The Mental Plane
Last revised: 6 August 2008
- 1 The Mental Plane is the Heaven World
- 2 The Seven Subplanes of the Mental Plane
- 3 Total Sojourn on the Mental Plane
- 4 Preparing to Reincarnate
The Mental Plane is the Heaven World
Ed. Also known as the Devachan and Sukhvati.
General Discussions of the Mental Plane
Devachan, the happy or bright state, is the Theosophical name for heaven. (Annie Besant, AW, 64n.)
When the separation of the principles is complete, the astral life of the person is over, and, as before stated, he passes into the mental condition. (Charles Leadbeater, AP, 67.)
The astral plane [is] the lower part of the vast unseen world in the midst of which we live and move unheeding. ... The stage next above that [is] the mental plane or the heaven world, often spoken of in our Theosophical literature as that of the Devachan or Sukhavati. (Charles Leadbeater, DP, 1.)
If they have died recently, then you will find them on the astral plane; if they have died long ago, you will find them in the heaven-life. (Charles Leadbeater, LAD, 21.)
The mental plane, as its name implies, is that which belongs to consciousness working as thought; not of the mind as it works through the brain, but as it works in its own world, unencumbered with physical spirit-matter. This world is the world of the real man. The word "man" comes from the Sanskrit root "man" and this is the root of the Sanskrit verb "to think," so that man means thinker; he is named by his most characteristic attribute, intelligence.
In English the word "mind" has to stand for the intellectual consciousness itself, and also for the effects produced on the physical brain by the vibration of that consciousness; but we have now to conceive of the intellectual consciousness as an entity, an individual - a being, the vibrations of whose life are thoughts, thoughts which are images, not words.
This individual is Manas or the Thinker. Derived from Manas is the technical name, the mânasic plane, [rendered into English] as "mental." We might call it the plane of the mind proper, to distinguish its activities from those of the mind working in the flesh. [This individual] is the Self, clothed in the matter, and working within the conditions, of the higher subdivisions of the mental plane. (Annie Besant, AW, 118-9.)
The mental plane is that which is next to the astral, and is separated from it only by differences of materials, just as the astral is separated from the physical. In fact, we may repeat what was said as to the astral and the physical with regard to the mental and the astral. Life on the mental plane is more active than on the astral, and form is more plastic. The spirit-matter of that plane is more highly vitalised and finer than any grade of matter in the astral world. The ultimate atom of astral matter has innumerable aggregations of the coarsest mental matter for its encircling sphere-world, so that the disintegration of the astral atom yields a mass of mental matter of the coarsest kinds. Under these circumstances it will be understood that the play of the life-forces on this plane will be enormously increased in activity, there being so much less mass to be moved by them.
As to the ordinary mortal his bliss in Devachan is complete. It is an absolute oblivion of all that gave it pain or sorrow in the past incarnation, and even oblivion of the fact that such things as pain or sorrow exist at all. The Devachani lives its intermediate cycle between two incarnations surrounded by everything it had aspired to in vain, and in the companionship of everything it loved on earth. It has reached the fulfilment of all its soul-yearnings. And thus it lives throughout long centuries an existence of unalloyed happiness, which is the reward for its sufferings in earth-life. In short, it bathes in a sea of uninterrupted felicity spanned only by events of still greater felicity in degree. (H.P. Blavatsky, KTT, 100, cited by Annie Besant, DA, n.p.)
The matter is in constant ceaseless motion, taking form under every thrill of life, and adapting itself without hesitation to every changing motion. "Mind-stuff," as it has been called, makes astral spirit-matter seem clumsy, heavy, and lustreless, although compared with the physical spirit-matter it is so fairy-light and luminous. But the law of analogy holds good, and gives us a clue to guide us through this super astral region, the region that is our birthplace and our home, although, imprisoned in a foreign land, we know it not, and gaze at descriptions of it with the eyes of aliens. (Annie Besant, AW, 120-1.)
The mental plane upon which the heaven-life takes place, is the third of the five great planes with which humanity is at present concerned, having below it the astral and the physical, and above it the buddhic and the nirvânic. It is the plane upon which man, unless at an exceedingly early stage of his progress, spends by far the greater part of his time during the process of evolution; for, except in the case of the entirely undeveloped, the proportion of the physical life to the celestial is rarely much greater than one in twenty, and in the case of fairly good people it would sometimes fall as low as one in thirty. It is, in fact, the true and permanent home of the reincarnating ego or soul of man, each descent into incarnation being merely a short though important episode in his career. It is therefore well worth our while to devote to its study such time and care as may be necessary to acquire as thorough a comprehension of it as is possible for us while encased in the physical body. (Charles Leadbeater, DP, 6-7.)
All religions agree in declaring the existence of heaven and in stating that the enjoyment of its bliss follows upon a well-spent earthly life. Christianity and Islam speak of it as a reward assigned by God to those who have pleased him, but most other faiths describe it rather as the necessary result of the good life, exactly as we should from the theosophical point of view. (Charles Leadbeater, LAD, 23.)
Heaven is not a place, but a state of consciousness. If you ask me 'Where is heaven?' I must answer you that it is here - round you at this very moment, near to you as the air you breath. The light is all about you, as the Buddha said so long ago; you have only to cast the bandage from your eyes and look. But what is this casting away of a bandage? Of what is it symbolical?
It is simply a question of raising the consciousness to a higher level, of learning to focus it in the vehicle of finer matter. I have already spoken of the possibility of doing this with regard to the astral body, thereby seeing the astral world; this needs simply a further stage of the same process, the raising of consciousness to the mental plane, for man has a body for that level also, through which he may receive its vibrations, and so live in the glowing splendour of heaven while still possessing a physical body ___ though indeed after such an experience he will have little relish for the return to the latter.
The ordinary man reaches this state of bliss only after death, and not immediately after it except in very rare cases. ...
Perhaps the most comprehensive opening statement [in a description of this plane] is that this is the plane of the Divine Mind, that here we are in the very realm of thought itself, and that everything that man possibly could think is here in vivid living reality. We labour under a great disadvantage from our habit of regarding material things as real, and those which are not material as dream-like and therefore unreal; whereas the fact is that everything which is material is buried and hidden in this matter, and so whatever of reality it may possess is far less obvious and recognizable than it would be when regarded from a higher standpoint. So that when we hear of a world of thought, we immediately think of an unreal world, built out of 'such stuff as dreams are made of, as the poet says.
Try to realize that when a man leaves his physical body and opens his consciousness to astral life, his first sensation is of the intense vividness and reality of that life, so that he thinks 'Now for the first time I know what it is to live'. But when in turn he leaves that life for the higher one, he exactly repeats the same experience, for this life is in turn so much fuller and wider and more intense than the astral that once more no comparison is possible. And yet there is another life beyond all this, unto which even this is but as moonlight unto sunlight; but it is useless at present to think of that.
There may be many to whom it sounds absurd that a realm of thought should be more real than the physical world; well, it must remain so for them until they have some experience of a life higher than this, and then in one moment they will know far more than any words can ever tell them.
On this plane, then, we find existing the infinite fullness of the Divine Mind, open in all its limitless affluence to every soul, just in proportion as that soul has qualified himself to receive. If man had already completed his destined evolution, if he had fully realized and unfolded the divinity whose germ is within him, the whole of this glory would be within his reach; but since none of us has yet done that, since we are only gradually rising towards that splendid consummation, it comes that none as yet can grasp that entirely, but each draws from it and cognizes only so much as he has by previous effort prepared himself to take. Different individuals bring very different capabilities; as the eastern simile has it, each man brings his own cup, and some of the cups are large and some are small, but small or large, every cup is filled to its utmost capacity; the sea of bliss holds far more than enough for all.
All religions have spoken of this bliss of heaven, yet few of them have put before us with sufficient clearness and precision this leading idea which alone explains rationally how for all alike such bliss is possible - which is, indeed, the keynote of the conception - the fact that each man makes his own heaven by selection from the ineffable splendours of the Thought of God Himself. A man decides for himself both the length and character of his heaven-life by the causes which he himself generates during his earth-life; therefore he cannot but have exactly the amount which he has deserved, and exactly the quality of joy which is best suited to his idiosyncrasies, for this is a world in which every being must, from the very fact of his consciousness there, be enjoying the highest spiritual bliss of which he is capable - a world whose power of response to his aspirations is limited only by his capacity to aspire. (Charles Leadbeater, LAD, 25-8.)
