THEOSOPHY, Vol. 59, No. 8, June, 1971
(Pages 239-246; Size: 23K)
THE PERIOD BETWEEN INCARNATIONS(1)
LET us now consider the states of man after the death of the body and before birth, having looked over the whole field of the evolution of things and beings in a general way. This brings up at once the questions: Is there any heaven or hell, and what are they? Are they states or places? Is there a spot in space where they may be found and to which we go or from where we come?
What is seen and noted by physicians and spectators at the time of death is but the withdrawal of the soul and energy from the outer envelope called "body." But that is only the first step. It leaves his visible features calm and happy, perhaps, in expression; his relatives close his eyes -- they call it death. He, however, has only begun to die. The soul has yet to pass through other envelopes beyond the ken of friends, beyond even the dying man's present control.
When the frame is cold and eyes closed, all the forces of the body and mind rush through the brain, and by a series of pictures the whole life just ended is imprinted indelibly on the inner man not only in a general outline but down to the smallest detail of even the most minute and fleeting impression. All now depends upon the whole course and kind of thought in which he indulged during the life of the body. For the soul has to pass along the road by which it came, and that way is lined with the memories of a lifetime; as these memories rise up they affect the departing entity, causing it to be either disturbed from concentration, or assisting to a greater perfection.
Life as a grand musical movement is brought to a close by using at once all the tones sounded throughout the whole preceding portion. The result will be a combined sound, expressing neither the highest nor lowest notes, or the sweetest or less sweet, but the resultant of all. And this last sound is the fixed vibration that governs the entity, sounding all through him, and throwing him into the state to which it corresponds or of which it is the key. Thus it is easily seen that in each thought lie the possibilities of a harmony or a discord for life's conclusion.
At this moment, though every indication leads the physician to pronounce for death and though to all intents and purposes the person is dead to this life, the real man is busy in the brain, and not until his work there is ended is the person gone. When this solemn work is over the astral body detaches itself from the physical, and, life energy having departed, the remaining five principles are in the plane of kama loka, the astral region penetrating and surrounding the earth. As a place the astral plane is on and in and about the earth. Its extent is to a measurable distance from the earth, but the ordinary laws obtaining here do not obtain there, and entities therein are not under the same conditions as to space and time as we are. As a state it is metaphysical, though that metaphysic relates to the astral plane. It is called the plane of desire because in it the ruling force is desire devoid of and divorced from intelligence. It is an astral sphere intermediate between earthly and heavenly life. Beyond any doubt it is the origin of the Christian theory of purgatory. It is the slag-pit, as it were, of the great furnace of life, where nature provides for the sloughing off of elements which have no place in devachan, or heaven, and for that reason it must have many degrees, everyone of which was noted by the ancients.
After a certain time in kama loka the being falls into a state of unconsciousness which precedes the change into the next state. It then wakes to the joys of devachan.
Devachan is a Sanskrit word, meaning literally "the place of the gods," where the soul enjoys felicity; but as the gods have no such bodies as ours, the Self in devachan is devoid of a mortal body. In the ancient books it is said that this state lasts "for years of infinite number," or "for a period proportionate to the merit of the being"; and when the mental forces peculiar to the state are exhausted, "the being is drawn down again to be reborn in the world of mortals." Devachan is therefore an interlude between births in the world.
Heaven, whether it be that of the Christian or of the Hindu, is what Buddha called a thing or state that has a beginning and will have an end. It may, surely, last aeons of time, but it will come to an end, and then the weary task of treading the world has to be recommenced.
Devachan, being a state of prolonged subjective happiness after the death of the body, is plainly the heaven of the Christian, but with a difference. It is a heaven made scientifically possible. Heaven itself must accord with the divine laws projected into nature. As sleep is a release from the body, during which we have dreams, so death is a complete separation and release, after which in Devachan we dream until, on being again incarnated in a new body on earth, we come once more into what we call waking existence. Even the human soul would weary of the ceaseless round of rebirths, if some place or state were not provided in which rest could be obtained; in which germinating aspirations, restricted by earth-life, could have their full development. No energy can be annihilated, least of all a psychic energy; these must somewhere find an outlet. It is found in Devachan; this realization is the rest of the soul. Its deepest desires, its highest needs are there enjoyed. There every hope blooms out in full and glorious flower.
The Hindu postulates many places or conditions adapted to the energic and qualitative differences between souls. For souls differ as men do. In Devachan each one receives that degree of bliss which it can assimilate; its own development determines its reward. The Christian sinks genius to the level of the mediocre mass, while the Hindu gives infinite variety of occupation and existence suited to grave and gay, the soul of genius or of poetry. No one sits in undesired seats, nor sings psalms he never liked, nor lives in a city which might pall upon him if he were forever compelled to walk its pearly streets. The laws of cause and effect forbid that Devachan should be monotonous. Results are proportionate to antecedent energies. The soul oscillates between Devachan and earth-life, finding in each conditions suited to its continuous development, until, through effort, it reaches a perfection in which it ceases to be the subject of the laws of action and reaction, becoming instead their conscious co-worker.
