Astral Plane Scenery





First of all, then, it must be understood that the astral plane has

seven subdivisions, each of which has its corresponding degree of

materiality and its corresponding condition of matter. Now numbering

these from the highest and least material downwards, we find that they

naturally fall into three classes, divisions 1, 2 and 3 forming one

such class, and 4, 5 and 6 another, while the seventh and lowest of

all stands alone. The difference between the matter of one of these

classes and the next would be commensurable with that between a solid

and a liquid, while the difference between the matter of the

subdivisions of a class would rather resemble that between two kinds

of solid, such as, say, steel and sand. Putting aside for the moment

the seventh, we may say that divisions 4, 5 and 6 of the astral plane

have for their background the physical world we live in and all its

familiar accessories. Life on the sixth division is simply our

ordinary life on this earth, minus the physical body and its

necessities; while as it ascends through the fifth and fourth

divisions it becomes less and less material, and is more and more

withdrawn from our lower world and its interests.



The scenery of these lower divisions, then, is that of the earth as we know

it: but it is also very much more; for when looked at from this different

standpoint, with the assistance of the astral senses, even purely physical

objects present a very different appearance. As has already been

mentioned, they are seen by one whose eyes are fully opened, not as usual

from one point of view, but from all sides at once--an idea in itself

sufficiently confusing; and when we add to this that every particle in the

interior of a solid body is as fully and clearly visible as those on the

outside, it will be comprehended that under such conditions even the most

familiar objects may at first be totally unrecognizable. Yet a moment's

consideration will show that such vision approximates much more closely to

true perception than does physical sight. Looked at on the astral plane,

for example, the sides of a glass cube would all appear equal, as they

really are, while on the physical plane we see the further side in

perspective--that is, it appears smaller than the nearer side, which is, of

course, a mere illusion. It is this characteristic of astral vision which

has led to its sometimes being spoken of as sight in the fourth

dimension--a very suggestive and expressive phrase. But in addition to

these possible sources of error matters are further complicated by the fact

that astral sight cognizes forms of matter which, while still purely

physical, are nevertheless invisible under ordinary conditions. Such, for

example, are the particles composing the atmosphere, all the various

emanations which are always being given out by everything that has life,

and also four grades of a still finer order of physical matter which, for

want of more distinctive names, must all he described as etheric. The

latter form a kind of system by themselves, freely interpenetrating all

other physical matter; and the investigation of their vibrations and the

manner in which various higher forces affect them would in itself

constitute a vast field of deeply interesting study for any man of science

who possessed the requisite sight for its examination.



Even when our imagination has fully grasped all that is comprehended

in what has already been said, we do not yet understand half the

complexity of the problem; for besides all these new forms of physical

matter we have to deal with the still more numerous and perplexing

subdivisions of astral matter. We must note first that every material

object, every particle even, has its astral counterpart; and this

counterpart is itself not a simple body, but is usually extremely

complex, being composed of various kinds of astral matter. In addition

to this each living creature is surrounded with an atmosphere of its

own, usually called its aura, and in the case of human beings this

aura forms of itself a very fascinating branch of study. It is seen as

an oval mass of luminous mist of highly complex structure, and from

its shape has sometimes been called the auric egg. Theosophical

readers will hear with pleasure that even at the early stage of his

development at which the pupil begins to acquire this astral sight, he

is able to assure himself by direct observation of the accuracy of the

teaching given through our great founder, Madame Blavatsky, on the

subject of some at least of the seven principles of man. In regarding

his fellow-man he no longer sees only his outer appearance; exactly

co-extensive with that physical body he clearly distinguishes the

etheric double, which in Theosophical literature has usually been

called the Linga Sharira; while the Jiva, as it is absorbed and

specialized into Prana, as it circulates in rosy light throughout the

body, as it eventually radiates from the healthy person in its altered

form, is also perfectly obvious. Most brilliant and most easily seen

of all, perhaps, though belonging to quite a different order of

matter--the astral--is the kamic aura, which expresses by its vivid

and ever-changing flashes of colour the different desires which sweep

across the man's mind from moment to moment. This is the true astral

body. Behind that, and consisting of a finer grade of matter--that of

the rupa levels of Devachan--lies the devachanic body or aura of the

lower Manas, whose colours, changing only by slow degrees as the man

lives his life, show the disposition and character of the personality;

while still higher and infinitely more beautiful, where at all clearly

developed, is the living light of the Karana Sharira, the aura or

vehicle of the higher Manas, which shows the stage of development of

the real Ego in its passage from birth to birth. But to see these the

pupil must have developed something more than mere astral vision.



