THEOSOPHY, Vol. 48, No. 9, July, 1960
(Pages 405-408; Size: 12K)
[Article number (1) in this Department]
JUST what sort of "assimilation" is accomplished during the comparatively long period of time presumably spent in the devachanic state by the average person? I understand that in this state the reincarnating ego, or Manas, is not and cannot be fully active, since no causes may be initiated. Yet students often speak of "assimilation as the purpose of Devachan from the standpoint of the ego, and one naturally associates "assimilation" with the attaining of a greater wisdom.
Since few of us, certainly, have passed beyond intermittent absorption in personal concerns, it is easy to understand the desire for some sort of new enlightenment as a consequence of death. The notion that a state after the cessation of physical life can be a much better state than that we presently know occurs in nearly every popular religion since the beginning of recorded history -- with the Christian Heaven as a sort of apotheosis. Sometimes, after the death of an acquaintance, a person may be heard to remark sagely and solemnly, "Now he knows." But what is really being conveyed by this expression is the wish that one's confusions and imbalances will somehow be "taken care of" after death, as a reward for enduring physical existence.
There is another aspect of the human mind, however, which also sometimes comes into focus -- reminding us of the illogicality of any hope that we shall attain real wisdom without earning it. Referring in a letter to the death of a friend, John McTaggart, one of England's most eminent and respected reincarnationists, cautioned as follows:I doubt if, even now, he knows much more than you or I do. I don't think that death will make so much difference. I should rather imagine that we start from where we left off here and that we learn things very gradually indeed. I have an idea that we are born and die many times and that it is in this way we get on, gaining a little each time.McTaggart was a teacher of philosophy at Cambridge as well as a famous logician, and it is doubtless the dispassionate quality of his higher manasic perception which made possible such an impersonal appraisal. The philosopher doesn't want "heaven": the philosopher simply wants to win for himself more elbow-room for thinking, for refining his values and ideals. And in the thirteenth chapter of The Ocean of Theosophy, Mr. W. Q. Judge indicates why, in the context of the "seven-fold man," we cannot imagine devachan to be a state wherein progress is attained:The very nature of Manas requires a devachanic state as soon as the body is lost, and it is simply the effect of loosening the bonds placed upon the mind by its physical and astral encasement. In life we can but to a fractional extent act out the thoughts we have each moment; and still less can we exhaust the psychic energies engendered by each day's aspirations and dreams. The energy thus engendered is not lost or annihilated, but is stored in Manas. ... Held latent until death, it bursts then from the weakened bonds and plunges Manas, the thinker, into the expansion, use, and development of the thought-force set up in life. The impossibility of escaping this necessary state lies in man's ignorance of his own powers and faculties. From this ignorance delusion arises, and Manas not being wholly free is carried by its own force into the thinking of devachan.In commenting on a portion of the original question, Robert Crosbie remarks:The soul of the one who has been constantly experiencing in life, with no opportunity to assimilate, needs rest from his vicissitudes and freedom from opposition, such as devachan affords for the purpose of assimilation. But it is not necessary for everyone to have a devachan. Some can assimilate their experiences right here, and that is the better way. In fact, one who does not desire rest, but rather to work in the world for his fellow-men, could not have a devachan. He finds his rest in his work, and the more modes of work he undertakes, the more rest he gets.It is at this point that we arrive -- as so often in the process of deliberating subtle matters of philosophical doctrine -- at the necessity for noting a distinction between "knowledge" and "wisdom." In response to a related question on the subject of Devachan, H.P.B. comments as follows:Immense growths, for example, of knowledge itself are possible in Devachan, for the spiritual entity which has begun the "pursuit" of such knowledge during life. Nothing can happen to a spirit in Devachan, the key-note of which has not been struck during life; the conditions of a subjective existence are such that the importation of quite external impulses and alien thoughts is impossible. But the seed of thought once sown -- the current of thoughts once set going (the metaphor may freely be varied to suit any taste) and then its developments in Devachan may be infinite, for the sixth sense there, and the sixth principle, are our instructors....Knowledge, in this context, might be considered to be that storehouse of experience with which the conscious ego works. From the moment of physical death, including the accompaniments of the death-vision, certain inevitable processes are set in motion, each resulting in a translation of experience from one plane of perception to another. For example, the detailed memories of the living physical brain do not pass out of existence, but are consolidated, through transfer, in another form of substance. During the average period of "Kama-loka," the reincarnating Manas, to which negativism and pessimism are abhorrent, presses for release from preoccupation with the unlovely complexes expressed by lower manas during life. In Devachan, it appears, Higher Manas is still "pressing forward," although without full conscious volition, and the aim of the passage through the devachanic interlude is, obviously, to emerge into full consciousness on the other side.
