Students of occultism, Oriental and Occidental, find many references in the works of the old authorities, to that great series of planes, immediately above those of the material world, which are loosely styled the “Astral Plane.” But they find the various authorities differing in their usage of the term. Many of the older authorities use the term, as we shall in this book, to designate the entire series of planes lying between those of the material world and those very exalted planes of existence, known as the “Spiritual Planes” the very nature of which is beyond the comprehension of the mind of the average man. On the other hand, some of the modern Western writers on the subject use the term the “Astral Plane” to indicate merely the lower planes and sub-planes of the Astral series—those planes which blend into the material planes on the one hand and into the higher Astral planes on the other. This has caused some confusion in the minds, of those beginning the study of the planes above the material.
In this book, as in our previous volumes, we follow the example of the ancient authorities, and apply the term, as they did, to the entire great series of planes lying between the material planes and the highest spiritual planes. We consider
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this plan preferable, for the reason that it is more simple, and tends to prevent the student from being confused by reason of many technical distinctions.
The Astral Plane is composed of numberless planes and sub-planes, and divisions of sub-planes, rising in a gradually ascending scale from those which touch and blend in with the higher material planes, to those which touch and blend into the lower strata (if the term may be so used) of the great spiritual planes. But between these two extremes is to be found the greatest possible variety of phenomena and phases of existence. On the lower planes of the Astral are manifested the psychic activities which men know as clairvoyance, clairaudience, telepathy, psychometry, etc. On other of the lower planes of the Astral are to be found certain forms of the “ghosts,” “spooks,” and other apparitions of disembodied souls which occasionally are perceived and sensed by man and some of the lower animals. On certain of these planes, also, the Astral bodies of men still in the flesh travel and manifest activity, either during the sleep of the owner of the body, or in certain trance conditions, or else when the owner deliberately leaves the physical body for the time being and projects his Astral Body on the Astral Plane.
The Astral colors are auras, which surround the physical bodies of all human beings, also manifest on certain sub-planes of the Astral. Certain other sub-planes may be called “the planes of psychic forces” by means of which various forms of psychic phenomena are performed. On similar lower planes are to be found the “thought-forms,” “thought-waves,” “thought-clouds,” etc., emanating from the minds of human beings, which travel about affecting the thoughts and emotions of those who attract them and who are attuned to their own psychic keynote. We mention these only in passing, and for general information, rather than in detail, for these phenomena have been considered in other volumes of these series of books.
Some of the lower sub-planes of the Astral are far from being healthy or agreeable places to visit, or upon which to function,
The Astral Plane
for the untrained person. In fact the experienced occultist has as little to do with them as possible, and advise all dabblers in occultism to avoid these miasmatic psychic regions as he would a swampy, fever-laden region on the material plane. Many persons have wrought great injury to themselves from attempting to penetrate these lower planes without a correct knowledge of the nature thereof, many having wrecked their bodies and minds by foolishly producing or inducing psychic conditions which cause them to function on these lower psychic planes. The old adage which informs us “that fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” applies in full force in this case.
Some of these lower Astral sub-planes are filled with Astral forms of disembodied human beings, the higher principles of whom are still attached to the Astral body, and which are held earth-bound by reason of the attraction of the material world. In this region also dwell for a time the very scum of disembodied human life, having every attraction to hold them down to the things of the material world, and nothing to draw them upward. It is pitiful to see persons, who would not think of associating with this class of persons in the flesh, nevertheless welcoming psychic intercourse and communication with the same class in the Astral, accepting them as “blessed spirits” and “beautiful souls.” The disgust which comes to many persons who dapple in “spirit return” at a certain class of seances, is readily understood when we understand the character of the entities which inhabit these low planes. Some of these scoundrelly dwellers on the lower Astral planes frequently counterfeit friends and relations of the inquirer, much to the pained surprise of the latter.
As the planes ascend in degree we leave this class of entities behind, and enter the realms where abide the disembodied souls of those of higher degrees of spirituality. Higher and higher rise the scale of planes and sub-planes, until at last are reached the realms of the blessed—the temporary abiding place of those who have attained a high degree of spiritual development, the “heaven worlds” which the religions of the race have sought to
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define according to their creeds and traditions. And, just as in the creeds of the race have been postulated the existence of “hells” to oppose the idea of “heaven,” so in the Astral world, as might be expected, are to be found certain lower planes in which dwell the disembodied souls of persons of brutal natures and tendencies, in which the inevitable result of their earth-life is worked out. But these hells of the Astral are not eternal— the disembodied soul in turn may work out into a better environment—may be given “another chance.” The Catholic conception of “purgatory” also has its Astral existence, in the form of certain sub-planes in which, as Hamlet’s fathers ghost has said: “the foul crimes done in my days of nature are burned and purged away”—but not in the fire of materiality, the fires of memory and imagination sufficing.
In short, on the great Astral plane are to be found conditions corresponding with nearly, if not all, of the conceptions formed by the mind of man in connection with the religions of all times and places. These conceptions have not arisen by mere chance— they are the result of the experience of certain of the race who in some way established psychic connection with some of the many Astral Planes, each of whom, according to his own nature and inclinations, reported his experiences to his fellows, who afterward incorporated them in the various religions of the world. It will be remembered that every race of human beings has had its traditions of the “place” of departed souls, the description varying greatly and yet all agreeing in some particulars. As we proceed, we will see how these reports were obtained, and how the varying reports may be harmonized and understood in connection with each other.
The term “Astral” of course means “of or pertaining to the stars.” It originally came into use in connection with occultism by reason of the common idea of men that “the other side” is “up in the skies;” among the clouds, or in the regions of the stars. Even in our own day, when the idea of heaven as a place has passed from the minds of intelligent persons, it is quite natural
The Astral Plane
for us to raise the eyes in speaking of “heaven,” or to point aloft when we wish to indicate the abode of the blessed. It is difficult to shake off the habitual concepts of the race, and while we know better than to suppose that there is any special “up or down” in the Cosmos, still, we have the old inherited race-habit of thought which causes us to think of the higher realms of the soul as “up” toward the stars. And, in a similar manner, the old term “Astral” has persisted in occult terminology.
Once more we must caution the student against confounding the idea of the Astral Plane with the idea of place or places. There is no such place as the Astral Plane. The Astral Plane is neither up nor down, neither north, south, east or west. It lies in no special direction—and yet it lies in all directions. It is, first, last, and always, a state or condition and not a place. It is rather a phase or degree of vibration, rather than a portion of space. Its dimensions are those of Time—not those of Space. When we use the words; “region;” “realm;” “higher or lower;” “above or below;” we employ them merely figuratively, just as we speak of “a high rate of vibration,” or “a rate or vibration above that, etc.” We find it necessary to repeat this caution, for the reason that the average student falls into the pitfall of error in connecting the idea of plane with that of place, when there should be no mental association between the two.