The Ancient Wisdom

Masonic, Occult and Esoteric Online Library

The Ancient Wisdom

By A Besant

The Astral Plane

(Page 57) The astral plane is the region of the universe next to the physical, if the word “next” may be permitted in such a connection. Life there is more active than on the physical plane, and form is more plastic. The spirit-matter of that plane is more highly vitalised and finer than any grade of spirit-matter in the physical world. For , as we have seen, the ultimate physical atom, the constituent of the rarest physical ether, has for its sphere-wall innumerable aggregations of the coarsest astral matter. The word “next” is, however, inappropriate, as suggesting the idea that the planes of the universe are arranged as concentric circles, one ending where the next begins. Rather they are concentric interpenetrating spheres, not separated from each other by distance but by difference of constitution. 

As air permeates water, as ether permeates the densest solid, so does astral matter permeate all physical. The astral world is above us, below us, on every side of us, through us; we live and move in it, but it is intangible, invisible, inaudible, imperceptible, because the prison of the physical body shuts us (Page 58) away from it, the physical particles being too gross to be set in vibration by astral matter.

In this chapter we shall study the plane in its general aspects, leaving on one side for separate consideration those special conditions of life on the astral plane surrounding the human entities who are passing through it on their way from earth to heaven. ( Devachan, the happy or bright state, is the Theosophical name for heaven. Kâmaloka, the place of desire, is the name given to the conditions of intermediate life on the astral plane). 

The spirit-matter of the astral plane exists in seven subdivisions, as we have seen in the spirit-matter of the physical. There, as here, there are numberless combinations, forming the astral solids, liquids, gases, and ethers. But most material forms there have a brightness, a translucency, as compared to forms here, which have caused the epithet astral, or starry, to be applied to them – an epithet which is, on the whole, misleading, but is too firmly established by use to be changed. As there are no specific names for the subdivisions of astral spirit-matter, we may use the terrestrial designations. The main idea to be grasped is that astral objects are combinations of astral matter, as physical objects are combinations of physical matter, and that the astral world scenery much resembles that of earth in consequence of its being largely made up of the astral duplicates of physical objects.

One peculiarity, however, arrests and confuses the untrained observer; partly because of the translucency of astral objects, (Page 59) and partly because of the nature of astral vision – consciousness being less hampered by the finer astral matter than when encased in the terrestrial – everything is transparent, its back is visible as its front, its inside as its outside. Some experience is needed, therefore, ere objects are correctly seen, and a person who has developed astral vision, but has not yet had much experience in its use, is apt to receive the most topsy-turvy impressions and to fall into the most astounding blunders.

Another striking and at first bewildering characteristic of the astral world is the swiftness with which forms – especially when unconnected with any terrestrial matrix – change their outlines.

An astral entity will change his whole appearance with the most startling rapidity, for astral matter takes the form under every impulse of thought, the life swiftly remoulding the form to give itself new expression. As the great life-wave of the evolution of form passed downwards through the astral plane, and constituted on that plane the third elemental kingdom, the Monad drew round itself combinations of astral matter, giving to these combinations – entitled elemental essence – a peculiar vitality and the characteristic of responding to, and instantly taking shape under, the impulse of thought vibrations.

This elemental essence exists in hundreds of varieties on every subdivision of the astral plane, as though the air became visible here – as indeed it may seen in quivering waves under great heat – and were in constant undulatory motion with changing (Page 60) colours like mother-of-pearl. 

This vast atmosphere of elemental essence is ever answering to vibrations caused by thoughts, feelings, and desires, and is thrown into commotion by a rush of any of these like bubbles in boiling water. ( C.W. Leadbeater, Astral Plane, p. 52). The duration of the form depends on the strength of the impulse to which it owes its birth ; the clearness of its outline depends on the precision of the thinking, and the colour depends on the quality – intellectual, devotional, passional – of the thought. 

The vague loose thoughts which are so largely produced by undeveloped minds gather round themselves loose clouds of elemental essence when they arrive in the astral world, and drift about, attracted hither and thither to other clouds of similar nature, clinging round the astral bodies of persons whose magnetism attracts them – either good or evil – and after a while disintegrating, to again form a part of the general atmosphere of elemental essence. While they maintain a separate existence they are living entities, with bodies of elemental essence and thoughts as the ensouling lives, and they are then called artificial elementals, or thought-forms.

