by D. G. Gower
Part 1: What is Psychological Memory?
According to C.G.Jung,
…the unconscious consists of contents that are entirely undifferentiated, representing the precipitate of humanity’s typical forms of reaction since the earliest beginnings – apart from historical, ethnological, or other differentiation – in situations of general human character, e.g., such situations as those of fear, danger, struggle against superior force, the relations of the sexes, of children and parents, to the father-and mother-image, of reaction to hate and love, to birth and death, to the power of the bright and dark principle, etc. A basic capacity of the unconscious is that of acting compensatively and setting up in contrast to consciousness … a typical reaction derived from general human experience and conforming to internal laws, thereby making possible an adequate adjustment based on the totality of the psyche.
In this question there are several significant points. Firstly, comes the listing of the contents of the unconscious, which posits the existence of certain powerful patterns of reaction which we inherit from our most distant ancestors, and perhaps even from other kingdoms of Nature. Secondly, when the list is examined, we find that the most basic reactions we have are stereotyped patterns governing our dealings with the instincts. Lastly, the conscious and unconscious form a self-regulating system, the object in view being an adjustment to some environmental situation.
To return to Jung:
At the very bottom (of the psychic genealogical tree) lies the unfathomable, the central force out of which at one time the individual psyche has been differentiated. This central force goes through all further differentiations and isolations, lives in them all, cuts through them to the individual psyche, as the only one that goes absolutely unchanged and undivided through all layers… Every section (Groups of People, Nation, Tribe, Family, Individual) stands for a further differentiation of the collective psyche, until, proceeding from human to national groups, from the tribe to the family, the height of the individual, unique psyche is reached.
We thus live and move and have our being in reactionary patterns of which, because they are in the collective unconscious, we are not normally aware.
Looking at this from the Theosophical angle, we realize here is another view of the teachings of Karma. Emphasis is laid on the various collectivities in which we are forced to live if we incarnate on this earth, each collectivity of basic human reactions, racial reactions, national reactions, etc., being part of our inheritance, since the physical, emotional and mental vehicles are made of the actual stuff of these collectives which has been used continuously from the very beginning.
We thus live and move and have our being in reactionary patterns of which, because they are in the collective unconscious, we are not normally aware. What we look upon as our physical, astral and mental bodies are really not, strictly speaking, our own, being accretions of these reactionary patterns themselves.
Jung places great emphasis on the importance of the dream. His opinion is that:
The easiest and most effective way of acquainting one’s self with the mechanism and contents of the unconscious is via the Dream, whose material consists of conscious and unconscious, familiar and unfamiliar elements… Space and time do not hold for them. Their language is archaic, symbolic, pre-logical – a picture language whose meaning can only be discovered through special methods of interpretation… Many dreams even go beyond the personal problems of the individual dreamer and are the expression of problems that occur over and over again in human history, and concern the whole human collective.
When one dreams, therefore, in the big way, the whole wisdom of the human race can be drawn upon.
This points out the close interconnection of the conscious with the unconscious, which is to be expected, since the individual consciousness crystallized out of it in the first place. There are, of course, trivial dreams dealing with wishes, fears and the day’s events, but there are also powerful, enduring dreams which express themselves in symbols. When one dreams, therefore, in the big way, the whole wisdom of the human race can be drawn upon.
Another significant point is that the laws of time and space do not hold for dreams. We feel no strangeness when we appear to be in several places at once, and forms of people and objects change into something else. When they do, there is no sense of there being necessarily any cause for such changes. That is to say, the compensatory nature of a dream does not worry us while we are having it. Normally we feel the inevitability of it, and there is no urge to control it or alter it as it unfolds.
As a further development of the last quotation, Jung holds:
Themes of a mythological nature, whose symbolism illustrates universal history, and reaction of a particularly intensive kind, allow one to surmise the involvement of the deepest layers (of consciousness). These motives and symbols are named Archetypes. They are representatives of instinctive – i.e., psychologically necessary – responses to certain situations which, circumventing consciousness, lead by virtue of their innate potentialities to behaviour corresponding to the psychological necessity… The Archetypes do not consist of inherited ideas, but of inherited predispositions to reaction.
Now, although Theosophy seems on the whole to incline towards the Platonic view of Archetypes as ideas in the Divine Mind, yet Jung’s discovery of psychological Archetypes as inherent patterns of reaction has much to be said for it, as reaction patterns link up more closely with the astrological viewpoint on the Zodiacal Signs which, in turn, have been associated with the Archetypes as understood by Occultism, and may possibly have some connection with “the ring pass not”. Be that it may, the freedom of the conception of Archetypes as latent possibilities of reaction certainly is more acclimatized to the atmosphere of modern physics.
To round off this subject, here is a final quotation:
In the language of the unconscious… the archetypes appear in personified or symbolized picture form. Their number is relatively limited, for it corresponds to the possibilities of typical fundamental experiences, such as human beings have had since the beginning of time… The motifs of the archetypal images are the same in all cultures. We find them repeated in all mythologies, fairy tales, religious traditions and mysteries.
It is this quotation that draws attention to the strong effect that depth psychology has had on the findings of anthropology. Anthropology has to deal with the earliest types of human society, and modern psychology has helped to remove, as much as is possible under difficult circumstances, the barrier that lies between primitive pre-logical thought and the rationalism of our western civilizations. In doing this, we are able to see more or less clearly the motives that lie behind the formation of a society of the simplest type, and how our complicated twentieth century civilizations are elaborated from these few basic factors.
Human beings cannot live together to their mutual benefit unless the brute instincts are somewhat tamed by a strong tradition in which each member has complete faith.