It is not necessary to assume that every sort of "assimilation" is equivalent to the acquiring of wisdom. In physical experience we know that the process of digestion takes place involuntarily. On this aspect of devachanic experience, a correspondent writes:I, for one, would not "naturally associate assimilation with the attaining of greater wisdom." I take the analogy with the process of digestion quite literally, assuming that this process is but a stepping-down of one of the ways the intelligence of substance works. I think of "assimilation" in Devachan as pressing the juice out of experience, so to say, so that it is assimilated into the body of knowledge which will be available to the individual in his next incarnation; and it is not until the next incarnation that he will have the chance to consciously use the knowledge to acquire further wisdom.Finally, however, with due attention to the qualifications just noted, and with reservation for others which may also be made, it is necessary to remember that Devachan can be much more properly termed a personal state than an egoic state. During life we spend most of our time building, defending, and idealizing a specific personality, and this personality seldom allows a clear break-through from the buddhi-manasic plane of perception. The personality is a cocoon, so to speak, and it is the lot of the average man to see through the opaque web only at those unusual or climactic moments provided by karmic stress. After the physical death, this "cocoon of personality" is still intact, and no longer will interpenetration with the lives of other beings force the strands of this "fine textured web" apart. During the comparatively short interim of Kama-loka, the outer and less attractive layers of the cocoon disintegrate, but throughout Devachan the manasic ego will continue in imprisonment -- even though its imprisonment, we take it, is a most pleasant one. The storms of earthly tribulation can no longer affect the man who dreams in Devachan. "Neither rain nor sleet nor snow" changes the temperature of the cocoon of personality. Yet within this many-layered protective covering the highest and best personal aspirations are relived, so that when the manasic ego once more emerges, he does so to the heightened sense of all that could be good and true and beautiful in life. From this point, as William Q. Judge's Gita puts it, "he is led and works on, striving ever more diligently toward perfection."
Just as in dreams we seem to "live" the dream, and only on waking call it a "dream" -- a dream, however, from which we, awake, may gain a new or deeper insight -- so in Devachan we live the experience, and only on "waking" in the next earth-life can utilize the material provided by the "dream."
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:
It has been always held that a true Theosophist must have no personal ends to serve, no favorite hobby to propagate, no special doctrine to enforce or to defend. For, to merit the honorable title of Theosophist one must be an altruist, above all; one ever ready to help equally foe or friend; to act, rather than to speak; and to urge others to action, while never losing an opportunity to work himself. But, if no true Theosophist will ever dictate to his fellow, brother or neighbor, what this one should believe or disbelieve in, nor force him to act on lines which may be distasteful to him, however proper they may appear to himself, there are other duties which he has to attend to: (a) to warn his brother of any danger the latter may fail to see; and (b) to share his knowledge -- if he has acquired such -- with those who have been less fortunate than himself in opportunities for acquiring it.
--H. P. BLAVATSKY: "Why the 'Vahan'?"
[Note: For those who would like to read it, here's the link to the article entitled "Why the 'Vahan'?".--Compiler]
[Article number (2) in this Department]
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