A Definitive Work on Theosophy
William Quan Judge
Having shown that just beyond the threshold of human
life there is a place of separation wherein the better part of man is divided
from his lower and brute elements, we come to consider what is the state after
death of the real being, the immortal who travels from life to life. Struggling
out of the body the entire man goes into
loosens himself from the lower skandhas; this period of birth over, the higher principles, Atma-Buddhi-Manas, begin to think in a manner different from that which the body and brain permitted in life. This is the state of Devachan, a Sanskrit word meaning literally "the place of the gods," where the soul enjoys
felicity; but as the gods have no such bodies as ours, the Self in devachan is devoid of a mortal body. In the ancient books it is said that this state lasts "for years of infinite number," or "for a period proportionate to the merit of the being"; and when the mental forces peculiar to the state are exhausted, "the being is drawn down again to be reborn in the world of mortals."
Devachan is therefore an interlude between births in the world. The law of karma which forces us all to enter the world, being ceaseless in its operation and also universal in scope, acts also on the being in devachan, for only by the force or operation of Karma are we taken out of devachan. It is something like the
pressure of atmosphere which, being continuous and uniform, will push out or crush that which is subjected to it unless there be a compensating quantity of atmosphere to counteract the pressure. In the present case the karma of the being is the atmosphere always pressing the being on or out from state to state; the counteracting quantity of atmosphere is the force of the being's own life-thoughts and aspirations which prevent his coming out of devachan until that force is exhausted, but which being spent has no more power to hold back the decree of our self-made mortal destiny.
The necessity for this state after death is one of the necessities of evolution growing out of the nature of mind and soul. The very nature of manas requires a devachanic state as soon as the body is lost, and it is simply the effect of loosening the bonds placed upon the mind by its physical and astral encasement.
In life we can but to a fractional extent act out the thoughts we have each moment; and still less can we exhaust the psychic energies engendered by each day's aspirations and dreams. The energy thus engendered is not lost or annihilated, but is stored in Manas, but the body, brain, and astral body permit no full development of the force. Hence, held latent until death, it bursts then from the weakened bonds and plunges Manas, the thinker, into the expansion, use, and development of the thought-force set up in life.
The impossibility of escaping this necessary state lies in man's ignorance of his own powers and faculties. From this ignorance delusion arises, and Manas not being wholly free is carried by its own force into the thinking of devachan. But while ignorance
is the cause for going into this state the whole process is remedial, restful, and beneficial. For if the average man returned at once to another body in the same civilization he had just quitted, his soul would be completely tired out and deprived of the needed opportunity for the development of the higher part of his nature.
Now the Ego being minus mortal body and kama, clothes itself in devachan with a vesture which cannot be called body but may be styled means or vehicle, and in that it functions in the devachanic state entirely on the plane of mind and soul. Everything is as real then to the being as this world seems to be to us.
It simply now has gotten the opportunity to make its own world for itself unhampered by the clogs of physical life. Its state may be compared to that of the poet or artist who, rapt in ecstacy of composition or arrangement of color, cares not for and knows not of either time or objects of the world.
We are making causes every moment, and but two fields exist for the manifestation in effect of those causes. These are, the objective as this world is called, and the subjective which is both here and after we have left this life. The objective field relates to earth life and the grosser part of man, to his bodily acts and his brain thoughts, as also sometimes to his astral body.
The subjective has to do with his higher and spiritual parts. In the objective field the psychic impulses cannot work out, nor can the high leanings and aspirations of his soul; hence these must be the basis, cause, substratum, and support for the state of devachan. What then is the time, measured by mortal
years, that one will stay in devachan?
This question while dealing with what earth-men call time does not, of course, touch the real meaning of time itself, that is, of what may be in fact for this solar system the ultimate order, precedence, succession, and length of moments.
