The Astral World explained and explored
In this, the seventh of the twelve articles comprising our occult studies course, we shall discuss and explore the subject of the Astral World in order to find out what it is and what it isn't.
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There are more misconceptions about the Astral World than most other occult subject we can think of. In this particular investigation we hope to clear up some of these misconceptions and solve some of the puzzles which confront the sincere seeker interested in FACTS, rather than the speculations and fantasies of untrained psychics who only partially understand what they see and experience during their travels on the Astral plane.
To some "The Astral" is the abode of bliss, a happy land, where we dwell amongst the beautiful surroundings we craved in vain when on earth. As such it is known as "Summerland" by spiritualists, "Devachan" by theosophists and a host of other names among "New Age" followers of all tints and shades. It is the reward for all the undeserved miseries of earthly life; the place where all dreams come true.
For some it is the place where the disembodied Higher Self dwells between incarnations, while to others it is the temporary dwelling where it rests for a while, until it is ready to commence life on a higher plane. For many it is a replica of earthly conditions, where you only have to think of a thing and it appears! This is very much the spiritualist's conception, now adopted and adapted unthinkingly by many in the "New Age" movement and its various offshoots. In their "Astral World" you can have a town house, a country mansion, a farm, a cottage, or even a castle in any shape or size you wish with no rent, mortgage, council tax, or utility bills to pay. If you want money, there is all the gold in the world for you to gloat over. The glutton can have his fill of anything he desires in any quantities without ever getting indigestion—and no bills and surly waitresses to tip!
What a paradise for some people! Even Mohammed did not think of all these possibilities when he wrote the Koran. Personally speaking, you can keep all these spiritualistic delights, and give us Mohammed's Paradise and the Houris! Mind you, the ideas of some the more fundamentalist Christian sects, where you languish with an out-of-tune harp on a soggy and sagging cloud playing mournful hymns all day and night with never a trip to the Seychelles to break the monotony, does not appeal to us either. Then we have the happy-hunting grounds of the native Americans, with an abundance of buffalo and no double-dealing, two-faced palefaces to ruin it all, or the Eskimo heaven, which is the tummy of a whale, made of blubber, and WARM. All variations on the Astral theme. And so each race and age has its own ideas of what heaven is like, and these astral regions are the domains in which all the happiness and content, not to be found on earth, can be found; each according to what they most wish for and know as their highest ideal.
There is much truth in these various beliefs in, and longings after, paradises not to be found on earth. But they are not the whole truth, as we shall discover as we develop our theme. There is also the astral world which is the dwelling of the elemental spirits, such as the fairies, gnomes and sylphs we may read about in occult books, and a host of other, far less savoury entities, and there are certain ways of penetrating into the regions where they dwell. Proclus called these beings demons, and many of them are demoniacal creatures, very dangerous to contact if one is not prepared and under full protection, as you may read in the near-death experience (NDE) of Howard Storm, who met some of these low-grade elemental beings when he 'died' during an operation.
"I was forced by a mob of unfriendly and cruel people toward some unknown destination in the darkness . . . A number of them began to push and shove me, and I responded by hitting back at them.
A wild orgy of frenzied taunting, screaming and hitting ensued. I fought like a wild man. All the while it was obvious that they were having great fun. It seemed to be, almost, a game for them, with me as the centrepiece of their amusement. My pain became their pleasure. They seemed to want to make me hurt by clawing at me and biting me."
Quoted from Near-Death Experiences and the Afterlife website
And this is the astral world some foolish seekers want to 'project' into in the mistaken belief (though fantasy would be a better word) that it will be a 'fun' and 'exciting' diversion from their humdrum lives! If you, who are reading this, have ever had such desires, let the above experience of Howard Storm be a warning to you not to meddle with conditions over which you have no control and less understanding. What the beings that dwell in the higher regions of the astral world look like you can read in 'a glimpse of Heaven' on our Religious quotes and occult maxims page.
The inhabitants of the Astral World
There are three distinct classes of beings in the astral world. The first are the so-called "elementaries"; the shells or shades of human beings who have lived on earth, and these are the most intelligent, or rather cunning. They are the remnants of people, who, having refused all spiritual light, remained and died so deeply immersed in the mire of matter that the Higher Self or immortal Ego has only gradually separated from their sinful earthly personalities. Fortunately, most of these pitiful wretches only survive the death of the body for a short time, gradually losing all consciousness of their erstwhile human personalities as they disintegrate. The purer the personality was on earth, the less vitality these shades possess; the coarser the human being from whom they were separated, the longer they survive, and the more chance they have of finding their way into the séance room or the mind of a "New Age" channeler.
As we have seen above, no real good can come of any contact with these beings. Even if not actually wicked, they are always imperfect and weak and their influence can never be elevating. Moreover, it is quite wrong to encourage such shells into activity or to feed them upon the vital essences of human beings, thus galvanizing them into a fictitious renewal of their existence. Such are the "angel guides" we hear so much about nowadays. Idle dreams and speculations; they are nothing more than the succubi and incubi of medieval times in modern dress. If we critically examine the communications of these supposed 'guides' from the beyond, we find in almost cases that they contain nothing which could not have come from the medium's own mind. Often the 'messages' received are so banal and nonsensical that they would shame the smallest child, yet because they are claimed to emanate from the 'astral', they are swallowed like manna from Heaven!
H. P. Blavatsky, who could SEE and recognise the elemental beings behind such 'spirit' communications (as the author of this article can too), knew what a lying charade contacts with such beings is, and wrote at great length about it in her books. J Michaud describes the tricks these low beings employ to hoodwink their gullible contacts very clearly in the fifth chapter of The Golden Star. We suggest you read it if you wish to learn the truth about the mechanics behind all such astral phenomena. We personally knew a lady many years ago who was a most accomplished singer and famous "psychic" who "married" the "spirit" of D. H. Lawrence. We have absolutely no doubt that she enjoyed a full and completely "real" relationship with the elementary who was impersonating the deceased writer, but we could see behind the mask and she, poor woman, could, or would not. We would like to say that she eventually "got over" her psychic infatuation with this astral elementary. Sadly, her obsession cost her both talent, health, family, and finally her sanity. You may smile in disbelief, but we assure you that we write the truth.
Since spiritualism began in the 19th Century there have been thousands of good, pure and honest men and women just like her, who, but for the cultivation of the evil capacity to make contact with the elementaries, might have lived useful lives leading to higher things, but through the gradual and pernicious influence of these low, earth-bound spirits, have sunk from bad to worse. What a damnable farce it all is! The worst part of it is that millions still believe in this maleficent masquerade of moving shadows, now invoked through 'channeling' and other 'New Age' practises—as you can read in the sidebar on your right.
The second class of beings in the astral world are the Higher Selves—the true, immortal Egos of men and women—awaiting their next incarnation. These are of all grades of evolution, just as we find here on earth; some wise, some not so wise, and each dwells in that part of the astral world with which they are most attuned. They can be contacted, but only by rising up in thought to the regions where they dwell, not via the séance room or 'channeling'.
The third class are the proper elementals, which never evolve into human beings, but exist on a different rate of vibration as nature-spirits, each confined to its own special element. Tertullian called them the "princes and powers of the air." They have no tangible bodies, nor are they immortal, having only astral forms which are closely identified with the elements they are connected with. There are elementals of the Air, Fire, Water and Earth. There are also flower elementals, tree elementals and so on. They are a combination of sublimated matter and rudimental mind. The lower ranks act collectively and have no individuality as a rule, though the great Devas who rule over them are distinct individualities of great power, compassion and wisdom. None of these beings can be seen by ordinary physical sight, but only by clairvoyant vision. If you want to know what they look like, you can find true descriptions of them in the books of Geoffrey Hodson, which we review in our article on nature spirits and fairies.
In addition to the above, we have the fairies, pixies, gnomes, kobolds, hobgoblins, elves, undines, water-nymphs, nixies, sylphs, salamanders, and a legion of other strange beings, too numerous to enumerate here. As Bulwer-Lytton wrote in his occult novel Zanoni: "some are of surpassing wisdom, some of horrible malignity; some hostile as fiends to men, others gentle as messengers between earth and heaven." As we have said above, it needs the inner sight to see the varied inhabitants of the astral world. But to assert they do not exist because those who are not clairvoyant can't see them is ridiculous. But to have clairvoyant powers is not always an unmixed blessing. It can be both embarrassing and disturbing, especially when children have this gift and their parents either cannot, or will not, acknowledge and understand it.
Astral vision — seeing into the Astral World
A friend of ours, who has the "sight", was once talking to a stranger who had come to his home for assistance. As our friend spoke to the him, the stranger's face faded away and in its place appeared the countenance of a demonic-looking satyr, glaring at our friend in the most dreadful manner. When enquiries were made about the man it was found that, although he had asked for money, he was living in a splendid house in a rich district. Yet when he visited our friend he was almost in rags and told him he was starving. Now whether our friend saw the lower self of that stranger as it really was, or his evil Higher Self, OR an elementary who had taken control of the stranger's mind, we would not like to say; for the possible explanations for such clairvoyant visions are many, and only the trained Initiate can distinguish one possibility from another and arrive at the correct and true conclusion.
On another occasion, this friend heard galloping sounds behind him as he walked in the park, and on looking around, he saw a troop of pan-like figures, capering around him in the moonlight. We know many mystics, who have not so much of the gift of clairvoyance, who when alone in the countryside, have seen sudden flashes of light from the hedgerows and a fleeting form, more beautiful than words can describe, flit past their startled gaze. Young children, too, quite often see such beings, and some may even become "invisible" playmates for a time, to the consternation and often, sad to say, anger of their parents, who do not want their child "seeing things that aren't there." If only the poor parents realised that nothing they do see, hear, taste, touch, or sense in any way, is 'there' either, they might just learn something of value from those children who can see a little further than most.
We are never alone. Others to whom we have spoken have had very similar experiences, but it is the privilege of all to believe these things or not. It is quite easy—but not always advisable to develop this power of clairvoyance, and there are various ways of doing this, apart from the methods taught by the true Occult Orders. There are also secret methods of sounding certain notes, thereby attuning with the conditions that exist in the Astral World. But we strongly advise you not to experiment with any such methods you may have read about, because if these are applied in the wrong manner, it can lead to dire results. Similar methods also allow one to be present at the meetings and rituals of some of the dark societies of the West and East, without these people being aware of it. But to us—who are on the path to the Light—these things hold no attraction, and apart from trying out the principle a few times, we have no wish to be present at any time to see these dark individuals at work or listen to their plans. They have no power to hurt us if we do not invite them to do so by tuning in with their conditions or their black hearts.
At the same time, as we have mentioned in our discussion of the Occult Jungle, it is good to have knowledge, for it aids us in protecting the inexperienced and unwary seeker who might innocently fall into a trap. Many victims are caught in this way and realise too late how difficult it will be to escape from the clutches of these black magicians; more of whom in our next article.
As we study the conditions in the Astral World, we begin to realise who the genii were we read so much about in Eastern tales of magic and wonder such as Aladdin and his "magic" lamp. These beings do exist, but to employ them leads to perdition. No white brother would do so. Black and white do not mix. And here we have another hint in regard to what Karma really is. It is definitely attunement and nothing else. Therefore it will be clear to you that if we attune ourselves with these genii, elementals, demons and other less pleasant inhabitants of the astral world, we deliberately invite their conditions as well, and we will find that individuals of like propensities to our own are drawn towards us too, so affecting us and our life in a most undesirable manner.
The true conditions and real nature of the Astral World
Please do not think that the astral world is vaporous and intangible, filled with spooks drifting about like actors and actresses in a Hollywood Gothic melodrama. No! Things in the astral world are only tenuous in substance to our conception, but dense to its own inhabitants. We, on the other hand, seem to be a less tangible substance to them than their own. The first kind of astral world is that of which the ancient Sages speak, and it is the creation of God himself no less than our own world. It's inhabitants are real and have form in every sense. The second kind consists of thought-forms, produced by humanity as a whole; for thoughts are things. The cumulative effects of humanity have produced that second kind of astral world, which some philosophers and mystics call the Universal Mind, or Anima Mundi. Others have called it the "Soul of the World" or "astral light".
Whatever thoughts, emotions or feelings have been produced by man have been (and are) sent forth and exist in space—as we conceive space—and they influence our thinking and produce "waves" of various kinds of sentiments; good, bad and indifferent. They produce the public "mood", national pride and what the Germans call "Weltschmerz" or World Sorrow. They sway mobs and meetings of all kinds by the speaker or leader enflaming the passions or appealing to the reason, thereby drawing upon the great reservoirs of similar feeling extant in the astral realms. They also attract the proper elementals, who gather around in great hordes whenever the passions are aroused, for these beings feed on these low emotions as we feed on food and drink.
Whenever we give way to anger, a host of demons, most malignant, attend on us, and will hover around us for a long time, in the hope that we may act in the same way again; for when we give way to anger we release a certain amount of "power", on which these elementals exist. This is why one always feels exhausted after a fit of anger, for "virtue has gone out of us." Being thus weakened, and having less control than before, it becomes more and more easy to give way to new fits of anger, weakening us still more, until at last the results become apparent in weakened bodily health. At the same time we have less power of resistance to the insidious whispers of the elementals, which have now adopted us as a more or less permanent provider of strength for themselves, and we find ourselves in the grip of a remorseless fate, affecting not only our health, but our material and economic conditions as well.
The third kind of astral world comprises our own, personal thoughts-forms, and the thoughts of others, which can be contacted by us, for they cling to us for a while, and they can be seen by others if they are clairvoyant, or we can see another person's thoughts, or feel them, if we have the capacity to do so. Always remember that these things are material and have form. They are still part of our material being, thinking and acting. They have no connection with the conditions of the HIGHER realms of celestial purity, goodness and love, which are described in a Glimpse of Heaven on our Religious quotes and occult maxims page.
