THE TENTH LESSON – THE ASTRAL WORLD
We are confronted with a serious difficulty at the beginning of this lesson, which will be apparent to those of our students who are well advanced in occult studies. We allude to the matter of the description of “planes” of existence. These lessons are intended as elementary studies designed to give the beginner a plain, simple idea of the general principles of occultism, without attempting to lead him into the more complicated stages of the subject. We have tried to avoid technicalities, so far as is possible, and believe that we have at least fairly well accomplished our task of presenting elementary principles in a plain manner, and we know that we have succeeded in interesting many persons in the study, who had heretofore been deterred from taking it up because of the mass of technical description and complicated description of details that met their view upon taking up other works on the subject.
So, in this lesson on the Astral World, and the three lessons that follow it, we will be compelled to deal in generalities instead of going into minute and careful descriptions such as would be needed in a work taking up the “higher-grade” work. Instead of endeavoring to describe just what a “plane” is, and then going on to point out the nice little differences between “planes” and “sub-planes” we shall treat the whole subject of the higher planes of existence under the general term of “The Astral World,” making that term include not only the lower divisions of the Astral Plane, but also some of the higher planes of life. This plan may be objected to by some who have followed other courses of reading on the subject, in which only the lower Astral Plane has been so styled, the higher planes receiving other names, which has led many to regard the Astral Plane with but scanty consideration reserving their careful study for the higher planes. But we ask these persons to remember that many of the ancient occultists classed the entire group of the upper planes (at least until the higher spiritual planes were reached) under the general term “The Astral World,” or similar terms, and we have the best of authority for this general division. There is as much difference between the lowest astral planes and the highest mental or spiritual planes, as there is between a gorilla and an Emerson, but in order to keep the beginner from getting lost in a wilderness of terms, we have treated all the planes above the physical (at least such as our lessons touches upon) under the general style of “The Astral World.” It is difficult to convey clearly, in simple terms, the meaning of the word “plane,” and we shall use it but little, preferring the word “state,” for a plane is really a “state” rather than a place – that is, any one place may be inhabited on several planes. Just as a room may be filled with rays of the sun; light from a lamp; rays from an X-ray apparatus; ordinary magnetic vibrations; air, etc., etc., each acting according to the law of its being, and yet not affecting the others, so may several planes of being be in full operation in a given space, without interfering with each other. We cannot go into detail regarding the matter, in this elementary lesson, and hope merely to give the student a good working mental conception, in order that he may understand the incidents and phenomena of the several planes comprising “The Astral World.”
Before going into the subject of the several planes of the Astral World, it will be better for us to consider some of the general phenomena classified under the term “astral.” In our Sixth Lesson, we have told you that man (in the body) , in addition to his physical senses of sight, hearing, tasting, smelling and feeling, has five astral senses (counterparts of the physical senses) operating on the astral plane, by which he may receive sense impressions without the aid of the physical sense organs. He also possesses a “sixth-sense” physical organ (the organ of the “telepathic” sense) which also has a corresponding astral sense.
These astral senses function on the lower astral plane – the plane next removed from the physical plane – and the phenomena of clairvoyance is produced by the use of these astral senses, as we have described in the Sixth Lesson. There are, of course, higher forms of clairvoyance, which operate on planes far above that used in ordinary clairvoyance, but such powers are so rare, and are possessed only by those of high attainment, that we need scarcely do more than mention them here. On this lower astral plane, the clairvoyant sees; the clairaudient hears; the psychometrist feels. On this plane the astral body moves about, and “ghosts” manifest. Disembodied souls living on the higher planes of the Astral World, in order to communicate with those on the physical plane, must descend to this lowest plane, and clothe themselves with coarse astral matter in order to accomplish their object. On this plane moves the “astral bodies” of those in the flesh, who have acquired the art of projecting themselves in the astral.
