The Soul’s Interaction With Other Worlds After Death

Sri Aurobindo has clearly and succinctly stated the issues with respect to the options of rebirth: “If the physical universe were the sole manifested world, or if it were a quite separate world, rebirth as a part of the evolutionary process would be confined to a constant succession of direct transmigrations from one body to another; death would be immediately followed by a new birth without any possibility of an interval,–the passage of the soul wold be a spiritual circumstance in the uninterrupted series of a compulsory, mechanical, material procedure. The soul would have no freedom from Matter; it would be perpetually bound to its instrument, the body, and dependent on it for the continuity of its manifested existence. But we have found that there is a life on other planes after death and before the subsequent rebirth, a life consequent on the old and preparatory of the new stage of terrestrial existence. Other planes co-exist with ours, are part of one complex systems and act constantly upon the physical which is their own final and lowest term, receive its reactions, admit a secret communication and commerce.”

Even if the soul is not, from the beginning of its evolutionary journey, capable of transferring itself to these other planes or worlds, as it grows in its capacity and consciousness, it finds not only the capability but the necessity to sojourn in these other planes between births. Until that time we could envision a direct and immediate rebirth into a new form on the material plane, but once the evolutionary force has developed far enough, the process would clearly involve this interactive process.

We see in scriptures such as the Tibetan Book of the Dead a serious attempt to understand and interact with the soul in the worlds beyond the physical after death. The Tibetan Book of the Dead calls the inter-regnum the “bardo” and it has various stages which correspond with the systematic dissolution of the hold of the material frame, the vital being, the emotional ties, and the mental organisation that corresponded to the prior birth, thereby freeing the soul to carry the subtle impressions of the past lifetime forward in its choosing of a new birth.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 22, Rebirth and Other Worlds; Karma, the Soul and Immortality

The Process of Rebirth Raises Questions for Review

Sri Aurobindo raises the consequential questions about the process of rebirth and the implications of the process. In previous chapters we reviewed the necessity of rebirth as part of the evolution of consciousness manifesting successively over time in the material world. We also concluded that there is a soul or psychic entity around which the successive evolutionary development coalesces through these successive births. We now come to the question of the process of rebirth, how it relates to the question of other worlds or planes, and the process of the spiritual evolution itself. Sri Aurobindo explains the issues that need to be reviewed and addressed as follows: “if that process is not quickly successive, birth immediately following death of the body so as to maintain an uninterrupted series of lives of the same person, if there are intervals, that in its turn raises the question of the principle and process of the passage to other worlds, which must be the scene of these intervals, and the return to earth-life. A third question is the process of the spiritual evolution itself and the mutations which the soul undergoes in its passage from birth to birth through the stages of its adventure.”

The crux of the issue is that unless there is immediate succession, the soul must exist somewhere, in some world or state, in some form, during the time between the one event and the other; and assuming then that it resides in some other world or plane during that time, there must be a mechanism of its movement out and back again into the physical world. This also gets into the question of what the soul carries with it from the past lifetime, if anything, and what it brings with it into the next lifetime, if anything. This brings us to the question of the process of the spiritual evolution.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 22, Rebirth and Other Worlds; Karma, the Soul and Immortality