In these lessons we have not attempted to force upon the student any conception of the truth which did not appeal to him, or which did not harmonize with his own conception. We grant to all the liberty of their own convictions, preferring that they should accept only such of the Yogi teachings as may appeal to them, letting the rest pass by as not being needed just at that time.
We merely state the Yogi’s conception of the matter, as simply and plainly as we are able, that the student may understand the theory – whether or not it appeals to him as truth is a matter with which we have no concern. If it is true, then it is true, no matter what the student may think of it, and his belief or unbelief does not change matters. But, the Yogis do not hold to the idea that anyone is to be punished for unbelief, nor is one to be rewarded for belief – they hold that belief and unbelief are not matters of the will, but of the growth of understanding, therefore it is not consistent with justice to suppose that one is rewarded or punished for belief or unbelief.
The Yogis are the most tolerant of people. They see good, and truth, in all forms of belief, and conceptions of truth, and never blame any for not agreeing with them. They have no set creeds, and do not ask their followers to accept as a matter of course all that they teach. Their advice to students is: “Take what appeals to you, and leave the rest – tomorrow come back and take some of what you have rejected today, and so on, until you receive all we have to give you – do not force yourself to accept unpalatable truths, for when the time comes for you to receive them they will be pleasant to your mental taste – take what you please, and leave what you please – our idea of hospitality does not consist in forcing unpalatable things upon you, insisting that you must eat them to gain our favor, or that you will be punished for not liking them – take your own wherever you find it; but take nothing that is not yours by right of understanding; and fear not that anything that belongs to you may be withheld.” With this understanding we proceed with our lesson – a most important one.
When the Ego leaves the body, at the moment of what we call Death, it leaves behind it the lower principles, and passes onward to states which will be considered by us presently. It leaves behind, first, the physical body. This physical body, as we have told you in the First Lesson, is composed of millions of tiny cells – little lives having a bit of mind or intelligence, under control of the central mind of the man; having also a supply of prana, or vital force, and a material casing or body, the sum of which little bodies makes the whole body of the man. We have devoted a chapter of our book upon “Hatha Yoga” to the consideration of these little lives, and we must refer the student to that book for fuller particulars of their life and work.
When the death of the man occurs – when the Ego leaves its material sheath which it has used for the period of that particular “life,” the cells separate and scatter, and that which we call decay sets in. The force which has held these cells together is withdrawn, and they are free to go their own way and form new combinations. Some are absorbed into the bodies of the plants in the vicinity, and eventually find themselves forming parts of the body of some animal which has eaten the plant, or a part of some other man who has eaten the plant or the meat of the animal which had eaten the plant. You will, of course, understand that these little cell – lives have nothing to do with the real soul or Ego of the man – they are but his late servants, and have no connection with his consciousness. Others of these atoms remain in the ground for some time, until taken up by some other form of living thing which needs nourishment. As a leading writer has said, “Death is but an aspect of life, and the destruction of one material form is but a prelude to the building up of another.”
From the moment that the Ego leaves the physical body, and the influence of the commanding mind is withdrawn from the cells and the cell groups, disorder reigns among them. They become a disorganized army, rushing hither and thither, in terfering with each other – jostling and pushing each other – even fighting each other, their only object being to get away from the crowd – to escape from the general confusion. During the life of the body their main object is to work together in harmony, under the orders of their officers – after the death of the body their only object seems to separate and each go its own way. First the groups separate one from the other – then each group breaks up into smaller groups-and so on until each individual cell becomes freed from its fellows, and goes its own way, or where it is called by some form of life needing it. As a writer on the subject has said, “The body is never more alive when it is dead; but it is alive in its units, and dead in its totality.”
When the Ego departs from the physical body, at the moment of death, the Prana being no longer under control of the central mind, responds only to the orders of the individual atoms or their groups, which have formed the individual body, and as the physical body disentegrates and is resolved into its original elements, each atom takes with it sufficient Prana to maintain its vitality, and to enable it to form new combinations, the unused Prana returning to the great universal storehouse, from which it came.
When the Ego leaves the body, at the moment of death, it carries with it the Astral Body as well as the higher principles. This astral body, you will remember, is the exact counterpart of the physical body, but is composed of a finer quality of matter, and is invisible to the ordinary vision, but may be plainly seen by clairvoyant or astral sight, and may therefore be sometimes seen by persons under certain psychic conditions. Clairvoyants describe the parting of the Astral Body from the Physical Body as most interesting. They describe it as rising from the physical body, like a cloud of thin luminous vapor, but being connected with the physical body by a slender, silken, vapory cord, which cord becomes thinner and thinner until it becomes invisible to even the fine clairvoyant vision, just before it breaks entirely. The Astral Body exists some time after the physical death of the man, and under certain circumstances it becomes visible to living persons, and is called a “ghost.” The Astral Body of a dying person is sometimes projected by an earnest desire and may become visible to relatives or friends with whom the dead man is in sympathy.
After a time, differing in various cases, as we will see later on, the Astral Body is discarded by the Ego, and it in turn begins to disintegrate. This discarded Astral Body is nothing more than a corpse of finer material, and is what occultists know as an “astral shell.” It has no life or intelligence, when thus discarded, and floats around in the lower astral atmosphere, until it is resolved into its original elements. It seems to have a peculiar attraction toward its late physical counterpart, and will often return to the neighborhood of the physical body and disintegrate with it.
Persons of psychic sight, either normal or influenced by fear or similar emotions, frequently see these astral shells floating around graveyards, over battlefields, etc., and are often mistaken for the “spirits” of departed people, whereas they are no more the person than is the physical corpse beneath the ground. These astral shells may be “galvanized” into a semblance of life by coming into contact with the vitality of some “medium,” the prana of the latter animating it, and the sub-conscious mentality of the medium causing it to manifest signs of life and partial intelligence. At some of the seances of the mediums these astral shells are materialized by means of the vitality of the medium, and talk in a stupid, disconnected way with those around, but it is not the person himself talking, but a mere shell animated by the life principle of the medium and the “circle,” and acting and talking like an automaton. There are, of course, other forms of spirit return, which are far different, but those investigating spiritualistic phenomena should beware of confounding these astral shells with the real intelligence of their deceased friends. And now let us return to the Ego, which has left the physical body.
While the Ego, encased in its Astral body, is slowly passing out of the Physical Body, the whole life of the person from infancy to old age, passes before his mental vision. The memory gives up its secrets, and picture after picture passes in swift succession before the mind, and many things are made plain to the departing soul – the reason of many things is discovered, and the soul sees what it all means – that is, it understands its whole life just complete, because it sees it as a whole. This is in the nature of a vivid dream to the dying individual, but it leaves a deep impress, and the memories are recalled and made use of at a later period, by the soul. Occultists have always urged that the friends and relatives of a dying person should maintain quiet and calm around him, that he may not be disturbed by conflicting emotions, or distracting sounds. The soul should be allowed to go on its way in peace and quiet, without being held back by the wishes or conversation of those around him.