Clear, precise thoughts have each their own definite shapes, with sharp clean outlines, and show an endless variety of designs. They are shaped by vibrations set up by thought, just as on the physical plane we find figures which are shaped by vibrations set up by sound. “Voice-figures” offer a very fair analogy for “thought-figures,” for nature, with all (Page 61) her infinite variety, is very conservative of principles, and reproduces the same methods of working on plane after plane in her realms. 

These clearly defined artificial elementals have a longer and much more active life than their cloudy brethren, exercising a far stronger influence on the astral bodies (and through them on the minds) of those to whom they are attracted. They set up in them vibrations similar to their own, and thus thoughts spread from mind to mind without terrestrial expression. More than this: they can be directed by the thinker towards any person he desires to reach, their potency depending on the strength of his will and the intensity of his mental power. 

Among average people the artificial elementals created by feeling or desire are more vigorous and more definite than those created by thought. Thus an outburst of anger will cause a very definitely outlined and powerful flash of red, and sustained anger will make a dangerous elemental, red in colour, and pointed, barbed, or otherwise qualified to injure. Love, according to its quality, will set up forms more or less beautiful in colour and design, all shades of crimson to the most exquisite and soft hues of rose, like the palest blushes of sunset or the dawn, clouds of tenderly strong protective shapes. Many a Mother’s loving prayers go to hover round her son as angel-forms, turning aside from him evil influences that perchance his own thoughts are attracting. 

It is characteristic of these artificial elementals, (Page 62) when they are directed by the will towards any particular person, that they are animated by the one impulse of carrying out the will of their creator. A protective elemental will hover round its object, seeking any opportunity of warding off evil or attracting good – not consciously, but by a blind impulse, as finding there the line of least resistance.

So, also, an elemental ensouled by a malignant thought will hover round its victim seeking opportunity to injure. But neither the one nor the other can make any impression unless there be in the astral body of the object something skin to themselves, something that can answer accordingly to their vibrations, and thus enable them to attach themselves. If there be nothing in him of matter cognate to their own, then by a law of their nature they rebound from him along the path they pursued in going to him – the magnetic trace they have left – and rush to their creator with a force proportionate to that of their projection. Thus a thought of deadly hatred, failing to strike the object at which it was darted, has been known to slay its sender, while good thoughts sent to the unworthy return as blessings to him that poured them forth.

A very slight understanding of the astral world will thus act as a most powerful stimulus to right thinking, and will render heavy the sense of responsibility in regard to the thoughts and feelings, and desires that we let loose into this astral realm. Ravening beasts of prey, rending and devouring, are too many of the thoughts with which men people the (Page 63) astral plane. But they err from ignorance, they know not what they do. One of the objects of theosophical teaching, partly lifting up the veil of the unseen world, is to give men a sounder basis for conduct, a more rational appreciation of the causes of which the effects only are seen in the terrestrial world. 

A few of its doctrines are more important in their ethical bearing than this of the creation and direction of thought-forms, or artificial elementals, for through it man learns that his mind does not concern himself alone, that his thoughts do not affect himself alone, but that he is ever sending out angels and devils into the world of men, for whose creation he is responsible, and for whose influences he is held accountable. Let men, then, know the law, and guide their thoughts thereby. 

If, instead of taking artificial elementals separately, we take them in the mass, it is easy to realise the tremendous effect they have in producing national and race feelings, and thus in biasing and prejudicing the mind. We all grow up surrounded by an atmosphere crowded with elementals embodying certain ideas ; national prejudices, national ways of looking at all questions, national types of feelings and thoughts, all these play on us from our birth, aye, and before. We see everything through this atmosphere, every thought is more or less refracted by it, and our own astral bodies are vibrating in accord with it. 

Hence the same idea will look quite different to the Hindu, an Englishman, a Spaniard, and a Russian ; some conceptions easy to (Page 64) the one will be almost impossible to the other, customs instinctively attractive to the one are instinctively odious to the other. We are all dominated by our national atmosphere, i.e., by that portion of the astral world immediately surrounding us.

The thoughts of others, cast much in the same mould, play upon us and call out from us synchronous vibrations ; they intensify the points in which we accord with our surroundings and flatten away the differences, and this ceaseless action upon us through the astral body impresses on us the national halfmark and traces channels for mental energies into which they readily flow. Sleeping and waking , these currents play upon us, and our very unconsciousness of their action makes it the more effective. As most people are receptive rather than initiative in their nature, they act almost as automatic reproducers of the thoughts which reach them, and thus the national atmosphere is continually intensified.