Society is, according to this hypothesis, the means by which man has sought to canalize his instincts which, left to themselves, are liable to be far more destructive than useful. Religion, education, law and custom have therefore been evolved out of his growing mind to lessen the destructive side of the basic instincts and to enhance the constructive side. Human beings cannot live together to their mutual benefit unless the brute instincts are somewhat tamed by a strong tradition in which each member has complete faith. The last two wars have shown us what happens to a society that has lost faith in its traditions.
The methods by which the instincts have been canalized to a greater or lesser degree are many and varied, but all have depended on the influence of imitation on the mind, for all tradition is imitation. But this presupposes group action and group living to the detriment of individual action and individual living. That is, the basic instincts are tamed by codes enforced from outside the individual, who is persuaded that his physical and psychological security depends on those codes being obeyed without question. To bring this about there must be imitation, and so it is inculcated from our earliest conscious state. The primitive man has his initiation schools to which the adolescent male is sent to learn the laws and customs of his tribe, which are indelibly imprinted on his mind by powerfully suggestive religious ceremonies. Civilized man has his public and private schools, and the schoolboy is there immersed in the social patterns of his nation, class and the prevailing code of ethics.
Let us try to build up a picture of the conditions into which a man is born today. To begin with, there is the unconscious which sets up typical reactions “derived from general human experience,” and thus provides the child, the adolescent and the man with a set of automatic responses to ordinary situations as they arise. From birth, then, this hereditary background has one point of view: the adjustment of man to that background, resulting in a regulation of all his relationships, mental and emotional, the sexual and parental relationships included. By the time his primitive or civilized education is finished, identification with the various ways and means of coping with the challenges of life is complete, and the person is quite unaware of their automatic nature. To the basic collective responses are gradually added the collectives of the particular family, class, nation and race in which he lives, and these mark the stages by which he becomes successively family-conscious, class-conscious, nation-conscious, race-conscious.
Sometimes it happens that adjustment to the collective pattern fails, or is faulty, and the psychological security it once afforded is lost. This may appear such a calamity that the sufferer becomes a sick man, his whole outlook is warped and he either wholly or partially retreats from life, or projects his demons onto others, making life for himself and them a constant misery. It is then that the psychotherapist is called in, his main function being to discover how the patient has got out of alignment with the collective pattern of his environment, and then to assist him to get back into it again.
Of course, there is individuation, as Jung calls the process of not allowing the collective patters to be psychologically necessary for you any more, but this is, according to him, only for the very few. Long experience has taught him that the ego is ready and able to stand alone without such support is extremely rare. Therefore, the typical result of this connection with psychotherapy is the doctor-patient relationship, by which the doctor reconstitutes the patient, if he can, to fit himself once more into society and play his full part in it; in other worlds, he is reconditioned and sent back to the collective again.
With regard to individuation, there are not many published accounts of what this actually means, but from the few that exist it appears that the individual, now freed from fear of the collective unconscious, makes, as it were, a conscious partner of it, and allows a new centre to be formed from which it acts.
It is at this point that the lines of thought of Jung and J. Krishnamurti widely diverge, as Krishnamurti does not admit a doctor-patient relationship to be formed with regard to himself and those who approach him, as, in his point of view, what is required is a total revolution or transformation in the inquirer’s way of thinking. Krishnamurti does not know the meaning of compromise. Also, for reasons to be shown later, he does not consider a conscious partnership with the unconscious to be true liberation.
The situation with regard to Jung’s discoveries now is that, though they are not universally accepted in the scientific world, yet there are a fair number of highly qualified professional men and women who have tested them out for themselves apart from Jung, and have found them to be workable. In addition, there exists a vast unknown number of case histories from all over the world which are drawn upon to illustrate books and articles written by these people.
This mass of material brings out a point that is of great value: the existence of mental projections. Neurotics and psychotics actually live in conditioned worlds of their own, that is, in their own mental projections. All the methods of canalizing the instincts, all the elaborations of the various collectives in which one lives are mental projections; so one is never ordinarily free from them from birth to death.
To Krishnamurti, all adjustment is compromise, and if there is adjustment to a collective pattern, to an emotional or mental environment, there can be no transformation, no complete revolution of thought.
In the same way as Jung’s relevant teachings were illustrated with quotations, some appropriate quotations from the Talks of Krishnamurti will now be given.
There is the superficial consciousness of everyday activity: the job, the family, the constant adjustment to social environment, either happily, easily, or contradictorily, with a neurosis… And there is also the deeper level of unconsciousness which is the vast social inheritance of man through centuries; the will to exist, the will to alter, the will to become.
Our conditioning is the automatic response that rises unthinkingly when a situation evokes it.
This question is to illustrate further differences between Jung and Krishnamurti. Firstly, there is the question of adjustment, so important a part of the psychotherapist’s technique. To Krishnamurti, all adjustment is compromise, and if there is adjustment to a collective pattern, to an emotional or mental environment, there can be no transformation, no complete revolution of thought. Secondly, all that to which Jung has drawn our attention in his list of contents of the collective unconscious is what Krishnamurti has called “conditioning”. Our conditioning is the automatic response that rises unthinkingly when a situation evokes it. That is, we respond as Europeans, for example, when there are racial riots in London, as Christians, when it is suggested that God does not exist, as Protestants, when the Roman Catholics become too prominent, as Theosophists, when Krishnamurti is mentioned, as a member of our family when the skeleton in the cupboard rattles, and so on. We do not always give way to these automatic responses, but they are the ones that arise first before we modify them, or justify them, or condemn them with the aid of some other type of conditioning we have superimposed more recently on the basic responses.