It is a question which may be answered in respect to our time, but not certainly in respect to the time on the planet Mercury, for instance, where time is not the same as ours, nor, indeed, in respect to time as conceived by the soul. As to the latter any man can see that after many years have slipped away he has no
direct perception of the time just passed, but is able only to pick out some of the incidents which marked its passage, and as to some poignant or happy instants or hours he seems to feel them as but of yesterday. And thus it is for the being in devachan. No time is there. The soul has all the benefit of what goes on within itself in that state, but it indulges in no speculations as to the lapse of moments; all is made up of events, while all the time the solar orb is marking off the years for us on the earth plane.
This cannot be regarded as an impossibility if we will remember how, as is well known in life, events, pictures, thoughts, argument, introspective feeling will all sweep over us in perfect detail in an instant, or, as is known of those who have been drowning, the events of a whole life time pass in a flash before the eye of the mind. But the Ego remains as said in devachan for a time exactly proportioned to the psychic impulses generated during life. Now this being a matter which deals with the mathematics of the soul, no one but a Master can tell what the time would be for the average man of this century in every land. Hence we have to depend on the Masters of wisdom for that average, as it must be based upon a calculation.
They have said, as is well put by Mr. A. P. Sinnett in his Esoteric Buddhism, that the period is fifteen hundred years in general. From a reading of his book, which was made up from letters from the Masters, it is to be inferred he desires it to be understood that the devachanic period is in each and every case fifteen centuries; but to do away with that misapprehension his informants wrote at a later date that that is the average period and not a fixed one.
Such must be the truth, for as we see that men differ in respect to the periods of time they remain in any state of mind in life due to the varying intensities of their thoughts, so it must be in
devachan where thought has a greater force though always due to the being who had the thoughts.
What the Master did say on this is as follows: "The 'dream of devachan' lasts until karma is satisfied in that direction. In devachan there is a gradual exhaustion of force. The stay in devachan is proportionate to the unexhausted psychic impulses originated in earth life. Those whose actions were
preponderatingly material will be sooner brought back into rebirth by the force of Tanha." Tanha is the thirst for life. He therefore who has not in life originated many psychic impulses will have but little basis or force in his essential nature to keep his higher principles in devachan.
About all he will have are those originated in childhood before he began to fix his thoughts on materialistic thinking. The thirst for life expressed by the word Tanha is the pulling or magnetic force lodged in the skandhas inherent in all beings. In such
a case as this the average rule does not apply, since the whole effect either way is due to a balancing of forces and is the outcome of action and reaction.
And this sort of materialistic thinker may emerge out of devachan into another body here in a month, allowing for the unexpended psychic forces originated in early life. But as every one of such persons varies as to class, intensity and quantity of thought and psychic impulse, each may vary in respect to the time of stay in devachan. Desperately materialistic thinkers will remain in the devachanic condition stupefied or asleep, as it were, as they have no forces in them appropriate to that state save in a very vague fashion, and for them it can be very truly said that there is no state after death so far as mind is
concerned; they are torpid for a while, and then they live again on earth. This general average of the stay in devachan gives us the length of a very important human cycle, the Cycle of Reincarnation. For under that law national development will be found to repeat itself, and the times that are past will be found to come again.
The last series of powerful and deeply imprinted thoughts are those which give color and trend to the whole life in devachan. The last moment will color each subsequent moment. On those the soul and mind fix themselves and weave of them a whole set of events and experiences, expanding them to their highest limit, carrying out all that was not possible in life. Thus expanding and weaving these thoughts the entity has its youth and growth and growing old, that is, the uprush of the force, its expansion, and its dying down to final exhaustion.
If the person has led a colourless life the devachan will be colourless; if a rich life, then it will be rich in variety and effect. Existence there is not a dream save in a conventional sense, for it is a stage of the life of man, and when we are there this present life is a dream. It is not in any sense monotonous. We are too prone to measure all possible states of life and places for experience by our present earthly one and to imagine it to be reality.
