THEOSOPHY, Vol. 21, No. 9, July, 1933
(Pages 417-420; Size: 13K)
(Number 9 of a 36-part series)



THE continual change in material things, well known to the ancients and for which "they elaborated a doctrine called Pralaya," is accelerated in the human body; so that by the end of natural lifetime seven complete changes, or even more, have taken place. Yet, marvellously enough, "it presents the same general appearance from maturity until death." This mystery "science explains not" and Theosophy holds unsolvable from the physical standpoint, because pertaining to the cell, "an illusion." A cell "is the ideal form within which the actual physical atoms -- made up of the 'lives' -- arrange themselves." "Hence there is no physical cell," but a vortex of force, with "privative limits," a whirlpool in the ocean of Life, incessantly attracting shoals of "lives" within its "ideal walls" and, anon, repelling them. The "general shape" is constant; but its material units fluctuate instantly, rushing into the mold to assume position there "according to the laws of nature, and leave it again almost at once to give place to other atoms." One Teacher states it in this way: "Each center of every entity has its own radius of action, causing a whirling or vortex around it; it is the lives drawn within this radial vortex that constitute the 'cell'."

Like all other visible things, the human body owes its modicum of permanency to something deeper. The image of flesh depends upon an astral vehicle, its cell, furnishing the "ideal walls and general shape" for the ever shifting physical molecules. This astral mesh permeates the material cover, "incorporated in it just as the fibres of the mango are all through that fruit." Upon it depend both contour and coherence.

Many names are given to this inner sheath. Of these, "design body" is regarded as the best; because it emphasizes the pattern aspect and indicates the fact that "the astral body precedes the material one," providing "the model for the growing child in the womb." The invisible form "changes but little during a lifetime" and, after death, "remains near the deserted physical body nearly all the time until that is completely dissipated, for it has to go through its own process of dying." Another name used for it is "guiding model," indicative of the functional aspects; for, containing "the real organs of the outer senses" and also being the instrument needed by Prana "in working upon the physical body," this model does actually guide and direct all physiological processes. The term "astral body" points out the character of its material; "derived from cosmic matter or star matter, roughly speaking" -- luminous, "electrical and magnetic in its essence" and "just what the whole world was composed of in the dim past," before physical matter precipitated.

The astral model, composed of substance purified by "processes of an incalculable number," is thus much finer in texture than the visible body. "It is flexible, plastic, extensible, and strong"; while the physical is frail, restricted, and tending toward inertia and dispersion. The mud on a river's bed might symbolize the latter. To seek the issues of life there is to find but their dregs. Identification with body submerges Selfhood and beclouds the meaning of existence. But even the "mud" will be transmuted; when Mankind stops reclining in it and undertakes the inevitable struggle against its tamasic quality. Earnest effort to surmount the hamperings of this physical plane develops moral strength and constitutes the natural process whereby "to raise the whole mass of physical substance up to a higher level and to inform it all with a larger measure of spiritual influence, so that it may be ready to go still further on during the next great period of evolution after the present one is ended."

Repetition is the process of self unfoldment. Universally or individually considered, each cycle repeats the past and lays down lines for the future. The birth and prenatal states of every child review the evolution of the Cosmos: the outlining "in plan or ideal form first"; "then the astral matter begins to work on this plan with the aid of the Life principle"; until "the astral form at last clothes itself with a 'coat of skin,' and the present physical form is on the scene." Basically, the human design is the same for all; but each individual modifies this in accordance with his own Karmic record. Every new birth objectivizes creations of the past then ripe for expression and creates for future lives. The design for each new body is fabricated in the prior day on earth. Blight or beauty comes from within, using outer circumstances as channels for manifestation. In case of birthmark, the mother acts as agent. A "strong picture from horror, fear, or otherwise" can similarly affect the astral model, through its connection with the mother's imagination, "by physical and psychical organs"; these, during early stages of foetal development, giving her ideas "the power of acid and sharpened steel." Blemish thus wrought in the astral sheath will appear in the physical, just as the print duplicates a mar in the negative. Again turning to universal correspondences: human gestation and birth represent, in miniature, gestation and birth of worlds in the womb of Space. Thus Earth reproduces designs traced on the moon Chain; and present engravures on the tablets of the Race-Mind will characterize the ensuing Humanity with normalcy or defect. A host of invisible witnesses silently etches Humanity's record in Nature's secret annals. Worlds and bodies, alike, are what Man makes them. Living as body, mars the picture; living as Soul, unfolds the inherent Ideal of perfection.

