The Esoteric Tradition by G. de Purucker

Copyright © 2011 by Theosophical University Press

Chapter 15

The Astral Light and the Life-Atoms

Part 1

The universe is one vast organism, a macrocosmic organic entity: everything in the universe is interconnected and interwoven with everything else; all are united by one common cosmic life, which expresses itself in the manifold and myriad types of the cosmic forces and energies. Due to this constant interaction and mutual interflowing of forces and substances, it is impossible for any particular being or entity, i.e. any consciousness-center, in other words any monad, to remain in one place always. These individuals or monads are, throughout the entire course of cosmic manifestation, in unceasing peregrinations or pilgrimages, so that perduring residence or stay in any one place or locality is an obvious impossibility. Life itself involves incessant movement because the cosmic Life is the fountain of all energy; and all beings and things are inherently alive precisely because they are all component and inseparable parts of the universal organism. There is no death per se, i.e. an utter cessation or annihilation of evolving beings; but there is that phase of life which brings about the dissolution or separating of component parts or vehicles.

Everything, man included, is in a constant state of flux. Absolute inertia is unknown in nature, or in the human mind. Wherever we look we see movement; we see change, growth, decay — in other words, we see life! Bodies therefore of whatsoever kind are built or composed of minor or inferior component parts; and these minor bodies in turn may be subdivided into their respective life-atoms, the astral-vital vehicles through which the essential monads work or operate. Having this clearly in mind, it is evident that all bodies or vehicles are invariably temporary "events" because composite structures formed of "atoms," which most people consider to be entities — which indeed they are, but merely temporary entities, because they are composite vehicles or appearances. Hence it is perfectly useless to seek for permanent individuals in these transitory, fluid, and passing "events." The permanent individuals are to be sought only in the monads themselves — the monadic essences which are homogeneous.


Every physical body is composed, in its ultimate analysis, of forces, also of matter, which by their nature are always in movement. How can a force or energy be unmoving? How can matter be perfectly still, composed as it ultimately is of atoms and electrons? Every atom of our bodies is composed of atomic forces or energies in continuous and vital movement. Therefore, physically speaking, man is an aggregate of a quasi-infinitude of electrons whirling and moving with vertiginous rapidity.

When the human soul withdraws at the moment of "death," there ensues to the body, not loss of life, which is an absurdity, but loss of individualized coherence. The body itself is as alive as ever, but the hitherto individualized life of the body now becomes diffuse life without the dominating control of a centralized inner government. The "dead" human body is in fact more full of diffuse life, because now that the dominating influence has been withdrawn, every infinitesimal part of it is seeking its freedom as an individual, and the result is bodily anarchy or "death."

It is as yet unknown by scientists whether in past times there were as many radioactive elements on earth as there are today, but the majority seem to think that there were. They likewise hint that all the rest of physical matter is radioactive or giving out radiations, but in less pronounced degree. Now the universality of radioactivity is precisely the teaching of theosophy, and is referred to as the movements or operations of the life-atoms. The Esoteric Tradition tells us that our planet pursues a cyclic course in its evolution, from ethereal realms in its origin down into its own grossest matter-stage; and that when this lowest point has been reached, it commences the reascent of the arc of evolution finally to gain its former ethereal condition, but on a plane higher than the one which it departed from in the beginning. Our planet has already passed the lowest or grossest stage of physical matter; and our lowest or grossest physical elements are therefore the first to feel the results of the upward rise toward etherealization, and thus these heaviest elements are at present in the beginnings of the process of internal decay, expressing itself as spontaneous radioactivity. They are breaking up into finer or less heavy elements, more ethereal ones, giving birth to elements higher than they themselves are. This process of radioactivity will be far more widely prevalent in physical nature than it now is, and its manifestations will increase in ever-expanding ratio as time goes on.


From the foregoing it is seen that just as man has his physical body, which is the shell or veil of all the inner and invisible parts, so in exactly parallel lines of structure is the gross physical globe of our earth the shell or veil enshrining and therefore manifesting all the other of its six principles or elements, from the super-divine down through all the intermediate stages of materiality until the rocky globe itself is reached.

Just as in man the next higher principle of his constitution is the linga-sarira or model-body, so it is in the earth-globe which has its linga-sarira to which the technical name of astral light is commonly given. In each case the gross physical body is the astral deposit or precipitation of the grossest elements of the inner vital portion or model-body.

Before elaborating further, it may be as well to form a general picture of the microcosmic scenery, or stage of life, in which "animate" entities find themselves on this globe. Reference is not here made to the seven (or twelve) globes of the planetary chain, considered as a compounded entity, but to our earth only, which is one — and the lowest or most physical — of the globes of the planetary chain. Each such globe is an entity in itself, divisible into seven (or ten or twelve) portions or principles. Our earth-globe, therefore, is a septenary being or "animal," as the ancient Latins would have phrased it — i.e. a "living being" possessing in itself, either in latency or in manifestation, every attribute and essence that the macrocosm, its parent, has.

