To begin with, of course this very word “dead” is an absurd misnomer, as most of the entities classified under this heading are as fully alive as we are ourselves; the term must be understood as meaning those who are for the time unattached to a physical body. They may be subdivided into nine principal classes as follows:
1. The Nirmânakâya.
This class is just mentioned in order to make the catalogue complete, but it is of course very rarely indeed that so exalted a being manifests himself upon so low a plane as this. When for any reason connected with his sublime work he found it desirable to do so, he would probably create a temporary astral body for the purpose, just as the Adept in the Mâyâvirûpa would do, since the more refined vesture would be invisible to astral sight. Further information about the position and work of the Nirmânakâyas may be found in Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophical Glossary and The Voice of the Silence.
2. The Chela awaiting reincarnation.
It has frequently been stated in Theosophical literature that when the pupil reaches a certain stage he is able with the assistance of his Master to escape from the action of what is in ordinary cases the law of nature which carries a human being into the devachanic condition after death, there to receive his due reward in the full working out of all the spiritual forces which his highest aspirations have set in motion while on earth. As the pupil must by the hypothesis be a man of pure life and high thought, it is probable that in his case these spiritual forces will be of abnormal strength, and therefore if he, to use the technical expression, “takes his Devachan,” it is likely to be an extremely long one; but if instead of taking it he chooses the Path of Renunciation (thus even at his low level and in his humble way beginning to follow in the footsteps of the Great Master of Renunciation, Gautama Buddha Himself), he is able to expend that reserve of force in quite another direction—to use it for the benefit of mankind, and so, infinitesimal though his offering may be, to take his tiny part in the great work of the Nirmânakâyas. By taking this course he no doubt sacrifices centuries of intense bliss, but on the other hand he gains the enormous advantage of being able to continue his life of work and progress without a break. When a pupil who has decided to do this dies, he simply steps out of his body, as he has often done before, and waits upon the astral plane until a suitable reincarnation can be arranged for him by his Master. This being a marked departure from the usual course of procedure, the permission of a very high authority has to be obtained before the attempt can be made; yet, even when this is granted, so strong is the force of natural law, that it is said the pupil must be careful to confine himself strictly to the Kâmaloka while the matter is being arranged, lest if he once, even for a moment, touched the devachanic plane, he might be swept as by an irresistible current into the line of normal evolution again. In some cases, though these are rare, he is enabled to avoid the trouble of a new birth by being placed directly in an adult body whose previous tenant has no further use for it, but naturally it is not often that a suitable body is available. Far more frequently he has to wait on the astral plane, as mentioned before, until the opportunity of a fitting birth presents itself. In the meantime, however, he is losing no time, for he is just as fully himself as ever he was, and is able to go on with the work given him by his Master even more quickly and efficiently than when in the physical body, since he is no longer hampered by the possibility of fatigue. His consciousness is of course quite complete, and he roams at will through all the divisions of the Kâmaloka with equal facility. The chela awaiting reincarnation is by no means one of the common objects of the astral plane, but still he may be met with occasionally, and therefore he forms one of our classes. No doubt as the evolution of humanity proceeds, and an ever-increasing proportion enter upon the Path of Holiness, this class will become more numerous.