When a person is beginning to be sensitive to astral influences, he will occasionally find himself suddenly overpowered or assailed by a quite inexplicable and seemingly irrational dread, which swoops upon him with even paralysing force. Fight against it as he may, he yet feels it, and perhaps resents it. Probably there are few who have not experienced this fear to some extent, the uneasy dread of an invisible something, the feeling of a presence, of “not being alone.” This arises partly from a certain hostility which animates the natural elemental world against the human, on account of the various (Page 65) destructive agencies devised by mankind on the physical plane and reacting on the astral, but is also largely due to the presence of so many artificial elementals of an unfriendly kind, bred by human minds.

Thoughts of hatred, jealousy, revenge, bitterness, suspicion, discontent, go out by millions crowding the astral plane with artificial elementals whose whole life is made of these feelings. How much also is there of vague distrust and suspicion poured out by the ignorant against all whose ways and appearance are alien and unfamiliar. The blind distrust of all foreigners, the surly contempt, extending in many districts even towards inhabitants of another country – these things also contribute evil influences to the astral world. There being so much of these things among us, we create a blindly hostile army on the astral plane, and this is answered in our own astral bodies by a feeling of dread, set up by the antagonistic vibrations that are sensed, but not understood.

Outside the class of artificial elementals, the astral world is thickly populated, even excluding, as we do for the present, all the human entities who have lost their physical bodies by death. There are great hosts of natural elementals, or nature-spirits, divided into five main classes –the elementals of the ether, the fire, the air, the water, and the earth ; the last four groups have been termed, in mediaeval occultism, the Salamanders, Sylphs, Undines, and Gnomes (needless to say there are two other classes, completing the seven, not concerning us here, as they are (Page 66) still unmanifested).  

These are the true elementals, or creatures of the elements, earth, water, air, fire and ether, and they are severally concerned in the carrying on of the activities connected with their own element ; they are the channels through which work the divine energies in these several fields, the living expressions of the law in each. At the head of each division is a great Being, the captain of the mighty host, (Called a Deva, or God, by the Hindus. The student may like to have the Sanskrit names of the five Gods of the manifested elements ; Indra, lord of the Ak?sha, or ether of space ; Agni, lord of fire ; Pavana, lord of air, Varuna, lord of water ; Kshiti, lord of the earth). the directing and guiding intelligence of the whole department of nature which is administered and energised by the class of elementals under his control.

Thus Agni the fire-God, is a great spiritual entity concerned with the manifestation of fire on all planes of the universe, and carries on his administration through the host of the fire-elementals. By understanding the nature of these, or knowing the methods of their control, the so-called miracles of magical feats are worked, which from time to time are recorded in the public press, whether they are avowedly the results of magical arts, or are done by the aid of “spirits” – as in the case of the late Mr. Home, who could unconcernedly pick a red-hot coal out of a blazing fire with his fingers and hold it in his hand unhurt. Levitation (the suspension of a heavy body in the air without visible support) and walking on the water have been done by the aid (Page 67) respectively of the elementals of the air and the water, although another method is more often employed. 

As the elements enter into the human body, one or another predominating according to the nature of the person, each human being has relations with these elementals, the most friendly to him being those whose element is preponderant in him. The effects of this fact are often noted, and are popularly ascribed to “luck”. A person has “ a lucky hand” in making plants grow, in lighting fires, in finding underground water, etc. Nature is ever jostling us with her occult forces, but we are slow to take her hints. Tradition sometimes hides a truth in a proverb or a fable, but we have grown beyond all such “superstitions.” 

We find also on the astral plane, nature-spirits – less accurately termed elementals – who are concerned with the building of forms in the mineral, vegetable, animal, and human kingdoms. There are naturespirits who build up minerals, who guide the vital energies in plants, and who molecule by molecule form the bodies of the animal kingdom ; they are concerned with the making of the astral bodies of minerals, plants, and animals, as well as with that of the physical.

