The Path – August 1893


The term "astral body" is very loosely used by the ordinary writer upon occult subjects, and sometimes Theosophists who ought to be better informed sin in the same manner. Astral body is indifferently applied to the Linga Sarira, or the model upon which the physical body is constructed; to the "thought forms" in which the Adept makes his journeys when he prefers not to use the physical; to the kamic "shells" formed after death from the wreckage, so to speak, of the dead personality; and to all the many varieties of dream-forms, "wraiths", or apparitions. A brief study of these different bodies, such as will be attempted in this paper, will not only serve to urge a more accurate use or their distinguishing names, but will also assist to a better comprehension of the septenary nature of man in some of its aspects.

A good starting-point for analysis will be to remember the theosophic postulate that Consciousness is One, and that the appearance of separate states which it manifests in Nature is caused by the lucidity or density, as it were, of the matter with which it is associated as its vehicle, just as a ray of white light will be colored, or rendered more or less dim, by the color, transparency, or opaqueness of the medium through which it is transmitted.

The Ego of man may be said to represent a unit of consciousness, a vortical or atomic center in the Logos, or Thinking Principle of the Universe, which has evolved to Self-consciousness. This is the result of long and varied experiences in many material bases, which have enabled it at length to realize that its present state differs from past ones, as well as from the consciousness of other entities by which it is environed in Nature. In other words, it has acquired consciousness of consciousness — which constitutes self-consciousness. But in the processes of the evolution of this self-consciousness it has long since passed the point or possibility of directly functioning in the molecular matter of this material plane, because self-consciousness is not possible in a vehicle so dense. Consciousness is too deeply buried in matter to exhibit self-consciousness; therefore this remains a potentiality only, a dim future possibility, to be only fully realized when the Ego, the Pilgrim through the Cycle of Necessity, reaches the Manasic plane with its appropriate substance. This our (Higher) Egos or real Centers of Consciousness have done, and it is for the reason that they are unable to relate themselves directly to matter upon this earth that fleshly bodies and a reflection of themselves, or the Lower Manas, are interposed.

The Higher Ego, the Thinker, the real "I am I", is, then, entirely unrelated to and unable to function upon the Material Plane except through and by means of its reflection in the physical brain, the Lower Manas. But being thus related, it is not only capable of creating for its use a body on the physical plane of matter, but bodies as well upon any of the several planes through which it must pass to reach the physical. This it does by virtue of the creative or constructive force it possesses because of its emanation from the Monadic Source of all creative construction upon any plane of Nature. It is not, therefore, limited to its material form, but can and does create finer, more subtle or ethereal, ones on any of the planes between the physical and that upon which it has its own proper habitation. And it is, then, these various bodies created by it which we have to classify and study in this paper.

The lowest of these, and standing next to the physical in point of grossness or heterogeneity, is the Linga Sarira. or astral double of the body. This is nothing more than a senseless counterpart of the latter which serves as a model in and upon which the physical molecules are aggregated. It can hardly be said that the Higher Ego consciously constructs the Linga Sarira. Its attraction to and brooding presence, under the law of karmic affinities, over the parents at the moment of conception, calls into activity the "lower Builders", or those forces in Nature whose consciousness does not rise to the self-conscious plane. These construct the astral body known as the Linga Sarira, and build within it the physical one under the play of two opposing influences. First there is that of the Higher Ego again seeking incarnation, and bringing with it in the form of "skandhas", or kinetic psychic energy, tendencies to construct a body calculated to best give them expression. But these are met by another karmic stream of purely physical and lower psychic tendencies or impressions derived from the parents under the law of physical heredity. This force unmodified would exactly repeat the form of the parents, as is done so accurately and constantly in the kingdoms below man, and would be hard indeed to overcome were it not already divided against itself by the impossibility of exactly repeating the form of both parents because of their dissimilarities. So a compromise must be the outcome; the form desired by the Higher Ego being modified by the physical line of evolutionary forces, and vice versa.

The Linga Sarira, thus constructed then, is as senseless as far as any higher consciousness is concerned as are the molecules of the physical body when the Lower Manas retires from its active supervision either in sleep or death. During the life of the body it acts as a medium between this and the Life Principle upon one hand, and the Kamic Principle upon the other. For the Universal Life Principle, like the Thinking Principle, is much too subtile to act directly upon physical matter. It first encounters the Linga Sarira and is reflected by this medium into the coarser matter of this plane, being changed by this very reflection and dissociation from the Universal JIVA into the terrestrial Prana, the Vitality or Life upon the material plane. In like manner is the purely spiritual, or direct, or intuitional perception of the Higher Ego changed by its reflection through the Linga Sarira to the physical plane into Sensation, or perception by means of the physical senses. At death its functions of course become nil, and it fades out as the physical body decays. It is the "wraith" often seen in graveyards, for it may exude out of the body either in life or after death. In the latter case it is utterly senseless; no more than a shadowy wisp of vapor; in the former, which often occurs at so-called "spirit" seances, it may become the vehicle for a sort of intelligence reflected into it by the medium from whom it has exuded, or from some of the "sitter" present. In either case it cannot go very far from the body, owing in life to its so largely depriving this of its vitality — of which, as we have noted, it is the vehicle — and in death, to the attraction still exerted by the decaying form.