Jung certainly exposes much in his descriptions of the various collectives that condition us unconsciously, but see how widely Krishnamurti’s searchlight sweeps! “The will to exist,” which is the conditioning of the biological collective; “the will to alter,” which is the conditioning of evolution; “the will to become,” which is the conditioning of time. He goes into more detail in the following passage.
One’s own consciousness… is the outcome of many influences: climate, diet, various forms of authority, the society about one, with its taboos, its do’s and don’ts, the religion in which one has been brought up, the book one has read, the reactions and experiences one has had.
Now, our consciousness is something we do really look upon as ourselves, yet here are suggestions that it is nothing of the sort. Some of these suggestions strike at roots so deep that there are those who may regard with horror and a sense of sacrilege the idea that they could possible be aspects of conditioning and must be brought into the light of day to be intimately examined. Authority is questioned, the concept of leader and led, teacher and pupil, sacred scriptures and systems of instruction. These all supply collective backgrounds which respond for us when the right button is pressed.
To know that organized religion is conditioning is not so difficult , but to realize in one’s heart that all that our society at present stands for is also conditioning comes as a severe blow.
With regard to society and its partner, organized religions, it is clear that, being ways evolved by the mind to deal with an overflow of instinctual drives, they are an integral part of conditioning. To know that organized religion is conditioning is not so difficult, but to realize in one’s heart that all that our society at present stands for is also conditioning comes as a severe blow.
Even more difficult is it to understand experience as conditioning; so let us look into it more deeply to try and find out how it acts in this way. Firstly, when one has an experience, however elevated and spiritual it may be, it is the usual thing for the mind to start working on it. It then decides that it was a pleasant or unpleasant experience, an important or trivial experience, that it would like more of it, that it must be analysed and interpreted, that it must be labelled, classified and stored up in the memory for future reference. It is clear that all these things applied to the experience are evaluations and judgements; but what was the source of them? What was the basis on which these values were founded? It will be discovered in most cases that the source is in that collective conditioning already described. Values and judgements, acceptances and rejections are based on that background provided by the particular interweaving of emotional and mental environment in which one lives. In such a case, it is not oneself that responds when values and judgments are called for, but the psychological background. One tends, however, to take these responses as one’s own, without question as to their source, to accumulate these conditioned experiences, and from that accumulation to react to the challenges of life.
Society as we know is now is based on envy, greed, ambition, revenge, on the economic competition for success, on the desire to be something.
says Krishnamurti. This is a revolutionary statement when first heard, as it poses the problem: If such things as ambition, the desire to succeed and the urge to become somebody important are honestly realized as obstacles to self-knowledge, and consequently fall away, what in our present-day civilizations will remain?
…a high percentage of the world’s population acts on the assumption that its own particular brand of society is right…
If one looks carefully without evading the issue, there can be no escaping the conclusion that it is these very qualities that have brought the world to the verge of destruction. Unfortunately, a high percentage of the world’s population acts on the assumption that its own particular brand of society is right, so nothing can be done about it. It is on this question again that Jung and Krishnamurti differ, for while Jung demonstrates that for centuries man has been canalizing his instincts in cultures, Krishnamurti shows how this has resulted in elaborate patterns of conditioning founded on envy, greed, ambition and exclusiveness. What is more, generations of artists, poets, playwrights, orators, historians and educators have ennobled those qualities in forms so subtly disguised by the glamour of genius that they have become integrated with the national heritage. They are part of ‘our way of life’ for which we are expected to fight and die and commit atrocities whenever some national set of politicians so decides.
To quote Krishnamurti again:
It is belief which is dividing the world, belief in nationalism, in patriotism, in the so-called superiority of this race or that; it is belief that divides people into Protestants and Catholics, mystics and occultists… So, a different mind is required.
It is the mind, of course, that is the cause of the trouble, for all conditioning is the product of it; all beliefs are mental projections.
Another difference between Jung and Krishnamurti is apparent in the following words of the latter:
The mind, both the conscious and the unconscious, is the result of time, of memory, it is the residue of centuries of knowing, and the totality of this consciousness is the process of thinking. All thinking, surely, springs from a background of various cultures, of innumerable experiences, individual as well as collective, and this background is obviously conditioned.
This is why it was suggested farther back that there was doubt if the individuated man according to Jung is really liberated, the point at issue being that if man makes a conscious partner of his unconscious, he is making a partnership with a conditioned thing, no matter how vast this sphere may be compared with his minute conscious self.
Lastly, I should like to draw your attention to the great significance of an answer Krishnamurti gave to a question concerning dreams and their value. The central theme of his reply was very simple. It was: “Why do you dream?’ He agrees with the psychotherapist that it is because the unconscious has no opportunity to express anything during the day, so it projects various symbols when the conscious mind is asleep. But this is too superficial an explanation, he adds. One should go far deeper and ask why this method of revelation has been adopted. It must surely be because the conscious mind during the day is not alert to its conditioning. It does not recognize it then as such, so it occupies itself with trying to suppress, change and do something about the unconscious motives and urges that disturb it. If a person, however, is able to be fully aware of his conditioning as it shows itself in his reactions to, and relationships with, people, objects and ideas in ordinary daily life, the unconscious will have no need to pass on hints and intimations during sleep, so dreaming will cease. No conscious partnership with the unconscious would then be formed, though the unconscious would be thoroughly understood in the fullest sense of that word.
The foregoing descriptions of the collective unconscious and the various types of conditioning associated with it constitute what has been called psychological memory. Psychological memory is all the unconscious responses from the various collectives in which we live that influence our everyday actions and reactions without our normally being aware of it. Our attitudes, our relationships, our tone of voice, our expressions and gestures, our scale of values, judgments and principles of identification and detachment, our accumulation of experiences, our regarding every process of life from the point of view of gain, achievement, security and success, our ideals, aims and goals – all contribute to psychological memory.
