“Everything in existence exists and functions on one of several planes of being or is composed of things from more than one plane acting together as a whole system. These planes are discrete, not continuous, and the passage of influence from one plane to another can take place only under conditions defined by the relationship of the planes involved.”*
One “map” of the planes I’ve found useful also features in many other spiritual teachings (mystical Christianity, Neo-Platonism, and some forms of Hinduism among them), including one I’ve followed for over thirty years, and identifies the physical universe as just one of several other planes. Besides the physical plane which we experience with our physical bodies, we experience the astral (see the third paragraph of Earth Mysteries — 4 of 7) or emotional plane (also sometimes called the etheric plane), the causal plane of memory, and the mental plane of thought. These last two also sometimes have different names — not surprising, considering they can seem more removed from immediate physical sensation and experience — and thus, understanding. Yet we exist in and experience these planes all the time.
Who’s doing the experiencing here? According to this way of perceiving things, that’s the real you, soul or spirit who wears these other bodies like clothes appropriate to different seasons and climates. So if we say “my soul,” who is talking? The experiencer or consciousness is soul, using the mind to think, the causal body to remember, the astral body to feel and imagine, and the physical body to experience physical reality.
While we can’t directly experience the astral world with our physical bodies, given the close proximity of the two planes, we certainly can feel the effects of strong emotions with our physical bodies and the “atmospheres” of places likewise charged with feeling. We’ve all walked into a room where there’s just been an argument, where religious observance has been performed over a sustained period of time, etc. We may pick up the vibe of such places — vibrating at a characteristic frequency, physics tells us, is what everything is doing already anyway — and if we’re inattentive we may internalize it, harmonize with it, and then not understand why we ourselves may feel tired, energized, angry, calm, etc. after spending some time there.
But our astral body is fully capable of experiencing the astral plane, and doing neat things like flying, changing form, and generally responding rapidly to thought, as it does in dreams. (Our physical bodies also respond to thought, but being of a slower vibrational rate, they more often take years or decades to show the effect. You’ve heard the expression “to worry yourself sick,” and that’s one of the more negative uses of focused and intense emotion — a kind of magic turned against ourselves.) The astral is the plane of imagination, where we may see things in “the mind’s eye,” or with “rose-colored glasses,” if we’re particularly optimistic, because pink or rose is one of the dominant colors there, just as green is characteristic (though by no means ubiquitous) in the physical world with its plants and chlorophyll.
The astral plane, according to many traditions, is where most of us transfer our consciousness after the death of our physical bodies. It is certainly possible to open our astral awareness (often without much control, which can make it dangerous without proper guides) with alcohol or drugs. Safer techniques include drumming and trance work, dance (like certain Dervish orders do, for instance), chant, mantra, ritual, physical exhaustion, daydreaming, meditation, creative visualization, and so on.
The causal plane of memory, like the astral plane, has its own rules and qualities, as does the mental plane. We say “that rings a bell” when we’re reminded of something, and each plane has characteristic sounds associated with it as well as colors. When we focus attention on these other planes while physically awake, we tend to tune out the physical world and its body, and are “lost in thought,” or “in another world.” In these and other instances, our languages preserve fragments of ancient wisdom our modern world tends to ignore, though we often intuitively know something of its truth in spite of the habitual skepticism of our current age.
Our contemporary default position of disbelief is no better than the habitual credulity of previous ages, when people believed all sorts of things which, while they may have been true of some other plane, weren’t usually true of this one. And in our turn toward the currently widespread religion of science, we’ve adopted its characteristic blind spots just as wholeheartedly. Ask scientists why the universe exists, for instance, and you can usually reduce them to speechlessness. It’s simply not a question science is equipped to answer.
The ability to manifest consciously the realities of one plane in another — and since we’re focused heavily on the physical world, for the sake of this discussion that usually means bringing something into physical form — is a supremely human accomplishment. Yes, animals are wired with instinct to reproduce their own kind, and in the case of birds and mammals, care for their young, but in addition to such instinctive drives, humans create cultures, with their languages, arts, crafts, technologies, rules, perspectives, and ways of living in the world.
In each of these posts on the seven Laws, I’ve barely scratched the surface. Each Law deserves repeated meditation, and in his book Greer makes several suggestions for experiencing the creative force of each Law and some of its far-reaching implications. Alone, the Laws can seem rather abstract, hard to apply to daily concerns and problems, too generalized to match the specifics of our individual situations. This itself is a powerful realization: to bring things into manifestation, we need the individual, the distinct and unique set of qualities, experiences, memories, talents, perspectives and strengths, in order to achieve what makes and keeps us human.
If it seems that the Laws swallow up individuality in statements about general tendencies, groups and patterns larger than one human life, it’s important to remember that it was humans who first noticed these principles, and humans can choose either to disregard them or to work consciously with them. Conscious and creative cooperation with the spiritual principles of existence is the fulfillment of humanity. Through such means, we can manifest what has not yet been seen or experienced or even imagined, in forms of power and beauty and usefulness, for others as well as for ourselves. That’s one way to repay the gifts we’ve been given.
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*Greer, John Michael. Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth. Weiser, 2012.