Controversy looms over teachings of the afterlife

I have always been taught that we are here in a physical life and that is where we do all our learning. We create karma and must proceed through lifetimes of experiences, “the journey of the pilgrim” soul in physicality, working to dispel the myth of separateness and individuality, gradually realizing our oneness with the whole of creation. Thus proceeding and evolving in awareness as human beings, spirit incarnate in flesh, we awaken here on earth as true spiritual beings. If we choose the path of Bodhisattva we choose to stay within the earthly planes, helping and influencing others on their journey.

I was told, by some theosophists that were influential in my early years, that all learning and progress takes place while incarnated in the physical (and astral planes during trance and sleep), not in the afterlife. This seems to contradict some of the teachings from other authors such as Leadbeater and Besant which I have been reading lately.

I understood that after death, when we enter the first Kamalokic plane, we are only shells of the physical being, the real man or the higher triad, is somewhere else, while the kama-rupic shell gradually expends the energy that has held its etheric body and desire mind together. The density of this shell depends on the intensity of the desire principle in man toward material things, power, lust, cravings, etc. Some people stay in this state longer, being as we say “drawn to the earth” trying to fulfill its desires. Sometimes these gross, vile and murderous shells can affect and influence those living beings who would draw this energy to themselves because of similar vibrations or other causes that would leave themselves vulnerable.

In some way, I guess this makes sense when we consider the type of life lived on earth. Those of us who are ambitious, material, and full of earthly desires, have in a way lost touch with our “higher nature”, and in fact have great difficulty in allowing our conscience and higher principles rule our lives. It would make sense that the same condition would carry over in to the afterlife.

Where is our higher self during a life on earth lived in such a way? It is fully present but unable to influence the human being while in this state of enrapture with material life.

Gradually the effects of the earthly life in the first after death state, lessens its hold on the departed soul.  As it becomes free of the physical life lived it gradually awakens, by degrees, to its life in the astral plane (which includes Kamaloka and Devachanic realms).

Leadbeater and Besant insist that learning can take place in the after death Kamaloka and Devachanic states; Karma can be both caused and acted out, the dead can influence the living and and the reverse. In fact they insist that life in the astral plane, (where two thirds of the beings acting there are those who are in fact the dead, not in trance or sleeping), is much freer and more satisfying than life on earth. There is no body to inhibit, time is irrelevant, thought can be instantaneous and the mind can create anything it wants.

Did Blavatsky teach the same thing? If this is true that learning and experience can take place in the after death states, why incarnate into the physical at all? Leadbeater and Besant seem to think we should dispel the illusion of the physical plane as quickly as possible and live with an awareness in the more subtle states of the astral.

Astral matter obeys the same general laws of physical matter and gravitates towards the center of the earth. It extends almost out to the orbit of the moon.

I have always understand that the astral is a reflection of the physical experience.  That reflection appears to us to change by degrees; in fact it is our awareness that is becoming free to experience it differently. We become less focused on the solid and earthly experience and begin to reflect the subtler elements of being.

It makes sense to me that the degree of awakening attained here on earth would be relative to the degree of awareness in the early stages of the afterlife.

A highly evolved being, one who has opened the gates of awareness and is functioning with his higher faculties while yet in the flesh, would,  when he died, experience the after death states differently than the average human being. Being unattached to the physical, the sleeping state of spiritual awareness experienced in the early Kama Lokic states would have no need to occur, as full realization of spiritual life has already been attained. Free of all illusion of the physical states, the fully conscious being would experience the after death states in full awareness. It seems to me that this would be the argument for the urgent necessity for us to develop our awareness while in the flesh before death occurs.

As I mentioned before, it is suggested by Leadbeater and Besant that learning and experiences as well as Karma occur during the after death states. The being is actively involved , making choices, doing good for those on earth, and living in a very real plane of existence.

My questions are:

Are the after death states a reflection of the previous life lead on earth, and a recapitulation of that life lived?

Are the after death states a continuous journey of new experience, carrying on from the death of the physical life just experienced, occurring in a plane of existence without the physical expression?

The great wheel revolves and plunges us into physical experience over and over again.

Life is a continuum influenced by the law of periodicity which works in spiral circles, round and round, gradually drawing the pilgrim to experience all of the “seasons” of the soul.


The answer is both, in a way. For sure the first two after death states in Kama Loka are a recapitulation of the life just lived, but in a state of heightened awareness, with nothing hidden, a transparent state so to speak. In the after death states, all the thoughts we have as well as the thoughts of the other people in our lives are transparent, nothing is hidden. We recapitulate our experiences and actions until we have redeemed, learned or come to a state of emotional balance with our experiences. We realize what or how we would have done differently if given the chance again, and as these experiences come up in the Kama Lokic state, we see them coming, something like when we are in a state of déjà vous, and with our spiritual will we choose the better way of doing things.

Causes set in motion while in the physical, will play out on the physical plane in the next incarnation, however we hope that we will have learned from previous misdeeds and when the opportunity arises to confront a similar situation, we will choose the right path.
The after death states are a continuous journey, however a recapitulation of the life just lived is the first activity that one experiences on the other side of the vale. For a more in depth explanation of the after death states, I would highly recommend going to After Death States part one – be sure to read all the parts.