The physical world is a pale imitation of the astral—a projection of it, but into a grosser medium, rather as if one were to print a brilliantly colored oil painting onto dull, cheap-quality paper.
One may well wonder why people remain attached to the copy, when they can have the original. The same is true, indeed, all the way down the scale of cosmic manifestation: Why remain attached to any of it, when one can have God?
And that is what all the saints ask themselves, once they have found God! All comparisons between the bliss of communion with Him and the second-hand pleasures of His creation are absurd. God is, as the Indian Scriptures declare, "supremely relishable"!
Unfortunately, the power of delusion is strong. Nor is it easy to relinquish the known for the unknown. And this, ultimately, is the sacrifice the soul is called on to make. "He who shall lose his life," said Jesus, "shall find it."
Why do people cling to matter, when they can have so much greater beauty in the astral world? Basically, because it isn’t only the appreciation of beauty that they want. For one thing, they want not only to appreciate it, but to own it. And in that thought of ownership they want to protect it, to keep others from taking it and owning it themselves. Their possessive attitude toward things loses the fluidity that is an essential feature of the subtler energy world.
For another thing, people who are attached to matter are afraid of energy: afraid of its dynamism, its challenge, its very fluidity. They like their fixed habits, fixed mental attitudes, fixed personality traits, fixed ideas and dogmas. Many of them feel more threatened by challenges than enlivened by them. Moreover, instead of embracing dynamic solutions to their problems, they opt for solutions that promise to keep things as little changed as possible. And rather than seek ways to expand their consciousness, they do their best to confine it—even going to the extent of blunting their perceptions, whether through drink, or through drugs, or merely through absent-mindedness.
Physical comfort and convenience are more important to most people than beauty. If they go on a picnic to the countryside, they may think nothing of leaving their garbage behind them by a beautiful stream. If they go on an outing to the beach, rather than enjoy the peaceful roll of the surf they may carry their own little neatly packaged world of sound with them in the form of a transistor radio, which they think nothing of inflicting on the sensibilities of everyone around them.
The pleasures of this physical world are relatively gross, but that seems to be the way people like ’em! And that is why they keep coming back here, until their grosser attachments have been worked out and released. Were they to be given a day in paradise, most of them would feel like fish out of water, gasping to get back to an environment they can relate to comfortably.
Many of them, indeed, were they to go to paradise, would soon be desperate for someone to fight with, or argue with, or criticize, or blow up at in a fit of temper. Surrounded by peaceful smiles and friendly understanding, they’d soon feel they were going mad!
Well, then, why don’t at least those people whose consciousness I have classed as "light" leave this physical plane and remain in the astral? As it happens, they do, and ever more so, the more they diminish their material attachments. Their difficulty is simply that vestigial traces of material attachment have a way of continuing to lurk in the subconscious, in dark, hidden corners of memory. It takes time to ferret them all out and bring them up into the light of present understanding, where they will wither and die.
Desire directs energy. And energy directed from the heart pulls us along with it. We return to this plane of existence as long as there is the slightest vestige of desire for what matter alone can offer us. As these vestiges become fewer, and as our sense of identity with the astral world becomes stronger, our sojourns there may grow progressively longer. Alternatively, we may elect to come back quickly with a view to cleansing ourselves as soon as possible of every lingering material attachment.
The only people who return to this physical plane under no personal compulsion of desire are those who come back here to help others in their struggle to achieve freedom from material desires.
People of "light" consciousness carry astral memories with them back to this physical plane. That is why they try to recreate-usually without realizing the connection-the beauty and harmony they knew there. They give the world beautiful music; beautiful paintings; beautiful landscapes and gardens with gay flowers, trees, and broad, soaring vistas; harmoniously designed buildings.
Art that denies beauty in the name of truth and realism merely affirms a lower reality, and rejects a higher for a lower consciousness, preferring ego-bondage to soul-freedom.
The astral world of so many people’s memories and fantasies is a real place. It is not rock solid, like this earth. For that matter, though, neither are the rocks of our earth at all as solid as they seem. In their atomic structure, the atomic particles are located as far from one another, relatively speaking, as the stars in outer space.
The astral universe is composed of light and energy, but its inhabitants walk about on its planets, just as we do. The flowery meadows are as real to them as ours are to us. In a sense, indeed, they are more real, for the perceptions of astral beings are not dulled by material heaviness. They are free to soar and expand. Consequently, they are much more intense.
The astral universe is much vaster than our own—incredibly vast though this physical universe seems to us! Unlike this universe, moreover, there are no dead planets. Manifestly, on the astral plane, the expression of life and consciousness is the one, true purpose of God’s creation. This is His purpose as well on the material plane, but here it is less obviously so.
All things in the astral world, being composed of light, shine with their own light. In the physical world, objects give off color and beauty only with the light they reflect. Earth colors are therefore dull; their beauty is dimmed.
Not so in the astral world. Beauty of all kinds there is thrillingly beautiful. Colors exist such as cannot be imagined here on earth. The sounds of music strike not only the outer ear, but seem to strike chords in one’s entire being. Fragrances are more exquisite than any wafted to us by jasmine or rose. Tastes are like a thousand delicious earthly tastes crushed into one. The sense of touch is an intuitive reveling in streams of radiant light.
Flowery meadows there are in cheerful abundance, pleasant to sit in, and never cold, damp, or beetle populated. Refreshing streams flow gently through verdant fields, never posing a threat to life. High mountains soar majestically, and are scaled, or even flown over, with ease, for in the astral world weight such as we know it on earth doesn’t exist. Rainbow waterfalls rush gaily over mountain precipices. Rocks on the upper slopes give way gradually to luxuriant grass in the valleys below, and to stately trees, some of them in full and glorious flower.
The inhabitants’ dwellings are graceful, artistic, and never subject to the disintegration, rot, or ruin that we know on earth. Communities live together in peace and harmony, and in love for one another and for God. They gladly share their enjoyments, their labors, and their efforts to understand ever more deeply the mysteries of life.
The astral universe is not only much vaster than our own: It is also far more varied. Matter’s density prevents it from expressing, except dully, the beauties of that world of light, but it also prevents it from expressing—again, except dully—the astral world’s darker side.
For the heaven I have described is the ideal to which mankind may aspire, but not the reality as it is lived by all astral beings. There are heavens far higher and more beautiful than any that can be described in words. And there are also regions far darker than would seem possible here on earth.