It is natural for the human mind to desire to know the general structure of the universe. It is also helpful to have a sort of chart of the universe in which one finds oneself. The fabric of the universe includes the spheres and the planes, and the different bodies with which a human soul is endowed.
The gross, subtle and mental spheres are interpenetrating globes and have an existence in space. They can be regarded as places since they have an expansion in space. The planes, on the other hand, are both places and states, though the state of a particular plane cannot be experienced unless one’s consciousness first gets raised to it and begins to function from there.
There are forty-nine steps in the ascent through the planes. The human mind delights in perceiving and creating symmetry and proportion everywhere, but this tendency should not be carried into the realm of facts. The forty-nine steps in the Path are not evenly distributed within the seven planes. They are distinguished from each other because of their distinguishing psychic characteristics, although they have also structural equivalents in the subdivisions of the seven planes.
The human soul has three bodies—gross, subtle and mental. Though overlapping each other, they would still impel the soul in three psychic dimensions were there no point of interaction or fusion between them. This contact of the inter-twining bodies invites action and inter-action between the three bodies.
With most men the life of action means nothing but inner confusion and outer chaos—a jumble from which they cannot extricate themselves. To annul this confusion it is necessary to strive for conscious inaction which is the goal; and this striving for conscious inaction requires conscious action. This particular type of conscious action, which leads one on to conscious inaction, operates trans-bodily and requires vehicular purity and concord. In the Beyond-Beyond state of God there is unconscious inaction; at the goal of man there is conscious inaction; and in the intermediate state there is conscious action which is established in illusion.
The fusion point becomes the medium for effecting harmony between all three bodies. If the Masts (God-intoxicated souls) are to be brought down from the mental to the subtle or from the subtle to the gross, this has to be effected through the contact of intertwinement. This fusion point also brings all three bodies under the control of what is sometimes called the Universal Body, which is the seat of the Universal Mind.
The higher bodies function either by impersonal and unconscious forces or by conscious forces. Kundalini is a latent power in the higher body. When awakened it pierces through six chakras or functional centres and activates them. Without a master, awakening of the kundalini cannot take any one very far on the Path; and such indiscriminate or premature awakening is fraught with dangers of self-deception as well as misuse of powers. The kundalini enables man consciously to cross the lower planes and it ultimately merges into the universal cosmic power of which it is a part, and which also is at times described as kundalini. Ordinarily kundalini is the name for the power latent in the individualized soul.
The awakened kundalini cannot by itself take any one to the seventh plane. When awakened and directed under the guidance of some great yogi, it can give many rare experiences which have both advantages and disadvantages. The important point is that the awakened kundalini is helpful only up to a certain degree, after which it cannot ensure further progress. It cannot dispense with the need for the grace of a Perfect Master.
The relation between cosmic power and the individualized soul is unique. In the case of a perfect soul, the relation has been described fairly adequately through the Christian idea of trinity, which comprehends the three aspects of God: the Father (Creator and Preserver), the Son (Savior and Redeemer) and the Holy Ghost (the Spirit of truth or grace). This concept of Triunity (Three in One) grasps and expresses some important factors in the spiritual fabric of the universe. It should not be artificially equated with the Vedantic trinity of the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer, which reveals the fabric of the universe from a different point of view. All these are different ways of understanding the unitary and omnipotent power in the cosmos.
Much of the work of the Divine Incarnation is often done through his agents who carry on the duty entrusted to them by the Incarnation. The agents may be on the gross plane or on the inner planes. If they do not have a gross body they are invisible to ordinary people. They help persons in their ascent through the planes.
Some agents fulfill the purpose of the Divine Incarnation unconsciously. They do not know consciously whence their impetus or inspiration comes. Other agents receive instructions from the Avatar and knowingly and voluntarily carry out these instructions. As a rule, in his ascent to the eternal Truth, an aspirant first becomes subtle-conscious and then mental-conscious before realizing the Truth. The subtle-conscious soul generally does not come back to the gross world. This does not mean that the subtle-conscious soul does not take a gross form or dwell in the gross world with his gross body.*. It means that the consciousness of the soul is no longer entangled with the gross form or the gross world, and that it is chiefly engrossed in the subtle world.
The condition of the subtle-conscious soul is an interesting contrast with the condition of ghosts. Ghosts are departed spirits who have been too much attached to the gross world. After dropping the physical body they still desire to live in close contact with the gross. They continue to gravitate in the lower subtle and astral planes. Their astral sheath or envelope is automatically actuated by the impressions concerning the gross and keeps them tied down to the gross for long periods. Their tendencies are directly opposed to the tendencies of the subtle-conscious aspirants. The subtle-conscious aspirant, though linked up with the gross world, gets wafted to the subtle planes and experiences and moves upwards toward the Truth. The ghosts, though severed from the gross body, gravitate to the gross world with its experiences, owing to their actuating gross impressions. Thus, in a sense, the subtle-conscious soul is an inverted ghost.
The mental-conscious soul, even while retaining a gross body, remains stationed on its higher planes, without getting entangled even with the subtle planes. It keeps waiting till it merges with God or Truth in the seventh plane. After merger, the soul may remain immersed in the bliss of God-realization and become a Majzoob or come down to the lower planes of duality for work without losing its realization of the unitary Truth) and become a Perfect Master. Whether a particular God-realized soul becomes Majzoob or a Perfect Master is a matter decided by the initial urge in creation. These varieties of terminal states are not subject to sanskaric or impressional determination. In both terminal states there is no trace of any binding impressions. However, the entire fabric of the universe serves but one purpose, viz., realization of God.