We are confronted with a serious difficulty at the beginning of this lesson, which will be apparent to those of our students who are well advanced in occult studies. We allude to the matter of the description of “planes” of existence.
These lessons are intended as elementary studies designed to give the beginner a plain, simple idea of the general principles of occultism, without attempting to lead him into the more complicated stages of the subject. We have tried to avoid technicalities, so far as is possible, and believe that we have at least fairly well accomplished our task of presenting elementary principles in a plain manner, and we know that we have succeeded in interesting many persons in the study, who had heretofore been deterred from taking it up because of the mass of technical description and complicated description of details that met their view upon taking up other works on the subject.
So, in this lesson on the Astral World, and the three lessons that follow it, we will be compelled to deal in generalities instead of going into minute and careful descriptions such as would be needed in a work taking up the “higher-grade” work. Instead of endeavoring to describe just what a “plane” is, and then going on to point out the nice little differences between “planes” and “sub-planes” we shall treat the whole subject of the higher planes of existence under the general term of “The Astral World,” making that term include not only the lower divisions of the Astral Plane, but also some of the higher planes of life.
This plan may be objected to by some who have followed other courses of reading on the subject, in which only the lower Astral Plane has been so styled, the higher planes receiving other names, which has led many to regard the Astral Plane with but scanty consideration reserving their careful study for the higher planes. But we ask these persons to remember that many of the ancient occultists classed the entire group of the upper planes (at least until the higher spiritual planes were reached) under the general term “The Astral World,” or similar terms, and we have the best of authority for this general division. There is as much difference between the lowest astral planes and the highest mental or spiritual planes, as there is between a gorilla and an Emerson, but in order to keep the beginner from getting lost in a wilderness of terms, we have treated all the planes above the physical (at least such as our lessons touches upon) under the general style of “The Astral World.”
It is difficult to convey clearly, in simple terms, the meaning of the word “plane,” and we shall use it but little, preferring the word “state,” for a plane is really a “state” rather than a place – that is, any one place may be inhabited on several planes. Just as a room may be filled with rays of the sun; light from a lamp; rays from an X-ray apparatus; ordinary magnetic vibrations; air, etc., etc., each acting according to the law of its being, and yet not affecting the others, so may several planes of being be in full operation in a given space, without interfering with each other. We cannot go into detail regarding the matter, in this elementary lesson, and hope merely to give the student a good working mental conception, in order that he may understand the incidents and phenomena of the several planes comprising “The Astral World.”
Before going into the subject of the several planes of the Astral World, it will be better for us to consider some of the general phenomena classified under the term “astral.” In our Sixth Lesson, we have told you that man (in the body) , in addition to his physical senses of sight, hearing, tasting, smelling and feeling, has five astral senses (counterparts of the physical senses) operating on the astral plane, by which he may receive sense impressions without the aid of the physical sense organs. He also possesses a “sixth-sense” physical organ (the organ of the “telepathic” sense) which also has a corresponding astral sense.
These astral senses function on the lower astral plane – the plane next removed from the physical plane – and the phenomena of clairvoyance is produced by the use of these astral senses, as we have described in the Sixth Lesson. There are, of course, higher forms of clairvoyance, which operate on planes far above that used in ordinary clairvoyance, but such powers are so rare, and are possessed only by those of high attainment, that we need scarcely do more than mention them here. On this lower astral plane, the clairvoyant sees; the clairaudient hears; the psychometrist feels. On this plane the astral body moves about, and “ghosts” manifest. Disembodied souls living on the higher planes of the Astral World, in order to communicate with those on the physical plane, must descend to this lowest plane, and clothe themselves with coarse astral matter in order to accomplish their object. On this plane moves the “astral bodies” of those in the flesh, who have acquired the art of projecting themselves in the astral.
It is possible for a person to project his astral body, or travel in his astral body, to any point within the limits of the earth’s attraction, and the trained occultist may do so at will, under the proper conditions. Others may occasionally take such trips (without knowing just how they do it, and having, afterwards, the remembrance of a particular and very vivid dream) ; in fact many of us do take such trips, when the physical body is wrapped in sleep, and one often gains much information in this way, upon subjects in which he is interested, by holding astral communication with others interested in the same subject, all unconsciously of course. The conscious acquirement of knowledge in this way, is possible only to those who have progressed quite a way along the path of attainment. The trained occultist merely places himself in the proper mental condition, and then wishes himself at some particular place, and his astral travels there with the rapidity of light, or even more rapidly. The untrained occultist, of course, has no such degree of control over his astral body and is more or less clumsy in his management of it.