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The Writings of Annie Besant

Annie Besant

(1847 -1933)

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Death and After ?


Annie Besant





This book by Dr. Annie Besant has been through several Editions. The following

is the Preface that appeared in the First Edition.


FEW words are needed in sending this little book out into the world. It is the

third of a series of Manuals designed to meet the public demand for a simple

exposition of Theosophical teachings. Some have complained that our literature

is at once too abstruse, too technical, and too expensive for the ordinary

reader, and it is our hope that the present series may succeed in supplying what

is a very real want. Theosophy is not only for the learned; it is for all.

Perhaps among those who in these little books catch their first glimpse of its

teachings, there may be a few who will be led by them to penetrate more deeply

into its philosophy, its science, and its religion, facing its abstruser

problems with the student's zeal and the neophyte's ardour. But these Manuals

are not written for the eager student, whom no initial difficulties can daunt;

they are [v] written for the busy men and women of the work-a-day world, and

seek to make plain some of the great truths that render life easier to bear and

death easier to face. Written by servants of the Masters who are the Elder

Brothers of our race, they can have no other object than to serve our

fellow-men. [vi]



Views of Death

The Immortal and the Perishable

The Fate of the Body

The Fate of the Etheric Double

Kamaloka, Desire-land, and the Fate of Passions and Desires

Kamaloka, The Shells

Kamaloka, The Elementaries


The Devachan

The Return to Earth


Communications between Earth and other Spheres

Appendix – Suicides



WHO does not remember the story of the Christian missionary in Britain, sitting

one evening in the vast hall of a Saxon king, surrounded by his thanes, having

come thither to preach the gospel of his Master; and as he spoke of life and

death and immortality, a bird flew in through an unglazed window, circled the

hall in its flight, and flew out once more into the darkness of the night. The

Christian priest bade the king see in the flight of the bird within the hall the

transitory life of man, and claimed for his faith that it showed the soul, in

passing from the hall of life, winging its way not into the darkness of night,

but into the sunlit radiance of a more glorious world. Out of the darkness,

through the open window of Birth, the life of a man comes to the earth; it

dwells for a while before our eyes; into the darkness, through the open window

of Death, it vanishes out of our sight. And man has questioned ever of Religion,

Whence comes it? Whither goes it? and the answers have varied with the faiths.


Today, many a hundred year since Paulinus talked with Edwin, there are

more people in Christendom who question whether man has a spirit to come any

whence or to go any whither than, perhaps, in the world’s history could ever

before have been found at one time. And the very Christians who claim that

Death’s terrors have been abolished, have surrounded the bier and the tomb with

more gloom and more dismal funeral pomp than have the votaries of any other

creed. What can be more depressing than the darkness in which a house is kept

shrouded, while the dead body is awaiting sepulture? What more repellent than

the sweeping robes of lusterless crape, and the purposed hideousness of the

heavy cap in which the widow laments the “deliverance” of her husband “from the burden of the flesh”?  What more revolting than the artificially long faces of

the undertaker’s men, the drooping “weepers”, the carefully arranged white

handkerchiefs, and, until lately, the pall-like funeral cloaks?  During the last

few years, a great and marked improvement has been made. The plumes, cloaks, and weepers have well-nigh disappeared. The grotesquely ghastly hearse is almost a thing of the past, and the coffin goes forth heaped over with flowers instead of shrouded in the heavy black velvet pall.


Men and women, though still wearing black, do not roll themselves up in shapeless garments like sable winding-sheets, as if trying to see how miserable they could make themselves by the imposition of artificial discomforts.

Welcome common-sense has driven custom from its throne, and has refused any longer to add these gratuitous annoyances to natural human grief.


In literature and in art, alike, this gloomy fashion of regarding Death has been

characteristic of Christianity. Death has been painted as a skeleton grasping a

scythe, a grinning skull, a threatening figure with terrible face and uplifted

dart, a bony scarecrow shaking an hourglass – all that could alarm and repel has

been gathered round this rightly-named King of Terrors. Milton, who has done so much with his stately rhythm to mould the popular conceptions of modern

Christianity, has used all the sinewy strength of his magnificent diction to

surround with horror the figure of Death.


The other shape,

If shape it might be called, that shape had none

Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb,

Or substance might be called that shadow seemed,

For each seemed either; black it stood as night,

Fierce as ten furies, terrible as hell,

And shook a dreadful dart; what seemed his head

The likeness of a kingly crown had on.

Satan was now at hand, and from his seat

The monster moving onward came as fast,

With horrid strides; hell trembled as he strode …

… So spoke the grisly terror; and in shape

So speaking, and so threatening, grew tenfold

More dreadful and deform …

… but he, my inbred enemy,

Forth issued, brandishing his fatal dart,

Made to destroy: I fled, and cried out Death!

Hell trembled at the hideous name, and sighed

From all her caves, and back resounded Death.*


[* Book ii., from lines 666-789. The whole passage bristles with horrors.]


That such a view of Death should be taken by the professed followers of a

Teacher said to have “brought life and immortality to light” is passing strange.

The claim, that as late in the history of the world as a mere eighteen centuries

ago the immortality of the Spirit in man was brought to light, is of course

transparently absurd, in the face of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary

available on all hands. The stately Egyptian Ritual with its Book of the Dead,

in which are traced the post-mortem journeys of the Soul, should be enough, if

it stood alone, to put out of court for ever so preposterous a claim. Hear the

cry of the Soul of the righteous:


O ye, who make the escort of the God, stretch out to me your arms, for I become one of you (xvii. 22).


Hail to thee, Osiris, Lord of Light, dwelling in the mighty abode, in the bosom

of the absolute darkness. I come to thee, a purified Soul; my two hands are

around thee (xxi. 1).


I open heaven; I do what was commanded in Memphis. I have knowledge of my heart; I am in possession of my heart, I am in possession of my arms, [4] I am in possession of my legs, at the will of myself. My Soul is not imprisoned in my

body at the gates of Amenti (xxvi. 5, 6).


Not to multiply to weariness quotations from a book that is wholly composed of

the doings and sayings of the disembodied man, let it suffice to give the final

judgment on the victorious Soul:


The defunct shall be deified among the Gods in the lower divine region, he shall

never be rejected. … He shall drink from the current of the celestial river. …

His Soul shall not be imprisoned, since it is a Soul that brings salvation to

those near it. The worms shall not devour it (clxiv. 14-16).


The general belief in Reincarnation is enough to prove that the religions of

which it formed a central doctrine believed in the survival of the Soul after

Death; but one may quote as an example a passage from the Ordinances of Manu, following on a disquisition on metempsychosis, and answering the question of deliverance from rebirths.


Amid all these holy acts, the knowledge of self (should be translated, knowledge

of the Self, Atma) is said (to be) the highest; this indeed is the foremost of

all sciences, since from it immortality is obtained.* [* xii. 85. Trans. of

Burnell and Hopkins.]


The testimony of the great Zarathustrean Religion is clear, as is shown by the

following, translated from the Avesta, in which, the journey of the Soul after

death having been described, the ancient Scripture proceeds:


The soul of the pure man goes the first step and arrives at (the Paradise)

Humata; the soul of the pure man takes the second step and arrives at (the

Paradise) Hukhta; it goes the third step and arrives at (the Paradise) Hvarst;

the soul of the pure man takes the fourth step and arrives at the Eternal



To it speaks a pure one deceased before, asking it: How art thou, O pure

deceased, come away from the fleshly dwellings, from the earthly possessions,

from the corporeal world hither to the invisible, from the perishable world

hither to the imperishable, as it happened to thee – to whom hail!

Then speaks Ahura-Mazda: Ask not him whom thou asketh, (for) he is come on the fearful, terrible, trembling way, the separation of body and soul.* [* From the translation of Dhunjeebhoy Jamsetjee Medhora, Zoroastrian and some other Ancient Systems, xxvii.]


The Persian Desatir speaks with equal definiteness. This work consists of

fifteen books, written by Persian prophets, and was written originally in the

Avestaic language; “God” is Ahura-Mazda, or Yazdan:


God selected man from animals to confer on him the soul, which is a substance

free, simple, immaterial, non-compounded and non­appetitive. And that becomes an angel by improvement.


By his profound wisdom and most sublime intelligence, he connected the soul with the material body.


If he (man) does good in the material body, and has a good knowledge and

religion he is Hartasp. …


As soon as he leaves this material body, I (God) take him up to the world of

angels, that he may have an interview with the angels, and behold me.

As if he is not Hartasp, but has wisdom and abstains from vice, I will promote

him to the rank of angels.


Every person in proportion to his wisdom and piety will find a place in the rank

of wise men, among the heavens and stars. And in that region of happiness he

will remain for ever.* [* Trans. by Mirza Mohamed Hadi, The Platonist, 306.]


In China, the immemorial custom of worshipping the Souls of ancestors shows how completely the life of man was regarded as extending beyond the tomb. The Shu King – placed by Mr. James Legge as the most ancient of Chinese classics, containing historical documents ranging from B. C. 2357-627 – is full of allusions to these Souls, who with other spiritual beings, watch over the affairs of their descendants and the welfare of the kingdom. Thus Pan-kang,

ruling from B.C. 1401-1374, exhorts his subjects:


My object is to support and nourish you all. I think of my ancestors (who are

now) the spiritual sovereigns. … Were I to err in my government, and remain long here, my high sovereign (the founder of our dynasty) would send down on me great punishment for my crime, and say, “Why do you oppress my people?”


If you, the myriads of the people, do not attend to the perpetuation of your lives, and cherish one mind with me, the One man, in my plans, the former kings will send down on you great punishment for your crime, and say, “Why do you not agree with our young grandson, but go on to forfeit your virtue?” When they punish you from above, you will have no way of escape. … Your ancestors and fathers will (now) cut you off and abandon you, and not save you from death.* [* The Sacred Books of the East, iii. 109, 110.]


Indeed, so practical is this Chinese belief, held today as in those long-past

ages, that “the change that men call Death” seems to play a very small part

in the thoughts and lives of the people of the Flowery Land.


These quotations, which might be multiplied a hundred-fold, may suffice to prove the folly of the idea that immortality came to “light through the Gospel”. The whole ancient world basked in the full sunshine of belief in the immortality of man, lived in it daily, voiced it in its literature, went with it in calm

serenity through the gate of Death.


It remains a problem why Christianity, which vigorously and joyously re-affirmed it, should have growing in its midst the unique terror of Death that has played so large a part in its social life, its literature, and its art. It is not

simply the belief in hell that has surrounded the grave with horror, for other

Religions have had their hells, and yet their followers have not been harassed

by this shadowy Fear. The Chinese, for instance, who take Death as such a light

and trivial thing, have a collection of hells quite unique in their varied

unpleasantness. Maybe the difference is a question of race rather than of creed;

that the vigorous life of the West shrinks from its antithesis, and that its

unimaginative common-sense finds a bodiless condition too lacking in solidity of

comfort; whereas the more dreamy, mystical East, prone to meditation, and ever

seeking to escape from the thralldom of the senses during earthly life,

looks on the disembodied state as eminently desirable, and as most conducive to unfettered thought.


Ere passing to the consideration of the history of man in the post-mortem state,

it is necessary, however briefly, to state the constitution of man, as viewed by

the Esoteric Philosophy, for we must have in mind the constituents of his being

ere we can understand their disintegration.  Man then consists of 


      The Immortal Triad: the Individual. Atma, or Spirit as Will.

      Buddhi, or Spirit as Intuition.

      Manas, or Spirit as Intellect.

      The Perishable Quaternary: the Person.Lower Manas, or Mind.

      Kama, or Desire.

      Prana, as Energising Vitality.

      Prana, as Automatic Vitality.



If we consider the bodies of man, the dense body is the visible, tangible outer

form, composed of various tissues. The etheric double is the ethereal

counterpart of the body, composed of the physical ethers. Prana is vitality, the

integrating energy that co-ordinates the [9] physical molecules and holds them

together in a definite organism; it is the life-breath within the organism, the

portion of the universal Life-Breath, appropriated by the organism during the

span of existence that we speak of as “a life”, and appears in two forms in the

dense and etheric parts of the physical body. Kama is the aggregate of

appetites, passions, and emotions, common to man and brute, the emotions

evolving to a higher point in man under the play of the lower mind. Manas is the

Thinker in us, the Intellect. Buddhi is the aspect of the Spirit, which

manifests above the Intellect.


Now the link between the Immortal Triad and the Perishable Quaternary is

Intellect, which is dual during earth life, or incarnation, and functions as

Intellect and Mind. Intellect sends out a Ray, Mind, which works in and through

the human brain, functioning there as brain-consciousness, as the ratiocinating

intelligence. This mingles with Desire, the passional nature, the passions and

emotions thus becoming a part of Mind, as defined in Western Psychology. And so we have the link formed between the higher and lower natures in man, this

Desire-Mind belonging to the higher by its intellectual, and to the lower by its

emotional, elements. As this forms the battleground during life, [10] so does it

play an important part in post-mortem existence. We might now classify our seven principles a little differently, having in view this mingling in Desire­Mind of

perishable and imperishable elements:



       Immortal Will



      Conditionally Immortal Desire-Mind


       Mortal Desire

       Energising Vitality

       Automatic Vitality



Some Christian writers have adopted a classification similar to this, declaring

Spirit to be inherently immortal, as being Divine; Soul to be conditionally

immortal, i.e., capable of winning immortality by uniting itself with Spirit;

Body to be inherently mortal. The majority of uninstructed Christians chop man

into two, the Body that perishes at Death, and the something – called

indifferently Soul or Spirit – that survives Death. This last classification –

if classification it may be called – is entirely inadequate, if we are to seek

any rational explanation, or even lucid statement, of the phenomena of

post-mortem existence. The tripartite view of man’s nature gives a more

reasonable representation of his constitution, but is inadequate to explain

many phenomena. The septenary division alone gives a reasonable theory

consistent with the facts we have to deal with, and therefore, though it may

seem elaborate, the student will do wisely to make himself familiar with it. If

he were studying only the body, and desired to understand its activities, he

would have to classify its tissues at far greater length and with far more

minuteness than I am using here. He would have to learn the differences between

muscular, nervous, glandular, bony, cartilaginous, epithelial, connective

tissues, and all their varieties; and if he rebelled, in his ignorance, against

such an elaborate division, it would be explained to him that only by such an

analysis of the different components of the body can the varied and complicated

phenomena of life-activity be understood. One kind of tissue is wanted for

support, another for movement, another for secretion, another for absorption,

and so on; and if each kind does not have its own distinctive name, dire

confusion and misunderstanding must result, and physical functions remain

unintelligible. In the long run time is gained, as well as clearness, by

learning a few necessary technical terms, and as clearness is above all things

needed in trying to explain and to understand very complicated post-mortem phenomena, I find myself compelled – contrary to my habit in these elementary papers – to resort to these technical names at the outset, for the English language has as yet no equivalents for them, and the use of long descriptive phrases is extremely cumbersome and inconvenient.


For myself, I believe that very much of the antagonism between the adherents of

the Esoteric Philosophy and those of Spiritualism has arisen from confusion of

terms, and consequent misunderstanding of each other’s meaning. One eminent

Spiritualist lately impatiently said that he did not see the need of exact

definition, and that he meant by Spirit all the part of man’s nature that

survived Death, and was not body. One might as well insist on saying that man’s

body consists of bone and blood, and asked to define blood, answer: “Oh! I mean everything that is not bone”. A clear definition of terms, and a rigid adherence to them when once adopted, will at least enable us all to understand each other, and that is the first step to any fruitful comparison of experiences.




The human body is constantly undergoing a process of decay and of

reconstruction. First builded into the etheric form in the womb of the

mother, it is built up continually by the insetting of fresh materials. With

every moment tiny molecules are passing away from it; with every moment tiny

molecules are streaming into it. The outgoing stream is scattered over the

environment, and helps to rebuild bodies of all kinds in the mineral, vegetable,

animal, and human kingdoms, the physical basis of all these being one and the



The idea that the human tabernacle is built by countless lives, just in the same

way as the rocky crust of our Earth was, has nothing repulsive in it for the

true mystic. … Science teaches us that the living as well as the dead organism

of both man and animal are swarming with bacteria of a hundred various kinds;

that from without we are threatened with the invasion of microbes with every

breath we draw, and from within by leucomaines, aerobes, anaerobes, and what

not. But Science never yet went so far as to assert with the Occult Doctrine

that our bodies, as well as those of animals, plants, and stones, are themselves

altogether built up of such beings, which, except larger species, no microscope

can detect. So far as regards the purely animal and material portion of man,

Science is on its way to discoveries that will go far towards corroborating this

theory. Chemistry and physiology are the two great magicians of the future, who

are destined to open the eyes of mankind to the great physical truths. With

every day, the identity between the animal and physical man, between the plant

and man, and even between the reptile and its nest, the rock, and man, is more

and more clearly shown. The physical and chemical constituents of all being

found to be identical, chemical Science may well say that there is no difference

between the matter which composes the ox and that which forms man. But the

Occult Doctrine is far more explicit. It says: Not only the chemical compounds

are the same, but the same infinitesimal invisible lives compose the atoms of

the bodies of the mountain and the daisy, of man and the ant, of the elephant,

and of the tree which shelters him from [14] the sun. Each particle – whether

you call it organic or inorganic – is a life.* [* The Secret Doctrine, vol. i.

p. 281. 3rd Edition.]


These “lives” which, separate and independent, are the minute vehicles of

Automatic Vitality, aggregated together form the molecules and cells of the

physical body, and they stream in and stream out, during all the years of bodily

life, thus forming a continual bridge between man and his environment.

Controlling these are the “Fiery Lives”, Energising Vitality, which constrain

these to their work of building up the cells of the body, so that they work

harmoniously and in order, subordinated to the higher manifestation of life in

the complex organism called Man. These Fiery Lives on our plane correspond, in this controlling and organising function, with the One Life of the Universe,* [*

See The Secret Doctrine, vol, i. p. 283. 3rd Edition.] and when they no longer

exercise this function in the human body, the lower lives run rampant, and begin

to break down the hitherto definitely organised body. During bodily life they

are marshalled as an army; marching in regular order under the command of a

general, performing various evolutions, keeping step, moving as a single body.

At “Death” they become a disorganised and tumultuous mob, rushing hither and

thither, jostling each other, tumbling over each other, with no common

object, no generally recognised authority. The body is never more alive than

when it is dead; but it is alive in its units, and dead in its totality; alive

as a congeries, dead as an organism.


Science regards man as an aggregation of atoms temporarily united by a

mysterious force called the life-principle. To the Materialist, the only

difference between a living and a dead body is that in the one case that force

is active, in the other latent. When it is extinct or entirely latent, the

molecules obey a superior attraction, which draws them asunder and scatters them through space. This dispersion must be Death, if it is possible to conceive such a thing as Death, where the very molecules of the dead body manifest an intense vital energy. … Says Eliphas Levi: “Change attests movement, and movement only reveals life. The corpse would not decompose if it were dead; all the molecules which compose it are living and struggle to separate.”* [* Isis Unveiled, vol. i. p. 480.]


Those who have read The Seven Principles of Man,* [* Theosophical Manuals, No. 1.] know that the etheric double is the vehicle of Prana, the life-principle, or

vitality. Through the etheric double Prana exercises the controlling and

co-ordinating force spoken of above, and “Death” takes triumphant possession of the body when the etheric double is finally withdrawn and the delicate cord

which unites it with the body is snapped. The process of withdrawal has been

watched by clairvoyants, and definitely described. Thus Andrew Jackson Davis,

“the Poughkeepsie Seer”, [16] describes how he himself watched this escape of

the ethereal body, and he states that the magnetic cord did not break for some

thirty-six hours after apparent death. Others have described, in similar terms,

how they saw a faint violet mist rise from the dying body, gradually condensing

into a figure which was the counterpart of the expiring person, and attached to

that person by a glistening thread. The snapping of the thread means the

breaking of the last magnetic link between the dense body and the remaining

principles of the human constitution; the body has dropped away from the man; he is excarnated, disembodied; six principles still remain as his constitution

immediately after death, the seventh, or the dense body, being left as a

cast-off garment.


Death consists, indeed, in a repeated process of unrobing, or unsheathing. The

immortal part of man shakes off from itself, one after the other, its outer

casings, and – as the snake from its skin, the butterfly from its chrysalis –

emerges from one after another, passing into a higher state of consciousness.

Now it is the fact that this escape from the body, and this dwelling of the

conscious entity either in the vehicle called the body of desire, the kamic or

astral body, or in a yet more ethereal Thought Body, can be effected during

earth-life; so that man may become familiar with the [17] excarnated condition,

and it may lose for him all the terrors that encircle the unknown. He can know

himself as a conscious entity in either of these vehicles, and so prove to his

own satisfaction that “life” does not depend on his functioning through the

physical body. Why should a man who has thus repeatedly “shed” his lower bodies, and has found the process result, not in unconsciousness, but in a vastly

extended freedom and vividness of life – why should he fear the final casting

away of his fetters, and the freeing of his Immortal Self from what he realises

as the prison of the flesh?


This view of human life is an essential part of the Esoteric Philosophy. Man is

primarily divine, a spark of the Divine Life. This living flame, passing out

from the Central Fire, weaves for itself coverings within which it dwells, and

thus becomes the Triad, the Atma-Buddhi­Manas, or Spirit, the reflection of the

Immortal Self. This sends out its Ray, which becomes encased in grosser matter, in the desire body, or kamic elements, the passional nature, and in the etheric double and the physical body. The once free immortal Intelligence thus

entangled, enswathed, enchained, works heavily and laboriously through the

coatings that enwrap it. In its own nature it remains ever the free Bird of

Heaven, but its wings are bound to its side by the matter into which it is

plunged. When man recognises his own inherent nature, he learns to open his

prison doors occasionally and escapes from his encircling gaol; first he learns

to identify himself with the Immortal Triad, and rises above the body and its

passions into a pure mental and moral life; then he learns that the conquered

body cannot hold him prisoner, and he unlocks its door and steps out into the

sunshine of his true life. So when Death unlocks the door for him, he knows the

country into which he emerges, having trodden its ways at his own will. And at

last he grows to recognise that fact of supreme importance, that “Life” has

nothing to do with body and with this material plane; that Life is his conscious

existence, unbroken, unbreakable, and that the brief interludes in that Life,

during which he sojourns on Earth, are but a minute fraction of his conscious

existence, and a fraction, moreover, during which he is less alive, because of

the heavy coverings which weigh him down. For only during these interludes (save in exceptional cases) may he wholly lose his consciousness of continued life, being surrounded by these coverings which delude him and blind him to the truth of things, making that real which is illusion, and that stable which is



The sunlight ranges over the universe, and at incarnation we

step out of it into the twilight of the body, and see but dimly during the

period of our incarceration; at Death we step out of the prison again into the

sunlight, and are nearer to the reality. Short are the twilight periods, and

long the periods of the sunlight; but in our blinded state we call the twilight

life, and to us it is the real existence, while we call the sunlight Death, and

shiver at the thought of passing into it. Well did Giordano Bruno, one of the

greatest teachers of our Philosophy in the Middle Ages, state the truth as to

the body and Man.  Of the real Man he says:


He will be present in the body in such wise that the best part of himself will

be absent from it, and will join himself by an indissoluble sacrament to divine

things, in such a way that he will not feel either love or hatred of things

mortal. Considering himself as master, and that he ought not to be servant and

slave to his body, which he would regard only as the prison which holds his

liberty in confinement, the glue which smears his wings, chains which bind fast

his hands, stocks which fix his feet, veil which hides his view. Let him not be

servant, captive, ensnared, chained, idle, stolid, and blind, for the body which

he himself abandons cannot tyrannise over him, so that thus the spirit in a

certain degree comes before him as the corporeal world, and matter is subject to

the divinity and to nature.* [* The Heroic Enthusiasts, trans. by L. Williams,

part ii. pp. 22, 23.]


When once we thus come to regard the body, and by conquering it we gain our

liberty, Death loses for us [20] all his terrors, and at his touch the body

slips from us as a garment, and we stand out from it erect and free.

On the same lines of thought Dr. Franz Hartmann writes:


According to certain views of the West, man is a developed ape.  According to

the views of Indian Sages, which also coincide with those of the Philosophers of

past ages and with the teachings of the Christian Mystics, man is a God, who is

united during his earthly life, through his own carnal tendencies, to an animal

(his animal nature). The God who dwells within him endows man with wisdom. The animal endows him with force. After death, the God effects his own release from the man by departing from the animal body. As man carries within him this divine consciousness, it is his task to battle with his animal inclinations, and to

raise himself above them, by the help of the divine principle, a task which the

animal cannot achieve, and which therefore is not demanded of it.* [* Cremation, Theosophical Siftings, vol, iii.]


The “man”, using the word in the sense of personality, as it is used in the

latter half of this sentence, is only conditionally immortal; the true man, the

evolving God, releases himself, and so much of the personality goes with him as

has raised itself into union with the divine.


The body thus left to the rioting of the countless lives – previously held in

constraint by Prana, acting through its vehicle the etheric double – begins to

decay, that is to break up, and with the disintegration of its cells and

molecules, its particles pass away into other combinations.


On our return to Earth we may meet again some of those same countless lives that in a previous incarnation made of our then body their passing dwelling; but all that we are just now concerned with is the breaking up of the body whose

life-span is over, and its fate is complete disintegration. To the dense body,

then, Death means dissolution as an organism, the loosing of the bonds that

united the many into one.





The etheric double is the ethereal counterpart of the gross body of man. It is

the double that is sometimes seen during life in the neighbourhood of the body,

and its absence from the body is generally marked by the heaviness or

semi-lethargy of the latter. Acting as the reservoir, or vehicle, of the

life-principle during earth-life, its withdrawal from the body is naturally

marked by the lowering of all vital functions, even while the cord which unites

the two is still unbroken. As has been already said, the snapping of the cord

means the death of the body.


When the etheric double finally quits the body, it does not travel to any

distance from it. Normally it remains floating over the body, the state of

consciousness being dreamy and peaceful, unless tumultuous distress and

violent emotion surround the corpse from which it has just issued. And here it

may be well to say that during the slow process of dying, while the etheric

double is withdrawing from the body, taking with it the higher principles, as

after it has withdrawn, extreme quiet and self-control should be observed in the

chamber of Death. For during this time the whole life passes swiftly in review

before the Ego, the individual, as those have related who have passed in

drowning into this unconscious and pulseless state.  A Master has written:


At the last moment the whole life is reflected in our memory, and emerges from

all the forgotten nooks and corners, picture after, picture, one, event after

another. … The man may often appear dead, yet from the last pulsation, from and between the last throbbing of his heart and the moment when the last spark of animal heat leaves the body, the brain thinks, and the Ego lives over in those

few brief seconds his whole life. Speak in whispers, ye who assist at a

deathbed, and find yourselves in the solemn presence of death. Especially have

ye to keep quiet just after death has laid her clammy hand upon the body. Speak

in whispers, I say, lest ye disturb the quiet ripple of thought, and hinder

the busy work of the past, casting its reflection upon the veil of the future.*

[* Man: Fragments of Forgotten History, by Two Chelâs (Mohini Chatterji & Laura C. Holloway), pp. 119, 120.]


