How are we to conceive of the astral world? The three different worlds
of which occultism speaks are as follows: —
(1) The physical world.
(2) The astral world (Purgatory).
(3) The spiritual world, or Devachan in Sanscrit terminology (The
There are yet other worlds above and beyond these three but they will
not concern us in these lectures. They are, moreover, beyond all human
conception. Even the highest Initiates can have but a faint
presentiment of them. We will concern ourselves here with planetary
evolution within the confines of our solar system.
The physical world encloses us in the narrow span of material
existence between birth and death. Between two incarnations we live
and move in the astral and devachanic worlds. The kernel of man's
being is immutable, reincarnating perpetually but not eternally. The
rhythm of incarnation and reincarnation had a beginning and will have
an end. Man comes from other-where and passes other-where.
The astral world is not a place but a state, a condition of
existence. It surrounds us and we are immersed in it while we live on
Earth. We live in it as beings born blind who guide themselves by
touch. If sight is opened up for them by operation they see for the
first time the forms and colours with which they have always been
Thus does the astral world open up to clairvoyant sight. It is another
state of consciousness. In
scientific works there is a wonderful passage on the essence of the light
as the language of Nature:
“It is useless to attempt to express the nature of a thing
abstractedly. Effects we can perceive, and a complete history of those
effects would, in fact, sufficiently define the nature of the thing
itself. We should try in vain to describe a man's character, but let
his acts be collected and an idea of the character will be presented
“The colours are acts of light — its active and passive
modifications: thus considered, we may expect from them some
explanation respecting light itself. Colours and light, it is true,
stand in the most intimate relation to each other, but we should think
of both as belonging to Nature as a whole, for it is Nature as a whole
which manifests itself by their means in an especial manner to the
sense of sight.
“The completeness of Nature displays itself to another sense in a
similar way. Let the eye be closed, let the sense of hearing be
excited, and from the lightest breath to the wildest din, from the
simplest sound to the highest harmony, from the most vehement and
impassioned cry to the gentlest word of reason, still it is Nature
that speaks and manifests her presence, her power, her pervading life
and the vastness of her relations; so that a blind man to whom the
infinite visible is denied, can still comprehend an infinite vitality
by means of another organ.
“And thus as we descend the scale of being, Nature speaks to the
senses — to known, misunderstood, and unknown senses: so speaks she with
herself and to us in a thousand modes. To the attentive observer who
is nowhere dead nor silent, she has even a secret agent in inflexible
matter, in a metal, the smallest portions of which tell us what is
passing in the entire mass.” [Theory of Colours. Preface.]
Let us endeavour to form some conception of the astral world. We must
accustom ourselves to quite a different mode of vision. To begin with,
everything is confused and chaotic.
The first thing to realise is that in the astral world, everything
that exists is revealed as it were in a mirror, inversed. In the
astral light the cipher 365 must be read backwards: 563. If an event
unfolds before us, it is perceived in inverse sequence. In the astral
world the cause comes after the effect, whereas on Earth, the effect
follows the cause. In the astral world, the aim appears as the cause
— proving that the aim and the cause are identical, acting in an
inverse sense according to the sphere of life in which we are
functioning. The teleological problem which no metaphysician has been
able to solve by dint of abstract thought is thus solved by
Another result of this inverse unraveling of things in the astral
world is that it teaches man to know himself. Feelings and passions
are expressed by plant and animal forms. When man begins to behold his
passions in the astral world he sees them as animal forms. These forms
proceed from himself, but he sees them as if they were assailing him.
This is because his own being is objectivised — otherwise he
could not behold himself. Thus it is only in the astral world that man
learns true self knowledge in contemplating the images of his passions
in the animal forms which hurl, themselves upon him. A feeling of
hatred entertained against another being appears as an attacking
This astral self-knowledge occurs in an abnormal way in those who are
troubled with Psychical illnesses which consist in constant visions of
being pursued by animals and menacing entities. The sufferers are
seeing the mirror images of their emotions and desires.
No psychical trouble arises in true initiation, but the premature and
sudden flashing-up of the astral world may give rise to insanity. In
clairvoyance, man is liberated from his physical body. Hence the
dangers that may threaten the mind and brain of one who attempts this
kind of training without being absolutely balanced.
The Rosicrucian initiation involved a discipline which was directed to
making man objective to himself, to producing, as it were, an
objective self. We must begin by seeing ourselves objectively. This
outer personification of the self makes it possible for the astral
body to go forth from the physical body.
What happens at the moment of death? After death, the etheric body,
the astral body and the Ego of man have left the physical body. The
corpse alone remains in the physical world. A short time after death
the etheric and astral bodies unite. The etheric body imprints in the
astral body the memory of the life just passed; then the etheric body
slowly dissolves and the astral body passes alone into the astral
The astral body then contains all the desires generated by life and,
being bereft of the physical body, has no means of satisfying them.
This gives rise to a sensation of devouring thirst — the basis of the
imagination of the punishment of Tantalus in Greek Mythology. There is
also the impression of being immersed in fire — Gehenna or
Purgatory. The idea of the fire of Purgatory which is laughed at by
materialists is a true expression of the subjective state of man after
death. By contrast, unsatisfied thirst for action produces the
sensation of cold in the soul. It is this cold — born of action
unrealised on Earth — that is said to be sensed by the spirits in
mediumistic séances. The soul living in the astral body must learn to
break free from the forces of the physical organs and acquire a new
organism for existence in the astral world.
The soul now begins to live through the past life in backward order,
beginning at death and going back to birth. Not until the life has
been lived through in this purifying fire to the point of birth is the
soul ready to pass into the spiritual world — into Devachan. Such is the
import of Christ's words to His disciples: “Verily, verily I say
unto you, unless ye become as little children, ye cannot enter into
the kingdom of heaven.”
Man is impelled by desire when he is descending to earthly
incarnation. Not for nothing is desire for the Earth born in man. The
end and aim is that he shall learn.
We learn through all our experiences and they enrich our store of
knowledge. But in order that man may learn on the Earth, he must be
allured by, [or] involved in enjoyment.
When the soul is experiencing the past life in the astral world after
death, in backward order, there must be abnegation of enjoyment, while
the essence of the experience itself is retained. The passage through
the astral world is thus a purification whereby the soul learns to
forego all taste for physical pleasures.
Such is the purification of the Hindu Kamaloca, of the
‘consuming fire.’ Man must grow accustomed to existence
without a physical body. Death gives rise, at first, to the impression
of an immeasurable void.
In cases of violent death and of suicide, the impressions of
emptiness, thirst and burning are much more terrible. An astral body
that is not prepared for existence outside the physical body,
separates with great travail, whereas in natural death the detachment
of the matured astral body takes place easily and smoothly. In the
case of violent death that is not caused by the will of man, the
process of separation is less distressing than in the case of suicide.
During life itself a kind of spiritual death may occur, caused by a
premature separation of the Spirit from the body. The astral world is
confused with the physical world.
is an example of this. In his book
Beyond Good and Evil,
Nietzsche has all-unconsciously
transferred the astral into the physical world. The result is a
confusion and chaos of ideas, culminating in error, insanity and
The dim, dreamy life of many mediums is an analogous phenomenon. The
medium invariably loses his orientation between these different worlds
and is unable to distinguish the true from the false.
A lie in the physical world becomes an agent of destruction in the
astral world. A lie is a murder in the astral world. This phenomenon
is the origin of black magic. The earthly commandment, Thou shalt
not kill, may therefore be translated into Thou shalt not
lie, in reference to the astral world. The lie is nothing but a
word, an illusion. It may do untold harm, but nothing is actually
destroyed. In the astral world, every feeling, every idea is a visible
form, a living force. The astral lie brings about an impact between
the false and true forms, resulting in death.
The white magician would impart to other souls the spiritual life he
bears within him. The black magician has the urge to kill, to create a
void around him in the astral world because this void affords him a
field in which his egoistic desires may disport themselves. He needs
the power which he acquires by taking the vital force of everything
that lives, that is to say, by killing it.
That is why the first sentence on the tables of black magic is: Life
must be conquered. For the same reason, in certain schools of black
magic the followers are taught the horrible and diabolical practice of
gashing living animals with a knife at the precise part of the body
which will generate this or that force in the wielder of the knife.
From the purely external aspect, there are certain points in common
between black magic and vivisection. On account of its materialism,
modern science has need of vivisection. The anti-vivisection movements
are inspired by deeply moral motives. But it will not be possible to
abolish vivisection in science until clairvoyance has been restored
to medicine. It is only because clairvoyance has been lost that
medicine has had to resort to vivisection. When man has regained
conscious access to the astral world, clairvoyance will enable doctors
to enter spiritually into the inner conditions of diseased organs and
vivisection will be abandoned as worthless.
Knowledge of life in the astral world leads us to a conclusion of
fundamental importance, namely that the physical world is the product
of the astral world.
The epidemics which raged notably in the Middle Ages are one example
among thousands of the relation of human sins to astral events, as
well as of the repercussion in the astral world of sins committed in
earthly life. Leprosy was the result of the terror caused by the
invasions of the Huns and hordes of Asiatic peoples. The Mongolians,
the descendants of the Atlanteans, bore within them the germs of
degeneracy. This contact with the European populace produced, in the
first instance, the moral malady of fear in the astral world; the
substance of the astral body decomposed and this field of astral
decomposition became a field for the development of bacteria, giving
rise, on Earth, to diseases such as leprosy.
All that we throw out of ourselves into the astral world at one time
will reappear in times to come, on the physical plane. What we sow in
the astral world we reap on Earth in future times. We are reaping
today the fruits of the narrow, materialistic thoughts strewn by our
ancestors in the astral world.
This will make us realise how essential it is to nourish ourselves
with occult truths. If science would accept the truths of
occultism — merely as hypotheses to begin with — the very world would
change. Materialism has cast man into such depths that a mighty
concentration of forces is necessary to raise him again. He is subject
to illnesses of the nervous system which are veritable epidemics of
the life of the soul.
What on the Earth we call feeling comes back again to Earth in
the form of actuality, event, fact. The nerve-storms that exhaust man
have their origin in the astral world.
It is for this reason that the Occult Brotherhoods decided to
demonstrate and reveal the hidden truths. For humanity is passing
through a crisis and must be helped to regain health and equilibrium.
Only by virtue of spirituality can this health and equilibrium be