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A Textbook of Theosophy by C.W. Leadbeater

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I. What Theosophy Is
II. From the Absolute to Man
III. The Formation of a Solar System
IV. The Evolution of Life
V. The Constitution of Man
VI. After Death
VII. Reincarnation
VIII. The Purpose of Life
IX. The Planetary Chains
X. The Result of Theosophical Study


Chapter I


"There is a school of philosophy still in existence of which modern culture
has lost sight." In these words Mr. A.P. Sinnett began his book, _The
Occult World_, the first popular exposition of Theosophy, published thirty
years ago. [Namely in 1881.] During the years that have passed since then,
many thousands have learned wisdom in that school, yet to the majority its
teachings are still unknown, and they can give only the vaguest of replies
to the query, "What is Theosophy?"

Two books already exist which answer that question: Mr. Sinnett's _Esoteric
Buddhism_ and Dr. Besant's _The Ancient Wisdom_. I have no thought of
entering into competition with those standard works; what I desire is to
present a statement, as clear and simple as I can make it, which may be
regarded as introductory to them.

We often speak of Theosophy as not in itself a religion, but the truth
which lies behind all religions alike. That is so; yet, from another point
of view, we may surely say that it is at once a philosophy, a religion and
a science. It is a philosophy, because it puts plainly before us an
explanation of the scheme of evolution of both the souls and the bodies
contained in our solar system. It is a religion in so far as, having shown
us the course of ordinary evolution, it also puts before us and advises a
method of shortening that course, so that by conscious effort we may
progress more directly towards the goal. It is a science, because it treats
both these subjects as matters not of theological belief but of direct
knowledge obtainable by study and investigation. It asserts that man has no
need to trust to blind faith, because he has within him latent powers
which, when aroused, enable him to see and examine for himself, and it
proceeds to prove its case by showing how those powers may be awakened. It
is itself a result of the awakening of such powers by men, for the
teachings which it puts before us are founded upon direct observations made
in the past, and rendered possible only by such development.

As a philosophy, it explains to us that the solar system is a
carefully-ordered mechanism, a manifestation of a magnificent life, of
which man is but a small part. Nevertheless, it takes up that small part
which immediately concerns us, and treats it exhaustively under three
heads--present, past and future.

It deals with the present by describing what man really is, as seen by
means of developed faculties. It is customary to speak of man as having a
soul. Theosophy, as the result of direct investigation, reverses that
dictum, and states that man _is_ a soul, and _has_ a body--in fact several
bodies, which are his vehicles and instruments in various worlds. These
worlds are not separate in space; they are simultaneously present with us,
here and now, and can be examined; they are the divisions of the material
side of Nature--different degrees of density in the aggregation of matter,
as will presently be explained in detail. Man has an existence in several
of these, but is normally conscious only of the lowest, though sometimes in
dreams and trances he has glimpses of some of the others. What is called
death is the laying aside of the vehicle belonging to this lowest world,
but the soul or real man in a higher world is no more changed or affected
by this than the physical man is changed or affected when he removes his
overcoat. All this is a matter, not of speculation, but of observation and

Theosophy has much to tell us of the past history of man--of how in the
course of evolution he has come to be what he now is. This also is a matter
of observation, because of the fact that there exists an indelible record
of all that has taken place--a sort of memory of Nature--by examining which
the scenes of earlier evolution may be made to pass before the eyes of the
investigator as though they were happening at this moment. By thus studying
the past we learn that man is divine in origin and that he has a long
evolution behind him--a double evolution, that of the life or soul within,
and that of the outer form. We learn, too, that the life of man as a soul
is of, what to us seems, enormous length, and that what we have been in the
habit of calling his life is in reality only one day of his real existence.
He has already lived through many such days, and has many more of them yet
before him; and if we wish to understand the real life and its object, we
must consider it in relation not only to this one day of it, which begins
with birth and ends with death, but also to the days which have gone before
and those which are yet to come.

Of those that are yet to come there is also much to be said, and on this
subject, too, a great deal of definite information is available. Such
information is obtainable, first, from men who have already passed much
further along the road of evolution than we, and have consequently direct
experience of it; and, secondly, from inferences drawn from the obvious
direction of the steps which we see to have been previously taken. The goal
of this particular cycle is in sight, though still far above us but it
would seem that, even when that has been attained, an infinity of progress
still lies before everyone who is willing to undertake it.

One of the most striking advantages of Theosophy is that the light which it
brings to us at once solves many of our problems, clears away many
difficulties, accounts for the apparent injustices of life, and in all
directions brings order out of seeming chaos. Thus, while some of its
teaching is based upon the observation of forces whose direct working is
somewhat beyond the ken of the ordinary man of the world, if the latter
will accept it as a hypothesis he will very soon come to see that it must
be a correct one, because it, and it alone, furnishes a coherent and
reasonable explanation of the drama of life which is being played before

The existence of Perfected Men, and the possibility of coming into touch
with Them and being taught by Them, are prominent among the great new
truths which Theosophy brings to the western world. Another of them is the
stupendous fact that the world is not drifting blindly into anarchy, but
that its progress is under the control of a perfectly organized Hierarchy,
so that final failure even for the tiniest of its units is of all
impossibilities the most impossible. A glimpse of the working of that
Hierarchy inevitably engenders the desire to co-operate with it, to serve
under it, in however humble a capacity, and some time in the far-distant
future to be worthy to join the outer fringes of its ranks.

This brings us to that aspect of Theosophy which we have called religious.
Those who come to know and to understand these things are dissatisfied with
the slow aeons of evolution; they yearn to become more immediately useful,
and so they demand and obtain knowledge of the shorter but steeper Path.
There is no possibility of escaping the amount of work that has to be done.
It is like carrying a load up a mountain; whether one carries it straight
up a steep path or more gradually by a road of gentle slope, precisely the
same number of foot-pounds must be exerted. Therefore to do the same work
in a small fraction of the time means determined effort. It can be done,
however, for it has been done; and those who have done it agree that it far
more than repays the trouble. The limitations of the various vehicles are
thereby gradually transcended, and the liberated man becomes an intelligent
co-worker in the mighty plan for the evolution of all beings.

In its capacity as a religion, too, Theosophy gives its followers a rule of
life, based not on alleged commands delivered at some remote period of the
past, but on plain common sense as indicated by observed facts. The
attitude of the student of Theosophy towards the rules which it prescribes
resembles rather that which we adopt to hygienic regulations than obedience
to religious commandments. We may say, if we wish, that this thing or that
is in accordance with the divine Will, for the divine Will is expressed in
what we know as the laws of Nature. Because that Will wisely ordereth all
things, to infringe its laws means to disturb the smooth working of the
scheme, to hold back for a moment that fragment or tiny part of evolution,
and consequently to bring discomfort upon ourselves and others. It is for
that reason that the wise man avoids infringing them--not to escape the
imaginary wrath of some offended deity.

But if from a certain point of view we may think of Theosophy as a
religion, we must note two great points of difference between it and what
is ordinarily called religion in the West. First, it neither demands belief
from its followers, nor does it even speak of belief in the sense in which
that word is usually employed. The student of occult science either _knows_
a thing or suspends his judgment about it; there is no place in his scheme
for blind faith. Naturally, beginners in the study cannot yet _know_ for
themselves, so they are asked to read the results of the various
observations and to deal with them as probable hypotheses--provisionally to
accept and act upon them, until such time as they can prove them for

Secondly, Theosophy never endeavours to convert any man from whatever
religion he already holds. On the contrary, it explains his religion to
him, and enables him to see in it deeper meanings than he has ever known
before. It teaches him to understand it and live it better than he did, and
in many cases it gives back to him, on a higher and more intelligent level,
the faith in it which he had previously all but lost.

Theosophy has its aspects as a science also; it is in very truth a science
of life, a science of the soul. It applies to everything the scientific
method of oft-repeated, painstaking observation, and then tabulates the
results and makes deductions from them. In this way it has investigated the
various planes of Nature, the conditions of man's consciousness during life
and after what is commonly called death. It cannot be too often repeated
that its statements on all these matters are not vague guesses or tenets of
faith, but are based upon direct and oft-repeated _observation_ of what
happens. Its investigators have dealt also to a certain extent with
subjects more in the range of ordinary science, as may be seen by those who
read the book on _Occult Chemistry_.

Thus we see that Theosophy combines within itself some of the
characteristics of philosophy, religion and science. What, it might be
asked, is its gospel for this weary world? What are the main points which
emerge from its investigations? What are the great facts which it has to
lay before humanity?

They have been well summed up under three main heads.

"There are three truths which are absolute, and which cannot be lost, but
yet may remain silent for lack of speech.

"The soul of man is immortal and its future is the future of a thing whose
growth and splendour has no limit.

"The principle which gives life dwells in us and without us, is undying and
eternally beneficent, is not heard or seen or smelt, but is perceived by
the man who desires perception.

"Each man is his own absolute lawgiver, the dispenser of glory or gloom to
himself, the decreer of his life, his reward, his punishment.

"These truths, which are as great as is life itself, are as simple as the
simplest mind of man."

Put shortly, and in the language of the man of the street, this means that
God is good, that man is immortal, and that as we sow so we must reap.
There is a definite scheme of things; it is under intelligent direction and
works under immutable laws. Man has his place in this scheme and is living
under these laws. If he understands them and co-operates with them, he will
advance rapidly and will be happy; if he does not understand them--if,
wittingly or unwittingly, he breaks them, he will delay his progress and be
miserable. These are not theories, but proved facts. Let him who doubts
read on, and he will see.

Chapter II


Of the Absolute, the Infinite, the All-embracing, we can at our present
stage know nothing, except that It is; we can say nothing that is not a
limitation, and therefore inaccurate.

In It are innumerable universes; in each universe countless solar systems.
Each solar system is the expression of a mighty Being, whom we call the
LOGOS, the Word of God, the Solar Deity. He is to it all that men mean by
God. He permeates it; there is nothing in it which is not He; it is the
manifestation of Him in such matter as we can see. Yet He exists above it
and outside it, living a stupendous life of His own among His Peers. As is
said in an Eastern Scripture: "Having permeated this whole universe with
one fragment of Myself I remain."

Of that higher life of His we can know nothing. But of the fragment of His
life which energises His system we may know something in the lower levels
of its manifestation. We may not see Him, but we may see His power at work.
No one who is clairvoyant can be atheistic; the evidence is too tremendous.

Out of Himself He has called this mighty system into being. We who are in
it are evolving fragments of His life, Sparks of His divine Fire; from Him
we all have come; into Him we shall all return.

Many have asked why He has done this; why He has emanated from Himself all
this system; why He has sent us forth to face the storms of life. We cannot
know, nor is the question practical; suffice it that we are here, and we
must do our best. Yet many philosophers have speculated on this point and
many suggestions have been made. The most beautiful that I know is that of
a Gnostic philosopher:

"God is Love, but Love itself cannot be perfect unless it has those upon
whom it can be lavished and by whom it can be returned. Therefore He put
forth of Himself into matter, and He limited His glory, in order that
through this natural and slow process of evolution we might come into
being; and we in turn according to His Will are to develop until we reach
even His own level, and then the very love of God itself will become more
perfect, because it will then be lavished on those, His own children, who
will fully understand and return it, and so His great scheme will be
realized and His Will, be done."

