THEOSOPHICAL MANUALS. No. 5
THE ASTRAL PLANE
ITS SCENERY, INHABITANTS AND
C. W. LEADBEATER
Theosophical Publishing Society
7 Duke Street, Adelphi, W.C.
BENARES: THEOSOPHICAL PUBLISHING SOCIETY,
MADRAS: The Theosophist OFFICE, ADYAR.
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Few words are needed in sending this little book out into the world. It is the fifth of a series of Manuals designed to meet the public demand for a simple exposition of Theosophical teachings. Some have complained that our literature is at once too abstruse, too technical, and too expensive for the ordinary reader, and it is our hope that the present series may succeed in supplying what is a very real want. Theosophy is not only for the learned; it is for all. Perhaps among those who in these little books catch their first glimpse of its teachings, there may be a few who will be led by them to penetrate more deeply into its philosophy, its science and its religion, facing its abstruser problems with the student's zeal and the neophyte's ardour. But these Manuals are not written for the eager student, whom no initial difficulties can daunt; they are written for the busy men and women of the work-a-day world, and seek to make plain some of the great truths that render life easier to bear and death easier to face. Written by servants of the Masters who are the Elder Brothers of our race, they can have no other object than to serve our fellow-men.
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Scenery.—The Seven Subdivisions—Degrees of Materiality—Characteristics of Astral Vision—The Aura—The Etheric Double—Power of Magnifying Minute Objects—The "Summerland"—Records of the Astral Light.
Inhabitants.—I. Human. (1) Living:—The Adept or Chela in Mayavirupa—The Psychically Developed Person—The Ordinary Person in Astral Body—The Black Magician. (2) Dead:—The Nirmanakaya—The Chela awaiting Reincarnation—The Ordinary Person after Death—The Shade—The Shell—The Vitalized Shell—The Suicide—The Victim of Sudden Death—The Vampire—The Werewolf—The Black Magician after Death. II. Non-human:—The Elemental Essence—The Kamarupas of Animals—Various Classes of Nature-Spirits, commonly called Fairies—Kamadevas—Rupadevas—Arupadevas—The Devarajahs. III. Artificial:—Elementals formed Unconsciously—Guardian Angels—Elementals formed Consciously—Human Artificials—The True Origin of Spiritualism.
Phenomena.—Churchyard Ghosts.—Apparitions of the Dying—Haunted Localities—Family Ghosts—Bell-ringing, Stone-throwing, etc.—Fairies—Communicating Entities—Astral Resources—Clairvoyance—Prevision—Second-Sight—Astral Forces—Etheric Currents—Etheric Pressure—Latent Energy—Sympathetic Vibration—Mantras—Disintegration—Materialization—Why Darkness is required at a Seance—Spirit Photographs—Reduplication—Precipitation of Letters and Pictures—Slate-writing—Levitation—Spirit Lights—Handling Fire—Transmutation—Repercussion.
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THE ASTRAL PLANE.
Reference to the astral plane, or Kamaloka as it is called in Sanskrit, has frequently been made by Theosophical writers, and a good deal of information on the subject of this realm of nature is to be found scattered here and there in our books; but there is not, so far as I am aware, any single volume to which one can turn for a complete summary of the facts at present known to us about this interesting region. The object of this manual is to collect and make some attempt to arrange this scattered information, and also to supplement it slightly in cases where new facts have come to our knowledge. It must be understood that any such additions are only the result of the investigations of a few explorers, and must not, therefore, be taken as in any way authoritative, but are given simply for what they are worth. On the other hand every precaution in our power has been taken to ensure accuracy, no fact, old or new, being admitted to this manual unless it has been confirmed by the testimony of at least two independent trained investigators among ourselves, and has also been passed as correct by older students whose knowledge on these points is necessarily much greater than ours. It is hoped, therefore, that this account of the astral plane, though it cannot be considered as quite complete, may yet be found reliable as far as it goes.
The first point which it is necessary to make clear in describing this astral plane is its absolute reality. Of course in using that word I am not speaking from that metaphysical standpoint from which all but the One Unmanifested is unreal because impermanent; I am using the word in its plain, every-day sense, and I mean by it that the objects and inhabitants of the astral plane are real in exactly the same way as our own bodies, our furniture, our houses or monuments are real—as real as Charing Cross, to quote an expressive remark from one of the earliest Theosophical works. They will no more endure for ever than will objects on the physical plane, but they are nevertheless realities from our point of view while they last—realities which we cannot afford to ignore merely because the majority of mankind is as yet unconscious, or but vaguely conscious, of their existence.
There appears to be considerable misunderstanding even among Theosophical students upon this question of the reality of the various planes of the universe. This may perhaps be partly due to the fact that the word "plane" has occasionally been very loosely used in our literature—writers speaking vaguely of the mental plane, the moral plane, and so on; and this vagueness has led many people to suppose that the information on the subject which is to be found in Theosophical books is inexact and speculative—a mere hypothesis incapable of definite proof. No one can get a clear conception of the teachings of the Wisdom-Religion until he has at any rate an intellectual grasp of the fact that in our solar system there exist perfectly definite planes, each with its own matter of different degrees of density, and that some of these planes can be visited and observed by persons who have qualified themselves for the work, exactly as a foreign country might be visited and observed; and that, by comparison of the observations of those who are constantly working on these planes, evidence can be obtained of their existence and nature at least as satisfactory as that which most of us have for the existence of Greenland or Spitzbergen. The names usually given to these planes, taking them in order of materiality, rising from the denser to the finer, are the physical, the astral, the devachanic, the sushuptic, and the nirvanic. Higher than this last are two others, but they are so far above our present power of conception that for the moment they may be left out of consideration. Now it should be understood that the matter of each of these planes differs from that of the one below it in the same way as, though to a much greater degree than, vapour differs from solid matter; in fact, the states of matter which we call solid, liquid, and gaseous are merely the three lowest subdivisions of the matter belonging to this one physical plane.
The astral region which I am to attempt to describe is the second of these great planes of nature—the next above (or within) that physical world with which we are all familiar. It has often been called the realm of illusion—not that it is itself any more illusory than the physical world, but because of the extreme unreliability of the impressions brought back from it by the untrained seer. This is to be accounted for mainly by two remarkable characteristics of the astral world—first, that many of its inhabitants have a marvellous power of changing their forms with Protean rapidity, and also of casting practically unlimited glamour over those with whom they choose to sport; and secondly, that sight on that plane is a faculty very different from and much more extended than physical vision. An object is seen, as it were, from all sides at once, the inside of a solid being as plainly open to the view as the outside; it is therefore obvious that an inexperienced visitor to this new world may well find considerable difficulty in understanding what he really does see, and still more in translating his vision into the very inadequate language of ordinary speech. A good example of the sort of mistake that is likely to occur is the frequent reversal of any number which the seer has to read from the astral light, so that he would be liable to render, say, 139 as 931, and so on. In the case of a student of occultism trained by a capable Master such a mistake would be impossible except through great hurry or carelessness, since such a pupil has to go through a long and varied course of instruction in this art of seeing correctly, the Master, or perhaps some more advanced pupil, bringing before him again and again all possible forms of illusion, and asking him "What do you see?" Any errors in his answers are then corrected and their reasons explained, until by degrees the neophyte acquires a certainty and confidence in dealing with the phenomena of the astral plane which far exceeds anything possible in physical life. But he has to learn not only to see correctly but to translate the memory of what he has seen accurately from one plane to the other; and to assist him in this he is trained to carry his consciousness without break from the physical plane to the astral or devachanic and back again, for until that can be done there is always a possibility that his recollections may be partially lost or distorted during the blank interval which separates his periods of consciousness on the various planes. When the power of bringing over the consciousness is perfectly acquired the pupil will have the advantage of the use of all the astral faculties, not only while out of his body during sleep or trance, but also while fully awake in ordinary physical life.
