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Esoteric Buddhism


Alfred Percy Sinnett


Alfred Percy Sinnett

1840 - 1921




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Kāma Loca



Chapter 6




THE statements already made in reference to the destiny of the higher human principles at death will pave the way for a comprehension of the circumstances in which the inferior remnant of these principles finds itself, after the real Ego has passed either into the Devachanic state, or that unconscious intervening period of preparation therefore, which corresponds to physical gestation. The sphere in which such remnants remain for a time is known to occult science as Kāma loca, the region of desire, not the region in which desire is developed to any abnormal degree of intensity, as compared with desire as it attaches to earth life, but the sphere in which that sensation of desire, which is a part of the earth life, is capable of surviving.


It will be obvious, from what has been said about Devachan, that a large part of the recollections which accumulate round the human Ego during life are incompatible in their nature with the pure subjective existence to which the real, durable, spiritual Ego passes; but they are not necessarily on that account extinguished or annihilated out of existence. They inhere in certain molecules of those finer (but not finest) principles, which escape from the body at death; and just as dissolution separates what is loosely called the soul from the body, so also it provokes a further separation between the constituent elements of the soul. So much of the fifth principle, or human soul, which is in its nature assimilable with, or has gravitated upward towards, the sixth principle, the spiritual soul, passes with the germ of that divine soul into the superior region, or state of Devachan, in which it separates itself almost completely from the attractions of the earth; quite completely, as far as its own spiritual course is concerned, though it still has certain affinities with the spiritual aspirations emanating from the earth, and may sometimes draw these towards itself. But the animal soul, or fourth, principle (the element of will and desire, as associated with objective existence), has no upward attraction, and no more passes away from the earth than the particles of the body consigned to the grave. It is not in the grave, however, that this fourth principle can be put away. It is not spiritual in its nature or affinities, but it is not physical in its nature. In its affinities it is physical, and hence the result. It remains within the actual physical local attraction of the earth - in the earth’s atmosphere - or, since it is not the gases of the atmosphere that are specially to be considered in connection with the problem in hand, let us say, in Kāma loca.


And with the fourth principle a large part (as regards most of mankind unfortunately, though a part very variable in its relative magnitude) inevitably remains. There are plenty of attributes which the ordinary composite human being exhibits, many ardent feelings, desires, and acts, floods of recollections, which, even if not concerned with a life as ardent perhaps as those which have to do with the higher aspirations, are nevertheless essentially belonging to the physical life, which take time to die. They remain behind in association with the fourth principle, which is altogether of the earthly perishable nature, and disperse or fade out, or are absorbed into the respective universal principles to which they belong just as the body is absorbed into the earth, in progress of time, and rapidly or slowly, in proportion to the tenacity of their substance. And where meanwhile is the consciousness of the individual who has died or dissolved? Assuredly in Devachan; but a difficulty presents itself to the mind untrained in occult science, from the fact that a semblance of consciousness inheres in the astral portion - the fourth principle, with a portion of the fifth - which remains behind in Kāma loca. The individual consciousness, it is argued, cannot be in two places at once. But first of all, to a certain extent, it can. As may be perceived presently, it is a mistake to speak of consciousness, as we understand the feeling of life, attaching to the astral shell or remnant; but nevertheless a certain spurious manifestation of consciousness may be reawakened in the shell, 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 in and assimilating new ideas and initiating 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. The fourth principle is the instrument of volition, though not volition itself, and impulses imparted to it during life by the higher principles may run their course and produce results almost indistinguishable for careless observers from those which would ensue were the four higher principles really all united, as in life.


The fourth principle, is the vehicle during life of that essentially mortal consciousness which cannot suit itself to conditions of permanent existence; but the consciousness even of the lower principles during life is a very different thing from the vaporous, fleeting and uncertain consciousness which continues to inhere in them when that which really is the life, the over-shadowing of them, or their vitalization by the infusion of the spirit, has ceased, as far as they are concerned. Language cannot render all the facets of a many-sided idea intelligible at once, any more than a plain drawing can show all sides of a solid object. And at the first glance different drawings of the same object from different points of view may seem so unlike as to be unrecognizable as the same, but none the less, by the time they are put together in the mind, will their diversities be seen to harmonize. So with these subtle attributes of the invisible principles of man - no treatise can do more than discuss their different aspects separately. The various views suggested must mingle in the reader’s mind before the complete conception corresponds to the realities of Nature.


In life the fourth principle is the seat of will and desire, but it is not will itself. It must be alive, in union with the overshadowing spirit, or “one life,” to be thus the agent of that very elevated function of life - will, in its sublime potency. As already mentioned, the Sanscrit names of the higher principles connote the idea that they are vehicles of the one life. Not that the one life is a separable molecular principle itself; it is the union of all - the influence of the spirit; but in truth the idea is too subtle for language, perhaps for intellect itself. Its manifestation in the present case, however, is apparent enough. Whatever the willing fourth principle may be when alive, it is no longer capable of active will when dead. But then, under certain abnormal conditions, it may partially recover life for a time; and this fact it is which explains many, though by no means all, of the phenomena of spiritualistic mediumship. The “elementary,” be it remembered - as the astral shell has generally been called in former occult writings - 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 or future. It is an automatic consciousness, derived from the medium. A medium, be it remembered, is a person whose principles are loosely united and susceptible of being borrowed by other beings, or by floating principles, having an attraction for some of them or some part of them. Now what happens in the case of a shell drawn into the neighbourhood of a person so constituted? Suppose the person from whom the shell has been cast, died with some strong unsatisfied desire, not necessarily of an unholy sort, but connected entirely with the earth life, a desire, for example, to communicate some fact to a still living person. Certainly the shell does not go about in Kāma loca with a persistent intelligent conscious purpose of communicating that fact; but, amongst others, the volitional impulse to do this has been infused into the fourth principle, and while the molecules of that principle remain in association, (and that may be for many years,) they only need a partial galvanization into life again, to become operative in the direction of the original impulse. Such a shell comes into contact with a medium (not so dissimilar in nature from the person who had died as to render a rapport impossible), and something from the fifth principle of the medium associates itself with the wandering fourth principle, and sets the original impulse to work. So much consciousness and so much intelligence as may be required to guide the fourth principle in the use of the immediate means of communication at hand - a slate and pencil, or a table to rap upon - is borrowed from the medium, and then the message given may be the message which the dead person originally ordered his fourth principle to give, so to speak, but which the shell has never till then had an opportunity of giving. It may be argued that the production of writing on a closed slate, or of raps on a table without the use of a knuckle or a stick, is itself a feat of a marvellous nature, bespeaking a knowledge on the part of the communicating intelligence of powers in Nature we in physical life know nothing about. But the shell is itself in the astral world; in the realm of such powers. A phenomenal manifestation is its natural mode of dealing. It is no more conscious of producing a wonderful result by the use of new powers acquired in a higher sphere of existence, than we are conscious of the forces by which in life the volitional impulse is communicable to nerves and muscles.


But, it may be objected, the “communicating intelligence” at a spiritual séance will constantly perform remarkable feats for no other than their own sake, to exhibit the power over natural forces which it possesses. The reader will please remember, however, that occult science is very far from saying that all the phenomena of spiritualism are traceable to one class of agents. Hitherto in this treatise little has been said of the “elementals,” those semi-intelligent creatures of the astral light, who belong to a wholly different kingdom of Nature from ourselves. Nor is it possible at present to enlarge upon their attributes, for the simple and obvious reason that knowledge concerning the elementals, detailed knowledge on that subject, and in regard to the way they work, is scrupulously withheld by the adepts of occultism. To possess such knowledge is to wield power, and the whole motive of the great secrecy in which occult science is shrouded turns upon the danger of conferring powers upon people who have not, first of all, by undergoing the training of initiates, given moral guarantees of their trustworthiness. It is by command over the elementals that some of the greatest physical feats of adeptship are accomplished; and it is by the spontaneous playful acts of the elementals that the greatest physical phenomena of the séance room are brought about. So also with almost all Indian Fakirs and Yogis of the lower class who have power of producing phenomenal results. By some means, by a scrap of inherited occult teaching, most likely, they have come into possession of a morsel of occult science. They may not necessarily understand the action of the forces they employ, any more than an Indian servant in a telegraph office, taught how to mix the ingredients of the liquid used in a galvanic battery, understands the theory of electric science. He can perform the one trick he has been taught; and so with the inferior Yogi. He has got influence over certain elementals, and can work certain wonders.


Returning to a consideration of the ex-human shells in Kāma loca, it may be argued that their behaviour in spiritual séances is not covered by the theory that they have had some message to deliver from their late master, and have availed themselves of the mediumship present, to deliver it. Apart altogether from phenomena that may be put aside as elemental pranks, we sometimes encounter a continuity of intelligence on the part of the elementary or shell that bespeaks much more than the survival of impulses from the former life. Quite so; but with portions of the medium’s fifth principle conveyed into it, the fourth principle is once more an instrument in the hands of a master. With a medium entranced so that the energies of the fifth principle are conveyed into the wandering shell to a very large extent, the result is that there is a very tolerable revival of consciousness in the shell for the time being, as regards the given moment. But what is the nature of such consciousness, after all? Nothing more, really, than a reflected light. Memory is one thing, and perceptive faculties quite another. A madman may remember very clearly some portions of his past life; yet he is unable to perceive anything in its true light, for the higher portion of his Manas, fifth, and Buddhi, sixth, principles, are paralysed in him and have left him. Could an animal - a dog, for instance - explain himself, he could prove that his memory, in direct relation to his canine personality, is as fresh as his master’s; nevertheless, his memory and instinct cannot be called perceptive faculties.


