The Planes, the Bodies, and Spiritual Evolution




Last revised: 6 August 2008


The Planes of Life

General Discussion of the Planes of Life
Theosophical Discussions of the Seven Planes of Life
Sri Yukteswar Giri’s View of the Seven Spheres or Swargas
Lord Dowding on the Planes of Life
Max Heindel’s Rosicrucian Conception of Seven Worlds
The Self, the Planes of Life, and the Operation of Consciousness

The Bodies According to Hinduism

The Five Bodies or Panchakosas
Manomayakosha or Mind
Vijnanamayakosa or Intellect
Anandamaya Kosa or Causal Body
Beyond the Five Bodies is the Mahavayu or Great Cause

The Bodies According to Theosophy

The Bodies According to Blavatsky

The Four Lower Principles
Pranamayakosa or Etheric Body
Connections Between the Higher and Lower Bodies
The Bodies According to Leadbeater
Connections Between the Higher and Lower Bodies
The Self Dons Its Vestures
The Self Doffs Its Vestures

Spiritual Evolution

What Accounts for Differences in Advancement?
Evolution Accounts for Differences in Time Spent on Various Planes
Climbing the Ladder of Realization
A Synopsis of Spiritual Evolution

Ascending and Descending

The Process of Ascent
The Process of Voluntary Descent

The Planes of Life

General Discussion of the Planes of Life

In comparatively modern times, a number of structured schemes have been produced which picture man’s journey through post-mortem regions…. These chematic statements are undoubtedly of considerable value in clarifying the nature of post-mortem experience, but if they take on too unyielding a form they can become misleading. Although a number of correspondences exist between these schemes, any attempt to correlate them in a formal, logical way reveals apparent discrepancies.

The reason is clear: the authors of these various schemes were certainly not working from one common level of spiritual awareness; as consciousness deepens, the picture widens. What is appropriate when seen from one level of consciousness becomes less so when seen from another, deeper one. Then, too, the subtle path of growth of an individual living being must inevitably elude at times a complete adherence to the rigid forms and patterns which the intellect seeks to impose. Postmortem life does not consist of passing through a number of watertight areas in a regular and invariable manner, though many interpret the accounts to make it seem so. (Paul Beard, LO, 179.

It is often considered necessary for the sake of clarity to describe post-mortem experiences as if they take place in separate areas or ‘spheres’ and as if these areas as if they take place in separate areas or ‘spheres,’ and as if these areas are sharply divided off from one another. The real difference, however, has to be seen in terms of expanding consciousness.

Discarnate experiences represent an adventure in growth. Like other forms of growth this does not take place in an even and uniform way. Such growth can contained tenmporarily neglected areas, which must be made good at a later period. A man can advance or retreat within his own consciousness with a motion like a wave on a beach. He can also take byways from which for a long while he can refuse to disentangle himself.

The general direction is his experiences, however, can be stated fairly simply. During earth life men know comparatively little of their true nature. This is partly because they imprison themselves in various illusions and partly because they succeed in expressing only a comparatively small part of their full being. Many sense that this is so whilst they are still on earth.

The purposes of the early, or comparatively early, stages of the next life are first to enable a man to recognize and shake off his illusions, often by continuing to live within them until their illusion becomes clear to him; second, to come to recognize himself in a far more objective way; and, third, to discover how to reach and live more fully within those parts of his nature which he had not expressed whilst on earth.

These three stages can roughly be equated with (1) the illusory state known as the Summerland, (2) the judgement, and (3) life in the First, Second, and Third Heaven. (Paul Beard, LO, 73.)

There exist in nature various planes or divisions, each with its own matter of an appropriate degree of density, which in each case interpenetrates the matter of the plane next below it. It should … be clearly understood that the use of the words “higher” and “lower” with reference to these planes does not refer in any way to their position (since they all occupy the same space), but only to the degree of rarity of the matter of which they are respectively composed, or (in other words) the extent to which their matter is subdivided – for all matter of which we know anything is essentially the same, and differs only in the extent of it subdivision and the rapidity of its vibration. (Charles Leadbeater, DP, 2-3.)

Level after level he traverses the seven spheres and comes down into the Globe of Fire, then Air, then Water, then falls on earth; after that to the Minerals, Plants....

Until he reaches the degree of human being he passes through many tribulations at every level of his descent; he meets with difficulties. Sometimes he rises; sometimes he goes low; and half a circle is completed till he is lodged with ... mankind. (Ibn Arabi, Kernel of the Kernel, 20.)

All the planes together form a continuum of a vast world, presenting a rich and multiform landscape, populated by denizens much more varied in character and activity than those of our earth. The planes comprise the habitations of all supernatural entities, the locale of gods and demons, the void where the thought-forms dwell, the region inhabited by spirits of the air and other elementals, and the various heavens and hells with their angelic and demonic hosts. The zones interpenetrate and there appears to be a curious overlapping in parts, but it would seem that the inhabitants of one zone cannot freely enter into contact with other zones when they please, and the exact nature of their mutual relationship is not clear. (Benjamin Walker, BB, 117.)

Theosophical Discussions of the Seven Planes of Life

We have given names to these interpenetrating worlds for convenience in speaking of them. No name is needed for the first, (1) as man is not yet in direct connection with it; but when it is necessary to mention it, it may be called the divine world. The second is described as the monadic, because in it exist those Sparks of the divine Life which we call the human Monads; but neither of these can be touched by the highest clairvoyant investigations at present possible for us.

The third sphere … is called the spiritual world, because in it functions the highest Spirit in man as now constituted. The fourth is the intuitional world (Previously called in theosophical literature the buddhic plane) because from it come the highest intuitions. The fifth is the mental world, because of its matter is built the mind of man. The sixth is called the emotional or astral world, because the emotions of man cause undulations in its matter. (The name astral was given to it by mediaeval alchemists, because its matter is starry or shining as / compared to that of the denser world). The seventh world, composed of the type of matter which we see all around us, is called the physical.

The matter of which all these interpenetrating worlds are built is essentially the same matter, but differently arranged and of different degrees of density. Therefore the rates at which these various types of matter normally vibrate differ also. They may be considered as a vast gamut of undulations consisting of many octaves. The physical matter uses a certain number of the lowest of these octaves, the astral matter another group of octaves just above that, the mental matter a still further group, and so on. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 24-5.

(1) While most other afterlife cartographers number the spheres from the bottom up, Leadbeater numbers them from the top down. Leadbeater does not say where in this scheme the angels fit. He does not mention rungs of evolution beyond the angels.

Each of these worlds has its inhabitants, whose senses are normally capable of responding to the undulations of their own world only. A man living (as we are all doing) in the physical world sees, hears, feels, by vibrations connected with the physical matter around him. He is equally surrounded by the astral and mental and other worlds which are interpenetrating his own denser world, but of them he is normally / unconscious, because his senses cannot respond to the oscillations of their matter, just as our physical eyes cannot see by the vibrations of ultraviolet light, although scientific experiments show that they exist and there are other consciousnesses with differently-formed organs who can see by them. A being living in the astral world might be occupying the very same space as a being living in the physical world, yet each would be entirely unconscious of the other and would in no way impede the free movement of the other. The same is true of all the other worlds. We are at this moment surrounded by these worlds of finer matter, as close to us as the world we see, and their inhabitants are passing through us and about us, but we are entirely unconscious of them. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 26-7.

Since our evolution is centered at present upon this globe which we call the earth, it is in connection with it only that we shall be speaking of these higher worlds, so in future when I use the term “astral world” I shall mean by it the astral part of our own globe only, and not (as heretofore) the astral part of the whole solar system. This astral part of our own world is also a globe, but of astral matter. It occupies the same place as the globe which we see, but its matter (being so much lighter) extends out into space on all sides of us further than does the atmosphere of the earth – a great deal further. It stretches to a little less than the mean distance of the moon, so that though the two physical globes, the earth and the moon, are nearly 240,000 miles apart, the astral globes of these two bodies touch one another when the moon is in perigee, but not when she is in apogee. I shall apply / the term “mental world” to the still larger globe of mental matter in the midst of which our physical earth exists. When we come to the still higher globes we have spheres large enough to touch the corresponding spheres of other planets in the system, though their matter also is just as much about us here on the surface of the solid earth as that of the others. All these globes of finer matter are a part of us, and are all revolving round the sun with their visible part. The student will do well to accustom himself to think of our earth as the whole of this mass of interpenetrating worlds – not only the comparatively small physical ball in the center of it. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 27-8.)

The divine Life pours itself into matter from above, and its whole course may be thought of in two stages / – the gradual assumption of grosser and grosser matter, and then the gradual casting off again of the vehicles which have been assumed. The earliest level upon which its vehicles can be scientifically observed is the mental – the fifth counting from the finer to the grosser, the first on which there are separated globes. In practical study it is found convenient to divide this mental world into two parts, which we call the higher and lower according to the degree of density of their matter. The higher consists of the three finer subdivisions of mental matter; the lower part of the other four. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 29-30.)

The whole process is one of steady evolution from lower forms to higher, from the simpler to the more complex. But what is evolving is not primarily the form, but the life within it. The forms also evolve and grow better as time passes; but this is in order that they may be appropriate vehicles for more and more advanced waves of life. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 33.)

Man is therefore in essence a Spark of the divine Fire, belonging to the monadic world. (The President has now decided upon a set of names for the planes, so for the future these will be used instead of those previously employed. A table of them is given below for reference). To that Spark, dwelling all the time in that world, we give the name “Monad”. For the purpose of human evolution Monad manifests itself in lower worlds. When it descends one stage and enters the spiritual world, it shows itself there as the triple Spirit, having itself three aspects (just as in worlds infinitely higher the Deity has His three Aspects.) Of those three - one remains always in that world, and we call that the Spirit in man. The second aspect manifests itself in the intuitional world, and we speak of it as the Intuition in man. The third shows itself in the higher mental world, and we call it the Intelligence in man. These three aspects taken together constitute the ego which ensouls the fragment from the group-soul. Thus man as we know him, though in / reality a Monad residing in the monadic world, shows himself as an ego in the higher mental world, manifesting these three aspects of himself (Spirit, Intuition and Intelligence) through that vehicle of higher mental matter which we name the casual body. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 42-3.)

New Names – Old Names

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

These will supersede the names given in Vol. II of The Inner Life. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 43.

The names to [the] planes, taking them in order of materiality, rising from the denser to the finer, are the physical, the astral, the mental, the buddhic, and the nirvanic. Higher than this last are two others, but they are so far above our present power of conception that for the moment they may be left out of consideration.

It should be understood that the matter of each of these planes differs from that of the plane below it in the same way as, though to a much greater degree than, vapour differs from solid matter; in fact, the states of matter which we call solid, liquid, and gaseous are merely the three lower sub-divisions of the matter belonging to this one physical plane. (Charles Leadbeater, AP, 6.)

Each physical globe has its physical plane (including its atmosphere), its astral plane, and its mental plane, all interpenetrating one another, and therefore occupying the same position in space, but all quite apart from and not communicating with the corresponding planes of any other globe. It is only when we rise to the lofty levels of the buddhic plane that we find a condition common to, at any rate, all the planets of our chain.

Notwithstanding this, there is, as stated above, a condition of the atomic matter of each of these planes which is cosmic in its extent; so that the seven atomic subplanes of our system, taken apart from the rest, may be said to constitute one cosmic plane – the lowest, sometimes called the cosmic-prakritic. (Charles Leadbeater, DP, 4.)

ENQUIRER. I understand that you describe our earth as forming part of a chain of earths?

THEOSOPHIST. We do. But the other six "earths" or globes, are not on the same plane of objectivity as our earth is; therefore we cannot see them.

ENQUIRER. Is that on account of the great distance?

THEOSOPHIST. Not at all, for we see with our naked eye planets and even stars at immeasurably greater distances; but it is owing to those six globes being outside our physical means of perception, or plane of being. It is not only that their material density, weight, or fabric are entirely different from those of our earth and the other known planets; but they are (to us) on an entirely different layer of space, so to speak; a layer not to be perceived or felt by our physical senses. And when I say "layer," please do not allow your fancy to suggest to you layers like strata or beds laid one over the other, for this would only lead to another absurd misconception. What I mean by "layer" is that plane of infinite space which by its nature cannot fall under our ordinary waking perceptions, whether mental or physical; but which exists in nature outside of our normal mentality or consciousness, outside of our three dimensional space, and outside of our division of time. Each of the seven fundamental planes (or layers) in space -- of course as a whole, as the pure space of Locke's definition, not as our finite space -- has its own objectivity and subjectivity, its own space and time, its own consciousness and set of senses. But all this will be hardly comprehensible to one trained in the modern ways of thought. (Helena Blavatsky, KTT, n.p.)