It has been the custom of some Theosophists to speak with scorn of the astral plane, and treat it as entirely unworthy of attention; but that seems to me a somewhat mistaken view. Most assuredly that at which we have to aim is the purely spiritual plane, and it would be most disastrous for any student to neglect that higher development and rest satisfied with the attainment of astral consciousness. There are some whose Karma is such as to enable them to develop the purely spiritual faculties first of all—to over-leap the astral plane for the time, as it were; and when afterwards they make its acquaintance they have, if their spiritual development has been perfect, the immense advantage of dipping into it from above, with the aid of a spiritual insight which cannot be deceived and a spiritual strength which nothing can resist. It is, however, a mistake to suppose, as some writers have done, that this is the only, or even the ordinary method adopted by the Masters of Wisdom with their pupils. Where it is possible it saves much trouble, but for most of us such progress by leaps and bounds has been forbidden by our own faults or follies in the past: all that we can hope for is to win our way slowly step by step, and since this astral plane lies next to our world of denser matter, it is usually in connection with it that our earliest superphysical experiences take place. It is therefore by no means without interest to those of us who are but beginners in these studies, and a clear comprehension of its mysteries may often be of the greatest importance to us, not only by enabling us to understand many of the phenomena of the seance-room, of haunted houses, etc., which would otherwise be inexplicable, but also to guard ourselves and others from possible dangers.
The first introduction to this remarkable region comes to people in various ways. Some only once in their whole lives under some unusual influence become sensitive enough to recognize the presence of one of its inhabitants, and perhaps, because the experience does not repeat itself, come in time to believe that on that occasion they must have been the victims of hallucination: others find themselves with increasing frequency seeing and hearing something to which those around them are blind and deaf; others again—and perhaps this is the commonest experience of all—begin to recollect with greater and greater clearness that which they have seen or heard on that other plane during sleep. Among those who make a study of these subjects, some try to develop the astral sight by crystal-gazing or other methods, while those who have the inestimable advantage of the direct guidance of a qualified teacher will probably be placed upon that plane for the first time under his special protection, which will be continued until, by the application of various tests, he has satisfied himself that the pupil is proof against any danger or terror that he is likely to encounter. But, however it may occur, the first actual realization that we are all the while in the midst of a great world full of active life, of which most of us are nevertheless entirely unconscious, cannot but be to some extent a memorable epoch in a man's existence.
So abundant and so manifold is this life of the astral plane that at first it is absolutely bewildering to the neophyte; and even for the more practised investigator it is no easy task to attempt to classify and to catalogue it. If the explorer of some unknown tropical forest were asked not only to give a full account of the country through which he had passed, with accurate details of its vegetable and mineral productions, but also to state the genus and species of every one of the myriad insects, birds, beasts, and reptiles which he had seen, he might well shrink appalled at the magnitude of the undertaking: yet even this affords no parallel to the embarrassments of the psychic investigator, for in his case matters are further complicated, first by the difficulty of correctly translating from that plane to this the recollection of what he has seen, and secondly by the utter inadequacy of ordinary language to express much of what he has to report. However, just as the explorer on the physical plane would probably commence his account of a country by some sort of general description of its scenery and characteristics, so it will be well to begin this slight sketch of the astral plane by endeavouring to give some idea of the scenery which forms the background of its marvellous and ever-changing activities. Yet here at the outset an almost insuperable difficulty confronts us in the extreme complexity of the matter. All who see fully on that plane agree that to attempt to call up before those whose eyes are as yet unopened a vivid picture of this astral scenery is like speaking to a blind man of the exquisite variety of tints in a sunset sky—however detailed and elaborate the description may be, there is no certainty that the idea presented before the hearer's mind will be an adequate representation of the truth.
First of all, then, it must be understood that the astral plane has seven subdivisions, each of which has its corresponding degree of materiality and its corresponding condition of matter. Now numbering these from the highest and least material downwards, we find that they naturally fall into three classes, divisions 1, 2 and 3 forming one such class, and 4, 5 and 6 another, while the seventh and lowest of all stands alone. The difference between the matter of one of these classes and the next would be commensurable with that between a solid and a liquid, while the difference between the matter of the subdivisions of a class would rather resemble that between two kinds of solid, such as, say, steel and sand. Putting aside for the moment the seventh, we may say that divisions 4, 5 and 6 of the astral plane have for their background the physical world we live in and all its familiar accessories. Life on the sixth division is simply our ordinary life on this earth, minus the physical body and its necessities; while as it ascends through the fifth and fourth divisions it becomes less and less material, and is more and more withdrawn from our lower world and its interests.
The scenery of these lower divisions, then, is that of the earth as we know it: but it is also very much more; for when looked at from this different standpoint, with the assistance of the astral senses, even purely physical objects present a very different appearance. As has already been mentioned, they are seen by one whose eyes are fully opened, not as usual from one point of view, but from all sides at once—an idea in itself sufficiently confusing; and when we add to this that every particle in the interior of a solid body is as fully and clearly visible as those on the outside, it will be comprehended that under such conditions even the most familiar objects may at first be totally unrecognizable. Yet a moment's consideration will show that such vision approximates much more closely to true perception than does physical sight. Looked at on the astral plane, for example, the sides of a glass cube would all appear equal, as they really are, while on the physical plane we see the further side in perspective—that is, it appears smaller than the nearer side, which is, of course, a mere illusion. It is this characteristic of astral vision which has led to its sometimes being spoken of as sight in the fourth dimension—a very suggestive and expressive phrase. But in addition to these possible sources of error matters are further complicated by the fact that astral sight cognizes forms of matter which, while still purely physical, are nevertheless invisible under ordinary conditions. Such, for example, are the particles composing the atmosphere, all the various emanations which are always being given out by everything that has life, and also four grades of a still finer order of physical matter which, for want of more distinctive names, must all he described as etheric. The latter form a kind of system by themselves, freely interpenetrating all other physical matter; and the investigation of their vibrations and the manner in which various higher forces affect them would in itself constitute a vast field of deeply interesting study for any man of science who possessed the requisite sight for its examination.
Even when our imagination has fully grasped all that is comprehended in what has already been said, we do not yet understand half the complexity of the problem; for besides all these new forms of physical matter we have to deal with the still more numerous and perplexing subdivisions of astral matter. We must note first that every material object, every particle even, has its astral counterpart; and this counterpart is itself not a simple body, but is usually extremely complex, being composed of various kinds of astral matter. In addition to this each living creature is surrounded with an atmosphere of its own, usually called its aura, and in the case of human beings this aura forms of itself a very fascinating branch of study. It is seen as an oval mass of luminous mist of highly complex structure, and from its shape has sometimes been called the auric egg. Theosophical readers will hear with pleasure that even at the early stage of his development at which the pupil begins to acquire this astral sight, he is able to assure himself by direct observation of the accuracy of the teaching given through our great founder, Madame Blavatsky, on the subject of some at least of the seven principles of man. In regarding his fellow-man he no longer sees only his outer appearance; exactly co-extensive with that physical body he clearly distinguishes the etheric double, which in Theosophical literature has usually been called the Linga Sharira; while the Jiva, as it is absorbed and specialized into Prana, as it circulates in rosy light throughout the body, as it eventually radiates from the healthy person in its altered form, is also perfectly obvious. Most brilliant and most easily seen of all, perhaps, though belonging to quite a different order of matter—the astral—is the kamic aura, which expresses by its vivid and ever-changing flashes of colour the different desires which sweep across the man's mind from moment to moment. This is the true astral body. Behind that, and consisting of a finer grade of matter—that of the rupa levels of Devachan—lies the devachanic body or aura of the lower Manas, whose colours, changing only by slow degrees as the man lives his life, show the disposition and character of the personality; while still higher and infinitely more beautiful, where at all clearly developed, is the living light of the Karana Sharira, the aura or vehicle of the higher Manas, which shows the stage of development of the real Ego in its passage from birth to birth. But to see these the pupil must have developed something more than mere astral vision.
