Death and the Life Beyond
Initiatic Science teaches that man is a reflection, a replica, of the universe and that, like the universe, he is composed of different regions or 'bodies'. The established sciences still refuse to admit any such thing, and many of their errors, particularly in medicine and psychology, stem from this negation.
The Hindu tradition (which has been adopted by the majority of spiritual movements) divides man into seven different bodies1. The most densely material of these, and the only one that is visible to us, is the physical body, but there are six others: the etheric, astral, mental, Causal, Buddhic and Atmic bodies, each of which is composed of progressively subtler matter. Actually, the etheric body should really be considered as belonging to the physical body. It exists in four states known as 'chemical ether', 'vital ether', 'light ether' and 'reflective ether'; thus we can say that the physical body itself can be divided into seven: the three physical states of solid, liquid and gaseous, plus the four etheric states. The same is true of the astral body which, like each of the other bodies, can also be divided into seven: three lower regions and the four higher regions in which dwell the angels.
1 See Man's Psychic Life; Elements and Structures (Izvor Collection No. 222)
But then the question arises: what is an angel? An angel is an immortal being made of such pure, subtle matter that nothing evil or obscure can affect it. Angels dwell in absolute joy and light and know everything except suffering, for suffering is the result of a disturbance caused by a movement of the lower nature, and an angel cannot be affected by this because it is absolutely pure. Angels do not exist on the physical level. They exist only in the higher reaches of the astral plane.
At the limit between the higher and lower regions of the astral plane is an intermediate zone inhabited by those who are in the process of perfecting themselves, of severing the bonds that tie them to the lower world, but who can still suffer the torments of these lower astral and physical regions. Thus the astral body is a world both of suffering and of joy: of joy when man, at last, manages to refine and purify his desires; of suffering when he is still on too low a level, when his appetites and passions still have too strong a hold on him.
At the moment of death man detaches himself from his physical body, but this separation does not mean that he is instantly set free. To begin with, in fact, he will be even more susceptible to torment than when he was on earth. This is because, when we are on earth, our physical body serves as a shell or armor and prevents us from feeling the reality of the psychic world. But when we die and find ourselves on the astral plane, released from our physical body and the protection it once afforded us, we are liable to experience terrible suffering and unhappiness. Hell is simply the experience of a very intense state of consciousness on the astral plane and we can escape from it only when we have been purified by suffering. When death comes to those who have lived in debauchery, injustice, viciousness and cruelty and who have managed to escape punishment at the hands of human justice, they find themselves on the astral plane, face to face with all the evil they have ever committed. There is no escape and no protection; they no longer have their physical body to protect them and make them less sensitive, so they experience all the torments and sufferings that they imposed on others during their life on earth.
You have all had nightmares, I imagine, and you know that they usually end abruptly when you wake up and suddenly feel enormously relieved to find yourself safely at home in your physical body: 'Oh, thank God! It was only a dream!' Why do you wake up so suddenly? Because you know, subconsciously, that you must get back into your physical body in order to defend yourself against hostile beings or forces of the astral plane: your physical body is a fortress in which you are safe from attack. If you stayed on the astral plane you would continue to be at the mercy of your enemies, so you escape from them by going back into the thick, solid protection of your physical body. It is exactly as though your were being pursued by armed men, on the physical level, and you dived into the safety of a solid building where their knives and guns cannot reach you.
The same law holds good on every level: it can happen, for instance, that somebody leaves his physical body while he is meditating and is drawn into dangerous areas of the astral plane in which he finds himself threatened and pursued. The first thing to do, in a case like this, is to flee to the protection of one's physical body.
The physical body is a good, solid fortress, but when one leaves it at the time of death, every transgression of the laws of love, wisdom and truth has to be paid for on the astral plane. I assure you, I am not inventing anything: all the great Masters of mankind have told us this; the greatest artists, painters and poets have portrayed this world in their works of art, and people who have been clinically dead for three or four days have returned to tell us what they had seen in the astral world. Heaven allows a few people to have experiences of this kind from time to time in order to remind human beings of certain truths and persuade them to mend their ways.
After death, therefore, men have to suffer, on the astral plane, all the evil they have inflicted on others and pay the penalty for all their transgressions. It is not that Cosmic Intelligence needs to revenge Itself or punish them; all It wants is that they be fully conscious of what they did on earth because, very often, they have inflicted suffering on others without even realizing it, and it is this ignorance that is unacceptable, for it prevents them from evolving. Cosmic Intelligence makes us experience all the evil we have done to others so that we may learn just what our actions have meant and begin to improve. The time spent on this level depends on the gravity of our faults. Some, who have never committed any serious crimes, pass through this stage very rapidly; others have to suffer for years and years.
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