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|Subject: ASTRAL WORLD Sat Jul 09, 2011 10:24 pm|| |
According to theosophical teaching, the Astral World is the first sphere after bodily death. It is said to be material of a refined texture. There are any speculations concerning this world of existence. Theosophy claims definite knowledge of its conditions and its inhabitants and the numerous teachers influenced by Theosophy offer variations on the basic theme. Many descriptive accounts are to be found in spiritualistic after-death communications. All this, however, is inaccessible to experimental research.
In Theosophy, the Kama World is the second lowest of seven worlds, the world of emotions, desires, and passions. Into it man passes at physical death, and there he functions for periods that vary with the state of his development, the primitive savage spending a relatively short time in the Astral World, the civilized man spending relatively longer. The appropriate body is the astral body, which although composed of matter as is the physical body, is nevertheless of a texture vastly finer than the latter. Although it is in its aspect of the after-death abode that the Astral World is of most importance and most interest, it may be said that even during physical life, some clairvoyants and even ordinary people are said to be aware of it. This happens during sleep, or by reason of the action of anesthetics or drugs, or accidents; and the interpenetrating astral body then leaves its denser physical counterpart, taking with it the sense of pleasure and pain, and lives for a short time in its own world. Here again the state of the primitive differs from that of his more advanced fellows. The less advanced body does not travel far from his immediate surroundings, while the more mature one may perform useful, helpful work for the benefit of humanity. Furthermore, note that disembodied people are not the only inhabitants of the Astral World, for very many of its inhabitants are said to be of an altogether nonhuman nature—lower orders of the devas, or angels; and nature-spirits, or elementals, both good and bad, such as fairies, which are just beyond the powers of human vision; as well as demons, present to alcoholics in delirium tremens. Following physical death, the Astral World is said to contain both heaven and hell as these are popularly conceived.
The Astral World is comprised of seven divisions which correspond to the seven divisions of matter: the solid, liquid, gaseous, etheric, super-etheric, subatomic, and atomic. These divisions are believed to play a most important part in the immediate destiny of humans: If through ignorance, one has permitted the rearrangement of the matter of the astral body into sheaths, one is cognizant only of part of one’s surroundings at a time, and it is not till after experience, much of which may be extremely painful, that one is able to enjoy the bliss that the higher divisions of the Astral World contain.
The lowest of these divisions, the seventh, is the environment of gross and unrestrained passions. Since it and most of the matter in the inhabitants’ astral bodies is of the same type, it constitutes a veritable hell and is the only hell which exists. This is Avichi, the place of desires that cannot be satisfied because of the absence of the physical body, which was the means of their satisfaction. The tortures of these desires are the analog of the torments of hell-fire in the older Christian orthodoxy.
Unlike that orthodoxy, however, Theosophy teaches that the state of torment is not eternal but passes away in time, when the desires—through long gnawing without fulfillment—have at last died. Avichi is more correctly regarded as a purgatorial state. The ordinary individual, however, does not experience this seventh division of the Astral World, but according to character finds itself in one or other of the three next higher divisions. The sixth division is very little different from physical existence, and the new inhabitant continues in the old surroundings among old friends, who, of course, are unaware of the astral presence. Indeed, the newly disembodied soul often does not realize that it is dead, so far as the physical world is concerned. The fifth and fourth divisions are in most respects quite similar to this, but their inhabitants become less and less immersed in the activities and interests that previously engrossed them, and each sheath of their astral bodies decays in turn, as did the gross outer sheath of the sensualist’s body.
The three higher divisions are still more removed from the ordinary material world, and their inhabitants enjoy a state of bliss of which we can have no conception: worries and cares of earth are altogether absent, the insistence of lower desires has worn out in the lower divisions, and it is now possible to live continually in an environment of the loftiest thoughts and aspirations. The third division is said to correspond to the Summerland of Spiritualism, where the inhabitants live in a world of their own creation—the creation of their thoughts. Its cities and all their contents, scenery of life, are all formed by the influence of thought.
The second division is what is properly looked upon as Heaven, and the inhabitants of different races, creeds, and beliefs all find it each according to individual belief. Hence, instead of it being the place taught of by any particular religion, it is the region where every religion finds its own ideal. Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and so on, find it to be just as they conceived it would be. Here, and in the first and highest division, the inhabitants pursue noble aims freed from whatever selfishness was mingled with these aims on earth. The literary man, without thoughts of fame; the artist, the scholar, the preacher, all working without incentive of personal interest, and when their work is pursued long enough, and they are fitted for the change, they leave the Astral World and enter one vastly higher—the Mental.
However, the rearrangement of the matter of the astral body at physical death is said to be the result of ignorance, and those who are sufficiently instructed do not permit this rearrangement to take. They are not, therefore, confined to any one division and do not have to progress from division to division, but they are able to move through any part of the Astral World, laboring always in their various lines of action to assist the great evolutionary scheme. Many such theosophical teachings derive from traditional Hindu mysticism.
Besant Annie. The Ancient Wisdom. 1897. Reprint, Wheaton, Ill.: Theosophical Press, 1928.
Leadbeater, Charles W. The Astral Plane. London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1915.
Mead, George R. S. The Doctrine of the Subtle Body in Western Tradition. London: John M. Watkins, 1919.
Reprint, Wheaton, Ill.: Theosophical Publishing House, 1967.
Nizida. The Astral Light. London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1889.
Reprint, Talent, Ore.: Eastern School Press, 1983.
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology