The Ancient Wisdom

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The Ancient Wisdom

By A Besant


The word Devachan is the theosophical name for heaven, and, literally translated, means the shining land, or the Land of the Gods. ( Devasthan, the place of the Gods, is the Sanskrit equivalent. It is the Svarga of the Hindus ; the Sukh?vati of the Buddhists ; the Heaven of the Zoroastrians and Christians, and of the less materialised among the Mohammedans). It is a specially guarded part of the mental plane, whence all sorrow and all evil are excluded by the action of the great spiritual Intelligences who superintend human evolution ; and it is inhabited by human beings who have cast off their physical and astral bodies, and who pass into it when their stay in K?maloka is completed.

The devachanic life consists of two stages, of which the first is passed in the four lower subdivisions of the mental plane, in which the Thinker still wears the mental body and is conditioned by it, being employed in assimilating the materials gathered by it during the earth-life from which he has just emerged. The second stage is spent in the “formless world,” the Thinker escaping from the mental body, and living in his own unencumbered (Page 138) life in the full measure of the self-consciousness and knowledge to which he has attained.

The total length of time spent in Devachan depends upon the amount of material for the devachanic life which the soul has brought with it from its life on earth. The harvest of the fruit for consumption and assimilation in Devachan consists of all the pure thoughts and emotions generated during earth-life, all the intellectual and moral efforts and aspirations, all the memories of useful work and plans for human service – everything which is capable of being worked into mental and moral faculty, thus assisting in the evolution of the soul.

Not one is lost, however feeble, however fleeting ; but selfish animal passions cannot enter, there being no material in which they can be expressed. Nor does all the evil in the past life, though it may largely preponderate over the good, prevent the full reaping of whatever scant harvest of good there may have been ; the scantiness of the harvest may render the devachanic life very brief, but the most depraved, if he has had any faint longings after the right, any stirrings of tenderness, must have a period of devachanic life in which the seed of good may put forth its tender shoots, in which the spark of good may be gently fanned into a tiny flame.

In the past, when men lived with their hearts largely fixed on heaven and directed their lives with a view to enjoying its bliss, the period spent in Devachan was very long, lasting sometimes for many thousands of years ; at the present time, men’s minds (Page 139) being so much more centred on earth, and so few of their thoughts comparatively being directed towards the higher life, their devachanic periods are correspondingly shortened.

Similarly, the time spent in the higher and lower regions of the mental plane ( Called technically the Ar?pa and R?pa Devachan – existing on the ar?pa and r?pa levels of the mental plane ) respectively is proportionate to the amount of thought generated severally in the mental and causal bodies ; All the thoughts belonging to the personal self, to the life just closed – with all its ambitions, interests, loves, hopes, and fears – all these have their fruition in the Devachan where forms are found ; while those belonging to the higher mind, to the regions of abstract, impersonal thinking, have to be worked out in the “formless” devachanic region. The majority of people only just enter that lofty region to pass swiftly out again ; some spend there a large portion of their devachanic existence ; a few spend there almost the whole.

Ere entering into any details let us try to grasp some of the leading ideas which govern the devachanic life, for it is so different from physical life that any description of it is apt to mislead by its very strangeness. People realise so little of their mental life, even as led in the body, that when they are presented with a picture of mental life out of the body they lose all sense of reality, and feel as though they had passed into a world of dream.

The first thing to grasp is that mental life is far more intense, vivid, and nearer to reality than (Page 140) the life of the senses. Everything we see and touch and hear and taste and handle down here is two removes farther from the reality than everything we contact in Devachan. We do not even see things as they are, but the things that we see down here have two more veils of illusion enveloping them. Our sense of reality here is an entire delusion ; we know nothing of things, of people, as they are ; all that we know of them are the impressions they make on our senses, and the conclusions, often erroneous, which our reason deduces from the aggregate of these impressions. Get and put side by side the ideas of a man held by his father, his closest friend, the girl who adores him, his rival in business, his deadliest enemy, and a casual acquaintance, and see how incongruous the pictures.

Each can only give the impressions made on his own mind, and how far are they from the reality of what the man is, seen by the eyes that pierces all veils and behold the whole man. We know of each of our friends the impressions they make on us, and these are strictly limited by our capacity to receive ; a child may have as his father a great statesman of lofty purpose and imperial aims, but that guide of nation’s destinies is to him only his merriest play fellow, his most enticing storyteller.