At what stupendous elevation His consciousness abides we know not, nor can
we know its true nature as it shows itself there. But when He puts Himself
down into such conditions as are within our reach, His manifestation is
ever threefold, and so all religions have imaged Him as a Trinity. Three,
yet fundamentally One; Three Persons (for person means a mask) yet one God,
showing Himself in those Three Aspects. Three to us, looking at Them from
below, because Their functions are different; one to Him, because He knows
Them to be but facets of Himself.

All Three of these Aspects are concerned in the evolution of the solar
system; all Three are also concerned in the evolution of man. This
evolution is His Will; the method of it is His plan.

Next below this Solar Deity, yet also in some mysterious manner part of
Him, come His seven Ministers sometimes called the Planetary Spirits. Using
an analogy drawn from the physiology of our own body, Their relation to Him
is like that of the ganglia or the nerve centres to the brain. All
evolution which comes forth from Him comes through one or other of Them.

Under Them in turn come vast hosts or orders of spiritual beings, whom we
call angels or devas. We do not yet know all the functions which they
fulfil in different parts of this wonderful scheme, but we find some of
them intimately connected with the building of the system and the unfolding
of life within it.

Here in our world there is a great Official who represents the Solar Deity
and is in absolute control of all the evolution that takes place upon this
planet. We may image Him as the true KING of this world and under Him are
ministers in charge of different departments. One of these departments is
concerned with the evolution of the different races of humanity so that for
each great race there is a Head who founds it, differentiates it from all
others, and watches over its development. Another department is that of
religion and education, and it is from this that all the greatest teachers
of history have come--that all religions have been sent forth. The great
Official at the head of this department either comes Himself or sends one
of His pupils to found a new religion when He decides that one is needed.

Therefore all religions, at the time of their first presentation to the
world, have contained a definite statement of the Truth, and in its
fundamentals this Truth has been always the same. The presentations of it
have varied because of differences in the races to whom it was offered. The
conditions of civilization and the degree of evolution obtained by various
races have made it desirable to present this one Truth in divers forms. But
the inner Truth is always the same, and the source from which it comes is
the same, even though the external phases may appear to be different and
even contradictory. It is foolish for men to wrangle over the question of
the superiority of one teacher or one form of teaching to another, for the
teacher is always one sent by the Great Brotherhood of Adepts, and in all
its important points, in its ethical and moral principles, the teaching has
always been the same.

There is in the world a body or Truth which lies at the back of all these
religions, and represents the facts of nature as far as they are at present
known to man. In the outer world, because of their ignorance of this,
people are always disputing and arguing about whether there is a God;
whether man survives death; whether definite progress is possible for him,
and what is his relation to the universe. These questions are ever present
in the mind of man as soon as intelligence is awakened. They are not
unanswerable, as is frequently supposed; the answers to them are within the
reach of anyone who will make proper efforts to find them. The truth is
obtainable, and the conditions of its attainment are possible of
achievement by anyone who will make the effort.

In the earlier stages of the development of humanity the great Officials of
the Hierarchy are provided from outside, from other and more highly evolved
parts of the system, but as soon as men can be trained to the necessary
level of power and wisdom these offices are held by them. In order to be
fit to hold such an office a man must raise himself to a very high level,
and must become what is called an Adept--a being of goodness, power and
wisdom so great that He towers above the rest of humanity, for He has
already attained the summit of ordinary human evolution; He has achieved
that which the plan of the Deity marked out for Him to achieve during this
age or dispensation. But His evolution later on continues beyond that
level--continues to divinity.

A large number of men have attained the Adept level--men not of one nation,
but of all the leading nations of the world--rare souls who with
indomitable courage have stormed the fortresses of nature, and captured her
innermost secrets, and so have truly earned the right to be called Adepts.
Among Them there are many degrees and many lines of activity; but always
some of Them remain within touch of our earth as members of this Hierarchy
which has in charge the administration of the affairs of our world and of
the spiritual evolution of our humanity.

This august body is often called the Great White Brotherhood, but its
members are not a community all living together. Each of Them, to a large
extent, draws Himself apart from the world, and They are in constant
communication with one another and with Their Head; but Their knowledge of
higher forces is so great that this is achieved without any necessity for
meeting in the physical world. In many cases They continue to live each in
His own country, and Their power remains unsuspected among those who live
near Them. Any man who will may attract Their attention, but he can do it
only by showing himself worthy of Their notice. None need fear that his
efforts will pass unnoticed; such oversight is impossible, for the man who
is devoting himself to service such as this, stands out from the rest of
humanity like a great flame in a dark night. A few of these great Adepts,
who are thus working for the good of the world, are willing to take as
apprentices those who have resolved to devote themselves utterly to the
service of mankind; such Adepts are called Masters.

One of these apprentices was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky--a great soul who
was sent out to offer knowledge to the world. With Colonel Henry Steel
Olcott she founded The Theosophical Society for the spread of this
knowledge which she had to give. Among those who came into contact with her
in those early days was Mr. A.P. Sinnett, the editor of _The Pioneer_, and
his keen intellect at once grasped the magnitude and the importance of the
teaching which she put before him. Although Madame Blavatsky herself had
previously written _Isis Unveiled_, it had attracted but little attention,
and it was Mr. Sinnett who first made the teaching really available for
western readers in his two books, _The Occult World_ and _Esoteric

It was through these works that I myself first came to know their author,
and afterwards Madame Blavatsky herself; from both of them I learned much.
When I asked Madame Blavatsky how one could learn still more, how one could
make definite progress along the Path which she pointed out to us, she told
me of the possibility that other students might be accepted as apprentices
by the great Masters, even as she herself had been accepted, and that the
only way to gain such acceptance was to show oneself worthy of it by
earnest and altruistic work. She told me that to reach that goal a man must
be absolutely one-pointed in his determination; that no one who tried to
serve both God and Mammon could ever hope to succeed. One of these Masters
Himself had said: "In order to succeed, a pupil must leave his own world
and come into ours."

This means that he must cease to be one of the majority who live for wealth
and power, and must join the tiny minority who care nothing for such
things, but live only in order to devote themselves selflessly to the good
of the world. She warned us clearly that the way was difficult to tread,
that we should be misunderstood and reviled by those who still lived in the
world, and that we had nothing to look forward to but the hardest of hard
work; and though the result was sure, no one could foretell how long it
would take to arrive at it. Some of us accepted these conditions joyfully,
and we have never for a moment regretted the decision.

After some years of work I had the privilege of coming into contact with
these great Masters of the Wisdom; from Them I learnt many things--among
others, how to verify for myself at first hand most of the teachings which
They had given. So that, in this matter, I write of what I know, and what I
have seen for myself. Certain points are mentioned in the teaching, for the
verification of which powers are required far beyond anything which I have
gained so far. Of them, I can say only that they are consistent with what I
do know, and in many cases are necessary as hypotheses to account for what
I have seen. They came to me, along with the rest of the Theosophical
system, upon the authority of these mighty Teachers. Since then I have
learnt to examine for myself by far the greater part of what I was told,
and I have found the information given to me to be correct in every
particular; therefore I am justified in assuming the probability that that
other part, which as yet I cannot verify, will also prove to be correct
when I arrive at its level.

To attain the honour of being accepted as an apprentice of one of the
Masters of the Wisdom is the object set before himself by every earnest
Theosophical student. But it means a determined effort. There have always
been men who were willing to make the necessary effort, and therefore there
have always been men who knew. The knowledge is so transcendent that when a
man grasps it fully he becomes more than man and he passes beyond our ken.

But there are stages in the acquirement of this knowledge, and we may learn
much if we will, from those who themselves are still in process of
learning; for all human beings stand on one or other of the rungs of the
ladder of evolution. The primitive stand at its foot; we who are civilized
beings have already climbed part of the way. But though we can look back
and see rungs of the ladder below us which we have already passed, we may
also look up and see many rungs above us to which we have not yet attained.
Just as men are standing even now on each of the rungs below us, so that we
can see the stages by which man has mounted, so also are there men standing
on each of the rungs above us, so that from studying them we may see how
man shall mount in the future. Precisely because we see men on every step
of this ladder, which leads up to a glory which as yet we have no words to
express, we know that the ascent to that glory is possible for us. Those
who stand high above us, so high that They seem to us as gods in Their
marvellous knowledge and power, tell us that They stood not long since
where we are standing now, and They indicate to us clearly the steps which
lie between, which we also must tread if we would be as They.

Chapter III


The beginning of the universe (if ever it had a beginning) is beyond our
ken. At the earliest point of history that we can reach, the two great
opposites of spirit and matter, of life and form, are already in full
activity. We find that the ordinary conception of matter needs a revision,
for what are commonly called force and matter are in reality only two
varieties of Spirit at different stages in evolution and the real matter or
basis of everything lies in the background unperceived. A French scientist
has recently said: "There is no matter; there are nothing but holes in the
aether." This also agrees with the celebrated theory of Professor Osborne
Reynolds. Occult investigation shows this to be the correct view, and in
that way explains what Oriental sacred books mean when they say that matter
is an illusion.

The ultimate root-matter as seen at our level is what scientists call the
aether of space. [This has been described in _Occult Chemistry_ under the
name of koilon.] To every physical sense the space occupied by it appears
empty, yet in reality this aether is far denser than anything of which we
can conceive. Its density is defined by Professor Reynolds as being ten
thousand times greater than that of water, and its mean pressure as seven
hundred and fifty thousand tons to the square inch.

This substance is perceptible only to highly developed clairvoyant power.
We must assume a time (though we have no direct knowledge on this point)
when this substance filled all space. We must also suppose that some great
Being (not the Deity of a solar system, but some Being almost infinitely
higher than that) changed this condition of rest by pouring out His spirit
or force into a certain section of this matter, a section of the size of a
whole universe. This effect of the introduction of this force is as that of
the blowing of a mighty breath; it has formed within this aether an
incalculable number of tiny spherical bubbles, [The bubbles are spoken of
in _The Secret Doctrine_ as the holes which Fohat digs in space.] and these
bubbles are the ultimate atoms of which what we call matter is composed.
They are not the atoms of the chemist, nor even the ultimate atoms of the
physical world. They stand at a far higher level, and what are usually
called atoms are composed of vast aggregations of these bubbles, as will be
seen later.

When the Solar Deity begins to make His system, He finds ready to His hand
this material--this infinite mass of tiny bubbles which can be built up
into various kinds of matter as we know it. He commences by defining the
limit of His field of activity, a vast sphere whose circumference is far
larger than the orbit of the outermost of His future planets. Within the
limit of that sphere He sets up a kind of gigantic vortex--a motion which
sweeps together all the bubbles into a vast central mass, the material of
the nebula that is to be.

Into this vast revolving sphere He sends forth successive impulses of
force, gathering together the bubbles into ever more and more complex
aggregations, and producing in this way seven gigantic interpenetrating
worlds of matter of different degrees of density, all concentric and all
occupying the same space.

Acting through His Third Aspect He sends forth into this stupendous sphere
the first of these impulses. It sets up all through the sphere a vast
number of tiny vortices, each of which draws into itself forty-nine
bubbles, and arranges them in a certain shape. These little groupings of
bubbles so formed are the atoms of the second of the interpenetrating
worlds. The whole number of the bubbles is not used in this way, sufficient
being left in the dissociated state to act as atoms for the first and
highest of these worlds. In due time comes the second impulse, which seizes
upon nearly all these forty-nine bubble-atoms (leaving only enough to
provide atoms for the second world), draws them back into itself and then,
throwing them out again, sets up among them vortices, each of which holds
within itself 2,401 bubbles (49^2). These form the atoms of the third
world. Again after a time comes a third impulse, which in the same way
seizes upon nearly all these 2,401 bubble-atoms, draws them back again into
their original form, and again throws them outward once more as the atoms
of the fourth world--each atom containing this time 49^{3} bubbles. This
process is repeated until the sixth of these successive impulses has built
the atom of the seventh or the lowest world--that atom containing 49^{6} of
the original bubbles.