Once that a shell is in the aura of a medium, he will perceive, clearly enough, whatever he can perceive through the borrowed principles of the medium, and through organs in magnetic sympathy therewith; but this will not carry him beyond the range of the perceptive faculties of the medium, or of some one else present in the circle. Hence the often rational and sometimes highly intelligent answers he may give, and hence, also, his invariably complete oblivion of all things unknown to that medium or circle, or not found in the lower recollections of his late personality, galvanized afresh by the influences under which he is placed. The shell of a highly intelligent, learned, but utterly unspiritual man, who died a natural death, will last longer than those of weaker temperament, and (the shadow of his own memory helping) he may deliver, through trance-speakers, orations of no contemptible kind. But these will never be found to relate to anything beyond the subjects he thought much and earnestly of during life, nor will any word ever fall from him indicating a real advance of knowledge.


It will easily be seen that a shell, drawn into the mediumistic current, and getting into rapport with the medium’s fifth principle, is not by any means sure to be animated with a consciousness (even for what such consciousness are worth) identical with the personality of the dead person from whose higher principles it was shed. It is just as likely to reflect some quite different personality, caught from the suggestions of the medium’s mind. In this personality it will perhaps remain and answer for a time; then some new current of thought thrown into the minds of the people present, will find its echo in the fleeting impressions of the elementary, and his sense of identity will begin to waver; for a little while it flickers over two or three conjectures, and ends by going out altogether for a time. The shell is once more sleeping in the astral light, and may be unconsciously wafted in a few moments to the other ends of the earth.


Besides the ordinary elementary or shell of the kind just described, Kāma loca is the abode of another class of astral entities, which must be taken into account if we desire to comprehend the various conditions under which human creatures may pass from this life to others. So far we have been examining the normal course of events, when people die in a natural manner. But an abnormal death will lead to abnormal consequences. Thus, in the case of persons committing suicide, and in that of persons killed by sudden accident, results ensue which differ widely from those following natural deaths. A thoughtful consideration of such cases must show, indeed, that in a world governed by rule and law, by affinities working out their regular effects in that deliberate way which Nature favours, the case of a person dying a sudden death at a time when all his principles are firmly united, and ready to hold together for twenty, forty, or sixty years, whatever the natural remainder of his life would be, must surely be something different from that of a person who, by natural processes of decay, finds himself, when the vital machine stops, readily separable into his various principles, each prepared to travel their separate ways. Nature, always fertile in analogies, at once illustrates the idea by showing us a ripe and an unripe fruit. From out of the first the inner stone will come away as cleanly and easily as a hand from a glove, while from the unripe fruit the stone can only be torn with difficulty, half the pulp clinging to its surface. Now, in the case of the sudden accidental death or of the suicide, the stone has to be torn from the unripe fruit. There is no question here about the moral blame which may attach to the act of suicide. Probably, in the majority’ of cases, such moral blame does attach to it, but that is a question of Karma which will follow the person concerned into the next re-birth, like any other Karma, and has nothing to do with the immediate difficulty such person may find in getting himself thoroughly and wholesomely dead. This difficulty is manifestly just the same, whether a person kills himself, or is killed in the heroic discharge of duty, or dies the victim of an accident over which he has no control whatsoever.


As an ordinary rule, when a person dies, the long account of Karma naturally closes itself - that is to say, the complicated set of affinities which have been set up during life in the first durable principle, the fifth, is no longer susceptible of extension. The balance-sheet, so to speak, is made out afterwards, when the time comes for the next objective birth; or, in other words, the affinities long dormant in Devachan, by reason of the absence there of any scope for their action, assert themselves as soon as they come in contact once more with physical existence. But the fifth principle, in which these affinities are grown, cannot be separated, in the case of the person dying prematurely, from the earthly principle - the fourth. The elementary, therefore, which finds itself in Kāma loca, on its violent expulsion from the body is not a mere shell - it is the person himself, who was lately alive, minus nothing but the body. In the true sense of the word, he is not dead at all.