We live in the midst of illusions, but we have the feeling of reality, and this yields us content. In Devachan we shall also be surrounded by illusions – though, as said, two removes nearer to reality – and there also we shall have a similar feeling of reality which will yield us content. (Page 141) 

The illusions of earth, though lessened, are not escaped from in the lower heavens, though contact is more real and more immediate. For it must never be forgotten that these heavens are part of a great evolutionary scheme, and, until man has found the real Self, his own unreality makes him subject to illusions. One thing however, which produces the feeling of reality in earth-life and of unreality when we study Devachan, is that we look at earth-life from within, under the full sway of its illusions, while we contemplate Devachan from outside, free for the time from its veil of Mâyâ.

In Devachan the process is reversed, and its inhabitants feel their own life to be the real one and look on the earth-life as full of the most patent illusions and misconceptions. On the whole, they are nearer to the truth than the physical critics of their heaven-world.

Next, the Thinker – being clad only in the mental body and being in the untrammelled exercise of its powers – manifests the creative nature of these powers in a way and to an extent that down here we can hardly realise. On earth a painter, a sculptor, a musician, dreams, dreams of exquisite beauty, creating their visions by the powers of the mind ; but when they seek to embody them in the coarse materials of earth they fall far short of the mental creation. The marble is too resistant for perfect form, the pigments to muddy for perfect colour.

In heaven, all they think, is at once reproduced in form, for the rare and subtle matter of the heaven-world is (Page 142) mind stuff, the medium in which the mind normally works when free from passion, and it takes shape with every mental impulse. Each man, therefore, in a very real sense, makes his own heaven, and the beauty of his surroundings is definitely increased, according to the wealth and energy of his mind. As the soul develops his powers, his heaven grows more and more subtle and exquisite; all the limitations in heaven are self-created, and heaven expands and deepens with the expansion and deepening of the soul.

While the soul is weak and selfish, narrow and ill-developed, his heaven shares these pettinesses; but it is always the best that is in the soul, however poor that best may be. As the man evolves, his devachanic lives become fuller, richer, more and more real, and advanced souls come into ever closer and closer contact with each other, enjoying wider and deeper intercourse. 

A life on earth, thin, feeble, vapid, and narrow, mentally and morally, produces a comparatively thin, feeble, vapid and narrow life in Devachan, where only the mental and the moral survive. We cannot have more than we are, and our harvest is according to our sowing. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked ; for whatsoever a man soweth, that,”- and neither more nor less, - “shall he also reap.” Our indolence and greediness would fain reap where we have not sown, but in this universe of law, the Good Law, mercifully just, brings to each the exact wages of his work. 

The mental impressions, or mental pictures, we make (Page 143) of our friends will dominate us in Devachan. Round each soul throng those he loved in life, and every image of the loved ones that live in the heart becomes a living companion of the soul in heaven. And they are unchanged. They will be to us there as they were here, and no otherwise. The outer semblance of our friend as it affected our senses, we form out of mind-stuff in Devachan by the creative powers of the mind; what was here a mental picture is there – as in truth it was here, although we knew it not – an objective shape in living mind-stuff, abiding in our own mental atmosphere ; only what is dull and dreamy here is forcibly living and vivid there. 

And with regard to the true communion, that of the soul with soul? That is closer, nearer, dearer than anything we know here, for, as we have seen, there is no barrier on the mental plane between soul and soul; exactly in proportion to the reality of the soul-life in us is the reality of soul-communion there ; the mental image of our friend is our own creation ; his form is as we knew and loved it ; and his soul breathes through that form to ours just to the extent that his soul and ours can throb in sympathetic vibration.

But we can have no touch with those we knew on earth if the ties were only of the physical or astral body, or if they and we were discordant in the inner life ; therefore into our Devachan no enemy can enter, for sympathetic accord of minds and hearts can alone draw men together there. Separateness of heart and mind means separation in the heavenly life, for all that is (Page 144) lower than the heart and mind can find no means of expression there. With those who are far beyond us in evolution we come into contact just as far as we can respond to them ; great ranges of their being will stretch beyond our ken, but all that we can touch is ours. Further, these greater ones can and do aid us in the heavenly life, under conditions we shall study presently, helping us to grow towards them, and thus be able to receive more and more. There is then no separation by space or time, but there is separation by absence of sympathy, by lack of accord between hearts and minds. 

