THE ELEVENTH LESSON – BEYOND THE BORDER
In these lessons we have not attempted to force upon the student any conception of the truth which did not appeal to him, or which did not harmonize with his own conception. We grant to all the liberty of their own convictions, preferring that they should accept only such of the Yogi teachings as may appeal to them, letting the rest pass by as not being needed just at that time. We merely state the Yogi’s conception of the matter, as simply and plainly as we are able, that the student may understand the theory – whether or not it appeals to him as truth is a matter with which we have no concern. If it is true, then it is true, no matter what the student may think of it, and his belief or unbelief does not change matters. But, the Yogis do not hold to the idea that anyone is to be punished for unbelief, nor is one to be rewarded for belief – they hold that belief and unbelief are not matters of the will, but of the growth of understanding, therefore it is not consistent with justice to suppose that one is rewarded or punished for belief or unbelief.The Yogis are the most tolerant of people. They see good, and truth, in all forms of belief, and conceptions of truth, and never blame any for not agreeing with them. They have no set creeds, and do not ask their followers to accept as a matter of course all that they teach. Their advice to students is: “Take what appeals to you, and leave the rest – tomorrow come back and take some of what you have rejected today, and so on, until you receive all we have to give you – do not force yourself to accept unpalatable truths, for when the time comes for you to receive them they will be pleasant to your mental taste – take what you please, and leave what you please – our idea of hospitality does not consist in forcing unpalatable things upon you, insisting that you must eat them to gain our favor, or that you will be punished for not liking them – take your own wherever you find it; but take nothing that is not yours by right of understanding; and fear not that anything that belongs to you may be withheld.” With this understanding we proceed with our lesson – a most important one.
When the Ego leaves the body, at the moment of what we call Death, it leaves behind it the lower principles, and passes onward to states which will be considered by us presently. It leaves behind, first, the physical body. This physical body, as we have told you in the First Lesson, is composed of millions of tiny cells – little lives having a bit of mind or intelligence, under control of the central mind of the man; having also a supply of prana, or vital force, and a material casing or body, the sum of which little bodies makes the whole body of the man. We have devoted a chapter of our book upon “Hatha Yoga” to the consideration of these little lives, and we must refer the student to that book for fuller particulars of their life and work. When the death of the man occurs – when the Ego leaves its material sheath which it has used for the period of that particular “life,” the cells separate and scatter, and that which we call decay sets in. The force which has held these cells together is withdrawn, and they are free to go their own way and form new combinations. Some are absorbed into the bodies of the plants in the vicinity, and eventually find themselves forming parts of the body of some animal which has eaten the plant, or a part of some other man who has eaten the plant or the meat of the animal which had eaten the plant. You will, of course, understand that these little cell – lives have nothing to do with the real soul or Ego of the man – they are but his late servants, and have no connection with his consciousness. Others of these atoms remain in the ground for some time, until taken up by some other form of living thing which needs nourishment. As a leading writer has said, “Death is but an aspect of life, and the destruction of one material form is but a prelude to the building up of another.”
From the moment that the Ego leaves the physical body, and the influence of the commanding mind is withdrawn from the cells and the cell groups, disorder reigns among them. They become a disorganized army, rushing hither and thither, interfering with each other – jostling and pushing each other – even fighting each other, their only object being to get away from the crowd – to escape from the general confusion. During the life of the body their main object is to work together in harmony, under the orders of their officers – after the death of the body their only object seems to separate and each go its own way. First the groups separate one from the other – then each group breaks up into smaller groups-and so on until each individual cell becomes freed from its fellows, and goes its own way, or where it is called by some form of life needing it. As a writer on the subject has said, “The body is never more alive when it is dead; but it is alive in its units, and dead in its totality.”
When the Ego departs from the physical body, at the moment of death, the Prana being no longer under control of the central mind, responds only to the orders of the individual atoms or their groups, which have formed the individual body, and as the physical body disentegrates and is resolved into its original elements, each atom takes with it sufficient Prana to maintain its vitality, and to enable it to form new combinations, the unused Prana returning to the great universal storehouse, from which it came.
When the Ego leaves the body, at the moment of death, it carries with it the Astral Body as well as the higher principles. This astral body, you will remember, is the exact counterpart of the physical body, but is composed of a finer quality of matter, and is invisible to the ordinary vision, but may be plainly seen by clairvoyant or astral sight, and may therefore be sometimes seen by persons under certain psychic conditions. Clairvoyants describe the parting of the Astral Body from the Physical Body as most interesting. They describe it as rising from the physical body, like a cloud of thin luminous vapor, but being connected with the physical body by a slender, silken, vapory cord, which cord becomes thinner and thinner until it becomes invisible to even the fine clairvoyant vision, just before it breaks entirely. The Astral Body exists some time after the physical death of the man, and under certain circumstances it becomes visible to living persons, and is called a “ghost.” The Astral Body of a dying person is sometimes projected by an earnest desire and may become visible to relatives or friends with whom the dead man is in sympathy.
After a time, differing in various cases, as we will see later on, the Astral Body is discarded by the Ego, and it in turn begins to disintegrate. This discarded Astral Body is nothing more than a corpse of finer material, and is what occultists know as an “astral shell.” It has no life or intelligence, when thus discarded, and floats around in the lower astral atmosphere, until it is resolved into its original elements. It seems to have a peculiar attraction toward its late physical counterpart, and will often return to the neighborhood of the physical body and disintegrate with it. Persons of psychic sight, either normal or influenced by fear or similar emotions, frequently see these astral shells floating around graveyards, over battlefields, etc., and are often mistaken for the “spirits” of departed people, whereas they are no more the person than is the physical corpse beneath the ground. These astral shells may be “galvanized” into a semblance of life by coming into contact with the vitality of some “medium,” the prana of the latter animating it, and the sub-conscious mentality of the medium causing it to manifest signs of life and partial intelligence. At some of the seances of the mediums these astral shells are materialized by means of the vitality of the medium, and talk in a stupid, disconnected way with those around, but it is not the person himself talking, but a mere shell animated by the life principle of the medium and the “circle,” and acting and talking like an automaton. There are, of course, other forms of spirit return, which are far different, but those investigating spiritualistic phenomena should beware of confounding these astral shells with the real intelligence of their deceased friends. And now let us return to the Ego, which has left the physical body.
While the Ego, encased in its Astral body, is slowly passing out of the Physical Body, the whole life of the person from infancy to old age, passes before his mental vision. The memory gives up its secrets, and picture after picture passes in swift succession before the mind, and many things are made plain to the departing soul – the reason of many things is discovered, and the soul sees what it all means – that is, it understands its whole life just complete, because it sees it as a whole. This is in the nature of a vivid dream to the dying individual, but it leaves a deep impress, and the memories are recalled and made use of at a later period, by the soul. Occultists have always urged that the friends and relatives of a dying person should maintain quiet and calm around him, that he may not be disturbed by conflicting emotions, or distracting sounds. The soul should be allowed to go on its way in peace and quiet, without being held back by the wishes or conversation of those around him.
So the Ego passes on, and out from the body. To where? Let us say here that the future states of the soul, between incarnations, have nothing to do with places – it is a matter of “states” not of places. There are numerous places of existence, and all interpenetrate each other, so that a given space may contain intelligences living on several different planes, those living on the lower planes not being conscious of the existence and presence of those living on the higher ones. So get the idea of “place” out of your minds – it is all a matter of “states,” or “planes.”
The soul after passing out of the body, if left undisturbed by emphatic calls from those whom it has left behind (and which calls may consist of violent manifestations of grief, and earnest demands for the return of the departed one on the part of some loved one, or from someone to whom the deceased person was bound by ties of duty) falls into a semi-conscious state – a blissful, peaceful, happy, restful state – a dream of the soul. This state continues for some time (varying in individuals as we shall see) until the astral shell falls from it, and floats off in the astral atmosphere, and until the lower portions of that etherealized matter which confines the lower portions of the mind gradually dissolves and also drops from the soul, leaving it possessed of only the higher portions of its mentality.