We left the soul asleep, (See Chapter III, On Kâmaloka, Page 83) having shaken off the last remains of his astral body, ready to pass out of Kâmaloka into Devachan, out of purgatory into heaven. The sleeper awakens to a sense of joy unspeakable, of bliss immeasurable, of peace that passeth understanding. Softest melodies are breathing round him, tenderest hues greet his opening eyes, the very air seems music and colour, the whole being is suffused with light and harmony.
Then through the golden haze dawn sweetly the faces loved on earth, etherialised into the beauty which expresses their noblest, loveliest emotions, unmarred by the troubles and the passions of the lower worlds. Who may tell the bliss of that awakening, the glory of that first dawning of the heaven-world? (Annie Besant, AW, 163-4.)
A man who has led a good and pure life, whose strongest feelings and aspirations have been unselfish and spiritual, will have no attraction to this [astral] plane, and will, if entirely left alone, find little to keep him upon it, or to awaken him into activity even during the comparatively short period of his stay. For it must be understood that after death the true man is withdrawing into himself, and just as at the first step of that process he casts off the physical body, and almost directly afterwards the etheric double, so it is intended that he should as soon as possible cast off also the astral or desire body, and pass into the heaven-world, where alone his spiritual aspirations can bear their perfect fruit.
The noble and pure-minded man will be able to do this, for he has subdued all earthly passions during life; the force of his will has been directed into higher channels, and there is therefore but little energy of lower desire to be worked out on the astral plane. His stay there will consequently be short, and most probably he will have little more than a dreamy half-consciousness of existence until he sinks into the sleep during which his higher principles finally free themselves from the astral envelope and enter upon the blissful life of the heaven-world.
For the person who has not as yet entered upon the path of occult development, what has been described is the ideal state of affairs, but naturally it not attained by all, or even by the majority. (Charles Leadbeater, AP, 48-9.)
The mental plane is that which reflects the Universal Mind in Nature, the plane which in our little system corresponds with that of the Great Mind in the Kosmos. (Mahat, the Third LOGOS, or Divine Creative Intelligence, the Brahmâ of the Hindus, the Mandjusri of the Northern Buddhists, the Holy Spirit of the Christians.) In its higher regions exist all the archetypal ideas which are now in course of concrete evolution, and in its lower the working out of these into successive forms, to be duly reproduced in the astral and physical worlds.
Its materials are capable of combining under the impulse of thought vibrations, and can give rise to any combination which thought can construct; as iron can be made into a spade for digging or into a sword for slaying, so can mind-stuff be shaped into thought-forms that help or injure; the vibrating life of the Thinker shapes the materials around him, and according to his volitions so is his work. In that region thought and action, will and deed, are one and the same thing - spirit-matter here becomes the obedient servant of the life, adapting itself to every creative motion.
These vibrations, which shape the matter of the plane into thought-forms, give rise also from their swiftness and subtlety to the most exquisite and constantly changing colours, waves of varying shades like the rainbow hues of mother-of-pearl, etherialised and brightened to an indescribable extent, sweeping over and through every form, so that each presents a harmony of rippling, living, luminous, delicate colours, including many not ever known to earth. (Annie Besant, AW, 123-4.)
The Mental Plane Interpenetrates the Physical Plane
Although, in calling this plane the heaven-world, we distinctly intend to imply that it contains the reality which underlies all the best and most spiritual ideas of heaven which have been propounded in various religions, yet it must by no means be considered from that point of view only. It is a realm of nature which is of exceeding importance to us - a vast and splendid world of vivid life in which we are living now as well as in the periods intervening between physical incarnations. It is only our lack of development, only the limitation imposed upon us by this robe of flesh, that prevents us from fully realizing that all the glory of the highest heaven is about us here and now, and that influences flowing from that world are ever playing upon us if we will only understand and receive them. Impossible as this may seem to the man of the world, it is the plainest of realities to the occultist; and to those who have not yet grasped this fundamental truth we can but repeat the advice given by the Buddhist teacher: - " Do not complain and cry and pray, but open your eyes and see. The light is all about you, if you would only cast the bandage from your eyes and look. It is so wonderful, so beautiful, so far beyond what any man has dreamt of or prayed for, and it is for ever and for ever." (The Soul of a People, page 163.) (Charles Leadbeater, DP, 1-2.)
Insuperable Difficulties in Describing It
Words can give no idea of the exquisite beauty and radiance shown in combinations of this subtle matter, instinct with life and motion. Every seer who has witnessed it, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, speaks in rapturous terms of its glorious beauty, and ever confesses his utter inability to describe it; words seem but to coarsen and deprave it, however deftly woven in its praise. (Annie Besant, AW, 124.)
Unfortunately there are practically insuperable difficulties in the way of any attempt to put the facts of this third plane of nature into language - and not unnaturally, for we often find words insufficient to express our ideas and feelings even on this lowest plane. Readers of The Astral Plane will remember what was there stated as to the impossibility of conveying any adequate conception of the marvels of that region to those whose experience had not as yet transcended the physical world; one can but say that every observation there made to that effect applies with tenfold force to the effort which is before us in this sequel to that treatise. Not only is the matter which we must endeavour to describe much further removed than is astral matter from that to which we are accustomed, but the consciousness of that plane is so immensely wider than anything we can imagine down here, and its very conditions so entirely different, that when called upon to translate it all into mere ordinary words the explorer feels himself utterly at a loss, and can only trust that the intuition of his readers will supplement the inevitable imperfections of his description.
To take one only out of many possible examples of our difficulties, it would seem as though on this mental plane space and time were non-existent, for events which down here take place in succession and at widely-separated places, appear there to be occurring simultaneously and at the same point. That at least is the effect produced on the consciousness of the ego, though there are circumstances which favour the supposition that absolute simultaneity is the attribute of a still higher plane, and that the sensation of it in the heaven-world is simply the result of a succession so rapid that the infinitesimally minute spaces of time are indistinguishable. (Charles Leadbeater, DP, 7-8.)
Yet though all religions agree in painting this happy life in glowing terms, none of them have succeeded in producing an impression of reality in their descriptions.
All that is written about heaven is so absolutely unlike anything that we have known, that many of the descriptions seem almost grotesque to us. We should hesitate to admit this with regard to the legends familiar to us from our infancy, but if the stories of one of the other great religions were read to us, we should see it readily enough. In Buddhist or Hindu books you will find magniloquent accounts of interminable gardens, in which the trees are all of gold and silver, and their fruits of various kinds of jewels, and you might be tempted to smile, unless the thought occurred to you that after all, to the Buddhist or Hindu our tales of streets of gold and gates of pearl might in truth seem quite as improbable.
The fact is that the ridiculous element is imported into these accounts only when we take them literally, and fail to realize that each scribe is trying the same task from his point of view, and that all alike are failing because the great truth behind it all is utterly indescribable. The Hindu writer had no doubt seen some of the gorgeous gardens of the Indian kings, where just such decoration as he describes are commonly employed. The Jewish scribe had no familiarity with such things, but he dwelt in a great and magnificent city - probably Alexandria; and so his conception of splendour was a city, but made unlike anything on earth by the costliness of its material and its decorations. So each is trying to paint a truth which is too grand for words by employing such similes as are familiar to his mind.
There have been those since that day who have seen the glory of heaven, and have tried in their feeble way to describe it. Some of our own students have been among these, and in the Theosophical Manual No. 6 you may find an effort of my own in that direction. We do not speak now of gold and silver, of rubies and diamonds, when we wish to convey the idea of the greatest possible refinements and beauty of colour and form; we draw our similies rather from the colours of the sunset, and from all the glories of sea and sky, because to us these are the more heavenly.
Yet those of us who have seen the truth know well that in all our attempts at description we have failed as utterly as the oriental scribes to convey any idea of a reality which no words can ever picture, though every man one day shall see it and know it for himself. For this heaven is not a dream; it is a radiant reality; but to comprehend anything of it we must first change one of our initial ideas on the subject. (Charles Leadbeater, LAD, 23-5.)
Who Goes to Mental Plane?
Who goes to Devachan? The personal Ego, of course; but beatified, purified, holy. Every Ego -- the combination of the sixth and seventh principles (1)--which after the period of unconscious gestation is reborn into the Devachan, is of necessity as innocent and pure as a new-born babe. The fact of his being reborn at all shows the preponderance of good over evil in his old personality. ("Notes from the Devachan" in Besant, DA, n.p.)
Evil Cannot Enter the Mental Plane
Into Devachan enters nothing that defileth, for gross matter has been left behind with all its attributes on earth and in Kamaloka. (Annie Besant, DA, n.p.)