In heaven we are with all whom we love and with all whom we admire, and we commune with them to the limit of our capacity, or, if we are more advanced, of theirs. We meet them in the forms we loved on earth, with perfect memory of our earthly relationships, for heaven is the flowering of all earth’s buds, and the marred and feeble loves of earth expand into beauty and power there. The communion being direct, no misunderstandings of words or thoughts can arise ; each sees the thought his friend creates, or as much of it as he can respond to. 

Devachan, the heaven-world, is a world of bliss, of joy unspeakable. But it is much more than this, much more than a rest for the weary. In Devachan all that was valuable in the mental and moral experiences of the Thinker during the life just ended is worked out, meditated over, and is gradually transmuted into definite mental and moral faculty, (Page 145) into powers which he will take with him to his next rebirth. He does not work into the mental body the actual memory of the past, for the mental body will, in due course, disintegrate ; the memory of the past abides only in the Thinker himself, who has lived through it and who endures. But these facts of past experiences are worked into mental capacity, so that if a man has studied a subject deeply the effects of that study will be the creation of a special faculty to acquire and master that subject when it is first presented to him in another incarnation.

He will be born with a special aptitude for that line of study, and will pick it up with great facility. Everything thought upon earth is thus utilised in Devachan ; every aspiration is worked up into power ; all frustrated efforts become faculties and abilities ; struggles and defeats reappear as materials to be wrought into instruments of victory ; sorrows and errors shine luminous as precious metals to be worked up into wise and well-directed volitions. 

Schemes of beneficence, for which power and skill to accomplish were lacking in the past, are in Devachan worked out in thought, acted out, as it were, stage by stage, and the necessary power and skill are developed as faculties of the mind to be put into use in a future life on earth, when the clever and earnest student shall be reborn as a genius, when the devotee shall be reborn as a saint. Life then, in Devachan, is no mere dream, no lotus-land of purposeless idling ; it is the land in which the mind and heart develop, unhindered by gross matter and by the trivial cares, where weapons are forged for earth’s fierce battlefields, and where the progress (Page 146) of the future is secured.

When the Thinker has consumed in the mental body all the fruits belonging to it of his earthly life, he shakes it off and dwells unencumbered in his own place. All the mental faculties which express themselves on the lower levels are drawn within the causal body – with the germs of the passional life that were drawn into the mental body when it left the astral shell to disintegrate in K?maloka – and these become latent for a time, lying within the causal body, forces which remain concealed for lack of material in which to manifest. (The thoughtful student may here find a fruitful suggestion on the problem of continuing consciousness after the cycle of the universe is trodden. Let him place ?shvara in the place of the Thinker, and let the faculties that are the fruits of a life represent the human lives that are the fruits of a Universe. He may then catch some glimpse of what is necessary for consciousness, during the interval between universes).

The mental body, the last of the temporary vestures of the true man, disintegrates, and its materials return to the general matter of the mental plane, whence they were drawn when the Thinker last descended into incarnation. Thus the causal body alone remains, the receptacle and treasure-house of all that has been assimilated from the life that is over. The Thinker has finished a round of his long pilgrimage and dwells for a while in his own native land. 

His condition as to consciousness depends entirely (Page 147) on the point he has reached in evolution. In his early stages of life he will merely sleep, wrapped in unconsciousness, when he has lost his vehicles on the lower planes. His life will pulse gently within him, assimilating any little results from his closed earth-existence that may be capable of entering into his substance ; but he will have no consciousness of his surroundings. But as he develops, this period of his life becomes more and more important, and occupies a greater proportion of his Devachanic existence.

He becomes self-conscious, and thereby conscious of his surroundings – of the not-self – and his memory spreads before him the panorama of his life, stretching backwards into the ages of the past. He sees the causes that worked out their effects in the last of his life-experiences, and studies the causes he has set going in this latest incarnation. He assimilates and works into the texture of the causal body all that was noblest and loftiest in the closed chapter of his life, and by his inner activity he develops and coordinates the materials in his causal body. He comes into direct contact with great souls, whether in or out of the body at the time, enjoys communion with them, learns from their riper wisdom and longer experience. 