This atom of the seventh world is the ultimate atom of the physical
world--not any of the atoms of which chemists speak, but that ultimate out
of which all their atoms are made. We have at this stage arrived at that
condition of affairs in which the vast whirling sphere contains within
itself seven types of matter, all one in essence, because all built of the
same kind of bubbles, but differing in their degree of density. All these
types are freely intermingled, so that specimens of each type would be
found in a small portion of the sphere taken at random in any part of it,
with, however, a general tendency of the heavier atoms to gravitate more
and more towards the centre.

The seventh impulse sent out from the Third Aspect of the Deity does not,
as before, draw back the physical atoms which were last made into the
original dissociated bubbles, but draws them together into certain
aggregations, thus making a number of different kinds of what may be called
proto-elements, and these again are joined together into the various forms
which are known to science as chemical elements. The making of these
extends over a long period of ages, and they are made in a certain definite
order by the interaction of several forces, as is correctly indicated in
Sir William Crookes's paper, _The Genesis of the Elements_. Indeed the
process of their making is not even now concluded; uranium is the latest
and heaviest element so far as we know, but others still more complicated
may perhaps be produced in the future.

As ages rolled on the condensation increased, and presently the stage of a
vast glowing nebula was reached. As it cooled, still rapidly rotating, it
flattened into a huge disc and gradually broke up into rings surrounding a
central body--an arrangement not unlike that which Saturn exhibits at the
present day, though on a far larger scale. As the time drew near when the
planets would be required for the purposes of evolution, the Deity sets up
somewhere in the thickness of each ring a subsidiary vortex into which a
great deal of the matter of the ring was by degrees collected. The
collisions of the gathered fragments caused a revival of the heat, and the
resulting planet was for a long time a mass of glowing gas. Little by
little it cooled once more, until it became fit to be the theatre of life
such as ours. Thus were all the planets formed.

Almost all the matter of those interpenetrating worlds was by this time
concentrated into the newly formed planets. Each of them was and is
composed of all those different kinds of matter. The earth upon which we
are now living is not merely a great ball of physical matter, built of the
atoms of that lowest world, but has also attached to it an abundant supply
of matter of the sixth, the fifth, the fourth and other worlds. It is well
known to all students of science that particles of matter never actually
touch one another, even in the hardest of substances. The spaces between
them are always far greater in proportion than their own size--enormously
greater. So there is ample room for all the other kinds of atoms of all
those other worlds, not only to lie between the atoms of the denser matter,
but to move quite freely among them and around them. Consequently, this
globe upon which we live is not one world, but seven interpenetrating
worlds, all occupying the same space, except that the finer types of matter
extend further from the centre than does the denser matter.

We have given names to these interpenetrating worlds for convenience in
speaking of them. No name is needed for the first, as man is not yet in
direct connection with it; but when it is necessary to mention it, it may
be called the divine world. The second is described as the monadic, because
in it exist those Sparks of the divine Life which we call the human Monads;
but neither of these can be touched by the highest clairvoyant
investigations at present possible for us. The third sphere, whose atoms
contain 2,401 bubbles, is called the spiritual world, because in it
functions the highest Spirit in man as now constituted. The fourth is the
intuitional world, [Previously called in Theosophical literature the
buddhic plane.] because from it come the highest intuitions. The fifth is
the mental world, because from its matter is built the mind of man. The
sixth is called the emotional or astral world, because the emotions of man
cause undulations in its matter. (The name astral was given to it by
mediaeval alchemists, because its matter is starry or shining as compared to
that of the denser world.) The seventh world, composed of the type of
matter which we see all around us, is called the physical.

The matter of which all these interpenetrating worlds are built is
essentially the same matter, but differently arranged and of different
degrees of density. Therefore the rates at which these various types of
matter normally vibrate differ also. They may be considered as a vast gamut
of undulations consisting of many octaves. The physical matter uses a
certain number of the lowest of these octaves, the astral matter another
group of octaves just above that, the mental matter a still further group,
and so on.

Not only has each of these worlds its own type of matter; it has also its
own set of aggregations of that matter--its own substances. In each world
we arrange these substances in seven classes according to the rate at which
their molecules vibrate. Usually, but not invariably, the slower
oscillation involves also a larger molecule--a molecule, that is, built up
by a special arrangement of the smaller molecules of the next higher
subdivision. The application of heat increases the size of the molecules
and also quickens and amplifies their undulation, so that they cover more
ground, and the object, as a whole expands, until the point is reached
where the aggregation of molecules breaks up, and the latter passes from
one condition to that next above it. In the matter of the physical world
the seven subdivisions are represented by seven degrees of density of
matter, to which, beginning from below upwards, we give the names solid,
liquid, gaseous, etheric, superetheric, subatomic and atomic.

The atomic subdivision is one in which all forms are built by the
compression into certain shapes of the physical atoms, without any previous
collection of these atoms into blocks or molecules. Typifying the physical
ultimate atom for the moment by a brick, any form in the atomic subdivision
would be made by gathering together some of the bricks, and building them
into a certain shape. In order to make matter for the next lower
subdivision, a certain number of the bricks (atoms) would first be gathered
together and cemented into small blocks of say four bricks each, five
bricks each, six bricks or seven bricks; and then these blocks so made
would be used as building stones. For the next subdivision several of the
blocks of the second subdivision cemented together in certain shapes would
form building-stones, and so on to the lowest.

To transfer any substance from the solid condition to the liquid (that is
to say, to melt it) is to increase the vibration of its compound molecules
until at last they are shaken apart into the simpler molecules of which
they were built. This process can in all cases be repeated again and again
until finally any and every physical substance can be reduced to the
ultimate atoms of the physical world.

Each of these worlds has its inhabitants, whose senses are normally capable
of responding to the undulations of their own world only. A man living (as
we are all doing) in the physical world sees, hears, feels, by vibrations
connected with the physical matter around him. He is equally surrounded by
the astral and mental and other worlds which are interpenetrating his own
denser world, but of them he is normally unconscious, because his senses
cannot respond to the oscillations of their matter, just as our physical
eyes cannot see by the vibrations of ultra-violet light, although
scientific experiments show that they exist, and there are other
consciousnesses with differently-formed organs who _can_ see by them. A
being living in the astral world might be occupying the very same space as
a being living in the physical world, yet each would be entirely
unconscious of the other and would in no way impede the free movement of
the other. The same is true of all other worlds. We are at this moment
surrounded by these worlds of finer matter, as close to us as the world we
see, and their inhabitants are passing through us and about us, but we are
entirely unconscious of them.

Since our evolution is centred at present upon this globe which we call the
earth, it is in connection with it only that we shall be speaking of these
higher worlds, so in future when I use the term "astral world" I shall mean
by it the astral part of our own globe only, and not (as heretofore) the
astral part of the whole solar system. This astral part of our own world is
also a globe, but of astral matter. It occupies the same place as the globe
which we see, but its matter (being so much lighter) extends out into space
on all sides of us further than does the atmosphere of the earth--a great
deal further. It stretches to a little less than the mean distance of the
moon, so that though the two physical globes, the earth and the moon, are
nearly 240,000 miles apart, the astral globes of these two bodies touch one
another when the moon is in perigee, but not when she is in apogee. I shall
apply the term "mental world" to the still larger globe of mental matter in
the midst of which our physical earth exists. When we come to the still
higher globes we have spheres large enough to touch the corresponding
spheres of other planets in the system, though their matter also is just as
much about us here on the surface of the solid earth as that of the others.
All these globes of finer matter are a part of us, and are all revolving
round the sun with their visible part. The student will do well to accustom
himself to think of our earth as the whole of this mass of interpenetrating
worlds--not only the comparatively small physical ball in the centre of it.

Chapter IV


All the impulses of life which I have described as building the
interpenetrating worlds come forth from the Third Aspect of the Deity.
Hence in the Christian scheme that Aspect is called "the Giver of Life",
the Spirit who brooded over the face of the waters of space. In
Theosophical literature these impulses are usually taken as a whole, and
called the First Outpouring.

When the worlds had been prepared to this extent, and most of the chemical
elements already existed, the Second Outpouring of life took place, and
this came from the Second Aspect of the Deity. It brought with it the power
of combination. In all the worlds it found existing what may be thought of
as elements corresponding to those worlds. It proceeded to combine those
elements into organisms which it then ensouled, and in this way it built up
the seven kingdoms of Nature. Theosophy recognizes seven kingdoms, because
it regards man as separate from the animal kingdom and it takes into
account several stages of evolution which are unseen by the physical eye,
and gives to them the mediaeval name of "elemental kingdoms".

The divine Life pours itself into matter from above, and its whole course
may be thought of in two stages--the gradual assumption of grosser and
grosser matter, and then the gradual casting off again of the vehicles
which have been assumed. The earliest level upon which its vehicles can be
scientifically observed is the mental--the fifth counting from the finer to
the grosser, the first on which there are separated globes. In practical
study it is found convenient to divide this mental world into two parts,
which we call the higher and the lower according to the degree of density
of their matter. The higher consists of the three finer subdivisions of
mental matter; the lower part of the other four.

When the outpouring reaches the higher mental world it draws together the
ethereal elements there, combines them into what at that level correspond
to substances and of these substances builds forms which it inhabits. We
call this the first elemental kingdom.

After a long period of evolution through different forms at that level, the
wave of life, which is all the time pressing steadily downwards, learns to
identify itself so fully with those forms that, instead of occupying them
and withdrawing from them periodically, it is able to hold them permanently
and make them part of itself, so that now from that level it can proceed to
the temporary occupation of forms at a still lower level. When it reaches
this stage we call it the second elemental kingdom, the ensouling life of
which resides upon the higher mental levels, while the vehicles through
which it manifests are on the lower.

After another vast period of similar length, it is found that the downward
pressure has caused this process to repeat itself; once more the life has
identified itself with its forms, and has taken up its residence upon the
lower mental levels, so that it is capable of ensouling bodies in the
astral world. At this stage we call it the third elemental kingdom.

We speak of all these forms as finer or grosser relatively to one another,
but all of them are almost infinitely finer than any with which we are
acquainted in the physical world. Each of these three is a kingdom of
Nature, as varied in the manifestations of its different forms of life as
is the animal or vegetable kingdom which we know. After a long period spent
in ensouling the forms of the third of these elemental kingdoms it
identifies itself with them in turn, and so is able to ensoul the etheric
part of the mineral kingdom, and becomes the life which vivifies that--for
there is a life in the mineral kingdom just as much as in the vegetable or
the animal, although it is in conditions where it cannot manifest so
freely. In the course of the mineral evolution the downward pressure causes
it to identify itself in the same way with the etheric matter of the
physical world, and from that to ensoul the denser matter of such minerals
as are perceptible to our senses.

In the mineral kingdom we include not only what are usually called
minerals, but also liquids, gases and many etheric substances the existence
of which is unknown to western science. All the matter of which we know
anything is living matter, and the life which it contains is always
evolving. When it has reached the central point of the mineral stage the
downward pressure ceases, and is replaced by an upward tendency; the
outbreathing has ceased and the indrawing has begun.