Now there is unceasing and extremely active interchange of forces and substances between the linga-sarira and the physical body, whether of earth or of man; and this interchange takes the form of incomprehensible hosts or multitudes of peregrinating atoms of various kinds — which we may particularize as "life-atoms."

What takes place with regard to death in man's case, is identic with what takes place with regard to the death of the life-atoms of man's physical body. For instance, these life-atoms, which is equivalent to saying the atoms in man's physical body, are in an unceasing state of flux. Of course the period of physical manifestation of any life-atom or atom in the peregrinating cycle in and out of man's physical body is of extremely short duration — possibly a second or two; whereas the similar peregrination of the "human life-atom" into and out of the earth's physical sphere is of correspondingly greater magnitude, but the law is the same and the facts are identic for both. When a life-atom in man's physical body dies, it passes by efflux into man's astral body or linga-sarira, and there with equal rapidity undergoes certain transformations before the monad or higher principles of the life-atom ascends through the superior principles of man's constitution, wherefrom, after a period of rest, the life-atom "descends" through the principles of man's invisible constitution into the linga-sarira again, and thence into the physical body.

On exactly analogical lines, following the same general character of peregrinating efflux and influx, do the human monads pursue their own courses. Thus, what the life-atom is to man's physical body, from one viewpoint, is the human spiritual life-atom or human monad to the earth-globe.

In this process lies the full secret of "death," as well as of "life," and the reader will be able to gather for himself at least some idea of the nature of ancient initiation and the teachings of the Mysteries, for both were built around the central thought of death and the postmortem journey of the human monad.

However, a great deal of collateral matter was included, both by way of instruction and by way of individual experience gained by the neophyte; for not only the purpose but the effectual results of the Mystery-teachings with their concordant initiations combined to free man from all fear of death and coincidently to show how inseparably he was interlinked and involved with all nature's processes. He was taught to feel his oneness not only with sun and stars, planets and moon, but with the nature of the earth, and the place that electricity and magnetism — including all meteorological phenomena, such as earthquakes and tidal waves, etc. — occupy in these vital processes.

First of all the initiate was taught to recognize his utter oneness with the Anima Mundi of which the astral light or linga-sarira of the earth is the lowest plane save only the earth, which may be placed somewhat lower than the astral light because it is the dregs or lees thereof. He was thus taught to look upon not only the earth itself, but the entire universe, as being alive throughout, eternally vibrating in ceaseless vital activity, and to feel himself an inseparable portion thereof.

He came to recognize that his divine-spiritual parts were as much portions of the highest essence of the Anima Mundi, as his physical body was derivative from the elements of the earth-globe on which as a complete septenary man he passes through the temporary phase of his cosmic peregrination called earth-life. He came finally to know and to feel that just as the atoms of his physical body peregrinate in and out of his body, so does he as a human "life-atom" or human monad peregrinate in and out of his earth-lives which succeed one another uninterruptedly during his sojourn in a planetary round on this globe earth. He realized that the other portions of his septenary constitution were, as a unitary compound, slowly ascending into invisible and higher worlds, dropping inner body after inner body during the process of "ascent" as the monad gradually freed itself from its bodies and thus grew ever more able to wing its way upwards.

The ancients in all ages and countries — at least the initiates among them — knew a great deal about the nature of man and of his physical body, of the astral world, and of the attributes and powers of the Anima Mundi; and hence they left enshrined in the various literatures many illuminating hints, although always expressed under the veil of allegory and ambiguous statement. Such allegory was for the multitude; the initiates and adepts knew the truth. Even the Romans, among others, spoke of the astral realms as the underworld or as Orcus. Furthermore, a careful study of these old writers enables us to draw a fairly accurate outline of their understanding of the human constitution, which with proper changes will apply likewise to the constitution of our earth-globe. The karma of history applied in full force to each delivery of the Esoteric Philosophy to the age and people for whom each such promulgation was made. The result is that due to psychological if not spiritual causes the constitution of the universe or of the earth-globe, or of man himself, was always arranged in fundamental identity, but with minor varying differences; and these differences are by no means unimportant.

1. Spiritus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Atman
2. & 3. Mens . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Buddhi-manas
3. & 4. Animus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Kama-manas
5. Anima . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Prana-manas
6. Simulacrum or Imago . . . .  Linga-sarira
7. Corpus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   Sthula-sarira

In similar fashion we may cast into columnar form scraps of information drawn from Greek writers:

1. Pneuma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Atman
2. Nous . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Buddhi-manas
3. Phren . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Higher-manas
4. Thumos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Kama-manas
5. Bios . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Prana
6. Phantasma or Phasma . . . . . . . Linga-sarira
7. Soma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    Sthula-sarira

To make an analogical application of the above hierarchical list to the earth-globe itself, all that the student need do is to substitute the terms as given below:

1. Paramatman
2. Alaya-svabhavat or couplethabuddhi
3. Mahat
4. Manasaputric hierarchies
5. Cosmic jiva
6. Astral world
7. Earth

The term Anima Mundi, so often used in Latin writings, is descriptive of the spiritual-intelligent background or essence of nature, and therefore would run through the seven items on the list as being the inspiring cosmical intelligence and life as well as substance. Furthermore, the terms animus and anima are to be understood as described by the Latin grammarian, Nonius Marcellus: "animus is the faculty by which we know; anima that by which we live." Thus animus is equivalent to mind or the lower manas, whereas anima is equivalent to the vital power or the prana.