Each succeeding devachanic life is richer and deeper ; with his expanding capacity to receive, knowledge flows into him in fuller tides ; more and more he learns to understand the workings of the law, the conditions of evolutionary progress, and thus returns to earth-life each time with greater knowledge, more effective power, his vision of the goal of life becoming ever clearer and the way to it more plain before his feet. (Page 148)

To every Thinker, however unprogressed, there comes a moment of clear vision when the time arrives for his return to the life of the lower worlds. For a moment he sees his past and the causes working from it into the future, and the general map of his next incarnation is also unrolled before him. Then the clouds of lower matter surge round him and obscure his vision, and the cycle of another incarnation begins with the awakening of the powers of the lower mind, and their drawing round him, by their vibrations, materials from the lower mental plane to form the new mental body for the opening chapter of his lifehistory. This part of our subject, however, belongs in its detail to the chapters on reincarnation. 

We left the soul asleep, (See Chapter III., On Kâmaloka, Page 83) having shaken off the last remains of his astral body, ready to pass out of K?maloka into Devachan, out of purgatory into heaven. The sleeper awakens to a sense of joy unspeakable, of bliss immeasurable, of peace that passeth understanding. Softest melodies are breathing round him, tenderest hues greet his opening eyes, the very air seems music and colour, the whole being is suffused with light and harmony. 

Then through the golden haze dawn sweetly the faces loved on earth, etherialised into the beauty which expresses their noblest, loveliest emotions, unmarred by (Page 149) the troubles and the passions of the lower worlds. Who may tell the bliss of that awakening, the glory of that first dawning of the heavenworld? 

We will now study the conditions in detail of the seven subdivisions of Devachan, remembering that in the four lower we are in the world of form, and a world, moreover, in which every thought presents itself at once as a form. This world of form belongs to the personality, and every soul is therefore surrounded by as much of his past life as has entered into his mind and can be expressed in pure mind-stuff. 

The first, or lowest, region is the heaven of the least progressed souls, whose highest emotion on earth was a narrow, sincere, and sometimes selfish love for family and friends. Or it may be that they felt some loving admiration for some one they met on earth who was purer and better than themselves, or felt some wish to lead a higher life, or some passing aspiration towards mental and moral expansion.

There is not much material here out of which faculty can be moulded, and their life is but very slightly progressive ; their family affections will be nourished and a little widened, and they will be reborn after a while with a somewhat improved emotional nature, with more tendency to recognise and respond to a higher ideal. Meanwhile they are enjoying all the happiness they can receive; their cup is but a small one, but it is filled to the brim with bliss, and they enjoy all that they are able to conceive of heaven. Its purity, its harmony, (Page 150) play on their undeveloped faculties and woo them to awaken into activity, and the inner stirrings begin which must precede any manifested budding.

The next division of devachanic life comprises men and women of every religious faith whose hearts during their earthly lives had turned with loving devotion to God, under any name, under any form. The form may have been narrow, but the heart rose up in aspiration, and here finds the object of its loving worship. The concept of the Divine which was formed by their mind when on earth here meets them in the radiant glory of devachanic matter, fairer, diviner, than their wildest dreams.

The Divine One limits Himself to meet the intellectual limits of His worshipper, and in whatever form the worshipper has loved and worshipped Him, in that form He reveals Himself to his longing eyes, and pours out on him the sweetness of His answering love. The souls are steeped in religious ecstasy, worshipping the One under the forms their piety sought on earth, losing themselves in the raptures of devotion, in communion with the Object they adore. No one finds himself a stranger in the heavenly places, the Divine veiling Himself in the familiar form. Such souls grow in purity and in devotion under the sun of this communion, and return to earth with these qualities much intensified. Nor is all their devachanic life spent in this devotional ecstasy, for they have full opportunities of maturing every other quality they may possess of heart and mind. (Page 151)  

Passing onwards to the third region, we come to those noble and earnest beings who were devoted servants of humanity while on earth, and largely poured out their love to God in the form of works for man. They are reaping the reward of their good deeds by developing larger powers of usefulness and increased wisdom in their direction. Plans of wider beneficence unroll themselves before the mind of the philanthropist, and like an architect, he designs the future edifice which he will build in a coming life on earth ; he matures the schemes which he will then work out into actions, and like a creative God plans his universe of benevolence, which shall be manifested in gross matter when the time is ripe. These souls will appear as the great philanthropists of yet unborn centuries, who will incarnate on earth with innate dower of unselfish love and of power to achieve. 

