The Path – March 1896

DEVACHAN — Bandusia Wakefield

Devachan means literally the land of the Gods, and is probably so called because it is only the diviner aspect of man that can be in this state. It corresponds in some respects to what is called Heaven, being a state of happiness which is experienced after death. Such being the case, the question will probably at once arise, "How do you know anything about it, or that there is such a state?" Though it is the province of this paper only to tell what is taught in Theosophical literature regarding this state, yet it may be well to give a few of the reasons for believing in its existence and its ascribed character. And first, soul itself, being the highest, worthiest thing we know, would surely not be blotted out of existence, when even matter is known to be blotted out of existence, when even matter is known to be indestructible. In fact, no essence can be destroyed, though it may change its form.

Everywhere in nature we see alternate periods of activity and rest, subjectivity and objectivity. We see it in human as well as in lower forms of life on earth in the alternate periods of sleeping and waking, which are but copies of still greater similar periods. Nature conserves her energy as much in holding to one plan of progress as in any other way, and there is more reason to believe that she does it with the human soul than to believe the contrary, and that subjective spiritual states of being alternate with objective material ones. Then there is direct testimony regarding subjective states of consciousness of a high order, as people experience them under certain conditions even during earth-life.

An anesthetic which paralyzes the lower principles leaves the consciousness wide awake on higher planes, and the experience is most blissful, giving a taste of what the happiness of self-conscious being on spiritual planes must be. Sometimes a high type of dream where all the lower principles are inactive does the same thing; and sometimes the lower instrument on coming to activity again is able to receive the record of the higher experience. The same thing also occurs under some trance conditions.

In the Psychical Research Reports (part 25) Prof. Ramsay tells of his subjective condition when partly anaesthetized. He says the tendency of his mind when not under this influence is that of scientific scepticism. "But under the influence of an anaesthetic all doubts vanish. . . . It is as if the veil which hides whence we come, what we are, and what will become of us, were suddenly rent, and as if a glimpse of the Absolute burst upon us. An overwhelming impression forced itself upon me that the state in which I then was, was reality; that now I had reached the true solution of the riddle of the Universe; . . that all outside objects were merely passing reflections on the eternal mirror of my mind."

There was with him a "vivid conception of the ideal foundation of the Universe" and "immediate knowledge of his individual eternity;" but upon the cessation of anaesthesia and return to bodily sensation, he was again on his ordinary mental plane. This is the common experience, save that the memory of it is usually less vivid, being "often only an impression of having gone through an immensity of experience." Ordinary people have the experiences already given; but there are people whose evolution has been carried on far beyond the stage of ordinary people, and who can at will raise the centre of conscious activity from the lower to the higher planes and bring back the record of the higher experiences. They thus know what spiritual life untrammelled by the lower principles is, and it is from their teachings, so far as understood, that the present paper is written. If what is said seems reasonable and fits in with the facts we know, it is certainly worthy of respectful consideration.

We find rest in a change of occupation, or change from one form of activity to another. In this sense Devachan is a state of rest. It is not cessation from all activity, but only from the lower forms which prevail on earth, while the higher forms are here much enhanced. Whatever belongs only to a physical body is of course left behind with that body. Hatred, envy, jealousy and all lower desires, the producers of pain, are left behind dormant and with them the pain they bring; while all pure, unselfish desires and feelings and all the nobler activities of the mind, being spiritual in their nature, continue without let or hindrance in a spiritual state. Whatever forces of this character were set in motion during earth-life will now go on to full and free expansion. Any pursuit of an ideal or abstract nature, such as poetry, music, art, philosophy, may still be carried on and progress made. Pure unselfish love here strengthens by exercise, and its waves reach down to earth in helpfulness. Devachan is not a condition of purely abstract spirituality, but of personal spirituality. It is an idealized continuation of all that was best and of a spiritual character in the last earth-life, and a realization of unfulfilled spiritual aspirations, a subjective state of unalloyed happiness. The spiritual aspect of the desires and lower mind unites with the higher triad, or spiritual principles, and gives color to the Devachanic entity and its experiences. According to its weakness or strength will be the poverty or richness of Devachan for any Ego, but for everyone, it will have all the richness, variety and happiness which that soul is capable of experiencing. There are as many degrees in this state as there are differently developed Egos, and each Ego is exactly suited. In no other sort of heaven than the one which each soul makes for itself could this be the case.

We know that on earth the same scenery and the same surroundings have very different effects upon different people, are interpreted in very different ways. One may be entranced with the beauty of a landscape, while another may see only how many dollars and cents there are in the forests and fields. To one certain vibrations are music, to another, noise; to one, other vibrations are a beautiful harmony of light and shade, color and form, that stirs the depths of his soul, while to another, the same vibrations are mere patches of color that touch no deeper chord than the external sense; but even the sense of color is an interpretation of the mind, for all that comes from without is vibration. Thus the appearances of this earth, which we account so real, are but the interpretations of the mind of the great world of vibrations that pour in upon it; and this mind continues its method upon a higher plane and still interprets the vibrations which reach it, but here only those can reach it which mean to it harmony, beauty, friends, friendship, love and other noble ideas and sentiments, for only such belong to this plane, and here only the higher aspect of mind is active.

Devachan is a subjective state compared to life on the physical plane; but there are many degrees of subjectivity, and this is not the highest. Being a subjective state, the ideas of space and time as we know them here are not applicable there; yet everything on that plane has as much reality and objectivity to the consciousness there as have the appearances of earth to the consciousness here. It is a natural state in which the soul finds itself on the removal of the limitations of the lower principles. The psychic and spiritual energies generated during earth-life are only partially carried out on earth, owing to material limitations, and on the removal of the latter these energies come into unhindered operation. They have their rise, expansion, decline and exhaustion in the Devachanic state, and when this is accomplished, then other energies generated in earth-life, whose field is the physical plane, begin to operate, and the Ego is drawn back to rebirth.