It will save the student much trouble if he learns at once to regard these auras not as mere emanations, but as the actual manifestation of the Ego on their respective planes—if he understands that it is the auric egg which is the real man, not the physical body which on this plane crystallizes in the middle of it. So long as the reincarnating Ego remains upon the plane which is his true home in the arupa levels of Devachan, the body which he inhabits is the Karana Sharira, but when he descends into the rupa levels he must, in order to be able to function upon them, clothe himself in their matter; and the matter that he thus attracts to himself furnishes his devachanic or mind-body. Similarly, descending into the astral plane he forms his astral or kamic body out of its matter, though of course still retaining all the other bodies, and on his still further descent to this lowest plane of all the physical body is formed in the midst of the auric egg, which thus contains the entire man. Fuller accounts of these auras will be found in Transaction No. 18 of the London Lodge, and in a recent article of mine in The Theosophist, but enough has been said here to show that as they all occupy the same space (which by the way they share also with the physical health-aura), the finer interpenetrating the grosser, it needs careful study and much practice to enable the neophyte to distinguish clearly at a glance the one from the other. Nevertheless the human aura, or more usually some one part of it only, is not infrequently one of the first purely astral objects seen by the untrained, though in such a case its indications are naturally very likely to be misunderstood.
Though the kamic aura from the brilliancy of its flashes of colour may often be more conspicuous, the nerve-ether and the etheric double are really of a much denser order of matter, being strictly speaking within the limits of the physical plane, though invisible to ordinary sight. It has been the custom in Theosophical literature to describe the Linga Sharira as the astral counterpart of the human body, the word "astral" having been usually applied to everything beyond the cognition of our physical senses. As closer investigation enables us to be more precise in the use of our terms, however, we find ourselves compelled to admit much of this invisible matter as purely physical, and therefore to define the Linga Sharira no longer as the astral, but as the etheric double. This seems an appropriate name for it, since it consists of various grades of that matter which scientists call "ether," though this proves on examination to be not a separate substance, as has been generally supposed, but a condition of finer subdivision than the gaseous, to which any kind of physical matter may be reduced by the application of the appropriate forces. The name "etheric double" will therefore for the future be used in Theosophic writings instead of "Linga Sharira": and this change will not only give us the advantage of an English name which is clearly indicative of the character of the body to which it is applied, but will also relieve us from the frequent misunderstandings which have arisen from the fact that an entirely different signification is attached in all the Oriental books to the name we have hitherto been using. It must not however be supposed that in making this alteration in nomenclature we are in any way putting forward a new conception; we are simply altering, for the sake of greater accuracy, the labels previously attached to certain facts in nature. If we examine with psychic faculty the body of a newly-born child, we shall find it permeated not only by astral matter of every degree of density, but also by the several grades of etheric matter; and if we take the trouble to trace these inner bodies backwards to their origin, we find that it is of the latter that the etheric double—the mould upon which the physical body is built up—is formed by the agents of the LORDS of Karma; while the astral matter has been gathered together by the descending Ego—not of course consciously, but automatically—as he passes through the astral plane. (See Manual No. IV., p. 44.)
Into the composition of the etheric double must enter something of all the different grades of etheric matter; but the proportions may vary greatly, and are determined by several factors, such as the race, sub-race, and type of a man, as well as by his individual Karma. When it is remembered that these four subdivisions of matter are made up of numerous combinations, which, in their turn, form aggregations that enter into the composition of the "atom" of the so-called "element" of the chemist, it will be seen that this second principle of man is highly complex, and the number of its possible variations practically infinite, so that, however complicated and unusual a man's Karma may be, the LIPIKA are able to give a mould in accordance with which a body exactly suiting it can be formed.
One other point deserves mention in connection with the appearance of physical matter when looked at from the astral plane, and that is that the astral vision possesses the power of magnifying at will the minutest physical particle to any desired size, as though by a microscope, though its magnifying power is enormously greater than that of any microscope ever made or ever likely to be made. The hypothetical molecule and atom postulated by science are therefore visible realities to the occult student, though the latter recognizes them as much more complex in their nature than the scientific man has yet discovered them to be. Here again is a vast field of study of absorbing interest to which a whole volume might readily be devoted; and a scientific investigator who should acquire this astral sight in perfection, would not only find his experiments with ordinary and known phenomena immensely facilitated, but would also see stretching before him entirely new vistas of knowledge needing more than a lifetime for their thorough examination. For example, one curious and very beautiful novelty brought to his notice by the development of this vision would be the existence of other and entirely different colours beyond the limits of the ordinarily visible spectrum, the ultra-red and ultra-violet rays which science has discovered by other means being plainly perceptible to astral sight. We must not, however, allow ourselves to follow these fascinating bye-paths, but must resume our endeavour to give a general idea of the appearance of the astral plane.
It will by this time be obvious that though, as above stated, the ordinary objects of the physical world form the background to life on certain levels of the astral plane, yet so much more is seen of their real appearance and characteristics that the general effect differs widely from that with which we are familiar. For the sake of illustration take a rock as an example of the simpler class of objects. When regarded with trained sight it is no mere inert mass of stone. First of all, the whole of the physical matter of the rock is seen instead of a very small part of it; secondly, the vibrations of its physical particles are perceptible; thirdly, it is seen to possess an astral counterpart composed of various grades of astral matter, whose particles are also in constant motion; fourthly, the Jiva or universal life is seen to be circulating through it and radiating from it; fifthly, an aura will be seen surrounding it, though this is, of course, much less extended and varied than in the case of the higher kingdoms; sixthly, its appropriate elemental essence is seen permeating it, ever active but ever fluctuating. In the case of the vegetable, animal and human kingdoms, the complications are naturally much more numerous.
It may be objected by some readers that no such complexities as these are described by most of the psychics who occasionally get glimpses of the astral world, nor are they reported at seances by the entities that manifest there; but this is readily accounted for. Few untrained persons on that plane, whether living or dead, see things as they really are until after very long experience; even those who do see fully are often too dazed and confused to understand or remember: and among the very small minority who both see and remember there are hardly any who can translate the recollection into language on our lower plane. Many untrained psychics never examine their visions scientifically at all: they simply obtain an impression which may be quite correct, but may also be half false, or even wholly misleading.
All the more probable does the latter hypothesis become when we take into consideration the frequent tricks played by sportive denizens of the other world, against which the untrained person is usually absolutely defenceless. It must also be remembered that the regular inhabitant of the astral plane, whether he be human or elemental, is under ordinary circumstances conscious only of the objects of that plane, physical matter being to him as entirely invisible as is astral matter to the majority of mankind. Since, as before remarked, every physical object has its astral counterpart, which would be visible to him, it may be thought that the distinction is a trivial one, yet it is an essential part of the symmetrical conception of the subject. If, however, an astral entity constantly works through a medium, these finer astral senses may gradually be so coarsened as to become insensible to the higher grades of matter on their own plane, and to include in their purview the physical world as we see it instead; but only the trained visitor from this life, who is fully conscious on both planes, can depend upon seeing both clearly and simultaneously. Be it understood, then, that the complexity exists, and that only when it is fully perceived and scientifically unravelled is there perfect security against deception or mistake.