But psychological memory must not be confused with factual memory, such a we are compelled to use to live this world and find our way about in it, or to become scientists, doctors, lawyers, etc. It does include, on the other hand, a certain amount of biological memory, as may well be understood from Krishnamurti’s statement.
To sum up, the suggestion is being made that there is a case for regarding ourselves as conditioned in many ways during our lives on earth, and that this constitutes psychological memory of which we may at the moment be entirely unconscious. It also seems that this phenomenon functions through the mind. If, then, we are so conditioned here, the following problem arises: At what stage in our physical or non-physical existence does conditioning or psychological memory, come to an end?
Part II: Psychological Memory and the After-Death States
FOLLOWING are six quotations from an article by H.P.Blavatsky in Lucifer, January 1889, called “On the Constitution of the Inner Man and Its Division”. It is composed in the form of a dialogue in question and answer, and may also be found in The Key to Theosophy by the same author. The quotations again prove how far in advance of her time she was:
…death is sleep…
(I)… man acts on this, or another plane of consciousness, in strict accordance with his mental and spiritual condition.
(ii) If they [scientific materialists] say that self-consciousness ceases with the body, then in their case they simply utter an unconscious prophecy. For once that they are firmly convinced of what they assert, no conscious after-life is possible for them.
(iii)… both immortality and consciousness after death become for the terrestrial personality of man simply conditioned attributes, as they depend entirely on conditions and beliefs created by the human soul during the life of its body. [Please notice the strangely modern note in this particular quotation.]
(iv) For the believer it [the interval between two lives] will be a dream as vivid as life and full of realistic bliss and visions.
(v) The Ego receives always according to its deserts. After the dissolution of the body, there commences for it either a period of full clear consciousness, a state of chaotic dreams, or an utterly dreamless sleep indistinguishable from annihilation; and these are the three states of consciousness. Our physiologists find the cause of dreams and visions in an unconscious preparation for them during the waking hours; why cannot the same be admitted for the post-mortem dreams? I repeat it, death is sleep. After death begins, before the spiritual eyes of the soul, a performance according to a programme learnt and very often composed unconsciously by ourselves: the practical carrying out of correct beliefs or of illusions which have been created by ourselves.
(vi) According to what one has believed in and expected after death, such is the state one will have.
These extracts show that H.P. Blavatsky was convinced that, if a human being believed in an after-life at all, he found on the other side exactly what he expected, and that this state called death was equivalent to sleep, being pervaded by a state of consciousness closely approximating to that of dreams. Since our Cofounder records these views publicly, there should be no sense of strangeness in what follows, and the discoveries (or verifications) of Jung and Krishnamurti will fall naturally into place.
…when we pass over we have made the transition with as little trouble as the removal of an overcoat…
My subject being connected with the impact of two different sets of teachings on another, it becomes necessary at this stage to introduce in detail a certain aspect of Theosophy in order that this impact may be registered and described.
To begin with, C.W. Leadbeater is most emphatic that when we pass over we have made the transition with as little trouble as the removal of an overcoat, and with as little effect. This seems to be quite a sensible point of view. There is no reason at all why, if a conscious after-life is granted, there should be any fundamental change expected in a person who has removed his overcoat. He himself says”
In the vast majority of cases the loss of the physical body makes no difference whatever in the character or intellect of the person.
According to Theosophical teaching, then, this person has now arrived on the astro-mental plane inwardly unchanged.
The word “astro-mental” is used to denote what seems to be a composite state, for if, as Theosophy teaches, a human being is an individualized entity, it would be difficult to consider him as existing in a state of pure emotion, feeling and desire without any thought attached. In addition, what would be the point of the traditional purgatory if there was no mental record or reaction? It will be assumed, therefore, that the division into astral and mental planes is a concession to the analytical human intellect, and is really as imaginary, though in some cases as useful, as the equator and lines of latitude and longitude.
The person who has just passed over now exists, we assume, inwardly unchanged, in a condition that is limited by his emotions, his feelings, his desires, his thoughts and his earthly ideals and aspirations. But what has limited these attributes that are still as they always were? Surely, exactly the same things that limited them on earth; so here we are again face to face with conditioning or psychological memory. It seems that it does indeed continue to function on the astro-mental plane.
Remembering that H.P.Blavatsky herself has described death as sleep, and the astro-mental world as a world of dreams and visions, it is now helpful to bring in at this point Jung’s theory of dreams. He considers dreams as compensations. That which has been frustrated and unable to express itself during the day, expresses itself when the censorship of the waking consciousness has been removed. Applied to the dream-life after death, this would mean that all the frustrations we have been obliged to undergo during an incarnation on earth owing to the adverse circumstances in which we lived, will be expressed when we pass over to the astro-mental plane. In the period between two incarnations our repressions and failures in self-expression will rise to the surface and be fulfilled. This is to say that, by a thoughtful provision of life, there will be, through a process of celestial psychotherapy, a release from all the tensions of frustration, and we shall, at the end of it, be, as it were, ironed out smooth for the next life on earth. A reference to question (v) from the article by H.P.Blavatsky will show how she anticipated this modern hypothesis.
Our philosophy teaches that Karmic punishment reaches the Ego only in its next incarnation…
It is distinctly taught in Theosophy that no thought that could cause unhappiness enters into the higher levels of the astro-mental plane. On earth, our fantasies and daydreams, conditioned by desires, ambitions, and longings to be something important, were, more often than not, crushed continually by the harsh demands of life; but on the astro-mental plane they can be carried out to logical and illogical conclusions ad lib., since there is nothing to stop them except our self-imposed boundaries of imagination.