When mineral evolution is completed, the life has withdrawn itself again
into the astral world, but bearing with it all the results obtained through
its experiences in the physical. At this stage it ensouls vegetable forms,
and begins to show itself much more clearly as what we commonly call
life--plant-life of all kinds; and at a yet later stage of its development
it leaves the vegetable kingdom and ensouls the animal kingdom. The
attainment of this level is the sign that it has withdrawn itself still
further, and is now working from the lower mental world. In order to work
in physical matter from that mental world it must operate through the
intervening astral matter; and that astral matter is now no longer part of
the garment of the group-soul as a whole, but is the individual astral body
of the animal concerned, as will be later explained.

In each of these kingdoms it not only passes a period of time which is to
our ideas almost incredibly long, but it also goes through a definite
course of evolution, beginning from the lower manifestations of that
kingdom and ending with the highest. In the vegetable kingdom, for example,
the life-force might commence its career by occupying grasses or mosses and
end it by ensouling magnificent forest trees. In the animal kingdom it
might commence with mosquitoes or with animalculae, and might end with the
finest specimens of the mammalia.

The whole process is one of steady evolution from lower forms to higher,
from the simpler to the more complex. But what is evolving is not primarily
the form, but the life within it. The forms also evolve and grow better as
time passes; but this is in order that they may be appropriate vehicles for
more and more advanced waves of life. When the life has reached the highest
level possible in the animal kingdom, it may then pass on into the human
kingdom, under conditions which will presently be explained.

The outpouring leaves one kingdom and passes to another, so that if we had
to deal with only one wave of this outpouring we could have in existence
only one kingdom at a time. But the Deity sends out a constant succession
of these waves, so that at any given time we find a number of them
simultaneously in operation. We ourselves represent one such wave; but we
find evolving alongside us another wave which ensouls the animal kingdom--a
wave which came out from the Deity one stage later than we did. We find
also the vegetable kingdom, which represents a third wave, and the mineral
kingdom, which represents a fourth; and occultists know of the existence
all round us of three elemental kingdoms, which represent the fifth, sixth
and seventh waves. All these, however, are successive ripples of the same
great outpouring from the Second Aspect of the Deity.

We have here, then, a scheme of evolution in which the divine Life involves
itself more and more deeply in matter, in order that through that matter it
may receive vibrations which could not otherwise affect it--impacts from
without, which by degrees arouse within it rates of undulation
corresponding to their own, so that it learns to respond to them. Later on
it learns of itself to generate these rates of undulation, and so becomes a
being possessed of spiritual powers.

We may presume that when this outpouring of life originally came forth from
the Deity, at some level altogether beyond our power of cognition, it may
perhaps have been homogeneous; but when it first comes within practical
cognizance, when it is itself in the intuitional world, but is ensouling
bodies made of the matter of the higher mental world, it is already not one
huge world-soul but many souls. Let us suppose a homogeneous outpouring,
which may be considered as one vast soul, at one end of the scale; at the
other, when humanity is reached, we find that one vast soul broken up into
millions of the comparatively little souls of individual men. At any stage
between these two extremes we find an intermediate condition, the immense
world-soul already subdivided, but not to the utmost limit of possible

Each man is a soul, but not each animal or each plant. Man, as a soul, can
manifest through only one body at a time in the physical world, whereas one
animal soul manifests simultaneously through a number of animal bodies, one
plant soul through a number of separate plants. A lion, for example, is not
a permanently separate entity in the same way as a man is. When the man
dies--that is, when he as a soul lays aside his physical body--he remains
himself exactly as he was before, an entity separate from all other
entities. When the lion dies, that which has been the separate soul of him
is poured back into the mass from which it came--a mass which is at the
same time providing the souls for many other lions. To such a mass we give
the name of "group-soul".

To such a group-soul is attached a considerable number of lion bodies--let
us say a hundred. Each of those bodies while it lives has its hundredth
part of the group-soul attached to it, and for the time being this is
apparently quite separate, so that the lion is as much an individual during
his physical life as the man; but he is not a permanent individual. When he
dies the soul of him flows back into the group-soul to which it belongs,
and that identical lion-soul cannot be separated again from the group.

A useful analogy may help comprehension. Imagine the group-soul to be
represented by the water in a bucket, and the hundred lion bodies by a
hundred tumblers. As each tumbler is dipped into the bucket it takes out
from it a tumblerful of water (the separate soul). That water for the time
being takes the shape of the vehicle which it fills, and is temporarily
separate from the water which remains in the bucket, and from the water in
the other tumblers.

Now put into each of the hundred tumblers some kind of colouring matter or
some kind of flavouring. That will represent the qualities developed by its
experiences in the separate soul of the lion during its lifetime. Pour back
the water from the tumbler into the bucket; that represents the death of
the lion. The colouring matter or the flavouring will be distributed
through the whole of the water in the bucket, but will be a much fainter
colouring, a much less pronounced flavour when thus distributed than it was
when confined in one tumbler. The qualities developed by the experience of
one lion attached to that group-soul are therefore shared by the entire
group-soul, but in a much lower degree.

We may take out another tumblerful of water from that bucket, but we can
never again get exactly the same tumblerful after it has once been mingled
with the rest. Every tumblerful taken from that bucket in the future will
contain some traces of the colouring or flavouring put into each tumbler
whose contents have been returned to the bucket. Just so the qualities
developed by the experience of a single lion will become the common
property of all lions who are in the future to be born from that
group-soul, though in a lesser degree than that in which they existed in
the individual lion who developed them.

That is the explanation of inherited instincts; that is why the duckling
which has been hatched by a hen takes to the water instantly without
needing to be shown how to swim; why the chicken just out of its shell will
cower at the shadow of a hawk; why a bird which has been artificially
hatched, and has never seen a nest, nevertheless knows how to make one, and
makes it according to the traditions of its kind.

Lower down in the scale of animal life enormous numbers of bodies are
attached to a single group-soul--countless millions, for example, in the
case of some of the smaller insects; but as we rise in the animal kingdom
the number of bodies attached to a single group-soul becomes smaller and
smaller, and therefore the differences between individuals become greater.

Thus the group-souls gradually break up. Returning to the symbol of the
bucket, as tumbler after tumbler of water is withdrawn from it, tinted with
some sort of colouring matter and returned to it, the whole bucketful of
water gradually becomes richer in colour. Suppose that by imperceptible
degrees a kind of vertical film forms itself across the centre of the
bucket, and gradually solidifies itself into a division, so that we have
now a right half and a left half to the bucket, and each tumblerful of
water which is taken out is returned always to the same section from which
it came.

Then presently a difference will be set up, and the liquid in one half of
the bucket will no longer be the same as that in the other. We have then
practically two buckets, and when this stage is reached in a group-soul it
splits into two, as a cell separates by fission. In this way, as the
experience grows ever richer, the group-souls grow smaller but more
numerous, until at the highest point we arrive at man with his single
individual soul, which no longer returns into a group, but remains always

One of the life-waves is vivifying the whole of a kingdom; but not every
group-soul in that life-wave will pass through the whole of that kingdom
from the bottom to the top. If in the vegetable kingdom a certain
group-soul has ensouled forest trees, when it passes on into the animal
kingdom it will omit all the lower stages--that is, it will never inhabit
insects or reptiles, but will begin at once at the level of the lower
mammalia. The insects and reptiles will be vivified by group-souls which
have for some reason left the vegetable kingdom at a much lower level than
the forest tree. In the same way the group-soul which has reached the
highest levels of the animal kingdom will not individualize into primitive
savages, but into men of somewhat higher type, the primitive savages being
recruited from group-souls which have left the animal kingdom at a lower

Group-souls at any level or at all levels arrange themselves into seven
great types, according to the Minister of the Deity through whom their life
has poured forth. These types are clearly distinguishable in all the
kingdoms, and the successive forms taken by any one of them form a
connected series, so that animals, vegetables, minerals and the varieties
of the elemental creatures may all be arranged into seven great groups, and
the life coming along one of those lines will not diverge into any of the

No detailed list has yet been made of the animals, plants or minerals from
this point of view; but it is certain that the life which is found
ensouling a mineral of a particular type will never vivify a mineral of any
other type than its own, though within that type it may vary. When it
passes on to the vegetable and animal kingdoms it will inhabit vegetables
and animals of that type and of no other; and when it eventually reaches
humanity it will individualize into men of that type and of no other.

The method of individualization is the raising of the soul of a particular
animal to a level so much higher than that attained by its group-soul that
it can no longer return to the latter. This cannot be done with _any_
animal, but only with those whose brain is developed to a certain level,
and the method usually adopted to acquire such mental development is to
bring the animal into close contact with man. Individualization, therefore,
is possible only for domestic animals, and only for certain kinds even of
those. At the head of each of the seven types stands one kind of domestic
animal--the dog for one, the cat for another, the elephant for a third, the
monkey for a fourth, and so on. The wild animals can all be arranged on
seven lines leading up to the domestic animals; for example, the fox and
the wolf are obviously on the same line with the dog, while the lion, the
tiger and the leopard equally obviously lead up to the domestic cat; so
that the group-soul animating a hundred lions mentioned some time ago might
at a later stage of its evolution have divided into, let us say, five
group-souls each animating twenty cats.

The life-wave spends a long period of time in each kingdom; we are now only
a little past the middle of such an aeon, and consequently the conditions
are not favourable for the achievement of that individualization which
normally comes only at the end of a period. Rare instances of such
attainment may occasionally be observed on the part of some animal much in
advance of the average. Close association with man is necessary to produce
this result. The animal if kindly treated develops devoted affection for
his human friend, and also unfolds his intellectual powers in trying to
understand that friend and to anticipate his wishes. In addition to this,
the emotions and the thoughts of the man act constantly upon those of the
animal, and tend to raise him to a higher level both emotionally and
intellectually. Under favourable circumstances this development may proceed
so far as to raise the animal altogether out of touch with the group to
which he belongs, so that his fragment of a group-soul becomes capable of
responding to the outpouring which comes from the First Aspect of the

For this final outpouring is not like the others, a mighty outrush
affecting thousands or millions simultaneously; it comes to each one
individually as that one is ready to receive it. This outpouring has
already descended as far as the intuitional world; but it comes no farther
than that until this upward leap is made by the soul of the animal from
below; but when that happens this Third Outpouring leaps down to meet it,
and in the higher mental world is formed an ego, a permanent
individuality--permanent, that is, until, far later in his evolution, the
man transcends it and reaches back to the divine unity from which he came.
To make this ego, the fragment of the group-soul (which has hitherto played
the part always of ensouling force) becomes in its turn a vehicle, and is
itself ensouled by that divine Spark which has fallen into it from on high.
That Spark may be said to have been hovering in the monadic world over the
group-soul through the whole of its previous evolution, unable to effect a
junction with it until its corresponding fragment in the group-soul had
developed sufficiently to permit it. It is this breaking away from the rest
of the group-soul and developing a separate ego which marks the distinction
between the highest animal and the lowest man.