These are the fairies and elves of legends, the “little people” who play so large a part in the folk lore of every nation, the charming irresponsible children of nature, whom science had coldly relegated to the nursery, but who will be replaced in their own grade of natural order by the wiser scientists of a later day. Only poets and occultists believe in them just now, poets by the intuition of their genius, occultists by the vision of their trained inner senses. The multitude laugh at both, most of all at the occultists ; but it matter not – wisdom shall be justified (Page 68) of her children.

The play of the life-currents in the etheric doubles of the forms in the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms, awoke out of latency the astral matter involved in the structure of their atomic and molecular constituents. It began to thrill in a very limited way in the minerals, and the Monad of form, exercising his organising power, drew in materials from the astral world, and these were built by the nature-spirits into a loosely constituted mass, the mineral astral body.
In the vegetable world the astral bodies are a little more organised, and their special characteristic of “feeling” begins to appear. Dull and diffused sensations of well-being and discomfort are observable in most plants as the results of the increasing activity of the astral body. They dimly enjoy the air, the rain, and the sunshine, and gropingly seek them, while they shrink from noxious conditions. Some seek the light and some seek the darkness ; they answer to stimuli, and adapt themselves to external conditions, some showing plainly a sense of touch. In the animal kingdom the astral body is more developed, reaching in the higher members of that kingdom a sufficiently definite organisation to cohere for some time after the death of the physical body, and to lead an independent existence on the astral plane. (Page 69)

The nature-spirits concerned with the building of the animal and human astral bodies have been given the special name of desire-elementals, (Kâmadevas, they are called "desire-gods") because they are strongly animated by desires of all kinds, and constantly build themselves into the astral bodies of animals and men.

They also use the varieties of elemental essence similar to that of which their own bodies are composed to construct the astral bodies of animals, those bodies thus acquiring, as interwoven parts, the centres of sensation and of the various passional activities. These centres are stimulated into functioning by impulses received by the dense physical organs, and transmitted by the etheric physical organs to the astral body. 

Not until the astral centre is reached does the animal feel pleasure or pain. A stone may be struck, but it will feel no pain ; it has dense and etheric physical molecules, but its astral body is unorganised ; the animal feels pain from a blow because he possesses the astral centres of sensation, and the desireelementals have woven into him their own nature. 

As a new consideration enters into the work of these elementals with the human astral body, we will finish our survey of the inhabitants of the astral plane ere studying this more complicated astral form.

The desire-bodies, (K?mar?pa is the technical name for the astral body, from K?ma, desire, and r?pa, form) or astral bodies, of animals are found, as has just been stated, to lead (Page 70) an independent though fleeting existence on the astral plane after death has destroyed their physical counterparts. In “civilised” countries these animal astral bodies add much to the general feeling of hostility which was spoken of above, for the organised butchery of animals in slaughterhouses and by sport sends millions of these annually into the astral world, full of horror, terror, and shrinking from men. 

The comparatively few creatures that are allowed to die in peace and quietness are lost in the vast hordes of the murdered, and from the currents set up by these there rain down influences from the astral world on the human and animal races which drive them yet further apart and engender “instinctive” distrust and fear on the one side and lust of inflicting cruelty on the other. 

These feelings have been much intensified of late years by the coldly devised methods of the scientific torture called vivisection, the unmentionable barbarities of which have introduced new horrors into the astral world by their reaction on the culprits, (See Chapter III, on “K?maloka .”) as well as having increased the gulf between man and his “poor relations”.

Apart from what we may call the normal population of the astral world, there are passing travellers in it, led there by their work, whom we cannot leave entirely without mention. Some of these come from our own terrestrial world, while others are visitors from loftier regions.

Of the former, many are Initiates of various grades, (Page 71) some belonging to the Great White Lodge – the Him?layan or Tibetan Brotherhood, as it is often called (It is to some members of this Lodge that the Theosophical Society owes its inception) – while others are members of different occult lodges throughout the world, ranging from white through shades of grey to black. ( Occultists who are unselfish and wholly devoted to the carrying out of the Divine Will, or who are aiming to attain these virtues, are called “white”. Those who are selfish and are working against the Divine purpose in the universe are called “black.” Expanding selflessness, love and devotion are the marks of the one class : contracting selfishness, hatred, and harsh arrogance are the sign of the other. Between these are the classes whose motives are mixed, and who have not yet realised that they must evolve towards the One Self or towards separated selves ; these I have called grey. Their members gradually drift into, or deliberately join, one of the two great groups with clearly marked aims).

