Entrance into the Mental plan – second death

The first portion of the life after death, spent on the astral plane, has already been fully described in The Astral Plane files. We therefore now take up our study from the moment when the astral body is left behind on its own plane, and the man withdraws his consciousness into the mental body, ie., “rises” to the mental plane, and in so doing enters what is known as the heaven-world. This is usually called by Theosophists Devachan, which means literally the Shining Land; it is also termed in Sanskrit Devasthân, the land of the Gods; it is the Svarga of the Hindus, the Sukhavati of the Buddhists, the Heaven of the Zoroastrian, Christian and Mohammedan; it has been called also the “Nirvana ” of the common people.” The basic principle of devachan is that it is a world of thought

The final separation of the mental body from the astral does not involve any pain or suffering; in fact, it is impossible that the ordinary man should in any way realise its nature; he would simply feel himself sinking gently into a delightful repose. There is however, usually a period of blank unconsciousness, analogous to that which usually follows physical death; the period may vary within wide limits, and from it the man awakens gradually.

When the man awakens again, after the second death, his first sense is one of indescribable bliss and vitality, a feeling of such other joy in living that he needs for the time nothing but just to live. Such bliss is of the essence of life in all the higher worlds of the system. Even astral life has possibilities of happiness far greater than anything that we can know in the physical life, but the heaven-life is out of all proportion more blissful than the astral. In each higher world the same experience is repeated, each far surpassing the preceding one. This is true not only of the feeling of bliss, but also of wisdom and breadth of view. The heaven life is so much fuller and wider than the astral that no comparison between them is possible.

As the sleeper awakens in devachan the most delicate 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 appear the faces of those he has loved on earth, etherealised into the beauty which expresses their noblest, loveliest emotions, unmarred by the troubles and the passions of the lower worlds. No man may describe adequately the bliss of the awakening into the heaven-world

This intensity of bliss is the main characteristic of the heaven-life. It is not merely that evil and sorrow are in the nature of things impossible in that world, or even that every creature is happy there. It is a world in which every being must, from the very fact of his presence there, be enjoying the highest spiritual bliss of which he is capable, a world where power of response to his aspirations is limited only by his capacity to aspire. This sense of the overwhelming presence of universal joy never leaves a man in devachan; nothing on earth is like it, nothing can image it; the tremendous spiritual vitality of this celestial world is indescribable.

Differences from the Astral Plan

The man’s position in the mental world differs widely from that in the astral. In the astral he was using a body to which he was thoroughly accustomed, having been in the habit of using it during sleep. The mental vehicle however, he has never used before, and it is far from being fully developed. It thus shuts him out to a great extent from the world about him, instead of enabling him to see it.

In the astral world he may have a comparatively pleasant life, though distinctly limited; on the other hand, he may suffer considerably in that purgatorial existence. But in devachan he reaps the results only of such of his thoughts and feelings as have been entirely unselfish; hence the devachanic life cannot be other than blissful

The thoughts which cluster round the devachani make a sort of shell, through the medium of which he is able to respond to certain types of vibration in this refined matter. These thoughts are the powers by which he draws on the infinite wealth of the heaven-world. They serve as windows through which he can look out upon the glory and beauty of the heaven-world, and through which also response may come to him from forces without.

It would be an error to regard this shell of thought as a limitation. Its function is not to shut a man off from the vibrations of the plane, but rather to enable him to respond to such influences as are within his capacity to cognise. The mental plane is a reflection of the Divine Mind, a storehouse of infinite extent, from which the person enjoying heaven is able to draw just according to the power of his own thoughts and aspirations generated during his physical and astral life.

Each man is able to draw upon the heaven-world, and to cognise only so much of it as he has by previous effort prepared himself to take. As the Eastern simile has it, each man brings his own cup; some of the cups are large, and some are small. But, large or small, every cup is filled to its uttermost capacity; the sea of bliss is far more than enough for all.

