S.P. Austen has practiced, written on and taught the subject of meditation for over 40 years.
There are many concepts concerning what we might be faced with when we die and (presumably) leave our physical bodies behind and enter the 'next world.' There are of course, the religious concepts of life after death; the good go to Heaven, the bad go to Hell, and the neither particularly good nor bad perhaps go to some kind of purgatory state.
The religious person has the idea that somehow a loving God confines the bad to an everlasting Hell and the good, that is, the believers, to an everlasting Heaven. Some belief systems hold that there is no life after death at all, for instance, the Jehovah's Witnesses, who believe that there is no such thing as a 'soul' and that in some miraculous way, God will reassemble your body and bring you back to life to be judged and then be sent to eternal damnation or to Paradise, either in the Heaven worlds or on Earth.
But it is to be seriously questioned how much of these beliefs have any validity, especially as they are speculative or merely suggestive, but not in any way defined with evidential feedback from those who have caught a glimpse of the other worlds beyond the Earthly state. These beliefs are simply based on creeds and doctrines, often misinterpreted and grossly misrepresented over the centuries.
The Near-Death Experience (NDE)
In this modern age, when so many people are seeking the truth to a great many things, when they are disillusioned with conventional religion, and seeking the facts, it is most heartening that there is now an overwhelming amount of evidential information which certainly suggests that some aspect of our consciousness survives physical death, and that this occurrence is widespread amongst all kinds of people, from all kinds of faiths whatsoever their beliefs or not, as the case may be. This evidence comes from the Near-Death Experience, or NDE.
People who have experienced an NDE come back with strikingly similar reports of what they have seen on the Other Side of the Earthly veil, that it defies logic to ignore this world-wide phenomenon. Regardless of beliefs or unbeliefs, or education, or nationality, these NDE experiencers have given us amazingly similar information on what we can expect to find 'out there' when we pass over to the next world.
Common Near Death Experiences
NDE experiencers report several things in common such as:
- They experience a full Life Review, with all their mistakes and failures as well as their successes.
- They experience the presence of a loving, Divine Being, variously described as God, an angel or a spirit guide.
- They do not feel that they are 'judged,' only that they are shown the pattern of the life they have lived so far.
- They often see family and friends who have passed over before them and can communicate with them.
- Many are given a choice whether to return to their Earth life or remain in Spirit. (Those who do want to stay in the Spirit World are often shown their loved-ones on Earth who are dependent on them, such as children, and this encourages the NDE experiencer to return to their Earthly life.) Others are told directly that it is not their time and that they must return to Earth.
- Those who undergo the NDE always return to their Earth life feeling that they want to love more and put their lives towards some useful and good purpose.
- It removes completely any fear of death that may have existed in the experiencer prior to their NDE.
There are many other common experiences besides those listed above, but these are some of the most common, and they cross all boundaries of religion, race, language, and socio-economic background.
The great value of the NDE is that it has no religious agenda attached to it, and holds out the strong suggestion that our lives on Earth have purpose and meaning.
We Have Several Bodies
In understanding what survives physical death, it is important to have a basic knowledge of the various 'bodies' in which we operate, whether entirely conscious of these bodies or not.
This is the obvious, and characteristic body that we all associate ourselves with. It is rather automaton-like in many ways, and has many subconscious functions, such as the digestive process. It grows, ages, decays and dies. We shed this body at death. We also partly disengage from it during sleep and other altered states of consciousness such as meditation, and certainly during an NDE experience or in Astral travel, for example.
This body closely resembles the physical body and is known as the 'double.' It is not so much a replica of the physical as the physical is actually a replica of the etheric body. It is sometimes known as the vital body as it draws in energies from outside of the physical realm and maintains the life of the physical form. The etheric body is the blueprint on which the physical body is able to manifest in the material world. Its detachment causes the death of the physical body. You will dwell in this body on your immediate passing to Spirit.
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Astral or Emotional Body
This is the next 'spiritual body' and is the vehicle of expression for all of our senses of feeling and desire. It is sometimes referred to as the desire body. All of our strongest likes and dislikes originate here, and many disease states arising in the physical body have their causative factor in this often turbulent emotional vehicle of expression. We can travel in the Astral Worlds in this body, as in sleep or the experience of Astral Projection.
The so-called mental body, refers to a higher spiritual vehicle, which is formless and yet can take on form as necessary. It is more stable that the astral body, and is of a much more refined energy structure. It is where the higher mind is found and expressed.
These are just brief outlines of some of the 'vehicles of expression' as they are known in mysticism, which the human uses for manifestation and for gaining knowledge. There are said to be still more higher, spiritual bodies, but we need not go into too much detail in this article. Suffice it for now, to consider that the inner being, the man or woman, exists in several 'sheaths' or bodies of expression, just as we have several organs and systems in our physical bodies.