It is possible for a person to project his astral body, or travel in his astral body, to any point within the limits of the earth’s attraction, and the trained occultist may do so at will, under the proper conditions. Others may occasionally take such trips (without knowing just how they do it, and having, afterwards, the remembrance of a particular and very vivid dream) ; in fact many of us do take such trips, when the physical body is wrapped in sleep, and one often gains much information in this way, upon subjects in which he is interested, by holding astral communication with others interested in the same subject, all unconsciously of course. The conscious acquirement of knowledge in this way, is possible only to those who have progressed quite a way along the path of attainment. The trained occultist merely places himself in the proper mental condition, and then wishes himself at some particular place, and his astral travels there with the rapidity of light, or even more rapidly. The untrained occultist, of course, has no such degree of control over his astral body and is more or less clumsy in his management of it. The Astral Body is always connected with the physical body (during the life of the latter) by a thin silk-like, astral thread, which maintains the communication between the two. Were this cord to be severed the physical body would die, as the connection of the soul with it would be terminated.
On this lower Astral Plane may also be perceived the auric colors of men, as described in our Fourth Lesson. Likewise it is on this plane that the emanations of thought may be observed by the clairvoyant vision, or the astral of one who visits that plane in his astral body. The mind is continually throwing off emanations, which extend some distance from the person, for a time, and which then, if strong enough, gradually pass off, drawn here and there by the corresponding thoughts of others. These thought emanations resemble clouds, some delicate and beautiful, while others are dark and murky. To the psychic or astral vision, places are seen to be filled with this thought-stuff, varying in character and appearance with the quality and nature of the original thought which produced them. Some places are seen to be filled with bright attractive thought-stuff showing that the general character of the thought of those who inhabit it is of an uplifting and cheerful character, while other places are filled with a hazy, murky mass or cloud of thought-stuff, showing that those who live there (or some visitors) have been dwelling on the lower planes of thought, and have filled the place with depressing reminders of their sojourn there. Such rooms should be opened wide to the sun, and air, and one moving into them should endeavor to fill them with bright, cheerful and happy thoughts, which will drive out the lower quality of thought-stuff. A mental command, such as “I command you to move away from this place,” will cause one to throw out strong thought vibrations, which will either dissolve the objectionable thought-stuff, or will cause it to be repelled and driven away from the immediate vicinity of the person making the command.
If people could see but for a few minutes the thought-atmosphere of groggeries, gambling-rooms, and places of that kind, they would not care to again visit them. Not only is the atmosphere fairly saturated with degrading thoughts, but the lower class of disembodied souls flock in large numbers around the congenial scene, striving to break the narrow bounds which separate them from the physical plane in such places.
Perhaps the best way to make plain to you the general aspects and phenomena of the Astral World, would be to describe to you an imaginary trip made by yourself in that world, in charge of an experienced occultist. We will send you, in imagination, on such a trip, in this lesson, in charge of a competent guide-it being presupposed that you have made considerable spiritual progress, as otherwise even the guide could not take you very far, except by adopting heroic and very unusual methods, which he probably would not see fit to do in your case. Are you ready for your trip? Well, here is your guide.
You have gone into the silence, and suddenly become aware of having passed out of your body, and to be now occupying only your astral body. You stand beside your physical body, and see it sleeping on the couch, but you realize that you are connected with it by a bright silvery thread, looking something like a large bit of bright spider-web. You are conscious of the presence of your guide, who is to conduct you on your journey. He also has left his physical body, and is in his astral form, which reminds you of a vapory something, the shape of the human body, but which can be seen through, and which can move through solid objects at will. Your guide takes your hand in his and says, “Come,” and in an instant you have left your room and are over the city in which you dwell, floating along as does a summer cloud. You begin to fear lest you may fall, and as soon as the thought enters your mind you find yourself sinking. But your guide places a hand under you and sustains you, saying, “Now just realize that you cannot sink unless you fear, to hold the thought that you are buoyant and you will be so.” You do so, and are delighted to find that you may float at will, moving here and there in accordance to your wish or desire.
