Let us begin this subject of Man after Death by remembering that he is a Divine being, an eternal pilgrim, now journeying Homeward through the labyrinths of matter, learning in pain and sorrow, and sometimes in joy, the truth about himself and the universe, learning to obey the "Law of laws" — Compassion, realizing that he must become a co-worker with Nature's supreme laws.
I do not think that this can be repeated too often: man is in his heart of hearts a God, a Divine Being. This is his Rock, against which nothing in the universe can prevail, because it implies his own eternal oneness with the Heart of the universe, his oneness with Harmony, Compassion, and the imperishable Life of all things.
We may live in suffering and misfortune: — "the Karmic progeny of all our former thoughts and deeds" — but always with us is the fearless, mighty Inner God, whose Peace we can share. He is ever-present. In the deepest darkness he abides with us. Even in death he lives with us. What illusions are the so-called securities of the world compared to him! The wheel turns, and they are gone, and we wander empty-handed; but indestructible and constant endures this Divinity in our hearts.
By impersonal love and forgiveness Man opens himself to the beneficent influences streaming from the Cosmic Heart, and thus steps into, partakes of, the Eternal Peace.
The Masters of Wisdom and Compassion are individuals who have become more at one with the Inner God than we, who have unfolded into vital manifestation the powers and faculties latent in us all. They feel keenly the pulsing of the great Universal Heart. It was they who gave this wisdom we call Theosophy, a fragment of which will be considered in this paper.
The seven principles of man are seven aspects, expressions, reflexions, manifestations, of the consciousness-life-substance which is, in its totality, the Boundless. The man whom we know at present is but a reflexion — a sorry one — of his "only abiding principles" — Atman and Buddhi. He is a stream of consciousness flowing down from above, a radiance, a ray of Spirit-Mind, incarnated in matter, pulled this way and that by conflicting desires.
But here let us pause and think. These seven principles are not the last word regarding the teaching of man's constitution. According to the Esoteric Wisdom, there are, besides these seven principles, three more, belonging to the higher, unmanifested planes of Nature. And moreover, since the part contains everything that the whole has, each of these seven principles, considering man as a sevenfold being, is itself septenary.
But we will here consider man in his sevenfold division because this is relatively simple, and because it harmonizes with the septenary manifestations that we observe throughout all Nature.
The seven principles that go to make up the constitution of man are as follows: the physical body or Sthula-sarira, the astral, model-body or Linga-sarira, the life principle or Prana, the element of desire or Kama, mind or Manas, the Spiritual Soul or Buddhi, and Spirit or Atman.
The physical body is a gross, dense form, itself without moral responsibility as an entity, serving man as a vehicle or garment on the terrestrial plane.
The astral body is composed of substance more attenuated than the physical, but still material. It is the pattern for the physical body, is formed before birth, and acts as a link of communication between the mind and physical body.
The life principle or Prana is physical vitality, drawn from the ocean of life for the specialized use of forms, after the disintegration of which it returns to the ocean of life.
The element of desire or Kama is the fourth principle, aspect, of the consciousness-life-substance. It is that in us which desires, moving into action the will. Without some kind of desire we should stagnate and cease to be. Desire is the driving power in life. It permeates the universe.
Mind or Manas is the thinking principle, a spark of the universal Mind, in the beginning un-self-conscious, which to obtain self-consciousness must undergo experience in matter. Manas is the link between the god and animal in man because it has two aspects: the first is the Higher Manas, aspiring upward to its source, which is Buddhi the Spiritual Soul. The second aspect is the mortal, Lower Manas, a ray from the Higher Manas, "working through the physical brain and senses." This lower part of Manas, informing the perishable quaternary: physical body, astral body, life, and desire, constitutes the terrestrial personality enduring from birth to death. This personality is the mask of the Higher Self. This Lower Manas is really a false consciousness, an entity that goes to pieces, disintegrates, after the passing of the body, giving up to its source only that of it which is worthy of survival, its pure, self-conscious, spiritual essence or aroma: the high dreams of beauty and harmony, the aspirations lofty and sublime. But if during incarnation on earth it was gross, materialistic, and a denier of soul and immortality, it will then have nothing in it to rise, after death, to the spiritual plane from which it came. In such a case there will be no Devachan for it, and the Higher Nature will draw from it nothing at all.
Regarding the majestic themes of Buddhi and Atman, little can be said. However, in the Bhagavad-Gita we read the following which is helpful: "The senses and organs are esteemed great, but the thinking self is greater than they. The discriminating principle is greater than the thinking self, and that which is greater than the discriminating principle is He." He is Atman, the Supreme Spirit, the Divine Monad or Ego, the Inner God. The discriminating principle is Buddhi, the Spiritual Soul or Monad, the Inner Buddha. The thinking self is Manas or mind, the Reincarnating Ego, the Human Monad or Soul.
At death the physical body is deserted, and the life principle or Prana returns to the ocean of life from which it came. This reduces the number of man's principles from seven to five. They are: Atman, Buddhi, Manas, Kama, and the Linga-sarira or astral body. The entity man is now in the region of Kama-loka, or place of desire, a locality in and about the earth, in a vehicle or vesture called the Kama-rupa, or body of desire. Perhaps here we should consider what the Kama-rupa is. On earth during incarnation man's desires infill his being; they are not independent of him; indeed he is their master because he decides what desires to encourage and follow. But after death and the abandonment of the physical body, the desires coalesce with the astral body, forming the Kama-rupa, or body of desire.