Such of his thoughts and feelings as have been entirely unselfish produce their result in his life in the mental world; therefore that life in the mental world cannot be other than blissful. ... The lower mental life, which is always entirely happy, is what is called heaven. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 65.)
And while the Karma [of Evil] steps aside for the time being to follow him in his future earth re-incarnation, he brings along with him but the Karma of his good deeds, words and thoughts into this Devachan. "Bad" is a relative term for us--as you were told more than once before--and the Law of Retribution is the only law that never errs. Hence all those who have not slipped down into the mire of unredeemable sin and bestiality go to the Devachan. They will have to pay for their sins, voluntary and involuntary, later on. (2) Meanwhile they are rewarded; receive the effects of the causes produced by them. ("Notes from the Devachan" in Besant, DA, n.p.)
- (1) The sixth and seventh principles are the Manas or Mind and Buddhi or Intellect. (2) Both in the "Judgment" and in the next incarnation.
The Resident of the Mental Plane is Out of Reach of the Earth Plane
There are some exceptional possibilities of reaching such an Ego, (1) that will be explained later, but the Ego is out of the reach of the ordinary medium and cannot be recalled into the earth-sphere. (Annie Besant, DA, n.p.)
- (1) Individual.
The Seven Subplanes of the Mental Plane
General Discussions of the Seven Subplanes of the Mental Plane
Once again here, as on the two lower planes, the subdivisions of the spirit-matter of the plane are seven in number. Once again, these varieties enter into countless combinations, of every variety of complexity, yielding the solids, liquids, gases, and ethers of the mental plane. The word "solid" seems indeed absurd, when speaking of even the most substantial forms of mind-stuff; yet as they are dense in comparison with other kinds of mental materials, and as we have no descriptive words save such as are based on physical conditions, we must even use it for lack of a better.
Enough if we understand that this plane follows the general law and order of Nature, which is, for our globe, the septenary basis, and that the seven subdivisions of matter are of lessening densities, relatively to each other, as the physical solids, liquids, gases, and ethers; the seventh, or highest, subdivision being composed exclusively of the mental atoms.
These subdivisions are grouped under two headings, to which the somewhat inefficient and unintelligible epithets "formless" and "form" have been assigned. (Arûpa, without form: rûpa, form. Rûpa is form, shape, body. ) The lower four - the first, second, third, and fourth subdivisions - are grouped together as "with form" ; the higher three - the fifth, sixth and seventh subdivisions - are grouped as "formless." The grouping is necessary, for the distinction is a real one, although one difficult to describe, and the regions are related in consciousness to the divisions in the mind itself - as will appear more plainly a little farther on.
The distinction may perhaps be best expressed by saying that in the lower four subdivisions the vibrations of consciousness give rise to forms, to images or pictures, and every thought appears as a living shape; whereas in the higher three, consciousness, though still, of course, setting up vibrations, seems rather to send them out as a mighty stream of living energy, which does not body itself into distinct images while it remains in this higher region, but which steps up a variety of forms all linked by some common condition when it rushes into the lower worlds.
The nearest analogy that I can find for the conception I am trying to express is that of abstract and concrete thoughts; an abstract idea of a triangle has no form, but connotes any plane figure contained within three right lines, the angles of which make two right angles; such an idea, with conditions but without shape, thrown into the lower world, may give birth to a vast variety of figures, right-angled, isosceles, scalene, of any colour and size, but all filling the conditions - concrete triangles each one with a definite shape of its own. The impossibility of giving in words a lucid exposition of the difference in the action of consciousness in the two regions is due to the fact that words are the symbols of images and belong to the workings of the lower mind in the brain, and are based wholly upon those workings; while the "formless" region belongs to the Pure reason, which never works within the narrow limits of language. (Annie Besant, AW, 121-3.)
The devachanic life consists of two stages, of which the first is passed in the four lower subdivisions of the mental plane, in which the Thinker still wears the mental body and is conditioned by it, being employed in assimilating the materials gathered by it during the earth-life from which he has just emerged. The second stage is spent in the "formless world," the Thinker escaping from the mental body, and living in his own unencumbered life in the full measure of the self-consciousness and knowledge to which he has attained. (Annie Besant, AW, 151-2.)
On the Four Lower Subplanes of the Mental Plane, the Self Wears the Mental Body
Astral matter cannot exist on the devachanic level. (1) (Annie Besant, MHB, n.p.)
- (1) I.e., the Mental Plane.
The Mind Body. - This vehicle of consciousness belongs to, and is formed of, the matter of the four lower levels of Devachan. While it is especially the vehicle of consciousness for that part of the mental plane, it works upon and through the astral and physical bodies in all the manifestations that we call those of the mind in our ordinary waking consciousness. In the undeveloped man, indeed, it cannot function separately on its own plane as an independent vehicle of consciousness during his earthly life, and when such a man exercises his mental faculties, they must clothe themselves in astral and physical matter ere he can become conscious of their activity. ... (Annie Besant, MHB, 62.)
The mind is the Self in the mind body. (Annie Besant, MHB, 66.)
With the expansion of consciousness, there comes a change of outer form. Gradually this becomes less fixed and more flexible; the pilgrim's etheric bodily outline no longer has the necessity to identify itself with a set outer form. By losing its firmness of outline, it comes to be able to radiate and express more readily all the varied responsive and inward parts of its nature which now make up the texture of the pilgrim's life. The man becomes, as it were, clothed with himself, expressing perfectly every quality which he has truly made his own. His aura is now his 'surround,' a pulsating changing shape of many colours, expressing far more perfectly than could any fixed bodily shape his living relationships with all the beings he meets, together with his feelings of awe and worship, which are his deep response to the beauty and truth of the universe around him. In this aura, delicate and vivid shades of colouring can be detected, growing and diminishing in response to all that it meets, the face remaining as the main organ of expression of the beautiful individuality within. This is the outer, slowly growing transformation which responds to the growth and refining of the inner nature. (Paul Beard, LO, 138-9.)
If we learn to use the powers of the mental body, we do not therefore lose those of the lower, for they are included in the higher. We can then pass from place to place with the rapidity of thought; we can then see the thoughts of our fellow men, so that deception is no longer possible; we can see higher orders of the angels, and the vast host of those who, having finished their astral life, are inhabiting the heaven-—world. (Charles Leadbeater, MON, 15.)
The mental body is built of matter of the four lower / subdivisions of the mental world, and expresses the concrete thoughts of the man. Here also we find the same color scheme as in the casual body. The hues are somewhat less delicate, and we notice one or two additions. For example, a thought of pride shows itself as orange, while irritability is manifested by a brilliant scarlet. We may see here sometimes the bright brown of avarice, the grey-brown of selfishness, and grey-green of deceit. Here also we perceive the possibility of a mixture of colors; the affection, the intellect, the devotion may be tinged by selfishness, and in that case their distinctive colors are mingled with the brown of selfishness, and so we have an impure and muddy appearance. Although its particles are always in intensely rapid motion among themselves, this body has at the same time a kind of loose organization.
The size and shape of the mental body are determined by those of the causal vehicle. There are in it certain striations which divide it more or less irregularly into segments, each of these corresponding to a certain department of the physical brain, so that every type of thought should function through its duly assigned portion. The mental body is as yet so imperfectly developed in ordinary men that there are many in whom a great number of special departments are not yet in activity, and any attempt at thought belonging to those departments has to travel round through some inappropriate channel which happens to be fully open. The result is that thought on those subjects is for those people clumsy and uncomprehending. / This is why some people have a head for mathematics and others are unable to add correctly - why some people instinctively understand, appreciate and enjoy music, while others do not know one tune from another.
All the matter of the mental body should be circulating freely, but sometimes a man allows his thought upon a certain subject to set and solidify, and then the circulation is impeded, and there is congestion which presently hardens into a kind of wart on the mental body. Such a wart appears to us down here as a prejudice; and until it is absorbed and free circulation restored, it is impossible for man to think truly or to see clearly with regard to that particular department of his mind, as the congestion checks the free passage of undulations both outward and inward.
When a man uses any part of his mental body it not only vibrates for the time more rapidly, but it also temporarily swells out and increases in size. If there is prolonged thought upon a subject this increase becomes permanent, and it is thus open to any man to increase the size of his mental body either along desirable or undesirable lines. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 48-9.)
On the Three Higher Subplanes of the Mental Plane, the Self Wears the Causal Body
Students will be familiar with the distinction between the Higher and the Lower Manas; the causal body is that of the Higher Manas, the permanent body of the Ego, or man, lasting from life to life; the mind body is that of the Lower Manas, lasting after death and passing into Devachan, but disintegrating when the life on the rupa levels of Devachan is over. (Annie Besant, MHB, 61-2.)
The three highest subdivisions of the mental plane are the habitat of the Thinker himself, and he dwells on one or other of these, according to the stage of his evolution. (Annie Besant, AW, 129.)
Rising yet another step, and using the senses of the causal body, we find further glories awaiting our examination. If then we look at a fellow man, the body which we see within his ovoid is no longer a likeness of his present or his last physical body, as it is on the astral and mental planes. What we now see is the Augoeides, the glorified man, which is not an image of any one of his past physical vehicles, but contains within itself the essence of all that was best in each of them— - a body which indicates more or less perfectly, as through experience it grows, what the Deity means that man shall be. By watching that vehicle we may see the stage of evolution which the man has reached; we may see what his past history has been, and to a considerable extent we can also observe the future that lies before him. (Charles Leadbeater, MON, 15.)
Let us now pass into the "formless" divisions of the mental plane, the region which is man's true home during the cycle of his reincarnations, into which he is born, a baby soul, an infant Ego, an embryonic individuality, when he begins his purely human evolution. (See Chapters VII and VIII, on "Reincarnation").
The outline of this Ego, the Thinker, is oval in shape, and hence H.P. Blavatsky speaks of this body of Manas which endures throughout all his incarnations as the Auric Egg. Formed of the matter of the three highest subdivisions of the mental plane, it is exquisitely fine, a film of rarest subtlety, even at its first inception; and, as it develops, it becomes a radiant object of supernal glory and beauty, the shining One, as it has been aptly named. (This is the Augœides of the Neo-Platonists, the "spiritual body" of St. Paul).
It is difficult to describe a causal body fully, because the senses belonging to its world are altogether different from and higher than ours at this level. Such memory of the appearance of a causal body as it is possible for a clairvoyant to bring into his physical brain represents it as ovoid, and as surrounding the / physical body of the man, extending to a distance of about eighteen inches from the normal surface of that body. In the case of primitive man it resembles a bubble, and gives the impression of being empty. It is in reality filled with higher mental matter, but as this is not yet brought into activity it remains colorless and transparent. As advancement continues it is gradually stirred into alertness by vibrations which reach it from the lower bodies. This comes but slowly, because the activities of man in the earlier stages of his evolution are not of a character to obtain expression in matter so fine as that of the higher mental body; but when a man reaches the stage where he is capable either of abstract thought or of unselfish emotion the matter of the causal body is aroused into response.
When these rates of undulation are awakened within him they show themselves in his causal body as colors, so that instead of being a mere transparent bubble it gradually becomes a sphere filled with matter of the most lovely and delicate hues - an object beautiful beyond all conception. It is found by experience that these colors are significant. The vibration which denotes the power of unselfish affection shows itself as a pale rose-color; that which indicates high intellectual power is yellow; that which expresses sympathy is green, while blue betokens devotional feeling, and a luminous lilac-blue typifies the higher spirituality. The same scheme of color significance applies to the bodies which are built of denser matter, but as we approach the physical world the hues are in every case by comparison grosser - not only less delicate but also less living. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 46-7.)
Even when clairvoyance is developed - even when a man opens the sight of his causal / body, and looks at the causal body of another man - —even then, though he sees a manifestation of the ego on his own plane, he is still far from seeing the real man. ... [And] 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, 11-2.)
For when, using the higher mental sight, a man looks at the causal body of another, it is not actually the ego that he sees, but only matter of the higher mental plane which expresses the qualities of the ego. Those qualities affect the matter, cause it to undulate at different rates, and so produce colours, by examining which the character of the man can be distinguished. This character, at that level, means the good qualities which the man has developed; for no evil can express itself in matter so refined. In observing such a causal body, we know that it has within it in germ all the characteristics / of the Deity - all possible good qualities, therefore; but not all of them are unfolded until the man reaches a very high level. (Charles Leadbeater, MON, 12-3.)
Rising yet another step, and using the senses of the causal body, (1) we find further glories awaiting our examination. If then we look at a fellow man, the body which we see within his ovoid is no longer a likeness of his present or his last physical body, as it is on the astral and mental planes.
What we now see is the Augoeides, the glorified man, which is not an image of any one of his past physical vehicles, but contains within itself the essence of all that was best in each of them— - a body which indicates more or less perfectly, as through experience it grows, what the Deity means that man shall be. By watching that vehicle we may see the stage of evolution which the man has reached; we may see what his past history has been, and to a considerable extent we can also observe the future that lies before him. (Charles Leadbeater, MON, 15.)
- (1) Again, Leadbeater is speaking as the clairvoyant investigator.
What is this Thinker? He is the divine Self, as already said, limited, or individualised, by this subtle body drawn from the materials of the "formless" region of the mental plane. (The Self, working in the Vignyânamayakosha, the sheath of discriminative knowledge, according to the Vedântic classification). This matter - drawn around a ray of the Self, a living beam of the one Light and Life of the universe - shuts off this ray from its Source, so far as the external world is concerned, encloses it within a filmy shell of itself, and so makes it "an individual." The life is the Life of the LOGOS, but all the powers of that Life are lying latent, concealed; everything is there potentially, germinally, as the tree is hidden within the tiny germ in the seed.
This seed is dropped into the soil of human life that its latent forces may be quickened into activity by the sun of joy and the rain of tears, and he fed by the juices of the life-soil that we call experience, until the germ grows into a mighty tree, the image of its generating Sire. Human evolution is the evolution of the Thinker; he takes on bodies on the lower mental and astral, and the physical planes, wears then through earthly, astral, lower mental life, dropping them successively at the regular stages of this life-cycle as he passes from world to world, but ever storing up within himself the fruits he has gathered by their use on each plane.
At first, as little conscious as a baby's earthly body, he almost slept through life after life, till the experiences playing on him from without awakened some of his latent forces into activity; but gradually he assumed more and more part in the direction of his life, until, with manhood reached, he took his life into his own hands, and an ever-increasing control over his future destiny.
The growth of the permanent body which, with the divine consciousness, forms the Thinker is extremely slow. Its technical name is the causal body, because he gathers up within it the results of all experiences, and these act as causes, moulding future lives. It is the only permanent one among the bodies during incarnation, the mental, the astral, and physical bodies being reconstituted for each fresh life; as each perishes in turn, it hands on its harvest to the one above it, and thus all the harvests are finally stored in the permanent body; when the Thinker returns to incarnation he sends out his energies, constituted of these harvests, on each successive plane, and thus draws round him a new body suitable to his past.
The growth of the causal body itself, as said, is very slow, for it can vibrate only in answer to impulses that can be expressed in the very subtle matter of which it is composed, thus weaving them into the texture of its being. Hence the passions, which play so large a part in the early stages of human evolution, cannot directly affect its growth. The Thinker can work into himself only the experiences that can be reproduced in the vibrations of the causal body, and these must belong to the mental region, and be highly intellectual or loftily moral in their character; other wise its subtle matter can give no sympathetic vibration in answer.
A very little reflection will convince any one how little material, suitable for the growth of this lofty body, he affords by his daily life; hence the slowness of evolution, the little progress made. The Thinker should have more of himself to put out in each successive life, and, when this is the case, evolution goes swiftly forward. Persistence in evil courses reacts in a kind of indirect way on the causal body, and does more harm than the mere retardation of growth; it seems after a long time to cause a certain incapacity to respond to the vibrations set up by the opposite good, and thus to delay growth for a considerable period after the evil has been renounced.
Directly to injure the causal body, evil of a highly intellectual and kind is necessary, the "spiritual evil" mentioned in the various Scriptures of the world. This is fortunately rare, rare as spiritual good, and found only among the highly progressed, whether they be following the Right-hand or the Left-hand Path. (The Right-hand Path is that which leads to divine manhood, to Adeptship used in the service of the worlds. The Left-hand Path is that which also leads to Adeptship, but to Adeptship that is used to frustrate the progress of evolution and is turned to selfish individual ends. They are sometimes called the White and Black Paths respectively.) (Annie Besant, AW, 142-6.)
Above and beyond all this comes the life of the soul or ego in his own causal body - the vehicle which he carries on with him from life to life, unchanging except for its gradual evolution. There comes an end even to that glorious heaven-life, and then the mental body in its turn drops away as the others have done, and the life in the causal begins.
Here the soul needs no windows, for this is his true home, and here all his walls have fallen away. The majority of men have as yet but very little consciousness at such a height as this; they rest, dreamily unobservant and scarcely awake, but such vision as they have is true, however limited by their lack of development.
Still, every time they return these limitations will be smaller and they themselves will be greater, so that this truest life will be wider and fuller for them. As the improvement continues, this causal life grows longer and longer, assuming an ever larger proportion, as compared to the existence at lower levels. (Charles Leadbeater, LAD, 45-6.)
Thought Forms and Feeling Forms
Thought-forms naturally play a large part among the living creatures that function on the mental plane. They resemble those with which we are already familiar in the astral world, save that they are far more radiant and more brilliantly coloured, are stronger, more lasting, and more fully vitalised. As the higher intellectual qualities become more clearly marked, these forms show very sharply defined outlines, and there is a tendency to a singular perfection of geometrical figures accompanied by an equally singular purity of luminous colour. But, needless to say at the present stage of humanity, there is a vast preponderance of cloudy and irregularly shaped thoughts, the production of the ill-trained minds of the majority.
Rarely beautiful artistic thoughts are also here encountered, and it is little wonder that painters who have caught, in dreamy vision, some glimpse of their ideal, often fret against their incapacity to reproduce its glowing beauty in earth's dull pigments. These thought-forms are built out of the elemental essence of the plane, the vibrations of the thought throwing the elemental essence into a corresponding shape, and this shape having the thought as its informing life. Thus again we have "artificial elementals" created in a way identical with that by which they come into being in the astral regions. All that is said in Chapter II of their generation and of their importance may be repeated of those of the mental plane, with here the additional responsibility on their creators of the greater force and permanence belonging to those of this higher world. (Annie Besant, AW, 124-5.)
Good thoughts produce vibrations of the finer matter of the body, which by its specific gravity tends to float in the upper part of the ovoid; whereas bad thoughts, such as selfishness and avarice, are always oscillations of the grosser matter, which tends to gravitate towards the lower part of the ovoid. Consequently the ordinary man, who yields himself not infrequently to selfish thoughts to various kinds, usually / expands the lower part of his mental body, and presents roughly the appearance of an egg with its larger end downwards. The man who has repressed those lower thoughts, and devoted himself to higher ones, tends to expand the upper part of his mental body and therefore presents the appearance of an egg standing on its smaller end. From a study of the colors and striations of a man's mental body the clairvoyant can perceive his character and the progress he has made in his present life. From similar features of the causal body he can see what progress the ego has made since its original formation, when the man left the animal kingdom.
When a man thinks of any concrete object - a book, a house, a landscape - he builds a tiny image of the object in the matter of his mental body. This image floats in the upper part of that body, usually in front of the face of the man and at about the level of the eyes. It remains there as long as the man is contemplating the object, and usually for a little time afterwards, the length of time depending upon the intensity and the clearness of the thought. This form is quite objective, and can be seen by another person, if that other has developed the sight of his own mental body. If a man thinks of another, he creates a tiny portrait in just the same way. If his thought is merely contemplative and involves no feeling (such as affection or dislike) or desires (such as a wish to see the person) the thought does not usually perceptibly affect the man of whom he thinks.
If coupled with the thought of the person there is a / feeling, as for example of affection, another phenomenon occurs besides the forming of the image. The thought of affection takes a definite form, which it builds out of the matter of the thinker's mental body. Because of the emotion involved, it draws round it also matter of his astral body, and thus we have an astro-mental form which leaps out of the body in which it has been generated, and moves through space towards the object of the feeling of affection. If the thought is sufficiently strong, distance makes absolutely no difference to it; but the thought of an ordinary person is usually weak and diffused, and is therefore not effective outside a limited area.
When this thought-form reaches its object it discharges itself into his astral and mental bodies, communicating to them its own rate of vibration. Putting this in another way, a thought of love sent from one person to another involves the actual transference of a certain amount both of force and of matter from the sender to the recipient, and its effect upon the recipient is to arouse the feeling of affection in him, and slightly but permanently to increase his power of loving. But such a thought also strengthens the power of affection in the thinker, and therefore it does good simultaneously to both.
Every thought builds a form; if the thought be directed to another person it travels to him; if it be distinctly selfish it remains in the immediate neighbourhood of the thinker; if it belongs to neither of these categories it floats for awhile in space and then slowly disintegrates. Every man therefore is leaving behind / him wherever he goes a trail of thought-forms; as we go along the street we are walking all the same amidst a sea of other men's thoughts. If a man leaves his mind blank for a time, these residual thoughts of others drifts through it, making in most cases but little impression upon him. Sometimes one arrives which attracts his attention, so that his mind seizes upon it and makes it its own, strengthens it by the addition of its force, and then casts it out again to affect somebody else. A man, therefore, is not responsible for a thought which floats into his mind, because it may be not his, but someone else's, but he is responsible if he takes it up, dwells upon it and then sends it out strengthened.
Self-centered thought of any kind hangs about the thinker, and most men surround their mental bodies with a shell of such thoughts. Such a shell obscures the mental vision and facilitates the formation of prejudice.
Each thought-form is a temporary entity. It resembles a charged battery, awaiting an opportunity to discharge itself. Its tendency is always to reproduce its own rate of vibration in the mental body upon which it fastens itself, and so to arouse in it a like thought. If the person at whom it is aimed happens to be busy, or already engaged in some definite train of thought, the particles of his mental body are already swinging at a certain determinate rate, and cannot for the moment be affected from without. In that case the thought-form bides its time, hanging about its object until he is sufficiently at rest to permit its entrance; /then it discharges itself upon him, and in the act ceases to exist.
The self-centered thought behaves in exactly the same way with regard to its generator, and discharges itself upon him when opportunity offers. If it be an evil thought he generally regards it as the suggestion of a tempting demon, whereas in truth he tempts himself. Usually each definite thought creates a new thought-form; but if a thought-form of the same nature is already hovering round the thinker, under certain circumstances a new thought on the same subject, instead of creating a new form, coalesces with and strengthens the old one, so that by long brooding over the same subject a man may sometimes create a thought-form of tremendous power. If the thought be a wicked one, such a thought-form may become a veritable evil influence, lasting perhaps for many years, and having for a time all the appearance and powers of a real living entity.
All these which have been described are the ordinary unpremeditated thoughts of man. A man can make a thought-form intentionally, and aim it at another with the object of helping him. This is one of the lines of activity adopted by those who desire to serve humanity. A steady stream of powerful thought directed intelligently upon another person may be of the greatest assistance to him. A strong thought-form may be a real guardian angel, and protect its object from impurity, from irritability or from fear. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 49-54.)
Every thought of definite character, such as a thought of affection or hatred, of devotion or suspicion, of anger or fear, of pride or jealousy, not only creates a form but also radiates an undulation. The fact that each one of these thoughts is expressed by a certain color indicates that the thought expresses itself as an oscillation of the matter of a certain part of the mental body. This rate of oscillation communicates itself to the surrounding mental matter precisely in the same way as the vibration of a bell communicates itself to the surrounding air.
This radiation travels out in all directions, and whenever it impinges upon another mental body in a passive or receptive condition it communicates to it something of its own vibration. This does not convey a definite complete idea, as does the thought-form, but it tends to produce a thought of the same character as itself. For example, if the thought be devotional its undulations will excite devotion, but the object of worship may be different in the case of each person upon whose mental body they impinge. The thought-form, on the other hand, can reach only one person, but will convey to that person (if receptive) not only a general devotional feeling, but also a precise image of the Being for whom the adoration was originally felt. /
Any person who habitually thinks pure, good and strong thoughts is utilizing for that purpose the higher part of his mental body - a part which is not used at all by the ordinary man, and is entirely undeveloped in him. Such an one is therefore a power for good in the world, and is being of great use to all those of his neighbours who are capable of any sort of response. For the vibration which he sends out tends to arouse a new and higher part of their mental bodies, and consequently to open before them altogether new fields of thought. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 55-6.)
Total Sojourn on the Mental Plane
Every Resident of the Mental Plane can Assimilate Only What He Has Brought from Earth
Every devachanic stage is conditioned by the earth-stage that precedes it, and the Man can only assimilate in Devachan the kinds of experience he has been gathering on earth. A colourless, flavourless personality has a colourless, feeble Devachanic state.
Husband, father, student, patriot, artist, Christian, Buddhist - he must work out the effects of his earth-life in his devachanic life; he cannot eat and assimilate more food than he has gathered; he cannot reap more harvest than he has sown seed. It takes but a moment to cast a seed into a furrow; it takes many a month for that seed to grow into the ripened ear; but according to the kind of the seed is the ear that grows from it, and according to the nature of the brief earth-life is the grain reaped in the field of Aanroo. (Annie Besant, DA, n.p.)
