Universal Brotherhood – January 1898


It has been taught, from time immemorial, by the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom which Theosophy revives, that in all the illimitable universe there was nothing that was not God, no atom that was not part of the Divine Being. The rock, the body of the man standing upon it, his immortal spirit and the planet casting its light upon him, were all held to be one in their primary essence for all were manifested God. According to those teachings, the process by which worlds came into being was one of evolution. Primarily, there was nothing but the Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Unknowable Spirit, the Source and Container of all things. By his will Spirit and Matter were differentiated, the latter being manifested Spirit and proceeding by imperceptible gradations of increasing density down to the "prakritic" or lowest plane, that of the grossest material forms of this and other worlds. In this descent, matter was subject to control by natural forces or laws of being and becoming, that were immutable, like in nature and effect upon all planes, and that operate today, for preservation and transformation of forms, along the same lines by which they originally brought those forms into being. And those evolutionary influences will eventually, in the fullness of time, carry matter back to the point of resolvement again into Spirit.

Certain metals and stones present the lowest, or densest, forms of matter, those in which the molecules — aggregated atoms — are most closely impacted. Pure hydrogen gas is perhaps the highest, or most tenuous, manifestation of matter directly cognizable by science. Between those extremes the gradations in molecular density are infinite and so close together that there are nowhere any breaks or gaps discoverable. Dividing lines are merely nominal. Classification into gases, fluids and solids, expresses simply temporary conditions of mutable matter. Heat converts the solid into a fluid, the fluid into a gas. Pressure and cold condense the gas to fluid and transform the fluid into a solid. The properties inherent in material things are dependent altogether upon molecular arrangement and, primarily, the atomic constitution of the molecules. And the most advanced physicists find that the phenomena of nature are illusory and even to the circumscribed possibilities of their methods of investigation, involve realities of the most amazing and least apparent character. Thus, for instance, they tell us that even in steel, the diamond and glass, no two atoms are in contact, but that each is surrounded by an akasic envelope, in which it maintains ceaseless vibrations, of inconceivable rapidity. This akasa, which permeates and pervades every molecule of cognizable matter, is itself matter, since it possesses demonstrable properties of matter, yet is so refined that science can only postulate its existence and realize its effects, without being able to control it or to learn its laws.

Even without that discovery of the akasa, would it be reasonable to suppose that the limit of the scientist's ability to study the phenomena of nature is the boundary line, where those infinitely fine progressive gradations in the refinement of matter suddenly cease and beyond which there is nothing but absolutely empty space — with, perhaps, God, far off on the other side? But even if such a notion could once have been honestly believed in by intelligent minds, can it be any longer entertained in view of the discovery of the proved akasa [or ether]?

While the akasic state of matter defies investigation by the material methods of modern occidental science, it has been deeply studied, and much exact knowledge gained concerning it by Oriental philosophers, who have been able to employ, in their researches, correlative and extraordinary states of consciousness. They know it as the plane of the atoms. The laws potential in it are akin to those of our material plane to a limited extent only, but the variations in atomic condition are as limitless as those we know in molecular arrangement; its forces are more powerful in their effects, owing to the tenuity of the matter upon which they operate, and it is inhabited by conscious entities presumably upon the evolutionary path and destined to eventual corporeal existence. There does not seem to be any violence to probability — to say the least — in the assumption that the human beings of today have, millions of years ago, passed through that phase of existence.

This necessarily inadequate epitome of some few relative teachings in a stupendous philosophic system has seemed desirable, to show the solid foundation for our affirmation of an astral, or "psychical," plane, as one of the manifestations of the akasic. Some persons, possessed of a deeply-rooted aversion for the exercise of thinking, assume that there is no astral plane, other than a sort of imaginary corral for mythical spooks, invented by the Theosophists, and find it simply funny. Others, of more serious and perhaps pious tendency, who go so far as to think they think, entertain vague concepts of an "unseen world," which they people with angels, devils, or spirits of the dead, according to their individual idiosyncrasies. Both classes are wrong.

The astral plane is quite as real as the material. Its phenomena are subject to laws like in kind to, but differing in degree from, those obtaining in the realm of gross forms, because of the infinitely greater tenuity and consequent responsive mobility of its matter. There are gradations in density and varying modes and velocities of vibration among its atoms; it is as full of entities, in all possible degrees and states of consciousness, as is the material plane with which we are familiar; and those entities are clothed in forms composed from the substance of the plane to which they belong, just as we are made up, physically, from gross elements that are likewise the components of the animal, the tree and the rock.