This Kama-rupa is made up of all the lower desires and selfish impulses that the liberated soul leaves behind, and is therefore wholly bad, being an evil influence to living persons who unwisely permit themselves to become mentally negative, thus making possible the invasion of astral forces. A good man, after death, leaves behind him a relatively weak Kama-rupa which soon goes to pieces, and becomes no menace to the living. But a bad man will leave a strong, coherent Kama-rupa which will hold together for a long time and cause untold trouble in the world. There is a great moral implication here, because the soul is always responsible for whatever evil its abandoned Kama-rupa may do, even if the soul be in Devachan.
The separation of the heaven-bound soul from the Kama-rupa is called the "second death," an event quite painless to the good man, but a period of great suffering for those who in life persistently identified themselves with the lower nature.
Devachan is not a place or location like Kama-loka, but a state of spiritual consciousness. And it is Karman — spiritual Karman — which leads the individual soul to Devachan. While on earth in the body man aspires to noble things, thinks sublime thoughts, and dreams lofty dreams, few of which can be realized here. But they have to come to fruition somewhere, because every cause must produce its effect. And that "somewhere" is Devachan.
Each man's Devachan is of his own making: it is his own spiritual creation: — an ideal world of happiness and peace wherein the tired soul takes rest and assimilates the purified aroma of mortal experience. Devachan is really a dream, but less of a dream than terrestrial life because it is closer to the Heart of Things.
Devachan is over when the spiritual causes which led the soul there are exhausted; and the soul is brought back to reincarnation on earth by causes, initiated in past lives, which require earthly conditions in which to manifest.
At the time of death the soul sees the complete panorama of the incarnation just ended, and before birth the conditions that will have to be faced in the coming life are revealed to its inner sight.
To summarize: Devachan is a spiritual state, the efflorescence of spiritual forces engendered by the individual during incarnation. If there was in the life of a man much aspiration to the nobler side of things, hopes for the betterment of the world, efforts in the direction of the "Good, the True, the Beautiful," then the Devachan will be long, rich, and full. On the other hand, if he lived mostly for the material aspects of life, giving little attention to the Real, his Devachan will be brief and almost colorless. And in some cases, as mentioned before, there may be no Devachan at all.
Now it has been said that Atman and Buddhi are the "only abiding principles" in man; but although abiding, permanent, and imperishable, they are not changeless in an absolute sense. Everything is growing, evolving, changing: atoms and stones, worlds and men, universes and galaxies. The highest pinnacle of perfection that we can visualize is but one more horizon against the eternal skies. The farthest range of harmony and perfection attainable in this our present manvantara will be over-reached in our next manvantara; and so on forever, "sublime ultimate after sublime ultimate" attained and surpassed, in Boundless Infinity, which is our Home.
Much has been omitted in this study of Man after Death, and all that has been said is very fragmentary. We should not permit our minds to crystallize around any aspect of these teachings because they are always subject to enlargement, and as we evolve intellectually, morally, spiritually, we shall see and understand more than we do now. There is an old saying: "Stand ready to abandon all thou hast learned." And this is good advice to the Theosophist. Theosophy is the Eternal Truth of man and universe, but it has no final bourn, no absolute ultimate. How could it? Everything is growing, advancing, and as we follow the turning wheel of time, striving to realize more and more of our essential Divinity, we shall come into the possession of greater powers and faculties, and an ever-widening perception. We shall gradually become more at home in our universe, more familiar with its sublime mysteries, more serviceable to our fellows.
When we are studying these magnificent teachings and appreciating them with our intellects, let us not forget, even for an instant, the Source of them, the Eternal Foundation from which they spring! Let us not close our hearts for one moment to the ever-abiding Spirit that moves in the Silence, bringing peace to our hearts and illumination to our minds. For this is the great thing: the Spirit behind it all, and the glorious vision that we see when we hold to this Spirit. The Spirit it is that must stir and motivate us in our Theosophical life. For Spirit is the Heart of it all, the Essence, the Light, the Power, and the Guide. With the Spirit and the Vision within and before us we shall follow the Ancient Path with certain feet. Indeed, there is no other way we can tread it, for the Path is the Spirit, and the Goal the Vision!
The aim of evolution is the bringing forth in man of his essential Divinity; that he may become it, that he may live and actually be the god that he is in his Inmost. The Messengers of the Great Ones have all brought one Message, which is: "Man, know Thyself. Know Thyself for what Thou truly art: A Divine Splendor, a Deathless God." Be this inner Glory, they have taught, and all that the boundless universe contains will be yours because you yourself will have awakened to the sublime realization that you are the universe, and the universe you! "As above so below."
The everlasting Divine Life flows through all things, holding all things in eternal keeping. The Divine Life is the same in one as it is in another. The self-same identic Essence that makes us brothers verily makes us ONE. For the whole human race is one grand unit, an organism electrified and driven by Compassion which is, as The Voice of the Silence states: "no attribute" but the Law of laws, — Eternal Harmony. We have only to open our hearts and minds to this holy verity, and let the Power that moves behind and within all things stream in, and we shall be transformed, lifted to heights where we shall breathe the air of the gods.
The destiny of the human race is to become a race of gods. It is a wonderful, glorious picture that rises in the mind when we think of this: when we gaze on through the centuries at those grand days when all men will be as brothers, each self-forgetful, each living and striving for the good of the rest, with selfishness dead, and pity and compassion filling the heart. I think that one of the finest things that we can do is to hold stedfastly in our minds this picture of Tomorrow.
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE