The dual forces on the plane (whereon the vital power must be sought) are seen; the two paths face the solar Angel; the poles vibrate. A choice confronts the one who meditates.
The Battleground of the Astral Plane
We must start our study and consideration of the seventh Rule for Magic. We have completed the first six Rules which deal specifically with work on the mental plane, and hence have a practical value only for those who are beginning to utilize the power of the mind in the magical work of creation.
It is interesting to note in this connection that, as humanity enters into its heritage of mind, there appears simultaneously a growing tendency towards magical work. Schools of affirmation are cropping up on all sides, whose announced intent is to create those natural conditions wherein a man may have what he deems to be admirable and advisable. Books on the subject of the creative mind are flooding the markets, and discussions on the force back of the creative arts are deemed of vital interest. Psychologists are giving the entire matter much consideration, and though at present the ideal is viewed almost entirely in terms of the physical plane, yet the sum total indicates a vibratory activity in the world soul, as it expresses itself through humanity, and issues forth from the mental realm. The pioneers of the race, and the foremost thinkers and creative workers of humanity are but the sensitives who respond most readily to the mental impulses. They are in the minority as yet, and most people respond to the forces and vibrations emanating from the plane of the emotions and of desire. More and more however are awakening, and the significance of the six first Rules of Magic will become increasingly apparent.
These fifteen rules are divided into:
- Six rules on the mental plane.
- Five rules on the desire or astral plane.
- Four rules on the physical plane.
The main thought to be held clearly in the mind is that they confine themselves to the use of energy in the three worlds, and that this energy is either consciously manipulated by the governing soul or is swept into activity by the force inherent in the matter of the three worlds, independently of the soul. When this is the case, the man is a victim of his own form energies and the matter aspect of all manifestation. In the other case, he is the intelligent ruler, controller of his own destinies, and swings the lower energies into forms and activities through the power of his mind impulses, and the focused attention of his own soul. In the six rules already considered one or two thoughts most clearly emerge and might be summed up in the following terms:
- Rule 1 – Recollection, resulting in concentration.
- Rule 2 – Response, resulting in an interaction between higher and lower.
- Rule 3 – Radiation, resulting in a sounding forth.
- Rule 4 – Respiration, resulting in creative work.
- Rule 5 – Reunion, resulting in the at-one-ment.
- Rule 6 – Reorientation, resulting in a clear vision of the Plan.
Students would do well to consider these relationships, and to work out the underlying synthesis.
In the words of this rule the astral plane, with its function and problem, is ably synthesized. Note the terms used in the description given in a few short phrases:
- The plane of dual forces.
- The plane of the two paths.
- The plane whereon the vital power is sought.
- The plane of the vibrating poles.
- The plane whereon a choice is made.
One of the most vital things every aspirant has to do is to learn to understand the astral plane, to comprehend its nature and to learn both to stand free from it and then to work on it. In this instruction, I seek to give some clear teaching on this plane, for the moment a man can “see” on the astral plane, and can achieve equilibrium and hold steady in the midst of its vibrating forces, that moment he is ready for initiation.
First, let us gather together some of the terms which are used to describe this sphere of divine Being wherewith a man has first to identify himself, penetrate to the center, pierce through its veiled illusion, and eventually stand poised, untouched, detached, uninfluenced and free.
The term “astral” so often used is in reality a misnomer. H. P. B. was basically right when she used the term in connection with the etheric or vital planes of the physical plane. When contact is made with the etheric world, the first impression given is always of a starry light, of brilliance, of scintillation. Gradually, however, the word became identified with Kama or desire, and so was used for the plane of emotional reaction.
It is interesting to note this for it is in itself an instance of the effect of the astral plane upon the human brain, which in its uninformed condition reverses the reality and sees things in an upside down state. The appearance of the astral plane when first definitely seen by the “opened eye” of the aspirant is one of dense fog, confusion, changing forms, interpenetrating and intermingling colors, and is of such a kaleidoscopic appearance that the hopelessness of the enterprise seems overwhelming. It is not light, or starry or clear. It is apparently impenetrable disorder, for it is the meeting ground of forces. Because the forces in the aspirant’s own body are equally in disorder, he blends in with the surrounding chaos to such an extent that it is at first almost impossible for the onlooking soul to dissociate its own astral mechanism from the astral mechanism of humanity as a whole, and from the astral mechanism of the world.
One of the first things then that the aspirant has to learn is to dissociate his own aura in the emotional sense from that of his surroundings and much time is expended in learning to do this. It is for this reason that one of the first qualifications of discipleship is discrimination, for it is through the use of the mind, as analyzer and separator, that the astral body is brought under control.