As an analogy, our bones might correspond to our physical body at the densest level, our Central Nervous System might correspond to our etheric body, and our Circulatory System might correspond to our astral body. All of these are vital elements, and each is a complete system within itself. Each of these bodies interpenetrate the others.
The Etheric/Astral Worlds
At physical death, the soul, or spiritual entity, will exist in the etheric body, in a world which is compounded of the same basic elements as found in the etheric form. Just as the material world appears solid to us when in the physical body, due to a common basic atomic vibration, the etheric world, the astral plane and the mental planes, likewise will correspond according to the vehicle of expression that the soul is utilising.
There is a similar basic vibration at the atomic level, which gives the sensation of 'solid reality' to the worlds in which we find ourselves. For this very reason, it has been described by those who have passed onto the next world and those who have experienced NDE's, that the physical Earth world seems to be very transparent to the etheric body, and that the etheric/astral forms can pass right through ordinarily solid objects. Again, to those in the physical body, the appearance of a 'ghost' or spirit, is one of transparency, only because the vibrations of the discarnate one are of a finer order to the material senses.
In my article The Reality of Life After Death, I used the analogy of a fan set at high speed to illustrate that the etheric and astral planes are vibrating at a much faster rate than the rate of vibrations which occur in the physical plane; for this reason, when the fan is running at high speed (the etheric/astral planes) the blades of the fan disappear to our sight. When we stop the fan spinning, we can of course see the blades clearly in their solid form, and this corresponds to the physical world.
Yet, the etheric and astral planes must not be thought of as being made of some alien fabric which we have no understanding of; they are in fact composed of atomic structure just as all things in the Earth world are; the only difference is one of vibration, of speed and the coherency of the fine, particular nature of the atoms found in the higher planes. But basically, the atoms are made of the same basic stuff as found on Earth. The only difference is one of vibration.
Many Mansions of Spirit
In the Gospel according to John, chapter 14 verse 2, Jesus says these words to his disciples at the Last Supper; "In my Father's House are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you."
The 'many mansions' that are mentioned refer to the different planes of consciousness which exist in the many levels of life in the spiritual worlds. Each person who passes from the Earth life will go to that corresponding plane which is in harmony or vibrates at, the level of consciousness which they have attained in their Earthly experience. It cannot be otherwise. Only according to your soul's evolution can you gravitate to the right plane of being for your own level of spiritual development.
We can think of the spiritual worlds as existing all around us, right now, but in a much finer state of vibration, and existing on many higher planes or layers which overlap and interpenetrate one another, in varying degrees of finer and finer rates of vibration. Quantum Physics talks somewhat about this in reference to multi-layered dimensions which are believed to exist around us simultaneously and throughout the Universe.
Each of these 'planes of consciousness' corresponds to definite types of vibration which exist in each individual, and which therefore correspond to the existential plane to which a person truly belongs, according to their evolution or spiritual progress. The 'many mansions' of spirit, refer to those multi-layered planes of being to which the soul will pass after physical death.
What Will We Find in the Spirit World?
This is a massive question and could cover a myriad of subjects and details that would fill many books. But, basically, we can outline several points so that you will have a good idea of what to expect when you pass from the Earth life into Spirit.
Speaking for the average, reasonably evolved individual, when you pass into the next world, you are usually escorted or greeted by those you love who have passed on before you. Beloved pets often come to 'take you over to the Other Side' as well.
You are likely to 'awaken' in a pleasant place of beautiful surroundings. We must not think of the next world as being so alien to our consciousness that you would hate being there or not recognise the place as a world to which you would want to go. So, no silly notions of clouds and harps would be likely to be seen.
The event of passing would feel very natural, in most cases. The physical body would feel no different to casting off an old coat, and there is a sense of being free from the burdens of the Earthly life. The people who have passed on before, will be just as you knew them, and if they passed young then they would appear just as you remember them; if they passed old, then they would appear as you would recall them. However, by and by, most people in Spirit will slowly begin to show themselves to you as in their prime of life. That is, seeming to be aged about 35 years old, which is considered as an ideal age in terms of vigour and appearance.
If you pass over in old age, then you will gradually let go of the Earthly condition of being 'old' and start to feel more invigorated, and eventually return to the prime of life. If you pass as a child, you will 'grow up' in Spirit, until the 'prime' of life is reached.
You will see trees and plants in Spirit, there will be hills, rivers, lakes, valleys, mountains, animals of all kinds, and buildings too. Some people dwell in houses, although there is no real need for them, other than for aesthetic or preference reasons. There are great Halls of Learning in Spirit, and Libraries where any kind of information is available, including that pertaining to the Akashic Records which contain Past Lives and the Karmic History of mankind.
If you were English, for example, you are likely to be with English people, of a similar evolution, and likely to be in a very English plane. If you are Japanese or Chinese, and only spoke the language of those nations and lived in those cultures, then you are most likely to be amongst those of a similar evolution and culture as the last life you have just passed from.
