[Page 1] DEVACHAN is the current of the states of feeling that sets in, when the self, freed by death from the body and from the desires that are concerned with the body, rests from pain. It is not a cessation of activity, but an enhancement of the highest activities that prevail on earth. It is not a cessation of desires, but their sublimation and realization. The current of consciousness in Devachan flows nearer to all realities than embodied consciousness; its life and thought is a higher life, a deeper thought, a more real action, than any that obtains here. Our conceptions of it rest, too, entirely on its aspect as an illusion, and consequently our teachings about it to beginners are tinctured too much with half-conscious apology, as if we felt that here was a weak point. We must renounce this flavour of apology, for, if it is necessary, then our presentation is faulty; we must stop depicting life in Devachan as a process of castle-building in the air on an immense scale. In a universe whose purpose is the evolution of mind and of wisdom in mind there can be no such elaborated arrangement for extensive waste of time. Periodically mind descends into the life of terrestrial matter to gain experience there; periodically it ascends to the highest level now possible to it to ripen and add to that experience. Although this ripening is as involuntary as the growth of a flower or a child it is none the less real; and as it is the result of self-examination and the conscious contemplation of experience here on earth, these processes may be voluntarily and wisely pursued on a far greater scale in Devachan. If all our ways of thinking were not so materialistic at the core, we should never have conceived of Devachan as a place or state where there is no real action, but only the effortless and profitless retrospection of an advanced senility; at best "only thought", as if thought was not action, or as if there were any other action than thought. That to which we restrict the word "life" in ordinary speech, is the current of the states of consciousness that flows for each of us on this plane of being, states the overwhelming majority of which are concerned with the data of the physical senses. Contrasted with the life of Devachan it is a slow and a muddy current. The states are threaded upon two strands of feeling — the feeling of the impact of physical sensation, to speak loosely, and the feeling of the impact of quite higher sensation from the spiritual being of nature and our fellows. Desire alternating towards one and the other, causes action with the object of getting more of one or the other, and causes attention and thought upon either. For the physical group we have elaborate names, upon them are built systems of so-called psychology, [Page 2] and their relations are in some degree known to all. Of that other group, those which receive their essential development in Devachan, we have no definite knowledge or classification; to our minds they form a vague unpatterned cloud, and they are rarely determinedly sought after and encouraged as are the others. The antithesis which makes of this the world of causes, and of Devachan that of effects, is misleading, misleading because resting on part of a truth; for an effect is the product of all the forces that have preceded it. Lives on earth and in Devachan follow each other. It is only part of the forces generated on earth that can find their field of activity in Devachan, the remainder have to wait the succeeding earth life; and there are forces generated in Devachan which have their effects in the period of embodiment. The life in Devachan and the embodied life are alternately cause and effect, and the former more nearly approaches the ultimate reality. Most of our terrestrial occupations have no scope in Devachan, and there are some, which here we pursue haltingly, that find there ideally fit conditions. Life in the early and descending races must have been wholly of the latter nature, as a state following upon and inferior to life wholly spiritual; whilst that to which the term "life" is now almost exclusively applied is again the next step lower, a set of short and disagreeable interludes to it, constituting a temporary phase in human history, necessary to establish our complete self-consciousness and to complete our understanding of nature, yet excrescent upon real life.
So if, as we ought, we regard each man as a mind, dipped into matter or the understanding of it, and clothed with that specially evolved form of matter that constitutes his body, then we must take this at least bipartite nature into consideration. Mind is a creative, potent, spiritual unit, and the spiritual aspect is its primary and proper one. But mind embodied on earth as the man of today is thereby reduced in its spiritual and creative aspects to a minimum. While it regards itself as body, saying, "/ am hungry", it cannot perform its high function of creation, becoming a passive sharer in the sensations of matter, whose waves flow as an un-diminished river of sensation across the field of its consciousness. Absorbed with this, it cannot really be regarded as active at all. The true work for which mind should now exert itself is the creation of the thought forms and forces that shall move on and guide the life and growth, and be the pattern for many a future world.
And between mind thus nobly active, and mind tossing passively upon the crest of the waves of matter, there is a blended state where the spiritual predominates, that of Devachan, wherein, availing ourselves somewhat of our spiritual birthright of power, we are yet hampered by the finer underlayers of the thick garment of matter which we wore in the [Page 3] life just passed, and by those memories of it into whose forms we must condition our new and higher experiences. It seems almost axiomatic that any conception of Devachan which, after full contemplation, does not minimize or destroy our fear of death, is false. Fear of death has root in two sources; in that materialism of soul that cannot conceive of life without a physical body or as other than physical life, and in the dread of the sufferings of the dying body. To the former group belong in some degree those who, thinking that they have an assured faith in life hereafter and even now the peace born of that faith, do yet, in a deeper mental place and one concealed partly from themselves, conceive of that future life as utterly severed from the thread of this present, from its work, its ties, its companions, its human consciousness.
