Once in the mountains, a landslide started
rumbling towards us. I cried. "We are going to die!"
My master said:
"Who can kill the eternal?"
from: Living with the Himalayan Masters,
by Swami Rama
Chapters in this
2. The Bodies of
The Basic Trinity of Man
2.2 The Bodies
2.3 The Physical
2.4 The Astral
2.5 The Mental
Spheres of Existence
3.2 The Astral
3.3 The Mental
The Causal or Spiritual World
Since the beginning of mankind, man has wondered
who he is, what he is doing here, and where he is going after death. He
looked at the outer world and fell in awe before the forces of nature.
He looked inside and discovered that he was more than a physical body.
He experimented with plants and with meditation, and found that he and
his environment also existed on other levels of consciousness. He passed
on his knowledge orally and later he wrote down his experiences. Thus
his fellow human beings and their descendants could learn about this,
and on the basis hereof interpret their own experiences.
we live in society where the emphases is on material gain and security,
by which the other facets of life, namely the spiritual, have been well
suppressed. Nevertheless people continue to experience states of
existence, and facets of life, other than the material. From this I have
gathered information to present you with an overview of the makeup of
man, the different planes of existence available to him, and the
continuing of his life after the transition we call death. It is
essential to your well-being to know who you are and what happens after
death. We all share the gift of living, so we should know who we are;
and we all share the same destiny in this life, so we should know what
Human beings like to interpret, categorize and label their
experiences. Nature, or life, do not do that. Bear in mind that what
follows is an attempt to make the information understandable and clear.
Every interpretation, categorization and labeling is artificial and
should not be taken as the unmistakable truth. They are like sign posts,
giving you an idea what you are about.
2.The Bodies of man
2.1. The Basic Trinity of Man
The most basic distinction we can make in
regards to the make-up of man is that he consists of a personality, an
individuality and a divine essence.
The personality is the lower
self, consisting of the physical body and the psychic soul. It has the
genetics of its forefathers, the energy system to keep the physical body
alive, and the psychological and psychic characteristics that define us
as human. He has the abilities to express himself through thought,
language, and other intellectual capacities. The personality is a unit
of incarnation, it is all those bodies and all those characteristics you
have taken on for this incarnation. As it belongs to the world of form,
it is temporary. It was created to express yourself in this world on a
temporary basis. When you die, the personality dissolves. The
experiences you have gained during your lifetime are then being absorbed
by your individuality.
The individuality is the higher self. It is
the unit of evolution. It does not die but remains the same throughout
the many incarnations. It learns from all the experiences in those
incarnations. While the personality often does not know why it
incarnated, as with every birth memory of the past has been wiped out,
the individuality has an overview of all incarnations, and of the
meaning of everything that happens to the person. Eventually the
individuality will go back into the Divine.
The divine essence is
what man always has been, at this moment is, and always will be. Each
living being is a part of the Divine. It is often compared with a star,
or a light spark. Although it seems that each living being is a separate
light spark in this universe of darkness, our divine essence links us
all together, as in the Divine there is no distinction, only unity
prevails. Our divine essence does not know duality, only unity. Our
language is too limited to express the Divine, but we try it anyway and
thus we say that the Divine, and our divine essence, is perfect,
immortal, eternal, unchangeable, formless and so on. The individuality
and personality are not perfect, mortal, temporal, subjected to change,
have form and so on.
2.2 The Bodies of Man
There are several systems, doctrines, and
philosophies that have their own classification and names for the
different bodies of man. Aside from some minor details they all fit
together in the following basic schematic.
The physical body
The mental body
The spiritual body
All these bodies
belong to the world of creation, and thus are temporal. They have form
and each has a specific function that allows man to express himself in
2.3 The Physical
The physical body allows man to express himself
in the physical world. It is built out of cells, molecules and atoms,
and it needs food to survive. It is the most crystallized of al bodies,
and the most dense. The physical body is male or female, and this
polarity plays an immense role in the life of man.
The physical body
is kept alive and structured by the ethereal body. The ethereal body is
often seen as a separate body, but it is actually a template, a matrix
for the physical body. The physical atoms, molecules and cells arrange
themselves according to the structure of the ethereal body. The ethereal
matrix looks like a web of energy lines, like light fibers which attract
physical matter and arrange it into a physical body. You can say that
the physical body is a duplicate of the ethereal body. Did you know that
with children, when a piece of a finger got cut off, the entire finger
will grow back again (for some reason this ability gets lost in later
years). How do the cells know how to structure themselves in order to
grow a new finger? It is because they follow the ethereal matrix along
which they align themselves. In primitive animals, like salamanders,
this ability remains for their entire live. They will grow a new limb,
or tail, easily. The ethereal body is responsible for the pain of
so-called phantom limbs. It has been a medical mystery for a long time,
that when a limb has been amputated, the patient will feel pain in this
limb that actually is not there anymore. The pain is often long lasting.