This concept is not without backing, as in the same article H.P.Blavatsky writes:
Our philosophy teaches that Karmic punishment reaches the Ego only in its next incarnation. After death it receives only the reward for the unmerited sufferings endured during its just past existence.
But to be deprived by adverse circumstances of the means of satisfying our earthly desires, ambitions and longings to be something important is exactly what a great many people would regard as unmerited suffering; consequently the carte blanche of the heaven-world would turn out to be the merited reward in question.
During earth-life we know in our heart of hearts that our fantasies and daydreams would not materialize, for very rarely indeed in incarnation do our wildest dreams come true. Life down there, therefore, acted as a most helpful corrective to bring us constantly back to the hard facts it paraded before us – except, of course, in the cases of the insane, who continued to live in their mental projections regardless of life.
Now imagine what it is like on the astro-mental plane, where, as C.W. Leadbeater says:
The matter is of the same order as that of which the mind-body is itself composed, and therefore when … a thought occurs, it immediately … sets up corresponding vibrations in it, while in the elemental essence it images itself with absolute exactitude.
Where is the corrective here? There seems to be none. No wonder H.P.Blavatsky and others have warned us of the insidious glamour of this state of existence; no wonder that there is “under every flower a serpent coiled”. The tremendous problem is how shall we ever be free of the delights of wish-fulfilment when every desire is gratified the moment it arises.
The conflict between “ what is” and “what ought to be” is the cause of the tension and frustration here below. When the happiness and bliss of the heaven-world abolish the tension, then I am existing in the “what ought to be’ as imagined in my ideals which I formed from the conditioned background of the collectivity in which I lived. In other words, I am living in psychological memory; I am living in my own projections. These private mental projections, by another thoughtful provision of life, are entirely shut off at this level from everybody else’s heaven-world. This is a necessary precaution for which we may be extremely grateful.
The next stage of this article is connected with examples of the afterdeath states as given by C.W. Leadbeater. As he often used quite long quotations from his Manuals, The Astral Plane and The Mental Plane, as illustrations in his larger works, they will be used as references throughout what follows. Bearing in mind that he must have had a fair amount of material from which to choose, it is assumed that he would naturally select cases that are typical of the various levels. The different heaven-worlds will be dealt with in these studies not the two extremes of purgatory and the formless mental planes.
As a commencement, let us take the case of Charles Bradlaugh. This is more than usual interest, as H.P. Blavatsky in the article already quoted, is very definite that a materialist, because he has no belief in a future life, will have a period of complete blankness between incarnations. Yet C.W. Leadbeater describes Bradlaugh among his books, studying as he used to do on earth, but, due to his non-belief in an after-life, he has his consciousness no higher than the middle levels of the astro-mental plane. That disagreement here exists is shown by the long argument appended by C.W. Leadbeater to this case, in which he endeavours to prove that H.P. Blavatsky must have meant “materialist” in some other sense when she banished them all to oblivion. Personally, however, I see no need for this. Some are conditioned to such an extent by the thought of their age, and the company they frequent that their early hopes are repressed and rigorously kept out of mind. But in the depths of the unconscious that hope lingers. Could Bradlaugh not have had in his weaker moments at least a desire that the after-life might be a continuation of this in some form, and so, when he had passed over, he is found living in that one little hope?
We find here a case that shows the extraordinary power of conditioning on a very fine mind. By it, he has excluded himself from the subtler regions of the astro-mental plane and will not admit that they exist. He is continuing his activities as usual, in the usual surroundings of his library. He is, therefore, a fine illustration of what happens to those of us who do not penetrate to the unconscious effects of psychological memory, and by this negligence during physical life, base our heaven-world on the world we have left behind us. In the words of C.W. Leadbeater:
The higher thoughts and aspirations which he has poured forth during earth-life then cluster round him, and make a sort of shell about him – a kind of subjective world of his own; and in that he lives his heaven-life … usually supposing that what he sees is all there to see.
Mental projections are our mental abode, usually, on the physical plane, so it seems, according to Theosophical teachings, that when we pass over to the astro-mental plane, there they are with us again.
The next case is that of the “ … man who died while his only daughter was still young; here in the heaven-world he had her always with him and always at her best, and he was continually occupying himself in weaving all sorts of beautiful pictures of her future.”
Here we have a good example of archetypal conditioning in the parent-child relationship. The parent wishes to fulfil himself through the child. What the child wants is of little or no account. In this particular family the child was an only daughter and a very spoilt child. As she was “always at her best” in the image made of her in heaven, she must also have had her worst. What is the worst in an idolized child from the parent’s point of view? It might very well be when the child refuses to conform to its parent’s views as to what it should do and be. The daughter is “at her best” in her father’s heaven-world because she never disagrees with him, and fits in perfectly contentedly with “all the beautiful pictures of her future’. She is also continually with him, not going off on her own to play with her friends, or growing up into independence and away from her father. The father is therefore indulging in psychological memory, which, in his case, is an automatic reflection of purely archetypal behaviour of which he is blissfully unconscious. If it can be accepted that archetypes are latent possibilities of reaction according to human experience, then their automatic patterns cannot represent life as it really is. Consequently this man is actually further away from reality then when he was on earth.
These examples were taken from the first, the lowest, heaven. Now we ascend to the second heaven, in which the conditioning of the various religious systems is most obvious. In this region we have the case of the Hindu woman who had elevated her husband into a god, and pictured the child Krishna playing among her own children. But Krishna had non-human and human forms. In his non-human form he was not like the other children with whom he was playing, but an idol of blue wood that moved about. In his human form he was a flute player. Both forms appeared at the same time, but this did not worry her in the least.
The blue wooden image of Krishna, though in startling contrast to the real humanity of her own children, brings out the prelogical nature of the woman’s mind at this time, since she did not perceive the irrationality of it. This is another pointer to the state of consciousness found in the heaven-world, as it can have the irrationality of the unconscious as manifested even in the dreams of highly professional men and women. Lastly, not the fact that this woman, as far as she was concerned, had Krishna all to herself. This is the inevitable and logical result of extreme religious conditioning, since its rigorous limitations must beget an ever-increasing self-centredness.
The case of the Spanish nun is also interesting from this point of view. She was discovered living through the whole life of Jesus as told in the Gospels. When this was completed, she carefully arranged her own martyrdom and ascended into heaven. Not content with this, she then started the whole cycle all over again, and we are left to infer that she continued it indefinitely. Here indeed is a “performance according to a programme” as mentioned in quotation (v) from H.P. Blavatsky’s article. Besides drawing attention to the self-glorification disguised under her outward religious devotion, this brings to light the repetitive action of the mind and its projections. Our attention has also been drawn to the same process occurring in the cases of criminals and evildoers of all kinds, who are reported in other writings of C.W. Leadbeater as going over and over their past misdeeds on the lower astro-mental levels. The mental technique is therefore similar in both cases, the main difference being that the former repeats a story that is enjoyed, and the latter a story that is presumably not enjoyed. If this analysis is true, then here is a further argument in favour of regarding the astro-mental planes as one.
In the third heaven mental projections become even more necessary than on the preceding level, for here dwell the organizers and planners, the arch-conditioners, the inventors of forms to fill up.
The case of the man “who found carrying out a grand scheme for the amelioration of the lower classes” is one that bears its fruit in ways with which we are all familiar. He is cited as being “deeply religious,” and as paying a “loving attention to every detail”. We know how fundamentally ruthless such “loving attention to … detail can be. The question also arises as to why there should still be “lower classes” in this reformer’s “grand scheme”. He seems to take them for granted.
The case of the Indian prince, who planned his government according to the precepts of Rama, is complicated still further by his fantasy not only providing the complete success of everything undertaken, but also for the personal advice and direction of Rama himself. Do we not meet in this world some who have developed to a fine art this faculty of having the private ear of deity, and always knowing God’s will?
ON the same level is perceived by another nun, and it is difficult to see why she has been classified as belonging to a higher sphere than her Spanish sister, since she indulges in a self-enclosing fantasy just as much, though it may not be so spectacular. Possibly she may have been less occupied with her salvation than the other, but the motive of self-gratification is still undeniably present. We see her carrying out the literal interpretation of the words, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto to me,” by ministering continuously to the sick, the hungry and the poor. Each person she helps changes into the Christ whom she then “worships fervently”.
This may look very wonderful at first sight, until one starts to question the source of all these sick, hungry, poor people. What are they doing in that state in the third heaven? If the teachings of Theosophy are consulted, there could be no suffering souls at this stage; they were provided by the nun herself within her cocoon of conditioned projections. Like the “lower classes” of the religious planner, they were necessary to the self-fulfilment of a strong personality. Perhaps once she did actually experience on earth the phenomenon she practised continually in heaven. It was so rare and beautiful a moment that she clung to it, and always wanted more of it.
Krishnamurti has made it extremely clear that the mind can deal only with the known…
We have now reached the fourth heaven, the last of the regions of form, and the cases given as examples are very mixed. It is still necessary, though, to try to discover if psychological memory is at work here too. It being a region of form and of mind, there is every indication that the thought cocoon prevails, since in some of the cases C. W. Leadbeater mentions specifically that images of the Great Ones are made. He also states that teaching comes through those images and is of value to the recipient. Realizing that we are still in the field of the mind here, I am inclined to doubt whether the teachings constitute “fresh knowledge and wider views” in the fullest sense of those words. Krishnamurti has made it extremely clear that the mind can deal only with the known, and the cases now to be considered seem to show that self-absorption is still paramount, thus excluding the unknown, which is reality. This suspicion is, I think, justified at least in the case of the Buddhist monk who had studied Theosophy. C. W. Leadbeater reports:
In his heaven-life the Buddha was the dominant figure, while the two Masters who have been most closely concerned with the Theosophical Society appeared also as his lieutenants, expounding and illustrating his teaching.
The monk was first and foremost a Buddhist, taking his Theosophy in a distinctly conditioned form. He had imported into his heaven-world his own private set of values. In that private evaluation the Buddha stands first; the two Masters are subsidiaries. The Buddha speaks in a certain way that is known and recognized by His devotee as the Buddhist line of thought, after which, the Masters interpret also in the same framework of reference. This is equivalent to the monk saying? “I welcome occult teaching such as is given in Theosophy, but I can take it only through the orthodox channel to which I was accustomed when in incarnation.” The very fact of needing an interpretation shows that any fresh challenge is met through the screen of the old. This is one of the indications of psychological memory still being at work in these regions.
Next we have the Neoplatonist who had spent a great deal of his time mastering the teachings of that school of thought: … now his heaven-life was occupied in unravelling its mysteries and in endeavouring to understand its bearing upon human life and development.” In other words, he was continuing, as on earth, to look at life through a man-made system.