For the seventh or lowest subdivision of the astral plane also this physical world of ours may be said to be the background, though what is seen is only a distorted and partial view of it, since all that is light and good and beautiful seems invisible. It was thus described four thousand years ago in the Egyptian papyrus of the Scribe Ani: "What manner of place is this unto which I have come? It hath no water, it hath no air; it is deep, unfathomable; it is black as the blackest night, and men wander helplessly about therein; in it a man may not live in quietness of heart." For the unfortunate entity on that level it is indeed true that "all the earth is full of darkness and cruel habitations," but it is darkness which radiates from within himself and causes his existence to be passed in a perpetual night of evil and horror—a very real hell, though, like all other hells, entirely of man's own creation.
Most students find the investigation of this section an extremely unpleasant task, for there appears to be a sense of density and gross materiality about it which is indescribably loathsome to the liberated astral body, causing it the sense of pushing its way through some black, viscous fluid, while the inhabitants and influences encountered there are also usually exceedingly undesirable.
The first, second, and third subdivisions seem much further removed from this physical world, and correspondingly less material. Entities inhabiting these levels lose sight of the earth and its belongings; they are usually deeply self-absorbed, and to a large extent create their own surroundings, though these are not purely subjective, as in Devachan, but on the contrary sufficiently objective to be perceptible to other entities and also to clairvoyant vision. This region is beyond doubt the "summerland" of which we hear so much at spiritualistic seances, and the entities who descend from and describe it are probably often speaking the truth as far as their knowledge extends. It is on these planes that "spirits" call into temporary existence their houses, schools, and cities, for these objects are often real enough for the time, though to a clearer sight they may sometimes be pitiably unlike what their delighted creators suppose them to be. Nevertheless, many of the imaginations that take form there are of real though temporary beauty, and a visitor who knew of nothing higher might wander contentedly enough there among forests and mountains, lovely lakes and pleasant flower-gardens, or might even construct such surroundings to suit his own fancies.
It may be said in passing that communication is limited on the astral plane by the knowledge of the entity, just as it is here. While a person able to function freely on that plane can communicate with any of the human entities there present more readily and rapidly than on earth, by means of mental impressions, the inhabitants themselves do not usually seem able to exercise this power, but appear to be restricted by limitations similar to those that prevail on earth, though perhaps less rigid. The result of this is that they are found associating, there as here in groups drawn together by common sympathies, beliefs, and language.
An account of the scenery of the astral plane would be incomplete without mention of what are commonly called the Records of the Astral Light, the photographic representation of all that has ever happened. These records are really and permanently impressed upon that higher medium called the Akasha, and are only reflected in a more or less spasmodic manner in the astral light, so that one whose power of vision does not rise above this plane will be likely to obtain only occasional and disconnected pictures of the past instead of a coherent narrative. But nevertheless pictures of all kinds of past events are constantly being reproduced on the astral plane, and form an important part of the surroundings of the investigator there.
Having sketched in, however slightly, the background of our picture, we must now attempt to fill in the figures—to describe the inhabitants of the astral plane. The immense variety of these entities makes it exceedingly difficult to arrange and tabulate them. Perhaps the most convenient method will be to divide them into three great classes, the human, the non-human, and the artificial.
The human denizens of Kamaloka fall naturally into two groups, the living and the dead, or, to speak more accurately, those who have still a physical body, and those who have not.
The entities which manifest on the astral plane during physical life may be subdivided into four classes:
1. The Adept or Chela in the Mayavirupa. This body is the artificial vehicle used on the four lower or rupa divisions of the devachanic plane by those capable of functioning there during earth-life, and is formed out of the substance of the mind-body. The pupil is at first unable to construct this for himself, and has therefore to be content with his ordinary astral body composed of the less refined matter of the kamic aura; but at a certain stage of his progress the Master Himself forms his Mayavirupa for him for the first time, and afterwards instructs and assists him until he can make it for himself easily and expeditiously. When this facility is attained this vehicle is habitually used in place of the grosser astral body, since it permits of instant passage from the astral to the devachanic plane and back again at will, and allows of the use at all times of the higher powers belonging to its own plane. It must be noted, however, that a person travelling in the Mayavirupa is not perceptible to merely astral vision unless he chooses to make himself so by gathering around him particles of astral matter and so creating for himself a temporary body suitable to that plane, though such a temporary creation would resemble the ordinary astral body only as a materialization resembles the physical body; in each case it is a manifestation of a higher entity on a lower plane in order to make himself visible to those whose senses cannot yet transcend that plane. But whether he be in the Mayavirupa or the astral body, the pupil who is introduced to the astral plane under the guidance of a competent teacher has always the fullest possible consciousness there, and is in fact himself, exactly as his friends know him on earth, minus only the four lower principles in the former case and the three lower in the latter, and plus the additional powers and faculties of this higher condition, which enable him to carry on far more easily and far more efficiently on that plane during sleep the Theosophical work which occupies so much of his thought in his waking hours. Whether he will remember fully and accurately on the physical plane what he has done or learnt on the other depends largely, as before stated, upon whether he is able to carry his consciousness without intermission from the one state to the other.
2. The Psychically-developed Person who is not under the guidance of a Master. Such a person may or may not be spiritually developed, for the two forms of advancement do not necessarily go together, and when a man is born with psychic powers it is simply the result of efforts made during a previous incarnation, which may have been of the noblest and most unselfish character, or on the other hand may have been ignorant and ill-directed or even entirely unworthy. Such an one will usually be perfectly conscious when out of the body, but for want of proper training is liable to be greatly deceived as to what he sees. He will often be able to range through the different subdivisions of the astral plane almost as fully as persons belonging to the last class; but sometimes he is especially attracted to some one division and rarely travels beyond its influences. His recollection of what he has seen may vary according to the degree of his development through all the stages from perfect clearness to utter distortion or blank oblivion. He will appear always in the astral body, since by the hypothesis he does not know how to form the Mayavirupa.
3. The Ordinary Person—that is, the person without any psychic development—floating about in his astral body in a more or less unconscious condition. In deep slumber the higher principles in their astral vehicle almost invariably withdraw from the body, and hover in its immediate neighbourhood, practically almost as much asleep as the latter. In some cases, however, this astral vehicle is less lethargic, and floats dreamily about on the various astral currents, occasionally recognizing other people in a similar condition, and meeting with experiences of all sorts, pleasant and unpleasant, the memory of which, hopelessly confused and often travestied into a grotesque caricature of what really happened, will cause the man to think next morning what a remarkable dream he has had. These extruded astral bodies are almost shapeless and very indefinite in outline in the case of the more backward races and individuals, but as the man develops in intellect and spirituality his floating astral becomes better defined and more closely resembles his physical encasement. Since the psychical faculties of mankind are in course of evolution, and individuals are at all stages of their development, this class naturally melts by imperceptible gradations into the former one.
4. The Black Magician or his pupil. This class corresponds closely to the first, except that the development has been for evil instead of good, and the powers acquired are used for purely selfish purposes instead of for the benefit of humanity. Among its lower ranks come members of the negro race who practise the ghastly rites of the Obeah or Voodoo schools, and the medicine-men of many a savage tribe; while higher in intellect, and therefore the more blame-worthy, stand the Tibetan black magicians, who are often, though incorrectly, called by Europeans Dugpas—a title properly belonging, as is quite correctly explained by Surgeon-Major Waddell in his recent work on The Buddhism of Tibet, only to the Bhotanese subdivision of the great Kargyu sect, which is part of what may be called the semi-reformed school of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dugpas no doubt deal in Tantrik magic to a considerable extent, but the real red-hatted entirely unreformed sect is that of the Nin-ma-pa, though far beyond them in a still lower depth lie the Boen-pa—the votaries of the aboriginal religion, who have never accepted any form of Buddhism at all. It must not, however, be supposed that all Tibetan sects except the Gelugpa are necessarily and altogether evil; a truer view would be that as the rules of other sects permit considerably greater laxity of life and practice, the proportion of self-seekers among them is likely to be much larger than among the stricter reformers. The investigator will occasionally meet on the astral plane students of occultism from all parts of the world (belonging to lodges quite unconnected with the Masters of whom Theosophists know most) who are in many cases most earnest and self-sacrificing seekers after truth. It is noteworthy, however, that all such lodges are at least aware of the existence of the great Himalayan Brotherhood, and acknowledge it as containing among its members the highest Adepts now known on earth.