With respect to the nature of the underworld, variously called by the Greeks and Romans, Hades, Orcus, or the Realm of the Shades, it is truthfully described as being in large part beneath the earth, which in fact is where the lower regions of the kamaloka are, although the kamaloka likewise extends upwards into the earth's atmosphere, and in its highest parts reaches the moon. The underworld is also described as being a drear and lonely place, without sunlight, mournful and "marshy," but having its own feeble luminosity in which the shades or umbrae or the "dead" flutter and float without apparent design; and these shades, which are the kamarupas or cast-off shells from which the inspiriting monads have fled, are described as wan and pallid beings, gibbering in the same irresolute and somewhat senseless manner.

In the Esoteric Philosophy the underworld, in all its different grades, is called a "world of effects," just as our earth-life is in a "world of causes." In other words, the underworld is a transition-series of matters and conditions intermediate between earth-life and devachan, which is itself a "world of effects" also, but of a quite different type.

The Roman writers, borrowing from the Greek writers, spoke of the portions of man's constitution which survive the dissolution of the physical body under the general term lemures; and they divided the lemures into two classes: the larvae or spooks, otherwise called umbrae (the kamarupas); and the higher portion of the human constitution after its separation from the larvae, they called the lares or manes. This statement of the two classes of kama-lokic entities is made on the authority of Ovid, Martianus Capella, and Servius, the commentator on Vergil's Aeneid.

It is to be remembered that the times of the Roman empire were already a spiritually degenerate age, and consequently exact knowledge concerning postmortem conditions was not easily to be found; and hence it is that contrarieties of opinions and of statement about the nature of the various apparitional entities of earth-bound character were almost as numerous as were the writers who treated of these topics. Nevertheless among a certain few, more or less exact knowledge remained of the teachings of the Esoteric Tradition, although those who had this knowledge were correspondingly guarded in what they wrote, whether of the nature of the postmortem conditions of excarnate entities or of the nature of the inner worlds, either of the solar system or of our own earth-globe.

In this connection, there is an interesting Latin couplet ascribed to Ovid, every phrase of which is correct when properly understood.

Terra tegit carnem, tumulum circumvolat umbra,
Orcus habet manes, spiritus astra petit.
The earth covers the body; the shade (or spook) flits around the tomb;
Orcus (the Underworld) contains the manes; the spirit flashes to the stars.

One may add that the precise words are here used for what it has been for ages convenient to call the four important parts of the human septenary constitution: the body; the shade or kamarupa in the astral world, the term being equally applicable to the linga-sarira and its acts for a short time after the dissolution of the physical body; the manes, which is here used as the human ego which is destined to pass through Orcus or the underworld before it seeks its devachanic rest in the bosom of the monad or "spirit"; and, finally, the spiritual monad, which flashes to the "stars" — having distinct reference to the peregrinations of the monad on its long postmortem pilgrimage through the spheres.


Part 2

Everything has its life-term. This fact of incessant change so that nothing remains the same for two consecutive seconds of time, not even the equilibrium just spoken of, is one of the fundamental characteristics of nature. Nothing lasts forever that is compounded; every being or entity or thing that exists in nature is compounded; hence not one of them can possibly continue unchanged for even an instant. How could any being or thing last unchanging when its very existence depends upon an aggregation of other inferior entities, each with its own life-term and following its own, albeit collaborating, pathways of destiny?

Withal there is more life in adulthood than in childhood. Things die from a excess of life, not from a defect of it, and the reason is the enormous activity of the vital essence which is unceasingly at work either building or destroying; for its very nature is force and constant motion. A child imbibes life from the surrounding world-milieu and lives upon it and builds itself up from it through incorporating into its body the hosts of peregrinating life-atoms, which are incessantly flowing into and out of the body; and the child's body does this because it is in a state of instability, in other words because it is incessantly hungry, or dissatisfied, and hence continuously adds these life-atoms by imbibing them into itself — although it is likewise and with equally unceasing activity throwing out exhausted life-atoms. Growth is change, and change is the opposite of equilibrium or stability. The child, in fact, has life-hunger, is life-negative, so to say, and therefore imbibes life as a sponge. It is "life" which actually in time kills the physical body, for every smallest particle of man is in continuous movement. Just here is the secret why man dies: wear on the particles composing his body is continuous, and finally the time comes when activity reaches such magnitude that the component elements of the hosts of molecules and atoms no longer themselves can retain balance or equilibrium. This results in progressive decay, involving senescence and finally death.