But if the sower has sowed but little seed, the devachanic harvest will be meagre, and the growth of the Soul will be delayed by the paucity of the nutriment on which it has to feed. Hence the enormous importance of the earth-life, _the field of sowing, the place where experience is to be gathered_. It conditions, regulates, limits, the growth of the Soul; it yields the rough ore which the Soul then takes in hand, and works upon during the devachanic stage, smelting it, forging it, tempering it, into the weapons it will take back with it for its next earth-life. The experienced Soul in Devachan will make for itself a splendid instrument for its next earth-life; the inexperienced one will forge a poor blade enough; but in each case the only material available is that brought from earth. In Devachan the Soul, as it were, sifts and sorts out its experiences; it lives a comparatively free life, and gradually gains the power to estimate the earthly experiences at their real value; it works out thoroughly and completely as objective realities all the ideas of which it only conceived the germ on earth. Thus, noble aspiration is a germ which the Soul would work out into a splendid realisation in Devachan, and it would bring back with it to earth for its next incarnation that mental image, to be materialised on earth when opportunity offers and suitable environment presents itself. For the mind sphere is the sphere of creation, and earth only the place for materialising the pre-existent thought. And the soul is as an architect that works out his plans in silence and deep meditation, and then brings them forth into the outer world where his edifice is to be builded; out of the knowledge gained in his past life, the Soul draws his plans for the next, and he returns to earth to put into objective material form the edifices he has planned. (Annie Besant, DA, n.p.)
The Resident of the Mental Plane Remains in Heaven Until Good Karma is Repaid
Thus, for periods long in proportion to the materials gathered for consumption upon earth, dwell men in these heaven-worlds of form, where all good that the last personal life had garnered finds its full fruition, its full working out into minutest detail. Then as we have seen, when everything is exhausted, when the last drop has been drained from the cup of joy, the last crumb eaten of the heavenly feast, all that has been worked up into faculty, that is of permanent value, is drawn within the causal body, and the Thinker shakes off him and the then disintegrating body through which he has found expression on the lower levels of the devachanic world. Rid of this mental body, he is in his own world, to work up whatever of his harvest can find material suitable for it in that high realm. (Annie Besant, AW, 169.)
Average Time Spent on the Mental Plane
The "average time [in Devachan] is from ten to fifteen centuries", H.P. Blavatsky tells us, and the fifteen centuries cycle is the one most plainly marked in history. (Manual No. 2 Reincarnation, 3rd edition, 60-1 in Besant, DA, n.p.)
But in modern life this period has much shortened, in consequence of the greater attraction exercised by physical objects over the heart of man. Further, it must be remembered that the "average time" is not the time spent in Devachan by any person. If one person spends there 1000 years, and another fifty, the "average" is 525. The devachanic period is longer or shorter according to the type of life which preceded it; the more there was of spiritual, intellectual, and emotional activity of a lofty kind, the longer will be the gathering in of the harvest; the more there was of activity directed to selfish gain on earth, the shorter will be the devachanic period. (Annie Besant, DA, n.p.)
The total length of time spent in Devachan depends upon the amount of material for the devachanic life which the soul has brought with it from its life on earth. The harvest of the fruit for consumption and assimilation in Devachan consists of all the pure thoughts and emotions generated during earth-life, all the intellectual and moral efforts and aspirations, all the memories of useful work and plans for human service - everything which is capable of being worked into mental and moral faculty, thus assisting in the evolution of the soul.
Not one is lost, however feeble, however fleeting; but selfish animal passions cannot enter, there being no material in which they can be expressed. Nor does all the evil in the past life, though it may largely preponderate over the good, prevent the full reaping of whatever scant harvest of good there may have been; the scantiness of the harvest may render the devachanic life very brief, but the most depraved, if he has had any faint longings after the right, any stirrings of tenderness, must have a period of devachanic life in which the seed of good may put forth its tender shoots, in which the spark of good may be gently fanned into a tiny flame.
In the past, when men lived with their hearts largely fixed on heaven and directed their lives with a view to enjoying its bliss, the period spent in Devachan was very long, lasting sometimes for many thousands of years; at the present time, men's minds being so much more centred on earth, and so few of their thoughts comparatively being directed towards the higher life, their devachanic periods are correspondingly shortened.
Similarly, the time spent in the higher and lower regions of the mental plane (1) respectively is proportionate to the amount of thought generated severally in the mental and causal bodies; All the thoughts belonging to the personal self, to the life just closed - with all its ambitions, interests, loves, hopes, and fears - all these have their fruition in the Devachan where forms are found; while those belonging to the higher mind, to the regions of abstract, impersonal thinking, have to be worked out in the "formless" devachanic region. The majority of people only just enter that lofty region to pass swiftly out again; some spend there a large portion of their devachanic existence; a few spend there almost the whole. (Annie Besant, AW, 152-3.)
- (1) Called technically the Arûpa and Rûpa Devachan - existing on the arûpa and rûpa levels of the mental plane.
Preparing to Reincarnate
Working Out Our Earth Experiences and Planning the Next Incarnation
Man makes for himself his own purgatory and heaven, and these are not planes, but states of consciousness. Hell does not exist; it is only a figment of the theological imagination; but a man who lives foolishly may make for himself a very unpleasant and long-enduring purgatory. Neither purgatory nor heaven can ever be eternal, for a finite cause cannot produce an infinite result. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 65.)
At length the causes that carried the Ego into Devachan are exhausted, the experiences gathered have been wholly assimilated, and the Soul begins to feel again the thirst for sentient material life that can be gratified only on the physical plane. The greater the degree of spirituality reached, the purer and loftier the preceding earth-life, the longer the stay in Devachan, the world of spiritual, pure, and lofty effects. [I am here ignoring the special conditions surrounding one who is forcing his own evolution, and has entered on the Path that leads to Adeptship within a very limited number of lives.] (Annie Besant, DA, n.p.)
Into Devachan enters nothing that defileth, for gross matter has been left behind with all its attributes on earth and in Kamaloka. But if the sower has sowed but little seed, the devachanic harvest will be meagre, and the growth of the Soul will be delayed by the paucity of the nutriment on which it has to feed. Hence the enormous importance of the earth-life, the field of sowing, the place where experience is to be gathered. It conditions, regulates, limits, the growth of the Soul; it yields the rough ore which the Soul then takes in hand, and works upon during the devachanic stage, smelting it, forging it, tempering it, into the weapons it will take back with it for its next earth-life.
The experienced Soul in Devachan will make for itself a splendid instrument for its next earth-life; the inexperienced one will forge a poor blade enough; but in each case the only material available is that brought from earth. In Devachan the Soul, as it were, sifts and sorts out its experiences; it lives a comparatively free life, and gradually gains the power to estimate the earthly experiences at their real value; it works out thoroughly and completely as objective realities all the ideas of which it only conceived the germ on earth. Thus, noble aspiration is a germ which the Soul would work out into a splendid realisation in Devachan, and it would bring back with it to earth for its next incarnation that mental image, to be materialised on earth when opportunity offers and suitable environment presents itself.
For the mind sphere is the sphere of creation, and earth only the place for materialising the pre-existent thought. And the soul is as an architect that works out his plans in silence and deep meditation, and then brings them forth into the outer world where his edifice is to be builded; out of the knowledge gained in his past life, the Soul draws his plans for the next, and he returns to earth to put into objective material form the edifices he has planned. (Annie Besant, DA, n.p.)
Building a Body
To every Thinker, however unprogressed, there comes a moment of clear vision when the time arrives for his return to the life of the lower worlds. For a moment he sees his past and the causes working from it into the future, and the general map of his next incarnation is also unrolled before him. Then the clouds of lower matter surge round him and obscure his vision, and the cycle of another incarnation begins with the awakening of the powers of the lower mind, and their drawing round him, by their vibrations, materials from the lower mental plane to form the new mental body for the opening chapter of his life-history. This part of our subject, however, belongs in its detail to the chapters on reincarnation. (Annie Besant, AW, 163.)
Let us now turn to the study of the Thinker and his vestures as they are found in men on earth. The body of the consciousness, conditioning it in the four lower subdivisions of the mental plane - the mental body, as we term it - is formed of combinations of the matter of these subdivisions. The Thinker, the individual, Human Soul - formed in the way described in the latter part of this chapter - when he is coming into incarnation, first radiates forth some of his energy in vibrations that attract round him, and clothe him in, matter drawn from the four lower subdivisions of his own plane.