To begin with, of course this very word "dead" is an absurd misnomer, as most of the entities classified under this heading are as fully alive as we are ourselves; the term must be understood as meaning those who are for the time unattached to a physical body. They may be subdivided into nine principal classes as follows:
1. The Nirmanakaya.
This class is just mentioned in order to make the catalogue complete, but it is of course very rarely indeed that so exalted a being manifests himself upon so low a plane as this. When for any reason connected with his sublime work he found it desirable to do so, he would probably create a temporary astral body for the purpose, just as the Adept in the Mayavirupa would do, since the more refined vesture would be invisible to astral sight. Further information about the position and work of the Nirmanakayas may be found in Madame Blavatsky's Theosophical Glossary and The Voice of the Silence.
2. The Chela awaiting reincarnation.
It has frequently been stated in Theosophical literature that when the pupil reaches a certain stage he is able with the assistance of his Master to escape from the action of what is in ordinary cases the law of nature which carries a human being into the devachanic condition after death, there to receive his due reward in the full working out of all the spiritual forces which his highest aspirations have set in motion while on earth. As the pupil must by the hypothesis be a man of pure life and high thought, it is probable that in his case these spiritual forces will be of abnormal strength, and therefore if he, to use the technical expression, "takes his Devachan," it is likely to be an extremely long one; but if instead of taking it he chooses the Path of Renunciation (thus even at his low level and in his humble way beginning to follow in the footsteps of the Great Master of Renunciation, GAUTAMA BUDDHA Himself), he is able to expend that reserve of force in quite another direction—to use it for the benefit of mankind, and so, infinitesimal though his offering may be, to take his tiny part in the great work of the Nirmanakayas. By taking this course he no doubt sacrifices centuries of intense bliss, but on the other hand he gains the enormous advantage of being able to continue his life of work and progress without a break. When a pupil who has decided to do this dies, he simply steps out of his body, as he has often done before, and waits upon the astral plane until a suitable reincarnation can be arranged for him by his Master. This being a marked departure from the usual course of procedure, the permission of a very high authority has to be obtained before the attempt can be made; yet, even when this is granted, so strong is the force of natural law, that it is said the pupil must be careful to confine himself strictly to the Kamaloka while the matter is being arranged, lest if he once, even for a moment, touched the devachanic plane, he might be swept as by an irresistible current into the line of normal evolution again. In some cases, though these are rare, he is enabled to avoid the trouble of a new birth by being placed directly in an adult body whose previous tenant has no further use for it, but naturally it is not often that a suitable body is available. Far more frequently he has to wait on the astral plane, as mentioned before, until the opportunity of a fitting birth presents itself. In the meantime, however, he is losing no time, for he is just as fully himself as ever he was, and is able to go on with the work given him by his Master even more quickly and efficiently than when in the physical body, since he is no longer hampered by the possibility of fatigue. His consciousness is of course quite complete, and he roams at will through all the divisions of the Kamaloka with equal facility. The chela awaiting reincarnation is by no means one of the common objects of the astral plane, but still he may be met with occasionally, and therefore he forms one of our classes. No doubt as the evolution of humanity proceeds, and an ever-increasing proportion enter upon the Path of Holiness, this class will become more numerous.
3. The Ordinary Person after death.
Needless to say, this class is millions of times larger than those of which we have spoken, and the character and condition of its members vary within extremely wide limits. Within similarly wide limits may vary also the length of their lives upon the astral plane, for while there are those who pass only a few days or hours there, others remain upon this level for many years and even centuries. A man who has led a good and pure life, whose strongest feelings and aspirations have been unselfish and spiritual, will have no attraction to this plane, and will, if entirely left alone, find little to keep him upon it, or to awaken him into activity even during the comparatively short period of his stay. For it must be understood that after death the true man is withdrawing into himself, and just as at the first step of that process he casts off the physical body, and almost directly afterwards the etheric double and the Prana, so it is intended that he should as soon as possible cast off also the astral or kamic body, and pass into the devachanic condition, where alone his spiritual aspirations can find their full fruition. The noble and pure-minded man will be able to do this, for he has subdued all earthly passions during life; the force of his will has been directed into higher channels, and there is therefore but little energy of lower desire to be worked out in Kamaloka. His stay there will consequently be very short, and most probably he will have little more than a dreamy half-consciousness of existence until he sinks into the sleep during which his higher principles finally free themselves from the kamic envelope and enter upon the blissful rest of Devachan.
For the person who has not as yet entered upon the path of occult development, what has been described is the ideal state of affairs, but naturally it is not attained by all, or even by the majority. The average man has by no means freed himself from the lower desires before death, and it takes a long period of more or less fully conscious life on the astral plane to allow the forces he has generated to work themselves out, and thus release the higher Ego. The body which he occupies during this period is the Kamarupa which may be described as a rearrangement of the matter of his astral body; but it is much more defined in outline, and there is also this important difference between the two that while the astral body, if sufficiently awakened during life to function at all freely, would probably be able to visit all, or at any rate most, of the subdivisions of its plane, the Kamarupa has not that liberty, but is strictly confined to that level to which its affinities have drawn it. It has, however, a certain kind of progress connected with it, for it generally happens that the forces a man has set in motion during earth-life need for their appropriate working out a sojourn on more divisions than one of the Kamaloka, and when this is the case a regular sequence is observed, commencing with the lowest; so that when the Kamarupa has exhausted its attractions to one level, the greater part of its grosser particles fall away, and it finds itself in affinity with a somewhat higher state of existence. Its specific gravity, as it were, is constantly decreasing, and so it steadily rises from the denser to the lighter strata, pausing only when it is exactly balanced for a time. This is evidently the explanation of a remark frequently made by the entities which appear at seances to the effect that they are about to rise to a higher sphere, from which it will be impossible, or not so easy, to "communicate" through a medium; and it is as a matter of fact true that a person upon the highest subdivision of this plane would find it almost impossible to deal with any ordinary medium.
It ought perhaps to be explained here that the definiteness of outline which distinguishes the Kamarupa from the astral body is of an entirely different character from that definiteness which was described as a sign of progress in the astral of the man before death. There can never be any possibility of confusion between the two entities, for while in the case of the man attached to a physical body the different orders of astral particles are all inextricably mingled and ceaselessly changing their position, after death their activity is much more circumscribed, since they then sort themselves according to their degree of materiality, and become, as it were, a series of sheaths or shells surrounding him, the grossest being always outside and so dissipating before the others. This dissipation is not necessarily complete, the extent to which it is carried being governed by the power of Manas to free itself from its connection with any given level; and on this also, as will be seen later, the nature of the "shade" depends.
