The Inner Life, v. II/Second Section/II
REMEMBERING ASTRAL EXPERIENCE
When you leave your body to-night, you will remember all that you did last night and during the day — in fact, you will have the whole of your present waking memory, plus that of your nightly astral life. The astral memory includes the physical, but your physical brain does not remember the astral experience, for the simple reason that it had no share in it.
A special link must be made, or rather an obstacle must be removed, in order to bring the memory through into the physical brain. In the slow course of evolution the power of perfect memory will come to every one, so that there will no longer be any veil between the two planes. Apart from this full development sometimes something occurs which the man feels that he ought to remember on the physical plane, and in that case he makes a special effort to impress it upon the brain, in order that it may be remembered in the morning. There are some events, too, which make such a vivid impression upon the astral body that they become impressed upon the physical brain by a kind of repercussion.
It is comparatively rarely, however, that such an impression is perfect, and there may be many stages of imperfection. This is one source of what we call dreams, and we know how confused and incomplete and even ridiculous they may often be. One form of distortion which frequently occurs in the case of the unpractised helper is that he confuses himself with the person to whom he has been giving assistance.
I remember a case of a member of our band who was deputed to assist the victim of an explosion. He was warned a few minutes beforehand, and had time enough to make an effort to calm and steady the man's mind, and then immediately after the outburst had taken place he was still on hand to continue the same process; but in the morning, when he described the event to me, he declared that it seemed exactly as though he himself had been the victim of the explosion. He had identified himself so closely with his patient that he felt the shock and the sensation of flying upwards exactly as, we must presume, the victim felt them. In another case the same member was called upon to assist a soldier who was driving an ammunition waggon down an execrable mountain road, and was thrown off and killed by the wheels passing over his body. In this case also our member entirely identified himself with the soldier, and his memory of the event was that he had dreamed of driving such a waggon and being thrown from it and killed, just as the real driver had been.
In other cases what is remembered is not at all what really happened, but rather a sort of symbolic description of it, sometimes quite elaborate and poetical. This comes evidently from the image-making characteristic of the ego — his faculty of instantaneous dramatization — and it sometimes happens that the symbol is recollected without its key; it comes through untranslated, as it were, so that unless the helper has a more experienced friend at hand to explain matters, he may have only a vague idea of what he has really done. A good instance of this came before my notice many years ago — so many that, as I made no record of it at the time; I am not now quite certain of one or two of its points, and am therefore obliged to omit some of it, and make it a little less interesting than I think it really was.
The helper came to me one morning to relate an exceedingly vivid dream which he felt sure was in reality something more than a dream. He remembered having seen a certain young lady drowning in the sea. I believe that he had the impression that she had been intentionally thrown in, though I do not think that he had any vision of the person who was supposed to have done this. He himself could not directly assist her, as he was present only in the astral body, and did not know how to materialise himself; but his keen sense of the imminence of the peril gave him strength to impress the idea of danger upon the young lady's lover, and to bring him to the scene, when he at once plunged in and brought her ashore, delivering her into the arms of her father. The helper remembered the faces of all these three characters quite clearly, and was able so to describe them that they were afterwards readily recognisable. The helper begged me to look into this case, so that he might know how far his clear remembrance was reliable.
On doing so, I found to my surprise that the whole story was symbolic, and that the facts which had really occurred were of a different nature. The young lady was motherless, and lived practically alone with her father. She seems to have been rich as well as beautiful, and no doubt there were various aspirants to her hand. Our story, however, has to do only with two of these; one, a most estimable but bashful young fellow of the neighbourhood, who had adored her since childhood, had grown up in friendly relations with her, and had in fact the usual half-understood, half-implied engagement which belongs to a boy-and-girl love affair. The other was a person distinctly of the adventurer type, handsome and dashing and captivating on the surface, but in reality a fortune-hunter of false and unreliable type. She was dazzled by his superficial brilliancy, and easily persuaded herself that her attraction for him was real affection, and that her previous feelings of comradeship for her boy friend amounted to nothing.
Her father, however, was much more clear-sighted than she, and when the adventurer was presented to him he seems to have received him with marked coolness, and declined altogether, though kindly enough, to sanction his daughter's marriage with a gentleman of whom he knew nothing. This was a great blow to the young lady, and the adventurer, meeting her in secret, easily persuaded her that she was a terribly ill-used and misunderstood person, that her father was quite unbearably tyrannical and ridiculously old-fashioned, that the only thing left for her to do as a girl of spirit was to show that she meant what she said by eloping with him (the aforesaid adventurer) after which of course the father would come round to a more sensible view of life, and the future would take on the rosiest of hues.
The foolish girl believed him, and he gradually worked upon her feelings until she consented; and the particular night upon which our friend the helper came upon the scene was that which had been chosen for the elopement. In true melodramatic style the adventurer was waiting round the corner with a carriage, and the girl was in her room hurriedly preparing herself to slip out and join him.
Not unnaturally, when it came actually to the point her mind was much disturbed, and she found it very difficult to take the final step. It was this fluttering of the mind, this earnest desire for aid in decision, which attracted the notice of the helper as he was drifting casually by. Reading her thoughts, he quickly grasped the situation, and at once began to try to influence her against the rash step which she contemplated. Her mind, however, was in such a condition that he was unable to impress himself upon her as he wished, and he looked round in great anxiety for someone who should prove more amenable to his influence. He tried to seize upon the father, but he was engaged in his library in some literary work of so engrossing a character that it proved impossible to attract his attention.