Now the body is composed of trillions of physical cells, each of which is composed of molecules, which in their turn are composed of atoms and even the atoms are likewise composite entities — composed of a variety of electronic particles.

C. B. Bazzoni, professor of experimental physics at the University of Pennsylvania, in Kernels of the Universe, wrote:

It may help us to get a more definite idea of the immense number of molecules in a cubic inch of gas [he is speaking of ordinary air] if we suppose that we have them all enlarged to the size of baseballs and that we start 6000 people counting them, lifting them out one by one, each person taking one each second, and let us suppose that these people do not belong to any union and that they do not have to eat or sleep so that they can keep counting 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, then we shall find that very nearly three hundred million years will pass before the job of counting the molecules from a single cubic inch of air can be completed. — pp. 29-30

The number of molecules, according to the above estimate, in one cubic inch of gas equals approximately sixty quintillion molecules! And molecules are relatively immense bodies as compared with atoms! Fancy, then, the countless hosts of infinitesimal electronic particles of various kinds that one human body contains! Yet the human body is small indeed compared with the earth, and the earth is very small indeed compared with our solar system, which in turn is minute as compared with the galaxy to which it belongs. And each one of these infinitesimals or electronic units enshrines the powers and attributes of a deathless consciousness-center, a monad!

When the physical body reaches the conclusion of its life-period and breaks up into its constituent elements, what becomes of these hosts of life-atoms? They cannot stand still, frozen, or crystallized in absolute inertia, for such states are unknown except in relative degrees. No, these life-atoms are growing entities; nature permits no absolute standing still for anything anywhere. All beings and entities and things are full of life, full of force or energy, full of movement, which is but another way of describing themselves, because all are composite of both force and matter, of both spirit and substance — two phases of the underlying Reality, of which we see but the higher and lower maya or illusory forms. These illusory appearances the Hindu Vedanta expressed by the Sanskrit compound nama-rupa, "name-form," which signifies phenomenal appearances implying hid noumena.

These life-atoms, therefore, as the body decays and releases them both during life and at death — are drawn by affinity in those directions toward which the man during life by his overlordship has imparted to them a tendency to go. In other words, the tendencies, desires, and impulses of the man who used that body give to these life-atoms the characteristics of psychomagnetic attraction or repulsion that they imbody. Moreover, the great majority of these life-atoms originally were born from his substance and his force or energy, i.e. from his vitality, and hence are actually his very children. Therefore, being growing entities, they are destined in the future to unfold in evolution and to become even as he is who was in past aeons himself in what is their present stage: minuscule learning things, embryo-gods.

When the instant of death arrives, the ethereal cord of life connecting the inner constitution with the physical body is snapped, and like a flash of lightning, all the spiritual best of the man is indrawn into the man's monad or essential self, where it originated and whither it necessarily returns. An electric flash, and the best of the man is gone to its father in heaven — "I and my Father are one."

The instant of real death is in fact not the instant when the last breath is expired or when the heart gives its last pulsation, because for a certain time after this, varying in individual cases, the physical brain is still alive, and is filled with the marvelous panorama of everything that the man had been through during his life — even to the last detail. All passes through the physical brain as a concatenation of pictures and mental visions, beginning with the first feeble perceptions of childhood and continuing through all the years lived up to the moment when the last breath and the last beat of the heart took place. When the end of this panorama is reached, the "best" returns unto the bosom of the monad, and there remains until it is rejoined by the more human attributes and qualities, which in the kamaloka must during the next months or the next few years separate themselves from the kamarupa, which, when thus deprived of its higher part becomes a spook or shell.

The higher parts of the constitution thus withdraw from the body, leaving it to decay, and casting it off as a garment outworn. As concerns the life-atoms, they follow their own respective paths. The life-atoms of the physical body go into the soil or into the plants; others pass into various beasts with which they have at the man's death psychomagnetic affinity. Of those which take this path, some pass only into the bodies of beasts, but others go to form the intermediate psychic apparatus of the beasts. Other life-atoms, following the same principle of attraction, enter bodies of men, through food and drink, by osmosis, or again through the air we breathe.

The life-atoms of the astral or etheric parts of the man that was, help to build up or feed the astral or etheric bodies of the three lower kingdoms as well as the bodies of other members of the human kingdom. Again, the life-atoms of the human soul or ego are drawn into the psychomental apparatus of other human beings.

