The student of comparative religions is struck with the fact
that from the primal stock of religious belief there emerges
an almost countless number of creeds, sects, and divisions of religious thought. From the very primitive superstitions of the simple races to the most advanced conceptions of the cultured peoples, there runs a uniting thread of fundamental belief in a something which is above the phenomenal universe, and which is the Causeless Cause of the Universe. Coupled with this conception we find the fundamental belief that the soul survives after the death of the body. But this conception, also, is variously interpreted by the different religious authorities and sects. The third general conception, the fundamental religious instinct of the race, is that which holds that the future life of the soul depends upon the character and actions of the individual during his earth-life.
It is a long journey from some of the most primitive interpretations of these three fundamental principles of religious belief, to that high conception of the advanced occultists which has been stated by a gifted author as follows: “There are three truths which are absolute, and which cannot be lost, but yet may remain silent for lack of speech, (i) The soul
The Life Beyond Death
of man is immortal, and its future is the future of a thing whose growth and splendor have no limit. (2) The principle which gives life dwells in us, and without us; is undying and eternally beneficent; is not heard or seen, or felt, but is perceived by the man who desires perception. (3) Each man is his own absolute law-giver; the dispenser of glory or gloom to himself, the decreer of his life, his reward, his punishment. These truths, which are as great as his life itself, are as simple as the simplest mind of man. Feed the hungry with them.”
Yet each of the conceptions, and all the varying degrees which appear between them, are alike the result of man’s intuitive perception of that something; the Immortality of the Soul; and the Law of Karma. The difference between the varying forms of religious thought is simply the differences between the conceptions of Truth formed by the minds of various religious leaders or teachers and their followers.
All creeds and religious dogmas are manmade, as the enemies of revealed religion maintain. But, these good folks miss the other half of the truth, i. e. that underlying the man-made creeds and dogmas eternally exists the intuitive perception of the race regarding the existence of Truth. The mind may not be able to correctly interpret the intuitive perception, but it finds itself positively impressed by the fact that Truth does exist. Man has made a god of nearly everything in the material world, and has fallen down and worshipped his own creation—this because of his limited power of interpretation. But in worshipping the stick or stone, the graven image, or the anthropomorphic deities, he was unconsciously, and in reality, worshipping that something which was the cause of the religious intuition within his soul. And, as one of the Hindu Vedas beautifully states it, the Supreme One accepts all such worship, when honestly given as intended for itself. “Truth is but One, although men call it by many names,” says the old Yogi sage of centuries past.
Each man creates for himself, and holds to, the particular form of religious faith which is best suited for the requirements
Astral Religious Experiences
of his soul at any particular period of its evolution. When he is ready for a higher conception, he sheds and discards the old belief and eagerly embraces the newer one. The world has witnessed many instances of this evolution of religious thought, and, indeed, it is really going through an important one at this particular time. The path of the race is strewn with broken and discarded idols, material and mental, which were once precious to millions of worshippers. And, as the race advances, many more idols will be overthrown and left crumbling on the paths of time. But each idol had its own appropriate place in the general history of the evolution of the religious thought of the race. Each served its purpose, and its ideals served to aid man in his perpetual and eternal journey toward Absolute Truth.
In view of the above-stated facts, would we not naturally expect to find in a rational and equitable adjustment of conditions on “the other side” some provision made for the sincere religious faiths and beliefs of the race, differing from each other as these faiths and beliefs may be? Imagine the spiritual anguish of a disembodied soul were it to see the cherished beliefs of an earnest life, and the traditions of many generations of ancestors, swept away as by a flood. And, this, particularly in view of the fact that the soul would not be sufficiently advanced to understand or accept the higher forms of religious truth, but would be merely asked to accept either something which it could not understand, or else which was repugnant to it by reason of its past training and experience. Such would be cruelty to the disembodied soul as much as if the same thing were attempted during its earth-life.
There is a native belief among many persons which would imply that the disembodied soul is magically, and instantaneously transformed from ignorance into absolute knowledge upon passing over to “the other side.” This is a childlike belief, and has no basis in fact. There is really but very little difference in the general intelligence or spiritual attainment of the soul, before or after death. Soul progress is gradual, in or
The Life Beyond Death
out of the body. The disembodied soul is practically the same in general intelligence and understanding, in and out of the body. “In” and “out” of the body are but successive phases of its continuous life, succeeding each other like day and night, summer and winter. Therefore, what is true of a particular soul’s feelings and emotions in earth-life is almost equally true of the same things in its life in the Astral. We mention this that you may better understand that to which we have been leading up in the previous pages of this chapter.
Accordingly, what we might naturally expect to find (according to reason and in equity) regarding the religious experiences of the disembodied soul, is so in fact. That is to say, on the Astral Plane each soul finds itself surrounded by a religious environment in accordance with the best of the beliefs entertained by it in its earth-life. It will not only find the particular heavens, or hells, which it expected to find, but it will also find itself in contact with other souls of a similar belief, and with the prophets and sages and founders of its own religion. But this environment will be of the nature of a mirage, for it is a product of human thought and has no counterpart in the absolute facts of nature. The thought-forms of a particular form of religious thought gather great strength on the Astral Plane, and endure with all the appearance of permanent reality to the perception and understanding of the believer and devotee—although entirely invisible to those of a different faith. The presence of prophets and founders remains with the environment, though the souls of these individuals have long since passed on to other planes of life. The Astral Plane is a realm of ideals, and each soul finds its ideals realized thereon.
The good Christian finds a manifestation of the best in his own creed and beliefs, and rests fully assured that he has had the true faith, and has reaped the reward he expected. But, the same is true of the good Brahmin, or the good Mohammedan, or the good Confucian. Moreover, each particular sect or division of religious belief finds a corroboration of its own
Astral Religious Experiences
beliefs on the Astral Plane. But there is no warring of sects or religions. Each soul finds its own, and is oblivious of the rest. But, note this apparent exception: the soul which has advanced far enough to realize that there is Truth in all religious beliefs, and which has manifested a tolerant spirit in earth-life, is also given a corroboration of his belief, and is allowed to see the joys of the blessed of all religious faiths.
It must be remembered, however, that these Astral representations of the various religious faiths and beliefs comprise only the best of each particular form of belief—in short, the soul witnesses the highest conception and ideal of which it is capable regarding its favorite religion. This naturally has the effect and result of developing the highest religious conceptions in the soul, and inhibiting the lower ones, to the end that when the soul undertakes its next earthly pilgrimage it will carry with it a taste and inclination for only the highest in its own religion, and will thus aid in the evolution of religion on earth. Sometimes a soul will evolve from one form of religious conception in its Astral Life, and upon its reincarnation will be ready for one higher. Remember, always, that the spiritual evolution constantly leads onward and upward, from lower to higher—on, and on, and on, forever.
The question of religious rewards and punishments, on the Astral Plane, which naturally forms a part of the subject just considered, will be discussed in the following chapter.