Certainly elementaries of this kind may communicate very effectually at spiritual séances at their own heavy cost; for they are unfortunately able, by reason of the completeness of their astral constitution, to go on generating Karma, to assuage their thirst for life at the unwholesome spring of mediumship. If they were of a very material sensual type in life, the enjoyments they will seek will be of a kind the indulgence of which in their disembodied state may readily be conceived even more prejudicial to their Karma than similar indulgences would have been in life. In such cases facilis est descensus. Cut off in the full flush of earthly passions which bind them to familiar scenes, they are enticed by the opportunity which mediums afford for the gratification of these vicariously. They become the incubi and succubi of mediaeval writing, demons of thirst and gluttony, provoking their victims to crime. A brief essay on this subject, which I wrote last year, and from which I have reproduced some of the sentences just given, appeared in the Theosophist, with a note, the authenticity of which I have reason to trust, and the tenor of which was as follows: -


“The variety of states after death is greater if possible than the variety of human lives upon this earth. The victims of accident do not generally become earth walkers, only those falling into the current of attraction who die full of some engrossing earthly passion, the selfish, who have never given a thought to the welfare of others. Overtaken by death in the consummation, whether real or imaginary, of some master passion of their lives, the desire remaining unsatisfied, even after a full realization, and they still craving for more, such personalities can never pass beyond the earth attraction to wait for the hour of deliverance in happy ignorance and full oblivion. Among the suicides, those to whom the above statement about provoking their victims to crime, &c., applies, are that class who commit the act, in consequence of a crime, to escape the penalty of human law or their own remorse. Natural law cannot be broken with impunity; the inexorable causal relation between action and result has its full sway only in the world of effects, the Kāma loca, and every case is met there by an adequate punishment, and in a thousand ways, that would require volumes even to describe them superficially.”


Those who “wait for the hour of deliverance in happy ignorance and full oblivion” are of course such victims of accident as have already on earth engendered pure and elevated affinities, and after death are as much beyond the reach of temptation in the shape of mediumistic currents as they would have been inaccessible in life to common incitements to crime.


Entities of another kind occasionally to be found in Kāma loca have yet to be considered. We have followed the higher principles of persons recently dead, observing the separation of the astral dross from the spirituality durable portion; that spirituality durable portion being either holy or Satanic in its nature, and provided for in Devachan or Avitchi accordingly. We have examined the nature of the elementary shell cast off and preserving for a time a deceptive resemblance to a true entity; we have paid attention also to the exceptional cases of real four-principled beings in Kāma loca who are the victims of accident or suicide. But what happens to a personality which has absolutely no atom of spirituality, no trace of spiritual affinity in its fifth principle, either of the good or bad sort? Clearly in such a case there is nothing for the sixth principle to attract to itself. Or, in other words, such a personality has already lost its sixth principle by the time death comes. But Kāma loca is no more a sphere of existence for such a personality than the subjective world; Kāma loca may be permanently inhabited by astral beings, by elementals, but can only be an antechamber to some other state for human beings. In the case imagined, the surviving personality is promptly drawn into the current of its future destinies, and these have nothing to do with this earth’s atmosphere or with Devachan, but with that “eighth sphere” of which occasional mention will be found in older occult writings. It will have been unintelligible to ordinary readers hitherto why it was called the “eighth” sphere, but since the explanation, now given out for the first time, of the sevenfold constitution of our planetary system, the meaning will be clear enough. The spheres of the cyclic process of evolution are seven in number, but there is an eighth in connection with our earth, our earth being, it will be remembered, the turning-point in the cyclic chain, and this eighth sphere is out of circuit, a cul de sac, and the bourne from which it may be truly said no traveller returns.


It will readily be guessed that the only sphere connected with our planetary chain, which is lower than our own in the scale, having spirit at the top and matter at the bottom, must itself be no less visible to the eye and to optical instruments than the earth itself, and as the duties which this sphere has to perform in our planetary system are immediately associated with this earth, there is not much mystery left now in the riddle of the eighth sphere, nor as to the place in the sky where it may be sought. The conditions of existence there, however, are topics on which the adepts are very reserved in their communications to uninitiated pupils, and concerning these I have for the present no further information to give.


One statement though is definitely made-viz., that such a total degradation of a personality as may suffice to draw it, after death, into the attraction of the eighth sphere, is of very rare occurrence. From the vast majority of lives there is something which the higher principles may draw to themselves, something to redeem the page of existence just passed from total destruction, and here it must be remembered that the recollections of life in Devachan, very vivid as they are, as far as they go, touch only those episodes in life that are productive of the elevated sort of happiness of which alone Devachan is qualified to take cognizance, whereas the life from which, for the time being, the cream is thus skimmed, may come to be remembered eventually in all its details quite fully. That complete remembrance is only achieved by the individual at the threshold of a far more exalted spiritual state than that which we are now concerned with; one which is attained far later on in the progress of vast cycles of evolution. Each one of the long series of lives that will have been passed through will then be, as it were, a page in a book to which the possessor can turn back at pleasure, even though many such pages will then seem to him most likely, very dull reading, and will not be frequently referred to. It is this revival eventually of recollection concerning all the long-forgotten personalities that is really meant by the doctrine of the Resurrection. But we have no time at present to stop and unravel the enigmas of symbolism as bearing upon the teachings at present under conveyance to the reader. It may be worth while to do this as a separate undertaking at a later period; but meanwhile, to revert to the narrative of how the facts stand, it may be explained that in the whole book of pages, when at last the “resurrection” has been accomplished, there will be no entirely infamous pages; for even if any given spiritual individuality has occasionally, during its passage through this world, been linked with personalities so deplorably and desperately degraded that they have passed completely into the attraction of the lower vortex, that spiritual individuality in such cases will have retained, in its own affinities, no trace or taint of them. Those pages will, as it were, have been cleanly torn out from the book. And, as at the end of the struggle, after crossing Kāma loca, the spiritual individuality will have passed into the unconscious gestation state from which, skipping the Devachan state, it will be directly (though not immediately in time) reborn into its next life of objective activity, all the self-consciousness connected with that existence will have passed into the lower world, there eventually to “perish everlastingly;” an expression of which, as of so many more, modern theology has proved a faithless custodian, making pure nonsense out of psycho-scientific facts.