For man is a compound entity; his constitution is composed of principles or elements, variously enumerated as seven or ten, as follows: first, a divine Monadic principle, unconditionally immortal and of cosmic range of action and consciousness; second, a spiritual monad, its ray or offspring, of purely spiritual nature and function, but lower than its divine monadic parent; third, a spiritual-intellectual monad or higher ego, which is the perduring reincarnating ego, likewise a ray of the preceding monadic principle or element; fourth, a human nature or personal ego, which in its turn is a ray of the former; fifth, an astral or model-body, an etheric body, the linga-sarira; sixth, a physical body built around and partly from this astral or model-body; and, seventh and last, the vital essence or life, that is to say, force or energy. The "life" which runs through and unites all these principles or elements, and which itself is progressively less ethereal as it "descends" through the lower parts of the constitution, is composed in its turn, as are all the other principles, of monadic units, vital corpuscles, entities of infinitesimal magnitude, which we call life-atoms. Just as a stream of running water is formed of molecules, which are formed of atoms, which in turn are formed of protons and electrons, so this current of vital essence, the stream of life running through the entire constitution of the human being, is itself molecular and corpuscular, atomic and electronic in nature.


During earth-life every part of man's constitution pours out from itself, as a fountain, hosts of life-atoms on its own sphere or plane: from the spiritual through all intermediate grades down to the physical body. But this is not all. There is a constant interchange or peregrination of these various life-atoms throughout the entire range of his constitutional being. How marvelous this is! For instance, a life-atom flowing forth from the buddhic principle of a man belongs to the buddhic plane; but that life-atom because it is an evolving entity has a destiny of its own. It is as much a part of nature as we are, or as a god is, and once our constitution gives birth to it on any plane, on the buddhic plane in this instance, it begins a series of peregrinations from plane to plane in our constitution and out of it, doing exactly what we as individuals do when we incarnate or excarnate. In the case in point, the life-atom comes from the buddhic plane, into the manasic plane, into the kamic plane, downwards into the astral plane, finally into the physical body, and then, after its revolvings, it returns to its parent constitution and ascends through that constitution in order to rejoin its buddhic parent, there to pass its own atomic "aeonic" period of nirvanic bliss before beginning a new pilgrimage similar to but not identic with the one just ended.

The life-atoms of all parts of man's constitution are forever peregrinating. What for instance is a thought? A thought is a manasic elemental sent forth on a pilgrimage; and this elemental in its own essence is as much a living thing as we are. Thoughts are things because thoughts are substance or matter. They originate on the manasic plane, and they begin their peregrinations therefrom. They come to us as monads from other planes, from other beings, passing on the physical plane through our brains; we thus give to them birth again. How can we be so egoistic as to imagine for an instant that the thoughts which flow through our brains are all our own — the energic progeny of the physical substance of the brain-cells!

Every one of us, every god in space, every spiritual being anywhere, every life-atom, was once the thought of some thinking entity; and just as every god was a man in former manvantaras, and just as every man has himself been a life-atom in former aeons, in other words an imbodied elemental — just so our thoughts are now elementals passing through that one particular phase of their evolutionary development as thoughts, running through the mind of some thinking being; and in due course of time they will become imbodied on this plane in some appropriate vehicle of their consciousness, sooner or later to become a life-atom.

These different classes of life-atoms belonging to all our various inner sheaths of consciousness, and each class existing on its own respective plane or world, are all integral parts of our stream of karmic existence, pranic children of the Brahman within each one of us, which last is for each one of us respectively the individual's inner god. After death they follow an identic course of action on their own planes, and from precisely the same natural causes that govern the postmortem peregrinations brought about by attractions and repulsions, of the life-atoms of the physical body.

The etheric or astral life-atoms during life have been inbuilt into the astral body or vehicle, that during life stepped down the spiritual forces of the monad, so that these forces might act upon the brain of physical matter; for those spiritual energies or forces without such intermediaries are too subtle, too ethereal, directly to touch our world of matter. This astral vehicle or linga-sarira does not disintegrate immediately at the moment of the death. It hovers about the physical cadaver, in the astral world for a time, this astral world being just over the threshold of physical existence.

It is customary among many people, either from thoughtlessness or from ignorance, to speak of the astral world as being separated off from the physical world by a partition, or by some similar dividing element, which supposedly prevents free and easy intercourse between the astral and physical worlds. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

There is absolutely no such partition or barrier between the physical and the astral, for they in very truth blend with each other by indistinguishable gradations of matter verging from the most ethereal-physical into the most astral-material. There is, therefore, constant interchange between the physical and the astral world; and the only partition or barrier that exists is those few grades of blending substances, which, far from being obstacles to intercourse, actually are the means of communication — somewhat as the electric wire is the medium for communicating the electric current from point to point.

There are times in human history, which recur with periodic regularity, when these few intervening grades between the physical and the astral seem to wear thin; and at such times there occurs an inevitable outbreak of psychoastral happenings. We are at the present time in just such a stage of astral-psychical outcroppings. These periods are invariably attended with very real dangers both to human mentality and emotional stability, although they have the one redeeming feature (it indeed may be called such) of arousing men's interest in things other than physical, and of suggesting to their minds the actual existence of spheres or worlds of being more ethereal than the physical.

These more ethereal worlds, however, are by no means more spiritual than the physical; for the physical sphere is a highly safe and sane place, when compared with the lower regions of the astral light, and it is just these lower regions of the astral world with which intercourse from the physical plane is most easily established.

