Point Loma edition 1993
Blavatsky Trust edition 2010
In Part I, the principal sources of information mentioned were The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett and The Key to Theosophy, in which Mme Blavatsky outlines the instructions she had received from her Adept Teachers. Additional material may be found in The Secret Doctrine and the Collected Writings. Mme Blavatsky refers several times to the source of her knowledge. For instance, in the Key, when the Enquirer asks whether anyone - "even an adept or seer" - can follow out in detail the processes of karmic adjustment, she replies:
Certainly; "those who know" can do so by the exercise of powers which are latent even in all men. The key to Theosophy, 215
Again, in answer to the question whether such adepts "really know more than we do of reincarnation and after states", she affirms:
They do indeed. By the training of faculties we all possess, but which they alone have developed to perfection, they have entered in spirit these various planes and states ... For long ages, one generation of adepts after another has studied the mysteries of being, of life, death, and re-birth, and all have taught in their turn some of the facts so learned. The key to Theosophy, 217
In the study of the processes of death, we have to remind ourselves of the three parts into which the seven aspects or principles of man may be grouped: an upper Triad, a middle Duad, and a lower Triad.
When man dies, his second and third principles die with him; the lower triad disappears, and the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh principles form the surviving Quaternary. The Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett (101,103)
At this point the now four-fold entity becomes unconscious:
Every just disembodied four-fold entity ... loses at the instant of death all recollection, it is mentally - annihilated; it sleeps its akashic sleep in the Kamaloka. This state lasts from a few hours (rarely less), days, weeks, months - sometimes to several years. All this according to the entity, to its mental status at the moment of death, to the character of its death, etc. The Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett (184, 186) The word Quaternary is used in a special sense. See the footnote on page 59. - GAF
Kamaloka is the subjective, invisible (to physical sight) region where the Kama-rupa remains, after death, until it disintegrates upon the exhaustion of the passional and mental causes that created it. A similar statement regarding the kama-manasic remains of the deceased and the period of unconsciousness is made by Mme Blavatsky.
The processes and states of consciousness in the Kamaloka present some difficulties. Some further explanatory material is helpful.
According to the Eastern teaching the state of the deceased in Kamaloka is not what we, living men, would recognize as "conscious". It is rather that of a person stunned and dazed by a violent blow, who has momentarily "lost his senses". Hence in Kamaloka there is as a rule (apart from vicarious life and consciousness awakened through contact with mediums) no recognition of friends or relatives, and therefore such a case as stated here is impossible. Blavatsky Collected Writings, IX 164
This was from a correspondent's question that meeting between entities in Kamaloka must be very disappointing if one of them has progressed through that state only to leave the "shell" behind.
The passage quoted goes on to state that those we loved will be with us in Devachan, and then it adds by way of further emphasis:
But the process of stripping off the lower, the fourth and part of the fifth, principles is an unconscious one in all normal human beings. It is only in very exceptional cases that there is a slight return to consciousness in Kamaloka; and this is the case of very materialistic, unspiritual personalities ... Blavatsky Collected Writings, IX, 164
What next occurs is described as
a "death" struggle between the Upper and Lower dualities. If the upper wins, the sixth, having attracted to itself the quintessence of Good from the fifth - its nobler affections, its saintly (though earthly) aspirations and the most Spiritualized portions of its mind - follows its divine elder (the 7th) into the "Gestation" State; and the fifth and fourth remain in association as an empty shell - (the expression is quite correct) - to roam in this earth's atmosphere, with half the personal memory gone, and the more brutal instinct fully alive for a certain period - an "Elementary" in short. This is the "angel guide" of the average medium. Mahatma Letters (101,103)
It is the Elementary that is often referred to as a "shell" or "spook". The Mahatma refers here to an explanation given by Mme Blavatsky to Mr Hume, to the effect that, after the loss of the lower principles,
... man's sixth principle [Monad], as something purely spiritual, could not exist, or have conscious being in the Devachan, unless it assimilated some of the more abstract and pure of the mental attributes of the fifth principle or animal Soul, its manas (mind) and memory. Mahatma Letters (101,103)
It is only after the struggle in Kamaloka and the subsequent gestation period that consciousness begins to return "at the door of Devachan." Mahatma Letters (199,197)
