We would be neglecting the task to which we have set ourselves in this book, were we to omit all mention of a peculiar phenomenon of the Astral Plane which causes much confusion to all beginners in the investigation of psychic phenomena. We allude to what have aptly been called “Astral Shells,” the worn-out Astral bodies of the souls who have awakened from the soul-slumber of the Astral Plane. These worn-out garments of the soul are frequently mistaken for the soul itself, and much confusion has arisen by reason of this mistake.
Each human entity on earth-life has, in addition to the physical body, a finer and more subtle form of body, which is called the Astral Body (sometimes called “the etheric double,” known to the Hindus as the Linga Sharira). This Astral body is an exact counterpart of the physical body, and, in fact, is the finer model upon which the physical body is moulded or overlaid. Upon the departure of the soul from the physical body, it carries the Astral body with it as its vehicle, and dwells in it during the soul-sleep, discarding it only when it awakens from the soul-slumber and passes on to the higher states or conditions of the Astral. The Astral body, thus discarded by the
The Life Beyond Death
soul, then becomes what is known to occultists as an “Astral shell.”
In a previous work, we have spoken as follows of the “Astral shell,” after it has been discarded by the soul: “The Astral body exists for some time after the death of the person to whom it belongs, and under certain circumstances, it is visible to living persons, and is by them called a ‘ghost.’ The “Astral shell,” which is sometimes seen after it has been sloughed off by the soul which has passed on, is in such cases nothing more than a corpse of finer matter than its physical counterpart. In such cases it is possessed of no life or intelligence, and is nothing more than a cloud seen in the sky bearing a resemblance to the human form. It is a shell, nothing more…. When discarded by the soul it begins to slowly disintegrate…. It floats around in the lower Astral atmosphere, until finally it is dissolved into its original elements. It seems to have a peculiar attraction toward its late physical counterpart, and will often return to the neighborhood of the discarded physical body, and disintegrate with it. Persons of psychic sight, either normal or influenced by fear or similar emotions, frequently see these “Astral shells” floating around graveyards, over battle-fields, etc., and mistake them for the ‘spirits’ of departed persons, whereas they are no more the real souls of the persons than are the physical bodies beneath the ground.”
“These ‘Astral shells’ may be ‘galvanized’ into a semblance of life by coming in contact with the vitality of some ‘medium,’ the prana of the latter animating it, and the sub-conscious mentality of the medium causing it to manifest signs of life and partial intelligence. At some of the seances of the mediums, these astral shells are materialized by means of the vitality of the medium, and are made to talk in a stupid, disconnected way with those around, but it is not the person himself talking, but a mere shell animated by the life principle of the medium and the ‘circle,’ and acting and talking like an automaton. There are, of course, other forms of ‘spirit return,’ but investigators of
spiritualistic phenomena should beware of confounding these Astral shells’ with the real soul of their departed friends.”
A leading authority on the subject, has written of the “Astral shell,” as follows: “At death it is disembodied for a brief period, and, under some abnormal conditions, may even be temporarily visible to the external sight of still living persons. Under such conditions it is taken of course for the ghost of the departed persons. Spectral apparitions may sometimes be occasioned in other ways, but the third principle (the Astral Body) when that results in a visible phenomenon, is a mere aggregation of molecules in a peculiar state, having no life or consciousness of any kind whatever. It is no more than a cloud-wreath in the sky which happens to settle into the semblance of some animal form. Broadly speaking, the linga sharira never leaves the body except at death, case. When seen at all, and this can but nor migrates far from the body even in that rarely occur, it can only be seen near where the physical body lies.
“…It is a mistake to speak of consciousness, as we understand the feeling in life, attaching to the Astral shell’ or remnant; but, nevertheless, a certain spurious resemblance may be awakened in that shell, and without having any connection with the real consciousness all the while growing in strength and vitality in the spiritual sphere. There is no power on the part of the shell of taking on and assimilating new ideas and intiating courses of action on the basis of those new ideas. But there is in the shell a survival of volitional impulses imparted to it during life…. It is liable to be galvanized for a time in the mediumistic current into a state of consciousness and life which may be suggested by the first condition of a person who, carried into a strange room in a state of insensibility during illness, wakes up feeble, confused in mind, gazing about with a blank feeling of bewilderment, taking in impressions, hearing words addressed to him and answering vaguely. Such a state of consciousness is unassociated with the notions of past and future. It is an automatic consciousness, derived from the medium.”
The Life Beyond Death
Another writer on the subject says of these “Astral shells:” “These remnants of the Astral bodies so discarded and disintegrating are not in any way related to the souls which formerly inhabited them. They are mere shells, without soul or mind, and yet preserving a slight degree of vitality. They are Astral corpses, just as much a corpse as is the discarded physical body. But, just as the physical corpse may be aroused into apparent life activity by a strong galvanic current, and will roll its eyes, move its limbs, and even utter groans—so may these Astral corpses be galvanized by the vitality of a medium (unconsciously by the latter), if the conditions be favorable, and may be materialized so as to appear as a shadowy form, acting, moving, and even speaking, the only mind in it, however, being supplied by that of the medium or the persons present at the seance.”
The careful student of occultism will find in the works of all of the best authorities many warnings against the confounding of the phenomena related to these “Astral shells,” with that referring to actual communication between disembodied souls and those in the flesh. But the general public, not being informed, is very apt to fall into the error of supposing that this class of psychic phenomena is a manifestation of “spirit return,” and the cause of rational spiritualism has been very much injured in this way. It is a ghastly mockery to have these disintegrating “Astral shells,” galvanized temporarily into life by the vitality and minds of a medium (consciously or otherwise), and to have them mistaken for the souls of departed friends and relatives. And yet this terrible experience has been the lot of many earnest investigators of psychic phenomena, and by many persons whose love has prompted them to seek to communicate once more with their loved ones. It would seem that there is much need for true occult knowledge on the part of the public, in these days when so many are dabbling in psychic research, and producing psychic phenomena the nature and character of which they do not understand.
We trust that nothing we have said in this, or the preceding chapters, will be taken as an attack upon modern spiritualism in the Western world. We have no such intention, and no such feeling. We realize that through the channel of modern spiritualism many earnest souls have been brought to a realization of the higher spiritual truths, and have been led to the door of the higher occult understanding. In fact, modern spiritualism to-day is concerning itself comparatively little with “phenomena,” but, instead, is striving to unfold the truths of the life on the higher spheres of being and existence of the soul. But following on the outskirts of the movement are many to whom only phenomena of the most sensational character appeals—it is for these that this warning is intended. And, in the same manner, for those who are following idly after the “psychic research” movement, being attracted thereto by love of novelty and hope of excitement. We would warn both of these classes of investigators that in opening the doors of the minds and souls to lower Astral influences, they are running great risks. There are swamps and quagmires of the Astral world into which the unwary feet are apt to sink. Therefore we say “Beware of the lower astral vibrations.” Keep the mind and soul centered on the higher truths, and resist the temptation to dabble in the phenomena of the lower states. There is no satisfaction in the Moon phase of occultism, and great dangers are often encountered—turn your face toward the sun! Live on the spiritual Heights—beware of the miasmatic swamps and malarial quagmires on the lowlands of psychism. These warnings cannot be too often repeated by those having the interest of the race at heart.