The linga-sarira itself remains but a short time in its wan and pallid existence in the astral world, after the disintegration of the physical cadaver, for it is subject to the same process of molecular and atomic disintegration that the physical body undergoes. Its term of existence therefore is, relatively speaking, very short, lasting little longer than the physical body does when left to rot away — let us say, that the linga-sarira may last some eight or ten years before it too has dissolved into its component astral life-atoms.

It is very common to confuse the mere astral model-body or linga-sarira with the kamarupa. The kamarupa is the seat during life of the human soul, and is itself composed of life-atoms, but more ethereal by a good deal than are the life-atoms of the much more gross linga-sarira. Whereas the linga-sarira outlasts the physical cadaver but a relatively short time, the kamarupa on its own planes or grades of the astral world usually outlasts both the physical body and linga-sarira by a long time — it may be in extreme cases many years. It all depends upon who and what the man was during his earth-life. If the man was of a heavily materialistic type, subject to the impulses of his lower passions, with relatively few spiritual inspirations, then the kamarupa is of course a heavily compacted and astrally coarse entity and its term of existence in the astral world before its disintegration is correspondingly long.

If, on the other hand, the man was of a highly spiritual and intellectual type, the master of his lower impulses, then his kamarupa is correspondingly ethereal or luminous and only slightly dense; consequently its term of existence as a kamarupic entity in the astral world is correspondingly short, because disintegration ensues fairly rapidly. These are two extremes; and between them fall all the other classes of human beings.

Cases have been known where the kamarupa has lasted for centuries — so long a time, in fact, that it still coheres as a kamarupic entity after the monad of the man has returned to incarnation of earth, and thereafter haunts the unfortunate "new" man, attaching itself to his newly evolved kamarupa and in most cases coalescing with it and thus acting as an unceasing fountain of downward suggestions and impulses. This is a case of what is technically called a Dweller of the Threshold, as alluded to by Bulwer-Lytton in his novel, Zanoni.

It is not only with human beings that such a Dweller of the Threshold can exist, but it actually happens in the case of certain planets: our earth is one of such unfortunate planets and the present moon is the kamarupic Dweller of the Threshold. Indeed, there are actually cases in the stellar deeps where even suns have their kamarupic haunting Dwellers!

The kamarupa of man, therefore, is but the astral shade of the man that was. These astral earth-bound entities or shades are often called "spooks" and "ghosts," and each such shade is but an eidolon — a Greek word meaning an "image," the astral image of the man who was.

It has been sometimes stated that the kamarupa forms itself only after the death of the physical body; but this statement, while true in a sense, is, without qualification, both misleading and incorrect. The kamarupa actually is built up, step by step, atom by atom, during the earth-life of the being of whose constitution it is a component part, being composed of the man's astral, emotional, psychic, and lower mental life-atoms; but it takes final shape or form — i.e., becomes a distinct astral entity — only after the death of the man.

Since there are life-atoms belonging to each of the composite principles of man's constitution, therefore man even in his intermediate nature is a compounded entity; and after death this intermediate nature, commonly called the human soul, likewise decomposes into its component life-atoms after a certain lapse of time — thus freeing the central core thereof, which is the human ego, otherwise the human monad. When these intermediate life-atoms in their turn are left behind, as the monadic ray, which is the true Man, is indrawn higher and still more closely into its parent monad — in other words, into the ultimate Self of his being — these life-atoms of man's intermediate nature are freed from the overlordship of the monadic ray and form a host of interior planes. All these multitudes of various kinds of life-atoms are attracted to other human beings, either just beginning earth-life or already having strongly personalized life on earth; exactly as the life-atoms of the physical body are drawn by psychomagnetic affinity into the respective spheres to which they by nature belong.

The cast-off sheaths of the intermediate part of the human constitution are composed of life-atoms, and to these life-atoms during our whole term of earth-life we have given a certain major direction or predominant impulse. It is due to this impact of human will and intelligence upon and into these life-atoms that we become karmically responsible for these life-atoms according to the impression made upon them; and to a certain degree we are also responsible for the psychical, astral, and physical effects they may produce on other human beings to whom these life-atoms migrate. For there is a constant and uninterrupted interchange of life-atoms among all human beings. Thus it is that these life-atoms are stamped with uncountable impressions due to the incomputable number of impulses or impacts that they have experienced; and therefore in so far as we have put our individual or personal seals upon them, we are strictly responsible. Some day these life-atoms will come back to us. As much as they individually can contain it, they bear our own vitality; and it is this vital affinity with ourselves which is causative of their return to us.

Of course, these individual impacts on any one life-atom are infinitesimally small, but as these life-atoms are uncountably numerous, their aggregate influence may be not only impelling but at times compelling. It requires but the feeblest effort of the imagination to see just here that our past returns to us even through the life-atoms, and that in this fact alone reposes a substantial foundation of morals, of high thinking, and the duty of impressing the atoms of our entire constitution with impulses flowing forth from our higher parts. Then these life-atoms return to us like angels, each one imbodying an impulse for good — and even for physical health.

