Copyright © 1974 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
When the Self (atman), having fallen into a state of weakness, enters into unconsciousness, as it were, then the life-currents (pranas) gather around it. Seizing wholly these shining elements, it then enters the heart. When the Spirit of the eye moves away in a circle, it loses knowledge of form.
"He becomes one, he does not see," they say. "He becomes one, he does not smell," they say. "He becomes one, he does not taste," they say. "He becomes one, he does not speak," they say. "He becomes one, he does not hear," they say. "He becomes one, he does not think," they say. "He becomes one, he does not touch," they say. "He becomes one, he does not know," they say. Then the entrance of the heart becomes luminous. By way of this radiance, the Self takes its exit, either from the eye, or from the head, or from other parts of the body. When it departs, the life (prana) departs after it; when the life departs, all the vital airs depart. It becomes endowed with perception; it enters into that perception; knowledge and deeds, and the realization of the past, unite together and pervade it. — Brihadaranyaka-Upanishad, IV, 4, 1-2
There is no essential difference between the death of a sun and that of a man or of the smallest atom. The details are different, that is all. The death of a sun produces an instantaneous vanishing of the sun's body of light, which is grosser than the light of the spiritual realms, but nevertheless light; and light is energy, and energy is matter. Similarly, a man's body, or the body of an atom, in fact all physical matter, is but compacted light. As the sun is a divine being, it clothes itself with an appropriate vehicle of pure ethereal light, not gross or concreted light such as our bodies are. Consequently, when the divine flame of the sun is withdrawn (which is what death is), its component atoms are dispersed in the winking of an eye, and this dispersion causes a glory, a spread of light, throughout enormous realms of space.
In the case of man, when the divine flame is withdrawn, which occurs also like a flash of lightning, the body, being too gross and heavy to fall instantly apart and vanish, still coheres as a corpse until the chemical work of the atoms among themselves brings about physical dissolution.
Our bodies are radiating light constantly, light of many colors, beautiful at times, repulsive at others. A human being in a passion of anger or hatred, for instance, sends forth light from his whole physical being in a stream which is coarse, red, fiery, and hateful to see, and by reaction produces feelings of hate in others whom this evil light touches. Contrariwise, a man whose heart is filled with impersonal love, radiates this constantly, especially in those moments when he is acting under the urge of compassion — even his physical body then sends forth streams of light of indescriptible beauty, of opalescent glory. This is the secret of the nimbus or aureole said to surround the heads of saints. Every human being has such a nimbus. Light, however, is not the only thing that emanates from the body; odors likewise do so. Some animals are more sensitive to the light-emanations, while others are more sensitive to the odors.
During one's lifetime, every emotion is accompanied by similar radiations of light, each of its own quality and kind, yet all expressing themselves by reaction through the aura of the physical body; and this is why the adept, watching a man under emotional or mental or even spiritual stress, is able to ascertain just what movement of consciousness is thus affecting the aura.
Man is a dynamo of energies. Everything he does, every thought he has, every emotion he feels, produces a corresponding effect throughout his entire constitution. At death, the rupturing of the cord of life is the result of the action of energy — energy suddenly loosed, which must produce its effect. Because of this, death cannot happen without causing an explosion of light-atoms which flow forth from every pore of his physical body. This explosion of light when the body blazes for an instant in glory — invisible to ordinary eyesight — is not something unique, for the same is true in greater or less degree of every entity, from suns and stars to animals and plants. It is but a larger exemplification of the process that occurs in radioactive disintegration of certain chemical elements, such as uranium, thorium, and radium. This dissociation of the atoms results from what we may perhaps graphically describe as the death of the respective atomic and subatomic particles.
It is a most interesting fact that every motion, whether on the macrocosmic or on the microcosmic scale, is accompanied by an emission of light; and light is an electromagnetic phenomenon expressing itself as a radiation. In fact, any moving entity, any movement anywhere, such as the raising of our arm, the waving of a tree branch in the wind, the spark brought forth by the striking of steel on flint, or the whirling of the electron, invariably produces a flash, or conglomerate of tiny flashes, all of an electromagnetic character.
From the standpoint of causes, all these movements are produced by the electromagnetic vitality of innumerable hosts of lives and of living beings which are everywhere around us; for magnetism and electricity are but manifestations of the vitality of the solar system as well as of our earth, uniting in a fascinating web with all the interacting forces of the individual vitalities of the entities contained in these macrocosmic bodies. But this is not all: the very thought expressed as will — such as that which brings about the movement of the arm — sets into vital-electric activity the particles of the brain, molecular, atomic and astral; and each such tiny motion of the atoms of the brain answering the thought-command emits its particular flash of radiation.
Coming then to the point, the radiations or explosions of light, which enwrap the physical body at the moment of death, are brought about by the sudden withdrawal or ruptured connections of the various pranas from the molecules and atoms which compose the body. Such outburst of light lasts but a few fugitive instants. The body thereafter is an 'inanimate' corpse, although of course every one of its molecules and atoms contains its own swabhavic pranas.
Finally, the intensity and volume of the light that exudes from the body at death vary in degree and in quality with the character of the dying man. When death takes place suddenly and with the body in full strength and maturity of years, the explosion of light is correspondingly intense and voluminous and probably of very brief duration; whereas in the case of a man's dying of old age, or passing out quietly in his sleep, or after a long illness, the outburst of luminous radiation is correspondingly less intense and less in volume because more protracted in time.
The concept of science with regard to electricity and magnetism and light and sound and heat, as being different octaves of radiation, closely approaches the esoteric philosophy, in the sense that all these forms of radiation are but various aspects of a fundamental and all-inclusive substratum of vitality expressing itself in different degrees of intensity. One of these days thought and consciousness will be recognized as belonging to the same vital scale of radiation, although belonging in their origin to higher planes of the universe than the physical.