There is no part of the present volume which I now regard as in so much urgent need of amplification as the two chapters which have just been passed. The Kāma loca stage of existence, and that higher region or state of Devachan, to which it is but the antechamber, were, designedly I take it, left by our teachers in the first instance in partial obscurity, in order that the whole scheme of evolution might be the better understood. The spiritual state which immediately follows our present physical life, is a department of Nature, the study of which is almost unhealthily attractive for every one who once realizes that some contact with it - some processes of experiment with its conditions - are possible even during this life. Already we can to a certain extent discern the phenomena of that state of existence into which a human creature passes at the death of the body. The experience of spiritualism has supplied us with facts concerning it in very great abundance. These facts are but too highly suggestive of theories and inferences which seem to reach the ultimate limits of speculation, and nothing but the bracing mental discipline of esoteric study in its broadest aspect will protect any mind addressed to the consideration of these facts from conclusions which that study shows to be necessarily erroneous. For this reason, theosophical inquirers have nothing to regret as far as their own progress in spiritual science is at stake, in the circumstances which have hitherto induced them to be rather neglectful of the problems that have to do with the state of existence next following our own. It is impossible to exaggerate the intellectual advantages to be derived from studying the broad design of Nature throughout those vast realms of the future which only the perfect clairvoyance of the adepts can penetrate, before going into details regarding that spiritual foreground, which is partially accessible to less powerful vision, but liable, on a first acquaintance, to be mistaken for the whole expanse of the future.


The earlier processes, however, through which the soul passes at death, may be described at this date somewhat more fully than they are defined in the foregoing chapter. The nature of the struggle that takes place in Kāma loca between the upper and lower duads may now, I believe, be apprehended more clearly than at first. That struggle appears to be a very protracted and variegated process, and to constitute,- not as some of us may have conjectured at first, an automatic or unconscious assertion of affinities or forces quite ready to determine the future of the spiritual monad at the period of death, - but a phase of existence which may be, and in the vast majority of cases is more than likely to be, continued over a considerable series of years. And during this phase of existence it is quite possible for departed human entities to manifest themselves to still living persons through the agency of spiritual mediumship, in a way which may go far towards accounting for, if it does not altogether vindicate, the impressions that spiritualists derive from such communications.


But we must not conclude too hastily that the human soul going through the struggle or evolution of Kāma loca is in all respects what the first glance at the position, as thus defined, may seem to suggest. First of all, we must beware of too grossly materializing our conception of the struggle, by thinking of it as a mechanical separation of principles. There is a mechanical separation involved in the discard of lower principles when the consciousness of the Ego is firmly seated in the higher. Thus at death the body is mechanically discarded by the soul, which (in union, perhaps, with intermediate principles), may actually be seen by some clairvoyants of a high order to quit the tenement it needs no longer. And a very similar process may ultimately take place in Kāma loca itself, in regard to the matter of the astral principles. But postponing this consideration for a few moments, it is important to avoid supposing that the struggle of Kāma loca does itself constitute this ultimate division of principles, or second death upon the astral plane.


The struggle of Kāma loca is in fact the life of the entity in that phase of existence. As quite correctly stated in the text of the foregoing chapter, the evolution taking place during that phase of existence is not concerned with the responsible choice between good and evil which goes on during physical life. Kāma loca is a portion of the great world of effects, - not a sphere in which causes are generated (except under peculiar circumstances). The Kāma loca entity, therefore, is not truly master of his own acts; he is rather the sport of his own already established affinities. But these are all the while asserting themselves, or exhausting themselves, by degrees, and the Kāma loca entity has an existence of vivid consciousness of one sort or another the whole time. Now a moment’s reflection will show that those affinities, which are gathering strength and asserting themselves, have to do with the spiritual aspirations of the life last experienced, while those which are exhausting themselves have to do with its material tastes, emotions, and proclivities. The Kāma loca entity, be it remembered, is on his way to Devachan, or, in other words, is growing into that state which is the Devachanic state, and the process of growth is accomplished by action and reaction, by ebb and flow, like almost every other in Nature, - by a species of oscillation between the conflicting attractions of matter and spirit. Thus the Ego advances towards Heaven, so to speak, or recedes towards earth, during his Kāma loca existence, and it is just this tendency to oscillate between the two poles of thought or condition, that brings him back occasionally within the sphere of the life he has just quitted.


It is not by any means at once that his ardent sympathies with that life are dissipated. His sympathies with the higher aspects of that life, be it remembered, are not even on their way to dissipation. For instance, in what is here referred to as earthly affinity, we need not include the exercise of affection, which is a function of Devachanic existence in a pre-eminent degree. But perhaps even in regard to his affections there may be earthly and spiritual aspects of these, and the contemplation of them, with the circumstances and surroundings of the earth-life, may often have to do with the recession towards earth-life of the Kāma loca entity referred to above.


Of course it will be apparent at once that the intercourse which the practice of spiritualism sets up between the Kāma loca entities as here in view, and the friends they have left on earth, must go on during those periods of the soul’s existence in which earth memories engage its attention; and there are two considerations of a very important nature which arise out of this reflection.


1st. While its attention is thus directed, it is turned away from the spiritual progress on which it is engaged during its oscillations in the other direction. It may fairly well remember, and in conversation refer to, the spiritual aspirations of the life on earth, but its new spiritual experiences appear to be of an order that cannot be translated back into terms of the ordinary physical intellect, and, besides that, to be not within the command of the faculties which are in operation in the soul during its occupation with old-earth memories. The position might be roughly symbolized, but only to a very imperfect extent, by the case of a poor emigrant, whom we may imagine prospering in his new country, getting educated there, concerning himself with its public affairs and discoveries, philanthropy, and so on. He may keep up an interchange of letters with his relations at home, but he will find it difficult to keep them au courant with all that has come to be occupying his thoughts. The illustration will only fully apply to our present purpose, however, if we think of the emigrant as subject to a psychological law which draws a veil over his understanding when he sits down to write to his former friends, and restores him during that time to his former mental condition. He would then be less and less able to write about the old topics as time went on, for they would not only be below the level of those to the consideration of which his real mental activities had risen, but would to a great extent have faded from his memory. His letters would be a source of surprise to their recipients, who would say to themselves that it was certainly so-and-so who was writing, but that he had grown very dull and stupid compared to what he used to be before he went abroad.


2ndly. It must be borne in mind that a very well-known law of physiology, according to which faculties are invigorated by use and atrophied by neglect, applies on the astral as well as on the physical plane. The soul in Kāma loca, which acquires the habit of fixing its attention on the memories of the life it has quitted, will strengthen and harden those tendencies which are at war with its higher impulses. The more frequently it is appealed to by the affection of friends still in the body to avail itself of the opportunities furnished by mediumship for manifesting its existence on the physical plane, the more vehement will be the impulses which draw it back to physical life, and the more serious the retardation of its spiritual progress. This consideration appears to involve the most influential motive which leads the representatives of Theosophical teaching to discountenance and disapprove of all attempts to hold communication with departed souls by means of the spiritual séance. The more such communications are genuine the more detrimental they are to the inhabitants of Kāma loca concerned with them. In the present state of our knowledge it is difficult to determine with confidence the extent to which the Kāma loca entities are thus injured. And we may be tempted to believe that in some cases the great satisfaction derived by the living persons who communicate, may outweigh the injury so inflicted on the departed soul. This satisfaction, however, will only be keen in proportion to the failure of the still living friend to realize the circumstances under which the communication takes place. At first, it is true, very shortly after death, the still vivid and complete memories of earth-life may enable the Kāma loca entity to manifest himself as a personage very fairly like his deceased self, but from the moment of death the change in the direction of his evolution sets in. He will, as manifesting on the physical plane, betray no fresh fermentation of thought in his mind. He will never, in that manifestation, be any wiser, or higher in the scale of Nature, than he was when he died; on the contrary, he must become less and less intelligent, and apparently less instructed than formerly, as time goes on. He will never do himself justice in communication with the friends left behind, and his failure in this respect will grow more and more painful by degrees.