So, deeper than faith, hidden over, may be dread and the negation
of faith; and faith itself may rise and fall with the moods of the body, till we learn to make a faith in the
heart and fix it as we fix a photograph. If we Theosophists take no steps to success in this we had better
cease to try and teach. For though the strong and sustained conception of death as the benediction of nature
upon whatever may be good in us does not at once prove the destroyer of fear, if it does not ultimately succeed
in doing so it shows its falsity. Let us try to arrive at a true conception of death, of the stages that follow,
and of Devachan, and then, dwelling constantly yet not morbidly thereon, do away with conscious and unconscious
fear, both for ourselves and others. This fear is already dead when we have for an instant realized what it
is that dies, when we have intently watched a pain and found it to be entirely of the body and distinct from
our watching self, which always survives, when we have imagined the whole body as dead, and found no change
in the self once we had got clear of the shock of the severance from bodily sensations. Such imaginings help
the change called death, when it comes, and make it easier. The good of the Self is neither mortal nor can
it change. The fear of death is the shadow cast upon us by the thickening veils of matter. We pay that price
for our knowledge of matter in embodiment. Of matter, man in his early days ages ago knew nothing, for his
consciousness was too high, too spiritual to be affected by matter, to get from contact with matter any sensations
whatever. Matter, for him, did not exist. So, as he had no vestures to put off, death did not exist either;
his life was an unchanging thread. But as he developed consciousness of the presence of matter, and especially
of that matter which, gathering about him, formed his body, he gradually lost touch of the spiritual life,
and came to live more and more the life of his body.
Now we have almost lost the power of forming a conception of spiritual life; to refer to it under that term is to sum up, in the conceptions [Page 4] of those who hear it, all the infinite complexity, continual changes, and interplay of currents between our own heart and that of nature and our fellows, which that life really involves, into a vague feeling of piety; it seems to most of us as if we were born, lived and died, with the body. We cannot have consciousness fully in two states at once, and so the soul, immersed in the sensations of body, in its pains and pleasures and desires, forgot that it was an eternal thread of life, periodically embodied and periodically freed, has forgotten, therefore, the line of its incarnations, and figured for itself one eternal heaven or hell after one short life. Now even that poor picture is departed or departing, and nothing disturbs our absolute association with the body and its changes.
We view human life as a "discreditable episode in the history of the planet", and human consciousness as a casually evolved, quickly evanescent item among the sparks thrown off by the unconscious rotation of the wheel of matter. To some there yet remains a sort of semi-intellectual conviction, or a hope dignified by the name of "surety", that life remains after the death of the body, but it is very imperfect. It fails to save from fear of death; at best they are "resigned" to that which to them is theoretically, and only theoretically, liberation; it is a hope, a faith, a trust, not a knowledge in the complete sense that the present life is a knowledge. "God forbid !" said the bishop piously, when the ship's captain prophesied that in half an hour they would all be in heaven. Yet such knowledge is within our grasp; it is within the power and right of the soul.
Theosophists who lecture in public are often called upon by someone who sincerely disbelieves it, to prove to him that his consciousness can exist apart from his body, and though he might, with equal intelligence, require proof that he can love his mother, still such a man is a sign of the age, and it is beyond the capacities of his consciousness to understand that it is possible for the mind so to disentangle itself from the bodily sensations as to cease to regard them as a part of itself, to compel them to become, as it were, subjectively objective, like a toothache when one is half awake, and as a final voluntary step to gain power to sever temporarily all connection with them, and thus to gain freedom.
To understand it theoretically we should study how at birth the veils of matter gather one by one about the soul; how as it becomes conscious of sensation its consciousness of its real being and selfhood becomes dimmed and goes out; how the transitional gulf is crossed and how it emerges on the shore of matter to gain there that other consciousness of selfhood in body which is the disturbed reflection of the first. Then, entangled in the net of terrestrial life, it moves heavily across the stage to that dreaded point called death, whereat there is, reversal of all this and revival of proper being. Some make a great difficulty of the abrupt [Page 5] chasm between the high and penetrating consciousness of some great ego in Devachan and the consciousness of the same ego in the early months and years of life. They have not reckoned at their full weight the iron bonds of bodily sensation. In the Psychical Research reports (part 25), is an account by Professor Ramsay of his sensations, or rather of his subjective condition when partly anaesthetized. He says:
"I do not think that I am a follower of Bishop Berkeley in my ordinary everyday existence; my tendency of mind is . . . a condition of scientific scepticism. But under the influence of an anaesthetic all doubts vanish; I know the truth of Berkeley's theory of existence.
"It is as if the veil which hides whence we come, what we are, and what will become of us, were suddenly rent, and as if a glimpse of the Absolute burst upon us.
"An overwhelming impression forced itself upon me that the state in which I then was, was reality; that now I had reached the true solution of the riddle of the Universe . . . that all outside objects were merely passing reflections on the eternal mirror of my mind."