You see great volumes of thought-clouds arising from the city like great clouds of smoke, rolling along and settling here and there. You also see some finer vapory thought-clouds in certain quarters, which seem to have the property of scattering the dark clouds when they come in contact with them. Here and there you see bright thin lines of bright light, like an electric spark, traveling rapidly through space, which your guide tells you are telepathic messages passing from one person to another, the light being caused by the Prana with which the thought is charged. You see, as you descend toward the ground, that every person is surrounded by an egg-shaped body of color, his aura – in which is reflected his thought and prevailing mental state, the character of the thought being represented by varying colors. Some are surrounded by beautiful auras, while others have around them a black, smoky aura, in which are seen flashes of red light. Some of these auras make you heartsick to observe, as they give evidence of such base, gross, and animal thoughts, that they cause you pain, as you have become more sensitive now that you are out of your physical body. But you have not much time to spare here, as your trip is but a short one, and your guide bids you come on. You do not seem to change your place in space, but a change seems to have come over everything like the lifting of a gauzy curtain in the pantomime. You no longer see the physical world with its astral phenomena, but seem to be in a new world – a land of queer shapes. You see astral “shells” floating about – discarded astral bodies of those who have shed them as they passed on. These are not pleasant to look upon, and you hurry on with your guide, but before you leave this second ante-room to the real Astral World, your guide bids you relax your mental dependence upon your astral body, and much to your surprise you find yourself slipping out of it, leaving it in the world of shells, but being still connected with it by a silk-like cord, or thread, just as it, in turn, is connected with your physical body, which you have almost forgotten by this time, but to which you are still bound by these almost invisible ties. You pass on clothed in a new body, or rather an inner garment of ethereal matter, for it seems as if you have been merely shedding one cloak, and then another, the YOU part of yourself remains unchanged – you smile now at the recollection that once upon a time you thought that the body was “you.” The plane of the “astral shells” fades away, and you seem to have entered a great room of sleeping forms, lying at rest and in peace, the only moving shapes being those from higher spheres who have descended to this plane in order to perform tasks for the good of their humbler brethren. Occasionally some sleeper will show signs of awakening, and at once some of these helpers will cluster around him, and seem to melt away into some other plane with him. But the most wonderful thing about this region seems to be that as the sleeper awakens slowly, his astral body slips away from him just as did yours a little before, and passes out of that plane to the place of “shells,” where it slowly disintegrates and is resolved into its original elements. This discarded shell is not connected with the physical body of the sleeping soul, which physical body has been buried or cremated, as it is “dead”; nor is the shell connected with the soul which has gone on, as it has finally discarded it and thrown it off. It is different in your case, for you have merely left it in the ante-room, and will return and resume its use, presently.
The scene again changes, and you find yourself in the regions of the awakened souls, through which you, with your guides, wander backward and forward. You notice that as the awakening souls pass along, they seem to rapidly drop sheath after sheath of their mental-bodies (for so these higher, forms of ethereal coverings are called) , and you notice that as you move toward the higher planes your substance becomes more and more etherealized, and that as you return to the lower planes it becomes coarser and grosser, although always far more etherealized than even the astral body, and infinitely finer than the material physical body. You also notice that each awakening soul is left to finally awaken on some particular plane. Your guide tells you that the particular plane is determined by the spiritual progress and attainment made by the soul in its past lives (for it has had many earthly visits or lives), and that it is practically impossible for a soul to go beyond the plane to which it belongs, although those on the upper planes may freely revisit the lower planes, this being the rule of the Astral World – not an arbitrary law, but a law of nature. If the student will pardon the commonplace comparison, he may get an understanding of it, by imagining a large screen, or series of screens, such as used for sorting coal into sizes. The large coal is caught by the first screen, the next size by the second, and so on until the tiny coal is reached. Now the large coal cannot get into the receptacle of the smaller sizes, but the small sizes may easily pass through the screen and join the large sizes, if force be imparted to them. Just so in the Astral World, the soul with the greatest amount of materiality, and coarser nature, is stopped by the screen of a certain plane, and cannot pass on the higher ones, while one which has passed on to the higher planes, having cast off more confining sheaths, can easily pass backward and forward among the lower planes. In fact souls often do so, for the purpose of visiting friends on the lower planes, and giving them enjoyment and comfort in this way, and, in cases of a highly developed soul, much spiritual help may be given in this way, by means of advice and instruction, when the soul on the lower plane is ready for it. All of the planes, in fact, have Spiritual Helpers, from the very highest planes, some devoted souls preferring to so devote their time in the Astral World rather than to take a well earned rest, or to pursue certain studies for their own development. Your guide explains these things to you as you pass backward and forward, among the lower set of planes (the reason you do not go higher will be explained to you bye-and-bye), and he also informs you that the only exception to the rule of free passage to the planes below the plane of a soul, is the one which prevents the lower-plane souls from entering the “plane of the sleepers,” which plane may not be entered by souls who have awakened on a low plane, but may be freely entered by those pure and exalted souls who have attained a high plane. The plane of the chamber of slumber is sacred to those occupying it, and those higher souls just mentioned, and is in fact in the nature of a distinct and separated state rather than one of the series of planes just mentioned.
