Although, in calling this plane the heaven-world, we distinctly intend to imply that it contains the reality which underlies all the best and most spiritual ideas of heaven which have been propounded in various religions, yet it must by no means be considered from that point of view only. It is a realm of nature. It is only our lack of development, only the limitation imposed upon us by this robe of flesh, that prevents us from fully realizing that all the glory of the highest heaven is about us here and now [page 2], and that influences flowing from that world are ever playing upon us if we will only understand and receive them. Impossible as this may seem to the man of the world, it is the plainest of realities to the occultist; and to those who have not yet grasped this fundamental truth we can but repeat the advice given by the Buddhist teacher:— " Do not complain and cry and pray, but open your eyes and see. The light is all about you, if you would only cast the bandage from your eyes and look.
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Although, in calling this plane the heaven-world, we distinctly intend to imply that it contains the reality which underlies all the best and most spiritual ideas of heaven which have been propounded in various religions, yet it must by no means be considered from that point of view only.
It is a realm of nature. It is only our lack of development, only the limitation imposed upon us by this robe of flesh, that prevents us from fully realizing that all the glory of the highest heaven is about us here and now [page 2], and that influences flowing from that world are ever playing upon us if we will only understand and receive them.
Impossible as this may seem to the man of the world, it is the plainest of realities to the occultist; and to those who have not yet grasped this fundamental truth we can but repeat the advice given by the Buddhist teacher:— " Do not complain and cry and pray, but open your eyes and see. The light is all about you, if you would only cast the bandage from your eyes and look. It is so wonderful, so beautiful, so far beyond what any man has dreamt of or prayed for, and it is for ever and for ever.
It is absolutely necessary for the student of Theosophy to realize this great truth, that there exist in nature various planes or divisions, each with its own matter of an appropriate degree of density, which in each case interpenetrates the matter of the plane next below it. It should also be clearly understood that the use of the words "higher" and " lower " with reference to these planes does not refer in any way to their position since they all occupy the same space , but only to the degree of rarity of the matter of which they are respectively composed, or in other words the extent to which their matter is subdivided - for all matter of which we know anything is essentially the same, and differs only in the extent of its subdivision and the rapidity of its vibration.
It follows, therefore, that to speak of a man as passing from one of these planes to another does not in the least signify any kind of movement in space, but simply a change of consciousness. For every man has within himself matter belonging to every one of these planes, a vehicle corresponding to each, in which he can function upon it when he learns how this may be done. So that to pass, from one plane to another is to change the focus of the consciousness from one of the vehicles to another, to use for the time the [page 3] astral or, the mental body instead of the physical.
Indeed, all these planes together constitute in reality one mighty living whole, though as yet our feeble powers are capable of observing only a very small part of this at a time.
When considering this question of locality and interpenetration we must be on our guard against possible misconceptions. It should be understood that none of the three lower planes of the solar system is co-extensive with it except as regards a particular condition of the highest or atomic subdivision of each.
Each physical globe has its physical plane including its atmosphere , its astral plane, and its mental plane, all interpenetrating one another, and therefore occupying the same position in space, but all quite apart from and not communicating with the corresponding planes of any other globe. It is only when we rise to the lofty levels of the buddhic plane that we find a condition common to, at any rate, all the planets of our chain.
Notwithstanding this, there is, as stated above, a condition of the atomic matter of each of these planes which is cosmic in its extent; so that the seven atomic sub-planes of our system, taken apart from the rest, may be said to constitute one cosmic plane - the lowest, sometimes called the cosmic-prakritic. The interplanetary ether, for example, which appears to extend through the whole of space - indeed must do so, at least to the farthest visible star, otherwise our physical eyes could not perceive that star - is composed of physical ultimate atoms in their normal and uncompressed [page 4] condition.
But all the lower and more complex forms of ether exist only so far as is at present known in connection with the various heavenly bodies, aggregated round them just as their atmosphere is, though probably extending considerably further from their surface. Precisely the same is true of the astral and mental planes. The astral plane of our own earth interpenetrates it and its atmosphere, but also extends for some distance beyond the atmosphere. It may be remembered that this plane was called by the Greeks the sub-lunar world.
The mental plane in its turn interpenetrates the astral, but also extends further into space than does the latter. Only the atomic matter of each of these planes, and even that only in an entirely free condition, is co-extensive with the interplanetary ether, and consequently a person can no more pass from planet to planet even of our own chain in his astral body or his mind-body, than he can in his physical body.
In the causal body, when very highly developed, this achievement is possible, though even then by no means with the ease and rapidity with which it can be done upon the buddhic plane by those who have succeeded in raising their consciousness to that level.