With him, as with Sir Humphrey Davy, there was the vivid conception of the ideal foundation of the universe; he records also his immediate knowledge of his individual eternity; and in the case of both, the subsidence of these conditions of consciousness on the cessation of anaesthesia and return to bodily sensation left them on their ordinary mental plane. This is the experience of most of us, save that we usually retain less, often only an impression of having gone through an immensity of experience. In the case of those who have not, while in full bodily consciousness, freed themselves from the ties of it, the transition from the swift, relatively timeless, freed, vivid, Devachanic consciousness, down to the place in which consciousness is a prey to the enormous volume and sustained flow of the myriad currents of sensation from every cell in the body, is too great for memory, the gulf is too wide and deep. Probably every cell appeals to consciousness continuously in waking life, as every leaf in a forest contributes something to the sound which we hear, but which becomes inaudible by reason of its continuity. Whilst feeling continuously all the cells, and whilst being subconsciously attentive to and tethered by them, we only, notice an occasional few that are in pain or hungry, that is, that rise above the level surface of the others. Amidst all this the ego loses his self-consciousness, cannot think of himself as self in the whirl of myriads of simultaneous sensations; and disappearing infancy is the advancing power of disregarding these or taking them in mass, as a man neglects the continuous roar of a crowd to hear his friend's voice. This power slowly begins to allow of his regaining self-consciousness and the power of abstracted thought. [Page 6]
How then does the man in Devachan differ from the same man on earth ? How does he stand towards friends remaining on earth and towards others contemporaneously in Devachan? We must give up making false differences between the dweller in Devachan and the terrestrial man. Secretly we picture the man on earth as standing open-eyed in the reality of life, practically and actually dealing with real men and things; and the man in Devachan as lying dawdling away a long millennium, dreaming in the paradise of an untrammelled fancy, useless to humanity, shielded from the cold winds of reality, a lazy summer morning's reverie a kalpa long.
Two men look at a cornfield, ripe for the reapers. One is reckoning its value in bushels, and to him it represents this or that figure on a cheque. The other watches the sunlight on the sea of waving stalks, and the feeling of its beauty wakes within him. Both men will apply to it the name of cornfield, but they refer to two totally different things.
Or there is a measured tapping of hammers on wires. To one man it is an offensive mechanical rattling, to another it is high music. Which is true ? Certainly the hammers tap the strings; the strings rapidly vibrate and so the adjacent particles of air and finally the ear-drums of the listeners. None of this is sound, for sound is the form into which consciousness is thrown when solid objects touch each other smartly. This touch is the first thing; it may be regarded for our present purpose as truly objective; but it is not sound; an observing consciousness stimulated by its being aware that two objects have touched, creates in itself the sound; and that is the second thing; the consciousness may be that of a lizard, a Cat, or a man, but in it and of it is the sound, not in nature, who presents only the touch. But the regulated touch of hammers upon stretched wires becomes to man or to most men not only sound, but music; a very complex state of feeling, though the sound is so simple a state as to be possible to the consciousness of an animal. To put it somewhat more carefully, the touch of the hammers on wires serves as an incitement to an observing sensuous consciousness to create sound within itself; the presence of sound in the outer, astral, sensuous consciousness serves as an incitement to the inner, spiritual knowing consciousness of a man to create within itself music. But both music and sound may be created by the two orders of consciousness in man without any stimulus from objective nature. Neither music nor sound are in nature, where are only smart contacts; they are the creations of consciousness, whilst the former, the creation of music, requires human consciousness, being beyond the range of the animal as that of sound is beyond the range of the tree. Music is an extremely elaborate dress which we weave to clothe and make beautiful the [Page 7] bare sound, which in its turn is the simpler preliminary dress for the most naked datum of cognition.
An eye perceives vibrations in ether; a mind interprets those vibrations into terms of itself, creates the colour green upon the reception of that stimulus, and we say the leaf is green, which is not true. An artistic soul will create within the feeling green the further feeling beautiful. But neither green nor beauty exist in nature, where are only vibrations and contacts. Around these naked skeletons, we, the conscious selves, create the rest. What is for us reality save ourselves ? The form, the colour, the sound, the beauty of nature, are our creations, furnished from the essence of our conscious being, and we are the reality. None of these powers of creation are lost at death, and the creations of the soul in Devachan are no less real than those of the same soul on earth. What is true for this plane is true for Devachan. Its substance, on the upper levels of the ether, presents for us vibration and movement as does physical substance here, for in both is the throb of the one life. What we do here we do there, only far more perfectly, creating around those vibrations sensation and feeling, form, colour, beauty. And all is more real on higher, serener, intenser levels.