The soul awakens on just the plane for which it is fitted – on just the sub-plane of that plane which its highest desires and tastes naturally select for it. It is surrounded by congenial minds, and is able to pursue that which the heart of the man had longed for during earth life. It may make considerable progress during this Astral World life, and so when it is reborn it is able to take a great step forward, when compared to its last incarnation. There are planes and sub-planes innumerable, and each finds an opportunity to develop and enjoy to the fullest the highest things of which it is capable at that particular period of development, and as we have said it may perfect itself and develop so that it will be born under much more favorable conditions and circumstances in the next earth life. But, alas, even in this higher world, all do not live up to their best, and instead of making the best of their opportunities, and growing spiritually, they allow their more material nature to draw them downward, and they spend much of their time on the planes beneath them, not to help and assist, but to live the less spiritual life of the denizens of the lower planes – the more material planes. In such cases the soul does not get the benefit of the Astral World sojourn and is born back into just about the same condition as the last earth life – it is sent back to learn its lesson over again.
The very lowest planes of the Astral World are filled with souls of a gross type – undeveloped and animal like – who live as near as possible the lives they lived on earth (about the only thing they gain being the possibility of their “living-out” their gross tastes, and becoming sick and tired of it all, and thus allowing to develop a longing for higher things which will manifest in a “better-chance” when they are reborn). These undeveloped souls cannot, of course, visit the upper planes, and the only plane below them being the plane of shells and the astral sub-plane immediately above the material plane (which is one of the so-called anterooms of the Astral World) they often flock back as near to earth as is possible. They are able to get so near back to earth that they may become conscious of much that is transpiring there, particularly when the conditions are such that they are in harmony with their own natures. They may be said to be able to practically live on the low material plane, except that they are separated from it by a tantalizing thin veil, which prevents them from actively participating in it except on rare occasions. They may see, but not join in, the earth life. They hang around the scenes of their old degrading lives, and often take possession of the brain of one of their own kind, who may be under the influence of liquor, and thus add to his own low desires. This is an unpleasant subject, and we do not care to dwell upon it – happily it does not concern those who read these lessons, as they have passed beyond this stage of development. Such low souls are so attracted by earth-life, on its lower planes, that their keen desires cause them to speedily reincarnate in similar conditions although there is always at least a slight improvement – there is never a going backward. A soul may make several attempts to advance, in spite of the dragging-back tendencies of its lower nature – but it never slips back quite as far as the place from which it started.
The souls in the higher planes, having far less attraction for earth-life, and having such excellent opportunities for advancement, naturally spend a much longer time in the Astral World, the general rule being that the higher the plane, the longer the rest and sojourn. But sooner or later the lesson is fully learned, and the soul yearns for that further advancement that can only come from the experience and action of another earth-life, and through the force of its desires (never against its will, remember) the soul is gradually caught in the current sweeping on toward rebirth, and becoming drowsy, is helped toward the plane of the room of slumber and, then falling into the soul-slumber it gradually “dies” to the Astral World, and is reborn into a new earth-life in accordance to its desires and tastes, and for which it is fit at that particular stage of its development. It does not fully awaken upon physical birth, but exists in a dreamy state of gradual awakening during the years of early childhood, its awakening being evidenced by the gradual dawning of intelligence in the child whose brain keeps pace with the demands made upon it. We will go more into detail regarding this matter, in the succeeding chapters.
