When the soul passes out from the body at the moment of death it carries with it the “Astral Body” as well as the higher mental and spiritual principles (see the first three lessons in the “Fourteen Lessons”). The Astral Body is the counterpart of the material or physical body, although it is composed of matter of a much finer and ethereal nature than is the physical body. It is invisible to the ordinary eye, but may be seen clairvoyantly.
The Astral Body rises from the physical body like a faint, luminous vapor, and for a time is connected with the dying physical body by a thin, vapory cord or thread, which finally breaks entirely and the separation becomes complete. The Astral Body is some time afterward discarded by the soul as it passes on to the higher planes, as we have described a few pages further back, and the abandoned Astral Body becomes an “Astral Shell,” and is subject to a slow disintegration, just as is the physical body.
It is no more the soul than is the physical body–it is merely a cast off garment of fine matter. It will be seen readily that it is not an entity, force or being–it is only cast off matter–a sloughed skin. It has no life or intelligence, but floats around on the lower Astral Plane until it finally disintegrates. It has an attraction toward its late physical associate–the physical body–and often returns to the place where the latter is buried, where it is sometimes seen by persons whose astral sight is temporarily awakened, when it is mistaken for a “ghost” or “spirit” of the person.
These Astral Shells are often seen floating around over graveyards, battlefields, etc. And sometimes these shells coming in contact with the psychic magnetism of a medium become “galvanized” into life, and manifest signs of intelligence, which, however, really comes from the mind of the medium. At some seances these re-vitalized shells manifest and materialize, and talk in a vague, meaningless manner, the shell receiving its vitality from the body and mind of the medium instead of speaking from any consciousness of its own. This statement is not to be taken as any denial of true “spirit return,” but is merely an explanation of certain forms of so-called “spiritualistic phenomena” which is well understood by advanced “spiritualists,” although many seekers after psychic phenomena are in ignorance of it.