Let us for the time pass on from this, enquiring now, if we can, what other aspects of life on earth are also possible or certain hereafter ? What of friends ? what of our work ? does death shut off friends and work, supplying us with phantoms for the one and lazy dreaming for the other ? We cognize acquaintances and friends in ways parallel with our cognition of nature. We are tripartite, physical, astral, and spiritual, or receptive, sensational and noetic; and we saw that common astral sensation is a subjective creation around a physical reception, that a bare physical reception does not become a sensation till it has left the physical plane and been received into the complex framework of astral subjectivity, upon which in its turn the spiritual is added. So each of the three parts deal with nature. Upon. the physical sense-organ falls the bare touch of nature, the contact, the vibration. This passes into the sensitive astral, instinct with the sensation-consciousness, and there the physical touch becomes sensation, sensation of form, of colour, of sound, and the rest. Then the spiritual man takes it perhaps, and these sensations are made to serve as the foundation of the feeling of beauty. In dealing with our fellow-men, the tripartite nature is similarly active, though on somewhat other levels. Corresponding with physical contact, we have the appreciation of the fact of the presence and outer doings of our fellows. Corresponding with astral sensation, we perceive that their acts affect us favourably or otherwise with respect to our personal welfare, pleasantly or otherwise. The judgment is from the standpoint of selfishness, [Page 8] and is only concerned with them so far as their acts subserve our particular interests. Corresponding with spiritual feeling is our perception of our fellows as egos, the feeling of them as friends, not merely acquaintances — for friendship when real is of the spiritual nature. It has its outward occasion or inciting cause in the bodily presence and acts of the friend, as the feeling of music has its outward occasion in sound, but, like music, it is our own creation, the creation of our spiritual nature, of that spiritual centre in us which is not in this or that spot of space, which finds its food and incitements in music, in all beauty, in friendship, in love, in philosophy, in religion, which, one excited, sleeps not more. Drawn into the activity of friendship, by the presence of him who is thereafter our friend, it remains active; and that feeling of our friend which becomes manifested to the lower consciousness as the thought about the friend is a permanent current passing on the inner planes of being between the two. In former lives we may have made the link, as we may have developed music, and they continue always in our inner and properly ethereal being; in this life they do not manifest themselves to the outer consciousness till excited by the outer cause, the friend's new presence or the musical instrument. Without this exciting cause, our new outer consciousness, full of the body and its instruments and the personal interests, has not had its attention called to what has continued within it, as a Londoner does not hear the city-roar till reminded by his country cousin. Nevertheless it may, once struck, have continued unbroken right across many lives and their intervals of rest. In and with this lives the self of the dweller in Devachan. If it be asked how friendship and how music arose at first, we must answer that both are reminiscences of the time far back when all humanity was spiritual only, and that our spiritual selves yet remaining in unison within are obscured and walled about from one another by their bodies and the rush of personal feelings that body has engendered. We may have many friends, real friends, and the quality of feeling we maintain for each of them is different — not necessarily different in degree, for all may be equally close, but in kind, so that our central being epitomizes our friends just as the germ-cell has been supposed to contain adequate sample of all the other separate cells of the body. Such feeling, once aroused, does not depend on their acts, for they may never be able to do us a service; they may, on the contrary, need un intermittent service from us. If they do us acts of service that may confuse the issue, for, whilst hardly affecting the true spiritual feeling of friendship, which is independent of all outward acts, it gratifies the lower selfish personal nature. They may even, misled by their own lower nature, do unkindly things and thus offend our selfishness, unless we can separate the higher from the lower, and, disregarding the latter, hold only in view the former — having, [Page 9] though we cannot see it, a sort of dogged faith in its existence and thus waiting quietly and forgivingly till the clouds of the lower man roll off. To make a friend in the real sense is to recognize or feel the inner ego of another. To recognize even in a little degree the ego of another through the veils of its body and personal consciousness, is to make or find a friend. And where in life this process is only slightly begun, in Devachan it will ripen into perfect bloom, just as in the night we solve our problems with clearer vision. And just as we wake in the morning, and find that we have by means of some forgotten or half-remembered "dreams" come to know and strongly like someone who the night before was barely an acquaintance, so in the succeeding life we meet recognizingly one who in Devachan has become a friend, though that "dream" is forgotten wholly unless the survived feeling be counted memory. The inner feeling of friendship, different in kind for each friend, is knowledge of that friend, it is his inner light shining direct into our crypt, it is his very self. That is the ultimate purpose of life on earth, that each of us shall reflect in himself, shall feel in himself the inner being of every other, shall know, shall be utter friend to every other.
Acquaintance is of the lower, astral, sensational, merely cognizing nature, and is pleasant or unpleasant according as the acquaintance furthers or hinders our personal interests in life.
Friendship is of the feeling spiritual nature. Pushing research inwards, we shall find that our feeling of our friend is in the same inner place and of the same essence as our innermost perception of self-being. It is of less immediate intensity than that, because we are not perfect friends. We know our friends by the same light of consciousness as we know ourselves, not intellectually but nearer home. Our feeling of essential self-existence is of the same kind and on the same plane as our feeling of our friend's self-existence. It is really the Great Self reflected in two mirrors, the causal vestures, two rays of the same golden sun. On the highest planes of being and consciousness, those corresponding with deep sleep and with the initial and ultimate states of humanity, all selves are thus united, all possess and feel each other. But that is not enough for nature. She would have that fire of love shine into all stages of our being, and again and again she brings us in varying assemblages upon earth, that amid the separateness of body, amid the conflictions of personal interests, we may regain that perfect unity. Thus in degree we already know and feel our friend as we know and feel ourselves, two states of the same feeling, one act of knowledge in the inner. Only, as I said, this knowledge of another, though it survives centuries of separation, though it is eternal, may yet be dimmed time and again by the conflicting selfish natures of the outer man, who through the smoke of that conflict cannot see the [Page 10] small spark of their friendship, perhaps struck alight ages ago, never to go out. So nature will see to it that in associated lives on earth they wear out at last the hates and conflicts of the lower man; for the enemy with whom now painfully we are associated in hate may be him to whom once we took vows of friendship. Hate has within it the fire of its own destruction, for it becomes more and more painful and more and more fatal to all the pleasures as the man accumulates lives and experiences.
The body dies at last, and with its death dissipates that centre of desires for whose gratification a body is necessary, and in whose activities the higher aspects of consciousness cannot share. You cannot at the same time desire a gratification of the body and one of the spirit, to please the palate with a savour and to be lost in symphonic harmonies. So, as the egos of the yet spiritual humanity became increasingly aware of, and then desirous of, the touch of matter upon their vestures, they lost their spirituality. Gradually they translated the touch of external matter upon that matter which was their bodies into terms of the five senses, colour, taste, and the rest, always desiring more, even to this day. That desiring thickens the vestures, draws into their texture more and more of the otherwise colourlessly-conscious, atomic, elemental lives in nature, and all these take increasingly the conscious colour of that desire, re-echo it, develop it, and infect the ego, now well into the vicious circle, with ever more and more of it.