Most varied in character, perhaps, of all the heavens is the fourth, for here the powers of the most advanced souls find their exercise, so far as they can be expressed in the world of form. Here the kings of art and of literature are found, exercising all their powers of form, of colour, of harmony, and building greater faculties with which to be reborn when they return to earth. Noblest music, ravishing beyond description, peals forth from the mightiest monarchs of harmony that the earth has known, as Beethoven, no longer deaf, pours out his imperial soul in strains of unexampled beauty, making even the heaven world more melodious as (Page 152) he draws down harmonies from higher spheres, and sends them thrilling through the heavenly places. Here also we find the masters of painting and of sculpture, learning new hues of colour, new curves of undreamed beauty.

And here also are others who failed, though greatly aspiring, and who are here transmuting longings into powers, and dreams into faculties, that shall be theirs in another life. Searchers into Nature are here, and they are learning her hidden secrets ; before their eyes are unrolling systems of worlds with all their hidden mechanism, woven series of workings of unimaginable delicacy and complexity ; they shall return to earth as great “discoverers,” with unerring intuitions of the mysterious ways of Nature.

In this heaven also are found students of the deeper knowledge, the eager, reverent pupils who sought the Teachers of the race, who longed to find a Teacher, and patiently worked at all that had been given out by some one of the great spiritual Masters who have taught humanity. Here their longings find their fruition, and Those they sought, apparently in vain, are now their instructors ; the eager souls drink in the heavenly wisdom, and swift their growth and progress as they sit at their Master’s feet. As teachers and as light-bringers shall they be born again on earth, born with the birthmark of the teacher’s high office upon them.

Many a student on earth, all unknowing of these subtler workings, is preparing himself a place in this fourth heaven, as he bends with a real devotion (Page 153) over the pages of some teacher of genius, over the teachings of some advanced soul. He is forming a link between himself and the teacher he loves and reverences, and in the heaven-world that soul-tie will assert itself, and draw together into communion the souls it links. As the sun pours down its rays into many rooms, and each room has all it can contain of the solar beams, so in the heaven-world do these great souls shine into hundreds of mental images of themselves created by their pupils, fill them with life, with their own essence, so that each student has his master to teach him and yet shuts out none other from his aid.

Thus, for periods long in proportion to the materials gathered for consumption upon earth, dwell men in these heaven-worlds of form, where all good that the last personal life had garnered finds its full fruition, its full working out into minutest detail. Then as we have seen, when everything is exhausted, when the last drop has been drained from the cup of joy, the last crumb eaten of the heavenly feast, all that has been worked up into faculty, that is of permanent value, is drawn within the causal body, and the Thinker shakes off him and the then disintegrating body through which he has found expression on the lower levels of the devachanic world. Rid of this mental body, he is in his own world, to work up whatever of his harvest can find material suitable for it in that high realm.

A vast number of souls touch the lowest level of the formless world as it were but for a moment, (Page 154) taking brief refuge there, since all lower vehicles have fallen away. But so embryonic are they that they have as yet no active powers that there can function independently, and they become unconscious as the mental body slips away into disintegration. Then, for a moment, they are aroused to consciousness, and a flash of memory illumines their past and they see its pregnant causes ; and a flash of foreknowledge illumines their future, and they see such effects as will work out in the coming life. This is all that very many are as yet able to experience of the formless world. For, here again, as ever, the harvest is according to the sowing, and how should they who have sowed nothing for that lofty region expect to reap any harvest therein?

But many souls have during their earth-life, by deep thinking and noble living, sown much seed, the harvest of which belongs to this fifth devachanic region, the lowest of the three heavens of the formless world. Great is now their reward for having so risen above the bondage of the flesh and of passion, and they begin to experience the real life of man, the lofty existence of the soul itself, unfettered by vestures belonging to the lower worlds. They learn truths by direct vision, and see the fundamental causes of which all concrete objects are the results; they study the underlying unities, whose presence is marked in the lower worlds by the variety of irrelevant details.

Thus they gain a deep knowledge of law, and learn to recognise its changeless workings below results apparently the most incongruous, (Page 155) thus building into the body that endures firm unshakable convictions, that will reveal themselves in earth-life as deep intuitive certainties of the soul, above and beyond all reasoning. Here also the man studies his own past, and carefully disentangles the causes he has set going ; he marks their interaction, the resultants accruing from them, and sees something of their working out in the lives yet in the future.

