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Between And Beyond Incarnations








One of the first questions usually asked by students of the subject of
Reincarnation is: "Where does the soul dwell between incarnations; does
it incarnate immediately after death; and what is its final abode or
state?" This question, or questions, have been asked from the beginning,
and probably will be asked so long as the human mind dwells upon the
subject. And many are the answers that have been given to the
questioners by the teachers and "authorities" upon the subject. Let us
consider some of the leading and more "authoritative" answers.

In the first place, let us consider that phase of the question which
asks: "Does the soul incarnate immediately after death?" Some of the
earlier Reincarnationists believed and taught that the soul
reincarnated shortly after death, the short period between incarnations
being used by the soul in adjusting itself, striking a balance of
character, and preparing for a new birth. Others held that there was a
period of waiting and rest between incarnations, in which the soul
'mentally digested' the experiences of the last life just completed, and
then considered and meditated over the mistakes it had made, and
determined to rectify the mistakes in the next life--it being held that
when the soul was relieved of the necessities of material existence, it
could think more clearly of the moral nature of its acts, and would be
able to realize the spiritual side of itself more distinctly, in
addition to having the benefit of the spiritual perspective occasioned
by its distance from the active scenes of life, and thus being able to
better gauge the respective "worth-whileness" of the things of material
life.

At the present time, the most advanced students of the subject hold that
the average period of rest between incarnations is about fifteen hundred
years, the less advanced souls hastening back to earth in a very short
time, the more advanced preferring a long period of rest, meditation and
preparation for a new life. It is held that the soul of a gross,
material, animal-like person will incarnate very shortly after death,
the period of rest and meditation being very short, for the reason that
there is very little about which such a soul could meditate, as all of
its attractions and desires are connected with material life. Many souls
are so "earth-bound" that they rush back at once into material
embodiment if the conditions for rebirth are favorable, and they are
generally favorable for there seems to be always an abundant supply of
new bodies suitable for such souls in the families of people of the same
character and nature, which afford congenial opportunities for such a
soul to reincarnate. Other souls which have progressed a little further
along the path of attainment, have cultivated the higher part of
themselves somewhat, and enjoy to a greater extent the period of
meditation and spiritual life afforded them. And so, as the scale
advances--as the attraction for material life grows less, the period of
purely spiritual existence between incarnations grows longer, and it is
said that the souls of persons who are highly developed spiritually
sometimes dwell in the state of rest for ten thousand years or more,
unless they voluntarily return sooner in order to take part in the work
of uplifting the world. It must be remembered, in this connection, that
the best teaching is to the effect that the advanced souls are rapidly
unfolding into the state in which they are enabled to preserve
consciousness in future births, instead of losing it as is the usual
case, and thus they take a conscious part in the selection of the
conditions for rebirth, which is wisely denied persons of a more
material nature and less spiritual development.

The next phase of the question: "Where does the soul dwell between
incarnations?" is one still more difficult of answer, owing to the
various shades of opinion on the subject. Still there is a fundamental
agreement between the different schools, and we shall try to give you
the essence or cream of the thought on the subject. In the first place,
all occultists set aside any idea of there being a "place" in which the
souls dwell--the existence of "states" or "planes of existence" being
deemed sufficient for the purpose. It is held that there are many planes
of existence in any and every portion of space, which planes
interpenetrate each other, so that entities dwelling on one plane
usually are not conscious of the presence of those on another plane.
Thus, an inhabitant of a high plane of being, in which the vibrations of
substance are much higher than that which we occupy, would be able to
pass through our material world without the slightest knowledge of its
existence, just as the "X rays" pass through the most solid object, or
as light passes through the air. It is held that there are many planes
of existence much higher than the one we occupy, and upon which the
disembodied souls dwell. There are many details regarding these planes,
taught by the different schools of occultism, or spiritualism, but we
have neither the time nor space to consider them at length, and must
content ourselves with mentioning but a few leading or typical beliefs
or teachings on the subject.