The poetic idea of death as a universal leveller is a mere absurdity born of ignorance, for, as a matter of fact, in the vast majority of cases the loss of the physical body makes no difference whatever in the character or intellect of the person, and there are therefore as many different varieties of intelligence among those whom we usually call the dead as among the living. The popular religious teaching of the West as to man's post-mortem adventures has long been so wildly inaccurate that even intelligent people are often terribly puzzled when they recover consciousness in Kamaloka after death. The condition in which the new arrival finds himself differs so radically from what he has been led to expect that it is no uncommon case for him to refuse at first to believe that he has passed through the portals of death at all; indeed, of so little practical value is our much-vaunted belief in the immortality of the soul that most people consider the very fact that they are still conscious an absolute proof that they have not died. The horrible doctrine of eternal punishment, too, is responsible for a vast amount of most pitiable and entirely groundless terror among those newly arrived in Kamaloka who in many cases spend long periods of acute mental suffering before they can free themselves from the fatal influence of that hideous blasphemy, and realize that the world is governed not according to the caprice of some demon who gloats over human anguish, but according to a benevolent and wonderfully patient law of evolution. Many members of the class we are considering do not really attain an intelligent appreciation of this fact at all, but drift through their astral interlude in the same aimless manner in which they have spent the physical portion of their lives. Thus in Kamaloka, exactly as on earth, there are the few who comprehend something of their position and know how to make the best of it, and the many who have not yet acquired that knowledge; and there, just as here, the ignorant are rarely ready to profit by the advice or example of the wise.
But of whatever grade the entity's intellect may be, it is always a fluctuating and on the whole a gradually diminishing quantity, for the lower Manas is being drawn in opposite directions by the higher Triad which acts on it from above its level and the Kama which operates from below; and therefore it oscillates between the two attractions, with an ever-increasing tendency towards the former as the kamic forces wear themselves out. And here comes in the evil of what is called at seances the "development" of a spirit through a medium—a process the object of which is to intensify the downward pull of the Kama, to awaken the lower portion of the entity (that being all that can be reached) from the natural and desirable unconsciousness into which it is passing, and thus to prolong unnaturally its existence in the Kamaloka. The peculiar danger of this will be seen when it is recollected that the real man is all the while steadily withdrawing into himself, and is therefore as time goes on less and less able to influence or guide this lower portion, which nevertheless, until the separation is complete, has the power to generate Karma, and under the circumstances is obviously far more likely to add evil than good to its record. Thus the harm done is threefold: first, the retardation of the separation between Manas and Kama, and the consequent waste of time and prolongation of the interval between two incarnations; secondly, the extreme probability (almost amounting to certainty) that a large addition will be made to the individual's evil Karma, which will have to be worked out in future births; thirdly, the terrible danger that this abnormal intensification of the force of Kama may eventually enable the latter to entangle the whole of the lower Manas inextricably, and so cause the entire loss of an incarnation. Though such a result as this last-mentioned is happily uncommon, it is a thing that has happened more than once; and in very many cases where the evil has fallen short of this ultimate possibility, the individual has nevertheless lost much more of his lower Manas by this additional entanglement with Kama than he would have done if left to withdraw into himself quietly as nature intended. It is not denied that a certain amount of good may occasionally be done to very degraded entities at spiritualistic circles; but the intention of nature obviously is that such assistance should be given, as it frequently is, by occult students who are able to visit the astral plane during earth-life, and have been trained by competent teachers to deal by whatever methods may be most helpful with the various cases which they encounter. It will be readily seen that such a scheme of help, carrying with it as it does the possibility of instant reference to higher authorities in any doubtful case, is infinitely safer than any casual assistance obtained through a medium who may be (and indeed generally is) entirely ignorant of the laws governing spiritual evolution, and who is as liable to the domination of evil or mischievous influences as of good ones.
Apart altogether from any question of development through a medium, there is another and much more frequently exercised influence which may seriously retard a disembodied entity on his way to Devachan, and that is the intense and uncontrolled grief of his surviving friends or relatives. It is one among many melancholy results of the terribly inaccurate and even irreligious view that we in the West have for centuries been taking of death, that we not only cause ourselves an immense amount of wholly unnecessary pain over this temporary parting from our loved ones, but we often also do serious injury to those for whom we bear so deep an affection by means of this very regret which we feel so acutely. As one of our ablest writers has recently told us, when our departed brother is sinking peacefully and naturally into pre-devachanic unconsciousness "an awakening may be caused by the passionate sorrow and desires of friends left on earth, and these, violently vibrating the kamic elements in the embodied persons, may set up vibrations in the Kamarupa of the disembodied, and so reach and rouse the lower Manas not yet withdrawn to and reunited with its parent, the spiritual intelligence. Thus it may be roused from its dreamy state to vivid remembrance of the earth-life so lately left. This awakening is often accompanied by acute suffering, and even if this be avoided the natural process of the Triad freeing itself is rudely disturbed, and the completion of its freedom is delayed." (Death and After, p. 32.) It would be well if those whose loved ones have passed on before them would learn from these undoubted facts the duty of restraining for the sake of those dear ones a grief which, however natural it may be, is yet in its essence selfish. Not that occult teaching counsels forgetfulness of the dead—far from it; but it does suggest that a man's affectionate remembrance of his departed friend is a force which, if properly directed into the channel of earnest good wishes for his progress towards Devachan and his quiet passage through Kamaloka might be of real value to him, whereas when wasted in mourning for him and longing to have him back again it is not only useless but harmful. It is with a true instinct that the Hindu religion prescribes its Shraddha ceremonies and the Catholic Church its prayers for the dead.
It sometimes happens, however, that the desire for communication is from the other side, and that an entity of the class we are considering has something which it specially desires to say to those whom it has left behind. Occasionally this message is an important one, such as, for example, an indication of the place where a missing will is concealed; but more often it seems to us quite trivial. Still, whatever it may be, if it is firmly impressed upon the mind of the dead person, it is undoubtedly desirable that he should be enabled to deliver it, as otherwise the anxiety to do so would perpetually draw his consciousness back into the earth-life, and prevent him from passing to higher spheres. In such a case a psychic who can understand him, or a medium through whom he can write or speak, is of real service to him. It should be observed that the reason why he cannot usually write or speak without a medium is that one state of matter can ordinarily act only upon the state next below it, and, as he has now no denser matter in his organism than that of which the Kamarupa is composed, he finds it impossible to set up vibrations in the physical substance of the air or to move the physical pencil without borrowing living matter of the intermediate order contained in the etheric double, by means of which an impulse can readily be transferred from the one plane to the other. Now he would be unable to borrow this material from an ordinary person, because such a man's principles would be too closely linked together to be separated by any means likely to be at his command, but the very essence of mediumship is the ready separability of the principles, so from a medium he can draw without difficulty the matter he needs for his manifestation, whatever it may be. When he cannot find a medium or does not understand how to use one he sometimes makes clumsy and blundering endeavours to communicate on his own account, and by the strength of his will he sets elemental forces blindly working, perhaps producing such apparently aimless manifestations as stone-throwing, bell-ringing, etc. It consequently frequently happens that a psychic or medium going to a house where such manifestations are taking place may be able to discover what the entity who produces them is attempting to say or do, and may thus put an end to the disturbance. This would not, however, invariably be the case, as these elemental forces are occasionally set in motion by entirely different causes.
But for one entity who is earth-bound by the desire to communicate with his surviving friends, there are thousands who, if left alone, would never think of doing so, although when the idea is suggested to them through a medium they will respond to it readily enough, for since during earth-life their interests were probably centred less in spiritual than in worldly affairs, it is not difficult to re-awaken in them vibrations sympathetic to matters connected with the existence they have so lately left; and this undesirable intensification of earthly thoughts is frequently brought about by the interference of well-meaning but ignorant friends, who endeavour to get communications from the departed through a medium, with the result that just in proportion to their success he is subjected to the various dangers mentioned above. It should also be remembered that the possible injury to the entity itself is by no means all the harm that may accrue from such a practice, for those who habitually attend seances during life are almost certain to develop a tendency to haunt them after death, and so themselves in turn run the risks into which they have so often brought their predecessors. Besides, it is well known that the vital energy necessary to produce physical manifestations is frequently drawn from the sitters as well as from the medium, and the eventual effect on the latter is invariably evil, as is evinced by the large number of such sensitives who have gone either morally or psychically to the bad—some becoming epileptic, some taking to drink, others falling under influences which induced them to stoop to fraud and trickery of all kinds.