There then occurs the second review of the life just ended, remembrance of it returning
... slowly and gradually towards the end of the gestation (to the entity or Ego), still more slowly but far more imperfectly and incompletely to the shell, and fully to the Ego at the moment of its entrance into the Devachan. And now, the latter being a state determined and brought by its past life, the Ego does not fall headlong but sinks into it gradually and by easy stages. With the first dawn of that state appears that life (or rather is once more lived over by the Ego) from its first day of consciousness to its last. From the most important down to the most trifling event, all are marshalled before the spiritual eye of the Ego; only, unlike the events of real life, those of them remain only that are chosen by the new liver (pardon the word) clinging to certain scenes and actors, these remain permanently - while the others fade away to disappear for ever, or to return to their creator - the shell. Now try to understand this highly important, because so highly just and retributive law, in its effects. Out of the resurrected Past nothing remains but what the Ego has felt spiritually - that was evolved by and through, and lived over by his spiritual faculties - be they love or hatred. Mahatma Letters (187,184)
Letter 16 consists of answers to a series of questions posed by Mr Sinnett on the condition of Devachan. He asks whether it is "only attained by the few who are very good, or by the many who are not very bad". The Mahatma replies:
Who goes to Devachan?" The personal Ego of course, but beatified, purified, holy. Every Ego - the combination of the sixth and seventh principles - which, after the period of unconscious gestation is reborn into the Deva-Chan, is of necessity as innocent and pure as a new-born babe. The fact of his being reborn at all, shows the preponderance of good over evil in his old personality. And while the Karma (of evil) steps aside for the time being to follow him in his future earth-reincarnations, he brings along with him but the Karma of his good deeds, words, and thoughts, into
this Devachan. "Bad" is a relative term for us - as you were told more than once before, - and the Law of Retribution is the only law that never errs. Hence all those who have not slipped down into the mire of unredeemable sin and bestiality - go to the Devachan. They will have to pay for their sins, voluntary and involuntary, later on. Meanwhile they are rewarded; receive the effects of the causes produced by them. Mahatma Letters (100,98)
In Chapter IX of the Key, Mme Blavatsky explains how the kind of communications alleged by Spiritualists between the deceased and those they have left behind cannot be reconciled with the idea of a blissful hereafter. The state of Devachan is one, she insists, of "unalloyed happiness". Letter 16 from the Mahatma develops the description of Devachan at some length, pointing out that
... it is a state, one, so to say, of intense selfishness, during which an Ego reaps the reward of his unselfishness on earth. He is completely engrossed in the bliss of all his personal earthly affections, preferences and thoughts, and gathers in the fruit of his meritorious actions. No pain, no grief nor even the shadow of a sorrow comes to darken the bright horizon of his unalloyed happiness: for, it is a state of perpetual "Maya" ... Mahatma Letters (101,98)
In answer to a question on the duration of the period of gestation between Death and Devachan, the Mahatma refers to some confusion that had occurred in the use of the term "Bardo". Correctly, he explains,
"Bardo" is the period between death and rebirth - and may last from a few years to a kalpa. It is divided into three sub-periods (1) when the Ego delivered of its mortal coil enters into Kamaloka (the abode of Elementaries); (2) when it enters into its "Gestation State": (3) when it is reborn in the Rupaloka of Devachan. Mahatma Letters (105,103)
The duration of each of these sub-periods is then explained, with the reasons for variations, the general principle throughout being the operation of Karma.
sub-period (1) may last from a few minutes to a number of years ... sub-period (2) is very long ... proportionate to the Ego's spiritual stamina; sub-period(3) last in proportion to the good Karma ... Mahatma Letters (105,103)
Later it was explained that sub-period (3) in Devachan lasts
"for years, decades, centuries and millenniums oftentimes multiplied by something more":
Every effect must be proportionate to the cause. And, as man's terms of incarnate existence bear but a small proportion to his periods of internatal existence in the manvantaric cycle, so the good thoughts, words, and deeds of any one of these "lives" on a globe are causative of effects, the working out of which requires far more time than the evolution of the causes occupied. Mahatma Letters (106,104)
Chapter IX of the Key introduces a number of questions relating to rewards and punishments. It might appear that if, after death, a condition of unconsciousness supervenes, there can be no sense of punishment. "Karmic punishment", explains Mme Blavatsky, "reaches the Ego only in its next incarnation". It might then seem that, deprived of consciousness of his past misdeeds, the man will continue to suffer blindly.