Yet another consideration operates to throw a very doubtful light on the wisdom or propriety of gratifying a desire for intercourse with deceased friends. We may say, never mind the gradually fading interest of the friend who has gone before, in the earth left behind; while there is anything of his or her old self left to manifest itself to us, it will be a delight to communicate even with that. And we may argue that if the beloved person is delayed a little on his way to Heaven by talking with us, he or she would be willing to make that sacrifice for our sake. The point overlooked here is, that on the astral, just as on the physical plane, it is a very easy thing to set up a bad habit. The soul in Kāma loca once slaking a thirst for earthly intercourse at the wells of mediumship will have a strong impulse to fall back again and again on that indulgence. We may be doing a great deal more than diverting the soul’s attention from its own proper business by holding spiritualistic relations with it. We may be doing it serious and almost permanent injury. I am not affirming that this would invariably or generally be the case, but a severe view of the ethics of the subject must recognize the dangerous possibilities involved in the course of action under review. On the other hand, however, it is plain that cases may arise in which the desire for communication chiefly asserts itself from the other side: that is to say, in which the departed soul is laden with some unsatisfied desire - pointing possibly towards the fulfilment of some neglected duty on earth - the attention to which on the part of still-living friends may have an effect quite the reverse of that attending the mere encouragement of the Kāma loca entity in the resumption of its old earthly interests. In such cases the living friends may, by falling in with its desire to communicate, be the means, indirectly, of smoothing the path of its spiritual progress. Here again, however, we must be on our guard against the delusive aspect of appearances. A wish manifested by an inhabitant of Kāma loca may not always be the expression of an idea then operative in his mind. It may be the echo of an old, perhaps of a very old, desire, then for the first time finding a channel for its outward expression. In this way, although it would be reasonable to treat as important an intelligible wish conveyed to us from Kāma loca by a person only lately deceased, it would be prudent to regard with great suspicion such a wish emanating from the shade of a person who had been dead a long time, and whose general demeanour as a shade did not seem to convey the notion that he retained any vivid consciousness of his old personality.


The recognition of all these facts and possibilities of Kāma loca will, I think, afford theosophists a satisfactory explanation of a good many experiences connected with spiritualism which the first exposition of the esoteric doctrine, as bearing on this matter, left in much obscurity.


It will be readily perceived that as the soul slowly clears itself in Kāma loca of the affinities which retard its Devachanic development, the aspect it turns towards the earth is more and more enfeebled, and it is inevitable that there must always be in Kāma loca an enormous number of entities nearly ripe for a complete mergence in Devachan, who on that very account appear to an earthly observer in a state of advanced decrepitude. These will have sunk, as regards the activity of their lower astral principles, into the condition of the altogether vague and unintelligible entities, which, following the example of older occult writers, I have referred to as “shells” in the text of this chapter. The designation, however, is not altogether a happy one. It might have been better to have followed another precedent, and to have called them “shades,” but either way their condition would be the same. All the vivid consciousness inhering, as they left the earth, in the principles appropriately related to the activities of physical life, has been transferred to the higher principles which do not manifest at séances. Their memory of earth-life has almost become extinct. Their lower principles are in such cases only reawakened by the influences of the mediumistic current into which they may be drawn, and they become then little more than astral looking-glasses, in which the thoughts of the medium or sitters at the séance are reflected. If we can imagine the colours on a painted canvas sinking by degrees into the substance of the material, and at last re-emerging in their pristine brilliancy on the other side, we shall be conceiving a process which might not have destroyed the picture, but which would leave a gallery in which it took place, a dreary scene of brown and meaningless backs, and that is very much what the Kāma loca entities become before they ultimately shed the very material on which their first astral consciousness operated, and pass into the wholly purified Devachanic condition.


But this is not the whole of the story which teaches us to regard manifestations coming from Kāma loca with distrust. Our present comprehension of the subject enables us to realize that when the time arrives for that second death on the astral plane, which releases the purified Ego from Kāma loca altogether and sends it onward to the Devachanic state - something is left behind in Kāma loca which corresponds to the dead body bequeathed to the earth when the soul takes its first flight from physical existence. A dead astral body is in fact left behind in Kāma loca, and there is certainly no impropriety in applying the epithet “shell” to that residuum. The true shell in that state disintegrates in Kāma loca before very long, just as the true body left to the legitimate processes of Nature on earth would soon decay and blend its elements with the general reservoirs of matter of the order to which they belong. But until that disintegration is accomplished, the shell which the real Ego has altogether abandoned, may even in that state be mistaken sometimes at spiritual séances for a living entity. It remains for a time an astral looking-glass, in which mediums may see their own thoughts reflected, and take these back, fully believing them to come from an external source.


These phenomena in the truest sense of the term are galvanized astral corpses; none the less so, because until they are actually disintegrated a certain subtle connection will subsist between them and the true Devachanic spirit; just as such a subtle communication subsists in the first instance between the Kāma loca entity, and the dead body left on earth. That last-mentioned communication is kept up by the finely-diffused material of the original third principle, or linga sharira, and a study of this branch of the subject will, I believe, lead us up to a better comprehension than we possess at present of the circumstances under which materializations are sometimes accomplished at spiritual séances. But without going into that digression now, it is enough to recognize that the analogy may help to show how, between the Devachanic entity and the discarded shell in Kāma loca a similar connection may continue for awhile, acting, while it lasts, as a drag on the higher spirit, but perhaps as an after-glow of sunset on the shell. It would surely be distressing, however, in the highest degree, to any living friend of the person concerned, to get, through clairvoyance, or in any other way, sight or cognition of such a shell, and to be led into mistaking it for the true entity.