Thus in the headquarters of bodily sensation there is set up among the lives an ever-active centre of longing for sensation. Therein sits the ego, lost to spirit, lost to real love, lost to higher feeling. And this kâmic bodily centre of sensation and of longing for sensation, now the home of the ego, makes from the plastic vestures organs of action wherewith it can go to, grasp and experience more fully the objects of sensation, and with practice the senses gain perfection. With these the ego works, taking, like an infant, all his pleasure in their action. Lost in this sensation and this work, he forgets or loses sight of that inner place in his nature that feels, reflects, and, as we say loves, his fellow-egos, forgets that they are egos, regards them only as objective forms that hinder or further the gratification of his own desires. As they, doing likewise, hinder or further this, so in his lower consciousness he makes for them a false hate or an equally false love, changing somewhat with every act they do for or against his interests.
Then is selfishness supreme, lust, gluttony, hate of those who oppose, flattery of them that they may cease to oppose, fear lest they should have more power, ambition to get in front of them, drunkenness (which is only love of pleasant sensation), pride or vanity which is only the feeling of superior power to do or get, love of applause, far applause is the hall-mark of power — in fine, every vice on earth, springing all from love of sensation, [Page 11] or indirectly from love of the power to get sensation; at root springing from the touch of nature upon the body and its consciousness, and the longing for it. This longing has focalized into a centre of conscious and unconscious desire, having its origination and inseparable home in the bodies, and dissipating after bodily death. By the throb of its own engine of desire the body is at last jarred to pieces. The particles of the physical body go to their places in nature, the constituents of the kâmic centre to theirs, both to gain from the universal magnetic mother a renewal of energy. From them for awhile the ego is freed and at peace. He is satiated for the time with the meal of sensation, and other parts of his nature cry for their satisfaction. If we say that in the peace that follows he dreams, we shall say what is partly right, but we are apt to imply what is almost wholly false. This false implication, fully stated, is that while on earth our friends are real and our consciousness awake, in Devachan our friends are unreal, illusions of our own creation, and our consciousness dreaming.
What is our relation to our friends in earth-life ? Bear in mind our triple nature, the spiritual consciousness; the personal consciousness, and the bodily coat. We associate with our friends, and their outer forms with their slight casual daily changes impress themselves upon us, so that our memory becomes charged with the complete set of details, with their forms standing, sitting and engaged in various acts. So also the personal consciousness learns and remembers their outer characters, the general tenor of their acts as affecting in one way or another our personal interests: taking a purely selfish view of them we learn to like or dislike them accordingly as we feel or find that they act for or against our personal interests.
These make up our whole memory of them. But it is to be observed that this, like the green of the leaf, is our creation, the creation of the personal centre. It is true that our friend or acquaintance acts, and that as we observe it, corresponds to bare sensation, the skeleton. But the pleasure or anger that his acts cause is in and of ourselves, our super-addition to the acts, our private creation and personal property, and it is by very much the largest part of our total conception and terrestrial memory of the man. Let this feeling be rigidly separated from the skeleton memory of his form and actual acts — for these latter are real things, existing primarily in him, and having only a secondary and derived existence in us as we observe and unconsciously memorize them. The feelings in us that those acts arouse exist primarily and only in us; they are, as it were, the opinion concerning those acts which is formed by the kâmic personal centre as to whether they will benefit or hinder us in our pursuit of our own welfare. [Page 12]
With the disappearance at death of the kâmic centre, those feelings disappear, and there remains only the bare uncoloured memory of the form and acts — uncoloured that is by personal feeling; coloured, it may be, by spiritual feeling. For if, beyond all personal feeling, the man appeals to us in any degree as a friend, as, to some degree, most men do, we to that extent touch, reflect, know, love, and are hereafter at one with, the real man. Our acquaintance has become spiritual friendship to a greater or less degree (note the qualification, for though this is the case with nearly all men, it is yet very rudimentary), just as the green leaf and the waving gold of the corn have been spiritualized in us into beauty, and the sound has been spiritualized into music. This spiritual memory or conception of the man is equally his creation in us, and our creation in ourselves, and it never dies. Henceforth it modifies our acts favourably to him, tending also to modify his favourably to us. This generates pleasure in the personal centre, and personal affection becomes added to spiritual. In other cases his lower centre may not respond as ours does to the warmth in the upper.
Devachan is not a purely and abstractly spiritual condition, it is personal spirituality. It is the personal with the light of spirit upon it, placing its own red and lower light. The ego therein is charged with all those memories and conceptions which he generated on earth while the personal centre was active, but he is no longer full of the selfish feelings that clustered about and poisoned his consciousness on earth and dictated so many of his actions and thoughts. Thus the spiritual feeling that sound engendered for him on earth, he endows with the outer accessories that it then arose from, just as a breath of musical feeling passing up from our consciousness in an ordinary dream causes us to create the vision of an orchestra to account for it; though in Devachan, owing to the absence of the discordant and continuous hum of the body and its centres, all is done and felt with a perfection here impossible.