Mental images – windows

The ordinary man is not capable of any great activity in this mental world; his condition is chiefly receptive, and his vision of anything outside his own shell of thought is of the most limited character. His thoughts and aspirations being only along certain lines, he cannot suddenly form new ones; hence he perforce can profit little from the living forces which surround him, or from the mighty angelic inhabitants of the mental world, even though many of these readily respond to certain of man’s aspirations. Thus a man who, during earth-life, has chiefly regarded physical things, has made for himself but few windows through which he may contact the world in which he finds himself. A man, however, whose interests lay in art, music or philosophy will find measureless enjoyment and unlimited instruction awaiting him, the extent to which he can benefit depending solely upon his own power of perception.

There is a large number of people whose only higher thoughts are those connected with affection and devotion. A man who loves another deeply, or feels strong devotion to a personal deity, makes a strong mental image of that friend, or of the deity, and inevitably takes that mental image with him into the mental world, because it is to that level of matter that it naturally belongs.

Now follows an important and interesting result. The love which forms and retains the image is a very powerful force, strong enough in fact to reach and to act upon the ego of the friend, which exists on the higher mental plane; for it is of course, the ego that is the real man loved, not the physical body which is so partial a representation of him. The ego of the friend, feeling the vibration, at once and eagerly responds to it, and pours himself into the thought-form which has been made for him. The man’s friend is therefore truly present with him more vividly than ever before.

It makes no difference whatever whether the friend is what we call living or dead; this is because the appeal is made, not to the fragment of the friend which is sometimes imprisoned in a physical body, but to the man himself on his own true level. The ego always responds; so that one who has a hundred friends can simultaneously and fully respond to the affection of every one of them, for no number of representations of a lower level can exhaust the infinity of the ego. Hence a man can express himself in the “heavens” of an indefinite number of people. Each man in his heaven-life thus has around him the vivified thought-forms of all the friends for whose company he wishes. Moreover, they are for him always their best, because he has himself made the thought-images through which they manifest. In the limited physical world we are accustomed to thinking of our friend as only the limited manifestation which we know on the physical plane. In the heaven world, on the other hand, we are clearly much nearer to the reality in our friends than we ever were on earth, as we are two stages, or planes, nearer the home of the ego himself.

There is an important difference between life after death on the mental plane and life on the astral plane. For on the astral plane we meet our friends [during sleep of their physical bodies] in their astral bodies; i.e., we are still dealing with their personalities . On the mental plane, however, we do not meet our friends in the mental bodies which they use on earth. On the contrary, their egos build for themselves entirely new and separate mental vehicles and, instead of the consciousness of the personalities, the consciousness of the egos work through the mental vehicles. The mental plane activities of our friends are thus entirely separate in every way from the personalities of their physical lives.

Hence any sorrow or trouble which may fall upon the personality of the living man cannot in the least affect the thought-form of him which his ego is using as an additional mental body. If in that manifestation he did know of the sorrow or trouble of the personality, it would not be a trouble to him, because he would regard it from the point of view of the ego in the causal body, viz., as a lesson to be learned, or some karma to be worked out. In this view of his there is no delusion; on the contrary, it is the view of the lower personality which is the deluded one; for what the personality sees as troubles or sorrows are to the real man in the causal body merely steps on the upward path of evolution.

We also see that a man in devachan is not conscious of the personal lives of his friends on the physical plane. What we may call the mechanical reason for this has already been fully explained. There are also other reasons, equally cogent, for this arrangement. For it would obviously be impossible for a man in devachan to be happy if he looked back and saw those whom he loved in sorrow and suffering, or in the commission of sin

In devachan there is thus no separation due to space or time; nor can any misunderstanding of word or thought arise; on the contrary, there is a far closer communion, soul with soul, than ever was the case in earth-life. On the mental plane there is no barrier between soul and soul; exactly in proportion to the reality of soul-life in us is the reality of soul-communion in devachan. The soul of our friend lives in the form of him which we have created just to the extent that his soul and ours can throb in sympathetic vibration. We can have no touch with those with whom on earth the ties were only of the physical and astral bodies, or if they and we were discordant in the inner life. Hence, in devachan no enemy can enter, for only sympathetic accord of mind and heart can draw men together in the heaven-world. With those who are beyond us in evolution, we come into contact just so far as we can respond to them; with those who are less advanced than we are, we commune to the limit of their capacity