Nothing would be 'foreign' to you. The world to which you pass will feel completely right and in order for your own consciousness and evolutionary path.
Due to the vast number of planes in the next world, and the countless variations amongst people, there can be no 'one size fits all' about the planes which are inhabited by those who pass to Spirit. Your spiritual type will slot into exactly the right kind of environment for your particular evolution.
Also, there are 'replica worlds' upon these spirit planes; for example, if I want to live in an idealised London, I can find such a place if my desire for that is strong enough. However, it would not have roads full of traffic, but grassy verges and pathways, yet with wonderful buildings in replica, of St. Paul's Cathedral for example, or Westminster Abbey.
Name any city, town, location or time period in history and a plane that corresponds exactly to that place in terms of high quality (or, on lower planes of low quality) can be found. The worlds of the planes are as we make them. They have all been created by the myriads of human beings who have ever lived, all down the vast and long forgotten centuries of Earthly existence, and these worlds, created from the fibres of human thought and imagination are real places where all kinds of souls must find themselves. Above all, the Spirit World is a thought-world.
Yet, it is also a tangible world, meaning that it will be correspondingly 'physical' to your touch and other perceptions. You can shake hands with someone there and feel their hand firmly in yours. Although formed from thought substance, these worlds are as solid and real as any place on Earth; indeed, are not our Earthly abodes only made from thought? Think about it; everything that you can see on Earth was first devised and created by mankind. The cars we drive, the houses we live in, the beauty we create and the ugliness and depravity that we create, all come from the abode of the mind.
There are colours of all descriptions in the higher planes, and even colours that we do not have on Earth. (Our physical senses are very limited, and bear in mind that humans cannot see infrared or ultraviolet light for example) Therefore, when free of the physical body, we can see an unlimited range of colours, hear music of extraordinary beauty and communicate telepathically at levels that were impossible on Earth.
The Earthly Melting Pot
The main difference between life in Spirit and life on Earth is that the Earth world is a 'melting pot' where the saint can dwell next door to the sinner, and often amongst those of the same family. The good, the bad and the indifferent are all mixed here, in different cultures and amongst every race and creed. That is part of the Earthly lesson, for this world is a great school of learning.
But in Spirit, there is no longer any anchoring force that can hold the countless different types of evolution together. After the physical bonds of the Earth life are broken at death, the soul must gravitate back to its own plane. This is a Spiritual Law, and nothing can prevent it. No matter how hard the Earthly life has been, or what awful conditions the soul has lived in, if the spiritual evolution is higher than the material circumstances, then that soul cannot be prevented from returning home to its own plane of being, earned from its own efforts to evolve into a higher consciousness.
Portals Between the Worlds
Can a spirit of low-grade evolution enter into a higher plane? No; there are barriers, sometimes referred to as a gulf (mentioned by Jesus in Luke 16:26) which says: "And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence."
This gulf or barrier serves as a protective influence which means that no soul can enter a higher realm until they are spiritually evolved enough to gain entry. However, those on a higher level may descend to a lower level, often for purposes of service to the souls there.
What Do Souls Do in Spirit?
This question could cover very, very much, according to the individual level of consciousness. But a general idea is that pretty much anything that you were interested in on Earth will carry over into the next world. People in spirit engage in art, literature, music, performing arts and studies of various kinds. Why not? We do on Earth. You may even play sport if you liked it on Earth.
Many souls find that they want to assist the evolution of others in Spirit, and will work on lower planes of consciousness. Some of these planes can be very dark and depressing, and may be likened to the concept of 'hell' realms. However, it would be wrong to think that such lower planes are permanent states of being inflicted on 'sinners' by a vengeful God. There is always a chance to evolve out of these spheres, and every assistance is given from those who dwell in higher worlds.
Remember that souls gravitate to certain planes of consciousness, both the higher and the lower, and anyone who finds themselves in a darker plane has in fact created that world by their thinking and their behaviour whilst in the Earthly experience. Recall that we each create everything that we find in the next plane of being.
Some souls do work involving helping people from the Earth world to pass over to Spirit. Others also help the animals or children from the Earth world who are passing over, as a special form of service work.
The Earth Plane School
Every experience that we undergo on Earth molds our character, and every noble characteristic that we develop, such as unselfishness, sacrifice, kindness, compassion, or using our gifts and abilities for the greater good of all, serves to elevate us to higher planes of being. Not only do we assist the evolution of those around us by our efforts to improve our character, but we raise ourselves to greater levels.
The challenges and struggles that we have to overcome, the difficulties that test us to the hilt, the choices between 'good' and 'evil' are all here as part of the melting pot experience which brings us towards a greater truth; that truth is that we are all connected, and that love, service and the gaining of knowledge, here on Earth are the components of our spiritual evolution.
The work of spiritual evolution goes on in the next world, and there is every opportunity for continued evolution into still higher worlds. Therefore, when we understand that the Earth world is