The kabalists held, and now hold, that it is unphilosophical to admit that the astral body of man can survive corporeal death, and at the same time assert that the astral body of the ape is resolved into independent molecules. That which survives as an individuality after the death of the body is the astral soul, which Plato, in the Timaeus and Gorgias, calls the mortal soul, for, according to the Hermetich doctrine, it throws off its more material particles at every progressive change into a higher sphere. Socrates narrates to Callicles that this mortal soul retains all the characteristics of the body after the death of the latter; so much so, indeed, that a man marked with the whip will have his astral body “full of the prints and scars.” The astral spirit is a faithful duplicate of the body, both in a physical and spiritual sense. The Divine, the highest and immortal spirit, can be neither punished nor rewarded. To maintain such a doctrine would be at the same time absurd and blasphemous, for it is not merely a flame lit at the central and inexhaustible fountain of light, but actually a portion of it, and of identical essence. It assures immortality to the individual astral being in proportion to the willingness of the latter to receive it. So long as the double man, i.e., the man of
flesh and spirit, keeps within the limits of the law of spiritual continuity; so long as the divine spark lingers in him, however faintly, he is on the road to an immortality in the future state. But those who resign themselves to a materialistic existence, shutting out the divine radiance shed by their spirit, at the beginning of the earthly pilgrimage, and stifling the warning voice of that faithful sentry, the conscience, which serves as a focus for the light in the soul — such beings as these, having left behind conscience and spirit, and crossed the boundaries of matter, will of necessity have to follow its laws.
Matter is as indestructible and eternal as the immortal spirit itself, but only in its particles, and not as organized forms. The body of so grossly materialistic a person as above described, having been deserted by its spirit before physical death, when that event occurs, the plastic material, astral soul, following the laws of blind matter, shapes itself thoroughly into the mould which vice has been gradually preparing for it through the earth-life of the individual. Then, as Plato says, it assumes the form of that “animal to which it resembled in its evil ways”during life. “It is an ancient saying,” he tells us, “that the souls departing hence exist in Hades and return hither again and are produced from the dead . . . But those who are found to have lived an eminently holy life, these are they who arrive at the pure abode ABOVE and DWELL ON THE UPPER PARTS of the earth” (the ethereal region). In Phaedrus, again, he says that when man has ended his first life (on earth), some go to places of punishment beneath the earth. This region below the earth, the kabalists do not understand as a place inside the earth, but maintain it to be a sphere, far inferior in perfection to the earth, and far more material.
Of all the modern speculators upon the seeming incongruities of the New Testament, alone the authors of the Unseen Universe seem to have caught a glimpse of its kabalistic truths, respecting the gehenna of the universe. This gehenna, termed by the occultists the eighth sphere (numbering inversely), is merely a planet like our own, attached to the latter and following it in its penumbra; a kind of dust-hole, a “place where all its garbage and filth is consumed,” to borrow an expression of the above-mentioned authors, and on which all the dross and scorification of the cosmic matter pertaining to our planet is in a continual state of remodelling.
The secret doctrine teaches that man, if he wins immortality, will remain forever the trinity that he is in life, and will continue so through-,
out all the spheres. The astral body, which in this life is covered by a gross physical envelope, becomes — when relieved of that covering by the process of corporeal death — in its turn the shell of another and more ethereal body. This begins developing from the moment of death, and becomes perfected when the astral body of the earthly form finally separates from it. This process, they say, is repeated at every new transition from sphere to sphere. But the immortal soul, “the silvery spark,” observed by Dr. Fenwick in Margrave’s brain, and not found by him in the animals, never changes, but remains indestructible “by aught that shatters its tabernacle.” The descriptions by Porphyry and Iamblichus and others, of the spirits of animals, which inhabit the astral light, are corroborated by those of many of the most trustworthy and intelligent clairvoyants. Sometimes the animal forms are even made visible to every person present at a spiritual circle, by being materialized. In his People from the Other World, Colonel H. S. Olcott describes a materialized squirrel which followed a spirit-woman into the view of the spectators, disappeared and reappeared before their eyes several times, and finally followed the spirit into the cabinet.