The man of low spiritual development, and consequently of a larger degree of animal nature, will part with but little of his mind-body, and soon reaches the highest of which he has been mentally and spiritually capable in his earth-life. The man of high spiritual attainment, will gradually “shed” much of his mental-body, until he has thrown off all except the highest portions developed in his earth life. Those between the two mentioned types will act according to their degree of spiritual attainment, of course. Then, when the last possible remnant of the lower mentality has dropped from the soul, it awakes, as it passes on to states which will be described a little later on in this lesson. It will be seen that the man of gross mentality and spiritual development will stay in the dreamlike state but a short time, as the process of casting off of sheaths is a comparatively simple one, requiring but little time. And it likewise will be seen that the man who has reached a high degree of spiritual development, will rest for a longer period, as he has much more to get rid of, and this discarded material of the mind drops from him like the leaves of a rose, one after the other, from the outer to the inner.
Each soul awakens when it has discarded all that it can (or rather all that will drop from it) and when it has reached the highest state possible to it. Those who have made material spiritual progress during the earth-life just past, will have much useless and outgrown matter to discard, while the one who has neglected his opportunities, and dies about as he was born, will have but little to throw off, and will awaken in a very short time. Each rests until the highest point of unfoldment has manifested itself. But before going on further, let us stop a moment to say that both the sinking into the restful state, and the soundness and continuance of it may be interfered with by those left in the earth life. A soul which has “something on its mind” to communicate, or which is grieved by the pain of those who have been left behind (especially if it hears the lamentations and constant call for its return) will fight off the dreamy state creeping over it, and will make desperate efforts to return. And, likewise, the mental calls of those who have been left behind, will disturb the slumber, when it has been once entered
into, and will cause the sleeping soul to rouse itself and endeavor to answer the calls, or at least will partially awaken it and retard its unfoldment. These half-awake souls often manifest in spiritualistic circles. Our selfish grief and demands often cause our loved ones who have passed much pain and sorrow and unrest, unless they have learned the true state of affairs before they have passed out, and refuse to be called back to earth even by those they love. Cases are known to occultists where souls have fought off the slumber for years in order to be around their loved ones on earth, but this course was unwise as it caused unnecessary sorrow and pain to both the one who had passed on, and those who had remained on earth. We should avoid delaying the process of those who have passed on – let them sleep on and rest, awaiting the hour of their transformation. It is like making them die their death several times in succession – those who truly love and understand avoid this – their love and understanding bids them let the soul depart in peace and take its well earned rest and gain its full development. This period of soul-slumber is like the existence of the babe in its mother’s womb – it sleeps that it may awaken into life and strength.
Before passing on to the awakening, however, we think it proper to state that it is only the soul of the person who has died a natural death which sinks at once (if not disturbed) into the soul-slumber. Those who die by “accident,” or who are killed – in other words, those who pass out of the body suddenly, find themselves wide-awake and in full possession of the mental faculties for some time. They often are not aware that they have “died,” and cannot understand what is the matter with them. They are often fully conscious (for a short time) of life on earth, and can see and hear all that is going on around them, by means of their astral faculties. They cannot imagine that they have passed out of the body, and are sorely perplexed. Their lot would be most unhappy for a few days, until the sleep overtook them were it not for the Astral Helpers, who are souls from the higher states of existence, who gather around them and gently break to them the news of their real condition – offer them words of comfort and advice, and “take care” of them until they sink into the soul-slumber just as a tired child sinks to sleep at night. These helpers never fail in their duty, and no one who passes out suddenly is neglected, be he or she “good” or “bad,” for these Helpers know that all are God’s children and their own brothers and sisters. Men of high spiritual development and powers have been known to pass out of their physical bodies temporarily (by means of their Astral Bodies) for the purpose of giving aid and advice in times of great catastrophes, or after a great battle, when immediate assistance and advice are needed. At such times, also, some of the higher intelligences in the scale of spiritual evolution descend from their lofty states and appearing as men give words of encouragement and the benefit of their wisdom. This not only in civilized countries but in all parts of the world, for all are akin. Many who have reached the high stages of spiritual development, and who have advanced far beyond the rest of the particular race-group to which they belong, and who have earned a longer stay in the higher states, awaiting the progress of their brothers, devote themselves to this and similar tasks, voluntarily relinquishing their earned rest and happiness for the good of their less fortunate brethren. Persons dying in the way of which we have spoken, of course, gradually fall into the slumber of the soul, and the process of the casting off of the confining sheaths goes on just as in cases of those dying a “natural” death.