Not quite so. At the moment of death every man, even when death is sudden, sees the whole of his past life marshalled before him, in its minutest details. For one short instant the personal becomes one with the individual and all-knowing Ego. But this instant is enough to show him the whole chain of causes which have been at work during his life. He sees and now understands himself as he is, unadorned by flattery or self-deception. He reads his life, remaining as a spectator looking down into
the arena he is quitting; he feels and knows the justice of all the suffering that has overtaken him. The key to Theosophy, 162
Similarly, at the moment of rebirth, the Ego has "a prospective vision of the life which awaits him and realizes all the causes that have led to it". Here is our introduction to the process of coming back into incarnation - in effect, the dying process in reverse, with the re-formation of the soul principles (the fifth and fourth) preceding that of the vital principles (the second and third), which precedes the formation of the new physical body.
The process of return is reviewed in a passage in the Collected Writings, where Karma, Tanha (the thirst for experience) and the Skandhas are described as "the almighty trinity in one, and the cause of our rebirth". After an account of the man's experience at the moment of death, Mme Blavatsky refers to the future incarnation:
... the vices, defects and especially the passions of the preceding life become, through certain laws of affinity and transference, the germs of the future potentialities in the animal soul (Kamarupa), hence of its dependent, the astral double (linga-sharira) - at a subsequent birth. It is the personality alone which changes; the real reincarnating principle, the EGO, remains always the same; and it is its KARMA that guides the idiosyncracies and prominent moral traits of the old "personality" that was (and that the EGO knew not how to control), to re-appear in the new man that will be. These traits and passions pursue and fasten on the yet plastic third and fourth principles of the child, and - unless the EGO struggles and conquers - they will develop with tenfold intensity and lead the adult man to his destruction. For it is they who are the tools and weapons of the Karmic LAW of RETRIBUTION. Thus ... our good and bad actions "are the only tools with which we paint our likenesses at death", for the new man is invariably the son and progeny of the old man that was. Blavatsky Collected Writings, X 176
Further information about the processes involved in returning to earth life was given by Mme Blavatsky in her Instructions to the members of her Esoteric Section in London.Secret Doctrine Addendum (495,472,515,394)
An interesting passage in The Secret Doctrine tells us that, until the end of the Third Race,
... there had been no regular death, but only a transformation, for men had no personality as yet. They had monads - breaths of the ONE Breath, and as impersonal as the source from which they proceeded. They had bodies, or rather shadows of bodies, which were sinless, hence Karmaless. Therefore, as there was no Kamaloka - least of all Nirvana or even Devachan - for the "souls" of men who had no personal Egos, there could be no intermediate periods between the incarnation. Like the Phoenix, primordial man resurrected out of his old into a new body. Each time, and with each new generation, he became more solid, more physically perfect, agreeably with the evolutionary law, which is the Law of Nature. Death came with the complete physical organism, and with it - moral decay. Secret Doctrine (II 610, II 645, IV 181)
The account of the death process as given by the Mahatmas shows us how it fits into the grand universal scheme of ever-becoming, in accordance with cyclic and evolutionary law. The only real tragedy of death is for those left behind; when in their personal bereavement they see death as an isolated incident instead of one long series. One day maybe we shall all be able to see it in the vast panorama of causes and effects throughout our many lives; we may then see how the events we have experienced have led to the enduring bonds of love and duty. Then too we may see the vast journey of Egoic LIFE as it passes through the many personal lives, until its final perfection and liberation, when the otherwise endless cycle of births and deaths will cease, for ever.
Deity Cosmos and Man >Next Page Part 2 Chapter IX Origins