A clear comprehension of these facts will prevent the confusion that has sometimes been made by students between the mental plane of our earth and those other globes of our chain which exist on the mental plane. It must be understood that the seven globes of our chain are real globes, occupying definite and separate positions in space, notwithstanding the fact that some of them are not up in the physical plane.
Globes A, B, F, and G are separate from us and from one another just in the same way as are Mars and the earth; the only difference is that whereas the latter have physical, astral and mental planes of their own, globes B and F have nothing below the astral plane, and A [page 5] and G nothing below the mental. The astral plane dealt with in Manual V and the mental plane which we are about to consider are those of this earth only, and have nothing to do with these other planets at all.
It is the plane upon which man, unless at an exceedingly early stage of his progress, spends by far the greater part of his time during the process of evolution; for, except in the case of the entirely undeveloped, the proportion of the physical life to the celestial is rarely much greater than one in twenty, and in the case of fairly good people it would sometimes fall as low as one in thirty.
It is, in fact, the true and permanent home of the reincarnating ego or soul of man, each descent into incarnation being merely a short though important episode in his career. It is therefore well worth our while to devote to its study such time and care as may be necessary to acquire as thorough a comprehension of it as is possible for us while encased in the physical body.
Unfortunately there are practically insuperable difficulties in the way of any attempt to put the facts of this third plane of nature into language — and not unnaturally, for we often find words insufficient to express our ideas and feelings even on this lowest plane.
Readers of The Astral Plane will remember what was there stated as to the impossibility of conveying any adequate conception of the marvels of that region to those whose experience had not as yet transcended the physical world; one can but say that every observation there made to that effect applies with tenfold force to the effort which is before us in this sequel to that treatise. Not only is the matter which we must endeavour to describe much further removed than is astral [page 6] matter from that to which we are accustomed, but the consciousness of that plane is so immensely wider than anything we can imagine down here, and its very conditions so entirely different, that when called upon to translate it all into mere ordinary words the explorer feels himself utterly at a loss, and can only trust that the intuition of his readers will supplement the inevitable imperfections of his description.
To take one only out of many possible examples of our difficulties, it would seem as though on this mental plane space and time were non-existent, for events which down here take place in succession and at widely-separated places, appear there to be occurring simultaneously and at the same point. That at least is the effect produced on the consciousness of the ego, though there are circumstances which favour the supposition that absolute simultaneity is the attribute of a still higher plane, and that the sensation of it in the heaven-world is simply the result of a succession so rapid that the infinitesimally minute spaces of time are indistinguishable, just as in the well-known optical experiment of whirling round a stick the end of which is red-hot, the eye receives the impression of a continuous ring of fire if the stick be whirled more than ten times a second; not because a continuous ring really exists, but because the average human eye is incapable of distinguishing as separate any similar impressions which follow one another at intervals of less than the tenth part of a second.
However that may be, the reader will readily comprehend that in the endeavour to describe a condition of existence so totally unlike that of physical life as is the one which we have to consider, it will be impossible to avoid saying many things that will be partly unintelligible and may even seem wholly incredible to those who have not personally experienced that higher life.
That this should be so is, as I [page 7] have said, inevitable, so readers who find themselves unable to accept the report of our investigators must simply wait for a more satisfactory account of the heaven-world until they are able to examine it for themselves: I can only repeat the assurance previously given in The Astral Plane that all reasonable precautions have been taken to ensure accuracy.
In this case as in that, we may say that " no fact, old or new, has been admitted to this treatise unless it has been confirmed by the testimony of at least two independent trained investigators among ourselves, and has also been passed as correct by older students whose knowledge on these points is necessarily much greater than ours.
It is hoped, therefore, that this account, though it cannot be considered as complete, may yet be found reliable as far as it goes. The heading " Scenery " would, however, be inappropriate to the mental plane, as will be seen later; we will therefore substitute for it the title which follows. I use the word pupil advisedly, for unless a man stand in that relation to one of the Masters of Wisdom, there is but little likelihood of his being able to pass in full consciousness into that glorious land off bliss, and return to earth with clear remembrance of that which he has seen there.
Thence no accommodating "spirit" ever comes to utter cheap platitudes through the mouth of the professional medium; thither no ordinary clairvoyant ever rises, though sometimes the best and purest have entered it when in deepest trance they slipped from the control of their mesmerizers — yet even then they have rarely brought back more than a faint recollection of an intense but indescribable bliss, generally deeply coloured by their personal religious convictions.