Desire elemental

The student will recollect that the Desire-Elemental re-arranges the astral body after death in concentric layers of matter, the densest outermost, thus confining the man to that sub-plane of the astral world to which belongs the matter in the outermost layer of his astral body. On the mental plane there is nothing to correspond to this, the mental elemental not acting in the manner adopted by the Desire-Elemental. There is also another important difference between the astral and mental life. On the mental plane the man does not pass through the various levels in turn, but is drawn direct to the level which best corresponds to his degree of development. On that level he spends the whole of his life in the mental body. The varieties of that life are infinite, as each man makes his own for himself

In devachan, the heaven world, all that was valuable in the moral and mental experiences of the Thinker during the life just ended is worked out, meditated over, and gradually transmuted into definite moral and mental faculty, into powers which he will take with him to his next incarnation. He does not work into the mental body, the actual memory of the past, for the mental body will, as we shall see in due course, disintegrate. The memory of the past abides only in the Thinker himself, who has lived through it and who endures. But the facts of past experience are worked into capacity, so that, if a man has studied deeply, the effects of that study will be the creation of a special faculty to acquire and master that subject when it is first presented to him in another incarnation. He will be born with a special aptitude for that line of study, and will absorb it with great facility.

During the devachanic period the ego reviews his store of experiences, the harvest of the earth-life just closed, separating and classifying them, assimilating what is capable of assimilation, rejecting what is effete and useless. The ego can no more be always busied in the whirl of earth-life than a workman can always be gathering store of materials, and never fabricating from them goods; or than a man can always be eating food and never digesting and assimilating it to build up the tissues of his body. Thus devachan, except for the very few, as we shall see later, is an absolute necessity in the scheme of things.

During the devachanic period the ego reviews his store of experiences, the harvest of the earth-life just closed, separating and classifying them, assimilating what is capable of assimilation, rejecting what is effete and useless. The ego can no more be always busied in the whirl of earth-life than a workman can always be gathering store of materials, and never fabricating from them goods; or than a man can always be eating food and never digesting and assimilating it to build up the tissues of his body. Thus devachan, except for the very few, as we shall see later, is an absolute necessity in the scheme of things.

An imperfect understanding of the true nature of devachan has sometimes led people to think that the life of the ordinary person in the lower heaven-world is nothing but a dream and an illusion; that when he imagines himself happy amidst his family and friends, or carrying out his plans with such fullness of joy and success, he is really only a victim of a cruel delusion. This idea results from misconception of what constitutes reality [so far as we can ever know it], and from a faulty point of view. The student should recollect that most people realise so little of their mental life, even as led in the body, that when they are presented with a picture of mental life out of the body, they lose all sense of reality, and feel as though they had passed into a world of dream. The truth is, however, that physical life compares unfavourably, as regards reality, with life in the mental world.

During ordinary earth-life it is obvious that that average person’s conception of everything around him is imperfect and inaccurate in very many ways. He knows, for example, nothing of the etheric, astral and mental forces which lie behind everything he sees, and form in fact by far the most important part of it. His whole outlook is limited to that small portion of things which his senses, his intellect, his education, his experience, enable him to take in. Thus he lives in a world very largely of his own creation. He does not realise that this is so, because he knows no better. Thus, from this point of view, ordinary physical life is at least as illusory as is life in devachan, and careful thought will show that it is really far more so.

For, when a man in devachan takes his thoughts to be real things, he is perfectly right; they are real things on the mental plane, because in that world nothing but thought can be real. The difference is that on the mental plane we recognise this great fact in nature, whereas on the physical plane we do not. Hence we are justified in saying that, of the two, the delusion is greater on the physical plane. Mental life, in fact, is far more intense, vivid, and nearer to reality than the life of the senses. Hence, in the words of a Master: “we call the posthumous life the only reality, and the terrestrial one, including the personality itself, only imaginary.” “To call the devachan existence a ‘dream’ in any other sense than that of a conventional term, is to renounce for ever the knowledge of the Esoteric Doctrine, the sole custodian of truth”.