This is the time during which the thought-images of the ended earth-life,

clustering around their maker, group and interweave themselves into the

completed image of that life, and are impressed in their totality on the Astral

Light. The dominant tendencies, the strongest thought-habits, assert their

pre-eminence, and stamp themselves as the characteristics which will appear as

“innate qualities” in the succeeding incarnation. This balancing-up of the

life-issues, this reading of the karmic records, is too solemn and momentous a

thing to be disturbed by the ill-timed wailings of personal relatives and



At the solemn moment of death every man, even when death is sudden, sees the

whole of his past life marshalled before him, in its minutest details. For one

short instant the personal become one with the individual and all-knowing Ego.

But this instant is enough to show to him the whole chain of causes which have

been at work during his life. He sees and now understands himself as he is,

unadorned by flattery or self-deception. He reads his life, remaining as a

spectator, looking down into the arena he is quitting.* [* Key to Theosophy, H.

P. Blavatsky, p. 109. Third Edition.]


This vivid sight is succeeded, in the ordinary person, by the dreamy, peaceful

semi-consciousness spoken of above, as the etheric double floats above the body to which it has belonged, now completely separated from it.


Sometimes this double is seen by persons in the house, or in the neighbourhood,

when the thought of the dying has been strongly turned to someone left behind,

when some anxiety has been in the mind at the last, something left undone which

needed doing, or when some local disturbance has shaken the tranquillity of the

passing entity. Under these conditions, or others of a similar nature, the

double may be seen or heard; when seen, it shows the dreamy, hazy consciousness alluded to, is silent, vague in its aspect, unresponsive.


As the days go on, the five higher principles gradually disengage themselves

from the etheric double, and shake this off as they previously shook off the

grosser body. They pass on, as a fivefold entity, into a state to be next

studied, leaving the etheric double, with the dense body of which it is the

counterpart, thus becoming an ethereal corpse, as much as the body had become a dense corpse. This ethereal corpse remains near the dense one, and they disintegrate together; clairvoyants see these ethereal wraiths in churchyards,

sometimes showing likeness to the dead dense body, sometimes as violet mists or lights.


Such an ethereal corpse has been seen by a friend of my own, passing

through the horribly repulsive stages of decomposition, a ghastly vision in

face of which clairvoyance was certainly no blessing. The process goes on pari

passu, until all but the actual bony skeleton of the dense body is completely

disintegrated, and the particles have gone to form other combinations.

One of the great advantages of cremation – apart from all sanitary conditions –

lies in the swift restoration to Mother Nature of the physical elements

composing the dense and ethereal corpses, brought about by the burning.


Instead of slow and gradual decomposition, swift dissociation takes place, and no physical remnants are left, working possible mischief.

The ethereal corpse may to some extent be revivified for a short period after

its death.  Dr. Hartmann says:


The fresh corpse of a person who has suddenly been killed may be galvanised into a semblance of life by the application of a galvanic battery. Likewise the

astral corpse of a person may be brought back into an artificial life by being

infused with a part of the life principle of the medium. If that corpse is one

of a very intellectual person, it may talk very intellectually; and if it was

that of a fool, it will talk like a fool.* [* Magic, White and Black, Dr. Franz

Hartmann, pp. 109, 110. Third Edition.]


This mischievous procedure can only be carried out in the neighbourhood of the

corpse, and for a very limited time after death, but there are cases on record

of such galvanising of the ethereal corpse, performed [26] at the grave of the

departed person. Needless to say that such a process belongs distinctly to

“Black” Magic, and is wholly evil. Ethereal corpses, like dense ones, if not

swiftly destroyed by burning, should be left in the silence and the darkness, a

silence and a darkness that it is the worst profanity to break.





Loka is a Samskrit word that may be translated as place, world, land, so that

Kamaloka is literally the place or the world of Desire, Kama being the name of

that part of the human organism that includes all the passions, desires, and

emotions which man has in common with the lower animals.* [* See The Seven

Principles of Man, pp. 17-21.]  In this division of the universe, the Kamaloka,

dwell all the human entities that have shaken off the dense body and its

ethereal double, but have not yet disentangled themselves from the passional and

emotional nature. Kama­loka has many other tenants, but we are concerned only

with the human beings who have lately passed through the gateway of Death, and it is on these that we must concentrate our study.


A momentary digression may be pardoned on the question of the existence of

regions in the universe, other than the physical, peopled with intelligent

beings. The existence of such regions is postulated by the Esoteric Philosophy,

and is known to the Adepts and to very many less highly evolved men and women by personal experience; all that is needed for the study of these regions is the evolution of the faculties latent in every man; a “living” man, in ordinary

parlance, can leave his dense and ethereal bodies behind him, and explore these

regions without going through Death’s gateway. Thus we read in the Theosophist that real knowledge may be acquired by the Spirit in the living man coming into conscious relations with the world of Spirit.


As in the case, say, of an initiated Adept, who brings back upon earth with him

the clear and distinct recollection – correct to a detail – of facts gathered,

and the information obtained, in the invisible sphere of Realities.* [*

Theosophist, March 1882, p. 158, note.]


In this way those regions become to him matters of knowledge as definite, as

certain, as familiar, as if he should travel to Africa in ordinary fashion,

explore its deserts, and return to his own land the richer for the knowledge and

experience gained. A seasoned African explorer would care but little for the

criticisms passed [28] on his report by persons who had never been thither; he

might tell what he saw, describe the animals whose habits he had studied, sketch

the country he had traversed, sum up its products and its characteristics. If he

was contradicted, laughed at, set right, by untravelled critics, he would be

neither ruffled nor distressed, but would merely leave them alone. Ignorance

cannot convince knowledge by repeated asseveration of its nescience. The opinion of a hundred persons on a subject on which they are wholly ignorant is of no more weight than the opinion of one such person. Evidence is strengthened by many consenting witnesses, testifying each to his knowledge of a fact, but nothing multiplied a thousand times remains nothing. Strange, indeed, would it be if all the Space around us be empty, mere waste void, and the inhabitants of earth the only forms in which intelligence could clothe itself. As Dr. Huxley said:


Without stepping beyond the analogy of that which is known, it is easy to people the cosmos with entities, in ascending scale, until we reach something

practically indistinguishable from omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience.*

[* Essays upon some Controverted Questions, p. 36.]


If these entities did not have organs of sense like our own, if their senses

responded to vibrations different from those which affect ours, they and we

might walk [29] side by side, pass each other, meet each other, pass through

each other, and yet be never the wiser as to each other’s existence.  Mr.

Crookes gives us a glimpse of the possibility of such unconscious coexistence of intelligent beings, and but a very slight effort of imagination is needed to

realise the conception.


It is not improbable that other sentient beings have organs of sense which do

not respond to some or any of the rays to which our eyes are sensitive, but are

able to appreciate other vibrations to which we are blind. Such beings would

practically be living in a different world to our own. Imagine, for instance,

what idea we should form of surrounding objects were we endowed with eyes not sensitive to the ordinary rays of light, but sensitive to the vibrations

concerned in electric and magnetic phenomena. Glass and crystal would be among the most opaque of bodies. Metals would be more or less transparent, and a telegraph wire through the air would look like a long narrow hole drilled

through an impervious solid body. A dynamo in active work would resemble a

conflagration, whilst a permanent magnet would realise the dream of medieval

mystics, and become an everlasting lamp with no expenditure of energy or

consumption of fuel.* [* Fortnightly Review, 1892, p. 176.]


Kamaloka is a region peopled by intelligent and semi-intelligent entities, just

as our own is thus peopled it is crowded, like our world, with many types and

forms of living things, as diverse from each other as a blade of grass is

different from a tiger, a tiger from a man. It interpenetrates our own world and

is interpenetrated by it, but, as the states of matter in the two worlds differ,

they co-exist without the knowledge of the [30] intelligent beings in either.


Only under abnormal circumstances can consciousness of each other’s presence arise among the inhabitants of the two worlds; by certain peculiar training a living human being can come into conscious contact with and control many of the sub-human denizens of Kamaloka; human beings, who have quitted earth and in whom the kamic elements were strong, may very readily be attracted by the kamic elements in embodied men, and by their help become conscious again of the presence of the scenes they had left; and human beings still embodied may set up methods of communication with the disembodied, and may, as said, leave their own bodies for awhile, and become conscious in Kamaloka by the use of faculties through which they have accustomed their consciousness to act.


The point which is here to be clearly grasped is the existence of Kamaloka as a definite region, inhabited by a large diversity of entities, among whom are disembodied human beings.


From this necessary digression we return to the particular human being whose

fate, as a type, we may be said to be tracing, and of whose dense body and

etheric double we have already disposed. Let us contemplate him in the state of

very brief duration that follows the shaking off of these two casings. [31] 

Says H. P. Blavatsky, after quoting from Plutarch a description of the man after



Here you have our doctrine, which shows man a septenary during life; a quintile

just after death, in Kamaloka.* [* Key to Theosophy, p. 67.]


Prana, the portion of the life-energy appropriated by the man in his embodied

state, having lost its vehicle, the ethereal double, which, with the physical

body, has slipped away from its controlling energy, must pass back into the

great life-reservoir of the universe. As water enclosed in a glass vessel and

plunged into a tank mingles with the surrounding water if the vessel be broken,

so Prana, as the bodies drop from it, mingles again with the Life Universal. It

is only “just after death” that man is a quintile, or fivefold in his

constitution, for Prana, as a distinctively human principle, cannot remain

appropriated when its vehicle disintegrates.


The man now is clothed, but with the Kama Rupa, or body of Kama, the desire body, a body of astral matter, often termed “fluidic”, so easily does it, during

earth-life, take any form impressed upon it from without or moulded from within.


The living man is there, the immortal Triad, still clad in the last of its

terrestrial garments, in the subtle, sensitive, responsive forms which lent

it during embodiment the power to feel, to desire, to enjoy, to suffer, to

think, in the physical world.


When the man dies, his three lower principles leave him forever; i.e., body,

life, and the vehicle of the latter, the etheric body, or the double of the

living man. And then his four principles – the central or middle principle (the

animal soul or Kama Rupa, with what it has assimilated from the lower Manas) and the higher Triad – find themselves in Kamaloka.* [* Key to Theosophy, p. 97.]


This desire body undergoes a marked change soon after death. The different

densities of the astral matter of which it is composed arrange themselves in a

series of shells or envelopes, the densest being outside, shutting the

consciousness away from all but very limited contact and expression. The

consciousness turns in on itself, if left undisturbed, and prepares itself for

the next step onwards, while the desire body gradually disintegrates, shell

after shell.


Up to the point of this re-arrangement of the matter of the desire body, the

post-mortem experience of all is much the same; it is a “dreamy, peaceful

semi-consciousness”, as before said, and this, in the happiest cases, passes

without vivid awakening into the deeper “pre-devachanic unconsciousness” which ends with the blissful wakening in Devachan, heaven, for the period of

repose that intervenes between two incarnations. But as, at this point,

different possibilities arise, let us trace a normal uninterrupted progression

in Kamaloka, up to the threshold of Devachan, and then we can return to consider other classes of circumstances.


If a person has led a pure life, and has steadfastly striven to rise and to

identify himself with the higher rather than the lower part of his nature, after

shaking off the dense body and the etheric double, and after Prana has

re-mingled with the ocean of Life, and he is clothed only with the Kama Rupa,

the passional elements in him, being but weak and accustomed to comparatively

little activity, will not be able to assert themselves strongly in Kamaloka. Now

during earth-life Kama and the Lower Manas are strongly united and interwoven

with each other; in the case we are considering Kama is weak, and the Lower

Manas has purified Kama to a great extent. The mind, woven with the passions,

emotions, and desires, has purified them, and has assimilated their pure part,

absorbed it into itself, so that all that is left of Kama is a mere residue,

easily to be gotten rid of, from which the Immortal Triad can readily free

itself. Slowly this Immortal Triad, the true Man, draws in all his forces; he

draws into himself the memories of the earth-life just ended, [34] its loves,

its hopes, its aspirations, and prepares to pass out of Kamaloka into the

blissful rest of Devachan, the “abode of the Gods”, or, as some say, “the land

of bliss”. 


Kamaloka is an astral locality, the Limbus of scholastic theology, the Hades of the ancients, and, strictly speaking, a locality only in a relative sense. It has

neither a definite area, nor boundary, but exists within subjective space, i.e.,

is beyond our sensuous perceptions. Still it exists, and it is there that the

astral eidolons of all the beings that have lived, animals included, await their

second death. For the animals it comes with the disintegration and the entire

fading out of their astral particles to the last. For the human eidolon it

begins when the Atma-Buddhi-Manasic Triad is said to “separate” itself from its

lower principles or the reflection of the ex-personality, by falling into the

devachanic state.* [* Key to Theosophy, p. 97.]


This second death is the passage, then, of the Immortal Triad from the kamalokic sphere, so closely related to the earth sphere, into the higher state of

Devachan, of which we must speak later. The type of man we are considering

passes through this, in the peaceful dreamy state already described, and, if

left undisturbed, will not regain full consciousness until these stages are

passed through, and peace gives way to bliss.


But during the whole period that the five principles – the Immortal Triad, Mind

and Desire – remain in Kamaloka, whether the period be long or short, days or

centuries, they are within the reach of the [35] earth-influences. In the case

of such a person as we have been describing, an awakening may be caused by the passionate sorrow and desires of friends left on earth, and these violently

vibrating kamic elements in the embodied persons may set up vibrations in the

desire body of the disembodied, and so reach and rouse the lower Mind, not yet

withdrawn to and reunited with its parent, the Spiritual Intellect. Thus it may

be roused from its dreamy state to vivid remembrance of the earth-life so lately

left, and may – if any sensitive or medium is concerned, either directly, or

indirectly through one of these grieving friends in communication with the

medium – use the medium’s etheric and dense bodies to speak or write to those

left behind. This awakening is often accompanied with acute suffering, and even

if this be avoided, the natural process of the Triad freeing itself is rudely

disturbed, and the completion of its freedom is delayed. In speaking of this

possibility of communication during the period immediately succeeding death and before the freed Man passes on into Devachan, H. P. Blavatsky says:


Whether any living mortal, save a few exceptional cases – when the intensity of

the desire in the dying person to return for some purpose forced the higher

consciousness to remain awake, and, therefore, it was really the individuality,

the “Spirit”, that communicated – has derived much benefit from the return of

the Spirit into the objective plane is another question. The Spirit is

dazed after death, and falls very soon into what we call “pre-devachanic

unconsciousness”.* [* Key to Theosophy, p. 102.]