When once the departed soul, withdrawing into himself after what we call death, has reached that plane, neither the yearning thoughts of his sorrowing friends nor the allurements of the spiritualistic circle can ever draw him back into communion with the physical earth until all the spiritual forces which he has set in motion in his recent life have worked themselves out to the full, and he once more stands ready to take upon himself new robes of flesh.
Nor, even if he could so return, would his account of his experiences give any true idea of the plane, for, as will presently [page 9] be seen, it is only those who can enter it in full waking consciousness who are able to move about freely and drink in all the wondrous glory and beauty which the heaven-world has to show.
But all this will be more fully explained later, when we come to deal with the inhabitants of this celestial realm. A beautiful description. In an early letter from an eminent occultist the following beautiful passage was given as a quotation from memory.
This region is encircled within seven rows of railings, seven rows of vast curtains, seven rows of waving trees. It has seven precious lakes, in the midst of which flow crystalline waters having seven and yet one distinctive properties and qualities. Its divine udambara flower casts a root in the shadow of every earth, and blossoms for all those who reach it.
Those born in this blessed region - who have crossed the golden bridge and reached the seven golden mountains - they are truly felicitous; there is no more grief or sorrow in that cycle for them.
The "seven golden mountains" can be but the seven subdivisions of the mental plane, separated from [page 10] one another by barriers impalpable, yet real and effective there as "seven rows of railings, seven rows of vast curtains, seven rows of waving trees" might be here: the seven kinds of crystalline water, having each its distinctive properties and qualities, represent the different powers and conditions of mind belonging to them respectively, while the one quality which they all have in common is that of ensuring to those residing upon them the utmost intensity of bliss which they are capable of experiencing.
Its flower indeed "casts a root in the shadow of every earth," for from every world man enters the corresponding heaven, and happiness such as no tongue may tell is the blossom which burgeons forth for all who so live as to fit themselves to attain it.
For they have " crossed the golden bridge" over the stream which divides this realm from the world of desire; for them the struggle between the higher and the lower is over, and for them, therefore, is "no more grief or sorrow in that cycle," until once more the man puts himself forth into, incarnation, and the celestial world is again left for a time behind.
The Bliss of the Heaven-World. This intensity of bliss is the first great idea which must form a background to all our conceptions of the heaven-life. It is not only that we are dealing with a world in which, by its very constitution, evil and sorrow are impossible; it is not only a world in which every creature is happy; the facts of the case go far beyond all that.
It is a world in which every being must, from the very fact of his presence there, be enjoying the highest spiritual bliss of which he is capable — a world whose power of response to his aspirations is limited only by his capacity to aspire. And when the stupendous reality of it all bursts upon our astonished vision, we cannot but feel that, with this knowledge of the truth, life can never again look to us as it did before.
But here at last is truth and beauty, far transcending all that every poet dreamed; and in the light of its surpassing glory all other joy seems dim and faint, unreal and unsatisfying. Some detail of all this we must endeavour to make clear later on; the point to be emphasized for the moment is that this radiant sense, not only of the welcome absence of all evil and discord, but of the insistent, overwhelming presence of universal joy, is the first and most striking sensation experienced by him who enters upon the heaven-world.
And it never leaves him so long as he remains there; whatever work he may be doing, whatever still higher possibilities of spiritual exaltation may arise before him as he learns more of the capabilities of this new world in which he finds himself, the strange indescribable feeling of inexpressible delight in mere existence in such at realm underlies all else — this enjoyment of the abounding joy of others is ever present with him.
Nothing on earth is like it, nothing can image it; if one could suppose the bounding life of childhood carried up into our spiritual experience and then intensified many thousand-fold, perhaps some faint shadow of an idea of it might be suggested; [page 12] yet even such a simile falls miserably short of that which lies beyond all words — the tremendous spiritual vitality of this celestial world.
One way in which this intense vitality manifests itself is the extreme rapidity of vibration of all particles and atoms of this mental matter. As a theoretical proposition we are all aware that even here on the physical plane no particle of matter, though forming part of the densest of solid bodies, is ever for a moment at rest; nevertheless when by the opening of astral vision this becomes for us no longer a mere theory of the scientists, but an actual and ever-present fact, we realize the universality of life in a manner and to an extent that was quite impossible before; our mental horizon widens out, and we begin even already to have glimpses of possibilities in nature which to those who cannot yet see must appear the wildest of dreams.