All these are men living in physical bodies, who have learned to leave the physical encasement at will, and to function in full consciousness in the astral body. They are of all grades of knowledge and virtue, beneficent and maleficent, strong and weak, gentle and ferocieous. There are also many younger aspirants, still uninitiated, who are learning to use the astral vehicle, and who are employed in works of benevolence or malevolence according to the path they are seeking to tread. 

After these, we have psychics of varying degrees of development, some fairly alert, others dreamy and confused, wandering about while their physical (Page 72) bodies are asleep or entranced. Unconscious of their external surroundings, wrapped in their own thoughts, drawn as it were within their astral shell, are millions of drifting astral bodies inhabited by conscious entities, whose physical frames are sunk in sleep. 

As we shall see presently, the consciousness in its astral vehicle escapes when the body sinks into sleep, and passes on to the astral plane ; but it is not conscious of its surroundings until the astral body is sufficiently developed to function independently of the physical.

Occasionally is seen on this plane a disciple (A Chelâ, the accepted pupil of an Adept), who has passed through death and is awaiting an almost immediate reincarnation under the direction of his Master. He is, of course, in the enjoyment of full consciousness, and is working like other disciples who have merely slipped off their bodies in sleep. A certain stage (See chapter XI, on “Man’s Ascent”) – a disciple is allowed to reincarnate very quickly after death, and under these circumstances he has to await on the astral plane a suitable opportunity for rebirth. 

Passing through the astral plane also are the human beings who are on their way to reincarnation ; they will again be mentioned later on (See chapter VII, on “Reincarnation”.) and they concern themselves in no way with the general life of the astral world. The desire-elementals, however, who have affinity with them from their past passional and sensational activities, gather round them, (Page 73) assisting in the building of the new astral body for the coming earth-life. 

We must now turn to the consideration of the human astral body during the period of existence in this world, and study its nature and constitution as well as its relations with the astral realm. We will take the astral body of (a) an undeveloped man, (b) an average man, and (c) a spiritually developed man. 

(a) An undeveloped man’s astral body is a cloudy, loosely organised, vaguely outlined mass of astral spirit-matter, containing materials – both astral matter and elemental essence – drawn from all the subdivisions of the astral plane, but with a predominance of substances from the lower, so that it is dense and coarse in texture, fit to respond to all the stimuli connected with the passions and appetites. The colours caused by the rates of vibration are dull, muddy, and dusky – brown, dull reds, dirty greens, are predominant hues. There is no play of light or quickly changing flashing of colours through this astral body, but the various passions show themselves as heavy surges, or, when violent, as flashes ; thus sexual passion will send a wave of muddy crimson, rage a flash of lurid red. 

The astral body is larger than the physical, extending round it in all directions ten to twelve inches in such a case as we are considering. The centres of the organs of sense are definitely marked, and are active when worked on from without ; but in quiescence the life-streams are sluggish, and the astral body, stimulated neither from the physical nor mental worlds, is drowsy and indifferent. ( the student will recognise here the predominance of the (Page 74) t?masic guna, the quality of darkness or inertness in nature.) 

It is a constant characteristic of the undeveloped state that activity is prompted from without rather from the inner consciousness . A stone to be moved must be pushed ; a plant moves under the attractions of light and moisture ; an animal becomes active when stirred by hunger : a poorly developed man needs to be prompted in similar ways. Not till the mind is partly grown does it begin to initiate action. The centres of higher activities, ( The seven Chakras, or wheels, so named from the whirling appearance they present, like wheels of living fire when in activity.) related to the independent functioning of the astral senses, are scarcely visible. A man at this stage requires for his evolution violent sensations of every kind, to arouse the nature and stimulate it into activity. Heavy blows from the outer world, both of pleasure and pain, are wanted to awaken and spur to action.

The more numerous and violent the sensations, the more he can be made to feel, the better for his growth. At this stage quality matters little, quantity and vigour are the main requisites. The beginnings of this man’s morality will be in his passions ; a slight impulse of unselfishness in his relations to wife and child or friend, will be the first step upwards, by causing vibrations in the finer matter of his astral body and attracting into it more elemental essence of an appropriate kind. The astral body is constantly (Page 75) changing its materials under this play of the passions, appetites, desires, and emotions.

All good ones strengthen the finer parts of the body, shake out some of the coarser constituents, draw into it the subtler materials, and attract round it elementals of a beneficent kind who aid in the renovating process. All evil ones have diametrically opposite effects, strengthening the coarser, expelling the finer, drawing in more of the former, and attracting elementals who help in the deteriorating process.

The man’s moral and intellectual powers are so embryonic in the case we are considering that most of the building and changing of his astral body may be said to be done for him rather than by him. It depends more on his external circumstances than on his own will, for, as just said, it is characteristic of a low stage of development that a man is moved from without and through the body much more than from within and by the mind. It is a sign of considerable advance when a man begins to be moved by the will, by his own energy, self-determined, instead of being moved by desire, i.e., by a response to an external attraction or repulsion.

In sleep the astral body, enveloping the consciousness, slips out of the physical vehicle, leaving the dense and etheric bodies to slumber. At this stage, however, the consciousness is not awake in the astral body, lacking the strong contacts that spur it while in the physical frame, and the only things that affect the astral body may be elementals of the coarser kinds, that may set up therein vibrations which are reflected to the etheric and dense brains, and induce dreams of animal pleasures. The astral body floats just over the physical, held by its strong attraction, and cannot go far away from it. (Page 76) 

(b) In the average moral and intellectual man the astral body shows an immense advance on that just described. It is larger in size, its materials are more balanced in quality, the presence of the rarer kinds giving a certain luminous quality to the whole, while the expression of the higher emotions sends playing through it beautiful ripples of colour. Its outline is clear and definite, instead of vague and shifting, as in the former case, and it assumes the likeness of its owner. It is obviously becoming a vehicle for the inner man, with good definite organisation and stability, a body fit and ready to function, and able to maintain itself, apart from the physical. While retaining great plasticity, it yet has a normal form, to which it continuously recurs when any pressure is removed that may have caused it to change its outline.

Its activity is constant, and hence it is in perpetual vibration, showing endless varieties of changing hues ; also the “wheels” are clearly visible though not yet functioning ( Here the student will note the predominance of the r?jasic guna, the quality of activity in nature.) It responds quickly to all the contacts coming to it through the physical body, and is stirred by the influences rained on it from the conscious entity within, memory and imagination stimulating it to action, and causing it to (Page 77) become the prompter of the body to activity instead of only being moved by it. 

Its purification proceeds along the same lines as in the former case – the expulsion of lower constituents by setting up vibrations antagonistic to them and the drawing in of finer materials in their place. But now the increased moral intellectual development of the man puts the building almost entirely under his own control, for he is no longer driven here and there by stimuli from external nature, but reasons, judges, and resists or yields as he thinks well. By the exercise of well-directed thought he can rapidly affect the astral body, and hence its improvement can proceed apace. Nor is it necessary that he should understand the modus operandi in order to bring about the effect, any more than that a man should understand the laws of light in order to see.

In sleep, this well-developed astral body slips, as usual, from its physical encasement, but is by no means held captive by it, as in the former case. It roams about in the astral world, drifted hither and thither by the astral currents, while the consciousness within it, not yet able to direct its movements, is awake, engaged in the enjoyment of its own mental images and mental activities, and able also to receive impressions through its astral covering, and to change them into mental pictures. In this way a man may gain knowledge when out of the body, and may subsequently impress it on the brain as a vivid dream or vision, or without this link of (Page 78) memory it may filter through into the brain-consciousness.

(c) The astral body of a spiritually developed man is composed of the finest particles of each subdivision of astral matter, the higher kinds largely predominating in amount. It is therefore a beautiful object in luminosity and colour, hues not known on earth showing themselves under the impulses thrown into it by the purified mind. The wheels of fire are now seen to deserve their names, and their whirling motion denotes the activity of the higher senses. Such a body is, in the full sense of the words, a vehicle of consciousness, for in the course of evolution it has been vivified in every organ and brought under the
complete control of its owner.

When in it he leaves the physical body there is no break in consciousness ; he merely shakes off his heavier vesture, and finds himself unencumbered by its weight. He can move anywhere within the astral sphere with immense rapidity, and is no longer bound by the narrow terrestrial conditions. His body answers to his will, reflects and obeys his thought. His opportunities for serving humanity are thus enormously increased, and his powers are directed by his virtue and his beneficence. The absence of gross particles in his astral body renders it incapable of responding to the promptings of lower objects of desire, and they turn away from him as beyond their attraction. The whole body vibrates only in answer to the higher emotions, his love has grown into devotion, his energy is curbed by patience. 