. . . for one who has no inner perception and faith, there is no immortality possible. In order to live in the world to come a conscious life, one has to believe first of all in that life during one's terrestrial existence. On these two aphorisms of the Secret Science all the philosophy about the post-mortem consciousness and the immortality of the soul is built. The Ego receives always according to its desserts. After the dissolution of the body, there commences for it either a period of full clear consciousness, a state of chaotic dreams, or an utterly dreamless sleep indistinguishable from annihilation; and these are the three states of consciousness. Our physiologists find the cause of dreams and visions in an unconscious preparation for them during the waking hours; why cannot the same be admitted for the post-mortem dreams? I repeat it, death is sleep. After death begins, before the spiritual eyes of the soul, a performance according to a programme learnt and very often composed unconsciously by ourselves: the practical carrying out of correct beliefs or of illusions which have been created by ourselves. A Methodist, will be Methodist, a Mussulman, a Mussulman, of course, just for a time — in a perfect fool's paradise of each man's creation and making. These are the post-mortem fruits of the tree of life. Naturally, our belief or unbelief in the fact of conscious immortality is unable to influence the unconditioned reality of the fact itself, once that it exists; but the belief or unbelief in that immortality, as the continuation or annihilation of separate entities, cannot fail to give colour to that fact in its application to each of these entities. — H.P.B. in Lucifer, January 1889, p. 413
In order to grasp the teachings of occultism regarding the after-death states, it is important to keep in mind that man is composed of several element-principles forming the fields of action of the auric egg, in which the various consciousness centers function. All these element-principles with their appurtenant monads are intimately interrelated, and each is derived from its superior monad as a ray. We have then, first, a divine monadic essence, unconditionally immortal, of vast spiritual, intellectual and even physical powers, and of cosmic range of action and consciousness; second, a divine-spiritual monad, its ray or offspring, of purely spiritual nature and function; third, a spiritual-intellectual monad or higher ego; fourth, a human ego which in its turn is a ray of the preceding monadic center; fifth, the model-body, the field of the so-called astral monad; sixth, a physical body built around and partly from this astral body; and seventh and last, the vital essence or life, that is to say, the vital force or energy which runs through and unites all these element-principles. This life energy itself is progressively less ethereal as it descends through the lower parts of the constitution, and is composed in its turn, as are the other element-principles, of monadic units: vital corpuscles, so to say, entities of infinitesimal magnitude known as life-atoms.
In the last analysis man's constitution is twelvefold, consisting of the seven manifest and the five unmanifest units of far superior character; and the seven manifest may again be subdivided into an upper spiritual triad and a lower quaternary. When using the tenfold manner of division we should keep in mind the other two units, one of which is the superdivine link with the divinity of the universe, and the other is the polar link uniting the entity with the lower parts of the universe, thus making the twelve.
We must not suppose that the twelvefold division of the human constitution is to be preferred over either the seven- or tenfold. H.P.B. concentrated more on the septenary because it is easier to teach and understand. The main point is that all the element-principles are enclosed by and contained within the auric egg which has its original focus or source in the very highest of the twelve portions of the constitution; and in a sense the auric egg, because of its perpetuity, really is the objective sutratman or thread-self.
Now the ranges of consciousness of the different parts of the human constitution when divided into twelve, are easily enough understood. The unmanifest five we may call typically universal or kosmic, at least the higher units thereof, for their range of action extends far beyond our own galaxy or home-universe. The reach of the divine monad, which is essentially the atmic monad with its buddhic vehicle, is the galaxy; the range of the spiritual monad, the buddhi-manas, is the solar system; while the field of action of the reimbodying ego is the planetary chain; and finally, the range of the astral monad or lower quaternary, as we may collectively describe it, is a single globe of a chain, our globe D for instance.
In this connection, we must make a distinction, even if it be not a real difference, between the reimbodying ego which has its range over the planetary chain, and its ray, the reincarnating ego, which applies to an imbodied human being in his physical vehicle on this globe D.
Man is indeed a compound of many substances, matters, forces and energies — each working in its own appropriate portion of the auric egg as an integral part of an ever-continuous stream of consciousness. Physical death brings about the temporary dissolution of the lower four-and-one-half principles of this composite entity.
When the constitution of man separates in the kama-loka at the second death, all that has been noble and of a spiritual character in the past life — the beautiful aspirations and ideals, the grand memories that the higher soul retains in the fabric of its substance — is withdrawn into the highest triad, which is the immortal monadic essence of our constitution. The aggregate of these indrawn elements is properly viewed as the human monad, which rests as an embryo in the spiritual monad of the higher triad until the next rebirth on this earth.
Contrariwise, the lower part of the man that was attracts to itself the lowest part of the human ego, all the passional, emotional, and purely selfish portions; and these dissipate into their different grades of life-atoms, of which in fact they are composed. These life-atoms then pursue their transmigrations through the various kingdoms of nature. When the physical body dies and disintegrates, its life-atoms return to the elements of the earth, air, water, fire, and the ether, which originally gave them to the body. Then, at a later date in the kama-loka of the astral light, each one of the life-atoms composing the intermediate sheaths of the excarnate being passes to its respective sphere of the cosmos. The saying, "earth to earth, water to water, air to air, fire to fire," etc., refers to the life-atoms of the different portions of man's constitution.
The same rule prevails for the monads in man, each of which seeks its own realm or sphere: the human monad enters its devachan; the spiritual monad undertakes its peregrinations through the spheres; and, at the instant of death, the divine ray bound into the human constitution is released from the human compound and flashes home more quickly than thought to its parent star, to the sphere of the divine monad, our inmost and our highest. (1)
Now the kama-loka is that portion only of the astral light which is immediately contiguous to and which completely surrounds and penetrates our earth globe. In its grossest parts, it is a truly semimaterial plane although, because we cannot invariably see it or sense it, we call it invisible and 'subjective.' While the kama-loka is divisible into different degrees of ethereality, it has no regions which we would call either beautiful or holy. It is the abode of the shades, that aspect of the astral world where, to use an early Christian expression, things which are rejected pass out in the draft. It contains the reliquiae, the astral-vital remains of beings who were. As for the astral light, this not only includes the kama-loka, but likewise ranges 'upwards' in quality of ethereality, gradually becoming spiritual. In a certain sense the astral light in its fullness is the auric egg of the earth, while in another sense it occupies for the earth the analogical position that the model-body does for man. The astral light itself is but the vehicle of the anima mundi, the 'soul of our world.' In other words, we may speak of the anima mundi as being the soul of the astral light (which latter in its lowest parts is the linga-sarira of the earth), and of the kama-loka as the grossest dregs or most material part of the astral light.
The kama-loka, in so far as its position in space goes, may be said to extend somewhat beyond the sphere of our moon in one direction, and to touch the earth's center in the other direction. When, however, we look upon the kama-loka as a series of states or conditions of matter occupied by entities temporarily in it, because attracted to their own corresponding kama-lokic quality, then we can say that the kama-loka, considered as a sevenfold aggregate, is intermediate between the devachan and avichi. However, neither devachan nor avichi are places, but are states of consciousness which beings experience. Of course an entity in any state of consciousness must have position likewise.
Although the devachan and the avichi are conditions or states only, the kama-loka is dual in character, being both a series of planes in the astral light immediately surrounding and within the earth, as well as qualities or states of matter fitting these planes to be the temporary abodes of the entities traversing them. What is said of the kama-loka of our earth applies in principle to the kama-lokas of the other globes of our chain — and indeed of any chain in the solar system — because each globe has its own astral light.
There are four basic qualities of consciousness into which a man can enter both in life and after death. In Sanskrit these are called jagrat, swapna, sushupti, and turiya, (2) and every one of the seven states or conditions in which human consciousness can find itself contains its own relative jagrat, swapna, sushupti, and turiya. These four types of consciousness can be allocated each to its proper locus in the human constitution, so that while the ordinary brain-mind consciousness of man usually is in the jagrat state, another part may be in the swapna, another in the sushupti, while the highest part of his consciousness, the buddhi within him, is perennially in the turiya quality.
This accounts for the manifold differences in consciousness existing between man and man, and the moods in which people at various times may be, one man being distinctly in the physical jagrat condition, whereas another, even though in the jagrat quality, may seem to be in the dreaming-sleeping state of swapna, and a third may be almost oblivious of outside events and therefore temporarily be in the sushupti quality of the jagrat, and so forth.
Let us take an average individual: he is in the normal waking state while on earth, yet he has intimations of something nobler and finer in him than the jagrat quality shows. This is the higher manas or manasaputra within him, expressing itself in this sphere of consciousness in the swapna quality because, although its power is already fully manifested on its own plane, it can but weakly express itself in such average man. Again, the buddhi within him, although fully functional on its own plane, nevertheless, because of the man's imperfections, only occasionally can reach him with a brilliant ray from itself, and this usually vaguely and more or less in the sushupti quality. Finally, the Buddha or Christ within him is functional on its own lofty spiritual plane, but cannot impress its fullness of consciousness on the mind of the ordinary individual, and thus to him his inner Buddha is of the turiya quality of consciousness.
Also, at any time throughout a man's life, there are those very mystical and wonderful and all too infrequent 'revelations' or intuitions, which come into his consciousness like spiritual-intellectual illuminations. These momentary flashes of inspiration may occur even after true senescence has begun, and may still continue, if the man has lived a decent life, until there commences — only a short time preceding death — the 'ascending' of the higher portions of the man's constitution, announcing its preliminary breakup which is completed when the body is cast aside.
Now then, the particular part of man experiencing these various qualities of consciousness is the human ego, which is obviously self-conscious in the jagrat quality of physical existence. Thus at the onset of both sleep and death the consciousness passes from the jagrat into unconsciousness: the human ego first has a temporary condition of swapna or sleeping-dreaming, and then, quickly or slowly, according to the constitution, begins the 'unconscious' condition of the sushupti — unconscious from our standpoint only because we have not yet become accustomed to live self-consciously in our higher qualities.
Now these changings of consciousness from the jagrat to the swapna and then to the sushupti do not take place with high adepts and those still greater, because they have learned to live in the loftier ranges of their consciousness. Therefore, when the adept or mahatma dies he can at will transfer his full self-consciousness to any quality or condition he pleases, and shortly thereafter take reimbodiment, or in rare instances lapse into a brief devachan, or even, in the cases of great adepts, into a temporary nirvana.
Exactly the same observations apply to the adept in the case of sleep. He can allow his body and brain-mind to pass into full unself-consciousness and thus repair their exhausted tissues, the while his self-conscious ego is fully functional on inner planes. But the ordinary man has not learned to do this, because his whole consciousness is centered in this plane, so that when he falls asleep his state of consciousness is according to what his imperfectly developed inner life permits, to wit: first a dreaming-sleeping consciousness, sinking into unconsciousness, then perhaps slipping back into the swapna or sleeping-dreaming condition, and so forth until he awakens. Likewise, the ordinary man after death lapses into the devachan, which is a state of spiritual swapna — a dreaming-sleeping condition of the human egoic consciousness, but on a spiritual plane where only things of great beauty and longings of a highly intellectual or of a spiritual character pass like fleeting 'realities' before the vision of the devachani.
This explains why the coarser, more materialistic man has very little devachan or perhaps none at all, because during his life on earth all his self-consciousness has been so heavily tied to matter and the sense-world around him that he has built up no inner life of aspiring thoughts calling for a quasi-dreaming consciousness after death. If a man desire to remain self-conscious while asleep or, equivalently, after death, he must have previously learned to live in his higher manas and buddhi. Thus centering his consciousness during his lifetime, he becomes thoroughly at home in these higher principles and remains therein when the body is recuperating itself in sleep, or is cast off at death.
After death the human ego-consciousness of the average man cannot remain or become self-conscious in the higher qualities of his constitution. Therefore the part that drops into unconsciousness is the ordinary brain-mind consciousness of daily life. It remains in this state except for the brief intervals in the kama-loka when there is a more or less hazy reawakening and then a sinking into unconsciousness again, and then perhaps another reawakening, all dreamlike and shadowy, until the second death in the kama-loka, at which time the human ego enters the dreaming of the devachan, where it remains more or less continuously until the impetus for the next reincarnation is felt.
No man is conscious of what is happening around him after real death; (3) and any claims that such is the fact are either frauds, or misinterpretations in cases of trance which are wrongly taken for death. Once actual death has occurred, unconsciousness supervenes in every instance, and the man is absolutely not aware of what happens around his deathbed, contrary to what has been occasionally reported by 'returning' kama-rupas manifesting as 'spirits' through mediums. If a man is in trance, however, the links of consciousness with the physical brain may well be still sufficiently alert to enable the 'consciousness' vaguely to sense what is taking place around the sickbed. But once the golden cord of life is finally broken and death has definitely occurred, no such awareness of what is going on is at all possible because all links with the percipient brain, or even the linga-sarira have been snapped.
In one of the oldest Upanishads, the Brihadaranyaka (IV, v, 13), the sage Yajnavalkya says to his consort Maitreyi: "Having passed on, there is no sanjna" — that is, no collected active self-conscious thinking. Now it is this faculty of self-conscious reflective thought which the entity in the kama-loka does not have, for the manas is non-functional then, being in its stupor of unconsciousness; and even in those fugitive moments when the kama-lokic entity has a shadowy adumbration of self-consciousness, this comes merely because the auric egg of the entity automatically repeats, so to speak, what it was accustomed to do or to think during life.
Hence the kama-lokic 'consciousness' ranges all the way from temporary obliteration of self-consciousness, through all intermediate degrees of unconsciousness, to the astral low-type self-consciousness that elementaries and lost souls have. The average man when in the kama-loka is either in unconsciousness or in a state of figure-flitting dreaming. The purer the man, the deeper the unconsciousness.
Those strongly attached to things of earth and their material appetites and passions have quite an awakening in the kama-loka, and there is a good deal of suffering about it, because they are in a sort of nightmare; although even here nature is kind, as the nightmare is dreamy, rather vague. The truly spiritual man, on the contrary, has scarcely any consciousness at all of passing through the kama-loka, and speeds through it like a train through a tunnel, totally unaware of anything that is evil or unpleasant. Among average men, those with materialistic bias may have a hazy feeling that they are in a bad dream, while others of a more spiritual character may just have a dreamy notion that such conditions exist, but they do not experience them. In any case, the kama-loka is not long, except for evil men and sorcerers. These indeed suffer sometimes terribly — not a physical suffering as we understand it, but a horrible nightmarish dream which keeps repeating itself with variations. They have brought this upon themselves by their constant broodings, and the astral recorder inside, so to speak, having been wound up, now must run down.
On the other hand, in the case of those adepts and initiates who are not of the highest but yet belong to a class above even spiritual men, there is a certain suffering after death because of their awakened inner senses and vision, the suffering arising from an awareness of the horrors in the kama-loka that are passing around them. But even here it does not last long, perhaps only a few moments or hours; and it may be slight or intense according to the inner awakening. As a matter of fact, initiates and chelas, even when imbodied, almost at will can sense (or close off their vision of) the astral light or the kama-loka thereof.
Of course those who are still higher are not at all affected by the astral light, because they are fully acquainted with all its aspects even before they die and, shutting off all the avenues of impression, shoot through it like a star.
The suffering after death that H.P.B. alludes to in one or two passages is very much the same as that which the neophyte during initiation must go through. He must learn at first hand, by personal experience, all the facts of the underworld, as well as of the upper world; and to the neophyte who has to enter the kama-loka with his eyes open and every faculty alert, the suffering is at times almost insupportable, because of the horror and misery and filth that he senses around him. But initiation has to be faced, in order to know. Once known, one becomes master of the situation, and thereafter is no longer so keenly affected.
Another point that I may comment upon is the average length of time during which the human entity, after death, is unconscious before regaining at least a shadowy self-consciousness in the kama-loka. Each single case is unique. Highly spiritual men come to no self-consciousness of any kind in the kama-loka except for a brief interval in connection with the second panoramic visioning at the second death just before entering the devachan. On the other hand, human beings of a grossly animal or material character range all the way from those destined to become elementaries to those who have sufficient spirituality in them to give them a short devachan before reincarnation.
Any such partial 'awakening' in the kama-loka is invariably dependent upon the life just ended. The thoughts that a man has at the moment of death, which foreshadow the type of his after-death states, are but the almost automatic functioning of his consciousness showing what character of man he is; for his last thoughts will be of the general type of those most common to him and most cherished by him.
The length of time between physical death and the second death is again almost wholly dependent upon the nature of the excarnate human entity. (4) Here we have the same rules applying: the truly spiritual man will have an extremely short sojourn in the kama-loka, perhaps passing through it without pause, and his second death will come soon; the average human being will have a much longer stay; while the man of strong material instincts and feelings will have a still longer period in the kama-loka. Some remain for scores of years, possibly even a hundred or two, before having the second death and the subsequent short devachan. All those in whom the spiritual nature exercises no attraction 'upwards' — and this would include congenital idiots, and also infants who suffer premature death — will obviously have no true second death, which is really a new birth into higher conditions of consciousness.
In the very exceptional case of an elementary or lost soul — or any human being whose life has been so utterly animalistic and woven into matter that his consciousness is enchained thereto — there is an 'awakening' for a greater or less length of time to a self-conscious or quasi-self-conscious realization that he is dead, no longer a physically imbodied man (cf. The Mahatma Letters, p. 128). But in no instance does such consciousness last until reincarnation occurs, because unconsciousness mercifully comes upon him before he assumes a new physical body.
In normal cases, once the man dies, unconsciousness, sweet and beautiful and infinitely compassionate, descends upon him like an enveloping veil of akasic protection; and then, with the exception of the few fugitive moments of dreaming consciousness in the kama-loka, the devachani begins the sequence of blissful spiritual mentation, which is not so different from the type of consciousness an individual has when he has pleasant dreams. We may call it 'self-consciousness' if we wish, for that is what it is in a sense; but it is the swapna state of self-consciousness, and not the jagrat state of the imbodied human being.
Mediumship is not a gift; it is a fatal misfortune. There is nothing known so destructive of spiritual advancement. It dislocates the principles of the inner constitution, increasingly separating the refining influences of the higher self from the lower; so that the mediums' course of destiny is usually from bad to worse; and they are very fortunate indeed if they do not end in black magic. The medium is a helpless instrument under the sway of psychic forces, and is usually unconscious of what he or she does and of what takes place — a subject of any passing elemental or stream of psychic energy in the astral light, as well as passively subject to any well-directed and concentrated human will.
The mediator, on the other hand, is a fully self-conscious, highly developed intermediary between a spiritual-intellectual power and men. The post is self-chosen, one of high honor yet filled with dangers of its own, and almost always involves self-sacrifice. Furthermore, the mediator is a copy in human life of what certain ones of the higher gods are in the divine realms. They give themselves, that others toiling behind them may be helped. There is the same spiritual and ethical parallel between a mediator and a medium as there is between a white magician and a black one — between a son of the sun and a child of the moon.
In this connection, we should remember that H.P.B. came to the Western world with instructions to work in and among the particular body of men which would be most likely to respond to the teachings which she was directed to give. These were then the spiritists, who were in some respects among the brightest-minded people of the time, more or less awakened to the possibility of there being in the boundless universe something besides dead, soulless, material existences. She went into their ranks, championed in the public press such truth as she found there. She tried to lead them on to understanding that there was indeed a spiritual world, but that it was far above the astral world; that their summerland was a vague and distorted intuition of the devachan; and that the supposed 'returning spirits' were but the astral simulacra of human beings — decaying psycho-astral entities utterly unfit to commerce with.
They would not listen to her. Phenomenalism was then rampant. A tipping table, a rapping on the wall or on the table, were to them evidences of the immortality of those who had passed on. The philosophy that she brought they would not accept. So she founded the Theosophical Society as the vehicle to carry into the minds and hearts of men the message of the ancient wisdom-religion. For years the bitterest foes that H.P.B. had were the spiritists. They never could forgive her for leaving their ranks and going about her work. They called it treachery, not understanding the motives and reason for her action.
The attitude of genuine occultism towards the subject of so-called spiritism and the alleged intercourse with excarnate entities is unequivocally stated in certain Tibetan letters and manuscripts quoted by H.P.B. in her article "Tibetan Teachings" (Lucifer, September and October 1894, pp. 15, 98-101). According to her, the views expressed in the following extracts are those of the Venerable Chohan-Lama, who was "the chief of the Archive-registrars" of the libraries which contain manuscripts on esoteric teachings belonging to the Dalai and Tashi Lamas:
". . . we maintain that there is no possibility of an entirely pure 'self' remaining in the terrestrial atmosphere after his liberation from the physical body, in his own personality, in which he moved upon earth. Only three exceptions are made to this rule:
"The holy motive prompting a Bodhisatwa, a Sravaka, or Rahat to help to the same bliss those who remain behind him, the living; in which case he will stop to instruct them either from within or without; or, secondly, those who, however pure, harmless and comparatively free from sin during their lives, have been so engrossed with some particular idea in connection with one of the human mayas as to pass away amidst that all-absorbing thought; and, thirdly, persons in whom an intense and holy love, such as that of a mother for her orphaned children, creates or generates an indomitable will fed by that boundless love to tarry with and among the living in their inner selves.
"The periods allotted for these exceptional cases vary. In the first case, owing to the knowledge acquired in his condition of Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi — the most holy and enlightened heart — the Bodhisatwa has no fixed limit. Accustomed to remain for hours and days in his astral form during life, he has power after death to create around him his own conditions, calculated to check the natural tendency of the other principles to rejoin their respective elements, and can descend or even remain on earth for centuries and millenniums. In the second case, the period will last until the all-powerful magnetic attraction of the subject of the thought — intensely concentrated at the moment of death — becomes weakened and gradually fades out. In the third, the attraction is broken either by the death or the moral unworthiness of the loved ones. It cannot in either case last more than a lifetime.
"In all other cases of apparitions or communications by whatever mode, the 'spirit' will prove a wicked 'bhuta' or 'ro-lang' at best — the soulless shell of an 'elementary.'. . .
"For we deprecate unqualifiedly and absolutely all ignorant intercourse with the Ro-lang. For what are they who return? What kind of creatures are they who can communicate at will objectively or by physical manifestation? They are impure, grossly sinful souls, 'a-tsa-ras'; suicides; and such as have come to premature deaths by accident and must linger in the earth's atmosphere until the full expiration of their natural term of life. . . .
"Now the beings included in the second and third classes — suicides and victims of accident — have not completed their natural term of life; and, as a consequence, though not of necessity mischievous, are earth-bound. The prematurely expelled soul is in an unnatural state; the original impulse under which the being was evolved and cast into the earth-life has not expended itself — the necessary cycle has not been completed, but must nevertheless be fulfilled.
"Yet, though earth-bound, these unfortunate beings, victims whether voluntary or involuntary, are only suspended, as it were, in the earth's magnetic attraction. They are not, like the first class, attracted to the living from a savage thirst to feed on their vitality. Their only impulse — and a blind one, since they are generally in a dazed or stunned condition — is, to get into the whirl of rebirth as soon as possible. Their state is that we call a false Bar-do — the period between two incarnations. According to the karma of the being — which is affected by his age and merits in the last birth — this interval will be longer or shorter.
"Nothing but some overpoweringly intense attraction, such as a holy love for some dear one in great peril, can draw them with their consent to the living; but by the mesmeric power of a Ba-po, a necromancer — the word is used advisedly, since the necromantic spell is Dzu-tul, or what you term a mesmeric attraction — can force them into our presence. This evocation, however, is totally condemned by those who hold to the Good Doctrine; for the soul thus evoked is made to suffer exceedingly, even though it is not itself but only its image that has been torn or stripped from itself to become the apparition; owing to its premature separation by violence from the body, the 'jang-khog' — animal soul — is yet heavily loaded with material particles — there has not been a natural disintegration of the coarser from the finer molecules — and the necromancer, in compelling this separation artificially, makes it, we might almost say, to suffer as one of us might if he were flayed alive.
"Thus, to evoke the first class — the grossly sinful souls — is dangerous for the living; to compel the apparition of the second and third classes is cruel beyond expression to the dead.
"In the case of one who died a natural death totally different conditions exist; the soul is almost, and in the case of great purity, entirely beyond the necrormancer's reach; hence beyond that of a circle of evokers, or spiritualists, who, unconsciously to themselves, practise a veritable necromancer's Sang-nyag, or magnetic incantation. . . .
"At all events it has neither will nor power at that time to give any thought to the living. But after its period of latency is over, and the new self enters in full consciousness the blessed region of Devachan — when all earthly mists have been dispersed, and the scenes and relations of the past life come clearly before its spiritual sight — then it may, and does occasionally, when espying all it loved, and that loved it upon earth, draw up to it for communion and by the sole attraction of love, the spirits of the living, who, when returned to their normal condition, imagine that it has descended to them.
"Therefore we differ radically from the western Ro-lang-pa — spiritualists — as to what they see or communicate with in their circles and through their unconscious necromancy. We say it is but the physical dregs, or spiritless remains of the late being; that which has been exuded, cast off and left behind when its finer particles passed onward into the great Beyond.
"In it linger some fragments of memory and intellect. It certainly was once a part of the being, and so possesses that modicum of interest; but it is not the being in reality and truth. Formed of matter, however etherealized, it must sooner or later be drawn away into vortices where the conditions for its atomic disintegration exist. . . .
"Such is the teaching. None can overshadow mortals but the elect, the 'Accomplished,' the 'Byang-tsiub,' or the 'Bodhisatwas' alone — they who have penetrated the great secret of life and death — as they are able to prolong, at will, their stay on earth after 'dying.' Rendered into the vulgar phraseology, such overshadowing is to 'be born again and again' for the benefit of mankind."
One sees from all this the folly of believing that the excarnate being can communicate with those he left behind, either through mediums or otherwise. Nevertheless, connection is possible in the case of 'earthbound' entities, such as elementaries, when conditions are appropriate for this very dangerous and spiritually and mentally unwholesome procedure.
Spiritism has been known by mankind for millions of years. Ever since the middle point of the fourth root-race, commerce with departed shades and its connection with so-called psychical powers in man, have always attracted certain types. But throughout all ancient times and in the Orient today, communication with the bhutas has invariably been considered unclean, wrong, morally infectious. This very word bhuta, meaning 'has been,' is a curiously descriptive and apt term. On the other hand, the 'spiritualism' that H.P.B. taught was the doctrine of the cosmic spirit: spiritualism as contrasted with materialism.
True spiritualism has naught to do with necromancy, for the spiritualism of antiquity was the teaching that the world is one vast living organic entity, composed of cosmic spirits, and that every human being is in his inmost such a cosmic spirit, and has the duty and ineffable privilege of entering into communion with the spiritual realms through his own inner god. It was held also that every human being should become a mediator — one standing as the link between the divine and the lower kingdoms; and further, that every self-conscious entity is great precisely in proportion as he becomes a mediator between the divine sun and human beings.
That, in brief, was the spiritualism of H. P. Blavatsky, the spiritualism of the ancients, the wisdom-religion of mankind, taught by the theodidaktoi — the 'god-taught' — of the countries around the Mediterranean Sea about the time of the birth of Jesus the Avatara, and also in the temples of Egypt and Persia and Babylonia. In India it was called the brahma-vidya or, in a more esoteric sense, the gupta-vidya, the theosophy taught also by the Druids, by the ancient Americans and Scandinavians — taught the world over.
The kama-rupa, which becomes the vehicle for the unconscious or quasi-conscious entity in the kama-loka, is actually forming constantly during the life of the individual; in other words, it is in a continual state of modification or change, these changes beginning when the incarnated entity as a child first feels itself conscious of mental and emotional affections, attractions, etc. However, after the death of the physical body there is no further change or growth of the kama-rupic form, it remaining more or less static, all modifications being of the nature of disintegration or slow decay. It is really that portion of the human constitution which is the kama-manasic-astral seat or focus of the passional, emotional, lower mental and psychic attributes; and these as an aggregate comprise all the lower skandhas of the human constitution, usually enumerated as five. (5) This group of skandhas works through and has its focus in the lower portions of the auric egg, which lower layers must not be confused with the linga-sarira or model-body. During life the constantly changing kama-rupa has its seat in the linga-sarira, or uses it as a vehicle; and the linga-sarira, instantly responding to the various emotional and passional movements in the kama-rupa, in its turn communicates these as impulses to the physical body, which then responds in corresponding action.
Now it is the human ego which works through the kama-rupa during incarnation, exactly as the kama-rupa works through the linga-sarira, and this last again through the body. In fact, it is correct enough to say that the personal man, which is the reflection and usually distorted radiance of the reincarnating ego or human monad, is this kama-rupa itself; because, being a collection of skandhas, the kama-rupa is the expression of the merely personal qualities of the human ego.
Hence after death and after a certain time has been passed in the kama-loka, this collection of skandhic attributes still continuing as the kama-rupa holds enchained by its attractions the reincarnating ego, the personal man being unconscious. This condition lasts until the event of the second death, which simply means that the moment has arrived when the reincarnating ego has succeeded in breaking each and every link of sympathetic or psychomagnetic attraction which unites it with the kama-rupa of the personal man that was.
The second death, therefore, is an astral reproduction of what took place at physical death; for just as at physical death the body is cast off with the linga-sarira and the gross animal pranas, so at the second death the human ego, having snapped its links of psychomagnetic attraction with the kama-rupa, casts it off and enters into the devachanic condition, carrying with it all the spiritual yearnings or sympathies or memories which the personal man during earth life had stored in the web of consciousness.
This is the second death; when the last spiritual thought or image has been drawn upwards into the reincarnating ego, and there remains nothing more to keep it attached to the kama-rupa, the latter then is dropped as a kama-rupic corpse or shell. Henceforth the kama-rupa begins to disintegrate: rapidly in the case of men whose lives have been of spiritual type, less so in the case of ordinary men, and still less quickly with those who were strongly attracted to things of matter. This is the reason why after the second death the kama-rupa is called an astral shell. Moreover, if the shell is still more or less impregnated with the automatic passional impulses of a grossly materialistic or bad man, it is even an elementary of a sort; but the true elementary is the kama-rupa of a desperately evil man or of a sorcerer who cannot rise into the devachan.
For a certain period of brief duration, which depends in every instance upon the individual, kama-rupas retain a wavering, shadowy kind of quasi-animal consciousness because of the fact that they imbody manasic life-atoms of low type whose thought-impulses and emotional activity have not yet run down, much as a machine will keep running for a while after the power is turned off. As these low-grade manasic life-atoms leave the kama-rupa, it disintegrates and thereafter is as the shell of an egg from which the contents have been removed. Such kama-rupic shells are no longer even elementaries of a feeble type, but are completely emptied of consciousness and gradually dissipate as does a cloud. Some kama-rupas disintegrate in a few months; those of average humanity may take eight, ten, fifteen, possibly twenty years; while those of extremely materialistic or bad men, but who still had some spiritual good in them, may endure for several scores of years.
Now the term elementaries generally signifies two things: (a) the phantoms or spooks or astral eidola, i.e. the kama-rupas of all excarnate persons whose habitation is the kama-loka; and (b) what H.P.B. calls the "disembodied souls of the depraved" (Theosophical Glossary, p. 112), that is, the depraved souls of those who after they die have a long and difficult time in the kama-loka before their upper triad or collective monad can free itself for its devachanic rest.
An especial application of the word elementaries is made again in the case of lost souls on the one hand, and inveterate sorcerers on the other, neither of which have any second death and consequently no devachan. These elementaries are really disimbodied humans whose habitat is the astral light and who, though deprived of the body and also of the spiritual monad, can find neither unconsciousness nor devachan, but remain in the astral light until reimbodiment on earth, which takes place usually in a short time. Such lost souls and confirmed sorcerers reimbody themselves in bodies of continually decreasing efficiency; and if their condition of being 'lost souls' is so far complete that the human kingdom no longer attracts them they will, in their desperate hunger for physical imbodiment, turn to animal wombs and even, in the worst cases, attach themselves to plants.
It is to be noted in these last instances of completely lost souls that they are really astral monads, each one detached from its spiritual monad; they are properly called elementaries because they are thrown back to a condition of 'elementary' evolution and therefore return to the kingdoms through which they had previously passed as 'elemental souls.' However, they do not take imbodiment in these lower kingdoms as the monads of such animals or plants. The process is rather that of the lost soul or elementary coalescing astrally, psychically, and magnetically, with the auric egg of either the beast or the plant — and thus they are in a true but unconscious sense 'haunters' or 'dwellers' of these animal or plant entities. Hence it would be wrong to suppose that this or that animal is not an ordinary one with its own seven principles; but where such an event does occur, the animal or plant is afflicted by the coalescing with it of the astral life-atoms belonging to the elementary.
All elementaries of whatever kind are, generally speaking, reliquiae or remnants of what once had been imbodied human beings on earth. Sooner or later they are caught by the swirling currents of efflux carrying them into the Cloaca Maxima of our globe, these degraded astral monads being finally swept out of the earth's atmosphere into the Pit, the Planet of Death.
To consider the subject from a somewhat different angle: when a man dies, he is still a human being, except that he has cast off his physical body, the linga-sarira, and the gross astral pranic vitality. This therefore leaves him a complete human in the sense that all the higher qualities remain in the kama-rupa; he is a four-principled entity, the atman, buddhi, manas and kama-manas being still conjoined. The human qualities and attributes are asleep, as it were, in the kama-rupa in the kama-loka, and therefore are unconscious — a blessed provision of nature!
When the second death takes place the triune monad, the atman-buddhi-manas, releases itself from all its lower kama-manasic substances and energies. These perishable elements remain in the kama-rupic shell and gradually fade out like the radiance in the sky after sunset; the energies producing this fading radiance gradually vanish 'upward' and, being belated life-atoms, become attached like sleeping seeds or tanhic elementals to the auric egg of the human ego which now has entered its devachan. It is these sleeping seeds of lower attributes and qualities, i.e. dormant skandhas which, preceding the next incarnation, will spring into action and take initial parts in forming the astral body-to-be.
At the separation of the triadic monad from the kama-rupa, all the most spiritual and highly intellectual attributes are withdrawn as a still more brilliant radiance into the reincarnating ego; and it is this spiritual aroma, the truly human being, which becomes the devachani sleeping in the bosom of the reincarnating ego, the human monad. Distinguish here the human monad from its ray the human ego.
Thus, after physical death, the seven-principled man has become four-principled, consisting of the two duads, atma-buddhi, and manas with the spiritual parts of kama. Now when the four-principled man enters at the second death into the devachan, these two duads coalesce into the upper triad of atma-buddhi and the higher part of manas, because of the dropping of the lower kama-manasic attributes.
As to the divine ray, at the instant of true death it flashes home to its parent star. While it is our inmost essence, it is only the most advanced of the human race who are cognizant of the dwelling within themselves of this supernal glory; and the greater in spiritual and intellectual power the imbodied man is, the more fully does the influence of the divine ray manifest itself in his life.
Average men today are only occasionally illumined by flashes of intuition that there abides Something within them which is higher than intellect, incomparably more glorious than emotion or feeling, and which is the "light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world" — the Light of Eternity. Such rare moments of inner illumination are the efflux from the spiritual monad within. Then, there are the noblest of the sons of men who, by a sudden wondrous and mystical transformation of their consciousness, experience as a reality that living Presence within them which transcends both time and space.
Section 12, Part 1
Main Table of Contents
1. There are a large number of mysteries connected with the after-death states of the human entity. For example, it has been asked at what point in the different stages of the monad's 'descent' or reimbodiment does the ray from the divine monad make contact with the constitution of the man-to-be then in building? First of all, it varies with the individual; but speaking more generally, I would be inclined to say that, as far as I have understood this difficult point of teaching, the moment of reconnection of the divine ray with the spiritual monad takes place at the instant when the spiritual monad, having reached the acme of its post-mortem peregrinations, turns as it were preparatory to its pilgrimage downwards once more into the spheres of matter. Yet while this seems undoubtedly true, it must not be supposed that the constitution thus in process of rebuilding is wholly under the influence of the ray divine; if this were so, it would be the constitution of a god. (return to text)
2. Jagrat, the normal waking state; swapna, the dreaming-sleeping state; sushupti, the condition of profound and dreamless sleep; turiya, literally 'fourth,' the highest of all. (return to text)
3. Even violent death, whether by suicide or accident, is followed by instantaneous unconsciousness. Of course there is an enormous difference between the one who meets with accidental death and the one who takes his life because he is afraid to face the world, or no longer cares to do so. The victim of an accident after a while finds himself dreaming vague dreams until the state of devachan is entered. But the one who commits self-murder, because he is too weak to continue to do his duty as a man, does so by his own deliberate choice in a moment of intense emotional stress, and karma will exact retribution for that act. But let us not forget that it is thus the individual learns, for karmic retribution is not 'punishment,' but simply a reaction of nature. If I put my hand into the flame, my hand will be burned. Is this nature's fault? Just so with the suicide: he receives what he has done to himself; that is, he cuts short his life before his reservoir of vitality is expended, and he must therefore remain in a quasi-physical world so that he may there exhaust the quasi-physical vitality which still existed in his astral body at death. After that he has the kama-loka to face. (return to text)
4. The after-death states of the excarnate entity are known in Tibet and its borderlands under the generalizing term of bardo — a word meaning 'between two,' around which imagination has woven many and various fabrics of imagery, all more or less patterned after esoteric facts. However, if we were to take these now quite exoteric teachings literally, and as being those of the archaic school, we would be seriously misled. Yet, they do have inherent mystical significance when properly understood. In The Mahatma Letters (pp. 105-6) we find the following:
"Bardo" is the period between death and rebirth — and may last from a few years to a kalpa. It is divided into three sub-periods (1) when the Ego delivered of its mortal coil enters into Kama-Loka (the abode of Elementaries); (2) when it enters into its "Gestation State"; (3) when it is reborn in the Rupa-Loka of Deva-Chan. Sub-period (1) may last from a few minutes to a number of years — the phrase "a few years" becoming puzzling and utterly worthless without a more complete explanation; Sub-period (2) is "very long"; as you say, longer sometimes than you may even imagine, yet proportionate to the Ego's spiritual stamina; Sub-period (3) lasts in proportion to the good KARMA, after which the monad is again reincarnated.
Bardo therefore has the general significance of both the time period and the various states of consciousness undergone by the peregrinating monad between death and its next reincarnation. The three states of the general bardo are: the Chikhai-bardo, which is both the time period and the state of consciousness of the excarnate being from the moment of death until it definitely enters the devachan; the Chonyid-bardo, which is both the devachanic time period of such an entity and the various changings and ringings of the states of consciousness that the devachani experiences; and the Sidpai-bardo, which is both the time period and the different adventures in consciousness of the entity from the moment it definitely has left the devachan until it actually finds itself a growing embryo in a human womb. It is thus evident that these three divisions of the bardo are merely the Tibetan manner of describing the after-death states.
There is a certain similitude between the Tibetan conception of the bardo, and the Days of Commemoration of the deceased in the Greek Orthodox Church, where ceremonies are held on the third, seventh, and fortieth, and even on other days, after a man's death. These Days are but a purely exoteric reflection of a one-time esoteric teaching concerning the different stages or stations through which the excarnate entity passes during the course of its post-mortem peregrinations. Actually these stages are individually and serially reached after the lapse of years, even of centuries, which time periods the Greek Orthodox Church, remembering nothing of the esoteric keys but still holding to the exoteric statement, has reduced to earth days in its ritual.
The reader will find some interesting material on the bardo in Dr. W. Y. Evans-Wentz' scholarly books on Tibetan teachings, religious literature and philosophical schools, particularly in his Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines. (return to text)
5. H.P.B. uses the term kama-rupa in the two senses in which I here employ it: one, for the imbodied personal man, and two, for the astral entity of the man after death, whether before or after the second death in kama-loka. However, I believe that W. Q. Judge in one place strongly objects to any other use of the word kama-rupa than for the personal astral man after death, which usage is perfectly correct; nevertheless, when we go into a deeper philosophical analysis, we see that we can logically speak of the kama-rupa even during the man's lifetime. I can only suppose that this emphasis by Judge was an attempt to make the teaching in those earlier times of the Theosophical Society as simple as possible.
It stands to reason that for a well-defined rupa to exist after the death of the body, it must have been shaped or brought into being during the lifetime. The kama-rupa, the 'vehicle' between the higher manas and the physical man, is one of the most fluidic, changeable and plastic parts of our constitution, for it undergoes modification with every passing mood, indeed with every passing thought. But as each man has his own swabhava, all these minor changes in the kama-rupa, whether sudden or gradual, do not affect its essential characteristics either of form or of substance. For example, a man's face has a distinct cast or set, including features and color and expression, and yet quick as lightning his face can change quite marvelously, as every actor knows; but these passing changes, while certainly marked, do not alter the fundamental type.
We men are kama-rupas of our manifesting seven principles. All of us have a desire-principle, kama, and a mental principle, manas, and our emotions born of kama; and these attributes make the personal man. When we die and cast off the body, there remains a kama-rupa with all the higher principles still attached; and when those higher principles slough off the kama-rupa, then there is only the empty kama-rupic shell. But while imbodied on this earth we are living kama-rupas, sevenfold entities. This last is the case of the sun; the former, the cast-off shell, is the case of the moon, the decaying kama-rupa of the moon that was.
Now if we make our kama-rupa while alive the vehicle of the god within us, that kama-rupa becomes the carrier, and we become a bodhisattva, a Buddha or Christ on this plane. Actually, all men together are what we might call kama-rupas of the body corporate of mankind, the true human race being the spiritual monads of these thousands of millions of men and women.
Just so any group of suns is analogous to an aggregation of the 'atoms' forming the kama-rupa of our own immense Brahmanda, the egg of Brahma. Each sun in this solar aggregate is a cosmic atom, and therefore a manifestation of power derivative from fohat or cosmic Eros — using Eros not in the abstract sense of divine life, but in its lower sense of kama or cosmic desire, this latter corresponding somewhat to the Latin Cupido.
The suns therefore, as cosmic 'atoms,' represent in their totality a kama-rupa of the vaster imbodied cosmos, i.e. the mental, passional, energic side of the universe, manifesting in those balls of terrific power we call the stars. Or we may call them sons of fohat. (return to text)