The necessity for this state after death is one of the necessities of evolution growing out of the nature of mind and soul. The very nature of Manas, or mind, requires a devachanic state as soon as the body is lost, and it is simply the effect of loosening the bonds placed upon the mind by its physical and astral encasement. In life we can but to a fractional extent act out the thoughts we have each moment; and still less can we exhaust the psychic energies engendered by each day's aspirations and dreams. The energy thus engendered is not lost or annihilated, but is stored in Manas, but the body, brain, and astral body permit no full development of the force. Hence, held latent until death, it bursts then from the weakened bonds and plunges Manas, the thinker, into the expansion, use, and development of the thought-force set up in life.
The impossibility of escaping this necessary state lies in man's ignorance of his own powers and faculties. From this ignorance delusion arises, and Manas not being wholly free is carried by its own force into the thinking of devachan. But while ignorance is the cause for going into this state the whole process is remedial, restful, and beneficial. For if the average man returned at once to another body in the same civilization he had just quitted, his soul would be completely tired out and deprived of the needed opportunity for the development of the higher part of his nature.
Now the Ego being minus mortal body and the desire principle, or Kama, clothes itself in devachan with a vesture which cannot be called body but may be styled means or vehicle, and in that it functions in the devachanic state entirely on the plane of mind and soul. Everything is as real then to the being as this world seems to be to us. It simply now has gotten the opportunity to make its own world for itself unhampered by the clogs of physical life. Its state may be compared to that of the poet or artist who, rapt in ecstasy of composition or arrangement of color, cares not for and knows not of either time or objects of the world.
We are making causes every moment, and but two fields exist for the manifestation in effect of those causes. These are, the objective as this world is called, and the subjective which is both here and after we have left this life. The objective field relates to earth life and the grosser part of man, to his bodily acts and his brain thoughts, as also sometimes to his astral body. The subjective has to do with his higher and spiritual parts. In the objective field the psychic impulses cannot work out, nor can the high leanings and aspirations of his soul; hence these must be the basis, cause, substratum, and support for the state of devachan.
What then is the time, measured by mortal years, that one will stay in devachan? This question while dealing with what earth-men call time does not, of course, touch the real meaning of time itself, that is, of what may be in fact for this solar system the ultimate order, precedence, succession, and length of moments. It is a question which may be answered in respect to our time, but not certainly in respect to the time on the planet Mercury, for instance, where time is not the same as ours, nor, indeed, in respect to time as conceived by the soul. As to the latter, any man can see that after many years have slipped away he has no direct perception of the time just passed, but is able only to pick out some of the incidents which marked its passage, and as to some poignant or happy instants or hours he seems to feel them as but of yesterday. And thus it is for the being in devachan. No time is there. The soul has all the benefit of what goes on within itself in that state, but indulges in no speculations as to the lapse of moments; all is made up of events, while all the time the solar orb is marking off the years for us on the earth plane. This cannot be regarded as an impossibility if we will remember how, as is well known in life, events, pictures, thoughts, argument, introspective feelings will all sweep over us in perfect detail in an instant, or, as is known of those who have been drowning, the events of a whole life-time pass in a flash before the eye of the mind.
But the Ego remains, as said, in devachan for a time exactly proportioned to the psychic impulses generated during life. Now this being a matter which deals with the mathematics of the soul, no one but a Master can tell what the time would be for the average man of this century in every land. Hence we have to depend on the Masters of wisdom for that average, as it must be based upon a calculation. They have said that the period is fifteen hundred years in general. That is the average period and not a fixed one, for as we see that men differ in respect to the periods of time they remain in any state of mind in life due to the varying intensities of their thoughts, so it must be in devachan where thought has a greater force though always due to the being who had the thoughts.
What the Master did say on this is as follows: "The 'dream of devachan' lasts until karma is satisfied in that direction. In devachan there is a gradual exhaustion of force. The stay in devachan is proportionate to the unexhausted psychic impulses originated in earth life. Those whose actions were preponderatingly material will be sooner brought back into rebirth by the force of Tanha." Tanha is the thirst for life. He therefore who has not in life originated many psychic impulses will have but little basis or force in his essential nature to keep his higher principles in devachan. About all he will have are those originated in childhood before he began to fix his thoughts on materialistic thinking. The thirst for life expressed by the word Tanha is the pulling or magnetic force lodged in the skandhas inherent in all beings. In such a case as this the average rule does not apply, since the whole effect either way is due to a balancing of forces and is the outcome of action and reaction. And this sort of materialistic thinker may emerge out of devachan into another body here in a month, allowing for the unexpended psychic forces originated in early life. But as every one of such persons varies as to class, intensity and quantity of thought and psychic impulse, each may vary in respect to the time of stay in devachan. Desperately materialistic thinkers will remain in the devachanic condition stupefied or asleep, as it were, as they have no forces in them appropriate to that state save in a very vague fashion, and for them it can be very truly said that there is no state after death as far as mind is concerned; they are torpid for a while, and then they live again on earth.
This general average of the stay in devachan gives us the length of a very important human cycle, the Cycle of Reincarnation. For under that law national development will be found to repeat itself, and the times that are past will be found to come again.
The last series of powerful and deeply imprinted thoughts are those which give color and trend to the whole life in devachan. The last moment will color each subsequent moment. On those the soul and mind fix themselves and weave of them a whole set of events and experiences, expanding them to their highest limit, carrying out all that was not possible in life. Thus expanding and weaving these thoughts the entity has its youth and growth and growing old; that is, the uprush of the force, its expansion, and its dying down to final exhaustion. If the person has led a colorless life the devachan will be colorless; if a rich life, then it will be rich in variety and effect. Existence there is not a dream save in a conventional sense, for it is a stage of the life of man, and when we are there this present life is a dream. It is not in any sense monotonous. We are too prone to measure all possible states of life and places for experience by our present earthly one and to imagine it to be a reality. But the life of the soul is endless and not to be stopped for one instant. Leaving our physical body is but a transition to another place or plane for living in. But as the ethereal garments of devachan are more lasting than those we wear here, the spiritual, moral, and psychic causes use more time in expanding and exhausting in that state than they do on earth. If the molecules that form the physical body were not subject to the general chemical laws that govern physical earth, then we should live as long in these bodies as we do in the devachanic state. But such a life of endless strain and suffering would be enough to blast the soul compelled to undergo it. Pleasure would then be pain, and surfeit would end but in an immortal insanity. Nature, always kind, leads us soon again into heaven for a rest, for the flowering of the best and highest in our natures.
Devachan is then neither meaningless nor useless. "In it we are rested; that part of us which could not bloom under the chilling skies of earth-life bursts forth into flower and goes back with us to earth-life stronger and more a part of our nature than before. Why should we repine that Nature kindly aids us in the interminable struggle, why keep the mind revolving about the present petty personality and its good and evil fortunes?"
But it is sometimes asked, what of those we have left behind? do we see them there? We do not see them there in fact, but we make to ourselves their images as full, complete and objective as in life, and devoid of all that we then thought was a blemish. We live with them and see them grow great and good instead of mean or bad. The mother who has left a drunken son behind finds him before her in devachan a sober, good man, and likewise through all possible cases, parent, child, husband, and wife have their loved ones there perfect and full of knowledge. This is for the benefit of the soul. You may call it a delusion if you will, but the illusion is necessary to happiness just as it often is in life. And as it is the mind that makes the illusion, it is no cheat. Certainly the idea of a heaven built over the verge of hell where you must know, if any brains or memory are left to you under the modern orthodox scheme, that your erring friends and relatives are suffering eternal torture, will bear no comparison with the doctrine of devachan. But entities in devachan are not wholly devoid of power to help those left on earth. Love, the master of life, if real, pure, and deep, will sometimes cause the happy Ego in devachan to affect those left on earth for their good, not only in the moral field but also in that of material circumstance. This is possible under a law of the occult universe, which cannot be explained now with profit, but the fact may be stated.
The last question to consider is whether we here can reach those in devachan or do they come here. We cannot reach them nor affect them unless we are Adepts. The Mahatma, a being who has developed all his powers and is free from illusion, can go into the devachanic state and then communicate with the Egos there. Such is one of their functions, and that is the only school of the Apostles after death. They deal with certain entities in devachan for the purpose of getting them out of the state so as to return to earth for the benefit of the race. The Egos they thus deal with are those whose nature is great and deep but who are not wise enough to be able to overcome the natural illusions of devachan.
That which men call death, therefore, is but a change of location for the Ego, a mere transformation, a forsaking for a time of the mortal frame, a short period of rest before one re-assumes another human frame in the world of mortals. The Lord of this body is nameless; dwelling in numerous tenements of clay, it appears to come and go; but neither death nor time can claim it, for it is deathless, unchangeable, and pure, beyond Time itself, and not to be measured.
The whole period allotted by the soul's forces being ended in devachan, the magnetic threads which bind it to earth begin to assert their power. The Self wakes from the dream, it is borne swiftly off to a new body, and then, just before birth, it sees for a moment all the causes that led it to devachan and back to the life it is about to begin, and knowing it to be all just, to be the result of its own past life, it repines not but takes up the cross again -- and another soul has come back to earth.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
THE INTERNAL POLARITY
Esoteric philosophy admits neither good nor evil per se, as existing independently in nature. The cause for both is found, as regards the Kosmos, in the necessity of contraries or contrasts, and with respect to man, in his human nature, his ignorance and passions. There is no devil or the utterly depraved, as there are no Angels absolutely perfect, though there may be spirits of Light and of Darkness; thus LUCIFER -- the spirit of Intellectual Enlightenment and Freedom of Thought -- is metaphorically the guiding beacon, which helps man to find his way through the rocks and sandbanks of Life, for Lucifer is the LOGOS in his highest, and the "Adversary" in his lowest aspect -- both of which are reflected in our Ego.
--The Secret Doctrine
THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
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(1) NOTE.--Collated from the writings of William Q. Judge.
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