The comparatively clear view of Kāma loca which we are now enabled to take, may help us to employ terms relating to its phenomena with more precision than we have hitherto been able to attain. I think if we adopt one new expression, “astral soul,” as applying to the entities in Kāma loca who have recently quitted earth-life, or who for other reasons still retain, in the aspect they turn back towards earth, a large share of the intellectual attributes that distinguished them on earth, we shall then find the other terms in use already, adequate to meet our remaining emergencies. Indeed, we may then get rid entirely of the inconvenient term “elementary,” liable to be confused with elemental, and singularly inappropriate to the beings it describes. I would suggest that the astral soul as it sinks (regarded from our point of view) into intellectual decrepitude, should be spoken of in its faded condition as a shade, and that the term shell should be reserved for the true shells or astral dead bodies which the Devachanic spirit has finally quitted.


We are naturally led in studying the law of spiritual growth in Kāma loca to inquire how long a time may probably elapse before the transfer of consciousness from the lower to the higher principles of the astral soul may be regarded as complete; and as usual, when we come to figures relating to the higher processes of Nature, the answer is very elastic. But I believe the esoteric teachers of the East declare that as regards the average run of humanity - for what may be called, in a spiritual sense, the great middle classes of humanity - it is unusual that a Kāma loca entity will be in a position to manifest as such for more than twenty-five to thirty years. But on each side of this average the figures may run up very considerably. That is to say, a very ignoble and besotted human creature may hang about in Kāma loca for a much longer time for want of any higher principles sufficiently developed to take up his consciousness at all, and at the other end of the scale the very intellectual and mentally-active soul may remain for very long periods in Kāma loca (in the absence of spiritual affinities in corresponding force), by reason of the great persistence of forces and causes generated on the higher plane of effects, though mental activity could hardly be divorced in this way from spirituality except in cases where it was exclusively associated with worldly ambition. Again, while Kāma loca periods may thus be prolonged beyond the average from various causes, they may sink to almost infinitesimal brevity when the spirituality of a person dying at a ripe old age, and at the close of a life which has legitimately fulfilled its purpose, is already far advanced.


There is one other important possibility connected with manifestations reaching us by the usual channels of communication with Kāma loca, which it is desirable to notice here, although from its nature the realization of such a possibility cannot be frequent. No recent students of theosophy can expect to know as yet very much about the conditions of existence which await adepts who relinquish the use of physical bodies on earth. The higher possibilities open to them appear to me quite beyond the reach of intellectual appreciation. No man is clever enough, by virtue of the mere cleverness seated in a living brain, to understand Nirvana; but it would appear that adepts in some cases elect to pursue a course lying midway between re-incarnation and the passage into Nirvana, and in the higher regions of Devachan; that is to say, in the arupa state of Devachan may await the slow advance of human evolution towards the exalted condition they have thus attained. Now an adept who has thus become a Devachanic spirit of the most elevated type would not be cut off by the conditions of his Devachanic state - as would be the case with a natural Devachanic spirit passing through that state on his way to reincarnation - from manifesting his influence on earth. His would certainly not be an influence which would make itself felt by the instrumentality of any physical signs to mixed audiences, but it is not impossible that a medium of the highest type - who would more properly be called a seer - might be thus influenced. By such an Adept spirit, some great men in the world’s history may from time to time have been overshadowed and inspired, consciously or unconsciously as the case may have been.


The disintegration of shells in Kāma-loca will inevitably suggest to any one who endeavours to comprehend the process at all, that there must be in Nature some general reservoirs of the matter appropriate to that sphere of existence, corresponding to the physical earth and its surrounding elements into which our own bodies are resigned at death. The grand mysteries on which this consideration impinges will claim a far more exhaustive investigation than we have yet been enabled to undertake; but one broad idea connected with them may usefully be put forward without further delay. The state of Kāma-loca is one which has its corresponding orders of matter in manifestation round it. I will not here attempt to go into the metaphysics of the problem, which might even lead us to discard the notion that astral matter need be any less real and tangible than that which appeals to our physical senses. It is enough for the present to explain that the propinquity of Kāma loca to the earth which is so readily made apparent by spiritualistic experience, is explained by Oriental teaching to arise from this fact, - that Kāma-loca is just as much in and of the earth as, during our lives, our astral soul is in and of the living man. The stage of Kāma-loca, in fact, the great realm of matter in the appropriate state which constitutes Kāma-loca and is perceptible to the senses of astral entities, as also to those of many clairvoyants, is the fourth principle of man. For the earth has its seven principles like the human creatures who inhabit it. Thus, the Devachanic state corresponds to the fifth principle of the earth, and Nirvana to the sixth principle.




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