If this be the effect of acquiring the mere astral vision, and applying it to dense physical matter, try to imagine the result produced on the mind of the observer when, having left this physical plane behind and thoroughly studied the far more vivid life and infinitely more rapid vibrations of the astral, he finds a new and transcendent sense opening within him, which unfolds to his enraptured gaze yet another and a higher world, whose vibrations are as much quicker than those of our physical plane as vibrations of light are than those of sound - a world where the omnipresent life which pulsates ceaselessly around and within him is of a different order altogether, is as it were raised to an enormously higher power.
A New Method of Cognition. The very sense itself, by which he is enabled to cognize all this, is not the least of the marvels of this celestial [page 13] world; no longer does he hear and see and feel by separate and limited organs, as he does down here, nor has he even the immensely extended capacity of sight and hearing which he possessed on the astral plane; instead of these he feels within him a strange new power which is not any of them, and yet includes them all and much more — a power which enables him the moment any person or thing comes before him not only to see it and feel it and hear it, but to know all about it instantly inside and out — its causes, its effects, and its possibilities, so far at least as that plane and all below it are concerned.
He finds that for him to think is to realize; there is never any doubt, hesitation, or delay about this direct action of the higher sense. If he thinks of a place, he is there; if of a friend, that friend is before him. No longer can misunderstandings arise, no longer can he be deceived or misled by any outward appearances, for every thought and feeling of his friend lies open as a book before him on that plane. And if he is fortunate enough to have among his friends another whose higher sense is opened, their intercourse is perfect beyond all earthly conception.
For them distance and separation do not exist; their feelings are no longer hidden or at best but half expressed by clumsy words; question and answer are unnecessary, for the thought-pictures are read as they are formed, and the interchange of ideas is rapid as is their flashing into existence in the mind.
All knowledge is theirs for the searching — all, that is, which does not transcend even this lofty plane; the past of the world is as open to them as the present; the indelible records of the memory of nature are ever at their disposal, and history, whether ancient or modern, unfolds itself before their eyes at their will. No longer are they at the mercy of the historian, who may be ill-informed, and must be more or less partial; they can [page14] study for themselves any incident in which they are interested, with the absolute certainty of seeing " the truth", the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
If it be asked whether they can see the future clearly as the past, the answer must be in the negative, for that faculty belongs to a still higher plane, and though in this mental plane prevision is to a great extent possible to them, yet it is not perfect, because wherever in the web of destiny the hand of the developed man comes in, his powerful will may introduce new threads, and change the pattern of the life to come.
The course of the ordinary undeveloped man, who has practically no will of his own worth speaking of, may often be foreseen clearly enough, but when the ego boldly takes his future into his own hands, exact prevision becomes impossible.
SURROUNDINGS The first impressions, then, of the pupil who enters this mental plane in full consciousness will probably be those of intense bliss, indescribable vitality, enormously increased power, and the perfect confidence which flows from these; and when he makes use of his new sense to examine his surroundings, what does he see?
He finds himself in the midst of what seems to him a whole universe of ever-changing light and colour and sound, such as it has never entered into his loftiest dreams to imagine. Verily it is true that down here " eye hath not seen, nor ear hath heard, neither [page 15] hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive" the glories of the heaven-world : and the man who has once experienced them in full consciousness will regard the world with widely different eyes for ever after.
Yet this experience is so utterly unlike anything we know on the physical plane that in trying to put it into words one is troubled by a curious sense of helplessness — of absolute incapacity, not only to do it justice, for of that one resigns all hope from the very outset, but even to give any idea at all of it to those who have not themselves seen it.
Let a man imagine himself, with the feelings of intense bliss and enormously increased power already described, floating in a sea of living light, surrounded by every conceivable variety of loveliness in colour and form — the whole changing with every wave of thought that he sends out from his mind, and being indeed, as he presently discovers, only the expression of his thought in the matter of the plane and in its elemental essence.
For that matter is of the very same order as that of which the mind-body is itself composed, and therefore when that vibration of the particles of the mind-body which we call a thought occurs, it immediately extends itself to this surrounding mental matter, and sets up corresponding vibrations in it, while in the elemental essence it images itself with absolute exactitude. Concrete thought naturally takes. It will thus be seen that in this higher world anyone who wishes to devote himself for a time to quiet thought, and to abstract himself from his surroundings, may actually live in a world of his own without possibility of interruption, and [page 16] with the additional advantage of seeing all his ideas and their consequences, fully worked out passing in a sort of panorama before his eyes.