Intense desire may move the disembodied entity to spontaneously return to the

sorrowing ones left behind, but this spontaneous return is rare in the case of

persons of the type we are just now considering. If they are left at peace, they

will generally sleep themselves quietly into Devachan, and so avoid any struggle

or suffering in connection with the second death. On the final escape of the

Immortal Triad there is left behind in Kamaloka only the desire body, the

“shell” or mere empty phantom, which gradually disintegrates; but it will be

better to deal with this in considering the next type, the average man or woman,

without marked spirituality of an elevated kind, but also without marked evil



When an average man or woman reaches Kamaloka, the spiritual Intelligence is

clothed with a desire body, which possesses considerable vigour and vitality;

the lower Manas, closely interwoven with Kama during the earth-life just ended,

having lived much in the enjoyment of objects of sense and in the pleasure of

the emotions, cannot quickly disentangle itself from the web of its weaving, and

return to its Parent Mind, the source of its own being. Hence a

considerable delay in the world of transition, in Kamaloka, while the desires

wear out and fade away to a point at which they can no longer detain the Soul

with their clinging arms.


As said, during the period that the Immortal Triad, Mind and Desire remain

together in Kamaloka, communication between the disembodied entity and the

embodied entities on earth is possible. Such communication will generally be

welcomed by these, disembodied ones, because their desires and emotions still

cling to the earth they have left, and the mind has not sufficiently lived on

its own plane to find therein full satisfaction and contentment. The lower Manas

still yearns towards kamic gratifications and the vivid highly coloured

sensations of earth-life, and can by these yearnings be drawn back to the scenes

it has regretfully quitted. Speaking of the possibility of communication between

the Ego of the deceased person and a medium, H. P. Blavatsky says in the

Theosophist,* [* June 1882, art, “Seeming Discrepancies”.] as from the teachings received by her from the Adept Brothers, that such communication may occur during two intervals:


Interval the first is that period between the physical death and the merging of

the spiritual Ego into that state which is known in the Arhat esoteric doctrine

as Bardo. We have translated this as the “gestation” period [pre-devachanic].


Some of the communications made through mediums are from this source, from the disembodied entity, thus drawn back to the earth-sphere – a cruel kindness,

delaying its forward evolution and introducing an element of disharmony into

what should be an orderly progression. The period in Kamaloka is thus

lengthened, the desire body is fed and its hold on the Ego is maintained, and

thus is the freedom of the Soul deferred, the immortal Swallow being still held

down by the bird-lime of earth.


Persons who have led an evil life, who have gratified and stimulated their

animal passions, and have full fed the desire body while they have starved even

the lower mind – these remain for long, denizens of Kamaloka, and are filled

with yearnings for the earth-life they have left, and for the animal delights

that they can no longer – in the absence of the physical body – directly taste.

These gather round the medium and the sensitive, endeavouring to utilise them

for their own gratification, and these are among the more dangerous of the

forces so rashly confronted in their ignorance by the thoughtless and the



Another class of disembodied entities includes those whose lives on earth have

been prematurely cut short, by their own act, the act of others, or by accident.

Their fate in Kamaloka depends on the conditions which surrounded their

out-goings from earthly life, for not all suicides are guilty of felo de se, and

the measure of responsibility may vary within very wide limits.  The condition

of such has been thus described:


Suicides, although not wholly dissevered from their sixth and seventh

principles, and quite potent in the seance room, nevertheless, to the day when

they would have died a natural death, are separated from their higher principles

by a gulf. The sixth and seventh principles remain passive and negative, whereas

in cases of accidental death the higher and the lower groups actually attract

each other. In cases of good and innocent Egos, moreover, the latter gravitates

irresistibly toward the sixth and seventh, and thus either slumbers surrounded

by happy dreams, or sleeps a dreamless profound sleep until the hour strikes.

With a little reflection and an eye to the eternal justice and fitness of

things, you will see why. The victim, whether good or bad, is irresponsible for

his death. Even if his death were due to some action in a previous life or an

antecedent birth, was an act, in short, of the Law of Retribution, still it was

not the direct result of an act deliberately committed by the personal Ego of

that life during which he happened to be killed. Had he been allowed to live

longer he might have atoned for his antecedent [40] sins still more effectually,

and even now, the Ego having been made to pay off the debt of his maker, the

personal Ego is free from the blows of retributive justice. The Dhyan Chohans,

who have no hand in the guidance of the living human Ego, protect the helpless

victim when it is violently thrust out of its element into a new one, before it

is matured and made fit and ready for it.


These, whether suicides or killed by accident, can communicate with those in

earth-life, but much to their own injury. As said above, the good and innocent

sleep happily till the life-period is over. But where the victim of an accident

is depraved and gross, his fate is a sad one.


Unhappy shades, if sinful and sensual, they wander about (not shells, for their

connection with their two higher principles is not quite broken) until their

death­hour comes. Cut off in the full flush of earthly passions which bind them

to familiar scenes, they are enticed by the opportunities which mediums afford

to gratify them vicariously. They are the Pishachas, the Incubi and Succubae of

mediaeval times; the demons of thirst, gluttony, lust, and avarice –

Elementaries of intensified craft, wickedness, and cruelty; provoking their

victims to horrid crimes, and revelling in their commission They not only ruin

their victims, but these psychic vampires, borne along by the torrent of their

hellish impulses, at last – at the fixed close to their natural period of

life – they are carried out of the earth’s aura into regions where for ages they

endure exquisite suffering and end with entire destruction.


*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *  

       *          *          *


Now the causes producing the “new being” and determining the nature of Karma are Trishna (Tanha) – thirst, desire for sentient existence – and Upadana, which is the realisation or consummation of Trishna, or that desire. And both of these

the medium helps to develop ne plus ultra in an Elementary, be he a suicide or a

victim. The rule is that a person who dies a natural death will remain from “a

few hours to several short years” within the earth’s attraction – i. e., the

Kamaloka. But exceptions are the cases of suicides and those who die a violent

death in general. Hence, one of such Egos who was destined to lave, say, eighty

or ninety years – but who either killed himself or was killed by some accident,

let us suppose at the age of twenty – would have to pass in the Kamaloka not “a

few years”, but in this case sixty or seventy years, as an Elementary, or rather

an “earth-walker”, since he is not, unfortunately for him, even a “Shell”.

Happy, thrice happy, in comparison, are those disembodied entities who sleep

their long slumber and live in dream in the bosom of Space! And woe to those

whose Trishna will attract them to mediums, and woe to the latter who tempt them with such an easy Upadana. For, in grasping them [42] and satisfying their

thirst for life, the medium helps to develop in them – is, in fact, the cause of

– a new set of Skandhas, a new body with far worse tendencies and passions than the one they lost. All the future of this new body will be determined thus, not only by the Karma of demerit of the previous set or group, but also by that of the new set of the future being. Were the mediums and spiritualists but to know, as I said, that with every new “angel guide” they welcome with rapture, they entice the latter into a Upadana, which will be productive of untold evils for

the new Ego that will be reborn under its nefarious shadow, and that with every

seance, especially for materialisation, they multiply the causes for misery,

causes that will make the unfortunate Ego fail in his spiritual birth, or be

reborn into a far worse existence than ever – they would, perhaps, be less

lavish in their hospitality.


Premature death brought on by vicious courses, by over-study, or by voluntary

sacrifice for some great cause, will bring about delay in Kamaloka, but the

state of the disembodied entity will depend on the motive that cut short the



There are very few, if any, of the men who indulge in these vices, who feel

perfectly sure that such a course of action will lead them eventually to

premature death. Such is the penalty of Maya. The “vices” will not escape their

punishment; but it is the cause, not the effect, that will be punished, [43]

especially an unforeseen, though probable effect. As well call a man a “suicide”

who meets his death in a storm at sea, as one who kills himself with

“over-study”. Water is liable to drown a man, and too much brain work to produce a softening of the brain matter, which may carry him away. In such a case no one ought to cross the Kalapani, nor even to take a bath for fear of getting faint in it and drowned (for we all know of such cases), nor should a man do his duty, least of all sacrifice himself for even a laudable and highly beneficial cause as many of us do. Motive is everything, and man is punished in a case of direct responsibility, never otherwise. In the victim’s case the natural hour of death was anticipated accidentally, while in that of the suicide death is brought on voluntarily and with a full and deliberate knowledge of its immediate

consequences. Thus a man who causes his death in a fit of temporary insanity is

not a felo de se, to the great grief and often trouble of the Life Insurance

Companies. Nor is he left a prey to the temptations of the Kamaloka, but falls

asleep like any other victim.


The population of Kamaloka is thus recruited with a peculiarly dangerous element by all the acts of violence, legal and illegal, which wrench the physical body from the soul and send the latter into Kamaloka clad in the desire body,

throbbing with pulses of hatred, passion, emotion, palpitating with

longings for revenge, with un-satiated lusts. A murderer in the body is not a

pleasant member of society, but a murderer suddenly expelled from the body is a far more dangerous entity; society may protect itself against the first, but in

its present state of ignorance it is defenceless as against the second.

Finally, the Immortal Triad sets itself free from the desire body, and passes

out of Kamaloka; the higher Manas draws back its Ray, coloured with the

life-scenes it has passed through, and carrying with it the experiences gained

through the personality it has informed. The labourer is called in from the

field, and he returns home bearing his sheaves with him, rich or poor, according

to the fruitage of the life.  When the Triad with the Ray has quitted Kamaloka,

it passes wholly out of the sphere of earth attractions:


As soon as it has stepped outside the Kamaloka – crossed the “Golden Bridge”

leading to the “Seven Golden Mountains” – the Ego can confabulate no more with easy-going mediums.


There are some exceptional possibilities of reaching such an Ego, that will be

explained later, but the Ego is out of the reach of the ordinary medium and

cannot be recalled into the earth-sphere. But ere we follow [45] the further

course of the Triad, we must consider the fate of the now deserted desire body,

left as a mere reliquum in Kamaloka.





The Shell is the desire body, emptied of the Triad and the Ray, which have now

passed onwards; it is the third of the transitory garments of Soul, cast aside

and left in Kamaloka to disintegrate.


When the past earth-life has been noble, or even when it has been of average

purity and utility, this Shell retains but little vitality after the passing

onwards of the Triad, and rapidly dissolves. Its molecules, however, retain,

during this process of disintegration, the impressions made upon them during the earth-life, the tendency to vibrate in response to stimuli constantly

experienced during that period. Every student of physiology is familiar with

what is termed automatic action, with the tendency of cells to repeat vibrations

originally set up by purposive action; thus are formed what we term habits, and

we unconsciously repeat motions which at first were done with thought. So strong is this automatism of the body, that, as everyone knows by experience, it is difficult to break off the use of a phrase or of a gesture that has become



Now the desire body is during earth-life the recipient of and the respondent to

all stimuli from without, and it also continually receives and responds to

stimuli from the lower Manas. In it are set up habits, tendencies to repeat

automatically familiar vibrations, vibrations of love and desire, vibrations

imaging past experiences of all kinds. Just as the hand may repeat a familiar

gesture, so may the desire body repeat a familiar feeling or thought. And when

the Triad has left it, this automatism remains, and the Shell may thus simulate

feelings and thoughts which are empty of all true intelligence and will. Many of

the responses to eager enquiries at séances come from such Shells, drawn to the

neighbourhood of friends and relatives by the magnetic attractions so long

familiar and dear, and automatically responding to the waves of emotion and

remembrance, to the impulse of which they had so often answered during the

lately closed earth-life. Phrases of affection, moral platitudes, memories of

past events, will be all the communications such Shells can make, but these may

be literally poured out under favourable conditions under the magnetic stimuli

freely applied by the embodied friends and relatives.


In cases where the lower Manas during earth-life has been strongly attached to

material objects and to intellectual pursuits directed by a self-seeking

motive, the desire body nay have acquired a very considerable automatism of an

intellectual character, and may give forth responses of considerable

intellectual merit. But still the mark of non-originality will be present: the

apparent intellectuality will only give out reproductions, and there will be no

sign of the new and independent thought which would be the inevitable outcome of a strong intelligence working with originality amid new surroundings.

Intellectual sterility brands the great majority of communications from the

“spirit world”; reflections of earthly scenes, earthly conditions, earthly

arrangements, are plentiful, but we usually seek in vain for strong, new

thought, worthy of Intelligences freed from the prison of the flesh. The

communications of a loftier kind occasionally granted are, for the most part,

from non-human Intelligences, attracted by the pure atmosphere of the medium or sitters.


And there is an ever-present danger in this commerce with the Shells. Just

because they are Shells, and nothing more, they answer to the impulses that

strike on them from without, and easily become malicious and mischievous,

automatically responding to evil vibrations. Thus a medium, or sitters of poor

moral character, will impress the Shells that flock around them [48] with

impulses of a low order, and any animal desires, petty and foolish thoughts,

will set up similar vibrations in the blindly responsive Shells.

