Astral Plane Introduction





Reference to the astral plane, or Kamaloka as it is called in

Sanskrit, has frequently been made by Theosophical writers, and a good

deal of information on the subject of this realm of nature is to be

found scattered here and there in our books; but there is not, so far

as I am aware, any single volume to which one can turn for a complete

summary of the facts at present known to us about this interesting

region. The object of this manual is to collect and make some attempt

to arrange this scattered information, and also to supplement it

slightly in cases where new facts have come to our knowledge. It must

be understood that any such additions are only the result of the

investigations of a few explorers, and must not, therefore, be taken

as in any way authoritative, but are given simply for what they are

worth. On the other hand every precaution in our power has been taken

to ensure accuracy, no fact, old or new, being admitted to this manual

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 of the astral plane, though it cannot be considered as quite

complete, may yet be found reliable as far as it goes.



The first point which it is necessary to make clear in describing this

astral plane is its absolute _reality_. Of course in using that word I

am not speaking from that metaphysical standpoint from which all but

the One Unmanifested is unreal because impermanent; I am using the

word in its plain, every-day sense, and I mean by it that the objects

and inhabitants of the astral plane are real in exactly the same way

as our own bodies, our furniture, our houses or monuments are real--as

real as Charing Cross, to quote an expressive remark from one of the

earliest Theosophical works. They will no more endure for ever than

will objects on the physical plane, but they are nevertheless

realities from our point of view while they last--realities which we

cannot afford to ignore merely because the majority of mankind is as

yet unconscious, or but vaguely conscious, of their existence.



There appears to be considerable misunderstanding even among

Theosophical students upon this question of the reality of the various

planes of the universe. This may perhaps be partly due to the fact

that the word "plane" has occasionally been very loosely used in our

literature--writers speaking vaguely of the mental plane, the moral

plane, and so on; and this vagueness has led many people to suppose

that the information on the subject which is to be found in

Theosophical books is inexact and speculative--a mere hypothesis

incapable of definite proof. No one can get a clear conception of the

teachings of the Wisdom-Religion until he has at any rate an

intellectual grasp of the fact that in our solar system there exist

perfectly definite planes, each with its own matter of different

degrees of density, and that some of these planes can be visited and

observed by persons who have qualified themselves for the work,

exactly as a foreign country might be visited and observed; and that,

by comparison of the observations of those who are constantly working

on these planes, evidence can be obtained of their existence and

nature at least as satisfactory as that which most of us have for the

existence of Greenland or Spitzbergen. The names usually given to

these planes, taking them in order of materiality, rising from the

denser to the finer, are the physical, the astral, the devachanic, the

sushuptic, and the nirvanic. Higher than this last are two others, but

they are so far above our present power of conception that for the

moment they may be left out of consideration. Now it should be

understood that the matter of each of these planes differs from that

of the one below it in the same way as, though to a much greater

degree than, vapour differs from solid matter; in fact, the states of

matter which we call solid, liquid, and gaseous are merely the three

lowest subdivisions of the matter belonging to this one physical

plane.



The astral region which I am to attempt to describe is the second of

these great planes of nature--the next above (or within) that physical

world with which we are all familiar. It has often been called the

realm of illusion--not that it is itself any more illusory than the

physical world, but because of the extreme unreliability of the

impressions brought back from it by the untrained seer. This is to be

accounted for mainly by two remarkable characteristics of the astral

world--first, that many of its inhabitants have a marvellous power of

changing their forms with Protean rapidity, and also of casting

practically unlimited glamour over those with whom they choose to

sport; and secondly, that sight on that plane is a faculty very

different from and much more extended than physical vision. An object

is seen, as it were, from all sides at once, the inside of a solid

being as plainly open to the view as the outside; it is therefore

obvious that an inexperienced visitor to this new world may well find

considerable difficulty in understanding what he really does see, and

still more in translating his vision into the very inadequate language

of ordinary speech. A good example of the sort of mistake that is

likely to occur is the frequent reversal of any number which the seer

has to read from the astral light, so that he would be liable to

render, say, 139 as 931, and so on. In the case of a student of

occultism trained by a capable Master such a mistake would be

impossible except through great hurry or carelessness, since such a

pupil has to go through a long and varied course of instruction in

this art of seeing correctly, the Master, or perhaps some more

advanced pupil, bringing before him again and again all possible forms

of illusion, and asking him "What do you see?" Any errors in his

answers are then corrected and their reasons explained, until by

degrees the neophyte acquires a certainty and confidence in dealing

with the phenomena of the astral plane which far exceeds anything

possible in physical life. But he has to learn not only to see

correctly but to translate the memory of what he has seen accurately

from one plane to the other; and to assist him in this he is trained

to carry his consciousness without break from the physical plane to

the astral or devachanic and back again, for until that can be done

there is always a possibility that his recollections may be partially

lost or distorted during the blank interval which separates his

periods of consciousness on the various planes. When the power of

bringing over the consciousness is perfectly acquired the pupil will

have the advantage of the use of all the astral faculties, not only

while out of his body during sleep or trance, but also while fully

awake in ordinary physical life.



