26 August 1906, Stuttgart
Yesterday we came to know a little about the nature of Devachan; now we have to ask how the bliss of Devachan comes about. Most of the activity there is creative, and though it is difficult to give an idea of the bliss that goes with it, a comparison with something that occurs on Earth will perhaps bring us nearer to it.
Let us observe the feeling that pervades the activity of a being engaged in the creation of another being: for instance, a hen sitting on her eggs. This is really a very appropriate comparison, grotesque though it may sound, for the brooding hen experiences an immense and blissful sense of well-being. Transfer this feeling to the spiritual level and you will have some conception of Devachan.
In the first region, the continental, where everything physical is spread out in negative, but like a vast tableau, a man is under an obligation to create the image of his new body. He does this free of all hindrance, and in so doing feels the bliss of creation.
In the second region, the universal life which under physical conditions is tied up with the forms of man, animal and plant, flows freely like the waters of the sea; and a man sees this flow as something both external and internal. Externally he sees it flow in a reddish-lilac stream from one plant form to another, one animal form to another, all embraced in the unity of life. All forms of spiritual life, for example that of Christian communities, are seen as belonging to the universal flow of life. Hence the first rule for a Theosophist, which is to look for the one life in everything, can be truly practised; for the universal life, common to all things, is seen in flow.
In the third region one sees realised in visible form all the relationships that arise between human beings on the level of the soul. If two people love one another, one sees the love as a real being whose body is love. If you can make a picture of all this for yourselves, you will have some idea of the bliss of Devachan; but anyone who has any knowledge of it will use few words, for the spiritual cannot be rendered in physical language.
But you must not think a man is inactive in Devachan, or is concerned only with himself. He has something else to do there.
The countenance of the Earth with all its flora and fauna, is continually changing: how different, for instance, must things have been in northern Siberia when the mammoth, still to be found as though frozen alive in the ice-fields, lived there. How different things must have been here, when primeval forest still covered the ground, when wild animals of the torrid zone lived here and a tropical climate prevailed. Who is it that brings all this about? Who changes conditions on the Earth? How is it with the souls and spirits of animals, and with the souls of plants?
If we are talking only of the physical plane, we are quite justified in saying that man has his Ego and his dwelling-place here, and that man is the highest of the beings who live on the Earth. On the astral plane things are quite different. As soon as an Initiate enters that plane, he comes to know a whole range of new beings who are not present on the physical plane, but appear on the astral plane as beings like himself. Among them are the species-souls or group-souls of animals, and one associates with them as one does with other people on the physical plane. On the physical plane animals have only a physical, an etheric and an astral body; they have no Ego there, for their Ego is to be found on the astral plane. Just as your ten fingers have a common soul, all animals of one species have their common soul on the astral plane. The Ego of the species lion, dog, or ant, and so on, is to be found there as a real being. It is as though the Ego hovered in astral space and held the individual animals on strings like marionettes. Plants also have group-souls of this kind, but their Ego is in Devachan; the “strings” go still higher. And all the minerals, such as gold, diamonds, rocks and so forth, have their group-soul in the upper region of Devachan.
The various beings, then, are ranked in the following way:
|Lower Devachan||—||—||Ego||Astral Body|
|Astral Plane||—||Ego||Astral Body||Etheric Body|
When a man dies, his Ego is to be found together with the Egos of the animals, and the work he can be engaged on is similar to that of the Egos of the animals — to produce gradual changes in the animal world. In Lower Devachan he finds the Egos of the plants as his companions, and there he can alter the forms of the plant-world. In this way he can collaborate in the transformation of the Earth. Hence it is man himself who brings about the great changes in the countenance of the Earth, and also the greatly altered scene in which he lives during his next incarnation. But he carries out this work under the leadership and guidance of higher Beings. Thus it is true to say, when we look at the continually changing plant and animal worlds, that this change is the work of the dead. The dead are active in the transformation of flora and fauna, and even in changing the physical form of the solid Earth. Even in the forces of nature we have to see the activity of discarnate human beings; and we know how powerfully these forces can work on the face of the Earth.
All activity, all work, had its beginning at some time long ago. There were as yet no pyramids, not even any tools. Everything existed in the form given to it by gods, or, as materialists would say, by the forces of nature; and man was set into the midst of it all. Now, however, most of our surroundings are the work of man. Thus the Earth is always being transformed by man. This will go on increasingly, and what man cannot accomplish here, he carries out in the period between death and rebirth. Thus our own evolution is tied up with the changes of the whole Earth. The structure and evolution of the Earth are the work of men on higher planes, and the more highly man succeeds in developing himself, the more quickly and perfectly will the transformation of the physical Earth, and of its flora and fauna, advance. The more highly developed a man is, the longer is the time he can spend at work in the higher regions of Devachan. A savage sees little of it. In many stories and legends the human spirit — apparently childish but in reality inspired by lofty powers has given expression to these facts.