It is an error to suppose that a defined line exists between the material and astral planes. The imaginary one supposably drawn by visual observation is wholly illusory, for its location is dependent upon the capacity of the individual. Normal, unaided sight draws it at one point. The microscope puts it much farther on into the margin of the astral field. The bacilli belong as much to one plane as to the other. Even untrained psychic consciousness is an unreliable guide to cognition of the conditions and limits of the intangible world, for it, too, is dependent upon the capacity of the seer, and its percipience may be sympathetic with either of widely different conditions, and blind, or illusive, to others closely allied to or even mingling with them.

In the bell of a gloxinia or upon a petal of an orchid, one sometimes finds a progressive deepening of color, from absolutely pure white to an excessively dark shade of crimson, or purple, by such exquisitely delicate increase of tint that not even with the microscope can a point of change be discerned. To this may be likened the degrees by which descent is made from pure spirit to the lowest depths of gross matter. In a broad general way it may be said that the astral plane is semi-material, lowest of the akasa, and that above it in tenuity is the psychic, and beyond that further refinements needless of specification here. But, in point of fact, these states of refined matter — for convenience denominated planes and sub-planes — mingle, are inter-dependent and each is susceptible to the vibrations of those approximating to it in tenuity, above and below. And this obtains even down to the prakritic plane. To illustrate: A thought impels vibrations on the psychic plane, which stir others at a lower rate in the astral and the latter translates — or commutates them — to such reduction as is appreciable by and mandatory upon the gross organs of apprehension and action. In like manner, a sensation is not perceived by gross nerve matter, but by the astral atoms pervading it; by them is transmitted at a higher rate of vibrations to the mental — or psychic — atoms and there becomes realizable by the thinking principle; and it may even be of such a nature as to transmit vibrations to the higher mental plane, which is spiritual. Without that commutator, the astral principle, acting between his mind and his gross organs, a man could no more make his hand move in conformity to his wish, than he could push Jupiter out of his orbit. Without harmonious reciprocal action between the astral and mental principles of his being, the man would be mindless. Abnormal excitation of a principle disturbs that harmony of action which is essential to health of both mind and body, and in this is the chief danger to rash adventurers upon the psychical plane. They are subjected to the influence of vibrations peculiar to a state of matter beyond their powers of justly appreciative perception and correct cognition. The intensely vivid impressions flashed upon their abnormally excited consciousness, are distorted by false apprehension and perverted beyond measure in attempted mental assimilation, through inadequacy in responsiveness of the connecting and transmitting chain to the thinking organ — the brain. Temporary delusions and ultimate insanity — if the influence is continued — are the inevitable consequences.

Another danger, too real to be ignored or even lightly regarded, is from inimical entities liable to be encountered on that plane. It is not to be supposed that things devoid of tangible bodies are necessarily harmless. While vast multitudes of the denizens of the astral plane possess only collective consciousness and manifest but as forces, either there or on the material plane; there are others whose evolution has reached attainment of conscious individuality, with a certain intelligence that may or may not be hostile; and between these in development are a very numerous class who are capable of employing powerfully forces of which we, of the material plane, know nothing, and who wield them blindly as impelled by will force of human origination, to which they are susceptible.

There are several ways in which the majority of persons may, without difficulty, acquire some degree of perceptivity on the astral plane — which is commonly magnified in important seeming, by styling it the psychical — and many do so unconsciously, both in sleep and waking. All self-induced trance states have that result and, not infrequently, the hypnotee is precipitated into that state of consciousness, either unintentionally, through lack of proper control on the part of the hypnotizer, or purposely in the course of perilous investigations into the problem of subliminal consciousness and other fascinatingly mysterious phenomena of the deeper conditions of trance. The latter is particularly dangerous, since the subject is not only exposed to the hazards of the plane, as any other intruder would be, but has the additional risk of betrayal by suggestions from the master-will, which, under such circumstances, is but a "blind leader of the blind."

There is good reason to believe that one of the evidences of the transition state the human race is in at the present time, is a notable increase of susceptibility to the higher rate of vibrations from planes above the material. Genius and madness are alike manifestations of its effects. The time is no doubt coming in which the sixth sense — that of psychical perceptivity — will be the common property of humanity, but before that can be enjoyed, the race must experience a great acceleration in the normal rates of vibrations in all its principles, raising its capacity for correct perception in the atomic states of matter. We can hasten our progress — but only at great risk.

Universal Brotherhood