If, however, he wishes instead to observe the plane upon which he finds himself, it will be necessary for him very carefully to suspend his thought for the time, so that its creations may not influence the readily impressible matter around him, and thus alter the entire conditions so far as he is concerned. This holding of the mind in suspense must not be confounded with the blankness of mind towards the attainment of which so many of the Hatha Yoga practices are directed: in the latter case the mind is dulled down into absolute passivity in order that it may not by any thought of its own offer resistance to the entry of any external influence that may happen to approach it — a condition closely approximating to mediumship; while in the former the mind is as keenly alert and positive as it can be, holding its thought in suspense for the moment merely to prevent the intrusion of a personal equation into the observation which it wishes to make.
When the visitor to the mental plane succeeds in putting himself in this position he finds that although he is no longer himself a centre of radiation of all that marvellous wealth of light and colour, form and sound, which I have so vainly endeavoured to picture, it has not therefore ceased to exist; on the contrary, its harmonies and its coruscations are but grander and fuller than ever. Casting about for an explanation of this phenomenon, he begins to realize that all this magnificence is not a mere idle or fortuitous display — a kind of devachanic aurora borealis; he finds that it all has a meaning — a meaning which he himself can understand ; and presently he grasps the fact that what he is watching with such ecstasy of delight is simply the glorious colour-language of the Devas — the expression of the thought or the [page 17] conversation of beings far higher than himself in the scale of evolution.
By experiment and practice he discovers that he also can use this new and beautiful mode of expression, and by this very discovery he enters into possession of another great tract of his heritage in this celestial realm —the power to hold converse with, and to learn from, its loftier non-human inhabitants, with whom we shall deal more fully when we come to treat of that part of our subject.
By this time it will have become apparent why it was impossible to devote a section of this paper to the scenery of the mental plane, as was done in the case of the astral; for in point of fact the mental world has no scenery except such as each individual chooses to make for himself by his thought — unless indeed we take into account the fact that the vast numbers of entities who are continually passing before him are themselves objects in many cases of the most transcendent beauty.
Yet so difficult is it to express in words the conditions of this higher life that it would be a still better statement of the facts to say that all possible scenery exists there — that there is nothing conceivable of loveliness in earth or sky or sea which is not there with a fulness and intensity beyond all power of imagination; but that out of all this splendour-of living reality each man sees only that which he has within himself the power to see — that to which his development during the earth-life and the astral-life enables him to respond.
The Great Waves If the visitor wishes to carry his analysis of the plane still further, and discover what it would be when entirely undisturbed by the thought or conversation of any of its inhabitants, he can do so by forming round himself a huge shell through which none of these influences can penetrate, and [page 18] then of course holding his own mind perfectly still as before examining the conditions which exist inside his shell. If he performs this experiment with sufficient care, he will find that the sea of light has become — not still, for its particles continue their intense and rapid vibrations, but — as it were homogeneous; that those wonderful coruscations of colour and constant changes of form are no longer taking place, but that he is now able to perceive another and entirely different series of regular pulsations which the other more artificial phenomena had previously obscured.
These are evidently universal, and no shell which human power can make will check them or turn them aside. They cause no change of colour, no assumption of form, but flow with resistless regularity through all the matter of the plane, outwards and in again, like the exhalations and inhalations of some great breath beyond our ken. There are several sets of these, clearly distinguishable from one another by volume, by period of vibration, and by the tone of the harmony which they bring, and grander than them all sweeps one great wave which seems the very heartbeat of the system — a wave which, welling up from unknown centres on far higher planes, pours out its life through all our world, and then draws back in its tremendous tide to That from which it came.
The Astral Plane
Clairvoyance in time: the past. Clairvoyance in time: the future. Methods of development. He will find that to gain such perfect control of thought is enormously more difficult than he supposes, but when he attains it, it cannot but be in every way most beneficial to him, and as he grows more and more able to elevate and concentrate his thought, he may gradually find that new worlds are opening before his sight. Besant and C. Professor Robert Ellwood wrote that from to Leadbeater undertook a course of meditation practice "which awakened his clairvoyance. It is equivalent to saying that "the astral consciousness and memory became continuous," whether the physical body was awake or asleep.
THE ASTRAL PLANE
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Blavatsky regards the astral plane as the second counting from below up , the one that is immediately above the objective or physical, whether on the macrocosmic or microcosmic world. Normal human beings are aware on it when asleep: The instinctual mind finds expression through the cerebellum, and is also that of the animals. With man during sleep the functions of the cerebrum cease, and the cerebellum carries him on to the Astral plane, a still more unreal state than even the waking plane of illusion; for so we call this state which the majority of you think so real. However, the nature of this plane is regarded to be illusory and deceptive: The Astral plane is still more deceptive [than the phsyical], because it reflects indiscriminately the good and the bad, and is so chaotic.