The true doctrine of the astral realm unveils many mysteries, "destroys the unreasonable fear of the unknown," "removes superstition," "prevents the scientific doubter from violating good sense" with his scepticism, and solemnly warns against numerous practices employed in certain lines of investigation.

The hypnotist need no longer be baffled by "subconscious perception" and "latent memory," but could know them to be the normal functioning of inner senses belonging to the "real personal man," into whose sacred privacy he so crassly intrudes. Then, too, the astral body "will explain nearly all the strange psychical things happening in daily life and dealings with genuine mediums"; for it can extrude its finer states and function in them independently. With most, it "cannot go more than a few feet from the physical body"; but some unfortunate people, due to past practices, unconsciously send out the astral or extrude portions of it, as an arm or hand, thus apportating objects "without physical contact" and producing other puzzling phenomena. But as counterfeit coin bespeaks the genuine, so such uncontrolled faculties indicate powers possessed by the few who, rid of "the delusion that the physical is a permanent part of them," morally and mentally trained by "excessively hard discipline," and learned in "the chemical and electrical laws governing in such matters," "can use the astral form at will." However, this is always in the performance of their regular duty and is the direct opposite of mediumship, helpless "to avoid the risks attendant on such use of potencies in nature of a high character." Karmic heirloom of hysteria, catalepsy, and scrofula attest the seriousness of the risks taken.

As to Spiritualism: "The Theosophical philosophy does not deny the facts proven," but "gives an explanation of them wholly opposed to that of the spiritualists." Were habitues of the séance room to heed the Wisdom-Teaching of "the laws governing their own nature" and of "the constitution, power, and function of astral matter and astral man," they could easily understand how the discarded shell "retains all the memories of the life lived by the man, and thus reflexly and automatically can repeat what the dead man knew, said, thought, and saw," when it is "galvanized into a factitious life" by their practices. Then the futility of seeking communication with living Soul through astral corpses would be self evident.

In this doctrine, the scientist would find help to decipher his observations, often passed over "with a description but no explanation." The surgeon aware of an unseen body, which "knife or acid will not injure," would understand why his patient still feels the amputated limb. The embryologist realizing "the presence of the ethereal design-body," "perfect in shape before the child is born," would comprehend "how the form grows," whence the force expanding it, and why "the eyes push themselves out from within to the surface of the face." The biologist apprehending the source of Nature's manifold designs would know full well why "the acorn will never grow anything but an oak" and "all sentient beings bring forth their like."

One step away from prejudice induces another. Acceptance of this much must naturally bring inquiry as to what functions as sustaining cell to the astral form itself; revealing the logical necessity for multiple interpenetrating states of substance. This conception would preclude further rejection of the seven-fold scheme of manifestation, including Man's seven sheaths. Thence the unavoidable conclusion that the Man is none of his "principles," but is a changeless Center of consciousness, the Evolver, from whom all action and all force emanates. Without Evolver, naught could be; without immortality, evolution has no basis; without evolution, immortality has no meaning. True Science, Philosophy, and Religion are one, and inseparable.

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


Science, dimly perceiving the truth, may find Bacteria and other infinitesimals in the human body, and see in them but occasional and abnormal visitors to which diseases are attributed. Occultism -- which discerns a life in every atom and molecule, whether in a mineral or human body, in air, fire or water -- affirms that our whole body is built of such lives, the smallest bacteria under the microscope being to them in comparative size like an elephant to the tiniest infusoria. --S.D. I, p. 225, fn.

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