Death and the Life Beyond
Death and the Life Beyond
Initiatic Science teaches that man is a reflection, a replica, of the universe and that, like the universe, he is composed of different regions or 'bodies'. The established sciences still refuse to admit any such thing, and many of their errors, particularly in medicine and psychology, stem from this negation.
The Hindu tradition (which has been adopted by the majority of spiritual movements) divides man into seven different bodies1. The most densely material of these, and the only one that is visible to us, is the physical body, but there are six others: the etheric, astral, mental, Causal, Buddhic and Atmic bodies, each of which is composed of progressively subtler matter. Actually, the etheric body should really be considered as belonging to the physical body. It exists in four states known as 'chemical ether', 'vital ether', 'light ether' and 'reflective ether'; thus we can say that the physical body itself can be divided into seven: the three physical states of solid, liquid and gaseous, plus the four etheric states. The same is true of the astral body which, like each of the other bodies, can also be divided into seven: three lower regions and the four higher regions in which dwell the angels.
1 See Man's Psychic Life; Elements and Structures (Izvor Collection No. 222)
But then the question arises: what is an angel? An angel is an immortal being made of such pure, subtle matter that nothing evil or obscure can affect it. Angels dwell in absolute joy and light and know everything except suffering, for suffering is the result of a disturbance caused by a movement of the lower nature, and an angel cannot be affected by this because it is absolutely pure. Angels do not exist on the physical level. They exist only in the higher reaches of the astral plane.
At the limit between the higher and lower regions of the astral plane is an intermediate zone inhabited by those who are in the process of perfecting themselves, of severing the bonds that tie them to the lower world, but who can still suffer the torments of these lower astral and physical regions. Thus the astral body is a world both of suffering and of joy: of joy when man, at last, manages to refine and purify his desires; of suffering when he is still on too low a level, when his appetites and passions still have too strong a hold on him.
At the moment of death man detaches himself from his physical body, but this separation does not mean that he is instantly set free. To begin with, in fact, he will be even more susceptible to torment than when he was on earth. This is because, when we are on earth, our physical body serves as a shell or armor and prevents us from feeling the reality of the psychic world. But when we die and find ourselves on the astral plane, released from our physical body and the protection it once afforded us, we are liable to experience terrible suffering and unhappiness. Hell is simply the experience of a very intense state of consciousness on the astral plane and we can escape from it only when we have been purified by suffering. When death comes to those who have lived in debauchery, injustice, viciousness and cruelty and who have managed to escape punishment at the hands of human justice, they find themselves on the astral plane, face to face with all the evil they have ever committed. There is no escape and no protection; they no longer have their physical body to protect them and make them less sensitive, so they experience all the torments and sufferings that they imposed on others during their life on earth.
You have all had nightmares, I imagine, and you know that they usually end abruptly when you wake up and suddenly feel enormously relieved to find yourself safely at home in your physical body: 'Oh, thank God! It was only a dream!' Why do you wake up so suddenly? Because you know, subconsciously, that you must get back into your physical body in order to defend yourself against hostile beings or forces of the astral plane: your physical body is a fortress in which you are safe from attack. If you stayed on the astral plane you would continue to be at the mercy of your enemies, so you escape from them by going back into the thick, solid protection of your physical body. It is exactly as though your were being pursued by armed men, on the physical level, and you dived into the safety of a solid building where their knives and guns cannot reach you.
The same law holds good on every level: it can happen, for instance, that somebody leaves his physical body while he is meditating and is drawn into dangerous areas of the astral plane in which he finds himself threatened and pursued. The first thing to do, in a case like this, is to flee to the protection of one's physical body.
The physical body is a good, solid fortress, but when one leaves it at the time of death, every transgression of the laws of love, wisdom and truth has to be paid for on the astral plane. I assure you, I am not inventing anything: all the great Masters of mankind have told us this; the greatest artists, painters and poets have portrayed this world in their works of art, and people who have been clinically dead for three or four days have returned to tell us what they had seen in the astral world. Heaven allows a few people to have experiences of this kind from time to time in order to remind human beings of certain truths and persuade them to mend their ways.