Again, the Shell is very easily taken possession of by Elementals, the

semi-conscious forces working in the kingdoms of Nature, and may be used by them as a convenient vehicle for many a prank and trick. The etheric double of the medium, and the desire bodies emptied of their immortal Tenants, give the

material basis by which Elementals can work many a curious and startling result;

and frequenters of seances may be confidently appealed to, and asked whether

many of the childish freaks with which they are familiar – pullings of hair,

pinchings, slaps, throwing about of objects, piling up of furniture, playing on

accordions, etc. – are not more rationally accounted for as the tricky vagaries

of sub­human forces, than as the actions of “spirits” who, while in the body,

were certainly incapable of such vulgarities.


Let us leave the Shells alone to peacefully dissolve into their elements, and

mingle once again in the crucible of Nature. The authors of The Perfect Way put

very well the real character of the Shell:


The true “ghost” consists of the exterior and earthly portion of the Soul, that

portion which, being weighted with cares, attachments, and memories merely

mundane, is detached by the Soul and remains in the astral sphere, an existence

more or less definite and personal, and capable of holding, through a sensitive,

converse with the living. It is, however, but as a cast-off vestment of the

Soul, and is incapable of endurance as ghost. The true Soul and real person, the

anima divina, parts at death with all those lower affections which would have

retained it near its earthly haunts.* [* Anna Bonus Kingsford and Edward

Maitland, Pp. 73, 74. Ed. 1887.]


If we would find our beloved, it is not among the decaying remnants in Kamaloka that we should seek them.  “Why seek ye the living among the dead?”





The word “Elementary” has been so loosely used that it has given rise to a good

deal of confusion.  It is thus defined by H. P. Blavatsky:


Properly, the disembodied souls of the depraved; these souls having, at some

time prior to death, separated from themselves their divine spirits, and so lost

their chance for immortality. But at the present stage of learning it has been

thought best to apply the term to the spooks or phantoms of disembodied persons, in general to those whose temporary habitation is the Kamaloka. …


Once divorced from their higher Triads and their bodies, these souls remain in their Kama Rupic envelopes, and are irresistibly drawn to the earth amid elements congenial to their gross natures. Their stay in the Kamaloka varies as to its duration; but ends invariably in disintegration, dissolving like a column of mist, atom by atom, in the surrounding elements.* [* Theosophical Glossary, Elementaries. 1892. Posthumous publication edited by G. R. S. Mead.] 


Students of this series of Manuals know that it is possible for the lower Manas

to so entangle itself with Kama as to wrench itself away from its source, and

this is spoken of in Occultism as “the loss of the Soul”.* [*  See The Seven

Principles of Man, pp. 44-46.] It is, in other words, the loss of the personal

self, which has separated itself from its Parent, the Higher Ego, and has thus

doomed itself to perish. Such a Soul, having thus separated itself from the

Immortal Triad during its earth-life, becomes a true Elementary, after it has

quitted the dense and etheric bodies. Then, clad in its desire body, it lives

for awhile, for a longer or shorter time according to the vigour of its

vitality, a wholly evil thing, dangerous and malignant, seeking to renew its

fading vitality by any means laid open to it by the folly or ignorance of still

embodied souls. Its ultimate fate is, indeed, destruction, but it may work much

evil on its way to its self-chosen doom.


The word Elementary is, however, very often used to describe the lower Manas in its garment the desire body, not broken away from the higher Principles, but not yet absorbed into its Parent, the higher Manas. Such Elementaries may be in any stage of progress, harmless or mischievous.


Some writers, again, use Elementary as a synonym for Shell, and so cause

increased confusion. The word should at least be restricted to the desire body

plus lower Manas, whether the lower Manas be disentangling itself from the kamic elements, in order that it may be re-absorbed into its source, or separated from the Higher Ego, and therefore on the road to destruction.





Among the various conceptions presented by the Esoteric Philosophy, there are

few, perhaps, which the Western mind has found more difficulty in grasping than that of Devachan, or Devasthan, the Devaland, or land of the Gods.* [* The name Sukhavati, borrowed from Tibetan Buddhism, is sometimes used instead of that of Devachan. Sukhavati, according to Schlagintweit, is “the abode of the blessed, into which ascend those who have accumulated much merit by the practice of virtues” and “involves the deliverance from metempsychosis” (Buddhism in Tibet, p. 99). According to the Prasanga school, the higher Path leads to Nirvana, the lower to Sukhavati. But Eitel calls Sukhavati the “Nirvana of the common people, where the saints revel in physical bliss for aeons, until they reenter the circle of transmigration” (‘Sanskrit-Chinese Dictionary’). Eitel, however, under “Amitabha” states that the “popular mind” regards the “paradise of the West” as “the haven of final redemption from the eddies of transmigration”. When used by one of the Teachers of the Esoteric Philosophy it covers the higher Devachanic states, but from all of these the Soul comes back to earth.]  And one of the chief difficulties has arisen from the free use of the words illusion, dream-state, and other similar terms, as denoting the devachanic consciousness – a general sense of unreality having thus come to pervade the whole conception of Devachan. When the Eastern thinker speaks of the present earthly life as Maya, illusion, dream, the solid Western at once puts down the phrases as allegorical and fanciful, for what can be less illusory, he thinks, than this world of buying and selling, of beefsteaks and bottled stout. But when similar terms are applied to a state beyond Death – a state which to him is misty and unreal in his own religion, and which, as he sadly feels, is lacking in all the substantial comforts dear to the family man – then he accepts the words in their most literal and prosaic meaning, and speaks of Devachan as a delusion in his own sense of the word. It may be well, therefore, on the threshold of Devachan to put this question of “illusion” in its true light.


In a deep metaphysical sense all that is conditioned is illusory. All phenomena

are literally “appearances”, the outer masks in which the One Reality shows

itself forth in our changing universe. The more “material” and solid the

appearance, the further it is from Reality, and therefore the more illusory it

is. What can be a greater fraud than our body, so apparently solid, stable, [53]

visible and tangible? It is a constantly changing congeries of minute living

particles, an attractive centre into which stream continually myriads of tiny

invisibles, that becomes visible by their aggregation at this centre, and then

stream away again, becoming invisible by reason of their minuteness as they

separate off from this aggregation. In comparison with this ever-shifting but

apparently stable body how much less illusory is the mind, which is able to

expose the pretensions of the body and put it in its true light. The mind is

constantly imposed on by the senses, and Consciousness, the most real thing in

us, is apt to regard itself as the unreal. In truth, it is the thought-world

that is the nearest to reality, and things become more and more illusory as they

take on more and more of a phenomenal character.


Again, the mind is permanent as compared with the transitory physical world. For the “mind” is only a clumsy name for the living Thinker in us, the true and

conscious Entity, the inner Man, “that was, that is, and will be, for whom the

our shall never strike”. The less deeply this inner Man is plunged into matter,

the less unreal is his life; and when he has shaken off the garments he donned

at incarnation, his physical, ethereal, and passional bodies, then he is nearer

to the Soul of Things than he was before, and though veils of illusion

still dim his vision they are far thinner than those which clouded it when round

him was wrapped the garment of the flesh. His freer and less illusory life is

that which is without the body, and the disembodied is, comparatively speaking,

his normal state. Out of this normal state he plunges into physical life for

brief periods in order that he may gain experiences otherwise unattainable, and

bring them back to enrich his more abiding condition. As a diver may plunge into the depths of the ocean to seek a pearl, so the Thinker plunges into the depths of the ocean of life to seek the pearl of experience; but he does not stay there long; it is not his own element; he rises up again into his own atmosphere and shakes off from him the heavier element he leaves. And therefore it is truly

said of the Soul that has escaped from earth that it has returned to its own

place, for its home is the “land of the Gods”, and here on earth it is an exile

and a prisoner. This view was very clearly put by a Master of Wisdom in a

conversation reported by H. P. Blavatsky, and printed under the title “Life and

Death”.* [* See Lucifer, Oct. 1892, vol. xi. No. 62.]  The following extracts

state the case:


The Vedantins, acknowledging two kinds of conscious existence, the terrestrial

and the spiritual, point only to the [55] latter as an undoubted actuality. As

to the terrestrial life, owing to its changeability and shortness, it is nothing

but an illusion of our senses. Our life in the spiritual spheres must be thought

an actuality because it is there that lives our endless, never-changing immortal

I, the Sutratma. Whereas in every new incarnation it clothes itself in a

perfectly different personality, a temporary and short-lived one …. The very

essence of all this, that is to say, spirit, force, and matter, has neither end

nor beginning, but the shape acquired by this triple unity during its

incarnations, their exterior, so to speak, is nothing but a mere illusion of

personal conceptions. This is why we call the posthumous life the only reality,

and the terrestrial one, including the personality itself, only imaginary.


Why in this case should we call the reality sleep, and the phantasm waking?


This comparison was made by me to facilitate your comprehension. From the

standpoint of your terrestrial notions it is perfectly accurate.


Note the words: “From the standpoint of your terrestrial notions”, for they are

the key to all the phrases used about Devachan as an “illusion”. Our gross

physical matter is not there; the limitations imposed by it are not there; the

mind is in its own realm, where to will is to create, where to think is to see.

And so, when the Master was asked: “Would it not be better to say that

death is nothing but a birth for a new life, or still better, a going back to

eternity?” he answered:


This is how it really is, and I have nothing to say against such a way of

putting it. Only with our accepted views of material life the words “live” and

“exist” are not applicable to the purely subjective condition after death; and

were they employed in our Philosophy without a rigid definition of their

meanings, the Vedantins would soon arrive at the ideas which are common in our times among the American Spiritualists, who preach about spirits marrying among themselves and with mortals. As amongst the true, not nominal, Christians so amongst the Vedantins – the life on the other side of the grave is the land where there are no tears, no sighs, where there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage, and where the just realise their full perfection.


The dread of materialising mental and spiritual conceptions has always been very

strong among the Philosophers and oral Teachers of the far East. Their constant

effort has been to free the Thinker as far as possible from the bonds of matter

even while he is embodied, to open the cage for the Divine Swallow, even though he must return to it for awhile, They are ever seeking “to spiritualise the

material”, while in the West the continual tendency has been [57] “to

materialise the spiritual”. So the Indian describes the life of the freed Soul

in all the terms that make it least material – illusion, dream, and so on –

whereas the Hebrew endeavours to delineate it in terms descriptive of the

material luxury and splendour of earth – marriage feast, streets of gold,

thrones and crowns of solid metal and precious stones; the Western has followed the materialising conceptions of the Hebrew, and pictures a heaven which is merely a double of earth with earth’s sorrows extracted, until we reach the grossest of all, the modern Summerland, with its “spirit-husbands”,

spirit­wives”, and “spirit-infants” that go to school and college, and grow up

into spirit-adults.


In “Notes on Devachan”,* [* The Path, May 1890.] someone who evidently writes with knowledge remarks of the Devachani:


The a priori ideas of space and time do not control his perceptions; far he

absolutely creates and annihilates them at the same time. Physical existence has

its cumulative intensity from infancy to prime, and its diminishing energy from

dotage to death; so the dream-life of Devachan is lived correspondentially.

Nature cheats no more the Devachani than she does the living physical man.

Nature provides for him far more real bliss and happiness there than she does

here, [58] where all the conditions of evil and chance are against him. To call

the Devachan existence a “dream” in any other sense than that of a conventional

term, is to renounce for ever the knowledge of the Esoteric Doctrine, the sole

custodian of truth.


“Dream” only in the sense that it is not of this plane of gross matter, that it

belongs not to the physical world.


Let us try and take a general view of the life of the Eternal Pilgrim, the inner

Man, the human Soul, during a cycle of incarnation. Before he commences his new pilgrimage – for many pilgrimages lie behind him in the past, during which he gained the powers which enable him to tread the present one – he is a spiritual

Being, but one who has already passed out of the passive condition of pure

Spirit, and who by previous experience of matter in past ages has evolved

intellect, the self-conscious mind. But this evolution by experience is far from

being complete, even so far as to make him master of matter; his ignorance

leaves him a prey to all the illusions of gross matter, so soon as he comes into

contact with it, and he is not fit to be a builder of a universe, being subject

to the deceptive visions caused by gross matter – as a child, looking through a

piece of blue glass, imagines all the outside world to be blue. The object

of a cycle of incarnation is to free him from these illusions, so that when he

is surrounded by and working in gross matter he may retain clear vision and not

be blinded by illusion. Now the cycle of incarnation is made up of two

alternating states: a short one called life on earth, during which the

Pilgrim-God is plunged into gross matter, and a comparatively long one, called

life in Devachan, during which he is encircled by subtle matter, illusive still,

but far less illusive than that of earth. The second state may fairly be called

his normal one, as it is of enormous extent as compared with the breaks in it

that he spends upon earth; it is comparatively normal also, as being less

removed from his essential Divine life; he is less encased in matter, less

deluded by its swiftly-changing appearances. Slowly and gradually, by reiterated

experiences, gross matter loses its power over him and becomes his servant

instead of his tyrant. In the partial freedom of Devachan he assimilates his

experiences on earth, still partly dominated by them – at first, indeed, almost

completely dominated by them so that the devachanic life is merely a sublimated

continuation of the earth-life – but gradually freeing himself more and more as

he recognises them as transitory and external, until he can move through any

[60] region of our universe with unbroken self-consciousness, a true Lord of

Mind, the free and triumphant God. Such is the triumph of the Divine Nature

manifested in the flesh, the subduing of every form of matter to be the obedient

instrument of Spirit.  Thus the Master said:


The spiritual Ego of the man moves in eternity like a pendulum between the hours of life and death, but if these hours, the periods of life terrestrial and life

posthumous, are limited in their continuation, and even the very number of such

breaks in eternity between sleep and waking, between illusion and reality, have

their beginning as well as their end, the spiritual Pilgrim himself is eternal.