When the soul has cast off the confining sheaths, and has reached the state for which it is prepared by its earth-lives, including that gained by development in the last earth-life, it passes immediately to the plane in the Astral World for which it is fitted, and to which it is drawn by the Law of Attraction. Now the Astral World, in all of its stages and planes, is not a “place” but a state, as we have before stated. These planes interpenetrate and those dwelling on one plane are not conscious of those dwelling on another, nor can they pass from one plane to another, with this exception – those dwelling on a higher plane are able to see (if they desire) the planes below them in the order of development, and may also visit the lower planes, if they desire to do so. But those on the lower planes are not able to either see or visit the higher planes. This is not because there is a “watchman at the gate,” or anything of that sort (for there can be no “gate” to a plane or state) but from the same reason that a fish is not able to soar above the water into the air like a bird – its nature does not permit it to do so. A soul having another soul toward which it is attached by some old tie, and finding that soul on a lower plane than itself, is able to visit the less developed soul and aid it in its development by advice and instruction, and to thus prepare it for its next incarnation so that when the two shall meet again in earth-life the less developed soul will have grown far nearer to its higher brother – or sister – soul, and may thereafter go hand in hand throughout life, or lives. This, of course, providing the less developed soul is willing to be instructed. Souls after reaching a certain degree of development are quite willing to be instructed when out of the body (as above stated) as they are freed from the distracting influences of earth-life, and are more open to the help of the Spirit. The Yogi teaching goes so far as to state that in rare cases, the helping soul may even bring his lower brother to such a state that he is enabled to throw off some of the lower mental principles which have clung to him after his awakening, and which kept him in a certain plane, and thus enable him to pass on to the next higher plane. But this is rare, and can only happen when the soul has been nearly but not quite able to throw off the confining sheath, unaided.
The lower planes of the Astral World are filled with souls of a gross, undeveloped type, who live lives very similar to those lived on earth. In fact they are so closely connected with the material plane, and are so attracted to it, that they are so conscious of much that goes on in it, that they may be said to be living on the material Plane, and only prevented from active participation in it by a thin veil which separates them from their own kind in the body. These souls hang around the old scenes of their earthly degradation, and often influence one of their kind who is under the influence of liquor and who is thereby open to influences of this nature. They live their old lives over again in this way, and add to the brutality and degradation of the living by their influences and association. There are quite a number of these lower planes, as well as the higher planes, each containing disembodied souls of the particular class belonging to it. These lower plane souls are in very close contact with the material plane, and are consequently the ones often attracted to seances, where the medium and sitters are on a low plane. They masquerade as the “spirits” of friends of visitors, and others, often claiming to be some well known and celebrated personages. They play the silly pranks so often seen at seances, and take a particular delight in such things, and “general devilment,” if permitted to do so. They are not fit company for people on the higher plane, whether they be embodied or disembodied.
These lower plane souls spend but little time in the disembodied state, and are strongly attracted by the material life, the consequence being that they are filled with a great desire to reincarnate, and generally spend but little time between two incarnations. Of course, when they are reborn they are attracted to, and attracted by, parents of the same tendencies, so that the surroundings in their new earth-life will correspond very closely to those of their old one. These crude and undeveloped souls, as well as the souls of the savage races, progress but slowly, making but a trifling advance in each life, and having to undergo repeated and frequent incarnations in order to make even a little progress. Their desires are strong for the material, and they are attracted to and by it – the Spirit’s influences exerting but a comparatively slight attraction upon them. But even these make some progress – all are moving forward if even but a little.
The souls on each of the succeeding higher planes, of course, make more rapid progress each earth-life, and have fewer incarnations, and a much longer time between them. Their inclinations and tastes being of a higher order, they prefer to dwell on in the higher places of disembodied life, thinking of and contemplating the higher teachings, aided as they are by the absence from material things and encouraged by the rays of the Spiritual Mind beating down upon them, helping their unfoldment. They are able to prepare themselves for great progress in this way, and often spend centuries on the higher planes, before reincarnating. In some cases where they have advanced far beyond their race, they spend thousands of years in the higher planes, waiting until the race grows up to render their rebirth ,attractive, and in the meantime they find much helpful work to do for less developed souls.
But sooner or later, the souls feel a desire to gain new experiences, and to manifest in earth-life some of the advancement which has come to them since “death,” and for these reasons, and from the attraction of desires which have been smoldering there, not lived out or cast off, or, possibly influenced by the fact that some loved soul, on a lower plane, is ready to incarnate and wishing to be incarnated at the same time in order to be with it (which is also a desire) the souls fall into the current sweeping toward rebirth, and the selection of proper parents and advantageous circumstances and surroundings, and in consequence again fall into a soul-slumber, gradually, and so when their time comes they “die” to the plane upon which they have been existing and are “born” into a new physical life and body. A soul does not fully awaken from its sleep immediately at birth, but exists in a dream-like state during the days of infancy, its gradual awakening being evidenced by the growing intelligence of the babe, the brain of the child keeping pace with the demands made upon it. In some case the awakening is premature, and we see cases of prodigies, child-genius, etc., but such cases are more or less abnormal, and unhealthy. Occasionally the dreaming soul in the child half-awakes, and startles us by some profound observation, or mature remark or conduct.
Much of this process of preparing for reincarnation is performed by the soul unconsciously, in obedience to its inspirations, and desires, as it really has not grown to understand what it all means; and what is before it, and is being swept along by the Law of Attraction almost unconsciously. But after souls attain a certain degree of development, they become conscious of the process of reincarnation, and are thereafter conscious of past lives, and preceding a rebirth may take a conscious part in selecting the environments and surroundings. The higher they rise in the scale, the greater their conscious power, and choice.
It will readily be seen that there are planes upon planes of disembodied existence. The Yogi Philosophy teaches that there are Seven Great Planes (sometimes spoken of by uneducated Hindus as the “seven heavens”), but each great plane has seven subdivisions, and each subdivision has seven minor divisions, and so on.
It is impossible for us to begin to describe the nature of the higher astral life. We have no words to describe it, and no minds to comprehend it. Life on the lower planes is very similar to earth-life, many of the inhabitants seeming to think that it is a part of the earth, and, not realizing that they are freed from earthly limitations, imagine that fire can burn them, water can drown them, etc. They live practically on the earth amidst its scenes. Above these are planes whose inhabitants have higher ideas and lives – and so on and on and on, until the bliss of the higher planes cannot be comprehended by man today. In some of the intermediate planes, those who are fond of music indulge to the utmost their love for it – artists their love for their art, intellectual workers pursue their studies – and so on, along these lines. Above these are those who have awakened spiritually and have opportunities for developing themselves, and gaining knowledge. Above these are states of which we cannot dream. And; yet remember this, even these highest planes are but parts of the high Astral Plane, which plane is but one of the lower ones of the Universe, and above that comes plane after plane of existence. But why speak of this, friends – we cannot undertake to master the problem of higher mathematics, when we scarcely know how to add two figures together. But all this is for us – all for us – and we cannot be robbed of our inheritance.