling. . . . The blood is boiling in the scalded veins of that boy. The brain is boiling and bubbling in his head. The marrow is boiling in his bones! In the Fifth Dungeon . . . the little child is in this red hot oven. Hear how it screams to come out. See how it turns and twists itself about in the fire. It beats its head against the roof of the oven. It stamps its little feet on the floor of the oven.
Equivalently there were during the same periods of the Christian era, widely prevalent notions that "heaven" was but a generalizing term which signified different spheres of felicity, on which human souls who had lived good lives on earth found their postmortem habitats in carefully graded series. Yet Western religion in its post-medieval period, and also Mohammedanism in its more orthodox forms, seem to be the only great religious systems which teach the existence of but one general heaven, and that those who live a more or less virtuous life will, after death, pass endless eternity in some kind of indescribable bliss — apparently oblivious of those who are suffering the pains of eternal torment in hell.
If we accept the views of many early Christian Fathers, such as Tertullian in De Spectaculis (30), the "bliss" of the "saints" is actually increased by the sight of the unspeakable torments of the "damned"! This monstrous teaching is a lie because it is sheer superstition. What is a superstition? A superstition is something "added on" to an original truth, thereby distorting it.
For instance, take a book. We may revere the teaching in that book and the noble mind which formulated it; but from the minute when our reverence degenerates into any form of fear or blind credulity in imagining that if even by accident we happen to ill-treat that book some secret force will emanate from it or from somewhere else and strike us dead, inflict disease upon us or subject us to the dangers of eternal torment — from this minute we suffer under a superstition, and in consequence the original reverence for noble thought vanishes. It is not a superstition to believe in any truth, no matter how strange it may seem to us in the first instance — and many truths are strange indeed. The records of European religious and philosophical and scientific history are replete with instances where a natural fact or truth has at first been called a "superstition" and later on quietly accepted as a fact in nature.
All great religions, particularly those of archaic origin — Brahmanism, Buddhism, the teachings of the great Chinese Sage, Lao-tse; the best philosophical teachings of the Greek and Roman civilizations; the original religion of the Germanic peoples; and even many of the hoary doctrines of so-called barbarian and savage peoples — who are not young races at all, but really descendants of once mighty sires who lived in times of great civilizations, all traces of which have vanished from the earth — all have or had sublime teachings based on the discovery and understanding of some of the most recondite mysteries of nature. It is only common sense to understand these mysteries before we permit ourselves to criticize what we do not comprehend.
Brahmanism, in its doctrines concerning the postmortem adventures of the human "soul," has many teachings which approximate closely to the Esoteric Philosophy. The same may be said of Buddhism, perhaps the least degenerated at the present time from the original ideas of its great founder. The same may be said of Taoism, Confucianism, and with regard to all the archaic religious and philosophic systems of the past, wherever their remnants may be found.
It is true that some of the teachings of these ancient religions or philosophies which by many ages preceded the respective eras of Mohammedanism and Christianity are now more or less degenerate. In addition, they have been grossly misunderstood and misinterpreted by Occidental scholars. Yet these archaic religions and philosophies are in general faithful, each one to its own original source.
But Christianity in its doctrines has wandered widely indeed from the original thought of its great founder, for the reason that inferior men became its propagandists after the time of Jesus. While many of them undoubtedly were thoroughly sincere, some probably were intellectually insincere in the sense of attempting to impart as universal truths of nature what were the more or less vagrant ideas of their own minds — misunderstood and misinterpreted hints and flashes which they had received from the great source. It was briefly thus that the original teachings of Jesus the avatara were either lost or became degenerate.
The theosophical philosophy has a wide and varied scheme of spheres of bliss and of purgation; but its teachings show clearly that these different spheres are not in any sense merely the habitats of dead men or of their "souls," but rather integral and therefore component parts of the structure of universal nature herself, which structure is continuous throughout and permeated and inspired by an all-dominant hierarchic intelligence of cosmic magnitude. The greatest part of universal nature is thus the almost innumerable hierarchies which compose and indeed are all the vast realms of the invisible, comprising all ranges of the cosmic structure from super-divine down to our own physical sphere which is but the shell or outermost integument of all. By far the most important part, therefore, of the cosmos is these vast worlds or spheres which are unseen and intangible to us, and which comprise in their different hierarchies and in their inhabitants, those spheres of habitation and karmic consequences which the Esoteric Philosophy speaks of as heavens and hells.
Neither heavens nor hells when thus understood as integral realms of nature are localities formed by any cosmic creator, but actually are part and parcel of the life and substance of the invisible and incomprehensible Divinity whose all-permeant life and intelligence, will and substance, not only infill the universe but in fact are it. This last thought was in the mind of the Christian Paul, himself an initiate in at least some of the lower degrees of the ancient Mysteries, when he stated: "in It we live, and move, and have our being," quoting the Greek poet Aratus (third century bce).
What an immensely changed viewpoint! Instead of being the hapless creatures of an inscrutable "Creator" who "made" us with such portions of intelligence and will as we have, either to enter a foolish heaven of bliss, or to suffer eternal torment in a hell of the damned — both nightmares of a monkish imagination — we see a vision before us of literally innumerable spheres and worlds, composing the infinite cosmic life and being of the substance of that life itself, and which thus are the houses or mansions of experience through which the peregrinating monads are continuously evolving and revolving.
The heavens, therefore, are those spiritual realms of experience through which all monads must at some time in their ages-long peregrinations pass, and in which they dwell for periods proportionate with the karmic merit attained. The hells are those spheres or realms of purgation, to which all monads whatsoever during certain periods of their peregrinations must pass, therein washing the matter-laden souls, so that once cleansed they may rise again along the ascending arc of cosmic experience — "In my Father's house are many mansions."
It will thus be seen that the true significance of these widely extended inner worlds, which exoteric devotion and religious fanaticism have wrongly turned into spheres of felicity for dead men on the one hand, and into spheres of purgation and torment on the other hand, are neither the one nor the other, but are the structural and component parts of the universe itself.
While modern theosophy has conveniently grouped the worlds of postmortem spiritual felicity under the single Tibetan term devachan, nevertheless devachan is, strictly speaking, not a locality or "place" but is a state or condition, or more accurately, states or conditions ranging all the way from the lower or quasi-material devachanic condition through all the intermediate degrees upwards to the realms of relatively pure spirit where the highest or most ethereal devachanic states are. Similarly, in the other direction there are conditions or grades which are precisely appropriate to, and form fit habitats for, "souls" in whom the matter-attraction has been predominant during earth-life, and necessarily, therefore, it is to these more material and less ethereal spheres that such souls naturally gravitate. The lowest parts of these form aggregatively what is called the avici.