Therefore the hours of his posthumous life, when unveiled he stands face to face

with truth, and the short-lived mirages of his terrestrial existence are far

from him, compose or make up, in our ideas, the only reality. Such breaks, in

spite of the fact that they are finite, do double service to the Sutratma,

which, perfecting itself constantly, follows without vacillation, though very

slowly the road leading to its last transformation, when, reaching its aim at

last, it becomes a Divine Being. They not only contribute to the reaching of

this goal, but without these finite breaks Sutratma-Buddhi could never reach it.

Sutratma is the actor, and its numerous and different incarnations are the

actor’s parts. I suppose you would not apply to these parts, and so much the

less to their costumes, the term of personality. Like an actor the soul is

bound to play; during the cycle of births up to the very threshold of

Parinirvana, many such parts, which often are disagreeable to it, but like a

bee, collecting its honey from every flower, and leaving the rest to feed the

worms of the earth, our spiritual individuality, the Sutratma, collecting only

the nectar of moral qualities and consciousness from every terrestrial

personality in which it has to clothe itself, forced by Karma, unites at last

all these qualities in one, having then become a perfect being, a Dhyan Chohan.*

[* The Path, May 1890.]


It is very significant, in this connection, that every devachanic stage is

conditioned by the earth-stage that precedes it, and the Man can only assimilate

in Devachan the kinds of experience he has been gathering on earth.


A colourless, flavourless personality has a colourless, feeble devachanic

state.* [* “Notes on Devachan”, as cited.]


Husband, father, student, patriot, artist, Christian, Buddhist – he must work

out the effects of his earth-life in his devachanic life; he cannot eat and

assimilate more food than he has gathered; he cannot reap more harvest than he

has sown seed. It takes but a moment to cast a seed into a furrow; it takes many

a month for that seed to grow into the ripened ear; but according to the

kind of the seed is the ear that grows from it, and according to the nature of

the brief earth-life is the grain reaped in the field of Aanroo.


There is a change of occupation, a continual change in Devachan, just as much

and far more than there is in the life of any man or woman who happens to follow in his or her whole life one sole occupation, whatever it may be, with this

difference, that to the Devachani this spiritual occupation is always pleasant

and fills his life with rapture. Life in Devachan is the function of the

aspirations of earth-life; not the indefinite prolongation of that “single

instance”, but its infinite developments, the various incidents and events based

upon and outflowing from that one “single moment” or moments. The dreams of the objective become the realities of the subjective existence . . . The reward

provided by Nature for men who are benevolent in a large systematic way, and who have not focussed their affections on an individual or speciality, is that, if

pure, they pass the quicker for that through the Kama and Rupa Lokas into the

higher sphere of Tribhuvana, since it is one where the formulation of abstract

ideas and the consideration of general principles fill the thought of its

occupant.* [* “Notes on Devachan”, as before. There are a variety of stages in

Devachan; the Rupa Loka is an inferior stage, where the Soul is still surrounded

by forms. It has escaped from these personalities in the Tribhuvana.] 


Into Devachan enters nothing that defileth, for gross matter has been left

behind with all its attributes on earth and in Kamaloka. But if the sower has

sowed but little seed, the devachanic harvest will be meagre, and the growth of

the Soul will be delayed by the paucity of the nutriment on which it has to

feed. Hence the enormous importance of the earth-life, the field of sowing, the

place where experience is to be gathered. It conditions, regulates, limits, the

growth of the Soul; it yields the rough ore which the Soul then takes in hand,

and works upon during the devachanic stage, smelting it, forging it, tempering

it, into the weapons it will take back with it for its next earth-life. The

experienced Soul in Devachan will make for itself a splendid instrument for its

next earth-life; the inexperienced one will forge a poor blade enough; but in

each case the only material available is that brought from earth. In Devachan

the Soul, as it were, sifts and sorts out its experiences; it lives a

comparatively free life, and gradually gains the power to estimate the earthly

experiences at their real value; it works out thoroughly and completely as

objective realities all the ideas of which it only conceived the germ on earth.

Thus, noble aspiration is a germ which the Soul would work out into a splendid

realisation in Devachan, and [64] it would bring back with it to earth for its

next incarnation that mental image, to be materialised on earth when opportunity

offers and suitable environment presents itself. For the mind sphere is the

sphere of creation, and earth only the place for materialising the pre-existent

thought. And the soul is as an architect that works out his plans in silence and

deep meditation, and then brings them forth into the outer world where his

edifice is to be builded; out of the knowledge gained in his past life, the Soul

draws his plans far the next, and he returns to earth to put into objective

material form the edifices he has planned. This is the description of a Logos in

creative activity:


Whilst Brahma formerly, in the beginning of the Kalpas, was meditating on

creation, there appeared a creation beginning with ignorance and consisting of

darkness. … Brahma, beholding that it was defective, designed another; and

whilst he thus meditated, the animal creation was manifested. … Beholding this

creation also imperfect, Brahma again meditated, and a third creation appeared,

abounding with the quality of goodness.* [* Vishnu Purana, Bk. I. ch. v.]


The objective manifestation follows the mental meditation; first idea, then

form. Hence it will be seen that the notion current among many Theosophists that Devachan is waste time, is but one of the illusions due to the gross matter that blinds them, and that their impatience of the idea of Devachan arises from the delusion that fussing about in gross matter is the only real activity.

Whereas, in truth, all effective action has its source in deep meditation, and

out of the Silence comes ever the creative Word. Action on this plane would be

less feeble and inefficient if it were the mere blossom of the profound root of

meditation, and if the Soul embodied passed oftener out of the body into

Devachan during earth-life, there would be less foolish action and consequent

waste of time. For Devachan is a state of consciousness, the consciousness of

the Soul escaped for awhile from the net of gross matter, and may be entered at

any time by one who has learned to withdraw his Soul from the senses as the

tortoise withdraws itself within its shell. And then, coming forth once more,

action is prompt, direct, purposeful, and the time “wasted” in meditation is

more than saved by the directness and strength of the mind-engendered act.

Devachan is the sphere of the mind, as said, it is the land of the Gods, or the

Souls. In the before quoted “Notes on Devachan” we read:


There are two fields of causal manifestations: the objective and the subjective.

The grosser energies find their outcome in the new personality of each birth in

the cycle of evoluting individuality. The moral and spiritual activities find

their sphere of effects in Devachan.


As the moral and spiritual activities are the most important, and as on the

development of these depends the growth of the true Man, and therefore the

accomplishing of “the object of creation, the liberation of Soul”, we may begin

to understand something of the vast importance of the devachanic state.




When the Triad has shaken off its desire garment, it crosses the threshold of

Devachan, and becomes “a Devachani”. We have seen that it is in a peaceful

dreamy state before this passage out of the earth-sphere, the “second death”, or

“pre-devachanic unconsciousness”. This condition is otherwise spoken of as the “gestation” period, because it precedes the birth of the Ego into the devachanic life. Regarded from the earth-sphere the passage is death, while regarded from that of Devachan it is birth. Thus we find in “Notes on Devachan”:


As in actual earth-life, so there is for the Ego in Devachan the first flutter

of psychic life, the attainment of prime, the gradual exhaustion of force

passing into semi-consciousness and lethargy, total oblivion, and – not death

but birth, birth into another personality, and the resumption of action which

daily begets new congeries of causes that must be worked out [67] in another

term of Devachan, and still another physical birth as a new personality. What

the lives in Devachan and upon earth shall be respectively in each instance is

determined by Karma, and this weary round of birth must be ever and ever run

through until the being reaches the end of the seventh Round, or attains in the

interim the wisdom of an Arhat, then that of a Buddha, and thus gets relieved

for a Round or two.


When the devachanic entity is born into this new sphere it has passed beyond

recall to earth. The embodied Soul may rise to it, but it cannot be drawn back

to our world. On this a Master has spoken decisively:


From Sukhavati down to the “Territory of Doubt”, there is a variety of spiritual

states, but … as soon as it has stepped outside the Kamaloka, crossed the

“Golden Bridge” leading to the “Seven Golden Mountains”, the Ego can confabulate no more with easy-going mediums. No Ernest or Joey has ever returned from the Rupa Loka, let alone the Arupa Loka, to hold sweet intercourse with men.


In the “Notes on Devachan”, again, we read:


Certainly the new Ego, once that it is reborn (in Devachan), retains for a

certain time –  proportionate to its earth-life – a complete recollection “of

his life on earth”; but it can never revisit the Earth from Devachan except in



The Devachani is generally spoken of as the Immortal Triad, Atma-Buddhi-Manas, but it is well always to bear in mind that


Atman is no individual property of any man, but is the Divine Essence which has

no body, no form, which is imponderable, invisible, and indivisible, that which

does not exist and yet is, as the Buddhists say of Nirvana. It only overshadows

the mortal; that which enters into him and pervades the whole body being only

its omnipresent rays or light, radiated through Buddhi, its vehicle and direct

emanation.* [* Key to Theosophy, p. 69. Third Edition.]


Buddhi and Manas united, with this overshadowing of Atma, form the Devachani; now, as we have seen in studying the Seven Principles, Manas is dual during earth-life, and the lower Manas is purified from all passional elements during the kamalokic interlude. By this purification of the Ray it carries only the

pure and noble experiences of the earth-life into Devachan with it, thus

maintaining the past personality as the marked characteristic of the Devachani,

and it is in this prolongation of the “personal Ego”, so to speak, that the

“illusion” of the Devachani consists. Were the manasic entity free from all

illusion, it would see all Egos as its brother-Souls, and looking back over its

past would recognise all the varied relationships it had borne to others in many

lives, as the actor would remember the many parts he had played with other [69]

actors, and would think of each brother actor as a man, and not in the parts he

had played as his father, his son, his judge, his murderer, his master, his

friend. The deeper human relationship would prevent the brother actors from

identifying each other with their parts, and so the perfected spiritual Egos,

recognising their deep unity and full brotherhood, would no longer be deluded by the trappings of earthly relationships. But the Devachani, at least in the lower

stages, is still within the personal boundaries of his past earth-life; he is

shut into the relationships of the one incarnation; his paradise is peopled with

those he “loved best with an undying love, that holy feeling that alone

survives”, and thus the purified personal Ego is the salient feature, as above

said, in the Devachani. Again quoting from the “Notes on Devachan”:


“Who goes to Devachan?” The personal Ego, of course; but beatified, purified,

holy. Every Ego – the combination of the sixth and seventh principles * [* Sixth

and seventh in the older nomenclature, fifth and sixth in the later - i.e.,

Manas and Buddhi.] – which after the period of unconscious gestation is reborn

into the Devachan, is of necessity as innocent and pure as a new-born babe. The

fact of his being reborn at all shows the preponderance of good over evil in his

old personality. And while the Karma [of Evil] steps [70] aside for the time

being to follow him in his future earth re-incarnation, he brings along with him

but the Karma of his good deeds, words and thoughts into this Devachan. “Bad” is a relative term for us – as you were told more than once before – and the Law of Retribution is the only law that never errs. Hence all those who have not slipped down into the mire of unredeemable sin and bestiality go to the

Devachan. They will have to pay for their sins, voluntary and involuntary, later

on. Meanwhile they are rewarded; receive the effects of the causes produced by



Now in some people a sense of repulsion arises at the idea that the ties they

form on earth in one life are not to be permanent in eternity. But let us look

at the question calmly for a moment. When a mother first clasps her baby-son in

her arms, that one relationship seems perfect, and if the child should die, her

longing would be to repossess him as her babe; but as he lives on through youth

to manhood the tie changes, and the protective love of the mother and the

clinging obedience of the child merge into a different love of friends and

comrades, richer than ordinary friendship from the old recollections; yet later,

when the mother is aged and the son in the prime of middle life, their positions

are reversed and the son protects while the mother depends on him for guidance.


Would the relation have been more perfect had it ceased in infancy with

only the one tie, or is it not the richer and the sweeter from the different

strands of which the tie is woven? And so with Egos; in many lives they may hold to each other many relationships, and finally, standing as Brothers of the Lodge closely knit together, may look back over past lives and see themselves in

earth-life related in the many ways possible to human beings, till the cord is

woven of every strand of love and duty; would not the final unity be the richer

not the poorer for the many­stranded tie?  “Finally”, I say; but the word is

only of this cycle, for what lies beyond, of wider life and less separateness,

no mind of man may know. To me it seems that this very variety of experiences

makes the tie stronger, not weaker, and that it is a rather thin and poor thing

to know oneself and another in only one little aspect of many-sided humanity for

endless ages of years; a thousand or so years of one person in one character

would, to me, be ample, and I should prefer to know him or her in some new

aspect of his nature. But those who object to this view need not feel

distressed, for they will enjoy the presence of their beloved in the one

personal aspect held by him or her in the one incarnation they are conscious of

for as long as the desire for that presence remains.  Only let them not

desire to impose their own form of bliss on everybody else, nor insist that the

kind of happiness which seems to them at this stage the only one desirable and

satisfying, must be stereotyped to all eternity, through all the millions of

years that lie before us. Nature gives to each in Devachan the satisfaction of

all pure desires, and Manas there exercises that faculty of his innate divinity,

that he “never wills in vain”. Will not this suffice?


But leaving aside disputes as to what may be to us “happiness” in a future

separated from our present by millions of years, so that we are no more fitted

now to formulate its conditions than is a child, playing with its dolls, to

formulate the deeper joys and interests of its maturity, let us understand that,

according to the teachings of the Esoteric Philosophy, the Devachani is

surrounded by all he loved on earth, with pure affection, and the union being on

the plane of the Ego, not on the physical plane, it is free from all the

sufferings which would be inevitable were the Devachani present in consciousness on the physical plane with all its illusory and transitory joys and sorrows. It is surrounded by its beloved in the higher consciousness, but is not agonised by the knowledge of what they are suffering in the lower consciousness, held in the bonds of the flesh. According to the orthodox Christian view, Death is a separation, and the “spirits of the dead” wait for reunion until those they love also pass through Death’s gateway, or – according to some – until after the judgment-day is over. As against this the Esoteric Philosophy teaches that Death cannot touch the higher consciousness of man, and that it can only separate those who love each other so far as their lower vehicles are concerned; the man living on earth, blinded by matter, feels separated from those who have passed onwards, but the Devachani, says H. P. Blavatsky, has a complete conviction “that there is no such thing as Death at all”, having left behind it all those vehicles “over which Death has power”.