4. The Shade.
When the separation of the principles is complete, the Kamaloka life of the person is over, and, as before stated, he passes into the devachanic condition. But just as when he dies to this plane he leaves his physical body behind him, so when he dies to the astral plane he leaves his Kamarupa behind him. If he has purged himself from all earthly desires during life, and directed all his energies into the channels of unselfish spiritual aspiration, his higher Ego will be able to draw back into itself the whole of the lower Manas which it put forth into incarnation; in that case the Kamarupa left behind on the astral plane will be a mere corpse like the abandoned physical body, and it will then come not into this class but into the next. Even in the case of a man of somewhat less perfect life almost the same result may be attained if the forces of lower desire are allowed to work themselves out undisturbed in Kamaloka but the majority of mankind make but very trifling and perfunctory efforts while on earth to rid themselves of the less elevated impulses of their nature, and consequently doom themselves not only to a greatly prolonged sojourn on the astral plane, but also to what cannot be described otherwise than as a loss of a portion of the lower Manas. This is, no doubt, a very material method of expressing the great mystery of the reflection of the higher Manas in the lower, but since only those who have passed the portals of initiation can fully comprehend this, we must content ourselves with the nearest approximation to exactitude which is possible to us; and as a matter of fact, a very fairly accurate idea of what actually takes place will be obtained by adopting the hypothesis that the manasic principle sends down a portion of itself into the lower world of physical life at each incarnation, and expects to be able to withdraw it again at the end of the life, enriched by all its varied experiences. The ordinary man, however, usually allows himself to be so pitiably enslaved by all sorts of base desires that a certain portion of this lower Manas becomes very closely interwoven with Kama, and when the separation takes place, his life in Kamaloka being over, the manasic principle has, as it were, to be torn apart, the degraded portion remaining within the Kamarupa.
This Kamarupa then consists of the particles of astral matter from which the lower Manas has not been able to disengage itself, and which therefore retain it captive; for when Manas passes into Devachan these clinging fragments adhere to a portion of it and as it were wrench it away. The proportion of the matter of each level present in the Kamarupa will therefore depend on the extent to which Manas has become inextricably entangled with the lower passions. It will be obvious that as Manas in passing from level to level is unable to free itself completely from the matter of each, the Kamarupa will show the presence of each grosser kind which has succeeded in retaining its connection with it.
Thus comes into existence the class of entity which has been called "The Shade"—an entity, be it observed, which is not in any sense the real individual at all (for he has passed away into Devachan), but nevertheless, not only bears his exact personal appearance, but possesses his memory and all his little idiosyncrasies, and may, therefore, very readily personate him, as indeed it frequently does at seances. It is not, of course, conscious of any act of impersonation, for as far as its intellect goes it must necessarily suppose itself to be the individual, but one can imagine the horror and disgust of the friends of the departed, if they could only realize that they had been deceived into accepting as their loved one a mere soulless bundle of all his worst qualities. Its length of life varies according to the amount of the lower Manas which animates it, but as this is all the while in process of fading out, its intellect is a steadily diminishing quantity, though it may possess a great deal of a certain sort of animal cunning; and even quite towards the end of its career it is still able to communicate by borrowing temporary intelligence from the medium. From its very nature it is exceedingly liable to be swayed by all kinds of evil influences, and, having separated from its higher Ego, it has nothing in its constitution capable of responding to good ones. It therefore lends itself readily to various minor purposes of some of the baser sort of black magicians. So much of the matter of the manasic nature as it possesses gradually disintegrates and returns to its own plane, though not to any individual mind, and thus the shade fades by almost imperceptible gradations into a member of our next class.
5. The Shell.
This is absolutely the mere astral corpse in process of disintegration, every particle of the lower Manas having left it. It is entirely without any kind of consciousness or intelligence, and is drifted passively about upon the astral currents just as a cloud might be swept in any direction by a passing breeze; but even yet it may be galvanized for a few moments into a ghastly burlesque of life if it happens to come within reach of a medium's aura. Under such circumstances it will still exactly resemble its departed personality in appearance, and may even reproduce to some extent his familiar expressions or handwriting, but it does so merely by the automatic action of the cells of which it is composed, which tend under stimulation to repeat the form of action to which they are most accustomed, and whatever amount of intelligence may lie behind any such manifestation has most assuredly no connection with the original entity, but is lent by the medium or his "guides" for the occasion. It is, however, more frequently temporarily vitalized in quite another manner, which will be described under the next head. It has also the quality of being still blindly responsive to such vibrations—usually of the lowest order—as were frequently set up in it during its last stage of existence as a shade, and consequently persons in whom evil desires or passions are predominant will be very likely, when they attend physical seances, to find these intensified and as it were thrown back upon them by the unconscious shells.
There is also another variety of corpse which it is necessary to mention under this head, though it belongs to a much earlier stage of man's post-mortem history. It has been stated above that after the death of the physical body the Kamarupa is comparatively quickly formed, and the etheric double cast off—this latter body being destined to slow disintegration, precisely as is the kamarupic shell at a later stage of the proceedings. This etheric shell, however, is not to be met with drifting aimlessly about, as is the variety with which we have hitherto been dealing; on the contrary, it remains within a few yards of the decaying physical body, and since it is readily visible to any one even slightly sensitive, it is accountable for many of the commonly current stories of churchyard ghosts. A psychically developed person passing one of our great cemeteries will see hundreds of these bluish-white, misty forms hovering over the graves where are laid the physical vestures which they have recently left; and as they, like their lower counterparts, are in various stages of disintegration, the sight is by no means a pleasant one. This also, like the other kind of shell, is entirely devoid of consciousness and intelligence; and though it may under certain circumstances be galvanized into a very horrible form of temporary life, this is possible only by means of some of the most loathsome rites of one of the worst forms of black magic, about which the less said the better. It will thus be seen that in the successive stages of his progress from earth-life to Devachan, man casts off and leaves to slow disintegration no less than three corpses—the physical body, the etheric double and the Kamarupa—all of which are by degrees resolved into their constituent elements and utilized anew on their respective planes by the wonderful chemistry of nature.
6. The Vitalized Shell.
This entity ought not, strictly speaking, to be classified under the head "human" at all, since it is only its outer vesture, the passive, senseless shell, that was once an appanage of humanity; such life, intelligence, desire and will as it may possess are those of the artificial elemental animating it, and that, though in terrible truth a creation of man's evil thought, is not itself human. It will therefore perhaps be better to deal with it more fully under its appropriate class among the artificial entities, as its nature and genesis will be more readily comprehensible by the time that part of our subject is reached. Let it suffice here to mention that it is always a malevolent being—a true tempting demon, whose evil influence is limited only by the extent of its power. Like the shade, it is frequently used to further the horrible purposes of the Voodoo and Obeah forms of magic. Some writers have spoken of it under the name "elementary," but as that title has at one time or other been used for almost every variety of post-mortem entity, it has become so vague and meaningless that it is perhaps better to avoid it.