The universe passes out of its homogeneous subjectivity on to the first plane of manifestation, of which planes there are seven, we are taught. With each plane it becomes more dense and material until it reaches this, our plane. (Helena P. Blavatsky, KTT, n.d.)

Believing in seven planes of Kosmic being and states of Consciousness, with regard to the Universe or the Macrocosm, we stop at the fourth plane, finding it impossible to go with any degree of certainty beyond. But with respect to the Microcosm, or man, we speculate freely on his seven states and principles. (Helena Blavatsky, KTT, n.p.)

There are, according to Esoteric Science, seven such planes in Nature, and similarly there are seven states of consciousness in man, in which he "can live, think, remember, and have his being." (Geoffrey Farthing, BIT, n.p.)

The Monad in its own world is practically with¬out limitations, at least as far as our solar system is concerned. But at every stage of its descent into matter it not only veils itself more and more deeply in illusion, but it actually loses its powers. If in the beginning of its evolution it may be supposed to be able to move and to see in an infinite number of these directions in space which we call dimensions, at each downward step it cuts off one of these, until for the consciousness of the physical brain only / three of them are left. It will thus be seen that by this involution into matter we are cut off from the knowledge of all but a minute part of the worlds which surround us; and furthermore, even what is left to us is but imperfectly seen. (Charles Leadbeater, MON, 27-8.)

Sri Yukteswar Giri’s View of the Seven Spheres or Swargas

This universe thus described, commencing from the Eternal Substance, God, down to the gross material creation, has been distinguished into seven different spheres, Swargas or Lokas.

7th Sphere, Satyaloka

The foremost of these is Satyaloka, the Sphere of God – the only Real Subtance, Sat, in the universe. No name can describe it, nor can anything in the creation of Darkness or Light designate it. This sphere is therefore called Anama, the Nameless.

6th Sphere, Tapoloka

The next in order is Tapoloka, the sphere of the Holy Spirit, (1) which is the Eternal Patience, as it remains forever undisturbed by any limited idea. Because it is not approachable even by the Sons of God as such, it is called Agama, the Inaccessible.

5th Sphere, Janaloka

Next is Janaloka, the sphere of spiritual reflection, the Sons of God, wherein the idea of separate existence of the Self originates. As this sphere is above the comprehension of anyone in the creation of Darkness, Maya, it is called Alakshya, the Uncomprehensible.

4th Sphere, Maharloka

The comes Maharloka, the sphere of the Atom, the beginning of the creation of Darkness, Maya, upon which the Spirit is reflected. This, the connecting link, is the only way between the spiritual and the material creation and is called the Door, Dasamadwara.

3rd Sphere, Swarloka

Around this Atom is Swarloka, the sphere of magnetic aura, the electricities. This sphere, being characterized by the absence of all the creation (even the organs and their objects, the fine material things), is called Mahasunya, the Great Vacuum.

2nd Sphere, Bhuvarloka

The next is Bhuvarloka, the sphere of the electric attributes. As the gross matters of the creation are entirely absent from this sphere, and it is conspicuous by the presence of the fine matters only, it is called Sunya, the Vacuum Ordinary.

1st Sphere, Bhuloka

The last and lowest sphere is Bhuloka, the sphere of the gross material creation, which is always visible to everyone. (Sri Yukteswar Giri, HS, 33-4.)

(1) The Holy Spirit in Hinduism is known as Shakti, the Divine Mother, Aum, the creative universal vibration. See ”On the Nature of the Divine Mother or Holy Spirit”

Lord Dowding on the Planes of Life

Now to my main task!

I want you to think of the Earth as the centre of a series of hollow spheres each bigger than the last. The first sphere practically corresponds to the earth’s surface in location though not in substance, and the number of spheres in their outward order is indefinite so far as our knowledge goes; nothing higher than the fifteenth, however, is mentioned in Vale Owen’s book. (1) (Lord Dowding, MM, 50.)

(1) Lord Dowding is referring to and relying for the most part on G. Vale Owen’s Life Beyond the Veil. The reference is to Volume 1, p. 76.
Each of these spheres represents a state of spiritual development a little in advance of that below, and the soul’s progress is steadily onward and outward once the restrictions of earth are left behind. These restrictions may be slight and soon surmounted or they may be grievous and may take centuries (of our time) to overcome; but sooner or later every soul will be set onto the path of progress and light.

Now don’t think of these spheres in too materialistic a way; they are real enough and solid enough to their inhabitants and they have mountains and seas very much like those on earth, but they are quiet invisible to us and cannot be perceived by any of our senses. (Lord Dowding, MM, 50.)

There are other tunes and other octaves by the score in which “reality” lies elsewhere and in which it is our world that is mist and we who are drifting ghosts. God is the great Mathematician and the great Scientist. All things operate according to His laws and our eyes will be opened in good time.

Now, as I dimly conceive it, each outward sphere operates on a new wave length, and a spirit in Sphere Ten would be just as invisible to a spirit in Sphere Two as the spirit in Sphere Two would be to us, but the spirit in Sphere Ten has the power of conditioning himself so as to be visible and to operate in any lower Sphere, though the converse of this is not true. If a spirit attempts to stray prematurely into a higher Sphere, he is blinded and oppressed by the intensity of the unaccustomed light and so returns to his own place. (Lord Dowding, MM, 52.)

The Lower Regions

There are spirits who cannot bear even the dim radiance of Sphere One. These go and consort with their like in lower regions and they make for themselves their own Hell. (Lord Dowding, MM, 52.)

The spheres of evil spirits are below the earth. They are minus quantities as it were; they appear to be six or eight in number.

Imperator says: “Of the lower spheres we know little.” But he believes that specially obdurate spirits may so determinedly resist every good influence that they finally lose identity and become extinct. … This is the sin against the Holy Ghost of which Jesus told His followers and … the annihilation of the soul is its reward. Remember, however, that Imperator does not teach this as a certainty and that other spirits with greater knowledge of the lower strata tell us that every soul will eventually be saved. He endorses the general teaching that there is no personal Devil. (Lord Dowding, MM, 104.)

Spheres One to Three

[Stainton Moses’s spirit communicator] Imperator endorses previous messages about the arrangement of the spheres, viz. that the three lowest spheres are nearest the earth, and that the spirits inhabiting these spheres can most easily communicate with us. Higher spirits cannot communicate unless they have what corresponds to mediumistic powers on earth. Many spirits would gladly converse, but cannot find a medium. (Lord Dowding, MM, 103-4.)

Sphere Two

As far as I can understand, Sphere Two appears to be the place to which newly-arrived souls are first taken. (1) “There is in the second Sphere from earth a house where those who are newly come over await their sorting-out, to be forwarded, each with his guide, to the place where he may best be trained in the beginnings of the heavenly life.” This is possibly similar to that “Rest Hall” to which Private Dowding was taken; and Raymond. (Lord Dowding in MM, 54-5.)

(1) The Near-Earth Plane or Borderlands.

Sphere Three

Myers teaches that the Third Sphere (or Summerland as it is often called in spiritualist circles) is in fact a sphere of Illusion inhabited for long or short periods by souls whose mentalities are still dominated by Earth-conditions. (Lord Dowding, MM, 92.)

Sphere Four

The soul who is more spiritually inclined passes upward into the Fourth Sphere and thenceforward progresses continuously upward without any further individual reincarnation. (Lord Dowding, MM, 93.)

Sphere Five

Sphere Five is a difficult one to pass. “It is a critical sphere where attunement has to be made in a man’s various traits and all unharmony done away.” (1) It is also the parting of the ways, where is chosen the future part of the spirit. “It is a kind of sorting-room, as one should say, wherein are the inhabitants, in the course of their sojourn there, classified into their proper groups, and proceed onwards in that special branch of service for which they most properly are fitted.” (2) (Lord Dowding, MM, 59.)

(1) G. Vale Owen, LBV, Vol. III, 65.)
(2) Ibid., Vol. II, 233. My guess is that Sphere Five corresponds to the second subplane of the Mental Plane, of what spirits often call the Second Heaven and that Dowding is referring to the Judgment and the Second Death, after which spirits are apparently free to pursue their own avenue of service. Cf. Sigwart after the second death: “Everything has transpired according to fixed rules and laws up to now. But now I have arrived at the point where I may choose the further direction of my activities.” (BOTR, 91.)

Spheres Four to Ten: Spheres of Probation or Progression

The next seven spheres (up to the tenth) [Imperator] calls the Spheres of Probation or Progression. (1) (Lord Dowding, MM, 104.)

(1) Imperator himself comes from the Seventh Sphere: “I, myself, Imperator Servus Dei, … come from the seventh sphere to work out the will of the Almighty; and, when my work is complete, I shall return to those spheres of bliss from which none return again to earth. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses Stainton, ST, 22.)

Sphere Ten is also of exceptional importance because it is the highest of those from which visitors commonly come down to earth level and below. After this stage it seems that some change occurs which makes visitations and communication with lower spheres more difficult. It is true that Manifestations of the Christ in presence Form often occur in the lower spheres and occasionally some great angel may descend for a special purpose, but, broadly speaking, it seems that Sphere Ten represents the limit of human comprehension as to its conditions. Beyond Sphere Ten, as I understand, human words are inadequate to give the remotest conception of spiritual life.

Sphere Ten has also another importance, because it is here that (sometimes at any rate) the followers of the non-Christian religions join up with the great river of spirit progress. (1) (Lord Dowding, MM, 59.)

(1) I’m not sure that a Hindu or Buddhist would appreciate Lord Dowding’s Christian bias here.

Sphere Eleven to Seventeen: The Spheres of Contemplation

And then come the seven Spheres of Contemplation. [Stainton Moses’ spirit communicator Imperator] endorses the importance of the change which occurs in the Spheres of Contemplation and says: “We have little from beyond, though we know that the blessed ones who dwell there have power to help and guide us even as we watch over you.” And again: “We know of God, but we know Him not; nor shall know as you would seek to know, until we enter on the life of contemplation.” (Lord Dowding, MM, 104.)

Sphere Fourteen and the Christ Sphere

The highest-numbered sphere where conditions are at all known is the Fourteenth and somewhere beyond this is the “Christ Sphere.” (1) (Lord Dowding, MM, 59-60.)

(1) However, note that John Heslop, a resident of the Christ Sphere calls the Christ Sphere the “seventh”: “In each higher sphere, the inhabitants gain a fuller consciousness of the presence of Jesus the Christ, until they come to the seventh, or Christ-Sphere, where He reigns supreme. He is the Life-Principle of everyone here and moves amongst us in full and beautiful communion.” (FMABL, 9-10.)

Max Heindel’s Rosicrucian Conception of Seven Worlds

It must be kept in mind that the Worlds and Cosmic Planes are not one above another in space, but that the seven Cosmic Planes inter-penetrate each other and all the seven Worlds. They are states of spirit-matter, permeating one another, so that God and the other great Beings who are mentioned are not far away in space. They pervade every part of their own realms and realms of greater density than their own. They are all present in our world and are actually and de facto "nearer than hands and feet." It is a literal truth when we say "in Him we live and move and have our being." For none of us could exist outside these great Intelligences Who pervade and sustain our world with Their Life. It has been shown that the Etheric Region extends beyond the atmosphere of our dense Earth; that the Desire World extends out into space further than the Etheric Region; also that the World of Thought extends further into inter-planetary Space than either of the others. Of course, the Worlds of rarer substance occupy a larger space than the denser World, which has crystallized and condensed, thus occupying less space.

The same principle is operative in the Cosmic Planes. The densest of them is the seventh (counting from the top downward). It is represented in the diagram as larger than any of the others, the reason being that it is the plane with which we are most intimately concerned, and it was desired to indicate its principle subdivisions. In reality, however, it occupies less space than any of the other Cosmic Planes, although it must be borne in mind that, even with this comparatively restrictive qualification as to its extent, it is still immeasurably vast, far beyond the utmost power of the human mind to conceive, comprising within its limits millions of Solar Systems similar to our own, which are the fields for the evolution of many grades of beings of approximately our own status.

Of the six Cosmic Planes above our own we know nothing, save that we are told they are the fields of activity of great Hierarchies of Beings of indescribable splendor.