Therefore, to its less blinded eyes, its beloved are still with it; for it, the veil of matter that separates has been torn away.


A mother dies, leaving behind her little helpless children, whom she adores,

perhaps a beloved husband also. We say that her “Spirit” or Ego – that

individuality which is now wholly impregnated, for the entire devachanic period,

with the noblest feelings held by its late personality, i.e., love for her

children, pity for those who suffer, and so on – is now entirely separated from

the “vale of tears”, that its future bliss consists in that blessed ignorance of

all the woes it left behind … that the post-mortem spiritual consciousness of

the mother will represent to her that she lives surrounded by her children and

all those whom she loved; that no gap, no link will be missing to make her

disembodied state the most perfect and absolute happiness.* [* Key to Theosophy, p. 99. Third Edition.]


And so again:


As to the ordinary mortal his bliss in Devachan is complete. It is an absolute

oblivion of all that gave it pain or sorrow in the past incarnation, and even

oblivion of the fact that such things as pain or sorrow exist at all. The

Devachani lives its intermediate cycle between two incarnations surrounded by

everything it had aspired to in vain, and in the companionship of everything it

loved on earth. It has reached the fulfilment of all its soul-yearnings. And

thus it lives throughout long centuries an existence of unalloyed happiness,

which is the reward for its sufferings in earth-life. In short, it bathes in a

sea of uninterrupted felicity spanned only by events of still greater felicity

in degree.* [* Key to Theosophy,  p. 100.]


When we take the wider sweep in thought demanded by the Esoteric Philosophy, a far more fascinating prospect of persistent love and union between individual Egos rolls itself out before our eyes than was offered to us by the more limited creed of exoteric Christendom. “Mothers love their children with an immortal love”, says H. P. Blavatsky, and the reason for this immortality in love is easily grasped when we realise that it is the same Egos that play so many parts in the drama of life, that the experience of each part is recorded in the memory of the Soul, and that between the Souls there is no separation, though during incarnation they may not realise the fact in its fulness and beauty.


We are with those whom we have lost in material form, and far, far nearer to

them now than when they were alive. And it is not only in the fancy of the

Devachani, as some may imagine, but in reality. For pure divine love is not

merely the blossom of a human heart, but has its roots in eternity. Spiritual

holy love is immortal, and Karma brings sooner or later all those who loved each

other with such a spiritual affection to incarnate once more in the same family

group.* [* Key to Theosophy, p. 101. 1969 Ed., p. 95.]


Love “has its roots in eternity”, and those to whom on earth we are strongly

drawn are the Egos we have loved in past earth-lives and dwelt with in Devachan; coming back to earth, these enduring bonds of love draw us together yet again, and add to the strength and beauty of the tie, and so on and on till all

illusions are lived down, and the strong and perfected Egos stand side by side,

sharing the experience of their well-nigh illimitable past.





At length the causes that carried the Ego into Devachan are exhausted, the

experiences gathered have been wholly assimilated, and the Soul begins to feel

again the thirst for sentient material life that can be gratified only on the

physical plane. The greater the degree of spirituality reached, the purer and

loftier the preceding earth-life, the longer the stay in Devachan, [76] the

world of spiritual, pure, and lofty effects. [I am here ignoring the special

conditions surrounding one who is forcing his own evolution, and has entered on the Path that leads to Adeptship within a very limited number of lives.] The

“average time [in Devachan] is from ten to fifteen centuries”, H. P. Blavatsky

tells us, and the fifteen centuries cycle is one of those most plainly marked in

history.* [*See Manual No. 2, Reincarnation, pp. 60, 61. Third Edition.]  But in

modern life this period has much shortened, in consequence of the greater

attraction exercised by physical objects over the heart of man. Further, it must

be remembered that the “average time” is not the time spent in Devachan by any

person. If one person spends there 1000 years, and another fifty, the “average”

is 525. The devachanic period is longer or shorter according to the type of life

which preceded it; the more there was of spiritual, intellectual, and emotional

activity of a lofty kind, the longer will be the gathering in of the harvest;

the more there was of activity directed to selfish gain on earth, the shorter

will be the devachanic period.


When the experiences are assimilated, be the time long or short, the Ego is

ready to return, and he brings back with him his now increased experience, and

any further gains he may have made in Devachan along the lines of abstract

thought; for, while in Devachan,


In one sense we can acquire more knowledge; that is, we can develop further any faculty which we loved and strove after during life, provided it is concerned

with abstract and ideal things, such as music, painting, poetry, etc.* [* Key to

Theosophy, p. 105. Third Edition. 1969 Ed., pp. 100-1.]


But the Ego meets, as he crosses the threshold of Devachan on his way outwards – dying out of Devachan to be reborn on earth – he meets in the “atmosphere of the terrestrial plane”, the seeds of evil sown in his preceding life on earth.


During the devachanic rest he has been free from all pain, all sorrow, but the

evil he did in his past has been in a state of suspended animation, not of

death. As seeds sown in the autumn for the springtime lie dormant beneath the

surface of the soil, but touched by the soft rain and penetrating warmth of sun

begin to swell and the embryo expands and grows, so do the seeds of evil we have sown lie dormant while the Soul takes its rest in Devachan, but shoot out their roots into the new personality which begins to form itself for the incarnation

of the returning man. The Ego has to take up the burden of his past, and these

germs or seeds, coming over as the harvest of the past life, are the Skandhas,

to borrow a convenient word from our Buddhist brethren. They consist of

material qualities, sensations, abstract ideas, tendencies of mind, mental

powers, and while the pure aroma of these attached itself to the Ego and passed

with it into Devachan, all that was gross, base and evil remained in the state

of suspended animation spoken of above. These are taken up by the Ego as he

passes outwards towards terrestrial life, and are built into the new “man of

flesh” which the true man is to inhabit. And so the round of births and deaths

goes on, the turning of the Wheel of Life; the treading of the Cycle of

Necessity, until the work is done and the building of the Perfect Man is






What Devachan is to each earth-life, Nirvana is to the finished cycle of

Re-incarnation, but any effective discussion of that glorious state would here

be out of place. It is mentioned only to round off the “After” of Death, for no

word of man, strictly limited within the narrow bounds of his lower

consciousness, may avail to explain what Nirvana is, can do aught save disfigure

it in striving to describe. What it is not may be roughly, badly stated – it is

not “annihilation”, it is not destruction of consciousness.  Mr. A. P.

Sinnett has put effectively and briefly the absurdity of many of the ideas

current in the West about Nirvana.  He has been speaking of absolute

consciousness, and proceeds:


We may use such phrases as intellectual counters, but for no ordinary mind –

dominated by its physical brain and brain-born intellect – can they have a

living signification. All that words can convey is that Nirvana is a sublime

state of conscious rest in omniscience. It would be ludicrous, after all that

has gone before, to turn to the various discussions which have been carried on

by students of exoteric Buddhism as to whether Nirvana does or does not mean

annihilation. Worldly similes fall short of indicating the feeling with which

the graduates of Esoteric Science regard such a question. Does the last penalty

of the law mean the highest honour of the peerage? Is a wooden spoon the emblem of the most illustrious pre-eminence in learning? Such questions as these but faintly symbolise the extravagance of the question whether Nirvana is held by

Buddhism to be equivalent to annihilation.* [* Esoteric Buddhism, p. 197. Eighth Edition.]


So we learn from The Secret Doctrine that the Nirvani returns to cosmic activity

in a new cycle of manifestation, and that


The thread of radiance which is imperishable and dissolves only in Nirvana,

reemerges from it in its integrity on the day when the Great Law calls all

things back into action.* [* Quoted in The Secret Doctrine, vol. ii. p. 83. The

student will do well to read, for a fair presentation of the subject, G. R. S.

Mead’s “Note on Nirvana” in ‘Lucifer’, for March, April, and May 1893.

(Reprinted in Theosophical Siftings.)]  [80]





We are now in position to discriminate between the various kinds of

communication possible between those whom we foolishly divide into “dead” and “living”, as though the body were the man, or the man could die. “Communications between the embodied and the disembodied” would be a more satisfactory phrase.


First, let us put aside as unsuitable the word Spirit: Spirit does not

communicate with Spirit in any way conceivable by us. That highest principle is

not yet manifest in the flesh; it remains the hidden fount of all, the eternal

Energy, one of the poles of Being in manifestation. The word is loosely used to

denote lofty Intelligences, who live and move beyond all conditions of matter

imaginable by us, but pure Spirit is at present as inconceivable by us as pure

matter. And as in dealing with possible “communications” we have average human beings as recipients, we may as well exclude the word Spirit as much as

possible, and so get rid of ambiguity. But in quotations the word often occurs,

in deference to the habit of the day, and it then denotes the Ego. [81]

Taking the stages through which the living man passes after “Death”, or the

shaking off of the body, we can readily classify the communications that may be

received, or the appearances that may be seen:


I.  While the Soul has shaken off only the dense body, and remains still clothed

in the etheric double.  This is a brief period only, but during it the

disembodied Soul may show itself, clad in this ethereal garment.


For a very short period after death, while the incorporeal principles remain

within the sphere of our earth’s attraction, it is possible for spirit, under

peculiar and favourable conditions, to appear.* [* Theosophist, Sept. 1882, p.



It makes no communications during this brief interval, nor while dwelling in

this form. Such “ghosts” are silent, dreamy, like sleep-walkers, and indeed they

are nothing more than astral sleep-walkers. Equally irresponsive, but capable of

expressing a single thought, as of sorrow, anxiety, accident, murder, etc., are

apparitions which are merely a thought of the dying, taking shape in the astral

world, and carried by the dying person’s will to some particular person, with

whom the dying intensely longs to communicate. Such a thought, sometimes called a Mayavi Rupa, or illusory form, may be often thrown into objectivity, as in the case of apparitions after death; but, unless it is projected with the knowledge of (whether latent or potential), or owing to the intensity of the desire to see or appear to some one shooting through, the dying brain, the apparition will be simply automatical; it will not be due to any sympathetic attraction, or to any act of volition, any more than the reflection of a person passing unconsciously near a mirror is due to the desire of the latter.


When the Soul has left the etheric double, shaking it off as it shook off the

dense body, the double thus left as a mere empty corpse may be galvanised into

an “artificial life”; but fortunately the method of such galvanisation is known

to few.


II.  While the Soul is in Kamaloka.  This period is of very variable duration.

The Soul is clad in an astral body, the last but one of its perishable garments,

and while thus clad it can utilise the physical bodies of a medium, thus

consciously procuring for itself an instrument whereby it can act on the world

it has left, and communicate with those living in the body. In this way it may

give information as to facts known to itself only, or to itself and another

person, in the earth-life just closed; and for as long as it remains within the

terrestrial atmosphere such communication is possible. [83] The harm and the

peril of such communication has been previously explained, whether the lower

Manas be united with the Divine Triad and so on its way to Devachan, or wrenched from it and on its way to destruction.


III.  While the Soul is in Devachan, if an embodied Soul is capable of rising to

its sphere, or of coming into rapport with it.  To the Devachani, as we have

seen, the beloved are present in consciousness and full communication, the Egos being in touch with each other, though one is embodied and one is disembodied, but the higher consciousness of the embodied rarely affects the brain. As a matter of fact, all that we know on the physical plane of our friend, while we both are embodied, is the mental image caused by the impression he makes on us.


This is, to our consciousness, our friend, and lacks nothing in objectivity. A

similar image is present to the consciousness of the Devachani, and to him lacks

nothing in objectivity. As the physical plane friend is visible to an observer

on earth, so is the mental plane friend visible to an observer on that plane.

The amount of the friend that ensouls the image is dependent on his own

evolution, a highly evolved person being capable of far more communication with a Devachani than one who is unevolved. [84]  Communication when the body is sleeping is easier than when it is awake, and many a vivid “dream” of one on the other side of death is a real interview with him in Kamaloka or in Devachan.


Love beyond the grave, illusion though you may call it,* [* See on “illusion”

what was said under the heading “Devachan”.] has a magic and divine potency that reacts on the living. A mother’s Ego, filled with love for the imaginary

children it sees near itself, living a life of happiness, as real to it as when

on earth – that love will always be felt by the children in flesh. It will

manifest in their dreams and often in various events – in providential

protections and escapes, for love is a strong shield and is not limited by space

or time. As with this devachanic “mother”, so with the rest of human

relationships and attachments, save the purely selfish or material.* [*Key to

Theosophy, p. 102. Third Edition.]


Remembering that a thought becomes an active entity, capable of working good or evil, we easily see that as embodied Souls can send to those they love helping

and protecting forces, so the Devachani, thinking of those dear to him, may send

out such helpful and protective thoughts, to act as veritable guardian angels

round his beloved on earth. But this is a very different thing from the “Spirit”

of the mother coming back to earth to be the almost helpless spectator of the

child’s woes. [85]


The Soul embodied may sometimes escape from its prison of flesh, and come into relations with the Devachani.  H. P. Blavatsky writes:


Whenever years after the death of a person his spirit is claimed to have

“wandered back to earth” to give advice to those it loved, it is always in a

subjective vision, in dream or in trance, and in that case it is the Soul of the

living seer that is drawn to the disembodied spirit, and not the latter which

wanders back to our spheres.* [* Theosophist, Sept. 1881.]