All of these things, your guide has pointed out to you, and he has shown you examples of all the things we have just mentioned. You have met and talked with friends and loved ones who have passed out of the body and occupy some of the planes through which you have passed. You have noticed with wonder that these souls acted and spoke as if their life was the only natural one, and in fact seemed to think that you had come to them from some outside world. You also noticed that while those on each plane were more or less acquainted with the planes beneath them, they often seemed in total ignorance of those above them – except in the case of those on the higher planes who had awakened to a conscious realization of what it all meant, and knew that they were merely in a class working their way upward. Those on the lower planes seemed more or less unconscious of the real meaning of their existence, not having awakened to the conscious spiritual stage. You also noticed how few changes these souls seemed to have undergone, how very little more they seemed to know about things spiritual and occult than when on earth. You also noticed on the lower planes an old friend, who in earth-life, was a pronounced materialist, who did not seem to realize that he was “dead” and who believed that, by some catastrophe of nature, he had been transported to some other planet or physical world, and who was as keen as ever for his argument that “death ended all,” and who flew into a rage with the visitors from the higher spheres who told him whom they were and from whence they came, calling them rogues and imposters, and demanding that they show him something of their claimed “higher spheres” if they were realities. He claimed that their sudden appearances and disappearances were simply the physical phenomena of the new planet upon which they were living. Passing away from him in the midst of his railing at you for agreeing with the “imposters” and “visionaries,” who, to use his expression, were “little better than the spiritualists of the old world,” you sadly asked your guide to take you to the highest spheres. Your guide smiled and said, “I will take you as far as you can go,” and then took you to a plane which so fitted in with your desires, aspirations, tastes, and development, that you begged him to allow you to remain there, instead of taking you back to earth, as you felt that you had reached the “seventh heaven” of the Astral World. He insisted upon your return, but before starting told you that you were still in one of the sub-planes of the comparatively lower planes. You seemed to doubt his words, and like the materialist asked to be shown the greater things. He replied, “No, my son, you have progressed just as far as your limitations will allow – you have reached that part of the ‘other life’ which will be yours when you part with the body, unless you manage to develop still more and thus pass into a higher grade thus far you may go but no farther. You have your limitations, just as I have mine, still farther on. No soul may travel beyond its spiritual boundaries.”
“But,” continued your guide, “beyond your plane and beyond mine are plane after plane, connected with our earth, the splendors of which man cannot conceive. And there are likewise many planes around the other planets of our chain – and there are millions of other worlds – and there are chains of universes just as there are chains of planets – and then greater groups of these chains – and so on greater and grander, beyond the power of man to imagine – on and on and on and on, higher and higher to inconceivable heights. An infinity of infinities of worlds are before us. Our world and our planetary chain and our system of suns, and our systems of solar systems, are but as grains of sand on the beach.”
“Then what am I – poor mortal thing – lost among all this inconceivable greatness,” you cried. “You are the most precious thing – a living soul,” replied your guide, “and if you were destroyed the whole system of universes would crumble, for you are as necessary as the greatest part of it – it cannot do without you – you cannot be lost or destroyed – you are part of it all, and are eternal.
“And beyond all of this of which you have told me,” you cried, “what is there, and what is the center of it all?” Your guide’s face took on a rapt expression. “THE ABSOLUTE,” he replied.
And when you reached your physical body again – just before your guide faded away – you asked him, “How many million miles away from Earth have we been, and how long were we gone?” He replied, “You never left the Earth at all – and your body was left alone but a moment of time – time and space belong not to the Astral world.”