Why, you may wonder, should information about what life is like after death flow through a woman named Grace Cooke from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to be published finally as "The Book of the Beyond"? He, after all, was merely the writer of those books about a certain Sherlock Holmes! Actually, it was because he was one of the leading lights in Spiritualism (the religion so much concerned with life after death) in the earliest years of the 20th century. He probably was the best known of all the famous names who followed Spiritualism, although there were other prominent artists, including Arthur Sullivan, of Gilbert and Sullivan who wrote hymns for the Spiritualist church movement, and George Bernard Shaw whose play, "Man and Superman" dealt with life after death as the Spiritualists knew it to be.
In the preface to the book, we read: "That the speaker was Sir Arthur is not, now, so important; at the time, the communication gave sufficient evidence to his family to convince them that all or part of the messages were his. More important now is the very picture drawn by Sir Arthur, a picture of enormous force and clarity: the vision extends from the grey November fogs that are so redolent of his own stories-the astral planes, a world like Dante's `Inferno'-to a celestial world which is described with an equally Dantesque Clarity, a paradise vision which is extraordinarily real. This is no mean accomplishment."
The readings, according to the preface were given in 1931 and 1932 and were published in 1933. They almost appear to be a dialogue with the orthodox Spiritualism of that day. Sir Arthur had written about the afterlife when he had been alive and in his books containing descriptions of that afterlife, The New Revelation and A Vital Message, apparently the information set forth was believed to be "vastly inferior," compared to the descriptions he gave after he experienced his own death, according to those who know the books.
He particularly emphasizes the fact that man lays his foundation for the particular astral, mental, or celestial plane he's destined to occupy after death by the way his soul progresses while he is still on earth. Beyond the third mental plane, there is not a third death, but the final liberation from incarnations.
AFTER THE SOUL LEAVES EARTH
On the Seventh Plane, the Lowest Astral:
In the heart and mind of each man on this level desire burns persistently which he has fostered on earth previously. He feels no affection or love for anyone but himself. The seventh plane is so close to our earth that it's really classified with earth rather than with the other astral planes, according to ACD. Man's self centeredness has created and outpictured a cold and repugnant landscape.
On the Sixth Astral Plane:
The world is brighter, but it still is dark, much as the lower 7th plane. It seems foggy like an English morning. There is dim light. People generally display some affection and love for animals and for nature. Note that throughout the journey of the spheres, light comes from the waking that gradually takes place within those living there as they strive to better their conditions, as they elevate their consciousness. There are stunted trees and various forms of men in damp thick mists. All are dressed in gray and reflecting in their outer appearance the substance of their inner life in consciousness.
On the Fifth Astral Plane:
Those who dwell on this plane live in a brighter landscape. They wish to help their friends and neighbors. All houses and public buildings are like those on earth. The houses are not beautiful, in fact they are rather dilapidated, run down, not exactly salubrious. The interior conditions of the people living there have produced the conditions of their outer surroundings. These people are growing more hopeful, though, as their souls strive to reach the light, and they sense that all things are getting better.
On the fourth astral plane:
The soul meditates and absorbs its past. It is a resting place, before going on to gather more experience. The scenery is exquisite, there is happy harmony, and families live joyfully together. There are lakes, rivers, mountains, animals. It is in fact a new edition of what we recognize as a kind of comfortable life on earth. The souls realize growth here that actualizes as the harmony, beauty, happiness that reflect their soul level. The soul experiences a second death upon leaving here.
On the third mental plane:
The soul enters the third and last mental plane and withdraws from the outer to the inner relationship with that which is Universal. Man is in a condition of peace and tranquility while on this level, but he isn't at all lethargic. He is still conscious but in a state of soliloquy and able to gauge his life's effect on lives of others in relation to the whole creative principle. He can see the import of his contribution to God's Plan as it
unfolds. The stages previous to this plane all had form. Man on this plane is in a state of almost total formlessness. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (ACD) commented upon this realm, by saying that when we pray, we pray to a mind that understands and a loving compassionate being that knows us inside and out, yet it is a life power and we can't put into words that heart/mind. He also pointed out that Christ manifested on earth in flesh to give a form to that plane of existence so people might make contact as they were capable of doing so, with the Universal Godhead.
Because of the lack of form, the ego is limitless. Each person withdraws inward into himself, but expands at the same time and contacts the Universal. (I think of the dot in the center of the circle.)
On the second mental plane:
A delicate balance exists on this plane between the intellect and intuition, drawing souls onward ever higher toward the central focus of their being, the Godhead. The soul becomes aware of an intuitional flow which gradually is toning down the intellectuality and introducing more and more intuition into the mix. The soul is becoming creative and all art, music, literature, religion, science, in short, all the expressions of creativity are open to him. From this intuitional phase and place of the mental plane, he passes on to the third mental plane. Man finds he is able to reach the source of all inspiration and creativity. All creative activities spring from this place and unfold here into all the inspired and inspirational arts and sciences.
It is the truth that men and women may contact this universal sphere from the earth plane, but it is so tremendous in vibration, so powerful, that it oftentimes proves dangerous in its effects on the human organism. You sometimes are aware of advanced souls on the earth plane that cause people to marvel; they are adored and respected by their peers, and yet for no apparent reason they collapse and death takes them. They die often of unknown medical causes.
It seems well to explain that this universal power may prove responsible sometimes for the destruction of the physical person unless it is contacted in humility and truth. What`s meant is that there lies an inmost center within all, a divine birthplace of spirit, which, if we can reach and comprehend is beyond all intellect and its strivings.
To attain this plane by intellectual straining and striving, without that due attunement of spirit, or growth to the spiritual planes of being, will certainly bring disaster, but if man strives with heart, mind, and spirit to reach the kingdom of heaven in a simple childlike trust then he will reach that plane and receive truth, power and life. On this plane man has become at one, even as the Gentle One said: I and My Father are One; I in thee and thou in Me. Even from here, the human ego can still emerge, take form and enter again the many states of being if he so wishes and can take upon himself once more physical life.
Man in the mental planes is powerfully concerned not with his output as much as his intake. He labors within himself.
Remember that ACD said, "It is unnecessary for man to pass through physical death to contact all the planes of spirit life. Mortal man can and indeed does contact and responds to the influence of all planes of spiritual being, the difference being that when the soul is released, spiritual life gains a sweet intensity: the soul having lost a physical body, all the more surely does the soul-experience afford greater reality.
Again, all the spheres of spirit life are, or can be, reached by incarnate man, who may this way draw experience "from a hell of desire or a heaven of ecstasy."
On the first (lowest) mental plane:
After the astral death the soul enters this mental plane and is surrounded by previous creations of intellectualism. The chief characteristics of the man find expression in cold, hard, intellectual thought.
All above the astral is mental plane until celestial plane is reached. The "second death" follows one's stay on the highest (the fourth) astral plane.