In the sixth heaven are more advanced souls, who during earth-life had felt but little attraction for its passing shows, and who had devoted all their energies to the higher intellectual and moral life. For them there is no veil upon the past, their memory is perfect and unbroken, and they plan the infusion into their next life of energies that will neutralise many of the forces that are working for hindrance, and strengthen many of those that are working for good.

This clear memory enables them to form definite and strong determinations as to actions which are to be done and actions which are to be avoided, and these volitions they will be able to impress on their lower vehicles in their next birth, making certain classes of evils impossible, contrary to what is felt to be the deepest nature, and certain kinds of good inevitable, the irresistible demands of a voice that will not be denied.

These souls are born into the world with high and noble qualities which render a base life impossible, and stamp the babe from its cradle as one of the pioneers of humanity. The man who has attained to this sixth (Page 156) heaven sees unrolled before him the vast treasures of the Divine Mind in creative activity and can study the archetypes of all forms that are being gradually evolved in the lower worlds. There he may bathe himself in the fathomless ocean of the Divine Wisdom, and unravel the problems connected with the working out of those archetypes, the partial good that seems as evil to the limited vision of men encased in flesh. In this wider outlook, phenomena assume their due relative proportions, and he sees the justification of the divine ways, no longer to him “past finding out” so far as they are concerned with the evolution of the lower worlds.

The questions over which on earth he pondered, and whose answers ever eluded his eager intellect, are here solved by an insight that pierces through phenomenal veils and sees the connecting links which make the chain complete. Here also the soul is in the immediate presence of, and in full communion with, the greater souls that have evolved in our humanity, and, escaped from the bonds which make “the past” of earth, he enjoys “the ever-present” of an endless and unbroken life. 

Those we speak of here as “the mighty dead” are there the glorious living, and the soul enjoys the high rapture of their presence, and grows more like them as their strong harmony attunes his vibrant nature to their key.

Yet higher, lovelier, gleams the seventh heaven, where Masters and Initiates have their intellectual home. No soul can dwell there ere yet is has passed while on earth through the narrow gateway of Initiation, (Page 157) the strait gate that “leadeth unto life” unending. ( See Chapter XI, on “Man’s Ascent.” The Initiate has stepped out of the ordinary line of evolution, and is treading a shorter and steeper road to human perfection).

That world is the source of the strongest intellectual and moral impulses that flow down to earth ; thence are poured forth the invigorating streams of the loftiest energy. The intellectual life of the world has there its root; thence genius receives its purest inspirations. To the souls that dwell there it matters little whether, at the time, they be or be not connected with the lower vehicles ; they ever enjoy their lofty selfconsciousness and their communion with those around them ; whether, when “embodied” they suffuse their lower vehicles with as much of this consciousness as they can contain is a matter for their own choice – they can give or withhold as they will.

And more and more their volitions are guided by the will of the Great Ones, whose will is one with the will of the LOGOS, the will which seeks ever the good of the worlds. For here are being eliminated the last vestiges of separateness – ( Ahamk?ra, the “ I “ making principle, necessary in order that self consciousness may be evolved, but transcended when its work is over) – in all who have not yet reached final emancipation – all, that is, who are not yet Masters – and, as these perish, the will becomes more and more harmonised with the will that guides the worlds.

Such is an outline of the “seven heavens” into one or other of which men pass in due time after the (Page 158) “change that men call death.” For death is only a change that gives the soul a partial liberation, releasing him from the heaviest of his chains. It is but a birth into a wider life, a return after a brief exile on earth to the soul’s true home, a passing from a prison into the freedom of the upper air. Death is the greatest of earth’s illusions ; there is no death, but only changes in life’s conditions. Life is continuous, unbroken, unbreakable ; “unborn, eternal, constant,” it perishes not with the perishing of the bodies that clothe it. We might as well think that the sky is falling when a pot is broken, as imagine that the soul perishes when the body falls to pieces. ( A simile used in the Bhagavad Pur?na). 

The physical, astral and mental planes are “the three worlds” though which lies the pilgrimage of the soul, again and again repeated. In these three worlds revolves the wheel of human life, and souls are bound to that wheel throughout their evolution, and are carried by it to each of these worlds in turn. We are now in a position to trace a complete life-period of the soul, the aggregate of these periods making up its life, and we can also distinguish clearly the difference between personality and individuality.