But the life of the soul is endless and not to be stopped for one instant. Leaving our physical body is but a transition to another place or plane for living in. But as the ethereal garments of devachan are more lasting than those we wear here, the spiritual,
moral, and psychic causes use more time in expanding and exhausting in that state than they do on earth. If the molecules that form the physical body were not subject to the general chemical laws that govern physical earth, then we should live as long in these bodies as we do in the devachanic state. But such a
life of endless strain and suffering would be enough to blast the soul compelled to undergo it. Pleasure would then be pain, and surfeit would end but in an immortal insanity. Nature, always kind, leads us soon again into heaven for a rest, for the flowering of the best and highest in our natures.
Devachan is then neither meaningless nor useless. "In it we are rested; that part of us which could not bloom under the chilling skies of earth-life bursts forth into flower and goes back with us to earth-life stronger and more a part of our nature than before. Why should we repine that Nature kindly aids us in the interminable struggle, why keep the mind revolving about the present petty personality and its good and evil fortunes? " (Letter from Mahatma K. H. See Path p. 191, Vol. 5.)
But it is sometimes asked, what of those we have left behind: do we see them there? We do not see them there in fact, but we make to ourselves their images as full, complete, and objective as in life, and devoid of all that we then thought was a blemish. We live with them and see them grow great and good instead of mean or bad. The mother who has left a drunken son behind finds him before her in devachan a sober, good man, and likewise through all possible cases, parent, child, husband, and wife have their loved ones there perfect and full of knowledge. This is for the benefit of the soul. You may call it a delusion if you will, but the illusion is necessary to happiness just as it often is in life. And as it is the mind that makes the illusion, it is no cheat.
Certainly the idea of a heaven built over the verge of hell where you must know, if any brains or memory are left to you under the modern orthodox scheme, that your erring friends and relatives are suffering eternal torture, will bear no comparison with the doctrine of devachan. But entities in devachan are not
wholly devoid of power to help those left on earth. Love, the master of life, if real, pure, and deep, will sometimes cause the happy Ego in devachan to affect those left on earth for their good, not only in the moral field but also in that of material circumstance. This is possible under a law of the occult universe
which cannot be explained now with profit, but the fact may be stated. It has been given out before this by H. P. Blavatsky, without, however, much attention being drawn to it.
The last question to consider is whether we here can reach those in devachan or do they come here. We cannot reach them nor affect them unless we are Adepts.
The claim of mediums to hold communion with the spirits of the dead is baseless, and still less valid is the claim of ability to help those who have gone to devachan. The Mahatma, a being who has developed all his powers and is free from illusion, can go into the devachanic state and then communicate with the Egos there.
Such is one of their functions, and that is the only school of the Apostles after death. They deal with certain entities in devachan for the purpose of getting them out of the state so as to return to earth for the benefit of the race. The Egos they thus deal with are those whose nature is great and deep but who are not wise enough to be able to overcome the natural illusions of devachan.
Sometimes also the hypersensitive and pure medium goes
into this state and then holds communication with the Egos there, but it is rare, and certainly will not take place with the general run of mediums who trade for money. But the soul never descends here to the medium. And the gulf between the consciousness of devachan and that of earth is so deep and wide that it is but seldom the medium can remember upon returning to recollection here what or whom it met or saw or heard in devachan. This gulf is similar to that which separates devachan from rebirth; it is one in which all memory of what preceded it is blotted out.
The whole period allotted by the soul's forces being ended in devachan, the magnetic threads which bind it to earth begin to assert their power. The Self wakes from the dream, it is borne swiftly off to a new body, and then, just before birth, it sees for a moment all the causes that led it to devachan and back to the life it is about to begin, and knowing it to be all just, to be the
result of its own past life, it repines not but takes up the cross again -- and another soul has come back to earth.
Find out more about
Theosophy with these links
Footpath to the summit of
An Outline of Theosophy
Charles Webster Leadbeater
Try these if you are looking for a local
Theosophy Group or Centre