Generally speaking, the length of time an Ego remains in Devachan depends upon the amount and strength of these psychic and spiritual energies. An Ego whose previous life had been wrapped almost entirely in material interests would have a short Devachan, while one whose life had been absorbed in spiritual interests would have a long one. The average length is said to be about 1500 years. There are exceptional cases of advanced Egos who are helped out of Devachan by Adepts before the natural expiration of their time, for the purpose of hastening their development and helping humanity.

Only advanced Egos are strong enough to endure this treatment; for not only is Devachan a natural state, but it is essential to the development of the great mass of Egos. The soul needs the rest which this change brings, it needs the opportunity to sift, correctly estimate and assimilate the higher experiences of earth-life, and to make progress in ideal lines already begun. Devachan supplies all this, refreshes and strengthens the soul on the spiritual side so that it is better fitted for its next struggle on earth. It gives a needed rest after the strain of earth-life, and is as necessary in the great life of the soul as sleep is in the short life of the body.

As a matter of justice to the Ego, Devachan is also essential, for it is impossible during earth-life to reap the effects of all the good thoughts and deeds and high aspirations of the soul, and this second field on the soul plane, which is really the field where the causes are sown, is also needed for the reaping of their effects. Here too are generated forces which have their effects in the period of embodiment, strengthening the spiritual aspect of the next earth-life. The reason this field requires so much more time than the physical is because the more spiritual the more enduring anything is.

Through all we see a purpose in Devachan, and it is to help on the evolution of the soul through furnishing an opportunity for the adjustment of all karmic effects not adjustable in earth-life.

In these intervals between earth-lives we have closer touch with Reality, are nearer the plane where all selves are in unity than on earth; but we have to learn to feel this oneness on the plane of greatest separateness, so we come again and again into earth-life, with its conflictions of personal interests, to accomplish the task.

To the extent that Devachan is removed from the Absolute Reality, to that extent it is an illusion; but it is much less an illusion than the physical plane, which is still farther removed from the eternal and unchangeable Truth. The farther any plane is removed from the One Reality the more illusory it is, and the more transitory all that pertains to it. So the objective life on this physical plane, which we are accustomed to look upon as so real, is but a passing illusion compared to the more spiritual and permanent life of Devachan. The denser the veils of matter, the more is Reality hidden. As there are still veils in Devachan, there is still illusion there, but these veils are thinner than on earth. The use of the word "dream" to describe this subjective state has led many astray, because the wrong meaning has been attached to "dream." Dream has been regarded in the west as something purely fanciful when not the result of a disordered stomach, while the fact is that the dream state when not affected by the body has more of reality in it than the waking. When the body is in a favorable condition these dreams are sometimes remembered. In these the soul is on its own plane, the very plane of Devachan. It sees about it loved ones who have passed from earth, as well as those that are still embodied; and this is no delusion, for the soul-plane is one, and sympathetic souls are in touch whether embodied or disembodied. The delusion comes in waking hours when one thinks there was no reality in the dream experience. The death of the body simply removes one personality from the presence of others; it cannot change the relationship of the individualities, the spiritual selves. If these were united by strong ties of spiritual love and sympathy, the mere removal of an obstruction, of a few veils of matter, does not make them any further apart. To them there is no space, and the spiritual, magnetic currents between them still hold. Hence it is that the unselfish love of a mother in Devachan is a protecting influence to her child on earth. The higher Ego of that child is on her own plane, and it is no illusion that she should sense its presence, and as that presence to her on earth wore a certain garb, she clothes it again in the same, the body of her child. Though this higher connection and inter-relation remains, yet being as it is on the plane of the higher Ego, there can come into it nothing pertaining to the sins and sorrows of earth, and so the happiness of the Devachani is secured.

The laws that operate below are but reflections of those on higher planes. Here we are susceptible to currents of thought, are more or less open to receive whatever is in harmony with our own trend. Why should not two souls of like aspiration and pursuit, dwelling each in its own Devachanic world, mutually influence each other by the sympathetic currents between them? It must be so, as that plane is still nearer the Reality where all is One than is this plane of separateness, the earth. There is a real and continuous interchange of thought and feeling of the purest kind on the inner planes between the dweller in Devachan and his real friends whether there or on earth, and this is not merely memory, though it "goes on under conditions made up of the memories of earth." Every transmitted wave of thought or feeling from a friend is clothed by the mind with the form of that friend. This little dress may be called illusion, but the continuous intercourse of soul to soul is a transcendent reality. Our illusion even here on earth is the "taking of the outer form for the thing itself."

This unbroken connection of souls remaining, we see the possibility of souls in bliss giving help to those still struggling on the earth. For strong loving thoughts and desires for their highest good are in a measure felt by embodied souls who are thus stimulated to higher endeavor and protected from their own worse selves. Those who on earth worked for some cause for the good of men still carry it on in thought, the radiating energy of which may inspire others still on earth and take expression in their words and deeds. Here for us is a great hope in beginning any true work for humanity. We do not lay it down, but help to carry it on in another way, till we are ready again to take it up once more on earth. And death too is stripped of its terrors, for there is no cessation of the higher activities, no stop to true progress, no severance of real friends. Death is truly a "benediction of nature upon all that is good in us."

"Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never;
Never was time it was not; End and Beginning are dreams.
Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit forever;
Death hath not touched it all, dead though the house of it seems!"

"Nay, but as when one layeth
     His worn-out robes away,
And, taking new ones, sayeth,
     'These will I wear today!'
So putteth by the spirit
     Lightly its garb of flesh,
And passeth to inherit
     A residence afresh."


The Path

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