Gentle, (Page 79) calm, serene, full of power, but with no trace of restlessness, such a man “all the Siddhis stand ready to serve.” (Here the s?ttvic guna, the quality of bliss and purity in nature, is predominant. Siddhis are superphysical powers.) 

The astral body forms the bridge over the gulf which separates consciousness from the physical brain. Impacts received by the sense organs and transmitted, as we have seen, to the dense and etheric centres, pass thence to the corresponding astral centres ; here they are worked on by the elemental essence and are transmuted into feelings , and are then presented to the inner man as objects of consciousness, the astral vibrations awakening corresponding vibrations in the materials of the mental body. (See chapter IV, on “The Mental Plane.”)

By these successive gradations in fineness of spirit-matter the heavy impacts of terrestrial objects can be transmitted to the conscious entity ; and, in turn, the vibrations set up by his thoughts can pass along the same bridge to the physical brain and there induce physical vibrations corresponding to the mental. This is the regular normal way in which consciousness receives impressions from without, and in turn sends impressions outwards. By this constant passage of vibrations to and fro the astral body is chiefly developed ; the current plays upon it from within and from without, it evolves its organisation, and subserves its general growth.

By this it becomes larger, finer in texture, more definitely outlined, and more organised interiorly. (Page 80) Trained thus to respond to consciousness, it gradually becomes fit to function as its separate vehicle, and to transmit to it clearly the vibrations received directly from the astral world. Most readers will have had some little experience of impressions coming into consciousness from without, that do not arise from any physical impact, and that are very quickly verified by some external occurrence.

These are frequently impressions that reach the astral body directly, and are transmitted by it to the consciousness, and such impressions are often of the nature of previsions which very quickly prove themselves to be true. When the man is far progressed, though the stage varies much according to other circumstances, links are set up between the physical and the astral, the astral and mental, so that consciousness works unbrokenly from one state to the other, memory having in it none of the lapses which in the ordinary man interpose a period of unconsciousness in passing from one plane to another. The man can then also freely exercise the astral senses while the consciousness is working in the physical body, so that these enlarged avenues of knowledge become an appanage of his waking consciousness. Objects which were before matters of faith becomes matters of knowledge, and he can personally verify the accuracy of much of the Theosophical teaching as to the lower regions of the invisible world.

When man is analysed into “principles,” i.e., into (Page 81) modes of manifesting life, his four lower principles, termed the "lower Quaternary," are said to function on the astral and physical planes. The fourth principle is K?ma, desire, and it is the life manifesting in the astral body and conditioned by it ; it is characterised by the attribute of feeling, whether in the rudimentary form of sensation, or in the complex form of emotion, or in any of the grades that lie between. This is summed up as desire, that which is attracted or repelled by objects, according as they give pleasure or pain to the personal self. 

The third principle is Pr?na, the life specialised for the support of the physical organism. The second principle is the etheric double, and the first is the dense body. These three function on the physical plane. In H.P.Blavatsky’s later classifications she removed both Pr?na and the dense physical body from the rank of principles, Pr?na as being universal life, and the dense physical body as being the mere counterpart of the etheric, and made of constantly changing materials built into the etheric matrix. Taking this view, we have the grand philosophic conception of the One Life, the One Self, manifesting as man, and presenting varying and transitory differences according to the conditions imposed on it by the bodies which it vivifies; itself remaining the same in the centre, but showing different aspects when looked at from outside, according to the kinds of matter in one body or another. 

In the physical body it is Pr?na, energising, controlling, co-ordinating. In the astral body it is (Page 82) K?ma, feeling, enjoying, suffering. We shall find it in yet other aspects, as we pass to higher planes, but the fundamental idea is the same throughout, and it is another of those root-ideas of Theosophy, which firmly grasped, serve as guiding clues in this most tangled world. (Page 83) 



Masonic Publishing Company

Purchase This Title

Browse Titles
"If I have seen further than
others, it is by standing
upon the shoulders of giants."


Comasonic Logo

Co-Masonry, Co-Freemasonry, Women's Freemasonry, Men and Women, Mixed Masonry

Copyright © 1975-2024 Universal Co-Masonry, The American Federation of Human Rights, Inc. All Rights Reserved.