Neither the devachan in all its serial degrees, nor the intermediate realms of kamaloka, nor the avici beneath it, is a place or locality, but each is a series of states or conditions into which entities are drawn on account of the causes originated in the earth-life just ended. It is of course perfectly true that there can be no condition of an entity apart from a locality or place; but neither the devachan, nor the kamaloka, nor the avici, in any of their respective ranges is a place in itself: all are states experienced, usually postmortem, by excarnate human souls. These states correspond to "heaven," "purgatory," and "hell." The only hell that the theosophist recognizes is the range of conditions or states of the consciousness experiencing them which are grouped under the term avici. Because the avici is a series or range of states of consciousness of entities experiencing them, there are avicis even for human beings in earth-life, before death. This refers in generalizing fashion to the avici at its worst and most intense form as belonging to nearly absolute matter and the very unfortunate beings dwelling therein.
Naturally, these states or conditions must not be thought of as watertight or separated series; but each one blends by imperceptible degrees with the one next adjoining it. Thus the devachanic states range from the highest or quasi-spiritual through many intermediate states or conditions down to the lowest or quasi-ethereal of the devachan, where imperceptibly the state becomes the highest of the kamaloka. The kamalokic states themselves pass from the more ethereal downwards through the intermediate stages to the grossest or most material of the kamalokic series, where they blend imperceptibly into the highest or least material of the avici conditions, which in their turn pass downwards into constantly increasing materiality, until we reach the lowest avici condition which is not far from the realm of absolute matter, the grossest material substance that our general cosmic hierarchy contains.
Yet this is not all: higher than the devachan in the one direction and lower than the avici in the other direction there are other worlds or planes in the endless cosmic continuum: a border land or frontier before the structural framework passes, in the case of the right-hand, into the cosmic hierarchy above it, and in the case of the left-hand, into the cosmic hierarchy below our own. Above the devachan, superior to its highest conditions or states, and with no wide-ranging frontier or dividing line, begin the steadily rising series of spiritual conditions or states of being which are grouped under the generalizing term nirvana. In the other direction beneath the lowest avici, and without extended division-line, are those certain ranges of absolute matter which are the dread and fearful destiny of what are technically called "lost souls." Here these unfortunate and "lost" entities are dissipated into their component life-atoms, are "ground over in nature's laboratory." This last and lowest range of being of our own cosmic hierarchy is the "Eighth Sphere," otherwise, the "Planet of Death."
In The Mahatma Letters, the Master K.H. refers to this matter in the following solemn and warning words:
Bad, irretrievably bad must be that Ego that yields no mite from its fifth Principle, and has to be annihilated, to disappear in the Eighth Sphere. A mite, as I say, collected from the Personal Ego suffices to save him from the dreary Fate. Not so after the completion of the great cycle: either a long Nirvana of Bliss (unconscious though it be in the, and according to, your crude conceptions); after which — life as a Dhyan Chohan for a whole Manvantara, or else "Avitchi Nirvana" and a Manvantara of misery and Horror as a ——— you must not hear the word nor I — pronounce or write it. But "those" have nought to do with the mortals who pass through the seven spheres. The collective Karma of a future Planetary is as lovely as the collective Karma of a ——— is terrible. Enough. I have said too much already. — p. 171
In the expression "avici-nirvana" lies one of nature's dread mysteries. As both avici and nirvana are states or conditions of consciousness of a being which experiences or is in them, so nirvana, with all its mystical implications as a word, is as appropriate to the term avici in certain cases — happily exceedingly rare — as it is to signify the upper or spiritual pole of consciousness. The reference here is to certain exceedingly rare types of beings whose consciousness is both spiritual and wicked, and who in consequence find their only fit habitat in a condition or state which is at once avici and a nirvana in avici: which condition or state lasts for an entire manvantara. Yet even this is not a hell in the Christian meaning of the word, but really something still more awful and dread.
No exoteric heaven ever imagined by the most fecund dreaming of monkish recluse can equal the ineffable bliss entered into by spiritual excarnate souls; contrariwise, no monkish imagination has ever reached beyond a conception of torments more or less appropriate to physical sensation, whether experienced in an ethereal body, or in an "asbestos-like" body. Therefore no such exoteric hell is in any wise an approximation to the states of consciousness experienced by those exceedingly rare entities who drop into the Eighth Sphere. These last are not tormented, whether by grotesque devils with hoofs or not, but endure through ages an agony of consciousness which is the exact and infinitely graded karmic retribution of causes which these entities themselves threw into the scales of karmic retribution when in the spheres of causation.
It is in the hierarchical worlds or planes, that these states of the consciousness of the peregrinating monads are found, both after death and before birth on earth. Our own globe earth, in fact is technically a "hell" because it is a relatively dense material sphere and the states of consciousness of the beings inhabiting it are relatively heavily involved in the webs of maya — illusion. For this reason H. P. Blavatsky in The Voice of the Silence speaks of "Men of Myalba" — Myalba being a Tibetan term used for one of the hells in the philosophy of Northern Buddhism, and Myalba is our earth.
Indeed, for human beings during the period of their manvantaric existence on and in the different globes of the planetary chain, of which our globe earth is the fourth and most material, it is these globes of our earth-chain which provide the "localities" in which our human hierarchy finds both its "heavens" and its "hells" — its devachanic bliss and its retributive punishment in the lower kamaloka and the avici. Conditions of life and existence of the higher globes of our earth-chain are extremely beautiful and felicitous when compared with the highly illusory and often terrible conditions in which human consciousness is involved here on earth. It is to be noted that this applies to the "human soul." What the postmortem destiny of the spiritual soul of a man is belongs to another story, which is touched upon elsewhere in this work.
Modern theosophy, adopting the technical terms of ancient Brahmanism because they are convenient and expressive, groups these hierarchical worlds or realms under the terms lokas and talas, which have grown through long ages of misunderstanding and misinterpretation into the exoteric theological notions of heavens and hells.