In the light of the above we can explain this pain in phantom limbs.
Although the physical limb has gone, the ethereal counterpart is still
there. The surgical removal of that limb created an immense trauma on
the body. In normal circumstances traumas settles themselves on muscles,
creating muscle spasms which in turn creates pain. As the physical body
by itself is inert, the trauma always happens on the level of the
ethereal body, which will pass on the trauma to the physical body,
mostly to the muscles. In the case of an amputated limb, the trauma is
still in the ethereal counterpart of that limb, and thus pain is felt.
It just does not have the ability to express itself on the physical
level. People have successfully removed this ‘phantom’ pain by methods
of relaxation, hypnosis and energy work.
Although the physical body
can loose parts or can be deformed during the course of a lifetime, the
ethereal body always remains the same. The only change that can happen
to the ethereal body is constriction on the energy flow through its
fibers (also called nadis). This will result in ailments and diseases in
the physical body. When the nadis are ‘cleared’, or the constriction of
them lifted, by energy healing of one kind or another, the physical
ailments or diseases will disappear.
The ethereal body absorbs the
solar and lunar pranas (subtle energies) and transforms them into the
necessary life energies for the physical body. They keep the physical
body not only alive but also healthy. The ethereal body acts especially
on the muscles, and with the ethereal body we experience time.
physical body, as it is composed of physical matter is by itself inert.
It is through the ethereal body that we feel pain, suffering, hunger,
thirst and other ‘physical’ comforts or discomforts.
2.4 The Astral Body
The astral body is the body that allows us the
experience of emotions, lust, instincts, desires and so on.
astral body does not have organs, although it takes on a form similar to
the physical body. It is composed of little astral particles which are
in constant movement. The astral body takes up these astral particles
from its astral environment and then ‘breathes’ them out again. The
astral can take any shape, but usually it takes the form of the physical
body of the present or last incarnation as consciousness has gotten used
to identifying itself with this form. It is called ‘astral’ body because
it glitters like stars when observed clairvoyantly.
2.5 The Mental Body
The mental body allows us the experience of
thoughts, thinking, and rational processes. The intellect. It still has
a form, but not necessarily a human form. Its form is abstract and
geometrical, although it can take on an apparent physical form to make
oneself recognizable on the lower levels of existence.
body cannot think by itself, as it does not have a consciousness by it
own. It is more like an automatic body that stores information and
transfers what it receives.
The mental body is sometimes divided into
The lower mental body: which is the seat of practical thinking
The higher mental body, also called the causal body: which is the level
of abstract thinking, and which contains the causes of everything that
manifest in the lower bodies and worlds. It contains the knowledge of
all past and present incarnations, and the roots of and possibilities of
future incarnations. It is the gateway to universal knowledge and
spiritual development. Although some authors make a distinction between
the causal body and the spiritual body, there are probably one and the
2.6. The Spiritual Body
The spiritual body allows us to experience the
highest forms of human manifestation. We could call it a cosmic body and
it is close to divine realm.
It is not a real body as it is not
subjected to form. On this level the ego ceases to exists. One is free
of duality and its constructs. Here is the experience of oneness of
everything that exists.
The spiritual body knows all things, lives in
utmost purity, and gathers true, divine knowledge. Its energy vivifies
and nourishes all the other bodies of man.
3.The Spheres of Existence
As man has different bodies, each body belongs
to a particular sphere of existence, or world. All the bodies are
functioning constantly, whether we are aware of them or not. In the
daytime, consciousness is centered in the physical body and the physical
world. At night, when the physical body rests, consciousness withdraws
and shifts to the astral level. Then consciousness is centered in the
astral body and can move around in the astral world. Usually it stays
just ‘outside’ the physical body and dreams. Occasionally it wanders
around in the astral world, has a short visit to the mental world, or
converses with other astral beings.
With traumas or accidents
consciousness can suddenly shift to the astral body. There are many
reports of people who suddenly left their physical body and saw its
condition from an eagle’s point of view. In the last decades a lot of
attention has been given to the so-called near-death-experiences. People
died, went out of their body and had certain experiences in the astral
world, which they were able to tell when they were brought back to life.
Some people are able to deliberately shift their consciousness to the
astral level, while remaining conscious. We usually call this
It is obvious that man’s consciousness
can shift to other levels of existence by shifting his awareness to his
other bodies and thus he is able to experience the respective world.
From people who have done this, we have gained information about these
worlds. The following is a short overview.
3.1 The Physical World
The physical world is the most familiar of all
world as we spend most of our conscious life in it. The physical world
is the most crystallized and most dense of all the world. It allows us
to act and work with many different kind of energies, circumstances,
actions, and learn a lot about life in the universe. The physical world
allows us to evolve. It is not only the residence of physical beings
like humans, but there are many non-physical beings which are living in
and working through the physical world.