Similarly the spiritual relationship which we establish as friendship on earth with other egos, and which of course persists in the Devachan as a stream of changing feeling of the purest kind, and not merely as the memory of former feeling, goes on under conditions made up of the memories of earth. To remember a feeling is to re-establish it, and so we cannot remember a love without actually making currents reflow to and from the other. Our intercourse, when we are in Devachan with real friends also there or on earth, persists as a continuous interchange of feeling, on those inner planes which to the dweller in Devachan are the essential ones; but he, accustomed while on earth to find that the current of feeling from his friends is associated with the presence of their actual outer forms and acts, now reclothes the inner and still continuing current of interchanged [Page 13] feeling with the form of the friends with which those acts were associated on earth, and with acts that were on earth most frequently coordinated with them. We can never think of a friend without thinking of his form; we can never receive from him a transmitted thought or wave of feeling and recognize it without creating in the mind his form. And that form creation is the solitary illusion in Devachan, whilst the continued transmission is the permanent reality.
The spiritual pleasure of friendship on earth is associated with the casual outer acts of our friends, acts meaningless in themselves, little words, journeyings, small doings, mere nothings, save that they express that eternal intercourse of feeling which, once set going, finds in those petty personal deeds and words an embodiment, as a soul is embodied in the earth and water of a brain. Then in the light of heaven, freed from that body and kâmic centre which are alone the hindrance to perfect transference even on earth of thought and feeling, charged with the memory of a million such little deeds, we select a few of them which truly have no longer outward existence, and in this illusion, trifling, transparent though it be, reclothe the continuous and transcendent reality of the intercourse of soul to soul. And because of this little dress we call the whole living Devachan an illusive dream.
So, recasting our conception of Devachan, we see that it is not a cessation of the mind's activity, nor a severance from friends on earth, nor an isolation one from another of those of its tenants who were not isolated on earth. Its activities are somewhat conditioned by the activities that each ego pursued on earth. It is not a cessation of mental activity, for consciousness only truly clears when disentangled from the myriad sensations that come from the densely thronged lives of the body. The synthesis or focal point of these lives is the centre of bodily selfhood, the kâmic centre, dissipated at death, and this is the clog to higher thought and feeling. Sometimes we rise at morning refreshed with the night, with high aspiration and noble feeling, with charity to all, with love to many, like one who has just listened to noble music. Friends seem near, we can feel their thoughts of us, in some inner place we seem to talk to them and hear their words. The mind is high, and the problems of the last few days are difficulties no longer. We make resolutions, strong and distinct, for the conduct of the coming days, Memory widens and travels back through the years, lighting up the dark fields this way and that, so that we see the chain of deeds and their results, those things that have made us what we are; while the subtle, direct action of the judgment pierces the perplexities that made action so hard and devious, perplexities of right and wrong.
Watch all this fade as the hours and even the minutes go by. When night comes, look back, see what mere bodily existence has entailed, how [Page 14] the consciousness of the self is the mirror of the body. Moral energy slackened hour by hour; the mental horizon contracted, even to the area of the meal-table; there was resentment for some little injury; irritable words, and their retaliations disturbed serenity; bodily fatigue and hunger occupy consciousness with desire for rest and food; the brain tires, and with it thought. Perhaps pain, recognized or half-conscious, absorbs attention; daily anxiety which sleep had banished, returns again. What makes the gulf between one state and the other, if not the body and the personal bodily centre, hungering, tiring, its nerves on edge, irritable, resenting, hoping and working for its own support and physical comfort, fearing failure, envying the successful, careless of others? This kâmic centre epitomizes for us the resistances of matter and its blind energies to the quickening life of spirit, and it is in spite of these that we have to establish that life; we dip transitorily into matter, throw ourselves into its forces, assimilate them into our consciousness, and then after detachment guide them. For the forces of matter, when taken up into human consciousness, can be guided as to the path of their re-emergence into matter once the ego has ceased to think of them as himself and to be guided and swept about by them.
The atoms of the kâmic centre regather themselves karmically at birth about the reincarnating ego, that the ego may go on disentangling himself painfully from their sway, from the crowded rush of their forces, may subject them to his will; and if, by giving way to their desires and tastes while thinking those desires ours, we let the atomic vitality heap itself up unduly about this or that centre of bodily activity — as, for example, the liver, in giving way to gluttony — that progressive unbalance is the congenital unbalance of the parts and centres of the new body corresponding in this case of the liver), and hence arises disease for which the ego, in the present incarnation, may not be responsible. It is the kâmic centre and its myriad activities in our consciousness that confines us so much, so entirely, to ourselves, so that we fail to share with those about us, their thoughts, their wants, fail to know, to help, to love, their inner selves. It is the one hindrance to the perfect transference of thought from mind to mind, the one hindrance, to the serenity of consciousness, to its maintenance on the planes concerned with friendship, with philosophy, with artistic feeling with the recognition of beauty in forms, in thoughts, in life. It is the one producer of suffering, and that which experiences pain, and from it spring the acts that result in pain.