Lokas, speaking generally, are the spiritual and less illusory states in any one such world or sphere or globe, while talas are those particular states appropriate to substances and matter of a grosser and more material character. Yet the lokas and talas are inseparable; each loka has its corresponding twin tala: the highest loka having as its nether pole or alter ego, the most spiritual or ethereal of the talas, and thus down the series until the lowest or least spiritual of each pair is reached. These seven interblending lokas and talas thus are the hierarchical conditions or states of every one of the worlds, spheres, planes, or mansions, hereinbefore alluded to.
Now as nature's structure is repetitive throughout, every subordinate hierarchy or indeed world repeats faithfully in its structural framework what the higher hierarchies and worlds are and contain; so that each such subordinate hierarchy or world is itself built of, and actually is, its own series of lokas and talas.
The lokas and talas are variously enumerated in the Puranas, although it should be stated it is not the talas and their various attributes or qualities which vary, but the names which are given to them.
The names most commonly ascribed to them are:
A quaint story imbodying a profound truth is told about one of the great sages, Narada. Once he visited "these regions," and on his return to earth gave an "enthusiastic account" of them, stating that in some respects they were more full of delights than is the heaven of Indra, that they abounded with luxuries and sense-gratifications. This shows clearly that these talas and their corresponding lokas are merely the material or quasi-ethereal spheres which infill cosmic Space; while the highest lokas and talas are purely spiritual. The former or material belong to the rupa or "formed" worlds, the latter or spiritual are the arupa or "non-form" spheres.
All these hierarchical lokas and talas, inextricably and from manvantaric "eternity" interwoven, are not in any sense "created," nor the product of fortuity; nor again limited in manvantaric form or space — except in so far as they are collected together into different universes or aggregate hierarchical cosmic bodies. They are not separate from each other, but throughout the cosmic manvantara are all interwoven and are encompassed with surrounding infinitude. This infinitude is not "emptiness," nor void of life and intelligence, but each such aggregated universe is one of an infinite host of universes comprising the unbounded universal all.
Such passages as the above, where allusion is made to encompassing Infinitude, or to the all-comprising and all-permeant divine, do not mean that the divine is the aggregate of manifested universes alone, and that it is not transcendent therein and above.
The Esoteric Philosophy is distinctly pantheistic in character according to its own interpretation of this word, meaning not only that the divine, cosmically speaking, permeates in and through all, throughout boundless duration, but likewise it transcends all the manifested aggregates of universes, and is consequently therefore superior to them all, being the ineffable source and originant of all beings and entities and things whatsoever, and the ultimate goal to which all shall return.
The thought, although in microcosmic manner, is well expressed by Krishna in the famous Hindu philosophical treatise, the Bhagavad-Gita, where this manifestation of the Cosmic Logos speaks of the divinity of which he is an avataric exemplar in the following words: "I establish all this boundless universe with portions of myself, and yet remain separate and above them all." (10:42)
The pantheistic significance, therefore, is not that every stock and stone is "God," which is a ludicrous distortion of the esoteric meaning, but that nothing in boundless space and in endless duration is essentially different from the eternally Divine, and that this eternally Divine encompasses and is the essential fount of the minutest of the minute, as well as the greatest of the great, and yet transcends them all.
Furthermore, these many hierarchies of lokas and talas, or equivalently of worlds, planes, etc., are taught as coming into existence by a process of emanational evolution, the highest unfolding the higher, and the higher unfolding the inferior, and the inferior in their turn unfolding the lowest, until a typical universal hierarchy is emanationally evolved forth in being for the cosmic manvantara in which it then and thus expresses itself.
This process is a fundamental part of the teaching of the great religions and philosophies of the Indian peninsula, of China, Babylon, Persia, Egypt, and of several at least of the great philosophical schools of ancient Greece and Rome, such as the Stoics, the Platonic and Neoplatonic schools — all these different systems being "children" of the once universally diffused wisdom-religion of antiquity.
Thus then, when properly understood, the various heavens and hells of the ancient religious systems are really popular forms of stating that the universe is composite of spheres or worlds or globes of spirit, and of more or less dense matter. Because the ancient religions and philosophies, even in their degenerate days, still held as lingering memories of their original esoteric teaching some recognition of the fact that there are states or conditions of bliss and of punitional retribution, such as the devachan and the avici, these states or conditions have for ages been confused with the more fundamental fact of the hierarchical structure of the spiritual and material worlds, etc. In studying this subject, therefore, one must clearly distinguish between the states or conditions of beings peregrinating in and through these worlds, etc., and the worlds and planes and spheres themselves.
During the last fifteen or sixteen centuries, strange ideas have from time to time arisen and for a time prevailed in Occidental lands concerning the nature of the one heaven commonly accepted, which was considered to be of everlasting duration, and concerning the one hell also considered to endure throughout everlasting time. For instance, the ideas of a century or two ago were to the effect that before the universe was created by the divine fiat, by almighty God, there existed nothing whatsoever except infinite God. He was not matter; He was a spirit. Nobody knew exactly what a spirit was; but the teaching set forth that "God is a spirit"; and it was commonly thought that Heaven was the dwelling of God and his ministrant or quiescent angels. Indeed, the angels also had been created by God.
Then, at some indefinite time — presumably after God had made the earth and all in it — Hell was created, which became the habitat of the rebellious angel later called Satan, and also of the angels who rebelled with their chief and accompanied him in his fall from Heaven, entering this receptacle existing in space somewhere — supposedly a "spiritual" receptacle or chamber of nature — called Hell. There the devil and his angels abode; and this likewise was the destiny of all evil human souls who had not been saved from this fate in the manner which the popular theology taught.
Theologians of that period had definite ideas about all these matters. It had all been worked out to their own satisfaction, partly from the Jewish and Christian Testaments, and partly from what previously-living theologians had conceived and taught. They even knew, some of them at least, just when the universe, which to them was Heaven and Hell and the earth, as well as the crystalline spheres surrounding the earth and dotted with the celestial luminaries placed there for human delectation and edification by Almighty God — yes, these old theologians even knew when it was all created: the year, the month, the day, and the hour!
The mere fact that most of us today no longer believe in these superstitions is in itself a good thing; on the other hand, the fact that we have swung too far in the contrary direction involving an almost universal denial of retributive justice of any kind is emphatically a mistake; for it is contrary to what exists in nature itself. Everywhere the seeing and understanding eye observes corresponding effects following on causes which have been set in motion; and retribution is naught but this, in this life or in a later life on earth; their consequences also are felt in the devachanic condition, and in the worst instances, the avici.
