So the Ego passes on, and out from the body. To where? Let us say here that the future states of the soul, between incarnations, have nothing to do with places – it is a matter of “states” not of places. There are numerous places of existence, and all interpenetrate each other, so that a given space may contain intelligences living on several different planes, those living on the lower planes not being conscious of the existence and presence of those living on the higher ones. So get the idea of “place” out of your minds – it is all a matter of “states,” or “planes.”
The soul after passing out of the body, if left undisturbed by emphatic calls from those whom it has left behind (and which calls may consist of violent manifestations of grief, and earnest demands for the return of the departed one on the part of some loved one, or from someone to whom the deceased person was bound by ties of duty) falls into a semi-conscious state – a blissful, peaceful, happy, restful state – a dream of the soul. This state continues for some time (varying in individuals as we shall see) until the astral shell falls from it, and floats off in the astral atmosphere, and until the lower portions of that etherealized matter which confines the lower portions of the mind gradually dissolves and also drops from the soul, leaving it possessed of only the higher portions of its mentality.
The man of low spiritual development, and consequently of a larger degree of animal nature, will part with but little of his mind-body, and soon reaches the highest of which he has been mentally and spiritually capable in his earth-life. The man of high spiritual attainment, will gradually “shed” much of his mental-body, until he has thrown off all except the highest portions developed in his earth life. Those between the two mentioned types will act according to their degree of spiritual attainment, of course. Then, when the last possible remnant of the lower mentality has dropped from the soul, it awakes, as it passes on to states which will be described a little later on in this lesson. It will be seen that the man of gross mentality and spiritual development will stay in the dreamlike state but a short time, as the process of casting off of sheaths is a comparatively simple one, requiring but little time. And it likewise will be seen that the man who has reached a high degree of spiritual development, will rest for a longer period, as he has much more to get rid of, and this discarded material of the mind drops from him like the leaves of a rose, one after the other, from the outer to the inner.
Each soul awakens when it has discarded all that it can (or rather all that will drop from it) and when it has reached the highest state possible to it. Those who have made material spiritual progress during the earth-life just past, will have much useless and outgrown matter to discard, while the one who has neglected his opportunities, and dies about as he was born, will have but little to throw off, and will awaken in a very short time. Each rests until the highest point of unfoldment has manifested itself. But before going on further, let us stop a moment to say that both the sinking into the restful state, and the soundness and continuance of it may be interfered with by those left in the earth life.
A soul which has “something on its mind” to communicate, or which is grieved by the pain of those who have been left behind (especially if it hears the lamentations and constant call for its return) will fight off the dreamy state creeping over it, and will make desperate efforts to return. And, likewise, the mental calls of those who have been left behind, will disturb the slumber, when it has been once entered into, and will cause the sleeping soul to rouse itself and endeavor to answer the calls, or at least will partially awaken it and retard its unfoldment. These half-awake souls often manifest in spiritualistic circles. Our selfish grief and demands often cause our loved ones who have passed much pain and sorrow and unrest, unless they have learned the true state of affairs before they have passed out, and refuse to be called back to earth even by those they love.
Cases are known to occultists where souls have fought off the slumber for years in order to be around their loved ones on earth, but this course was unwise as it caused unnecessary sorrow and pain to both the one who had passed on, and those who had remained on earth. We should avoid delaying the process of those who have passed on – let them sleep on and rest, awaiting the hour of their transformation. It is like making them die their death several times in succession – those who truly love and understand avoid this – their love and understanding bids them let the soul depart in peace and take its well earned rest and gain its full development. This period of soul-slumber is like the existence of the babe in its mother’s womb – it sleeps that it may awaken into life and strength.
Before passing on to the awakening, however, we think it proper to state that it is only the soul of the person who has died a natural death which sinks at once (if not disturbed) into the soul-slumber. Those who die by “accident,” or who are killed – in other words, those who pass out of the body suddenly, find themselves wide-awake and in full possession of the mental faculties for some time. They often are not aware that they have “died,” and cannot understand what is the matter with them. They are often fully conscious (for a short time) of life on earth, and can see and hear all that is going on around them, by means of their astral faculties. They cannot imagine that they have passed out of the body, and are sorely perplexed. Their lot would be most unhappy for a few days, until the sleep overtook them were it not for the Astral Helpers, who are souls from the higher states of existence, who gather around them and gently break to them the news of their real condition – offer them words of comfort and advice, and “take care” of them until they sink into the soul-slumber just as a tired child sinks to sleep at night.
These helpers never fail in their duty, and no one who passes out suddenly is neglected, be he or she “good” or “bad,” for these Helpers know that all are God’s children and their own brothers and sisters. Men of high spiritual development and powers have been known to pass out of their physical bodies temporarily (by means of their Astral Bodies) for the purpose of giving aid and advice in times of great catastrophes, or after a great battle, when immediate assistance and advice are needed. At such times, also, some of the higher intelligences in the scale of spiritual evolution descend from their lofty states and appearing as men give words of encouragement and the benefit of their wisdom. This not only in civilized countries but in all parts of the world, for all are akin.
Many who have reached the high stages of spiritual development, and who have advanced far beyond the rest of the particular race-group to which they belong, and who have earned a longer stay in the higher states, awaiting the progress of their brothers, devote themselves to this and similar tasks, voluntarily relinquishing their earned rest and happiness for the good of their less fortunate brethren. Persons dying in the way of which we have spoken, of course, gradually fall into the slumber of the soul, and the process of the casting off of the confining sheaths goes on just as in cases of those dying a “natural” death.
When the soul has cast off the confining sheaths, and has reached the state for which it is prepared by its earth-lives, including that gained by development in the last earth-life, it passes immediately to the plane in the Astral World for which it is fitted, and to which it is drawn by the Law of Attraction. Now the Astral World, in all of its stages and planes, is not a “place” but a state, as we have before stated. These planes interpenetrate and those dwelling on one plane are not conscious of those dwelling on another, nor can they pass from one plane to another, with this exception – those dwelling on a higher plane are able to see (if they desire) the planes below them in the order of development, and may also visit the lower planes, if they desire to do so.
But those on the lower planes are not able to either see or visit the higher planes. This is not because there is a “watchman at the gate,” or anything of that sort (for there can be no “gate” to a plane or state) but from the same reason that a fish is not able to soar above the water into the air like a bird – its nature does not permit it to do so.
A soul having another soul toward which it is attached by some old tie, and finding that soul on a lower plane than itself, is able to visit the less developed soul and aid it in its development by advice and instruction, and to thus prepare it for its next incarnation so that when the two shall meet again in earth-life the less developed soul will have grown far nearer to its higher brother – or sister – soul, and may thereafter go hand in hand throughout life, or lives. This, of course, providing the less developed soul is willing to be instructed. Souls after reaching a certain degree of development are quite willing to be instructed when out of the body (as above stated) as they are freed from the distracting influences of earth-life, and are more open to the help of the Spirit.
The Yogi teaching goes so far as to state that in rare cases, the helping soul may even bring his lower brother to such a state that he is enabled to throw off some of the lower mental principles which have clung to him after his awakening, and which kept him in a certain plane, and thus enable him to pass on to the next higher plane. But this is rare, and can only happen when the soul has been nearly but not quite able to throw off the confining sheath, unaided.