BRICKS AND MORTAR
I think that, in order to get any sort of picture of the unseen world and the events that occur therein, it is very necessary to form some mental conception of the various grades of matter and the slow but continuous process of change from one to the other. Spirit is the ultimate constituent of everything in the Universe—of God, of the angels, of you, of me, of the animals, of the trees, of the stones, of the fairy folk, of electricity, of everything you can think about, and of the thoughts with which you think about them. So it is obvious that Spirit must be capable of taking on an almost infinite variety of forms.
Now I would like you to accept, not as a dogma, but as a working hypothesis which will account pretty well for the conditions which we find to be operative in our little parish of the Universe, that God, or the Infinite Intelligence, or the Central Directing Power, or however you like to think of Him—or Pure Chance, if you are frightfully intellectual—has decreed that pure spirit shall slowly descend through all the grades of materiality into dense, gross physical matter: stone and metal and water and air and all the things which we can touch and see, and which we, in our ignorance, believe to be completely inert and lifeless. This process is called Involution.
After matter has reached its lowest point in the descending scale it turns the corner and begins to climb back as slowly as it descended, through the mineral to the vegetable, through the vegetable to the animal, through the animal to the human, and thence up through all the stages of life unseeable by us, back to the First Source from which it started. This return progress is called Evolution.
It will be seen that we are some little way past the lowest point, and it is our business to associate ourselves with the upward stream. But we are not forced to do so; we have freewill, and we can, if we choose to do so, associate ourselves with the downward current. But we find that the results of this association sooner or later involve us in pain, and, as we strongly object to pain, we label this down-going current ‘Evil’, and learned divines are provided with a life-time’s occupation in discussing why God permits pain and evil. It would be just as sensible for us to discuss why God permits fire to burn him who thrusts his hand into it.
Now, I want to put before you an almost childish simplification of the process of involution and evolution. I want you to think of pure spirit as an enormous length of very fine wire. Take this wire and coil it tightly round a knitting needle. Remove the knitting needle and coil the coil round a pencil. When you remove the pencil you have a coil with a double twist; coil this round a kitchen poker and you have a 3-twist coil. Continue the process with a desk-ruler, a rolling pin, and a beer-bottle, and you have a 6-twist coil. Coil this round a telegraph pole, and you have created a 7-twist coil. (I am not suggesting that you should actually try to do this. You will mid it difficult to overcome the spring of the wire, and even more difficult to remove the telegraph pole without incurring the hostile criticism of the G.P.O. authorities. I only want you to imagine the process.) The 7-twist coil represents physical matter, and it can be restored to any of its previous states by the process of uncoiling it through one or more stages.
The process in Nature is infinitely more complicated; one is not dealing with a simple thing, like a length of wire, but with lines of force of incredible complexity; and furthermore, each state of matter which I have described above has sub-states of condition which have very different properties. For instance, we all know three states of physical matter: solid, liquid, and gaseous—ice, water, and steam. Comparatively few people know that there are other invisible and impalpable forms of physical matter between the gaseous and the ultimate physical atom.
Theosophists tell us that there are in all seven grades of physical matter, and that the 6-twist and 5-twist (and so on) forms of matter each has seven varieties. If that be so, then there would be in our universe forty-nine different grades and varieties of matter. I think that this is probably a fact, but I am not in a position to be too definite. Anyway, I am confident that the picture is not grossly inaccurate.
It is not important, in our present stage of development, that we should be inquisitive about the details of existence in the upper reaches of evolution. We are not capable of fully understanding anything beyond the physical, with our three-dimensional minds, and even then a good deal of what we think we understand about the physical is erroneous or incomplete. What really matters, if you are to follow me in what I am trying to put across in this book, is that you should get a reasonably clear idea of the various bodies which encase our True Selves and go to make up our Personalities. Put aside the idea of body and soul, and even the idea of body, soul, and spirit.
Things are not so simple as that.
In the first place, we have each of us an etheric double that is to say, a replica of the physical body in etheric matter. The etheric double has very important functions to perform in maintaining and restoring the health of the physical body, and is active in its recuperative functions when the higher and non-physical bodies have vacated their normal abode during sleep. There are various methods by which one may come to believe in the existence of this etheric double; perhaps the most effective (though not one which I should seriously recommend) is to have a limb amputated. Although the physical limb has disappeared, the etheric double has not, and the illusion of sensation often persists for years in a limb which is no longer there. This is due to the intimate connection of the etheric double with the nervous system. A friend of mine lost a leg in the First World War, and wore an artificial one.
He told me that in cold weather, when his remaining foot was uncomfortably cold, his wooden foot by contrast felt as if it were in a pleasant glow of warmth.
The next-finer body is the Astral, which is not composed of physical matter at all, but of the 6-twist matter of the astral or emotional world. (The word Astral means starry, and refers to the luminous appearance of 6-twist matter when viewed clairvoyantly.) It is very important to differentiate between these two bodies. The Astral body is not the same as the etheric double, though many writers fail to differentiate between them. I claim no special virtue for my nomenclature, but if a writer, incarnate or discarnate, refers to what I call the etheric double as the Astral, he must produce another name for the Astral, or else he will plunge his readers into confusion.
This is why the matter is so important. When a person dies in bed from illness or old age, death is a gradual process, which may not be complete for twenty-four or forty-eight hours after the time when a doctor would certify that death has occurred. During this process the finer bodies leave the physical, and float near the latter till the ‘silver cord’ (which is a very real thing) is broken. Those interested are referred to a small book called Private Dowding (nothing to do with me), where the process was watched and recorded by a clairvoyant over a period of two or three days. The book is published by J. M. Watkins, 21, Cecil Court, Charing Cross Road.
The important point is that during this quiet process the etheric double is discarded with the physical body, and both return in due course to their constituent elements.
But when people, and especially people who are completely ignorant of these matters during life—when such people, I say, are instantaneously killed in battle, or in a bombing raid, or by an accident, it sometimes happens that they fail to release themselves from their etheric doubles. Of course they don’t know what has happened, they don’t even know that they have etheric doubles, but the result is that they are liable to find themselves in what is called an earthbound condition; that is to say, they are not free (as they should be) in the Astral world, but are bound to the physical by the etheric double.
This is a very distressing state of affairs, which will be extensively referred to in later parts of this book. The symptoms are often those of wandering aimlessly in a grey mist, not knowing what has happened, and very often not knowing even that they are dead.
Every war leaves such poor derelicts behind in their thousands, and modern war, with its bombing of cities, produces its victims by the million. It is one of the most rewarding functions of constructive Spiritualists, if they are permitted to play their part with the invisible host who succour these poor people in their distress.
Let us now suppose that a normal death has taken place, and that the released person has shed the etheric double and is free in the Astral world. The Astral body is now the ’ outer skin’, so to speak, and the person begins his Astral education. His body, the landscape, and Astral matter in general appear solid to him—in fact they are solid to him, just as much as physical matter is solid to us. He still has his freewill, and is not compelled to do any work or to learn anything. He may, from force of habit, feel that he needs to eat and drink and smoke, etc., and can continue so to do until he finds out that it is not necessary. He has no need of food or clothing, shelter or artificial warmth or money, or any of the things which compel a naturally lazy man to work in this Earth-life. So he can just loaf if he likes to, and a great many people do.
The special characteristic of Astral matter is that it is very easily moulded by the power of thought, especially in the upper reaches of that very variegated state of being.
Hence the extraordinary variety of the Astral world, and the apparent contradictions in the accounts of the next world to which I have already drawn attention.
When I say that nobody is compelled to work or learn, of course I don’t for a moment wish to suggest that nobody does. This is, in fact, the ultimate lesson of the Astral state, whose so-called ’ Summerland’ is so attractive to earth dwellers.
This corresponds to Paradise, and not to Heaven. Heaven is not reached until the soul has discovered that there is no permanent satisfaction in the ability to gratify every wish, to create beautiful houses and gardens and clothes by the power of thought. The more easily treasures are obtained the less they are valued. Sooner or later people find that the only real happiness comes from unselfish work for others, and they find also that they cannot do this satisfactorily without going back to school and learning how to do it.
This seems to me to account logically for the ‘Halls of Learning’ and the bright surroundings and the aesthetic clothing of those whose existence in the upper levels of the Astral is reported to us.
But of course there are other levels. Man is born with a ‘clean conduct-sheet’ and an unblotted copy-book: we all start level as innocent little children; but before very long we begin to blot our copy-books and incur entries in our conduct-sheets, and little by little we make ourselves into a different sort of persons. Strangely enough, it doesn’t matter nearly so much what we do, as the frame of mind in which we do it. So long as I keep struggling against my besetting sin I am the sort of person who does not want to commit that sin, and if it is a sin which has its roots in the physical necessities of life, I shall probably have little difficulty in cutting clear from it in the Astral. But if I give way to it and cease trying to resist, I become the sort of man who wants to commit that sin, and I shall still be that sort of man even after I am dead, and so I shall go of my own free-will to ’ my own place’, where I shall associate with people of like mind to myself.
