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Between And Beyond Incarnations

One of the first questions usually asked by students of the subject of

Reincarnation is: "Where does the soul dwell between incarnations; does

it incarnate immediately after death; and what is its final abode or

state?" This question, or questions, have been asked from the beginning,

and probably will be asked so long as the human mind dwells upon the

subject. And many are the answers that have been given to the

ners by the teachers and "authorities" upon the subject. Let us

consider some of the leading and more "authoritative" answers.

In the first place, let us consider that phase of the question which

asks: "Does the soul incarnate immediately after death?" Some of the

earlier Reincarnationists believed and taught that the soul

reincarnated shortly after death, the short period between incarnations

being used by the soul in adjusting itself, striking a balance of

character, and preparing for a new birth. Others held that there was a

period of waiting and rest between incarnations, in which the soul

'mentally digested' the experiences of the last life just completed, and

then considered and meditated over the mistakes it had made, and

determined to rectify the mistakes in the next life--it being held that

when the soul was relieved of the necessities of material existence, it

could think more clearly of the moral nature of its acts, and would be

able to realize the spiritual side of itself more distinctly, in

addition to having the benefit of the spiritual perspective occasioned

by its distance from the active scenes of life, and thus being able to

better gauge the respective "worth-whileness" of the things of material


At the present time, the most advanced students of the subject hold that

the average period of rest between incarnations is about fifteen hundred

years, the less advanced souls hastening back to earth in a very short

time, the more advanced preferring a long period of rest, meditation and

preparation for a new life. It is held that the soul of a gross,

material, animal-like person will incarnate very shortly after death,

the period of rest and meditation being very short, for the reason that

there is very little about which such a soul could meditate, as all of

its attractions and desires are connected with material life. Many souls

are so "earth-bound" that they rush back at once into material

embodiment if the conditions for rebirth are favorable, and they are

generally favorable for there seems to be always an abundant supply of

new bodies suitable for such souls in the families of people of the same

character and nature, which afford congenial opportunities for such a

soul to reincarnate. Other souls which have progressed a little further

along the path of attainment, have cultivated the higher part of

themselves somewhat, and enjoy to a greater extent the period of

meditation and spiritual life afforded them. And so, as the scale

advances--as the attraction for material life grows less, the period of

purely spiritual existence between incarnations grows longer, and it is

said that the souls of persons who are highly developed spiritually

sometimes dwell in the state of rest for ten thousand years or more,

unless they voluntarily return sooner in order to take part in the work

of uplifting the world. It must be remembered, in this connection, that

the best teaching is to the effect that the advanced souls are rapidly

unfolding into the state in which they are enabled to preserve

consciousness in future births, instead of losing it as is the usual

case, and thus they take a conscious part in the selection of the

conditions for rebirth, which is wisely denied persons of a more

material nature and less spiritual development.

The next phase of the question: "Where does the soul dwell between

incarnations?" is one still more difficult of answer, owing to the

various shades of opinion on the subject. Still there is a fundamental

agreement between the different schools, and we shall try to give you

the essence or cream of the thought on the subject. In the first place,

all occultists set aside any idea of there being a "place" in which the

souls dwell--the existence of "states" or "planes of existence" being

deemed sufficient for the purpose. It is held that there are many planes

of existence in any and every portion of space, which planes

interpenetrate each other, so that entities dwelling on one plane

usually are not conscious of the presence of those on another plane.

Thus, an inhabitant of a high plane of being, in which the vibrations of

substance are much higher than that which we occupy, would be able to

pass through our material world without the slightest knowledge of its

existence, just as the "X rays" pass through the most solid object, or

as light passes through the air. It is held that there are many planes

of existence much higher than the one we occupy, and upon which the

disembodied souls dwell. There are many details regarding these planes,

taught by the different schools of occultism, or spiritualism, but we

have neither the time nor space to consider them at length, and must

content ourselves with mentioning but a few leading or typical beliefs

or teachings on the subject.

