What is a “permanent astral”? This term is sometimes used by Theosophists and it would be useful to gain a clear understanding of what is meant.
Only a very few people have a permanent astral body. The majority – probably about 99% of people – just have the ordinary astral body, which begins to take shape at conception and disintegrates after death at the same rate as the physical body. We can read in William Q. Judge’s notes for an occult novel in “Letters That Have Helped Me” (p. 250) about what he calls the two kinds of reincarnation:
“(a) Ordinary reincarnation in which there is no memory of the old personality, as the astral body is new; and:
“(b) Exception as to astral body; but similarity of conception to that of ordinary cases, where the child retains the old astral body and hence memory of old personality and acquaintance with old knowledge and dexterity.”
Then, in giving a brief account of one of his own former deaths and births, he says:
“He first strives for some lives ordinarily and then in one he grows old and wise, and sitting before a temple one day in Madura he dies slowly, and like a dissolving view he sees the adepts round him aiding him; also a small child which seems to be himself, and then thick darkness. He is born then in the usual way. Twice this is repeated, each time going through the womb but with the same astral body.”
In the book “Answers to Questions on The Ocean of Theosophy,” Robert Crosbie (founder of the United Lodge of Theosophists and a student and colleague of both William Q. Judge and H.P. Blavatsky) makes the following explanations:
“It is a body formed of astral substance during a life-time by the reincarnating ego; when so formed it remains with all its powers and functions as the astral form for succeeding lives. In ordinary cases, a new astral is projected for each birth, …” (p. 71)
“The ordinary astral is constructed on the basis of the skandhas, while the permanent astral is constructed during life on the basis of the aspirations and self-induced efforts, out of astral substance, but not exactly of the earthly astral substance. If one building a permanent astral gives way to anger or evil feelings in any direction, he spoils his building, but the old skandhic astral body is left in full play. One with a permanent astral never has a Kamaloka, nor a Devachan, for he knows too much, and cannot be drawn into those conditions. Then he comes back, working not only with tendencies, but with aspirations, knowledge and effort, which are permanent.” (p. 168-169)
“The “permanent astral” is formed during life from the elements belonging to the Real Man, the Ego. The ordinary astral is formed for each birth before conception. It is governed by the karma to be expended in the next life ensuing. … Only those who have arrived at a certain stage of development or initiation return to incarnation with a “permanent astral.” All others form a new astral for each incarnation. That is why they don’t bring the memory through; they haven’t established it on this plane. The permanent astral is the astral permeated, changed, refined by the fire of consciousness and thus made permanent.” (p. 248)
So one with a permanent astral doesn’t undergo the same processes and states after death as the average person but simply remains in their now permanent astral vehicle on higher planes, functioning and working consciously until their Karma or the pressing needs of humanity compel them to once again take up residence in a physical body here on Earth.
This is the case with both HPB and WQJ – or rather those great Initiate-Souls who we refer to under those names and who were known most recently on Earth as H.P. Blavatsky and William Quan Judge – and quite possibly with the likes of Robert Crosbie and B.P. Wadia too. It is certainly the case with the Masters, except that the Masters seem to prefer to be physically incarnated almost all the time and are able to remain in one physical body for 300 to 400 years at a time and then when that is no longer fit for use usually simply transfer themselves to another suitable body, on the moment of the departure of its previous occupant, and carry on like that.
The permanent astral does not always equate to the Nirmanakaya but the Nirmanakaya is certainly a form of permanent astral. A footnote on p. 77-78 of “The Voice of the Silence” reads:
“The three Buddhic bodies or forms are styled:
The first is that ethereal form which one would assume when leaving his physical he would appear in his astral body – having in addition all the knowledge of an Adept. The Bodhisattva develops it in himself as he proceeds on the Path. Having reached the goal and refused its fruition, he remains on Earth, as an Adept; and when he dies, instead of going into Nirvana, he remains in that glorious body he has woven for himself, invisible to uninitiated mankind, to watch over and protect it.”
Although “Nirmanakaya” is technically the name for the body or ethereal vesture of a Bodhisattva – being described on p. 45 as the “Bodhisattvic Body” – it’s also often used simply as a synonym for the Bodhisattva himself or herself.
It can be seen that the acquirement or attainment of a permanent astral is closely linked with the attainment of unbroken continuity of consciousness. According to Theosophy, this is the true immortality.
“Elijah is also taken up into Heaven alive; and the astrologer, at the court of Isdubar, the Chaldean Hea-bani, is likewise raised to heaven by the god Hea, who was his patron, as Jehovah was of Elijah (whose name means in Hebrew “God-Jah,” Jehovah), and again of Elihu, which has the same meaning. This kind of easy death, or euthanasia, has an esoteric meaning. It symbolises the death of any adept who has reached the power and degree, as also the purification, which enable him to die only in the physical body and still live and lead a conscious life in his astral body. The variations on this theme are endless, but the secret meaning is ever the same. The Pauline expression (Hebrews xi. 5) “that he should not see death” – ut non videret mortem – has thus an esoteric meaning, but nothing supernatural in it.” (H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 531)
~ Blavatsky Theosophy Group UK ~
SOME RELATED ARTICLES: The Sevenfold Nature of Man, Mysteries of the Astral Body, The “Etheric” Body Does Not Exist, The Skandhas, Questions about Karma, A Right Understanding of Karma, A Right Understanding of Reincarnation, Death and the Afterlife, Books on Theosophy, Who are you, Madame Blavatsky?, The Masters and Madame Blavatsky, Words from The Masters about H.P. Blavatsky, Who was William Quan Judge?, The Welcome Influence of William Q. Judge, Heredity – A Karmic Effect, 12 Things Theosophy Teaches, The Man Who Rescued Theosophy, The Two Paths, The Final Mahatma Letter, and Theosophy: The Ancient Wisdom.