Fortunately, however, the half-forgotten lover of her youth happened to be within reach, wandering about in the starlight and looking up at her window in the approved style of young lovers all the world over. The helper pounced upon him, seeing the condition of his sentiments, and to his great delight found him more receptive. His deep love made him anxious, and it was easy enough to influence him to walk far enough to see the carriage and the adventurer in waiting around the corner. His affection quickened his wits, and he instantly grasped the situation, and was filled with horror and dismay. To do him justice, at that supreme moment it was not of himself that he thought, not that he was on the eve of losing her, but that she was on the eve of throwing herself away and ruining the whole of her future life. In his excitement he forgot all about convention; he made his way into the house (for he had known the place since childhood), rushed up the stairs and met her at the door of her room.
The words which he said to her neither he nor she can remember now, but in wild and earnest pleading he besought her to think before doing this terrible thing, to realise clearly into what an abyss she was about to throw herself, to bethink herself well before entering upon the path of destruction, and at least, before doing anything more, to consult openly with the loving father whom she was requiting so ill for his ceaseless care of her.
The shock of his sudden appearance and the fervour of his objurgations awakened her as from a sort of trance; and she offered scarcely any resistance when he dragged her off then and there to her father as he sat working in his library. The astonishment of the father may be imagined, when the story was unfolded before him. He had had not the slightest conception of his daughter's attitude, and she herself, now that the spell was shaken off, could not imagine how she had ever been able really to contemplate such a step. Both she and her father overflowed with gratitude to the loyal young lover, and before he left her that night she had ratified the old childish engagement, and promised to be his wife at no remote date.
This was what had really happened, and one can see that the symbolism chosen by the ego of the helper was by no means inapt, however misleading it may have been as to the actual facts.
Sometimes nothing comes through that can be called an actual memory, but only the effect of something that has been seen or that has happened. A man may wake in the morning with a strong feeling of elation and success, without in the least being able to recall in what he has succeeded. This generally means some good piece of work well done, but it is often impossible for the man to recover the details. At other times he may bring back with him a feeling of reverence, a sense of great holiness. This usually means that he has been in the presence of some one much greater than himself, or has seen some direct evidence of the greater power. Sometimes, on the other hand, a person may wake with a feeling of terrible fear. That is sometimes due only to the alarm of the physical body at some unaccustomed sensation; but it is sometimes also due to having encountered something horrible in the astral world. Or again it may arise merely from sympathy with some astral entity who is in a state of terror, for it is a frequent thing on the astral plane that one person should be strongly influenced by sympathy with another's condition.
Few people, however, when in the astral body, care whether the physical brain remembers or not, and nine out of ten much dislike returning to the body. But if you specially wish to get into the habit remembering, the procedure which I should recommend is the following:
To make the link, first remember, when you are out of the body that you wish to do so. Then you must determine to come back into the body slowly, instead of with a rush and a little jerk, as is usually the case. It is this jerk that prevents one from remembering stop yourself and says, just before you awake: “There is my body; I am just about to enter it. As soon as I am in it I will make it sit up and write down all it can remember.” Then enter it calmly, sit up instantly and write down all you are able to remember at once. If you wait a few minutes, all will usually be lost. But each fact that you bring through will serve as a link for other memories. The notes may seem a little incoherent when you read them over afterwards, but never mind that; it is because you are trying to give an account in physical words of the experiences of another plane. In this way you will gradually recover the memory though it may take a long time; great patience is necessary.
You should try to remember when out of the body that you are in the astral world, and that it would be a comfort to the physical consciousness if some memory could be carried through. Be systematic in your efforts. Every time that you succeed in bringing something through, it will make it easier to remember next time, and will bring nearer the period when there will be habitual automatic recollection. At present there is a moment of unconsciousness between sleeping and waking, and this acts as a veil. It is caused by the closely-woven web of atomic matter through which the vibrations have to pass.
In coming back to the physical body from the astral world there is a feeling of great constraint, as though one were being enveloped in a thick, heavy cloak. The joy of life on the astral plane is so great that physical life in comparison with it seems no life at all. Many men who can function in the astral world during the sleep of the physical body regard the daily return to the physical world as men often do their daily journey to the office. They do not positively dislike it, but they would not do it unless they were compelled.
When the man is free in the mental world, the astral life similarly seems a state of bondage, and so on, until we reach the buddhic world, which is in its essence bliss. After once reaching that level, although the man on the physical plane is still cramped and unable to express the bliss, he nevertheless has it all the time and he knows that all others who are unable to feel it now will feel and know it at some future time. Even if only for a moment you could feel the reality of the higher planes, your life would never again be the same.
Astral pleasures are much greater than those of the physical world, and there is danger of people being turned aside by them from the path of progress. It is quite impossible to realise while one is confined in the physical body the great attractiveness of these pleasures. But even the delights of the astral life do not present a serious danger to those who have realised a little of something higher. After death one should try to pass through the astral levels as speedily as possible, consistently with usefulness, and not yield to its refined pleasures any more than to the physical. One must not only overcome physical desire by knowledge of the astral or the heaven-life, but also go beyond even them and this not merely not for the sake of the joy of the spiritual life, but in order to replace the fleeting by the everlasting.