Lastly, it is this which is absent in Devachan. On earth our minds and memories absorb the pictures of what is outward, of bare forms and forces, the outer pictures of nature and our friends, and these pictures give occasion to thoughts and feelings thereon. These pictures are not the [Page 15] reality, but only the framework of it. The illusion is the taking of the outer form for the thing itself, of the vibrating wire for the sound and the music; of the form with its dead words and deeds for the living soul of the friend. Doing this, we take an ill-phrased, yet kindly meant, sentence for an insult, and, absorbed in the form of the words, forget to notice or perceive the feeling within, which, though unnoticed, nevertheless exists, and which, if we had observed it, would have told us of the kindly intent. Behind the words soul communicates its feeling to soul, and this continues during life and after death. We think of this feeling, when we think of it at all, as an uneventful, unvarying stream, monotonous, even insipid, mawkish, but it is really as rich, as continuous in its changes, as eventful, as subtly compounded, as the play of brain-thought, and it is characteristic of the age that only the latter is studied, analyzed and known; the former, the thought of the heart, being barely recognized, confused with sentimentality, tearfulness, "piousness" — to say nothing of its conscious development, and use in life. But it is only by doing that, that Devachan can be enriched as a field for growth.
I sit thinking, when suddenly there is a touch, as it were, upon the keyboard of my heart from my friend; I feel him with unexpected fulness and sharpness. Then I translate this feeling into a mental explanation. My mind produces his picture and the sound of his voice. Interpreting the central feeling into very vivid mental objective terms, like the dweller in Devachan, I might think I had had a vision of him, and that he told me he was coming. Interpreting it less vividly I might say I had had a transmitted thought from my friend to the effect that he was coming. In my mental explanation alone is the error, for he is only writing, or talking of me, or thinking of me. Which is the important essence of the drama: the actua-warm, living transmission of the feeling which I, unaccustomed, mistranslate; or the outward trumpery words and deeds which he is doing ? So after death. I still feel the heart-thought of my friend, which the death or either or both cannot stop, and filled with the vividness of the memory of his form and voice, that memory takes shape before me — a shape that speaks to me words that express the feeling, if words can. If in life I thought more of the feeling of friends than of their words, and developed it, my consciousness in Devachan approaches closer to the reality and is the richer; if on the, other hand, I made the feeling dependent on outward deeds and words, then it is poorer and further from the reality.
So life persists beyond death. In life we love music, for we get from it strange beauties of consciousness. They would last, were it not for the body, its passions and pains. When we have passed out through the gates of the body, they return and endure. Charged with the memories of the forms of life on earth, we create, to explain to ourselves the rapture of [Page 16] consciousness, the outer sounds that in our life on earth were necessary to give them birth and form, placing friends and music in scenery and associations that form for them a harmonious background and accompaniment. So, when two who were friends on earth are together in heaven, the transfer and intercommunion of feeling and of felt thought continues, each making for the other such objective pictures and scenery as shall serve as framework, so that the ever-changing play of communication may go on with the accompaniment of outer dramatic accessories of deeds and words and events that on earth would have accompanied such communion on inner planes. In heaven, because we are severed from the bodily centre, there remains nothing that arises in and is inseparably connected with that centre and the body, no vanity nor fatigue, no decline of aspiration, no ill-will nor irritability, no pain, nor even the conception of pain. Pain arises when the desire for its good, on the part of any principle of consciousness, is thwarted. Pain is outer or inner; the latter may be for self or for others that are loved, and those may be loved physically or spiritually. Of our own outer and purely bodily pain we need not speak further, as, manifestly, it cannot exist in Devachan, where there is no outer body. Neither can there be memory of it, for memory is its more or less perfect reawakening in that kâmic nucleus which no longer attends the Self with its perpetual play of lower feeling.
The Self then is cut off from the possibility of the conception of outer pain, in himself or others; nor is he less beyond the reach of inner pain. Of other pains there are those of unsatisfied ambition, greed, vanity, lust, hate, anger, the feeling of being wronged, all springing from the lower nature, all impossible in Devachan, inconceivable to its inhabitants. On earth he can conceive them as well as bodily pain, and so can sympathize with others who endure them, because they exist actually or potentially in, and can be sympathetically created in, his own lower nature. The great earth-pain is loss of loved ones, and this cannot exist in Devachan. Our knowledge of the heavenly condition depends upon our acquired power to conceive that the dweller in Devachan is and remains in close touch with the selves of his friends, so far as all those states of feeling are concerned which have not to do with their lower kâmic planes of feeling and bodily natures. This again depends upon the acquired power of conceiving "I" as other than the body and its sensations; for that "I" once conceived is the heavenly "I', for by meditation while in the body the Devachanic plane can be reached. Pain arises from the sense of limitation in the mind, the sense of disorderliness in the body, but in Devachan nothing hinders the play of mind. Friends on earth cannot communicate their pain to those on the other side, for their pain even when purely mental is unsatisfied desire and hope, and in Devachan desire [Page 17] is at once the very thing desired. They can only communicate the love that makes that communication desired, and with it such play of high and pure feeling as can mix with it. Devachan is the only self-limited scope of subjective action of the spiritual nucleus of the personal self, and that strictly speaking can desire nothing, for it is a stream of feeling cast into terrestrially acquired forms; its desire could only take the form of desire for feeling which is its action, and which is synchronous with the realization of it. Yoga and meditation are the desires for high feeling, which when attained is wisdom, and when the attained is reflected in mind it becomes knowledge. In life it is done in spite of the resistance of the body, and so the desire is not synchronous with its realization; after death the resistance disappears, and the self which then meditates stretches no detaining cords.