Chapter V


Man is therefore in essence a Spark of the divine Fire, belonging to the
monadic world.[1] To that Spark, dwelling all the time in that world, we
give the name "Monad". For the purposes of human evolution the Monad
manifests itself in lower worlds. When it descends one stage and enters the
spiritual world, it shows itself there as the triple Spirit having itself
three aspects (just as in worlds infinitely higher the Deity has His three
Aspects). Of those three one remains always in that world, and we call that
the Spirit in man. The second aspect manifests itself in the intuitional
world, and we speak of it as the Intuition in man. The third shows itself
in the higher mental world, and we call it the Intelligence in man. These
three aspects taken together constitute the ego which ensouls the fragment
from the group-soul. Thus man as we know him, though in reality a Monad
residing in the monadic world, shows himself as an ego in the higher mental
world, manifesting these three aspects of himself (Spirit, Intuition and
Intelligence) through that vehicle of higher mental matter which we name
the causal body.

Footnote 1: The President has now decided upon a set of names for the
planes, so for the future these will be used instead of those previously
employed. A table of them is given below for reference.

1. Divine World Adi Plane
2. Monadic World Anupadaka Plane
3. Spiritual World Atmic or Nirvanic Plane
4. Intuitional World Buddhic Plane
5. Mental World Mental Plane
6. Emotional or Astral World Astral Plane
7. Physical World Physical Plane

These will supersede the names given in Vol. II of _The Inner Life._

This ego is the man during the human stage of evolution; he is the nearest
correspondence, in fact, to the ordinary unscientific conception of the
soul. He lives unchanged (except for his growth) from the moment of
individualization until humanity is transcended and merged into divinity.
He is in no way affected by what we call birth and death; what we commonly
consider as his life is only a day in his life. The body which we can see,
the body which is born and dies, is a garment which he puts on for the
purposes of a certain part of his evolution.

Nor is it the only body which he assumes. Before he, the ego in the higher
mental world, can take a vehicle belonging to the physical world, he must
make a connection with it through the lower mental and astral worlds. When
he wishes to descend he draws around himself a veil of the matter of the
lower mental world, which we call his mental body. This is the instrument
by means of which he thinks all his concrete thoughts--abstract thought
being a power of the ego himself in the higher mental world.

Next he draws round himself a veil of astral matter, which we call his
astral body; and that is the instrument of his passions and emotions, and
also (in conjunction with the lower part of his mental body) the
instrument of all such thought as is tinged by selfishness and personal
feeling. Only after having assumed these intermediate vehicles can he come
into touch with a baby physical body, and be born into the world which we
know. He lives through what we call his life, gaining certain qualities as
the result of its experiences; and at its end, when the physical body is
worn out, he reverses the process of descent and lays aside one by one the
temporary vehicles which he has assumed. The first to go is the physical
body, and when that is dropped, his life is centred in the astral world and
he lives in his astral body.

The length of his stay in that world depends upon the amount of passion and
emotion which he has developed within himself in his physical life. If
there is much of these, the astral body is strongly vitalized, and will
persist for a long time; if there is but little, the astral body has less
vitality, and he will soon be able to cast that vehicle aside in turn. When
that is done he finds himself living in his mental body. The strength of
that depends upon the nature of the thoughts to which he has habituated
himself, and usually his stay at this level is a long one. At last it comes
to an end, and he casts aside the mental body in turn, and is once more the
ego in his own world.

Owing to lack of development, he is as yet but partially conscious in that
world; the vibrations of its matter are too rapid to make any impression
upon him, just as the ultra-violet rays are too rapid to make any
impression upon our eyes. After a rest there, he feels the desire to
descend to a level where the undulations are perceptible to him, in order
that he may feel himself to be fully alive; so he repeats the process of
descent into denser matter, and assumes once more a mental, an astral and a
physical body. As his previous bodies have all disintegrated, each in its
tarn, these new vehicles are entirely distinct from them, and thus it
happens that in his physical life he has no recollection whatever of other
similar lives which have preceded it.

When functioning in this physical world he remembers by means of his mental
body; but since that is a new one, assumed only for this birth, it
naturally cannot contain the memory of previous births in which it had no
part. The man himself, the ego, does remember them all when in his own
world, and occasionally some partial recollection of them or influence from
them filters through into his lower vehicles. He does not usually, in his
physical life, remember the experiences of earlier lives, but he does
manifest in physical life the qualities which those experiences have
developed in him. Each man is therefore exactly what he has made himself
during those past lives; if he has in them developed good qualities in
himself, he possesses the good qualities now; if he neglected to train
himself, and consequently left himself weak and of evil disposition, he
finds himself precisely in that condition now. The qualities, good or evil,
with which he is born are those which he has made for himself.

This development of the ego is the object of the whole process of
materialization; he assumes those veils of matter precisely because through
them he is able to receive vibrations to which he can respond, so that his
latent faculties may thereby be unfolded. Though man descends from on high
into these lower worlds, it is only through that descent that a full
cognizance of the higher worlds is developed in him. Full consciousness in
any given world involves the power to perceive and respond to all the
undulations of that world: therefore the ordinary man has not yet perfect
consciousness at any level--not even in this physical world which he thinks
he knows. It is possible for him to unfold his percipience in all these
worlds, and it is by means of such developed consciousness that we observe
all these facts which I am now describing.

The causal body is the permanent vehicle of the ego in the higher mental
world. It consists of matter of the first, second and third subdivisions of
that world. In ordinary people it is not yet fully active, only that matter
which belongs to the third subdivision being vivified. As the ego unfolds
his latent possibilities through the long course of his evolution, the
higher matter is gradually brought into action, but it is only in the
perfected man whom we call the Adept that it is developed to its fullest
extent. Such matter can be discerned by clairvoyant sight, but only by a
seer who knows how to use the sight of the ego.

It is difficult to describe a causal body fully, because the senses
belonging to its world are altogether different from and higher than ours
at this level. Such memory of the appearance of a causal body as it is
possible for a clairvoyant to bring into his physical brain represents it
as ovoid, and as surrounding the physical body of the man, extending to a
distance of about eighteen inches from the normal surface of that body. In
the case of primitive man it resembles a bubble, and gives the impression
of being empty. It is in reality filled with higher mental matter, but as
this is not yet brought into activity it remains colourless and
transparent. As advancement continues it is gradually stirred into
alertness by vibrations which reach it from the lower bodies. This comes
but slowly, because the activities of man in the earlier stages of his
evolution are not of a character to obtain expression in matter so fine as
that of the higher mental body; but when a man reaches the stage where he
is capable either of abstract thought or of unselfish emotion the matter of
the causal body is aroused into response.

When these rates of undulation are awakened within him they show themselves
in his causal body as colours, so that instead of being a mere transparent
bubble it gradually becomes a sphere filled with matter of the most lovely
and delicate hues--an object beautiful beyond all conception. It is found
by experience that these colours are significant. The vibration which
denotes the power of unselfish affection shows itself as a pale
rose-colour; that which indicates high intellectual power is yellow; that
which expresses sympathy is green, while blue betokens devotional feeling,
and a luminous lilac-blue typifies the higher spirituality. The same scheme
of colour-significance applies to the bodies which are built of denser
matter, but as we approach the physical world the hues are in every case by
comparison grosser--not only less delicate but also less living.

In the course of evolution in the lower worlds man often introduces into
his vehicles qualities which are undesirable and entirely inappropriate for
his life as an ego--such, for example, as pride, irritability, sensuality.
These, like the rest, are reducible to vibrations, but they are in all
cases vibrations of the lower subdivisions of their respective worlds, and
therefore they cannot reproduce themselves in the causal body, which is
built exclusively of the matter of the three higher subdivisions of its
world. For each section of the astral body acts strongly upon the
corresponding section of the mental body, but only upon the corresponding
section; it cannot influence any other part. So the causal body can be
affected only by the three higher portions of the astral body; and the
oscillations of those represent only good qualities.

The practical effect of this is that the man can build into the ego (that
is, into his true self) nothing but good qualities; the evil qualities
which he develops are in their nature transitory and must be thrown aside
as he advances, because he has no longer within him matter which can
express them. The difference between the causal bodies of the savage and
the saint is that the first is empty and colourless, while the second is
full of brilliant, coruscating tints. As the man passes beyond even
saint-hood and becomes a great spiritual power, his causal body increases
in size, because it has so much more to express, and it also begins to pour
out from itself in all directions powerful rays of living light. In one who
has attained Adeptship this body is of enormous dimensions.

The mental body is built of matter of the four lower subdivisions of the
mental world, and expresses the concrete thoughts of the man. Here also we
find the same colour-scheme as in the causal body. The hues are somewhat
less delicate, and we notice one or two additions. For example, a thought
of pride shows itself as orange, while irritability is manifested by a
brilliant scarlet. We may see here sometimes the bright brown of avarice,
the grey-brown of selfishness, and the grey-green of deceit. Here also we
perceive the possibility of a mixture of colours; the affection, the
intellect, the devotion may be tinged by selfishness, and in that case
their distinctive colours are mingled with the brown of selfishness, and so
we have an impure and muddy appearance. Although its particles are always
in intensely rapid motion among themselves, this body has at the same time
a kind of loose organization.

The size and shape of the mental body are determined by those of the causal
vehicle. There are in it certain striations which divide it more or less
irregularly into segments, each of these corresponding to a certain
department of the physical brain, so that every type of thought should
function through its duly assigned portion. The mental body is as yet so
imperfectly developed in ordinary men that there are many in whom a great
number of special departments are not yet in activity, and any attempt at
thought belonging to those departments has to travel round through some
inappropriate channel which happens to be fully open. The result is that
thought on those subjects is for those people clumsy and uncomprehending.
This is why some people have a head for mathematics and others are unable
to add correctly--why some people instinctively understand, appreciate and
enjoy music, while others do not know one tune from another.

All the matter of the mental body should be circulating freely, but
sometimes a man allows his thought upon a certain subject to set and
solidify, and then the circulation is impeded, and there is a congestion
which presently hardens into a kind of wart on the mental body. Such a wart
appears to us down here as a prejudice; and until it is absorbed and free
circulation restored, it is impossible for the man to think truly or to see
clearly with regard to that particular department of his mind, as the
congestion checks the free passage of undulations both outward and inward.

When a man uses any part of his mental body it not only vibrates for the
time more rapidly, but it also temporarily swells out and increases in
size. If there is prolonged thought upon a subject this increase becomes
permanent, and it is thus open to any man to increase the size of his
mental body either along desirable or undesirable lines.

Good thoughts produce vibrations of the finer matter of the body, which by
its specific gravity tends to float in the upper part of the ovoid; whereas
bad thoughts, such as selfishness and avarice, are always oscillations of
the grosser matter, which tends to gravitate towards the lower part of the
ovoid. Consequently the ordinary man, who yields himself not infrequently
to selfish thoughts of various kinds, usually expands the lower part of his
mental body, and presents roughly the appearance of an egg with its larger
end downwards. The man who has repressed those lower thoughts, and devoted
himself to higher ones, tends to expand the upper part of his mental body,
and therefore presents the appearance of an egg standing on its smaller
end. From a study of the colours and striations of a man's mental body the
clairvoyant can perceive his character and the progress he has made in his
present life. From similar features of the causal body he can see what
progress the ego has made since its original formation, when the man left
the animal kingdom.

When a man thinks of any concrete object--a book, a house, a landscape--he
builds a tiny image of the object in the matter of his mental body. This
image floats in the upper part of that body, usually in front of the face
of the man and at about the level of the eyes. It remains there as long as
the man is contemplating the object, and usually for a little time
afterwards, the length of time depending upon the intensity and the
clearness of the thought. This form is quite objective, and can be seen by
another person, if that other has developed the sight of his own mental
body. If a man thinks of another, he creates a tiny portrait in just the
same way. If his thought is merely contemplative and involves no feeling
(such as affection or dislike) or desire (such as a wish to see the person)
the thought does not usually perceptibly affect the man of whom he thinks.

If coupled with the thought of the person there is a feeling, as for
example of affection, another phenomenon occurs besides the forming of the
image. The thought of affection takes a definite form, which it builds out
of the matter of the thinker's mental body. Because of the emotion
involved, it draws round it also matter of his astral body, and thus we
have an astromental form which leaps out of the body in which it has been
generated, and moves through space towards the object of the feeling of
affection. If the thought is sufficiently strong, distance makes absolutely
no difference to it; but the thought of an ordinary person is usually weak
and diffused, and is therefore not effective outside a limited area.

When this thought-form reaches its object it discharges itself into his
astral and mental bodies, communicating to them its own rate of vibration.
Putting this in another way, a thought of love sent from one person to
another involves the actual transference of a certain amount both of force
and of matter from the sender to the recipient, and its effect upon the
recipient is to arouse the feeling of affection in him, and slightly but
permanently to increase his power of loving. But such a thought also
strengthens the power of affection in the thinker, and therefore it does
good simultaneously to both.

Every thought builds a form; if the thought be directed to another person
it travels to him; if it be distinctly selfish it remains in the immediate
neighbourhood of the thinker; if it belongs to neither of these categories
it floats for awhile in space and then slowly disintegrates. Every man
therefore is leaving behind him wherever he goes a trail of thought forms;
as we go along the street we are walking all the time amidst a sea of other
men's thoughts. If a man leaves his mind blank for a time, these residual
thoughts of others drift through it, making in most cases but little
impression upon him. Sometimes one arrives which attracts his attention, so
that his mind seizes upon it and makes it its own, strengthens it by the
addition of its force, and then casts it out again to affect somebody else.
A man therefore, is not responsible for a thought which floats into his
mind, because it may be not his, but someone else's; but he _is_
responsible if he takes it up, dwells upon it and then sends it out

Self-centred thought of any kind hangs about the thinker, and most men
surround their mental bodies with a shell of such thoughts. Such a shell
obscures the mental vision and facilitates the formation of prejudice.

Each thought-form is a temporary entity. It resembles a charged battery,
awaiting an opportunity to discharge itself. Its tendency is always to
reproduce its own rate of vibration in the mental body upon which it
fastens itself, and so to arouse in it a like thought. If the person at
whom it is aimed happens to be busy or already engaged in some definite
train of thought, the particles of his mental body are already swinging at
a certain determinate rate, and cannot for the moment be affected from
without. In that case the thought-form bides its time, hanging about its
object until he is sufficiently at rest to permit its entrance; then it
discharges itself upon him, and in the act ceases to exist.

The self-centred thought behaves in exactly the same way with regard to its
generator, and discharges itself upon him when opportunity offers. If it be
an evil thought, he generally regards it as the suggestion of a tempting
demon, whereas in truth he tempts himself. Usually each definite thought
creates a new thought-form; but if a thought-form of the same nature is
already hovering round the thinker, under certain circumstances a new
thought on the same subject, instead of creating a new form, coalesces with
and strengthens, the old one, so that by long brooding over the same
subject a man may sometimes create a thought-form of tremendous power. If
the thought be a wicked one, such a thought-form may become a veritable
evil influence, lasting perhaps for many years, and having for a time all
the appearance and powers of a real living entity.

All these which have been described are the ordinary unpremeditated
thoughts of man. A man can make a thought-form intentionally, and aim it at
another with the object of helping him. This is one of the lines of
activity adopted by those who desire to serve humanity. A steady stream of
powerful thought directed intelligently upon another person may be of the
greatest assistance to him. A strong thought-form may be a real guardian
angel, and protect its object from impurity, from irritability or from

An interesting branch of the subject is the study of the various shapes and
colours taken by thought-forms of different kinds. The colours indicate the
nature of the thought, and are in agreement with those which we have
already described as existing in the bodies. The shapes are of infinite
variety, but are often in some way typical of the kind of thought which
they express.

Every thought of definite character, such as a thought of affection or
hatred, of devotion or suspicion, of anger or fear, of pride or jealousy,
not only creates a form but also radiates an undulation. The fact that,
each one of these thoughts is expressed by a certain colour indicates that
the thought expresses itself as an oscillation of the matter of a certain
part of the mental body. This rate of oscillation communicates itself to
the surrounding mental matter precisely in the same way as the vibration of
a bell communicates itself to the surrounding air.

This radiation travels out in all directions, and whenever it impinges upon
another mental body in a passive or receptive condition it communicates to
it something of its own vibration. This does not convey a definite complete
idea, as does the thought-form, but it tends to produce a thought of the
same character as itself. For example, if the thought be devotional its
undulations will excite devotion, but the object of the worship may be
different in the case of each person upon whose mental body they impinge.
The thought-form, on the other hand, can reach only one person, but will
convey to that person (if receptive) not only a general devotional feeling,
but also a precise image of the Being for whom the adoration was originally

Any person who habitually thinks pure, good and strong thoughts is
utilizing for that purpose the higher part of his mental body--a part which
is not used at all by the ordinary man, and is entirely undeveloped in him.
Such an one is therefore a power for good in the world, and is being of
great use to all those of his neighbours who are capable of any sort of
response. For the vibration which he sends out tends to arouse a new and
higher part of their mental bodies, and consequently to open before them
altogether new fields of thought.

It may not be exactly the same thought as that sent out, but it is of the
same nature. The undulations generated by a man thinking of Theosophy do
not necessarily communicate Theosophical ideas to all those around him; but
they do awaken in them more liberal and higher thought than that to which
they have before been accustomed. On the other hand, the thought-forms
generated under such circumstances, though more limited in their action
than the radiation, are also more precise; they can affect only those who
are to some extent open to them, but to them they will convey definite
Theosophical ideas.

The colours of the astral body bear the same meaning as those of the higher
vehicles, but are several octaves of colours below them, and much more
nearly approaching to such hues as we see in the physical world. It is the
vehicle of passion and emotion, and consequently it may exhibit additional
colours, expressing man's less desirable feelings, which cannot show
themselves at higher levels; for example, a lurid brownish-red indicates
the presence of sensuality, while black clouds show malice and hatred. A
curious livid grey betokens the presence of fear, and a much darker grey,
usually arranged in heavy rings around the ovoid, indicates a condition of
depression. Irritability is shown by the presence of a number of small
scarlet flecks in the astral body, each representing a small angry impulse.
Jealousy is shown by a peculiar brownish-green, generally studded with the
same scarlet flecks. The astral body is in size and shape like those just
described, and in the ordinary man its outline is usually clearly marked;
but in the case of primitive man it is often exceedingly irregular, and
resembles a rolling cloud composed of all the more unpleasant colours.

When the astral body is comparatively quiet (it is never actually at rest)
the colours which are to be seen in it indicate those emotions to which the
man is most in the habit of yielding himself. When the man experiences a
rush of any particular feeling, the rate of vibration which expresses that
feeling dominates for a time the entire astral body. If, for example, it be
devotion, the whole of his astral body is flushed with, blue, and while the
emotion remains at its strongest the normal colours do little more than
modify the blue, or appear faintly through a veil of it; but presently the
vehemence of the sentiment dies away, and the normal colours re-assert
themselves. But because of that spasm of emotion the part of the astral
body which is normally blue has been increased in size. Thus a man who
frequently feels high devotion soon comes to have a large area of the blue
permanently existing in his astral body.

When the rush of devotional _feeling_ comes over him, it is usually
accompanied by _thoughts_ of devotion. Although primarily formed in the
mental body, these draw round themselves a large amount of astral matter as
well, so that their action is in both worlds. In both worlds also is the
radiation which was previously described, so that the devotional man is a
centre of devotion, and will influence other people to share both his
thoughts and his feelings. The same is true in the case of affection,
anger, depression--and, indeed, of all other feelings.

The flood of emotion does not itself greatly affect the mental body,
although for a time it may render it almost impossible for any activity
from that mental body to come through into the physical brain. That is not
because that body itself is affected, but because the astral body, which
acts as a bridge between it and the physical brain, is vibrating so
entirely at one rate as to be incapable of conveying any undulation which
is not in harmony with that.

The permanent colours of the astral body react upon, the mental. They
produce in it their correspondences, several octaves higher, in the same
manner as a musical note produces overtones. The mental body in its turn
reacts upon the causal in the same way, and thus all the good qualities
expressed in the lower vehicles by degrees establish themselves permanently
in the ego. The evil qualities cannot do so, as the rates of vibrations
which express them are impossible for the higher mental matter of which the
causal body is constructed.

So far, we have described vehicles which are the expression of the ego in
their respective worlds--vehicles, which he provides for himself; in the
physical world we come to a vehicle which is provided for him by Nature
under laws which will be later explained--which though also in some sense
an expression of him, is by no means a perfect manifestation. In ordinary
life we see only a small part of this physical body--only that which is
built of the solid and liquid subdivisions of physical matter. The body
contains matter of all the seven subdivisions, and all of them play their
part in its life and are of equal importance, to it.

We usually speak of the invisible part of the physical body as the etheric
double; "double" because it exactly reproduces the size and shape of the
part of the body that we can see, and "etheric" because it is built--of
that finer kind of matter by the vibrations of which light is conveyed to
the retina of the eye. (This must not be confused with the true aether of
space--that of which matter is the negation.) This invisible part of the
physical body is of great importance to us, since it is the vehicle through
which flow the streams of vitality which keep the body alive, and without
it, as a bridge to convey undulations of thought and feeling from the
astral to the visible denser physical matter, the ego could make no use of
the cells of his brain.

The life of a physical body is one of perpetual change and in order that it
shall live, it needs constantly to be supplied from three distinct sources.
It must have food for its digestion, air for its breathing, and vitality
for its absorption. This vitality is essentially a force, but when clothed
in matter it appears to us as a definite element, which exists in all the
worlds of which we have spoken. At the moment we are concerned with that
manifestation of it which we find in the highest subdivision of the
physical world. Just as the blood circulates through the veins, so does the
vitality circulate along the nerves; and precisely as any abnormality in
the flow of the blood at once affects the physical body, so does the
slightest irregularity in the absorption or flow of the vitality affect
this higher part of the physical body.

Vitality is a force which comes originally from the sun. When an ultimate
physical atom is charged with it, it draws round itself six other atoms,
and makes itself into an etheric element. The original force of vitality is
then subdivided into seven, each of the atoms carrying a separate charge.
The element thus made is absorbed into the human body through the etheric
part of the spleen. It is there split up into its component parts, which at
once low to the various parts of the body assigned to them. The spleen is
one of the seven force centres in the etheric part of the physical body. In
each of our vehicles seven such centres should be in activity, and when
they are thus active they are visible to clairvoyant sight. They appear
usually as shallow vortices, for they are the points at which the force
from the higher bodies enters the lower. In the physical body these centres
are: (1) at the base of the spine, (2) at the solar plexus, (3) at the
spleen, (4) over the heart, (5) at the throat, (6) between the eyebrows,
and (7) at the top of the head. There are other dormant centres, but their
awakening is undesirable.