As the monad ascends through the spheres on its wonderful postmortem journey, on each step or stage it casts off the life-atoms belonging to the respective part of the constitution which is native in each such stage. With each step upwards, the monad leaves behind it those groups of life-atoms which are too material to accompany it into more ethereal realms until, when the monad has reached the end of its journey, it is, as Paul said, enshrined in "a spiritual body" — the body appropriate to its own spiritual attributes.

Such indeed is the ultimate destiny of the freed monad, which thus becomes a jivanmukta — a fully self-conscious divinity, perfected for the remainder of the present period of world-life or cosmic manvantara. But as concerns the more limited between-lives period of the reimbodying ego, on this upward journey of the monad after death this reimbodying ego slips gradually into its devachanic condition. In the devachan, in the cases of the average human being, the reimbodying ego rests in the bosom of the monad and thus in devachanic bliss it passes long centuries before it begins its return journey to new earthly imbodiment — such period of devachanic recuperation depending in every case upon the energies engendered in the past life, which now find their proper sphere of activity in the spiritual-intellectual "dreamland" of the devachan.

When the centuries of revolving time bring about the ending of the devachanic dream the attractions begin to spring into activity drawing it back to earthly incarnation; little by little the stages of the return journey are entered upon in exact converse order to the steps by which the monad had "ascended." The reimbodying ego passes down through the spheres in reverse order, omitting not one of the rungs of this mystical ladder of life; and at each one of these steps of the "descent" it takes up again, through psychomagnetic attraction, and reincorporates into itself as many of the life-atoms as it is possible then to attract of the hosts of them which had been left on the respective stages or planes of the upward journey. Thus it builds them again into its new bodies or vehicles, invisible and visible, inner and outer.


Many men throughout the Christian era have pondered upon the Christian dogma of the "resurrection of the body" — sometimes very grossly and inaccurately expressed as the "resurrection of the dead." The real meaning of this theological and churchly teaching has at various times been expressed, since the renascence of the powers of the human intellect, when men began to question, and in questioning began really to think. Back of this idea of the "resurrection of the body" there actually is a most beautiful truth of nature, which may be expressed in two forms.

First, a special case which involves a mystery — a teaching of the ancient Mysteries: When a man has received his final degree of initiation he is said to be "raised" to masterhood in the same physical body.

Second, the general case is the reassembling of the life-atoms. These life-atoms are man's own offspring inbuilt into this body during his life on earth, although they are not derivative from outside but spring forth from within himself. It is well to mention that not all the life-atoms which compose a man's body are his own offspring — emanations from his own life-essence. Because of the unceasing peregrinations or wanderings of the life-atoms as between man and man, there is at any one instant of time in any human body a certain number of these life-atoms which are "guests" so to speak in this physical body and which are attracted to it because of affinity and which likewise leave it because of another prevailing stronger affinity which draws them to a psychomagnetically attracting body.

The majority, however, of the life-atoms which build man's constitution are his children; therefore they are psychomagnetically attracted back to the reimbodying ego on its return journey to the new earth-life, and the reimbodying ego can no more avoid receiving these life-atoms again into itself than it can avoid being itself. To it they are again drawn because out from it they formerly went. These life-atoms, too, during the reimbodying ego's term of devachan have had their own wonderful adventures in the different spheres and planes of the seven globes of the planetary chain. Thus when the descending individual or reimbodying ego reaches the grades of our physical plane, and the body is finally born, its growth thereafter is assured because of the magnetic attractions and repulsions of its former life-atoms which had made the reimbodying ego's physical body on earth in the last life. Thus it is that the body of the former earth-life is resurrected — is arisen. When the time for man's rebirth into physical life comes again, it is the gradual condensation or materialization of interior vehicles or elements which, from the monadic or spiritual world down to the physical, forms the seven portions of the constitution of the new man on earth.

What strikes one in this wonderful fact of nature is the perfect and unerring justice in it; there is no chance-work or fortuitous collocation of atoms in the process of incarnation, because at every step of this procedure man meets what he formerly made, and perforce must take them into himself again. Nevertheless, it must not be forgotten that although in his new earth-body he is substantially the same man physically that he was at the end of his last life, yet to say that he is identic with the "man" of the last earth-life is neither accurate nor philosophically true; for while the "new man" is a reproduction of the "old," he is nevertheless, as a personal entity a distinctly "new man," because of the "new" increments of inner faculty and power which he has gained as the fruitage of all the experiences of the last life and their assimilation into character during the devachanic interval. Thus the man may be called the "same" man because of being formed of the same identic elements in his vehicles, but he is a "new man" because of the growth or unfolding through evolutional development that has taken place since the last life.

