The Shell is the desire body, emptied of the Triad and the Ray, which have now passed onwards; it is the third of the transitory garments of Soul, cast aside and left in Kamaloka to disintegrate.
When the past earth-life has been noble, or even when it has been of average purity and utility, this Shell retains but little vitality after the passing onwards of the Triad, and rapidly dissolves. Its molecules, however, retain, during this process of disintegration, the impressions made upon them during the earthlife, the tendency to vibrate in response to stimuli constantly experienced during that period. Every student of physiology is familiar with what is termed automatic action, with the tendency of cells to repeat vibrations originally set up by purposive action; thus are formed what we term habits, and we unconsciously repeat motions which at first were done with thought. So strong is this automatism of the body, that, as everyone knows by experience, it is difficult to break off the use of a phrase or of a gesture that has become “habitual”. [Page 46]
Now the desire body is during earth-life the recipient of and the respondent to all stimuli from without, and it also continually receives and responds to stimuli from the lower Manas. In it are set up habits, tendencies to repeat automatically familiar vibrations, vibrations of love and desire, vibrations imaging past experiences of all kinds. Just as the hand may repeat a familiar gesture, so may the desire body repeat a familiar feeling or thought. And when the Triad has left it, this automatism remains, and the Shell may thus simulate feelings and thoughts which are empty of all true intelligence and will. Many of the responses to eager enquiries at s?ances come from such Shells, drawn to the neighbourhood of friends and relatives by the magnetic attractions so long familiar and dear, and automatically responding to the waves of emotion and remembrance, to the impulse of which they had so often answered during the lately closed earth-life. Phrases of affection, moral platitudes, memories of past events, will be all the communications such Shells can make, but these may be literally poured out under favourable conditions under the magnetic stimuli freely applied by the embodied friends and relatives.
In cases where the lower Manas during earth-life has been strongly attached to material objects and to [Page 47] intellectual pursuits directed by a self-seeking motive, the desire body nay have acquired a very considerable automatism of an intellectual character, and may give forth responses of considerable intellectual merit. But still the mark of non-originality will be present: the apparent intellectuality will only give out reproductions, and there will be no sign of the new and independent thought which would be the inevitable outcome of a strong intelligence working with originality amid new surroundings. Intellectual sterility brands the great majority of communications from the “spirit world”; reflections of earthly scenes, earthly conditions, earthly arrangements, are plentiful, but we usually seek in vain for strong, new thought, worthy of Intelligences freed from the prison of the flesh. The communications of a loftier kind occasionally granted are, for the most part, from non-human Intelligences, attracted by the pure atmosphere of the medium or sitters.
And there is an ever-present danger in this commerce with the Shells. Just because they are Shells, and nothing more, they answer to the impulses that strike on them from without, and easily become malicious and mischievous, automatically responding to evil vibrations. Thus a medium, or sitters of poor moral character, will impress the Shells that flock around them [Page 48] with impulses of a low order, and any animal desires, petty and foolish thoughts, will set up similar vibrations in the blindly responsive Shells.
Again, the Shell is very easily taken possession of by Elementals, the semi-conscious forces working in the kingdoms of Nature, and may be used by them as a convenient vehicle for many a prank and trick. The etheric double of the medium, and the desire bodies emptied of their immortal Tenants, give the material basis by which Elementals can work many a curious and startling result; and frequenters of séances may be confidently appealed to, and asked whether many of the childish freaks with which they are familiar – pullings of hair, pinchings, slaps, throwing about of objects, piling up of furniture, playing on accordions, etc. – are not more rationally accounted for as the tricky vagaries of subhuman forces, than as the actions of “spirits” who, while in the body, were certainly incapable of such vulgarities.
Let us leave the Shells alone to peacefully dissolve into their elements, and mingle once again in the crucible of Nature. The authors of The Perfect Way put very well the real character of the Shell:
The true “ghost” consists of the exterior and earthly portion of the Soul, that portion which, being weighted with cares, [Page 49] attachments, and memories merely mundane, is detached by the Soul and remains in the astral sphere, an existence more or less definite and personal, and capable of holding, through a sensitive, converse with the living. It is, however, but as a cast-off vestment of the Soul, and is incapable of endurance as ghost. The true Soul and real person, the anima divina, parts at death with all those lower affections which would have retained it near its earthly haunts. [ "The Perfect Way" by Anna Bonus Kingsford and Edward Maitland, pages 73 and 74, Edition of 1887 ]
If we would find our beloved, it is not among the decaying remnants in Kamaloka that we should seek them. “Why seek ye the living among the dead?”
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