Proceeding from our Physical World to the inner and finer worlds and up through the Cosmic Planes, we find that God, the Architect of our Solar System, the Source and goal of our existence, is found in the highest division of the seventh Cosmic Plane. This is His World.

His realm includes the systems of evolution carried on in the other planets which belong to our system--Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Earth, Venus, Mercury, and their satellites.

The great Spiritual Intelligences designated as the Planetary Spirits, which guide these evolutions, are called the "Seven Spirits before the Throne." They are His Ministers, each presiding over a certain department of the Kingdom of God--which is our solar System. The Sun is also the field of evolution of the most exalted Beings in our Cosmos. They alone can endure and advance by means of the terrific solar vibrations. The Sun is the nearest approach we have to a visible symbol of God, yet it is but a veil for That which is behind. What That is cannot be uttered publicly.

When we try to discover the origin of the Architect of our Solar System, we find that we must pass to the highest of the seven Cosmic Planes. We are then in the Realm of the Supreme Being, Who emanated from the Absolute.

The Absolute is beyond comprehension. No expression nor simile which we are capable of conceiving can possibly convey any adequate idea. Manifestation implies limitation. Therefore, we may at best characterize the Absolute as Boundless Being; as the Root of Existence.

From the Root of Existence--The Absolute--proceeds the Supreme Being, at the dawn of manifestation. This is The One.

In the first chapter of John this Great Being is called God. From this Supreme Being emanates The Word, the Creative Fiat "without whom was not anything made," and this Word is the alone-begotten Son, born of His father (the Supreme Being) before all worlds--but positively not Christ. Grand and glorious as is Christ, towering high above mere human nature, He is not this Exalted Being. Truly "the Word was made flesh," but not in the limited sense of the flesh of one body, but the flesh of all that is, in this and millions of other solar Systems.

The first Aspect of the Supreme Being may be characterized as power. From this proceeds the Second Aspect, the Word; and from both of these proceeds the Third, Aspect, motion.

From this threefold Supreme Being proceed the seven Great Logoi. They contain within Themselves all the great Hierarchies which differentiate more and more as they diffuse through the various Cosmic Planes. (See diagram 6). There are forty-nine Hierarchies on the second Cosmic Plane; on the third there are 343 Hierarchies. Each of these is capable of septenary divisions and subdivisions, so that in the lowest Cosmic Plane, where the Solar System manifest, the number of divisions and subdivisions is almost infinite.

In the Highest World of the seventh Cosmic Plane dwells the God of our Solar Systems in the Universe. These great Beings are also threefold in manifestation, like The Supreme Being. Their three aspects are Will, Wisdom and Activity.

Each of the seven Planetary Spirits which proceeds from God and has charge of the evolution of life on one of the seven planets, is also threefold and differentiates within itself Creative Hierarchies which go through a septenary evolution. The evolution carried on by one Planetary Spirit differs from the methods of development inaugurated by each of the others.

It may be further stated that, at least in the particular planetary scheme to which we belong, the entities farthest evolved in the earliest stages, who had reached a high stage of perfection in previous evolutions, assume the functions of the original Planetary Spirit and continue the evolution, the original Planetary Spirit withdrawing from active participation, but guiding its Regents.

The foregoing is the teaching relative to all the Solar Systems. (Max Heindel, RCC, n.p.)

We might use a homely instance to illustrate the building of a Cosmos. Suppose a man wants to establish a home in which to live. He first selects a suitable location and then proceeds to build a house, dividing it into various rooms to serve certain purpose. He makes a kitchen, dining-room bedrooms and bathroom, and furnishes them all to suit the special purpose they are intended to serve.

When God desires to create, He seeks out an appropriate place in space, which He fills with His aura, permeating every atom of the cosmic root-substance of that particular portion of space with His Life, thus awakening the activity latent within every inseparate atom.

This Cosmic Root-substance is an expression of the negative pole of the Universal Spirit, while the great Creative Being we call God (of whom we, as spirits, are part) is an expression of the positive energy of the same Universal Absolute Spirit. From the work of one upon the other, all that we see about us in the Physical World has resulted. The oceans, the Earth everything we see manifesting as mineral, plant animal and human forms--all are crystallized space, emanated from this negative Spirit-substance, which alone existed at the dawn of Being. As surely as the hard and flinty house of the snail is the solidified juices of its soft body, so surely all forms are crystallizations around the negative pole of Spirit.

God draws from the Cosmic Root-substance outside His immediate sphere; thus the substance within the nascent cosmos becomes denser than it is in Universal space, between Solar Systems.

When God has thus prepared the material for His Habitation, He next sets it in order. Every part of the system is pervaded by His consciousness, but a different modification of that consciousness in each part of division. The Cosmic Root-substance is set in varying rates of vibration and is therefore differently constituted in its various divisions, or regions.

The above is the manner in which the Worlds come into being and are fitted to serve different purposes in the evolutionary scheme, the same as the various rooms in the house are fitted to serve the purpose of everyday life in the Physical World.

We have already seen that there are seven Worlds. These Worlds have each a different "measure" and rate of vibration. In the densest World (the Physical) the measure of vibration, though in the case of light-waves reaching a rate of hundreds of millions per second, is nevertheless infinitesimal when compared to the rapidity of the vibration in the Desire World, which is next to the Physical. To get some conception of the meaning and rapidity of vibration, perhaps the easiest way is to watch the heat vibrations rising from a very hot stove, or from a steam radiator near a window.

It must be borne constantly in mind that these Worlds are not separated by space or distance, as is the earth from the other planets. They are states of matter, of varying density and vibration, as are the solids, liquids and gases of our Physical World. These Worlds are not instantaneously created at the beginning of a day of Manifestation, nor do they last until the end; but as a spider spins its web thread by thread, so god differentiates one after another of the worlds within Himself, as the necessity arises for new conditions in the scheme of evolution in which He is engaged. Thus have all the seven Worlds been gradually differentiated as they are at present.

The highest Worlds are created first, and as involution is to slowly carry the life into denser and denser matter for the building of forms, the finer Worlds gradually condense and new Worlds are differentiated within God to furnish the necessary links between Himself and the Worlds which have consolidated. In due time the point of greatest density, the nadir of materiality, is reached. From that point the life begins to ascend into higher Worlds, as evolution proceeds. That leaves the denser Worlds depopulated, one by one. When the purpose has been served for which a particular World was created, God ends its existence, which has become superfluous, by ceasing within Himself the particular activity which brought into being and sustained that World.

The highest (finest, rarest, most ethereal) Worlds are the first created and the last eliminated, while the three densest Worlds, in which our present phase of evolution is carried on, are but comparatively evanescent phenomena incident to the spirit's dip into matter. (Max Heindel, RCC, n.p.)

The Self, the Planes of Life, and the Operation of Consciousness

Each of these bodies responds only to the vibrations of its own plane; and so while the man's consciousness is focused in his astral body, he will perceive the astral world only, just as while our consciousness is using only the physical senses we perceive nothing but this physical-world —though both these worlds (and many others) are in existence and full activity all round us all the while. Indeed, all these planes together constitute in reality one mighty living whole, though as yet our feeble powers are capable of observing only a very small part of this at a time. (Charles Leadbeater, DP, 3.)

This eternal Man, the individualised Self, is the actor in every body that he wears; it is his presence that gives the feeling of “ I “ alike to body and mind, the “ I “ being that which is self-conscious and which, by illusion, identifies itself with that vehicle in which it is most actively energising.

To the man of the senses the “ I “ is the physical body and the desire nature; he draws from these his enjoyment, and he thinks of these as himself, for his life is in them. To the scholar the “ I “ is the mind, for in its exercise lies his joy and therein his life is concentrated. Few can rise to the abstract heights of spiritual philosophy, and feel this Eternal Man as “ I “, with memory ranging back over past lives and hopes ranging forward over future births.

The physiologists tell us that if we cut the finger we do not really feel the pain there where the blood is flowing, but that pain is felt in the brain, and is by imagination thrown outwards to the place of the injury; the feeling of pain in the finger is, they say an illusion; it is put by imagination at the point of contact with the object causing the injury; so also will a man feel pain in an amputated limb, or rather in the space the limb used to occupy. Similarly does the one “ I “, the Inner Man, feel suffering and joy in the sheaths which enwrap him, at the points of contact with the external world, and feels the sheath to be himself, knowing not that this feeling is an illusion, and that he is the sole actor and experiencer in each sheath. (Annie Besant, AW, 146-7.)

Let us now consider, in this light, the relations between the higher and lower mind and their action on the brain. The mind, Manas, the Thinker, is one, and is the Self in the causal body; it is the source of innumerable energies, of vibrations of innumerable kinds. These it sends out, raying outwards from itself. The subtlest and finest of these are expressed in the matter of the causal body, which alone is fine enough to respond to them; they form what we call the Pure Reason, whose thoughts are abstract, whose method of gaining knowledge is intuition; its very “nature is knowledge,” and it recognises truth at sight as congruous with itself.

Less subtle vibrations pass outwards, attracting the matter of the lower mental region, and these are the Lower Manas, or lower mind – the coarser energies of the higher expressed in denser matter; these we call the intellect, comprising reason, judgement, imagination, comparison, and the other mental faculties; its thoughts are concrete, and its method is logic; it argues, it reasons, it infers. These vibrations, acting through astral matter on the etheric brain, and by that on the dense physical brain, set up vibrations therein, which are the heavy and slow reproductions of themselves – heavy and slow, because the energies lose much of their swiftness in moving the heavier matter.

This feebleness of response when a vibration is initiated in a rare medium and then passes into a dense one is familiar to every student of physics. Strike a bell in air and it sounds clearly; strike it in hydrogen, and let the hydrogen vibrations have to set up the atmospheric waves, and how faint the result. Equally feeble are the workings of the brain in response to the swift and subtle impacts of the mind; yet that is all that the vast majority know as their “consciousness.” (Annie Besant, AW, 147-8.)

The immense importance of the mental workings of this “consciousness” is due to the fact that it is the only medium whereby the Thinker can gather the harvest of experience by which he grows. While it is dominated by the passions it runs riot, and he is left unnourished and therefore unable to develop; while it is occupied wholly in mental activities concerned with the outer world, it can arouse only his lower energies; only as he is able to impress on it the true object of its life, does it commence to fulfill its most valuable functions of gathering what will arouse and nourish his higher energies.

As the Thinker develops he becomes more and more conscious of his own inherent powers, and also of the workings of his energies on the lower planes, of the bodies which those energies have drawn around him. He at last begins to try to influence them, using his memory of the past to guide his will, and these impressions we call “conscience” when they deal with morals and “flashes of intuition “ when they enlighten the intellect.

When these impressions are continuous enough to be normal, we speak of their aggregate as “genius.” The higher evolution of the Thinker is marked by his increasing control over his lower vehicles, by their increasing susceptibility to his influence, and their increasing contributions to growth. Those who would deliberately aid in this evolution may do so by a careful training of the lower mind and of the moral character, by steady and well directed effort.

The habit of quiet, sustained, and sequential thought, directed to non-worldly subjects, of meditation, of study, develops the mind-body and renders it a better instrument; the effort to cultivate abstract thinking is also useful, as this raises the lower mind towards the higher, and draws into it the subtlest materials of the lower mental plane.

In these and cognate ways all may actively co-operate in their own higher evolution, each step forward making the succeeding steps more rapid. No effort, not even the smallest, is lost, but is followed by its full effect, and every contribution gathered and handed inwards is stored in the treasure-house of the causal body for future use. Thus evolution, however slow and halting, is yet ever onwards, and the divine Life, ever unfolding in every soul, slowly subdues all things to itself. (Annie Besant, AW, 148-50.)

The Bodies According to Hinduism

The Five Bodies or Panchakosas

Ed. The panchakosas are the five bodies.

Koshas or Sheaths This Purusha, the Son of God (1) is screened by five coverings called the koshas or sheaths.

Heart, the 1st Kosha. The first of these five is the Heart, Chitta, the Atom, composed of four ideas, ... and thus being the seat of bliss, ananda, is called Anandamaya Kosha.

Buddhi, the 2nd Kosha. The second is the ... Buddhi, the Intelligence that determines what is truth. Thus, being the seat of knowledge, jnana, it is called Jnanamaya Kosha.

Manas, the 3rd Kosha. The third is the body of Manas, the Mind, composed of the organs of senses, ... and called the Manomaya Kosha.

