VILOO H. ADAJANIA briefly maps the route of the Immortal Soul after the death of its physical body, till it is reincarnated.
What is death? Death is the final withdrawal of consciousness from its outermost form, the physical body. In one direction go the multitudes of particles and miscellaneous items that compose the body; while in another direction disappears the mysterious integrative power that united the whole and governed the body’s empire, that is, the unit of consciousness, which, together with its higher principles, that is, its higher levels of matter, constitute the Immortal Soul. Does it too dissolve into nothingness as some cloud of vapour into thin air?
With the death of the body, does consciousness lose its focus as an individual identity? Do the abilities and capacities that were developed out of a life-time of effort, disappear forever? What can we really know of an individual’s situation after the physical body dies? More important, can we follow the path of the immortal soul in its course beyond the grave?
Before we delve deeper, let us first understand what a human soul is. The soul of a man is an individual and permanent consciousness who lives in a body of invisible matter. This soul-body, composed of a type of matter called Higher Mental, is known in Theosophy as The Causal Body. It is called “Causal” because the best impulses of thoughts, feelings, actions and tendencies, on all the planes of the soul’s operations, are caused or created in this permanent residence of the soul.
In that Causal Body the soul lives, undying and eternal. To him there is no birth, childhood, old age or death. He is an immortal soul, growing in power to love, to think, to act, as the ages roll by. A study of the knowledge which is available today as Theosophy, has assisted us in a kind of mapping of the route which we follow upon leaving the physical world at death.
Scanning the map, as it were, our attention is first drawn to the fact that the transition after death, into the next world of consciousness, the Astral Plane, is accomplished by passage through the sheath of finest physical matter that has acted as a vital link between the physical and the higher levels of matter. This vehicle is known specifically as the Etheric Double, because it duplicates the physical form in subtler physical matter.
The matter of this sheath surrounds and permeates every tissue and cell of the denser body. A distinct force which has been recognized in India as ‘prana’ or vitality, emanating from the Sun, is absorbed by the Etheric Double through its centres that absorb and distribute it to every region of the body energizing and vitalizing it.
Soon after final withdrawal of the soul from the physical body, the ‘prana’ escapes the body and returns to its source. Following this, the period of life in the Astral World commences. For some individuals the time spent in the Astral is brief, for others it is more extended. This is so because disentanglement from all desires and feelings that were identified with physical matter, is undertaken in this plane of existence. Naturally, the person given to coarser sensual cravings and their gratification will require a longer time for disenthralment. Eventually, this is accomplished and the Astral period terminates.
Following it, is passage into the Mental or Heaven World. For a degenerate person whose mental faculties are also undeveloped, his soul cannot stay in the Mental Plane for long because it has hardly any real achievements earned by dint of honest, sincere efforts during his last earthly life, to muse on. And so, it takes rebirth in a comparatively very short period of his stay in this plane.
Whereas, a major period of time is spent there by all people whose aspirations and pursuits have been less material. Highly educated, intelligent people and advanced souls who during their lives on earth nurtured higher concepts are said to dwell in this region for very many years. During their long span of existence in Heaven or Higher Mental Plane, they analyse and absorb their experiences and the lessons they have learnt. This then becomes their higher faculties in the succeeding incarnations, for further growth.
After many years of stay in this plane, the individual as a mental being, passes into a different state. The images which are carried over tend to gradually fade because of no further contact with the scenes which in the first instance caused those images. The entity will naturally tend to become more withdrawn and live in a world of his own akin to sleeping and dreaming. We may regard this sleeping and dreaming as a state of consciousness which is not based on the earthly events, but a state which is purely spiritual and detached and released from all hampering influences. In this state it is able to realize its highest nature which is a blissful experience.
During this longest after-death period, which is the closing phase of the total cycle of an incarnation, the soul of man reaps the full benefit of his recent life-time on earth, preparing in due time, for the return known as reincarnation. Reincarnation becomes necessary so long as desires exist in his nature and thirst for experience remains. They bring him back into earthly conditions with some things remaining to be settled in his ‘karmic’ account.
In his next birth he will get parents, family, religion, vitality, faculties, etc., depending upon the totality of his past ‘karma’, his strong aspirations, his tendencies and his worthiness. This is decided and governed by the Divine Laws of Nature. Nothing happens by chance. On rebirth, there is no memory lurking of any events, either of his past lives or inter-life periods, except in very exceptional cases when some traces of last life on earth remain, maybe for some divine purpose to be fulfilled.
The cyclic rounds of reincarnations continue according to the Karmic Law, till such time as an individual liberates from the bonds of birth and death (that is, till he is perfect with no ‘karmic’ debts to settle). It needs to be well understood here that liberation is not given to him as a privilege or a special gift, but is supposed to be won by his own Ego (soul) through personal effort and merit throughout the long series of reincarnations.