The Theosophists teach that just when the soul leaves the body, there

occurs a process of psychic photography in which the past life, in all

of its details, is indelibly imprinted on the inner substance of the

soul, thus preserving a record independent of the brain, the latter

being left behind in the physical body. Then the Astral Body, or Etheric

Double, detaches itself from the body, from which the Vital Force, or

Prana-Jiva also departs at the same time, the Astral Body enfolding also

the four other principles, and together the Five Surviving Principles

pass on to the plane of Kama Loka, or the Astral Plane of Desire. Kama

Loka is that part of the Astral Plane nearest to the material plane, and

is very closely connected with the latter. If the soul is filled with

hot and earnest desire for earth life, it may proceed no further, but

may hasten back to material embodiment, as we said a moment ago. But if

the soul has higher aspirations, and has developed the higher part of

itself, it presses on further, in which case the Astral Body, and the

Animal Soul which is the seat of the passions and grosser desires,

disintegrate, and thus release the Triad, or three-fold higher nature of

the soul, namely the higher human soul, the spiritual soul, and the

spirit--or as some term them, the intellect, the spiritual mind, and the

spirit. The Triad then passes on to what is known as the plane of

Devachan, where it rests divested of the lower parts of its nature, and

in a state of bliss and in a condition in which it may make great

progress by reason of meditation, reflection, etc. Kama Loka has been

compared to the Purgatory of the Catholics, which it resembles in more

ways than one, according to the Theosophists. Devachan is sometimes

called the Heaven World by Theosophists, the word meaning "the state or

plane of the gods."

Theosophy teaches that the Soul Triad dwells in Devachan "for a period

proportionate to the merit of the being," and from whence in the proper

time "the being is drawn down again to be reborn in the world of

mortals." The Law of Karma which rules the earth-life of man, and which

regulates the details of his rebirth, is said to operate on the

Devachnic Plane as well, thus deciding the time of his abode on that

plane, and the time when the soul shall proceed to rebirth. The state of

existence in Devachan is described at length in the Theosophical

writings, but is too complex for full consideration here. Briefly

stated, it may be said that it is taught that the life on Devachan is in

the nature of a Dream of the Best that is In Us--that is, a condition in

which the highest that is in us is given a chance for expression and

growth, and development. The state of the soul in Devachan is said to be

one of Bliss, the degree depending upon the degree of spiritual

development of the soul, as the Bliss is of an entirely spiritual

nature. It may be compared to a state of people listening to some

beautiful music--the greater the musical development of the person, the

greater will be his degree of enjoyment. It is also taught that just as

the soul leaves Devachan to be reincarnated, it is given a glimpse of

its past lives, and its present character, that it may realize the

Karmic relations between the cause and effect, to the end that its new

life may be improved upon--then it sinks into a state of unconsciousness

and passes on to rebirth.

The Western school of the Yogi Philosophy gives an idea of the state

between incarnations, somewhat eclectic in its origin, agreeing with the

Theosophical teaching in some respects, and differing from it in others.

Let us take a hasty glance at it. In the first place it does not use the

terms "Kama Loca" and "Devachan" respectively, but instead treats the

whole series of planes as the great "Astral World" containing many

planes, divisions, and subdivisions--many sub-planes, and divisions of

the same. The teaching is that the soul passes out of the body, leaving

behind its physical form, together with its Prana or Vital Energy, and

taking with it the Astral Body, the Instructive Mind, and the higher

principles. The "last vision" of the past life, in which the events of

that life are impressed upon the soul just as it leaves the body, is

held to be a fact--the soul sees the past life as a whole, and in all of

its minutest details at the moment of death, and it is urged that the

dying person should be left undisturbed in his last moments for this

reason, and that the soul may become calm and peaceful when starting on

its journey. On one of the Astral Planes the soul gradually discards its

Astral Body and its Instinctive Mind, but retains its higher vehicles or

sheaths. But it is taught that this discarding of the lower sheaths

occurs after the soul has passed into a "soul-slumber" on a sub-plane of

the Astral World, from which it awakens to find itself clothed only in

its higher mental and spiritual garments of being, and free from the

grosser coverings and burdens. The teachings say: "When the soul has

cast off the confining sheaths, and has reached the state for which it

is prepared, it passes to the plane in the Astral World for which it is

fitted, and to which it is drawn by the Law of Attraction. The planes of

the Astral World interpenetrate, and souls dwelling on one plane are not

conscious of those dwelling on another, nor can they pass from one plane

to another, with this exception--that those dwelling on a higher plane

are able to see (if they so desire) the planes below them in the order

of development, and are also able to visit these lower planes if they so

desire. But those on the lower planes are not able to either see or

visit the planes above them--not that there is a 'watchman at the gate'

to prevent them, but for the same reason that a fish is not able to pass

from the water to the plane of air above that water." The same teachings

tell us that the souls on the higher planes often visit friends and

relatives on the lower, so that there is always the opportunity for

loved ones, relatives and friends meeting in this way; and also many

souls on the higher planes pass to the lower planes in order to instruct

and advise those dwelling on the latter, the result that in some cases

there may be a progression from a lower to a higher plane of the Astral

World by promotion earned by this instruction. Regarding Rebirth, from

the Astral World, the teachings say:

"But sooner or later, the souls feel a desire to gain new experiences,

and to manifest in earth-life some of the advancement which has come to

them since 'death,' and for these reasons, and from the attraction of

desires which have been smoldering 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 incarnated at the same time in

order to be with it (which is also a desire) the souls fall into the

current sweeping toward rebirth, and the selection of proper parents and

advantageous circumstances and surrounding, and in consequence again

fall into a soul-slumber, gradually, and so when their time comes they

'die' to the plane upon which they have been existing and are 'born'

into a new physical life and body. A soul does not fully awaken from its

sleep immediately at 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 the awakening is premature, and we

see cases of prodigies, child-genius, etc., but such cases are more or

less abnormal, and unhealthy. Occasionally the dreaming soul in the

child half-wakes, and startles us by some profound observation, or

mature remark or conduct."

The third phase of the question: "What is the final state or abode of

the soul?" is one that reaches to the very center or heart of

philosophical and religious thought and teaching. Each philosophy and

religion has its own explanation, or interpretation of the Truth, and it

is not for us to attempt to select one teaching from the many in this

work. The reader will find many references to these various explanations

and teachings as he reads the several chapters of this book, and he may

use his own discrimination and judgment in selecting that which appeals

to him the most strongly. But he will notice that there is a fundamental

agreement between all of the teachings and beliefs--the principle that

the movement of the soul is ever upward and onward, and that there is no

standing still in spiritual development and unfoldment. Whether the

end--if end there be--is the reaching of a state of Bliss in the

presence of the Divine One--or whether the weary soul finds rest "in the

Bosom of the Father," by what has been called "Union with God"--the

vital point for the evolving soul is that there is "a better day

coming"--a haven of rest around the turn of the road. And whatever may

be the details of the Truth, the fact remains that whatever state awaits

the soul finally, it must be Good, and in accordance with Divine Wisdom

and Ultimate Justice and Universal Love.

The majority of occultists look forward to an end in the sense of being

absorbed in the Divine Being, not in the sense of annihilation, but in

the sense of reaching a consciousness "of the Whole in the Whole"--this

is the true meaning of "Nirvana." But whether this be true, or whether

there is a place of final rest in the highest spiritual realms other

than in the sense of absorption in the Divine, or whether there is a

state of Eternal Progression from plane to plane, from realm to realm,

on and on forever Godward, and more and more God-like--the End must be

Good, and there is nothing to Fear, for "the Power that rules Here,

rules There, and Everywhere. And remember this, ye seekers after

ultimate truths--the highest authorities inform us that even the few

stages or planes just ahead of us in the journey are so far beyond our

present powers of conception, that they are practically unknowable to

us--this being so, it will be seen that states very much nearer to us

than the End must be utterly beyond the powers not only of our

understanding but also of our imagination, even when strained to its

utmost. This being so, why should we attempt to speculate about The End?

Instead, why not say with Newman:

"I do not ask to see the distant scene.

One step enough for me--

Lead Thou me on!"

It is said that when Thoreau was dying, a friend leaned over and taking

him by the hand, said: "Henry, you are so near to the border now, can

you see anything on the other side?" And the dying Thoreau replied: "One

world at a time, Parker!" And this seems to be the great lesson of

Life--One Plane at a Time! But though the Veil of Isis is impossible of

being lifted entirely, still there is a Something that enables one to

see at least dimly the features of the Goddess behind the veil. And that

Something is that Intelligent Faith that "knows," although it is unable

to explain even to itself. And the voice of that Something Within

informs him who has that Faith: All Is Well, Brother! For beyond planes,

and states, and universes, and time, and space, and name, and form, and

Things--there must be THAT which transcends them all, and from which

they all proceed. Though we may not know what THAT is--the fact that It

must exist--that It IS, is a sufficient guarantee that the LAW is in

constant operation on all planes, from the lowest to the highest, and

that THE COSMOS IS GOVERNED BY LAW! And this being so, not even an atom

may be destroyed, nor misplaced, nor suffer Injustice; and all will

attain the End rightly, and know the "Sat-chit-ananda" of the

Hindus--the Being-Wisdom-Bliss Absolute that all philosophies and

religions agree upon is the Final State of the Blessed. And to the

occultist All are Blessed, even to the last soul in the scale of life.

And over all the tumult and strife of Life there is always that

Something--THAT--silently brooding, and watching, and waiting--the Life,

Light, and Love of the All. Such is the message of the Illumined of all

ages, races, and lands. Is it not worthy of our attention and