Prana, the 4th Kosha. The fourth is the body of energy, life force or Prana, composed of the organs of action..., and thus called the Pranamaya Kosha.

Gross matter, the 5th Kosha. The fifth and last of these sheaths is the gross matter, the Atom's outer coating, which, becoming Anna, nourishment, supports this visible world and thus is called the Annamaya Kosha. (Sri Yukteswar Giri, HS, 35-6.)

(1) The Christ, Self, or Atman.

The five koshas, described in the Taittreya Upanishad, are located one within the other and envelop the Atman. Beginning with the outermost sheath, they are: 1. Annamaya-kosha, the gross physical sheath, which is nourished by food. 2. Pranamaya-kosha, the subtle or vital sheath, which vitalizes and holds together body and mind. 3. Manomaya-kosha, the sheath of mind, which receives sense impressions. 4. Vijnanamaya-kosha, the sheath of intellect, referring to the faculty which discriminates or wills. 5. Anandamaya-kosha, the sheath of bliss (referring to the ego or causal body), so called because it is nearest the blissful Atman. The Atman remains separate from the sheaths and unaffected by their properties. (Usha, RVW, 42-3.)

The senses are said to be higher than the sense-objects. The mind is higher than the senses. The intelligent will is higher than the mind. What is higher than the intelligent will? The Atman (1) Itself. (Sri Krishna in BG, 49.)

(1) The Self or Christ.

The body consisting of the five gross elements is called the gross body. The subtle body is made up of the mind, the ego, the discriminating faculty, and the mind-stuff. There is also a causal body, by means of which one enjoys the Bliss of God and holds communion with Him. The Tantra calls it the Bhagavati Tanu, the Divine Body. Beyond all these is the Mahakarana, the Great Cause. That cannot be expressed in words. (Paramahansa Ramakrishna in GSR, 902.)

Manomayakosha or Mind

Possessed of consciousness, the power of feeling, ... [this Atom] is called Mahat, the Heart, Chitta.... Being ... magnetized, it has two poles, one of which attracts it toward the Real Substance, Sat, and the other repels it from the same. The former is called Sattwa or Buddhi, the Intelligence, which determines what is Truth; and the latter, being a particle of Repulsion, ... produces the ideal world for enjoyment (ananda) and is called Anandatwa or Manas, the Mind. (Sri Yukteswar Giri, HS, 27.)

Vijnanamayakosa or Intellect

Possessed of consciousness, the power of feeling, ... [this Atom] is called Mahat, the Heart, Chitta.... Being ... magnetized, it has two poles, one of which attracts it toward the Real Substance, Sat, and the other repels it from the same. The former is called Sattwa or Buddhi, the Intelligence, which determines what is Truth; and the latter, being a particle of Repulsion, ... produces the ideal world for enjoyment (ananda) and is called Anandatwa or Manas, the Mind. (Sri Yukteswar Giri, HS, 27.)

The nescience imagined in [Brahman] and its effects, namely the individual, the Lord and the world, are unreal in all the three periods of time. Whatever is seen is the play of the intellect which is the effect of that nescience. Brahman, while unmoved, illumines the intellect. This intellect projects its false imagination in the states of waking and dreaming and merges in the nescience in the state of deep sleep. (Ramana Maharshi, JGE, 14.)

The Self which is self-luminous and the witness of everything manifests itself as residing in the vijnanakosa (sheath of the intellect). By the mental mode which is impartite, seize this Self as your goal and enjoy it as the Self. (Ramana Maharshi, SE, answer to question 32.)

Anandamaya Kosa or Causal Body

Maya has been defined as a composition of the three gunas. It is the causal body of the Atman. Through these, the seeker tastes everlasting bliss. (Shankara in CJD, 50.)

Functioning through the causal body the mind enjoys bliss; it dwells in the anandamaya kosa. This corresponds to the semi-conscious state experienced by Chaitanya. (Paramahansa Ramakrishna IN FMSR, 71.)

Chaitanya experienced … the semi-conscious state, when his mind entered the causal body and was absorbed in the bliss of divine intoxication. (Paramahansa Ramakrishna in GSR, 330.)

By means of [the causal body] one enjoys the Bliss of God and holds communion with Him. The Tantra calls it the Bhagavati Tanu, the Divine Body. (Paramahansa Ramakrishna in GSR, 902.)

This Purusha, the Son of God (1) is screened by five coverings called the koshas or sheaths.

Heart, the 1st Kosha. The first of these five is the Heart, Chitta, the Atom, ... and ... being the seat of bliss, ananda, is called Anandamaya Kosha. (Sri Yukteswar Giri, HS, 35.)

(1) The Christ, Self, or Atman.

Anandamaya-kosha, the sheath of bliss (referring to the ego or causal body), so called because it is nearest the blissful Atman. (Usha, RVW, 42.)

Beyond the Five Bodies is the Mahavayu or Great Cause

Last of all the mind loses itself in the Great Cause. What one experiences after that cannot be described in words. In his inmost state of consciousness Chaitanya enjoyed this experience. Do you know what that state is like? Dayananda described it by saying, “Come into the inner apartments and shut the door.” Anyone and everyone cannot enter that part of the house. (Paramahansa Ramakrishna in FMSR, 71.)

The Bodies According to Theosophy
Ed. It will be noticed that the description and arrangement of the bodies according to Theosophy are different than those according to Hinduism. Indeed, the bodies according to Blavatsky the medium (or by her teachers, writing through her) are different than those seen by Besant the psychic. As in so many other instances, I simply record what is said here and must leave the sorting out to another place.

The Bodies According to Blavatsky



(a) Rupa, or Sthula-Sarira // Physical body // Is the vehicle of all the other "principles" during life.

(b) Prana // Life, or Vital principle // Necessary only to a, c, d, and the functions of the lower Manas, which embrace all those limited to the (physical) brain.

(c) Linga Sharira // Astral body // The Double, the phantom body.

(d) Kama rupa // The seat of animal desires and passions // This is the centre of the animal man, where lies the line of demarcation which separates the mortal man from the immortal entity.


(e) Manas -- a dual principle in its functions // Mind, Intelligence: which is the higher human mind, whose light, or radiation links the MONAD, for the lifetime, to the mortal man // The future state and the Karmic destiny of man depend on whether Manas gravitates more downward to Kama rupa, the seat of the animal passions, or upwards to Buddhi, the Spiritual Ego. In the latter case, the higher consciousness of the individual Spiritual aspirations of mind (Manas), assimilating Buddhi, are absorbed by it and form the Ego, which goes into Devachanic bliss.*

(f) Buddhi // The Spiritual Soul // The vehicle of pure universal spirit.

(g) Atma // Spirit // One with the Absolute, as its radiation. (Helena Blavatsky, KTT, n.p.)

The Bodies According to Besant

Ere passing to the consideration of the history of man in the post-mortem state, it is necessary, however briefly, to state the constitution of man, as viewed by the Esoteric Philosophy, for we must have in mind the constituents of his being ere we can understand their disintegration. Man then consists of

The Immortal Triad:


The Perishable Quaternary:

Etheric Double.
Dense Body.

The dense body is the physical body, the visible, tangible outer form, composed of various tissues. The etheric double is the ethereal counterpart of the body, composed of the physical ethers. Prana is vitality, the integrating energy that co-ordinates the physical molecules and holds them together in a definite organism; it is the life-breath within the organism, the portion of the universal Life-Breath, appropriated by the organism during the span of existence that we speak of as "a life". Kama is the aggregate of appetites, passions, and emotions, common to man and brute. Manas is the Thinker in us, the Intelligence. Buddhi is the vehicle wherein Atma, the Spirit, dwells, and in which alone it can manifest.

Now the link between the Immortal Triad and the Perishable Quaternary is Manas, which is dual during earth life, or incarnation, and functions as Higher Manas and Lower Manas. Higher Manas sends out a Ray, Lower Manas, which works in and through the human brain, functioning there as brain-consciousness, as the ratiocinating intelligence. This mingles with Kama, the passional nature, the passions and emotions thus becoming a part of Mind, as defined in Western Psychology. And so we have the link formed between the higher and lower natures in man, this Kama-Manas belonging to the higher by its manasic, and to the lower by its kamic, elements. As this forms the battleground during life, so does it play an important part in post-mortem existence. We might now classify our seven principles a little differently, having in view this mingling in Kama-Manas of perishable and imperishable elements:


{ Atma.
{ Buddhi.
{ Higher-Manas.

Conditionally Immortal

{ Kama-Manas.


{ Prana.
{ Etheric Double.
{ Dense Body. (Annie Besant, DA, n.p.)

This view of human life is an essential part of the Esoteric Philosophy [i.e., Theosophy]. Man is primarily divine, a spark of the Divine Life. This living flame, passing out from the Central Fire, weaves for itself coverings within which it dwells, and thus becomes the Triad, the Atma-Buddhi-Manas, the reflection of the Immortal Self. This sends out its Ray, which becomes encased in grosser matter, in the desire body, or kamic elements, the passional nature, and in the etheric double and the physical body. (Annie Besant, DA, n.p.)

The Brotherhood of Humanity – nay, the Brotherhood of all things – has its sure foundation on the spiritual planes, the âtmic and buddhic, for here alone is unity, and here alone perfect sympathy is found. The intellect is the separative principle in man, that marks off the “ I “ from the “ not I ,” that is conscious of itself, and sees all else as outside itself and alien. It is the combative, struggling, self-assertive principle, and from the plane of the intellect downwards the world presents a scene of conflict, bitter in proportion as the intellect mingles in it. Even the passion-nature is only spontaneously combative when it is stirred by the feeling of desire and finds anything standing between itself and the object of its desires; it becomes more and more aggressive as the mind inspires its activity, for then it seeks to provide for the gratification of future desires, and tries to appropriate more and more from the stores of Nature.

But the intellect is spontaneously combative, its very nature being to assert itself as different from others, and here we find the root of separateness, the ever-springing source of divisions among men.

But unity is at once felt when the buddhic plane is reached, as though we stepped from a separate ray, diverging from all other rays, into the sun itself, from which radiate all the rays alike.

A being standing in the sun, suffused with its light, and pouring it forth, would feel no difference between ray and ray, but would pour forth along one as readily and easily as along another. And so with the man who has once consciously attained the buddhic plane; he feels the brotherhood that others speak of as an ideal, and pours himself out into any one who wants assistance, giving mental, moral, astral, physical help exactly as it is needed.

He sees all beings as himself, and feels that all he has is theirs as much as his; nay, in many cases, as more theirs than his, because their need is greater, their strength being less. So do the elder brothers in a family bear the family burdens, and shield the little ones from suffering and privation; to the spirit of brotherhood weakness is a claim for help and loving protection, not an opportunity for oppression.

Because They had reached this level and mounted even higher, the great Founders of religions have ever been marked by Their overwelling compassion and tenderness, ministering to the physical as well as to the inner wants of men, to every man according to his need. The consciousness of this inner unity, the recognition of the One Self dwelling equally in all, is the one sure foundation of Brotherhood; all else save this is frangible.

This recognition, moreover, is accompanied by the knowledge that the stage in evolution reached by different human and non-human beings depends chiefly on what we may call their age. Some began their journey in time very much later than others, and, though the powers in each be the same, some have unfolded far more of those powers than others, simply because they have had a longer time for the process than their younger brethren. As well blame and despise the seed because it is not yet a flower, the bud because it is not yet the fruit, the babe because it is not yet the man, and blame and despise the germinal and baby souls around us because they have not yet developed to the stage we ourselves occupy. We do not blame ourselves because we are not yet as Gods; in time we shall stand where our elder Brothers are standing.

Why should we blame the still younger souls who are not yet as we? The very word brotherhood connotes identity of blood and inequality of development; and it therefore represents exactly the link between all creatures in the universe – identity of the essential life, and difference in the stages reached in the manifestation of that life.

We are one in our origin, one in the method of our evolution, one in our goal, and the differences of age and stature but give opportunity for the growth of the tenderest and closest ties. All that a man would do for his brother of the flesh, dearer to him than himself, is the measure of what he owes to each who shares with him the one Life. Men are shut out from their brothers’ hearts by differences of race, of class, of country; the man who is wise by love rises above all these petty differences, and sees all drawing their life from the one source, all as part of his family.

The recognition of this Brotherhood intellectually, and the endeavour to live it practically, are so stimulative of the higher nature of man, that it was made the one obligatory object of the Theosophical Society, the single “article of belief” that all who would enter its fellowship must accept. To live it, even to a small extent, cleanses the heart and purifies the vision; to live it perfectly would be to eradicate all stain of separateness, and to let the pure shining of the Self irradiate us, as a light through flawless glass.