It will save the student much trouble if he learns at once to regard

these auras not as mere emanations, but as the actual manifestation of

the Ego on their respective planes--if he understands that it is the

auric egg which is the real man, not the physical body which on this

plane crystallizes in the middle of it. So long as the reincarnating

Ego remains upon the plane which is his true home in the arupa levels

of Devachan, the body which he inhabits is the Karana Sharira, but

when he descends into the rupa levels he must, in order to be able to

function upon them, clothe himself in their matter; and the matter

that he thus attracts to himself furnishes his devachanic or

mind-body. Similarly, descending into the astral plane he forms his

astral or kamic body out of its matter, though of course still

retaining all the other bodies, and on his still further descent to

this lowest plane of all the physical body is formed in the midst of

the auric egg, which thus contains the entire man. Fuller accounts of

these auras will be found in _Transaction_ No. 18 of the London Lodge,

and in a recent article of mine in _The Theosophist_, but enough has

been said here to show that as they all occupy the same space (which

by the way they share also with the physical health-aura), the finer

interpenetrating the grosser, it needs careful study and much

practice to enable the neophyte to distinguish clearly at a glance the

one from the other. Nevertheless the human aura, or more usually some

one part of it only, is not infrequently one of the first purely

astral objects seen by the untrained, though in such a case its

indications are naturally very likely to be misunderstood.



Though the kamic aura from the brilliancy of its flashes of colour may

often be more conspicuous, the nerve-ether and the etheric double are

really of a much denser order of matter, being strictly speaking

within the limits of the physical plane, though invisible to ordinary

sight. It has been the custom in Theosophical literature to describe

the Linga Sharira as the astral counterpart of the human body, the

word "astral" having been usually applied to everything beyond the

cognition of our physical senses. As closer investigation enables us

to be more precise in the use of our terms, however, we find ourselves

compelled to admit much of this invisible matter as purely physical,

and therefore to define the Linga Sharira no longer as the astral, but

as the etheric double. This seems an appropriate name for it, since it

consists of various grades of that matter which scientists call

"ether," though this proves on examination to be not a separate

substance, as has been generally supposed, but a condition of finer

subdivision than the gaseous, to which any kind of physical matter may

be reduced by the application of the appropriate forces. The name

"etheric double" will therefore for the future be used in Theosophic

writings instead of "Linga Sharira": and this change will not only

give us the advantage of an English name which is clearly indicative

of the character of the body to which it is applied, but will also

relieve us from the frequent misunderstandings which have arisen from

the fact that an entirely different signification is attached in all

the Oriental books to the name we have hitherto been using. It must

not however be supposed that in making this alteration in

nomenclature we are in any way putting forward a new conception; we

are simply altering, for the sake of greater accuracy, the labels

previously attached to certain facts in nature. If we examine with

psychic faculty the body of a newly-born child, we shall find it

permeated not only by astral matter of every degree of density, but

also by the several grades of etheric matter; and if we take the

trouble to trace these inner bodies backwards to their origin, we find

that it is of the latter that the etheric double--the mould upon which

the physical body is built up--is formed by the agents of the LORDS of

Karma; while the astral matter has been gathered together by the

descending Ego--not of course consciously, but automatically--as he

passes through the astral plane. (See _Manual_ No. IV., p. 44.)



Into the composition of the etheric double must enter something of all

the different grades of etheric matter; but the proportions may vary

greatly, and are determined by several factors, such as the race,

sub-race, and type of a man, as well as by his individual Karma. When

it is remembered that these four subdivisions of matter are made up of

numerous combinations, which, in their turn, form aggregations that

enter into the composition of the "atom" of the so-called "element" of

the chemist, it will be seen that this second principle of man is

highly complex, and the number of its possible variations practically

infinite, so that, however complicated and unusual a man's Karma may

be, the LIPIKA are able to give a mould in accordance with which a

body exactly suiting it can be formed.



One other point deserves mention in connection with the appearance of

physical matter when looked at from the astral plane, and that is that

the astral vision possesses the power of magnifying at will the

minutest physical particle to any desired size, as though by a

microscope, though its magnifying power is enormously greater than

that of any microscope ever made or ever likely to be made. The

hypothetical molecule and atom postulated by science are therefore

visible realities to the occult student, though the latter recognizes

them as much more complex in their nature than the scientific man has

yet discovered them to be. Here again is a vast field of study of

absorbing interest to which a whole volume might readily be devoted;

and a scientific investigator who should acquire this astral sight in

perfection, would not only find his experiments with ordinary and

known phenomena immensely facilitated, but would also see stretching

before him entirely new vistas of knowledge needing more than a

lifetime for their thorough examination. For example, one curious and

very beautiful novelty brought to his notice by the development of

this vision would be the existence of other and entirely different

colours beyond the limits of the ordinarily visible spectrum, the

ultra-red and ultra-violet rays which science has discovered by other

means being plainly perceptible to astral sight. We must not, however,

allow ourselves to follow these fascinating bye-paths, but must resume

our endeavour to give a general idea of the appearance of the astral

plane.



It will by this time be obvious that though, as above stated, the

ordinary objects of the physical world form the background to life on

certain levels of the astral plane, yet so much more is seen of their

real appearance and characteristics that the general effect differs

widely from that with which we are familiar. For the sake of

illustration take a rock as an example of the simpler class of

objects. When regarded with trained sight it is no mere inert mass of

stone. First of all, the whole of the physical matter of the rock is

seen instead of a very small part of it; secondly, the vibrations of

its physical particles are perceptible; thirdly, it is seen to possess

an astral counterpart composed of various grades of astral matter,

whose particles are also in constant motion; fourthly, the Jiva or

universal life is seen to be circulating through it and radiating from

it; fifthly, an aura will be seen surrounding it, though this is, of

course, much less extended and varied than in the case of the higher

kingdoms; sixthly, its appropriate elemental essence is seen

permeating it, ever active but ever fluctuating. In the case of the

vegetable, animal and human kingdoms, the complications are naturally

much more numerous.



It may be objected by some readers that no such complexities as these

are described by most of the psychics who occasionally get glimpses of

the astral world, nor are they reported at _seances_ by the entities

that manifest there; but this is readily accounted for. Few untrained

persons on that plane, whether living or dead, see things as they

really are until after very long experience; even those who do see

fully are often too dazed and confused to understand or remember: and

among the very small minority who both see and remember there are

hardly any who can translate the recollection into language on our

lower plane. Many untrained psychics never examine their visions

scientifically at all: they simply obtain an impression which may be

quite correct, but may also be half false, or even wholly misleading.



All the more probable does the latter hypothesis become when we take

into consideration the frequent tricks played by sportive denizens of

the other world, against which the untrained person is usually

absolutely defenceless. It must also be remembered that the regular

inhabitant of the astral plane, whether he be human or elemental, is

under ordinary circumstances conscious only of the objects of that

plane, physical matter being to him as entirely invisible as is astral

matter to the majority of mankind. Since, as before remarked, every

physical object has its astral counterpart, which _would_ be visible

to him, it may be thought that the distinction is a trivial one, yet

it is an essential part of the symmetrical conception of the subject.

If, however, an astral entity constantly works through a medium, these

finer astral senses may gradually be so coarsened as to become

insensible to the higher grades of matter on their own plane, and to

include in their purview the physical world as we see it instead; but

only the trained visitor from this life, who is fully conscious on

both planes, can depend upon seeing both clearly and simultaneously.

Be it understood, then, that the complexity exists, and that only when

it is fully perceived and scientifically unravelled is there perfect

security against deception or mistake.



For the seventh or lowest subdivision of the astral plane also this

physical world of ours may be said to be the background, though what

is seen is only a distorted and partial view of it, since all that is

light and good and beautiful seems invisible. It was thus described

four thousand years ago in the Egyptian papyrus of the Scribe Ani:

"What manner of place is this unto which I have come? It hath no

water, it hath no air; it is deep, unfathomable; it is black as the

blackest night, and men wander helplessly about therein; in it a man

may not live in quietness of heart." For the unfortunate entity on

that level it is indeed true that "all the earth is full of darkness

and cruel habitations," but it is darkness which radiates from within

himself and causes his existence to be passed in a perpetual night of

evil and horror--a very real hell, though, like all other hells,

entirely of man's own creation.



Most students find the investigation of this section an extremely

unpleasant task, for there appears to be a sense of density and gross

materiality about it which is indescribably loathsome to the liberated

astral body, causing it the sense of pushing its way through some

black, viscous fluid, while the inhabitants and influences

encountered there are also usually exceedingly undesirable.



The first, second, and third subdivisions seem much further removed

from this physical world, and correspondingly less material. Entities

inhabiting these levels lose sight of the earth and its belongings;

they are usually deeply self-absorbed, and to a large extent create

their own surroundings, though these are not purely subjective, as in

Devachan, but on the contrary sufficiently objective to be perceptible

to other entities and also to clairvoyant vision. This region is

beyond doubt the "summerland" of which we hear so much at

spiritualistic _seances_, and the entities who descend from and

describe it are probably often speaking the truth as far as their

knowledge extends. It is on these planes that "spirits" call into

temporary existence their houses, schools, and cities, for these

objects are often real enough for the time, though to a clearer sight

they may sometimes be pitiably unlike what their delighted creators

suppose them to be. Nevertheless, many of the imaginations that take

form there are of real though temporary beauty, and a visitor who knew

of nothing higher might wander contentedly enough there among forests

and mountains, lovely lakes and pleasant flower-gardens, or might even

construct such surroundings to suit his own fancies.



It may be said in passing that communication is limited on the astral

plane by the knowledge of the entity, just as it is here. While a

person able to function freely on that plane can communicate with any

of the human entities there present more readily and rapidly than on

earth, by means of mental impressions, the inhabitants themselves do

not usually seem able to exercise this power, but appear to be

restricted by limitations similar to those that prevail on earth,

though perhaps less rigid. The result of this is that they are found

associating, there as here in groups drawn together by common

sympathies, beliefs, and language.



An account of the scenery of the astral plane would be incomplete

without mention of what are commonly called the Records of the Astral

Light, the photographic representation of all that has ever happened.

These records are really and permanently impressed upon that higher

medium called the Akasha, and are only reflected in a more or less

spasmodic manner in the astral light, so that one whose power of

vision does not rise above this plane will be likely to obtain only

occasional and disconnected pictures of the past instead of a coherent

narrative. But nevertheless pictures of all kinds of past events are

constantly being reproduced on the astral plane, and form an important

part of the surroundings of the investigator there.





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