According to the nature of the vibrations are the kinds of matter they attract; the finer kinds answer the swifter vibrations and take form under their impulse; the coarser kinds similarly answer the slower ones; just as a wire will sympathetically sound out a note - i.e., a given number of vibrations - coming from a wire similar in weight and tension to itself, but will remain dumb amid a chorus of notes from wires dissimilar to itself in these respects, so do the different kinds of matter assort themselves in answer to different kinds of vibrations. Exactly according to the vibrations sent out by the Thinker will be the nature of the mental body that he thus draws around him, and this mental body is what is called the lower mind, the lower Manas, because it is the Thinker clothed in the matter of the lower subdivisions of the mental plane and conditioned by it in his further working.
None of his energies which are too subtle to move this matter, too swift for its response, can express themselves through it; he is therefore limited by it, conditioned by it, restricted by it in his expression of himself. It is the first of his prison-houses during his incarnate life, and while his energies are acting within it he is largely shut off from his own higher world, for his attention is with the outgoing energies and his life is thrown with them into the mental body, often spoken as a vesture, or sheath, or vehicle - any expression will serve which connotes the idea that the Thinker is not the mental body, but formed it and uses it in order to express as much of himself as he can in the lower mental region.
It must not be forgotten that his energies, still pulsing outwards, draw round him also the coarser matter of the astral plane as his astral body; and during his incarnate life the energies that express themselves through the lower kinds of mental matter are so readily changed by it into the slower vibrations that are responded to by astral matter that the two bodies are continually vibrating together, and become very closely interwoven; the coarser the kinds of matter built into the mental body, the more intimate becomes this union, so that the two bodies are sometimes classed together and even taken as one. (1) When we come to study Reincarnation we shall find this fact assuming vital importance.
According to the stage of evolution reached by the man will be the type of mental body he forms on his way to become again incarnate, and we may study, as we did with the astral body, the respective mental bodies of three types of men -
a) an undeveloped man; b) an average man; c) a spiritually advanced man. (Annie Besant, AW, 132-4.)
- (1) Thus the Theosophist will speak of Kâma Manas, meaning the mind as working in and with the desire nature, affecting and affected by the animal nature. The Vedântin classes the two together, and speaks of the Self as working in the Manomayakosha, the sheath composed of the lower mind, emotions, and passions. The European psychologist makes "feelings" one section of his tripartite division of "mind", and includes under feelings both emotions and sensations.
A soul when its stay in the formless world of Devachan is over, begins a new life-period by putting forth the energies which function in the form-world of the mental plane, these energies being the resultant of the preceding life-periods. These passing outwards, gather round themselves, from the matter of the four lower mental levels, such materials as are suitable for their expression, and thus the new mental body for the coming birth is formed. The vibration of these mental energies arouses the energies which belong to the desire-nature, and these begin to vibrate; as they awake and throb, they attract to themselves suitable materials for their expression from the matter of the astral world, and these form the new astral body for the approaching incarnation.
Thus the Thinker becomes clothed with his mental and astral vestures, exactly expressing the faculties evolved during the past stage of his life. He is drawn, by forces which will be explained later, (See Chapter VII , on "Reincarnation") to the family which is to provide him with a suitable physical encasement, and becomes connected with this encasement through his astral body.
During prenatal life the mental body becomes involved with the lower vehicles, and this connection becomes closer and closer through the early years of childhood, until at the seventh year they are as completely in touch with the Thinker himself as the stage of evolution permits. He then begins to slightly control his vehicles, if sufficiently advanced, and what we call conscience is his monitory voice. In any case, he gathers experience through these vehicles, and during the continuance of earth-life, stores the gathered experience in its own proper vehicle, in the body connected with the plane to which the experience belongs.
When the earth-life is over the physical body drops away, and with it his power of contacting the physical world, and his energies are therefore confined to the astral and mental planes. In due course, the astral body decays, and the outgoings of his life are confined to the mental plane, the astral faculties being gathered up and laid by within himself as latent energies.
Once again, in due course, its assimilative work completed, the mental body disintegrates, its energies in turn becoming latent in the Thinker, and he withdraws his life entirely into the formless devachanic world, his own native habitat. Thence, all experiences of his life period in the three worlds being transmuted into faculties and powers for future use, are contained within himself, he anew commences his pilgrimage and treads the cycle of another life-period with increased power and knowledge.
The personality consists of the transitory vehicles through which the Thinker energises in the physical, astral, and lower mental worlds, and of all the activities connected with these. These are bound together by the links of memory caused by impressions made on the three lower bodies; and, by the self-identification of the Thinker with his three vehicles, the personal " I " is set up. In the lower stages of evolution this " I " is in the physical and passional vehicles, in which the greatest activity is shown, later it is in the mental vehicle, which then assumes predominance.
The personality with its transient feeling, desires, passions, thus forms a quasi-independent entity, though drawing all its energies from the Thinker it enwraps, and as its qualifications, belonging to the lower worlds, are often in direct antagonism to the permanent interests of the "Dweller in the body," conflict is set up in which victory inclines sometimes to the temporary pleasure, sometimes to the permanent gain. The life of the personality begins when the Thinker forms his new mental body, and it endures until that mental body disintegrates at the close of its life in the form-world of Devachan.
The individuality consists of the Thinker himself, the immortal tree that puts out all these personalities as leaves, to last through the spring, summer and autumn of human life. All that the leaves take in and assimilate enriches the sap that courses through their veins, and in the autumn this is withdrawn into the parent trunk, and the dry leaf falls and perishes. The Thinker alone lives forever; he is the man for whom "the hour never strikes," the eternal youth who as the Bhagavad Gitâ has it, puts on and casts off bodies as a man puts on new garments and throws off the old.
Each personality is a new part for the immortal Actor, and he treads the stage of life over and over again, only in the life-drama each character he assumes is the child of the preceding ones and the father of those to come, so that the life-drama is a continuous history, the history of the Actor who plays the successive parts.
To the three worlds that we have studied is confined the life of the Thinker, while he is treading the earlier stages of human evolution. A time will come in the evolution of humanity when its feet will enter loftier realms, and reincarnation will be of the past. But while the wheel of rebirth and death is turning, a man is bound thereon by desires that pertain to the three worlds, his life is led in these three regions. (Annie Besant, AW, 175-8.)
Building a Body - The Undeveloped Man
a) In the undeveloped man the mental body is but little perceptible, a small amount of unorganised mental matter, chiefly from the lowest subdivisions of the plane, being all that represents it. This is played on almost entirely from the lower bodies, being set vibrating feebly by the astral storms raised by the contacts with material objects through the sense organs. Except when stimulated by these astral vibrations it remains almost quiescent, and even under their impulses its responses are sluggish. No definite activity is generated from within, these blows from the outer world being necessary to arouse any distinct response.
The more violent the blows, the better for the progress of the man, for each responsive vibration aids in the embryonic development of the mental body. Riotous pleasure, anger, rage, pain, terror, all these passions, causing whirlwinds in the astral body, awaken faint vibrations in the mental, and gradually these vibrations, stirring into commencing activity the mental consciousness, cause it to add something of its own to the impressions made on it from without.
We have seen that the mental body is so closely mingled with the astral that they act as a single body, but the dawning mental faculties add to the astral passions a certain strength and quality not apparent in them when they work as purely animal qualities. The impressions made on the mental body are more permanent than those made on the astral, and they are consciously reproduced by it. Here memory and the organ of imagination begin, and the latter gradually moulds itself, the images from the outer world working on the matter of the mental body and forming its materials into their own likeness.
These images, born of the contacts of the senses, draw round themselves the coarsest mental matter; the dawning powers of consciousness reproduce these images, and thus accumulate a store of pictures that begin to stimulate action initiated from within, from the wish to experience again through the outer organs the vibrations that were found pleasant, and to avoid those productive of pain.
The mental body then begins to stimulate the astral, and to arouse in it the desires that, in the animal, slumber until awakened by a physical stimulus; hence we see in the undeveloped man a persistent pursuit of sense-gratification never found in the lower animals, a lust, a cruelty, a calculation, to which they are strangers. The dawning powers of the mind, yoked to the service of the senses, make of man a far more dangerous and savage brute than any animal, and the stronger and more subtle forces inherent in the mental-spiritual matter lend to the passion-nature an energy and a keenness that we do not find in the animal world.
But these very excesses lead to their own correction by the sufferings which they cause, and these resultant experiences play upon the consciousness and set up new images on which the imagination works. These stimulate the consciousness to resist many of the vibrations that reach it by way of the astral body from the external world, and to exercise its volition in holding the passions back instead of giving them free rein.
Such resistant vibrations are set up in, and attract towards, the mental body, finer combinations of mind-stuff and tend also to expel from it the coarser combinations that vibrate responsively to the passional notes set up in the astral body; by this struggle between the vibrations set up by passion-images and the vibrations set up by the imaginative reproduction of past experiences, the mental body grows, begins to develop a definite organisation, and to exercise more and more initiative as regards external activities.
While the earth life is spent gathering experiences, the intermediate life is spent assimilating them, as we shall see in detail in the following chapter, so that in each return to earth the Thinker has an increased stock of faculties to take shape as his mental body. Thus the undeveloped man, whose mind is the slave of his passions, grows into the average man, whose mind is a battleground in which passions and mental powers wage war with varying success, about balanced in their forces, but who is gradually gaining the mastery over his lower nature. (Annie Besant, AW, 134-7.)
Building a Body - The Average Man
(b) In the average man, the mental body is much increased in size, shows a certain amount of organisation, and contains a fair proportion of matter drawn from the second, third, and fourth subdivisions of the mental plane. The general law which regulates all the building up and modifying of the mental body may here be fitly studied, though it is the same principle already seen working in the lower realms of the astral and physical worlds.
Exercise increases, disuse atrophies and finally destroys. Every vibration set up in the mental body causes changes in its constituents, throwing out of it, in the part affected, the matter that cannot vibrate sympathetically, and replacing it by suitable materials drawn from the practically illimitable store around. The more a series of vibrations is repeated, the more does the part affected by them increase in development; hence, it may be noted in passing, the injury done to the mental body by over-specialisation of mental energies.
Such mistaken direction of these powers causes a lopsided development of the mental body; it becomes proportionately over developed in the region in which these forces are continually playing and proportionately undeveloped in other parts, perhaps equally important. A harmonious and proportionate all-round development is the object to be sought, and for this we need a calm self-analysis and a definite direction of means to ends. A knowledge of this law, further explains certain familiar experiences, and affords a sure hope of progress. When a new study is commenced, or a change in favour of high morality is initiated, the early stages are found to be fraught with difficulties; sometimes the effort is even abandoned because the obstacles in the way of its success appear to be insurmountable.
At the beginning of any new mental undertaking, the whole automatism of the mental body opposes it; the materials habituated to vibrate in a particular way, cannot accommodate themselves to the new impulses, and the early stage consists chiefly of sending out thrills of force which are frustrated, so far as setting up vibrations in the mental body are concerned, but which are the necessary preliminary to any such sympathetic vibrations, as they shake out of the body the old refractory materials and draw into it the sympathetic kinds.
During this process, the man is not conscious of any progress; he is conscious only of the frustration of his efforts and of the dull resistance he encounters. Presently, if he persists, as the newly attracted materials begin to function, he succeeds better in his attempts, and at last, when all the old materials are expelled and the new are working, he finds himself succeeding without an effort, and his object is accomplished.
The critical time is during the first stage; but if he trust in the law, as sure in its working as every other law in Nature, and persistently repeat his efforts, he must succeed; and a knowledge of this fact may cheer him when otherwise he would be sinking in despair. In this way, then, the average man may work on, finding with joy that as he steadily resists the promptings of the lower nature he is conscious they are losing their power over him, for he is expelling from his mental body all the materials that are capable of being thrown into sympathetic vibrations. Thus the mental body gradually comes to be composed of the finer constituents of the four lower subdivisions of the mental plane, until it has become radiant and exquisitely beautiful form which is the mental body of the [spiritually--advanced individual]. (Annie Besant, AW, 137-40.)
Building a Body - The Spiritually-Advanced Man
c ) Spiritually developed man. From this body all the coarser combinations have been eliminated, so that the objects of the senses no longer find in it, or in the astral body connected with it, materials that respond sympathetically to their vibrations. It contains only the finer combinations belonging to each of the four subdivisions of the lower mental world, and of these again the materials of the third and fourth sub-planes very much predominate in its composition over the materials of the second and first, making it responsive to all the higher workings of the intellect, to the delicate contacts of the higher arts, to all the pure thrills of loftier emotions.
Such a body enables the Thinker who is clothed in it to express himself much more fully in the lower mental region and in the astral and physical worlds; its materials are capable of a far wider range of responsive vibrations, and the impulses from a loftier realm mould it into nobler and subtler organisation. Such a body is rapidly becoming ready to reproduce every impulse from the Thinker which is capable of expression on the lower subdivisions of the mental plane; it is growing into a perfect instrument for activities in this lower mental world. (Annie Besant, AW, 140-1.)
Our Sins Will be Waiting for Us
In the course of evolution in the lower worlds man often introduces into his vehicles qualities which are undesirable and entirely inappropriate for his life as an ego - such, for example, as pride, irritability, sensuality. These, like the rest, are reducible to vibrations, but they are in all cases vibrations of the lower subdivisions of their respective worlds, and therefore they cannot reproduce themselves in the casual body, which is built exclusively of the matter of the three higher subdivisions of its world. For each section of the astral body acts strongly upon the corresponding section of the mental body, but only upon the corresponding section; it cannot influence any other part. So the casual body can be affected only by the three higher portions of the astral body; and the oscillations of those represent only good qualities.
The practical effect of this is that the man can build into the ego (that is, into his true self) nothing but good qualities; the evil qualities which he develops are in their nature transitory and must be thrown aside as he advances, because he has no longer within him matter which can express them. The difference between the causal bodies of the savage and the saint is that the first is empty and colorless, while the second is full of brilliant coruscating tints. As the man passes beyond even sainthood and becomes a great spiritual power, his causal body increases in size, because it has so much more to express, and it also begins to pour out from itself in all directions powerful rays of living light. In one who has attained Adeptship this body is of enormous dimensions. (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 48.)
Man carries with him from life to life the permanent atoms of his lower vehicles, and these tend to reproduce the qualities shown in his previous incarnations. Then, it may be asked: "Why carry over those permanent atoms?" Because it is necessary for evolution; because the developed man must be master of all the planes. If it were conceivable that he could develop without those permanent atoms, he might possibly become a glorious archangel upon higher planes, but he would be absolutely useless in these lower worlds, for he would have cut off from himself the power of feeling and of thinking. So that we must not drop the permanent atoms, but purify them. (Charles Leadbeater, MON, 16.)
But the Ego meets, as he crosses the threshold of Devachan on his way outwards--dying out of Devachan to be reborn on earth--he meets in the "atmosphere of the terrestrial plane", the seeds of evil sown in his preceding life on earth. During the devachanic rest he has been free from all pain, all sorrow, but the evil he did in his past has been in a state of suspended animation, not of death. As seeds sown in the autumn for the spring-time lie dormant beneath the surface of the soil, but touched by the soft rain and penetrating warmth of sun begin to swell and the embryo expands and grows, so do the seeds of evil we have sown lie dormant while the Soul takes its rest in Devachan, but shoot out their roots into the new personality which begins to form itself for the incarnation of the returning man.
The Ego has to take up the burden of his past, and these germs or seeds, coming over as the harvest of the past life, are the Skandhas, to borrow a convenient word from our Buddhist brethren. They consist of material qualities, sensations, abstract ideas, tendencies of mind, mental powers, and while the pure aroma of these attached itself to the Ego and passed with it into Devachan, all that was gross, base and evil remained in the state of suspended animation spoken of above. These are taken up by the Ego as he passes outwards towards terrestrial life, and are built into the new "man of flesh" which the true man is to inhabit. And so the round of births and deaths goes on, the turning of the Wheel of Life; the treading of the Cycle of Necessity, until the work is done and the building of the Perfect Man is completed. (Annie Besant, DA, n.p.
Students sometimes wonder why, if this be so, the evil qualities which a man shows in one life / should so often persist in later lives. The reason is not only that because the opposing good quality is un—developed there is an opportunity for evil influences to act upon the man in that particular direction, but also that the man carries with him from life to life the permanent atoms of his lower vehicles, and these tend to reproduce the qualities shown in his previous incarnations. Then, it may be asked: "Why carry over those permanent atoms?" Because it is necessary for evolution; because the developed man must be master of all the planes. If it were conceivable that he could develop without those permanent atoms, he might possibly become a glorious archangel upon higher planes, but he would be absolutely useless in these lower worlds, for he would have cut off from himself the power of feeling and of thinking. So that we must not drop the permanent atoms, but purify them. (Charles Leadbeater, MON, 15-6.)