A soul when its stay in the formless world of Devachan is over, begins a new life-period by putting forth the energies which function in the form-world of the mental plane, these energies being (Page 159) the resultant of the preceding life-periods. These passing outwards, gather round themselves, from the matter of the four lower mental levels, such materials as are suitable for their expression, and thus the new mental body for the coming birth is formed. The vibration of these mental energies arouses the energies which belong to the desire-nature, and these begin to vibrate ; as they awake and throb, they attract to themselves suitable materials for their expression from the matter of the astral world, and these form the new astral body for the approaching incarnation.

Thus the Thinker becomes clothed with his mental and astral vestures, exactly expressing the faculties evolved during the past stage of his life. He is drawn, by forces which will be explained later, (See Chapter VII , on "Reincarnation") to the family which is to provide him with a suitable physical encasement, and becomes connected with this encasement through his astral body. 

During prenatal life the mental body becomes involved with the lower vehicles, and this connection becomes closer and closer through the early years of childhood, until at the seventh year they are as completely in touch with the Thinker himself as the stage of evolution permits. He then begins to slightly control his vehicles, if sufficiently advanced, and what we call conscience is his monitory voice. In any case, he gathers experience through these vehicles, and during the continuance of earth-life, stores the gathered experience in its own proper vehicle, in the body connected with the (Page 160) plane to which the experience belongs.

When the earth-life is over the physical body drops away, and with it his power of contacting the physical world, and his energies are therefore confined to the astral and mental planes. In due course, the astral body decays, and the outgoings of his life are confined to the mental plane, the astral faculties being gathered up and laid by within himself as latent energies.

Once again, in due course, its assimilative work completed, the mental body disintegrates, its energies in turn becoming latent in the Thinker, and he withdraws his life entirely into the formless devachanic world, his own native habitat. Thence, all experiences of his life period in the three worlds being transmuted into faculties and powers for future use, are contained within himself, he anew commences his pilgrimage and treads the cycle of another life-period with increased power and knowledge. 

The personality consists of the transitory vehicles through which the Thinker energises in the physical, astral, and lower mental worlds, and of all the activities connected with these. These are bound together by the links of memory caused by impressions made on the three lower bodies ; and, by the selfidentification of the Thinker with his three vehicles, the personal “ I “ is set up. In the lower stages of evolution this “ I “ is in the physical and passional vehicles, in which the greatest activity is shown, later it is in the mental vehicle, which then assumes predominance.

The personality with its transient (Page 161) feeling, desires, passions, thus forms a quasi-independent entity, though drawing all its energies from the Thinker it enwraps, and as its qualifications, belonging to the lower worlds, are often in direct antagonism to the permanent interests of the “Dweller in the body,” conflict is set up in which victory inclines sometimes to the temporary pleasure, sometimes to the permanent gain. The life of the personality begins when the Thinker forms his new mental body, and it endures until that mental body disintegrates at the close of its life in the form-world of Devachan.

The individuality consists of the Thinker himself, the immortal tree that puts out all these personalities as leaves, to last through the spring, summer and autumn of human life. All that the leaves take in and assimilate enriches the sap that courses through their veins, and in the autumn this is withdrawn into the parent trunk, and the dry leaf falls and perishes. The Thinker alone lives forever ; he is the man for whom “the hour never strikes,” the eternal youth who as the Bhagavad Gitâ has it, puts on and casts off bodies as a man puts on new garments and throws off the old.

Each personality is a new part for the immortal Actor, and he treads the stage of life over and over again, only in the life-drama each character he assumes is the child of the preceding ones and the father of those to come, so that the life-drama is a continuous history, the history of the Actor who plays the successive parts.

To the three worlds that we have studied is (Page 162) confined the life of the Thinker, while he is treading the earlier stages of human evolution. A time will come in the evolution of humanity when its feet will enter loftier realms, and reincarnation will be of the past. But while the wheel of rebirth and death is turning, a man is bound thereon by desires that pertain to the three worlds, his life is led in these three regions. 

To the realms that lie beyond we now may turn, albeit but little can be said of them that can be either useful or intelligible. Such little as may be said, however, is necessary for the outlining of the Ancient Wisdom. (Page 163) 




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