7. The Suicide, or victim of sudden death.
It will be readily understood that a man who is torn from physical life hurriedly while in full health and strength, whether by accident or suicide, finds himself upon the astral plane under conditions differing considerably from those which surround one who dies either from old age or from disease. In the latter case the hold of earthly desires upon the entity is more or less weakened, and probably the very grossest particles are already got rid of, so that the Kamarupa will most likely form itself on the sixth or fifth subdivision of the Kamaloka, or perhaps even higher; the principles have been gradually prepared for separation, and the shock is therefore not so great. In the case of the accidental death or suicide none of these preparations have taken place, and the withdrawal of the principles from their physical encasement has been very aptly compared to the tearing of the stone out of an unripe fruit; a great deal of the grossest kind of astral matter still clings around the personality, which is consequently held in the seventh or lowest subdivision of the Kamaloka. This has already been described as anything but a pleasant abiding-place, yet it is by no means the same for all those who are compelled for a time to inhabit it. Those victims of sudden death whose earth-lives have been pure and noble have no affinity for this plane, and the time of their sojourn upon it is passed, to quote from an early Letter on this subject, either "in happy ignorance and full oblivion, or in a state of quiet slumber, a sleep full of rosy dreams ". But on the other hand, if their earth-lives have been low and brutal, selfish and sensual, they will, like the suicides, be conscious to the fullest extent in this undesirable region; and they are liable to develop into terribly evil entities. Inflamed with all kinds of horrible appetites which they can no longer satisfy directly now they are without a physical body, they gratify their loathsome passions vicariously through a medium or any sensitive person whom they can obsess; and they take a devilish delight in using all the arts of delusion which the astral plane puts in their power in order to lead others into the same excesses which have proved so fatal to themselves. Quoting again from the same letter:—"These are the Pisachas the incubi and succubae of mediaeval writers—demons of thirst and gluttony, of lust and avarice, of intensified craft, wickedness and cruelty, provoking their victims to horrible crimes, and revelling in their commission". From this class and the last are drawn the tempters—the devils of ecclesiastical literature; but their power fails utterly before purity of mind and purpose; they can do nothing with a man unless he has first encouraged in himself the vices into which they seek to draw him.
One whose psychic sight has been opened will often see crowds of these unfortunate creatures hanging round butchers' shops, public-houses, or other even more disreputable places—wherever the gross influences in which they delight are to be found, and where they encounter men and women still in the flesh who are like-minded with themselves. For such an entity as one of these to meet with a medium with whom he is in affinity is indeed a terrible misfortune; not only does it enable him to prolong enormously his dreadful life in Kamaloka but it renews for perhaps an indefinite period his power to generate evil Karma, and so prepare for himself a future incarnation of the most degraded character, besides running the risk of losing a large portion or even the whole of the lower Manas. On this lowest level of the astral plane he must stay at least as long as his earthly life would have lasted if it had not been prematurely cut short; and if he is fortunate enough not to meet with a sensitive through whom his passions can be vicariously gratified, the unfulfilled desires will gradually burn themselves out, and the suffering caused in the process will probably go far towards working off the evil Karma of the past life.
The position of the suicide is further complicated by the fact that his rash act has enormously diminished the power of the higher Ego to withdraw its lower portion into itself, and therefore has exposed him to manifold and great additional dangers: but it must be remembered that the guilt of suicide differs considerably according to its circumstances, from the morally blameless act of Seneca or Socrates through all degrees down to the heinous crime of the wretch who takes his own life in order to escape from the entanglements into which his villainy has brought him, and of course the position after death varies accordingly.
It should be noted that this class, as well as the shades and the vitalized shells, are all what may be called minor vampires; that is to say, whenever they have the opportunity they prolong their existence by draining away the vitality from human beings whom they find themselves able to influence. This is why both medium and sitters are often so weak and exhausted after a physical seance. A student of occultism is taught how to guard himself from their attempts, but without that knowledge it is difficult for one who puts himself in their way to avoid being more or less laid under contribution by them.
8. The Vampire and Werewolf.
There remain two even more awful but happily very rare possibilities to be mentioned before this part of our subject is completed, and though they differ very widely in many ways we may yet perhaps group them together, since they have in common the qualities of unearthly horror and of extreme rarity—the latter arising from the fact that they are really relics of earlier races. We of the fifth root race ought to have evolved beyond the possibility of meeting such a ghastly fate as is indicated by either of the two headings of this sub-section, and we have so nearly done it that these creatures are commonly regarded as mere mediaeval fables; yet there are examples to be found occasionally even now, though chiefly in countries where there is a considerable strain of fourth-race blood, such as Russia or Hungary. The popular legends about them are probably often considerably exaggerated, but there is nevertheless a terribly serious sub-stratum of truth beneath the eerie stories which pass from mouth to mouth among the peasantry of Central Europe. The general characteristics of such tales are too well known to need more than a passing reference; a fairly typical specimen of the vampire story, though it does not profess to be more than the merest fiction, is Sheridan le Fanu's Carmilla, while a very remarkable account of an unusual form of this creature is to be found in Isis Unveiled, vol. i., p. 454. All readers of Theosophical literature are familiar with the idea that it is possible for a man to live a life so absolutely degraded and selfish, so utterly wicked and brutal, that the whole of his lower Manas may become entirely immeshed in Kama, and finally separated from its spiritual source in the higher Ego. Some students even seem to think that such an occurrence is quite a common one, and that we may meet scores of such "soulless men," as they have been called, in the street every day of our lives, but this, happily, is untrue. To attain the appalling preeminence in evil which thus involves the entire loss of a personality and the weakening of the developing individuality behind, a man must stifle every gleam of unselfishness or spirituality, and must have absolutely no redeeming point whatever; and when we remember how often, even in the worst of villains, there is to be found something not wholly bad, we shall realize that the abandoned personalities must always be a very small minority. Still, comparatively few though they be, they do exist, and it is from their ranks that the still rarer vampire is drawn. The lost entity would very soon after death find himself unable to stay in Kamaloka, and would be irresistibly drawn in full consciousness into "his own place," the mysterious eighth sphere, there slowly to disintegrate after experiences best left undescribed. If, however, he perishes by suicide or sudden death, he may under certain circumstances, especially if he knows something of black magic, hold himself back from that awful fate by a death in life scarcely less awful—the ghastly existence of the vampire. Since the eighth sphere cannot claim him until after the death of the body, he preserves it in a kind of cataleptic trance by the horrible expedient of the transfusion into it of blood drawn from other human beings by his semi-materialized Kamarupa, and thus postpones his final destiny by the commission of wholesale murder. As popular "superstition" again quite rightly supposes, the easiest and most effectual remedy in such a case is to exhume and burn the body, thus depriving the creature of his point d'appui. When the grave is opened the body usually appears quite fresh and healthy, and the coffin is not infrequently filled with blood. Of course in countries where cremation is the custom vampirism of this sort is impossible.
The Werewolf, though equally horrible, is the product of a somewhat different Karma, and indeed ought perhaps to have found a place under the first instead of the second division of the human inhabitants of Kamaloka, since it is always during a man's lifetime that he first manifests under this form. It invariably implies some knowledge of magical arts—sufficient at any rate to be able to project the astral body. When a perfectly cruel and brutal man does this, there are certain circumstances under which the body may be seized upon by other astral entities and materialized, not into the human form, but into that of some wild animal—usually the wolf; and in that condition it will range the surrounding country killing other animals, and even human beings, thus satisfying not only its own craving for blood, but that of the fiends who drive it on. In this case, as so often with the ordinary astral body, any wound inflicted upon the animal materialization will be reproduced upon the human physical body by the extraordinary phenomenon of repercussion; though after the death of that physical body the Kamarupa, which will probably continue to appear in the same form, will be less vulnerable. It will then, however, he also less dangerous, as unless it can find a suitable medium it will be unable to materialize fully.