10a - An Introduction to the Seven Planes
A "plane" refers to all the matter in the universe that is formed from a particular type of atom. For example, the mental plane is the sum total of all the matter that is formed out of 3-atoms. In contrast, a "world" refers to the portion of matter of a particular plane that is associated with a planet. For example, the mental world is the sphere of mental matter that surrounds and interpenetrates the Earth. This chapter describes the subtle worlds that surround the Earth, but much of the information can also be applied to the subtle planes in general.
Chapter 3 stated that a galaxy is a series of 49 interpenetrating spheres of matter from all 49 planes, and that a solar system is a series of 7 interpenetrating spheres of matter from 7 planes. Continuing along the same lines, a planet is a series of 3 interpenetrating spheres of matter from 3 planes (physical-etheric, emotional and mental-causal).
Like human beings, the Earth has five bodies (or worlds) composed of five types of matter (causal, mental, emotional, etheric and physical). The other visible planets in the solar system are all similarly constructed, but there are also invisible planets that are in the process of "incarnating" and don't have a "physical body" yet. It is strange to think of planets as living entities but they are; they just belong to a different evolutionary path than ours. The Earth is the only planet in the solar system that is, has been, or ever will be, home to physical life, but all planets (physical and non-physical) are home to subtle life-forms at some time or another – that is why they exist.
When a planet "dies" its bodies dissolve just as ours do. The Moon is a dead planet and the ball of rock we see in the night sky is its dead physical body, which will take billions of years to breakdown. Planets are spherical because their various grades of matter are concentrically arranged around the ensouling monad. Our physical world includes the solid planet, the liquid oceans and the gaseous atmosphere. The subtle worlds interpenetrate the physical world just as water interpenetrates the soil, but each successively higher subtle world also extends further out into space, beyond the atmosphere. The emotional world is known to extend half way to the Moon, and the mental and causal worlds considerably further.
The lower subplanes of the subtle worlds are nearer to the surface of the Earth and the higher subplanes are farther out. The Earth's subtle bodies are largely contained within its physical body, as are our own. The lowest emotional subplane (2:1) is in alignment with the lowest physical subplane (1:1), which corresponds to solid physical matter. All of the Earth's solid matter (1:1) is below our feet, and so is most of the 2:1 matter. The lowest emotional subplane (2:1) is known as the "underworld" because it is literally underneath the world. So "hell" is literally inside the Earth – more on that later in the chapter.
Figure 10a shows the Buddhist names and characteristics for the subplanes of the physical, emotional and mental planes. I wouldn't take the bodily heights or life-spans too literally, but they do give an idea of the increased spatial dimensions and faster perception of time associated with the higher planes. The word "dhyana" means meditation, indicating that certain advanced beings on the mental plane create and sustain "forms" using the power of their minds. The levels of "focus" (21 to 35) are the terms Robert Monroe used to identify the various subplanes he explored in his out-of-body experiences. There are seven subplanes within each plane, yet only six are accessible to human beings. This is because our subtle bodies only contain molecules (e.g. 2:1–2:6) and not atoms (e.g. 2:7), so we can't perceive the seventh subplane. Consequently, we experience brief periods of unconsciousness when we pass through the seventh subplanes of the etheric and emotional worlds (either during sleep or after physical death). Purgatory, Paradise and Heaven are realms that we pass through after physical death, and these will be explained later in the chapter.
Figure 10a - The Worlds of Human Endeavour
Alternative Names for the Seven Planes or Worlds
The emotional plane (2) is often incorrectly called the "astral plane". The term "astral" was first used in the 19th century to describe the fact that three times as many stars are visible with "higher sight". But night does not exist in the emotional world because emotional-plane light can pass through the Earth unhindered, so no stars are visible. It is etheric sight that allows three times as many stars to be seen, so the "astral" plane actually refers to the etheric plane. The divine plane (6) is often incorrectly called the monadic plane, because Theosophists mistakenly believe the third triad to be the monad. Figure 11b lists some of other names that the seven planes of the solar system are known by. These subtle worlds are not "places" that exist somewhere else; they are all around us, all the time.
Figure 10b - Various Names for the Seven Planes
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