The shape of all the higher bodies as seen by the clairvoyant is ovoid, but
the matter composing them is not equally distributed throughout the egg. In
the midst of this ovoid is the physical body. The physical body strongly
attracts astral matter, and in its turn the astral matter strongly attracts
mental matter. Therefore by far the greater part of the matter of the
astral body is gathered within the physical frame; and the same is true of
the mental vehicle. If we see the astral body of a man in its own world,
apart from the physical body we shall still perceive the astral matter
aggregated in exactly the shape of the physical, although, as the matter is
more fluidic in its nature, what we see is a body built of dense mist, in
the midst of an ovoid of much finer mist. The same is true for the mental
body. Therefore, if in the astral or the mental world we should meet an
acquaintance, we should recognise him by his appearance just as instantly
as in the physical world.

This, then, is the true constitution of man. In the first place he is a
Monad, a Spark of the Divine. Of that Monad the ego is a partial
expression, formed in order that he may enter evolution, and may return to
the Monad with joy, bringing his sheaves with him in the shape of qualities
developed by garnered experience. The ego in his turn puts down part of
himself for the same purpose into lower worlds, and we call that part a
personality, because the Latin word _persona_ means a mask, and this
personality is the mask which the ego puts upon himself when he manifests
in worlds lower than his own. Just as the ego is a small part and an
imperfect expression of the Monad, so is the personality a small part and
an imperfect expression of the ego; so that what we usually think of as the
man is only in truth a fragment of a fragment.

The personality wears three bodies or vehicles, the mental, the astral and
the physical. While the man is what we call alive and awake on the physical
earth he is limited by his physical body, for he uses the astral and mental
bodies only as bridges to connect himself with his lowest vehicle. One of
the limitations of the physical body is that it quickly becomes fatigued
and needs periodical rest. Each night the man leaves it to sleep, and
withdraws into his astral vehicle, which does not become fatigued, and
therefore needs no sleep. During this sleep of the physical body the man is
free to move about in the astral world; but the extent to which he does
this depends upon his development. The primitive savage usually does not
move more than a few miles away from his sleeping physical form--often not
as much as that; and he has only the vaguest consciousness.

The educated man is generally able to travel in his astral vehicle wherever
he will, and has much more consciousness in the astral world, though he has
not often the faculty of bringing into his waking life any memory of what
he has seen and done while his physical body was asleep. Sometimes he does
remember some incident which he has seen, some experience which he has had,
and then he calls it a vivid dream. More often his recollections are
hopelessly entangled with vague memories of waking life, and with
impressions made from without upon the etheric part of his brain. Thus we
arrive at the confused and often absurd dreams of ordinary life. The
developed man becomes as fully conscious and active in the astral world as
in the physical, and brings through into the latter full remembrance of
what he has been doing in the former--that is, he has a continuous life
without any loss of consciousness throughout the whole twenty-four hours,
and thus throughout the whole of his physical life, and even through death

Chapter VI


Death is the laying aside of the physical body; but it makes no more
difference to the ego than does the laying aside of an overcoat to the
physical man. Having put off his physical body, the ego continues to live
in his astral body until the force has become exhausted which has been
generated by such emotions and passions as he has allowed himself to feel
during earth-life. When that has happened, the second death takes place;
the astral body also falls away from him, and he finds himself living in
the mental body and in the lower mental world. In that condition he remains
until the thought-forces generated during his physical and astral lives
have worn themselves out; then he drops the third vehicle in its turn and
remains once more an ego in his own world, inhabiting his causal body.

There is, then, no such thing as death as it is ordinarily understood.
There is only a succession of stages in a continuous life--stages lived in
the three worlds one after another. The apportionment of time between these
three worlds varies much as man advances. The primitive man lives almost
exclusively in the physical world, spending only a few years in the astral
at the end of each of his physical lives. As he develops, the astral life
becomes longer, and as intellect: unfolds in him, and he becomes able to
think, he begins to spend a little time in the mental world as well. The
ordinary man of civilized races remains longer in the mental world than in
the physical and astral; indeed, the more a man evolves the longer becomes
his mental, life and the shorter his life in the astral world.

The astral life is the result of all feelings which have in them the
element of self. If they have been directly selfish, they bring him into
conditions of great unpleasantness in the astral world; if, though tinged
with thoughts of self, they have been good and kindly, they bring him a
comparatively pleasant though still limited astral life. Such of his
thoughts and feelings as have been entirely unselfish produce their results
in his life in the mental world; therefore that life in the mental, world
cannot be other than blissful. The astral life, which the man has made for
himself either miserable or comparatively joyous, corresponds to what
Christians call purgatory; the lower mental life, which is always entirely
happy, is what is called heaven.

Man makes for himself his own purgatory and heaven, and these are not
planes, but states of consciousness. Hell does not exist; it is only a
figment of the theological imagination; but a man who lives foolishly may
make for himself a very unpleasant and long enduring purgatory. Neither
purgatory nor heaven can ever be eternal, for a finite cause cannot produce
an infinite result. The variations in individual cases are so wide that to
give actual figures is somewhat misleading. If we take the average man of
what is called the lower middle class, the typical specimen of which would
be a small shopkeeper or shop-assistant, his average life in the astral
world would be perhaps about forty years, and the life in the mental world
about two hundred. The man of spirituality and culture, on the other hand,
may have perhaps twenty years of life in the astral world and a thousand in
the heaven life. One who is specially developed may reduce the astral life
to a few days or hours and spend fifteen hundred years in heaven.

Not only does the length of these periods vary greatly, but the conditions
in both worlds also differ widely. The matter of which all these bodies are
built is not dead matter but living, and that fact has to be taken into
consideration. The physical body is built up of cells, each of which is a
tiny separate life animated by the Second Outpouring, which comes forth
from the Second Aspect of the Deity. These cells are of varying kinds and
fulfil various functions, and all these facts must be taken into account if
the man wishes to understand the work of his physical body and to live a
healthy life in it.

The same thing applies to the astral and mental bodies. In the cell-life
which permeates them there is as yet nothing in the way of intelligence,
but there is a strong instinct always pressing in the direction of what is
for its development. The life animating the matter of which such bodies are
built is upon the outward arc of evolution, moving downwards or outwards
into matter, so that progress for it means to descend into denser forms of
matter, and to learn to express itself through them. Unfoldment for the man
is just the opposite of this; he has already sunk deeply into matter and is
now rising out of that towards his source. There is consequently a constant
conflict of interests between the man within and the life inhabiting the
matter of his vehicles, inasmuch as its tendency is downward, while his is

The matter of the astral body (or rather the life animating its molecules)
desires for its evolution such undulations as it can get, of as many
different kinds as possible, and as coarse as possible. The next step in
its evolution will be to ensoul physical matter and become used to its
still slower oscillations; and as a step on the way to that, it desires the
grossest of the astral vibrations. It has not the intelligence definitely
to plan for these; but its instinct helps it to discover how most easily to
procure them.

The molecules of the astral body are constantly changing, as are those of
the physical body, but nevertheless the life in the mass of those astral
molecules has a sense, though a very vague sense, of itself as a whole--as
a kind of temporary entity. It does not know that it is part of a man's
astral body; it is quite incapable of understanding what a man is; but it
realizes in a blind way that under its present conditions it receives many
more waves, and much stronger ones, than it would receive if floating at
large in the atmosphere. It would then only occasionally catch, as from a
distance, the radiation of man's passions and emotions; now it is in the
very heart of them, it can miss none, and it gets them at their strongest.
Therefore it feels itself in a good position, and it makes an effort to
retain that position. It finds itself in contact with something finer than
itself--the matter of the man's mental body; and it comes to feel that if
it can contrive to involve that finer something in its own undulations,
they will be greatly intensified and prolonged.

Since astral matter is the vehicle of desire and mental matter is the
vehicle of thought, this instinct, when translated into our language, means
that if the astral body can induce us to think that _we_ want what _it_
wants, it is much more likely to get it. Thus it exercises a slow steady
pressure upon the man--a kind of hunger on its side, but for him a
temptation to what is coarse and undesirable. If he be a passionate man
there is a gentle but ceaseless pressure in the direction of irritability;
if he be a sensual man, an equally steady pressure in the direction of

A man who does not understand this usually makes one of two mistakes with
regard to it: either he supposes it to be the prompting of his own nature,
and therefore regards that nature as inherently evil, or he thinks of the
pressure as coming from outside--as a temptation of an imaginary devil. The
truth lies between the two. The pressure is natural, not to the man but to
the vehicle which he is using; its desire is natural and right for it, but
harmful to the man, and therefore it is necessary that he should resist it.
If he does so resist, if he declines to yield himself to the feelings
suggested to him, the particles within him which need those vibrations
become apathetic for lack of nourishment, and eventually atrophy and fall
out from his astral body, and are replaced by other particles, whose
natural wave-rate is more nearly in accordance with that which the man
habitually permits within his astral body.

This gives the reason for what are called promptings of the lower nature
during life. If the man yields himself to them, such promptings grow
stronger and stronger until at last he feels as though he could not resist
them, and identifies himself with them--which is exactly what this curious
half-life in the particles of the astral body wants him to do.

At the death of the physical body this vague astral consciousness is
alarmed. It realizes that its existence as a separated mass is menaced, and
it takes instinctive steps to defend itself and to maintain its position as
long as possible. The matter of the astral body is far more fluidic than
that of the physical, and this consciousness seizes upon its particles and
disposes them so as to resist encroachment. It puts the grossest and
densest upon the outside as a kind of shell, and arranges the others in
concentric layers, so that the body as a whole may become as resistant to
friction as its constitution permits, and may therefore retain its shape as
long as possible.

For the man this produces various unpleasant effects. The physiology of the
astral body is quite different from that of the physical; the latter
acquires its information from without by means of certain organs which are
specialized as the instruments of its senses, but the astral body has no
separated senses in our meaning of the word. That which for the astral body
corresponds to sight is the power of its molecules to respond to impacts
from without, which come to them by means of similar molecules. For
example, a man has within his astral body matter belonging to all the
subdivisions of the astral world, and it is because of that that he is
capable of "seeing" objects built of the matter of any of these

Supposing an astral object to be made of the matter of the second and third
subdivisions mixed, a man living in the astral world could perceive that
object only if on the surface of his astral body there were particles
belonging to the second and third subdivisions of that world which were
capable of receiving and recording the vibrations which that object set up.
A man who from the arrangement of his body by the vague consciousness of
which we have spoken, had on the outside of that vehicle only the denser
matter of the lowest subdivision, could no more be conscious of the object
which we have mentioned than we are ourselves conscious in the physical
body of the gases which move about us in the atmosphere or of objects built
exclusively of etheric matter.

During physical life the matter of the man's astral body is in constant
motion, and its particles pass among one another much as do those of
boiling water. Consequently at any given moment it is practically certain
that particles of all varieties will be represented on the surface of his
astral body, and that therefore when he is using his astral body during
sleep he will be able to "see" by its means any astral object which
approaches him.

After death, if he has allowed the rearrangement to be made (as from
ignorance, all ordinary persons do) his condition in this respect will be
different. Having on the surface of his astral body only the lowest and
grossest particles, he can receive impressions only from corresponding
particles outside; so that instead of seeing the whole of the astral world
about him, he will see only one-seventh of it, and that the densest and
most impure. The vibrations of this heavier matter are the expressions only
of objectionable feelings and emotions, and of the least refined class of
astral entities. Therefore it emerges that a man in this condition can see
only the undesirable inhabitants of the astral world, and can feel only its
most unpleasant and vulgar influences.