The fact that the physical body is sometimes after death destroyed by cremation has no effect on the life-atoms. Fire sets the chemical atoms free; it destroys the molecules composed of atoms but the atoms themselves are untouched by fire. Fire is an electrical phenomenon; its influence is usually disruptive, but it is also the great constructive builder of the universe, and this is why some of the ancients worshiped it. Fire is in fact a manifestation on the lower planes of pranic electricity.


It is the life-atoms which are the souls of the chemical atoms. The theosophist today uses the word atom in its Greek etymological sense, as signifying "indivisible," monad or individual — that which is strictly a unit and cannot be divided. It was in this manner that the word was used by the original founders of the Greek Atomistic school, who meant exactly what the Pythagorean school did when it spoke of the monad as a center of consciousness; what we may call the real spiritual atom, an indivisible ultimate only in the sense that when any one of the psychological wrappings enshrouding any such center of consciousness or monad is taken away there is exposed a more perfect wrapping of the center of consciousness; and this process of unwrapping might proceed ad infinitum, and yet never reach the ultimate or "absolute" beginning — for where could one find a conceivable ending or beginning of a consciousness-center? The point is that these wrappings are really phases of consciousness, and hence, no matter how numerous they may be, consciousness per se is always there.

The ancient Hindus called the life-atoms by the name paramanu, a compound signifying ultimate or "primal" anu, and anu implying an "infinitesimal"; so that its use when applied to substance meant what we call the life-atom, and its use when applied to spirit could easily signify a monad. Nevertheless, the best term for monad is jiva; and for the center of consciousness itself, seated in the heart of the monad, the properly descriptive term would be jivatman or monadic Self. In certain of the Upanishads mention is made of the Brahman seated in the heart of the atom — that Brahman which is smaller than the smallest, yet greater than the greatest, indeed in its vast reach encompassing the universe.

It is to be noted, however, that such primary infinitesimals or paramanus are not mere points of "dead matter," which conception utterly misses the main idea; but that these infinitesimals are centers or points of pure unadulterated consciousness — "atoms of consciousness." Hence, the cosmic Brahman in Hindu philosophy is referred to as aniyamsam aniyasam — "minutest of the minute," "atomic of the atomic," otherwise the essential substance or point of consciousness, which, precisely because it is essential consciousness, is all-permeant, being not only the heart of every atom in the universe, but filling that universe itself.

This is neatly described by the term jivatman, for at the core of every entity is a divine spark, the inner god thereof which is enshrouded with garments of increasing stages of opacity, these being the various "sheaths" of consciousness. The highest of these garments or veils are translucent or transparent to the passage of the spiritual light flowing forth from this inner spiritual monad or sun; and the outer or more opaque ones are less ethereal, and progressively more so, until the physical body is reached.

The English astronomer and mathematician, Sir James Jeans, writes in his The Mysterious Universe:

For no matter how far we retreat from an electrified particle, we cannot get outside the range of its attractions and repulsions. This shews that an electron must, in a certain sense at least, occupy the whole of space.

It is evident from this that Jeans endows a modern scientific electron with a few of the characteristic attributes of the Hindu anu. What the monad is to the life-atom, that the paramanu is to the anu.

Thus man's inner god may otherwise be called a "spiritual atom," a paramanu, a monad, a true indivisible, something which lasts throughout the cosmic manvantara; not lasting forever, indeed, in its enshrouding veils, but in that mysterious ineffable mystery of its essential self. When the human soul, by the process of unfolding from itself its monadic possibilities, manifests the inner illumination in greater or less degree, we may then call this human soul "the human atom," otherwise the human monad or ego, which is the self-conscious center of the average human being.

Man, essential Man, may thus in the last analysis be looked upon as a self-conscious force or stream of consciousness-energy, and in its highest or monadic form that consciousness-energy is homogeneous, therefore being a unit, an individual. It is this monad which passes from individualized life to individualized life, from sphere to sphere, constantly evolving its inherent attributes and faculties; and in this way following the path of uninterrupted cosmical evolution. Its gathering of experiences in a single life is an insignificant fraction of what the cosmos contains for it in the way of lessons to learn, and of growth for it to achieve!

Our scientists see in the physical world a never-ending drama of flux and efflux, of change and interchange, of a constant peregrination of physical particles over a wide range in the universe. They tell us of the peregrinations of the atoms and their electronic constituents that come to us from the sun and doubtless from the other planets.

There is indeed a constant circulation along the pathways of the universe of the life-atoms which imbody themselves in the chemical atoms — temporary vehicles which are assumed and dropped in unceasingly repetitive series of imbodiments as these life-atoms circulate hither and yon: thus taking part in a constant movement to and fro from the bosom of Father Sun and out again throughout his kingdom of the atoms, making the highways or paths which are followed and used by all beings and entities of higher evolutionary degree. It is the "Cycle of Necessity" of the ancient Greek philosophers. For no man, indeed no entity, can live unto itself alone. We are all members of one body corporate whose dimensions are in very truth boundless space, and whose individuals are everlastingly peregrinating monads.

Chapter 16