Secondly, the astral plane is the plane of illusion, of glamor, and of a distorted presentation of reality. The reason for this is that every individual in the world is busy working in astral matter, and the potency of human desire and of world desire produces that constant “outpicturing” and form building which leads to the most concrete effects of astral matter. Individual desire, national desire, racial desire, the desire of humanity as a whole, plus the instinctual desire of all subhuman lives causes a constant changing and shifting of the substance of the plane; there is a building of the temporary forms, some of rare beauty, some of no beauty, and a vitalizing by the astral energy of its creator. Add to these forms that persistent and steadily growing scenario we call the “akashic records” which concern the emotional history of the past, add the activities of the discarnate lives which are passing through the astral plane, either out of or towards incarnation, add the potent desire, purified and intelligent, of all superhuman Lives, including those of the occult planetary Hierarchy, and the sum total of forces present is stupendous. All play upon, around and through every human being, and according to the caliber of his physical body, and the condition of his centers will be his response. Through this illusory panorama, the aspirant has to make his way, finding the clue or thread which will lead him out of the maze, and holding fast to each tiny fragment of reality as it presents itself to him, learning to distinguish truth from glamor, the permanent from the impermanent and the certainty from the unreal. As the Old Commentary puts it:
“Let the disciple seize hold of the tail of the serpent of wisdom, and having with firmness grasped it, let him follow it into the deepest center of the Hall of Wisdom. Let him not be betrayed into the trap set for him by the serpent of illusion, but let him shut his eyes to the colorful tracery upon its back, and his ears to the melody of its voice. Let him discern the jewel, set in the forehead of the serpent whose tail he holds, and by its radiance traverse the miry halls of maya.”
No glamor, no illusion can long hold the man who has set himself the task of treading the razor-edged Path which leads through the wilderness, through the thickset forest, through the deep waters of sorrow and distress, through the valley of sacrifice and over the mountains of vision to the gate of Deliverance. He may travel sometimes in the dark (and the illusion of darkness is very real); he may travel sometimes in a light so dazzling and bewildering that he can scarcely see the way ahead; he may know what it is to falter on the Path, and to drop under the fatigue of service and of strife; he may be temporarily sidetracked and wander down the bypaths of ambition, of self-interest and of material enchantment, but the lapse will be but brief. Nothing in heaven or hell, on earth or elsewhere can prevent the progress of the man who has awakened to the illusion, who has glimpsed the reality beyond the glamor of the astral plane, and who has heard, even if only once, the clarion call of his own soul.
The astral plane is also the Kurukshetra, both of humanity as a whole and of the individual human unit. It is the battleground whereon must be found the Waterloo of every aspirant. In some one life, there comes an emotional crisis in which decisive action is taken, and the disciple proves his control of his emotional nature. This may take the form of some great and vital test, covering a brief time but calling forth every resource of wisdom and of purity that the disciple possesses, or it may be a long and protracted emotional strain, carried over many years of living. But in the attaining of success and in the achievement of clear vision and right discernment (through right discrimination) the disciple testifies to his fitness for the second initiation.
I would like to point out that it is this test and crisis through which humanity is now passing, and which began in those conditions which culminated in the world war and the present world strain. The first initiation of humanity, as an entity, took place when individualization became possible, and the soul was born in the body of humanity. This was preceded by a period of fearful stress and strain, dimly sensed by the pioneers into the human kingdom from the ranks of the animal-men. Should this crisis be successfully passed, the second initiation of humanity will be the result – the passing through the baptism and the entering of the stream. So the world war and its resulting effects constitute the Kurukshetra of the world Arjuna, and the outcome is still in the balance. Let this not be forgotten. There is however no cause for pessimism. The outcome of good is inevitable. It is however a question of a slow or a rapid realization and liberation from the great world illusion, and to this end every aspirant is begged to work strenuously and to lend his aid. Every man who liberates himself, who sees clearly, and who releases himself from the glamor of illusion aids in the Great Work.
Again, the astral plane is that whereon the pairs of opposites act and interact, and whereon the pull of the great dualities is most potently felt. Primarily, the interaction is between the soul and its vehicle, matter, but there are many lesser dualities which play their part and are more easily recognized by the average man.
Light and darkness interact, as do pleasure and pain; good and evil meet and form the playground of the Gods, and poverty and riches are offset one against the other. The entire modern economic situation is of an astral nature; it is the outcome of desire and the result of a certain selfish use of the forces of matter. Heat and cold, as we understand the term, in a most peculiar manner are the result of the interplay of the pairs of opposites, and an interesting line of occult study concerns itself with the effects of racial emotions on climatic conditions. We most truly make our climate in one significant sense. When desire has burnt itself out, planetary life comes to an end, as climatic conditions will negate form-life as we understand it.
In relation to the human unit, the secret of liberation lies in the balancing of the forces and the equilibrising of the pairs of opposites. The Path is the narrow line between these pairs which the aspirant finds and treads, turning neither to the right nor to the left.
It must be remembered always that when the pairs of opposites are discerned, when a man balances the forces of his own nature, when he has found the Path and become the Path, then he can work with the world forces, can preserve the balance and the equilibrium of the energies of the three worlds and so become a co-worker with the Masters of the Wisdom. Let us pray and hope that this may be the practical outcome of our understanding of the nature of the battleground of the astral plane.