3. The World of the Dead
Hades, the underworld, the world of shadows, is the realm where the lowest states of consciousness possible after death occur. Myers did not have much to say about Hades, for it did not greatly interest him. But when the comments which he did make are put together with those of other investigators, a reasonably clear picture of this world emerges. The dead who remain at this level have had their transition to the normal world of post-death existence aborted. In this realm dwell haunting ghosts and possessing spirits. The lowest after-death state possible is complete unconsciousness; a comatose, non-dreaming sleep-like state. A brief period of unconsciousness often follows a tiring death and is recuperative and normal. But where it is prolonged, it usually results from a kind of reverse faith - a belief, or an intense hope, that only nothingness and complete personal extinction follows death. This belief can produce a prolonged comatose state, just as religious beliefs or other preoccupations or expectations can model the after-death world in which the individual finds himself. When such unconscious spirits are brought by 'helping' discarnates to the body of a medium engaged in 'rescue' work for the dead, they typically result in instant loss of consciousness for the medium, and can be awakened and enlightened only with difficulty.
The next highest state involves consciousness without sensory input. Spirits in this state complain that they wander in darkness or dense mist. Should they come into the vicinity of a psychically sensitive person with a bright aura, they will be drawn to this light - as it exists in this alternative plane of existence - and may inadvertently 'possess' or attach to the victim. Clearly, the immediate cause of this condition is a low state of consciousness. People at this level can perceive neither the after-death environment nor the previous physical one. Only a small minority of the dead have to endure this state.
One step above the 'darkness' is the normal physical envirnment of the living - our present world. The dead who remain in this world find themselves 'right here' with the physically embodied. The great majority of those who get involved with hauntings or possessions dwell in this dis-embodied state. The anger and vindictiveness so often displayed by such spirits is understandable, for they have to operate in the physical realm, with their old physical and earthly interests, obsessions and desires, but without the body that would make their gratification possible, and often, as well, without even the realization that they are dead. This state can be prolonged; in fact, some communications with haunting ghosts show that it can last for centuries, even millenia. It may be that especially intense emotional attachments - of love, hatred, anguish - to embodied persons or earthly places is responsible for this condition.
After death, most of us, thankfully, will not have to endure unconsciousness, darkness, or bodiless frustration at the physical level. We pass immediately to the first normal after-death plane of existence. Myers's feelings about it were deeply ambivalent. He had loved it, for it could be supremely beautiful. It was obvious that this was the heaven for which men yearn and of which their theologies had always told them. But Myers discovered there were realms beyond it, and once he had developed enough to dwell there, he defined this first state of existence negatively - "the plane of illusion."
4. The Chain of Being
Myers discovered more. In fact, though a modest man, he discovered nothing less than the basic purpose of the universe. Were he the only one ever to maintain that this particular intent underlay the existence of the physical universe, there could be less reason to take him seriously; but the fact is that identical explanations have been asserted by others, both disembodied and embodied.
Myers's theory can be simply stated. Reality has two fundamental attributes - a physical one and a psychic one. The physical is represented by a universe of matter, located in a fixed space and time continuum. The psychic constitutes another, complementary world, which is not solid and fixed in matter, energy, space and time - instead of being a creation it is creative, instead of being an effect it is causative.
Developing psychic entities must gather numberless experiences, manifest and express themselves in uncountable forms, before they attain to completion. Once these are acquired the entities take on divine attributes. The reason therefore, for the universe - and the purpose of our existence - is the evolution of mind in matter.
Each of us begins as an extremely rudimentary psychic entity, capable of only a very simple physical embodiment. Through repeated embodiments, the psyche grows steadily more complex and ascends the chain of matter. Reincarnation, then, doesn't just involve human bodies - it involves every kind of matter and life form. Hence there are two fundamental kinds of 'learning' - embodied or physical, and disembodied or psychic. Between each embodied life there is a disembodied one. And to be a human being is not, according to Myers, anything like an ultimate state. One learns in a human body for a period of time and then - provided one has learnt the appropriate lessons - one moves on. One passes beyond physical embodiment altogether.
The ultimate existence conceivable to the mind of man is that of 'God,' and according to Myers, that is precisely where we are headed. Our training takes us through every form of existence - from mineral to plant, from plant to animal, from animal to human, from human to devine. We eventually return to our psychic origin, our true nature, which is that of God. It is like God exploring His Creation through our individual travels, experiences and education.
These stupendous conceptions endow a very odd poem with sense. Mystics have always claimed to have had direct experience of the nature of ultimate reality, and seven centuries ago, Rumi, a Persian mystic, wrote the following enigmatic lines:
I died a mineral and became a plant;
I died a plant and rose an animal;
I died an animal and I was a man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as a man, to soar
With blessed angels; even from angelhood
I must pass on ...
When I have sacrificed my angel soul,
I shall become that which no mind conceived.
Seven hundred years later we find the remarkable psychic Joan Grant reaffirming exactly those ideas, which she derived from her own paranormal experiences:
"I acquired sufficient empirical experience to see the broad outlines of the progress of an individual during the initial four phases of his evolution. He starts with only enough ability to organize a single molecule. As his experience increases, and his consciousness begins to expand, he requires more complex forms through which to express that consciousness. When he can no longer be contained by the mineral phase of existence, he enters the plant kingdom, then graduates by a series of incarnations as various species of animal, to his first incarnation as a member of the human race."
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