3.2 The Astral World
The astral world has many levels and places,
which are the result of man’s consciousness, but the astral world by
itself has certain characteristics.
The light in the astral world is
not like we know in the physical world. It is a kind of spiritual light
that is much brighter and sparkling, although it depends on what level
you are. Time and space is also not the same as we know in the physical
world. The astral time and space is different. Astral time is the
succession of actions and is relative. When you go from one place to
another, one will go faster or slower depending on how fast or slow one
wishes to go. This means that one can go to any other place in an
instant if one wishes that.
As the astral world takes on the form
projected by man’s consciousness, it is no wonder that the astral world
is like a duplicate of this world. There are landscapes, flowers, trees,
road, buildings. The astral environment is constantly created by the
people living in that world. As people in the astral world (most of them
have died on the physical level) tend to group together according to
their inner state of being, we find many different environments,
landscapes, cities and so on, on the astral level. Thus we have heavens
and hells, and paces in between. Heaven and hell are not fixed places
created by God, but places created by the mind of the people themselves.
We create our own heaven or hell by the way we are living, feeling and
thinking, and by our actions.
As the astral world is a reflection of
the inner state of mind, there is only one language, and that is mind
communication. You might call it telepathy if you want to. As the body
does not have organs, but it composed of uniform astral matter, one does
not have to actually speak to communicate, nor does one has a need to
eat or drink, or smell, and so on, but the habits of the previous life
on the physical plane are still so strong that when people die and
arrive in the astral world, they will continue their habits.
astral substance is a plastic medium, and is often symbolized by the
element of Water. It is both substance and movement, and in constant
vibration. It is twofold, androgynous in nature depending on the degree
of polarization. It is volatile and fixed, it attracts and repels, it is
negative and positive. It looks for equilibrium between the two poles of
Peter Richelieu, in his book, A Soul’s Journey, speaks of
seven astral spheres. From his description it seems that they
corresponds with the different types of heavens described by other
The first sphere looks like a copy of the physical world,
where the inhabitants live more or less the same life as they did when
they were still living in the physical world.
The second sphere is
more created by the thoughts of the inhabitants, but they have the same
life style as in the first sphere.
In the third sphere they are
instructed in and taught the many arts, crafts and so on.
forth sphere we find artists who work by themselves, medical people who
do research, students who exchange ideas…There are also mental hospitals
for those who still have mental problems because of their passing over.
In the fifth and sixth sphere there are researchers like psychoanalysts,
specialists, philosophers, mystics who meditate, and religious people.
In the seventh sphere there are no buildings. The inhabitants live in
mediation, in seclusion, in silence. Usually the used to be monks and
the like in their previous life on earth.
When one sheds the astral
body one goes over the mental world.
These seven astral spheres
correspond loosely with the old terms of Morning Land and Summer Land.
Morning Land are those astral spheres that have nice landscapes, with
trees, a brilliant sun, and where inhabitants live in love for each
other. Summer Land are those areas where the colors are much brighter
and more plentiful. The inhabitants here are divided in groups, each has
the sign of their order on their robe. Each order embodies a particular
mental concept. The lower astral spheres usually serve to receive the
newly deceased who need time to adjust to their new environment.
the very low astral spheres are the so-called hells. Here are the
inhabitants who are still stuck in their negative habits, emotions and
thoughts. They just cannot let go of it, and thus create their own hell,
void of heavenly light that might liberate them from the vicious circle
they are in.
None of these spheres of existence are eternal. So
forget the eternal damnation to hell, or eternal delight in the heavens
that certain religions preach. There is no stagnation in the universe,
everything evolves, and every living being will eventually reach the
3.3 The Mental World
The inhabitants in the mental world do not
appear in bodily forms, but more as thought forms, the appearance of
which depends on their mental development. On the physical and astral
level life forms express themselves in well defined forms. This is not
the case on the mental level. Here life forms are more abstract.
Inhabitants usually wear a robe or mantel of white light.
inhabitant of the astral realms shed its astral body, it goes
immediately to that mental sphere that corresponds with the state of his
inner being. Peter Richelieu again divides the mental realm into seven
spheres. In the first and second sphere, one is in space and perceives
all directions at the same time. We can call this spherical perception.
The inhabitants have low mental development and appear as nebulous
forms. The higher the mental sphere the more defined the mental ‘form’
is. On the mental level one can hear any music just by making a thought
form of the movement of the music.
3.3 The Causal or Spiritual
When the mental body has been shed, one arrives
at the causal or spiritual world. Peter Richelieu says that this world
comprises the sixth and seventh mental spheres. Here, past, present and
future are one. At the causal level one is shown a full record of his
past lives, pointing out where he failed and where he excelled, and what
needs to be done in a next life to straighten things out. Then he must
enter a physical body again.