The older religions do not speak of one heaven only. The heavens are usually enumerated as nine, sometimes as seven, etc. The same observation applies to the hells of these old systems. Furthermore, those who were supposed to dwell in these heavens and hells did so for a time whose length was supposed to depend upon the original energy in the causative thoughts and acts of those who found themselves either in the one condition or in the other.
Moreover, these heavens and hells, in addition to being temporary abiding-places, were in no cases considered to be the seats or localities where excarnate souls found themselves by reason of a divine mandate, in which they themselves had no part except as helpless, non-choosing victims. No outside deity said to the excarnate ego: "Soul, thou has lived a life of good and spiritual and high-minded doing during thy sojourn on earth. Come hither to heaven, and rest here in peace and everlasting bliss." Nor, equivalently: "Soul, thou has during thy sojourn on earth lived a life of willful degradation and perverse sin. Go yonder to hell, and dwell there in eternal torment." Such supposititious mandates of an extra-cosmic deity are the mere dreaming of uninitiated minds.
In the archaic religions, the excarnate "souls" were considered to have attained the heavens or the hells, because of merit or demerit for which they themselves were responsible when last in earth-life. Thus, the heavens among the ancient peoples were not places of eternal bliss, nor were the hells places of everlasting torment. In every case the beings entered them for a while, as a necessary stage in the wonderful postmortem journey of the soul. Our life on earth, those wise old philosophers taught, is but one such temporary or cyclical stage. In their view it was like putting up at an inn for a day and a night, as the poets have so often sung. We come to this earth from the invisible worlds; we live here for a little while, and then pass on to other stages in the invisible spheres, following the courses of our own peregrinations — all a part of life's wonderful adventure.
Likewise, the heavens and hells, being considered temporary only, were therefore destined to pass away and vanish when the universe in which they were experienced had completed its course of evolutionary manifestation, and all things reentered into the substance of the Divine from which they had in the beginning of things emanationally evolved forth.
So in the larger process of the world the primal causes descend into the elements, and the elements into bodies, then bodies are resolved into the elements again, and the elements into the primal causes. — John Scotus Eriugena, The Division of Nature, 696 B
Thus even in the writings of a medieval Neoplatonist Christian theologian-philosopher may be found a clear echo of the archaic teachings of the serial evolution or unfolding of the universe, and its final return to its primordial divine source. Yet it must be remembered that Erigena's work was formally condemned by the official church and put on the Index in the thirteenth century, though it had dominated all medieval Christian thought for more than two centuries.
Some of the ideas connected with the heavens and the hells of the different peoples of the earth are rather quaint. The Guaycurus, Indians of northern South America, placed their heaven in the moon; and it was to the moon that their great heroes and sages went for a time after physical death, until they again returned to earth. The Saliva Indians, also of northern South America, thought that heaven was a place where there would be no mosquitoes at all!
Other peoples likewise have had curious ideas of their own. One or more have placed hell in the sun, a rather favorite locality in the imagination of some English writers of not so long ago — doubtless due to the then new astronomical ideas about the sun's being a sphere in fierce combustion. It happened also that heaven in the mind of certain people was located in the sun; commonly, however, it was located in some unknown portion of the blue empyrean.
Moreover, all the hells of legend and story are not places of suffering or torment; some of them are described as places of pleasure or relative beauty, such as our earth is to us. Hell — or the hells — has sometimes been placed at the center of our earth. This was a common teaching in medieval European times; and it was also the literary theme of Dante who, in La Divina Commedia, divides his Inferno into nine degrees of increasingly terrible torment — which circles of hell he locates toward the center of the earth. Above his Inferno he describes seven stages of his Purgatory which, with the Ascent out of Purgatory and the Terrestrial Paradise which follows the highest of the purgatorial regions so called, make nine more stages or intermediate spheres, or superior hells if you like. Then still more ethereal and still farther removed from his infernal regions, come the nine spheres or worlds of "heaven." These are capped by the Empyrean, where dwell God and his ministrant angels with the numerous company of the Blest. This hierarchical system comprising the hells, the regions of the Purgatory, and the regions of Heaven, is based upon old but much misunderstood Greek teachings coming from the Neoplatonic school into Christian theological speculation, mainly through the writings of the pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.
According to the Iliad of Homer, which represented in a mystical sense the Bible of the Greeks, and to which they referred for the true meaning of their mythological teachings — much as Christians used to refer to the New and Old Testament for the real significance of Christian theological doctrines — we find four basic stages of the cosmic hierarchy: Olympus or heaven; Earth; Hades or the underworld, often supposed to be at the center of the Earth; and gloomy Tartarus, the lowest of all, whither the Titans who had rebelled against Zeus, father of gods and men, were cast and there imprisoned, bound in chains, until a future time came for their loosening and freedom.
Tartarus evidently in this mythology represents the elemental worlds, where the titanic forces of unfolded nature are held in the rigid bonds of what it is popular to call "law." Loosened, these terrible natural forces wreak devastation on earth; and thus indeed did the Greeks understand the secret meaning of this part of their mythology. Therefore they referred to the imprisoned Titans as producing by their movements in Tartarus the earthquakes and the tidal waves and other phenomena, when the terrible forces of nature seem temporarily to be unchained.
It is to the heaven worlds or to the hell worlds that so many passages in the ancient literatures refer when speaking of paths to the gods or to the "demons." Thus in the Mahabharata:
Two paths are known: one leads to the gods, and one leads to the fathers. — XII, sl. 525
The sun is said to be the gate of the paths which lead to the gods; and the moon is said to be the gate of the paths which lead to the fathers. — XIII, sl. 1082
In the religion of ancient Hindustan, "fathers" signifies what the Christian calls "departed spirits," while "gods" refers to the same thing that the ancient Greeks and Romans meant when they spoke of the divinities, many of whom were "men made perfect" — i.e. divine beings who have long since passed through the human stage and now have gained divinity, become at one with their own inner god. The higher worlds or the heaven worlds are thus the regions of the gods; while the lower or material worlds are the domains of the "demons" — in other words, of entities whose karma or destiny has led them into spheres and planes more grossly material than our earth.
The ancient Mysteries, such as those of Greece, contained teachings identical with what has been outlined above. The whole attempt in the ancient initiatory rites and ceremonies of archaic Greece was the bringing of the human consciousness into a recognition of its inseparable oneness with universal nature, and of man's essential kinship with the gods.