In devachan itself the process is reversed; for its inhabitants feel their own life to be the real one, and look on earth- life as full of the most patent illusions and misconceptions. On the whole, those in devachan are nearer the truth than their physical critics in earth-life, but of course the illusions of earth, though lessened, are not wholly escaped from in the lower heavens, in spite of the fact that contact there is more real and more immediate. In more general terms, the truth is that the higher we rise through the planes of being, the nearer we draw to reality; for spiritual things are relatively real and enduring, material things illusory and transitory.

Law of Karma

But by the law of karma [of which that known as the conservation of energy is another expression] no force can ever be lost or robbed of its due effect; it must produce its due and full effect, and until its opportunity arises it remains as so much stored-up energy. In other words, much of the higher spiritual energy of man cannot bring about its due result in earth-life, because his higher principles cannot respond to such fine and subtle vibrations until the man is free from the incubus of the flesh. In the heaven-life, for the first time, all this hindrance is removed, and the accumulated energy pours forth in the inevitable reaction which the law of karma demands.

Devachan is thus by no means a dream, or lotus-land of purposeless idling. On the contrary, it is a land, or better, a condition of existence, where the mind and heart develop, unhindered by gross matter or by trivial cares, where weapons are forged for the struggles of earth-life, and where, in fact, the progress of the future is secured.

Friends and family

What other arrangement with regard to relatives and friends could be equally satisfactory? If the departed were permitted to follow the fluctuating fortunes of their friends on earth, happiness would be impossible for them. If, without knowing what was happening to them, they had to wait until the death of those friends before meeting them, there would be a painful period of suspense, often extending over many years, while in many cases friends would arrive so changed as to be no longer sympathetic.

Nature has avoided all these difficulties. Each man decides for himself, both the length and character of his heaven-life, by the causes which he has himself generated during his earth-life; therefore he cannot but have exactly the amount which he has deserved, and exactly that quality of joy which is best suited to his idiosyncrasies. Those whom he loves he has ever with him, and always at their noblest and best; no shadow of discord or change can ever come between them, since he receives from them all the time exactly what he wishes. In fact, nature’s method is infinitely superior to anything which the wit or imagination of man has ever been able to offer in its place.

It is, perhaps, difficult on the physical plane to realise the creative nature of the powers exercised by the Thinker, clad in his mental body, and untrammelled by the physical vehicle. On earth, an artist may create visions of exquisite beauty, but when he seeks to embody them in the materials of earth he finds they fall short of his mental conceptions. In devachan, however, all that a man thinks is at once reproduced in form, out of the rare and subtle matter of mind-stuff itself, the medium in which the mind normally works when free from passion, and which responds to every mental impulse. Thus the beauty of man’s surroundings in devachan is indefinitely increased to the wealth and energy of his mind

The shell on the mental plane may be compared to the shell of an egg on the physical plane. The only way to get anything into the shell of the egg, without breaking it, would be to pour it in from a higher dimension, or to find a force whose vibrations are sufficiently fine to penetrate between the particles of the shell without disturbing them. The same is true of the mental shell; it cannot be penetrated by any vibrations of matter of its own level, but the finer vibrations which belong to the ego can pass through it without disturbing it in the least; i.e., it can be acted upon freely from above, but not from below.

From this follows two effects :
[1] vibrations sent out from the mental body of the man in the shell cannot strike directly upon the mental body of his friend, nor can he generate a thought-form which could travel through space and attach itself to the friend in the ordinary way. This could happen only if the man were able to move freely and consciously about the mental plane, which of course he cannot do;
[2] the thoughts of his friend cannot reach the man in his devachanic shell, as they do in ordinary life on the physical or astral plane