At times the soul undergoing transition is led across rivers with the aid of an escort. In Greek myths, Charon, the boatman, was assigned the task of guiding souls to the Otherside. Hermes, acting as psychopompos, led deserving souls to Olympus. The ushabtis, or statuettes buried with the dead among ancient Egyptians, could conceivably represent escorts or soul-bearers, aside from the usual interpretation of scholars of them being servants in the afterlife. In other religions, the escort of the soul is the Angel of Death, the grim reaper wielding a scythe as depicted in one of the cards of the Major Arcana of the Tarot–although the average Christian sees that being not as an escorter but as an avenger. Muslims call this Angel of Death, “Izrail.” There is a possibility that escorts of the soul do not always fetch departing souls from the Otherside. They may, in fact, also come from our physical dimension aiding souls in their transition. What we are intimating is that the mastery of astral projection or lucid dreaming actually gives the mystic or psychic the power to act as psychopompos, or guide of the soul. Our own personal experience may suggest this, as we will relate below, however, we are not implying here that we have personally mastered the art of occult mobilization, or attained a spirituality of a high degree:
We (I, me, myself) once had a dear friend who was a Theosophist. Although there were decades of physical years between us, we were rather close. One day, we received a call informing us of her demise. Her passing was sudden and unexpected. Wondering what her condition was like in the bardo, that night we decided to be by her side to offer assistance. And so with affirmations, intense mind-programming, and a strong desire, we spontaneously attained a projection without strenuously going through the usual steps as taught in occult books and schools. Moments later, we were by her side, leading her to a certain place, to a certain spiritual guide or master with whom in the astral state we were well acquainted with. When we reached our destination, we said to her: “from hereon you are on your own. We shall meet again.” After bidding her farewell, we were once again back in our physical body.
All along the projection, we were lucid and aware–aware that a part of us was asleep in bed; while another aspect, was active in another world. This is one of the signs indicating that the experience was not a dream. Soul-travel as we have mentioned before, is a mystery to the average religious devotee. Eventhough mystics, prophets and saints have alluded to this particular occult ability possessed by man, the average person still remains unconvinced and skeptical as to its reality; or from another perspective they fear it as a satanic gift. However, at least the Bahái’i faith firmly states the possibility for one to experience the afterlife while yet still alive and embodied on earth. Many modern saints such as Padre Pio were adepts of soul-travel.
Soul-travel, or astral travel is a natural mode of rest for the incarnating soul from the vicissitudes of everyday life. This usually occurs through sleep, but may be induced through various means. It is through this occult faculty that knowledge of the various dimensions may be gained. Ancient Greeks were familiar with the art of astral projection. In their myths there are many references to heroes visiting the underworld, such as Hercules, Aeneas, and Odysseus, or sorceresses such as Medea accompanying Jason, the captain of the Argonauts in his adventures–although she in her astral body. These myths probably refer to the astral aspects of the secret initiations of the ancient Mystery Schools.
The Occult Tradition
Before explaining the death process from the occult and metaphysical point of view, we ought to possess some knowledge of man’s occult anatomy, for man’s hidden structure and physiology play an important role in the release of the soul from its confinement to the form and the disintegration of the physical body and they are, therefore, a pertinent factor to our understanding of transition. It is also of some relevance to know the structure of the various planes or dimensions. We shall, therefore, consider these two essential topics briefly before discussing the process of transition from the occult perspective.
Man, the microcosm, possesses several bodies, principles, or vehicles. According to Theosophy, these principles/bodies are seven in number: Monad, Atma, Buddhi, Higher Mental/Causal, Lower Mental, Astral Body, and Etheric/Physical. Christianity divides man’s components into body, soul and spirit. The concept of man possessing several bodies is also to be found in Hinduism, the Qaballah, and Islam; and is in fact based on the teachings of the Ageless Wisdom; it is to be found underlying all spiritual traditions in one form or another. The Initiates of ancient Egypt, for instance, had a clear understanding of man’s subtle anatomy as we can see from the following suggested correspondence with the Theosophical system:
Physical Body – Khat
Etheric Body – Khaibit (shadow)
Astral Body – Ka (double)
Lower Mental – Ba (heart-soul)
Causal Body – Sahu (spiritual body)
Higher Mental – Ren (name)
Buddhi – Khu/Ab (spiritual soul)
Atma – Sekhem (power)
Monad – Khabs
In average cases, the bodies directly involved in the death process and in the afterdeath state are of the first five-the physical body, etheric, astral, lower mental, and causal. In certain conditions it may involve the first two or three.