"The purpose and objective of all initiation," said Sallust, the Neoplatonic philosopher, "is to bring man into conscious realization of his inseparable unity with the order of the Universe and with the gods" (On the Gods and the World, ch. iv). Proclus, another Neoplatonic philosopher of a later date, says practically the same thing in his Commentary on the Timaeus. He writes in substance:
Who does not know that the Mysteries, and all initiations, have for their sole object the withdrawing of our souls from material and mortal life, in order to unite us with the gods, and to dissipate the darkness in the soul by spreading the divine light of Truth therein?
These ancient Greek teachings and initiatory methods were identical in substance with the doctrines taught and the systems practiced in the Far East, because all were originally derived from the wisdom-religion of far-past antiquity. The phraseology of course differed in different countries, but the root-thoughts were universally the same. The pathway to the "gods," or to the "fathers," of which the Hindu speaks, is but a manner of phrasing the activities of the evolving human souls, throwing them on the one hand into the pathway leading to the gods or the superior spheres, and, on the other hand, into the pathway leading to the inferior realms. These pathways are the same as the circulations of the universe, which are dealt with in other parts of the present work.
One is reminded of a beautiful passage by the Neoplatonist, Plotinus, whom his contemporaries called Theiotatos, meaning "divinest." The substance of his ideas is that there are vast and greatly diversified regions open to the departing soul. The law of the divinity is inescapable, and no one can possibly ever evade the pain and anguish brought about by the doing of evil deeds. The stained soul is swept forwards toward its doom, as it were unconsciously to itself, driven always by the inherent impulses of past ill doing, and so it continues until the soul, which thus is worn and harried, finds its fit place and reaches the destiny which it never knowingly sought, but which it receives through the impetuosity of its own self-will. Nature thus prepares the length and the intensity of the pain, and likewise regulates the ending of the punishments and gives to the soul the ability to rise again from the places of suffering which it may reach; and this is through the divine harmony that permeates the universal plan. Souls which are attracted to body are drawn to body for punishment, while nobler souls which are cleaner and having little if any attraction toward body are by this fact outside of the attractions of the material spheres; and there where the divine essence is, the divine of the divine and truth itself, there such a liberated soul finds itself (Enneads, "On the Soul," IV, iii, 24).
Neoplatonic thought, which in many ways is the cream of the teachings of Plato, is returning to its own in the minds of modern mystical as well as metaphysical thinkers. Thoughtful men today have no hesitation in acknowledging their spiritual and intellectual debt to it, and in particular to Plotinus, one of its latest representatives during the time of the Roman Empire. The English cleric and philosopher, Dean Inge, writes of Plotinus as follows:
No other guide even approaches Plotinus in power and insight and profound spiritual penetration. I have steeped myself in his writings and I have tried not only to understand them as one might understand any other intellectual system, but to take them as a guide to right living and right thinking. . . . he insists that spiritual goods alone are real; he demonetises the world's currency as completely as the Gospels themselves. . . . I have lived with him for nearly thirty years and I have not sought him in vain in prosperity or adversity.
— quoted in MacKenna, The Essence of Plotinus, 1934, p. xvi
The fundamental idea behind the subject of the "heavens" and the "hells" is that the universe, filled full with entities in all the evolutionary grades of its hierarchical structure, exists on many cosmic planes: in other words contains vast numbers of worlds and spheres, each one filled with lives, which the modern scientist calls energy or forces.
There are no absolute frontiers or division lines between world and world or sphere and sphere; indeed, no "absolutes" of any kind in universal nature; hence no jumping-off places, no utter beginnings and endings of the interwoven divisions of the cosmos. Relative beginnings and endings of course exist; but they relate to the cosmic divisions, and hence are relative to the evolving entities who conceive these points or stages of juncture as "beginnings" and "endings." Thus we are naturally barred from separating off from the All any entity, whether a globe, a sphere, a hierarchy, or what not.
Leibniz, who contemporaneously with Isaac Newton perfected the philosophy and mechanism of the differential calculus, states fairly closely the same conception of an organic nature as a living organism, and as manifest in interrelated hierarchies, thus forming an endless continuum of Being:
All the natural divisions [or classes] of the World show one sole concatenation of beings, in which all the various classes [orders] of living creatures, like so many links, are entwined so perfectly that it is impossible to state, either by imagination or by observation, where any one either begins or ends. . . .
Everything in Nature progresses by stages [degrees], and this law of advancement, which applies to each individual, forms part of my theory of unbroken succession.
The universe being thus a composite organism, formed at the one pole of cosmic spirit, and at the other pole of concreted or crystallized spirit which we call matter, and of all the intermediate grades between these — the highest of the planes or worlds or hierarchies provides the substance of the original archaic thought behind the teachings regarding the heavens, which were usually enumerated as seven, nine, ten, or even twelve. Equivalently, the hells were these spheres or worlds of grosser matter, likewise full of lives, and therefore equally with the worlds of spirit were the theaters or scenes for the play and interplay of the forces and substances which compose them. It is these inner and invisible worlds that are the spheres through which the human entity, and equivalently entities on other planets — self-conscious beings equivalent to men — pass after death, taking the direction "up" or "down" because following the course of the causal effects set in motion during the last life or imbodiment. When the physical body dies, immediately the best part of man vanishes from this physical plane, because the instrument or body which held it here and enabled it to function on this plane of matter is broken off from the constitution and is finally dissipated into its component chemical elements. It is somewhat as if one broke a telegraphic instrument: no longer can the messages come through from the other end, the receiver is destroyed.
At death the physical body is laid aside like an old and worn-out garment — and reference is not here made to cases of accidental death or suicide, because, although the general rule prevails in time, the rupturing of the golden cord of vitality brings about an intermediate series of conditions which necessitate treatment by themselves. The vital-astral body likewise, which is a little more ethereal than the physical body, is dropped at death. It decays away or dissolves and thus vanishes in due time, lasting but a trifle longer than does the physical cadaver. But the finest part of the man that was, leaves the physical vehicle at the instant when the "golden cord of life" is snapped. It is released; it now reenters by degrees the spiritual monad of the man-being that was on earth; and in the bosom of the monad, all this noblest portion of the essential man abides on and in the higher planes on the inner and invisible cosmos in the peace and unspeakable bliss of the devachanic condition, until the time comes anew when nature shall recall it forth to a new appearance on earth through reincarnation.