People think of a stern Judge sitting on a throne who sends poor weeping souls down into Hell. Not a bit of it! People who go down to Hell go down there of their own freewill; it is their own place, and they cannot be comfortable at any higher level until they have got the desire for wickedness out of their systems. It is the people who live in Hell who make it such a very unpleasant condition. On Earth people are all mixed up together, saints and blackguards, philanthropists and thieves, givers and takers; but in Hell one has to live exclusively with people of one’s own kind, and that is not nearly so nice! In my first book, Many Mansions, I quoted an opinion from X, the ‘Living Dead Man’, on the subject of suicide.
He wrote: “I can only say with regard to suicide, that if men knew what awaits those who go out by their own hand they would remain with the evil that they know.” I am now sorry that I quoted this passage without comment or deprecation of its sweeping nature, because I fear that it has given unnecessary pain to a number of people, several of whom have written to me on the subject.
The more one learns about occult subjects, the plainer become the two lessons: “Never judge another human being, living or dead”; and never generalise. No two cases are ever precisely alike, and we can never know the full circumstances. I believe there are cases of suicide, committed from a cowardly fear of facing the consequences of misdeeds, which exact a proportionate retribution. But there are all degrees of culpability. In some cases the suicide is the completely innocent victim of an obsessing spirit, and in others it may even be a noble and unselfish act, as when Captain Oates went out to certain death in the blizzard in order that Captain Scott and his companions might have a better chance of survival.
Still, it might not be unreasonable to suppose that on the average the act of suicide might be expected to lead to a period of time spent in an earthbound condition.
Lastly there are the ‘sleepers’, People who have made up their minds definitely and stubbornly that they will find no state of consciousness beyond the grave are apparently sometimes successful in proving themselves to be right by some process of auto-hypnosis. I suppose it amounts to this, that they refuse to wake up into a condition which they believe not to exist. In any case, I understand that there is a small percentage of such persons, and that they sometimes remain unconscious for hundreds of years of our time. I don’t suppose it matters to them very much, really; they wake up eventually, and they have all eternity to catch up in.
I have spread myself rather over these various categories of people living in the Astral, because, as I said in the first chapter, I want to try to provide a reasonable explanation to cover the extraordinary dissimilarities of the various pictures of the afterlife. There is just one more item, however, with which I wish to deal before I pass on, and that is to point out that the Earthbound fall broadly into three categories: those who are forcibly held to Earth by crime, those who are held by accident and ignorance, and those who are not held at all except by their own wish.
This latter condition is sometimes that of peasants who go on living in their own farms and cottages without any wish to leave the physical neighbourhood; so much so that to the clairvoyant eye it is difficult to see who are the ‘living’ and who are the ‘dead’, The plan of progress of human evolution is that all souls shall graduate in the Astral. During this process they master the emotions of the Astral body, discarding the lower emotions, such as hate, anger, fear, lust, and selfishness in its broadest sense, but retaining and building in to the aura of the True Self the worthy forms of emotion such as love, veneration, and the appreciation of beauty in all its forms.
Then comes what is called in our Group ‘the Second Death’, This phrase is used by other teachers in quite a different sense, and I lay no claim to special rightness in our use of it. But, if people use the words to mean something different, they should coin an expression which will cover this very important transition from the Astral into the Mental world which is constructed of 5-twist matter.
The Second Death is not a painful or an alarming occurrence. It is a graduation ceremony at which the unwanted remnants of the Astral body are laid aside and return to their constituent elements, just as the body of flesh did at physical death.
This is not the view generally held by Theosophists, who maintain that the abandoned Astral body drifts about as a ’ shell’ for a long time, with some vestigial remnants of the former occupant’s consciousness, and that it is with these shells that Spiritualists normally make contact when they think that they are talking to their departed friends and relations. I shall not pursue this matter at the moment except to record my personal opinion that the abandoned Astral body is normally broken up at the Second Death.
Those interested will find an account of the ceremony (which is probably subject to wide variations) on page 101 of my book Lychgate.
The Mental body has now become the outer ‘skin of the onion’, and the soul proceeds to deal with this body as it did with its former outer skin in the Astral.
The main task in the Mental world is to subdue and discipline the lower mind and to develop true intuition in supersession of intellect. You all know how the lower mind rambles along and builds its own chains of thought, regardless of any control by the individual. Many people never even try to control their lower minds, and let them go off day-dreaming and wool-gathering ad libitum; such people have no idea how difficult the process of control is until perhaps they try an experiment in meditation or concentration, when they will find how impossible it is to exclude random and unwanted thoughts from the mind without a long and severe training.
There is no need to await arrival in the Mental world to begin this training. The sooner it is begun the easier it will be, and the work done will not be wasted even in our Earth-lives.
I haven’t much direct information about life at the Mental level; outwardly, I think, there is not very much difference from the Astral state. Soon after her ’ promotion’ my wife wrote:— “It’s very wonderful here. I am living in a beautiful home—you could call it a mansion. This will seem a bit crazy. Many people share this home. I have a suite of rooms; yet I can feel completely alone or, if I want company, immediately there are people there…. Life over here is so natural—the earth dirties your fingers, but it isn’t damp or gritty, and it doesn’t rub off and leave a stain. The pores seem to absorb it, and yet we haven’t got pores such as you know.
“You remember how I was always revitalised by lying on the ground or working with growing things. I am still sustained by Mother Earth.” That was written in 1943, and in the seven years which have since elapsed nothing seems to have happened to make her more remote from me or to prevent her from manifesting as opportunity offers.
Well, then, sooner or later the soul arrives at the stage where the Mental body is shed. This event is called the Third Death, and is similar in general to the Second. I am not very certain of this, but I think that the Third Death occurs at the stage where the human form, as we envisage it, is transcended, and that beyond this point the Ego, or the True Self, or the Individual, as it is variously called, stands divested of its outer bodies in the material of the Upper Heaven.
I feel fairly confident, however, that the Individual is not of a homogeneous composition, but is itself built up on a nucleus which is known as the Monad, with the addition of matter of the layers higher than those of which we have any detailed knowledge. I shall return to this subject when I discuss reincarnation, but for the time being all I want to impress upon you is that the goal of this life, and, in fact, of life in the lowest three spheres, is the attainment of egoic consciousness—the realisation of the spark of divinity within each of us—the differentiation between the Individuality and the Personality, with which we insist on falsely identifying ourselves.
You and I and all of us are something incalculably more glorious than the Bill Smith or the Hugh Dowding or the other aggregations of bodies which go to make up our Personalities, and if we can live our successive lives in the realisation of the complete unimportance of the transient Personality and the supreme importance of the immortal Individuality, we shall each be contributing our quota to human evolution and hastening the time when peace shall come in all the world.
Some people feel so homogeneous in their Personalities that they find it difficult to accept the idea that they have, in fact, a number of different bodies. Such people may perhaps be helped by looking at it in this way: We start with the indisputable statement that it takes two to make a quarrel. And perhaps I may also assume that, even if you cannot define it, you have felt the existence of the real interior you which puts up a fight, good or bad, winning or losing, against some other part of you which wishes to do or say or think something which the real you instinctively knows to be unworthy. Supposing, for instance, that some hobnailed lout in a bus stamps agonisingly on your foot. Automatically, and without any conscious volition on your part, a great red surge of anger goes out towards the offender. That is your Astral body going into action on its own account. If you are a civilised person you will take charge of the incident and accept with civility any apology which may be offered. But perhaps it may be very hard to be civil; at any rate, it is a Battle between you and something else which is not you.
In the same way, you may suppose that I went to the Parish Church at the beginning of this year with the New Year’s resolution of listening with attention to every word of the prayers, of the psalms, of the hymns, and of the sermon.
Before five minutes have passed I have caught my mind sneaking away on some side track initiated by some entirely trivial cause. I haul it back again and admonish it for its inattention, but before very long it has escaped again.
This isn’t the same thing which you had to fight in the bus; there is no emotional flare-up involved; but I am having a fight, nevertheless, with something that is not I. I am fighting my Mental body.
I have gone into this matter of the lower bodies at some length, and I hope it has not been too boring; but a proper appreciation of the facts is of enormous importance to humanity if the octopus of materialism is ever to be conquered. It is also essential for a due comprehension of the rest of this book.
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published November 2014
Size: 229 x 152 mm