Never let it be forgotten that this Brotherhood is, whether men ignore it or deny it. Man’s ignorance does not change the laws of nature, nor vary by one hair’s breadth her changeless, irresistible march. Her laws crush those who oppose them, and break into pieces everything which is not in harmony with them. Therefore can no nation endure that outrages Brotherhood, no civilisation can last that is built on its antithesis. We have not to make brotherhood; it exists. We have to attune our lives into harmony with it, if we desire that we and our works shall not perish.

It may seem strange to some that the buddhic plane – a thing to them misty and unreal – should thus influence all planes below it, and that its forces should ever break into pieces all that cannot harmonise itself with them in the lower worlds. Yet so it is, for this universe is an expression of spiritual forces, and they are the guiding, moulding energies pervading all things, and slowly, surely, subduing all things to themselves.

Hence this Brotherhood, which is a spiritual unity, is a far more real thing than any outward organisation; it is a life and not a form, “wisely and sweetly ordering all things.” It may take innumerable forms, suitable to the times, but the life is one; happy they who see its presence, and make themselves the channels of its living force.

The student has now before him the constituents of the human constitution, and the regions to which these constituents respectively belong; so a brief summary should enable him to have a clear idea of this complicated whole.

The human Monad is Âtma-Buddhi-Manas, or, as sometimes translated, the Spirit, the Spiritual Soul, and Soul, of man. The fact that these three are but aspects of the Self makes possible man’s immortal existence, and though these three aspects are manifested separately and successively, their substantial unity renders it possible for the Soul to merge itself in the spiritual Soul, giving to the latter the precious essence of individuality, and for this individualised Spiritual Soul to merge itself in the Spirit, colouring it – if the phrase may be permitted with the hues due to individuality, while leaving uninjured its essential unity with all other rays of the LOGOS and with the LOGOS Himself.

These three form the seventh, sixth and fifth principles of man, and the materials which limit and encase them, i.e., which make their manifestation and activity possible, are drawn respectively from the fifth (nirvânic), the fourth (buddhic), and the third (mental), planes of our universe. The fifth principle further takes to itself a lower body on the mental plane, in order to come into contact with the phenomenal worlds, and thus intertwines itself with the fourth principle, the desire-nature, or Kâma, belonging to the second or astral plane.

Descending to the first, the physical plane, we have the third, second and first principles – the specialised life, or Prâna; the etheric double, its vehicle; the dense body, which contacts the coarser materials of the physical world. We have already seen that sometimes Prâna is not regarded as a “principle,” and then the interwoven desire and mental bodies take rank together as Kâma Manas; the pure intellect is called the Higher Manas, and the mind apart from desire Lower Manas.

The most convenient conception of man is perhaps that which most closely represents the facts as to the one permanent life and the various forms in which it works and which condition its energies, causing the variety in manifestation. Then we see the Self as the one Life, the source of all energies, and the forms as the buddhic, causal, mental, astral, and physical (etheric and dense) bodies. Putting together the two ways of looking at the same thing, we may construct a table:

- - - -
Atma Spirit Atma -
Buddhi Spiritual Soul - Bliss Body
Higher Manas Human Soul - Causal Body
Lower Manas Human Soul - Mental Body
Kama Animal Soul - Astral Body
Linga Sharira - - Etheric Double
Sthula Sharira - - Dense Body
* Linga Sharira was the name
originally given to the etheric body
and must not be confused with the
Linga Sharira of Hindu philosophy.
Sthula Sharira is the Sanskrit name
for the dense body.
- - -
- - - -

Those of our readers who are more familiar with
the Vedantin classification may find the following
two tables of the form side useful.
- -
Buddhic body Anandamayakosha
Causal body Vignyanamayakosha
Mental body Manomayakosha
Astral body Manomayakosha
Physical body - Etheric Pranamayakosha
Physical body - Dense Annamayakosha
- -

It will be seen that the difference is merely a question of names, and that the sixth, fifth, fourth, and third “principles” are merely Âtmâ working in the Buddhic, causal, mental and astral bodies, while the second and first “principles “ are the two lowest bodies themselves. This sudden change in the method of naming is apt to cause confusion in the mind of the student, and as H.P. Blavatsky, our revered teacher, expressed much dissatisfaction with the then current nomenclature as confused and misleading, and desired others and myself to try and improve it, the above names, as descriptive, simple, and representing the facts, are here adopted.

The various subtle bodies of man that we have now studied form in their aggregate what is usually called the “aura” of the human being. This aura has the appearance of an egg-shaped luminous cloud, in the midst of which is the dense physical body, and from its appearance it has often been spoken of as though it were nothing more than such a cloud. What is usually called the aura is merely such parts of the subtle bodies as extend beyond the periphery of the dense physical body; each body is complete in itself, and interpenetrates those that are coarser than itself; it is larger or smaller according to its development, and all that part of it that overlaps the surface of the dense body is termed the aura. The aura is thus composed of the overlapping portions of the etheric double, the desire body, the mental body, the causal body, and in rare cases the buddhic body, illuminated by the Âtmic radiance.

It is sometimes dull, coarse and dingy; sometimes magnificently radiant in size, light, and colour; it depends entirely on the stage of evolution reached by the man, on the development of his different bodies, on the moral and mental character he has evolved. All his varying passions, desires, and thoughts are herein written in form, in colour, in light, so that “he that runs may read” if he has eyes for such script. Character is stamped thereon as well as fleeting changes, and no deception is there possible as in the mask we call the physical body. The increase in size and beauty of the aura is the unmistakable mark of the man’s progress, and tells of the growth and purification of the Thinker and his vehicles. (Annie Besant, AW, 187-96.)

The Four Lower Principles

When man is analysed into “principles,” i.e., into modes of manifesting life, his four lower principles, termed the "lower Quaternary," are said to function on the astral and physical planes. The fourth principle is Kâma, desire, and it is the life manifesting in the astral body and conditioned by it ; it is characterised by the attribute of feeling, whether in the rudimentary form of sensation, or in the complex form of emotion, or in any of the grades that lie between. This is summed up as desire, that which is attracted or repelled by objects, according as they give pleasure or pain to the personal self.

The third principle is Prâna, the life specialised for the support of the physical organism. The second principle is the etheric double, and the first is the dense body. These three function on the physical plane. (Annie Besant, AW, 89.)

Pranamayakosa or Etheric Body

When the physical body is struck down by death, the etheric body, carrying Prâna with it and accompanied by the remaining principles – that is, the whole man, except the dense body – withdraws from the “tabernacle of flesh,” as the outer body is appropriately called. All the outgoing life-energies draw themselves inwards, and are “gathered up by Prâna,” their departure being manifested by the dullness that creeps over the physical organs of the senses. (Annie Besant, AW, 93.)

It is by means of the etheric double that the life-force, Prâna, runs along the nerves of the body and thus enables them to act as the carriers of motor force and of sensitiveness to external impacts. The powers of thought, of movement and of feeling are not resident in physical or ether nerve-substance; they are activities of the Ego working in his inner bodies, and the expression of them on the physical plane is rendered possible by the life-breath as it runs along the nerve-threads and round the nerve-cells; for Prâna, the life-breath, is the active energy of the Self, as Shrī Shankaracharya has taught us. The function of the etheric double is to serve as the physical medium for this energy, and hence it is often spoken of in our literature as the "vehicle of Prâna".(Annie Besant, MHB, 29.)

The etheric double is the ethereal counterpart of the gross body of man. It is the double that is sometimes seen during life in the neighbourhood of the body, and its absence from the body is generally marked by the heaviness or semi-lethargy of the latter. Acting as the reservoir, or vehicle, of the life-principle during earth-life, its withdrawal from the body is naturally marked by the lowering of all vital functions, even while the cord which unites the two is still unbroken. As has been already said, the snapping of the cord means the death of the body.

When the etheric double finally quits the body, it does not travel to any distance from it. Normally it remains floating over the body, the state of consciousness being dreamy and peaceful, unless tumultuous distress and violent emotion surround the corpse from which it has just issued. (Annie Besant, DA, n.p.)

Connections Between the Higher and Lower Bodies

First, what is meant by the Higher Life? I have used it in the widest sense of the term, for all manifestations of life above the physical. It would include the manifestation of man in the various worlds invisible to the eyes of the flesh - regions of which we speak by using the word “planes” - astral plane, manasic plane, buddhic plane, atmic plane, and whatever in the vast universe may lie beyond. (Annie Besant, LHL, 29.)

The Bodies According to Leadbeater

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

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

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

Vitality is a force which comes originally from the sun. When an ultimate physical atom is charged with it, it draws round itself six other atoms and makes itself into an etheric element. The original force of vitality is then subdivided into seven, each of the atoms carrying a separate charge. The element thus made is absorbed into the human body through the etheric part of the spleen. It is there split up into its component parts, which at once flow to the various parts of the body assigned to them. The spleen is one of the seven force-centers in the etheric part of the physical body. In each of our vehicles seven such centers should be in activity, and when they are thus active they are visible to clairvoyant sight. They appear usually as shallow vortices, for they are the points at which the force from the higher bodies enters the lower. In the physical body these centers are: (1) at the base of the spine, (2) at the solar plexus, (3) at the spleen, (4) over the heart, (5) at the throat, / (6) between the eyebrows, and (7) at the top of the head. There are other dormant centers, but their awakening is undesirable. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 59-61.)

Connections Between the Higher and Lower Bodies

This, then, is the true constitution of man. In the first place he is a Monad, a Spark of the Divine. Of that Monad the ego is a partial expression, formed in order that he may enter evolution, and may return to the Monad with joy, bringing his sheaves with him in the shape of qualities developed by garnered experience. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 61.)

The ego in his turn puts down part of himself for the same purpose into lower worlds, and we call that part a personality, because the Latin word persona / means a mask, and this personality is the mask which the ego puts upon himself when he manifests in worlds lower than his own. Just as the ego is a small part and an imperfect expression of the Monad, so is the personality a small part and an imperfect expression of the ego; so that what we usually think of as the man is only in truth a fragment of a fragment.

The personality wears three bodies or vehicles, the mental, the astral and the physical. While the man is what we call alive and awake on the physical earth he is limited by his physical body, for he uses the astral and mental bodies only as bridges to connect himself with his lowest vehicle. One of the limitations of the physical body is that it quickly becomes fatigued and needs periodical rest. Each night the man leaves it to sleep, and withdraws into his astral vehicle, which does not become fatigued, and therefore needs no sleep. During this sleep of the physical body the man is free to move about the astral world; but the extent to which he does this depends upon his development. The primitive savage usually does not move more than a few miles away from his sleeping physical form – often not as much as that; and he has only the vaguest consciousness. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 61-2.)

The shape of all the higher bodies as seen by the clairvoyant is ovoid, but the matter composing them is not equally distributed throughout the egg. In the midst of this ovoid is the physical body. The physical body strongly attracts astral matter, and in its turn the astral matter strongly attracts mental matter. Therefore by far the greater part of the matter of the astral body is gathered within the physical frame; and the same is true of the mental vehicle. If we see the astral body of a man in its own world, apart from the physical body, we shall still perceive the astral matter aggregated in exactly the shape of the physical, although, as the matter is more fluidic in its nature, what we see is a body built of dense mist, in the midst of an ovoid of much finer mist. The same is true for the mental body. Therefore, if in the astral or the mental world we should meet an acquaintance, we should recognize him by his appearance just as instantly as in the physical world. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 61.)

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

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

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

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

The permanent colors of the astral body reacts upon the mental. They produce in it their correspondences, several octaves higher, in the same manner as a musical note produces overtones. The mental body in its turn reacts upon the causal in the same way, and thus all the good qualities expressed in the lower vehicles by degrees establish themselves permanently in the ego. The evil qualities cannot do so, as the rates of vibration which express them are impossible for the higher mental matter of which the causal body is constructed. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 56-8.)

There are three ways in which the higher Self / is connected with the personality. The higher mind is reflected in the lower. The buddhi or intuition is reflected a stage lower than the mind, in the astral body. There is also the possibility of connection between atma and the physical brain. The last is the most difficult to understand; it shows tremendous power of will, which moves without consideration of the means by which its object is to be achieved. (C.W. Leadbeater in Annie Besant and Leadbeater, CLP, 45-6.)