But what becomes of that intermediate part, the human soul, the part which manifests merely human love and hate, human attractions and repulsions, and the ordinary psychical and mental and emotional phenomena of the human being? When death supervenes after the withdrawal of man's finest part, the human intermediate nature falls instantly asleep and sleeps a dreamless sleep of shorter or longer duration. Then because the higher part of this intermediate nature of human soul is the radiance reflected upon it from the monadic spirit — which has now gone to its own and which is the noblest part of the man that was — this radiance in consequence is attracted ever more strongly, as time passes, back to its own source, the spirit which sent it forth; and finally rejoins it. This radiance of the spirit is the reincarnating ego; and following upon its postmortem junction with its spirit, it enters upon its devachanic period. But because this higher part of the intermediate nature is a radiance of the spirit and not the spirit itself, and because this radiance has elements of mere humanity in it instead of being purely divine or godlike as is its parent the monadic spirit, it needs purgation or cleansing of these lower or merely human attributes before it can enter into the unqualified and unadulterate devachanic bliss, wherein no merely human element, involving imperfection, can obviously find entrance.
How is it purged or cleansed? It ascends through the spheres of the inner and invisible parts of nature. If the past life on earth has been a noble and a good one, the spheres to which the excarnate ego is attracted are the highly ethereal ones in which it experiences relative happiness and peace and bliss in the devachanic condition. But before it can enter this devachanic condition, it necessarily has to pass through the various stages of the kamaloka, where in each one of the ascending stages as it rises toward the devachanic condition, it casts aside or is purged of those particular and imperfect human attributes which are appropriate and correspond to these respective kamalokic serial degrees in the "ascent." Finally, it merges into the state of consciousness which is the lowest of the series of the devachanic degrees, and finds its proper resting-point or stage of longest devachanic duration in the particular devachanic condition to which it is karmically entitled.
In each one of these spheres or worlds this better portion of the human soul remains for a time, and then leaves that stage for a still higher one, attraction of greater or less strength being the cause of the length of time spent in each invisible degree of the different worlds. Finally, it achieves reunion — albeit quite unconscious — with its monadic essence, and there it abides for centuries until its innate natural proclivities impel it toward a descent through the same spheres to a new incarnation on earth.
But if, on the contrary, its life on earth had been so full of selfishness that it lived a gross and densely material life, what happens then? Its attractions begin immediately to pull it toward lower and more material spheres, one after another, wherein it passes a greater or less time depending upon the force of the attractions which brought it there, until the energies originally set in motion work themselves out. Then, whatever remains after this process of purgation, becomes fit, like gold cleansed in the fire, to resume its journey toward rejoining its sun, its spiritual Self.
Now these particular spheres or worlds to which the reimbodying ego is drawn are most emphatically not heavens or hells in themselves, as these words have been commonly misunderstood, but they are integral portions of the hierarchical structure of the universe, which, because of their spiritual and ethereal character on the one hand, and of their material character on the other, provide the place and the environment toward which the reimbodying excarnate ego is drawn because of its bias to the one or to the other type of existence.
Our earth, technically speaking, was always considered in ancient times to be one of the hells because it is a globe of more or less dense and coarse matter. Yet our planet earth is by no means the most material habitat of human conscious beings that the solar system contains; for there are many planets of planetary worlds within our solar system, most of them invisible to us, which are far more dense and gross than our earth. It is neither the worst nor the best of all possible worlds but a goodly instance of a world of an intermediate character for in its evolution both good and evil have been pretty fairly mingled in the "Craters of Destiny."
With reference to the structural framework of the universe, it may be of interest to show a series of correspondences between the inseparably interwoven lokas and talas and the hierarchical range of the tattvas.
Now tattva is a Sanskrit compound, which can be translated as "thatness," corresponding exactly to the late Latin or medieval scholastic quidditas. Hence the actual significance of this term tattva is the energic-substantial basis of all derivatives from it, in the course of nature's evolutionary unfoldment, and thus it corresponds with relatively accurate precision to the terms "principle" or "element." The tattvas are therefore the universal principles or elements out of which the universe is built.
Thus the tattvas and the corresponding lokas and talas are in essence virtual identities, the three different series being the same substantial cosmical and elemental realities viewed from different aspects; also the lokas and the talas are the respective manifestations of their corresponding tattvas, when the tattvas are considered in an evolved or hierarchical development. The tattvas originate the others.
There are seven cosmical tattvas which repetitively reproduce themselves in all subordinate ranges of the cosmic hierarchies as they unfold or evolve during the process of world-building; and these hierarchies considered as structurally arranged worlds or spheres or planes are in fact the inseparably conjoined and interwoven lokas and talas. Hence because there are seven cosmical tattvas or cosmical principle-elements, there are likewise the seven corresponding and forever interacting and interwoven hierarchical lokas and talas, each such pair of lokas and talas corresponding to the cosmical tattva from which they originally sprang and which is the dominant cosmical principle or element in them. The three series are now given below numbered to correspond with each other and in the order of their cosmical unfolding or evolution:
|1.||Adi-tattva||proceeding from||First Logos|
|2.||Anupapadaka-tattva||" "||Second Logos|
|3.||Akasa-tattva||" "||Third Logos|
One important point is that beginning with the first or adi-tattva, the second or anupapadaka-tattva emanates or flows forth from it the while retaining a certain portion of the first tattva in its own substance and aggregate of forces; from the second tattva emanates the third tattva in serial order which contains not only its own svabhava or characteristic forces and substances, but likewise contains its portion of its parent, the second cosmic tattva and its grandparent cosmic tattva; and this down to the seventh and last. Once this course of hierarchical emanation is completed, the universe exists for ages in the plenitude of its incomprehensibly great activities. When the time of the cosmic pralaya approaches, the whole process which took place in unfolding the universe now enters upon the reverse procedure of infolding or involving itself, beginning with the seventh or lowest which is first "radiated" away into the next higher tattva which thus gathers the lowest up into itself. The process is then repeated with the next succeeding higher cosmic tattva into which enter the "seeds" or sleeping "germs" of the cosmic tattva already infolded, and thus the entire process of infolding continues until all the lower tattvas are drawn up into the highest or originating cosmic tattva. Then the manvantara of the universe is ended, and the long period of cosmic rest ensues until the time of the succeeding cosmic manvantara arrives, when everything is emanated anew on a somewhat higher series of planes.
