At Death We Are Still Encased in the Astral and Causal Bodies
When you die, your physical body of 16 elements disintegrates, but the 19 elements of your astral body remain intact. Where, then, are all those souls who have left this earth? They are roaming in the ether. “That is impossible,” you say. So let us make a comparison. If a primitive tribesman came here and I told him that music is audible in the ether, he would laugh at me, or perhaps become frightened; but if I then brought a radio and tuned in a station where music was playing, he would no longer be able to deny the truth of my statement. I could similarly show you right now that astral beings are roaming in the ether, and you couldn’t deny it. The astral world is right here, just behind the gross vibration of the physical cosmos. If you were to behold the multitude of astral beings in the ether around you at this moment, many of you would be afraid; and some of you would try to seek among them your departed loved ones. If you concentrate deeply at the spiritual eye you can view with inner vision that luminous world in which are living all the souls who have gone on to the astral plane. In human beings the heart acts as a receiving instrument and the spiritual eye as a broadcasting station. Even if you cannot see your lost beloved ones, if you can calmly concentrate your feeling on the heart, you can become aware of the reassuring pres-ence of those dear to you who are now in astral form, enjoying their freedom from flesh thralldom.
I see many astral beings who have left the material plane, but they cannot see me. I don’t make myself visible to them, but I can behold them if I so desire.Therefore, we are not fully released at death when we depart from the physical form. Our souls are still encased in the subtle astral and ideational bodies. It is only when man dons a physical form that he becomes a visible being in this world. After the death of his physical body, he remains in the astral form as a “ghost”: an intelligent, invisible being, with essentially the same mentality and characteristics he had on earth. Inhabitants of the astral realms can of course see one another in their luminous bodies. But astral beings are not ordinarily visible to us on earth unless we know how to perceive the astral world through the spiritual eye. When souls shed the astral body and go into a mental form in the causal world they are not nonentities, but they do become truly invisible, even as ideas are invisible. (When souls are free from physical desires, they need no longer reincarnate on earth. Such souls then migrate between the astral world and the causal “heaven,” reincarnating in the astral until spiritual freedom is attained from that state also. When all causal desires are overcome, one becomes a liberated or free soul.)
Jesus said, “Destroy this (body) temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
He meant that he had to divest himself of the physical, astral, and mental bodies (by casting out all vestiges of attachment to a form) to become one with Spirit. It took three distinct efforts to do this. If a departed soul has unfinished desires created while on the earth plane, it continues to feel in the astral those desires and the wish to express itself through a material body. And so that soul in its astral vehicle is drawn again into a united sperm and ovum cell and is once more in a physical form.
The Intelligence in Prana Creates the Physical Body
The prana that permeates the physical body is intelligent life force (“lifetrons”). The electricity that illuminates the light bulb does not create the bulb but the electricity or life force in the united human sperm and ovum cells guides the embryonic and subsequent development of the entire human body. Manifesting as the aforementioned five life forces of the astral body, it is an intelligent or consciously directed force. It is unwise to ascribe to yourself permanently any defect of your body. Suppose you have lost an arm in this life, and the thought of that loss becomes so impinged on your consciousness that you think you can never again have the use of that arm. When you are reborn the next time, you bring with you that consciousness of a missing arm; and if that negative thought is strong enough it may inhibit the creative action of the intelligent life force that grows the arms of your new body. You should therefore never identify yourself with the flaws of your physical form. They do not belong to you, for you are the pure, perfect image of God – the soul.
So you see, before you took on this physical form you were a ghost, and when you die you will become a ghost again. We are also ghosts when we sleep, for in sleep we are not aware of ourselves as a physical body at all. Since you are a ghost when you are asleep, and you will be one after death, why be afraid of ghosts? That is what you were and that is what you are going to be. The only difference is that when you enter the astral world at death you cannot create at will a physical body like the one you now have. Only great masters who have attained oneness with the Divine Creator can do so. Spiritually advanced souls can condense the subtle vibrations of the astral vehicle into a tangible body.
Extract from “Man’s Eternal Quest” by Paramahansa Yogananda (ISBN 0-87612- 232-2) Available from Barnes & Noble.