The Self Dons Its Vestures

The individual, in his whole being, may be much superior to this limited presentation of himself with which he temporarily has to live. (Paul Beard, LO, 191.)

Rising from one level to another means that we are weaving our vestures of finer materials and can receive through them the contacts of finer worlds; and it means further that in the Self within these vestures diviner powers are waking from latency into activity, and are sending out their subtler thrills of life. (Annie Besant, AW, 129-30.)

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

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

Next he draws round himself a veil of astral matter, which we call his astral body; and that is the instrument of his passions and emotions, and also (in conjunction with the lower part of his mental body) / the instrument of all such thought as is tinged by selfishness and personal feeling. Only after having assumed these intermediate vehicles can he come into touch with a baby physical body, and be born into the world which we know. He lives through what we call his life, gaining certain qualities as the result of its experiences; and at its end, when the physical body is worn out, he reverses the process of descent and lays aside one by one the temporary vehicles which he has assumed. The first to go is the physical body, and when that is dropped, his life is centered in the astral world and he lives in his astral body. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 43-4.)

After a rest there, he feels the desire to descend to a level where the undulations / are perceptible to him, in order that he may feel himself to be fully alive; so he repeats the process of descent into denser matter, and assumes once more a mental, an astral and a physical body. As his previous bodies have all disintegrated, each in its turn, these new vehicles are entirely distinct from them, and thus it happens that in his physical life he has no recollection whatever of other similar lives which have preceded it.

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

This development of the ego is the object of the whole process of materialization; he assumes those veils of matter precisely because through them he is able / to receive vibrations to which he can respond, so that his latent faculties may thereby be unfolded. Though man descends from on high into these lower worlds, it is only through that descent that a full cognizance of the higher worlds is developed in him. Full consciousness in any given world involves the power to perceive and respond to all the undulations of that world; therefore the ordinary man has not yet perfect consciousness at any level – not even in this physical world which he thinks he knows. It is possible for him to unfold his percipience in all these worlds, and it is by means of such developed consciousness that we observe all these facts which I am now describing. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 44-6.)

The Self Doffs Its Vestures

When the physical body is struck down by death, the etheric body, carrying Prâna with it and accompanied by the remaining principles – that is, the whole man, except the dense body – withdraws from the “tabernacle of flesh,” as the outer body is appropriately called. All the outgoing life-energies draw themselves inwards, and are “gathered up by Prâna,” their departure being manifested by the dullness that creeps over the physical organs of the senses.

They are there, uninjured, physically complete, ready to act as they have always been ; but the “inner Ruler,” is going, he who through them saw, heard, felt, smelt, tasted, and by themselves they are mere aggregations of matter, living indeed but without power of perceptive action. Slowly the lord of the body draws himself away, enwrapped in the violet-grey etheric body, and absorbed in the contemplation of the panorama of his past life, which in the death hour rolls before him, complete in every detail. (Annie Besant, AW, 93-4.)

When [man has cast aside the astral body] he finds himself living in his mental body. The strength of that depends upon the nature of the thoughts to which he had habituated himself, and usually his stay at this level is a long one. At last it comes to an end, he casts aside the mental body in turn, and is once more the ego in his own world.

Owing to lack of development, he is as yet but partially conscious in that world; the vibrations of its matter are too rapid to make any impression upon him, just as the ultraviolet rays are too rapid to make any impression upon our eyes. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 44.)

Spiritual Evolution

What Accounts for Differences in Advancement?

How do [some] come to be so far in advance? Partly and in some cases because they have worked harder, but usually because they are older egos – because they were individualized out of the animal kingdom at an earlier date, and so have had more time for the human part of their evolution. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 125.)

Evolution Accounts for Differences in Time Spent on Various Planes

There is, then, no such thing as death as it is ordinarily understood. There is only a succession of stages in a continuous life – stages lived in the three worlds one after another. The apportionment of time between these three worlds varies much as man advances. The primitive man lives almost exclusively in the physical world, spending only a few years in the astral at the end of each of his physical lives. As he develops, the astral life becomes longer, and as intellect / unfolds in him, and he becomes able to think, he begins to spend a little time in the mental world as well. The ordinary man of civilized races remains longer in the mental world than in the physical and astral; indeed, the more a man evolves the longer becomes his mental life and the shorter his life in the astral world. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 64-5.)

The variations [in length of stay on the planes] in individual cases are so wide that to give actual figures is somewhat misleading. If we take the average man of / what is called the lower middle class, the typical specimen of which would be a small shopkeeper or shop-assistant, his average life in the astral world would be perhaps about forty years, and the life in the mental world about two hundred. The man of spirituality and culture, on the other hand, may have perhaps twenty years of life in the astral world and a thousand in the heaven life. One who is specially developed may reduce the astral life to a few days or hours and spend fifteen hundred years in heaven. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 65-6.)

Climbing the Ladder of Realization

And yet all this, which the man feels so intense¬ly when for the first time he touches the astral world, will be repeated with still stronger force of contrast when he transcends that world in turn, and opens himself out to the influences of the mental level. Then again he will feel that this is his first glimpse of actuality, and that even the most wonderful incidents of his astral life were to this but “as moonlight unto sunlight and as water unto wine”. Again and again this happens to him as he climbs the ladder of evolution and comes nearer and nearer to reality; for verily it is true, as the old books have said, that “Brahman is / bliss”, and ever as one approaches the realisation of Him that bliss increases. (Charles Leadbeater, MON, 35-6.)

It is at present our business to realise our¬selves as the ego; but when that is fully accom¬plished, when the lower is nothing but a perfect instrument in the hands of the higher, it will become our duty to realise that even the ego is not the true man. For the ego has had a beginning - it came into existence at the moment of individualisation; and whatever has a beginning must have an end. Therefore even the ego, which has lasted since we left the animal kingdom, is also impermanent. Is there then nothing in us that endures, nothing that will have no end? There is the Monad, the Divine Spark, which is verily a fragment of God, an atom of the Deity. Crude and inaccurate expressions, assuredly; yet I know of no other way in which the idea can be conveyed even as well as in words such as these. For each Monad is literally a part of God, apparently temporarily separated from Him, while he is enclosed in the veils of matter, though in truth never for one moment really separated. (Charles Leadbeater, MON, 17.)

So when the man rises to a somewhat higher level, and his principal activity becomes mental, there is danger lest he should identify himself with the mind, and it is only by realising himself as the ego, and making that the strongest point of his consciousness, that he can fully merge the personal¬ity in the individuality. When he has done that, he has achieved the goal of his present efforts; but immediately he must begin his work over again at that higher level, and try gradually to realise the truth of the position we laid down at the beginning, that as the personality is to the ego, so is the ego to the Monad. It is useless at our present stage to endeavour to indicate the steps which he will have to take in order to become a perfect expression of the Monad, or the stages of consciousness through which he will pass. Such conceptions as can be formed of them may be arrived at by applying the ancient rule that what is below is but a reflection of that which exists in higher worlds, so that the steps and the stages must to some extent be a repetition upon a higher level of those which have already been experienced in our lower efforts. (Charles Leadbeater, MON, 19.)

We, being Monads, belonging to an earlier wave, are somewhat fuller expressions of Him, somewhat nearer to Him in our consciousness than the essence out of which is made the desire-elemental. In the course of our evolution there is always a danger that a man should identify himself with the point at which he is most fully conscious. Most men at present are more conscious in their feelings and passions than anywhere else, and of this the desire-elemental craftily takes advantage, and endeavours to induce the man to identify himself with those desires and emotions. /

So when the man rises to a somewhat higher level, and his principal activity becomes mental, there is danger lest he should identify himself with the mind, and it is only by realising himself as the ego, and making that the strongest point of his consciousness, that he can fully merge the personal¬ity in the individuality. When he has done that, he has achieved the goal of his present efforts; but immediately he must begin his work over again at that higher level, and try gradually to realise the truth of the position we laid down at the beginning, that as the personality is to the ego, so is the ego to the Monad. It is useless at our present stage to endeavour to indicate the steps which he will have to take in order to become a perfect expression of the Monad, or the stages of consciousness through which he will pass. Such conceptions as can be formed of them may be arrived at by applying the ancient rule that what is below is but a reflection of that which exists in higher worlds, so that the steps and the stages must to some extent be a repetition upon a higher level of those which have already been experienced in our lower efforts. (Charles Leadbeater, MON, 18-9.)

Taking the ego for the moment as the real man, and looking at him on his own plane, we see him to be indeed a glorious being; the only way in which down here we can form a conception of what he really is, is to think of him as some splendid angel. But the expression of this beautiful being on the physical plane may fall far short of all this; indeed, it must do so - first, because it is only a tiny frag¬ment; and secondly, because it is so hopelessly cramped by its conditions. Suppose a man put his finger into a hole in the wall, or into a small iron pipe, so that he could not even bend it; how much of himself as a whole could he express through that finger in that condition? Much like this is the fate of that fragment of the ego which is put down into this dense body. It is so small a fragment that it cannot represent the, whole; it is so cramped and shut in that it cannot even express what it is. The image is clumsy, but it may give some sort of idea of the relation of the personality to the ego. (Charles Leadbeater, MON, 12.)

We may reverently presume (though here we are going far beyond actual knowledge) that when we have finally and fully realised that the Monad is the true man, we shall find behind that again a yet fur¬ther and more glorious extension; we shall find that the Spark has never been separated from the Fire, but that as the ego stands behind the personal¬ity, as the Monad stands behind the ego, so a Planetary Angel stands behind the Monad, and the / Solar Deity Himself stands behind the Planetary Angel. Perhaps, even further still, it may be that in some way infinitely higher, and so at present utterly incomprehensible, a greater Deity stands behind the Solar Deity, and behind even that, through many stages, there must rest the Supreme over all. But here even thought fails us, and silence is the only true reverence. (Charles Leadbeater, MON, 19-20.)

He can never be apart from God, for the very matter in which he veils himself is also a manifest¬ation of the Divine. To us sometimes matter seems evil, because it weighs us down, it clogs our / faculties, it seems to hold us back upon our road; yet remember that this is only because as yet we have not learned to control it, because we have not realised that it also is divine in its essence, because there is nothing but God. A Sufi sage once told me that this was his interpretation of the cry which rings out daily in the call of the muezzin from the minaret all over the Muhammadan world: “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the Prophet of God”. He told me that in his opinion the true mystical meaning of the first part of this cry was: “There is nothing but God”. And that is eternally true; we know that all comes from Him, and that to Him all will one day return, but we find it hard to realise that all is in Him even now, and that in Him it eternally abides. All is God - even the desire-elemental, and the things which we think of as evil; for many waves of life come forth from Him, and not all of them are moving in the same direction. (Charles Leadbeater, MON, 17-8.)

I have tried, by means of the illustra¬tions in Man, Visible and Invisible, to give some indication of one side of the aspect of these higher vehicles; but the illustrations are in reality abso¬lutely inadequate; they can give only faint adumbrations of the real thing. When anyone of our readers develops the astral sight, he may reasonably say to us, as the Queen of Sheba said to King Solomon: “The half was not told me”. He may say: “Here is all this glory and this beauty, which surrounds me in every direction and seems so entirely natural; it should be easy to give a better description of this”. But when, having seen and experienced all this, he returns to his physical body and tries to describe it in physical words, I think he will find much the same difficulties as we have done. (Charles Leadbeater, MON, 12.)

There are two lives which a man may live who has reached the condition where the fruit of action does not affect him. He may retire to the jungle to live in seclusion or he may be busy amid the affairs of men. If he is sufficiently evolved to work energetically in the mental or in the spiritual plane, that life of physical inaction may be the best; that man is helping the world much more than he could do amid the bustle of the world. Yet such a man will often be sent back by his Master to lead his last life in the world. He will then live a life untainted by action, will show in the world the example of true action, will lead a life of perfect activity with all the energy that the most ambitious man can show. (C.W. Leadbeater in Annie Besant and Leadbeater, CLP, 75.)

A Synopsis of Spiritual Evolution

So stupendous is the ascent up which some men have climbed, and some are climbing, that when we scan it by an effort of the imagination we are apt to recoil, wearied in thought by the mere idea of that long journey. From the embryonic soul of the lowest savage to the liberated and triumphant perfected spiritual soul of the divine man – it seems scarcely credible that the one can contain in it all that is expressed in the other, and that the difference is but a difference in evolution, that one is only at the beginning and the other at the end of man’s ascent.

Below the one stretch the long ranks of the sub-human – the animals, vegetables, minerals, elemental essences; above the other stretch the infinite gradations of the superhuman – the Chohans, Manus, Buddhas, Builders, Lipikas; who may name or number the hosts of the mighty Ones? Looked at thus, as a stage in a yet vaster life, the many steps within the human kingdom shrink into a narrower compass, and man’s ascent is seen as comprising but one grade in evolution in the linked lives that stretch from the elemental essence onwards to the manifested God.

We have traced man’s ascent from the appearance of the embryonic soul to the state of the spiritually advanced, through the stages of evolving consciousness from the life of sensation to the life of thought. We have seen him retread the cycle of birth and death in the three worlds, each world yielding him its harvest and offering him opportunities for progress. We are now in a position to follow him into the final stages of his human evolution, stages that lie in the future for the vast bulk of our humanity, but that have already been trodden by its eldest children, and that re being trodden by a slender number of men and women in our own day.

These stages have been classified under two headings – the first are spoken of as constituting “the probationary Path,” while the later ones are included in “the Path proper” or “ the Path of discipleship.” We will take them in their natural order.

As a man’s intellectual, moral, and spiritual nature develops, he becomes more and more conscious of the purpose of human life, and more and more eager to accomplish that purpose in his own person. Repeated longings for earthly joys, followed by full possession and by subsequent weariness, have gradually taught him the transient and unsatisfactory nature of earth’s best gifts; so often has he striven for, gained, employed, been satiated, and finally nauseated, that he turns away discontented from all that earth can offer. “What doth it profit?” sighs the wearied soul: “All is vanity and vexation. Hundreds, yea, thousands of times have I possessed, and finally have found disappointment even in possession.”

“These joys are illusions, as bubbles on a stream, fairy-coloured, rainbow-hued, but bursting at a touch. I am athirst for realities; I have had enough of shadows; I pant for the eternal and the true, for freedom from the limitations that hem me in, that keep me prisoner amid these changing shows.”

This first cry of the soul for liberation is the result of the realisation that, were this earth all that poets have dreamed it, were every evil swept away, every sorrow put an end to , every joy intensified, every beauty enhanced, were everything raised to its point of perfection, he would still be aweary of it, would turn from it void of desire. It has become to him a prison, and, let it be decorated as it may, he pants for the free and limitless air beyond its inclosing walls.

Nor is heaven more attractive to him than earth; of that too he is aweary; its joys have lost their attractiveness, even its intellectual and emotional delights no longer satisfy. They also “come and go, impermanent” like the contacts of the senses; they are limited, transient, unsatisfying. He is tired of the changing; from very weariness he cries out for liberty.

Sometimes this realisation of the worthlessness of earth and heaven is at first but a flash in consciousness, and the external worlds reassert their empire and the glamour of their illusive joys again laps the soul into content. Some lives even may pass, full of noble work and unselfish achievement, of pure thoughts and lofty deeds, ere this realisation of the emptiness of all that is phenomenal becomes the permanent attitude of the soul.

But sooner or later the soul once and for ever breaks with earth and heaven as incompetent to satisfy his needs, and this definite turning away from the transitory, this definite will to reach the eternal, is the gateway to the probationary Path. The soul steps off the highway of evolution to breast the steeper climb up the mountain side, resolute to escape from the bondage of earthly and heavenly lives, and to reach the freedom of the upper air.

The work which has to be accomplished by the man who enters on the probationary Path is entirely mental and moral; he has to bring himself up to the point at which he will fit to “meet his Master face to face”: but he very words “his Master” need explanation. There are certain great Beings belonging to our race who have completed Their human evolution, and to whom allusion has already been made as constituting a Brotherhood, and as guiding and forwarding the development of the race.

These Great Ones, the Masters, voluntarily incarnate in human bodies on order to form the connecting link between human and superhuman beings, and They permit those who fulfil certain conditions to become Their disciples, with the object of hastening their evolution and thus qualifying themselves to enter the great Brotherhood, and to assist in its glorious and beneficent work for man.

The Masters ever watch the race, and mark any who by the practice of virtue, by unselfish labour for human good, by intellectual effort turned to the service of man, by sincere devotion, piety, and purity, draw ahead of the mass of their fellows, and render themselves capable of receiving spiritual assistance beyond that shed down on mankind as a whole. If an individual is to receive special help he must show special receptivity.

For the Masters are the distributors of the spiritual energies that help on human evolution, and the use of these for the swifter growth of a single soul is only permitted when that soul shows a capacity for rapid progress and can thus be quickly fitted to become a helper of the race, returning to it the aid that had been afforded to himself. When a man, by his own efforts, utilising to the full all the general help coming to him through religion and philosophy, has struggled onwards to the front of the advancing human wave and when he shows a loving, selfless, helpful nature, then he becomes a special object of attention to the watchful Guardians of the race, and opportunities are put in his way to test his strength and call forth his intuition.In proportion as he successfully uses these, he is yet further helped, and glimpses are afforded to him of the true life, until the unsatisfactory and unreal nature of mundane existence presses more and more on the soul, with the result already mentioned – the weariness which makes him long for freedom and brings him to the gateway of the probationary Path.

His entrance on his Path places him in the position of a disciple or chelâ, on probation, and some one Master takes him under His care, recognising him as a man who has stepped out of the highway of evolution, and seeks the Teacher who shall guide his steps along the steep and narrow path which leads to liberation.

That Teacher is awaiting him at the very entrance of the Path, and even though the neophyte knows not his Teacher, his Teacher knows him, sees his efforts, directs his steps, leads him into the conditions that best subserve his progress, watching over him with the tender solicitude of a mother, and with the wisdom born of perfect insight. The road may seem lonely and dark, and the young disciple may fancy himself deserted, but a “friend who sticketh closer than a brother” is ever at hand, and the help withheld from the senses is given to the soul.

There are four definite “qualifications” that the probationary chelâā must set himself to acquire, that are by the wisdom of the great Brotherhood laid down as the conditions of full discipleship. They are not asked for in perfection, but they must be striven for and partially possessed ere Initiation is permitted.The first of these is the discrimination between the real and the unreal which has been already dawning on the mind of the pupil, and which drew him to the Path on which he is now entered; the distinctions grows clear and sharply defined in his mind, and gradually frees him to a great extent from the fetters which bind him, for the second qualification, indifference to external things, comes naturally in the wake of discrimination, from the clear perception of their worthlessness.

He learns that the weariness which took all the savour out of life was due to the disappointments constantly arising from his search for satisfaction in the unreal, when only the real can content the soul; that all forms are unreal and without stability, changing ever under the impulses of life, and that nothing is real but the one Life that we seek for and love unconsciously under its many veils. This discrimination is much stimulated by the rapidly changing circumstances into which a disciple is generally thrown, with the view of pressing on him strongly the instability of all external things.

The lives of a disciple are generally lives of storm and stress, in order that the qualities which are normally evolved in a long succession of lives in the three worlds may in him be forced into swift growth and quickly brought to perfection. As he alternates rapidly from joy to sorrow, from peace to storm, from rest to toil, he learns to see in the changes the unreal forms, and to feel through all a steady unchanging life. He grows indifferent to the presence or the absence or the absence of things that thus come and go, and more and more he fixes his gaze on the changeless reality that is ever present.

While he is thus gaining in insight and stability he works also at the development of the third qualification – the six mental attributes that are demanded from him ere he may enter on the Path itself. He need not possess them all perfectly, but he must have them all partially present at least ere he will be permitted to pass onward.

First he must gain control over his thoughts, the progeny of the restless, unruly mind, hard to curb as the wind. (Bhagavad Gitâ, vi. 34). Steady, daily practice in meditation, in concentration, had begun to reduce this mental rebel to order ere he entered on the probationary Path, and the disciple now works with concentrated energy to complete the task, knowing that the great increase in thought power that will accompany his rapid growth will prove a danger both to others and to himself unless the developing force be thoroughly under his control.

Better give a child dynamite as a plaything, than place the creative powers of thought in the hands of the selfish and ambitious. Secondly, the young chela must add outward self-control to inner, and must rule his speech and his actions as rigidly as he rules his thoughts. As the mind obeys the soul, so must the lower nature obey the mind. The usefulness of the disciple in the outer world depends as much on the pure and noble example set by his visible life, as his usefulness in the inner world depends on the steadiness and strength of his thoughts. Often is a good work marred by carelessness in this lower part of human activity, and the aspirant is bidden strive towards an ideal perfect in every part, in order that he may not later, when treading the Path, stumble in his own walk and cause the enemy to blaspheme.

As already said, perfection in anything is not demanded at this stage, but the wise pupil strives towards perfection, knowing that at his best he is still far away from his ideal.

Thirdly, the candidate for full discipleship seeks to build into himself the sublime and far-reaching virtue of tolerance – the quiet acceptance of each man, each form of existence, as it is, without demand that it should be something other shaped more to his own liking. Beginning to realise that the one Life takes on countless limitations, each right in its own place and times, he accepts each limited expression of that Life without wishing to transform it into something else; he learns to revere the wisdom which planned this world and which guides it, and to view with wide-eyed serenity the imperfect parts as they slowly work out their partial lives.

The drunkard, learning his alphabet of the suffering caused by the dominance of the lower nature, is doing as usefully in his own stage as is the saint in his, completing his last lesson in earth’s school, and no more can justly be demanded from either than he is able to perform. One is in the kindergarten stage, learning by object-lessons, while the other is graduating, ready to leave his university; both are right for their age and their place, and should be helped and sympathised with in their place.

This is one of the lessons of what is known in occultism as “tolerance.” Fourthly must be developed endurance, the endurance that cheerfully bears all and resents nothing, going straight onwards unswervingly to the goal. Nothing can come to him but by the Law, and he knows the Law is good. He understands that the rocky pathway that leads up the mountain-side straight to the summit cannot be as easy to his feet as the well-beaten winding highway.

He realises that he is paying in a few short lives all the karmic obligations accumulated during his past, and that the payments must be correspondingly heavy. The very struggle into which he is plunged develop in him the fifth attribute, faith – faith in his Master and in himself, a serene strong confidence that is unshakeable. He learns to trust in the wisdom, the love, the power of his Master, and he is beginning to realise – not only to say he believes in – the Divinity within his own heart, able to subdue all things to Himself. The last mental requisite, balance, equilibrium, grows up to some extent without conscious effort during the striving after the preceding five.

The very setting of the will to tread the Path is a sign that the higher nature is opening out, and that the external world is definitely relegated to a lower place. The continuous efforts to lead the life of discipleship disentangle the soul from any remaining ties that may knit it to the world of sense, for the withdrawal of the soul’s attention from lower objects gradually exhausts the attractive power of those objects. They “turn away from an abstemious dweller in the body,” (1) and soon lose all power to disturb this balance. Thus he learns to move amid them undisturbed, neither seeking nor rejecting any. He also learns to balance amid mental troubles of every kind, amid alternations of mental joy and mental pain, this balance being further taught by the swift changes already spoken of through which his life is guided by the ever-watchful care of his Master.

These six mental attributes being in some measure attained, the probationary chelâ needs further but the fourth qualification, the deep intense longing for liberation, that yearning of the soul towards union with deity that is the promise of its own fulfillment. This adds the last touch to his readiness to enter into full discipleship, for, once that longing has definitely asserted itself, it can never again be eradicated, and the soul that has felt it can never again quench his thirst at earthly fountains; their waters will ever taste flat and vapid when he sips them, so that he will turn away with ever-deepening longing for the true water of life.

At this stage he is “the man ready for Initiation,” ready to definitely “enter the stream” that cuts him off forever from the interests of earthly life save as he can serve his Master in them and help forward the evolution of the race. Henceforth his life is not to be the life of separateness; it is to be offered up on the altar of humanity, a glad sacrifice of all he is, to be used for the common good.

The student will be glad to have the technical names of these stages in Sanskrit and Pali, so that he may be able to follow them in more advanced books. (1) Viveka (Sanskrit): discrimination between the real and the unreal; (2) Vairagya (Sanskrit): Indifference to the unreal, the transitory; (3) Shatsampatti (Sanskrit): (1) Shama (Pali): control of thought; (b) Dama (Pali): control of conduct; Uparati (Pali): tolerance; Titiksha (Pali): endurance; Shraddha (Pali): faith; Sanaddgba (Pali): balance; (4) Mumuksha (Sanskrit): desire for liberation (the man is then the Adhikari).

During the years spent in evolving the four qualifications, the probationary chelâā will have been advancing in many other respects. He will have been receiving from his Master much teaching, teaching usually imparted during the deep sleep of the body; the soul, clad in the well-organised astral body, will have become used to it as a vehicle of consciousness, and will have been drawn to his Master – to receive instruction and spiritual illumination.

He will further have been trained in meditation, and this effective practice outside the physical body will have quickened and brought into active exercise many of the higher powers; during such meditation he will have reached higher regions of being, learning more of the life of the mental plane. He will have been taught to use his increasing powers in human service, and during many of the hours of sleep for the body he will have been working diligently on the astral plane, aiding the souls that have passed on to it by death, comforting the victims of accidents, teaching any less instructed than himself, and in countless ways helping those who needed it, thus in humble fashion aiding the beneficent work of the Masters, and being associated with Their sublime Brotherhood as a co-labourer in a however modest and lowly degree.

Either on the probationary Path or later, the chelâ is offered the privilege of performing one of those acts of renunciation which mark the swifter ascent of man. He is allowed “to renounce Devachan,” that is, to resign the glorious life in the heavenly places that awaits him on his liberation from the physical world, the life which in his case would mostly be spent in the middle arūpa world in the company of the Masters, and in all the sublime joys of the purest wisdom and love. If he renounce this fruit of his noble and devoted life, the spiritual forces that would have been expended in his Devachan are set free for the general service of the world, and he himself remains in the astral region to await a speedy rebirth upon earth.

His Master in this case selects and presides over his reincarnation, guiding him to take birth amid conditions conducive to his usefulness in the world, suitable for his further progress and for the work required at his hands. He has reached the stage at which every individual interest is subordinated to the divine work, and in which his will is fixed to serve in whatever way may be required of him. He therefore, gladly surrenders himself into the hands he trusts, accepting willingly and joyfully the place in the world in which he can best render service, and perform his share of the glorious work of aiding the evolution of humanity.

Blessed is the family into which a child is born tenanted by such a soul, a soul that brings with him the benediction of the Master and is ever watched and guided, every possible assistance being given him to bring his lower vehicles quickly under control. Occasionally, but rarely a chelâ may reincarnate in a body that has passed through infancy and extreme youth as the tabernacle of a less progressed Ego; when an Ego comes to the earth for a very brief life-period, say for some fifteen or twenty years, he will be leaving his body at the time of dawning manhood, when it has passed through the time of early training and is rapidly becoming an effective vehicle for the soul.

If such a body be a very good one, and some chelâ be awaiting a suitable reincarnation, it will often be watched during its tenancy by the Ego for whom it was originally built, with the view of utilising it when he has done with it; when the life-period of that Ego is completed, and he passes out of the body into Kāmaloka on his way to Devachan, his cast-off body will be taken possession of by the waiting chelâ, a new tenant will enter the deserted house, and the apparently dead body will revive. Such cases are unusual, but are not unknown to occultists, and some references to them may be found in occult books.

Whether the incarnation be normal or abnormal, the progress of the soul, of the chelâ himself, continues, and the period already spoken of is reached when he is “ready for Initiation”; through that gateway of Initiation he enters, as a definitely accepted chelâ, on the Path. This Path consists of four distinct stages, and the entrance into each is guarded by an Initiation. Each Initiation is accompanied by an expansion of consciousness which gives what is called “the key to knowledge” belonging to the stage to which it admits, and this key of knowledge is also a key of power, for truly is knowledge power in all the realms of Nature.

When the chelâ has entered the Path he becomes what has been called “the houseless man,” (2) for he longer looks on earth s this home – he has no abiding-place here, to him all places are welcome wherein he can serve his Master.

While he is on this stage of the Path there are three hindrances to progress, technically called “fetters,” which he has to get rid of, and now – as he is rapidly to perfect himself – it is demanded from him that he shall entirely eradicate faults of character, and perform completely the tasks belonging to his condition. The three fetters that he must loose from his limbs ere he can pass the second Initiation are: the illusion of the personal self, doubt, and superstition. The personal self must be felt in consciousness as an illusion, and must lose forever its power to impose itself on the soul as a reality.

He must feel himself one with all, all must live and breathe in him and he in all. Doubt must be destroyed, but by knowledge, not by crushing out; he must know reincarnation and karma and the existence of the Masters as facts; not accepting them as intellectually necessary, but knowing them as facts in Nature that he has himself verified, so that no doubt on these heads can ever again rise in his mind.

Superstition is escaped as the man rises into a knowledge of realities, and of the proper place of rites and ceremonies in the company of Nature; he learns to use every means and to be bound by none. When the chelâ has cast off these fetters – sometimes the task occupies several lives, sometimes it is achieved in part of a single life – he finds the second Initiation open to him, with its new “key of knowledge” and its widened horizon. The chelâ now sees before him a swiftly shortening span of compulsory life on earth, for when he has reached this stage he must pass through his third and fourth Initiations in his present life or in the next. (3)

In this stage he has to bring into full working order the inner faculties, those belonging to the subtle bodies, for he needs them for his service in the higher realms of being. If he has developed them previously, this stage may be a very brief one, but he may pass through the gateway of death once more ere he is ready to receive his third Initiation, to become “the Swan,” the individual who soars into the empyrean, that wondrous Bird of Life whereof so many legends are related. (4)

On this third stage of the Path the chelâ casts off the fourth and fifth fetters, those of desire and aversion; he sees the One self in all, and the outer veil can no longer blind him, whether it be fair or foul. He looks on all with an equal eye; that fair bud of tolerance that he cherished on the probationary Path now flowers out into an all-embracing love that wraps everything within its tender embrace. He is “the friend of every creature,” the “lover of all that lives” in a world where all things live.

As a living embodiment of divine love, he passes swiftly onwards to the fourth Initiation, that admits him to the last stage of the Path, where he is “beyond the Individual,” the worthy, the venerable. (5) Here he remains at his will, casting off the last fine fetters that still bind him with threads however fragile, and keep him back from liberation. He throws off all clinging to life in form, and then all longing for formless life; these are the chains and he must be chainless; he may move through the three worlds, but not a shred of theirs must have power to hold him; the splendours of the “formless world” must charm him no more than the concrete glories of the worlds of form. (6)

Then – mightiest of all achievements – he casts off the last fetter of separateness, the “I “ever making faculty (7) which realises itself as apart from others, for he dwells on the plane of unity in his waking consciousness, on the buddhic plane where the Self of all is known and realised as one. This faculty was born with the soul, is the essence of individuality, and it persists till all that is valuable in it is worked into the Monad, and it can be dropped on the threshold of liberation, leaving its priceless result to the Monad, that sense of individual identity which is so pure and fine that it does not mar the consciousness of oneness. Easily then drops away anything that could respond to ruffling contacts, and the chelâ stands robed in that glorious vesture of unchanging peace that naught can mar. And the casting away of that same “I-making” faculty has cleared away from the spiritual vision the last clouds that could dim its piercing insight, and in the realisation of unity, ignorance (8) the limitation that gives birth to all separateness – falls away, and the man is perfect, is free.

Then has come the ending of the Path, and the ending of the Path is the threshold to Nirvāna. Into that marvellous state of consciousness the chelâ has been wont to pass out of the body while he has been traversing the final stage of the Path; now, when he crosses the threshold, the nirvānic consciousness becomes his normal consciousness, for Nirvāna is the home of the liberated Self. (9) He has completed man’s ascent, he touches the limit of humanity; above him there stretch hosts of mighty Beings, but they are superhuman; the crucifixion in flesh is over, the hour of liberation has struck, and the triumphant “It is finished!” rings from the conqueror’s lips. See! – he has crossed the threshold, he has vanished into the light nirvānic, another son of earth has conquered death.

What mysteries are veiled by that light supernal we know not; dimly we feel that the Supreme Self is found, that lover and Beloved are one. The long search is over, the thirst of the heart is quenched forever, he has entered into the joy of his Lord.

But has earth lost her child, is humanity bereft of her triumphant son? Nay! He has come forth from the bosom of the light, and He standeth again on the threshold of Nirvāna, Himself seeming the very embodiment of that light, glorious beyond all telling, a manifested Son of God. But now His face is turned to earth, His eyes beam with divinest compassion on the wandering sons of men, His brethren after the flesh; He cannot leave them comfortless, scattered as sheep without a shepherd. Clothed in the majesty of a mighty renunciation, glorious with the strength of perfect wisdom and “power of an endless life,” He returns to earth to bless and guide humanity, Master of Wisdom, kingly Teacher, divine Man.

Returning thus to earth, the Master devotes Himself to the service of humanity with mightier forces at His command than He wielded while He trod the Path of discipleship; He has dedicated Himself to the helping of man, and He bends all the sublime powers that He holds to the quickening of the evolution of the world. He pays to those who are approaching the Path the debt He contracted in the days of His own chelāship, guiding, helping, teaching them as He was guided, helped, and taught before.

Such are the stages of man’s ascent, from the lowest savagery to the divine manhood. To such goal is humanity climbing, to such glory shall the race attain. (Annie Besant, AW, 321-42.)

Besant’s own footnotes: (1) Bhagavad Gitâ, ii, 59.
(2) The Hindus call this stage that of Parivrajaka, the wanderer; the Buddhist calls it that of Srotāpatti, he who has reached the stream. The chelâ is thus designated after his first Initiation and before his second.
(3) The chelâ on the second stage of the path is for the Hindu the Kutichaka, the man who builds a hut; he has reached a place of peace. For the Buddhist he is the Sakridāgāmin, the man who receives birth but once more.
(4) The Hamsa, he who realises “I am THAT,” in the Hindu terms; the Anāgāmin, the man who receives birth no more, in the Buddhist.
(5) The Hindu calls him the Paramahamsa, beyond the “ I “; the Buddhist names him the Arhat, the worthy.
(6) See Chapter IV, “The Mental Plane.”
(7) Ahamkāra, generally given as Māna, pride, since pride is the subtlest manifestation on the “I” as distinct from others.
(8) Avidyā, the first illusion and the last, that which makes the separated worlds – the first of the Nidānas – and that which drops off when liberation is attained.
(9) The Jivanmukta, the liberated life, of the Hindu; the Asekha, he who has no more to learn, of the Buddhist.

Ascending and Descending

The Process of Ascent

The Thinker ascending thither [i.e., to the sixth subdivision of the Mental Plane] – to use a phrase more suitable to the physical than to the mental plane – when the subtler matter of that region preponderates in him, and thus necessitates the change; there is of course, no “ascending,” no change of place, but he receives the vibrations of that subtler matter, being able to respond to them, and he himself is able to send out forces that throw its rare particles into vibration.

The student should familiarise himself with the fact that rising in the scale of evolution does not move him from place to place, but renders him more and more able to receive impressions. Every sphere is around us, the astral, the mental, the buddhic, the nirvânic, and worlds higher yet, the life of the supreme God; we need not stir to find them, for they are here; but our dull unreceptivity shuts them out more effectively than millions of miles of mere space.

We are conscious only of that which affects us, which stirs us to responsive vibration, and as we become more and more receptive, as we draw into ourself finer and finer matter, we come into contact with subtler and subtler worlds. Hence, rising from one level to another means that we are weaving our vestures of finer materials and can receive through them the contacts of finer worlds; and it means further that in the Self within these vestures diviner powers are waking from latency into activity, and are sending out their subtler thrills of life. (Annie Besant, AW, 129-30.)

The Process of Voluntary Descent

Be it remembered, then, that when spirit resting on any plane (it matters not which – let us call it plane No. 1) wills to descend to the plane next below (let us call that plane No. 2) it must enfold itself in the matter of that plane – that is to say, it must draw round itself a veil of the matter of plane No. 2.

Similarly when it continues its descent to plane No. 3, it must draw round itself the matter of that plane, and we shall then have, say, an atom whose body or outer covering consists of the matter of plane No. 3. The force energizing in it – its soul, so to speak – will however not be spirit in the condition in which it was on plane No. 1, but will be that divine force plus the veil of the matter of plane No. 2. When a still further descent is made to plane No. 4, the atom becomes still more complex, for it will then have a body of No. 4 matter, ensouled by spirit already twice veiled – in the matter of planes 2 and 3. It will be seen that, since this process repeats itself for every sub-plane of each plane of the solar system, by the time the original force reaches our physical level it is so thoroughly veiled that it is small wonder men often fail to recognize it as spirit at all. (Charles Leadbeater, AP, 93-4.)