A correspondent writes to say that there seems to be some confusion or contradiction in theosophical literature and among theosophical writers in respect to the length of time a person stays in Devachan, and cites the statement by Mr. Sinnett that the number of years is 1500, while I am quoted as giving a shorter time. Two things should be always remembered. First, that Mr. Sinnett in writing on Devachan in Esoteric Buddhism was repeating his own understanding of what Mme. Blavatsky’s teachers had communicated through her to him—a copy of each letter being kept and now accessible, and he might very easily make an error in a subject with which he was not at all familiar; second, that only the Adepts who gave out the information could possibly know the exact number of years for which any course of life would compel one to remain in the Devachanic state; and as those Adepts have spoken in other places on this subject, the views of Mr. Sinnett must be read in connection with those superior utterances.
There is in reality no confusion save in the way different students have taken the theory, and always the mistakes that have arisen flow from hastiness as well as inaccuracy in dealing with the matter as a theory which involves a knowledge of the laws of mental action.
In Key to Theosophy, p. 143, 158, H. P. B. says, “The stay in Devachan depends on the degree of spirituality and the merit or demerit of the last incarnation. The average time is from 1000 to 1500 years.” . . . “Whether that interval lasts one year or a million.”
Here the average time means “the time for the average person who has any devachanic tendencies,” for many “average persons” have no such tendencies; and the remark on p.158 gives a possible difference of 500 years. This is exactly in accord with the theory, because in a matter which depends on the subtle action of mind solely it would he very difficult—and for most of us impossible—to lay down exact figures.
But the Adept K. H., who wrote most of the letters on which Mr. Sinnett’s treatment of Devachan was based, wrote other letters, two of which were published in THE PATH, in Vol. 5 in 1890, without signature. The authorship of those Notes on Devachan is now divulged. They were attributed to “X.” He says:
“The ‘dream of Devachan’ lasts until Karma is satisfied in that direction. In Devachan there is a gradual exhaustion of force.
“The stay in Devachan is proportionate to the unexhausted psychic impulses originating in earth life. Those whose attractions were preponderatingly material will be sooner brought back into rebirth by the force of Tanha.”
Very clearly in this, as was always taught, it is stated that the going into Devachan depends upon psychic (which here means spiritual and of the nature of soul) thoughts of earth life. So he who has not originated many such impulses will have but little basis or force in him to throw his higher principles into the Devachanic state. And the second paragraph of his letter shows that the materialistic thinker, having laid down no spiritual or psychic basis of thought, is “sooner brought back to rebirth by the force of Tanha,” which means the pulling or magnetic force of the thirst for life inherent in all beings and fixed in the depths of their essential nature. In such a case the average rule has no application, since the whole effect either way is due to a balancing of forces and is the outcome of action and reaction. And this sort of a materialistic thinker might emerge to rebirth out of the Devachanic state in about a month, because we have to allow for the expending of certain psychic impulses generated in childhood before materialism obtained full sway. But as every one varies in his force and in respect to the impulses he may generate, some of this class might stay in the Devachanic state one, five, ten, twenty years, and so on, in accordance with the power of the forces generated in earth life.
For these reasons, and having had H.P.B.’s views ever since 1875 on the subject, I wrote in PATH, v. 5, 1890, p. 190, “In the first place I have never believed that the period given by Mr. Sinnett in Esoteric Buddhism of 1500 years for the stay in that state was a fixed fact in nature. It might be fifteen minutes as well as 1500 years. But it is quite likely that for the majority of those who so constantly wish for a release and for an enjoyment of heaven, the period would be more than 1500 years.” This contradicts nothing unless Mr. Sinnett shall be shown as saying positively that every man and woman is bound by an arbitrary inflexible rule to stay 1500 years—no more nor less—in the Devachanic state; and this it is quite unlikely he could say, since it would involve a contradiction of the whole philosophy of man’s nature in which he has faith. And what was said in vol. 5 of PATH accords with the views of those Adepts who have written on the subject, as well as with the very ancient teachings thereupon in the Bhagavad-Gita and elsewhere.
In everyday life many illustrations can be found of the operation upon living men of the same force which puts disembodied man into Devachan. The artist, poet, musician, and day-dreamer constantly show it. When rapt in melody, composition, color arrangement, and even foolish fancy, they are in a sort of living Devachanic state wherein they often lose consciousness of time and sense impressions. Their stay in that condition depends, as we well know, on the impulses toward it which they have amassed. If they were not subject to the body and its forces they might remain years in their “dream.” The same laws, applied to the man divested of a body, will give us exactly the results for Devachan.
But no one save a trained mathematical Adept could sum up the forces and give us the total number of years or minutes which might measure Devachan. On the Adepts, therefore, we have to depend for a specific time-statement, and they have declared 1000 to 1500 years to be a good general average.
This will therefore result in giving us what may be known as the general Cycle of Reincarnation for the average mass of units in any civilization. By means of this a very good approximation may be made toward forecasting the probable development of national thought, if we work back century by century, or by decades of this century, for fifteen hundred years in history.