He is surrounded by other men, whose astral bodies are probably of quite
ordinary character; but since he can see and feel only that which is lowest
and coarsest in them, they appear to him to be monsters of vice with no
redeeming features. Even his friends seem not at all what they used to be,
because he is now incapable of appreciating any of their better qualities.
Under these circumstances it is little wonder that he considers the astral
world a hell; yet the fault is in no way with the astral world, but with
himself--first, for allowing within himself so much of that cruder type of
matter, and, secondly, for letting that vague astral consciousness dominate
him and dispose it in that particular way.

The man who has studied these matters declines absolutely to yield to the
pressure during life or to permit the rearrangement after death, and
consequently he retains his power of seeing the astral world as a whole,
and not merely the cruder and baser part of it.

The astral world has many points in common with the physical; just like the
physical, it presents different appearances to different people, and even
to the same person at different periods of his career. It is the home of
emotions and of lower thoughts; and emotions are much stronger in that
world than in this. When a person is awake we cannot see that larger part
of his emotion at all; its strength goes in setting in motion the gross
physical matter of the brain. So if we see a man show affection here, what
we can see is not the whole of his affection, but only such part of it as
is left after all this other work has been done. Emotions therefore bulk
far more largely in the astral life than in the physical. They in no way
exclude higher thought if they are controlled, so in the astral world as in
the physical a man may devote himself to study and to helping his fellows,
or he may waste his time and drift about aimlessly.

The astral world extends nearly to the mean distance of the orbit of the
moon; but though the whole of this realm is open to any of its inhabitants
who have not permitted the redistribution of their matter, the great
majority remain much nearer to the surface of the earth. The matter of the
different subdivisions of that world interpenetrates with perfect freedom,
but there is on the whole a general tendency for the denser matter to
settle towards the centre. The conditions are much like those which obtain
in a bucket of water which contains in suspension a number of kinds of
matter of different degrees of density. Since the water is kept in
perpetual motion, the different kinds of matter are diffused through it;
but in spite of that, the densest matter is found in greatest quantity
nearest to the bottom. So that though we must not at all think of the
various subdivisions of the astral world as lying above one another as do
the coats of an onion, it is nevertheless true that the average arrangement
of the matter of those subdivisions partakes somewhat of that general

Astral matter interpenetrates physical matter precisely as though it were
not there, but each subdivision of physical matter has a strong attraction
for astral matter of the corresponding subdivision. Hence it arises that
every physical body has its astral counterpart. If I have a glass of water
standing upon a table, the glass and the table, being of physical matter in
the solid state, are interpenetrated by astral matter of the lowest
subdivision. The water in the glass, being liquid, is interpenetrated by
what we may call astral liquid--that is, by astral matter of the sixth
subdivision; whereas the air surrounding both, being physical matter in the
gaseous condition, is entirely interpenetrated by astral gaseous
matter--that is, astral matter of the fifth subdivision.

But just as air, water, glass and table are alike interpenetrated all the
time by the finer physical matter which we have called etheric, so are all
the astral counterparts interpenetrated by the finer astral matter of the
higher subdivisions which correspond to the etheric. But even the astral
solid is less dense than the finest of the physical ethers.

The man who finds himself in the astral world after death, if he has not
submitted to the rearrangement of the matter of his body, will notice but
little difference from physical life. He can float about in any direction
at will, but in actual fact he usually stays in the neighbourhood to which
he is accustomed. He is still able to perceive his house, his room, his
furniture, his relations, his friends. The living, when ignorant of the
higher worlds, suppose themselves to have "lost" those who have laid aside
their physical bodies; but the dead are never for a moment under the
impression that they have lost the living.

Functioning as they are in the astral body, the dead can no longer see the
physical bodies of those whom they have left behind; but they do see their
astral bodies, and as those are exactly the same in outline as the
physical, they are perfectly aware of the presence of their friends. They
see each one surrounded by a faint ovoid of luminous mist, and if they
happen to be observant, they may notice various other small changes in
their surroundings; but it is at least quite clear to them that they have
not gone away to some distant heaven or hell, but still remain in touch
with the world which they know, although they see it at a somewhat
different angle.

The dead man has the astral body of his living friend obviously before him,
so he cannot think of him as lost; but while the friend is awake, the dead
man will not be able to make any impression upon him, for the consciousness
of the friend is then in the physical world, and his astral body is being
used only as a bridge. The dead man cannot therefore communicate with his
friend, nor can he read his friend's higher thoughts; but he will see by
the change in colour in the astral body any emotion which that friend may
feel, and with a little practice and observation he may easily learn to
read all those thoughts of his friend which have in them anything of self
or of desire.

When the friend falls asleep the whole position is changed. He is then also
conscious in the astral world side by side with the dead man, and they can
communicate in every respect as freely as they could during physical life.
The emotions felt by the living react strongly upon the dead who love them.
If the former give way to grief, the latter cannot but suffer severely.

The conditions of life after death are almost infinite in their variety,
but they can be calculated without difficulty by any one who will take the
trouble to understand the astral world and to consider the character of the
person concerned. That character is not in the slightest degree changed by
death; the man's thoughts, emotions and desires are exactly the same as
before. He is in every way the same man, minus his physical body; and his
happiness or misery depends upon the extent to which this loss of the
physical body affects him.

If his longings have been such as need a physical body for their
gratification, he is likely to suffer considerably. Such a craving
manifests itself as a vibration in the astral body, and while we are still
in this world most of its strength is employed in setting in motion the
heavy physical particles. Desire is therefore a far greater force in the
astral life than in the physical, and if the man has not been in the habit
of controlling it, and if in this new life it cannot be satisfied, it may
cause him great and long-continued trouble.

Take as an illustration the extreme case of a drunkard or a sensualist.
Here we have a lust which has been strong enough during physical life to
overpower reason, common sense and all the feelings of decency and of
family affection. After death the man finds himself in the astral world
feeling the appetite perhaps a hundred times more strongly, yet absolutely
unable to satisfy it because he has lost the physical body. Such a life is
a very real hell--the only hell there is; yet no one is punishing him; he
is reaping the perfectly natural result of his own action. Gradually as
time passes this force of desire wears out, but only at the cost of
terrible suffering for the man, because to him every day seems as a
thousand years. He has no measure of time such as we have in the physical
world. He can measure it only by his sensations. From a distortion of this
fact has come the blasphemous idea of eternal damnation.

Many other cases less extreme than this will readily suggest themselves, in
which a hankering which cannot be fulfilled may prove itself a torture. A
more ordinary case is that of a man who has no particular vices, such as
drink or sensuality, but yet has been attached entirely to things of the
physical world, and has lived a life devoted to business or to aimless
social functions. For him the astral world is a place of weariness; the
only thing for which he craves are no longer possible for him, for in the
astral world there is no business to be done, and, though he may have as
much companionship as he wishes, society is now for him a very different
matter, because all the pretences upon which it is usually based in this
world are no longer possible.

These cases, however, are only the few, and for most people the state after
death is much happier than life upon earth. The first feeling of which the
dead man is usually conscious is one of the most wonderful and delightful
freedom. He has absolutely nothing to worry about, and no duties rest upon
him, except those which he chooses to impose upon himself. For all but a
very small minority, physical life is spent in doing what the man would
much rather not do; but he has to do it in order to support himself or his
wife and family. In the astral world no support is necessary; food is no
longer needed, shelter is not required, since he is entirely unaffected by
heat or cold; and each man by the mere exercise of his thought clothes
himself as he wishes. For the first time since early childhood the man is
entirely free to spend the whole of his time in doing just exactly what he

His capacity for every kind of enjoyment is greatly enhanced, if only that
enjoyment does not need a physical body for its expression. If he loves the
beauties of Nature, it is now within his power to travel with great
rapidity and without fatigue over the whole world, to contemplate all its
loveliest spots, and to explore its most secret recesses. If he delights in
art, all the world's masterpieces are at his disposal. If he loves music,
he can go where he will to hear it, and it will now mean much more to him
than it has ever meant before; for though he can no longer hear the
physical sounds, he can receive the whole effect of the music into himself
in far fuller measure than in this lower world. If he is a student of
science, he can not only visit the great scientific men of the world, and
catch from them such thoughts and ideas as may be within his comprehension,
but also he can undertake researches of his own into the science of this
higher world, seeing much more of what he is doing than has ever before
been possible to him. Best of all, he whose great delight in this world has
been to help his fellow men will still find ample scope for his
philanthropic efforts.

Men are no longer hungry, cold, or suffering from disease in this astral
world; but there are vast numbers who, being ignorant, desire
knowledge--who, being still in the grip of desire for earthly things, need
the explanation which will turn their thought to higher levels--who have
entangled themselves in a web of their own imaginings, and can be set free
only by one who understands these new surroundings and can help them to
distinguish the facts of the world from their own ignorant
misrepresentation of them. All these can be helped by the man of
intelligence and of kindly heart. Many men arrive in the astral world in
utter ignorance of its conditions, not realizing at first that they are
dead, and when they do realize it fearing the fate that may be in store for
them, because of false and wicked theological teaching. All of these need
the cheer and comfort which can only be given to them by a man of common
sense who possesses some knowledge of the facts of Nature.

There is thus no lack of the most profitable occupation for any man whose
interests during his physical life have been rational; nor is there any
lack of companionship. Men whose tastes and pursuits are similar drift
naturally together there just as they do here; and many realms of Nature,
which during our physical life are concealed by the dense veil of matter,
now lie open for the detailed study of those who care to examine them.

To a large extent people make their own surroundings. We have already
referred to the seven subdivisions of this astral world. Numbering these
from the highest and least material downwards, we find that they fall
naturally into three classes--divisions one, two and three forming one such
class, and four, five and six another; while the seventh and lowest of all
stands alone. As I have said, although they all interpenetrate, their
substance has a general tendency to arrange itself according to its
specific gravity, so that most of the matter belonging to the higher
subdivisions is found at a greater elevation above the surface of the earth
than the bulk of the matter of the lower portions.

Hence, although any person inhabiting the astral world can move into any
part of it, his natural tendency is to float at the level which corresponds
with the specific gravity of the heaviest matter in his astral body. The
man who has not permitted the rearrangement of the matter of his astral
body after death is entirely free of the whole astral world; but the
majority, who do permit it, are not equally free--not because there is
anything to prevent them from rising to the highest level or sinking to the
lowest, but because they are able to sense clearly only a certain part of
that world.

I have described something of the fate of a man who is on the lowest level,
shut in by a strong shell of coarse matter. Because of the extreme
comparative density of that matter he is conscious of less outside of his
own subdivision than a man at any other level. The general specific gravity
of his own astral body tends to make him float below the surface of the
earth. The physical matter of the earth is absolutely non-existent to his
astral senses, and his natural attraction is to that least delicate form of
astral matter which is the counterpart of that solid earth. A man who has
confined himself to that lowest subdivision will therefore usually find
himself floating in darkness and cut off to a great extent from others of
the dead, whose lives have been such as to keep them on a higher level.

Divisions four, five and six of the astral world (to which most people are
attracted) have for their background the astral counterpart of the physical
world in which we live, and all its familiar accessories. Life in the sixth
subdivision is simply like our ordinary life on this earth minus the
physical body and its necessities while as it ascends through the fifth and
fourth divisions it becomes less and less material and is more and more
withdrawn from our lower world and its interests.

The first, second and third sections, though occupying the same space, yet
give the impression of being much further removed from the physical, and
correspondingly less material. Men who inhabit these levels lose sight of

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