So intimate is its connection with the body that an injury inflicted upon it is often "repercussed" upon the person from whom it has exuded, thus explaining a seemingly mysterious phenomenon of spiritualism. It is also the agent in another large class of these so-called "spirit" manifestations, such as table-tipping, slate-writing, object-moving, etc. Under the stress of the intense desire for these things, the "medium" will extrude his own Linga Sarira and do them all without the faintest suspicion that it is himself and not some denison of the spirit world anxious to make his presence known. This, of course, is only possible in those natures who, by cultivating their astral faculties at the expense of both the physical and the truly spiritual, have so loosened the attachments between this and the physical body that such separations, in whole or in part, become quite easy of performance. But in the case of the ordinary medium this is done entirely upon the sub-conscious planes of his being, under the stress of his will, and so, being quite unaware of their source, he jumps at the conclusion that the "spirits" are the agents in their production. He is confirmed in his opinion because science refuses to recognize any super-physical intelligences or forces, and answers his demands for an explanation of those which he knows are veritable facts by pooh-poohing their existence, while intimating to the unfortunate but thoroughly honest "medium" that he is a knave, a fool, or a promising candidate for a lunatic asylum. Theosophy alone offers a reasonable and logical explanation for these phenomena, more of which will be reached and accounted for when we take up a class of higher "astral" bodies. The Linga Sarira is universal in nature; everything, whether "organic" or inorganic, has its astral counterpart — its medium for relating it more or less closely with Prana.

The next astral man with which, taking them in an ascending scale, we have to deal has been termed the Kama Rupa, or Body of Desire. Unlike the Linga Sarira, it is only formed after death, and arises in the following manner. The reincarnation of man's spiritual Triad in a new, purely animal body sets up in the latter a distinct Thinking Principle, possessing potentially all the powers, creative and constructive, appertaining to the True Thinker, the Higher Manas. This, known in Theosophical literature as the Lower Manas, becomes united to Kama, or the lower sensual desires, in its efforts to elevate these to its own plane, for the whole scheme of evolution is viewed by Theosophy as elevating to their own plane of the consciousness of entities "crucified" in matter below them by Hierarchies consciously and intelligently acting from above. It is the direct outcome of an Infinite, Intelligent, and Divine Compassion, and not the result of blind force seeking unconsciously the lines of least resistance, as modern science would fain have us believe. This imparting of its own qualities to Kama enables the latter to create for itself an astral body of greater or lesser vitality and durability according to the degree to which it has received and conquered the Manasic Essence. For, if Manas have conquered in its association with the sensuous desires of Kama, the latter is so weakened by the consequent elevation and transmuting of its essence to Manasic planes that the Kama Rupa will be but a faint, short-lived will-o'-the-wisp; but if Kama conquer, then does the Manasic essence become degraded or "fallen" from its plane, and the Rupa will be proportionately vigorous. But, although possessing enough borrowed or stolen force to construct subconsciously a body, this Rupa has no Thinking Principle, or "I am I" center of consciousness, within it, and at once sinks to the animal condition of consciousness, even below the higher animals. It drifts helplessly about on the astral plane, drawn hither and thither by currents of desires generated by men. Hence it is a constant element at spiritual seances, and a most dangerous one. For it is but a vile, conscienceless bundle of desires and unsatisfied passions, unconsciously seeking expression upon the material plane, the only one capable of affording this. Drawn to a "circle", it may have a spurious semblance of self-consciousness reflected upon it by the minds of those present, just as a physical corpse may for a time be galvanized into a semblance of life by electricity. Or, perhaps, its condition is more like that of a hypnotized person whose consciousness is also deprived of its synthesizing center by the force of the hypnotizer's will, and who therefore simply reflects whatever is projected into his mind as though it had originated there.

It will at once be apparent how undesirable is traffic with these Kama Rupas in seance rooms. Nothing pure, unselfish, or aspiring can come from such a source, while it is quite possible for a person, and especially so weakly an organized one as a "medium" must be, to have one or more of such entities attach themselves permanently to him. Especially is this to be feared when there is a strong bond of magnetic attraction between the "spook" and the kamic nature of the personality to which it has been thus attracted by similar impure desires.

(To be concluded)

The Path