It has been the custom of some Theosophists to speak with scorn of

the astral plane, and treat it as entirely unworthy of attention; but

that seems to me a somewhat mistaken view. Most assuredly that at

which we have to aim is the purely spiritual plane, and it would be

most disastrous for any student to neglect that higher development and

rest satisfied with the attainment of astral consciousness. There are

some whose Karma is such as to enable them to develop the purely

spiritual faculties first of all--to over-leap the astral plane for

the time, as it were; and when afterwards they make its acquaintance

they have, if their spiritual development has been perfect, the

immense advantage of dipping into it from above, with the aid of a

spiritual insight which cannot be deceived and a spiritual strength

which nothing can resist. It is, however, a mistake to suppose, as

some writers have done, that this is the only, or even the ordinary

method adopted by the Masters of Wisdom with their pupils. Where it is

possible it saves much trouble, but for most of us such progress by

leaps and bounds has been forbidden by our own faults or follies in

the past: all that we can hope for is to win our way slowly step by

step, and since this astral plane lies next to our world of denser

matter, it is usually in connection with it that our earliest

superphysical experiences take place. It is therefore by no means

without interest to those of us who are but beginners in these

studies, and a clear comprehension of its mysteries may often be of

the greatest importance to us, not only by enabling us to understand

many of the phenomena of the _seance_-room, of haunted houses, etc.,

which would otherwise be inexplicable, but also to guard ourselves and

others from possible dangers.



The first introduction to this remarkable region comes to people in

various ways. Some only once in their whole lives under some unusual

influence become sensitive enough to recognize the presence of one of

its inhabitants, and perhaps, because the experience does not repeat

itself, come in time to believe that on that occasion they must have

been the victims of hallucination: others find themselves with

increasing frequency seeing and hearing something to which those

around them are blind and deaf; others again--and perhaps this is the

commonest experience of all--begin to recollect with greater and

greater clearness that which they have seen or heard on that other

plane during sleep. Among those who make a study of these subjects,

some try to develop the astral sight by crystal-gazing or other

methods, while those who have the inestimable advantage of the direct

guidance of a qualified teacher will probably be placed upon that

plane for the first time under his special protection, which will be

continued until, by the application of various tests, he has satisfied

himself that the pupil is proof against any danger or terror that he

is likely to encounter. But, however it may occur, the first actual

realization that we are all the while in the midst of a great world

full of active life, of which most of us are nevertheless entirely

unconscious, cannot but be to some extent a memorable epoch in a man's

existence.



So abundant and so manifold is this life of the astral plane that at

first it is absolutely bewildering to the neophyte; and even for the

more practised investigator it is no easy task to attempt to classify

and to catalogue it. If the explorer of some unknown tropical forest

were asked not only to give a full account of the country through

which he had passed, with accurate details of its vegetable and

mineral productions, but also to state the genus and species of every

one of the myriad insects, birds, beasts, and reptiles which he had

seen, he might well shrink appalled at the magnitude of the

undertaking: yet even this affords no parallel to the embarrassments

of the psychic investigator, for in his case matters are further

complicated, first by the difficulty of correctly translating from

that plane to this the recollection of what he has seen, and secondly

by the utter inadequacy of ordinary language to express much of what

he has to report. However, just as the explorer on the physical plane

would probably commence his account of a country by some sort of

general description of its scenery and characteristics, so it will be

well to begin this slight sketch of the astral plane by endeavouring

to give some idea of the scenery which forms the background of its

marvellous and ever-changing activities. Yet here at the outset an

almost insuperable difficulty confronts us in the extreme complexity

of the matter. All who see fully on that plane agree that to attempt

to call up before those whose eyes are as yet unopened a vivid picture

of this astral scenery is like speaking to a blind man of the

exquisite variety of tints in a sunset sky--however detailed and

elaborate the description may be, there is no certainty that the idea

presented before the hearer's mind will be an adequate representation

of the truth.





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