Of what use is the dweller in Devachan to those on earth ? What are
his activities ? Even those of small soul, with a little circle of loved ones on earth whom they have left
behind, a circle almost limited to the front page of the family Bible, can help that circle a little. If sin
is ignorance, and the ignorance is the ignorance of the like selfhood of other selves, failure to feel their
being, then even the inhabitant of heaven sins. But if on earth, even with a few, he has made relationships
or found them karmically made, then, if that relationship be a little better than merely of personal centre
to personal centre, if it express itself in other desires for them than that they should be handsome or get
on in business and life, if it be other than selfishness which includes a few instead of one, then it is a
feeling for them or a recognition of them as selves, a desire that they should grow in such good ways and do
such good works as are within even the limited conceptions of that self, and so this feeling goes on in Devachan.
The self pictures those worthy desires for their good as realized; and the vivid pictures it makes, and its
strong feeling running always for its loved ones' good, is felt in degree by them, helps them, stimulates them,
even protects them from their own worse selves, guides in a degree the action of the stream of elementals,
whose apparently fortuitous play about us causes the outer "accidents" of
our lives. And this is true, even if the desire and the love took on earth strange, crabbed, bigoted, unintelligent
shape in thought.
If on earth we fight for a cause, as Theosophists do, thinking its success good for men, then the radiation of our inner energy towards this object cannot be stopped by death; no longer shining through our words and deeds, it takes as its vehicle the words and deeds of those who, remaining on earth, feel it and are moved by its inspiration; for the dead breathe still through the nostrils of the living. Other souls on the upper levels of Devachan do yet higher work, thinking the thoughts that are to [Page 18] affect men in the far future, men and lives below men, and the planetary life in its totality; whilst beyond these again stand others before whose eyes is no illusion at all, living presences of past humanity, working still, open-eyed, wise, strong. Now, two questions remain. How shall we learn to create for ourselves a wise and useful hereafter ? How teach of death to those who learn from us ? Death looms so terrible because of the weight of its loneliness, the loneliness of the passage through the gate, the long and lonely sojourn in the fields beyond. So death is pictured, so misunderstood. To those who are wrapped in their business as the all in all of life, or in the pleasures that are of the body only, we can bring no comfort. We must wait till they have watched and learned. It is not so hopeless. After death comes a short moment when the illusions heaped up by the lower self melt away, and the past life is seen in its true significance and insignificance. The purpose of the incarnation is seen, the karmic necessities from former births that entailed its events, the worthlessness of the aims and pleasures pursued. Mistakes stand out in their true light, the wasted desires and their profitless fulfilment; all is contrasted with what it might have been, should have been, and was not. And before birth is a similar moment, when are seen the possibilities of growth in the impending incarnation. Though both these direct and unveiled visions are forgotten in the rush of life, some trace of their wisdom remains in the dim guidance of conscience and intuition. After many births they begin to have some effect, and the sum of their effects is the instinct that life in spirit and not of the world is the reality. Most men in degree have this instinct, and we can therefore help most men to face death. None of the chains of love forged on earth are broken by death, nor the channels of loving communication blocked. Only that while on earth the interplay of feeling direct from soul to soul lent life to otherwise dead or formal words and deeds, now that same continuing interplay, unbroken, unchecked, lends new life to the old words and deeds that fill the chambers of memory, and these once again serve as the symbols of the same inner presence which they symbolized on earth. To those whose work is for all mankind, whose friend is humanity, all whose hopes are for men, death should bring no terror, as it brings no change. The rays of their love and their hopes shine on as when on earth, making their way into the hearts of men, being to those who feel and to those who unknowingly receive and shelter them, help, protection and inspiration. For no such ray, whether sent out on earth or beyond, fails of its force, is lost, or can do other than secretly weave the cords that bind man to man, and bring nearer the final golden dawn. Let no poor heart on earth feel sore with the death of kin; if they were at one once they are at one always, the [Page 19] barriers of death let through the light, and nature will not separate in future lives the friends and lovers of the past.
For ourselves we take the same cup of comfort. Beginning to withdraw desire from this or that passing phase
in life, for the comfort of the body, for success or pleasure in life as an end in itself, we begin for the first
time to feel our way among men, to feel in each a struggling self behind the rough, selfish; and forbidding outer
form and ways, and so, joining hands with that, help the dim burning of its light. So, whether we work for one
or many, for a circle or for mankind, we are beginning a work which no power and no change can compel us to abandon.
We cannot follow two opposing paths at once, and any work upon ourselves or others that is not of the body and
the self centred and reflected therein, any developing force that moves the soul towards beauty, whether of sound,
or form, or colour, any love that finds unselfish satisfaction beyond the self, any effort to understand the
forces and lives that sustain the universe and culminate in man, all these are movements of the soul that persist
through death, and, stretching across all the cycles of rebirth, pass on into the undeclining life.
IF the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.
Far or forgot to me is near;
Shadow and sunlight are the same;
The vanished gods to me appear;
And one to me are shame and fame.
They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.
The strong gods pine for my abode,
And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
But thou, meek lover of the good !
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.
R. W. EMERSON
" I AM EVERYTHING THAT HAS BEEN, THAT IS, AND THAT SHALL
AND NO MORTAL HAS EVER YET BEEN ABLE TO WITHDRAW MY VEIL.
THE FRUIT WHICH I HAVE BROUGHT FORTH IS THE SUN."
Inscription on a statue of Isis.
Proclus on Timaeus, p. 30.
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