Where do we go when we die? The answer is too simple for belief: we go straight to the place or state we were headed for before we passed over. We could not go anywhere else. We just continue right ahead in our habits of thought and action though the actions are no longer physical but suited to the astral plane we are naturally prepared and fitted for. The mere fact of dying has no angelic transforming power. It merely tunes us out of the physical into the astral plane where we go right on as before thinking thoughts that are heavenly in character and that take us to Devachan, or thoughts of desire which are familiar and that keep us in a familiar state — that of Kama-loka. It is just as simple as that. But remember that our desires are transitory things — rather superficial after all. They run their course and we are, sooner or later, freed from them.
In order to understand this subject more thoroughly we have to realize that a man after all is not just the physical person we behold from day to day and whose outward acts we judge him by. Man is a thinking-soul and souls have a way of asserting themselves sooner or later and outgrowing childish desires. So when the soul is freed from earthly bondage it seeks its own, and sooner or later, slowly or rapidly, gravitates towards its center of attraction, which, most naturally, we can call "the home of the soul." For a distinctive name free from false teachings we in Theosophy call it Devachan.
So let us study the nature of devachan as taught in Theosophy. In the first place we have to accustom ourselves to the fact that heaven is neither made of wood, nor brick, nor jasper, nor has it golden streets without cobble-stones or gutters. It just is heaven. Now, what do you mean when in daily life you say that for an hour you were in heaven? Why, you mean a state of consciousness — a state of blissful thought and feeling. A state in which you absolutely forgot your little self and your mere personal, selfish or physical world. You were absolutely happy. Well, that is devachan.
The all important thing to grasp is that you were in a blissful state of consciousness. It was a state of consciousness, not a physical world. I do not mean a vague abstraction free from any kind of substance. Theosophy does not recognize any such absurdity anywhere, in any world, physical or spiritual. In all worlds that mind can speculate upon or religions can talk or teach about there is a corresponding degree of matter (prakriti) — real matter. The higher the plane or state the finer and more real the matter: mental matter, spiritual matter (akasa), divine matter. So, if you can get the idea, in devachan you are in the plane or state of mind natural to your most heavenly and spiritual thoughts and feelings. Remember, thoughts are things. Real things, but not stiff and wooden. You change them by changing your feelings and your imagination.
Remember, imagination is a man's greatest creative power — the power of creative thought by which each of us builds his future. Everything in life that amounts to anything we first imagine and then think out. That is just what we do in devachan. The difference is that in devachan we are living in a world of pure thought. Our thoughts take shape before us and we live in and are surrounded by them. Thus all our ideals are objectivized before us. They make for us an objective environment often more vividly real than physical life, hence in devachan we live in a world exactly suited to us for it is made by ourselves.
It may help us to realize all this if we remind ourselves that no intelligent person lives in his body and its senses much of the time. As a matter of hard fact we live mostly in our minds right now — in our minds, and thoughts, and feelings. The difference is that in the physical state or world we are limited, bound and hedged in by reluctant matter while in devachan our thoughts and ideals are free to objectivize themselves readily and immediately. Think of how happy we would be if in daily life we could do just that. What an advantage to be in devachan.
Each man's heaven world is exactly what he desires and expects and requires because it is created by or of those desires, expectations, and imaginations. The thoughts and feelings of everyday life emanate from us moment by moment and they hang around us like a perfume or a cloud of smoke as the case may be. To be more technical and more exact, they make an aura, an invisible but very real astral shell or house in which we live and which we carry around with us as a snail does his shell. This is why a man can never escape from himself — because he carries himself with him. In fact this aura is himself. In it he carries his karman with him. This is one reason why a man can never escape his karman — it is himself. He carries it with him whether he goes to New York or to devachan. In other words, your aura is a sort of astral glass case which holds yourself together. In earth life it is invisible, subjective, except in rare cases of clairvoyance or vivid dream. In devachan this aura is what you live in. The thoughts within it there become our objective world. That is the whole story.
If men took their faults with them to the hereafter, what kind of place would it be? Better stay here where you can call a policeman. But what becomes of our bad thoughts? — if we took those to heaven it wouldn't be heaven. Well, kindly nature takes care of that. Take a simple illustration: Suppose you have a glass of water more or less dirty. Set it down quietly and the dirt will settle to the bottom and the clear water will rise to the top. That is the way with a man's aura in the silence after death. The clear water of his life rises to devachan and the dirty water — we call it the "spook" — stays in the lower astral light.
Did you ever see spooks? They did not look like angels, did they? But if you could rise high enough and had clear enough inner vision (clairvoyance) to see souls in devachan they would be radiantly beautiful, angelic. The "spook" (Kama-rupa) stays in the earth's atmosphere (Kama-loka) and gradually dissolves into its primal elements (skandhas and life atoms). But it all belongs to the man who made it and so in his next life it is drawn back to him. That is a part of the man's bad Karma, while the good thoughts he had in devachan have been digested and assimilated into his character and return as a part of himself. People speak with more wisdom than they realize when they feel and say that a baby comes from heaven.
Devachan has sometimes been likened to a dream because dreams are likewise made of thought. Some dreams are almost as vividly real as devachan. Devachan is a spiritual state and spiritual states are always more real and beautiful than the grossly material state of earth life. Master K. H. says "To call the devachan existence a "dream" in any other sense but that of a conventional term . . . is to renounce forever the knowledge of the esoteric doctrine."
Having lost his physical senses the devachani cannot tune in to the jazz of the physical world. His life is mercifully undisturbed by witnessing the sorrows, misfortunes or perhaps sins of his loved ones on earth. Heaven would not be heaven if the sorrows of mortals invaded devachan.
Let us remember and remind the bereaved that there is no separation in spirit. "We are with those whom we have loved and lost in material form, and far, far nearer to them now than when they were alive," says H. P. Blavatsky.
Pure holy love is spiritual and from the higher plane reaches the loved ones on earth, acting as a comforter and a shield. Between those with pure love on earth and those in devachan there is a play of spiritual forces as real as radio waves, obeying similar laws: that is, to register them you have to tune in to their spiritual state. Pure love is the strongest of Karmic forces and will bring all who so love together again in future lives.
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE