Let us now consider the states of man after the death of the body and before birth, having looked over the whole field of the evolution of things and beings in a general way. This brings up at once the questions: Is there any heaven or hell, and what are they? Are they states or places? Is there a spot in space where they may be found and to which we go or from where we come? We must also go back to the subject of the fourth principle of the constitution of man, that called Kama in Sanskrit and desire or passion in English. Bearing in mind what was said about that principle, and also the teaching in respect to the astral body and the Astral Light, it will be easier to understand what is taught about the two states ante and post mortem. In chronological order we go into kama loka — or the plane of desire — first on the demise of the body, and then the higher principles, the real man, fall into the state of Devachan. After dealing with kama loka it will be more easy to study the question of Devachan.
The breath leaves the body and we say the man is dead, but that is only the beginning of death; it proceeds on other planes. When the frame is cold and eyes closed, all the forces of the body and mind rush through the brain, and by a series of pictures the whole life just ended is imprinted indelibly on the inner man not only in a general outline but down to the smallest detail of even the most minute and fleeting impression. At this moment, though every indication leads the physician to pronounce for death and though to all intents and purposes the person is dead to this life, the real man is busy in the brain, and not until his work there is ended is the person gone. When this solemn work is over the astral body detaches itself from the physical, and, life energy having departed, the remaining five principles are in the plane of kama loka.
The natural separation of the principles brought about by death divides the total man into three parts:
First, the visible body with all its elements left to further disintegration on the earth plane, where all that it is composed of is in time resolved into the different physical departments of nature;
Second, the kama rupa made up of the astral body and the passions and desires, which also begins at once to go to pieces on the astral plane;
Third, the real man, the upper triad of Atma-Buddhi-Manas, deathless but now out of earth conditions, devoid of body, begins in devachan to function solely as mind clothed in a very ethereal vesture which it will shake off when the time comes for it to return to earth.
Kama loka — or the place of desire — is the astral region penetrating and surrounding the earth. As a place it is on and in and about the earth. Its extent is to a measurable distance from the earth, but the ordinary laws obtaining here do not obtain there, and entities therein are not under the same conditions as to space and time as we are. As a state it is metaphysical, though that metaphysic relates to the astral plane. It is called the plane of desire because it relates to the fourth principle, and in it the ruling force is desire devoid of and divorced from intelligence. It is an astral sphere intermediate between earthly and heavenly life. Beyond any doubt it is the origin of the Christian theory of purgatory, where the soul undergoes penance for evil done and from which it can be released by prayer and other ceremonies or offerings. The fact underlying this superstition is that the soul may be detained in kama loka by the enormous force of some unsatisfied desire, and cannot get rid of the astral and kamic clothing until that desire is satisfied by some one on earth or by the soul itself. But if the person was pure minded and of high aspirations, the separation of the principles on that plane is soon completed, permitting the higher triad to go into Devachan. Being the purely astral sphere, it partakes of the nature of the astral matter which is essentially earthly and devilish, and in it all the forces work undirected by soul or conscience. It is the slag-pit, as it were, of the great furnace of life, where nature provides for the sloughing off of elements which have no place in Devachan, and for that reason it must have many degrees, every one of which was noted by the ancients. These degrees are known in Sanskrit as lokas or places in a metaphysical sense. Human life is very varied as to character and other potentialities, and for each of these the appropriate place after death is provided, thus making kama loka an infinitely varied sphere. In life some of the differences among men are modified and some inhibited by a similarity of body and heredity, but in kama loka all the hidden desires and passions are let loose in consequence of the absence of body, and for that reason the state is vastly more diversified than the life plane. Not only is it necessary to provide for the natural varieties and differences, but also for those caused by the manner of death, about which something shall be said. And all these various divisions are but the natural result of the life thoughts and last thoughts of the persons who die on earth. It is beyond the scope of this work to go into a description of all these degrees, inasmuch as volumes would be needed to describe them, and then but few would understand.
To deal with kama loka compels us to deal also with the fourth principle in the classification of man's constitution, and arouses a conflict with modern ideas and education on the subject of the desires and passions. It is generally supposed that the desires and passions are inherent tendencies in the individual, and they have an altogether unreal and misty appearance for the ordinary student. But in this system of philosophy they are not merely inherent in the individual nor are they due to the body per se. While the man is living in the world the desires and passions — the principle kama — have no separate life apart from the astral and inner man, being, so to say, diffused throughout his being. But as they coalesce with the astral body after death and thus form an entity with its own term of life, though without soul, very important questions arise. During mortal life the desires and passions are guided by the mind and soul; after death they work without guidance from the former master; while we live we are responsible for them and their effects, and when we have left this life we are still responsible, although they go on working and making effects on others while they last as the sort of entity I have described, and without our direct guidance. In this is seen the continuance of responsibility. They are a portion of the skandhas — well known in eastern philosophy — which are the aggregates that make up the man. The body includes one set of the skandhas, the astral man another, the kama principle is another set, and still others pertain to other parts. In kama are the really active and important ones which control rebirths and lead to all the varieties of life and circumstance upon each rebirth. They are being made from day to day under the law that every thought combines instantly with one of the elemental forces of nature, becoming to that extent an entity which will endure in accordance with the strength of the thought as it leaves the brain, and all of these are inseparably connected with the being who evolved them. There is no way of escaping; all we can do is to have thoughts of good quality, for the highest of the Masters themselves are not exempt from this law, but they "people their current in space" with entities powerful for good alone.
Now in kama loka this mass of desire and thought exists very definitely until the conclusion of its disintegration, and then the remainder consists of the essence of these skandhas, connected, of course, with the being that evolved and had them. They can no more be done away with than we can blot out the universe. Hence they are said to remain until the being comes out of devachan, and then at once by the law of attraction they are drawn to the being, who from them as germ or basis builds up a new set of skandhas for the new life. Kama loka therefore is distinguished from the earth plane by reason of the existence therein, uncontrolled and unguided, of the mass of passions and desires; but at the same time earth-life is also a kama loka, since it is largely governed by the principle kama, and will be so until at a far distant time in the course of evolution the races of men shall have developed the fifth and sixth principle, thus throwing kama into its own sphere and freeing earth-life from its influence.
The astral man in kama loka is a mere shell devoid of soul and mind, without conscience and also unable to act unless vivified by forces outside of itself. It has that which seems like an animal or automatic consciousness due wholly to the very recent association with the human Ego. For under the principle laid down in another chapter, every atom going to make up the man has a memory of its own which is capable of lasting a length of time in proportion to the force given it. In the case of a very material and gross or selfish person the force lasts longer than in any other, and hence in that case the automatic consciousness will be more definite and bewildering to one who without knowledge dabbles with necromancy. Its purely astral portion contains and carries the record of all that ever passed before the person when living, for one of the qualities of the astral substance is to absorb all scenes and pictures and the impressions of all thoughts, to keep them, and to throw them forth by reflection when the conditions permit. This astral shell, cast off by every man at death, would be a menace to all men were it not in every case, except one which shall be mentioned, devoid of all the higher principles which are the directors. But those guiding constituents being disjoined from the shell, it wavers and floats about from place to place without any will of its own, but governed wholly by attractions in the astral and magnetic fields.
It is possible for the real man — called the spirit by some — to communicate with us immediately after death for a few brief moments, but, those passed, the soul has no more to do with earth until reincarnated. What can and do influence the sensitive and the medium from out of this sphere are the shells I have described. Soulless and conscienceless, these in no sense are the spirits of our deceased ones. They are the clothing thrown off by the inner man, the brutal earthly portion discarded in the flight to devachan, and so have always been considered by the ancients as devils — our personal devils — because essentially astral, earthly, and passional. It would be strange indeed if this shell, after being for so long the vehicle of the real man on earth, did not retain an automatic memory and consciousness. We see the decapitated body of the frog or the cock moving and acting for a time with a seeming intelligence, and why is it not possible for the finer and more subtle astral form to act and move with a far greater amount of seeming mental direction?
Existing in the sphere of kama loka, as, indeed, also in all parts of the globe and the solar system, are the elementals or nature forces. They are innumerable, and their divisions are almost infinite, as they are, in a sense, the nerves of nature. Each class has its own work just as has every natural element or thing. As fire burns and as water runs down and not up under their general law, so the elementals act under law, but being higher in the scale than gross fire or water their action seems guided by mind. Some of them have a special relation to mental operations and to the action of the astral organs, whether these be joined to a body or not. When a medium forms the channel, and also from other natural coordination, these elementals make an artificial connection with the shell of a deceased person, aided by the nervous fluid of the medium and others near, and then the shell is galvanized into an artificial life. Through the medium connection is made with the physical and psychical forces of all present. The old impressions on the astral body give up their images to the mind of the medium, the old passions are set on fire. Various messages and reports are then obtained from it, but not one of them is original, not one is from the spirit. By their strangeness, and in consequence of the ignorance of those who dabble in it, this is mistaken for the work of spirit, but it is all from the living when it is not the mere picking out from the astral light of the images of what has been in the past. In certain cases to be noted there is an intelligence at work that is wholly and intensely bad, to which every medium is subject, and which will explain why so many of them have succumbed to evil, as they have confessed.
A rough classification of these shells that visit mediums would be as follows:
(1) Those of the recently deceased whose place of burial is not far away. This class will be quite coherent in accordance with the life and thought of the former owner. An unmaterial, good, and spiritualized person leaves a shell that will soon disintegrate. A gross, mean, selfish, material person's shell will be heavy, consistent, and long lived: and so on with all varieties.
(2) Those of persons who had died far away from the place where the medium is. Lapse of time permits such to escape from the vicinity of their old bodies, and at the same time brings on a greater degree of disintegration which corresponds on the astral plane to putrefaction on the physical. These are vague, shadowy, incoherent; respond but briefly to the psychic stimulus, and are whirled off by any magnetic current. They are galvanized for a moment by the astral currents of the medium and of those persons present who were related to the deceased.
(3) Purely shadowy remains which can hardly be given a place. There is no English to describe them, though they are facts in this sphere. They might be said to be the mere mold or impress left in the astral substance by the once coherent shell long since disintegrated. They are therefore so near being fictitious as to almost deserve the designation. As such shadowy photographs they are enlarged, decorated, and given an imaginary life by the thoughts, desires, hopes, and imaginings of medium and sitters at the seance.
(4) Definite, coherent entities, human souls bereft of the spiritual tie, now tending down to the worst state of all, avichi, where annihilation of the personality is the end. They are known as black magicians. Having centered the consciousness in the principle of kama, preserved intellect, divorced themselves from spirit, they are the only damned beings we know. In life they had human bodies and reached their awful state by persistent lives of evil for its own sake; some of such already doomed to become what I have described, are among us on earth today. These are not ordinary shells, for they have centered all their force in kama, thrown out every spark of good thought or aspiration, and have a complete mastery of the astral sphere. I put them in the classification of shells because they are such in the sense that they are doomed to disintegration consciously as the others are to the same end mechanically only. They may and do last for many centuries, gratifying their lusts through any sensitive they can lay hold of where bad thought gives them an opening. They preside at nearly all seances, assuming high names and taking the direction so as to keep the control and continue the delusion of the medium, thus enabling themselves to have a convenient channel for their own evil purposes. Indeed, with the shells of suicides, of those poor wretches who die at the hand of the law, of drunkards and gluttons, these black magicians living in the astral world hold the field of physical mediumship and are liable to invade the sphere of any medium no matter how good. The door once open, it is open to all. This class of shell has lost higher manas, but in the struggle not only after death but as well in life the lower portion of manas which should have been raised up to godlike excellence was torn away from its lord and now gives this entity intelligence which is devoid of spirit but power to suffer as it will when its final day shall come.
In the state of Kama Loka suicides and those who are suddenly shot out of life by accident or murder, legal or illegal, pass a term almost equal to the length life would have been but for the sudden termination. These are not really dead. To bring on a normal death, a factor not recognized by medical science must be present. That is, the principles of the being as described in other chapters have their own term of cohesion, at the natural end of which they separate from each other under their own laws. This involves the great subject of the cohesive forces of the human subject, requiring a book in itself. I must be content therefore with the assertion that this law of cohesion obtains among the human principles. Before that natural end the principles are unable to separate. Obviously the normal destruction of the cohesive force cannot be brought about by mechanical processes except in respect to the physical body. Hence a suicide, or person killed by accident or murdered by man or by order of human law, has not come to the natural termination of the cohesion among the other constituents, and is hurled into the kama loka state only partly dead. There the remaining principles have to wait until the actual natural life term is reached, whether it be one month or sixty years.
But the degrees of kama loka provide for the many varieties of the last-mentioned shells. Some pass the period in great suffering, others in a dreamy sort of sleep, each according to the moral responsibility. But executed criminals are in general thrown out of life full of hate and revenge, smarting under a penalty they do not admit the justice of. They are ever rehearsing in kama loka their crime, their trial, their execution, and their revenge. And whenever they can gain touch with a sensitive living person, medium or not, they attempt to inject thoughts of murder and other crime into the brain of such unfortunate. And that they succeed in such attempts the deeper students of Theosophy full well know.
We have now approached devachan. After a certain time in kama loka the being falls into a state of unconsciousness which precedes the change into the next state. It is like the birth into life, preluded by a term of darkness and heavy sleep. It then wakes to the joys of devachan.