BN-Basic Course Syllabus
The Ancient Wisdom Tradition
VII- Dreams and After Death States: The Invisible Worlds
2) "Illuminating The Darkness - States After Death
"I myself never was not, nor thou, nor all the princes of the earth; nor shall we ever hereafter cease to be." Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita
(Wm. Q. Judge, The Ocean Of Theosophy, pp. 99-100)
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? We must also go back to the subject of the fourth principle of the constitution of man, that called Kama in Sanskrit and desire or passion in English. Bearing in mind what was said about that principle, and also the teaching in respect to the astral body and the Astral Light, it will be easier to understand what is taught about the two states ante and post mortem. In chronological order we go into kama loka -- or the plane of desire -- first on the demise of the body, and then the higher principles, the real man, fall into the state of Devachan. After dealing with kama loka it will be more easy to study the question of Devachan.
The breath leaves the body and we say the man is dead, but that is only the beginning of death; it proceeds on other planes. 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. 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 natural separation of the principles brought about by death divides the total man into three parts:
First, the visible body with all its elements left to further disintegration on the earth plane, where all that it is composed of is in time resolved into the different physical departments of nature.
Second, the kama rupa made up of the astral body and the passions and desires, which also begins at once to go to pieces on the astral plane;
Third, the real man, the upper triad of Atma-Buddhi-Manas, deathless but now out of earth conditions, devoid of body, begins in devachan to function solely as mind clothed in a very ethereal vesture which it will shake off when the time comes for it to return to earth.
Kama loka -- or the place of desire -- is the astral region penetrating and surrounding the earth. As a place it 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 it relates to the fourth principle, and 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, where the soul undergoes penance for evil done and from which it can be released by prayer and other ceremonies or offerings. The fact underlying this superstition is that the soul may be detained in kama loka by the enormous force of some unsatisfied desire, and cannot get rid of the astral and kamic clothing until that desire is satisfied by some one on earth or by the soul itself. But if the person was pure minded and of high aspirations, the separation of the principles on that plane is soon completed, permitting the higher triad to go into Devachan. Being the purely astral sphere, it partakes of the nature of the astral matter which is essentially earthly and devilish, and in it all the forces work undirected by soul or conscience. 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, and for that reason it must have many degrees, every one of which was noted by the ancients. These degrees are known in Sanskrit as lokas or places in a metaphysical sense. Human life is very varied as to character and other potentialities, and for each of these the appropriate place after death is provided, thus making kama loka an infinitely varied sphere. In life some of the differences among men are modified and some inhibited by a similarity of body and heredity, but in kama loka all the hidden desires and passions are let loose in consequence of the absence of body, and for that reason the state is vastly more diversified than the life plane. Not only is it necessary to provide for the natural varieties and differences, but also for those caused by the manner of death, about which something shall be said. And all these various divisions are but the natural result of the life thoughts and last thoughts of the persons who die on earth. It is beyond the scope of this work to go into a description of all these degrees, inasmuch as volumes would be needed to describe them, and then but few would understand.
(Wm. Q. Judge, The Ocean Of Theosophy)
Having shown that just beyond the threshold of human life there is a place of separation wherein the better part of man is divided from his lower and brute elements, we come to consider what is the state after death of the real being, the immortal who travels from life to life. Struggling out of the body the entire man goes into kama loka, to purgatory, where he again struggles and loosens himself from the lower skandhas; this period of birth over, the higher principles, Atma-Buddhi-Manas, begin to think in a manner different from that which the body and brain permitted in life. This is the state of Devachan, 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. The law of karma which forces us all to enter the world, being ceaseless in its operation and also universal in scope, acts also on the being in devachan, for only by the force or operation of Karma are we taken out of devachan. It is something like the pressure of atmosphere which, being continuous and uniform, will push out or crush that which is subjected to it unless there be a compensating quantity of atmosphere to counteract the pressure. In the present case the karma of the being is the atmosphere always pressing the being on or out from state to state; the counteracting quantity of atmosphere is the force of the being's own life-thoughts and aspirations which prevent his coming out of devachan until that force is exhausted, but which being spent has no more power to hold back the decree of our self-made mortal destiny.
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 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 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 ecstacy of composition or arrangement of color, cares not for and knows not of either time or objects of the world...What then is the time, measured by mortal years, that one will stay in devachan?...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 so 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 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.
References: for further reading.
HPB, Key To Theosophy, Ch. 9 "On The Kama-Loka And Devachan"
Wm. Q. Judge, Ocean Of Theosophy, Chs. 12 &13