The above was likewise the teaching of the Stoics, as well as of the Jewish-Christian Bible where this cosmic drama of the dissolution of the universe is referred to. For instance:
And all the hosts of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll. — Isaiah 34:4
And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together. — Revelation 6:14
There is another teaching of the ancient wisdom which is difficult to understand: it is that of nirvana. The nirvana is not a heaven; it is not a cosmic sphere or world or plane; it is wholly and absolutely a condition or state of the consciousness experiencing it. It is the state of consciousness of the spiritual soul when all sense of limiting personality, or even of imperfect egoic individuality, has wholly vanished, so that naught remains but the unfettered consciousness of the spiritual essential self, which is the indivisible and ineffable essence of the human being — the divine-spiritual Individuality; it is pure monadic consciousness. It is an alliance of the inner god with the evolving spiritual soul so that its consciousness then becomes cosmic in the, hierarchically speaking, unlimited reaches of that particular cosmic hierarchy.
As concerns the problem of the identity or non-identity of the individual spirit, when considered a monad, with the cosmic spirit, the Esoteric Tradition teaches the identity of all "souls" with the oversoul, or of all monads with the Cosmic Monad; but this identity does not signify a loss of the individuality of any such subordinate "soul" or monad. The very name "monad" signifies a unit, a unitary individuality, which endures throughout the entire cosmic manvantara or cosmic world-period. The beautiful words in which Sir Edwin Arnold in his Light of Asia imbodies the ancient Buddhist teaching, "The Dewdrop slips into the shining Sea," give the correct idea. To the Western mind, it would seem that the dewdrop slipping into the sea suffers an extinction of its individuality, because we are accustomed to think in terms of mechanics and of material substance. Actually, the slipping of the dewdrop or monad into the shining sea means that it sinks into the cosmic vast in order to regain its own inmost cosmic reach of virtually unlimited consciousness, the meanwhile retaining, in the form of a seed for the future, its own monadic individuality. When it reissues forth into manifestation, it will do so as a renascence of the monadic individuality that it formerly was, plus all the accumulated awakenings of consciousness called experience, which it had ingathered during its former peregrinations.
Plotinus, in his essay "On the Problem of the Soul," is referring to this reunion of the individual with the Cosmic Divine. We summarize:
Of matters of earth it will then recollect nothing, for the reason that memory, which signifies a passage of thought from thing to thing, has there sunken into abeyance, and consequently there can be no such limited memory in the Spiritual World. Indeed, there will not even remain a recollection of the individual as individual, i.e., no thought where the individual self is contemplator, for this implies limitation. . . . When the spirit is in the Spiritual World, of necessity it enters into complete oneness for the time being with the Mind of the Divinity, and this by the fact itself of its union therewith, for this union brings about the abolition of all intervals of consciousness which men call the functions and working of memory. The individual spirit is taken into complete harmonic unison with the Divine, and in this union becomes temporarily one with the Divine — yet not at all to its own annihilation, because the two are essentially one; and yet, because they are two, they remain two. — Enneads, IV, iv, 1-2
Plotinus, with all his remarkable spiritual and intellectual capacity of understanding and grasp of subject, was an echoer of the ancient wisdom, and of necessity spoke to the men of his time in a philosophical language which they could understand. The point is this: when the individual human being attains "complete harmonic unison with the Divine," this does not signify that he transcends entirely outside of the sphere of his own constitution and enters into an exterior consciousness in no wise different from his own highest, except perhaps in the sense of larger and deeper intensity. The true meaning is that his own "highest" is already, and has been from eternity and will be unto eternity, identic in essence with the Divine; the significant reach of which thought is that the highest part of man is already nirvanic in state. It is the dhyani-buddha in him.
This clearly emphasizes the inseparable unity of man's highest consciousness with the consciousness of the universe, the Divine. On the other hand, the lower portions of man's composite constitution are "sunken" into materiality — the reason why man can have contact with material worlds and thus learn from them. He is an integral part of these material worlds in his lowest parts, as he is of the divine in his highest parts which are grouped under the term "the inner god," the divine spiritual monad. His most material parts are grouped under the generalizing term "the personality," a word taken from the Latin persona signifying a mask through which the actor — the real man — works and expresses himself. The intermediate portions of man's constitution compose the "higher human" or human monad. Thus the personality means the human mask in which we express ourselves and which is a web of thought and feeling woven by our desires and our appetites and our commonplace thoughts. This personality thus builds up around itself a web of destiny. Hence, when personality is completely surmounted, in other words, when the fundamental consciousness of the human being rises above this concreted web of illusion, and transcends the intermediate portion of the human constitution, it reaches the state of pure spiritual monadic consciousness, the nirvana. In it all personality has vanished into pure spiritual individuality, in which consciousness becomes relatively universal throughout the cosmic hierarchy in which the monad moves and lives and has its being. This state or condition therefore implies sheer, unadulterate knowledge, wisdom, and bliss, and hence unspeakable peace — states of consciousness of which the ordinary man has no conception, and which he looks upon as being different kinds of consciousness, instead of being facets of his spiritual consciousness which is the "jewel" of the well-known Tibetan invocation, "Om mani padme hum" — "Verily, the jewel in the lotus!" — lotus here meaning the human constitution in which the spiritual jewel lives.
In the nirvana, the monadic essence of the human being then virtually becomes allied in unity with the universal oversoul of our cosmos. As Plotinus says:
Nor has the soul of man sunken entirely into the realm of matter, because something of it is unceasingly and for ever in the Spiritual World, although that portion of our soul which is sunken into the realms of sense is partially controlled here, and finds itself intoxicated therewith, thus becoming blind to what its own higher part holds in contemplation of the Divine. — Enneads, "The Descent of the Soul into Imbodiment," IV, viii, 8
Thus man's divine consciousness is forever nirvanic in character; and in this wondrous fact lies the key to the esoteric mystery involved in the attaining of buddhahood by the bodhisattvas and the continuance nonetheless of the Buddha in human life as a complete and perfect man.
The difference between the bliss and wisdom and peace which the nirvani has, and the bliss and peace and comparative rest which the devachani has, is this: the nirvani is completely and wholly Self-conscious, while the devachani is by comparison with the spiritual reality of the nirvani in a condition of felicitous "dreaming." The term "dreaming" is somewhat inaccurate, nor does it convey actually the idea that the devachani's condition is more or less lacking in self-conscious realization of its own felicity, but merely that, however "spiritual" the devachanic condition is, by comparison with the nirvanic, it is illusory enough.