… no teaching from an outside source, however elevated and authoritative, is of the least use while the recipient is still conditioned by his psychological memories, which distort it…
The case of the astronomer who had turned Pantheist is a very mixed one in itself. He “… was undoubtedly gaining real knowledge from … the Devas,” but at the same time, “He was lost in contemplation of a vast panorama of whirling nebulae and gradually-forming … worlds,” and imagined the universe to be shaped like “ … some vast animal”. In addition to this, “His thoughts surrounded him as elemental forms shaped as stars, …” As the whole cosmos round him was built by himself out of known ideas and his own conceptions, he can only have been creating his own private universe and his own private astronomy to match it. The significant fact is that no teaching from an outside source, however elevated and authoritative, is of the least use while the recipient is still conditioned by his psychological memories, which distort it by attempting to cram it into a network of past experiences. This case, as well as that of the Neoplatonist and the Buddhist monk, illustrates how a heaven-life of complete self-absorption is but a working out of old responses to new challenges under circumstances that render it more difficult than ever to discriminate between the true and the false. Great musicians are here, still continuing to do exactly what they did in their last incarnation. If they do this between all their periods of manifestation, then it would account for the lopsided and consequently un-integrated nature of certain types of genius.
The last example given in the regions of form is that of the lonely introvert who all his life had pushed away people who could have helped him. The key to the situation lies in the telling phrase, “ … in his manhood (he was) able to work only in his own way, …” This surely betokens a fierce and subtle form of pride. If the case is examined carefully, it will be noted that on earth he actually accomplished nothing, never having known life as it is, but only as it might be in the mirage of his Utopian fantasies. His earthly paradise could never have satisfied the multitudes he strove to serve, since it could work only in his particular way. Having broken off all human relationships in life, he never had the opportunity to see himself as he really was. Since he was a failure in the world of everyday life, he created a world in which he would be a success, and is one of the best examples we have of a man living happily in his own mental projections. To him humanity as he lived amongst it was even then nothing but “ … vast thronging impersonal multitudes …” so when he passed on, his psychological memory evoked them anew in his private heaven-world. Notice that his pride was such that solitude was preferable and part of his heavenly bliss. If friends or relatives had been present, they would have symbolized interference with “his own way”.
Let us now turn to the accounts of the general environments of the astro-mental plane to see if they correspond in any way with the lines of thought to which your attention has been drawn. In the same way that the astral and mental planes have not been separated, these scenic backgrounds will be taken as a developing whole, that is, from the aspect of the individual consciousness.
What we see and call the world or universe is a vast quantity of interactions.
As a starting-point, there is a quotation from Professor Ernest Wood’s Secret Doctrine Digest that may be of assistance. It occurs in his chapter on the distinction drawn by H.P. Blavatsky between duration and time.
What we see and call the world or universe is a vast quantity of interactions. Where action is very slow so that the change is not immediately visible we popularly call it an object; where the change is rapid we call it a force … all things are flowing, like rivers. The flow is the reality, and the object is only a whirlpool in the stream.
An object appears more or less static and unchanging, then, in proportion as it resists the will or desire of man to alter it. It would seem therefore, that there is greater or lesser retentiveness in the different kinds of matter. On earth the retentiveness appears to be, in general, very strong. One cannot as a rule change an object merely by looking at it and wanting it to be different.
Referring again to the description of astro-mental scenery according to C. W . Leadbeater, this quality seems to persist on the lower levels, as it is a counterpart of the scenery on earth. Since earthly objects cannot be changed by will, the astro-mental counterparts cannot be changed either. This, then, would be one of the reasons for the difficulty an ordinary person would have in realizing that any change had taken place in his condition, that is, that he was “dead”. At this stage, again according to Theosophical teachings, there is reason to posit that objects still exist in their own right. The complete self-absorption and private creations of the higher levels have not yet made themselves apparent. Consequently, the conditioning here is more collective, and on this account we hear of people tending, as usual, to congregate in national, religious and linguistic groups. Psychological memory keeps them acting, feeling, thinking, judging, evaluating as they have always done, since it is reasonable that the dropping of the physical body would make no difference in these matters.
On the next levels of this region there is a change. The more obvious types of psychological memory become more subtle as personal desires and aspirations begin to assert themselves. Matter is now completely at the service of mind. This would suggest that there is some point where reflection of earthly scenes fades out as far as the personal consciousness is concerned. It is not suggested that there need be any change of area in space connected with it; it could be that a cloud of mental projections imposes itself as a screen thus hiding what C. W. Leadbeater calls the “reality of these planes”. Group objects existing in their own right now disappear, and self-absorption takes their place. The limitations of ambition hitherto disguises as aspiration increase until a private world, utterly subservient to the compensatory urges of the personality, is fully fabricated. Separation of the sharpest and most final kind is now achieved, so that psychological memory is the only thing that matters.
Here is a most interesting situation, especially with regard to those who have unthinkingly labelled C. W. Leadbeater’s investigations as “fairy tales”. A consideration of all that has been said above will show that in the matter of the power of thought-projections and their imprisoning nature, he and Jung and Krishnamurti are fundamentally one. This would surely show that afterdeath states as clairvoyantly reported are worthy of further research, even if mistakes in accuracy and evaluation appear.
In respect to these planes Krishnamurti is most uncompromising. In one Talk he uses the phrase, “Inventing the astral plane,” though the context implies that it is the mind that invents it, which is the very point which, with the aid of Jung, I have been trying to make all along. The mind invents dreams in the same way and for the same purpose, and we know well that dreams exist and are extremely real for us at the time, even if they are imaginings in the sense of image-making. I have therefore taken Krishnamurti’s attitude as indirect support as to the possibility of such a state of affairs as described by C. W. Leadbeater existing on the other side of death.
New problems still arise. The chief of these is: In the light of Jung’s theory of mental projections, and of Krishnamurti’s theory of psychological memory, what, above the lower levels of the astro-mental plane, exists in its own right? Or, put in another way, what constitutes the reality of these regions? Neither of the two pioneers mentioned are of any further assistance to the research worker, as both are, in their respective ways, quite indifferent to the subject.
Jung, in answer to a question about the after-life, said:
I have not been there consciously yet. When I die, I shall say “Now let us see!” For the time being I am in this form, and I say “Now what is here? Let us do everything we can here.” If, when we die, we find there is a new life, I shall say “Now let us live once more.”
Krishnamurti’s attitude is contained in the implications of his basic question, “Why do you dream?” Dreams come through repressions and frustrations, through thoughts, feelings and acts which, for one reason or another, have remained incomplete. When the clamp or the blockage is removed, they rise into consciousness and complete themselves in a dream or a heaven-life. It follows that if there is no real cause for dreaming, there is no real cause for a heaven-life on the astro-mental plane. The phase, “real cause,” is used since it is a common phenomenon that people who say, “I never dream,” are suffering from some form of blockage in the psychic system, and should they contact modern depth psychology, the dreaming starts in a normal way. The point at issue is that it is the accumulation of uncompleted and therefore frustrated actions that cause dreaming.
Is the solution, then, never to curb your instincts? The answer to this is a most emphatic “No”. Jung and Krishnamurti have both found in their own way that the contents of the psyche have a positive and a negative side. To renounce the positive in order to fly to the negative does not alter the fact that in either case, and in whichever direction you fly, you have not changed the state of being conditioned. In the former case you repress the negative, and in the latter case you repress the positive. The psyche being a self-regulating organism, in either case there is a level of the astro-mental plane appropriate to the situation waiting to receive you after you pass over.
…the life of the mind is the life of whatever heaven-world one chooses to make for oneself.
If one can accept the possibility of there being a conscious after-life on the lines suggested by C. W. Leadbeater, the sensible thing to do is to uncondition oneself while one may. That can be done only while one is on earth with the hard facts of life acting as a countercheck to the runaway mind, which means understanding the mental processes without evaluating them by justification or condemnation. Accepting and rejecting according to a preconceived pattern of thought is the life of the mind, and the life of the mind is the life of whatever heaven-world one chooses for oneself.
The private heaven-worlds C. W. Leadbeater gave us as examples have provided some significant information which may be summarized as follows:
1. Every heaven-life is in terms of the known. Immortality is always conceived as a continuity of mortality.
2. Thus the contents of the heaven-worlds, of form at least, consist of those imported by psychological memory from the physical plane. Dropping the physical body has not changed the judgments and evaluations one inherited from the collectives in which one lived. One is earth-minded to the end.
3. The processes of the heaven world are a progressive shutting away from reality by a series of glamorous mental projections provided by the self in incarnation. So long as they prevail, there is no opportunity of seeing oneself as one really is, because there is no longer any true relationship with others.
Death is indeed a great mystery, and if there is no understanding of it, then one whole aspect of God remains un-experienced…
It is clear, then, that if we refused to face reality down here, and evaded critical situations by allowing our collectives to respond automatically to the challenges of life by means of endless adaptations, then the same attitude is likely to be preserved there. If, for our life-span, we allowed the cunning mind to infuse us with thoughts of perpetual continuity through property, family, social position and so on, then the conditioning factors of time and space will follow us into the after-life, and we shall not die. This may appear to be a strange conclusion after all that has been taught about the other side of death, with its delights and peace and bliss, but if reconsidered from the angle of psychological memory presented in this article, then the triumphant cry of “There is no death!” has possibilities of a great tragedy. Should not death be an ending to the old, rather than a continuation of the old in another form? Should not death be a total transformation, and opening up to the unknown? If death is a passage from a state of conditioned collectivity to a state of subjective self-induced illusion, how shall we know God, Truth, Reality? Death is indeed a great mystery, and if there is no understanding of it, then one whole aspect of God remains un-experienced – that is, if God can ever be experienced in the usual meaning of that word. Says Krishnamurti”
Any mind whose thought springs from this desire for self-perpetuation, the desire to attain, to succeed, whether in this world or the next is bound to be caught in illusion … Whereas, if the mind … is capable of dying psychologically to the desire to be secure, so that is is free from the past, the past which is the accumulation of its own desires and experiences, the past which is the perpetuation of “me,” the self, the ego, then you will see that there are no paths to truth at all … When the mind can die psychologically to all the things it has gathered for its own security, it is only then that reality comes into being.
The crux of the whole matter is, according to this line of thought, to die to psychological memory, to conditioning of every sort, while we are still in a position to do so, in this way understanding death while we are still in life. After we have passed over, it may very well be too late, for the glamour of unrestricted self-fulfilment may flow over us, and one more opportunity of contacting reality will have been lost.
Here we are faced with the same problem that confronted us when we were considering the freeing of ourselves from society with all its aims and goals, rewards and punishments. When all these things that have seemed to constitute our security, our vital interests, even our life itself, have fallen away what remains? By considering with conditioned minds what we shall do with ourselves when we have shed the physical body, exactly the same problem has arisen: if there is no compensation, no reward, no perpetual summerland of unalloyed pleasure, no more occult knowledge, no more accumulation of experience – in fact, no more of that kind of astro-mental plane – what remains? And the answer to that nobody can give you, for it is reality, says Krishnamurti, that then comes into being – reality that can never reveal itself in terms of the known, for God, Truth, Reality, like death itself, is the unknown.
This, I think, is why he has stressed the necessity of solving this problem now, while we are still on earth – the problem of “what remains?” If we solve it down here, we have solved it for ever, for in that realization and understanding of “what is,” we make the tremendous discovery that life and death are the same. Not the same in the superficial sense that just continue some variation of our earth-life in a heaven-world of our own creation, but in the deepest sense that life and death are fundamentally the understanding of “what is” as both are in terms of the unknown.
As published in “The Theosophist” magazine of June, July and August 1960.