A thought-form—produced by Mr A—is generally seen in its true shape by Miss B, if she has the faculty of "seeing", but it is also possible that Mr A may form a thought of what HE thinks Christ looked like. This projected picture is then picked up by Mrs C, who sees a vision of HER version of Christ's personal appearance. Or Mr D may only contact the devotional feeling of Mr A and translate this into the form of the Virgin Mary, or Isis, or Buddha, or Krishna, or one of the Christian Saints, and swear blind that this is the only "true" vision, sent by his "angel guide", when you (and we) know it was not! There are countless possibilities of having similar "visions" of all sorts from one projection, especially if one or more of the elementals manipulate it as well. So you will agree that the subject is very difficult indeed and why it is almost impossible to discuss it without being misunderstood.
In addition to these thought-forms which may be seen in the astral world, there are the projections of our own astral body. In this way we may appear at a greater or lesser distance, visible to others who have the "sight", when our physical body is lying relaxed or asleep at home. We can "project" to different places on earth as well as to locations within the astral world. This is one of the means of penetrating into regions existing on different rates of vibration, or into the past and even the future. Though the former kind of "projection" may also be considered as contacting the memories of our previous lives on earth as we discussed in our article on Reincarnation. Quite how we may contact our future lives is a topic outside this discussion which you are welcome to ponder upon! Though we would say that it is certainly possible, for "time" is not what we think it to be, here on earth.
We ourselves have seen and learnt many interesting things during our explorations of the astral world. We vividly recall seeing our physical body for the first time from the perspective of our freed Higher Self. My goodness, we thought, is that disgusting grey corpse really us? What a shock that was to our ego, removing all vanity in our personal appearance forever and at once! On another occasion we were privileged to see the Higher Self of a close friend as it really appeared in its own, high, spiritual realm. That too was an enormous shock, but a most joyful one, for the god-like being that we beheld was more glorious than words can describe. We have also had many pleasant excursions among the beautiful scenery and magnificent buildings of the higher regions of the astral world and met many of its blessed inhabitants, as well as contacting some of the more unpleasant dwellers in the lower regions. But we will refrain from describing them as all they can teach us is what not to attune with in our astral journeyings.
You may be asking at this point, "yes, this is all very well, but how do I learn to explore the astral world?" This is a good question, and the simple answer is by learning how to free your mind from your physical body. You can do this through deep meditation as we discuss in a later article in this Course. The genuine Occult Orders give their students various exercises to free the mind from the body and develop the hidden powers we all possess. Such exercises are the secrets of the Orders who teach them and it would be against all occult laws for us to reveal them to you. For this reason any such exercises or techniques which you may read about in books or on the Internet are best avoided. At best you will achieve limited success with them and at worst attract the dangerous elementaries we mentioned earlier.
Finally, we have known and do know, some occult students who become so addicted to 'astral travelling' (when such experiences are not the figment of their overheated imaginations) that they become quite unbalanced. No good can come of such obsessions. Moreover, there are better and safer ways of exploring the astral world and learning about the true conditions in its many regions, as we discuss in this Course.
The Astral Light
Paracelsus, in his Philosophia Saga, states: "The current of the astral light with its peculiar inhabitants, gnomes, sylphs, etc., is transformed into human light at the moment of conception, and it becomes the first envelope of the soul—its grosser portion; combined with the most subtle fluids, it forms the sidereal (astral, or ethereal) phantom—the inner man." To which Eliphas Levi adds: "The astral light is saturated with elementary souls which it discharges in the incessant generation of beings...At the birth of a child, they influence the four temperaments of the latter. The element of the gnomes (Earth) predominates in melancholy persons; of the salamanders (Fire) in the sanguine (pleasure-seeking and sociable); of the undines (Water) in the phlegmatic (relaxed and quiet); of the sylphs (Air) in the Choleric or giddy and bilious...These are the spirits which we designate under the term of the (four) Occult Elements."
So, if any ladies are reading this, when someone next compliments you on your "sylph-like" figure, perhaps you won't feel quite so proud!
What the Kabbalists term the astral light, the Buddhists call Svabhavat, and some higher metaphysical schools even state that this astral light is a self-existent matter, which has never been created, but always was, without beginning or end, past or future. This atmosphere is said to be constantly changing every minute of every day. When we consider all that we have said up to now about the various thought-forms that are constantly being projected into, and reflected back from, the astral light, this statement seems very reasonable to us. Herakleides said that the knowledge of the astral world was the great secret of the highest initiation.
We have seen in our previous articles about Karma, Reincarnation, Evolution and Intelligence that the human Higher Self or immortal ego ascends from the physical by successive stages until at last it leaves all material dross behind and joins with the spiritual essence from which it first descended; rich with the experience it has garnered during its sojourns here on earth and in the various spheres or planes in which it dwells in between incarnations. If these teachings are true, and we are in no doubt of it and hope that you are not either, what an awe-inspiring journey it is! But to succeed in that journey, wherever it may take us, we need FAITH, which is the subject of our next and eighth article in this Occult studies course.
12 March 2013 — © Copyright occult-mysteries.org. Updated 26 March 2015.