After death, therefore, men have to suffer, on the astral plane, all the evil they have inflicted on others and pay the penalty for all their transgressions. It is not that Cosmic Intelligence needs to revenge Itself or punish them; all It wants is that they be fully conscious of what they did on earth because, very often, they have inflicted suffering on others without even realizing it, and it is this ignorance that is unacceptable, for it prevents them from evolving. Cosmic Intelligence makes us experience all the evil we have done to others so that we may learn just what our actions have meant and begin to improve. The time spent on this level depends on the gravity of our faults. Some, who have never committed any serious crimes, pass through this stage very rapidly; others have to suffer for years and years.
Once a man has paid every penny of his dept he rises to the first level of the higher astral plane where he experiences an extraordinary state of joy and wonderment because of the happiness he has given to others on earth. At this point it is time for him to experience all that he has ever done to help and encourage others, to restore their hope and awaken their faith and love. He experiences all this, amplified to an infinite degree, on the astral plane. And it is only then that he fully realizes what he did on earth. Certain highly evolved beings do good to others without knowing how many people receive joy, happiness and life through their actions: they do it instinctively, without conscious thought. But Cosmic Intelligence wants every man to be fully conscious so, after death, these unconscious benefactors are astounded to see, feel and understand all the good they have done. Their next step is to rise to the Causal Plane, and there they receive the secret treasures of Wisdom; all the mysteries of the universe are revealed to them; they are allowed to see and contemplate all the beauty of the Heavenly regions. Later, they rise to the Buddhic plane where they become one with the Universal Soul and dwell in bliss beyond description. As for the Atmic plane, words cannot express what they experience on this plane as they fuse into one with their Creator.
When man reincarnates2 he passes through all the same regions, beginning with the Atmic, Buddhic, Causal, and so on and, in each region, he collects the materials he needs to weave a new garment, a new body, which becomes progressively denser and more opaque as he descends to the lower levels of matter. When he is finally born again, as a human baby, he remembers nothing of all this: neither his sufferings nor his joys nor even what he learned. But it is all there, inside him, and it will all come back to him one day if he accepts certain disciplines and rules of life under the guidance of a spiritual Master. Those who succeed in bringing to the surface the memory of their experiences in the other world evolve much more rapidly.
Unfortunately, most people are so attached to the pleasures and passions of the earth that it will be a very long time before they take advantage of all this knowledge, all those treasures buried deep within them. Blessed are those who know and believe these truths, for they will be incapable of being satisfied with a mediocre way of life. They will continually want to grow and advance in intelligence, love and self-dominance, so as to become useful to the whole of humanity.
But let me get back to the most important: whether or not we believe in the life of the soul after death, without our knowing it, everything we do is recorded. Nature does much more wonderful things than even the most skilled electronic engineer: at the apex of man's heart, she places a tiny spool of magnetic tape, no bigger than an atom, which records everything he does all his life long. When he leaves this world, he leaves his physical body behind but he takes this tiny reel of tape with him, and his judges invite him to watch it with them so that he can see every detail of the life he has just lived.
2 In this connection, see Man, Master of His Destiny (Collection Izvor, No. 201)
Yes, no one can escape from this law: everything in life is recorded; we have to pay on the astral plane for every transgression committed here below, and we feel everything with far greater intensity because we are no longer protected by our physical body. There is nothing worse than to be naked and vulnerable on the astral plane, for one feels the thoughts and feelings of the living as a direct attack, as though they were biting, piercing and burning us. There is no escape from them. Even the mourning and tears of those left behind on earth are a torment for the dead. It is only when they reach the Causal plane that they become invulnerable and nothing can affect them any more; they are at the centre of a magic circle of light and nothing can enter this circle if they do not want it to.
The things that concern the soul and the spirit are truly extraordinary, and you, who are in an Initiatic School, will learn a great deal if you are sufficiently patient and persevering. But I must warn you to be careful: if you allow yourselves to be beguiled by frivolous trivialities and abandon the treasures of the spiritual dimension for the sake of the petty pleasures of everyday life, when the time comes for you to move on to the next world you will go through terrifying states of consciousness because you will have failed to appreciate that which was pure, sacred and divine.
You will object, 'But I haven't killed anyone. I've never done anything really serious!' That is where you are wrong; it is serious to be negligent! The fact that you have failed to appreciate the divine dimension is an argument against you. It means that you have lived such a shameful life in the past, that your mental and astral bodies became deformed and distorted. In this way you put so many obstacles in the way of your own evolution that you now lack the elements that would make you sensitive to the divine world, and you are going to have to suffer in order to acquire them.
The Bonfin, 26 September 1975
Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov