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
We all know that when a man dies his soul leaves his physical body, but even while he is alive this can happen too : his soul can withdraw from his body and travel through space in order to study the universe, or even go and visit friends in distant places to help and comfort them and reveal certain truths to them. However, although it is possible to leave one's physical body, very few people are capable of doing so. Even while they are asleep at night, their soul remains close to their body, learning nothing and doing nothing useful, so it is no wonder that they are incapable of going out of their body consciously, in broad daylight, and travelling through space before coming back again to take up their everyday activities.
You will probably say that you are in a hurry to learn how to withdraw your soul consciously from your physical body. Well, let me warn you that you must not be in too much of a hurry ! If you are not fully prepared beforehand you can put yourself in great psychic danger (obsessions, possession or madness) and, even, in mortal danger on the physical level. If you do not begin by purifying yourself and gaining full control of yourself and all your thoughts, feelings and inclinations, it is extremely dangerous to go out of your body and leave it without protection, at the mercy of whatever entity comes along : the results can be truly horrifying. This is why I have never talked much to you about astral projection ; this will come later, when you are ready for it. Those who want to go and study the question in occult literature are, of course, at liberty to do so, but I warn them that they are running a great risk.
If you prepare yourself for years, in particular by paying great attention to the question of purity the purity of what you eat, for instance, as well as that of your thoughts and feelings and if you persevere in the practice of all the different exercises that can help you to achieve self-mastery, one day your soul will be able to leave your body at will without the slightest risk. This is how genuine Initiates are able to travel to the outermost regions of space where they see and learn so much, and a very important element is that when they reunite with their physical bodies they remember all that they have seen and done. For there are people who, under certain conditions, withdraw involuntarily from their physical body the phenomenon may manifest itself as a sudden falling asleep in the middle of the day but when they return to their normal state they remember nothing of what they saw, heard or did, and that is a pity. So the question is to be able to withdraw from one's body in full awareness. But don't be im-patient ; you must begin by purifying yourselves and one way to do this is to use the prayer to the Angels of the Four Elements which I gave you a long time ago.
It is extremely difficult for your soul to leave your body if you have not learned detachment up to and including the ultimate detachment of death. So many people are incapable of leaving their physical body even at the moment of death : the bonds which bind them to it are too strong because they have never learned detachment ! While they lived on earth they were only interested in material questions, money and pleasure : is it surprising, then, that they are unwilling to give up all that ? For a long time they suffer dreadfully, prowling round their own lifeless body and clinging to the people and places they knew in their lifetime, until a servant of God comes to help them to free themselves. Others, on the contrary, leave their physical body instantly, with the greatest of ease and intense joy, as though they were simply taking off a garment. This is why schools of Ini-tiation have always taught their disciples how to be detached.
Perhaps you will say, 'I suppose that if you want to be de-tached you have to withdraw from the world and not frequent other people ?' Not at all ! There have been hermits and ascetics who understood detachment like that and hid themselves away in caves or mountain grottoes. They were convinced that they were very detached, but their detachment was often only ex-ternal. In the midst of their solitude they were plagued by all kinds of desires and lusts because the Devil took advantage of that solitude to pay them a visit ! The literature is full of stories of the temptations of saints and hermits ! No, it is not a question of abandoning everything, it is a question of understanding that true detachment is an inner attitude and that purity is the only way to achieve it.
The souls who incarnate on this earth are not always the same. It can happen, of course, that the same ones come back time after time in the course of the centuries, but it is not necessarily so. The earth, you see, is not the only place where creatures can go to train and develop. There are other 'earths' all over the universe where they can go for instruction. Just as creatures from other planets come to earth, with a particular mission to accomplish, and leave again once their work is done, so creatures from earth can be sent to other planets. It is the Twenty-Four Elders who are in charge of organizing all this coming and going.
When a man dies, the doors of the earth close behind him, he is caught up in other currents and he is not entitled to turn back. This is why it is not good to call up the dead : it hinders them in their evolution. We must pray for them and send them light to help them to evolve, but we must not cling to them and try to hold on to them ; above all, we must not try to bring them back once they have left the earth.
There are countless tales in ancient literature about the prac-tice of summoning up the dead. The custom was to slit the throats of animals and use their blood to evoke the souls of the dead. The Odyssey tells of how Ulysses called up the spirit of the prophet Tiresias from Hades to foretell his future. And in the Old Testament we read that Saul commanded the medium of En Dor to bring up the shade of the great Prophet Samuel, because he wanted to consult him about the war against the Philistines. This is what is known as 'necromancy', meaning to foretell the future (manteia, divination) by means of the dead (nekros). But you will notice that Samuel said to Saul, 'Why have you disturbed me by bring-ing me up ?' Great spirits who have already finished their life on earth do not want to be disturbed after death simply in order to satisfy the curiosity of the living : they are so far removed from such narrow, petty interests ! Of course, this does not mean that they have forgotten the living : they are willing to help them, but in other ways3.
3 On another occasion Omraam Mikhael Nivanhov said : And then again, when Jesus appeared to his disciples at the Transfiguration, the light of his body was so dazzlingly bright and radiant that they could not bear to look at it, and fell on their faces in fear. The Transfiguration was a manifestation in the physical dimension of his spiritual body, his Body of Glory. The time had not yet come for Jesus to detach his Body of Glory from his physical body and to live only on that level, but it could already manifest itself in all its radiance. There are people who have seen the Body of Glory of an Initiate in a moment of spiritual ecstasy and rapture : his face shone and light radiated from his whole being. By means of their Body of Glory Initiates are able to travel freely through space, cross mountain ranges and even journey to the centre of the earth, for no material obstacle can hinder its movement ; they can even use it to influence and help others from a distance. Even if the physical body of an Initiate is ill, he can still send help to others, for the physical body and the Body of Glory are two quite different things. His physical body can be dying, but his Body of Glory is still untarnished, alive and radiant, and with it he can reach out to other creatures at a great distance and instruct, advise and console them and give them his blessing.'
Of course, most human beings are not immediately freed from their earthly attachments at the moment of death : they remain attached to their family and friends (and enemies !), as well as to places and possessions. If they are not highly evolved, if their heart and soul have never had any great desire to discover other regions and advance towards God, they will go on clinging to these people and things. They become unhappy, wandering souls, unable to free themselves, even though luminous spirits try to help them. Those who have cultivated the virtues, on the other hand, and lived in love and light on earth, free themselves very rapidly from their bodies and rise to sublime spheres, where they are immersed in happiness and joy. From these heights they help and protect those they have left behind by sending them beneficial currents but, in spite of what many people think, they never ac-tually return to earth. Once dead they are very, very far from the earth and they don't come back.
You will ask, 'But then why do spiritualistic mediums believe that they can communicate with famous people from the past ?' Well, the truth is that they do not actually communicate with the people they evoke ; let me explain what happens. When a hvman being departs this world, he leaves some of his 'clothes' behind ; not, of course, his physical clothes, but his etheric and astral clothes. These clothes float in the atmosphere and are impregnated with his life-experience ; they are like empty shells or husks and can be animated and vivified by the fluids of those who take part in a spiritualistic seance in the hope of com-municating with the dead. As those who take part in these seances are not, generally speaking, very highly evolved, the fluids that emanate from them are very inferior and bear the mark of their passions, covetousness and sensuality and, because of this, they attract all kinds of shadowy beings which have not yet been absorbed by the centre of the earth and are still floating in the etheric and astral planes.
Ordinarily, the psychic atmosphere surrounding the earth is continually cleansed and the debris floating in it is sent to the centre of the earth. But it still contains a certain number of en-tities which we call larvae or elementals, and it is they that manifest themselves at seances to deceive and mislead human beings. And not only do they deceive and mislead them, but they also drain them of their energies by absorbing every drop of their vitality in order to stay alive as long as possible.
Even the lowest kinds of spirit are capable of entering the mind of a medium and speaking in the name of Moses, Jesus, Joan of Arc, or whoever else you choose to call up. But this does not prove that you are in touch with a very advanced being. Besides, very advanced spirits are certainly not going to be attracted to frivolous, inquisitive, sensual people such as one often finds at spiritualistic seances. The only entities that people like this can call up are the larvae, husks and shades of the lower astral regions. On the other hand, if pure, luminous, disinterested beings gather to pray together and radiate light into the world, some truly luminous entities may manifest themselves in their midst, but not at all in the same way as in a seance.
There are even some inhabitants of the psychic world who have been created by humans. Some of the well known characters of literature, for instance, or even saints who never actually existed, have become so famous and have been so vividly present in the minds of men that they have acquired, not physical, but fluidic reality. And this is how an egregor comes into existence.
An egregor is a psychic collective entity formed by the thoughts, wishes and fluidic emanations of all the individual members of a collectivity, a nation or a religion, for instance. The thoughts and desires of so many human beings working together towards the same goal form an egregor which is shaped, impregnated and nourished by that collectivity. We, in the Universal White Brotherhood, have our own egregor, just as all religions and spiritual movements and even political movements have theirs. Sometimes these egregors combat each other on high, each one wanting to be the strongest, and each one helps the community that has brought it into being, for it is a reservoir of tremendous forces. Each has its own symbolic form which is often that of an animal : bear, tiger, cock, eagle, dove, and so on. But the really vital thing to understand is how to form a powerful egregor capable of working in every region of the world and of helping and enlightening human beings. You must also be careful, though, for if you betray the ideal that an egregor represents it can punish you and reduce you to dust. This may astonish you, but an egregor may wreak vengeance on those who betray it.
Human beings really have no idea of how many different kinds of creatures inhabit the astral world. But whether they know them or not, they attract those to which they are bound by the law of affinity. And this is how, in spiritualistic seances, the participants attract beings from the astral ocean, rarely the spirits of the dead that they hoped for. You will say, 'Yes, but how can these creatures know the dead person so well that they manage to pass themselves off as his spirit ?' That is not difficult :it is all there, in the Akashic Records, the etheric Archives of the universe, and these entities can easily find out all they need to know. The only problem is that they often misread things and then they pass on false information.
Actually, this greatly depends on the person who seeks in-formation from the invisible world : someone who is very pure and luminous will receive correct answers, not because higher spirits descend to his level, but because he is able to rise and communicate with them on their own level. There are instances, as I have already mentioned, in which spirits have been forced down to earth, because they have been called by very powerful magicians who knew how to pronounce certain magic formulas. But this is not a normal, natural situation it is up to human beings to rise, by means of thought, to the level of the spirits : the spirits should not be obliged to return to earth.
There are two kinds of magic in this area : one which calls on higher beings in order to obtain blessings and favours from them, and this is called invocation, and the other which attempts to get the souls of the dead to appear in visible form, and this is known as evocation. But generally speaking, as I have already said, it is not possible to get the particular spirits one wants to appear, whether by invocation or evocation : other creatures assume their appearance or their voice in order to make mischief and mislead human beings.
So you must be very careful about all this. Personally, I have never recommended spiritualistic seances, never ; on the contrary ! I attended a few when I was young, but I very soon realized that the people who take part in them are slaves to their own sensuality, avarice and ambition. While claiming to communicate with their deceased friends and relations, they attract creatures from the astral world that cling to them in order to satisfy their own base appetites through them and that can never be shaken off again. This is why many spiritualist mediums have come to a bad end.
In conclusion, therefore, let the dead go their way in peace. Don't cling to your dying relations and friends, don't let your sorrow at their departure hold them down and, above all, don't try to communicate with them by calling them back. This only troubles them and prevents them from breaking free. Pray for them, send them your love, think of them becoming freer and freer and rising higher and higher towards the light. If you really love them, be sure that you will be with them again one day. That is the truth. How many times have I already told you this : where your heart is, there will you be one day.