The Theosophists teach that just when the soul leaves the body, there
occurs a process of psychic photography in which the past life, in all
of its details, is indelibly imprinted on the inner substance of the
soul, thus preserving a record independent of the brain, the latter
being left behind in the physical body. Then the Astral Body, or Etheric
Double, detaches itself from the body, from which the Vital Force, or
Prana-Jiva also departs at the same time, the Astral Body enfolding also
the four other principles, and together the Five Surviving Principles
pass on to the plane of Kama Loka, or the Astral Plane of Desire. Kama
Loka is that part of the Astral Plane nearest to the material plane, and
is very closely connected with the latter. If the soul is filled with
hot and earnest desire for earth life, it may proceed no further, but
may hasten back to material embodiment, as we said a moment ago. But if
the soul has higher aspirations, and has developed the higher part of
itself, it presses on further, in which case the Astral Body, and the
Animal Soul which is the seat of the passions and grosser desires,
disintegrate, and thus release the Triad, or three-fold higher nature of
the soul, namely the higher human soul, the spiritual soul, and the
spirit--or as some term them, the intellect, the spiritual mind, and the
spirit. The Triad then passes on to what is known as the plane of
Devachan, where it rests divested of the lower parts of its nature, and
in a state of bliss and in a condition in which it may make great
progress by reason of meditation, reflection, etc. Kama Loka has been
compared to the Purgatory of the Catholics, which it resembles in more
ways than one, according to the Theosophists. Devachan is sometimes
called the Heaven World by Theosophists, the word meaning "the state or
plane of the gods."

Theosophy teaches that the Soul Triad dwells in Devachan "for a period
proportionate to the merit of the being," and from whence in the proper
time "the being is drawn down again to be reborn in the world of
mortals." The Law of Karma which rules the earth-life of man, and which
regulates the details of his rebirth, is said to operate on the
Devachnic Plane as well, thus deciding the time of his abode on that
plane, and the time when the soul shall proceed to rebirth. The state of
existence in Devachan is described at length in the Theosophical
writings, but is too complex for full consideration here. Briefly
stated, it may be said that it is taught that the life on Devachan is in
the nature of a Dream of the Best that is In Us--that is, a condition in
which the highest that is in us is given a chance for expression and
growth, and development. The state of the soul in Devachan is said to be
one of Bliss, the degree depending upon the degree of spiritual
development of the soul, as the Bliss is of an entirely spiritual
nature. It may be compared to a state of people listening to some
beautiful music--the greater the musical development of the person, the
greater will be his degree of enjoyment. It is also taught that just as
the soul leaves Devachan to be reincarnated, it is given a glimpse of
its past lives, and its present character, that it may realize the
Karmic relations between the cause and effect, to the end that its new
life may be improved upon--then it sinks into a state of unconsciousness
and passes on to rebirth.

The Western school of the Yogi Philosophy gives an idea of the state
between incarnations, somewhat eclectic in its origin, agreeing with the
Theosophical teaching in some respects, and differing from it in others.
Let us take a hasty glance at it. In the first place it does not use the
terms "Kama Loca" and "Devachan" respectively, but instead treats the
whole series of planes as the great "Astral World" containing many
planes, divisions, and subdivisions--many sub-planes, and divisions of
the same. The teaching is that the soul passes out of the body, leaving
behind its physical form, together with its Prana or Vital Energy, and
taking with it the Astral Body, the Instructive Mind, and the higher
principles. The "last vision" of the past life, in which the events of
that life are impressed upon the soul just as it leaves the body, is
held to be a fact--the soul sees the past life as a whole, and in all of
its minutest details at the moment of death, and it is urged that the
dying person should be left undisturbed in his last moments for this
reason, and that the soul may become calm and peaceful when starting on
its journey. On one of the Astral Planes the soul gradually discards its
Astral Body and its Instinctive Mind, but retains its higher vehicles or
sheaths. But it is taught that this discarding of the lower sheaths
occurs after the soul has passed into a "soul-slumber" on a sub-plane of
the Astral World, from which it awakens to find itself clothed only in
its higher mental and spiritual garments of being, and free from the
grosser coverings and burdens. The teachings say: "When the soul has
cast off the confining sheaths, and has reached the state for which it
is prepared, it passes to the plane in the Astral World for which it is
fitted, and to which it is drawn by the Law of Attraction. The planes of
the Astral World interpenetrate, and souls dwelling on one plane are not
conscious of those dwelling on another, nor can they pass from one plane
to another, with this exception--that those dwelling on a higher plane
are able to see (if they so desire) the planes below them in the order
of development, and are also able to visit these lower planes if they so
desire. But those on the lower planes are not able to either see or
visit the planes above them--not that there is a 'watchman at the gate'
to prevent them, but for the same reason that a fish is not able to pass
from the water to the plane of air above that water." The same teachings
tell us that the souls on the higher planes often visit friends and
relatives on the lower, so that there is always the opportunity for
loved ones, relatives and friends meeting in this way; and also many
souls on the higher planes pass to the lower planes in order to instruct
and advise those dwelling on the latter, the result that in some cases
there may be a progression from a lower to a higher plane of the Astral
World by promotion earned by this instruction. Regarding Rebirth, from
the Astral World, the teachings say:

"But sooner or later, the souls feel a desire to gain new experiences,
and to manifest in earth-life some of the advancement which has come to
them since 'death,' and for these reasons, and from the attraction of
desires which have been smoldering there, not lived out or cast off, or,
possibly influenced by the fact that some loved soul, on a lower plane,
is ready to incarnate and wishing to be incarnated at the same time in
order to be with it (which is also a desire) the souls fall into the
current sweeping toward rebirth, and the selection of proper parents and
advantageous circumstances and surrounding, and in consequence again
fall into a soul-slumber, gradually, and so when their time comes they
'die' to the plane upon which they have been existing and are 'born'
into a new physical life and body. A soul does not fully awaken from its
sleep immediately at birth, but exists in a dream-like state during the
days of infancy, its gradual awakening being evidenced by the growing
intelligence of the babe, the brain of the child keeping pace with the
demands made upon it. In some cases the awakening is premature, and we
see cases of prodigies, child-genius, etc., but such cases are more or
less abnormal, and unhealthy. Occasionally the dreaming soul in the
child half-wakes, and startles us by some profound observation, or
mature remark or conduct."

The third phase of the question: "What is the final state or abode of
the soul?" is one that reaches to the very center or heart of
philosophical and religious thought and teaching. Each philosophy and
religion has its own explanation, or interpretation of the Truth, and it
is not for us to attempt to select one teaching from the many in this
work. The reader will find many references to these various explanations
and teachings as he reads the several chapters of this book, and he may
use his own discrimination and judgment in selecting that which appeals
to him the most strongly. But he will notice that there is a fundamental
agreement between all of the teachings and beliefs--the principle that
the movement of the soul is ever upward and onward, and that there is no
standing still in spiritual development and unfoldment. Whether the
end--if end there be--is the reaching of a state of Bliss in the
presence of the Divine One--or whether the weary soul finds rest "in the
Bosom of the Father," by what has been called "Union with God"--the
vital point for the evolving soul is that there is "a better day
coming"--a haven of rest around the turn of the road. And whatever may
be the details of the Truth, the fact remains that whatever state awaits
the soul finally, it must be Good, and in accordance with Divine Wisdom
and Ultimate Justice and Universal Love.

The majority of occultists look forward to an end in the sense of being
absorbed in the Divine Being, not in the sense of annihilation, but in
the sense of reaching a consciousness "of the Whole in the Whole"--this
is the true meaning of "Nirvana." But whether this be true, or whether
there is a place of final rest in the highest spiritual realms other
than in the sense of absorption in the Divine, or whether there is a
state of Eternal Progression from plane to plane, from realm to realm,
on and on forever Godward, and more and more God-like--the End must be
Good, and there is nothing to Fear, for "the Power that rules Here,
rules There, and Everywhere. And remember this, ye seekers after
ultimate truths--the highest authorities inform us that even the few
stages or planes just ahead of us in the journey are so far beyond our
present powers of conception, that they are practically unknowable to
us--this being so, it will be seen that states very much nearer to us
than the End must be utterly beyond the powers not only of our
understanding but also of our imagination, even when strained to its
utmost. This being so, why should we attempt to speculate about The End?
Instead, why not say with Newman:

"I do not ask to see the distant scene.
One step enough for me--
Lead Thou me on!"

It is said that when Thoreau was dying, a friend leaned over and taking
him by the hand, said: "Henry, you are so near to the border now, can
you see anything on the other side?" And the dying Thoreau replied: "One
world at a time, Parker!" And this seems to be the great lesson of
Life--One Plane at a Time! But though the Veil of Isis is impossible of
being lifted entirely, still there is a Something that enables one to
see at least dimly the features of the Goddess behind the veil. And that
Something is that Intelligent Faith that "knows," although it is unable
to explain even to itself. And the voice of that Something Within
informs him who has that Faith: All Is Well, Brother! For beyond planes,
and states, and universes, and time, and space, and name, and form, and
Things--there must be THAT which transcends them all, and from which
they all proceed. Though we may not know what THAT is--the fact that It
must exist--that It IS, is a sufficient guarantee that the LAW is in
constant operation on all planes, from the lowest to the highest, and
that THE COSMOS IS GOVERNED BY LAW! And this being so, not even an atom
may be destroyed, nor misplaced, nor suffer Injustice; and all will
attain the End rightly, and know the "Sat-chit-ananda" of the
Hindus--the Being-Wisdom-Bliss Absolute that all philosophies and
religions agree upon is the Final State of the Blessed. And to the
occultist All are Blessed, even to the last soul in the scale of life.
And over all the tumult and strife of Life there is always that
Something--THAT--silently brooding, and watching, and waiting--the Life,
Light, and Love of the All. Such is the message of the Illumined of all
ages, races, and lands. Is it not worthy of our attention and
consideration?





Next: The Justice Of Reincarnation

Previous: The Modern West



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