Each body or principle has energy-centers fully developed and functioning, or in the process of unfoldment. These energy-centers are called chakras in Hindu occultism and there are seven of major importance. In the physical body the endocrine glands and the plexi correspond to these chakras. The following are the Hindu terms for these chakras as well as their correspondence to the glands and their location:
Muladhara – gonads – base of spine
Svadishtana – spleen/pancreas – naval
Manipura – adrenals – solar plexus
Anahata – thymus – heart
Vishuddha – thyroid – throat
Ajna – pituitary – center of eyebrows
Sahasrara – pineal – crown
Every vehicle of consciousness possesses chakras, some of which are not functioning to its full potential or fully-developed as yet in the average human being. Chakras are channels and transformers of energy. They receive the influx of energies originating from higher spheres and distribute those energies to a lower principle. The frequencies or qualities of these chakras are associated with one’s evolutionary development; this account for the many colours attributed to them by various authorities who often seemingly contradict one another. These chakras vibrate at a rate determined by the quality of the indwelling soul. During transition the soul escapes through one of these portals. One’s evolutionary development determines where the soul would make its exit. According to occult teachings, it is favorable for the soul to be released through the crown chakra or other higher centers; escape through the lower centers results in a transition to one of the lower worlds. Generally speaking, the average person evacuates the body, in the process of transition, through the solar plexus chakra. This is because the manipura chakra is associated with the qualities of self-centeredness, and is the normal expression and polarization of the average person. Aspirants and servers of humanity often emerge out of the heart chakra, as this chakra is related to an expanding love for all sentient beings. Enlightened, spiritual souls pass out of the physical form through the crown chakra. This major center is associated with pure, lofty thoughts and feelings, with a sense of oneness and identification with all beings. It is this crown chakra that Hopi Indians believed to be the exit of the soul at death. Occultism declares that the point of exit indicates the realm that the indwelling soul would sojourn, whether it be in the lower regions of “hell,” or in the upper localities of “heaven.”
Connecting the various bodies together, like beads on a string, is the sutratma. This sutratma is sometimes referred to as the “silver cord.” This term comes from one of the books of the Old Testament.
“Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.” (Ecclesiastes 12:6)
While the indwelling soul is incarnated in the physical form, the sutratma remains intact, connecting the lower form to the higher principles. It functions primarily as a channel for divine life forces–the energies emanating from the Monad. In sleep and in the astral state, when the awareness-principle roams about in the higher dimensions, this cord serves as a connecting link between the material body and the astral form. So long as this cord exists intact, the soul is bound to the physical body. Once the cord is severed, as occurs in the death process, the soul loses its connection with the physical body. A person may be in a coma, or in a cataleptic state with a resemblance of death, but so long as the cord endures, it is always possible for life to return–it is possible to “raise the dead,” so to speak.
Another point to consider concerning man’s occult anatomy which is relevant to our discussion of the process of transition are the seed-atoms. These atoms are vortexes of energies which collectively speaking, may be considered as the records of the unfolding soul, or as the soul’s “book of life.” They correspond to “Kiramun-i-Kaitibun,” the recording angels in sufi teachings. Occultism teaches the existence of three seed-atoms–the mental, astral and the physical seed-atom. These atoms register all of the thoughts, feelings and actions of the incarnated soul. They are records of the quality and nature of the soul, and may be thought of as the memory book of all the experiences of the soul’s past incarnated lives. They, therefore, also contain the records of one’s karmic history. It should be noted that although Buddhism teaches reincarnation, they do not believe in a “self” that reincarnates. To Buddhists, that which reincarnates are the karmic traits of the awareness-principle. Although we will not consider the question of what survives and reincarnates, it is interesting to know that these “karmic traits” correlate with the contents of the seed-atoms.
The mental seed-atom is associated with the soul’s consciousness and mental world of thoughts and ideas. In the physical body it resides in the pineal gland. One’s feelings, negative and positive, are registered in the astral seed-atom. The liver is the temporary home of this seed-atom. The physical seed-atom abides in the heart. It is associated with the life-principle within the body. In the death process, the seed-atoms emerge out of the physical body in sequence, as we shall see presently.
According to occultism in general, in the beginning of a manvantara, or cycle of manifestation and creation, the First Cause emanated from Itself streams of energies of varying densities; or Spirit vibrating in a whole spectrum of frequencies. These energies, structured electronically in high and low densities, are the various dimensions, planes, realms, or mansions of the manifested Cosmos. In the Qaballah, these dimensions and planes are referred to as the 4 worlds and the sephiroths. According to theosophical teachings, there are seven planes that concerns man’s present evolution. These seven planes are collectively called the cosmic physical plane. Though there are higher planes, we will not consider them, as they have very little to do with man’s evolution, and are far beyond our status as human souls.
The seven planes, in theosophical teachings are called: Logoic, Monadic, Atmic, Buddhic, Mental, Astral, and Physical. Certain Sufi teachings refer to these various planes as: “Alam-i-tabi-at,” “Alam-i-surat,” “Alam-i-ma’na,” “Alam-i-malakut,” “Alam-i-jabarut,” “Alam-i-lahut,” and “Alam-i-hahut.” Each of the seven planes mentioned are subdivided into seven lesser realms making 49 in all. The various heavens and hells (realms of joy and suffering) which the human soul sojourns and dwells are to be found in the Mental and Astral regions. In the upper regions of the Mental subplanes is to be found what is called the Causal plane. This is paradise proper where most souls go to rest before reincarnating in the physical dimension. Tibetan Buddhism refers to the Physical, Astral and Mental planes as the six worlds: the world of gods (Devaloka), of Titans (Asuraloka), of hungry ghosts (Pretaloka), of hell, of animals, and of humans. These descriptive realms symbolically refer to human behaviour and evolutionary development with a predominating characteristic vice: for instance, pride, envy, greed, hatred, ignorance, and desire. These six worlds are the abodes or heavens–or hell, as the case may be–of souls of varied spiritual development. Below we give the evolutionary level of souls in correlation with the six worlds that they vibrate in harmony with:
Causal-Higher Mental Planes – World of gods – Saints, masters . . .
Lower Mental Planes – World of Asuras – Philosophers, heroes . . .
Higher and Mid-Astral Planes – World of Pretas – Average man
Lower Astral Planes – World of Animals – Purgatory, temporary abode of average man.
Sub-Lower Astral Planes – World of Demons – Hell, temporary abode of evil and wicked men.
Physical Plane – World of Humans – Physical world, all types of souls.
Transition and the after death state
We have already discussed the various relevant parts of man’s occult anatomy that are directly involved in the death process. We shall now see how they fit together in the soul’s birthing process into another realm. It should be noted, however, that there are variations in the death process. We shall be considering the normal process of death for the average person, but before we do, let us consider how occultism advocates the method of assistance to the dying.
Occultism teaches the necessity for absolute quietness surrounding the dying. The moanings and wailings of relatives and friends should be kept at a minimum and away from the presence of the one undergoing transition. The dying’s sense of perception is heightened during transition and is focused strongly on the bardo, and, therefore, it is imperative at this stage that nothing disturbs the dying person. To do so would distract the soul from liberating itself in the early stages of the bardo and prevent it from being reborn in a higher realm. It is said that orange light in the room of the dying helps the awareness-principle to maintain consciousness so that it would not miss the Clear Light of the first stage of the bardo. Oneness and identification with the Clear Light is what causes liberation for the soul–liberation from the necessity to reincarnate. Sandalwood incense and chanting of mantras also aid the dying to remain focussed and mentally alert. In the Tibetan tradition, certain guidance is given verbally to the dying pilgrim, that it may recognize the various stages of the bardo and what it should do once they are encountered and experienced. Occultism advocates similar assistance to the dying, since the basic purpose underlying both systems are one and the same, that is, the liberation of the soul from an unfortunate rebirth in one of the lower regions of the cosmos which causes evolutionary stagnation. The techniques for aiding the dying as well as dying fruitfully is well worth knowing–especially to practicing metaphysicians.
What is important to learn is the maintaining of one’s mind and consciousness at a lofty level through constant meditation and mental reflection in everyday life. This polarizes the consciousness in the head chakra and facilitates the recognition of the dawning light in the first stage of the bardo. Dying consciously is more advantageous than dying in an unconscious manner for the above reason.
Strangely enough, depending upon our perspective, highly evolved souls are aware of the time and onset of their death. This inner knowing is derived from intuitive impressions from the Oversoul, or Higher Self. Such initiates are knowledgeable of the process of death and they transit in full awareness without a break or a hiatus in their consciousness. Some even attain what is called “the Rainbow Body.” This is the transformation or the absorption of physical particles of the body into one’s spiritual light during transition, leaving no empty corpse behind. This is alluded to in the biblical passage concerning the prophet Enoch, where it is said that he walked with God “and was not.”
Those having seen the Clear Light and have united with it, or acquired the divine gnosis called “marifatullah” in Esoteric Islam encounters various esoteric/exoteric signs months and days prior to the death process:[Note: The table of the esoteric/ exoteric signs may be seen as originally published at our website]
Copyright © 2006 Luxamore