One of the many facts which are impressed upon the minds of the student of the occult is that which illustrates the principle that Nature is consistent and uniform in her methods. On the various planes of being, Nature has a few fundamental methods or habits of manifestation which the student soon learns to look for in his investigations, and which he always finds if he continues his search sufficiently long and with sufficient care and watchfulness.
One of these constant methods of habits of Nature is that by which she always interposes a period of rest, pause, sleep, or recuperation between the end of one period of activity and the beginning of another. On the physical plane we have many instances of this, from the momentary pause of the pendulum between its forward and backward swing; the pause between the inhalation and exhalation of the breath; the sleep between the close of one day and the beginning of another; the period of rest of the unborn child between its formative period and its birth into the world, etc.
In the Astral world we find the same phenomenon in the soul-slumber which occurs between that which we call Death and the beginning of the new existence on the Astral Plane.
The Life Beyond Death
And, reasoning from analogy, we might naturally expect to be informed that a similar phase or period exists between the close of the activities of the soul on the Astral Plane and its passing on to reincarnation or to higher spheres of spiritual life. And, indeed, such a phase or period does exist, and forms a very distinct feature of the soul’s existence on “the other side.” Such phase or period is known to occultists as the “second soul-sleep,” or slumber.
The second soul-sleep is preceded by a transition state of gradually declining activity and consciousness, and a corresponding desire for rest on the part of the soul. The natural processes on the Astral Plane nearing their close, the soul begins to experience a feeling of lassitude and weariness, and instinctively longs for rest and repose. It finds that it has lived out the greater part of its desires, ambitions, and ideals, and in many cases has also out-lived them. There comes to it that wistful feeling of having fulfilled the purpose of its destiny, and a premonition of the coming of some newer phase of existence. The soul does not feel pain at the approach of the second soul-sleep, but, on the contrary, experiences satisfaction and happiness as the coming of something which promises rest and recuperation. Like the weary traveller who has climbed the mountain paths, and has delighted in the experiences of the journey, the soul feels that it has well earned a restful repose, and, like that traveller, it looks forward to the same with longing and desire.
The soul may have passed but a few years, or perhaps a hundred or a thousand years, of earth-time, on the Astral Plane, according to its degree of development and unfoldment. But, be its stay short or long, the feeling of weariness reaches it at last, and, like many aged persons in earth-life, it feels that “my work is over—let me pass on, let me pass on.” Sooner or later, the soul feels a desire to gain new experience, and to manifest in a new life some of the advancement which has come to it by reason of its unfoldment on the Astral Plane. And, from
The Second Soul-Sleep
these reasons, and also from the attraction of the desires which have been smouldering there, not lived out or cast off; or, possibly influenced by the fact that some loved soul, on a lower plane, is ready to incarnate, and wishing to be with that soul (which is also a form of desire) the soul falls into a current sweeping toward rebirth and the selection of proper parents and advantageous circumstances and surroundings. In consequence thereof it again falls into a state of soul-slumber, gradually, and so when its time comes it “dies” on the Astral Plane, as it did before on the material plane, and passes forward toward re-birth on earth.
But, strictly speaking, the soul continues in a condition of partial slumber even after it has been re-born on earth-life, for it does not at once wake up in the body of the newborn child, in which form it has reincarnated. On the contrary, it awakens gradually during the early childhood and youth, of the child. This is a most interesting fact of occult science, and one that is but little known even to many careful students. We have spoken of it as follows, in a previous work: “A soul does not fully awaken from its second soul-slumber immediately upon re-birth, but exists in a dream-like state during the days of infancy, its gradual awakening being evidenced by the growing intelligence of the babe, the brain of the child keeping pace with the demands made upon it. In some cases, however, the awakening is premature, and we see cases of prodigies, child-geniuses, etc., but such cases are more or less abnormal and unhealthy. Occasionally, the dreaming soul in the child halfwakes, and startles us by some profound observation, or mature remark or conduct…. The rare instances of precocious children and infant genius, are illustrations of cases in which the awakening has been more than ordinarily rapid. On the other hand, cases are known where the soul does not awaken as rapidly as the average, and the result is that the person does not show signs of full intellectual activity until nearly middle-age. Cases are known where men seem to ‘wake up’ when they
The Life Beyond Death
are forty years of age, or even older, and then take on freshened activity and energy, surprising those who had known them before.”
But we are principally concerned now with the earlier stages of the second soul-slumber—the stages which are passed on the Astral Plane. In these early stages, the slumbering soul undergoes a peculiar stage of what might be called “spiritual digestion and assimilation.” Just as, in its first soul-slumber, the soul digested the fruits of its earth-life and assimilated the lessons and experiences thereof, so in this second slumber the soul digests and assimilates the wonderful experiences of the Astral. For, be it remembered, the period on the Astral has been not only one of retrospect on the one hand, and manifestation of latent powers, on the other. It has also been a period of reconstruction and unfoldment.
Many things have been lived-out and outlived on the Astral, and the soul leaves the Astral a far different entity from that which entered it. But, and remember this also, the change is always for the better. Many undesirable characteristics have been burned away by the fires of repentance and remorse, and many desirable characteristics have been unfolded in the rich spiritual soil of the higher planes, aided by the Sun of Spirit which envelopes the soul on the higher planes. But, there is still needed a process of “stock taking,” readjustment of mental conditions, and spiritual preparation for a new life—and this is supplied during the early stages of the second soul-slumber.
Just as the child, or the adult, receives the energy necessary for the work of the new day, when it is wrapped in sleep at the close of the old day, so does the sleeping soul receive energy from the One Supply, that it may face the new life with vigor and power. We do not go into the details of this recuperative work at this place, as we wish to avoid all appearance of technicality. Enough to say that the soul receives a fresh impetus of energy, and is also given the “psychic pattern” of its new physical body, during the second soul-slumber. It is also allowed to experience
The Second Soul-Sleep
the attractive power of its Karmic ties, which leads it into the channel of rebirth in accordance with the character of its nature—”like attracts like,” is the axiom which expresses the processes.
Each soul goes to where it belongs by reason of what it is. It is not subject to the arbitrary dictates of any being in heaven or in earth, but the absolutely just and equitable law of Karma operates in every case. There is no favoritism, nor is there the slightest chance of even the faintest injustice being the fate of any soul, no matter how humble or lowly it may be. The lowest as well as the highest comes under the same law, for all are children of the same parent—all little children in the kindergarten of the Absolute. All are on The Path, whether they know it or not—and their ignorance is not counted against them in the reckoning.
In the last chapter of this book, we shall speak of a class of souls that rise above further reincarnation in earth-life, and ascend to planes and stages of existence far above anything which the earth can offer. We mention them here merely to say that even such souls must pass through the second soul-slumber of the Astral Plane before they can proceed further. In such cases they lose in their sleep all that is left of the confining sheaths of earth-desire, and throw aside all the fruits of earth action except that which is called Liberation and Freedom. Such souls never again awaken on earth, nor do they ever return thereto, unless, perchance, they voluntarily revisit earth in after ages as great teachers or leaders. Such have worn the garb of men, now and then throughout the ages, but have always been far more than men in all but form. There are planes upon planes of existence higher than earth or its Astral Plane. Blessed indeed is the soul which awakens from the second soul-slumber and finds itself in even the most humble of these exalted states. Even the wisest sage bows his head in reverence at the mention of such spheres of existence, which transcend even the human imagination.