Now how do the forces act which bring man down to a new incarnation? As we saw, there is an interval of about I,000 years between death and the next incarnation, and during this period the soul is making itself ready for its journey to a new birth. It is exceedingly interesting for a clairvoyant to explore the astral world. He may, for example, observe astral corpses floating about, in process of dissolution. The astral corpse of a highly developed man, who has worked on his lower impulses, will dissolve very quickly, but with undeveloped persons, who have given free rein to their impulses and passions, the process of dissolution goes slowly. Sometimes the earlier astral corpse is not wholly dissolved when its original bearer returns to a new birth, and he will then face a difficult destiny. It can also happen that through special circumstances a man returns soon and finds his astral corpse still present. The corpse is then strongly drawn to him and slips into his new astral body. He does indeed create a new astral body, but the old one combines with it, and he has to drag both of them along throughout his life. And then in bad dreams or visions the old astral body comes before him as a second Ego, playing tricks on him, harassing and tormenting him. This is the false, counterfeit Guardian of the Threshold. An old astral corpse finds it easy to withdraw from a man because it is not firmly united with the other members of his being, and then it appears as a Double, a Doppelgänger.
Besides these astral forms, the clairvoyant sees another particularly remarkable set of shapes. They are bell-shaped and shoot through astral space with enormous speed. They are germinal human beings not yet incarnated but striving for incarnation. Time and space hardly matter to these beings because they can move about very easily. They are variously coloured and surrounded by an aura of colour: at one point they are red, at another blue, and a shining yellow ray flashes out from inside them. These germinal human beings have just come from Devachan into astral space. What is happening here?
After a man has taken with him into Devachan his higher astral body, and the causal body made up of the fruits of his former lives, he now has to gather round him new “astral substance” rather as scattered iron filings are brought into order by the pull of a magnet. He collects this astral substance in accordance with the forces within him: the substance collected after a good previous life is different from the substance collected after a bad one. The bell-shaped forms are made up of the causal body, the forces of the earlier astral body and the new astral body. The germinal human being ought not to encounter the old astral body; his task is to build up a new astral body out of undifferentiated astral substance, so that the whole process depends on the man himself. The form and colour of the new astral body are determined by the forces of his previous life: this is a fact to be kept thoroughly well in mind. The reason why the germinal human beings dart about with such enormous speed is that they are seaching for parents with suitable characters and family circumstances. Their speed helps them to find the right parents — they can be here at one moment and in America the next.
For the next stage, help is needed. Higher Beings, the Lipikas, guide the germinal human being to the chosen parents; the “Maharajas” form the etheric body to correspond with the astral form and with the contribution by the parents to the physical body. The clairvoyant can descry astral substance in the passion experienced by the parents during the act of impregnation, and the passional nature of the child is determined by the intensity of the passion felt by the parents. After this, etheric substance shoots in from north, south, east and west, from the heights and from the depths.
Parents who will be exactly right for the germinal human being cannot always be found; all that can be done is to search for the most suitable. Similarly, a physical body cannot always be built so as to match exactly the incoming etheric body. There can never be complete harmony. This is the reason for the discord between soul and body in human beings.
Immediately before incarnation a very important event occurs, parallel to the event which follows the moment of death. Just as immediately after death the whole memory of a man's past life appears like a tableau before his soul, so is a kind of preview of the coming life given to the soul immediately before it incarnates. Not all the details are seen, but the circumstances of the coming life are made evident in broad outline. This is of the utmost importance. It may happen that a person who went through a great deal of suffering and hardship in his previous life receives a shock from the glimpse of the new circumstances and destiny now in prospect, and holds back the soul from complete incarnation. Only a part of the soul then enters the body, and this will result in the birth of an epileptic or an idiot.
At the moment of incarnation, immediately after conception, the yellow thread in the causal body darkens and disappears. It persists through all stages only in Initiates.
We must not imagine that the higher members of a man's being unite completely with the embryo from the beginning. The causal body is the first to be active, for it works on the earliest formation of the physical body.
Development goes on after birth by stages, in the most varied ways; specially important for education is the period from the seventh to the fourteenth year. We shall see tomorrow how Theosophy bears on these problems of education, which point to an important chapter in human evolution.