Nirvana is a state which may be attained by human beings of rare and exceptional spiritual power and development even when in the flesh. Gautama Buddha is an example of this, as are all human or manushya-buddhas. Sankaracharya, a great avataric sage of India, was another instance of one who had attained nirvana while alive on earth; and men of even smaller spiritual capacity than these two can experience nirvana in relatively minor degree. Obviously, therefore, such a state of supreme spiritual grandeur is far superior, both in intensity of evolved consciousness and in quality of illuminated spirituality, to the highest spiritual state that is experienced by any being in even the highest of the heavens.
In the opposite direction of the nirvana, there is the avici, improperly called a hell. It is described figuratively as the nether pole of the nirvana. Certain states or conditions of beings in the avici, because of an accompanying "spirituality of wickedness" have been truly named nirvana-avici. Nevertheless, avici is both a state and a world or sphere, which the nirvana is not, for nirvana is a state or condition only; although it is equally true that since the nirvana is the state of consciousness of certain beings, and as these beings must have position in abstract space, or locality, therefore such nirvanis are or exist in the spiritual realms.
If a human being has passed through a long series of lives very evilly, and consciously so, with a continuously increasing "absorption" of the soul in material things, this leads to a coarsening and materializing of his consciousness; and the final result of the tremendous material attractions or impulses thus inbuilt into the fabric of his consciousness is that such a being is drawn or sinks into the avici. It is quite possible for a human being of the character just described to experience such an avici-state even while living in the body on earth.
When the consciousness of material personality in a man becomes thus accentuated; when nearly all sense or intuition of the divine has withdrawn from both heart and mind, and in consequence thereof the man becomes an incarnate expression of sheer selfishness; when there remains not even a spark of the divine fire consciously vibrant in the intellectual fabric of his being — then already, though perhaps living on earth, the unfortunate man is in the avici-state.
Furthermore, if the downward impulses of the human being already in an avici-state of consciousness so continue to grow stronger that even the last feeble link with his monadic sun is ruptured, he then in due course of time passes over the frontier of even the avici, and enters into the fatal karmic current which carries him swiftly to a final and irretrievable disintegration of his psychical composition. In such case the wretched entity fades out and is "lost." The particles of his thus disintegrated psychical nature are then drawn down with the rapidity of lightning and join the element-atoms in that particular mother-fount of elemental matter to which his svabhava has attracted him. Here then is the case which the Esoteric Philosophy speaks of as a "lost soul." Such instances of "lost souls" are, fortunately, as rare at the one pole as the cases of nirvanic attainment are rare at the other or divine-spiritual pole of human consciousness. In the latter case the man becomes an incarnate god on earth, a nirvani; and in the former case the being passes even out of the avici-state into elemental matter, where what remains of his psychical constitution is dissipated into its component life-atoms, which are there ground over and over in nature's elemental alchemical laboratories.
The avici itself is, in fact, on the lower frontiers of "absolute matter" — elemental matter. It is perhaps the nearest to the medieval idea of a hell that nature provides. But for all that, it is not a judicial punishment meted out upon some hapless soul by an overlording deity; because the entity which takes this "left-hand path," often called the "lunar path," does so originally of its own volition entirely, acting from the impulses of its relatively free will. It attains its fearful fate as the unerringly just consequence of karmic causes, induced and set in motion by evil thoughts, by low and selfish desires, and unchastened and unbridled passions and appetites of a materially evil character.
Yet even such an unfortunate being has still a chance to escape its dreadful fate, indeed many chances, before it reaches final dissolution. It is said, and truly said, that even one single pure and soul-impressing thought, if experienced in time, will save the descending being from annihilation; for actually the existence of such a thought would imply that the link with his own inner god has not yet been finally broken. Further, while the entity descending the path into the avici, and perhaps beyond, experiences no pain in the ordinary sense, and no terrible torments inflicted upon him by outside forces such as the hell of the Occidental religion is supposed to imply, nevertheless the sense of an increasingly progressive diminution of spiritual and intellectual consciousness is always present, combined with a fiery intensity of concentrated evil impulses bereft of all aspiration and love and hope. These last are said to surround the fading consciousness of such an unfortunate being with a suffering which can hardly be described. It is one of the most horrifying experiences that human imagination can conceive, for there is a more-or-less conscious realization, however "fading" it may be, of the withdrawal of the spiritual light and life, and a growing realization of the impending dissolution of all self-conscious life. One may well suppose that the grotesque pains of the supposed earth-hells can in no wise equal the psychical, mental, and emotional torture that the realization of this fact must bring to the weakening and fading consciousness. Nor could any theatrical torments of a medieval hell equal the torture of heart and mind which such an entity must experience in realizing that his condition has been brought about by his own perverse will and his consequent acts. Hence, if such an entity goes from worse to the worse, then it returns to the mother-fountain of material nature from which its life-atoms were originally drawn, much as a raindrop vanishes in a flame.
In such a case, the monad, which long before this event takes place has already ruptured its link of union with the unfortunate and dissolving entity, immediately begins to evolve a new psychospiritual emanation from itself, a new human ego-to-be, which thus appears as a "godspark" beginning its long evolutionary journey through time and space from its parent-monad, and destined in time to turn in its peregrinations back toward the parent-monad again. It is true that this new emanational ray contains all the best that was in the entity which now is "lost"; yet the intermediate vehicle for expressing such garnered spiritual experience is "lost," and hence no human experiences can as yet be "accumulated" until another human ego has been evolved to form the new link between the monadic ray and the worlds of materiality. Nearly a whole manvantara may thus be lost so far as time is concerned.
However, the monad itself, thus freed from its wayward vehicle, is relatively unaffected except in the sense of a frightful waste of time which in some instances may mean a whole manvantara more or less. By the time that the monad shall have again evolved forth from itself a human vehicle through which it may work in the material worlds, the host of evolving entities with which it had previously been a unit is now far in advance on the aeons-long evolutionary journey. It is all karmic, even so far as the monad itself is concerned.
There are indeed hells innumerable and heavens innumerable, but they are mere conditions or states of temporary spiritual compensation on the one hand, and of temporary purgation on the other hand; and, when compared with eternity, they are all but like fugitive and evanescent wisps of cloud upon the mountain-side. They come, they endure but a moment when compared with eternity, and they pass. Far greater than any such heaven, than any such sphere or loka of bliss and felicity, is the grandiose vision of endless growth in faculty and power, and endless opportunity to work for the world.