Where the sensitive, or medium, is of a pure and lofty nature, this rising of

the freed Ego to the Devachani is practicable, and naturally gives the

impression to the sensitive that the departed Ego has come back to him. The

Devachani is wrapped in its happy “illusion”, and


the Souls or astral Egos, of pure loving sensitives, labouring under the same

delusion, think their loved ones come down to there on earth, while it is their

own spirits that are raised towards those in the Devachan.* [* “Notes on

Devachan”, Path, June 1890, p. 80.]


This attraction can be exercised by the departed Soul from Kamaloka or from



A “spirit”, or the spiritual Ego, cannot descend to the medium, but it can

attract the spirit of the latter to itself, and it can do this only during the

two intervals – before and after its “gestation period”. Interval the first is

that period between the physical death and the merging of the spiritual Ego into

that state which is known in the Arhat Esoteric Doctrine as “Bar-do”. We have

[86] translated this as the “gestation period”, and it lasts from a few days to

several years, according to the evidence of the Adepts. Interval the second

lasts so long as the merits of the old [personal] Ego entitle the being to reap

the fruit of its reward in its new regenerated Ego-ship. It occurs after the

gestation period is over, and the new spiritual Ego is reborn-like the fabled

Phoenix from its ashes – from the old one. The locality which the former

inhabits is called by the northern Buddhist Occultists “Devachan”.*

[*Theosophist, June 1882, p. 226.]


So also may the incorporeal principles of pure sensitives be placed en rapport

with disembodied Souls, although information thus obtained is not reliable,

partly in consequence of the difficulty of transferring to the physical brain

the impressions received, and partly from the difficulty of observing

accurately, when the seer is untrained.* [* Summarized from article in

Theosophist, Sept. 1882.]


A pure medium’s Ego can be drawn to and made, for an instant, to unite in a

magnetic (?) relation with a real disembodied spirit, whereas the soul of an

impure medium can only confabulate with the Astral Soul, or Shell, of the

deceased. The former possibility explains those extremely rare cases of direct

writing in recognised autographs, and of messages from the higher class of

disembodied intelligences.


But the confusion in messages thus obtained is considerable, not only from the

causes above named, but also becauseeven the best and purest sensitive can at most only be placed at any time en rapport with a particular spiritual entity, and can only know, see, and feel what that particular entity knows, sees, and feels.


Hence much possibility of error if generalisations are indulged in, since each

Devachani lives in his own paradise, and there is no “peeping down to earth”.


Nor is there any conscious communication with the flying Souls that come as it

were to learn where the Spirits are, what they are doing, and what they think,

feel, and see.


What then is being en rapport? It is simply an identity of molecular vibration

between the astral part of the incarnated sensitive and the astral part of the

dis-incarnated personality. The spirit of the sensitive gets “odylised”, so to

speak, by the aura of the spirit, whether this be hybernating in the earthly

region or dreaming in the Devachan; identity of molecular vibration is

established, and for a brief space the sensitive becomes the departed

personality, and writes in its handwriting, uses its language, and thinks its

thoughts.  At such times sensitives may believe that those with whom they are

for the moment en rapport descend to earth and communicate with them, whereas, in reality, it is merely their own spirits which, being correctly attuned to

those others, are for the time blended with them.* [*’Theosophist’, Sept. 1882,

p. 309.]


In a special case under examination, H. P. Blavatsky said that the communication might have come from an Elementary, but that it was

far more likely that the medium’s spirit really became en rapport with some

spiritual entity in Devachan, the thoughts, knowledge, and sentiments of which

formed the substance, while the medium’s own personality and pre-existing ideas more or less governed the forms of the communication.* [* Ibid., p. 310.]


While these communications are not reliable in the facts and opinions stated,

we would remark that it may possibly be that there really is a distinct

spiritual entity impressing our correspondent’s mind. In other words, there

may, for all we know, be some spirit, with whom his spiritual nature becomes

habitually, for the time, thoroughly harmonised, and whose thoughts, language,

etc., become his for the time, the result being that this spirit seems to

communicate with him. … It is possible (though by no means probable) that he

habitually passes into a state of rapport with a genuine spirit, and, for the

time, is assimilated therewith, thinking (to a great extent if not entirely) the

thoughts that spirit would think, writing in its handwriting, etc. But even so,

Mr. Terry must not fancy that that spirit is consciously communicating with him,

or knows in any way anything of him, or any other person or thing on earth. It

is simply that, the rapport established, he, Mr. Terry, becomes for the nonce

assimilated with that other personality, and thinks, speaks, and writes as it

would have done on earth. … The molecules of his astral nature may from time to time vibrate in perfect unison with those of some spirit of such a person, now

in Devachan, and the result may be that he appears to be in communication with

that spirit, and to be advised, etc., by him, and clairvoyants may see in the

Astral Light a picture of the earth-life form of that spirit.


IV.  Communications other than those from disembodied Souls, passing through normal post-mortem states.


(a) From Shells.  These, while but the cast-off garment of the liberated Soul,

retain for some time the impress of their late inhabitant, and reproduce

automatically his habits of thought and expression, just as a physical body will

automatically repeat habitual gestures. Reflex action is as possible to the

desire body as to the physical, but all reflex action is marked by its character

of repetition, and absence of all power to initiate movement. It answers to a

stimulus with [89] an appearance of purposive action, but it initiates nothing.

When people “sit for development”, or when at a seance they anxiously hope and wait for messages from departed friends, they supply just the stimulus needed, and obtain the signs of recognition for which they expectantly watch.


(b) From Elementaries.  These, possessing the lower capacities of the mind,

i.e., all the intellectual faculties that found their expression through the

physical brain during life, may produce communications of a highly intellectual

character. These, however, are rare, as may be seen from a survey of the

messages published as received from “departed Spirits”.

(c) From Elementals, or Nature Spirits.  These play a great part at seances, and

are mostly the agents who are active in producing physical phenomena. They throw about or carry objects, make noises, ring bells, etc., etc. Sometimes they play pranks with Shells, animating them and representing them to be the spirits of great personalities who have lived on earth, but who have sadly degenerated in the “spirit-world”, judging by their effusions. Sometimes, in materialising

seances, they busy themselves in throwing pictures from the Astral Light on the

fluidic forms produced, so causing them to assume likenesses of various persons.


There are also Elementals of a high type who occasionally communicate with

very gifted mediums, “Shining Ones” from other spheres.

(d) From Nirmanakayas.  For these communications, as for the two classes next

mentioned, the medium must be of a very pure and lofty nature. The Nirmanakaya is a perfected man, who has cast aside his physical body but retains his other lower principles, and remains in the earth-sphere for the sake of helping forward the evolution of mankind. Nirmanakayas


have, out of pity for mankind and those they left on earth, renounced the

Nirvanic state. Such an Adept, or Saint, or whatever you may call him, believing

it a selfish act to rest in bliss while mankind groans under the burden of

misery produced by ignorance, renounces Nirvana and determines to remain

invisible in spirit on this earth. They have no material body, as they have left

it behind: but otherwise they remain with all their principles even in astral

life in our sphere. And such can and do communicate with a few elect ones, only

surely not with ordinary mediums.* [* Key to Theosophy, p. 151.]


(e) From Adepts now living on earth.  These often communicate with Their

disciples, without using the ordinary methods of communication, and when any tie exists, perchance from some past incarnation, between an Adept and a medium, constituting that medium a disciple, a message from the Adept might readily be mistaken for a message from a “Spirit”. [91] The receipt of such messages by precipitated writing or spoken words is within the knowledge of some.


(f) From the medium’s Higher Ego.  Where a pure and earnest man or woman is

striving after the light, this upward striving is met by a downward reaching of

the higher nature, and light from the higher streams downward, illuminating the

lower consciousness. Then the lower mind is, for the time, united with its

parent, and transmits as much of its knowledge as it is able to retain.

From this brief sketch it will be seen how varied may be the sources from which

communications apparently from “the other side of Death” may be received.  As

said by H. P. Blavatsky:


The variety of the causes of phenomena is great, and one need be an Adept, and

actually look into and examine what transpires, in order to be able to explain

in each case what really underlies it.* [* Theosophist, Sept. 1882, p. 310.]


To complete the statement it may be added that what the average Soul can do when it has passed through the gateway of Death, it can do on this side, and

communications may be as readily obtained by writing, in trance, and by the

other means of receiving messages, from embodied as from disembodied Souls.


If each developed within himself the powers of his own Soul, instead of

drifting about aimlessly, or ignorantly plunging into dangerous experiments,

knowledge might be safely accumulated and the evolution of the Soul might be

accelerated. This one thing is sure: Man is today a living Soul, over whom Death

has no power, and the key of the prison-house of the body is in his own hands,

so that he may learn its use if he will. It is because his true Self, while

blinded by the body, has lost touch with other Selves, that Death has been a

gulf instead of a gateway between embodied and disembodied Souls. [93]






The following passage on the fate of suicides is taken from the Theosophist,

September 1882.


We do not pretend – we are not permitted – to deal exhaustively with the

question at present, but we may refer to one of the most important classes of

entities, who can participate in objective phenomena, other than Elementaries

and Elementals.


This class comprises the Spirits of conscious sane suicides. They are Spirits,

and not Shells, because there is not in their cases, at any rate until later, a

total and permanent divorce between the fourth and fifth principles on the one

hand, and the sixth and seventh on the other. The two duads are divided, they

exist apart, but a line of connection still unites them, they may yet reunite,

and the sorely threatened personality avert its doom; the fifth principle still

holds in its hands the clue by which, traversing the labyrinth of earthly sins

and passions, it may regain the sacred penetralia. But for the time, though

really a Spirit, and therefore so designated, it is practically not far removed

from a Shell.


This class of Spirit can undoubtedly communicate with men, but, as a rule, its

members have to pay dearly for exercising the privilege, while it is scarcely

possible for them to do otherwise than lower and debase the moral nature of

those with and through whom they have much communication. It is merely, broadly speaking, a question of degree; of much or little injury resulting from such communication; the cases in which real, permanent good can arise are too

absolutely exceptional to require consideration.


Understand how the case stands. The unhappy being revolting against the trials

of life-trials, the results of its own former actions; trials, heaven’s merciful

medicine for the mentally and spiritually diseased – determines, instead of

manfully taking arms against a sea of troubles, to let the curtain drop, and, as

it fancies, end them. It destroys the body, but finds itself precisely as much

alive mentally as before. It had an appointed life-term determined by an

intricate web of prior causes, which its own willful sudden act cannot shorten.

That term must run out its appointed sands. You may smash the lower half of the hand hour-glass, so that the impalpable sand shooting from the upper bell

is dissipated by the passing aerial currents as it issues; but that stream will

run on, unnoticed though it remain, until the whole store in that upper

receptacle is exhausted.


So you may destroy the body, but not the appointed period of sentient existence, foredoomed (because simply the effect of a plexus of causes) to intervene before the dissolution of the personality; this must run on for its appointed period.


This is so in other cases, e.g., those of the victims of accident or violence;

they, too, have to complete their life-term, and of these, too, we may speak on

another occasion – but here it is sufficient to notice that, whether good or

bad, their mental attitude at the time of death alters wholly their subsequent

position. They, too, have to wait on within the “Region of Desires” until their

wave of life runs on to and reaches its appointed shore, but they wait on,

wrapped in dreams soothing and blissful, or the reverse, according to their

mental and moral state at, and prior to the fatal hour, but nearly exempt from

further material temptations, and, broadly speaking, incapable (except just at

the moment of real death) of communicating scio motu with mankind, though not wholly beyond the possible reach of [97] the higher forms of the “Accursed

Science”, Necromancy. The question is a profoundly abstruse one; it would be

impossible to explain, within the brief space still remaining to us, how the

conditions immediately after death differ so entirely as they do in the case (1)

of the man who deliberately lays down (not merely risks) his life from

altruistic motives in the hope of saving those of others; and (2) of him who

deliberately sacrifices his life from selfish motives, in the hope of escaping

trials and troubles which loom before him. Nature or Providence, Fate, or God,

being merely a self-adjusting machine, it would at first sight seem as if the

result must be identical in both cases. But, machine though it be, we must

remember that it is a machine sui generis


Out of himself he span

The eternal web of right and wrong;

And ever feels the subtlest thrill,

The slenderest thread along.


A machine compared with whose perfect sensitiveness and adjustment the highest human intellect is but a coarse clumsy replica, in petto.

And we must remember that thoughts and motives are material, and at times

marvelously potent material, forces, an we may then begin to comprehend why the hero, sacrificing his life on pure altruistic grounds, sinks as his

life-blood ebbs way into a sweet dream, wherein


All that he wishes and all that he loves

Come smiling round his sunny way,


only to wake into active or objective consciousness when reborn in the Region of Happiness, while the poor unhappy and misguided mortal who, seeking to elude fate, selfishly loosens the silver string and breaks the golden bowl, finds

himself terribly alive and awake, instinct with all the evil cravings and

desires that embittered his world-life, without a body in which to gratify

these, and capable of only such partial alleviation as is possible by more or

less vicarious gratification, and this only at the cost of the ultimate complete

rupture with his sixth and seventh principles, and consequent ultimate

annihilation after, alas! prolonged periods of suffering.


Let it not be supposed that there is no hope for this class – the sane

deliberate suicide. If, bearing steadfastly his cross, he suffers patiently his

punishment, striving against carnal appetites still alive in him, in all their

intensity, though, of course, each in proportion to the degree to which it had

been indulged in earth-life – if, we say, he bears this humbly, never allowing

himself to be tempted here or there into unlawful gratifications of unholy

desires – then when his fated death-hour strikes, his four higher principles

reunite, and, in the final separation that then ensues, it may well be that all

may be well with him, and that he passes on to the gestation period and its

subsequent developments. 



Annie Besant

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